Wayne Swift, Apostolic Church Australia National Leader, writes:
I’ve been a minister for many years now and naturally I’ve come to realise many home truths.
One is this – the outcome of minister’s efforts privately, is usually, if not always, displayed publicly. Let’s face it – a minister’s prayer life, devotional life, ongoing learning, sermon preparation and even relationships are on show. People observe our actions and our reactions, along with our struggles.
Ministers need to create what I term ‘the ultimate atmosphere’ in order to present ourselves approved by Christ and acceptable by those who witness our actions and reactions under various circumstances.
And the reality is that this is a principle for every Christian for we are all on display as it were…what someone once called ‘the fifth gospel, the gospel according to you.’ The way we all prepare ourselves is critical to the outcomes we experience.
When it comes to prayer Paul tells us that we should ‘pray without ceasing’ (1 Thes. 5:17) yet we should also have time set aside where God can actually address the issues he wants to in our lives.
For me, this is often early in the morning while I am out walking or running – the exercise itself is important but it’s secondary. I’m not trying to break records with my exercise efforts. I am trying to connect with God and often that means taking longer, walking slower and listening more intently.
I also usually listen to worship music which allows me to escape and focus clearly and solely on God. I am after the optimum atmosphere or conditions for me to practise prayer.
Just a couple of days ago I bought a new Bible (a ‘girly’ type actually, so it stays at home mostly!).
Unfortunately most Bibles leave no room to write notes or to mark up the page and for me that’s a helpful way of allowing my mind to recall the powerful challenge or revelation that may have come from a particular passage.
So I bought a Bible with a decent margin so I can optimise my personal devotions. The SOAP method – Scripture, Observation, Application, Prayer – has been an extremely helpful habit for me as well.
Through years of sermon preparation I’ve developed the optimum way for me to prepare, I try and replicate the same circumstances each time which makes it both more efficient and usually more effective.
Some keys for me:
• A silent place
• A secure place
• A sensitive place – one where I can talk, pray, write and even sing if need be!
As I have to preach, most of my initial preparation is on a piece of paper, as an outline is easier for me on paper as I focus on the task, not the formatting. I flesh it out on the computer once I am convinced about the direction I want to go in.
Respectfully, I ask God what to say and the way to go about it and once I’m sure, I don’t ask again or keep asking. I figure the Holy Spirit can convict me about taking the wrong path.
Challenge to all of us
In all this I’m creating an optimum atmosphere for my own preparation because ministers are called to speak on God’s behalf. We dare not compromise what is probably the most important task of our week.
But … it’s important that every follower of Jesus spends time in prayer, communicating with God, reading his word and knowing the presence of the Holy Spirit.
The reasons are obvious – repeatedly God gives us all opportunities to witness for Christ as we enjoy life. Witnessing is not a Sunday only thing through the preacher!
We should all prepare properly through spending time with the Lord and meditating on his word. A relationship develops with the Holy Spirit and we will be ready at all times to take advantage of God-given opportunities to reach out to the unsaved and to people with life needs.
Mark 16:20 (Message) reads: ‘And the disciples went everywhere preaching, the Master working right with them, validating the message with indisputable evidence.’
Every Christian is a disciple. The truth is that while we may not all be preachers, we are all ministers – servants of Christ! 2 Corinthians 3: 6 (GNB) tells us that through Jesus we’ve been made ‘able ministers of the New Testament.’
Then 2 Corinthians 6:4 (Message) brings the real challenge of all this: ‘Our work as God’s servants gets validated – or not – in the details. People are watching us…’
We’re all on display – may we live and act wisely every day.