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Emotionally Healthy Preaching

We all understand that emotions are important in preaching. No one wants to hear a dispassionate preacher, it’s just too boring. But we also don’t want to listen to overly emotional pleas or phony passion. Is there a healthy balance?

It begins with understanding what emotionally healthy means.

First of all, you can’t separate it from your spiritual growth. Spiritually mature believers are also emotionally mature people. As you grow closer to God, you will continue to grow in all areas of your life.

In this blog, we will look at 4 points of an emotionally healthy pastor/leader:

Gauging Your Emotional Health
Translating Emotional Health into Effective Sermons
What Are You Really Expressing?
Getting a Handle

Emotions are central to everyone’s life. Let’s be honest. There was a time when showing emotions was thought of as a sign of weakness. But just “getting in touch with our emotions” is not the answer either. Emotional maturity means you can navigate between two opposite extremes of expression.

Emotions run through all we do as pastors. Think about how many times you encounter emotions throughout your day. When you’re leading your staff, you may get teary eyed thinking about their combined potential. In a counseling session, you may have to referee someone else’s anger. At a board meeting, you may find yourself suppressing frustration to accomplish a common goal. Even talking to a visitor after service you’ll want to show that you’re excited to see them.

Preaching involves emotions as well. An emotionally healthy leader will know how to lead a staff, engage a board, disciple churchgoers, and attract visitors using a healthy balance of emotional energy. And when it comes to preaching, the emotionally healthy pastor will be able to use their feelings to better preach the Gospel.

Gauging Your Emotional Health

Are you able to put a number on your spiritual maturity? I’m sure you are. There are so many ways to measure your success as a Christ follower. From the depth you get from regular Bible study to the heights you reach in prayer. You can also look at how well you personally share your faith, develop other believers, invest in volunteers, and more.

How do you put a number on emotional health? It seems so far-fetched because our feelings are so elusive. You may feel one way one moment and the next you’ve swung 180 degrees. There are even times when you feel nervous or anxious but don’t really know why.

Here are some things to think about when you gauge your own emotional health:

Emotionally healthy believers:

  • Can handle major changes in life
  • Are empathetic to others
  • Help others handle their own emotions

That’s a great description of the role of a minister. Think about how often you help those faced with challenging circumstances, or you face your own difficult situation. And the implications of empathy for personal evangelism are incredible. Finally, guiding others through their own emotional maturity is a hallmark of discipleship.

When you have a handle on your own emotions, you are well equipped to help others. As you help others, your own level of maturity increases as well. As a preacher, it’s just natural that your level of emotional health will translate to your sermons.

Want your preaching to get better every single week? Check out It Takes a Team to learn about 4 teams you can build or involve in your sermons.

Translating Emotional Health into Effective Sermons

Emotionally healthy preaching is evidenced not just by tone of voice or level of excitement. It’s going to breath through every word of your sermon. It’s also going to have a major impact on your effectiveness.

When you hear someone give a speech, do you want them to be emotionally mature? Of course you do. But why is it that we are attracted to those who have self-control over their emotions?

For one thing, it’s just more pleasant to hear someone who isn’t flying off the handle one moment or boring the next. For another reason, they can be trusted. You see how they have applied what they’re speaking about to their own lives successfully.

As a preacher, your emotional health may not always be on display, though. It’s not enough to just practice emotional maturity. You also need to be fluent in it as well. Here are three phrases that will help you center your own sermons in an emotionally healthy way.

An emotionally healthy preacher will be able to say:

  1. “I can recognize my emotions”

When you reach a level of emotional maturity that is healthy, you will be able to identify your emotions as you feel them. You’ll know what you’re feeling, and why. This is a level of self-awareness that is difficult to master, but the Holy Spirit can aid you.

How many times have you felt…off? You weren’t sure exactly why you are snapping at people or sulking when alone. Emotional health gives you the room to be able to sit and listen to your heart, know what you are feeling, and trace it back to the root cause.

Self-awareness leads to other-awareness. We also call this empathy. When you can recognize your own emotions, you can see them in others as well. And you are usually pretty good about helping them trace their root causes.

A pastor does all of this with the help of the Holy Spirit.

  1. “I am developing proper responses to my emotions”

Our emotions can create knee-jerk reactions in us. A car cuts us off and we slam on the horn. We get some bad news and fall into a blubbering mess.

Responses are different than reactions. Instead of a quick action that may cause problems, we can stop ourselves and weigh the right response.

This doesn’t happen overnight. In fact, it takes lots of prayer and practice. As a committed follower of Christ, you will need to lean on him for guidance.

You will also need to start understanding why you act the way you do when you are emotionally taxed. Emotional immaturity is not caused by any decision on our part. It is the natural reaction to childhood wounds, unmet expectations, and hurts from others.

You may have heard an off-hand remark that made you feel less-than… or perceived a negative response from a church member. These things, coupled with family and personal life experiences, have created the emotional web you live in each day.

As you work through these issues, you are developing healthy responses to emotions that override any dangerous reactions.

  1. “I will convey my emotions correctly to my church”

As a communicator, how are you conveying your emotions to your church? What you say and how you say it can have an incredible impact on them. We are so often unaware of just how big of an influence our words can be.

Your audience can usually tell when you are being authentic. When you try to hide your emotions, they can tell. But worse would be producing a fake emotion. Trying to cry on demand or whipping up false anger can be detrimental to your preaching.

On the other hand, when you are really honest and vulnerable with them, they can sense it. It will add credibility to your words. It will show them how they should respond with emotional maturity.

Emotionally healthy preachers produce emotionally healthy believers. Again, this is part of discipleship. Through teaching and modeling, you are paving the way for them to grow emotionally as they advance spiritually.

Have you ever sat down to write your message for the weekend and realized you don’t know where to start? Take a look at the Sermon Starters PDF for a multitude of effective strategies to get you started.

What Are You Really Expressing?

When you think of emotional preaching, what do you think of? It’s likely a picture of a preacher either red-faced and loud or teary-eyed and pleading. But because emotions are so much a part of all we do, your own feelings will come out in many different ways.

Here is what we think emotions are:

  • Volume – Speaking loudly to make a point or getting quiet to stress importance.
  • Crying – Showing that you care about what you talk about and are moved by it.
  • Anger – God can produce a righteous anger in all of us over injustices in the world.
  • Passion – Your audience should know that you deeply care about what you do.

Here is what we often miss about emotions:

  • Empathy – The ability to “read the room” and sense when the audience is getting emotional themselves.
  • Calmness – When you show self-control, it can be powerful; for instance, how you handle a disruption in service can lead to a greater teaching moment.
  • Laughter – Expressing happiness and joy is just as important as sadness or anger.
  • Confidence – When you are in control of your emotions, you are more confident at presenting the Gospel to your church and community.

Want your preaching to get better every single week? Check out It Takes a Team to learn about 4 teams you can build or involve in your sermons.

Getting a Handle

Every one of us wants to be able to have full control of our emotions. But the truth is, there are always times when we lose it. As healthy as you are spiritually, you may be lacking in some area of emotional strength.

What can cause emotional short-circuits? Here are just a few examples.

  • A lack of time can lead to insecurity – If you don’t have as much time as you want to prepare your sermon, you may feel that it’s missing something special. So, you head onto the stage with a feeling of self-doubt.
  • The Go-It-Alone mentality can lead to stoicism – If you are a lone wolf when it comes to sermon prep, you may start to think it’s all up to you. So you handle your emotional problems by pushing them down and becoming indifferent.
  • Working on last minute tendencies can lead to anxiety – If you are scrambling to get your notes together, hoping the creative team came through, and rushing the print job for your handouts, you can feel like you’re just making it each week. This can leave you scattered when you begin the sermon and worrying throughout.
  • Unexpected interruptions can lead to angry outbursts – A baby crying, a visitor moving around, or even someone sneezing can make you lose your place or skip a line. Rather than calmly recovering you may snap at a staff member or even a churchgoer.

Knowing these problems is half the battle. Fortunately for you, it’s fairly easy to overcome many of these issues. It takes carefully planning out your sermon prep time and guarding it, working with a team that you trust, and confidently preaching a sermon you’ve practiced several times. Just a few adjustments can put you back in control of your emotions.

This blog and other is designed to put you back in the driver’s seat and help you hear the voice of the Lord in doing so. By giving you proven tips and techniques, you will be a more effective communicator. Taking away anxiety, fear, and insecurity is one stated goal. Producing emotionally healthy preachers is just one of the great unintended by-products.

Check out these blogs on preaching, as well.

It Takes a Team to Create Sermons
Why Should You Ask for Help with Preaching?
How to Preach Online and In Person
The Top 5 Preaching Questions Asked
Sermon Illustrations: Finding the “Just Right One”
Doug Clay on Preaching Sermons Online
5 Ways to Get That Sermon Started
Practical Tips on How To Do Sermon Prep
Preaching for Life Change
Fighting the “Last Minute” Fatigue
The 3 Parts of an Altar Call
2 Preaching Lessons Learned from COVID-19


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