Let me (ahem) repeat myself. Again.

Having done this blog for over 10 years, I find myself going back
and repeating some of my favorite stories.     

It has nothing to do with getting old and forgetful.

Although I am getting old and forgetful.

Nearly a lifetime ago, as a new student at New Orleans
Baptist Theological Seminary, I signed up to preach on the streets
of the French Quarter.  Of all the "field mission" choices available
to students--working with inner city children, hospital and nursing 
home ministry, jail ministry, etc.--this one, preaching on 
the streets, was the scariest. 

Therefore, it would be perfect for me.

It's not that I gravitated toward the scary.  Quite the opposite. I
hated haunted houses, had never been up in a plane (at that time),
and could not stand heights.  But I wanted to learn to
share my faith and knew that confronting my fears was a huge
component of mastering the technique.

Al Maury was our leader.  About a half-dozen of us would meet on
campus each Friday evening and drive the seminary's ancient
Volkswagen van down to the Quarter, maybe 3 miles away.  On the
way, Al told us how to preach to people on the street.

"We'll set up the sound system  and one of us can preach while 
the others take tracts and go up and down the street witnessing."

Al continued, "Let me tell you how to preach on the street.  Do
not use a prepared sermon. This is not the place for it. From the
time someone walks into ear-shot til they leave is maybe 
5 minutes at the most.  You do not have time for a well thought-out, 
formal sermon. Just share the gospel and do it several times. Repeat 
yourself for each new group that enters your space."

It was a good word.

The Lord Jesus did not mind repeating Himself. After all, He was not 
preaching to the same congregation each time, but kept moving about the 
country. Furthermore, people were coming and going. Since His sanctuary 
tended to be a hillside in the open air, doubtless people were arriving
and moving about constantly. So, it was necessary for Him to repeat 
lessons made earlier. 

But what about a congregation that is basically the same week after 
week? You repeat yourself to them too. The learning technique 
called "spaced repetition" is for everyone, young and old, weak or 
strong, male or female. Now, in the typical church setting, some who 
keep track of these things may accuse the pastor of running out of 
material or losing his way if he overdoes the repetition thing. 
Therefore, the leader of the flock must occasionally pause in 
declaring God's Word to remind the people of a few basic teaching 
techniques which he will be using.... 

1) He will tell them things they already knew but of which they needed 

Telling them what they already know is not insulting, but complimenting 
them for knowing this. "If you know these things," Jesus said, 
"blessed are you if you do them" (John 13:17). For most, it's not the 
knowing they're having trouble with, but the doing. 

2) He will quote people he does not agree with on a hundred points but 
who got something right at least once. 

For the pastor to quote a writer or personality does not imply he 
is endorsing the individual. 

3) He will have a few solid gold stories which he will sometimes repeat 
simply because they make his point so well and he knows of none better. 

Since congregations are fluid--people coming and going all the 
time--these will be new to some people, so the oldtimers need to be 
patient. (I know, I know. Somehow these people feel a necessity 
to tell others that they have heard this story before.)

4) He will have a few basic principles of life and ministry that have 
forever burned themselves into his heart which he will be conveying 
to the congregation by means of spaced repetition. 

Everyone needs this.
On those rare occasions when I am in the car with my grandchildren, 
I do what Grandpas do with these young people who are dearer to me 
than life: I talk to them. And I repeat myself. 

When they were small, they wanted repetition.  I think of Grant, now 
20 and in college.

I would be pushing him in the front-yard swing, and he would say,
"Grandpa, tell me the story about the old man hitting Tracy's car 
again." I might say, "Grant, you were here when it happened, and 
I must have told you that story a hundred times." He did not reason 
out exactly why he wanted Grandpa to narrate that tale again. He 
knew only that he wanted to hear it. So I would tell of the time 
he and I were at this very swing when teenager Tracy and her friend 
pulled up in front of her house across the street, left the car,
on the side of the pavement, and went in the house. 

A few minutes later, an old gentleman driving down our street brushed 
too close to Tracy's car and knocked the side mirror off. He stopped 
and got out, and Tracy's family came out of the house. Grant 
and I stopped swinging and went over to join the crowd. The driver was 
70-ish with a huge mop of white hair. He looked like life had been hard
on him. As we approached, little Grant said, "Grandpa,  he's going 
to get me." I said, "No, he's not." But he was fearful in the presence 
of the old man. "Hold me, Grandpa." So, I picked up my grandson and 
he was all right then. The family took the man's insurance information, 
someone shot a few pictures with a camera, and we went on with the day. 
But it had made an indelible impression on Grant for some reason. 
And he loved to be told about that day. 

There are stories in your life you love to tell and enjoy hearing about 
repeatedly. There are Bible stories that never grow old. There are 
sermon subjects you could listen to for hours. 

Tell them, preacher. Hold nothing back. 

"I love to tell the story. Tis pleasant to repeat what seems each time
 I tell it more wonderfully sweet."

One thought on “Let me (ahem) repeat myself. Again.

  1. Your remark on street preaching brought back memories of my adventure into that novel ministry in late 1960’s and early 70’s, including some in the Fr.Quarter. It was good as a technique to help one get past fears, but likely had minimal effect on actual evangelism. As you described, each fellow took his turn preaching while others distributed literature and attempted to engage in personal soul-winning. We did not use banners as some street-evangelists do currently. Thanks for reminding me of those daring, but rather ineffective attempts in my own spiritual journey.

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