The following is a guest post by Dr. Melvin V. Wade Sr., who has served as the Senior-Pastor of the Mount Moriah Baptist Church in Los Angeles, California, for forty years.
The grace-given task of proclaiming the riches of a kingdom that is sure to come is an arduous task. No matter what one’s preaching niche or mode of presentation might be, preaching the gospel is a strenuous assignment. It is a physical, mental, and emotional drain. So how does the preacher develop and maintain the stamina to continue in such a lessening assignment?
The dictionary informs us that “stamina” concerns endurance and staying power. This then sends us to the Scriptures. Jesus said, “Without me you can do nothing” (John 15:5). Paul writes, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Phil. 4:13). The truths of these passages become extremely significant when we juxtapose these passages with the contemporary fact that so may in sports and the entertainment industry find it needful to resort to ephemeral, artificial enhancers and stimulants for stamina. The preacher does not have to resort to he artificial in order to have the stamina that is needed. What preachers need to do first is what Jesus says: “Ask, and it shall be given you” (Matt. 7:7). Then there are some other things from the human side that the preacher must do in order to have preaching stamina, whether it is at the preacher’s regular church or during a revival elsewhere.
The first discipline for stamina from the human side is the human side is the discipline of rest. Rev. Gardner Taylor says that the best thing a preacher can give to God is a rested preacher. Fatigue and stamina are mutually exclusive. Fatigue breaks down stamina. Fatigue not only affects the body, but it also affects the mind and vocal cords. Straining the voice is not the only cause of hoarseness and laryngitis; improper rest is also a factor. Jesus said to his apostles, “Come ye yourselves apart into a desert place and rest awhile” (Mark 6:31).
To prevent fatigue, there is the need for the ministry of disengagement or the discipline of rest. Notice that I use the word “discipline” in connection with the idea of rest. The word “discipline” implies purposefulness. So there must be purposeful training whereby the body and mind take the necessary time for rest. It must be purposeful because ministry has the tendency to so absorb the preacher that the preacher becomes a workaholic. As a result, ministry can rob the preacher of needed rest.
The preacher must have the stamina to do ministry. But the preacher must also have the stamina for functioning properly with his or her family. My late friend E. K. Bailey of the Concord Baptist Church of Dallas, Texas, used to warn preachers by saying, “Don’t lose your family in the name of the Lord. Don’t be guilty of saving the world, but losing your family.” Taking quality time with the family and ministry requires the strength of the body that only comes through the discipline of rest.
There is also what is called “divine/human co-operation.” That means that God will do God’s part if we do our part. We must make use of our God-given abilities, not relying only on the strength provided by Christ. God’s part of the equation is to anoint, empower, and reveal. Our part is not only to study, to engage in ministry, and to function properly and qualitatively with our family, but also to engage in disengagement and rest.
I have come to realize that a revival is a prime opportunity for rest. However, the great temptation is to spend prime resting time sightseeing and shopping. My question, however, is: What does it matter if you see the sights, if you enter the pulpit with a fatigued, unrested body? There is the need for the discipline of prioritizing. Preparation, rest, and proper eating habits are priorities. Everything after these three essentials is secondary. If the secondary issues do not violate or infringe on the primary, then the secondary issues are not harmful.
It is important to note that stamina requires rest, but stamina also involves building up endurance. Rest must be synthesized with or balance with exercise. In sports, we hear the phrase “game shape.” “Game shape” means that one is engaged in physical, mental, and emotional rest, proper eating habits, preparation, prior exercise, and consistent ongoing participation throughout practice before the game so that there is no breakdown during the game. When we talk about stamina in the pulpit, we are literally talking about “preaching shape.” Like the athlete, if the preacher is to have adequate stamina for preaching, there must be something that the preacher engages in that builds up the physical body.
We must realize that preaching is spiritual and physical. We build up our spiritual stamina with prayer and study and meditation on the Word of God. Since there is a physical side of preaching, preachers must engage in physical exercise that builds up the body. As a result when the preacher stands to proclaim what Dr. C. A. W. Clark calls “the gospel of spring to break up the winter of sin” the preacher stands not only in spiritual, mental, and emotional “preaching shape,” but physical “preaching shape” as well.
So in order to have stamina and endurance for preaching, whether on a regular basis in one’s own pulpit or in a revival, one must have the discipline and execution of the fundamental needs of meditation and preparation, rest and relaxation, eating properly, and consistent physical exercise. This is what it takes to give God the best of you. Preach on!
This article was previously published in The African American Pulpit Volume 11, Winter 2007-2008 edition.