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Are you a pastor feeling disconnected and burned out? Here’s how to retool.

Pastors are caught in the middle of divisions and yet struggle with isolation. And many are burning out. Paraclete associate, ordained pastor and professor Lisa Lamb hopes her new book, “Resonate: How to Preach for Deep Connection” will breathe new life into the art of preaching, the pastors themselves and the churches they serve. She and her husband, Rich Lamb, train Chinese and Indian church leaders in Malaysia.  Lisa sat down with Paraclete writer Rebecca Hopkins for this interview.

Tell me some about your book. What’s the central message?

Don’t give up on preaching. Preaching still has enormous power. It’s great that we’re able to access a lot of quality teaching online. But there’s a biblical value in gathering. And it’s important for pastors to be shepherds who are called and invited to bring a specific, timely, local word to their flocks. We gather to worship in response to the Word and to commit to loving our communities in response to what we hear. All of that doesn’t happen in the anonymous spectator element of online sermon surfing.

Why this book now?

During the pandemic, I was so aware of a disconnect. Reading the statistics, it was a very, very steep drop off of pastors leaving ministry. I saw a lot of blog posts about frustration trying to learn technology. The pivoting was exhausting, and the payoff was diminishing. Pastors

weren’t feeling the love and the connection. They weren’t able to look in people’s eyes and see that this word is meeting people where their hearts needed to be met this week. And things were missing. Humor was missing. I knew a pastor who had to go meet with the elders afterwards because something he meant as an innocent joke got taken the wrong way. And there wasn’t that check-in time over coffee afterwards to say, “hey, is this what you meant by that?” And there wasn’t the chance in the congregation to nuance it. I found myself with a great deal of compassion for pastors.

I watched different pastors navigating distance differently. I watched a pastor of a megachurch in Singapore—a Chinese pastor—make this choice to bring people into his living room and preach seated from his couch. He described for his congregation the hardship of the lockdown, how hard it was for him as their shepherd to be distant from them, expressing his care and love for them. I thought, wow, what a beautiful instinct. He’s actually bridging the distance. I found myself thinking a lot about connection. I decided this book was my welcome back card to pastors coming out of the pandemic. That was my hope.

The cure for burnout is not only rest—rest is important—but retooling. A new angle, a fresh angle, a fresh word into the heart of my calling and craft can really re-energize me. That lack of resonating, that lack of connection is a lot of what discouraged and worried pastors.

But I didn’t write it just for the pandemic. I really do want it to not just encourage these preachers but equip them to preach more long-term as well. It’s got a lot of practical skill-building exercises at the end of each chapter.

What’s the big picture here? With so much of society divided by politics, what’s the pastor’s role in society right now?

Well, that is a huge question. I’m answering it differently from Malaysia and India where we’ve been most recently, where there is such a limited role for entering into politics.

I think the role of the pastor to be faithful and prophetic in the midst of that is a very difficult needle to thread. Some pastors think they’re being prophetic when they just sort of throw out a firebomb about the other political side or mock those who do mask or don’t mask or do vax or don’t vax. We’ve gotten into a cheap exchanging of barbs in the U.S. That is not our role. Our role is to find the common ground and to ground the conversation in theological depth and biblical values that are enduring that we can all agree on. And then say, “how do we work that out in this context with respect and love and humility?”

Good preaching can really foster a culture that’s not so much about the pastor weighing in on any specific issue, but framing the conversation with depth and humility and modeling. Their preaching, their conversations, and their social media posts can shape a culture that can walk in unity even as people differ on politics. That would be great, wouldn’t it?

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