For most pastors, preaching is one of the most important facets of their ministries. It is that time when they get to expound on God’s Word. Much of their training has focused on preaching, and they often spend 15 to 20 hours preparing each sermon.
Pastors, with few exceptions, love their church members. They desire to serve their congregants well. They desire to be gracious and friendly to those who approach them. That is why most of them would be highly reticent to say what I am about to say.
Many times pastors get very distracted and even discouraged when someone speaks to them right before they preach. Let me elaborate in my usual fashion by making six observations.
- The time right before pastors preach is a time of prayerful focus for them. They have put hours into the message. They have prayed that God will use their message. That is the frame of mind where you will find most pastors right before they preach.
- If you speak to the pastor at that time, consider giving a word of encouragement or prayer support. I still remember to this day Frances Mason speaking to me right before I preached when I was a pastor in Birmingham. She would typically say something like, “Pastor, I prayed for a special anointing for you this morning.” I could feel my spirits being lifted immediately after she spoke to me.
- Consider holding back any criticisms of your pastor right before the sermon. Can you imagine how you would feel if someone said something very critical of you right before you spoke? It happens to pastors all the time. If you feel like you must criticize your pastor, please consider doing so at another time.
- Consider holding back your request of your pastor to make an announcement. Pastors are intensely focused on what they are about to preach. It can be a difficult distraction for them to remember your announcement even if you write it out for them. Indeed, any last minute announcement request is likely not a good idea.
- Consider asking someone other than your pastor to handle a problem right before the sermon. One of my most memorable (but not pleasant) moments as a pastor was a lady running up to me as I was approaching the pulpit to preach. She had one thing to say to me: “You need to do something. The toilet is overflowing in the ladies restroom.”
- If possible, consider introducing people to your pastor after the sermon. I understand that such a practice is not always possible. Sometimes pastors have to move from one service to the next, and they are not able to speak to people after the service. Again, hold off the distraction of introducing people unless there is no other opportunity.
Please understand my perspective. I am writing as a former pastor and not on behalf of anyone who has asked me to write on this topic. Most of our pastors are godly and gracious, and would never ignore someone who approached them. I am simply requesting that you consider the timing and content of such conversations.
Let me hear from you on this issue.