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preaching skill

The Spiritual Importance of Becoming an Emotionally Healthy Preacher

Key issues to address as we look beneath the surface

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To me, that's the foundational issue for preachers. In my travels throughout North America, I think the great problem with preaching today is that most pastors don't take the biblical text and sit with Jesus. So we're preaching "great" sermons—clever, interesting sermons—but I'm not sure those sermons are changing people's lives on a deep level.

So how do we see real transformation in people's lives through our preaching?

Again, it begins with the preacher. To change people's lives deeply through the Word, the preacher's life has to be transformed first by that Word. At this point in my ministry I rarely preach on a text that I haven't been meditating on all week long—and the goal is to allow God to transform me, not just write a good sermon. So before I get up to preach, the text needs to have changed me first.

For instance, I went for a four-mile walk today, and the whole time I was meditating and praying about my preaching text—the story from Mark about blind Bartimaeus. At times I was struggling with the text, wrestling with how it intersects with my life. By the time I get in the pulpit, I've often memorized the passage. Of course I still do my Greek and my Hebrew word studies, but as I enter my 26th year of preaching, I spend a lot more time praying the Word before God. I spend more time asking and listening to him about how he wants me to approach the text.

In your books you say that our lives are often like an iceberg—there's a lot underneath the surface, but it's largely hidden from us. How does that apply to what you're saying about our preparation for preaching?

As preachers the problem is that we usually don't take the time to look beneath the surface of our lives, at the rest of the iceberg, the 90 percent that people can't see. I know that I can easily ignore the immaturity and worldliness in my heart. As a result, I can diminish my preaching text because I'm stunted in my own relationship with Jesus. But when we wrestle with a biblical text, when we let it explore the hidden parts of our lives—that's when real transformation starts to happen.

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mabel radebe

January 21, 2013  8:58pm

Thanks for the insightful and challenging article. It is very important to sit at the feet of Jesus with your text and hear what he He says to you about it and what He wants you to share with others and how. Preachers should not take preaching lightly and talk to God's people unprepared.

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Shirley McCowin

September 28, 2012  4:25pm

An outstanding article! IF only more pastors could be as open and honest; sharing this article with my pastor. Without a doubt, I am able to relate this article to the passage of scripture Jeremiah 3:15 "And I will give you pastors according to my heart, which shall feed you with knowledge and understanding. I am not a pastor but a servant in the ministry; however, this message resonates with me. Thank you.

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Mary Newton

September 24, 2012  2:39pm

Outstanding article! Thank you. I am striving to be more authentic in my preaching and I know that comes with "listening" to GOD, spending more time in prayer and wrestling with the text. As a pastor of a small congregation, I am confronted with a multitude of tasks that come my way each weeek. I know that it is imperateive to "slow down" and sit at Jesus' feet; to hear from God. I will admit that is my greatest struggle in preaching, to put sufficient time in and to begin early. This article has helped me to re-focus and priortize; to be "Mary" and not "Martha".

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July 23, 2012  12:02pm

Thanks for your candor and insight. I find preaching to be an art of vulnerability every week. And this art can be really bad at times. If I am honest with myself, it is easy to create bad art every week by falling to the temptation of hiding behind the word or in making the sermon about me. Teaching the scriptures is one thing, but modeling how to interact with God in front of people who are constantly evaluating you is tough work. Thanks for the prophetic call to continue to wrestle with God and his word in prayer before you preach.

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Dave Rolph

May 21, 2012  1:03pm

Great article! It should be obvious that those who teach others need to first discover a healthy place for themselves, but healthy preachers seem to be the exceptions nowadays. Authentic preaching can be very therapeutic for everyone involved, while hypocritical preaching damages all, perhaps the preacher even more than the audience.

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