Friday, December 16, 2011

Simple Discipleship and Preaching Advice

I still remember a good chunk of advice that one of my professors in college gave me.  Dr. Pelletier (not the skater) was a man that taught me a great deal about ministry.  Perhaps one of the most profound things he taught me was about family devotions.  I was single at the time but engaged to my wife Nikki.  I was freaking out about how to lead this woman. 

The weight of Ephesians 5 was pressing hard on me; what does it mean to wash her in the water of the word?  What does it mean to lead a family?  I had never really seen family devotions modeled and had no idea what it meant to lead my spouse the way that Jesus would—much less how to lead the children that God would bless us with a few years later.

Dr. Pelletier’s advice to me was simple yet profound.  With eyes filled with wisdom that came from years of experience he calmly reassured me and said, “Love Jesus and share that with her”. 

That’s it.  No magical formula.  Love Jesus and share it. 

Ten years later I am still chewing on that advice and trying to live it out.  In fact as I am reading through Augustine this morning I see not only how grounded in history Dr. Pelletier’s advice was but also how far reaching it is.  Turns out this isn’t just good advice for marriage but also for ministry.  Consider this from Augustine:

“I go to feed myself so that I can give you to eat.  I am the servant, the bringer of food, not the master of the house.  I lay out before you that from which I also draw my life.” 

Kind of reminds me of John Owen’s, “If the Word does not dwell with power in us, it will not pass with power from us.”  All the great preachers (that can truly be called great because they point us so well to the source of all delight) seem to have one thing in common—their preaching, teaching, ministering, etc. is but an overflow of their private devotion and single-minded love for Jesus. 

This is why the advice to one ministerial candidate is so powerful:

“I’m not interested to know if you can set the Thames on fire.  What I want to know is this: If I picked you up by the scruff of the neck and dropped you into the Thames, would it sizzle?”

I am responsible for shepherding people and discipling them to disciple others. This really makes it simple.  Love Jesus then share it.  Of course it’s taken me ten years and I’m still chewing on exactly what that means and how to love Jesus more and how to effectively share it…but the foundation it built remains firm. 

I’m convinced that any sort of ministerial training, preaching practicum’s, books on ministry, resources on marriage, seminar’s, etc., are only distractions and given to self-bloating if they are not grounded in this simple truth—“Love Jesus then share it”. 

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