I have had the privilege of preaching many times over the years.
I remember the first times I preached … I was extremely nervous. I had planned and studied and crafted it so well, that when I delivered it, it lasted a whopping 20 minutes long. I was aiming for at least twice that.
Preaching is a funny thing. Much like music style at church, there is a preaching style that is preferred. I have tried to change my style to fit in ways that people needed to hear.I used to spend hours preparing not only the studying portion of the message, but the presentation. That presentation would include the notes and the visual aspect (stuff on slides). I usually would wait until the last hours to produce the “visuals” and then stay up to the wee hours of the morn finalizing that … then going to the church to make the final copies. Ugh.
I have a routine/habit for preaching that tends to go like this.
- Decide on a topic
- Spend time researching the topic
- Realize that I didn’t pray enough and jumped the gun
- Allow God to direct me to a topic or passage of Scripture
- Read the passages on the topic or the passage in context
- Read the passages in a BIGGER context
- Think through logical points (based on research)
- Take a break and play some kind of game or do something to distract me
- Create outline that makes sense
- Think that I don’t have enough to last for 40-50 minutes, so prepare more and repeat steps above
- Re-create outline
- Realize that I have to much to go with so trim
- Re-create outline
- Study more because now it doesn’t seem enough (again) …. repeat these steps a few time
- Usually on Saturday I pull my final stuff together and then go to church to practice in my head (not outloud) trying to get the message outline in my head
- Freak because it is either to short or too long
- Go through outline making edits
- Normally I take a nap in the sanctuary (not necessarily on purpose, I just lay down trying to go through the major points in my head and end up sleeping in between praying and preparing) … oh yeah, I didn’t mention this but I really do a lot of praying throughout trying to make sure that I am listening to what God might have me change and to make sure when I preach, it is His words being spoken but within my personality/style.
- After the nap (I mean prayer and outlining) I usually play around on the piano and think how fun it would be to be a rock star.
- Then I go over the message a couple more times and then realize that the whole message is dumb because I haven’t spent nearly enough time making sure that I am allowing God to guide my thoughts and just created MY outline.
- Get up and read the passage in a bigger context to make sure it is fitting the point of the original author and that it is focused on Jesus.
- Before going back home, finish printing the final outline and visuals.
- Go back home and go to bed (usually Mer is sleeping by then ’cause it’s laaaate in the night/eeeeearly in the morning. While sleeping I am praying and going through the outline.
- Wake up in the AM, get coffee and something in my stomach resembling a breakfast that is not greasy.
- Go to church and if early enough stand on the platform and try to think through who might show up, pray for them and go through the message.
The last time I preached though … I didn’t follow my 567 step routine. I was sick. I had a final go/no-go decision to make by Saturday afternoon and at that moment I felt ok. Later that night I was sick. It was the worst that I have “presented” a message in years. What upsets me the most was my reaction though. I know that when I preached I presented our need for Jesus (if anyone who was there didn’t hear about Jesus, let me know so I am not off base), I was more upset at my presentation of it. That is just wrong. I should be satisfied that Jesus was preached (as in we are sinners and need a way out of our sinful condition so we can actually begin a relationship with God … all of that is done through Jesus who took our place for the penalty of sin … if we believe that, we can begin that relationship). I had thought I got beyond the “Randy is a good preacher” phase … but I guess not. I would honestly be ok (at this moment) if I never receive a compliment again. The only comments I really want to hear are “wow … I saw Jesus” or “That’s what God is?” or even “I want Jesus”.
I do recognize that to honor Jesus more with my skills, I do need to put some time into my “Craft” of preaching. I don’t want to just stand up and say “Jesus”. I need to develop a reason for him … sometimes just simply showing what He did so others can develop a love or appreciation for Him. But I don’t want the focus of my preaching to be about me. Nor do I want the focus of what I preach to be about whatever people want to hear – like popular topics, or how we should feel good about ourselves, or certain theology. All preaching should be focused on Jesus.
Enough from me … what about you?
Why does God like me?
Have you every thought about that?
Why does God even care about you?
Don’t get me wrong, he does … he abso-freekin-lutely does, I mean he proved it by doing what no one else would or could. By sending his Son Jesus to earth, to live a perfect life and then to die a not so innocent death on the cross. Not so innocent as in he took our sinful place in death. And then not only die, but even prove that death had no hold on him by rising from the dead 3 days later … in his own power.
Why did he do that? Why does he loves us THAT much?
I really don’t know … but man am I thankful.
Lord, help me to live for you in all ways. I want to obey you. I want a growing powerful and relationship with you. Your Word is good for me, help me to read it. My wife is good for me, help me to lay my life down for her as you did for me. My kids are good for me, help me to raise them and present them a good father as a mere taste of what you offer them as their Father. My local church is good for me, help me to serve within it and portray YOUR gifts (not mine).
(The following is something my beautiful wife wrote recently to those at church involved in children’s ministry. She was worried it sounded corny, but I think it portrays her true desire to express her love for God.)
Friday night at 11:00 was the time slot she had chosen for the 48 hour Pursuit of Prayer. What would it be like to have an “appointment with God, all alone just her and God? As the time neared the excitement grew in her heart. “Why wait for an appointment?”, she thought to herself. How silly! Why don’t I just praise my Lord this way all the time?
She dreamt of what the room would look like. Having read the book “Red Moon Rising” she had an idea. But still, her imagination was filled with hope of something even more than she’d dreamed. How had God planned out this room – this “date” with God! This is like dating my husband, she thought. I’m with him all the time we talk, share dreams, hope, love. But meeting him somewhere for a date was different. Kind a like when we first met! Ooo! Her palms were sweaty. How sweet to feel those feelings again. She found these same exciting feelings rising up, thinking about meeting her God in the prayer room.
The day had arrived, it was “date night”. All day she was thinking about the date. Her mind was filled with praises and her heart was even more attentive that usual to hearing what God was laying on it. Praising Him for each moment and challenge, the “same old, same old” didn’t feel so “old”. It felt new and purposeful, even fueled with more passion than she had felt in along time. The time was here 10:45pm. She pulled out of her driveway and headed for the church. All the way there she was singing loudly…and praising with words that flooded the van. The smile would not fade and the sweet tears wouldn’t stop. She even arrived at the church early…that was definitely a miracle. As she sat there she thought of what it would be like in the room she would soon enter. She dreamed of dancing with her king.
When she enter the building it was quiet….hmm…she couldn’t praise quite so exuberantly as in the van, but God would hear her praises just as loudly as if she was yelling. So she signed in, removed her shoes and entered the room. Surveying the room she removed her coat and began whispering praises. People flooded her mind that needed Him. She grabbed the marker and penned them all over the paper in the room. Several minutes had past. “I should have signed up for a longer date”, she thought to herself. She was walking around the room hands in the air, as she always dreamed, uninhibited by what people would think if they saw her. Her hands were open and the praise again poured out as did the tears. But of complete joy for how good God is. Her heart was full and she drank in the scriptures she poured through. More people came to her mind. She scribbled them on the paper on the wall again, knowing that these request and praises might again be brought to Him if she left them here. Wow! Times almost up. Urgg! She didn’t want to leave. Well, she thought, it’s not like I have to stop. She wept and hugged God as she danced with Him across the room and back. No Amen, let’s continue she thought.
Out in the van, it was like she just drank a triple shot mocha, wide awake and ready to serve! Mind full of people who were alone and needing him her mind chased those people. She began to drive. Dan, the guy at Circle K, she had prayed for him for years. Would he still be working there?! Entering the store she noticed he wasn’t working. But she lifted him to God. On the way home she continued to talk with God and decided to not wait for “date night” but to dance with her King each day and dream those dreams of loving Him uninhibitedly, putting into action all that He had purposed her for.
1 Thessalonians 5:16-19 “Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. Do not quench the Spirit“