October 22, 2010

Sorry Shortcuts & Substitutes

I just received my brand new copy of Leadership Journal. I love this magazine! It's always packed with great insight, encouragement, and things to think about for anyone in Christian leadership. But I opened it today and on the very first page I read something that stopped me dead in my tracks. On the side column, titled "Preaching Booster", the first line inquires, "Looking for a source of inspiration and ideas for your sermons?" This is a column for the website & organization "Preaching Today". Good stuff! And while I know the intent and ultimate aim of this company & their column is to provide a creative outlet for illustrations, insights, and ideas to enhance your sermon, this is NOT what I read. The one major fatal mistake they made? The use of the word "inspiration"! 

There are times lately when I have felt like I'm on somewhat of a tirade about this - that I keep harping on it over and over. But in this day of plug-and-play, cut-and-paste, and collaboration...I think we've begun to rely and depend on some things that ultimately don't hold water. Whether I'm studying and planning and mapping out a new sermon series or fervently laying out the vision for our church, the easy way now seems to be the path most are taking. I know I can go online and within 10 minutes find 50 new incredibly creative ideas for a new sermon series that will reel people in and capture their attention. If I'm not totally sure of the direction that the Lord is leading me to courageously lead and pastor my church, well heck, I can just copy what you do. It's right there, in full color, waiting on me to surgically transplant it right into the body of believers that God has placed under my care. This so-called "inspiration" is right under your nose, in front of your face, waiting at your fingertips. But if I'm being honest, I don't find it to be all that inspiring. In fact, I think it's quite lame!

Let me stop circling the parking lot and just pull into the spot. The reason why this is a sorry substitute - a cheap, inauthentic, plastic version of the living, breathing, original creation that God intends for you and your church - is because every single shortcut we take in our preaching and in our ministry is born from a lack of prayer. Every single time I decide to get up off my knees, pull out of the pages of God's Word, and choose to go anywhere else for "inspiration", there can be no greater result other than something that's been seen and heard and experienced before. Do you get this? Do you understand - or more importantly BELIEVE - that God's Word is "full of life-giving power"? Do you grasp that to those whom He has placed the irresistible calling to "Preach the Word", He also provides a new heart and new eyes to see those words literally come to LIFE? When we stand to preach the Word of God is it evident that we've been moved and shaken by His Spirit to boldly proclaim His truth......or that we've done a really good job of taking that message and putting our own twist on it? Do we seriously think our people need a new twist?

Want to use a video to help drive home a point? Great. Looking for an illustration to set up where you're heading in scripture? Awesome! Happy hunting. And thank God for all the resources available to make that happen today. But if you're looking for "inspiration" - REAL, MIND-BLOWING, EYE-OPENING, LIFE-GIVING INSPIRATION - close the door, open God's Word, get on your face, and - much like the persistent neighbor in Luke 11 - don't stop begging, pleading, and asking until the Lord reveals that Word that He is longing to whisper. He's not going to shout it. If He spoke to Elijah in a whisper, what makes us think He's going to take out an internet ad to get our attention?

If you're a pastor, a leader, a youth minister - if God has called you in any way to lead His people - don't settle! He called you to use YOU! He called you to speak to YOU! To create something new in YOU! Don't miss it.

Would love to hear your thoughts.

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