Preaching is not a competitive sport, but it sometimes feels that way. Our church members are listening to other pastors’ sermons on various media outlets, which means comparisons are inevitable and uncomfortable. We might get mad at them if we were not doing the same thing. Before we do, we should heed Paul’s words:
For we don’t dare classify or compare ourselves with some who commend themselves. But in measuring themselves by themselves and comparing themselves to themselves, they lack understanding. (2 Corinthians 10:12, CSB)
We naturally want to to please God and His people, but how do you stop short of becoming people pleasers? Here are five ways I try to resist pulpit peer pressure.
I am not 100% sure that cleverness is the right word, but I like it and you understand it, so I’m rolling the dice here. Titles for sermons and series are important, but titles themselves aren’t imperative for our mission. Preaching should less about cleverness and more about the cross.
My speech and my proclamation were not with persuasive words of wisdom, but with a powerful demonstration by the Spirit, so that your faith might not be based on men’s wisdom but on God’s power. (1 Corinthians 2:4-5, CSB)
Hear from God.
When is the last time you got off campus for the sole purpose of devoting yourself to prayer and the ministry of the Word (Acts 6:4)? Maybe our churches would see the same thing in us the early Jewish leaders saw in the Apostles.
When they observed the boldness of Peter and John and realized that they were uneducated and untrained men, they were amazed and recognized that they had been with Jesus. (Acts 4:13, CSB)
When I draw my sermon ideas straight from Scripture rather than sermons I’ve heard or read, it is easier to resist the lure of plagiarism. In order for me to hear directly from God, I need to intentionally tune out the voices of other members and preachers.
Plan your series six months out.
You can relieve some of your pulpit pressure by using a portion of your off-campus study time to dream about what comes next. Don’t get bogged down into titles and text divisions. Simply ask God what your church needs to hear next.
Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; rebuke, correct, and encourage with great patience and teaching. (2 Timothy 4:2, CSB)
My current summer series is in 1 John, which I have entitled “Summer of Love.” I knew this is where I was headed months in advance, which gave me room to first read it devotionally before I got to work on the sermons. Advanced planning also takes the pressure off of last minute decisions for your worship and media leaders.
Share your pulpit.
You can take the pressure off of your pulpit simply by sharing it with other faithful, able men. Nothing in your Bible suggests that preaching is just for professionals. Summer is a great time for you and your congregation to take a break from the norm by bringing in fresh voices.
What you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, commit to faithful men who will be able to teach others also. (2 Timothy 2:2, CSB)
Be an original.
I am finishing up my first solo book project this summer, which is a bit intimidating, because I have wasted too much of my ministry admiring and coveting the gifts of other preachers and writers. It helps me to realize that my writing style is as unique as my speaking style. The result will inevitably be that some will like it better than others.
Do you remember who was voted best Old Testament preacher by the only judge on the panel? The mold-breaking baptizer named John. A different John gives him a stellar tribute:
John was a burning and shining lamp. (John 5:35)
I would be interested to get your feedback on these ideas, and hear some fresh ideas that would be helpful to me.