I was recently at a conference, enjoying it both as a participant and as a presenter. I was particularly struck by the main Bible teaching. I have been pondering what made it so effective. I was challenged by the obvious passion for the Word that showed in this series of talks. I know the speaker is not a limelight seeker, so I won’t name him, but I trust these three reflections will be provocative for us.
Observation 1: Masterful Handling of the Text
In four messages we were taken through the entire book of Daniel—not the easiest book to preach, nor the least controversial. How was the text handled so effectively in the course of four one-hour presentations?
The speaker was sensitive to both the literary and historical context of the book.
He knew his Babylonian and subsequent world empire history and demonstrated a keen awareness of the various disciplines needed for pulling together the complexity of Daniel.
He was deeply aware of the literary structure of the book.
Layer upon layer of structure was masterfully woven together as the book was presented, leaving the listeners struck by the artistry of the writer.
He showed a remarkable ability to summarize.
He summarized the content of multiple chapters without losing the essence or the core intent of the passages. The teaching had integrity, even when a chapter was surveyed only briefly.
The speaker was as bold as a lion, yet as winsome as a lamb.
In a mixed crowd of people from multiple denominations and disciplines, it would be tempting to try to please everyone with a sort of neutered presentation. Not here. There was a stunning level of courage in this presentation. He knew that many would disagree on various levels, yet he was unashamed in his presentation of the book. I think this kind of courage required both a genuine winsomeness and an authoritative mastery of the book’s contents.
Observation 2: Brilliant and On-Target Application
The speaker was sensitive to the specifics of a very mixed crowd.
I'd heard him speak from Daniel almost twenty years ago. It was powerful then because it was targeted to a the group of young people of which I was a member. This time the messages were different. Part of that was the difference in audience. This was a mixed group with a variety of ministry roles from across the continent. Yet the messages were so pertinent to people living as a small minority in difficult anti-Christian cultures.
The speaker honored the intelligence levels of those present.
This was a gathering of people that included a significant number of the highly educated. The messages were not elitist at all, but the speaker was sensitive to the intelligence levels in the room. Nobody would have felt patronized, nor would anyone have felt untouched by the ministry.
He obviously invested significant time in preparation.
The level of relevance and applicational targeting in these messages would not come from a quick scan of old notes. The speaker evidenced a real love for the listeners by the level of specificity he managed to achieve in his thoughtful applications to the audience.
Observation 3: The Credibility and Integrity of the Speaker
Ministry and life
Since I am not naming the speaker, this article might seem a bit pointless. Nonetheless, rather than focusing our attention on him, I’d love it to prompt our thoughts in prayers in respect to our own ministry. Here is an individual who has been running the race for a good long time. The race for him has included crossing cultures, engaging with different and often very challenging contexts, success in other fields apart from biblical teaching, facing direct opposition with deep integrity, etc. There is a weightiness and a power in a life well-lived.
Maybe this is the same as the previous comment, but it is important. For those of us that haven’t been in the race for five, six or seven decades, it can seem a bit irrelevant to us. But that is exactly wrong. The longevity of our ministry and the impact of our service is very much about the life we live this week. Longevity and integrity doesn’t sneak up on us; it is cultivated in the daily walk with Christ.
It is always striking when someone who has reason to be proud isn’t. If messages like these had come out of a young man, it would be hard to imagine the possibility of such humility. Courage and boldness combined with humility is a powerful cocktail.