I will make no pretension about knowing much about dance. But one of the writing sites that I keep up with had this video clip of Twyla Tharp. Tharp is an American dancer & choreographer. She has won both Emmy and Tony awards. She has has choreographed dances for many companies including The Paris Opera Ballet, The Royal Ballet, New York City Ballet, The Boston Ballet, The Joffrey Ballet, Hubbard Street Dance and The Martha Graham Dance Company.
In this clip, Tharp discusses creativity and being true to what you are trying to accomplish. In our preaching we must ask, what is it that we are trying to accomplish? I think the concept that really struck me was the phrase describing those who go “after something because they want something else from it.”
My transcription of the quote is not grammatically all that coherent, but that is not really the point. I think it still communicates what she is saying:
“Those who are too aware, or anyone who is at the time when they are too aware, of going after something because they want something else from it: they want recognition, they want reputation, they want glamour, they want money, they want success. Instead of just doing the job at hand and seeing whether these things come along with it. It’s about making the dance (in my case) that you’re really curious about and trusting that others will be interested in it and that if it has a sincerity and truthfulness to it and if you really tried something in it and guess what? you guess right and it has a really wonderful feel to it; people will sense that and all this other things will come. But if you’re working in the studio with the notion that it will engender X dollars. X dollars have nothing to making the dance. They do, however have to do with paying for the studio, trying to afford the dancers, some kind of income paying your own bills, so yes, it is a problem…
What is it that we expect from preaching? Is that everyone will like us? Is it that people will recognize how erudite we are; how folksy we are? Is it that this one sermon will change the behavior or worldview of an entire congregation? Is it that we can speak in subtleties and that people will “catch our drift” without us offending them? That people will see how to apply the text even though we don’t tell them to?
Do I want to preach in order to become the preacher of a large mega-church? Do I want to preach and become the talk of our community? Do we want to preach and have hundreds come to Christ? Do I want to have people say that I am the next… (fill your preaching hero in the blank).
I think that both for individual sermons as well as the entire act of preaching week in and week out to a specific people, we have to ask (and be honest with the answer) “What is it that I am trying to accomplish?” What is my motivation? Am I unsuccessful (or FEEL unsuccessful) in my preaching because I say I want to accomplish one thing, but actually am trying to accomplish something else? Or I feel unsuccessful because I am expecting things of preaching that preaching can never produce?
For myself, I think that too often in my preaching, I have WANTED to be an evangelistic preacher, although that is not my gift. I am a teacher. I am an expositor. There are times when the subject at hand is evangelistic, but that does not mean that I am a very successful evangelistic preacher. I really WISH that I was able to preach evangelistically. I have taken the Billy Graham home study course on “Evangelistic Preaching” (back in the early 90’s). And while people could recognize that I was trying to be evangelistic in my preaching, it didn’t win any more souls to Christ.
It is all a part of being honest with yourself. God knows your motivation and still loves and uses you. But you will be much more effective (and much more satisfied) if you know your motivations and work in harmony with them instead of doing one thing that will produce one result, but in reality hoping/expecting a different result.