The Off Mike podcast features my in-process thoughts about a large number of topics. In order to continue the conversation, I will present a written version of the key thoughts of these podcasts.
This podcast features Mike and Sally talking together about Easter.
Happy Easter! We’ve mentioned the things you’ll find in this discussion before, because it’s what I’ve been thinking about, but we wanted to cover it in a new way todayas an Easter gift.
The new content that I’ve been working on, which you’ve seen in blogs and webinars and podcasts in recent weeks and months, really focuses on how we understand the ways God has spoken to us in our lives, and how we are able to convert that to a process of communicating with other people what God has spoken.
The premise is this:
If we are to see awakening as a general experience in the church,
And beyond the church into society,
Then the people who already are awake need to learn how to share the experience with other people.
One of the things I’ve noticed working with Christian leaders down through the years is that many of those leaders are people who are fully awake to what the Lord is doing in their lives and are living in a process of personal revival.
Frankly, if what is happening in their lives had somehow been translated into the lives of their ministries and their congregations, then those congregations would be in revival.
The problem is that we find it very difficult to communicate what is going on in our relationship with God so that other people can…
- Engage with it
- Receive it
- Share it
- Come awake themselves
I’ve really been drilling down into this these past few years.
As Mike and I have been talking about this, there are a few questions that I have raised coming from a different perspective from you that I thought might be helpful to people.
One of them, which I always ask when I’m doing my Huddles, is: How does this particular practice apply to the ordinary person—not the upfront, trained professional Christian, but the person who goes to work every day in an office or a school or a mom at home?
The simple answer is the spiritual disciplines. For the average person, the disciplines are prayer and Bible study. There are more exotic disciplines like prayer and fasting and maybe even the recognition of manual work and labor. But these disciplines are the means by which we gain access to the architecture of our inner lives.
God speaks to us both on the outside through creation and through other people, but more especially on the inside of our lives as we attend to the Scriptures, as we engage with him in prayer, and as we walk with him daily.
God’s spirit within us, often communicating with groans too deep for words, helps us to navigate the life of faith.
I think very often, what we discover is that we don’t really have access to means of access to that interior life.
What is like for us to attend to the voice of God?
When God is speaking to us, how do we apply that to the everyday experiences of life?
Think of Brother Lawrence, who wrote the marvelous book Practicing the Presence of God. He was just an ordinary monk who washed the dishes in the kitchen. He became the most profoundly deep soul that anyone had ever met. Yet he was the washer of the pots.
I guess that it’s much easier than we imagine, but it’s not something that bends to our will easily. We really have to go after this and excavate our inner life using the spiritual disciplines to understand the kind of mechanisms that happen when God…
Speaks to us
Addresses our sin
Deals with our brokenness
Encourages us in our progress
Affirms and helps us along the way
Those are the things I’ve been thinking about over the past few years.
I know you’ve also been doing a lot of study into how preaching can be used as a method of discipleship. That is something that I’ve never thought of, and I thought the whole subject was fascinating in that I’ve never heard anyone talk about using preaching as a method of discipling their people—not as clearly as that.
There is the intention of growing them, helping them, giving them insight, but not as a clear method of discipling people.
It follows on from what I’ve just been saying. If you gain access to your interior life to some degree, then you begin to understand where your weaknesses are, where your strengths are, where your fundamental brokenness is, where God has been doing the work of bringing about wholeness and healing.
For a communicator or preacher in whatever setting—a Sunday school, a small group, a large setting of thousands of people—those are the settings that cause a person to have to access what is going on in them so they can communicate that with a broader audience of people.
When a preacher does his or her best job of preaching, he or she is sharing what God has spoken to them and applying it to the lives of other people. So preaching should be a context in which it’s possible to disciple people.
If discipleship is about information, imitation, and innovation…
- Information is obviously present in preaching
- Innovation is basically the application—take this away and put it in practice in your life
- Imitation is saying, “This is how it works in my life. This is where I think the general principles are that connect me with all other human beings including all of you listening to me today.
In the classic way of understanding preaching as part of the science of oratory, preaching is about:
- Logos (word)
- Pathos (emotion)
- Ethos (the character of the speaker engaging the people that he or she is speaking to)
The ethos part—the character of the speaker displaying in what they are saying—engages a person so they receive or reject what they’re hearing.
When you listen to somebody and you think, “This seems to make sense, because what this person is saying seems to be lived out and is sincerely held as a belief”—that’s the discipling part.
When I think back to the people whom I’ve really loved listening to, they have those three elements (without me knowing what they were called). You instinctively respond.
Because they’ve got the word, they connect with you on an emotional level, and you trust them as a speaker, even though you don’t know them.
Now, I would like to know, who would you give as good examples of doing this practice?
A great preacher would be Jo Saxton, for instance. She’s really good at doing this—she portrays what is going on inside of her. Paul Maconochie is really good at this. They’re the people within the movement I could point out. Mick Woodhead back in England is tremendously good at it.
An old friend of mine, Brian Tome, the leader of Crossroads Cincinnati, often says that he’s not a good communicator. I think what he means is that he’s not particularly the kind of swashbuckling Bible expositor that you’d come across like Andy Stanley or Charles Stanley. But Brian is exceptionally good at inviting people into his interior life. That’s the reason that thousands and thousands of people listen to him every week.
I think one of the people who is often forgotten for being amazing at this is Dr. Billy Graham. In John Stott’s brilliant book on preaching, he talks about Billy Graham’s first evangelistic crusades in London. It’s quite clear that as a young man John Stott listened to Billy Graham preach and was enormously impacted by the fact that thousands of people went to Earl’s Court every night to listen to this evangelist from America when hardly anyone was going to church in England.
John Stott apparently asked himself why people came to listen to this man, and his overriding sense was that Billy Graham communicated sincerity. Of course, that’s what we mean by ethos. It’s the sense that this is a man who is deeply sincere, and who is communicating the truth he knows. People are always interested in listening to that.
The other question I have is, if I were a preacher…
You may not be a preacher in the classic sense of turning up on a Sunday, but you’re a very good public speaker and teacher. Honestly, you’re getting at least as many invitations to speak places as I am. I’m more than happy to walk around carrying your bags these days.
I appreciate the bag carrying. I like someone to carry the bags.
But to get back to it, what are the main elements you have to have when preparing a message using this framework?
There are three things, and they all start with the same letter. Shockingly, it is a triangle:
- You need Revelation from God. You can’t have old bread. You need to get fresh revelation from God.
- You need to bring that revelation into Relationship with the people you are communicating with. It has to be something that relates to their lives. The only way it can relate to their life is that it first relates to yours, and then you extrapolate it from your experience to theirs. So how does the revelation strike you, and then how is that revelation generalized to other peoples’ experience?
- Then, this is the big one. It really requires you to ask God what is the appropriate Response to the revelation. We have to call people to a response. We have to expect that the word of God does not return void but actually produces a response in peoples’ lives. You’ve lived with me long enough to know that I don’t believe you should let people off the hook. What is the response you’re going to make?
It’s about Revelation, Relationship, and Response. And therefore, it’s about:
- Clarity in the revelation
- Confidence in sharing that revelation that relates to other people
- Courage in calling for the appropriate response
We probably ought to wrap up there. Happy Easter to everyone. What a wonderful time of year Easter is. We’re so glad that the Lord achieved all that he did on our behalf on that first Good Friday, that first Holy Saturday, and that first Easter Sunday morning. Aren’t we grateful that we are the recipients of such wonderful news and new life? Many blessings, everyone.