10 Things Only Preachers Can Understand about Preaching

Churches usually have only a few preachers (if they have more than one) and many more members of the congregation. I write this post to help members understand preachers a little more—and, I trust, pray more for us.

  1. Once the “preaching bug” bites, it’s tough to ever get away from it. There’s no way to explain it unless you’ve felt it. It’s an overwhelming, undeniable sense of calling.
  2. We’re usually our own worst critics. Sure, most of us have critics – but few of us have critics as tough on us as we are on ourselves.
  3. A perceived “good day” in the pulpit is exhilarating. It’s tiring, but it’s a weird kind of tired. It’s the kind of tired that says, “I can’t wait to do it again.”
  4. A perceived “bad day” in the pulpit is exhausting. It’s an emotional, physical, and spiritual drain that sometimes makes us think, “I don’t know if I should ever do that again.” 
  5. It’s easy to get lazy in sermon preparation. The resources are many, and the preparation time is sometimes short—so we learn shortcuts to a sermon. Many of us have to fight this temptation.
  6. We both want and don’t want evaluations of our sermons. We want to improve, but we’d usually like to improve without others pointing out our weaknesses. We’re human.
  7. We can’t avoid gauging the crowd as we preach. Nobody I know wants to preach just for the crowd, but we catch it when the congregation doesn’t seem to be with us. We don’t usually miss the signs.
  8. We know when we’re underprepared. Whether it’s our personal spiritual walk or our practical study for a sermon, we know when we’re not ready to bring the Word of God. It happens.
  9. We love it when a child “gets it” through our preaching. When the littlest guys and girls understand the Word from us, adults will “get it,” too.
  10. We grieve and quake a bit when we hear of other preachers who fall. We know our role as proclaimer puts us in the enemy’s sights. We also know that except for the grace of God, we would all be shot down.

Preachers, what would you add? Laity, please pray for us. 


  • Bill Pitcher says:

    Great thoughts. Thanks you.

  • Russ says:

    Spiritual warfare is so much more noticeable and grieving.

  • When our flock struggles, we struggle. Whether it’s divorce, death of a family member, or any number of spiritual or life problems, when the people in our care struggle, we do to. Sometimes we wonder what we could do better, or if we could have been there more than we were, or some other kind of self-doubt and second guessing, but no matter what, we grieve when they grieve.

  • Aron Utecht says:

    There is a real temptation to give people what they want – they are present by choice, and if they aren’t happy they can always quit coming. This can be subconscious, but real.

  • Doug Miller says:

    There is great disappointment when we do the study time, invest time in prayer, spend the time word-smithing and practicing, but the entire sermon seems to fall on deaf ears.

  • Depends on the number of meetings, funerals, special events, etc. Congregation can tell the Saturday night specials from the week long study. “Glad to see you preacher” as opposed to “Great sermon.”

  • Steve says:

    We want our congregants discipled and healthy enough to preach too, even if they never set foot in the pulpit (though wouldn’t it be awesome if they did!).

    • Mark says:

      Very few ordinary people will ever be asked or allowed to preach. For starters, some of us would be tossed out on our heads no later than half way through the sermon.

  • Dr. Michael Shanlian says:

    I use a simple analogy. If the sermon does not convict and challenge me first, it will not likely transform those who hear it!

  • Greg Dixon says:

    We like talking about the sermon during the week. So ask those questions

  • Chris Lanham says:

    What I would add:
    1. We’re not preaching our opinion of a passage or what we want it to say. In fact, we often preach contrary to our own desires, meaning preaching can be painful.

    2. We don’t have it all together. We wrestle with sin and integrity, as well.

    3. We’re more interested in your transformation than recognition.

  • Michael Madaris says:

    1)I would add that we want the hearer to care as much about their spiritual condition as the preacher/pastor does. 2) Passion is not anger. Just because I may get “loud” from time to time doesn’t mean I’m angry.

  • Jonathan LaFleur says:

    A little encouragement goes a long way! It’s a huge blessing to hear how others were blessed by the sermon, especially when comments are specific!

  • Grant Barber says:

    1. If you use a lectionary, usually the harder passages, ones you want to avoid (for whatever reasons) yield the best results. 2. Sometimes people will come through and say “I’m so glad you said x, y, z”–and you were saying just the opposite. 3. Sometimes the ones you think you nail, people are ‘ho-hum,’ it seems, while others that feel messy or that you’re floundering–“that was one of your best sermons ever!” 4. Person says, “Today I really got a lot out of your sermon,” and that makes you both happy but also, “well, what’s been missing in my other ones then?” Big conclusion: as a preacher you have a lot of control over what you say, how you say it…but praise God it’s not complete control, that the Spirit gets in there to meet people where they need it.

  • Mike Miller says:

    Comments like, “I really enjoyed that” or, “Good job” are really disheartening. I’m not trying to entertain or perform. I understand the sentiment—that those who say those things are just doing their best to pay a compliment. However, those comments invariably come repeatedly from people who never act on what I preached. I’d lots rather hear, “That was very encouraging” or, “The Lord really convicted me” or, “Thank you for clarifying that passage.” We preachers want to know how our sermons are affecting people’s spiritual lives—not whether or not they “like” our preaching.

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