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ON PREACHING

Passion Lost


R Classen Layouts/iStock/Thinkstock

Consider these steps to recapturing your lost passion, turning a wilted speech into a strong and vibrant sermon.

By Doug Green

Ever find your enthusiasm for a particular passage of Scripture to be flatter than a tortilla? Even though you know it's God's Word, you know you are not connected, and it shows.

It happens to preachers, even good ones like you. Pastors can easily lose passion in the study.

Every professional knows it is difficult to invest energy where there is no passion. However, preaching is no ordinary job. Handling God's Word is a unique calling. It is God speaking to your congregation through you; and, if you do not have any passion for your sermon, how can you expect it from anybody else?

Simply put, without passion, you are sunk. So, what does passion for the biblical text look like? It's the intuitive, gut-level feeling that goes off inside, ignited by the power of God, charging you with a rush of energy and fervor. In these moments, the words come faster than you can record them. Your mind gushes with an overload of expression. You are in the zone and you cannot wait to start preaching.

These moments are precious. There is nothing quite like them. When you find this feeling, you can do a day's work in an hour. Most important, your preparation is fresh and vibrant, not stale and limp. You can hardly wait to tell others because you know exactly why the sermon is important to you. You want to share the experience you are feeling with the congregation so they can experience it too.

So, what happens when this is not the case? Is there any way to rejuvenate your enthusiasm for the text? Consider these steps to recapturing your lost passion, turning a wilted speech into a strong and vibrant sermon:

1. Pray

Obviously, God knows you need help. He invites you to ask. Do so. Like a deer panting for water is the preacher needing a connection to the Lord's heart for His people. Pray in the Spirit. Invite the Lord to walk with you down the aisles of your soul and take inventory of what's really going on. David prayed, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts” (Psalm 139:23). Pray likewise and recover what is missing.

2. Find the Dramatic Center

In all communication, there is something about what you are talking about that compels you. As you know, the Word of God is so powerful that, year after year, you can hear a familiar passage in a whole new way. You find fresh insights with the changes of life. If you are going to invest emotional energy in the correct handling of this text, you must find the aspect that compels you. Find the dramatic center of what God is saying to you today. Nothing beats fresh bread.

It is impossible to disguise ambivalence. At the climatic moment of your sermon, anything but absolute conviction on your part will be obvious, negating your message. What about the exposed human condition makes you weep? What makes you mad? What breaks your heart? Without being full of self-righteousness, what makes you want to get out of your chair and do something about it? What difference has the truth of this text made in your life? With this critical revelation from the depths of your soul, you will not have to manufacture passion. It will naturally exist. You already care.

3. Just Be Honest

Even an admission of lackluster zeal in the pulpit is dynamically more powerful than a pastor trying to fake it. Honesty always trumps hypocrisy. Often, my honesty about what's really going on in my heart is the key to diagnosing my lack of passion, unlocking the power of God's Word to impact every part of my life. In a sober spirit of sincerity, God can heal my apathy and give me new grace for preaching.

Ask the tough questions. It is acceptable and reasonable, when spending time in the study, to ask the difficult (or troubling) questions. Why are you ambivalent about this subject? What is it you really believe about what God is saying? What experience in life made you lack belief about this Scripture passage? In the presence of God, be raw and honest. This type of prayerful evaluation, directed by the power of the Holy Spirit, ought to expose what's really going on inside.

4. Find Fresh Eyes

Reexamine the way you see the text. Look at it from a variety of angles. See it from the view of a seeker who is hearing it for the first time. See it from the eyes of a child. Consider what the original audience must have thought. See it from the perspective of the opposite sex, another race, a disabled person, or an atheist. Change up your perspective, and you might see something you have never seen before — something that will light a fire in your soul.

Do not limit yourself to personal experience. Although personal experience tends to be the most powerful way to convey information, do not restrict yourself to only what really happened to you. You may be passionate about things, whether or not you experienced them. For example, I was not abused as a child, but I once observed, at the grocery story, a small boy flinching as his dad violently yelled at him. This experience, although not my personal experience, helps me understand significant parts of Scripture — with new passion.

Passionate proclamation should always be your goal. However, in the spirit of honesty and transparency, what if you have conscientiously run through all these steps and still feel less passion than you wish you felt, or less than you have felt before, or less than ever? Life is complex. Seasons of life are often full of challenge. Sometimes a period of time can even seem dark. In those situations, you may or may not have the passion you need. Yet, in those seasons step up to the pulpit, take your best shot, and trust God, who puts the power in His message even when you feel less than you wish. You are not alone when you preach. In your faithfulness, He rescues and redeems what you give in His name.

With God's help, preach His Word. It makes all the difference in the world, for the truth proclaimed with fire will ignite the work of God.

Especially in a good preacher like you.

DOUG GREEN, founding pastor, North Hills Church, Brea, California

 

 

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