Jump Start # 2128
2 Timothy 4:2 “Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction.”
Joe Walsh is a legendary rock singer. He has been with the group Eagles for decades. He is a great guitar player and once known for his hard partying, trashing hotel rooms and heavy drug use. When the Eagles got back together, he was invited with the condition that those drugs and partying days were over. He was on a show recently with some younger musicians. They were playing his songs together with him. You could tell that the younger and upcoming stars were in awe of Joe Walsh. Sitting around a table, he gave some advice that fits into our Jump Start today. He told the younger musicians, you just have to play before live audiences all the time. You’ll be bad, some days. Really bad. But you stay at it. You keep playing and playing. You find your style and then, you become good. You can be really good. There was no arrogance in his words. Just a fellow musician trying to help out those behind him. Advice. Tips. Support.
That advice, those words, fit preaching. I was with a good friend, a fellow preacher, as we were listening to this. I turned to him and said, that’s preaching. That’s the secret. You just have to preach. Preach and preach all the time. Every chance you get, preach. Some sermons are bad, really bad. Some will never be preached again. But you keep doing it. Sunday after Sunday. There is something about standing before people and preaching. I’m not a fan of having a young guy preach to an empty auditorium or just to one person. He needs Sundays. He needs to preach before people. He needs to learn the art of preaching.
It’s one thing to know God’s word. That’s the first step in preaching. A person may be a gifted speaker and very comfortable in front of an audience, but if he doesn’t know God’s word, he’ll not do well. Our verse tells us to preach the word. In order to do that, one must know that word. If you looked at highly successful people, musicians, athletes, you’ll find that they poured hours and hours into knowing what they were doing. The story is told that Larry Bird had keys to the Boston Gardens and late at night, after the game was over and the fans had gone home, he would be practicing shot after shot for hours. The inside story of most of the famous rock bands, including the Beatles, reveals that they sat around playing and playing all the time. When they weren’t preforming, they were traveling on buses and they were playing and playing. They got good. So, the preacher must spend hours and hours reading, thinking and learning God’s word. There is no short cut. Ask Larry Bird. Ask Joe Walsh. Ask any preacher who has been doing this for decades.
Second, there is an art to preaching and each preacher has his own style. It takes a while to develop that style and what is comfortable and what is a natural part of his own personality. How do you tackle a subject? How do you begin it? How do you develop it? How do you end it? What verses to use? What illustrations to use? All of this, coming from the mind and the heart of the preacher, is developed over time. Some guys can sit down and write out a sermon in a short time. Others, are working on it all week long. Some seem so natural and smooth when they preach. Others, look like they are really working hard. Abe Lincoln said that he liked it when the preacher seemed to be fighting bees.
Third, there are aspects all around the preacher that effects how he preaches. How tired the preacher is, will impact how he delivers the sermon. Is he stressed about other things? Was it a busy week and did he have to rush in writing the sermon? Is he feeling well? Is the church chewing at his heels? A great sermon on paper can be a dude because of the way the preacher delivers it. Likewise, a so-so sermon can soar out of the stadium because of the passion, heart and the way the preacher delivered it.
Fourth, it has always amazed me that people who hear the exact same sermon at the same time can have such a different response. Some yawn their way through the sermon. It seemed long and dry to them. Yet, the very same sermon, may cause a person to change their life. So, that reminds us that the final part of the connection between the word of God and the preacher, is the heart and the ears of the audience. A tired audience will seem sleepy and dull. An audience that is bothered, preoccupied or stressed will struggle to get what the preacher is saying. An audience that is alert, interested and wanting to hear, will find great strength and encouragement from the lesson.
This is why the wisdom of Joe Walsh fits preaching. A preacher needs to preach before audiences. Preach and preach and preach. He must work through himself and all that is going on in his world to put our the best sermon that he can. He then must learn how to be interesting. He must be Biblical. He must be kind and thoughtful. He must be convincing and persuasive. He must learn how to preach through a sleepy audience. He must learn how to preach to an audience that is bothered by world events, such as after the attacks on the World Trade Center. He must preach when the audience has learned of a death of a beloved member and everyone is shocked. He must preach when it seems everyone’s mind is somewhere else. How he learns these things is to preach and preach and preach. He’ll have bad sermons, especially when he is young and starting out. He hopes folks will forget those moments. But he stays at it and continues to preach. Small crowds. Big crowds. Preaching when the air conditioners aren’t working and it’s hot. Preaching when the babies are crying. Preaching when mics aren’t working. Preaching when some are sleeping. He’s preaching and preaching and preaching. And, after a while, he hits it. He finds what’s comfortable. He becomes good. He becomes real good. And, it’s in those moments that lives are changed and great good is done.
So, we need to be patient with the young preachers and those who are first learning. The best thing we can do for them is to just let them preach. As they study, grow and become stronger, so will their ability. We have some amazing preachers among us in our fellowship. You see their names all the time. They are holding meetings everywhere. If you get a chance, go out and listen to these great preachers. You’ll learn much and you’ll realize that these guys all started out basically the same. They used the talent that God gave them and they practiced and practiced and found what works best for them. We love them. They do so much good and we realize that as they age and slow down, others will come along. Some will be even better. Those that really take this seriously and work hard at improving, it shows. They have gotten good because they have poured heart and time into what it takes. They are the Larry Bird shooting baskets in an empty gym. They are the Paul McCartney strumming a guitar in a dressing room. But unlike the world’s superstars, our preachers point us to Jesus. We don’t honor the preacher, we honor the Lord. We don’t fill the walls of the preacher’s office with awards and gold records. His praise comes from knowing that he has helped others to get closer to the Lord. We don’t gather on Sunday to hear a man, but to learn from the word of God. It’s not the preacher, it’s the Lord that we are attracted to. Preachers come and go, but our walk and our faith is in the Lord.
But God bless all the dedicated men who have made a difference, not just in the kingdom, but in our lives. They have paid what it took to become good at what they are doing. Years have gone into standing before audiences on Sunday mornings and preaching. We all have a favorite preacher, I do. We all have certain preachers that we really like to listen to. We notice, they all preach the word of God, but they each have their own unique style and way they get about doing that. It’s that variety, that individual personality that makes preaching special to us.
Paul’s words are: preach the word. Preach it in season and out of season. Just preach it. And, young preacher, hang in there, and keep preaching. Remain humble. Allow the Lord to use you. And preach every chance you get. You’re getting good. And, above all, you’re doing good. And, that’s what matters the most!