Proclaiming the Word to the World


Several years ago, one of the men I was discipling asked me to write down some principles of public teaching/preaching.  He had traveled with me on several occasions over the years and was interested in how to prepare some thoughts to share with others.  The following list was for him, but as I review the items discussed, I think they are of benefit for all of us who are asked to speak before others on spiritual topics. They are certainly not exhaustive on the subject of public teaching, only illustrative of what the Lord has shown me to be important in my own life.  I share them with the hope that the Lord will have an opportunity to use them in your life as well.

All teaching–

1) Must come from the following.

Read it through

Pray it in

Live it out

Pass it on

We cannot bypass these middle two!  Unless what we teach has changed our own lives, it is of limited effectiveness in the lives of others.  It becomes robbed of its power.  John 1:5  states “There was a man-sent from God-his name was John.” The man was the message, not merely a deliverer of the message.

God does not just send us with a message, we are the message.

2) Is inspired by a God given message.  (I Peter 4:11)

3) Is dependent upon the Holy Spirit for preparation.  (James 1:5)

4) Requires organization. (Ecclesiastes 12:9,10)

5) Begins with the scriptures.  (II Timothy 3:16,17)

What do the scriptures say about the topic in question?  Is what I say consistent with the meaning of the passage?

6) Is developed as a series of

a) Scripture references

b) Principles from scriptures

c) Life illustrations.

7) Must minister “Grace” to the hearers. (Ephesians 4:29)

8 ) Should focus on application.  (James 1:22)

Transformation is the goal, not just information.

Use specific applications that are clearly understood and are able to be transmitted to others.

9) Waits for a God given opportunity

10) Looks for the one in the audience with whom to invest their life.

In any audience, there will be the curious, the convinced, and the committed.  The ultimate goal in any teaching opportunity is to be available to the lives that desire to go beyond curiosity.  Our job is not over at the end of the message, it is just beginning! Eight years ago, a man whose interest went beyond curiosity came to me with some questions at the end of a message on discipleship. Our relationship began at that point, and countless hours have been invested in his life.  Philippians 4:9 states “Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me – put it into practice.  And the God of peace will be with you.” This man has learned, received, heard and seen over these last eight years, and has put what he has seen into practice.  The Lord is using him to help transform the lives of others into followers of Christ.  My prayer is that when you have opportunities to speak before others, you will be looking for the individual in which to invest your life, and that they in turn will be used by the Lord in the lives of other individuals.

In Christ, Richard Spann

Intentionality lived out


     Jim Morris initiated the Kansas Navigator Ministry in the 1960’s.  I was privileged to meet him in l972, and subsequently to learn some principles of ministry from him until 1992, at which time he retired as director of the Kansas Navigators.  I have chosen two of his most frequently repeated comments about ministry for our consideration.  These two are basic to ministry, yet immense in their possible application.  They are easy to understand and if we apply them to our lives, they will transform our lives and ministry. Their application to my life has been fundamental to what the Lord has accomplished in and through my life in the last thirty eight years. 

     The first of these is as follows: “There are two kinds of people in the world; those who need to know Christ, and those who need to know Him better.”  It is altogether too easy in my everyday life to converse with people, or have a relationship with them without having any regard as to their eternal destiny.  To view everyone I meet as belonging to one of these two categories motivates me to be intentional in my relationships.  To be intentional involves at least three things.  The first of these is to simply intercede for them.  I have discovered over the years that regular prayer for those with whom I am in contact opens up opportunities. Lack of prayer prevents opportunities.  The second aspect of intentionality is to simply initiate a relationship.  This may be further time in conversation, an offer to pray for a need in their lives, a lunch together, or participating in some activity together.  The third is to invite them to look at the Bible together.  This may be one to one, or as part of a small group. If they do not yet know the Lord, the word of God is foundational in beginning that relationship. (Romans 10:17)  For those who have already begun their journey with Christ, the scriptures are necessary for their growth in Him. (Acts 20:32)   I would like to challenge you to be intentional as you walk throughout your daily activities.  For whom can I intercede?  What step do I take to initiate?  When do I invite them to look at God’s word?  In our culture, we are accustomed to passing one another as ships in the night.  We need to remember the words of C.S. Lewis (paraphrased) “We never meet an ordinary human being.  Everyone we meet is destined to become such an object of horror that we would run from their presence, or such an object of beauty and glory that we would be tempted to fall down in worship.”

     The second comment of Jim Morris’s that he often repeated is “Everybody can help somebody.”  This statement comes from the understanding that everyone who knows Christ has the capacity to share something of eternal value to someone else.  It may be a life experience, an application from the word of God, or simply prayer with them and for them. It may involve either a short relationship or one over a period of years.  It may have in mind a short term objective, or one that develops laborers for the kingdom harvest.  Regardless of the degree of maturity, all believers have something to share with others.  This statement also implies a commitment.  They not only can help someone, but should be doing so. Helping others is not complicated.  It involves three simple tasks of sharing your life experiences, sharing the word of God, and sharing in prayer with them. By these tasks lives are transformed and disciples are made.  Jim’s frequent use of this statement went beyond understanding our capacity and our commitment.  I think he would also include a responsibility to communicate this truth to others as well.  Paul describes this responsibility in II Timothy 2:1,2:  “Thou therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.  And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also.” (KJV) 

     As I conclude these thoughts, I need to ask myself the following questions. Am I committed to helping others?  Does my life demonstrate this?  Do I communicate the truth of II Timothy 2:1,2  to others in such a way that their lives are transforming the lives of others?  My prayer is that each of us involved in ministry would be enabled by His grace to answer these questions in the affirmative.

In Christ, Richard Spann

Of Goads and Nails


About three and one half years ago, I was having a conversation with our Navigator fall conference speaker, Mike Treneer. In between sessions, we had driven to McDonald’s to get away and just visit over a cup of coffee. During our conversation he brought to mind a friend, Lorne Sanny, a former president of the Navigators. This man had impacted both of our lives with his comments on the Christian life and its ministry.  Mike gave a brief summary of some thoughts from Ecclesiastes to illustrate what Lorne excelled at in his ministry.

“Not only was the Teacher wise, but also he imparted knowledge to the people.  He pondered and searched out and set in order many proverbs.  The Teacher searched to find just the right words, and what he wrote was upright and true.  The words of the wise are like goads, their collected sayings like firmly embedded nails—given by one Shepherd”   Ecclesiastes 12:9-11.

In even his brief comments, Lorne showed evidence of pondering, searching out, and setting thoughts in order.  He used just the right words and their effects on our lives were like goads, and like firmly embedded nails.  Mike described a goad as something that pricks us, a constant reminder to do something, challenging us to be faithful to the task before us.  This mention of a goad instantly brought to mind an illustration from Lorne’s life a number of years earlier.

After retiring as president of the Navigators, Lorne traveled with his wife Lucy to visit all of their known relatives.  Their intent was to build and deepen relationships with all their relatives, trusting the Lord to use their lives to either bring the relatives to faith or to deepen their walk with the Lord. On one occasion, as Lorne left an uncle after visiting him, he became certain that the man did not know the Lord.  His uncle was elderly, and Lorne was not sure when, if ever, he would be able to return to visit his uncle.  As he thought about the situation, he said that two questions came to his mind:  1) If not me, then who?  2) If not now, then when? Lorne said that he promptly returned to the man’s house and was able to introduce him to the Lord.

Over the last fifteen years since hearing Lorne tell this story, the Lord has used this illustration as a “goad” in my life on numerous occasions.  The one that immediately comes to mind concerns a patient in the hospital who was terminally ill with lung cancer.  Although I had visited with him on several occasions about spiritual matters, I had never taken the time to fully explain salvation to him. Just prior to a surgical procedure I was to do the next day on this patient, his niece came to me with a request. She was concerned about his spiritual welfare and wondered if I could get someone to baptize him while he was under anesthesia during surgery!  After explaining to her that I was not sure that worked well if you were anesthetized, I was immediately reminded of Lorne’s questions: If not me, then who?, and If not now, then when?  Thankfully, the Lord provided the time that day to share the gospel and opened his heart to begin a relationship with Him.  Many times over the years this “goad” has kept me on track, challenging me to be faithful in the tasks set before me.

Lorne also provided us with “nails.”  These are truths which help tie together, and cement aspects of life and ministry.  These “nails” help us find stability in a sea of confusion and a firm footing for our lives when our path lies through sifting sand.  The best example that I can find of this is in Lorne’s description of how we can choose to spend our time.  He gave five words to help define our priorities.  These were as follows: Essential, Necessary, Good, Delegate and Eliminate.  As I examine each day, week and year with these in mind, the following questions come to mind.  What is essential? (From a scriptural perspective, I find this to be time with the Lord and time with people).  How much of what I consider “necessary” is really necessary? Work is necessary, for example, but how much?  Can I limit this to make more room for the essential?  Many things are “good”, but do I settle for the “good” and let it rob the “essential”?  What can I delegate?  What should I eliminate?  I cannot think of another illustration from any speaker that has had such a profound impact on my life as these five words from Lorne Sanny.  They have helped me concentrate on the important areas of life, to use time wisely, and to be willing to say “No” to the “good”, when it would interfere with the essential or necessary.

In addition to our recollection of how the Lord had used Lorne in our lives, Mike challenged me to begin to share other “goads” and “nails” with our Kansas Navigators and ministry partners.  As time permits, I will plan to use the Web site for this purpose.

In Christ, Richard Spann