A Word From an Inadequate Preacher

All genuine preaching is rooted in a feeling of desperation. You wake up on Sunday morning and you can smell the smoke of hell on one side and feel the crisp breezes of heaven on the other. You go to your study and look down at your pitiful manuscript, and you kneel down and cry, ‘O God, this is so weak! Who do I think I am? What audacity to think that in three hours my words will be the odor of death to death and the fragrance of life to life (2 Cor. 2:16). My God, who is sufficient for these things?”  -John Piper, The Supremacy of God in Preaching, 41-42

If a pastor is not convinced that he is weak and inadequate for the task he is blind. Paul came to the Corinthians with fear and trembling. Our knees shouldn’t be more sturdy than Paul’s.


That’s not the whole story.

If I’m not careful my self-obsessed heart will take this truth and use it to turn the spotlight on me, the preacher. Not for my awesomeness of course; I’m Reformed, after all. I know that God is glorified in my weakness. And so, I’ll make sure everyone knows how weak and inadequate of a preacher I am. That’ll get me the thumbs up that I desire.

It is true that I’m weak and inadequate. But this shouldn’t be the truth that shines the brightest. If it does, then the clay gets the attention. There is a reason why Spurgeon ascended the stairs into his pulpit saying, “I believe in the Holy Spirit…I believe in the Holy Spirit…” and not, “I’m weak and inadequate…I’m weak and inadequate”.

A knowledge of my inadequacy and insufficiency in the pulpit is only a good and helpful truth if it is married to the incontrovertible truth that the Spirit is powerful and does shine forth His glory through insufficient jars of clay.

Therefore, I keep before me the knowledge that I’m weak, insufficient, and that my manuscript is usually quite pitiful. But I proclaim that pitiful manuscript with all the boldness and force that this weak and insufficient jar of clay can muster. I do this knowing that the Holy Spirit actually does accompany the preaching of His Word and He truly does delight in shining a light on Jesus.

Yeah, I’m weak and inadequate. But He’s not! And I want that to be the truth that drives every sermon that I preach.

Mike regularly blogs at Borrowed Light. You can follow him on Twitter (@mikeleake) as well…or by hiding in the large bushes in front of his house.


  1. says

    I heard someone say once, “If you knew what was in my heart, you wouldn’t listen to me preach. But if I knew what was in your heart, I wouldn’t talk to you either.”

    The value of preaching is found in the power of the Word, not the personality or worth of the preacher.

    Thanks, Mike.

    • Christiane says

      ” speak of Christ,
      and your tongue will serve that which gives life ”

      (John Chrysostom)

  2. Bruce H. says

    I don’t feel the same when I teach. Behind my teaching is the desire to inflict the grace to those who think they are saved and yet seek the Spirit’s conviction. In addition to that, I also seek the heart who wants to know how to walk the Christian walk. I have never felt inadequate unless I was ill prepared. Am I wrong not to have the same feelings you have?

  3. says

    When I saw your title and the opening of this post, I honestly thought, “You know, I’m kind of tired of reading posts and hearing other Christians harp on and on about how horrible they are (even in light of how awesome God is). We’re all aware of the Fall and human frailty, let’s hear about the majesty of God.” And then, lo and behold, that’s exactly what you were posting about. Pulled a slick one on me, eh?! More about Him please.

  4. Christiane says

    “I know my own soul, how feeble and puny it is:
    I know the magnitude of this ministry,
    and the great difficulty of the work;
    for more stormy billows vex the soul of the priest
    than the gales which disturb the sea.”

    (John Chrysostom)

  5. Jess Alford says

    Mike Leake,

    I don’t know you, and I have never heard of you before SBC voices, but I have a question for you, have you ever thought about becoming a writer.
    With a little training you would probably make a good one.

    Great post, I’ve learned, and the Scripture teaches this, when we reach the point of zero, the point of nothing, the end of our rope, and back against the wall, is when we can be used of God and accompolish great victories while here on Earth.

    Even Salvation requires one to reach the point of nothing, to let go of everything, and take hold of his unchanging hand.

    Even if we are down to our last dollar, put it in the offering plate and get down to nothing, then get ready something good is on the way. Don’t put that dollar in the plate if you are only giving to receive something in return. This would mean you didn’t get down to nothing. Praise the Lord,
    I’m a nothing for Jesus Christ, a nobody, and a zero. I cannot count the blessings God has bestowed upon me.

    • says


      Thanks for the encouragement. I am a writer as well as an associate pastor. My first book comes out May 1st through Cruciform Press. And I write daily at my personal website. I also write some for LifeWay. But I’m just getting going with this whole writing thing. So I really appreciate your encouragement to keep doing what I’m doing.

      I really like this statement that you made, “Don’t put that dollar in the plate if you are only giving to receive something in return. This would mean you didn’t get down to nothing.”

      • Jess Alford says

        Mike, I knew you were a writer, and a good one. I hope you knew I was kidding when I said, (a little training and you would be a writer.)

        • says

          Didn’t know you were joking…but also didn’t take any offense. I actually agree on the training thing. That’s why I didn’t know you were joking. I’ve got a ton of work to do on becoming a better writer.

          Again, thanks for the encouragement.