I remember January of '96 when I was with about 40 other seminary students from SEBTS on a mission trip to Mexico. We were in a village with our mission coordinator waiting for our next move when writing messages and sermons came up. A student proudly shared with us that he had all of his daddy's sermons from way back in his files. All he had to do was pull one out and brush it up. Inside this didn't seem right to me but I kept my mouth shut.
It was at this point in our discussion that our missionary guide piped up. He asked us, in the presence of this proud student, "Do you like canned food or homemade better?" No one really responded. He said, "I like homemade best. Made from scratch is just better. Somehow, I just think our sermons ought to be the same way."
I've never forgotten those words. They dovetail nicely with what Ruth Barton shared in her article (see below) when she wrote,
"Spiritual leadership flows from the leader seeking after God through spiritual disciplines. Solitude and silence are two such disciplines that enable us to experience a place of authenticity and invite God to meet us. In them, we are rescued from relentless human striving so that we can experience the life of the Spirit. We give up control and allow God to be God in our lives rather than being a thought in our heads or an illustration in a sermon." http://www.christianitytoday.com/le/2006/003/14.75.html
I guess this hits home in my heart because for over 10 years I've struggled with the extremes of this point of view. Wanting to deliver a clever and profound word from God so badly that I would use content from other authors or preachers to make my own messages seem more...clever. As a result, I was just feeding my ego instead of leading people to the waters of community and intimacy with God through his word. In affect, I was relying more on the clever skills of my peers than on the Spirit of the living God.
The Apostle Paul wrote, "I came to you in weakness and fear, and with much trembling. My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit's power, so that your faith might not rest on men's wisdom, but on God's power."
1 Cor. 2: 3-5 (NIV)
Barton's words serve as a challenge to all of us who would settle and let the words of others replace the words of God in our messages. May we repent from spiritual arrogance and meet God needy and humble in the closet where he waits ready to speak to us words that nourish the parched and famished soul.