The final version of my thesis includes this paragraph:
Theocentric preaching does not begin with the inexhaustible demands of the human condition; it begins with the sufficiency of God. Rather than dwelling in the depth of human need, it lives within the realm of God's richness. The preacher is not pressured to only provide answers; instead, the preacher brings the congregation into the presence of God, who is on a mission to re-create the cosmos and to redeem all things. Discouragement is part of the assignment of preaching, but a theocentric approach reminds us that our sufficiency is not found in ourselves. God, not the preacher, is the only source of eternal satisfaction and joy.
This is not the paragraph I had originally written. I had originally argued that theocentric preaching can help prevent against discouragement. Haddon Robinson challenged me during my thesis defense. There is no way, he said, to avoid being discouraged as a preacher. I forget his exact words, but the phrase in the paragraph above comes pretty close: "Discouragement is part of the assignment of preaching."There probably aren't many preachers who don't get discouraged at least part of the time. The main character in the novel Gilead wrote, "So often I have known, right here in the pulpit, even as I read these words, how far they fell short of any hopes I had for them." In Lectures to My Students, Spurgeon wrote:
Be not dismayed by soul-trouble. Count it no strange thing, but part of ordinary ministerial experiences. Should the power of depression be more than ordinary, think not that all is over with your usefulness. Cast not away your confidence, for it hath great recompense of reward…Cast the burden of the present, along with the sin of the past and the fear of the future, upon the Lord, who forsaketh not His saints. Live by the day – ay, but the hour. Put no trust in frames and feelings…Trust in God alone, and lean not on the needs of human help…When your own emptiness is painfully forced upon your consciousness, chide yourself that you ever dreamed of being full, except in the Lord…In nothing let us be turned aside from the path which the divine call has urged us to pursue.
Discouragement is part of the assignment of preaching, but it's also a reminder to us that our hope doesn't lie within ourselves or the people around us. As i wrote in my thesis, "Our sufficiency is not found in ourselves. God, not the preacher, is the only source of eternal satisfaction and joy."