How to Preach – It really is all about you.
A message prepared in the mind reaches a mind; a message prepared in a life reaches a life.– Bill Gothard
Shocking title I know. Go ahead, accuse me of being shallow, a hedonist or of being self-centered, but it is true. You are the most important part of your life and therefore the message of your life. You will make your life and message powerful or you will dilute that life and message. In the end, however, you are that life and you are that message. So what are you going to do about it?
God has us here to be someone. God has us here to say something. (1 Peter 2:9-10) So let us ask the questions of ourselves, “Who am I?” “What am I here to say?”
What has shaped your life message?
A life message is shaped by both good and bad things. There are many events in our lives that are significant to the point that they form values in our hearts and minds. Those values become our message and ultimately our passions. At the very least those values explain many of the choices of our lives.
King David’s story in the Bible begins with a simple narrative of a young boy thought to be insignificant to the rest of the family. That assumption may have been based merely upon his youth, but the estimation of his value left him in the fields while the rest of the family was meeting with the second most important man in the country.
The shepherd boy, David, never ceased. Whether his life role was musician, warrior, or king, the shepherd boy still lived. You hear the echo of the “shepherd boy” in many of David’s Psalms.
Many Bible character’s life message was both helped and harmed by the values set early in their stories. We could list Moses’ insecurity based upon his failure in Egypt. That indiscretion later led to hesitancy to listen to God, failure to distribute leadership, and ultimately smacking THE rock in frustration. We could think of Jacob who early set the value that he could talk his way through anything. Later we find the person he swindled the worst was himself. On the list could go, but the important question I would like to illustrate is this, “What has shaped the message of your life?”
To what extent has Scripture shaped your life message?
So the question begs a follow up, “What role has Scripture played in that message?”
When Jesus walked the Emmaus Road with the two disciples that could not quite make him out, He spoke to them. Their testimony of that walk records a fire in those words, or rather a fire in their hearts because of those words. Luke 24:32. Jeremiah records a similar experience when he was called upon to share his message of God. Jeremiah 20:9.
A person cannot have mighty faith without a significant Word. Romans 10:17. A substantial word is one that is ‘heard’. It is one thing to read the Bible. It is entirely another to ‘hear’ what it is saying. Hebrews 4:12.
Many years ago, I was struggling in my first pastorate. I was working so very hard to move the church forward. I reached a moment when I was so weary. I was not tired, I was weary. It was deeper than a physical exhaustion. This weariness was a spiritual, mental, and physical trifecta of wiped out.
I remember that day preparing a sermon for the upcoming Sunday, when a cross reference I followed led me to Matthew 11:28-30. You know, I had studied, preached and even memorized those scriptures, but that day – I HEARD them. They changed my life. That passage became a meaningful chapter of my life story. I refer to that moment often when sharing and encouraging others in their faith, particularly regarding our need to HEAR what God has to say.
How about you? What have you heard? Preaching and Teaching are merely repeating the great things you have heard.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God Matthew 5:8.
Integrity – The quality or condition of being whole or undivided. (www.thefreedictionary.com)
A double minded man is unstable in all his ways. James 1:6-8.
Serious reflection for any believer begins with the question, Who am I? The Bible can answer that question for you quite clearly.
You are Chosen, Royal, Holy, and Belong. 1Peter 2:9.
You have a hope and a future. Jeremiah 29:11.
You have been adopted into God’s household as a child. Ephesians 1:4-5, Galatians 4:6-7, Romans 8:14-15
You are now a work of God. Ephesians 2:10. (Historically He has completed some rather impressive projects.)
You are completely forgiven. Colossians 2:13-14.
You are Jesus’ friend. John 15:15
You are the salt of the earth and the light of the world. Matthew 5:13-14.
You are safe. 1 John 5:18
There are many more, but it takes more than reading them. In order for these simple truths to shape your life message, you must HEAR them. You must know that they are true statements. When you begin to believe them, again recalling Romans 10:17, they will have a very clear effect on your life, the way you live that life, and the message that life speaks.
Many believers are very frustrated today with their spiritual progress. They are waiting for God to do things for them and in them, but they have already been done.
When you HEAR the Word, Faith appears. Believing God’s Truth changes your heart and your heart changes your life. Luke 6:45, Proverbs 23:7.
The Bible is very concerned with the state of our heart and with the affections of our heart. Colossians 3:2. Philippians 4:8. It is a simple matter really, what we think about shapes our life. Freedom from an inaccurate value and belief system that has wrongly shaped our life message comes from the Truth. I hope we all know Who that is. John 14:6. So, learn the Truth, believe the Truth and the Truth will change your reality.
Often we struggle with the reality of our lives in comparison to the Scripture and the life it teaches us. Our human response is to work on our failings. I would like to suggest that by choosing to work on our failings we miss the point of Jesus life and message. He proposed Himself as our strength. He rather plainly said, that He is our everything. John 15:7. Rather than focus on the weakness, focus on the answer. By focusing upon Christ as the answer no matter the difficulty, we find ourselves in a position of expectation. We find ourselves waiting upon the Lord. Isaiah 40:31. I have found that waiting on the Lord is the best place in Life to live. However, I should add – waiting on God, is very difficult for me personally.
This life of knowing the Truth, hearing the Truth, and realizing the Truth creates experience. This experience becomes your story. Your story with Jesus Christ is an incredibly powerful message.
For such a long time, the modern age produced a “preacher” that was more than willing to wage debate with human minds using reason, facts, historical accounts, and the like. The modern age assumed logic would champion the truth. However, I have already said, people just aren’t logical. This method of proclaiming the truth failed because it separated the messenger from the message. The facts were not set in context of their story, and facts can be misleading, especially out of context.
Get it right. Tell the Truth as only you can, with your story.
Transparency and authenticity are highly prized in our culture today, especially in our religious climate. Decades of scandal, unrealized promises, and empty dreams have left so many disillusioned souls wandering in a wilderness without faith.
We must end the grand promises, easy answers, and absolute cures for man’s present difficulties. Jesus Christ is the answer for faith, but that doesn’t mean everyone’s problems get fixed. So there is no need to make excuses for God when He doesn’t come through in the way people expect.
Rather tell a true, transparent story of your own struggles with scripture, faith, and God. Do not worry that God can’t handle the truth of your story. Remember, the world in which we live would much better receive an honest “I don’t know” than an empty platitude.
The great thing about your story is that when you tell it, the story lives again. Emotions forgotten come to the surface. Memories recalled stir our passion and the message gains a heat, an intensity that demands consideration and refuses to be ignored.
Passion isn’t the most important thing to your message, but it is one of the three inseparable components of any message. Integrity, Experience, and finally Message.
Now we come to the easy part. I know that sounds shallow when your consider how much time is spent writing, theorizing, and criticizing the sermon, the lesson, or the talk. Surely I am making the whole matter trivial by such a statement. Even though, I agree that getting the message right is critical to hearts and minds today, I stand by my statement, the messages themselves are the easy part. In fact, I would like to consolidate the whole of preaching, teaching and sharing into one statement, “Hear God speak, repeat the message.”
So many spend their time in ministry, whether preacher, teacher, or study leader trying to decide what the people need to hear. I really like Moses’ model of message prep. He hung out with God. God would say stuff. Moses told the people what God said to Him.
So, do you want to share a message with people. Maybe your audience is on the job, at school, in a study group, or even to a body of believers in some kind of church setting. Why not tell them what God told you? If your reply to that idea is, “Well, God hasn’t told me anything.” Then, could I humbly suggest that it would be wise to take a holding pattern. It would be a good idea to wait on the Lord. The most powerful preparation a message often needs is that the messenger take time to rest and wait, in the Biblical sense (Psalms 37:7), until the messenger hears from God. When God has spoken to you, you will have what they need.
No Need to Fear
Whether called specifically or called upon by others the reality is the same, you find yourself in a position to share God with people. That can be an uncomfortable place for many. Remember, the biggest fear comes from simply being in a new situation. After the initial shock or euphoria wears off – depending on the person – the process really is not difficult.
Your relationship with God, your experience with God, and your message from God are really a very natural process. It is that process that got you into this situation to start with, so relax and enjoy the journey.
After All, life following Jesus may have many difficult moments but walking in faith is never boring.