My heart grew hot within me. While I meditated, the fire burned; then I spoke with my tongue. Psalm 39:3 (NIV2011)
There is an old John Wesley quote that goes, “Light yourself on fire with passion and people will come from miles to watch you burn.”
There is something about good, old-fashioned enthusiasm that makes teaching come alive. Actually, in the context of teaching, it is more than enthusiasm. It is passion. It is fire. It is what the old preachers called, ‘unction.”
In more modern times, Andy Stanley described a conversation he had with his dad, master pulpiteer, Charles Stanley, about this point. Although he is talking to preachers, the idea applies equally well to teachers:
Thus far our discussion has been somewhat academic. Get a point. Make it memorable. Yawn. But there is another aspect to one point preaching and teaching that is anything but academic. In fact, it is this dimension of the one point message that drives me to keep searching for the one thing among the many. My dad has a word for it. He calls it the preacher’s “burden.”
My dad and I have a standing breakfast appointment on the first Thursday of every month. It is something I always look forward to. Eventually the discussion always makes its way around to church stuff. On this particular morning we got on the subject of preaching. Now If you have heard my dad preach, you know he is the master of points. Why have three when you can have eight? Or twelve? He’s been preaching that way for years. Note takers love him. Actually, a lot of people love him. Anyway, I was going on and on about this idea of building the message around one point when he interrupted me with, “You’ve got to have a burden. That’s the thing most preachers are missing. A burden. If they don’t have a burden it’s just a bunch of fluff.”
As we continued our conversation, it became apparent that when he talked about a preacher’s burden he was referring to the one thing. That one message, idea, principle, or truth that had to be delivered at all cost. The one thing isn’t just information. It is not just a carefully crafted phrase. It is literally a burden. It is a burden that weighs so heavily on the heart of the communicator that he or she must deliver it. And he was right, you can tell when a communicator is carrying a burden versus when he is simply dispensing information.
At some point in the preparation process, you must stop and ask yourself, “What is the one thing I must communicate? What is it that people have to know?” If you don’t have an answer to that question, you aren’t ready. Think about it. If after all your preparation you can’t answer that question, what’s the point in preaching? If YOU don’t know what it is you are dying to communicate, the audience certainly isn’t going to be able to figure it out.
Is there anything you are so excited about sharing that you can’t wait until you get to that part of the message? If not, you aren’t ready. You don’t have a burden. You may have pages of information and it may all be true, but if you don’t have something that people need so badly that you feel compelled to share it, you still have work to do.
The sermons that have put you to sleep were delivered by men with information but no burden. A burden brings passion to preaching. It transforms lifeless theology into compelling truth. — Communicating for a Change: Seven Keys to Irresistible Communication (North Point Resources) by Andy Stanley
What is your burden? What is the single idea you must communicate? I’d encourage you to memorize these timely words for teachers: “my heart grew hot within me. While I meditated, the fire burned; then I spoke with my tongue.” Psalm 39:3 (NIV2011)