I’ve written quite a bit about why ever leader must blog. In fact, I wrote a small ebook on the subject by the same title. You can get a free copy by subscribing to this blog below.
I’m convinced that blogging is a powerful discipline that every leader must bring into his or her life.
But there’s another discipline I’ve become convinced about: journaling.
In this post, I write about the devotional process I follow every morning. The last part of the process is where I spend time journaling and reflecting on what God has revealed to me that morning. I also, essentially, write out my prayer response to God.
I confess I don’t journal every single morning. Some mornings I just slip to my knees and spend time in prayer that way, but I do often journal using Day One on my Mac.
Now let me give you an example of how this practice blessed me recently.
Our week of prayer at Andrews University was about one month ago. Officially, the week of prayer was to start on Monday, but the speaker had been asked to speak for us at Pioneer Memorial Church on the Sabbath leading up to the week of prayer.
Guess what happened?
The speaker got sick and canceled on the week of prayer.
Dwight Nelson, our senior pastor, was in Japan at the time, so we couldn’t pass the mic to him to speak. Instead, the lot was to fall upon one of us, the associates, to take up that Sabbath morning message.
The team met together on a Tuesday to see what we could do. It was decided I would speak.
Now, look, many of us are pastors. That’s what we do. But for me, anyway, I like to prepare in a series and to prepare that series way ahead of time. I write about my process for that here. At the very least, I like to know a few weeks in advance that I’ll be speaking so I can think and meditate on a potential topic.
But I didn’t have that luxury here. Sometimes stuff happens.
So what did I do?
I did what we all do on occasions like that. I tried to mine an old sermon.
I perused all the sermons I’ve preached in the past before coming to PMC. I examined. I really wanted to use an old sermon. It would have saved so much time. But the more I digitally flipped through old pages, I realized that none of them would do.
As an aside, your sermons are a catalog of your growth as a Christian and as a preacher. Not that there’s anything wrong with using an old sermon, I just didn’t connect with any of them in this instance.
I needed to bake some fresh bread.
Did I start from scratch?
Nope. After I tried to mine some old sermons and failed, I turned to my journaling app.
There, cataloged before me—it wasn’t quite bread, yet—was certainly bread starter. It was some fresh stuff.
One of them, it was maybe just a few sentences, but it stood out to me. There was a central idea. Enough to develop a full message.
I’ve said before that blogs are seeds for books. If you write an 8 point blog post, you may have just created an outline for a book. If you have a 5 part blog series, you definitely have the seeds for a book right there. Just develop it. (By the way, just as soon as I finish this D.Min project thesis I’ve been working on, I’ll start writing some books.)
In that same way, journals are seeds for sermons. Your notes on how God is impacting you and what God has been revealing to you are precious sermon starters.
Because of that, I was able to get a message together, even though I didn’t have much time to prepare.
So if you haven’t developed that discipline before, I encourage you to do so. Dwight Nelson recommends grabbing a .99 journal from the dollar store. In other words, you don’t need anything fancy. Don’t wait for a hipster-looking leather-bound thing you found on Etsy. If you have one, great. But if not, just grab whatever is around you.
So what about you? Do you have a journal? What’s it been like for you? And if not, why not? (If you’re reading this through email, click here to leave a comment below.)
[image by Cynthia del Rio]