The Primary Communicator – Part 3 (of 5): ill-prepared

Here are the questions of process. It’s Saturday night, are you prepared? Have you had your message done for 8 weeks, 4 weeks, 2 weeks or are you just getting started? Do you spend more time in the Bible or on the internet? And the most important question…is it working?

Like I said in the first post, communicators come in many different shapes and sizes and there is no right way to prepare as long as YOU are prepared. Some people have a gift of advanced preparation; I am very envious of these people, while others are Saturday night oracles. In this post I will share my short journey to my current process of preparing for the Sunday message. Here is my story.

It was a Saturday night around 7pm almost 6 years ago. My phone rang and it was the Senior Pastor. He told me that he felt like I was supposed to deliver the message the next morning.  I had been assisting him for about a year but during that time I played a mostly behind the scenes role. I had never preached a full service before. I had shared a ten minute thought here and there but I had never been called upon to actually teach.

I was inexperienced and ill-prepared. I had some training in acting and stage presence but not as a public speaker. I didn’t know the first thing about preparing a message. I was nervous, anxious, but mostly excited. So I locked myself in our other room, at the time my wife and I only had two, with a notebook, a pen and my Bible to begin what would become my process. I really have come full circle on this one.

That first message was prepared with nothing but a few versus that God had been revealing to me over the past few years and a desire to present it in a simple fashion. I had no internet, no commentary and no preconceived ideas that I needed them. I just had God speaking into my life. It was a great message. The few people that remember that message still say it was one of the best I have ever delivered. So what happened?

To put it simply, I became insecure. Over the next few months, being surrounded by people who were far more educated than me, I arrived at the false conclusion that more information equals better information. In the pursuit to impress and make proud I took on the task of preaching messages jam packed with scripture, quotes, stories, illustrations and witty nuggets of wisdom. I had 45 minutes to an hour to fill and I was going to make sure each second was a WOW second.

It wasn’t long before my messages became sterile commentaries from the mouths of better communicators. I prepared too much in too short a time. I would start one week in advance with a topic and points in mind and then search the internet for relevant additives to make my points. On Saturday night I would arrange my wealth of gathered information into a detailed outline that would make a scholar proud but leave the average person wanting.

A couple years ago I realized that my process was stressful, time-consuming and even worse…ineffective. It’s not that quotes, stories, and antidotes are bad but it wasn’t who God called me to be. So a real journey started. I started reading a ton of books and trying on everyone else’s process. This post isn’t to take the place of self-discovery so you may just have to stay on the journey yourself. This is just to encourage you that your process needs to fit you and not everyone else. If I never read those books and watched those other teachers I would have never know I had it right with the first message I ever prepared.

Here is how I do it now and how I did it first. I start months and sometimes even years out. I know that sounds intimidating but stay with me. I have hundreds of messages brewing in me at any given moment. They come from my devotions, strange occurrences, normal life happenings and many other sources. The very first message I taught was from something that God started dealing with me about almost 3 years prior. I try to recognize the message from God everywhere and in everything. This is the most important part for me.

Four weeks out I have a topic and a Scripture or two in mind. Notice that I have no points to reinforce, just a topic and some Scriptures. Over the next four weeks I read and meditate on those Scriptures and allow God to reveal THE point. On the Saturday before the message is to be delivered I have a ton of thoughts that I spew out on Kevin. These thoughts are just what God has been revealing to me through the passages and my own insights. We discuss these for an hour or so. That night I meditate some more and put my thoughts in an appropriate order. That’s it.

I still use quotes and stories and antidotes but I don’t go searching for them anymore. They come by memory and out of a truly internalized message. I never worry about if I have enough to say or if it will be meaningful. When the message comes from God’s mouth and a sincere heart it is always meaningful and it is always more than enough.

I know the post was long but I hope you find some encouragement in my struggles.