I have been preaching at least once a week for eight years.
I thought after all this time, the art and craft of preaching would have gotten easier. But it hasn't. It has become incredibly harder. There's probably a variety of reasons for that, but here's a few that have come to mind.
1. Senior Pastor Preaching - While I took my years in youth ministry very seriously, there is a higher expectation when preaching to an "adult" congregation. The last two and a half years at the Orchard Church have been wonderful, but I've also experienced the weight of responsibility declaring the Word of the God.
2. Martin Luther - The great reformer once wrote "the preaching of the Word of God is the Word of God." (Actually he wrote it in German from what I understand.) Luther is absolutely correct, and I unfortunately had to go and read that quote. When I stand I am literally "incarnating" the biblical text, and like the Old Testament prophets declaring, "Thus says Yahweh!" This is indeed a weighty responsibility. (See also James 3:1ff).
3. Personal Stuff - It seems a gaggle of difficulties materialized the second we moved to Michigan. Financial, family, housing, transportation and bookkeeping issues have been non-stop. Non-stop. As soon as one problem gets resolved, another one pops up. These haven't been minor, either. They've been consistent and massive. This, of course, has a large effect on my preaching prep time, and even on occasion my demeanor on Saturday nights and Sunday mornings.
4. Spiritual Warfare - Spiritual warfare happens every single time I preach. Scratch that. Spiritual warfare happens during sermon prep. I am a man who is far from perfect. And in the midst of struggles, I need to sit down, study the Holy Word of God and do the hard work of communicating it to others. What's harder, though, is that every week I have to let the text confront me. Sometimes it is sweet and reassuring. But there are weeks that I'd rather skip that part. There are times I want to take a break from God. And this is just during the prep work! When I am preaching there are times I can perceive a battle: the True Words of God versus the lies of sin, Satan and the world. People have left the church because of this warfare. "I don't like what you said. I want to follow a god who will just let me do whatever I want." It can be rather exhausting.
5. Cultural Shifts - Because of the massive cultural shift in morality happening right now, there are additional pressures on preaching. The temptation for me, an expository preacher, is to spend all my time talking about these "topic of the week" questions. But if i really believe the Bible is the inspired Word of God wherein God has revealed Himself to humanity... then I think the best thing to do with the Bible is to preach it. Not the "topic of the week." Sometimes I want to start with a hard topic, then fill in understanding with Scripture. But if fourteen years of teaching have taught me anything, it's that the big ideas of the text are far better than my ideas. And if I teach those ideas, they are far more penetrating than my own.
So, those are some of my ideas. Regardless of the struggle, I know I am called to this ministry
Pastor friends, or those who preach, what would you add?
Non-preaching friends, pray for and support those who do preach for you!