I puked in a live mic once. The sound guy was asleep, so he didn’t notice I had turned green. I simply said, “And that concludes my sermon,” walked off stage, passed out, and exorcized a spaghetti dinner. Nobody walked the aisle that Sunday.
You get sick. In many cases, you still have to preach, though I recommend a fill-in if you have the stomach bug. And sometimes life sucks, but “I’m in a crappy mood” is not a good excuse for pulpit hooky.
Even when I’m feeling my best—physically and spiritually—preaching is an exhausting endeavor. I preach three back-to-back-to-back services every Sunday. My back starts hurting by the end of the third one. On occasion, perhaps three or four times a year, I just don’t feel it. Either I’m grumpy or ill, tired or stressed, or all of the above.
Some long-term solutions are obvious. Get a good night’s sleep. Exercise on a regular basis. Pray through your sermon preparation every week. Always prioritize your family and time with them. Don’t enter competitive eating competitions on Saturday evenings. But what should you do in the moment? How do you handle the 6:00 a.m. morning blues for that Sunday? For most of us, it’s likely a short prayer, “Get me through this, God.” And then we trudge our way through the day.
There are a few practical tips to help you in the moment, when you feel like crap right before you have to preach.
- It’s ok to be honest. Really. You can tell the congregation you don’t feel well physically. Sharing every time you have a head cold is a bit much. However, on the occasions when you are fighting through an illness, let people know. Almost everyone will understand. Tell them God’s Word is worth the fight to be there.
- Use your spiritual struggle to illustrate the sermon. It’s ok to be honest spiritually! Pastors must be careful not to share too much publicly. Repenting of every sin to everyone is unwise. However, God can use your Sunday morning battle to bring someone else an eternal victory.
- Emphasize the part of your sermon that excites you most. When you aren’t feeling it, focus most on something you can feel.
- Be willing to hit a single. When you feel terrible, don’t strike out swinging for the fences. Rather, use your limited energy to muster through a decent message. God might use your forgettable sermon in a memorable way. Trust that God will speak through you. It’s His sermon anyway, not yours.
Every now and then, you’ll wake up on Sunday morning and simply not feel it. The worst thing you can do is give up. Fight through the crap and give God glory.