Preaching and Prayer

There are times when communication is best done by “sticking to the script.” For example, when nations hang on every word of the President of the United States in his State of the Union address, it is wise for the communicator to speak clearly and precisely while following the advice of his team and the lead of his teleprompter. One wrongly stated declaration can cause untold numbers of costly ripples. Yes, when communication has the potential to cause great harm, it is vital that the communicator take all precautions to eliminate errors.

There are also times when communication is best done by “going with the flow.” While women love cards and love notes, they also like it when a man sits on the beach and share from his heart. The same is true for the soccer coach. At halftime of a tough match, it is counterproductive for him to read his previously written motivational speech in an effort to spur his team on to a second-half win. Yes, sometimes, impromptu speeches are the best way to go, even though they are less precise.

What about preaching and teaching? Ought the minister “stick to the script,” or should he “go with the flow?”

Scripturally, I do not think God cares.

Practically, I have seen God use both manners of presentation to do excellent work.

Personally, I have done both. Sometimes I am a hero. Sometimes I am a zero. I am not sure one way produces drastically different results that the other.

In seminary, I was encouraged to write out a full-manuscript and then leave that full manuscript on my desk as I made my way to the pulpit. It seemed to work for R.C. Sproul, and who would not want to follow in his footsteps? However, for most of my years in pulpit ministry, I have utilized a very detailed outline. Each line has one word underlined that guides me from one concept to another.

However, as of late, I have chosen to follow the advice of the good doctor and focus more on the “art” of communication and the impromptu aid of the Spirit than on the “technical precision” of my presentation. For better and for worse, I have chosen to not use predetermined, precise words, and in doing so I have risked error and made errors. However, it is a joy to look more into the faces of God’s people and communicate with them personally and directly from my heart.

The same is mostly true when I write. In writing three or four blogs a week, I do not have time to labor over every word and expression. Sure, I go back and proof what I have written and seek to correct errors (Sorry mom, I do not catch them all), but I cannot give as much diligence to every blog post as authors do over their books. My preaching, and my teaching, and my blogs are merely explosions from my heart to my friends in and outside my church.

So, how can you pray for me? How can you pray for your teachers who long to share God’s Word to you? Here are seven ways:

  • Pray that your teachers might be technically precise in their study? God, his Word, and his church deserves such diligence. They want to be good students, rightly dividing the Word of truth.
  • Pray that your teachers might be technically precise in their writing and speaking. Sometimes there is a disconnect between that which we have learned and that which we profess. God’s people need to hear as much truth with as little error as possible. Pray that we might be faithful communicators of God’s truth.
  • Pray that your teachers might be warmed in the heart over that which they are studying and communicating. You might not think this to be possible, but a stale minister quite often fills your pulpit. Sadly, we too can be “puffed up with knowledge.” Sadly and sinfully, we too can “teach with the tongues of men and of angels and have not love.” If you are capable of having lack-luster times of spiritual devotions, so too are we.
  • Pray that your teachers might be warm in they way they express the truths they have gleaned from God’s Word. Your flock needs a pastor and not a presenter. Whether the sermon is read or not, the minister needs to be like a tender father speaking to his beloved children. There is a difference between giving a communique and communicating.
  • Pray that your teachers might be receptive to the tender corrections of their friends. The best of ministers change in their beliefs throughout the years. The best of ministers cannot get it right all the time. We all swing from pole to pole and miss the point of balance in the middle. Pray that we might be humble in receiving exhortation regarding the message and the manner of communicating.
  • Pray that your teachers might receive tender correction from friends. Not all reproof is loving or wise. Not all who exhort their ministers do so with charity. What a joy it is to have friends who cares for the truth. What a joy it is to have friends who cares for you. What a joy it is to have brothers and sisters offer forth words of improvement from hearts of love at the right time and with the right frequency.
  • Pray that your teachers might find all their confidence and joy in Christ. Your minister is sinful. He is broken. He is not measuring up to the models that he has read about in scripture, seen in history, and witnessed all around him. His work is never done. He is never that correct or that winsome in communication. He struggles with his own application of truth. He gets depressed over the lack of receptivity by his friends. He desperately wants the Holy Spirit to shower down in power more than he is doing so at the present time. However, he can find solace for his soul by keeping his eyes on Christ and taking comfort in the fact that Christ often uses men who are weak and error-laden to pass on the Gospel from one generation to the next. Pray for your minister. He prays for you.

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