Today, I had a chance to speak with Calisto Odede, the Urbana expositor for this year's conference. Every day, he is expositing passages from the Gospel of Luke to 16,000 Urbana participants.
Last night, he told a story about his first experience preaching. He was ambushed by a friend. Young. Unprepared. He preached for an hour with no preparation, except the quiet time he had that morning. He preached for an hour with no training, except for the quiet time he had regularly. He preached for an hour and God used it and people responded.
He gave credit to God's Spirit, who gave him the words to say.
And I think there's a story here.
Decades after that first sermon, ambushed and at the mercies of God's merciful Spirit, Calisto Odede is preaching at Urbana. He's been working on this material for two years. He's spent years praying for the 5 expositions he will give this week. He's been to the Urbana speakers retreat where he received feedback on his expositions from a global network of seasoned and godly men and women.
Is there any more structured preaching environment than Urbana?
How do these two go together: the Spirit and our structures? Calisto had an answer for me: "God's Spirit works in us during our preparation even as he works in us in the moment."
When we pray, God's Spirit is at work.
When we select a text, God's Spirit is at work.
When we study the selected text, God's Spirit is at work.
When we listen to commentators, God's Spirit is at work.
When we craft a sermon on the text, God's Spirit is at work.
When we solicit feedback, God's Spirit is at work.
When we pray again, God's Spirit is at work.
When we stand up to preach ... even in that moment ... the same Spirit who has been working, that Spirit, God's Spirit is at work.
Even in our structured environments, God's Spirit is at work.