The Desperate Preacher

by John Meador

John Meador

Recently I stood before a group of professional football players at a chapel service and shared with them what they have in common with preachers.

One is that we both work on Sundays (even though some believe it is the only day we work). The other is that a whole crowd of people have the chance to critique what we do.

Unfortunately, we don't always work hard enough, and sometimes we do deserve the criticism we get. Preaching is hard work! Even the Apostle Paul mentions this: "Be diligent to present yourselves approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth" (2 Tim. 2:15).

Who doesn't work hard? Well.some of us. Brian Mavis, the leader of, wrote an interesting article in the Sept/Oct, 2006 issue of Rev magazine, and in that article declared that sermon plagiarism is a growing problem. What is plagiarism? That's when preachers copy other preacher's sermons online and preach them almost verbatim as though they were their own. More than once in recent days, people have told me of hearing messages from one preacher that they'd already heard from another. Besides, Brian has read over 30,000 messages. If he says plagiarism is a growing problem, I'm going to believe him.

What's going on here? Bad time management, lack of time with God and in the Word, and probably plain laziness. When I get to Saturday, and I still don't have a clue, something has gone horribly wrong with my week. That happens to me from time to time. If I do that regularly though, something is wrong with my ministry. When someone is at that place, seems to be a gift from above. (Yes, there really is such a Website, and no, it is not necessarily your answer.)

While online research can be a great help to us, it should be just that-research. We can find great stories and illustrations to help us. We might be able to learn how a respected communicator makes a certain point, or how a biblically sound preacher exegetes the text. When we cut and paste with abandon, however, we lose the power of the message and float further and further away from the source that should be our foundation-the text. We may take credit for someone else's hard work. We may neglect the gifts and callings God has given us.

One of the most amazing truths of the Christian life is magnified in the life of the preacher. I like to say that Christianity is God working for us in Christ's death, and working through us in His life. Paul says it this way: "for it is God who is at work in you" (Phil. 2:13). That truth applies to the preacher in an incredible way. God desires to work through us in ministry. Directly. Personally. Uniquely.

That is why I must be diligent as a workman that does not need to be ashamed. I answer to God on this. So do you.

So, I want to be desperate. But I want to be desperate for God to speak to me through the text.and desperate for the Holy Spirit to enlighten me by illuminating the truth to my finite and limited mind. I want to be desperate in my prayer that God could somehow use such an undeserving spokesman as myself, and then believe He will actually do that.

I want to be desperate for God-not desperate for an online solution to a Saturday night deadline. I know you want the same thing or you wouldn't be reading this.

The preacher who is desperate for God will tend to do these things:

1) He will prayerfully and patiently spend time with the text God has led him to.

2) He will consider the context, the background and the words themselves.

3) He will "wrestle diligently" when the text is not easy, and he will rejoice when truth is exposed clearly.

4) He will say "no" to some things in life that prevent the above, in order to have time to do that which is most important.

5) He will let God apply that particular truth into his own life, and be convicted.

6) He will work on the message until it seems to be complete.

7) He will stand before God-and people-as a workman who is unashamed.

I write this on a Wednesday evening. I've got a long way to go before Sunday's work is done. Between Thursday and Saturday night I'll spend quite a few hours working, studying, writing, and praying. I may not even feel I've got it down by Sunday, but when I stand in that pulpit, I need to be able to say, "I've worked hard on this and I've prayed to be given all that's needed-now it is up to you, Lord."

And I trust Him to use it as only He can.

John Meador is senior pastor of First Baptist Church of Euless, Texas.

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