When I was getting started as a preacher, the fact that preaching required hard work didn’t come as a major shock. My big surprise came when I realized the hardest work a preacher must do happens within the preacher’s own heart.
I’ve found the most challenging part of a sustained preaching ministry is not the rigor required to prepare and present a sermon. My biggest challenge is keeping my heart in good order week in and week out. Preaching is not just hard work; it’s heart work.
Ministry has a way of testing our hearts as preachers. When preaching well, our hearts are tested by the praise we receive (Proverbs 27:21). When struggling as preachers, we face tests of insecurity and discouragement. Attending a gathering of pastors or hearing about friends serving in high-profile ministries can trigger competitive urges, testing our hearts with unwanted feelings of comparison, or a deflating sense of insignificance.
Ministry turbulence and relational tensions bring still more tests our way. How do you speak with confidence when you’ve been shaken by conflict? How do you proclaim the goodness of God when you are not in a good place? Who can you even talk to about these matters?
The way we handle these tests of the heart will affect how we hold up in ministry. Most preachers have pastoral friends who did not last in ministry in spite of being unusually bright students, incredibly insightful exegetes, and remarkably gifted communicators. They didn’t lack aptitude or ability; they had a heart problem. In some cases, their hearts gave way to sinful attitudes and actions. In other cases, their hearts gave up from being worn down and hardened by the sins of others.
The Heart of the Preacher
These challenges launched me on a journey into the heart of the preacher. I went back to God’s Word for correction and direction; I also listened to wise counsel from seasoned, godly preachers—some I knew personally and others I only knew through their writings.
In The Heart of the Preacher, I seek to pass along the heart-level lessons God has been teaching me over the past thirty-plus years of preaching.
The book is organized into two parts. In the first, The Testing of a Preacher’s Heart, I highlight fifteen heart-level tests preachers often experience as they seek to preach God’s Word. These tests—such as dealing with ambition, laziness, or criticism—are commonly faced but not commonly addressed in preaching books or at pastoral gatherings.
Part 2, The Strengthening of a Preacher’s Heart, provides practical guidance intended to help preachers prepare their hearts to face these heart tests in God-honoring, soul-stabilizing ways. While we cannot keep our hearts from being tested, we can take intentional steps to get ready for the tests. Each of the final ten chapters deals with a habit God has used to strengthen my soul to better proclaim his Word.
The hardest part of preaching is the heart work it requires. If you have a passion to preach and teach God’s Word, I invite you to join me on this journey into the heart of a preacher.
This guest post was written by Rick Reed, author of The Heart of the Preacher: Preparing Your Soul to Proclaim the Word (Lexham Press, 2019).