Five Things to Do When You’ve Hit a Slump

 In Jason Bunger

If you live in the Dayton/Cincinnati area, there is little dispute about who the greatest baseball hitter of all time is. This player was a .303 lifetime hitter with major league record 4,256 hits. He had a National League record 44-game hitting streak. Lacking both size and natural talent, no one played harder and enjoyed the game more than this player. He was beloved and also hated for the way that he played the game – a passion that earned him the nickname “Charlie Hustle.”

Like all great hitters, he went through periods where he was in a hitting slump. Recently, I watched an interview with Alex Rodriguez, Frank Thomas and him about how to hit your way out of a slump. In this interview, he said there are six things you can do when you get in a slump. He stated that you can move up or move back in the batter’s box, move closer or further away from the plate, or choke up or move down your grip on the bat. But, he insisted, “Never change your swing.” When asked, “Why?” He simply replied, “Your swing is what got you into the big leagues.”

As a preacher, I sometimes feel I hit preaching “slumps” in ministry. Those are times when I feel my preaching is not being effective. If often may be because I do not feel the power of the Holy Spirit at that time. It might be that I am in a bit of a rut, or I may be overextended in some other area of life that is effecting my preaching. However, there are seasons that I simply feel like I am in a slump. Here is what I try to do when I find myself in a slump.

1. Keep Hitting. You break out of hitting slump by hitting, not by not-hitting. Resolve that you are going to preach your way out of this slump. It is only a slump, just hit through it.

2. Don’t give up what got you here. By God’s grace, preaching is impacted and powerful when we do four basic things. 1. Thinking yourself empty. In other words, mine all you can from a passage. 2. Read yourself full. 3. Write yourself clear. 4. Pray yourself hot. Often, a slump is tied to a breakdown in one of these four areas. Also, there is no substitute for the disciplines that help produce great sermons. Don’t give up the basics to chase the trends.

3. Return to the fundamentals. In addition to doing the above, return to the fundamentals of our personal and professional disciplines: Read longer portions of scripture unrelated to a sermon you are trying to write. Pray for your people by name and by face. Journal and write out your prayers and requests. You will usually begin to see your fire for preaching and people rekindled while you do these things.

4. Take a different angle. Similar to this player’s advice, reposition yourself in the reading of scripture. Read a Biblical narrative by identifying with a different character in the text. Read a passage and ask yourself how you might embrace the eternal truth of this passage if you belonged to a different culture, income demographic, or generation. Look at the same truth from a different angle. Don’t change your swing, just move in the batter’s box to see the ball differently.

5. Keep making contact. Baseball is a game of inches. Sometimes you will hit the ball bad and it will drop in for a hit. Other times, you will hit the ball hard, but right at someone. However, as a general rule, the more often you hit the ball hard, the more times it will be a base hit. Sometimes we feel we don’t preach all that well, but God uses it in great ways. Other times, we prepare what we think is a great sermon, only to feel like we are in a slump. The secret is to try to preach a solid sermon each week. Don’t try to hit a home run, but just hit the ball hard each chance you get. One of my preaching mentors, Maurice Watson says, “Don’t try to preach great sermons. Just try to preach helpful sermons. Then, once in a while, one will be great.”

So, if you are in a slump, be encouraged. It means that you are still in the game and that you still care. Just keep swinging. You will hit your way out of this.

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