Recently, I was cleaning my library and spotted a book, "Our Time Under God" by Zan Holmes, and knew it was time for a re-read.
Before reading, I remembered hearing Holmes tell of an experience that revolutionized his preaching. He discussed the incident while speaking to 10,000 people in a coliseum in Columbia, S.C.
Nattily dressed, witty and a powerful communicator, the urbane pastor exudes energy and aliveness. In fact, when he preaches, your very soul is being unmasked. It's no surprise that, in the 20 years he was pastor at St. Luke's Community Church in Dallas, his membership went from 20 to 4,000.
The incident happened when he was a theological student at Southern Methodist University. He was serving an internship at St. Luke's under I.B. Lord, a man he greatly admired. Though he had been warned it might happen, he was caught off guard when they were serving Holy Communion one Sunday and Lord whispered, "It's all yours today."
"What's all mine?" asked the young theology student.
"The sermon. You're going to preach today" was the reply.
Holmes said he remembered that, in a course on preaching, he had written half a sermon. He would use that and ad lib the end. It was at the end of the prepared part that his mind went blank. He literally could not move.
When the silence became awkward, an elderly woman called out, "Help him, Lord." Then the choir began to sing softly, "Spirit of the living God, fall afresh on us." Suddenly there was such a spirit of love and unity that Holmes realized it could only be the spirit of God. Surely, this is what St. Paul meant when he wrote, "His strength so made perfect in our weakness" (1 Corinthians 12:4).
Though Holmes has traveled far and had great accomplishments, the early incident is never far from his mind. Whatever the formula for Holmes' preaching today, he leaves his hearers energized, challenged and empowered for living.
Nell Mohney is a Christian author, motivational speaker and seminar leader. She may be reached at nell firstname.lastname@example.org.