It never fails. Some Sundays you walk down from the pulpit thinking the Holy Spirit’s power was with you in that sermon. You captured the audience’s attention. Your exegesis of the Scripture seemed faithful to the text. Your illustrations connected the biblical text with the lives of your listeners. You walked away with confidence knowing that the Holy Spirit helped you through the difficult task we call preaching.
It never fails. Some Sundays you walk down from the pulpit in shame. You felt like you were forcing yourself to finish that sermon. You were beating yourself up as someone within the congregation walked by saying, “I really enjoyed that sermon, preacher.” Deep down you felt like you should be apologizing to them for not being on top of your game. You replay the sermon over and over all day in your head. Something just wasn’t right, and you didn’t feel the same power of the Holy Spirit like you had in the past.
Many preachers can identify with both of these scenarios. To be honest, I have dealt with these in my small preaching tenure. The good news for all of us is we are not alone. We have the best news in the world. We have the life changing news found only in Jesus Christ. However, many of us can become fearful when we have “bad preaching days” because we know eternal life could hang in the balance for some people sitting under our teaching.
No matter how long you have been preaching, I am sure you could tell gobs of stories about each of these scenarios. My purpose in writing this post is to help you recover from these days where you felt that something wasn’t right. Here are four ways we can bounce back from bad preaching days in ministry:
- Remember God is sovereign. Sometimes we put too much pressure on ourselves as preachers. We arrogantly think our sermon delivery is the true source of power. I think we might be adopting the American Dream in our preaching approach. God doesn’t need us. He decides to use us, but he doesn’t need us. Our preaching is not dependent on ourselves. Our preaching is dependent on God to work and act in our frailty as his redeemed children. You think you had a bad day. Your delivery couldn’t be any worse than Jonah’s sermon, “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown” (Jonah 3:4)! Yet, God used this rinky dink sermon from a bitter prophet to save an entire nation! God is sovereign, and we need to remember that God will work just as much in the good days as he will in the bad days of our preaching.
- Pray for next week. Sometimes I think God lets his preachers have bad days because it reminds us of our dependence on him. How many of us become more reliant on our gifts rather than the Gift Giver? I think there are many reasons we have bad weeks (lack of preparation, not taking care of our bodies, unrepentant sin, not managing our calendars, family issues, etc), but after a bad sermon, we can begin to pray for God’s help for the following week. A bad preaching day should make us yearn for God’s power through his Holy Spirit the next time we preach. Therefore, we recover from bad preaching by praying.
- You are your worst critic. We know what we meant to say. We know what we wanted to say. We know whether the divine unction was or wasn’t there. However, the people in the pew have no idea most of the time. We have to remember that for many of them this is the first time they have seen this text or heard this message. People in the pews are simply trying to process what you are saying. We are overly critical on ourselves because we take our calling seriously, and we should! We need to remember that while we always strive to get better at our calling, we can be our own worst nightmares in our preaching ministry. Get better by examining your preaching, but your people aren’t critiquing you as hard as you are critiquing yourself. To put it another way, aim to be the best preacher for God’s glory, but don’t overly criticize yourself when you have an off day. God’s grace is greater!
- God’s Word always works. For faithful preachers of God’s Word, this should be our most encouraging way to recover after experiencing a bad preaching day. As Coach Boone said in Remember the Titans, “[My six plays] are just like Novocaine; give them time, and they always work.” God’s Word is just like Coach Boone’s six plays. Preach it as faithful as you can even on a bad preaching day, and God’s Word will do all the work. His Word is alive, active, piercing and discerning (Heb 4:12). His own Word says that it will not return to him void (Isa 55:11). While you may have had a bad preaching day, God’s Word never has a bad day. Stay faithful and his Word will get the work done.
As preachers, we need to remember that we are not perfect. Our task is to point people to the perfect One. This reality of our frailty means we are going to have bad preaching days. Hopefully, we have more good ones rather than bad ones. Nevertheless, when we do have bad ones, I pray that you will come back to this post to remember God’s goodness by reflecting on these four ways for recovering after the preaching event.
Are there any additional ways you recover from bad preaching days that are not mentioned? Please feel free to share them in the comments section to encourage others.
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