Recently, I had the privilege of preaching at my home church. As I wrestled through the text and my own nervousness that comes with public speaking (particularly as an introvert), God began to convict me of the way I was approaching the sermon.
As He worked to correct my perspective, I saw that there are two equally destructive ways to look at preaching – thinking that you are somehow worthy to deliver the sermon because of your skills or abilities, but also thinking someone else is worthy to deliver the sermon.
1. Thinking you are worthy to deliver the sermon
For experienced pastors or those who have a natural charisma, the temptation can be to “believe all your press clippings.” You can buy into the hype of those around you telling you how great you are.
Before you realize what has happened, you take pride in the sermons you preach and the lessons you teach. You begin to rob God of glory that belongs only to Him.
As a pastor, as a Christian, you are a clay jar that has been allowed to hold and deliver to others a treasure of unsurpassable greatness. (2 Corinthians 4:7) But do not lose sight of the fact that it is the treasure, not the jar, that is and should always be the point.
History is littered with pastors who had more charisma and more raw talent than anyone else, but their pride and arrogance prevented them from faithfully crossing the finish line of their ministry.
Paul, in discussing what it means for the church to be a body, said, “I tell everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he should think. Instead, think sensibly, as God has distributed a measure of faith to each one.” (Romans 12:3)
Some pastors and teachers are not thinking sensibly about themselves. They wrongly believe that their training, education, experience, skills, ability, charisma, stage props, illustrations, or anything else other than God’s calling and equipping of them enables them to preach His Word.
No pastor, in and of himself, is worthy to get behind a pulpit and deliver God’s word. He becomes worthy because Christ has chosen to speak through Him.
Just like our salvation, if we find our worth in anything other than Christ, we have a false and unsure foundation. But that is not the only wrong way to think about a sermon.
2. Thinking someone else is worthy to deliver the sermon
As I was nervously preparing my sermon, I knew the biblical text was powerful, I felt as if the sermon outline captured some of that, but the weight of my own inadequacies as a preacher seemed heavier.
I started thinking of a dozen or more men I knew personally who could do a much better job at delivering the sermon. Why could I not prepare it and give it to them to preach?
But God had not called anyone else to those people and that sermon. He had called me. Who was I to tell Him He was wrong?
God convicted me of my own self-centeredness in that way of thinking. Just like one who arrogantly believes he can preach without God, I was giving more weight to my abilities than God’s glory, except in my case, it was my perceived lack of abilities.
A thought from C.S. Lewis’ classic Mere Christianity has been paraphrased: “True humility is not thinking less of yourself; it is thinking of yourself less.” I wasn’t humble. I was as focused on myself as any self-absorbed arrogant preacher.
No, I didn’t have all the right skills and abilities to deliver God’s Word to God’s people, but neither did any of those other men that came to my mind. All of them are just as unworthy as me.
There is no man who is gifted enough or holy enough to pick up the Bible and preach from its passages without the calling of Christ and the anointing of the Holy Spirit. I’m not the only one.
Those preaching and teaching the Bible to God’s people should constantly work to be better, regardless of their current level of ability. They should always be striving to increase their skill and comfort level.
But as we do that, we must never forget that God is the one who will honor the preaching of His Word.
Ultimately, a man’s ability to deliver God’s Word lies only in the God of the Word, not the words of a man. That is enough to humble the self-assured preacher and correct the self-doubting one.