Today its my pleasure to interview Voddie Baucham. I first heard Voddie last year through a Desiring God Conference, and since then I’ve come to appreciate his preaching. Enjoy his responses below! (Just so that you know: over the next two weeks, we’ll be putting questions to some respected expositors in the UK – Liam Golligher and Vaughan Roberts.)
1. Where do you place the importance of preaching in the grand scheme of church life?
I believe preaching is central to the grand scheme of church life (see Acts 2:42ff). Preaching/teaching sets the tone and the parameters for all other functions of the church. Our understanding of fellowship, evangelism, discipline, worship, etc., all arise out of our understanding of God’s word. Without sound preaching and teaching, all else will falter. Hence, preaching is of seminal importance in the grand scheme of church life.
2. In a paragraph, how did you discover your gifts in preaching?
As a young college student, I went on a preaching mission with several teammates of mine. I was a relatively new believer and had no experience sharing God’s word. Two of my mentors guided me through the week and helped me discover my gifts in preaching for the first time. I felt as though something in me was awakened for the first time. I’ve been preaching ever since.
3. How long (on average) does it take you to prepare a sermon?
When we start a series (preaching through a book or section), it can 15-20 hours or more. However, once we are in the midst of the text much of the background work builds upon previous studies and cuts the time dramatically. Nevertheless, crafting the message, adding illustrative material and mining the text for that last nuance, is a process that never really ends until the preaching moment. That’s the only time I can truly say I am finished preparing the sermon.
4. Is it important to you that a sermon contain one major theme or idea? If so, how do you crystallise it?
Absolutely! I am always looking for the central theme in a passage. There may be more than one, but I have come to realize that I am most effective when I limit myself to the main idea. I find that idea by analyzing the paragraph, then the broader context of the section, then the book as a whole, then its place in the broader revelation. Then I go through the process in reverse back down to the passage in question.
5. What is the most important aspect of a preacher’s style and what should he avoid?
The most important aspect of a preacher’s style is authenticity. When I started preaching, I thought my ‘style’ had to fit a certain category. As a result I mimicked some of my favorite preachers. I was constantly reinventing myself. Ultimately, I had to find my own ‘style’ and stick with it. That meant there was one less thing I had to manufacture. I had to realize that God gave me a unique personality and he intended to use it in unique ways. God gave us four gospels written by four unique men, from four different perspectives. I had to remind myself that it is as much of a travesty for me to try to be Tony Evans as it would have been for John to try to be Matthew.
6. What notes, if any, do you use?
The only notes I use are extended quotes. If there is a direct quote that I have not memorized, I will bring it to the pulpit with me. Other than that, the text is my only outline. I write everything out on a template and do an extended outline (Statement, explanation, illustration, argumentation, transition, etc.), but I leave it behind when I preach.
7. What are the greatest perils that preacher must avoid?
Laziness, pride and the fear of men. Laziness will keep us from plumbing the depths of the Word. Pride will keep us from prayer, and the fear of men will keep us from preaching the hard things.
8. How do you fight to balance preparation for preaching with other important responsibilities (eg. pastoral care, leadership responsibilities)
Through ministering as a team. I am one of three elders at our church. All of us preach and all of us shepherd. We are also raising up young men to carry the load. We do not see ourselves as part of a clergy/laity divide. We are merely gifted men equipping other for the work (Ephesians 4:11). We do not believe God has called us to do the work ourselves. This is incredibly freeing.
9. What books on preaching, or exemplars of it, have you found most influential in your own preaching?
12 Essential Skills for Great Preaching, by Wayne McDill, Spirit Empowered Preaching, by Arturo Azurdia, and Preaching and Preachers, by D. Martin Lloyd Jones. As for exemplars, I am fond of men like Tony Evans, Alistair Begg and John Piper.
10. What steps do you take to nurture or encourage developing of future preachers?
Spending time with them, pointing them toward great resources and encouraging them to develop skills beyond the pulpit. So many young preachers pursue the pulpit because they have discovered unusual communication skills in themselves. However, preaching is about so much more. We must be theologians, historians, apologists, churchmen and above all exemplary men, husbands and fathers (see 1 Timothy 3; Titus 1). We must also love and serve the Church. So many young preachers long for conference ministries that reach millions. However, without a love for the local church that goal rings hollow. I want to see a young preacher sweep floors, pick up trash, lead small groups, share the gospel in the secret places, pray for the sick and the afflicted, and manage his home in such a way as to make it a beacon of hope for others. That’s the foundation upon which great preaching is built.