My dad used to say, “It’s really important to prepare the sermon, but it’s even more important to prepare the preacher.”
I always agreed with him, but deep down, it was a bit of a struggle. Because I love words. I love the limitless ways we can use words to describe the wonders of God and to paint pictures of the inner workings of our hearts and souls. I love the power of verbal communication to draw people into the realm of thinking about the things that really matter in life.
I love God’s word: its fathomless depth, its unswerving honesty, its sovereign artistry, its perfect consistency, and its living authenticity.
And I love to use the words God has given us to point to the Living Word. I resonate deeply with the hymn writer who penned the words, “I love to tell the story.”
But when my focus becomes the teaching itself, I can easily love preaching and teaching more than I love the people I am teaching and preaching to. I can become more concerned with crafting a message than allowing God to craft my heart. I can be wholehearted in my commitment to biblical teaching but halfhearted in committing that teaching to prayer.
I am learning – once again – that my Dad was right.
In these past few months, I have been so impacted – and significantly changed – as I have meditated often on Jesus’ words in John 15. And I can’t help but notice that Jesus doesn’t say that the one who bears much fruit is the one who most accurately and eloquently describes His words. He says the one who will certainly bear much fruit is the one who lives in constant intimate connection with Him and in whom His words are at home and very much alive.
Oh, I still love words, and will continue to use them to their fullest potential. It’s important that we faithfully prepare the teaching. But the real promise of fruit is when God prepares the teacher. I’ll leave you with E.M. Bounds:
“It is not great talents nor great learning nor great preachers that God needs, but men great in holiness, great in faith, great in love, great in fidelity, great for God – men always preaching by holy sermons in the pulpit, by holy lives out of the pulpit. These men can mold a generation for God.”
- Dave Carroll