Show Your Work!

There is a tingle - an inexpressible energy that comes upon us when we’re in the pulpit or in front of a group that is hanging on our every word. We feel a “rightness” about doing what we are gifted to do - weaving a phrase, making a point and putting an emphasis upon something we believe is vital for our listeners to know.

But there is also another feeling that we know all too well. It is sense that we have a unique ability to pronounce truth because of our special gift. And all too often our audiences walk away with the same feeling; and that’s a problem. 

When those whom we are teaching begin to believe that the teacher has a unique ability to interpret the Word of God then our teaching has become a performance and our insights do not move them forward on their own journey toward spiritual maturity.

I remember a math homework assignment in High School where I answered all the questions right but when I got my paper it came back marked up with red ink. At the top of the page, in bold print was this message. SHOW YOUR WORK! I remember thinking to myself, “how unfair! I got all the answers right, what more does he want?” What I have learned was it was not enough to have the right answers; I needed to know how I got the right answer so I could use that skill to answer other more difficult questions. (It might also be because he was afraid I was cheating, but that’s another story)

This is what I believe Paul was saying to his young disciple Timothy in his second letter.  

And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others.
— 2 Timothy 2:2 NIV

The point is we are called not only to communicate truth but we are called to teach the skill so that truth can be passed on again, and again and again. The only way this is going to happen is if we are willing to “show our work”. In other words, we must not only uncover beautiful truths and articulate powerful insights from God’s Word but we need to do it in such a way that those listening can say; “I see how he got that!” We do this with the hope that the next time they pick up their Bible they will follow the same process and feed themselves directly from the Bread of Life. Here are some questions to ask ourselves next time we prepare a talk or a sermon.

  • Will those listening be able to see how I came to this truth and do it on their own?
  • Will my listeners learn to “rightly handle the Word of Life” through my example?
  • Am I using the Word as a vehicle for supporting my point or is my point derived from the Word?

A Preachers Prayer

O Lord I pray that I would approach your Word with fresh eyes and an unpretentious spirit. Teach me O Spirit to preach only what is true and to teach it in a way that inspires those listening to love and learn from your Word on their own. Keep me humble in my delivery but inspire me with a deep passion for your truth that is infectious. Let the truths you speak through me be not for these alone but be passed on to future generations so that your Church grows and you are greatly glorified. 

I would love to hear from you. Please let me know if I can ever be of service ... we are here to help!