Over the last five years since beginning pastoral ministry, I have noticed some personal changes related to how I "prepare and deliver the goods" (for lack of a better term!)
In the beginning, I was fresh out of seminary and liked to do things by the book. If I learned a method for study, interpretation, and proclamation, then I followed it pretty closely to a T. I manuscripted every message as much as possible and reviewed it before standing behind the pulpit on Sunday morning. One of my great fears was having a hard drive crash before printing the manuscript or stepping behind the pulpit without my notes. I had been trained to prepare diligently but to preach without notes. Such is my luck, I just couldn't do it.
Same goes for classes or Bible studies that I would lead. Leaning heavily on notes and written preparation. The fact was that I hadn't worked out in my mind, in an accessible way, practical doctrine that could be recalled. That type of fluency in theology takes time and as I taught through sections of the Bible, this gradually came more naturally.
Today I am more focused in my study and probably spend less time preparing. I still outline diligently to get the flow of the passage but manuscripting and rehearing have gone by the wayside. Give me a good outline and a week's worth of study and I will do fine with just that before me. I have also come to learn that my congregation is not sitting there ready to critique my technique. They want to be edified, taught, and preached the word of God. They are much more forgiving and truly grateful for the teaching and preaching ministry. They are not looking for me to become the next superstar preacher. Knowing that, I can focus on getting the right interpretation and application. God has allowed me the grace to think more on my own two feet -- not "winging it" or "shooting from the hip" -- but having an adeptness that allows me more personal freedom without fear of freezing up in mid-sentence. I wish I could go back and tell current ministry students not to worry about this if it doesn't happen right away, that it will take some time (5 years for me!) but it will come with practice and the Spirit's constant molding and grace-pressure.
Good thoughts. Our family very much appreciates and benefits from your vulnerable and transparent approach to preaching and teaching. Thank you for relying on the Lord in this way and teaching us the same.
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