Tuesday, October 10, 2006


I had the opportunity to preach Sunday morning at my church. My Senior Pastor fell ill Saturday evening, and I received the dreaded call at 8:15 pm asking me if I can cover for him the next morning. Now, this doesn't happen very often, maybe 3 times in the 8-9 years I have been on staff, but I generally have something in mind that I could preach on should the need arise. In this case, I had just seen the movie Facing the Giants, and was already contemplating extracting a message on the subject of facing our fears when my pastor called.

I went for a brief walk, praying the God would give me something to talk about. Now, I have had the opportunity over the years to work with a number of young preachers, and one thing I tell them all is that they should write their conclusion first. After all, if you don't know where you're going, you're not likely to get anywhere useful. By the time I got back home, I had a conclusion: "God wants to change the world through you; if you will face your fears, He will give you the ability to overcome them, and use them to do just that." Not much, but at least a start. Enough for me to go to bed and sleep for a few hours.

The next morning, I put a few items down on paper, things people might be afraid of. I briefly considered what the Bible says about these things, reviewed the story of Joshua from chapter 1 of the book bearing his name, and figured I might mention 1 Corinthians 15:58, and Romans 8. But beyond that, I really didn't have any idea how it would go.

But God is so amazingly faithful. We have 2 services, and extemporizing to that extent in 2 services without trying to reproduce the first service in the second service is very difficult. But I felt His direction, watched as I moved from one point to another, and was ready to wrap up exactly at the end of the service. Second service, I just started with a different point, and a "different but same" message resulted. After I was done, I was just amazed at the things that were only a part of one of the two services.

I used to extemporize most of the time that I preached, but I found that I got lazy, and began to depend on my ability to think on the fly, rather than be prepared with something that people could follow and walk away with. In an effort to fix that, I began forcing myself to use PowerPoint. I think the result has been very positive, but I may come off at times more like a lecturer than a preacher. It is interesting to me that the last two times that I have had to preach with little or no prep time have been exceedingly well received.

This brings me to my point. Where is the balance between preparation and inspiration for me? Even with PowerPoint, I leave a lot of space in my messages. And I often feel under-prepared. Then there are the men that I admire as preachers who clearly have significantly more prepared than I do, yet whose messages are always compelling and challenging. Perhaps I have fallen into the worst-possible place: just sufficiently prepared to squelch my natural speaking gifts, but not sufficiently prepared to really produce the best that I am capable of. Perhaps it is unreasonable to compare the messages I give on a regular basis with plenty of prep time to those that I preach without prep but with God's amazing mercy because of schedules.

But if the latter, I still want to find the place where I experience His mercy, even when I have plenty of time. Not sure I'm there yet.

1 comment:

the-unintentional-blogger said...

If you fear that last Sunday was "the worst possible place", then you my friend are one amazing teacher! I listened to both services and learned different things from both. As for preparation, I bet it's probably harder to get motiviated to prepare when an under-prepared service goes so well. But I think the fact that your even asking the question speaks about your desire to not just rely on your own abilities as a speaker and teacher. And besides, you know that if you ever need me to deflate any self-inflated sense of oratory skills that I'm here for you, man. We all still remember the "big hole" incident! : )