Once you pastor for a while, it dawns on you that nailing a sermon doesn't mean lives will change. Or you'll meet a person who's surrendered everything to Christ, and you'll realize that your sermon wasn't even good and nothing you did caused him to become a believer.
There was a guy who had been in our church for 15 years. One day he told me my preaching hadn't changed him. He said I spoke too much about the "narrow road" and how everyone needs to be radical for Christ. But he said there's also a "middle road" where people like him can do a lot of good things. I was floored by that. He's sat under my teaching for 15 years and he still believes there isn't only a wide easy road and a narrow difficult road, but also a middle road? I've been told many times that my teaching is really helpful, that I make things simple for people to understand. And then you hear something like that.
That's when I remember, I cannot make someone fall in love with Jesus.
So what's the point of all the work, sermon prep, and programs if the outcome is out of our hands?
Some of our toil is wasted, because we're toiling believing that these things change people.
I believe a lot more of our work needs to be put into prayer, study of the Word, and trusting God. I could spend an extra ten hours on every sermon, trying to get every word just right, but my time would be much better spent out sharing the gospel with people and praying.
Now, I do study hard, because the Scripture tells me to and because I want to be accurate in my teaching. We should work hard "as unto the Lord," but we have to let our theology guide what we work hard at. And you have to be led by the Spirit on how much time to spend crafting a sermon and how much time to spend praying for a movement of the Spirit.
Preaching Doesn't Change People
This excerpt from an interview with Francis Chan issues a challenge to preachers:
I couldn't agree more.