Pinch Hitting


Even All-Stars sometimes need a rest. I’m occasionally called on to pinch hit for another preacher. That’s what I’ve done in Florida recently for a couple of churches. Last weekend I was at a mega church with four services.

It was exhilarating . . . and exhausting! I almost forgot what it was like to be batting in the cleanup spot most every week for over 43 years. While the response that comes from young and old is always deeply gratifying, preaching also comes at a high price.

What’s the preaching price? For me, one price of preaching is “PMS.” That’s what I refer to as the stress of the “pre-message syndrome” and the aftermath of the “post-message syndrome.” Linda doesn’t miss my PMS struggles at all!  Virtually every preacher’s family understands. While we all celebrate the privilege of stepping up to the plate, the opportunity is an emotionally depleting one, especially after several intense services.

My hat goes off to all who step into the batter’s box every week with so much at stake. No preacher I know takes that lightly. Maybe that’s why not one of them ever strikes out, or even struggles with a sermon slump.

Every pastor I support and encourage these days is an All-Star! I’m grateful for all those who consistently honor Christ by giving their best, especially when they might not be feeling their best. Even when they may be stressed or struggling, few (except those closest to them) ever have a clue.

Preaching passionately is not as easy as some make it look. That’s why I usually pray for a couple dozen preachers every weekend. From my experience, a sermon presented merely from the “neck up” isn’t all that demanding or draining. Passionately proclaiming a message from the “gut up” is a different story.

A compelling message that grips both heads and hearts is surprisingly demanding. But from my experience that only happens when the one speaking is gripped himself. I was personally gripped by the message last weekend. Even if no one else resonated deeply with the text and theme, I know that I did … four times over!

It’s never too soon . . . or too late to pray for a preacher; and it’s always a good time to encourage him as well. And when you do, don’t merely tell him that you “enjoyed” it. Let him know what actually gripped you from it, and especially what you are going to do about it. The next time he steps up to the plate, the reminder of your heartfelt encouragement could be a game changer.  Preaching passionately is not as easy as some make it look.

Grace and Peace,

Alan Ahlgrim
Director of Pastor Care
Blessing Ranch Ministries

"We were able to spend a week at Blessing Ranch Ministries. It was an amazing week! . . . . We learned SO much during this week. It was a great opportunity for rest, reflection, prayer, reading and seeking wise counsel. We were blessed beyond words! Each day we would have sessions with Dr. Walker, time to reflect, homework (a lot of reading), and amazing dinners each night. . . I grew so much in my personal faith journey during this week." Missionary, Dominican Republic
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"I was burned out, overwhelmed, and anxious when I arrived at the Blessing Ranch Ministries; I left feeling validated and hopeful, with a deeper awareness of who God is and who I am." Youth Pastor, Wisconsin
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