Right now, you can pre-order Greg Laurie’s sermon archive on Pre-Pub for 33% off! We recently had the chance to talk with Laurie about the people and experiences that have influenced him most as a preacher.
1. As you look back over the years, can you think of messages or series that made as big an impact on you as they did on your audience?
In recent years, I have become a much more serious student of heaven and the afterlife. The reason for this is that our oldest son, Christopher, died five years ago in a tragic automobile accident. When someone close to you—especially a child—dies, you are forever changed.
My son put his faith in Jesus Christ and is in heaven today. I want to know more about what he is doing and what heaven is like. I recently taught the book of Revelation, chapter by chapter, verse by verse, and I can assure you it was not merely some academic exercise. The word “revelation” means “unveiling,” and as I studied—then taught—from this great sweeping book, much was unveiled for me.
Revelation unveils so much on the spiritual realm—on heaven and what we will do there.
Not to mention the fact that there is a special blessing promised to the person who reads, hears, and keeps the words of Revelation (Revelation 1:3 NKJV). I know that I was blessed by studying and teaching it. I trust those that heard it were, too.
2. What is your process for preparing a message?
First I read the text I am going to teach on. I read it again and again, in multiple translations.
I pray to capture what is being communicated contextually. It is never my intent or desire to impose my view on a text of Scripture, but rather to have the Scripture impose its view on me, so to speak.
Then I begin a process of careful study. I want to know what the original language says, of course. Then there is understanding the time’s unique cultural ideas, which might help reveal what that verse meant to the people reading it when it was written.
After that, I seek the meaning of the verse for myself and the people I will be speaking to. This is why Logos is of such value. There is nothing else quite like it, and it only gets better every year. I begin to go through trusted commentaries and get the insights of those who have written and taught on the text I’m doing exegesis on. Having done that, I begin dumping the data into a Word document. I don’t really worry about an outline, apart from what the text dictates. Once it’s all in the document, I start developing it into a proper message with illustrations, etc.
I find that here it starts taking shape, and I’ll often come up with the title at the end. I then print it out and write comments in the margins right up until I deliver the message. Sometimes I’ll even edit the message on the fly as I give it, bringing up some points sooner rather than later. The goal and prayer is that, at this point, the Holy Spirit will guide and lead. It is only when you have immersed yourself in a text that you have the liberty to do this, as you know your topic well.
As one country preacher put it, “I read myself full. I pray myself hot. I let myself go!” It is essential that we as students, and especially as teachers, of the Bible believe that “all Scripture is given by inspiration of God” (2 Timothy 3:16 NKJV).
It is not my job to “make the Bible interesting” or even relevant. The Bible is already relevant. It is “God-breathed.” My job, when I get into the pulpit, is to “let the lion out of the cage” and trust that God will honor and use His Word to impact lives. He promises that His Word will not return void (Isaiah 55:11 NKJV).
3. Did you find your voice and style of preaching right away, or did you start off emulating the styles of other pastors and teachers?
Like any other preacher, I strongly emulated others when I first started. By the way, I don’t think there is anything wrong with that. You’re effectively developing a template, and that’s important.
It’s a good thing to acknowledge the people who influence you, and not make apologies for it, as others may even see it more than you do. One day, perhaps someone will emulate you.
Paul told Timothy to “commit these things to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.” Our job is to pass it on.
4. When you look at teaching in the church today, what’s encouraging you? What are you enthusiastic about?
I’m enthusiastic about a generation of younger people who are becoming passionate about teaching the Bible and preaching the gospel. Christian books continue to sell quickly, and now, with quick access to online media, people can download sermons; millions and millions do. We must be a biblically literate church, and that comes from careful study of the Bible. I am thrilled people want access to my sermon collection, which has amassed over 40 years. I hope to see these truths passed on.
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Pre-order the Greg Laurie Sermon Archive for 33% off while you still can!