As a preacher I found this statement from James Boice interesting and familiar:
Haven’t you felt that kind of discouragement yourself when you were in the middle of a particularly demanding job? I have. I often feel it when I am in the middle of writing a sermon. In fact, I have a term for it. I say to myself that I have “bogged,” meaning that I have bogged down. It is because the process of preaching a preparing a sermon is mentally and emotionally draining, and I frequently reach a point at which I no longer want to go on. If when I am felling like that I should receive an additional threat from outside, the combination of tiredness and fear or anxiety could easily make me stop what I am doing. We can fight against one enemy on one front, but it is hard to fight against two (or more) enemies simultaneously. (Nehemiah, 55)
The only thing I would change about this statement is that instead of often I would say weekly there is a point in my sermon prep in which I feel bogged. I hesitate to say this because I hate when pastors over dramatize their work, but it is hard to describe the mental, emotional, and spiritual energy required for faithful preaching. Sermon prep is very draining. The reality is that every pastor knows exactly what Boice is talking about. Each week the preacher must expect to press through the bog to get to the pulpit.
I say this as encouragement to those of you in the bog this week. You are not the only one who is tired and frustrated. As a Tom Hanks character once said, “it’s supposed to be hard. If it wasn’t hard everyone would do it.” Or, in a slightly more spiritual vein, the God who called you into His service will sustain you as you discharge your ministry.
I also want to exhort those who will be spiritually fed on Sunday because your pastor endured the bog. Please don’t make the bog thicker for him. Sure, you might have genuine complaints. I know for a fact that if you are reading this you have an imperfect pastor (especially if you’re from my congregation). But, more than likely, you also have a pastor who genuinely loves you even if he imperfectly demonstrates that love. Can you imagine if everyone in the church expected you to be all things to all people? Misplaced expectation can add layers and layers of mud to the bog of sermon prep. So does opposition. In fact, disunity and opposition are like pouring bags of cement into the bog. You can virtually guarantee an insufficiently prepared sermon by stirring up strife in the congregation.
So what can you do to help you pastor through the bog? Most importantly, you can pray for your pastor this week. Pray for his faithfulness, purity, courage, & illumination. When you get done with that, pray for wisdom, power, and love. At the same time, you can support him as a brother in Christ. You can do him a great service by treating him and his family (Don’t forget his family!) like friends not enemies. Don’t expect for him to possess every spiritual gift or preach like your favorite celebrity preacher. Appreciate the way God has gifted him and edify him so that he will be faithful in his preaching.
I am thankful to be the beneficiary of kind support such as this, and I can’t tell you how many times the Lord has used my congregation to pull me out of the bog.