by Robert Earl Houston
I have been a student of preaching since 1977 and I’ve watched the best of gospel preachers down through the years. However, I want to let you in on something I have noticed in these 35 years plus – stress kills!
The preaching assignment on Sunday morning is not the total equation of a pastor’s job. Actually, those are probably the most comfortable hours for the pastor, because that is he or she’s primary calling and responsibility. I’ve never heard a pastor say “I hate preaching” or “I don’t enjoy proclamation.” No, pulpit preaching to a pastor is like a fish in water, a bird in the air, and it is our natural habitat.
However, there are stressors that have nothing to do with Sunday proclamation. Let me identify three:
a. Lack of Support – A pastor with a vision, training, enthusiasm and zeal finds him or herself burnt out and in some cases decimated when that pastor goes to a church that doesn’t want vision, could care less about training, does not share in that enthusiasm and zeal is a thing of the past. The Bible aptly describes “where there is no vision, the people perish” but conversely where there is no people (support), the vision perishes.
b. Lack of Sleep – I know this sounds elementary, but by nature of our calling, we are constantly feeding our minds and our hearts and digesting information almost 24 hours a day. Come on preachers, let’s admit it – from newspapers to magazines to internet to television to radio to observations . . . we are always processing information. Even on vacation, we process. We look for things, we think theologically . . . the remedy to this is sleep and when I say sleep I really mean shabat – you need REST from routine, REST from information overload and if it’s just a few moments each day, you need a landing space, without distractions to empty your thoughts.
c. Lack of Soap – Huh? Soap? In other words, you need someone in your life (primarily the Lord) that you can cleanse your soul with. You need to find someone (and I’m not advocating spouses, I’m advocating someone who is benign to you and your circumstances) that you share your victories, your sorrows, your pain, your tears, your hopes, your visions, your dreams. You need to “unload” with someone who is going to help you re-calibrate when necessary and not necessarily exercise your demons but at least help you identify them.
I pray that this will help Pastors not to become the next great preacher who died too young or in the words of the book, “The Epitaph of Eager Preachers,” died while climbing.
Your comments are welcome!