Today, as I sit in my office, I find myself slowly dying. My message (sermon) is done for Sunday, in fact, I’ve already studied too much for it. I’m too prepared, and that only makes my current condition all the worse. I’ve been preaching for a long time now, but the truth is the preparation gets easier, but the delivery part gets harder. You see, if anyone is really effective at preaching, they’ll be honest and tell you what I’m about to tell you: Good preaching will kill you!
It will kill you not because you’re doing something wrong, but because you understand how it must be done right. God never really gives someone a message for someone else, until they first internalize it themselves. Have you ever heard a really good sermon before that left you thinking how nice it was? That’s probably a case of what I call, “failure to internalize”. The content was great, the delivery was outstanding, the outline was clear and there were even some funny moments, but the impact of the sermon was just “nice”. That’s all. It was just NICE. No response. No change. No transformation. Just NICE. I live in fear of preaching “nice” sermons.
God desires to take a pastor through a process of death every time he prepares a message. The ones who not only recognize this process but anticipate it and receive it, preach with something different in their words. The reason? Their words are backed up by a life behind the words. Have you ever heard a simple sermon that stuck with you, almost haunting you for days and weeks to come? Chances are, if you were able to ask the speaker about it, they’d tell you how much of that message came out of their own life and experience walking with Christ. Whoever that person is; they died to preach that message. They wrestled with it. Edited it. Changed it. Scrapped it. Started it over. Killed it again. Finished it. Added more to it. Cut some out of it. Prayed, prayed and then prayed some more over it, over and over again. Left it alone. Then, when they felt like there was nothing more they can do to it, with it or for it, they died. Died to the fact it would make any difference in the hearts of the hearers apart from the supernatural help of the Holy Spirit. They died to relying on there own abilities and gifting to simply be willing to say what God wanted them to say. They died to themselves. They waiting on God to do what only He could do, knowing and trusting, He would be faithful, just like he had hundreds of times before.
It seems like there is a death and resurrection cycle that is not only at the heart of the Gospel, but at the heart of Gospel proclamation as well. So here I sit on a Friday afternoon, dying. My hope is in Him, not in myself. And one thing I know, Sunday is coming and that means: RESURRECTION! 🙂