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jonathan robinson – preaching under fire

I am a cynic.  I am naturally prone to doubt everything, not because I have an especially strong bent to rationalism but because I don’t trust other people to be rational, or even myself for that matter.  For example as a young associate pastor in London I remember a visiting team of young missionaries getting very excited about the spiritual attack that they were under whilst camping in our church.  As they recounted to me the battle they were fighting I sat there thinking what a load of rubbish they were talking, they just needed to go outside and get some fresh air and sunshine instead of stewing in an admittedly dark and stuffy church basement.

However, since I started sharing my life with my better half, and life with my better half accounts for about half my years of preaching at present, we have begun to notice that before I preach an especially good sermon (especially good by my standards anyway) we generally have a pretty rough time of it, sleepless nights, bad dreams, children refusing to settle, neighbours or their cats causing trouble, etc.  I would be tempted to blame this on nervous tension but I usually have no idea which sermons are going to go well or not and the ones that really go with a bang usually take me by as much surprise as they do the congregation.

I’d hate to be thought of as superstitious, but is it possible that I am resistant to the idea of my preaching placing me in the line of fire, making me liable to spiritual attack, because I haven’t actually grasped the spiritual significance of what I am doing?  If I am truly sowing the word of God in people’s hearts surely I am bound to suffer from flocks of pesky birds?  If I am seeking to advance God’s kingdom surely the kingdom that is losing ground will resist?  If I hold up the shield of faith doesn’t its very presence suggest the reality and danger of flaming arrows?

My question is, because I am a pretty secularised cynical fella who hasn’t given this a great deal of thought, how do you think about and deal with the spiritual battle aspect of your preaching ministry?  Is it enough just to turn our eyes upon Jesus, or do we need one eye out for prowling devouring lions?  What do you think?  What do you do?

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Jonathan Robinson is a lanky bearded Brit who has been preaching since 1999, in NZ since 2006, and blogging since 2008.  He is one of the pastors at Blockhouse Bay Baptist Church and blogs at


  1. Geoff New says:

    Over the years I have realised that the form such spiritual opposition takes for me – is by way of distraction. For instance, on the morning I am to preach stuff starts to go wrong with technology or some other issue. These “issues” invite me to give my full attention to them instead of prayer and preparation for the sermon at hand. I – to my shame – often have accepted the invitation! Now the issues still emerge but I am more alert to their nature.

  2. Yes Geoff, power point is of the devil, i very seldom use PP because if I do it consumes all my focus and instead of focussing on how to preach the word I end up focussing on making a great powerpoint. But is that really a “spiritual attack” or is it just being human?

  3. Shannon Richmond says:

    This is an excellent post. I think we are all to ready to dismiss the problems in the natural as just technical/ earthly hitches but how many ‘coincidences’ should it take for us to acknowledge that we are in a spiritual battle?
    It is amazing how many ‘things’ go wrong before preaching from sudden sore throats to broken nights because of children who normally sleep through!
    To me it really heightens the need for us to be continually praying for our leaders – those who preach, those who teach our kids, serve in our congregations – the list goes on.

  4. Mark Maffey says:

    It is easy to dismiss the whole area of Spiritual Warfare, our Western minds do tend to rationalise away things that happen around us. I am presently leading my home group through the following Bible Study:
    Spiritual Warfare
    LifeGuide Topical Bible Studies
    By: Jack Kuhatschek
    ISBN: 0830830898
    ISBN-13: 9780830830893

    I recommend it to all, it deals with a range of issues we can and do face in Church Life, and as I approach the next study looking at Job Chapters 1-2 I can see it will challenge people in the groups perception of how God and Satan interact.

    I agree that it is easy to be distracted, and no one passage reinforces that more than Luke 10 vs.38-42. The last two or three sermons I have done have also lead me into the powerpoint trap. The little book the Joy of Discovery reinforces that we need to have a deliberate and focused approach to preparing sermons, and the starting point has to be listening to God and to the text to comprehend where we begin.

    I believe we ignore the whole of area of spiritual attack and warfare at our peril, we need to have our antennae tuned into hearing God in the midst of the Secular Chaos that is the society we live within.

  5. susan says:

    maybe i’m being obvious here, but if one believes in the truth of good then surely we must also believe in evil. ergo, if God can make things happen for good then there is also room for things to happen that are not – which at it’s most extreme could be considered spiritual warfare.
    On the other hand, I am yet to be convinced that sore throats, failed sounds systems or in loco parentis preachers are part of a spiritual attack.

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