By Mark D. Roberts | Friday, May 16, 2008
In my last post, I suggested what a person should do if his or her preacher fell prey to pulpit pride and started to preach irresponsibly. In today’s post, I want to offer advice for preachers about how to avoid pulpit pride and its negative results.
1. Recognize the possibility of pulpit pride.
In my second post in this series, I talked about the pride of the pulpit. From my own experience, and from what I know of other preachers, it’s easy to get caught up in the headiness of having lots of people listening to you as you preach. Preachers are human beings, and can easily fall into pride. If preachers acknowledge this possibility, then they’ll be in a position to avoid it. If they pretend that they’re immune from the temptation of pulpit pride, then they’ll be ill-prepared to combat it.
2. Come humbly before the Lord.
Nothing keeps me from pride better than when I come humbly before the Lord in prayer and worship. When I remember God’s greatness, then it feels almost silly to get puffed up about myself. I am renewed in my sense of calling as God’s servant, and therefore as a servant to oathers. Even when I’m in a place of power, the pulpit, if you will, I’m there as a servant leader, with the emphasis on servant. So, if you approach the pulpit on your knees, you’ll be protected from pride.
3. Get honest feedback on your preaching.
Most preachers get regular feedback on their preaching. It comes in the form of comments after the worship service: Nice sermon, pastor. Thank you for your words, pastor. That was very meaningful. Etc. etc. etc. These are encouraging words, to be sure, but rarely do they provide substantial feedback. In fact, I would encourage sermon-listeners not to give heavy-duty feedback, pro or con, to a preacher immediately after a worship service. Most preachers are tired at this moment and not in a place to listen carefully.
How can preachers get honest, helpful feedback on preaching? It depends. Sometimes this can come from wise, mature members of a pastor’s congregation. It could come from peers. It might come from one’s spouse. Of course if a pastors publish their sermons on the web, either in manuscript, audio, or video form, then feedback could come from almost anywhere. I’ve received hundreds of email responses to my sermons (published online) from people all over the world. Most have been positive, though some have raised substantive issues.
4. Watch a video or listen to a recording of your preaching.
If you’re a preacher and you haven’t done this for a while, perhaps since seminary days, you would be well-served to listen to a recording of yourself. A video would be best. You might see yourself in a new light. If you’re wandering into pomposity and pride, seeing yourself as others see you might be eye-opening.
5. Consider the majesty of your message.
At the core, preachers are called to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ. This is not only good new, but also the best news of all. We get to tell people that God loves them in spite of their sin, that they are accepted by God’s grace through Christ, that they can live new lives of meaning and purpose as God’s beloved children and ministers of Christ, that the Spirit of God will live in them to inspire and empower them, etc. etc. etc. The more we are overwhelmed by the majesty of that which we’ve been called to preach, the less we’ll be impressed by ourselves. (Photo: from inside the Chapel of the Transfiguration, Grand Tetons National Park)
Moreover, when we remember the core of our proclamation, we’ll be less inclined to wander into tangents that get us in trouble. If we’re focusing on the good news of Christ, along with all the implications of that good news as revealed in Scripture, we’ll have more than enough to preach. Thus we won’t have time to pontificate about the sorts of things that can get preachers in trouble. The gospel of Jesus Christ keeps us focused in the right place, even as it humbles us when we consider the sheer privilege of being messengers of such great news.
We preachers need to take our message more seriously and ourselves less seriously.
Topics: Pride and the Power of the Pulpit |
One Response to “Avoiding Pulpit Pride: Advice for Preachers”
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