Wednesday, May 28, 2014

The Value of Preparation

Here is Richard Sherman, the loud-mouthed Stanford-educated cornerback for the Seattle Seahawks, on the value of discipline and preparation:

The guy admits he isn't the greatest athlete, but that's not what's important to him. Sherman values dedicated work and educating himself about his opponents. He observes, he watches, he studies what is going on in previous games and with particular plays, and he responds accordingly. It's not about raw talent or athleticism; it's about dedicated and disciplined practice, putting in your 10,000 hours to becoming an expert in the field.

Sherman is consistent in making big plays because he studies.

Now, I'm not a big sports guy, but there is ministry wisdom here. A person can have natural gifts in public speaking, singing worship songs, and relational approachability, but they won't last in the long term without dedicated spiritual disciplines and preparation. A lack of spiritual disciplines, time management, healthy boundaries, theological knowledge, or ministry tools can be overcome with Spirit-led humility and putting in effort to prepare and learn.

I'll admit, the longer I am in ministry, the less time I can take to legitimately prepare for a sermon, a youth group, a small group discussion, or an event. It's typically due to busyness and other seemingly-urgent tasks and conversations, which take time and energy away from preparation. But I can't overstate the value of preparation. Every time I don't prepare and just sort of wing it, whatever I'm doing is never at 100% or nearly as effective. Sure, the Holy Spirit can do amazing things through my lack of preparation. But that can never become an excuse for laziness or poor time management.

The reason Richard Sherman makes football look easy, like he's reading a quarterback's mind, isn't because he's naturally good at it--he really worked at it. He's a student of the game.

The reason Francis Chan or Andy Stanley or Matt Chandler makes preaching and public speaking look easy isn't because they're naturally or automatically good at it--they have spiritual gifts and they work really hard at it and have been doing it for years. They're students of Scripture and preaching.

The reason N.T. Wright or Dietrich Bonhoeffer or Tim Keller make theology look easy isn't because they're natural theologians (though they're all brilliant)--they've spent years and years reading, studying, thinking, praying, processing, making mistakes, and humbly learning from God's Word and other brilliant theologians. They're students of theology.

Lacking preparation is the greatest disqualifier for legitimacy in youth ministry. Let's learn to grow in personal discipline and value good preparation, becoming studious in our approach to ministry.

(ht to kottke)


  1. Joel as usual you hit this one out of the park!!! Being both a youth pastor and a sports fan, this was fascinating stuff. Thanks for the video and your insight! Gotta go, need to prepare a little more!!

  2. Stanford is not in the Ivy League.