I think the shortest time I ever had to prepare a talk, was around five minutes.
It was all down to a blissfully simple misunderstanding. A friend was arranging an evening on world mission, with a variety of speakers from around the country, key folk from local churches, and a number of mission agencies. Quite high profile, in a modest sort of way.
And over the summer he asked me a fatefully ambiguous question: “Chris, could you do the Bible reading?” Now’s here’s an insight into a particular subculture of English Evangelicalism: the phrase, ‘Bible Reading’ can mean either the public reading of the Bible passage, or the explanation of it, the talk or sermon. I thought Ray meant the former. He thought he meant the latter.
So we found ourselves having an odd conversation in a whisper as the guests filed into the auditorium.
HIM – All OK for the Bible reading?
ME – Sure. What’s the passage?
HIM – Well, you should know! (Jovial chortle turned into sudden panic as the penny dropped)
I had the opening welcome and song to come up with a reading and an exposition.
- Lesson #1 Be unambiguous in the invitations you give or accept. Don’t use code.
- Lesson #2 I was never so grateful to have had a decent Quiet Time in a morning as I was during that welcome and song. I turned again to the passage I had read and which had so stirred me, and rehearsed what I had found. Making explicit what had been the jumps in my thinking, I realised I had been preaching to myself, and so I was able to preach to others.
- Lesson #3 The real lesson: never stop feeding off God’s Word yourself. Never become a professional, who turn to the Bible for material for others, but never scour their own souls with his gracious, loving, powerful truth.
God was kind that day. But if I had become a professional, or if I yet become one, his kindness in that way would be removed, to be replaced by a sterner kindness in which he withdrew the ability to think quickly and faithfully, replaced by obvious fake sincerity and platitude.
That’s the real nightmare.
And for a bit of fun…. Anyone had a shorter time to prep than 5 minutes? Comments below!