Sunday, April 08, 2007

On Not Going Off the Boil

Ever been told after you have given a speech or an address, “I have heard you tell that story or give that talk before!” The criticism implies that people are not getting their money’s worth, or you, the speaker are being lazy. Stories seem to be remembered more than the structure of a talk.

I have found great liberation in the encouragement expressed (many times!) by F W Boreham to repeat material, in order that hearers really get the message. The only rider he gave was this: “It’s alright to preach a sermon a second time, so long as it is born again!”

It is interesting to note that F W Boreham’s retirement from local church ministry in 1928 marked the increase of his extensive recycling of editorials and sermons and, in the case of the former, the practice of long-term (up to a year) stockpiling.

It is not the view of everyone (and I have been criticised for saying this in a public address—‘Touch not the Lord’s anointed’ and all that)—these two practices produced staleness and further detachment from the context. Even when editorials were recast, there were few signs of fresh insights, up-to-date illustrations or new applications.

Dr Boreham had succumbed unknowingly to a touch of the condition to which George Orwell courageously confessed, when he said, “I see that it is invariably where I lacked a political purpose that I wrote lifeless books and was betrayed into purple passages, sentences without meaning, decorative adjectives and humbug generally.”[1]

The moral of the story? Stay involved with people and life. Otherwise, like F W Boreham, you’ll start to go off the boil.

Geoff Pound

Image: “so long as it is born again!”

[1] George Orwell, ‘Why I write’, George Orwell: Essays (London: Penguin Classics, 2000), 7.