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preaching in bad head-space – reuben munn


Recently I’ve had to preach when it hasn’t been well with my soul. I had a really tough week and was experiencing major inner turmoil. It wasn’t even well with my body; I had a mild stomach bug at the end of the same week. I arrived exhausted at a weekend on which I was due to speak at a marriage conference, give a talk at a wedding ceremony and preach at our church. It was like staring up a huge mountain that I felt completely incapable of climbing.

On the Saturday morning I sent a text to my elders, asking for their prayer. They sent back assurances that they were praying for me, and off I went to speak at the marriage conference. I decided to adjust the ending of that talk in order to speak out of my own sense of physical and emotional brokenness at the time. I told the story of how earlier in the week, in the middle of the anguish I was feeling, my wife Anna had prayed for me, and what a special and powerful moment that was. I didn’t talk about the situation itself but simply how Anna had supported me through it. It seemed that people who were listening connected more to that story than anything else I said. It really seemed to resonate with them.

That experience reassured me that it’s ok at times to speak out of our brokenness and weakness. If that’s where we are at, I don’t see much point in putting on a fake happy face and pretending to be all jovial in the pulpit. I know nobody likes a sour puss, but I want to be real with people I speak to, and sometimes that’s going to mean being real in my pain. It’s encouraging that when people sense vulnerability in a preacher they often connect deeply with it and relate more emotively to what is being said. This is not an attempt to go for the sympathy vote but simply a plea for us to be a bit more raw with our lives in preaching; both in our joy and our suffering.

I got through the wedding talk that weekend as well, and the following morning’s sermon. I didn’t have my usual energy level but other than that things seemed to go ok. Even my upset stomach eased when I was speaking. I can’t remember much of what I personally prayed those days; I think it was more of a sense of just trying to rest in God’s presence and peace rather than using any particular prayer words. God was so faithful to me (and hopefully to those who listened!) and it reminded me that my preaching really is in his hands and not mine.

The next week was much brighter. It’s easy now to drift into self-reliance, but I think the experience of that dark week has left a mark on my preaching. I am more willing to be broken before those I preach to, and at the same time I’m painfully aware of the temptation to do so out of pride (false humility). I am more consciously aware of my total dependence on God throughout the whole process of preaching. And I’m encouraged by the words of Psalm 31: “I trust in you, Lord. I say, ‘you are my God.’ My times are in your hands.”

One Comment

  1. Robyn Mellar-Smith says:

    Thanks for this Reuben. I had a really tough week last week with some stuff going on, 2 funerals and then had to preach Sunday.

    I remembered that you had written this post and came back to read it. It was a real encouragement to me…
    Blessings, Robyn

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