Serving Up Other People’s Cooking
Today we have the Internet where you can pull together a sermon, complete with illustrations, in fifteen minutes. There are catalogues of illustrations to match topics. It’s all excellent. But the danger is that the process doesn’t always happen in the teacher’s mind that way. It can bypass his heart and arrive in the Bible study group or pulpit like pre-packaged supermarket food in plastic containers, instead of homemade cooking.
When we prepare a talk and ponder, research, and catalogue the information ourselves, and it comes from the teacher’s heart, I believe it shows in the teacher’s eyes and face—and ultimately in the power of the words. You’re not serving up someone else’s leftovers; you have cooked the whole mean from scratch! It tastes different too! I’m not saying to use other people’s illustrations—I have many times—but they are not the bulk of my teaching. I use a minimal amount, and the rest of the ideas are my own, give to me by the Shepherd.
Years ago when we lived in the UK, Stuart was an evangelist and overseas most of the time. (I felt sad for the people in the UK that were missing out on his wonderful sermons!) I was busy at home with three kids but very involved locally with young people. I put them into preaching teams and took them out on the Methodist circuit—small churches that didn’t have any pastors. The Methodist church in Britain in the 1960s had few preachers but a big emphasis on laymen and women doing the work of the ministry.
None of us knew what we were doing but we “had a go” as we say in England. I had never been to Bible school and didn’t believe I had a creative bone in my body, so I borrowed other people’s ideas, and when it was my turn to preach the sermon I borrowed a sermon too. I always used the same one. It was Stuart’s—one of my favorites—about Lazarus.
I can still remember the outline because I preached it over and over! Lazarus was dead; Lazarus was defeated; Lazarus was dangerous! Well, my valiant teenagers and I roamed all over the country area in the English Lake district where we lived, taking Methodist services when we were invited to do so. One time when Stuart was home he took off to preach down in Manchester. I was over my head getting three preschoolers ready for Sunday school, so kissed him happily goodbye and it wasn’t until half an hour later I stopped dead in the kitchen and said, “Oh, NO!” I remembered that just a month previously I had been in the church he was going to and had preached his excellent sermon on Lazarus! I spent a miserable day, but not so miserable as my poor husband—who preached his sermon anyway.
In the evening he walked into the house a ...
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