I still remember a conversation that, paradoxically, led me into full-time ministry.
I was 24 at the time, and working at the Princeton, New Jersey office of the United States Tennis Association. As part of my duties, I gave presentations to physical educators, Special Olympics coaches, and even tennis teaching professionals. My supervisor at the time believed – accurately as it turned out – that I needed to lower the pitch of my voice to be a more effective presenter, and so he sent me to a local expert in the art of public speaking.
During one of our meetings, my vocal-pitch-teacher asked me to give her a preview of a talk about tennis that I was going to deliver to a local gathering of senior citizens. I hemmed and hawed and made it clear that I didn’t think much of my talk or the audience. And suddenly she stopped me: “If you don’t love what you’re talking about I can promise you the people you’re talking to will hate your talk.” Point taken.
If you don’t love what you’re talking about the people you’re talking to will hate your talk.
True of the state of tennis in the 1980s.
More true of the Gospel and the Scripture from which we proclaim it in the 21st Century.
If you’re reading this book, I am going to assume that you are interested in the task of preaching. But more to the point: are you interested in the Scriptures from which you preach? Do you love the Gospel you proclaim? Does your heart fill with joy when you realize that Scripture tells the dazzling tale of a God who loves you, bought you, redeemed you, resurrects you, and will return for you?
Until you are captured by that narrative, you’ll never capture the attention of your church.
Which means this: if you want to be interestING, you first have to be interestED. If you want to be interesting when you preach, you must first be interested in Scripture – its world, its authors, its conversations, and its art. Whatever growth I have had as a preacher in recent years is directly related to my increasing appreciation for not only WHAT the bible says but HOW it says it. Because of that, my goal for each Sunday includes a moment where the congregation can see and hear my own “joy of discovery” — that my time in study was thrilling and that the opportunity to share what I have uncovered is a privilege.
What I excavate in my study I then get to celebrate in the pulpit.
I want to love what I’m talking about so people won’t hate my talk.
The preceding is an excerpt from the forthcoming book, Simplify The Message; Multiply The Impact, released by Abingdon Press on February 4 and designed for pastors, speakers, and leaders everywhere. You can pre-order your own copies here.