Keep Your Bucket Handy

Keep Your Bucket Handy

In the last post I gave one of the great tips for more effective preaching: keep your radar on.  In other words, be aware of those moments around you when God’s movement in a life or in the community is obvious.  This post follows that idea up with the tip to keep your bucket handy at all times.

What does that mean?  It means that your preaching will have greater impact if you find a way to save ideas and information for future use in sermons.   In that last post I shared about the person in my church who was an expert at horticulture.  Remembering that fact helped shape a powerful image in my sermon on how God prunes us in our lives.

The Results of Keeping Your Bucket Handy

The Exorcist Movie

The Exorcist

Here’s how the bucket works.  I wanted to preach a message about the fact that God was in control, and that we need to get have God’s perspective on life.  In my bucket was an outline from a sermon that I heard preached by a man who was a district supervisor for the Foursquare church.  He began his message by saying that, as far as he knew, he was the only person ever to be converted as a result of going to the movie, The Exorcist.  You may not be old enough to remember that movie, but it was about a demon-possessed girl and the priest that was attempting an exorcism.  Mr. Scott, at the time, was a student at Fresno State University.  His friends said  to him, “You’ve got to see this movie!  A chick’s head spins!”  Such was the state of special effects back then.

The Two Worlds

So, he went.  However, as he entered the theatre he felt afraid.  He wasn’t scared of the movie, he said, but of the fact that he realized that there was a reality beyond what he could see, hear, touch, taste and smell.  And part of that reality was evil.

After the movie, he was in some agony of soul on his way back to his dorm.  On the way, he began hearing in his mind a youth pastor that he had heard speak back when he was in high school.  The message was the way of salvation.  When he got back in his dorm room, he got down on his knees and prayed a simple, but very heart-felt prayer: “Jesus, I don’t even know if you are real, but if you are, please come into my life right now.”

From Bucket to Sermon Page

I began my message by retelling Jim Scott’s story.  Then I mentioned that Jesus taught about two worlds when he said, “If I drive out demons by the finger of God, you know that the Kingdom of God has come among you.”  Luke 11:20.  Paul said something similar when he said, “We do not battle against flesh and blood….”, and then lists a variety of demons and evil powers. (Ephesians 6:10)

Elisha at Dothan

The Lord’s Army

The message then proceeded to talk about the story of Elisha surrounded by the king of Syria’s army in the little town of Dothan (2 Kings 6:8-23).  When his servant, who knew that the army was there to capture, and likely kill Elisha, panicked, Elisha prayed that his eyes would be opened to the greater spiritual reality.   With this fresh perspective, the servant saw the army of the Lord surrounding Elisha.

Putting Stuff In Your Bucket

That story made my message.  (by the way, I credited the story to him)  It was in my bucket.   This is why I say, “Keep your bucket handy at all times.”

How To Put Stuff In Your Bucket

How do you save the stuff you come across?  There are a variety of very effective means of doing this.  Here are some of them:

  • Some people like to write ideas on a card, and they have a way of filing those card notations that they can retrieve them later;
  • Some like to do something similar, but use a computer or their phone to save memos about what they have seen and heard in life;
  • Others will use a notebook, or a journal to jot things down.  Then, when they want to retrieve a particular idea, they simply go back and reread sections of the journal.

What To Put In Your Bucket

Putting things in your bucket

filling your bucket

So, as your radar is on, keep your bucket handy for putting things in.  What kinds of things?

  • Things you read.  It may be a story, or a quote, or a statistic.
  • Things you encounter as your journey through life.  Interesting stories of people, or things you hear.
  • News events that make you think about eternal things.
  • Stories from novels that you read, where all of a sudden you realize that a spiritual reality is being presented.
  • Anything else that you think, “I might be able to use that someday.”

The bigger your bucket, the more interesting your preaching will become.  So keep your bucket handy at all times.

Here is Dr. Frank Thomas, reflecting on how to get sermon illustrations to put in your bucket.