If you’ve got nothing to say…

Oftentimes, when teaching aspiring poets, you will see a particular mistake repeated frequently. This mistake is one of apology or introduction, where the poet feels that their idea, their goal, or the emotion they wish to communicate is not powerful enough on its own, and so they seek to introduce the premise to garner buy-in from the reader.

To use the example of a sonnet (traditionally fourteen lines with the last two lines containing a twist), a new poet will have twelve lines of fluff and a solid idea at the end. The only advice one can give on such a piece is to cut the body of the poem, keep the idea (or perhaps the entire lines) expressed at the end, and start over. What you have is solid, cut everything that isn’t, and build anew.

Yesterday, our pastor gave a sermon about waiting on the Lord, which is all fine and well, except that he didn’t begin the sermon until 11:55 a.m., about five minutes before the official end of the service. I’m not sure how long he talked prior to that, but his sermon (as so often happens with him) touched on at least three unrelated topics and therefore could have been three different sermons. One of his statements I found wildly inaccurate (and perhaps inappropriate), and when he did get to the meat of his premise, he lacked the time necessary to really dig in and develop that idea.

I really want to talk to him about it, give him some advice, even offer to work with him on public speaking, preparation, etc. But though I think I could help him, I feel horribly conceited and arrogant even considering such a proposition, and I therefore lack the courage to actually talk to him about his sermons. Other people from our congregation have independently (I neither prompted the subject nor offered any criticism of my own) brought up complaints about his sermons to me, and while I can see where he can improve, I can’t bring myself to confront him.

At the same time, his sermons make me really not want to go to church. Or, at the least, not to stay through his part of the service. I’m really enjoying worship now, far more than I was when I first started going to First & Calvary (which I attribute both to some changes among the worship team and my own willingness to worship God no matter the setting or format), but it’s hard to motivate myself to even go to church when I know that 20-30 minutes of the service is somewhat wasted listening to a sermon I get very little out of.

We’ve all found ourselves in situations where we can offer unsolicited advice but are uncertain whether such an offering is wise or not. What was your situation, and how did you address it?

One thought on “If you’ve got nothing to say…

  1. I totally hear where you’re coming from on that Matt, from the standpoint of being both a teacher and a student.

    I’ve done a lot with student poetry in a high school setting and in college-level workshops and the disputes are one and the same. People are often unwilling to part with their pretty words in favor of well-developed ideas. Somehow people get stuck when they really want to say something using a particular word because they feel it expresses something about them as a writer. I’ve been there myself as a writer, but as you grow you learn that cutting is often the most important part of writing.

    I too, have seen this type of mistake in sermons and speeches where the person is bent on using a particular phrasing and they shove their message into a frame of a different size. Divide and conquer I say 🙂

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