In the fantasy world of Orlando — where theme parks and holidays are the rule — how do you make an impact on the real life needs of people? As pastor of First Baptist Church since 19xx, Jim Henry has preached and loved his way into the hearts of thousands. In the process, the traditional downtown church has exploded in growth, moving to an expansive suburban location and drawing people from throughout the region. In recent years he was elected twice to serve as President of the Southern Baptist Convention. An original member of Preaching’s Board of Contributing Editors, Jim recently sat with the editor of Preaching to discuss the role a pastor’s heart can have on the preaching of the Word.
Preaching: Whenever I have had the opportunity to hear you preach, there seems to be a real pastoral quality to your preaching. As you preach, you seem to have a strong connection, a bond with the people in your congregation. How do you, in your own ministry, connect those roles of pastor and preacher?
Henry: I think part of it came from the way I was raised. The first pastor that really impressed me was at First Baptist Nashville was Dr. Powell. That was a big church in those days. I was just a little eight or nine year old kid when I started there. In fact, he baptized me. He took an interest in me personally. He brought me bubble gum after World War II when you couldn’t get good bubble gum. He gave me an autographed Bible.
I’d go by and see him on Sundays. He would say, “Go to my office; there is some King Leo stick candy.” In those days it was rare to get and I knew there would always be a piece of candy up there. He was a hero to me — he loved me. And of course, when I was called into the ministry, my pattern really had been stamped in a sense by Dr. Powell. I hadn’t connected it all until recent years. I got to thinking about why do I do certain things and I go back to Dr. Powell. I’ve had some other pastors, but that was an impressionable age. I heard him preach but he pastored me, too.
I realize that in preaching if I’m not where the people are and not engaged with them, then I’m probably not going to connect with them. God has given me a love for people — to reach out to people and be reached by people. I love people. So when I became a pastor, I was engaged with the people their families from the very beginning: hospitals, weddings, deaths, standing around afterwards shaking hands. Having coffee, eating lunch or dinner with them just was part of my routine. I did not know any better. I thought that was what you did.
Then as the churches grew that I was in, I tried to keep that connection and it became more difficult because your leadership role changes. You become more of a vision caster, the administration piles up. The fact that you’ve been at a place a certain amount of time, it’s kind of like a snow ball. You get more people that want you to write a letter of recommendation for them or they want to get into school. You get more of that just by being there — you get asked to do more things. But I still realize that I can’t pastor or preach to these people if I don’t keep doing this. So I find some other ways to try to stay connected. For instance, after the services, I’m usually the last one to leave. Not always, but usually I’ll stand around on Sundays and Wednesdays just to be with the people. They know I’m there. Or I will have a reception line where people can come by. But I am going to be available. If somebody wants to tell me something or introduce family or a friend, I want to be there.
I keep a list all year long of people who have lost a close family member by death. And at Christmas I write a personal note to those people because I know this first Christmas is a little bit different without your dad or your mom or your son or daughter. It is just a little note but it is a connecting thing. It is a pastoral thing. Whenever I see a name in the paper, members that have been promoted or received an athletic award or something, or like the kids who have been in state Bible drill recently, I write a letter and send it out to all of them to say, “I’m proud of you.” I hand write some; sometimes I dictate. I still do weddings; I don’t do them all because we have so many. I still do funerals; I don’t do many but I do some. I still go to the hospital; not every week but some. If I don’t live with the people where they are, then when I get up there to communicate with them I’m not going to be talking to them about where their needs are and what does God’s Word have to say to them.
I have had to fight sometimes because it is easy to get caught up in other things, which are also very important. But I still continue to go out and eat lunch with our people, at dinner sometimes. I have a dinner group that I meet with — in fact, two — just to stay connected in an informal way with our people. When you go in that relationship they say, “What did we sing that song for? Why are we doing that?” They talk to you. You are hearing the people. Most of these people love you and they will be honest with you so that keeps me connected. Not always, but you can keep up a lot with what is going on in the hinterlands with the people by doing that.
So when I get ready to preach, I am sitting there and I’m looking at a passage and thinking, “O.K. where does this connect with this guy that this past week I talked about?” Here is a GenXer or here is somebody that is 77. They are all going to be sitting out there. What do they read in the paper? What do they hear? What did I hear about that couple getting ready to be married? What was their biggest struggle? Why did these people break up? Why did this man, this Sunday School teacher, divorce? People have told me they’re concerned about him; he was such a great teacher.
So is this passage — what I am saying — is something in that message going to connect with some of these people? Every message cannot connect with all the needs out there. But there is always something that will and at some point I told our people if you will come and listen to me most Sundays, somewhere in the year I will hit where you are sitting because I am going to preach the Bible. And it does. And it will not only make itself applicable — it is already relevant — but I will seek to apply it to where you are. I really work at that. The amazing thing is that sometimes I have an application with some particular issue or thing in mind to go this way, but somebody will come up or write me a letter and tell me the Holy Spirit took the same passage and met another need that I hadn’t even intended to meet. It is a joy as I think of preaching the Bible and the work of the Holy Spirit, which becomes more and more mysterious to me the longer I pastor and preach.
I think Phillips Brooks said it: he never went to his study and looked in the Bible that he didn’t see his people’s faces running across his study. When he went out to met his people his study would beckon and he would see the Bible. It is that tension constantly for us as pastors and preachers. But I cannot disconnect pastoring with preaching. I’m afraid I would become aloof without meaning to. I wouldn’t be where they are living. I feel like they’ve got to know that you are real. Because some of them think that you are not, that you are just in an ivory tower. Pastors are probably more connected to the real world than people think. That is a perception. But if you don’t ever relate to them they will never know that you are connected.
I’ve found something else. A lot of times it is not a matter of preaching what they need. You preach the truth and the Lord, and just by lifting up Christ and the truth, that need is going to come to Him. They will connect back up. So you may be preaching on the majesty of the lamb, or right now I’m doing a series on Revelation on Sunday morning which I have never tried before. But I’m having a tremendous response to it. It is prophetic and yet it is relating to people, I think, with their fears of the future, uncertainty. All of this going on with people today.
In my preaching I can sometimes see the faces of those in pain, those who are dying, the disappointment of people who have had a husband or wife to walk off, or a Sunday School teacher who has let them down because of infidelity. The joy of celebration, the emotions, the funny things that happen in life that people tell me about. I’ve got 35 minutes or so on Sunday to try to connect that up. I try, I really pray and I ask when I pray — I say, “Holy Spirit illuminate me to find the truth in what you are saying so on Sunday it will be real to the people sitting out there.”
One other thing I do on Sunday morning: I just go and sit in the sanctuary. Nearly every Sunday morning I walk through the worship center and I pray. I just try to imagine the people sitting up here in the balcony, sitting down here, people slipping in the back — they may have lost somebody or they have disappointed them and they don’t want to get too close to the front because they think they may start crying. Here is somebody that just got bad news about a medical report, somebody got fired. Here’s somebody that their son has graduated top honors — you know joy is going to be there, too. So I just pray over the lost, others who will be there. I say, “Lord, you know all of these needs,” and as I am praying and walking I touch the pews. I can’t touch them all because it is so big. But I pray over sections and ask the Lord to connect the preparation, the Word of God with the guys and gals sitting in the pews.
Preaching: You mentioned that you try over a period of time to hit the different kinds of needs or concerns. How do you guide your preaching in such a way? Do you have certain models or plans that you use as you project your preaching?
Henry: That usually arrives out of a sense as I pray. Right now I am preaching out of Revelation. That is going to take me several months to finish. What that came out of — I was looking at the year 2000 coming and the growing uncertainty, Y2K. What is going to happen the 21st century? I just felt like there are people that are wondering. So Revelation seemed to be a way to go there. A lot of times it is out of what is happening in the culture around us: what are the people thinking, what are the people reading, hearing on television. What are the things they are asking. I’ve started getting letters saying, “Should I take my money out of the bank? Should we have enough to take care of our neighbors? What is the church doing?” I realize, hey, this is what this guy sitting out there is thinking about, and I just can’t overlook it. So that helps me in my long term planning; to be able to say, “OK, here is a book that will deal with a whole lot that is coming in the future, that will keep us from going nuts over it and give them a balanced approach to the future.”
Then as I am walking and praying and listening to people, a lot of times things will begin to come up. I’ll receive a letter or something, and I begin to hear this several times, then I say, “OK, there are a lot of people thinking about this. I may need to do a series on this particular area of life.” So then I may do a eight-week or a twelve-week series because of what I am hearing from my pastoral work, from the letters that I’m getting, from television, the people of the church who E-mail me, fax me, write me. Sometimes, it’s where the church is at a particular time. Are we at a point where I need to bring this to the whole church to look at? It is dealing with the church or our witness or whatever. So that kind of dictates where I go. Sometimes I may be in a series for a year at a time. Sometimes I’m in a series and I don’t know where I am going in six to eight weeks. I say, “Lord, where am I going to go next?” I look at the calendar, I look at what I’m hearing, at my prayer life, and from there I seek to move to either a series or a book.
I have found — this is an amazing thing, at least for me — I seem to get the best results from expository preaching. I know there are a lot of definitions for expository preaching but I seem to do better preparing, get better response, and I think in the long haul help our people more by preaching through a section or a book than I do than just picking topics. But every person has got to know where they are and the people they are dealing with; that could vary from place to place. But I have found, at least where I am located, that expository preaching seems to be the best. It is easier for me, in one way, to prepare. It also seems to be the most fruitful in the help the church receives from me. I feel in a sense more satisfied when I’ve done expository preaching.
I have done topical preaching, textual, and am still doing those. God blesses that, too. But for the long haul — I’m heading toward forty years in it — I think expository preaching has helped me. A lot of books in the Bible lend themselves to that. You know 1 Corinthians, a lot of issues that come up today — remarriage, divorce, sexual morality. You can do James and Daniel. I’ve done a series out of Proverbs – not all the Proverbs. I spent about three months in that. So I just try to stay tuned in and hope that I’ve heard right and then jump in. When the church was at a certain point I went through Acts, the advance of the church. It is time for the church to take a step forward and you say: how did the early church do it? So I went through the book of Acts. I guess that is the way I try to do it. Sometimes, I’ve been a year ahead, sometimes it is three or four weeks and I’m wondering, “Where are we going next?” But He has always been faithful.
Sometimes issues come up that force you to you change in the middle of a series, like the Columbine event. (That sermon appears in this issue) I wrote that Thursday and Friday. I had already had my Revelation message and I began to I see what had happened. I was down in Palm Beach at a pastor’s meeting, and I could see the gravity of that and saw what was happening. I watched the television and I said, “Hey, come Sunday, I can’t act like that did not happen.” People are going to be saying, “What’s going on in our country?” I said, “Lord, show me what you’ve got. But I’ve got to have a word from you.”
So, I came to work frantically on Thursday and Friday morning and He gave me that Isaiah 1 message. God blessed it. It seemed to provide a catharsis. It seemed to resonate with the people. It had tremendous response; in fact, they said it was the second highest response for tape request we’ve ever had. It seems to have been used by the Holy Spirit.
I did that when the Challenger blew up; we’re right here nearby (Cape Kennedy), we have people who work over there. I just couldn’t say, “Well, pray for those families.” Sometimes you just have to say, “What does God have to say to things that are happening?” So, I try to be sensitive to that.
Preaching: In the face of an event like the school shooting in Littleton, as a pastor and preacher, how do you approach something like that? Give me some idea of how you go about preparing to deal with that kind of issue in a sermon.
Henry: Well, there are several things. Of course, first of all — and I know it almost sounds trite — it starts with prayer. I am not a great prayer warrior. I am still a neophyte in that, but I said, “Lord, help me. I know you are speaking to this country. Where can I go, where can I start? I’ve just got 35 to 40 minutes. What can I say.” And all I could think of is Isaiah. That was the impression I had: Isaiah. And so I just opened to Isaiah 1 and I read it. Then I wondered, has anybody written on it? I pulled and checked on my commentaries and things, and there were a few things in there and I said, “This is it. What happened in that day is what’s happening in America today.”
I wanted to address it on broader issues than gun control and the parents. I didn’t know what the parents did and didn’t do. I did not have enough information. But I thought there was a converging of things that brought about the Littleton scenario, which basically was we turned our back on God. So I gathered a lot of the material that I put together over the years on God and country; I have a file called “God and country” with moral issues and spiritual issues facing our country. I just pull out newspapers and magazines; people send me stuff. Some of the material goes back several years, where people were writing things that are coming true today. I can see the prophetic sense of what people were beginning to see in 1980 and 84, and even 1965. I could go back and look at this old stuff as well as this new stuff. I pulled all of that together.
Then I looked at the Isaiah passage and said, “Lord, give me the major points out of this.” I read everything that I had, pulled out of it and made a stack. I used two or three commentaries and pulled out a few things. I made a big stack of material, then I narrowed that down. I looked at my points, looked at the scripture which made the points. What of this material applies to that area? I was just pulling stuff, copying and pulling, adding.
I think the other thing I preach from is passion and concern. I think sometimes, hopefully not in anger but maybe in frustration, in a sense that we have all felt since we want to lash out somewhere, somehow, at the tragedy of it. There had to be some passion in it — compassion as well as passion. Folks, we’ve got to make some changes beginning with the household of God. It’s a time to be committed, which was my final point.
Rachel Scott was one of those who stood up to be counted and say, “I do, I do.” This is the time to say “I do” if you want to count for Christ. So my application was: we can all say “this is bad, this is awful.” But I had to bring it back: “What is that to you sitting there? What is this to me?” This is the time to be bold in the faith. We cannot just sit by; this is the time to say, “Count me in my faith, count me in the church, count on me to give my witness. I do! I want to stand up for Christ. Live in a day of “I do!”
So that is how it came together, out of my own concern, my own compassion and my passion. What I had been watching and hearing and all of that just began to filter together. Somebody said a message is usually like putting something on the stove and you cook it for a while. I think that happened on Tuesday. It was cooking from the time I got here, read the papers, watching CNN. I had a breakfast with a group of pastors that Thursday morning. I was hearing what they were saying. So the thing was cooking for really two-and-a-half days before I got it to the study Thursday. From Tuesday to Thursday morning it had been filtering. It was a time to light up the fire, the fuse was there.
Preaching: Obviously, this message reflects an unusual situation. What would a typical week of preparation look like for you?
Henry: I don’t do anything on Monday because I am shot from Sunday. I do office work, meet with the staff, do letters, phone calls — try and get that part of the week by me so I can not be detoured come Tuesday. I devote Tuesday morning, usually a good part of Tuesday afternoon and Wednesday, and Thursday morning pretty much to that Sunday morning sermon. I used to do Sunday morning and Sunday night. Most of the guys I know still do. I am grateful that I don’t have to. Our associate pastor does the Sunday night one now so I can apply a little more energy to the Sunday morning sermon.
I get in there on Tuesday, after I’ve had my quiet time. I get on my knees and say, “Lord, I’m getting ready to get into the Word. Holy Spirit, illuminate me. Help me with how to say it, what to say, what to leave out, what to add. Bring out the truths that are applied to our people and our church and in me and where we are.”
Then I go to work. I read the passage, like I’m going through Revelation now. In Revelation, some parts you can do a few verses and part you can do a chapter. So, I look at how much material I need to cover, what does it fit. Then I have collected and bought every book that I could get a hold of — probably got 20 to 30 books on Revelation, commentaries, etc. I have a file of messages from people that preach from Revelation. Then I pull a file that I’ve accumulated across the years on prophecy and the second coming. Then I go to my sermon file, where I keep just sermons preachers have preached years ago — R.G. Lee, E.J. Daniels and people like that — to see if they had a sermon on this particular passage. So I bring this wealth of material to bear.
First, I read. I see if anything jumps out at me. Is there any general theme that runs through here? I read the ones that deal more with the wording. I’m not a scholar by any means but I try to study after people who are. So I will try to read the study guides and commentaries that deal with words and meanings and the theological application of that verse before I get to the other part of the illustration. I read through those first and then from that I usually sit down and say, “O.K., this is the central truth here.” Then I’ll start to sketch. I will get a lot of extra paper out and I will start sketching. I look at how I’m going to approach the outline. Are we going to have three points or are we going to have six or seven? Be deductive, inductive?
After I have gotten my outline, this is my usual pattern. I finish going through it all, then I go through and say “OK, this is my outline. I’ve got the theological meaning. I’ve got the word meaning.” I can’t go through it word by word because you’ll dry them out. Are there any places I need to concentrate on a word? He says this word five times in this passage, so that’s evidence the Holy Spirit is wanting to get our attention. So I’ll say, what illustrates that? Have I got anything in all of this material that illustrates what he is saying when he talks about the difference between the lion and the lamb? Is there anything about a lamb? What is a lamb; what is the lamb? Then I go through and I’ve gotten material on the lamb and the aspects of it. Then I’ll take an application and apply it to that point.
So I’ve sketched a rough outline. I’ve gone through and said illustrate this or quote from this or whatever and I’ve noted where I have got it filed — say, Walvoord-page 17 — and so I make all those sketchy notes. Then I push that over to the side and I start writing it. I go to my old seminary professors Dr. Stanfield and Dr. Taylor in New Orleans. Usually when we turned in our sermon outlines we had to have the text, the title, the introduction and then our outline. I still find myself preparing my messages that way! So I get a clean paper out, I take a ruler and make like I am turning in a paper at school, write the text, write out the title, write out the introduction. Then I get to my outline for my headings and I start writing.
I don’t write a full manuscript but I end up with usually five to seven pages handwritten, which I guess in one way is a full manuscript. But when I get to the illustrations, if it is something that I have clipped, rather than write it out I just say “illustration – see note on Titanic” or whatever that particular illustration is. Then I’ll pull it out of my file and Sandy will copy it for me. I’ll attach it when I finish that page — I just put a clip on it so that when I get ready to start putting the sermon in my heart to preach it in my mind, it’ll be there. I’ll go through it and I’ll be reading this theological part and the word meaning and the verses and I look at the Bible. I’ll get the illustration and I’ll just pull it out and read it, get it in my mind. Then I’ll stick it back on that page of notes. Usually I don’t go back and rewrite. It is not something that I would publish but for me I’ve got it.
Once I’ve finished that, which is five to seven pages, the next thing I do is a brief outline. We put it on our image magnification for our people so that they can get the major points. We throw that up while I’m preaching. Then I write out a half page of notes — which sticks in my Bible — of the major points and illustrations, things that I want to be sure that I put in. I go through that and I highlight the major points and illustrations and quotes — I put little red circles around it so that gets my attention. When I’m preaching I can look down and say “that is a major point; that is where I’m going next.” Here’s an illustration, here’s an example.
I want to have that by Thursday or Friday morning; I try to finish that up because I have to have it for the image mag people before I leave for the weekend. At that point I drop it, because by Thursday or Friday I’ve been in it all week and I’m mentally tired of it.
I try to keep Saturday nights clear unless I have a wedding, and we try to have no weddings starting after six o’clock here. I used to go to ballgames but now I rarely go out on Saturday night. If I do, I try and get in early because I know that Sunday is coming and that is my ballgame. That is the Super Bowl for me, a preacher. So Saturday night I do a little prayer walk in the community where it is kind of quiet. Between 8 and 9 I walk and pray for my fellow pastors and evangelists that I know. I go back home, get my notes, lay down in bed and I go over them: that outline and my manuscript and the text. I read all of those side by side while I’m laying in bed — usually always once, sometimes maybe two or three times if I haven’t gotten it in my heart good. Go to sleep, get up about 5:00 on Sunday morning and clean up, and come in the church and have prayer time. Then I’ll walk here. Go upstairs to the pastors. We pray together and they leave. Then from about a quarter to eight until 9:00 I just walk it in, or I sit down with it.
Then I imagine myself standing out there, and sometimes I’ll talk out loud like I’m doing the introduction. I just make myself stand up there and I see the congregation and I’ll talk: “Last Saturday, when I was driving …” and I’ll just talk out. How does this sound? And I’ll walk through that thing several times; that is where I’ll do my last refining. I’ll say, “I believe this point A will go under this illustration or under Roman numeral II better than where I had it, so I’ll make an arrow and I’ll pull that out and I’ll make a final tweaking right there. I’ll try to say, “How do I conclude it. Does this wrap it up? Does this sum it up?” Then I say, “OK, now, what are you going to do with it?” I try to think through how I’m going to give the invitation to the believer, now what does this mean to you, and to the person that is lost and needs to come to Christ. I try to think through the wrapup right there. Then at 9:00 they come and get ready to go downstairs and at 9:15 is kick off. And after that it is the work of the Holy Spirit.
Preaching: You said you have been at this for about forty years now. Over those forty years, are there some key things that you have learned about preaching? If you could have known then what you know now, are there some things that stand out in your mind? Some truths about preaching that you would like to share with young pastors?
Henry: Yes, I think if I had to do it over I would have put more of a priority on it earlier in my ministry; I would have applied myself at being a better communicator. Even though God has given me a gift — I’m not a great communicator but I feel like He has given me a gift of relating to people — but I think I would have worked at it and studied it, watched others and tried to hone my skills more than I did rather than flying by the seat of my pants. Then, I could have because the churches were smaller, were not as demanding. But because I was not as disciplined, I would spend my time doing other things. I probably wasted time; in fact I know I did. A lot of times I would study for thirty or forty minutes, then I’d be up and say I’ve got to do something; I’d go and write a letter or I didn’t just focus in on preaching and getting ready to preach. I would watch others and hone my skills earlier; I wouldn’t wait until later. I would do that.
I would see that preaching is a priority. I mean, other than your personal walk with the Lord, it goes hand in hand with everything else you do. Even if you are a good pastor, as much as I can do one on one — as important as that is to my preaching — if I can’t communicate that on Sunday, then it doesn’t make any difference in one way what I’ve done all week long.
For instance, I used to used to do a lot of counseling. I wouldn’t have done as much of that. I know sometimes you are the one that’s got to do a lot of that, but I did too much. I didn’t realize that when I’m preaching God’s Word and applying it to life that I get more done in 35 or 40 minutes on Sunday morning than I could if I’d spent every hour five or six days a week listening to people. I’ve got to do some of that — there is a balance there — but I would have put more priority on preaching.
Come Sunday morning, it is just like an athlete. You know, can you hit the bucket? Can you hit the golf ball? There is a sense of people saying, “What have you produced now on Sunday morning that will help me on Monday morning?” I must realize it is a priority. I cannot make it third, fourth, fifth in the list. Next to my family and my walk with the Lord, I think it is co-equal with pastoring. You have got to be careful because you can say, “well, I’ve been out pastoring,” and neglect your preaching. Or on the other hand you can say I’m preparing preaching and neglect your people.
I think another thing is: I would have begun a better system of gathering and labeling materials. I’ve got an extensive amount of illustrations and things. I think if I had started earlier and been better disciplined, I could have saved time looking through a lot of stuff. I’m an old duffer now and I’ve got some habits to break at this stage in the game. It’s too late! But if I had started earlier, like I did with my writing out my sermon and things that I got from seminary. I could have been filing and breaking those down into smaller bites of material instead of just having broad topics like “The Holy Spirit.” I could have brought that down to gifts, fruits of the spirit; you could have broken them down into all kinds of things. If I had taken the time and done that I would have saved myself a lot of time in the study. The younger guys that are probably working computers and stuff like that, they can pull stuff off, but I’m still doing it the old fashioned way. I still think it is invaluable to have that file that you have gleaned from your own reading or whatever.
The third thing that I have listed — and these are not in any particular order — I would enlist my people to help me more. I’ve done this here. I’ve asked people if you see something or hear something that you like, if you are traveling and you are in Dallas and you have read an article that may not be in the Orlando paper or if you get US News and World Report and there’s a great article, send it to me. Be my eyes and my ears. Consequently I get faxes, mail, e-mail sent to me, because my people feel “I’m helping my pastor.” I’d involve my people more than that.
Preaching: I’m sure they enjoy it when they hear you use something they’ve sent.
Henry: They light up. You talk to them later, and they say, “I heard you use that thing I sent you.” You’re involved in their lives, so it does something both ways.
Another thing I would say is how important it is to coordinate, as best you can, your preaching with your music. Plan your worship service. I used to say, “I’ll preach and you just pick out the hymns, or whatever. Just tell me when to get up.” To me, at one time, those were preliminaries. I’ve learned since they’re not preliminaries; it’s all a part of the package. The most important thing I do, in one sense, is open up the Word of God, but the Holy Spirit may open His Word in another way, in some other ways in that worship experience.
I meet with the worship team every week; we meet together and pray and see where we’re going, how can we lead our people to worship and praise in this experience come Sunday. I would really emphasize the team work and having the people together, or your minister of music. What do we need to be sharing with the people this Sunday? If you plan around that, it’s amazing how much more powerful it is.
If I were doing it all over, I would start working earlier with my minister of music, and I would have also been more free to worship before I preached. I still have to work at it, but I need to feel free to trust the one who’s leading the music, and trust my own preparation, so that I can feel free to worship. It’s just been in recent years that I’ve come to that, because I was so worried about things — and I still notice things like, “Why didn’t the usher let those people in?” or “Why is this kid running across here?” I was so caught up in what I was going to do when I got up that I was not worshipping. As I studied and read more about worship, I realize I can’t just stand up there and preach and think that’s worship; I’ve got to be worshipping, too. So I’ve focused on trying to be ready enough, or not to get too distracted because the sound system screeched — those things happen — to just say, “Lord let me worship you, let me sing to you, let me pray to you.” I read something recently, to not miss the “God moments.” I want to be free to worship so that I don’t miss one of those God moments.

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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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