Tuesday, January 27, 2015

The One Thing Pastors Must Do From The Pulpit

Mark Miller posted a great blog on this subject:  Inspire
After reading his blog, I was inspired to repost a blog I wrote a couple of years ago on the same subject. 

A mediocre person tells. A good person explains. A superior person demonstrates. A great person inspires others to see for themselves." - Harvey Mackay

I came across this quote the other day, which I quickly put into my most favorite quote folder.  It made me think of the former great football coach of Baylor University, Grant Teaff.  Teaff was an incredible motivator who turned that football program around in the 70’s leading them to the Southwest Conference championship with the miracle on the Brazos in 1974.  His inspiring stories and coaching moves are legendary and considered the key to his greatness as a coach.  I was fortunate to be a student athlete at Baylor when we won the conference in 74.  

One legend was how he used the illustration of eating a worm to inspire his team to victory.  Coach Teaff wanted to emphasize taking care of details so he shared the ice fisherman’s secret to catching fish.  Coach Teaff said the secret was to keep the worms warm.  He explained that the ice fisherman would keep the worms in his mouth until it was time to put them on the hook.  Warm worms attracted the fish and that small step was the difference between catching a lot of fish or coming home with an empty bucket. The coach then pulled out a big long earth worm and put it in his mouth, saying the difference between winning and losing was taking care of the small details.  The players went berserk, ran out on to the field and pulled off an incredible upset.  Coach Teaff used a great visual to get across a point but more than anything he inspired his team.

If I were to give what I thought is the most important thing for a pastor to strive for outside of being Biblically sound, it would be to inspire his flock.  When you prepare a sermon, Bible study, lecture or testimony, think about what you want to accomplish.  Shouldn’t you always have a goal to inspire others to change.  What sets the great preacher apart from the good is inspiration.

When I walk away from a great sermon, I'm motivated to change.  As I thought more about the significance of inspiration, I could see how important it is for all those who want to make a difference in the world.  Whether you are preaching, teaching, coaching or parenting, inspiration is such a critical ingredient to helping others change, and yet so many miss the opportunity.

Preaching today often is either all intellect and no inspiration or all hype and no substance. There is a trend in many churches today to emphasize teaching and imparting information in the name of discipleship. The goal is to dump a lot of information and hope some of it sticks.  The problem is that without inspiring others to own it, apply it, and share it with others, the information is just that.  Inspiration is what separates the mediocre from the superior communicator.   We can criticize the preachers who preach to thousands each week for their lack of deep content but what most every one of them has in common is that they do a great job of inspiring.

Whether you are a preacher, coach, parent, teacher or mentor, to be great, you must consistently inspire others.  Aim to inspire. 

Friday, January 9, 2015

What Matters Most

My wife and I took a Caribbean cruise over the Christmas holidays to get away from the mad rush of buying presents.  We had spent weeks getting rid of stuff preparing for our move to Austin the following week after we returned, so we really didn't need anything else to move.  Everyone should move every 10 years or so to keep from accumulating more stuff. It's amazing how much stuff you collect over the years that you never ever use.  But back to the cruise.  

The highlight of the cruise was meeting a couple from Dallas, Bruce and Anne. Bruce was a principal of a private elementary school, and was one of the kindest persons I think I've ever met. He greeted every waiter and worker on the ship with a smile and a complimentary statement.  Everyone was his friend and he seemed genuinely interested in each person's life.  He would often reach out and gently put his hand on someone's arm when encouraging them with words, "you did such a wonderful job". I could see how he must be a great principal, one who is loved by the students, parents and teachers.

I thought about Bruce this past week as I was studying through Galatians, reading Paul's exhortation to the members of the Galatian church in Galatians 5:6, where he writes, "the only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love". Paul admonishes the Galatians not to fall back into keeping the law.  And he makes this incredible proclamation that what matters most for any Christian is to live out your faith through love.  

It is such simple charge, taken from Jesus' answer to the question, what is the greatest commandment, that we tend to brush it off.  Yeah, I know we should love others. I learned that in Sunday School as a kid.  But Paul reminds us here in Galatians and also in 1 Corinthians 13, that nothing else really matters if we don't have love. It is a powerful lesson for all of us in this complicated world full of all kinds of extra stuff.  
Bruce was a great living example of one who exhibited his faith through love. His unique expression of love was through words of encouragement and through touch.  He did it remarkably well and I took note. I consider myself an encourager but he put me to shame. He showed me that I can be better at encouraging others, if I'd just make an effort especially when I don't feel up to it.  

Each of us has unique ways in which we express love to others, our "love language", but however we express it, what matters most in our life as a follower of Christ, is to love God and to love others. To "agape" others. This is a sacrificial love that demands nothing in return.  We often get caught up in doing so much, trying to earn respect and standing from others and arguing about doctrine and methodology, that we forget what truly is important.

The principle of all obedience to God is love; therefore faith cannot work unless it is associated with love. Paul's simple principle is a great reminder for us how to live the life as a follower of Christ. Just as I simplified my life and got rid of a lot of material stuff, we would also benefit from ridding our lives of excess "doctrinal" stuff that can hinder us from living the simple life of faith in Christ expressed by our love for others.  

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