This morning I spoke to 200+ high school and college students at Word of Life Island. The high schoolers are part of the STC program where they spend the summer serving at one of Word of Life’s five locations–Island, Inn, Family Campground, Ranch, Ranger Camp. Most of the college students attend Word of Life Bible Institute. Each Sunday morning a different guest speaker takes one part of an overall series that carries through the summer. This year they are looking at character qualities based on different Bible personalities. I was asked to speak on humility using Ruth as an example.
While chatting with the students after the message, I mentioned that this was the first of 14 messages I’m giving this week–1 at the Island, 1 at headquarters, 7 at the Inn, and 5 at the Campground. A young man shook his head and asked, “How do you prepare for something like that?”
We talked for a moment and then boarded the pontoon boat for the ride back to the mainland. On the way over, I told him that I put a high value on nimbleness.
That’s a word you don’t hear very often these days. In fact, you mostly only hear it in reference to “Jack be nimble, Jack be quick, Jack jump over the candlestick.” Nimbleness speaks to a certain approach to life that I find very helpful. It means that after you make your plans, you stay loose and adjust as you go along. Planning is important. You have to do the spade work ahead of time, but then you need to stay nimble.
For instance, one speaker at Word of Life earlier this summer changed his series during the drive from the Albany airport to the camp. Now assuredly, he had many years of study behind that decision. But a seemingly chance discussion led him to decide on a new course that was greatly blessed by the Lord.
Dwight Eisenhower, Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces in World War II, remarked that he found most military plans useless but the process of planning to be indispensable. Every plan changes when the bullets start flying. But the hours spent planning prepare you to make changes on the fly. If you’re having heart surgery, you want a surgeon who has spent years in preparation before he cuts you open. But since the doctor never knows exactly what he will find until he gets inside, you want a doctor who is both prepared and nimble, ready for the unexpected.
In preaching that means be prepared, do your homework, make your notes, write your outline, work on your introduction and your conclusion, think about it, practice it, and then when the time comes, be open to the need of the moment. Study the congregation, look at their faces, pay attention to their response (and to the clock), and adjust your message as you go along.
Plan your preaching, but don’t be a slave to your plan. Stay open to the need of the moment. Ask the Holy Spirit to guide you.