Preaching Through Pain

Preaching Through Pain

Every pastor, at some time or another, is going to experience preaching through pain.  Imagine the following as your life.   You have moved to a new, larger venue for your growing church, and someone shouts “Fire” at your inaugural service.  Seven people die in the rush to get out.   Your spouse has become an invalid, and can’t even come to church–for 27 years!  You yourself suffer from rheumatism, gout and inflamed kidneys.  Critics regular say of you, even in public, that you are worthless as a preacher, nothing but a flash in the pan.  Other pastors criticize your growing church, and even suggest that you yourself aren’t converted. And finally, you go into a deep depression.

The Prince of Preachers preached in personal pain

Charles Spurgeon

The person who lived that life was Charles Spurgeon, known as the Prince of Preachers.  He suffered all of that and more, and yet, kept getting up into the pulpit to preach each week.  He had learned some valuable lessons about preaching through pain from week to week.

John Piper gave an address to a group of pastors about Spurgeon’s experience of preaching through pain.  You can read or listen to it here.

Every preacher must learn about preaching through pain.

There are seasons in ministry, and some of those seasons involve personal pain.  Even as I write that sentence two things come to mind.  First, I think of certain seasons in my own life, periods of time when I had to make sermons even though my heart wasn’t in it.  And I also think of some younger pastors whose stories I know, who are struggling, who are preaching through pain in their lives.

Where does the pain come from?

Pain shows up from a variety of sources.

Preaching through Physical Pain

Physical illness is certainly one prominent source.  I think of a time recently when I had hurt my shoulder on a Saturday.  On Sunday, I was expected to preach, even though I was up at 4:30 taking pain medication, and I couldn’t move my arm without streaks of pain moving through my back and down my arm from the shoulder.  Should I call someone and not preach?  I decided to go ahead, though I didn’t want my pain to be a distraction from my message.  It was a long morning.

You’ve been there, I suspect, preaching through pain from an injury, or fever related to cold, or digestive problems.  It’s not easy.

Family Stress

Pain also comes from the stresses of family life.  I remember one pastor sharing at a conference what it was like to preach each week when their son was somewhere out on the streets, addicted to drugs.  He said that he felt like a fraud whenever he would preach about family life, and so, avoided the subject for years.  But what was worse was that he couldn’t understand why God didn’t answer the prayers he prayed for years for his son to be healed, and to come home.  Preaching in pain could certainly describe his life during that time.

Friendly Fire

Maybe the worst kind of pain comes from friendly fire, the attacks of fellow Christians.  This is especially true when you have to endure the critics in your own church.   Sometimes these critics attack your capability as a preacher or a pastor, or they talk negatively about the vision that you are trying to develop for the church.  I don’t remember who said it, but someone put it well when they said that the Church is the only place where we shoot our own wounded.

The Twisted World

Sometimes you learn about preaching through pain as a result of something not going as you think it should: a child born with disability; an accident that takes life, or severely damages it; a suicide; someone close to you dies. All of these are evidences of a broken world, and requite you to learn about peaching through pain.

How do you go about preaching through pain?

I’m going to address this in the next post, but for now, listen to this testimony of someone who learned about preaching through pain.

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