I was a young pastor, just beginning my ministry, when I invited a conference official to preach in my church. His musty sermon notes revealed their age. It was a message he had preached on numerous occasions before. Unfortunately, on that Sabbath he served stale spiritual leftovers to my congregation. My members were gracious, but disappointed in the lack of spiritual depth in the message.
His sermon reminded me of a story I had read about the “one-sermon wonder”—the type of preacher who has only one sermon, so he gets appointments at different churches in order to preach the same sermon every week. The problem with “one-sermon wonder” preachers is that their thoughts become stale. They lack the excitement of new discovery. They present worn-out, tired ideas with little freshness, vitality, and creativity. They fail to bring from the storehouse of truth “things old and new,” as Jesus says. What we share with others is the overflow of our own experience in the Word. It is the result of the Holy Spirit’s moving upon our own hearts in the quietness of our devotional lives.
Growth in the Christian life necessitates constant study. It requires a disciplined mind saturated with the Word of God. Before the Holy Spirit speaks through us, He must speak to us. Before we speak for God, we must speak to God. Before other hearts are moved by our witness, our heart must be moved by the Spirit’s witness. All genuine, authentic witness is the result of a genuine, authentic experience with Jesus.
Although I have been in the gospel ministry for over fifty years, I constantly ask God to expand my thinking to give me new, fresh, deeply spiritual thoughts to present to His people. I am reminded of the apostle Paul’s words to his young protégé Timothy: “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved” (2 Tim 2:15).
Let me share with you one of the resources we have developed recently to help pastors, elders, and lay leaders broaden their horizons and become more effective spiritual leaders in the cause of Christ. I am excited about our new HopeLives365 Online University. We now have over seventy-five courses designed especially for them to enhance their knowledge of God’s Word and their ability to serve their congregations successfully. We have nearly one thousand regular students, with 2,500 total enrollments. While some courses require a moderate fee, many of our courses are completely free of charge.
Here are just a few examples of courses designed for busy leaders like you: Our preaching course is one of our most popular. In it you will discover how to prepare a biblical sermon; how to see the biblical text with Holy Spirit-anointed eyes; how to use powerful illustrations to make your key points; and how to make life-changing appeals. Hundreds have taken our preaching course and testify to the difference it makes in their preaching. You will also enjoy our course on principles of godly leadership. In this course we share how effective leaders cast vision and motivate their congregations to look beyond what is to what can be. We present basic principles of how to transform your church board into a dynamic, mission-centered body of leaders passionate about developing evangelistic strategies in each department and ministry of the church. Our health courses will benefit your personal health as well as equip your team to reach out in redemptive ways to your community.
Along with other Adventist leaders, I have shared in the HopeLives365 Online University courses what God has taught me about ministry, leadership, and evangelism over more than fifty years. I can’t wait to share these eternal principles with you. You can begin this journey of discovery today by visiting HopeLives365BibleStudy.com. You will be thrilled at how quickly you learn in this online environment, and we will be there to assist you in becoming everything heaven desires you to be as you keep growing for the glory of God.
Mark Finley is the Assistant to the President of the General Conference.