Oh dear .... am I preparing to preach this morning, or am I merely feeding my own soul? It's a dilemma, which sometimes appears to cripple some people. Hopefully, I've never been one of those, of whom there seem to be many to my ears, who suggest:
preparing what to share as a result of dwelling in God's word (sermon preparation) does not somehow count if you find yourself refreshed, challenged, fed, whatever, in the process.
Of course, if the only time you ever hear God is as a result of reading and reflecting on the Bible, as a result of being there for the sake of others, it's an indication of a problem. However, don't knock it too much. I've worked for over ten years now primarily in the arena of other Christian leaders and I've learnt a couple of things:
1. The weekly discipline, which I no longer have, of needing to prepare to speak is both a huge privilege and benefit to the nurturing of the mind of Christ in me. Sermon preparation has to be a habit in local Ministry, but it's not a bad habit. Speaking out what you've had to dig into and reflect upon, is a privilege most people don't have. Not simply privilege, however, but luxury. We're in a place currently where people, like me, are emphasising the need to transition into a missional way of being. I know people easily hear this message as implying 'mission' (doing stuff) is paramount and 'worship' (being stuff) is secondary, or even optional. Listen again please. What God has joined together ....... Preparation can nudge us another notch around the reflection-action cycle, we can escape, if like me, you don't have to do this. It's no guarantee your pastor this morning is standing up embodying all he/she preaches, but it increases the likelihood because God speaks to whoever listens, even of they happen to be a hard-pressed Pastor, frantically getting ready for Sunday!
2. If weekly serious, lengthy, reflection on the word of God takes place in the life of an average disciple of Christ in the UK Church today, who is not there for the sake of others, it's more unusual than normal. I'm now like everyone else out there sitting before you in the chairs, which seemed a great idea to buy cheap at the time. I read my bible, but I know what a challenge it is when you have to do it to prepare. I read my bible, but I know what it's like to do it to tick the box for the day in hand. I read my bible, because I want to be able to answer the next person, or my mentor, 'what are you reading, or hearing from God'? I read my bible, but most times, serious reflection happens in the car, apart from the 'moment' and can feel it doesn't count. Remember, for most people the privilege of having somebody open up God's word, to take them on a journey to the centre of their being before God, to draw questions up from the recesses of their heart where they might find God in the answering in their own lives, all these things are the privilege of listeners to someone who's done business before God in the previous week. Please, please, if you're responsible for this privilege in any way, don't short-change them by coming up with a downloaded from someone else, Americanised, sermon, which has by-passed your brain (but more especially your heart). Please, please, don't put them into groups to ask an irrelevant, useless question and think you're helping people learn and reflect deeply on their place before God. I've suffered some of these: they make people groan, they turn people off, they leave seekers for truth unsatisfied, but I would say that, I believe in preaching.
Now, off to Corsham .... am I prepared?