Guest Post – On Re-Using Old Material

Here’s an email I received from John Bell.  I asked if I could simply include it here as a guest post and he kindly agreed:

Dear Peter –

Thanks for responding to these things. I really appreciate your thoughts.

Your comments about using others’ thoughts in our own preaching are very helpful. I particularly like your suggestion of how to express that I’m building on ideas that I’ve heard from others that have profoundly affected me. Something so brief and general can communicate what needs to be said.

Whenever we preach, no matter where the material comes from, I would hold up three standards:

– Do I have the active conviction that this message makes central the main point of the text?

– Does the main point of the text have a hold of my heart, mind, and life?

– Does the message I preach flow from these two things?

It seems that these three issues are more important than where the ideas, words, or illustrations come from. For example, if I dust off a sermon I preached a while ago, I have to wrestle with it until these three things are true again. Perhaps the old wording and illustrations will work again, and perhaps they will not. I have to work at it until they capture me again, or until I find something else that does. I remember hearing Haddon Robinson say that it can take as much time to preach effectively again an old sermon as it does to develop a new one. To say what once had a hold of my heart will not be much different than saying what once had a hold on someone else’s heart. It will not speak with the same authority as one speaking with the authority of God and His Word.

So I agree that to attempt to bypass this work of study and this work of being ‘captured’ by the text is not the path for speaking as one speaking the very words of God.

Thanks for the challenge to take up the good work of preparing oneself truly to be a minister of God’s Word!

— John


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