Early in ministry I liked to pride myself on how I could go “off script” in my teaching. It was a welcome challenge to take live questions or to not put much content in my notes; to just let the Spirit move me. Sometimes it culminated in flashes of brilliance, but most of the time the flash I thought I was having was just the detonation of a bomb.
I know some guys who are really good at speaking off the cuff and can just look at a few outline points and know exactly where they want to go. I can’t (anymore). So my rule isn’t about the formatting of my notes, but the content. If it’s not in the notes, I shouldn’t say it.
The most recent example of this was I simply typed “unmet unrealistic expectations” as my illustration to a point. I didn’t write down what I wanted to say, so I didn’t prepare for this part, so when I was live on stage I started venting in a way that didn’t really even connect with my audience.
But it’s not just that. I have a… unique… sense of humor, and laughter only encourages me to pursue the joke to infinity and beyond. If I say something not in my notes that gets a few giggles, we’re all doomed. I’ve even had students at school lunches ask me if I was a stand-up comedian (confession: always wanted to be one) and I had to say, “No, just a youth pastor.” So in one moment I could be quoting Scripture and in the next quoting lines from Community. It just gets weird.
I am my own worst distraction.
That’s why if it’s not in the notes, I try not to say it. The allure is there because I want those flashes of brilliance to make me look awesome. But more often than not, I regret it. So after so many years of ministry, I’m fine with letting the Holy Spirit inspire me on Monday-Saturday as I read, research, write, plan, prep, and refine my notes. Then He can more easily fill me on Sunday because I’m not so full of myself.