Pastor, Stop Using the Holy Spirit as Your Excuse for Laziness

What does your sermon preparation process look like? I don’t prepare, I just get up there and let the Spirit lead.

Maybe you have said those words. Maybe you know someone who has said those words.

Pastor, Stop Using the Holy Spirit as Your Excuse for Laziness

I’ve not only heard of pastors who do this with sermons, but I’ve heard children’s workers say this and youth workers say this. They say they do not prepare anything ahead of time because they want to let the Holy Spirit lead in the moment. 

This goes beyond sermon preparation as well. Often times pastors and church leaders take extreme amounts of time in making decisions. Their excuse is that they are waiting on the Holy Spirit to lead them. They pray and pray and pray. And after they’ve done that, they say they pray some more. 

My questions to people who say these things are:

Do you only think that the Spirit leads when you are unprepared?

Do you not believe that the Spirit leads in your preparation?

What if the opportunity you are praying about is in front of you because God put it in front of you to act upon?

Are you using your dependency on the Holy Spirit as an excuse for laziness? Are you really just ignoring the Holy Spirit and choosing to be lazy?

Pastor, Stop Using the Holy Spirit as Your Excuse for Laziness

I hesitate to even write this article because I know that a lot of pastors are on the opposite end of the spectrum, working themselves into the ground and being on the verge of burnout. If you are one of those people, you need to get help before you crash and burn.

In the same way, the lazy pastor needs to be addressed. 

You saying that you don’t prepare your message ahead of time is careless and doesn’t honor God in the slightest. Sure, you can quote a couple passages where Jesus said that the Holy Spirit will teach you at that time what to say (Luke 12:12, 21:15), but the thing is, these passages are in the context of the disciples being confronted in the Synagogues about being associated with him. The irony is that the lazy pastor would know this if he or she would have just opened up to the context. But of course that is too much work…

Not too long ago, I was told that a pastor lost his job because of laziness. He didn’t have much accountability and wasn’t putting the expected time in. He lost interest in the ministry and was just inching by, doing less than the minimum. Whether or not he was using the Holy Spirit as an excuse for his laziness, I don’t know. Maybe he was actually honest – he was just being lazy.

I absolutely value the role of the Holy Spirit in the life of not only Jesus’ followers, but also Jesus himself. My last podcast was on the topic of Jesus and the Holy Spirit. I believe that we should be led by the Spirit. But I don’t believe that the way to go about doing that is to simply pray and wait. 

Pastors, we have been called to actively make disciples. This means we depend on the Holy Spirit, but it also means we take action. Our mission is to make disciples and the reality of a mission is that it necessitates action.

Be Honest

If you are a lazy pastor, admit it. Be honest about it. Stop hiding behind the facade of depending on the Holy Spirit. If you don’t like sermon preparation, admit it. If you don’t like making decisions, admit it.

You’re not doing any good by being lazy. 

Think about these words:

Proverbs 26:13

The sluggard says, “There is a lion in the road! There is a lion in the streets!” (ESV)

In other words, the lazy person declares reality, but doesn’t do anything about it. What are you simply talking about and not doing anything about?

God, I want to be a better husband! That’s a great desire, but if you never make your wife a priority, you’re probably going to fail as a husband. Yes, you need to let the Holy Spirit lead you in becoming a better husband, but that doesn’t just mean you ask God to make you into a better husband. The Holy Spirit is going to lead you to action. You then have to act.

Repent

Don’t just admit that you are lazy. Change your ways! Make the necessary changes, for the Holy Spirit is not going to lead you into laziness. 

Realize that your vocation is one of eternal importance. You have been put where you are because there is a need for you to be there. 

Consider Paul’s words to the pastor, Timothy:

1 Timothy 4:11-16

11 Command and teach these things. 12 Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity. 13 Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching. 14 Do not neglect the gift you have, which was given you by prophecy when the council of elders laid their hands on you. 15 Practice these things, immerse yourself in them, so that all may see your progress.16 Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers. (ESV)

4 Things to Keep You Away From Laziness

1. Devotion to the public reading, exhortation and teaching of Scripture.

In order to be devoted to the public reading of Scripture, followed by exhortation and teaching of that Scripture, you need to be devoted to preparation. Before you make the excuse that we don’t have evidence that Jesus prepared his messages, let me remind you: Jesus was fully God while being fully human and he probably had a handful or so sermons that he preached as he traveled. 

Devote yourself to being able to effectively and accurately read, exhort and teach people the Scriptures.

2. Refuse to neglect your gifts.

Often times the thing that is easiest to neglect the most is the thing that you are the best at. If you are gifted in communication, it’s easier for you to neglect that gift because sheer skill can get you by for a little while. Instead of neglecting your gifts, focus on and grow your gifts.

3. Practice #’s 1-2 and practice what you preach.

You will grow as an effective pastor as you purposefully practice. Not only do you want to be practicing your preaching (#1), but you also want to be investing in your gifts (#2). Beyond this, be sure that you are modeling what you are preaching.

4. Keep an eye on yourself.

If you know that you lean towards laziness, be sure to keep an eye on yourself. Be sure to examine how you are doing. It would be a good idea to examine your day as you get ready for bed. You can reflect on the activities of the day and ask yourself if you honored God in doing these things. 

Where the Holy Spirit Leads

If there is any doubt at this point, let us realize how the Holy Spirit leads. 

Pastor, when the Holy Spirit is leading you, you will be on your way to action. The mission at hand is about actively making disciples. This is not a passive endeavor where you are led by the Spirit to simply pray, but to act.

The Holy Spirit leads you to make disciples. You are not going to be led to sit around and take up space on earth. 

You Don’t Have This Attitude When This Happens…

When you get a call in the middle of the night and someone from your congregation has been involved in a major car accident, you don’t tell the people calling you to simply let the injured person lay on the ground while they pray for help. You expect them to call the ambulance so that person can get help. You then don’t expect for them to be comforted just because you are praying. You get up and head to the hospital to be present with them. 

The Holy Spirit is leading in situations like this just as he leads you to prepare your message. He is leading you to action. 

So, let’s come full circle. 

Pastor, stop using the Holy Spirit as your excuse for laziness. Honor God in all that you do.

Written by Brandon Kelley

Brandon Kelley is the co-founder of Rookie Preacher and the author of Preaching Sticky Sermons and Crucified to Life. He serves as the Spiritual Development Pastor at a fast growing church in Batavia, Ohio, called The Crossing. Among the many things he does at The Crossing, serving on the teaching team is one of them. He also writes at BrandonKelley.org. You can follow him @BrandonKelley_. Watch his sermons here.