I truly count it an honour to work with a man who has exposited the bible for over forty years. That man is Peter Grainger, the senior pastor of Charlotte Baptist Chapel in Edinburgh. Prior to his fifteen years and counting (!) at the Chapel, he and his wife Nita worked with Wycliffe Bible Translators, with stints in India, Pakistan and Nigeria. Further to this, Peter pastored a church in Swindon. Today, Peter very kindly joins the ranks of respondees to our “Ten Questions for Expositors.”
1. Where do you place the importance of preaching in the grand scheme of church life?
The preaching of God’s Word is at the heart of all that we do for through it, however imperfectly, we hear God speak and (at the risk of over-simplification) all that we do in the life of a church is a response to this
2. In a paragraph, how did you discover your gifts in preaching?
My father, grandfather, and great grandfather were all Methodist local preachers. As a teenager, I accompanied my father to the churches where he spoke and began by reading the Scriptures for him, singing (!), then leading and finally attempting to preach (around the age of 16).
3. How long (on average) does it take you to prepare a sermon?
Depending on the difficulty of the passage and my familiarity with it, between 15-25 hours.
4. Is it important to you that a sermon contain one major theme or idea? If so, how do you crystallise it?
I would usually look for a major theme and crystallize it with the title and the opening illustration which introduces that theme. I often try to conclude by returning to the illustration and theme to conclude the point.
5. What is the most important aspect of a preacher’s style and what should he avoid?
Be yourself – don’t try to imitate others.
6. What notes, if any, do you use?
I write full notes and thoroughly familiarise myself with them. When preaching I refer to them and follow the planned structure but don’t read from them.
7. What are the greatest perils that preacher must avoid?
The lure of popularity (being too worried what people might think) and complacency (not recognising that only the Spirit can bring about any lasting change).
8. How do you fight to balance preparation for preaching with other important responsibilities (eg. pastoral care, leadership responsibilities)
With great difficulty! Delegating to other members/staff non-preaching activities but at the same time earthing preaching in regular pastoral care with real people and their situations.
9. What books on preaching, or exemplars of it, have you found most influential in your own preaching?
I have read many of the usual books on preaching. I have benefited from listening to good preachers over the years (I try not to be away preaching elsewhere whenever someone else in the pulpit) and the Proclamation Trust and Evangelical Ministry Assembly has been a source of inspiration/reassurance since I attended it from its inception.
10. What steps do you take to nurture or encourage developing or future preachers?
Not enough! Training and encouraging younger preachers is one of the things I want to do but gets regularly squeezed out by other demands. I have been encouraged by seeing younger colleagues grow and develop in their preaching gifts and go on to serve in other places. One of the problems in a church like ours is that it is a daunting experience to put a potential preacher in front of a “critical” congregation of 800 people. There are not so many of the smaller fellowships in which a young preacher could cut his teeth around today.