I was asked an interesting question yesterday about who I am and what I do. The question was in a great conversation about our church and other things like that (while I was on a fishing trip in which we caught 100 speckled trout by 10 AM.) The question made me think about the difference between what others see and hear in our lives and how we see and hear the same things in our own lives.
This is the question and the explanation of why it caused that thought. The question was simply “Where do all the sermon series and topics come from? Do they come from the Southern Baptist Convention or a book or from other preachers?” The answer is honestly, they come from me. But the other honest answer is they do not come from me. Let me do my best to explain.
First, they come from the Lord. That is not an attempt to sound holy-roller like, but an honest answer about how such things take place. The Lord really does lead when we ask him to. The thing is that seldom in the process or in the speaking is that communicated. It is a background fact. It is simply a part of who I am and what I do that I think most people figure happens, but is difficult to actually speak to it or give it credit week in and week out.
Second, they come from what I observe. I see and hear things in the lives of the people I pastor and God gives me compassion for those people. I ask God for insight in how to teach people in dealing with such issues and truths in their life.
Third, I have some help from within Fellowship. Most of it starts with me, but the creativity is most definitely a team deal. And not just staff. We have great people who can make things work well. The topics are basically from me (although Todd is helping out with that more and more), but the creative elements come from a group of volunteers and staff.
Fourth, I read other people’s stuff. I am not a good sermon listener. I know we encourage people to listen to podcasts and I think that can be a great thing, but I stink at it. I have never made it through an entire sermon online with the exception of the ones we showed during the God is series. I simply lose my train of thought in it. I do, however, listen to parts of them. I hear where and how they are coming from on a topic. I love to see the different insights into communication especially when other pastors use creative ways to teach deep truths.
I also read. I read blogs. Not a ton of blogs, but some real good ones. I read books. Not tons of those either. I often do not finish books. If you are not a good writer or if you are saying very little in lots of words, I don’t finish your book. (maybe how you feel it about this blog.) I skim it for what is good and I go on. I love Executive Book Summaries because they take the best leadership books and summarize them. Right up my alley. Great books often cause great sermon series. The truth is some times a bad book can spark an even better one.
There are several people that I like to read the blogs of. So this week I am going to put out several blogs that will link you to some good stuff I read this week. A simple blog entry by a pastor will cause a whole train of thought for me that will end up a sermon series at Fellowship. That is how the Lord leads.
Another new source of thought provoking material is the daily office meetings at Fellowship. Every morning at 9:30 someone is responsible for leading a short time together to learn and pray. Todd, Jonathan, and Joey bring some great stuff that really challenges the mind and spirit. I love learning from them.
The other person God uses is you guys. Many times you say things that stick with me and I struggle with them and they challenge me. Wendy is probably the person that God uses the most in my life to do this. She asks great questions. She challenges my thinking on things and often when I am thinking through why I think what I think I learn where it comes from and I think “someone else could really learn from that.” Some times you will make a comment in a conversation and it sticks in my mind and spirit and later becomes a sermon or series, but most often I forget who said it by the time I have some thoughts ready to use on it. So you get no credit, my apologies.
The last thing I will mention is the one God most often uses. I get messages to preach from the Word during my personal times of studying the Word. I read the Bible on my own simply for my own spiritual growth on a daily basis. This is separate from sermon prep, life group lesson writing, or Vine writing time. This is just God and me time. It is during these moments he speaks his strongest truths into my life. It has been during my own personal walk through the Bible this year that God started showing me the characteristics in Biblical leaders that are the recipe for change in Changelicious. We will have another series coming up on Psalms that is not a coincidence that I am currently reading through Psalms during my Bible reading plan from www.biblegateway.com.
So that is how that works. It is like a wheel. It goes around and around. I hope that God is using what I have to say like that in the life of someone else. That is life. That is the learning wheel. I hope your life is like that. I hope you are constantly turning and constantly learning. Never stop rolling. Never quit moving forward. And learn to enjoy everything new you learn – even if it hurts.
The thing about who we are and what we say is really a result of who we hear and what we take in. That process, however, is seldom mentioned. I hope this is insightful for someone. I encourage you, if you are another pastor that for some reason reads my blog, to make sure you are taking in enough stuff. Take in the Word of God, spend time with God, but also open your ears and eyes and hear what other believers are saying. Listen to the people you pastor, too. Not just to hear where they are weak and need instruction but to the wisdoms and insights God gives them. Your people probably say some of the wisest things you have ever heard if you will just stop long enough to listen. You never know where a simple blog you read today might take your church next year.
So, Fellowship, lets keep on rolling. Coming soon Maximum Security, Anti, Honest to God, The Arrival, The Total Temple Project, and a series out of Acts that has yet to be named. Who can say exactly where it came from but I am most excited about seeing where it takes us.