Melvin Tinker has been the Vicar of St John’s Newland in Hull since 1994. Many will know of Melvin through his writing, but Melvin’s rigorous, insightful preaching has also blessed many of us in the U.K. Here are Melvin’s answers to the 10 Questions.
1. Where do you place the importance of preaching in the grand scheme of church life? Very high!
2. How did you discover your gifts in preaching? As a young Christian at university I found myself being involved in giving evangelistic talks. This underscored both my desire to preach and God’s gifting in preaching.
3. How long (on average) does it take you to prepare a sermon? In some ways I am getting quicker- (pleased to say)- on average- around 9-12 hours.
4. Is it important to you that a sermon contain one major theme or idea? If so, how do you crystallise it? I don’t think so- one has to go with the text and this includes the genre. To speak of ideas or themes can be restrictive and impose on the text. Some texts will have a dominant theme, some won’t and have a variety of themes interacting. The key to me is not ‘what is the theme’ but what is God saying and doing through the text. ( See Tim Ward’s excellent book- Words of Life)
5. What is the most important aspect of a preacher’s style and what should he avoid? The preacher must be true to himself and not try to imitate other. I think it was Lloyd Jones who spoke about God speaking through personality. This is quite liberating. Although there are things we can learn from others – including matters of style – we have to make sure that the ‘jacket’ we wear fits us and we are comfortable in it. It is important to link passion with proclamation, heat and light, head and heart, so God uses the whole person to engage the whole person.
6. What notes, if any, do you use? I use a full script.
7. What are the greatest perils that preacher must avoid? To take himself too seriously as if all depends upon him. To be a crowd pleaser- not necessarily becoming liberal to be liked -but in some cases adopting a ‘sound’ theological position/ style to be approved of by the evangelical guild. To preach to others and not to himself and so opening up a credibility gap between what he says and how he lives.
8. How do you fight to balance preparation for preaching with other important responsibilities (eg. pastoral care, leadership responsibilities). We have to know ourselves and own situations well and work things out accordingly. I am more alert in the mornings and so those are secured for sermon preparation and guarded quite closely – but we still must be flexible and open to needs and trust God’s providence. Contact with people is crucial so we don’t become bookish and theoretical preachers- pastoral visiting does enrich preaching and earths it- as well as enriching the preacher/pastor. It shouldn’t be a matter of fighting for preparation, it should be a given priority and other things arranged accordingly. However, we must be avoid perfectionism as any sermon can be improved and if one is not careful you come to the point of diminishing returns when too much time is spent on a sermon. Allocate time, do it and leave it and so one can get on with other things.
9. What books on preaching, or exemplars of it, have you found most influential in your own preaching? Books: Preaching and Preachers– Lloyd- Jones, I Believe In Preaching [Between Two Worlds]- Stott, The Supremacy of God in Preaching– Piper. They are all exemplars too.
10. What steps do you take to nurture or encourage developing or future preachers? Give young men opportunities to preach, help with critical feedback and set a good example.
Melvin Tinker’s weekly sermons can be downloaded here.Tweet