Awhile back, our interim pastor asked me to have a go at preaching a Sunday morning message. It was as terrifying as it sounds, and I truly believe that God spoke His Word far more clearly than humanly possible that morning.
Even as I write this it’s a struggle. I want to draw as little attention to it because I struggle with pride and don’t want to feed this temptation. And everyone knows how annoying it is to see a young preacher “humblebrag” their own preaching… certainly couldn’t imagine Charles Spurgeon or George Whitefield getting on social media saying: “Just had the privilege of preaching sermon. Humbled. Link here. #unnecessaryhashtag”
So I hope this isn’t that kind of post. I’m really just journaling my thoughts about the difference mentally between leading a service and preaching a sermon – as a reminder to myself, but also while wondering how others who lead worship or preach regularly feel mentally in the lead-up to and following Sunday.
When worship leading
The anxiety and adrenaline accumulates during the week and peaks in the hour before the worship service. (I know this as I’m running around all stressed out 15 minutes before the service starts). This stress and tension is released song by song, element by element. As each part of the service progresses, I grow more and more relaxed knowing that my role in the service is winding up.
Once the church is dismissed, Sunday afternoons are a time to relax, unwind and share life with church family. Other than the odd comment or concern about a particular song, I’m chilled out by the end of the day.
It’s actually reasonably relaxed during the week – sermon preparation is a self-directed, self-paced activity. Even on Sunday morning it’s not so stressful. The anxiety and adrenaline accumulate slightly later, from when the first song starts. It’s actually really difficult to focus on the sung praise, particularly in the song before the sermon “slot”. In my head I’m preoccupied with last-minute adjustments to my sermon notes. Tense and nervous. As I preach, some of that tension dissipates as God miraculously calms nerves, smooths out phrases and the Spirit works on the hearers of His message. The adrenaline flows freely.
But it’s after the service when the questions and comments come through. The stress and tension ratchets up as I think about what I didn’t say that I should have, and what I did say that I shouldn’t have. By Sunday afternoon there’s a big slump in my energy levels as the adrenaline from the morning wears off. I feel like hiding away in a room and talking to nobody else. The next few days I’m still pondering over what was preached: the content, delivery, the response, everything. Eventually the next thing comes into view and the stress of preaching dissipates.
This was all pretty new to me so I’m sure my experiences will change over time as I gain some more experience. For example, perhaps as God works on my fear of man, the post-sermon questions won’t be as daunting. And most importantly, I need to keep preaching the gospel to myself, that my identity isn’t in what I do – worship leading or preaching – but is ultimately found in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the perfect Worship Leader and Preacher.