Form and Substance

A few months ago, I listened to a lecture from Jedi Master Dallas Willard in which Willard told of an experience when he was a young student at Baylor University. He said he kept asking God to give him places to speak, and the reply he seemed to be getting from God was to “have something to say and then I’ll take care of the rest.”

As things turned out, Willard has had a thing or two to say that have been worth hearing.

I’ve tried to take Willard’s remarks to heart in the last few months. The work that Sheila and I have done in Romans has been more about immersion in the subject, in prayer, and in substantive reflection, rather than fascination over the details of presentation.

We’ve spent months and months talking about the theology and practical applications from Paul’s great work, but it has often been in only the last day or two before we get down to talking about exactly how we’re going to organize our 30-45 minute time slot.

At first, I was uncomfortable doing things this way. But Sheila prefers it. And the longer we’ve done it, the more I’ve seen how waiting on God’s wisdom is more important than rushing things into an outline.

Not that organization and planning are bad things in teaching or preaching, etc. I just think they are better off taking a back seat throughout most of the process.


2 Responses to Form and Substance

  1. Thurman8er says:

    I agree with you on both points: it’s good to wait…and it’s hard to wait.

    When I preach, I want to have my sermon mostly done by the Tuesday before so that I can go over it with the rest of the worship committee. The problem is, things always happen from Tuesday to Saturday that I want to include. So I’m learning to back off a bit and let the Spirit do His thing. But it’s uncomfortable for us A Types.

  2. Matt says:


    I guess thats one nice thing about not having to coordinate with a committee…

    Funny thing is, I’ve gone from a way of preparing that involves copious, almost scripted notes to talking for 20-30 minutes without using any notes. But the absence of notes isn’t a sign that I don’t know what I’m going to say. Instead, its becuse I know exactly what I want to say and why – and the ideas are so ingrained in my way of thinking that I don’t have to write them down.

    The problem is: if I ever have to go back and do it again, will I remember? Sheila’s told me I always need to do a skeleton outline, even if its after the fact – because we’re probably going to end up doing this material again.

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