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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