Mike Cope's blog

Sunday, April 10, 2005

Three basics of communication: the message, the speaker, the audience. It's Sunday morning, very early. No one else is at the building. And you realize that the message isn't finished. It's a work-in-progress. Oh, yes, the basics have been covered: languages, exegesis, prayer, etc. But it doesn't feel like enough. The message could use another week. More time to stew in the pot. Plus, you know that YOU are not ready. Not nearly as far along spiritually as you thought you'd be by now. Too caught up with grief and compromised by knowing your words go beyond your life. The Word of God is sharper than any double-edged sword, and you can feel the wounds from its blade. And you're quite certain the listeners aren't ready. They're tired. They've heard it before. Their lives are challenging. They may want more than you can deliver. But the moment comes. The text is read. You pray that God will pour through you the gift of preaching. And then something happens that goes beyond preparation, beyond communication skills, beyond clever twists of phrases. It's preaching. Despite your failures, despite your clumsiness, despite your personal inconsistencies, the Word of God has its say. A great mystery, far beyond what I can comprehend. But I count on it weekly.

21 Comments:

  • What blunt honesty you deal to your self tonight. But you are not alone. If we are honest with ourselves, we all approach our given vocation at times just a little short of being completely ready. I think that we are all works in progress. With God's mercy and grace, we who honestly follow after him are given that extra measure of what may be missing to complete our task. Thanks Mike for setting an example for all of us to stop and ponder our own preparations or lack thereof.

    Pat White
    Abilene

    By Blogger Pat White, at 4/10/2005 09:21:00 PM  

  • Thanks for your post-I think we all go through that in ministry, or any vocation for that matter-I often wonder if what comes out of my mouth sounds like "blah blah blah" and if anyone is actually listening, and then surpisingly I find out that people are because God is speaking through me. It was great to finally meet you on Wednesday-you really do work with the best group of elders!! They are amazing and have not stopped blessing me.

    Today's service was also wonderful, too-very energetic, I wanted to go dancin' in the aisles-it was a little too cramped in my seat! ;) I am thankful that God pours through you the gift of preaching and that you allow Him to use you-may He continue to bless you and use you as you allow Him to...

    By Blogger Katherine, at 4/10/2005 09:59:00 PM  

  • I can relate. Whether the message is prepared or not words are just words unless God decides to make them relevant to people.

    I have felt a disconnect at times with what I was trying to say, but some people were still effected by it, and I know that it was not me doing the work.

    Even as I learn more and more of the skill of delivery and understand better how to preach to the people who attend each Sunday, I never feel really ready, and I find myself always in a state of needing God to do the work through the message. I guess I am lucky that I never have to rely on my oratory skills to reach people. :)

    By Blogger Eric, at 4/10/2005 10:59:00 PM  

  • Thanks, Mike. Everytime I finish a sermon, my prayer is a prayer of apologizing knowing that in my own feeble way, I could not nearly express the love that He has for us. Like you, I trust in the Word of God to do what I can't. Tell your family hello from Martha and me.

    By Blogger drjimwhite, at 4/11/2005 03:42:00 AM  

  • Amen X 100! I pray often, "Lord, this is your time. It is your message. May people hear in what I say more than I have said ... and may you do with it more than I can know." or something like that. I always get it jumbled up because I'm trying to pray it in the "Frantic 15" ... the fifteen minutes before the official one-hour-a-week-worship-service begins. :)

    By Blogger JD, at 4/11/2005 04:09:00 AM  

  • Mike,

    Your experience is common to us all. Preaching is a spiritual exercise that transcends who we are and what we do. One of my favorite definitions of preaching goes back to Jone's preaching class at Harding. I think it was Brownlow but I am not sure. It goes something like, "Preaching is God making a man and delivering that."

    God has made you in a very special way, Mike. You have a wonderful gift. He is glorified in you. He has used you to influence thousands for the kingdom. Keep the faith!

    Paul Reding

    By Blogger Paul Reding, at 4/11/2005 04:31:00 AM  

  • Just to break the seriousness of things: last night in our evening worship the minister was finishing up his sermon and he said, "God is calling you to be in His service today." At that moment, someone's phone rang and he said, "Why don't you answer tha call?" Yep, God uses cell phones too!

    By Blogger Mae, at 4/11/2005 06:10:00 AM  

  • Mike,

    Another great post. And so very familiar. I have to be careful, because just about the time there's preaching that passeth all preparation, I start thinking, "Maybe I should back off on getting ready to preach." Next Sunday, it's mediocre at best.

    What still surprises me is how TIRED preaching makes the preacher (but nobody else, I hope). Some Sunday nights, I feel like I've been running all day.

    By Blogger Frank Bellizzi, at 4/11/2005 06:29:00 AM  

  • Mike - it is good to hear that preachers are human like the rest of us! I know that it is easy for us to assume that, because you get up there and teach us all, you've got it all together. I truly appreciate your allowing us to see "behind the scenes." After being away from Abilene for nearly 6 years (after hearing you preach for 8 years through my high school and college days), I still feel like you are "my" preacher. I consider it a blessing and a joy any time I get to hear you speak.

    And I love that you beg God to pour through you His gift of preaching before you start. It is a reminder to us all that you are the messenger, but He is the message.

    By Blogger Jenni, at 4/11/2005 06:45:00 AM  

  • You are such a gifted teacher, Mike. Thanks for sharing honestly, and letting us know that there is sometimes struggle behind the words you speak.

    By Blogger Jana, at 4/11/2005 06:50:00 AM  

  • I do the same thing everyday as a Mom. I look at my kids needs and potential and I think "Am I ready for this?" Sometimes I think God over estimated me when he blessed me with these kids. Can I really be the mother they need? I pray for the right words, the right love, and the right understanding, fully knowing only God knows exactly what I need to do and be for my kids. Only God can fill the gaps and flaws in me so that I measure up to the task. And then, from time to time, God gives me these magical moments when I see the little person my child is becoming. In those moments I know God is molding them into exactly who they need to be. He must be doing the same thing in me, even when I feel more like a spectator than a facilitator. God lets me mother beyond my abilities. It's incomprehensible, but I count on it daily!

    By Blogger SG, at 4/11/2005 07:14:00 AM  

  • And God delievers weekly.

    Some "preachers" don't preach. They don't let God's Word have it say.

    You do. Thanks for preaching Mike.

    By Blogger Joel Quile, at 4/11/2005 07:40:00 AM  

  • I've been preaching for five years now and I pray the same prayer with my congregation at the beginning of every sermon: "Father, at this time I pray that you speak through me or in spite of me".

    Your post captures my emotions perfectly. Peace, Ryan Inlow

    By Blogger Ryan, at 4/11/2005 09:50:00 AM  

  • It seems to me that there are times we serve in triumph and victory, and times we serve out of humble obedience, trusting God to use us in the midst of our humanity. Perhaps those are the times he can use us the best, in that we are most genuine and genuinely reliant on Him. We serve a trustworthy God. For that, I am ever grateful.

    Thanks, Mike for sharing honestly. I wasn't there Sunday--I was home with our 2nd round of pink eye with our 2 year old. So, while I have no doubt that God answered your heart's prayer, I am moreso reminded of my responsibility to pray for our leaders. It is not often that we get to know your needs specifically, but with a little imagination, it would not be difficult to pray relevantly.

    Thanks to SG--there is nothing I can add to what you said re: being a mom, though I am challenged to remember to take my mothering to God, daily.

    By Blogger Beverly, at 4/11/2005 12:29:00 PM  

  • A visual image that we use for our Worship/Praise Team is that we are reaching out our hands to the "audience" & pulling them not to US, but past us to God. That way we can keep pur focus on Him & not on us. When we get caught up in the notes or the words we often need to refocus by reminding ourselves of this:

    "It's all about YOU, Jesus. And all this is for YOU; for your glory & your praise. It's not about me, as if you should do things my way. For you alone are God & I SURRENDER to Your will."

    By Blogger Beaner, at 4/11/2005 01:51:00 PM  

  • Good post, Mike, I've been there before.

    On the other hand, there is no Biblical requirement for a sermon-giver or a sermon slot every Sunday or at any particular assembly of the Lord's people. It's certainly not wrong, and we do a good work when we bring a message of encouragement to an audience. But there is also nothing wrong with simply saying "Today we are going to pray to God Almighty and sing praises to Him and read straight from His Word." How refreshing that would be if more congregations did that more frequently.

    By Blogger Kevin Harper, at 4/11/2005 02:13:00 PM  

  • I'm still early enough in my "preaching life" that I will sometimes be simultaneously speaking and thinking, "Whose words are these? This is great stuff! I wish I'D written it!"

    OH, the Spirit is awesome!

    By Blogger Thurman8er, at 4/11/2005 03:37:00 PM  

  • Mike,

    It seems to me that preaching in "the zone" is when a prepared mind integrates with a humble heart in the awe inspiring presence of an Almighty God. As a result, listeners open their minds and hearts because they sense the presence of God.

    IMO, you are the Michael Jordan of preachers!

    By Blogger David Michael, at 4/11/2005 05:27:00 PM  

  • Mike...just wanted to say "thanks" for the lively discussion on your blog. I'm a church planter through Kairos located in Salem, Oregon (you may or may not remember me meeting you at the gym in Abilene), but have found the dialogue on your blog interesting. I appreciate your honest reflections. Gotta love the "web" of blogging connections.

    By Blogger Dwayne, at 4/11/2005 10:57:00 PM  

  • Thanks to all of you for these words. I especially benefitted from realizing (again) that others in their vocations -- doctors, stay-at-home parents, teachers, etc. -- often have a sense of inadequacy. God working in us, through us, and despite us is a great mystery of the gospel.

    By Blogger Mike, at 4/12/2005 04:32:00 AM  

  • So true. Praise be to God that He is not limited by our weaknesses and frailties. May you and all of us always be available to God's spirit that He may be preached always

    By Blogger Randy, at 4/14/2005 08:49:00 PM  

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