Top Ten Sermons - # 10 - Spiritual Creativity - J. T. Pugh
Over the course of my life, I have been exposed to some of the greatest preaching in the world. Catalogued in my mind are certain sermons that have stood out over the years. This sermon was not just a sermon, it was a message. It was one of those "magic" moments that happens sometimes (and not nearly enough) when both the preacher and the congregation get caught up into the very act of worship. Some would dismiss preaching as an act of worship but that is where they are wrong. . . . some will be deadly wrong about that.
I am going to do my best to pick out the "top ten" that have stood out to me over the last 15 years of my life. Some of them are available by cassette (since they are so old) and a few of them are available by CD and I will try to get you the information about gaining access to the message.
The Occasion: I had been invited (along with several other pastors) to speak at two sessions of a licensing seminar for ministers who were preparing to be credentialed. This day and half event was the final step prior to meeting the board for their acceptance into ministry. During the seminar, it was so designed that the last session on Friday night and on Saturday afternoon would feature a preacher who would spend time both challenging and encouraging those who were about to enter the venues of ministry.
The Location: Brewton, Alabama. United Pentecostal Church. September 1996. This church was basically out in the "sticks" and because it was a licensing seminar there were only about 60 ministers, wives, and staff in attendance. A very small setting.
The Preacher: J. T. Pugh. For those who rove in Pentecostal circles, Bro. Pugh is a household name and the impact of his ministry has been greatly felt over the years. During that particular conference, I met Bro. Pugh for the first time and spent about 30 minutes with him at lunch on Saturday afternoon. I was 29 years old at that point and was really just beginning to get my feet wet with the aspects of the ministry. There have been several years since that time that I have ran into Bro. Pugh at different conferences and he has always been very kind and helpful to me. He is a class gentlemen!
The Message: Spiritual Creativity. The church did not have a sound system equipped with an ability to record the message. I have been told that someone used a portable cassette recorder to tape the message but it was never made available and all that I have to go on are the personal notes that I took that night. Bro. Pugh preached that night for 1 hour and 25 minutes and when he had finished preaching there was a time of prayer and commitment that I never will forget. I was so shocked that he had preached that long and during the entire time, I never looked at my watch or tried to find a clock in the house. This is real preaching.
My notes were taken in an old marble notebook and then I transferred them to what follows.
Text: Psalm 19:1-2
Psalm 19:1_2 – "The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork." "Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night sheweth knowledge."
l. INTRODUCTION – GOD MUST WORK WITH MEN
*God uses things in life to drive and motivate his ministers. There are times that the motivating dream or vision will not come to pass, but that man is always a much better man for having pursued such a vision. However, there is that anointing of the Spirit that causes men to become creators. God longs for the ministry to be creators.
*There is a cost for creativity. Creativity will cost a man his life. Behind every Home Missions church that is successful, the pulpit will be a grave marker for some preacher. Creativity involves blood, sweat, and tears. Creativity involves loneliness. Creativity involves sacrifice. Creativity will ultimately take all of the energies that the preacher has.
John 15:14_16 – "Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you." "Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth: but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you." "Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you."
*Friends of God are those who accomplish the will of the Kingdom. The servant only has a limited knowledge of the Master’s desires. A friend far supersedes this aspect. God gives him the inside information and it starts to grow within his soul.
Mark 16:17_18 – "And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues;" "They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover."
*The friend of the Kingdom gains the rights and power of the Kingdom. God consumes Himself with working with his agents, with his ministers.
1 Corinthians 3:9 – "For we are labourers together with God: ye are God's husbandry, ye are God's building."
*The friend of God is a co-laborer with Him. Because you are a co-laborer with God, you will have to change. Any personal growth ALWAYS brings about change. Your worth to the Kingdom of God is predicated on your ability to create.
*A craftsman will take something of small value and make it worth something of greater value. Longfellow could take an old envelop and write a few words to a poem on it and make it worth $6,000.00. A craftsman can take a bar of metal and make it worth $250,000.00 in some of the large semi-conductors.
*A church comes from a pastor’s:
*A man will extend his ministry with creative thinking. Creative thinking will be both a challenging and intimidating experience for him. But just as the challenges and the fears will come so will the growth, both of his ministry and of his church.
ll. THE COSTS OF CREATIVITY
1. The First Cost of Creativity – Intellectual Attitude
*Without an intellectual thrust, there will never be any effective creativity in our lives.
*Paul was a very studied and wise man both in spiritual aspects and material aspects. He is an example of a man who worked (tentmaking) and studied (at Gamaliel’s feet) and then he became a useful instrument in the hands of God. Never be afraid of hard, physical work and by the same token never be afraid of long hours of laborious study. Both are very effective at allowing the man of God to become a useful instrument for God’s use.
*No preacher will ever find the place in his ministry where he can afford to quit studying. One young man asked Bro. Pugh how to become a great preacher. Bro. Pugh told him that to be a great preacher and pastor that he had to be a reader. The young man replied that he did not like to read or study, so Bro. Pugh told him that he had better get out of the ministry before he ever got a good start at it. Bro. Pugh went on to say that when he was actively pastoring that his days were almost entirely spent in studying. He stated that he would generally use the morning hours for study and the afternoons for pastoral visits. However, if he had no obligations in the afternoon he would also spend this time preparing messages and Bible studies. He said that first of all a man must be a preacher and then all other activities must take a second seat to this.
*To pay the price of creativity there has to be an intellectual attitude of hunger and desire. The prayer of the preacher constantly has to be that God will stretch his mind and his capacity to minister. The preacher who does not have an intellectual hunger will soon find that he is dead between the ears and he will not even realize it. To be dead between the ears is to pastor a dead church.
*God allows problems to come to us to stretch us and in doing so it causes men to stretch intellectually and find the right solution. How many times have we paced the floors, seeking God for an open door.
2. The Second Cost of Creativity – Emotional Attitudes
*Bro. Pugh mentioned that he had opened his mind to the reading of poetry over the years and had found that Dylan Thomas was an English poet whom he liked best. He said that there should be a raging desire in the soul of every preacher to find that place where he longed to grow.
Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night – Dylan Thomas
Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
Wild men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
*There will be both a blessing and cursing with our tears. Nothing will ever be created in a spiritual tone unless there is a willingness to care, to hurt, to suffer.
*Peter Drucker became a writer because he longed to create something. Nothing will ever be created without the desire of heart.
*No matter how many blessings and cursings comes from our feelings, one must move beyond just a feeling for this thing. There has to be the model of commitment.
*There are some creations in our lives that will cost us. Bro. Pugh said that as a very young minister that Bro. V. A. Guidroz took an interest in him and began to develop a friendship with him. He said that he is not really sure what he done to warrant this friendship but he said that the done everything that he could to make it grow. Every preacher ought to take an interest in some young preacher, some young pastor, some young evangelist and allow the investment of your ministry to live on in the next generation. He said that some of the convictions that he received from Bro. Guidroz (Bro. Pugh did not name them) was a creation that costed him something. It caused him to shed some tears. The convictions demanded his tears but those convictions would later on be the saving of his soul and ministry.
3. The Third Cost of Creativity – Loneliness
*The man who is the creator will never create anything in the eye of the public, in the face of the congregation of the church that he pastors, or in the presence of his peers in the district that he serves. The great public life pulls the life out of creativity. Things are created in the places of loneliness. Never be afraid of loneliness, it can become the treasured friend of the preacher.
*There are two kinds of relationships that we have with other people:
*Don’t spend time with those who will waste your time. Time is the coin of life, never let a fool spend it for you. Avoid time-wasters because they will create a liability in your ministry
*The success of the ministry depends on four hours of the day. The hours from 10:00 PM until 2:00 AM are the most crucial hours of the ministry. The man who does not know what to do with these hours will not have an effective ministry. Either be sleeping during those hours or studying during those hours. What happens in these hours will shape you. Too many preachers spend these hours wasting their time. The next morning when they finally do get up, they are behind for the rest of the day.
4. The Fourth Cost of Creativity – Stress
*Stress gets the adrenalin flowing. Let pressure be a positive force in one’s life. Never allow the negatives of church troubles to be the setback for you. Paul allowed the stress to motivate him in such a way
*The accusation of Festus was that much learning had made Paul mad. His life and his circumstances had caused him to be out of his mind according to Festus. But Paul affirmed to Festus that the only way to really live was to learn and be creative as he lived. 2 Corinthians 11 gives to us the sufferings and stress that comes with having a creative ministry.
*Problems create trouble for a lot of men. No ministry is immune from problems but there are men who allow the stress of ministry to immobilize their minds and their hearts. This should never be. Stress is a way that keeps us growing if we can handle it properly.
lll. THE STEPS OF CREATIVITY
1. The Initial Encounter Will Be Marked by a Confrontation
*There will be a confrontation with the man of God. What we create we all depend on the clarity and the depth of the vision that we are confronted with.
*Bro. Pugh told a story of an artist that he knew in West Texas that was asked to paint a farming landscape. In that landscape was a large tree. For three weeks the artist went everyday and stood there alongside the road and looked at what he was going to paint for thirty minutes and then he would go back to his studio and think. About a week into his going to the farm, the man who asked him to paint the picture caught up with him and asked when he was going to start. The painter told the man that it would be several weeks before he began the painting. The customer was a little taken aback by this and wanted to know why. The artist replied back to him that he could not and would not paint something that he had not had an encounter with. The feeling had to be on the inside before he would attempt to began the portrait.
*Make the most of every encounter that God brings to your life. There is a vast difference between copying and creating. Too much effort is spent by a lot of younger ministers/pastors on trying to imitate what they may see as "successful." God wants growth not imitation.
*Creation is from inward to outward. Imitation is from outward to inward. This makes vision an important part of our lives and therefore must be the great focus of our hearts.
*Part of the encounter of the spiritual creativity will require one to love. To love another, or to long for a productive ministry, or to love a dream will cause you to become vulnerability. You will learn that to be vulnerable means that there will be times that you will hurt to the very core of your being. The pain is often enough to move mean toward not being vulnerable, but we have to remember our great example in the passion of His sufferings that he opened not His mouth.
2. The Spiritual Encounter
*Just as there will be an encounter with the material side of the vision (a building program, a certain ability that one desires, etc.) there will be a spiritual encounter.
*The majority of ministers never have spiritual encounters. Spiritual encounters stifle them. It creates stress within them because they do not know what to do.
*Spiritual encounters create a disciplined soul. There are great disciplines of the soul that a man must work toward having. An undisciplined soul is one that has no purpose. Great disappointment is one of the times that a spiritual encounter will occur within us.
*Bro. Pugh mentioned that once his church was going through a devastating lawsuit (he did not give the reason). He said that it was the lowest point of his ministry. He said that he just continued to walk one day at a time. He said that after it was over that his saints came up to him and told him how that they had appreciated the way that he had just continued to remain so steady throughout the storm. Bro. Pugh said that it was not within him to walk this steady, it was the power of God that kept him. He said that so many times he had wanted to give up and quit but his vision was bigger than his difficulties. He said that his greatest compliment came from some of the church elders who told him that he had conducted himself the way that Jesus would have.
Galatians 1:1 – Paul, an apostle, (not of men, neither by man, but by Jesus Christ, and God the Father, who raised him from the dead;)
*God has chosen me to fulfill a particular aspect of his kingdom. He wants to reveal His Son in all of us. Unless people see Jesus in us then we have miserably failed.
Romans 8:29 – For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.
4:19 – My little children, of whom I travail in birth again until Christ be formed in you,
*Christ must be formed in us. We are creators, co-laborers, friends with God.
*There is also a large difference between a performer and a creator. The Lord imported the difference between the hireling and the shepard. There will always be a noticeable difference in the attitude of the hireling and the shepard.
*The sheperd is willing to let the idea spring to action after a spiritual encounter. The real focus of the ideas of the spiritual encounters is that one must cultivate what God is attempting to create. Often the vision is pre-lived and it will come to life.
*Sometimes the excitement at the end of the task is palpable by those involved except for the leader. The leader usually is not as excited about it as everyone else and the reason is because he has pre-lived it. It was built a long time in his heart before it came to pass in the world.
*Leadership is very important to the creation task. Therefore through out the whole process one must keep his preaching Word focused. The Book is Spirit-produced, therefore it must be Spirit delivered. This places an emphasis on spiritual preparation prior to beginning any endeavor for God.
*Persistence is a remarkable thing when the Word of God comes to life.
*In Romans, the apostle informed us that we will stand at the Judgement Seat to be judged. Only what we do for the Lord will stand.
*Create your life on a strong foundation. Do not build a chickenhouse on a foundation meant for a skyscraper. Be careful with the foundation and be a wise Masterbuilder.
*Bro. Pugh told a story about a man named A. D. Paige. He said this man was a rotten drunk. Numerous times, his mother, who was a saint in the church would call Bro. Pugh to her home to pray for this man. Bro. Pugh said that more often than not, he would have to rouse him out of a drunken stupor or he would have to awaken him from a deep sleep. He said A. D. would slur his words and try to pray but Bro. Pugh said that he had given up a long time ago on A. D. He often thought that Sis. Paige should just give up on praying for her son to be saved. Then one night, she called Bro. Pugh late in the night and told him that A. D. had received the Holy Ghost in San Antonio, TX. Somewhere within this woman a spiritual creativity had been accomplished and she saw into the realm of the Spirit of what God could do with a person who would commit all.