Before you preach a particular series, and even a particular sermon, ask yourself, “Do I care about this?” If the answer is, “no,” keep preparing, or head another direction for the time being if you can (though not forever).
Obviously, there are times when one must preach regardless of one’s personal passion for the subject. Having said that, I believe we are more faithful and effective generally when we can answer this question in the affirmative. That may sound abstract or emotion-oriented. It’s actually reality and theologically-based.
Here’s why this question matters:
1. If you don’t care about what you’re preaching, those listening won’t either. Some time, try and talk ballet with me. I don’t care about it…not in the least. But, I’ll be happy to try to seem passionate about it…and you’ll get a sense for how we can sound when trying to talk about things we don’t care about.
2. If you don’t care about what you’re preaching, you’ll be more likely to skimp on preparation. Preparing to preach something you don’t care much about becomes like flossing, going to the car wash, etc. You’ll do the minimum you must…or really struggle to be faithful in study. Sometimes we don’t find the passion until after a lengthy preparation process–like drilling for oil. However, it’s more common for preachers to stop drilling too soon.
3. If you care about what you’re preaching, you’ll have a clearer sense of what exactly you’re trying to say. The hazy shade of preaching is removed when I can see clearly why this message matters. If I don’t care much, it’s often the result of not grasping the sharp edges of the double-edged sword of Scripture. Once I understand the what God is revealing about himself in the book of Nahum, it’s a much smaller leap to prepare the sermon and deliver it with clarity and passion. To do the digging to find those sharp edges, I’ll need to believe there is a sharp edge there.
4. If you don’t care about what you’re preaching, it can awaken you to issues below the surface in your life. If I don’t seem interested in the things I am preaching on a fairly frequent basis, I need to check my spiritual life. Sometimes it’s an ebbing love for God and Scripture that is causing this. Sometimes it’s discouragement, pride, or something else I need to deal with.
The three best antidotes I know for the lack passion problem are theological and practical, respectively.
First, you must see a growing relationship with the God of the Scriptures. When we love God deeply and believe He’s actually revealed himself in the Scriptures–we’ll care about whatever is in Scripture.
Second, make sure your preaching in anchored firmly in the text. If you love God and Scriptures, you’ll always love what you’re preaching if you’re in the text. I don’t mean you’ve sprinkled 15 different verses to support your point on politics. I mean it’s really anchored in the text. Perhaps you’re preaching through a book of the Bible, life of biblical character, or biblical theme. The question of the question isn’t “what does religion have to do my life?” It’s, “How does the Gospel call me to live?” Both questions are “relevant.” Only one is worth being passionate about.
Third, plan preaching in advance, and revisit it regularly. I know this sounds basic, but preparing a well-balanced spiritual diet you’ve vetted over time will make you aware of series/sermons that seemed like a good idea at the time, but do no longer. We just did this at New Vintage Church with our series right after Easter. It’s pretty late in the game to do so, but it’s the right call. We can do it because we plan ahead.
Other ideas/thoughts on this?