The Preacher’s Catechism
WHO: Lewis Allen, senior pastor of Hope Church in Huddersfield, West Yorkshire, England.
HE SAYS: “You can only preach what you love. You can only truly love if you know and are daily fed by the love of God.”
THE BIG IDEA: The church needs preachers who last and thrive. To be successful, preachers must understand how preaching works, and how their own souls work. Using the Westminster Shorter Catechism as a resource to meet the heart needs of preachers, this book presents a catechism to help readers dig deep into their motivations and hang-ups.
Based on historic catechisms, this book contains 43 questions and answers to encourage and strengthen preachers.
Part 1, “The Glory of God and the Greatness of Preaching,” examines what preaching is, what a calling is, what the end purpose of preaching should be and more. Part 2, “Jesus for Preachers,” looks at sin, weakness and questions of salvation.
In Part 3, “Loving the Word,” looks at the 10 Commandments and what they can teach preachers. The book wraps up with Part 4, “Preaching with Conviction.” The chapters in this section encourage pastors to look inward to answer questions on trust issues, prayer, baptism, sacraments and more.
“Preaching is one broken sinner saying to others with exactly the same struggles, ‘This is the grace I’m discovering, which I long for you to know with me.’ And if the preacher and his preaching are captivated by this grace, then the life of the preacher will be one of humble, praise-filled joy.”
A CONVERSATION WITH LEWIS ALLEN
What are some of the top reasons preachers burn out?
The answers are legion! Here is just one: impatience. We want the kingdom of God to arrive in power in our ministries, ideally by Friday—or the following Friday at the very latest. But it won’t, and we can’t make it. Of course, deep down we know that, but impatience drives us to work and work and work so that, just possibly, it will.
Why are we so impatient? Insecurity, pride, and lack of faith are all factors in the way we push ourselves. At a conference I overheard a man I know say to a friend, “I want to see my congregation double by the end of next year, or something’s wrong.” Well, it didn’t, and he wasn’t at that congregation for more than a couple of years after voicing that aspiration.
We need to be prepared to dig in, get on with the work, press on with a humble realism, minister the Word in and out of season, and be willing to wait on the Lord and his work. We can do this in the power of His Spirit, not in the power of our own efforts. Impatience is a terrible running mate as we do the work of the Gospel.
What are a few basic steps pastors can take to achieve a good work-life balance?
Decide on your work hours and stick to them. Agree with those closest to you (elders/spouse/colleagues/others) when you will work, and what your responsibilities are. Stick to them, with their help.
Find things you really enjoy doing that have nothing to do with work. When all you can think about and get excited about is ministry, you’re heading toward imbalance and overwork. Discover something else, and give it sufficient time for your refreshment.
Exercise is essential in ministry. Run, swim, work out, play a team sport, or ride a bike.
Be ruthless about getting out of the study after agreed-upon work hours—and staying out. Why not leave the phone there, too?
Say no to people occasionally, and ignore the phone. Train others to deal with potential problems.
What are the warning signs that a preacher is neglecting his spiritual needs?
You read the Bible because you feel that people like you ought to, rather than because you need to and want to.
You read the Bible in order to feed others, but not yourself. The joy of discovering Christ in his Word has been swallowed up by the duty of serving others with the Christ of the Word.
You feel that prayer is like putting off the real, productive work you could and should be doing.
You used to take whole mornings, or whole days, away with your Bible, a prayer list, a good book, and a pen and paper, but that has now become a hazy memory.
You listen to a sermon and think, “yeah, know that,” “I would have put that differently,” “I could use that next Sunday,” and have every other reaction instead of receiving the sermon for what it is—the Word of the Living God.