categories: personal, preaching
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June 9th, 2008

by Craig Groeschel

36 comments (+ Add)

My Personal Preaching Journey

Prayerfully, every biblical communicator will grow in knowledge, understanding and effectiveness. This week I’ll share some of what God is teaching me about preaching.

Work Less, Pray More

It started one Monday morning when I was sitting at my desk, attempting to study, while fighting back the tears. Nothing was wrong. In fact, everything was great. My marriage was thriving. My kids were healthy. The church was strong.

But I was weak, empty, desperate, and afraid.

Those of you with the gift of teaching usually enjoy study time. Teaching is one of my lower gifts. For me, studying is grueling and exhausting work. The pressure I feel to deliver high quality messages at times feels overwhelming.

I kept thinking… I can’t keep this up. I don’t have anything left. I don’t feel funny. I don’t feel interesting. I don’t want to preach. I can’t do this for the rest of my life.

Though the tears and fear, I was still very aware that the weekend was coming quickly. And then another would come… and another… and another… and that scared me to death.

Unable to study, I simply prayed… and prayed… and prayed. I truly believe that God showed me that I was “overworking” the messages. By faith that week, I cut my preparation time in half and devoted more time to prayer.

That weekend, I preached a message that was not as creative, not as funny, and not as entertaining, but it was FULL of spiritual passion.

On my preaching journey, I am fully convinced that God wants me to pray more and work less.

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  1. Jun 9, 2008 at 6:06 am

    WOW! Thanks for sharing that! I’m sure that took a lot of humility to write. What you said hit me like a ton of bricks. Fact is, I always say that I’m dependent on God but often I act and even think like I’m depending on my own efforts; if I’m not careful this can lead me to work very hard, pray very little and become worried that I’ll burn-out.

    I appreciate you sharing this story. I think we all can learn a lot from it.

  2. Jun 9, 2008 at 6:07 am

    Wow Craig… This really hit home with me this morning. Monday’s are always a struggle for me. This post is so timely. Thanks for the post and staying in the game to encourge us all.

  3. Jun 9, 2008 at 6:49 am

    Awesome message bro!! Mybe its an idea you could actually preach on something like this…as we all need to hear it and I am not a preacher or pastor, but I aspire to speak!!

    I have been left with a phrase from reading your article…if you don’t pray, you can’t preach!

  4. Jun 9, 2008 at 7:06 am

    There are times I get so stressed trying to get a message just right that God simply has to tell me to stop stressin’ and just preach it already!

    Thanks for your transparency on this one…and thanks for your leadership on ONE PRAYER! This weekend was awesome at BridgeWay and we can’t wait for the rest of the series…I’ll be using much of the time that I’d normally be preping to preach, to get ready for a late June offsite with our leadership team…we’re looking at adding another campus in a nearby town and One Prayer couldn’t have came at a better time!

  5. Jun 9, 2008 at 7:36 am

    Great Insight Craig. I recently adopted the 80/20 attitude in my preparation. For every 20 percent in the face of people I spend 80 percent in the face of God. Thanks for your transparency.

  6. Jun 9, 2008 at 8:07 am

    great word this morning…thank you!…pray more hits home and I personally could fill in the blank (work) with several things…pray more do less, I think I always have to be doing…pray more computer less…pray more phone less…pray more tv (sports) less…

  7. Jun 9, 2008 at 8:11 am

    Thanks for the insights! As an associate who does not get to preach too often, I know exactly what you are saying, from a different perspective. I am in the position that I am because it is right where my strengths are and when I get up to speak I over prepare because I do not preach too often and I want to hit a homerun everytime, so I put more pressure on myself. I find myself trying to do it and not allowing the Spirit move through me. I am going through this currently. Thanks again for the insights.

    Troy - Thanks for the 80/20 - that is great stuff.

  8. Jun 9, 2008 at 8:22 am

    Craig, thanks for this honest confession. As a worship arts pastor I sometimes feel that I have simply used every creative idea already. As you say, it is a scary, even terrifying, feeling to think that Sundays just keep on coming regardless of how “inspired and creative” we may or may not feel. I have often said that if people coming to Jesus depends in any way on my ability we are sunk. I struggle with this so much - it is hard to produce week in and week out, even in my area. I appreciate the admonishment to seek God most of all. As you did this, do you feel that your teachings flowed more out of your own walk rather than looking for info from other sources? (not that you wouldn’t still use those) I’ve found that to be true and it always seems more powerful - perhaps because it is more real to me and not just a topic.

  9. Jun 9, 2008 at 8:38 am

    Thank you so much. I needed to hear that more than you will ever know.

  10. Jun 9, 2008 at 8:48 am

    I was able to listen to your one prayer teaching this weekend at HealingPlaceChurch in Baton Rouge, Louisiana and honestly the funny parts were great and I laughed but it was the heart of the message that touched and moved on my heart. It was your passion for us to become one that is stirring with me today. Thanks for this One Prayer! I love this “series” and am anticipating the move of God through it here in our community and across the nations!

  11. 13Tim Stotler
    Jun 9, 2008 at 8:54 am

    Brother - Thank you for BEING REAL. I am praying for you almost daily. Peace

  12. Jun 9, 2008 at 8:56 am

    Way to pull back the curtain! I would never have known that teaching was one of your lower gifts because you are such a great teacher/communicator.

    Teaching is one of my primary gifts & I know all to well the pain you felt. There are so many demands on pastors that we can get bleed dry very quickly. I have had that similar experience where I couldn’t prepare and all I could do was pray.

    I know for myself, I can be self reliant when it comes to communicating, I have done it long enough and done it well enough that I sometimes don’t pray like I should, or it even becomes an after thought.

    It used to be I would pray & pray & pray some more and then begin to prepare. But as I got older and more experienced, my knowledge was so much greater from years of study that it became easy to rely on the gift and teach with out being prayed up. Sad I know. When I fall into that pattern God has a way of slapping me up side the head and I am reminded “Without him I can do nothing.”

    Thank you for your honesty Craig.

  13. 16Jason
    Jun 9, 2008 at 9:52 am

    Hi Craig

    Great post and one which I have been thinking about a lot lately… the dreaded preaching session which is like a college research assignment that just won’t go away. If possible, could you answer these 2 brief questions for me…

    1. After studing at seminary and obtaining your MTh, just how much research do you do? Do you take a full day and set it aside or just half a day or even less?

    2. After following your teachings for sometime now, it seems as though you focus more on yourself, your family and other church related stories… which of course is great. I love your stories and cheesy humour. My question is, after being at seminary for going on 3 years now, all my fellow class mates and I get drilled with is exegesis exegesis exegesis exegesis… you get my point. How much of my sermon needs to be of an exegetical nature and how much of it can be of the personal nature? It seems as if you have some how managed to find the balance. Care to share the secret?

    Thanks in advance for your answers… oh and I find it hard to believe that you consider teaching one of your lower gifts. I would personally say that’s one of your most influential God given gifts… just my pennys worth :)

    Have a great day!


  14. Jun 9, 2008 at 10:53 am

    When launching our second congregation, I was so so busy I didn’t have time to prepare the message. I was up late Saturday night and still had heaps to do.

    I felt God really convict me to stop preparing and start praying (I was scared to death about getting up the next day with no message). I prayed until about 2am in the morning. I prayed for people by name. I prayed that a room for children would become available (we had previously been rejected - throwing the whole thing into turmoil). I prayed like crazy.

    Next day: Childcare room approved for no apparent reason. Average sermon presentation. Most amazing spiritual response.

    God is very good.

    Thanks for reminding us of his power and grace.

  15. Jun 9, 2008 at 11:00 am

    If you think Craig’s teaching is great (and it is), you should see him as a visionary leader (did someone say “One Prayer”?).

  16. Jun 9, 2008 at 11:04 am

    “the character of our praying will determine the char. of our preaching….the preachers who are the mightiest in their closets with God are the mightiest in their pulpits with men…prayer is the preacher’s mightiest weapon.” Power Through Prayer, E.M. Bounds

  17. 20AJ
    Jun 9, 2008 at 11:17 am

    I spent my early childhood as the daughter of a preacher. Even at 5 or 6 years old I could see my dad’s struggle during his weekly preparation for his messages. There were times when he spent every waking hour for an entire week only to be unhappy with the message he had written. I can tell you that there were weeks when he “re-wrote” his entire message on the drive to church. After one of those tough weeks, it was then that he would finally say, “OK Lord, I’m trying too hard…what is it YOU want me to say?” And those were the best messages he ever preached.

    I am so glad you posted this. I think every preacher, every teacher, goes through this. It’s hard to admit that it happens. But we all find ourselves depending too much on ourselves instead of just being vessels for what the Lord lays on our hearts. You’re so right, less work, more prayer…it’s the only way to be as effective as God wants us to be.

  18. Jun 9, 2008 at 12:00 pm

    This is “dabomb”…I know EXACTLY what you are talking about Craig…I’ve found myself overworking so many times as well. In fact, I was trying REALLY hard to create a good speech for baccalaureate (I was trying really hard for two days), but then I just sat down and prayed and prayed and prayed that God would give me what He wanted me to say, that Jesus would teach me, and He simply used a book (not the bible) that was sitting in front of me in a huge way. Basically He told me to open it to a certain page and then immediately directed my eyes toward what He wanted me to say to my friends. This is true for all of us - we can either work really hard and search for the words ourselves (which will not be as easy or as effective) or we can pray, pray, pray and have God speak those words into us.

    Another time I prayed hard and asked Christ to create the sermon and then give it to me (this was after I had again been trying really hard for a couple of days by myself)(and had failed miserably)…after I prayed hard (and a lot), he gave it to me. So I also believe we need to pray that He creates the sermons and then gives them to us.

    Love ya guys! (sorry if I went a little off-topic)

  19. Jun 9, 2008 at 12:21 pm

    From the time we launched in Jan. every expectation i had as a church planter has been blown away. I did everything the books said to do, followed the plan as best as i could and the results weren’t what they were “supposed” to be. At my lowest point, i heard the Holy Spirit whisper to me that i have been leading with my head and He wanted me to lead from my spirit. What does that mean??? Well for me the turn around came in me and in our church when i began spending WAY more time with Him and less time trying to figure it all out. Don’t get me wrong, i still plan, have strategies and work hard but at the end of the day now, i can hear Him and He is the one that building this church and that takes all the pressure off of me. It was a trust issue.

  20. Jun 9, 2008 at 1:25 pm

    I felt the same way. I am about to go on vacation and I felt very empty when it came to studying. Something I learned from TD Jakes, that I always go back to that helps me.

    Study yourself full, Think yourself clear, Pray yourself hot, and let yourself go.

  21. Jun 9, 2008 at 1:29 pm

    Oh by the way I so appreciate your honesty and transparency.

  22. Jun 9, 2008 at 2:31 pm

    Thanks for your transparency. Sermon prep is so grueling for me and I often feel more stumped than I do inspired. My problem? I wasn’t bringing “me” enough. You wrote a post about “Bringing You” that really caused me to think about that and it has helped me tremendously. Part of that is bringing my prayer life to my sermons. I am preparing, but with the right bank of material. Rather than expecting my preaching to be life changing when I am using stuff that hasn’t necessarily changed my life, I am now looking to what God is doing in my life that is tangible and I am leading my church through a journey that God has led me.I don’t know if this makes sense, but I feel as though I have a greater moral authority when I am preaching. I also experience a greater desire for growth.

  23. Jun 9, 2008 at 3:54 pm

    I love speaking and enjoy studying. However, I find the praying side to be the area I struggle with sometimes. Thanks so much for sharing, it has really challenged me…

  24. 29Donna
    Jun 9, 2008 at 9:50 pm

    love your honesty and transparency!

  25. 30Wade
    Jun 10, 2008 at 8:55 am

    I really appreciate your transparency. All of us, ministers and laymen alike, feel that way about our jobs at times. How can I go another day knowing that all of the days ahead will be much the same? How can I continue to excel when I don’t feel “it” and at so many times in my career felt I already peaked? But as I thought about your post I was reminded of a sermon I watched from Francis Chan where he explained we don’t need to look at God’s plan for our life, we simply need to look at God’s plan for today…maybe even just God’s plan for right now. If we are obedient right now and humbly ask what do I need to do, and do it, then we truly let God handle tomorrow and all of the challenges that lie ahead. I have come to realize I am not able and/or worthy to deal with a tomorrow I can’t see. But I know God has a plan for my life and I have been incredibly blessed and regardless of what lies ahead I will continue to worship the One who saved me. Lastly, you are so right, prayer, time with the One who made us, is the power in our lives and where I believe many of those “moments” in our career are created…our creativity and our knowledge pale in comparison to His wisdom and the gifts he gives. Keep doing what you are doing my friend. God has used you and LifeChurch in my life more than you can imagine and I continually pray for you and the body as a whole.

  26. Jun 10, 2008 at 9:20 am

    I so resonate with your comments as i am preparing a message for this Father’s Day. I only preach a few times a year and I typically WAY over prepare.

    As I have examined why I do this I have come to the conclusion that I falsely believe that the message is “all about me.” That is the fatal flaw in my thinking.

    As I prepare today it will be with much prayer and trusting that God will guide me to say what needs to be said and that the Holy Spirit would do his work his way.

  27. Jun 10, 2008 at 9:33 am

    That first part is exactly what I’m feeling right now. Thanks for this.

  28. Jun 11, 2008 at 10:36 am

    God has been showing me the same type of thing as a church planter. I’ve sensed the importance to spend more time in prayer then trying to “make” something happen. This can be challenging because society, even the church, seems to be about activity…any activity. I want to move in the path that God is moving in, because it is only then that we see the results of God. And to move in the path of God I must be in the presence of God. My prayer and vision for Paris, France isn’t going to happen because of my activity, but because of God’s activity!

  29. Jun 11, 2008 at 1:21 pm

    Wow. So many good thoughts and comments.

    Craig, when I read this it hit me right where I am struggling. (Although I’m not sure I can confess to over-working on my message. I just struggle in preparing period)

    But it made me remember several times when I struggled with my message and time was nearly up. I went to my ‘closet’ and started praying. Then the message would just fall out.

    Thanks for your transparency. God used it in me today.

  30. Jun 20, 2008 at 3:42 pm

    Craig, God sent me on that journey as well. I’ll be at the the ARC CPR in Aug. The longer I do this the more I realized that it is less and less what you say, and more and more the spirit of God that is radiated from you as you say it. John 18:6- “I Am He”.

  31. 36Annabell Jennings
    Aug 31, 2008 at 1:28 am

    Thank you Pastor Craig. Today is August 30, 2008, and it’s been a few months since you posted such an honest blog. Well, I needed to hear it tonight. Thank you for always preaching God’s true word and for being transparent. It helps us all. I know I need to pray more and work less. That has always been one of my faults and weaknesses. I appreciate you choosing to serve God and do His will daily. When I was a church receptionist, I always knew how hard it was for the Senior Pastor. Every week he CHOSE to serve God and love Jesus totally and completely. So, thank you Pastor Craig, and please know that your faithfulness has not gone unnoticed.