Preaching Is Easy, Pastoring Is Hard

Being a Preacher is easy. Being a Pastor is hard.

It’s not unusual for me to hear from pastors that the one thing they like the most about their job is preaching. Pastors love to study, prepare, exegete a passage and…preach it!

But the development of and delivery of a sermon is possibly the easiest thing we do as pastors. Now I’m not suggesting that it’s no big deal to wrestle with a passage of scripture, pour over your commentaries, dig into the Greek and Hebrew, and give off the energy and passion required for a sermon that will connect with your people. This is important stuff indeed. But think about it. When you’re preparing your sermon you are probably sitting comfortably in your office (unless you’re one of those cool pastors that work on their sermon at some coffee shop) all by yourself, just you and a desk covered in books. Even when you preach you’re standing up there by yourself speaking to a group of people and separated by at least a few feet of carpet. Oh, they might give you some verbal and nonverbal feedback. You might hear an occasional “amen” or the sound of snoring. They might nod at you in agreement or be checking their email on their phones. But most sermons leave little time for any genuine feedback and interaction. It’s you preaching and them listening. Easy, at least easy compared to pastoring the same people.

I’m guessing that most of us have had classes on public speaking or homiletics, but I bet that few of us have had the same degree of time and focus on what it means to be a pastor. And might I suggest (please don’t put out a contract on me) that pastoring is more important than preaching.

Take a deep breath. For the record:

Preaching is important.
Preaching is very important.
Sound doctrine is important.
Sound doctrine is very important.
Your Hom-classes were not a waste of time…but…

Preaching is easy, pastoring is the hard thing.

It’s hard to be with people in their pain and struggles. It’s hard to put up with those who oppose your leadership and seem to sabotage your vision for the church. It’s hard to take that phone call at the end of the day when you’re already tired and spent. It’s hard to feel unappreciated. It’s hard to have unrealistic expectations placed on you and your family. Pastoral counseling is hard. Accepting the fact that no one in the church (even your leaders) are as into it as you are is hard. Doing funerals is hard. Dealing with the same ‘people-problems’ over and over and over is hard. Loving your small church can be hard. Preaching is easy, pastoring is hard.

Six months after my conversion, at the ripe old age of sixteen, I heard a voice (this will be only one of two times in my entire walk of faith that I thought I’d heard a voice) that said, “I want you to pastor my people.” The voice didn’t say, “I want you to preach.”, it said, “I want you to pastor my people.”

I would also go on to preach. I love preaching. I’ve been told that I’m a half-way decent preacher. I am a preaching coach, i.e. I help pastors become better preachers and teachers. But…the older get, the longer I walk with Jesus, the more I talk to pastors, the more I realize that people need, first and foremost, a pastor. John Maxwell once said, “You teach what you know but you reproduce what you are.”