This may or may not be obvious to you, especially if you’ve never done it, but preaching is hard, really hard.
It’s a communication style unlike any other.
You’re trying to inspire, while not moving into “corny motivational speaker” territory. You want to communicate information and educate people while not giving a lecture. You want to use visuals and props, but you don’t want to be the person that just reads off slides the whole time. You want to tell stories, but connect those stories to a larger theme. So on, and so forth.
You can take classes on preaching, you can watch other preachers and emulate their style, but in the end it’s something that you have to discover on your own through a lot of trial and error.
Today I want to share with you some of my struggles with preaching as a millennial pastor, and how I’ve come to trust God more because of it.
One of the great secrets of life, that I’ve discovered so far, is that everyone is pretty much “faking it” all the time.
What do I mean by that?
Here’s the thing, even though I have been a legal adult since I was 18, I couldn’t tell you when I started feeling like a “grown up” (Maybe it was when I started paying all of my own bills?). In a lot of ways, I still struggle with my own insecurities I had when I was a kid. As a kid, I believed that adults knew the most and I listened to them because I thought that they had authority. But as I grew older, I’ve come to realize that most adults still don’t have all of their “stuff” together, and some adults never moved beyond the halls of Junior High and High School, emotionally at least.
So that’s what I mean, most of us have to “fake it until we make it” when it comes to all of this #adulting business, and I’m no different. In many ways, I still feel like I’m a kid in a grown-up’s body. Even now that I’m a pastor and have kids of my own, I often feel like some mustache twirling evil genius is just around the corner about to reveal me for the impersonator that I am.
With that said, allow me to state the obvious, sometimes I’m insecure.
Knowing is Half the Battle
I have a bachelor’s degree, I have a master’s degree, I am on the track to become ordained in my denomination, and I sometimes still feel as if I don’t have the authority to speak into the lives of others. This is a difficult obstacle to overcome when that’s a big part of my job as a pastor.
The truth is, that even though I have a lot of knowledge when it comes to things like the Bible, theology, or how to “do” church, I often think to myself things like, “what am I doing?” or, “Why would anyone ever want to listen to me?”, and other thoughts of self-doubt.
I know what you’re thinking at this point, “What’s your point?” and, “What does this have to do with preaching?”
My point is, that preaching is important, and it relies on one key concept or idea for it to be effective. Authority. For someone to reach the congregation, to inspire others, to impart wisdom and knowledge on a congregation, that congregation has to impart onto that pastor authority to speak into their lives.
While I’m not a senior pastor, I have preached several times and taught a lot of Bible studies and lessons to teenagers. But I still struggle with the idea that I have something important to say, that I have the authority to speak into the lives of others, especially since I’m a millennial and there are a lot of people in the congregation that are older than me.
A Burden to Share
I still get nervous preaching when my parents are in the audience, I spent my whole life listening to what they told me to do and the advice they gave me. I struggle with the idea that I could possibly have anything to teach them. Of course, I now know that my parents are just people, and like me, they were just making it up while they went along for a lot of life too. But that doesn’t change the fact that it’s hard to go from being the student to being the teacher.
I am growing though. Like I said, I have preached several times, and it’s just like a lot of other things in life, the more I do it the more comfortable I get with it.
I recently took a preaching class, and while I learned a lot of good stuff, like different communication techniques, not to say “uhm” so much, and how to structure a sermon, I think the thing that I learned the most was how to know that you’ve been called to preach. What I discovered was you’ll know that God has placed a calling on your life to preach when you’ve read and studied your Bible so much and you’ve listened to the Holy Spirit so closely that you’ve discovered a truth so crazy, so awesome, so life changing that you can’t hold it in. That God has spoken something to you that you have to share with others. This is what Andy Stanley calls the “burden” of the preacher.
Practice Makes Perfect (Through the Power of the Holy Spirit)
As I continue on my path as a pastor I am continuing to realize how much I still have to learn, and how pastoring isn’t something you can just learn about in a classroom, but instead should be viewed as a life-calling and a journey of continual education. I had a professor in seminary that liked to point out that doctors and lawyers don’t “do” the law or “do” medicine, they “practice” it. This is the same with ministry, as soon as you think you have it figured out, as soon as you think you’re “doing” ministry, then you learn something completely new.
The first time I preached, when I was 20-years-old, I was horrible. Like objectively horrible. But I’m so thankful that someone had the confidence in me to offer me that opportunity. What I didn’t know then, and I think I’m learning more today, was that I didn’t have the authority then, and I don’t have the authority now to speak to a room full of older and wiser people.
Through the power of the Holy Spirit I have been given that authority. One of the great things about the gospel is that it can be spoken to anybody, by anybody, whenever, because of the power of God and the Holy Spirit. I know Will already wrote about this a few weeks ago, but I must come to the same conclusion he did. I will never be good enough, I will never be the best speaker, and I will never be the holiest person, but through the power and gifting of the Holy Spirit I have been called to preach, and I have been given the authority to preach too. When I stand up at the pulpit my goal is never to: be the best public speaker, give the best lecture, or teach the most stuff about the Bible, it is to preach the Word of God.
If I do it right, by the power of the Holy Spirit, I’ll never be faking that.