Do You Make This One Common Preaching Mistake?

Steelcase Tanker Desk & Goodform ChairOne of the most common mistakes that preachers make is too much time behind a desk. Preachers do need time for study and sermon prep along with balancing the many demands of pastoral ministry. But if preachers never get away from the desk, they will soon lose touch with people.

“Many a preacher misses the mark because, though he knows books, he does not know men.”
~James Stalker

How well do you know the people in your community? What are their hopes? What are their dreams? What are their struggles? What are their fears? What are their Hobbies? Jobs? Favorite TV shows? Favorite music?

Many pastors know a lot about dead authors, but nothing about their people. So their preaching soon becomes irrelevant to the people they are called to reach.

This is the delicate balance of pastoral ministry. Too much time away from the desk and your ministry will suffer. Too much time behind the desk and your preaching will suffer – not because you aren’t prepared, but because you aren’t connected.

A good preacher has his finger on the pulse of the people.

Ministry was never meant to be a desk job.

Benefits of Time With People

Relevance. As mentioned above, a pastor who is disconnected with his people will be disconnected in his sermon. Being able to drop the name of their favorite show, name a specific problem they face at work, or speak about a detailed problem in a family relationship is what makes people feel like you truly understand them.

Evangelism. The longer you are in ministry, the less non-christian friends you have. If you want to personally reach people for Jesus, you have to get out a little. If you are always in your office or at church, all of your interaction will only be with church people. Before you know it, you will lose a connection with non-christians. You will forget how they think. You will forget how they live. You won’t know the best way to reach them, because you aren’t hanging out  with them. Soon you will be just another out-dated pastor.

Reputation. People don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care. If you never talk to people in the community other than church members, you will just be another pastor in the mind of the community. However, if you spend time in the community and get to know people, you will soon create a whole new reputation as the pastor who actual cares.

Illustrations. People are a wealth of sermon illustrations ripe for the picking – stories of suffering, success, failure, and spiritual transformation. A pastor who shares personal stories of people (with permission) is far more interesting than one who recycles canned illustrations from a book or website. You can tell a pastor who spends time in the community by the stories he shares.

Empathy. We have compassion for people we know. It’s easy to look at a picture of a person in another country and feel sad for them. But moments later you will move on and forget. However, if you travel to that country, meet them face to face, learn their names, meet their families, and see their struggle first-hand, you will be wrecked for life. You will have to do something, because now it’s personal. It is the same way with the people in your community. Knowing their family by name, seeing their struggles, and helping them through tough times creates a bond between you. Your heart will expand for your community. You will feel their pain and be a better preacher because of it.

Ways to get out more

  • Delegate to free up time so you actually can step away from your desk.
  • Schedule a lunch/dinner with a key volunteer or family once a week.
  • Practice hospitality. Create reasons to invite people into your home.
  • Find an excuse to talk to your neigbors. Bake them cookies just because. Hang out in the front yard instead of behind a wall in the backyard. Take a lot of walks in the neighborhood.
  • Join a community activity: local gym, sports team, local club, business network, volunteer in your kid’s activities, etc.
  • Regularly spend a few office hours a week in the same community hang out – like a coffee shop or diner. Get work done, but don’t be so wrapped up in it that you shut out the world around you.

This year, maybe the biggest difference you could make is to simply get out from behind your desk more. Get out and reintroduce yourself to your community.

QUESTION: What ways have you found helpful to engage with people in your community?

Other Posts from the Best Year Yet Series

  1. Make This Year Your Best Year - Start Here
  2. 5 Characteristic of Goals that Work - Set Goals
  3. The Secret to Getting Ahead on Sermon Preparation - Get Ahead
  4. How to Eliminate Bad Speaking Habits. Umm… Like… You Know? - Speak Better
  5. Lose Wight; Preach Better - Healthy Body
  6. Why a Healthy Ministry Requires a Healthy Family - Healthy Family
  7. Out of the Overflow of the Heart the Preacher Speaks - Healthy Spiritual Life
  8. 41 Ways to Risky Preaching - Try Something New
  9. You Don’t Have Time Not to Read - Read More
  10. The Secret to Winning Time Management - Accomplish More of What Matters
  11. Do You Make This One Common Preaching Mistake? - Step Away From your Desk

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