Preaching in the dry places

I’ve hit one of those preaching dry places that I’ve been warned about. I’ve been preaching for a little over three years, now, about 50 weeks a year.

The chief aspect of this dryness is my lack of satisfaction with any sermon illustrations or stories. I’ve grown distrustful and uncomfortable with personal stories. They all feel like add-ons or accessories. No story or anecdote can possibly connect to every person. Many might actually make some people feel excluded. I’m finding myself aware of the gulf between my experiences and understandings and reactions and the vast, unknown inner life of the people who hear the sermon. I’m finding myself feeling that every story — especially the good ones — detract in some way from the Scripture.

I find myself thrown back on the text and not comfortable venturing far from it, which means I lose all those colorful bits and touching stories and illustrations. In short, I think I’m much less interesting in the pulpit, but I’m not sure how to avoid that without doing something that feels — at least for the moment — contrived.

None of this is meant as a criticism of any preacher or even myself. It is simply a report.

I’m told these dry periods are part of the preaching life. This is my first one. I wonder how long God will leave me here.


4 thoughts on “Preaching in the dry places

  1. John, I suggest you think about what “preaching” is. In my opinion, what most pastors do in the pulpit on Sunday is NOT preaching in a Biblical sense. Institutionalized religion generally requires a pastor to use the pulpit to TEACH.

    If you look at the preaching in the Bible, it was generally not done in a pulpit on a regular schedule by a paid “preacher”. Preaching was more spontaneous, and in the streets or in the fields. Preaching (also known as prophesy) is speaking the Word of God. Teaching is instruction about the scripture and is actually more appropriate for Sunday in church.

    It took me a long time to figure this out. I’d suggest that you begin to spend as much time praying and listening to God as you prepare to preach. Don’t neglect your study of scripture, but it needs to be backed up with prayer.

  2. I believe it was St. Francis of Assisi who told us to preach the Gospel at all times and to use words if necessary. Helping your parishioners to live out the imperatives of the Gospel will do more than any sermon you could create. But, also remember that the red letters of the Scriptures contain many stories and it is doubtful that Jesus cared whether they were “true” stories or “merely” an outstanding way to teach a lesson.

  3. He is another idea. What did Jesus do? He taught in Parables. Stories that the people could hear and understand. Now that I have taught the lay speaking class several years I realize how powerful story telling can be, especially coupled with your testimony, or in other words, your life experience. A good book to look at is the Lay Speaking coarse, Lay Speakers tell Stories and the accompany book, Dancing with Words by Ray Buckley. Sunday afternoon I will finish this years class for 10 lay speakers and can’t wait to hear their “stories” for the final class.
    The Lord will give you what you need to completely re-immerse yourself in what he leads you to say.
    Blessings, M

  4. Your instinct to draw closer to the scriptures is a good and right one. The trick is to trust your dissatisfaction. Depending on your relationship with your congregation, you may have an opportunity to confess your current struggle.

    More practically, I indulge in art to cure my own malaise.

Comments are closed.