I’m the world’s worst critic when it comes to my own preaching. I’m never satisfied, and for good reason: my sermons never do justice to the text. I always find lots to criticize, both in the content of my sermons and in my delivery.
I’m not alone. Most preachers I know feel like they never quite measure up. The pressure intensifies in a world in which we’re exposed to the best preachers in the English world through podcasts, video, and live conferences.
How can we keep preaching when we’re aware of our limitations as preachers?
There’s always room to improve in preaching. I love watching and hearing other preachers, not because I want to imitate them, but because I want to learn from them.
As preachers, we must keep refining our skills. I never want to stop growing as a preacher. I want to keep reading books, listening to lectures, and getting feedback. Preachers must make a commitment to keep growing in their skills, both in preparation and delivery.
I think it’s what Paul had in mind when he instructed Timothy, “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15). Never stop growing.
While it’s important to keep growing, it’s also important to trust God. While our skills are important, they’re not the basis of our confidence as preachers. God’s Word has power. The gospel is power. The Holy Spirit works through the proclamation of the Word.
Trust in God is no excuse for sloppy preparation. Still, no sane preacher could ever approach the pulpit without a sense of dependence on God to work.
Charles Spurgeon said:
If we had the Spirit sealing our ministry with power, it would signify very little about talent. Men might be poor and uneducated, their words might be broken and ungrammatical; but if the might of the Spirit attended them, the humblest evangelist would be more successful than the most learned divine, or the most eloquent of preachers.
When Spurgeon ascended the pulpit, he repeated to himself, “I believe in the Holy Spirit. I believe in the Holy Spirit.” Our confidence can never rest in our abilities, but in the Spirit’s power and the power of the gospel.
I once went through a dry period in my preaching. I would continually sit down after preaching feeling discouraged.
I decided to redouble my efforts on making much of Jesus in my preaching. Almost immediately, my discouragement disappeared. My focus was directed away from myself and my inadequacy, and was directed to the glory and adequacy of Christ.
I don’t pretend that focusing on Jesus will remove all discouragement, but I do believe that God blesses preaching that exalts Jesus. When we shine the spotlight on Jesus, the Holy Spirit seems to bless our preaching because we’ve suddenly joined his agenda.
I know my limits as a preacher. But I’m committed to grow. Even better, I trust God’s power, and I’m committed to making much of Jesus. These things keep me going, even when I feel like an ordinary preacher.