Yesterday I linked to a recent article capturing John Piper’s answer to the question, “How do you decide what to preach at weddings?” And while we campus ministers DO need wisdom on speaking about relationships and even performing weddings, I feel like his answer informs the other speaking we do, too.
I don’t know what the questioner expected, but I feel like Piper gave a very measured response to the question. If the questioner was expecting something quite complex, they didn’t get it… but they also didn’t get something overly simple. And that’s what I wanted to key in on today.
Piper’s approach, as far as I understand it, was to bring “something old” and “something new” to the wedding (how fitting!); you might say “he brings out of his storeroom new treasures as well as old” (Matt. 13:52 NIV). He has his old standbys – truths he knows couples often need to hear, a devotion to sharing the gospel, a certain metaphor he really likes (about cowpies, no less). But he also meets the audience where they are, choosing to form his message very particularly to the needs of the couple (and, I’d assume, the families and friends around them).
Even though he could easily preach the same or similar messages for each wedding, he “hardly ever repeated a wedding homily.” Plenty of preachers see wedding preparation differently than Piper, of course. But my focus today isn’t on wedding messages, anyway.
I believe Piper’s approach to weddings is a good approach for us college ministers in any speaking we do!
It’s tempting to “warm over” old messages for college students, especially because every few years we face complete audience turnover. But to me, that doesn’t call for us to repeat messages, it calls for us to aggressively renew our audience engagement with each and every message we provide. Why wouldn’t we get to know our audiences as intimately as a pastor doing premarital counseling? Why wouldn’t we tailor our messages – even if they do contain some “favorite elements” – to each particular audience as best we can? This is no curse; this is co-laboring with the Lord!
Take it from a blogger, who doesn’t get a lot of chance to interact with his audience. Your opportunity to intersect – on purpose – with people where they are is not an opportunity everyone has.