We get emails and comments all the time from readers. I love to receive them and try to answer them if I can. Many are happy with the “down to earth” and “practical” insights that I attempt to present in simple language. I try to steer clear of canned and trite teaching that people think they are supposed to hear. I attempt to give you real tools to help you in a real ministry in the real world.
Some disagree with this approach. I think disagreements can be helpful. I have learned more from disagreements than from agreements, but some of these disagreements come from a piety that does not deal with the reality that preparation for the preaching moment requires that the preacher put in some real work. No, the preacher does not receive a message from God without putting forth any work whatsoever.
For example, there are those who make an argument that sounds a lot like this one:
"If you are called, then you don’t need a website like SoulPreaching.Com to teach you to preach!"
We get this kind of statement from time to time either on YouTube or on SoulPreaching itself. The first thing that comes to mind when addressing such a statement is, why did the commentor come to this website if he/she thinks that called people don’t need any training to help them in their call? But on a more serious note, this argument taken to its logical conclusion would mean that we should shut down all Bible schools, seminaries and universities. When God calls you, according to this understanding, you don’t need to do any more work.
But let’s be clear, becoming a better preacher requires work. I think formal training can be helpful, but even if you do not receive formal training from an educational institution, you need to avail yourself of books, websites, practice and even peer review. All of these things, in addition to prayer, Bible study and your call, will help you to become a better preacher. Simply leaning on the idea that you have been called without doing any more work will stifle your improvement.
Another belief that hinders our improvement as preachers is an argument that goes like this:
"The sermon is solely a product of God who gives it to us; we just deliver what God has given to us!"
This is related to the first argument. But while the first one attacks the idea that we should have any formal or informal training in preaching, this one attacks the very idea of sermon preparation itself. It assumes that the sermon is something that God gives to us irrespective of our effort or person.
This idea doesn’t take into account that God has called YOU to preach. God didn’t call a robot without any history or emotions. What that means is that there is something about our background, who we are, the questions we bring, the issues we have dealt with, that God will use in the construction of sermons.
Sermons are not something that any of us could have delivered. Who we are affects how we construct and present sermons. This is one reason why stealing sermons is so detrimental. It teaches us to not use our background.
No, sermons are not delivered irrespective of the preacher. No, they are delivered THROUGH us. So when Joe, who just lost his mother, goes to the text, he sees something that is needed just now for himself and for someone else who is going through loss. I am not talking about reading into the text; I am talking about aspects of the text that you would not have seen were it not for the questions that you bring to the text.
It is sometimes said that preaching is “truth through personality.” God has called you, and thus we labor. We labor to become more effective preachers of the truth. We labor to be faithful presenters of the gospel. We labor and then when we fail, we hold onto that promise God gave that the Word itself when it goes forth will not come back void (Isaiah 55:11).
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