Speak Life

One of our biggest mantras in our Saturday night service, The Awakening, is “Speak Life”. The thought behind this is that we have opportunities every time we speak to offer words of life, or words that are full of death. When we “speak life” we are bringing people closer to God by offering words of encouragement, healing, and blessing. We are making a positive investment into their soul. When we “speak death” we are saying things that take away from that persons connection to God and giving words of criticism, gossip, and tearing them down. When we do this it’s like making an overdraft in the bank account of their soul. This is not an original idea on our part. It comes straight out of Scripture in Proverbs 18:21, where it says, “Life and death are in the power of the tongue…” We try to apply this to everything we do: when we preach, pray, sing, fellowship, work and so on.
I’m not suggesting that we don’t confront people. I’m suggesting that even when we do, we speak life instead of death into that person. When I discipline my children, am I taking the time and patience to speak life over them and call them into their potential out of my love towards them? Or am I yelling and being harsh to my kids out of anger and frustration? It’s all about attitude and motive. Sometimes we don’t just choose between speaking life and speaking death. We choose between speaking life and not speaking at all. And often, not speaking at all is the same thing as speaking death.
The terminology of speaking “life” has special significance for me because of one individual who demonstrated this when I needed it the most in high school. It came from the most unlikely source: a guy in my class who was loud, opinionated, and somehow even goofier than me. His name was Bryce. He was my friend in high school despite attempting to steal my girlfriends on multiple occasions. Despite his lack of tact (or social etiquette regarding his friends’ dates!) the best thing he did in my life happened during a closing shift that we worked together at a Wendy’s Restaurant. I’m not sure if he realized it at the time or not, but as I came into work that night I wanted to die. Literally. I was planning to end my life. The reasons don’t even matter now, only that I was to that point of hurt and desperation. I had reached a place of feeling so utterly useless and worthless that I was convinced that this was what I deserved: that my world would be better without me in it. He saw the look on my face, and the tear-stained cheeks and asked if I was alright. I heard him and responded, but I felt so empty and alone that I don’t even think I was answering him. I just spoke to… the air I guess. I was in my own terrible, painful, unrelenting world of anguish. What I said out-loud was, “I don’t think I’m even worth the air I’m breathing.” His response pulled me out of my world for a moment and literally saved my life. Without hesitation he said, “You are absolutely worth it, man.” Not super profound. But exactly what I needed so desperately to hear in that moment. After the store closed, we got Mountain Dew and Honey Buns (still my favorite snack combo) and sat in his car talking. The week before this, I could have slugged him for flirting with my girlfriend. But on this night, he was the best thing that ever happened to me.
I have often wondered where I would be today if he had not spoken life over me… Would I be alive? If so, would I have still ended up in ministry? Where would my wife be today if Bryce had not been there for me? Would my beautiful kids have ever been born? And what of the people I’ve been able to impact since then? How many more suicides would there be if not for Bryce?
Who could you be saving with your words of life? What could be at stake if you held those words back? Or spoke death over people? You may change someone’s life and never even realize it by choosing to speak life.


The Process of Preparing to Preach

As many of you know, I graduated from Baptist Bible College in Springfield, MO: a school historically known for producing good preachers. The class that almost every man at BBC inevitably goes through is the class called “Homiletics” which is an overly complicated way to say, “How to preach.” I took this class my junior year, and loved it. I’m still grateful for the things I learned from my experience in Bible college. I developed the talent of preparing and delivering messages. Some people get a little weirded-out by statements like “talent” when it comes to preaching. Some would suggest that the preacher should make little to no preparation before preaching and just speak “as the Lord lays on his heart.” For one, that doesn’t fit in very well with 2 Tim. 2:15. Secondly, there is a legitimate skill in preparing and delivering messages. I’ve by no means “arrived” when it comes to my preaching. Which is the reason for this post: I want to constantly learn how to be better at fulfilling my calling.

One of the greatest things I’ve learned since my time in Homiletics 311, is that the process of preparing a message is unpredictable. I’ve had messages that seem to have been sent straight from Heaven riding on a lightning bolt directly into my heart. They are powerful, exciting, and seemed to have struck me out of nowhere. Often, these kind come when I’m least expecting it: disciplining my kids, driving in traffic, even sleeping. Other messages are less intense, but seem to “flow.” I sit down at my desk, pray, open my bible, and the words and thoughts and passages just keep coming. And then there are the messages that are more like panning in a creek for gold: long, backbreaking, tiresome, and slow-going. But eventually you find a few nuggets that have some weight to them.

Earlier in my ministry, I confused the later of the three for the thought that “God didn’t really speak to me this week.” I’ve learned since that some of the most life-impacting messages I’ve delivered required more out of me to get them presentable to my church. Sometimes God strikes me with a message and I know it was from Him. Other times the process is smooth and productive. And yet there are times that it consumes me, requires more blood, sweat, and tears than others. In any of the above, God is at work in the process. If every message I preached was hand-delivered from Heaven, I would take it for granted and the miraculous would become mundane. If every message just flowed out of me, I might begin to think  that I was inspired,  and rely less on God’s direction. If I had to mine every message with long, back-breaking effort, it could become unbearable, and lonely as if God was not with me in the process at all.

If you’re preparing a message this week, feel free to share with us what God is teaching you through the process of preparing to preach.

If you’re the recipient of such messages, pray for your church leaders and God’s hand of favor on us as we go through the process of speaking His Word over you this week. We are humbled by your faithfulness.


The best and worst of ministry

If I were asked (and often am…), “What is the best/worst part of being in ministry?” the answer is simple. The best and worst part of being in ministry is the same thing: people.

   People are the best thing about ministry because I get to see people who are far from God awakened with life in Christ. I get to watch a new or stagnant Christ-follower make the tough choices that separate them from who they were and who they are in Christ. I get to see God work in unique and powerful ways. Hurt people learn to forgive, selfish people learn generosity, and the work of God moves on. People are easily the greatest, most rewarding thing, not just in ministry, but in life as a whole.

   But people are also the hardest part of ministry! People can be mean, unforgiving, hypocritical, arrogant, and beligerent. And that’s just from some people that claim to follow Jesus! I’ve seen people that we have poured our lives into betray us and hurt us. I’ve had people that I thouht were committed to the work God was doing at our church leave us for the new “cool” ministry down the road. A blow to any leader’s emotions. I’ve watched other church leaders run off on their spouse. And perhaps the most frustrating, watching someone attend every week, go through the motions, but never take hold of the life Christ is waiting for them to step into. They “have a form of godliness but deny the power thereof.” It’s like getting married and then going back to the way you lived before you met your spouse.

   But for every frustration, heartache, and let-down, the joy that comes from seeing a life genuinely changed is worth it. You can’t get into a fight without expecting to get dirty. Life and ministry are messy! But nothing worthwhile is ever easy. And people are worth it!