Tuesday, March 29, 2016

DEPRESSED AFTER PREACHING

This last weekend was one of those times when I experienced a real depressive episode after preaching.  It was one of the worst I have ever had.  I felt defeated, embarrassed and ashamed.  When I was finished I couldn’t even remember how I had ended the sermon.  Afterward, the Lord’s Supper was celebrated and I took the elements.  Yet, as my daughter drove me home I was silent in the car.  Usually I am asking members of my family how they thought it went, what stood out to them, even how it could have been done better.  This time, I asked no questions.

    I have had other pastors tell me that preaching is hard for them, that they often feel terrible after preaching, that they feel they have just not done a good job.  I can’t objectively tell you if the sermon was really that bad.  I know the Scripture is true, and I hope I “divided” the Word accurately.  I am not sure if I made a huge mistake and I intuitively know it but my emotions are keeping me from realizing it.

    Often I feel vulnerable after preaching.  My wife was not with me on this Easter Sunday as she had singing responsibilities at our other church site.  I will sometimes find her after preaching and just stand next to her for some emotional support.

   I believe in “Spirit filled preaching” because I believe in the filling of the Holy Ghost.  I ask the Lord to help me when I stand to preach.  I don’t want to “preach in the flesh” as it were, or in my own strength.  I certainly don’t want the sermon to be about me, or manipulative or crafty.  I want to be full of God, and I want the sermon to glorify Christ.  I realize the need to be prepared, to know the text, but sometimes I tend to get lost in the application and fail to end a sermon well.  This is my very human failing.

   My gift is to be more extemporaneous that to be literate, in short I don’t write out my sermons and have few notes.  Yet, the danger is to lose my tether and to wander a bit, to start out on an illustration (which I often think of right at the moment of preaching) and hope it makes sense.  Sounds dangerous even as I write about it, and it can be.

   I was pumped to preach this weekend.  I preached on the night of Good Friday and loved the experience, loved the reason for a sermon on this very special day.  I was honored to be asked to preach on Easter, to celebrate the Resurrection.  Yet, there I was feeling morose and even frightened after I had finished delivering God’s great truths.  The pastor that mentored me taught me enough about spiritual warfare for me to know that the Devil is often involved in our ministries. He is the great accuser.  At the time I didn’t even think about him, I just felt terrible.  I was also taught to never beg for consolation after I preach as others may have been deeply blessed, convicted, or encouraged and would find my negative feelings very confusing.

    I am hardly ever depressed, usually optimistic and very confident.  If anything I tend to be over confident. So, this is not a constant struggle.  It did make me feel for my brothers though, who struggle with depression, who even dread how they will feel after they attempt to minister.  I am sure some people thanked me for preaching, but in a depressed moment we can hardly believe what others tell us since we are already convinced we are worthless.  I have pastored a great congregation which has never been reticent about confirming my gifts or expressing their love for me, and my preaching.  I can’t imagine what it must be like to never get that kind of emotional support.   I tell you these things just in case someone else knows the feeling, and some others might not know their preachers ever have such feelings. 


    Maybe I need to be rebuked for my lack of faith.  Now, a few days later I feel so blessed to be loved and forgiven by God, so please don’t take me to task too readily.   Maybe it was a bad sermon and someone will have the courage to come and point out what I did wrong.  I believe the Gospel enough, right now, to be able to hear it.

10 comments:

  1. Randy, I doubt "lack of faith" had anything to do with it. Consider Elijah, who after confronting and defeating hundreds of prophets of false gods, orchestrating a miraculous sacrifice to the one true God, accurately predicting the end of a 3 1/2 year drought, took off running upon hearing, "Queen Jezebel is out to gotcha!" I don't believe it was lack of faith or disobedience that prompted him to flee - in fact, God sent an angel to comfort and feed him. Frankly, being human, his adrenaline must have been pumping big-time, and once the crises had passed, Elijah found himself stressed-out, out of stress hormones. But once he had had time to recover, the Lord graciously said, "Okay, Elijah, you're not on your own here. I'm with you. Get back into the fight!" Same with you, my friend, Randy!

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  2. Feel like this more than I'd care to admit.

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  3. First of all thank you for opening up about your depression. People sometimes see clergy as somehow immune from depression. Facts would suggest otherwise. I was under that erroneous assumption for preachers and leaders like Spurgeon, Martin Luther, only later to find out there were times they suffered from severe depression. Paul is famous for his bout with depression in 2nd Corinthians 1:8-9 ("nd" was added purposely so as not to emulate a certain NY billionaire). I for one lament the growing declining discourse and behaviour in the current presidential campaign. It seems to portend an irrevocable demise of once hopeful nation. Prophets of old were depressed. The headlong decline among nation's leaders can surely be a source of depression. In your case a feeling of not conveying a message effectively does bring self criticism not always understood by those of us who don't preach. In my experience "Unforgettable" sermons are rare. One example would be from a mutual friend, the late Rev Elward Ellis when he preached a eulogy for another mutual friend of mine who had died from AIDS. The title of the sermon was "We're All Messed Up". At times we suffer from messed up families, messed up health, messed up jobs, messed up finances (at least most of us), etc. In the end he did conclude that in Christ we are healed, redeemed, loved, never alone, and forgiven. The promise of eternal security for believers, " For I am persuade that nothing can separate us from God's love " is paramount in sustaining faith. Even Paul had to be "persuaded" of this existential truth. Romans 8:31-39. I've suffered from depression, sometimes severe. In God's time He is willing and able to restore. Just the fruits of your recent book for example, (which should be required reading at every seminary in the Western hemisphere and beyond) convinces me that while God is not finished with any of us, we are at times susceptible to lies of the enemy that God is finished, even if we embrace those depression inducing lies even for a moment.

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  4. Thanks for your transparency brother Randy as we walk in the light of honesty with each other than true fellowship begins at the feet Jesus. Lovingly, Janice Upton
    " I have been there a lot" !!!!!!! Lovingly JC

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  5. Randy, just want you to know....I was totally blessed by your's and Rev. Kev's words on Good Friday. THEREFORE, I believe you were a blessing on Resurrection Sunday also...it's just the fact that Joan was not there...love to you both and praying for you as you faithfully serve our Savior.

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  6. Hi Randy! I thank the Lord for your preaching and for your life. Your preaching tells me about Gods grace while your honesty and transparency puts it into a context that helps to set me free. Love you brother!

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  7. Tracking with you through your whole blog- been there done that, believed the Gospel afterwards.

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  8. Tracking with you through your whole blog- been there done that, believed the Gospel afterwards.

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  9. "I believe the gospel enough, right now, to be able to hear it." What a good example of modeling vulnerability. Your are a true servant leader Pastor Nabors. Thank you.

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  10. I wrote about a similar experience years ago. At the center, for me, was me. I thought too much of myself, that a poor preaching performance on my part could unhinge God's work being done in the church and from the pulpit. I also thought too little of God that, He, somehow was dependent upon my good preaching to perform his good work. Another strange experience I've had is depression after glorious sermons, sermons that clearly eclipsed my abilities. I felt small afterward, and everything felt meaningless compared to the experience of God's power I had just been humbled by. This is a torturous task, the weekly sermon grind, but in our suffering, we are united to our Suffering Savior. Keep being poured out. Grace and Peace - Todd W.

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