Much of the difference between the great preachers and average preachers may be the time taken for study, reflection, prayer, and reading. This is not time spent grinding out the sermon for next Sunday, but rather it is time spent sharpening the saw … so that when the time comes for actual sermon preparation, they are sharp.
Many years ago the pastor went to his study. Somewhere over the years “study” got changed to “office” and now the pastor goes to the office to work. This has resulted in less time in God’s presence and less time in His Word and study. As a result, sermons are often thrown together at the last moment or on the night before the service and the people, although fed, are not fed quality food from the Word.
Pastors and Christian leaders are called to read and to study. Prayer, meditation, reflection, silence and solitude are all givens in the life of a pastor – or should be – and then upon this foundation we are to build our life of study and indepth reading of His Word. However, if we go to the “office” and paperwork, counselling, activities, programs, staff and people are our immediate focus then we lose out on this time alone with the Lord in the study … and our people lose out on Sundays and any other time that we are called upon to lead them and teach them.
It is time for all this to change – immediately. I happen to teach, on average, five times a week and so I don’t call for this change lightly or without due consideration. I have learned that the more I am called on to teach the more time I need in prayer, reading, and in-depth Bible study to feed my own spirit and prepare my own heart. It is not time specifically focused on preparing the teaching – it is time spent preparing me!
If my well is dry I cannot expect to be able to water thirsty sheep when I stand up to teach them a “now word” from the living God and His Word. In fact, it won’t be a now word at all if I don’t invest that time. It will be something pulled from an old file or an old sermon… and not fresh manna at all.
When on the road ministering it is often more difficult to find the time and “place” and “space” to have quality time (and a quantity of time) with the Lord. But, I still work at achieving it. I get up earlier than everyone else and read and write… I stay up after everyone has gone to bed if necessary. Of course, when on the road ministering – once the day begins the study time is usually lost as I minister all day and evening and spend time with people throughout that time. So, it has to come before or after as that is all that is available. It must be a priority and I have to be intentional.
At home it is easier. I have a separate room as a study – no printer, no phone, no place for others to sit and talk (distract me). A large room with a study desk, my reference books and the books I am currently reading and researching, and a laptop which has only “study files” in it. Here I read, write, pray, study, and spend time with God. Then, when I have had a few hours at this early in the morning (this morning it was 5:00 a.m. onwards) then I shower and go to the “office” – another room just next door. But not until I have sharpened the saw in God’s presence and in His Word… so that my well is full of life-giving water for others to come and drink … do I go to accomplish the rather mundane activities of office work. Today I just could not face the office and so I left and went witnessing.
But, on-the-road or at home I have made this a daily discipline and an intentional part of my daily life. If you are a pastor, five-fold minister, lead others or simply want a vibrant relationship with the Lord I hightly recommend you do the same. Find the “place and space” – place in your timetable and space in your house – to have an uninterrupted time with the Lord daily regardless of how busy you are. You will amazed at how your level of passion and love for the Lord increases and how much more effective you will be when ministering to others…