Rich Villodas, who is now Lead Pastor of New Life Fellowship, led one of the workshops at our recent Emotionally Healthy Leadership Conference on “Emotionally Healthy Preaching.” Once again, it made a large impact on all who attended. One of Rich’s greatest gifts to the larger body of Christ is, I believe, in the art of preaching. The following is the core of what he shared:
Preaching is foremost not about preaching. It’s about a life with God; a life of integrity, out of which we speak. This is the core of emotionally healthy preaching. Like many pastors and preachers, I love the art and science of preaching. I work hard for stories and illustrations that make biblical content accessible to our congregation. I work hard to understand the text exegetically. I think critically about how a passage of Scripture applies in our NYC context. All of these things are important. In addition to all of this, however, emotionally healthy preaching seeks to place extra emphasis on the integrity of the preacher. I like how Pete puts it,
“The best gift you can give your church is to have a deep walk with God. What is most important when we stand up in the pulpit is not primarily what we say, but who we are.” – Pete Scazzero
To be an emotionally healthy preacher means that we have done the hard work of slowing down our lives to encounter God, as well as ourselves. To preach from a deep well of communion with God will determine how deeply our people are transformed. In short, our churches desperately need preachers of integrity.
When we think of integrity and church leadership, we tend to think in sexual and financial categories. Integrity however is much broader. Integrity is about congruence. And to live and preach congruently means that we preach from a place of awareness.
This is why one of the best questions to help us preach with integrity is this:
“Have I allowed the biblical text to go deep beneath my own iceberg?”:
In other words, have I allowed it to pass through my life before it’s preached to others? More often that I’d like to admit, I’ve preached sermons that I wasn’t living. This is perhaps the greatest temptation we face. It’s very easy to preach stuff we are not living.
To be an emotionally healthy preacher doesn’t mean that we are living the content we preach perfectly, but rather, we are wrestling with it faithfully. We are taking the necessary time to allow the truth of God’s word to penetrate and permeate our lives. As we make a practice of living this way, our sermons will have a life to them that cannot come any other way.