Can you tell anything about a pastor from what he or she preaches on most?
I remember driving across country once while in college, driving through Baton Rouge, LA. It was a Sunday night and I really couldn't think of anything better to do than to stop in at Jimmy Swaggart's church for a visit.
It happened to be the night they were doing the graduation from their rapidly dwindling Bible College. Rapidly dwindling because this was the period between Fall 1 and Fall 2 for Jimmy- so he'd been caught the first time, had made tearful repentances on national TV and was just trying to get out of the whole thing alive.
The huge auditorium was only about 1/4 full, large sections of it were roped off... and Jimmy looked like he had aged 50 years in the previous 12 months. His hair had gone shock white, his face looked drawn. Clearly he was sweating the future that his misdeeds seemed to be bringing him. And clearly he didn't sweat it enough.
Anyway, before things really got going, I wandered through their bookstore and was amazed... dumbstruck, really, to see a whole bunch of books and pamphlets on the subject of pornography. Maybe Jimmy had just been doing research in that motel room? But no, I used to watch Jimmy at 6:30 in the morning on my little TV in my room in middle school/high school as I was geting ready for school (weird, I know...) and this was a big topic for him.
You'd think after such a public fall, those books might be taken off the shelves for, uh... inventory. But there they were- still on display, still for sale- all of Jimmy's writings on a subject that was clearly still a growth area for him.
There's this kind of common wisdom that whatever a pastor really camps on and emphasizes in preaching is probably an area of struggle for him or her. I'm not sure how universal that is- seemed true enough in Jimmy's case.
What I have found myself talking to people about over the past few weeks?
Margin. Organization. Time management (which is a misnomer... we're really talking about self management, aren't we?)
And yes, I've been preaching to myself.
Oh, how deperately I need a bit of margin in my life right now. It feels like I go from one thing to another to another to another with no down time, and when I do have down time, I seem easily able to fill it with tasks that matter and tasks that don't.
But it seems as though God has been gracious enough to put people in my life who also need help with finding margin in their lives, getting their organizational acts together, and so...
I get to help myself as I help others.
So, here's the plan.
This last Sunday we began about 13 or so weeks in James, of which I am doing roughly half- about every other week. Since sermon prep is a big part of my job, and interacting with musicians and artists a big part of that (that often gets the short shrift because of my lack of margin) I'm here going public with my desire to work ahead. I'd say roughly 80% of my best creative thinking happens after I'm "done" writing one of our discussions/messages. When I get it done early, I can be more creative nd play with it- more adventurous. When I'm finishing at the last minte, that doesn't happen. And worse, I'm often preaching a first draft.
So, during this entire time, I plan on (hold me accountable on this, people) writing a message a week anyway, even weeks I'm not preaching. Same thing is true for the media I create.
This type of margin, this mental space, will give me the ability to be much more present and helpful as I sit and talk with people, as I do my contacting... I desperately want to be rid of the pressure of feeling like I have to choose between getting this done or that. I just want to feel a sense of being ahead of the game and so being able to relax into whatever I'm doing at the present moment.
So- that's my plan... :)
Here I go!