Thursday, January 23, 2014

Some Thoughts on Teaching, Preaching, & Life

Randy Clark at Redeemer
Here are some things I believe are important when it comes to teaching, preaching, and living the Jesus-life.

Give to others the best of what you have to give. I cannot think of one time I have preached and not given 100% in preparation. I never sing the worship song "Lord, I Give You My Half-Job." I never step up to the plate not as ready as I can be. Give 100% every time you teach or preach. The size or type of listeners means nothing, View every occasion of teaching and preaching as the last opportunity you will have to do this. This does not mean I preach great sermons. But I always give it everything I have. As a pastor I have weeks where I am called to help others more than usual. On those weeks I may not have the time I think I need to prepare. At that point I say to God, "You know I've done the best I can. Now come and make it better than what I have to offer." And, consistently, God does.

o Don’t try to be someone else. Don't waste your time comparing your teaching, preaching, and life with anyone else. This is freeing for me because I have tried to teach, preach, and live like others. Now, at age 64, I feel less interested than ever in being like someone else. Mostly I want to be like Christ.
Focus on pleasing God, not on pleasing people. If you are a people-pleaser you will end up saying nothing, and the nothingness that comes forth from you will displease some people. When we teach and preach God's Word, some will not like it. You will not be universally liked. Therefore be disliked for the right reasons.

Work for God, not people. Work so as to please God and experience God's pleasure, not the pleasure of people. Of course if what you do and say pleases God then real Jesus-followers will be pleased as well. Trust in God to pay you a wage. He is your Master. Desire his "well done." God’s approval is what counts, not the approval or disapproval of other people.

What people think of you does not matter; what you think of people matters greatly. God loves people who like and dislike you. Ask God to so transform your heart that you love others like Christ does. It is freedom to be unconcerned about what people think of you. Only such a free person can then love other people. When Jesus hung on the cross and said "forgive them," behold the perfectly free person who loves even his enemies, and whose love is not a function of peoples' love for him.

Be transparent. But remember: transparency has boundaries. Use personal examples and illustrations in teaching and preaching. It's not only OK to tell stories of personal failure it is needed so people can be free of the illusion of clergy-pedestalness.

Don’t teach or preach your current struggles. People will begin to focus on you rather than what you want to say to them. If you are a sex addict get help. Realize if you confess your sex addiction to your entire congregation you will then become the issue. The time may come when you tell people about this. If so, it will be long after you are healed and set free. Transparency does not mean an open book for all to see everything in your soul.
Don’t talk about other people without their permission. In a sermon, that is. In preaching never talk about other people’s failures (re. people that you know). In life strive to lift people up, not point out their flaws. If God has shown you the flaw or sin of another person it is only so that you can pray for them.

Know your audience.

Remember that you don’t know it all. You don’t have to. But you do have to study, prepare, and pray like crazy.

Be clear rather than profound. In your clarity God's Spirit can move. In your profundity and obfuscation even the Spirit asks, "Huh?"

o What you say needs to be coherent, connected.

Stay on-topic.

• Make eye contact.

• Want people to understand you. Therefore enunciate, use complete sentences, get free of annoying vocal and bodily mannerisms, don't speak too fast, speak so people can hear you, go watch the movie "The King's Speech."

• Teach and preach what people are to do, not on their failures. Good teaching and preaching builds up, not tears down.

If you fail morally, people will not listen to what you have to say. This is a sad truth. It's sad because we all fail morally. Trust will have to be regained before you have a  voice again. It can happen. This will take much time.

Continue to grow deep. What we especially need today are more deep people, not people who know more things. Deep soul-growth will impact your teaching and preaching. Spend much alone-time with God.

Teach and preach as a servant. Desire not to be on TV. This is not about you being viewed as some "great preacher"; it's about you preaching about a great God who is infinitely greater than your preaching.

Teach, preach, and live with passion. Note that passion looks different in different cultures. My ancestry is Scandinavian-Finnish. We are not exactly "hopping" people. Mostly, we'd rather bale hay than talk in front of an audience. But God has placed a fire within my hay-baling heart. And you don't have to advertise a fire.

If you teach, preach, and live so that some people surpass you in excellence, then be very happy.

When, in your teaching and preaching you are wrong, admit it. I've done it. If you haven't then you are dishonest.

Never talk down to people.

You will be criticized. John Calvin, in his Commentary on 1 Timothy 5:18, writes: "For none are more liable to slanders and calumnies than godly teachers. Not only does it arise from the difficulty of their office, that sometimes they either sink under it, or stagger, or halt, or blunder, in consequence of which wicked men seize many occasions for finding fault with them; but there is this additional vexation, that, although they perform their duty correctly, so as not to commit any error whatever, they never escape a thousand censures. And this is the craftiness of Satan, to draw away the hearts of men from ministers, that instruction may gradually fall into contempt."

Listen to your critics. Even if some of them are not loving.

• Remember: The foundation of all God-filled teaching and preaching is love. In your teaching and preaching be loving. It is, after all, possible and necessary to speak the truth in love.