categories: church, communication, leadership, preaching
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July 23rd, 2008

by Craig Groeschel

43 comments (+ Add)

You Are An Original

When I started preaching, I tried to be just like my pastor, Nick Harris. The only problem? Nick is brilliant, and I am not.

Later, I copied Rick Warren’s messages, with his blessings. The only problem? I am not Rick Warren.

I wholeheartedly believe that as pastors, we should stand on the shoulders of those who have gone before us. Learn from them. Leverage their wisdom. Borrow every good idea God leads us to implement.

I also think it’s great that some are now beginning to freely share resources and ideas between each other! We shouldn’t have to re-invent the wheel each week.

But, recognize that not every idea, not every message, not every outline that others create is necessarily what God has called you to preach.

You are an original.

You won’t ever be just like Mark Driscoll, John Piper, Ed Young, Andy Stanley, Bill Hybels, Mark Batterson, Erwin McManus, Bishop T.D. Jakes, Perry Noble, or Steven Furtick.

But if you stop trying to be just like others, you can be as great as God created you to be!

How are you finding your own voice, style and content?

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there are a total of43
  1. Jul 23, 2008 at 6:16 am

    Thanks for the encouragement to all people new to preaching.

    I have only started preaching regularly since April when we launched a new service at Xcel Church and my wife & I became Pastors. Before that I had only preached occasionally.

    I am realising who I am not. Though inspired by other preachers, watching & learning how they communicate, how they tell stories and take people on a journey, I know that I must find my own style. I know it will take time, I will need to experiment, I will need to take risks but I am gonna go for it!

  2. Jul 23, 2008 at 7:04 am

    My father has always told me, “what comes from the heart goes to the heart.” I don’t speak from a pulpit often at all. But whenever I have - or whenever I write - I always bear that in mind.

  3. Jul 23, 2008 at 7:13 am

    Good morning Craig! Great post! I really like what Dusty’s dad told him. Since I am older I tended to want to model myself after Swindoll, MacArthur and C.Stanley. Then I tried to “be like Rick.” Gratefully, God was kind enough to hang in there with me until I could see what He was trying to get me to see the whole time: “I created you to be you. That goes for your preaching also. When you stand to preach, be Me through you. Don’t ‘channel’ Rick or Craig or anyone else. Just Me speaking through you.” Only then was there freedom and joy that came through. And also reaching the heart. I wish every young pastor could read your post.

  4. 4Todd
    Jul 23, 2008 at 7:25 am

    Thank you so much for addressing this topic. I’ve been “stuck” in this rut for several months now, and need to break out. Thanks for the encouragement.

  5. Jul 23, 2008 at 7:28 am

    My apologies for getting off course, but I had to let Bill know that I am, indeed, a girl :-) No offense taken. For the greater part of my life the marines and boy scouts have been trying to recruit me.

  6. Jul 23, 2008 at 7:58 am

    I am a worship pastor but the same thing applies to us as well. I am not Darlene Zsech and I certainly am not Matt Redman or Chris Tomlin or David Crowder. One thing I learned on sabbatical is that this goes beyond “stage presence and content”. God has uniquely gifted me so my leadership should flow out of those natural abilities and spiritual gifts. I am a people person - my specialties are team building and shepherding and equipping. Those don’t sound like musical gifts, you say? Well yes, I am well aware of that. But we’ve built a strong team regardless. And I lead worship out of those strengths as well. (I am musically competent and really called to worship ministry)

    We also are uniquely gifted with life experiences that shape us. There is a story, a song if you will, God sings through our life. That makes us different from anyone else. My passion for ministry is shaped through these experiences. They help shape my calling and God uses them to prepare me for unique opportunities.

    I’ve thought about this alot lately - until then I could tell you what I was NOT good at, but I couldn’t tell you what I WAS good at.

    I am now more comfortable being who I am and not apologizing for areas I am lacking……

  7. Jul 23, 2008 at 8:23 am


    I guess I’d throw that question out to you- perhaps in a new post. How did you find your voice? Did it just happen naturally or were there some intentional things you did?

    Thanks for the blog.

  8. Jul 23, 2008 at 8:23 am

    Use other peoples stuff, learn from other people, grow into your own voice, realize that you are not so and so, recognize that it’s OK to be different than those around you…

    “Do You!” It’s not a question, it’s a statement!

  9. Jul 23, 2008 at 8:44 am

    Look for God’s activity in my life. Spend time thinking about how what God is doing in my life applies to the lives of others. Run it all by our team to see what needs sticks and what needs to be given a proper burial.

    Lately I’ve been learning to let the text speak, rather than look for contrived illustrations or relying on my own thoughts. The power is in the word of God. Don’t know why this is a new revelation to me, but it is…slow learner I guess.

  10. Jul 23, 2008 at 8:51 am

    I fell into this trap of trying to “be” someone else for a long time. I finally realized that God created me as an individual, and that he just wants me to be me. Since then I have found great freedom in just being me.

  11. 12Jon
    Jul 23, 2008 at 8:53 am

    I am a PK so it made it very hard. I felt I had to preach like my father. It was all I knew. He is a passionate (a nice word for loud), animated and incredible. However, I would try to preach like him when I first started. I didn’t feel like me. Honestly, I felt like a failure. I felt if my dad heard me and I didn’t sound like him he would think it was terrible.

    But I finally stepped out and tried a new style. And to my surprise my father loved it. Not that I am looking for his approval but it helped be settle into my style.

    We say that he is the spitter and I am the sitter (I speak from a stool).

  12. Jul 23, 2008 at 9:03 am

    When I started blogging, I didn’t know my blog voice. But, after nearly a year of it, I have found it.

    It’s sometimes insightful, sometimes heartbreaking and sometimes completely ridiculous. But that’s me. It’s who I am. Oh, and all of that with a lot of Jesus wrapped up in it. Can’t forget that ingredient :)

  13. Jul 23, 2008 at 9:05 am

    It never felt authentic to me to try to speak like my heroes. Any time I try it’s awkward, I get nervous, and it shows. The problem is… they are all better than I am. I think sometimes the trial and error process within the “finding your own voice” vein can help us find a voice we didn’t know we had. It can be a painful process though.

  14. Jul 23, 2008 at 9:14 am

    Authenticity is key regardless of content. I have used Lifechurch materials but never attempted to be Craig, I use the outlines because they are awesome, but I can’t pull off the illustrations because so many of them come from Craig’s personal life and ministry, so I have to be authentic and develop my own illustrations and examples, I do steal some of the jokes though. It is always good to draw from others, but it has to be filtered through YOU, the real YOU the one that God created that is unique and awesome. God has given us all a voice and a style all our own don’t be afraid to use it even when using other people’s materials. Take the time to infuse the materials of others with “local flavor” make it real and relevant to your people where you are.

  15. Jul 23, 2008 at 9:14 am

    Until we change the way we keep score, we will be tempted to imitate the “winners.” We imitate others typically because either what they’re doing is “working,” or because it has personally impacted our lives. Imitation really is the sincerest form of flattery.

    That said, we really aren’t those men you mentioned, and one more thing - we don’t have their mission fields, challenges, or local cultures. Wanna see a goofball preacher? Check out the guy who’s preaching California sermons on Seattle issues to people living in Kentucky.

    To “keep it real,” I need to communicate out of the overflow of what God is teaching me. Certainly He can use those influential communicators, and I’m richer for hearing them. But sometimes I think we need to go on an “other guys fast” and exercise the listening and communicating muscles God gave uniquely to us.

  16. Jul 23, 2008 at 9:37 am

    I think that this post is going to be very freeing for people who are trying to find their voice. It will allow them to try some new stuff. Thanks for posting it!

  17. Jul 23, 2008 at 9:48 am

    Craig, I am a youth pastor who does a lot of speaking. I just adopted Stanley’s one point outline. The problem I am facing is how to know if I am finding my voice, or if I am just trying to sound like Andy Stanley, or anyone else for that matter.

    How do you know if you have found your voice?

  18. Jul 23, 2008 at 9:52 am

    I struggle a bit with being me. Who I’m around and who I listen to tends to rub off on my quite a bit.

    I guess if I had to describe my style, though, it’d be like if Mark Batterson and Perry Noble got together and made a preacher baby. Yeah, that’d be me.

  19. Jul 23, 2008 at 10:07 am

    This blog is ministering to many on a daily basis!

    Thanks for the authenticity Craig and Bobby!

    Romans 1:!2

  20. Jul 23, 2008 at 10:13 am

    Thanks Craig - Good stuff here to ponder. I’m on this journey — long way to go yet.

    I am trying to listen and learn versus listen and copy.

  21. Jul 23, 2008 at 10:36 am

    Dale Carnegie, in his book, How to Worry Less and Live More (1944), relays the story of an interchange between Irving Berlin and George Gershwin.

    “When Berlin and Gershwin first met, Berlin was famous but Gershwin was a struggling young composer working for thirty-five dollars a week in Tin Pan Alley. Berlin, impressed by Gershwin’s ability, offered Gershwin a job as his musical secretary at almost three times the salary he was then getting. “But don’t take the job,” Berlin advised. “If you do, you may develop into a second-rate Berlin. But if you insist on being yourself, some day you’ll become a first-rate Gershwin.” Gershwin heeded that warning and slowly transformed himself into one of the significant American composers of his generation.”

    While individuals struggle to embrace their uniqueness–and typically find great satisfaction and success when they do, the same is true of groups. Being able to embrace your personal history and unique DNA as a group creates organizations and companies that are compelling.

    Your same statement could be said for the churches. “You won’t ever be just like Mars Hill, Bethlehem Baptist, Fellowship Church, NorthPoint, Willow Creek, National Community Church, Mosaic, Potter’s House, NewSpring Church, or Elevation Church.”

    I love it that these churches (and Life Church) share their amazing resources, but at the end of the day, they are journeying with us. We were never meant to be clones.

  22. 24jim
    Jul 23, 2008 at 12:15 pm

    I find several things in all this.
    1) When I step into the pulpit I want to bring “fresh bread”.
    2) I have found that listening to people that I respect as speakers helps me to grow.
    3) I have also found it gives me creative ideas for messages than I can use but in my own way.
    4) I found my “voice” by getting up and being authentic with everything I said.
    5) Different styles reach different people and different areas have a different DNA than others so what works in one place will not be nearly as effective in another, so we need to find what works where we live (maybe modify something some else has done) and do it!

  23. Jul 23, 2008 at 12:59 pm

    My litmus test of authenticity and integrity in my style- doesn’t it match the rest of my life. Does it look like the way I speak during staff meetings, with my wife and kids, over lunch, or during a softball game. For me, it’s “raw Christianity laced with passion over a cup of coffee”.

  24. Jul 23, 2008 at 1:38 pm

    Dusty: my apologies for the mistake. Liked your blog about chronic illness even though I don’t have one. Great attitude and thoughts.

  25. Jul 23, 2008 at 1:40 pm

    Thanks, Bill!

  26. Jul 23, 2008 at 1:44 pm

    I enjoy finding who I am! I love being different…I just continuing to ask God to show me who He wants me to be…to mold me into the leader He wants me to be.

    It really is hard trying not to become a copy of who you look up to (you, Dr. Grosh), but I’ve been enjoying finding who God wants me to be!

    I encourage all of you to continue and continue and continue (and continue x999999) to ask God to reveal to you and form you into who He wants you to be.

    A quote worth quoting (it’s not exact, so this could be plagiarism, but I’m sure it’s fine! :) ) - “Don’t compare yourselves with other people who compare themselves with other people.” (an altered form of something Paul Washer said).

    Be who Christ wants you to be.
    Listen. Ask. Listen. Wait. Find. Form. Follow. Be.

  27. Jul 23, 2008 at 3:49 pm

    Hi Craig,

    I think generally speaking any communicator goes through a process to find his own voice by imitating others. We usually like something in those people we imitate like strong passion or values, clarity, simplicity, or creativity. Its good to explore those things to find who WE are. In my opinion the process of trying to imitate others often leads to us becoming who we are. I don’t believe there should be any shame in this anymore than my 2 year old should feel bad because of her poor language skills. She is in a process. However, if my 2 year old become 4 years old and she is still talking like a 2 year old there is a problem.

    I am finding my voice by knowing my convictions. Knowing my limitations and yet allowing God to stretch me where i fell uncomfortable, and intentionally learning from successes and failures, and becoming more secure. Security is the biggest deal to me to have my own voice.

  28. 31Formerfire
    Jul 23, 2008 at 7:50 pm

    I think as you grow older you just become more comfortable with who you are and what God is doing and has done in your life. Then the messages flow from the heart. But listening to other pastors is food for our souls too.

  29. 32Ken Tran
    Jul 24, 2008 at 1:37 am

    Craig, thanks to your messages, they have confirm a lot of my ideas about ministry and how one is to commit themselves to God. Your example by the way you lead the church influences me to be brave and bold for Christ. And I believe that when we have that confidence we begin to become the creative persons that God intended for us to be.

    I have recently become more confident with the way I am because who I am reaches out to a group of people that others can’t and vice versa. So, I thank God for who I am and others for who they are, for we are all on earth for the same ministry to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ.

  30. Jul 24, 2008 at 7:32 am

    Totally understand this post. I was asked to start writing for an ezine. The first article I submitted was good. Yet, it did not feel right. The editor called me on it. He point blank asked me why I had written it in a different voice than what I use on my blog. Needless to say, I went back and rewrote the entire article. Can’t tell you how much I learned from that experience.. And what I am learning still through it.

    Oh… and Craig, thanks for how you encourage others to be who they are.

  31. Jul 24, 2008 at 9:45 am

    I think original is just being real.

    I don’t if if I am creative enough to come up with original ideas, sermons, illustrations, title or series….but I can be who I am.

    How am I real? Yesterday I went to our local Rotary Club meeting for the very first time. I was a bit nervous because I was wearing jeans, t-shirt, bleached blond hair and looked like a punk. For the first time I was being real. For years I have been in the corporate world and I have been expected to look, talk and act a certain way…you know…professional so people would take me serious.

    Today, we are redefining church in our community and this means being real. That’s who I am and That’s how I can be me!

  32. Jul 24, 2008 at 10:07 am

    Craig: I was one of the two guys you spoke of who was fired for using OPEN outlines & ideas. As I wrote to you at the time (feel free to use my response in whatever way you want – the offer still stands here). I debated to myself about responding our just hanging back on this one - especially on the first day, with so many of the responses being critical and accusatory. I did appreciate your gentle tone to try to bring the conversations back into civility. Fact is – I still need all the help I can get. My goal as a pastor is to strive for 52-unforgettable Sunday’s a year. Problem is: I’m just not smart enough to pull that off - so, I still use about 60% of other peoples stuff. Stuff I pay for or stuff that’s offered at no cost to struggling pastors like me. But, having said that, I spend 30 hours a week on message prep these days, I just try to be more tactful and give the credit in a way that is honoring to God and also honors other pastors and other ministries. BTW – my using OPEN materials was not REALLY the “reason” I was fired. It was a reminder though, that just like Jesus, and “the Pharisees saw this as another excuse to attack Him”. That’s another interesting discussion though.
    The storm of being fired was the best thing that happened to me. It wasn’t fun at the time (believe me). My family and I spent 15 years at that church and gave over $100,000 through the years in tithes and building programs.
    Craig, I wanted you to know that since my storm (of being fired)….we planted a new church in a different county. 75% of our new congregation doesn’t hardly know anything about God and His forgiveness and all He has for us. Our new church is averaging just over a hundred each week, and we’ve had 10 baptisms this year. Yes, I’ve missed a few paychecks from planting this church, but I believe it was all in God’s timing. We are in a better position, at so many levels.
    As pastors, we live in amazing times with tons of recourses available at the click of a keypad. In fact last night I downloaded New Spring’s “sermon open” called ILLUMINATE. You must check it out. It’s going to be really cool and I can’t wait. I plan to use that this fall in a series I will do with a totally different approach. I have learned much about myself in my transition. For the record, I will continue to use others ideas, and concepts, but make it my own.
    All for God’s greater glory and to see changed lives.
    In Christ Jack Ward

  33. Jul 24, 2008 at 12:08 pm

    I am finding my own voice I believe. I read ALOT. I find that preaching is communicating the most important message in the world. Recently, I finished reading Andy Stanley’s “Communicating for a Change.” It has been transforming and liberating. It has allowed me to maximize my study time while preaching a one point message. In fact, a pastor friend of mine and I have both switched to this with great resulst for the Kingdom. Before this I tried several different ways including the way I was taught at seminary. Now I find that a combination of these work well for me and has allowed me to find my voice. Great topic!

  34. Jul 24, 2008 at 5:02 pm

    Seeing my father preach for 30 years its difficult for me not to have some sort of his style.
    But basically its about a personal communion with God, his Word and the Holy Spirit to lead us to be what He want’s us to be.

  35. Jul 25, 2008 at 7:04 am

    [...] This post by Craig Groeschel hits the same issue as Seth’s but from a slightly different perspective.  Great, great stuff. [...]

  36. Jul 25, 2008 at 8:41 am

    [...] you do any king of leading or public speaking, you need to be reminded of what Craig has to say over at [...]

  37. Jul 26, 2008 at 11:55 am

    This is a great post. I know just starting out I was under the impression that I had to yell and run and turn bright shades of red and purple. It took me a few years and some hurt feelings before I understood what you are saying here. I still struggle with finding my own voice but that day is coming, thanks for all you do!

  38. Jul 27, 2008 at 12:29 am

    [...] This week, as I have battled through my insecurities, Craig Groeshel really encouraged me with his blog post on being original. [...]

  39. Jul 29, 2008 at 11:31 am

    “I forced myself to stop listening to others for awhile so I discover who I was as a preacher.”

    How funny. That is EXACTLY what I am doing right now. I don’t listen to any preachers on the radio, iTunes, or anywhere else at the moment. I caught myself trying to emulate them, and it cheapened (not sure that’s the right word) the message somewhat.

    It’s good to hear it’s not just me.

    Blessings to you and all.