The Three Ingredients of Olympic-Sized Preaching

(Originally sent out as an article under Eagles' Simply Proclaim)

Citius, altius, fortius. (“Faster, higher, stronger.”)

The motto of the Olympic Games

Rio 2016 wrapped up a few days back. For many of us, the Olympic Games this year have been phenomenal, with many memorable moments; we saw Malaysia’s Lee Chong Wei finally defeating his greatest rival, China’s Lin Dan, in the semi-final of the badminton male singles. We saw Usain Bolt achieving his “triple triple.” We saw a resurgent Brazil finally ‘breaking their duck’ and attaining their Olympic gold in football. We saw Chinese swimmer Fu Yuanhui shoot to fame with her cheerful and perky expressions.

And Singaporeans got to see history being made.

For 50.39 seconds, the whole nation held its breath at the 100m men’s butterfly as our very own Joseph Schooling swam to victory, winning Singapore’s first Olympic gold medal and breaking the Olympic record. And as “Majulah Singapura” was played at the awards ceremony, Singaporeans celebrated as one. To make the victory sweeter, Schooling prevailed over the most decorated Olympic swimmer of all times, Michael Phelps.

Athletes hold many lessons for the rest of us, including preachers. Here are just three: 
  1. Who is the one to spur you on?

    It’s no secret that Schooling has always viewed his childhood hero, Michael Phelps, as his model. There were other inspirations in his life, including Singapore’s first ever Olympian and his own grand-uncle, Lloyd Valberg.

    It’s one thing to emulate your hero, and another to actually beat him! That’s why it was such a sweet moment when Schooling actually surpassed Phelps in the 100m butterfly event.

    We see this pattern in other sports. On the badminton court, Lee Chong Wei and Lin Dan have been friends and big rivals for many years, each spurring the other to greater heights. This is what I would call a friendly rivalry.

    Similarly, who are our preaching heroes? Who do we have who can spur us on in this journey? Personally, I look up to preachers such as Ravi Zacharias, who demonstrate clear thinking in the critical issues of life—and yet are able to communicate these thoughts in a simple and clear fashion.

    That’s why I love listening to his sermons. Every time I do so, they remind me how much more I have to grow—so I can be as compelling a communicator as he is. I also have close friends, both inside and outside of church, whom I know will encourage me to become a better teacher and preacher.

    So who is the one you are looking up to? Who are the ones inspiring you in your journey to become the best preacher you can be?

  2. What is your support network?

    In the days following Schooling’s win, more details emerged on the support he received from his family. At age 11, he was sent for a bone calcium potential test by his father Colin, so as to know how far he would go in swimming. The fated encounter with Michael Phelps in 2008 was hosted by none other than his parents—and they certainly did not stop there. To help him further his swim training, they supported him to study at the University of Texas, which has one of the best swim programs in the world.

    So I ask: “What is your support network? Who is supporting you throughout this journey?”

    In my own life, I am glad that I receive great support from my own colleagues, friends and most importantly, my wife-to-be. My colleagues are perhaps the most encouraging group of people that one will want to work with. I have friends in church who are excited and pray for me whenever I receive teaching assignments. My fiancée helps to clarify my thoughts every time I am preparing a teaching or a sermon.

    No one goes to the Olympics by themselves, and no one becomes the Olympic-sized preacher they can be on their own!

  3. How much time are you willing to spare to level up?

    For anyone in competitive sports, training and conditioning are very important. No one at that level can slack off on their training.

    In 2012, Michael Phelps’ training schedule was revealed; he would swim six hours a day, six days a week. In addition, he lifted weights and stretched for an hour each, three days a week.

    World record-holding sprinter Usain Bolt would do three to four hours of weights and core training each day, then do sprint training five times a week before recovering for two days or longer. The bottom line? Successful athletics take their training seriously, and spend a lot of time to ‘level up’ their own capabilities.

    As preachers, how much time and effort are we willing to put in then so that we can deliver powerful and effective sermons that help transform people’s lives? That involves purposefully using our time both learning how to preach, and getting to know them so they are willing to share their burdens and struggles with us.

    To that end, I spend a substantial amount of time taking classes at a Bible college to strengthen my own foundation, biblically and theologically. On top of that, I participate in The ARETE Program, where I get specialized training and coaching to improve my preaching further.

    There are many ways of leveling up your capabilities as a preacher. You can get a more experienced preacher to mentor or coach you in the craft of preaching. You can attend conferences (like our own EPPI Conference, which next comes up in 2018).

    If it’s practice, mentorship and a challenge you’re looking for, The ARETE Program will help you to hone your preaching skills over six Friday-Saturday workshops. There are opportunities out there, but we must put in the work to win that medal. There is no other way to level up. 

What do you think, and what approaches have you found useful? Simply hit reply, and let me know.


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