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Getting honest about life behind the podium

I’m off today to speak at another Youth Specialties conference – Pittsburgh this time. If you’re at the conference, give me a shout and we’ll do coffee.   I don’t particularly enjoy speaking. It’s not my highest and best, but God uses it sometimes to connect me to people and he’s given me …
By Seth Barnes
I’m off today to speak at another Youth Specialties conference – Pittsburgh this time. If you’re at the conference, give me a shout and we’ll do coffee.
 
seth teachingI don’t particularly enjoy speaking. It’s not my highest and best, but God uses it sometimes to connect me to people and he’s given me a place of influence, so I dutifully get on these jets and go talk to groups of people I don’t know.
 
I tell them stories of folks whose lives have been radically changed by a great God and I challenge them to throw caution to the wind and start living out of a posture of faith rather than risk-aversion. I try to be earnest, but at the end of the day, it’s still just an introduction to a few concepts and the possibility of relationship.
 
And they look at me, occasionally yawn, take a few notes, and then a few come up afterward to talk. That’s how the thing goes down.
 
One of the reasons I’m not enamored of a life behind the podium is that, if life-change is the goal, then sharing information is only a start to the process.  People have to decide to do something with that information, then they need to be trained in how to use it to effect change, and then they have to stick with it long enough for the neurological connections in their brains to be re-wired. It took Jesus about three years with his disciples to change their thinking from self-sufficiency to kingdom-first.
 
So, I don’t have many illusions as to how much good a talk from a random stranger will do. Evangelism is important, but without discipleship, it produces orphans and cynicism.   When I asked the great pastor and author Peter Lord (now in his 70’s) what he would do differently with his life, he said, “I wouldn’t give so many sermons.  Instead I’d meet with 12 disciples over a long period of time.”
 
In general, sermons and talks like the ones I’m going to give may encourage you and provoke you, but they do little to change you.  That’s why many of you are disenchanted with the institutional church – you walk away from church services the same as you entered.  And yours is just an honest response to reality.  Because change is so hard, you have to figure out if you can even trust the information coming out of a speaker’s mouth.  And if you can, then there’s the question of how do you disengage from your current set of behaviors and establish a whole new set of behaviors?  That requires seeing someone else model the behavior and then giving you the chance to try it out for yourself. It’s not easy – we’re wise to be gun-shy about it.
 
So many of us speakers trot out our little three-point outlines and call our audiences to change.  If we’ve established some kind of repartee with the audience, some may commit to change, but then what are they to do when we hop on the plane the next day?  They don’t know what it looks like or how to get there. That’s why I say, there’s no replacing discipleship.  People need time.  Goodness sakes, I look at myself and I’ve needed lots of time.  See you in Pittsburgh.

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