One of my mentors once told me that a single sermon doesn’t really make a difference. It is, he said, kind of like a brick. All by itself it doesn’t really do much good. But taken together over the course of time you can begin to really build something.
It’s interesting, that when Scripture opens up the story of God, God creates not by shooting energy out of his God like fingers, but by speaking. God speaks and he creates. I think so do those of us who preach and teach with our lives. We get the privilege of partnering with God in opening up possibilities to people who might be able to look at their life with God just a bit differently because of what we say.
So a few weeks ago, I read the book Jesus Manifesto by Leonard Sweet and Frank Viola. It’s a good book about the great value of Jesus, and the tendency that churches and church leaders have to unintentionally forget about him. Over time we can forget that all our programming and structures and ministries are nothing but scaffolding to create a place where people can meet the Risen LORD. And one of the things Sweet and Viola mentioned was the way preachers use their words. These authors go to churches and intentionally count how many times, if at all, a preacher will mention the name of Jesus. In Sweet and Viola’s words:
The tragedy of our time is that countless preachers, teachers and healers are giving dozens of sermons, lectures, and messages, relegating Jesus to some footnote or a flourish to some other subject. At best He gets honorable mention. What is lacking is a groundbreaking revelation of Christ that boggles the mind and enraptures the heart.”
And that line really convicted me. Now is the time of year that the Highland Church Shepherds give me off to study and pray and reflect for the coming year. But I started wondering…do I do this? It’s very easy to put a disproportionate amount of passion into secondary things. So I made a word cloud of every sermon that I’ve given over the past 12 months at Highland. I know what I say I think is important, and the kind of people I would like to shape the Highland church into, but I wanted to get a view from 30,000 feet about what I was really doing.
So here it is.
I know that somethings are missing, and I know I can focus more intentionally on things that I left out this past year. But one thing I am very happy about is that Jesus and the God of Jesus are at the center of this. I wish that I had talked more about the Cross and Discipleship, I’m glad I talked so much about God and people and love and the Kingdom of God. I’m glad that I have a job that forces me to write down the words that I use so I can reflect on a huge portion of my life.
But here’s a question for all you preachers and Jesus-followers out there? What do you see that’s missing here? What would you do differently? Or maybe a better question…If we were to take the words spoken by you over the past year, what would they create?
We must never forget that the breath of God is what sustains our speech and one day each of us will breath our last. We build our lives with bricks, one word at a time. And when we are gone, the better words we use, the more life-giving, God-honoring, Jesus-like words, those words just might leave something that will last forever.
I would like to create a picture of Jesus…one brick at a time.