Today I got the chance to sit and have lunch at Bethel Seminary with about 50 people and Barry C. Black, the 62nd US. Senate Chaplain. In light of my frustrations with Politics, I was hoping to get some fresh eyes and perspective from a man much older, much wiser, and very much on the front row of history in America. He has a list of degrees and ph.d's and awards, and achievements that takes about 10 minutes to read. He's seen the world from so many vantage points. I was eager to listen.
Well, my lunch did not disappoint.
I loved the insights he had on ministry and faith on Capitol Hill. He is obviously a well studied and very very smart man. I felt stupid and ignorant just being in his presence- not because he was arrogant, just because he was so clearly so much farther down the road than I. Dude is sharp, witty, fun, sincere, humble, and clearly walking with the Holy Spirit. I wish I could have had a year of lunches with him. I'd pay for that.
But the nuggets I most walked away with today were ones for preaching. Here's what I gleaned today by watching and listening to Barry C. Black- a very eloquent African American pastor, Retired Navy Admiral, father of 3 boys.. and well... a whole lot more.
- Read. Read. Read. I need to read more. Smart people read. Well studied people read. People who don't repeat the mistakes of the past and learn from History read. I need to read more. This dude clearly reads. A lot.
- Pray. Pray. Pray. He holds 5 bible studies a week for senators. He is a father and a husband. He has a list of responsibilities and opportunities a mile long. He does one on one spiritual counseling for everyone from the president to the senate floor and still makes time to pray for one hour a day. He said he learned it from who he considers to be one of his greatest mentors in his life: Fulton J Sheen, a catholic priest of which he has read a lot of his works. Evidently Fulton Sheen prayed in a church for an hour a day every day for 20 years, only missing twice. It was the position they found him dead in, praying in church, on his knees. Black says he no longer has to write sermons, he just talks to God and listens to God and reads his word and talks to people out of the overflow of that time. Well, however he does it, it's working. Trust me.
- Memorize Scripture. Lots of scripture. I'd be a better preacher if I had more of my Bible memorized. Period.
- "If I have not experienced it, I don't preach it." Take that to the bank. That's good stuff.
- Use pauses, voice inflection, and words on purpose. It really is a great speaking skill to master. Anyone can rant and ramble. Great communicators choose their words, tone, speed, intensity and volume carefully and intentionally.