Can You Preach on Something You Haven't Mastered?

February 7th, 2012

I often get emails from pastors wondering, Can I, as a pastor, preach about a subject that I know I’m struggling with or an area I know that I’m weak in?

You may have asked this question yourself, wondering if it makes you seem hypocritical, arrogant, or naïve to preach things that you have not personally mastered. It can be a daunting task. Should you do it anyway? In my opinion, yes. In fact, you must in order to teach the whole counsel of God.

Consider the issue in simple terms. You preach about sin, right? If you are normal, you still struggle with sin also. You can’t avoid the subject because you haven’t mastered it. In the end, we preach the risen Christ as our only hope anyway.

This principle applies not just to issues of struggle and sin, but to lack of life experience. Can single pastors preach on marriage? Of course, single pastors can and should preach on marriage. Pastors should also preach on parenting even if they aren’t a parent. Even if you lack firsthand experience, or have less experience than those to whom you are preaching, your charge is to preach the whole counsel of God.

When you are preaching in areas you don't feel you are an expert:

  • Stick with scripture as your boundaries. If the Bible says it, there is no debate.
  • Be honest with areas of struggle or places you are growing.
  • Find and cite experts you can agree with. Quote the experts. Let people know your opinion is shared by well known others.
  • Offer ways you are growing personally in these areas as well as questions you still have.
  • Have a mentor for those areas of development and run the opinions you share that are interpretations of God's Word through them. Let the audience know you have. 

The key is you can’t claim expertise and you shouldn’t hide the fact that it’s an area of struggle. People will endear to you more if you are honest anyway. That doesn’t mean you have to share intimate details, but you shouldn’t hide your own frailty. Be honest with people, don’t pretend to be anyone you are not, and preach where God leads you to preach.

The fact is, if I could only preach on that which I have mastered, I wouldn’t preach very much. 

How would you answer? Do you hesitate to preach on things you haven't mastered?

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