I preach almost every Sunday. That is a big part of my job. Most of the time I have been at my current church, I have tried to be out of the pulpit 8-12 times per year. There are varying reasons for this. Some Sundays away would be to attend a conference, while other times I would speak at one of our campuses. I also have scheduled time away for vacations with my family.
When the pandemic began, I found myself at church every Sunday. When we were online-only, I alternated each Sunday preaching with one of our campus pastors, but I was still in the building and engaged. When we started back in person, I thought it best to be present and preach as people began coming back to the building.
More recently, I have started to step away a little more frequently. I am a firm believer that the local church needs to hear voices different from mine. We also need to give opportunities to young pastors on staff. That is how they grow and improve.
Recently I did not preach two Sundays in a row. I was away for one, and the other Sunday, we had an opportunity to have a guest speaker. My wife asked me if I enjoyed not having to preach. I told her I love preaching but notice certain things happen when I take a break. My 5 Thursday thoughts are about the things I notice when I take a break from preaching.
My Brain Rests
When Sunday morning services are over, I go to lunch, and then I go home and take a nap. After waking up, one of the first things I do is read the text and points for the following week. It sets my brain in motion to think about the text and outline as the week progresses.
Our sermon series are planned months in advance, so I know what is coming. Thinking about the sermon over the week takes up an enormous amount of my brain capacity. What will I say? What stories will illustrate the point? What other texts support the topic? What needs to be said, and what can I eliminate? Every day, all through the day, I think about what I am going to preach.
When I do not have to preach, it allows my brain to rest. I do not have to think about a sermon, so I am free to think about other things, leading to the next two effects of not preaching.
My Creativity Goes Up
Taking the need to think about a sermon away opens up space for me to be creative in some other areas. I use most of my creativity for sermon stories and delivery. When I do not have to focus there, I can use my creativity for other things. Not preaching the last two weeks have allowed me to think about other things. I have added about 150 different ideas and items in the last two weeks to my notes. Things that I want to accomplish or new ways of doing things that I had not seen before. Creativity can get clogged when we have to concentrate on one specific area for long periods.
I Can Get Some Other Things Out
When I have a break from preaching, one thing that empties out of me is new ideas. As I mentioned, I have dropped lots of ideas on paper. I am also able to write more when I am not preaching. I have been able to get some work done on two books that I am writing. I have developed some specifics for a job I want to create and some steps I believe God wants me to take in a specific direction. The ideas, the writing, the steps were all there the entire time. But a little mental freedom allowed them to come out and get on paper.
I Can Listen and Visit
Rarely am I away on a Sunday and do not attend church somewhere else. This past trip, I was able to visit Gateway Church in Southlake, TX. I listen to Pastor Robert Morris almost every week, but this was the first time I attended his church in person. I walked around the building and observed how they do things. I paid attention to their order of service and how people interacted with one another. I walked away with several things that will help improve the church I pastor and how we do things. If I were preaching at one place every single week, I would miss the opportunity to see how others are making the local church better.
I See Things I Couldn’t See Otherwise
This concept applies mostly to the local church I pastor. When I preach, I have a routine when I get to the building until I leave. When I don’t preach, my routine changes. I end up in different parts of the building at different times. This freedom allows me to see things I would not otherwise see or see in ways I had not seen before. On a recent Sunday, when we had a guest speaker, I noticed several things that I think would be wise to improve. If I had been preaching, I would have missed them.
Maybe you have these same experiences when you take a few days away from your particular job. If you are a pastor, don’t be overprotective of your pulpit. Allow some other voices to speak. It will benefit you and your congregation. If you are not a pastor, taking a little time for perspective from your job will benefit you and your organization.