Ray McDonald's Blog

Thoughts and Reflections

How and When Does God Speak to the Pastor?

Have you ever wondered where the inspiration comes for the pastor to prepare a message each week?  The Holy Spirit speaks through a number of resources.  Recently in a sermon I mentioned that I listen to a number of sermons on podcasts each week.  I also mentioned that I try to read a number of blogs and books (not enough of them).  I also said that at times – sermon ideas come from these resources.  God speaks to my heart and I occasionally use the ideas of others to relay what God is saying to me (there is nothing new under the sun).

Some have questioned this by suggesting that the Holy Spirit should speak directly to a pastor and that all sermons should come out of the pastor’s relationship with God (I’m stretching this some to make a point).  I want to suggest that my relationship with God is more than my prayer life and my reading of the Bible.  Surely these are primary – but reading or listening to how God speaks to others should also be useful resources. Pastors for generations have used the writings of others – an example would be the many commentaries written to help us understand the Bible (not equal to the Bible but useful for discerning the truth of the Bible).  A generation ago most every pastor I knew had a set of commentaries in their office – others’ ideas on the Scriptures.  They used these to prepare their sermons each week.

Today I do not need to have one set of commentaries on the Bible – I have many. My Bible program has no less than 30 different commentaries as well as over 3 dozen sets of sermons and writings on the Scriptures including sermons written by John Wesley – John Calvin – Martin Luther and others.  With the internet – I also listen to sermons through podcasts preached by the likes of Craig Groeschel – Andy Stanley – Ravi Zacharias and others – such as preachers I know that put their sermons on their websites or on iTunes.

With these additional resources – I get to look at the Scriptures – not only from my point of view – but also from the eyes of other men of God.  Have you ever used two translations of the Bible to better understand a passage?  These resources are like multiple translations.  I try to let you know when I am taking more than just a few ideas from them – like I did this past Sunday when I mentioned that a lot of the ideas for the Guardrails Series came from a sermon series that Andy Stanley preached in his church last year.  In doing this I am not trying to name drop but rather to be honest with the resources I use – like the series last year when I used a number of ideas from the book written by Reggie Joiner as we launched our children’s and youth focus – Orange (family-yellow and church-red combined to make orange).  Some saw this series as one of the best we have shared and some saw it as a book report.  I saw it as a creative way of presenting what the Holy Spirit was telling the staff and church leadership about the direction of our ministry.

I ask for your prayers next week (on Thursday) as I will set aside a day – with two other pastors from the area – to seek what God would have us preach to our congregations in the coming months.  We will spend time praying together – picking our brains – and doing individual work for each of our churches.  My prayer is that God will give me just what is needed for our spiritual journey together as we reach the whole family for Christ.

Just something to think about today as you go on your way.

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February 11, 2011 - Posted by | Daily Devotion, Discipleship, Faith Journey, From the Pastor, Sermons | , , , , , , , , , , , ,

2 Comments »

  1. Pastor, thank you for sharing this article. I have often wondered where the ideas you share in your sermons originate. It is good to hear that you use multiple sources as you seek God for what to share with the congregation. Again, thanks for sharing.

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    Comment by JR | February 11, 2011 | Reply

  2. Thank you, Ray. As a Christian, I spend a lot of time listening to sermons and reading blogs and commentaries. As a lay preacher, I often borrow ideas and illustrations. When I do, I give credit to my sources, but I still wonder whether this is fair preaching. I guess I just assume that all of my sources are 100% original, since they themselves do not cite commentaries or other preachers. I still spend most of my preparation time on my knees, asking God to guide me to the topics and preaching that our church needs to hear. It’s simple to make an outline, but difficult and time-consuming to seek God’s guidance; and I tremble at the thought that I may be approaching the task too lightly. Thank you for your encouraging words. Let us pray for each other.

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    Comment by Tim | February 14, 2015 | Reply


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