3 Things You’ll Never Control as a Preacher

by | Oct 26, 2023 | Articles About Preaching

One of the hats I wear, professionally, is designing websites – for churches, leaders, businesses, nonprofits, etc. – on a freelance basis. It’s something I got into many years ago while also serving as the Lead Pastor of a church. And as a pastor, I found website design to be therapeutic.

I would preach on Sunday to people who would listen and affirm my words. But I couldn’t control them. I couldn’t make people make right decisions.

With website design, I could type out some code and make a website look a certain way. I was in control.

Preaching carries with it the burden of having no real control over the outcome of a sermon. We definitely get to control the input – praying, reading, studying, writing, rehearsing, and praying some more – but we can’t ultimately make decisions for people, as much as we’d like to do so.

As preachers, we have to come to peace with this, and if we don’t, we wind up manipulating people. We begin to assume that our eloquence, choice of words, or display of emotion will be enough to motivate people to repent and turn to God.

There are three things you’ll never be able to do as a preacher, hard as you may try.

1. You’ll never convict people of sin.

We try sometimes, don’t we? A fellow pastor once shared with me that he was determined to preach on sin every week until the house was clean. Eventually, the house was empty, and he blamed it on their unwillingness to get things right.

The problem is, when we try to bring people to a place of conviction on our own, we pile on the guilt and shame, driving people further into their sense of hopelessness.

I’m not saying we shouldn’t preach about sin. I’m simply saying that we overstep our role when we attempt to bend the human heart to our will.

So whose job is it to convict? The Holy Spirit. And I can promise you from personal experience that he is extremely effective. (See John 16:8.)

Our role is to present truth and grace, in love, and trust the Holy Spirit to prick through the hardness of the human heart to bring people face to face with their own issues.

2. You’ll never convince people of truth.

I believe we should be well-studied and prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks us a reason concerning the hope inside us. (See 1 Peter 3:15.)

We should seek to be both winsome and persuasive while avoiding the temptation to become argumentative. But at the end of the day, I can’t ultimately convince someone to believe the good news about Jesus on my own.

It’s a work of the Holy Spirit. And again, he is trustworthy to do this work when we present the gospel.

I’ve sometimes been baffled by the hardness and stubbornness of the will of some non-believers, and equally as baffled when they suddenly bow their wills before the Father, place their faith in Christ, and let go of all that has been holding them back from taking the faith journey.

I learned a long time ago that I don’t have to be a gospel salesman. When the fruit is ripe, you don’t have to yank it.

3. You’ll never convert people into disciples of Jesus.

As church leaders, we love stories of real life change. The testimony of a broken marriage being healed, one who struggles with addiction experiencing recovery, and skeptics turning to and trusting in Christ is fuel to our souls.

But you and I don’t make it happen. We can’t possibly regenerate dead things into living things. We can’t make anyone a new creature.

Guess who can?

When the Holy Spirit applies the word to the human heart, he can convict of sin, convince of the truth, and convert a person from the inside out. (See Titus 3:5.)

And here’s the beauty of all of this… the pressure is off!

You and I don’t have to make things happen. We should certainly work hard to become faithful leaders and shepherds, but the enormously impossible task of generating real spiritual change is left in the hands of the very capable Holy Spirit, for whom anything is possible.

Part of our work is creating space for the Holy Spirit to have his way, for Jesus to have the spotlight, and for the washing of the water of the word to take place before our very eyes.


Photo by Chris Leipelt on Unsplash.

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