Since becoming pastor of Fellowship Church in suburban Dallas in 1990, Ed Young, Jr. has led the church from its original 150 members to a weekly attendance of more than 18,000 people. Fellowship Church has been characterized by creativity in worship and preaching, and now the church is sharing its resources with others through its Fellowship Connection network and Ed has recently joined the Board of Contributing Editors of Preaching magazine, joining his father (Ed Young, Sr., Pastor of Houston’s Second Baptist Church) in our first father-son Contributing Editor team. Preaching editor Michael Duduit recently visited Fellowship Church to visit with Ed about preaching creatively.

Preaching: You have come to be identified as one of the most creative preachers around. What do you see as the place of creativity in preaching and worship.

Young: I feel that all of us are creative geniuses because we’re made in the image of God. The question that I challenge pastors and communicators to ask is not “how do I become creative” but “what are those things that are keeping me from unleashing the creativity that God has given us?”

We’re made in the image of our creative Creator. I always go back to the trinity – the Father invented creativity, the Son modeled it, the Holy Spirit empowers it, and then on top of that people need it. If you look at Jesus, the master communicator, He was so innovative and so creative in the way He taught. He was consistently inconsistent. The message obviously was the same but he changed the methodology. Whether He was pointing to someone or sowing seed, whether He preached from a beach or drew in the sand, He was always using the process of identification and then illustration and application, and basically that’s what we try to do. We try to model our communicative style after the ultimate communicator, which is Jesus.

If you read the Bible and look at God and God’s relationship with man – from an apple to Adam and Eve, salt to Lot, a tree to Zaccheus, a fish to Jonah, a boat to Noah, ultimately a cross to a world, God is sovereign and He understands that we respond to the message in a multi-sensory fashion. I think that every communicator, every church should do that within the context of their particular style. I’m not into trying to force people into different styles. Whether you have throne chairs and a 500-voice choir, whether you have the postmodern vibe or country-western, you get to be yourself. Within that, though, I believe you’ve got to be creative. God desires it. We need to unleash it. That’s why I like creativity so much – that’s why I’m challenged by it.

I think the church should be the most creative it can be. Several years ago I went to Las Vegas to see a boxing match – not to gamble! – and there I was looking at all the signage, because no one does signage like Las Vegas. I said to myself, “Vegas has nothing to say but they know how to say it, yet the church has everything to say but so often we don’t know how to say it.”

I just feel so strongly that the church should be on the crest of creativity – that the most creative things out there should be the local churches. To me the exception should be when the church is not creative. But sadly, so often you find churches have somehow taken the Bible – the most exciting book – and made it boring. I tell people don’t blame God because God’s not boring. Blame the person speaking.

And I also think that 80 percent of what a senior pastor does is preparation and the delivery of the message – 80 percent. We have a saying around here, and its pretty graphic, but I say “it’s the weekend stupid” – James Carville, when he headed up the Clinton campaign years ago, had that sign that said “it’s the economy stupid.” Everything revolves around the weekend and I believe in proclamation of the Word so you can’t talk about discipleship or evangelism or worship or children’s ministry or student ministry or missions activity unless the weekend is hitting on all cylinders. That’s the biggest port of entry in the church. We have to be ourselves, and when we’re ourselves we’re going to be our most creative. Then when that happens I think phenomenal things are going to occur.

Creativity is not bouncing off the walls. It’s not gimmicky. It has to be biblically-driven. We’re not above the Bible or on the same level as the Bible. We’re under the Bible – we’re under scripture. So it has to be Biblically-driven. And I believe when its biblically-driven you’re going to find that sweet spot of communication.

I think that small tweaks take us to giant peaks in communication. It doesn’t have to be these big honkin’ things and flying down from the ceiling or painting the walls orange and throwing sand in the foyer. It’s within your context and sometimes it can be as small as changing the time when you speak, or it can be maybe one time giving a message outline or message map and then one time you don’t do it. Maybe it’s having the choir or your praise team singing in one area in the church one weekend and another area another weekend. Maybe it’s using video clips for two straight weeks and maybe it’s not using it for six weeks. Maybe it’s being very loud and having all the lights for three or four weeks, and maybe it’s totally dialed down, totally simplistic for four straight weeks.

So the church should be consistently inconsistent because the higher the predictability the lower the connectivity. And most of us are so predictable. We all kind of lend ourselves towards predictability but if we can be consistently inconsistent – consistent in our theology, consistent in rightly dividing the word but inconsistent in our approaches to it . . .

I want people at Fellowship Church saying, “What is coming next? I’m not sure what’s going to happen next.” I don’t want them saying, “Wow, I know what they’re going to do.”

Preaching: Obviously now you are in a large facility where you’re drawing 18,000 people on a weekend. But you started 14 years ago with 30 people. Obviously you can do things now that you couldn’t do then. What are some ways that you introduced the whole idea of creativity in the smaller setting that enabled you to move to where you are today?

Young: I would say this – I would say that the smaller church has the creative advantage over the bigger church.

Preaching: Why’s that?

Young: Because in the smaller church – I have missed this about Fellowship – I mean let’s face it the only people who like huge churches are pastors! A smaller church has the advantage because you can make decisions about creativity quicker and you can also use more stuff and smaller stuff and you can read people and feed off people more. The bigger the venue – now we have to think in advance.

One time we did this talk called “Life Savers” and it was on evangelism so what we said was that too many Christians are on the spiritual yacht and were just worrying about ourselves, we’re working on our spiritual tan, we’re playing around on the deck, yet our friends and the people in our community are drowning and they’re facing a Christ-less eternity. Its time to get up off our lounge chairs and throw life savers – throw the life preserver. I said, “Who has God placed in your path in your life that does not know Christ and what are you doing about that are you throwing a life line?” So then we handed out thousands of life savers to everybody in little individual packages, and we said, “Hold that in your hand, apply a name to it, and don’t eat that lifesaver until that person steps across the line and becomes a Christ follower.” Very creative idea but the execution of that with thousands of people is tough.

When our church was smaller I did a message on the soils and you could show the seeds, and I remember bringing plants up there. I think the smaller church sometimes has the creative advantage.

Now the bigger church deals on a bigger scale. For example, I did a series on spiritual warfare and a friend of mine has a tank – a real tank, a British scorpion tank – and we drove the tank on the stage. To do that we had engineers to measure how much weight our stage could take – just being able to pull that off and the turret and how to do that and how I can get in the tank and climb up on the tank. It’s a great visual – it’s just more difficult to pull off. I just like the advantage of a smaller venue. Does that make sense? You can just do things quicker – faster. Like the night before or two days before you can just get an idea and carry it out. Here it’s more difficult.

Preaching: How far out do you plan your worship services?

Young: We have our series planned out, generally speaking, within a year – I kind of know where I’m going. At least every six months it changes! Like the series I just ended called “Who’s Kidding Who? Parenting is No Joke.” We had that planned like three or four months out – that topic. The one I just finished – I just finished a two-week series on questions – asking the right people the right question to get the right answers – that just came up out of the blue.

This one I’m doing next called “The Table” is a series on vision. This series on “The Table” is going to be about communication – in John 6 Jesus said, “I’m the bread of life,” and that’s the ultimate complex carbohydrate. We’re talking about who is around your table – who are you inviting to the table – and then we’re talking about bringing a high chair out, talking about sometimes Christians cry and throw food and how do you deal with that, and we’re talking about evangelism and putting a leaf in the table and expanding the table when we grow and all that. Those are just some things we’re brain storming.

Preaching: Will you have a table out on the platform?

Young: A table and we’ll have chairs.

Preaching: What are some other series you’ve done that you think made a real impact?

Young: We did a series recently that was very controversial. The topic was phenomenal. The topic was on forgiveness and I did a bunch of research on it – looked at some old messages, read some stuff, listened to a tape series of a friend of mine. Then I had something kind of wild happen to me. I was filling my car up with gas and I saw a jogger with a Doberman on a leash run past me, and I saw the guy tie the Doberman up to the park bench outside the convenience store, then the guy went in to get something to drink. The Doberman got scared and ran towards the freeway, jerked the park bench out of its supports, drug it across the lot – sparks flying – and he was headed towards the freeway. I thought, “Man, we’re going to have a horrible accident!” He ran into the freeway dragging the bench and cars came to a screeching halt, and he had such torque on the bench that the bench slammed into an SUV and a Volkswagen and messed it up. Then the owner chased him down and untied him and led him to safety.

When I saw that I just knew it was a story that God wanted me to tell. I was thinking about forgiveness and I thought: you know, I’m like that Doberman because I’m leashed up to unforgiveness. I’m dragging around a park bench that’s causing all of this collateral damage here and there. I started thinking about unleashing unforgiveness and starting thinking about who’s sitting on your park bench – maybe a parent, coach, an ex-spouse, whatever – and I framed that series around that story. I said “unleashing unforgivness is unnatural.” I said I don’t like to do it. I talked about someone that I held a grudge against for years and years and years. Then the next week I talked about “unleashing unforgivenss is unending.” It should be something that we do as believers regularly. And then I talked about “unleashing unforgiveness is unbelievable” – the benefits.

God just gave me that story but I try to always ask myself this question, “Ed, what can you create? When you’re talking to someone – who ever it is – and when you’re observing life, what idea, what illustration, what slant do you want me to use to bring form for that into the pulpit.

That was one of those series we’ve done and we give it a very controversial title. We called it “Forgiveness – the real ‘F’ word.” Before we did that title, I probably emailed over a hundred pastors and talked to them plus people here, and over 90 percent said go for it. A few said maybe not but we had forgiveness with it. So sometimes with creativity I think there’s a line there that you need to be very, very careful with. For example I would not use an R-rated movie in a clip or even refer to one. You have to be very careful.

When we talk about creativity it’s not compromise. I think when you talk to someone or when you here an idea you have to put it through your creative filter. Every time I hear someone speak or I’m talking to someone I’m saying, “what can I create or what can I copy from them?” I don’t mean plagiarize – I mean copy. How can I put that through my creative filter and how can I use that?

The biggest thing I would tell preachers about creativity and about message preparation is something that I just fell into over the years. We call it now Team Creativity. For years and years I was doing the lion’s share of all the creative thought behind the message preparation, and I found myself being kind of the creative bottle neck to it. I love to ask people questions, and early on I asked several people questions about the content of my message and what do you think about it, what other angles do you see? But as our church grew I became like the bottleneck of creativity and it’s just due to the stress and the load of preaching.

I thought: I’ve got all these creative geniuses around me. Why don’t I leverage their innovation and have them help me craft a message? So we developed this thing called Team Creativity and it’s changed the course of my communication. I think my communication over the last two or three years is a zillion times better than it was even five years ago. I’m a totally different communicator and it’s not because of me at all. Its because of leveraging creativity with others.

Here’s how I do it: I have to be the one that knows the direction and content before we have these creative team meetings. They know that the buck stops with me – that I have veto power. So normally we will meet two or three times a week, two or three hours each time, and we’ll craft the message. I’ll walk in and give them the direction, talk about some research I’ve been doing, what God’s doing in my life and I’ll put it on a dry erase board – introduction, different points, thoughts I’ve had – kind of do a mind dump. You know, here’s where I’m going. And then when I meet with them they’ll begin to give me ideas, they’ll begin to critique what I talked about Monday or Tuesday concerning what I’m thinking about.
For example, today right before you walked in we were talking about “The Table” series. I had some ideas I’ve been writing down in my journal and our creative team is just listening, then they begin: have you thought about this, have you though about that, have you thought about whatever? So I’ll begin to write those concepts down, and then usually by Tuesday I’ll take a Dictaphone out and I’ll just kind of go through it. I’ll just talk it through, like kind of an introduction, some major points, application, different scripture verses. Then my assistant puts it in the computer and we all get a hard copy and we come back for another meeting and we go through it and just start changing it around. Then I’ll spend some time by myself – I’ll just go through and add stuff, take away stuff, then usually on Wednesday we’ll go through the whole thing again. People might say, “Well, Ed, you used that illustration, or an illustration like that, a couple weeks ago or the message kind of has the same slant as one you did.” So they help me to be consistently inconsistent and they critique the message while I’m preparing it.

I’ve got people in this creative team from different seasons of life and different backgrounds. Men and women. So when I’m speaking I’m thinking about different groups. That has taught me so much. Then when I deliver the message on the weekend, after our first service we usually have a critique meeting – we’ll go through and critique it again. Let me tell you what else it does. I am training people to speak who are in the creative team meeting and they don’t even know it, so when I’m not here they speak and they know how to do it. Now they know again that I have the vetoing power. I don’t walk in and say lets go over the sermon. No, no, no. You’ve still got to do the work but it takes a huge amount of stress off, your creativity goes way, way up, and it keeps you fresh. It keeps the introductions and the points and the flow and everything fresh. To me since we’ve really been doing it, it has taken the sermons to the next level.

On Monday we’ll probably spend two hours doing it. Tuesday is when, after we spend two or three hours again talking about, it I’ll actually dictate it. Wednesday we’ll get the hard copy and we’ll go through it and then it’s usually done Wednesday afternoon or sometimes Thursday morning it’s done. I take Friday off. Saturday I come in at about 1 or 2, go over it.

The team is constantly changing. We have some people who are in here always but it’s constantly changing. When I did a series on parenting I had some people who are grandparents in here. I had some people are single. You do a series on parenting and singles are going, “Wait a minute, Ed. Is there any application for me?” Had a single person not been in there I would have not talked about single persons. Ninety percent of all singles will get married and most will have kids. So I said singles you better show up for this series because this is like pre-marriage, pre-family training. I would have never thought about that. Or I’ll say something in the parenting series and someone will go, “how about the blended family?” It has added a depth, a richness that I would not have had.

If you listen to a lot of preachers, we all have our topics we like to talk about in our kind of style. I would challenge the speakers to broaden your horizons, talk to people about it when you’re formulating messages, and you’ll not believe the ideas you get. Some of the most creative ideas will come along. I did a series one time called “Everything you need to know about life is in your fish bowl,” and I compared different fish to Bible characters and the struggle that Bible characters have with different relationships in their life. I didn’t have the idea – someone gave me that. It was incredible idea. We did a series on the trinity for five weeks. The title was incredible. I did not come up with the title. The title was: Try God. Brilliant. And that was from our creative team. I wish I could take credit for these ideas. I did have the dog illustration though!

But going back to the dog illustration: several years ago I found out it’s important that if you’re using a visual, if you can use the visual throughout the series its great. If the visual does not stand alone then throw it out. If you have to explain the visual too much it’s a sorry visual. Some people force visuals. I see some people becoming the movie clip or television series preacher. Everything is after a reality television show or everything is named after a movie or everything’s after sports or you can turn into the prop guy or the video girl. Change is the key. All those things now and then are great but to do that almost all the time is almost a whip. Some people I talk to it is always about the show or movie – predictable. Predictable. I would say even the most cutting edge church out there – postmodern or whatever it is – can become predictable, and many of them are as predictable as the most traditional church you can think of. So again it’s not the model. You can become predictable no matter where you are.

I’m all into the postmodern scene. I love the fluidity, the arts, all that. I love it, and I agree that there’s no way you can answer every question in a message, but here’s what we have to be careful of – we can become so into the experience, we can become so into the feelings that we lose the authority of the Bible. Another danger of postmodernism is this if the churches aren’t careful – the postmodern churches, whatever that means – relativism can infiltrate their theology and then they just leave everything open. There are no answers. You’ve got to answer some questions. Truth is truth.

My friend Lee Strobel told me this. Lee said, “You know, Ed, that’s the reason I became an atheist – because everything in the church I grew up in was open ended.” So again that’s the danger. We have to be very careful to rightly divide the Word. I’m all for the arts, I’m all for experience, I’m all for the surprise and I understand that preaching is a journey and all that stuff. But when you take a journey you don’t just drive, and drive, and drive and drive, you don’t just fly and fly and fly and fly – you’ve got to make pit stops. You’ve got to stay somewhere. You have a map and when you’re flying somewhere you’ve got to refuel. My word to the whole emergent church is you’d better be giving people answers and you better be bringing people to the point of decision. We have to lead them to a point of: am I going to step over the line or not? I am sometimes concerned about some of the things I see out there.

Preaching: How much time do you personally invest in preparation for preaching?

Young: I spend twenty-five to thirty hours at least a week on a weekend message. The Team Creativity helps me because some of that time now is with people and we have a great relationship – we have fun, we laugh, we storyboard, we dream and this [Ed’s office] is like a family room. We designed it like this because this is where we do all our planning. It’s not like my office. My office is around there. I spend ten percent time in there and ninety percent in here with people talking through things. Now after I talk through things – we’re writing things down and all that – nothing is as demanding as thinking in an innovative, creative way. Nothing is. We always say you have to ask the right people the right questions to get the right answers, and the questions we have to ask ourselves about preaching are: what do I need to know, what does my audience need to know, what do they need to do? If you can answer those three questions then you’ve got a great message but the work is tough.

Pastors and speakers often take breaks, and it’s important to do that. I think that too many of us don’t take enough time off. When we’re in a relaxed state that’s when we have the most creative ideas. We have these great ideas in the shower or maybe driving in our car listening – it can be a country western song or whatever – or maybe we’re playing golf or fishing and we have these incredible ideas. Those are fade-aways and we need to make time for that. And then, also, when we take breaks regularly it gives us a chance to really think in a creative way. My best, my most innovative stuff always comes after breaks. Maybe it’s for a week or maybe it’s for three weeks.

You have to learn to take breaks during the week as well. What energizes you? What gets your creative juices flowing? You need to find out what that is. And it’s important to take a day off where you totally unplug from church. You’ve got to do that. Also, pastors need to miss the natural days – like Memorial Day weekend. Miss that weekend. Let someone else speak. Like Thanksgiving weekend, Christmas weekend and the first week of the New Year. Labor Day – miss that. That’s five weekends a year you can miss. And on top of that I would have you miss at least 4 others. I would challenge people reading this article to miss at least 3 weeks to a month straight every summer. And they’re going, “Whoa! I don’t have any one to speak.” Yes you do, because when you plan in a creative way and use a creative team you’ve trained two or three people.

I learned that from my father. I learned from him about the importance of taking breaks because if you don’t take breaks your schedule will break you. That’s true because preaching is brutal! I mean, it drains me. On Monday I say I have a holy hangover. It’s kind of funny but it’s true. You’re wasted. That’s why you need that day off or that date night with your spouse. We’re running a marathon not a sprint. I’m challenging a lot of my friends to do that. Andy Stanley used to never take time off. This year he’s taking three, three-week breaks. He’s never done that. He’s telling me he loves it. It’s awesome.

But no matter who you are – even in the smaller church – people will never tell you to take breaks. Never. If they do tell you to take breaks they’ll invite you to their beach home or mountain home and then they’ll want to come with you and it its not a vacation. You need a vacation after that.

Preaching: When you’re preparing your message, do you at any point write a manuscript? Then when you preach, what do you have with you?

Young: Yes. When I am meeting with the Creative Team we are writing it out word for word. We go through sentence by sentence; we don’t just talk in concepts. We talk in concepts first but then on Tuesday afternoon and Wednesday we’re doing exact transition. Exact stuff.

For example, I started off with the story of the Doberman being tethered to the bench and smashing the cars and – this was four or five months ago. Then I stopped and made my transition: “Every person hearing my voice is more like that Doberman than you care to admit. We’re all leashed up to unforgiveness and it’s causing all this collateral damage in our lives. Who is holding the leash?” Do you know why I know that? Because I memorized it. We crafted that transition. Messages are all about transitions.

We go through it word for word. It’ll end up being eight to ten pages. I don’t memorize it. Then after I’ve gone through it once again and corrected everything, I put it into a mind map, a message map. A mind map is on one legal page. Your big idea is in the middle. You start with the introduction and you move through counter clockwise. I color different key words. Then I read the mind map – I read it on Saturday and read it and read it and write a couple of notes and then I put the mind map down and I’ll walk on stage and do it. Now, I will have with me in my Bible the scripture verses typed out – I don’t flip back and forth in the Bible. It takes too much time. There are too many translations out there. And we always view a verse usually on PowerPoint.

Do I have anything written down up there? I’ll have an outline. My main points are in the Bible. Sometimes I look at them, sometimes I don’t. But that’s all I have to say. Because the creative team worked on it, because I’ve told it and spoken into the Dictaphone, and we’ve gone over and over and over it and because we’ve corrected it all and we’ve read the mind map – it’s just in me. But I do that discipline of writing it down. Every word. Creativity emerges from order. Order is not emerged from creativity. That’s again a postmodern view. You’ve got to do the work, the hard work, and then as the Holy Spirit leads – because I know the message so well as the Holy Spirit leads I can chase a quick rabbit and come back as He leads.

If I didn’t know it well I would be wheels off. Everything I’ve done in the last 14 years is on manuscript. Every word written down prior to walking on stage. I have gone through a period where I write it out, handwrite it. But now I’m dictating it and my assistant is typing it, but then I correct and go through everything. I use the group and then by myself again on Saturday I’ll go through it.

Preaching: Some critics might believe that with all the emphasis on creativity it would be possible to give less priority to the Bible in preaching Tell me about your use of scripture in your messages.

Young: If you’re thinking about topics or an expositional series or a character study, it all comes from the Bible. For example, one of the most popular series we’ve done is a series called “Just Lust.” It’s a topical series but everything of course from that comes from the authority of the Bible. You know what I’m saying? On the other hand I did a series like the “X-files.” This was an expositional series through the book of James. Taking James and just exegeting scripture. Another series was called “Ignite.” I traced fire through the Old Testament. That was cool. It was a kind of expositional preaching.

Everything we do comes from a biblical worldview and according to the Bible, like a series I just did called “RPM’s – Recognizing Potential Mates.” Those are biblical, scriptural principals. So even if it’s a topical series, I’m always in the Bible.

When I look at the balanced menu of messages that we try to do during a year, we’ll have exposition series, and then we’ll do topical stuff – maybe some about felt needs, some about family, marriages – and we kind of try to keep a balance. We’re a biblically-driven church. Also, I try to tell people that we’re application-driven. You don’t need a Bible study; you need a Bible doing class. It’s great to study but do it. We try to say things to people – I want them talking about what I’m talking about during the weekend.

Preaching: You’ve done some very creative things over the years – the tank, and I think you drove a Mercedes up on the platform one time. Have you ever done one of those kinds of things and you look back and say, “Boy, did that bomb. It just didn’t work.”

Young: I’ve felt good about almost all of them well because of the Creative Team. If you don’t have a creative team you’re going to mess up a lot on that. Some things will bomb, some things won’t work. Too many people try to force visuals or creative elements. If you have to force it …

One thing that I did that I didn’t like it: I was talking about John 10:9-10. Jesus said, “I’ve come so that you would have life and have it abundantly; the thief comes to steal, kill, and destroy.” And the word abundant – the picture behind the Greek word is if you pour water in to the glass it overflows. And I said something like: God wants us to live a life of overflowing, an abundant life. I said, “But if we allow Satan to rob it . . .” and then I poured the water over my head – it was pitiful. It didn’t work right. Isn’t that terrible? I don’t know why I did that. I probably had too much caffeine before the message. That did not work.

But most of the time, I will say it works because we just painstakingly go over the visual before we do it. We try to go through all sorts of elements. Like I did an illustration a while back, a visual where I talked about marital drift. We had a guy dressed up in a tuxedo and a woman dress up in a wedding dress and we went round and round about “Do we use pictures do we use live people?” And then not only how do we use them but how do we get them off the stage, because the point was once you have kids and a career you have marital drift and we showed that continuum on the stage. It worked really well because of the work a bunch of us put in prior to that event. The best stuff is the stuff you’re going to have worked out. Like the leash and the bench – we spent a long time practicing unleashing and how to tie it up and how to keep the eye contact while I’m doing it so I knew it so well it was just natural. Where do we place the bench on the stage? We’ll actually go out there and sit in the audience – we said we can’t use that visual, you can’t even see it, it doesn’t look right.

One time used a chainsaw to talk about worship. The fact that too many of us have the compartmentalized view where we think that worship is something that we do just Sunday morning and it should transcend everything we do and say. We have this compartment and I took a chainsaw and I chainsawed through all the compartments to show and I opened it up show everything. The chainsaw got stuck. You know what though? Sometimes when you do those things those are the best things. The funniest things.

One time I was talking about popcorn and here’s the illustration I used: my wife and I went to a hockey game and we were getting something to eat during the game. Going to the concession stand she was walking just a few steps in front of me, I was walking behind her. I slipped and knocked her feet out from under her. She fell on top of me and we rolled down the steps during the 7th game of the Stanley Cup playoffs. People thought we were drunks, messed up. I had slipped. Security had come over. It’s so embarrassing when you fall in front of people like that. You try to act like everything’s cool. You look back at the steps like the steps caused the problem and we kept going: why’d you fall on me. You know what it was? A piece of popcorn on the bottom of my shoe. Greasy popcorn. And here’s the illustration. I said: you know what happens in life? We slip and fall in our number one position – that being husband and wife – and we tumbling down the steps. We’re chasing career. We’re chasing money. We’re chasing the kids. We’re chasing extracurricular activities. I’ve seen too many popcorn parents.

And we talked about some of us are cheesy popcorn parents. Some of us are caramel popcorn parents. Some of us are buttered popcorn parents. There are so many incredible illustrations about parenting in the Bible. Eli, his sons are totally wheels off. So I talked about caramel popcorn. Carmel popcorn parents are parents that are overprotective and cover their kids – won’t let them do anything. They never give them any responsibility. Always with them 24/7, like caramel covers popcorn. And I took a kernel of popcorn and I kind of just put it on my face to show how we stick to our kids. Well, this popcorn stuck to my head the whole message. I didn’t know it was on there. It was funny to see it on video.

We don’t use a visual every week. I’ll go for a long time without using anything – many times I don’t use a visual at all. Many times we dial it down to very, very simple. Sometime the most basic thing you do is the most creative. Sometimes though we have gotten to the point where creativity can also cloud what you’re trying to say. Just say it. That’s the balance. And again the creative team helps you with all that. We’ve had lights and drama and different interviews and videos and all this, and then the next week we’ll just dial it totally, totally down. Acoustic. I’ll walk up and sit in a chair. Consistently inconsistent.

Preaching: Who have been the most significant influences in your ministry?

Young: In my life obviously my father growing up. As far as preaching, Dad’s a great influence there. Number one, he’s my father. There are several people in addition to my father. One would definitely be Bill Hybels. The reason I gained so much from Bill, I think, are his incredible angles of scriptures. Also, his passion for evangelism. The first six or eight years at Fellowship Church I probably listened to Bill Hybels preach more than he heard himself preach. Also Rick Warren. Rick is a system’s genius. Making something simple, not simplistic. Those three – it’d be Dad, Bill and Rick.

But you know what’s so funny is that I’m such a different speaker. I feel I’m not at all like him but I just learn a lot from them. I’ve learned you never want to stop learning. The best thing that I have – God’s shown me over the years – is to be yourself. The more you are yourself the better speaker you are.

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About The Author


Michael Duduit is the founding publisher and editor of Preaching magazine. He is also the founding Dean of the new College of Christian Studies and Professor of Christian Ministry at Anderson University in Anderson, South Carolina. Michael is author and editor of several books, including the Handbook of Contemporary Preaching (Broadman & Holman Press), Joy in Ministry (Baker Books), Preaching With Power (Baker) and Communicate With Power (Baker). From 1996 until 2000 he served as editor of the Abingdon Preaching Annual series. His email newsletter, PreachingNow, is read each week by more than 40,000 pastors and church leaders in the U.S. and around the world. He is founder and director of the National Conference on Preaching and the International Congress on Preaching, which has been held in 1997 at Westminster Chapel in London, 2002 at the University of Edinburgh, Scotland, and 2007at Cambridge. He has been a pastor and associate pastor, has served a number of churches as interim pastor, and speaks regularly for churches, colleges and conferences.

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