What I wish I had known about Preaching and my Identity

When I first started serving as the lead guy in a student ministry and regularly preaching, I was 20 years old and didn’t have a clue. Here are a couple of things I learned the hard way that may save others some pain.


Your identity is in Christ, not your last “performance.” I began weekly preaching when I was 20 years old. Though I thought I was doing a pretty decent job at the time, looking back at those early sermons now makes me shudder like a hipster at a Taylor Swift concert, and I am thankful for God’s patience with me as he continues to help me grow as a communicator of his word. But what I found was that the better I became at speaking, the more I received feedback from people who told me that I “preached up a storm,” “killed it!”, or some other weird cliché Christians use to affirm their preacher. The growing number of speaking invitations validated my deluded estimation of my own ability, and I gradually began to rely on my gifting while losing sight of the Giver. The affirmation of those who told me I “killed it” was becoming louder to me than the affirmation of my Savior who was killed for me.

I gradually began to rely on my gifting while losing sight of the Giver.

After adding the inevitable pressure, common to every preacher, of preparing another message—every seven days—that will change everyone’s life forever, I soon realized the idolatry that was taking place in my heart: I was preaching for my identity instead of from it. I wish someone had told me early on that my identity isn’t based upon my ongoing labor as a preacher, but in Christ’s finished work as my Redeemer.

I was preaching for my identity instead of from it.

Young preacher: Preach the gospel to yourself often. Preach it to your own heart before and after you preach it from a microphone. God accepts you because of Jesus—period. Your good sermons don’t impress him more, and your bad sermons don’t cause him to love you less. A heart that is rising or falling with your last “performance” reveals a misplaced identity in your imperfect work for Jesus, instead of his perfect work for you.

God accepts you because of Jesus—period.

Ultimately, to the extent you are defined by people’s praise, you will be destroyed by their criticism and your inability to live up to your identity-illusion. Stop striving for an approval you already have. Learning to rest in the finished work of Jesus will empower you to boldly, joyfully, and continually preach his gospel, week in and week out. Preach not to become somebody significant in God’s family—but because in Christ, you already are.

This article was originally written for The Resurgence, and can be found by clicking HERE.


2 thoughts on “What I wish I had known about Preaching and my Identity”

  1. Hey Adam,
    This is great. I really needed to hear this, just finished reading Timothy Kellers book ‘Counterfeit Gods’ and it exposed a lot of those implicit idols that I was inevitable establishing my identity in! So praise God for this word and your obedience and humility in sharing this!

    God bless

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