10 Questions For Expositors – Julian Hardyman

Julian Hardyman is the senior pastor of Eden Baptist Church in Cambridge, England. Prior to his appointment in 2002, he served on staff at Eden and also at Cornerstone Evangelical Church in Nottingham. Julian explains God’s Word with clarity, and applies Scripture pastorally and pointedly.

It is our great pleasure to have Julian answer our 10 Questions for Expositors.

1. Where do you place the importance of preaching in the grand scheme of
church life?

Central. The church is ruled, energised, envisioned, directed, encouraged, rebuked, retuned and recalibrated through the word of God heard in preaching. The role of preaching in congregational and individual growth is second to nothing. And most of it needs to be done by the pastor (s) with pastoral responsibility for the congregation.

2. In a paragraph, how did you discover your gifts in preaching?
  • In my 20s I turned down four invitations to preach from four different pastors out of fear
  • Then I was asked to preach in a church service by mistake. The pastor rang me by mistake but didn’t want to admit it so he asked me to preach instead of the person he had meant to ring. He then wrote the sermon for me. He heard it and said it was the best first sermon he had ever heard which wasn’t surprising as they were his words. The second one sounded like a talk on Radio 3.
  • Then I preached a bit more and started to discover my own voice and that people seemed to be helped by it.
  • Preaching labs as they were called at seminary (TEDS) were very helpful.
  • Then simply preaching week in week out for many years.

3. How long (on average) does it take you to prepare a sermon?

Somewhere between 8-15 hours. It is getting quicker I think as I trust my extemporisation powers more than I used to, so I have less felt need of a detailed and polished ms than I did.

4. Is it important to you that a sermon contain one major theme or idea?

Yes – I think this is vital.

If so, how do you crystallize it?

I try to make it as specific as I can while retaining logical and symmetrical relationship to all the main points. If it becomes too general it is the same theme most weeks which is dull.

5. What is the most important aspect of a preacher’s style and what
should he avoid?

The natural expression of the preachers’ relationship with his God and his people. Anything else is ego or artifice. Neither is a good medium for the speaking God.

6. What notes, if any, do you use?

Because my church is in central Cambridge I made a decision some years ago to use fairly full notes in the interests of verbal precision. There is some loss in immediacy and naturalness as a result. I am breaking more free of the ms the longer I am here. If I preach elsewhere i tend to use more sketchy notes and rely on a more extempore composition of individual sentences. My ideal would be as few notes as possible given any particular situation. It makes for much more natural communication.

7. What are the greatest perils that preacher must avoid?

  • Assuming theological soundness and right handling of the text……..
  • Not preaching the positive aspect of the text in an inspiring way but leaving people with a heavy, condemned feel rather than a grace driven sense of liberation. In other words preaching law not grace.
  • Self-promotion: preaching is such a wonderful opportunity to go on ego trips.
  • Simply communicating information without any inspiration or ‘Jesus perfume’ (2 Corinthians 2:15).
  • Failing to communicate in our ethos that our logos (‘God is love’, ‘there is Good News’) is true.
8. How do you fight to balance preparation for preaching with other
important responsibilities (eg. pastoral care, leadership responsibilities)
  • Set aside large bits of the week for it – most of Thursday and Friday for example, with Tues or Weds am for passage translation
  • I have a month’s study leave every summer. During that I read lots of background of the book I am going to preach next, and get into the text so I have drafted the outline for the sermon series
9. What books on preaching, or exemplars of it, have you found most
influential in your own preaching?
  • Peter Lewis from Nottingham was that pastor who got me started in preaching. What I learned from him was moving towards pastoral application to people’s relationship with God, speaking the energy of the text into that relationship existentially so that there is always the assumption that preaching takes place in a context in which God is real, and at work in folk’s lives. No one does that like Peter, not even the current conference darlings.
  • Chappell’s Christ-centred preaching helped me a lot on outlining (which I think is very important).
  • Stott on Double listening is very important I think.
  • Ray Ortlund is a wonderful example of reasoning with people pastorally about the text rather than just declaring it didactically
10. What steps do you take to nurture or encourage developing or future
preachers?
 We run preaching classes or groups for younger folk. We give them the chance to do talks in different settings, then preach in local village churches (a less intimidating setting than central Cambridge), then in Eden. We give feedback and encouragement. We look to help them develop and grown.

 

Repost – We Interview Tim Keller About His Preaching

Timothy J. Keller is an author, a speaker, and the founding pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church (PCA) in New York City, New York. Find here a more complete biography. We are looking forward to asking him a few questions about his regular preaching ministry.

1. Where do you place the importance of preaching in the grand scheme of church life?
It is central, but not alone at the center. Pastoral ministry is as important as preaching ministry, and lay ‘every-member’ ministry is as crucial as ordained ministry. I wouldn’t make a heirarchy out of these things–they are interdependent. But pastoral ministry and lay ministry is no substitute for strong preaching.

2. In a paragraph, how did you discover your gifts in preaching?
I preached about 200 different expositions a year for the first nine years of my ministry (when I was age 24 through 33.) During that time I was considered interesting and good but I never got a lot of feedback that I was anything special. I’ve grown a lot through lots of practice.

3. How long (on average) does it take you to prepare a sermon?
I pastor a large church and have a large staff and so I give special prominence to preparing the sermon. I give it 15-20 hours a week. I would not advise younger ministers to spend so much time, however. The main way to become a good preacher is to preach a lot, and to spend tons of time in people work–that is how you grow from becoming not just a Bible commentator but a flesh and blood preacher. When I was a pastor without a large staff I put in 6-8 hours on a sermon.

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 know that I’d be so rigid as to say there has to be just one Big Idea every time. That is a good discipline for preachers in general, because it helps with clarity. Most texts have too much in them for the preacher to cover in one address. You must be selective. But sometimes a preaching-size text simply has two or three major ideas that are too good to pass up.

5. What is the most important aspect of a preacher’s style and what should he avoid?
He should combine warmth and authority/force. That is hard to do, since tempermentally we incline one way or the other. (And many, many of us show neither warmth nor force in preaching.)

6. What notes, if any, do you use?
I use a very detailed outline, with many key phrases in each sub-point written out word for word.

7. What are the greatest perils that preacher must avoid?
This seems to me too big a question to tackle here. Virtually everything a preacher ought to do has an corresponding peril-to-avoid. For examples, preaching should be Biblical, clear (for the mind), practical (for the will), vivid (for the heart,) warm, forceful, and Christo-centric. You should avoid the opposites of all these things.

8. How do you fight to balance preparation for preaching with other important responsibilities (eg. pastoral care, leadership responsibilities)
See my remarks on #3 above. It is a very great mistake to pit pastoral care and leadership against preaching preparation. It is only through doing people-work that you become the preacher you need to be–someone who knows sin, how the heart works, what people’s struggles are, and so on. Pastoral care and leadership is to some degree sermon prep. More accurately, it is preparing the preacher, not just the sermon. Prayer also prepares the preacher, not just the sermon.

9. What books on preaching, or exemplars of it, have you found most influential in your own preaching?
British preachers have had a much greater impact on me than American preachers. And the American preachers who have been most influential (e.g. Jonathan Edwards) were essentially British anyway.

10. What steps do you take to nurture or encourage developing or future preachers?
I haven’t done much on that front at all, and I’m not happy about that. Currently I meet to with two other younger preachers on my staff who also preach regularly. We talk specifically about their preaching and sermon prep.

 

Ten Questions For Expositors – John van Eyk

John Van Eyk is a  Canadian, ministering in the Highlands of Scotland. Pastor of Tain/Fearn Associated Presbyterian church, John is married to Lucy. Together they have six children. For the opportunity of hearing some of his edifying preaching, listen here.

1. Where do you place the importance of preaching in the grand scheme of church life?

Since in the preaching of the Word of God Christ is preaching (Romans 10:14-15; Ephesians 2:17) and his sheep hear his voice (John 10:16) I believe that preaching is hugely significant in the life of the Church. Through preaching faithfully done the elect are brought to Christ and are corrected, rebuked, and encouraged for their progress and joy in the faith so that their joy in Christ Jesus will overflow. This is what I believe and I long that I would take the great task of preaching with all the seriousness that it warrants.

2. In a paragraph, how did you discover your gifts in preaching?

I’m not sure that I have! If you knew me as a wee boy you might have heard me preach to the sitting room furniture. I periodically had a sense that I was destined for the ministry even before I trusted in Christ. When I became a Christian in my first year of college, I prepared to go to seminary trusting that since God was my Father he would orchestrate things for me to become a minister if that was his plan for me. I had been encouraged by many along the way to pursue the ministry and when I started preaching Christians appeared to be helped by my sermons. Upon completion of my seminary training I was called by a local congregation and have been preaching regularly since, ever grateful for and humbled by the privilege of preaching Christ from all of Scripture.

3. How long (on average) does it take you to prepare a sermon?

I used to say 10-12 hours but I’m not sure that I am able to quantify the preparation time. Reading that is done in theology, for example, might not have a direct connection to the sermon I’m preparing but as I mature and am shaped by all the Scriptures my understanding of any one passage is sure to be helped. All praying, reading, ruminating, pastoral care, and life experiences are funnelled into each sermon one prepares.

4. Is it important to you that a sermon contain one major theme or idea? If so, how do you crystallise it?

I attempt to preach any chosen passage in a coherent manner so one could probably trace a main theme through it. I tend to be more concerned about the flow of the sermon than the ‘big idea’; I do not want to force people to endure a disjointed and jarring discourse with little inner cohesion. The reason I am not so focussed on one major theme or idea is because I think that the congregation is helped by any one sermon in a variety of ways as the Holy Spirit brings the Word home to individual Christians. I don’t think Christian maturity is achieved by an accumulation of what I deem to be the big idea of my sermons. I think that what I might say this Lord’s Day, perhaps not even a significant point, might make something a member of my congregation heard or read nine months ago finally click. As the people of God sit under the ministry of the Word week in and week out they will be shaped by the Scriptures so that over time their instinctive response to the plethora of situations they face will be godly. If there is one note that I long people to hear each Lord’s day, from a variety of passages and perspectives and in a variety of ways, it is a rich Christ for poor sinners, both converted and unconverted sinners. That can’t be heard enough.

5. What is the most important aspect of a preacher’s style and what should he avoid?

I was greatly helped a number of years ago by conversations I had with Geoffrey Thomas and Ian Hamilton. Geoffrey Thomas told me that it took some years for a minister to find himself. Ian Hamilton encouraged me not to try to be anyone other than myself and to be the best John van Eyk John van Eyk could be. I think it is important to listen to other preachers and learn from them for your own improvement but it is equally important to recognise and rejoice in the variety of giftings the Lord Jesus has blessed his Church with and, again, strive, by God’s grace, to be the best you you can be.

6. What notes, if any, do you use?

Though my practice is evolving, I find it helpful to write out a fairly full manuscript. Writing the sermon aids me in terms of structure, flow, and word choice and helps me include things I have learned through my study. Before I preach I distil the sermon to an outline which I take with me to the pulpit.

7. What are the greatest perils that preachers must avoid?

I suppose this differs with each preacher. There is such a vast number of perils that we must always remember our need to be kept by the Lord. There is discouragement, superficial satisfaction, impatience, laziness, preaching what you don’t experience, spiritual coldness, and professionalism. The lure of prominence may be a struggle for some, a persistent discontentment with where you are ministering and the thought that you are so gifted you really need a wider sphere of ministry. In short, the pursuit of greatness. When I am tempted by this I often think back to a comment by Sinclair Ferguson at a conference some years ago where he, among others, was asked where all the great preachers were today. His response, which received a standing ovation, was something like this: “It is not great preachers that the Church needs or that God has been pleased to use exclusively throughout history. Though there have been outstanding figures in the history of the Church the Church needs faithful men whose names might never be known outside the walls of their own church who week in and week out explain and apply the Word of God.” That was tremendously encouraging.

8. How do you fight to balance preparation for preaching with other important responsibilities (eg. pastoral care, leadership responsibilities).

Two things help me try to keep the balance. First, the fact that we minister not simply by our lips but by our lives (1 Timothy 4:16) means that I dare not neglect my wife and family. Second, the recognition that while my main work is preaching the Word nothing done in the name of Christ for his brothers and sisters is insignificant. This truth both keeps me in my study for study and sermon preparation and out of my study without begrudging the time spent away from my books.

9. What books on preaching, or exemplars of it, have you found most influential in your own preaching?

D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones’ Preaching and Preachers, The Preacher and Preaching, edited by Samuel T. Logan, Jr, particularly Edmund P Clowney’s contribution, ‘Preaching Christ From All the Scriptures’, The Christian Ministry by Charles Bridges, and, Spirit Empowered Preaching, by Arturo Azurdia.

I often say that I don’t know where I would be as a Christian and a minister without Sinclair Ferguson. I was introduced to his teaching through his book Children of the Living God. I have listened to his three lectures on The Marrow Controversy numerous times along with countless sermons, read his books, and learned under him at Westminster. I have been gripped numerous times by his emphasis on the sheer graciousness of God in Christ. I owe a great debt to him.

10. What steps do you take to nurture or encourage developing or future preachers?

When I ministered in Canada my congregation had an intern for an eight week stint in the summer. We would read books together, go on pastoral visitations, critique each other’s sermons, share meals, and numerous conversations on all aspects of the ministry. I am now involved in a fledgling organisation called The 2 Timothy 4 Trust which aims to increase the number of churches with excellent preaching in Scotland.

10 Questions for Expositors – Matt Chandler (pt 2)

Matt Chandler answers the last five questions about his preaching. By the way, to listen to some of Matt’s preaching, here is the page of his sermons.

My notes are a bit of a hybrid manuscript/outline.  I try not to look at them while I am preaching so I study those notes and pray a ton before I step out on stage.

7. What are the greatest perils that preacher must avoid?

The greatest peril for a preacher is wanting the acceptance and approval of his listeners.  This is a serious thing that we have been called to and we will regularly have to say things that our culture thinks is foolish and the religious find offensive.

8. How do you fight to balance preparation for preaching with other important responsibilities (eg. pastoral care, leadership responsibilities)

It’s important for me to do both so I set aside blocks of time each week for both.  Tuesdays and Thursdays are study days for me.  I put together sermons and pray and study on those two days.  The rest of the week I am meeting with people and trying to shepherd well the people God has asked me to lead.

9. What books on preaching, or exemplars of it, have you found most influential in your own preaching?

John Stott’s book “Between Two Worlds and John Piper’s “The Supremacy of God in Preaching” are two of my favorite books on preaching.  I more recently read Tony Merida’s book “Faithful Preaching” and thought it was excellent.

10. What steps do you take to nurture or encourage developing or future preachers?

The main two ways we nurture and encourage is reps and feedback.  We want to create different venues for our young men to preach and then we want to give them honest and straight feedback about how they handled the text, how they engaged the crowd, whether they communicated clearly etc.

10 Questions For Expositors – Matt Chandler (pt 1)

Matt Chandler is the lead pastor of The Village Church in Highland Village, Texas.  His church has over 5000 members, and Matt’s main role is bringing the Word of God to them. Enjoy his first batch of answers to our 10 questions.

1. Where do you place the importance of preaching in the grand scheme of church life?

The Spirit of God moving through the preaching of the Word is the driving force at The Village.  Our groups rally around it, our missions flow out of it and our community is built on it.

2. In a paragraph, how did you discover your gifts in preaching?

It was quite by accident.  I began by the invitation of a friend to teach a Sunday School class my freshman year of college.  God did some tremendous things in that class and it led to other opportunities to teach.  I had a bad experience at a small church before I arrived in Abilene and didn’t think I was going to end up in the church.  God continued to grow my influence as a teacher/preacher and about a year later I was preaching in front of about 1000 college students every Thursday night.

3. How long (on average) does it take you to prepare a sermon?

On average 6-10 hours.  It used to take me much longer but the more I have studied and preached the quicker it has started to come.

4. Is it important to you that a sermon contain one major theme or idea? If so, how do you crystallise it?

I think it’s extremely important to tap into a major theme or point so that your hearers walk away knowing what the Word said about whatever the theme or point was.  I know this will sound like an oversimplification but I want to let the text crystallise it.

5. What is the most important aspect of a preacher’s style and what should he avoid?

This is a hard question because I think everything from context to content plays into the answer.  I think a preacher needs to be himself.  To learn from other preachers but not when all is said and done to emulate them.  In a day where you can listen to anyone and watch anyone by simply clicking a button on you phone or computer I think it’s important to find your own voice so the kingdom doesn’t get a carbon copy of someone else.

10 Questions For Expositors – Josh Moody

Dr Josh Moody is the man who faced the daunting task of following R. Kent Hughes as the Senior Pastor of College Church in Wheaton, Illinois.  His thorough answers to the 10 questions are well worth reading. Josh’s regular semons can be heard here.

1.      Where do you place the importance of preaching in the grand scheme of church life?
If church, as they say in Australia, is God’s people gathered around God’s Word, then preaching – if it’s biblical preaching – is central to the life and health of church.  You find that in Acts chapter 2 the early church devoted itself to the apostle’s teaching.  You find Paul commends the Philippians for ‘holding out the Word of Life.’  Jesus was a preacher.  He was more than just a preacher, but he was a preacher.

This whole area of verbal witness is terribly important today; I was just chatting to someone about that this morning.  It is said that Francis of Assisi was well known for the quotation ‘preach as much as possible and if necessary use words.’  As far as I can see, historically he never actually said such a thing despite how popular that quotation has become, and what’s more (irony of ironies) Francis was a preacher.  The Puritans were preachers.  The Reformers were preachers.  Moses was a preacher.  If you marginalize preaching from the life of the church you pretty soon have a human organization centered around human agendas.  We constantly need to be brought back into line with God’s ways and God’s truth, and God’s means for doing so is the proclamation of His Word.

This does not mean that other aspects of church are insignificant, nor that social justice agendas, the environment, diversity of socio economic and cultural and racial backgrounds are not important.  But it means that as we life up Christ he will draw all people to himself.  It’s my constant experience that as we preach Christ from the Scriptures in the power of the Spirit, it is life changing.  I’ve been to cities where the liberal churches that marginalize preaching and instead talk incessantly about diversity are made up of all middle class White Anglo-Saxon Protestants; and the evangelical churches that hardly mention diversity but preach Jesus are as diverse and multicolored as a rainbow.  My screen saver on my computer for many years has been ‘Preach the Word.’  When Paul was passing the baton onto Timothy he emphasized this as the key last message he wanted to communicate to his protégé Timothy.  Preaching for church life is so important that Paul’s famous last words in 2 Timothy were focused upon that charge to preach the Word.

2. In a paragraph, how did you discover your gifts in preaching?
A paragraph!  My first sermon was at 13 years old soon after I had got converted.  I went to a largely secular, nominally Christian, ancient English private boarding school.  It was founded in 1558 by the man who perjured himself to have Sir Thomas More killed.  Ever since then the British Parliament has a law on its statue books that this school has to have an annual founders day service in commemoration of the founder or else cease to exist, a stipulation that was originally intended to be for praying for the founders soul when the foundation was part of a Roman Catholic regime before the country switched back to Anglicanism.

Anyway…there I am, somehow given the opportunity to preach to 500 of teenage peers, as a strapping 13 year old.  I’d chosen the text from the end of Ecclesiastes on the end of everything being to fear God and keep his commandments.  In that school, when the preacher walks in the whole chapel rises to its feet.  You walk around to the pulpit which is one of those old ones where they are set apart next to a pillar and you rise up the steps to the top.  I did so, asked everyone to sit down.  And began to preach.  It was a strange experience.  Immediately afterwards I remember feeling that something was at work beyond just me.  I put it to the back of my mind and went on through life, intending after Cambridge University to become what’s called a Barrister in the City of London.

But God had other plans and gradually wooed me to the pastorate.  But I think my original sense of a call to preach was closely connected to a dramatic conversion/assurance experience when I was thirteen and preaching after that to my secular or nominal English boarding school.  I think I most honed my initial gifts of preaching in the context of what was called “camp” which is a network of Bible camps for young people that has the heritage of producing English Christian leaders down through the years, like (for instance) John Stott.

3. How long (on average) does it take you to prepare a sermon?
I was trained that you should take one hour preparation for every minute speaking.  That said, it does all depend, and this question is a bit like ‘how long is a piece of string.’  Some passages you’ve preached on many times before, some seem to come easier as sermons than others.  But the basic rule to remember is that preaching is work and you have to pray, pray, pray; study, study, study; think, think, think; and only then can you preach, preach, preach.

4. Is it important to you that a sermon contain one major theme or idea? If so, how do you crystallise it?
A sermon is a message, it has a thrust to it, so yes it is important that there is a central controlling idea or thought that runs through the sermon.  This doesn’t mean there has to be only one ‘point’ formally, of course, there can be many, or fewer, all depending on what the passage intends which you are preaching.  My feeling is that the Bible is (as JI Packer said) “God preaching” and therefore the preacher’s task is to ‘re-preach’ the Bible. Sometimes a passage you are preaching may have two or three, four or five, or more, major ideas or themes, but there is usually, if not always, a controlling umbrella idea and that’s the one you need to focus on.

I’m not sure there’s a completely methodological way of crystallizing what the main point of the sermon is.  Keep in mind Lloyd-Jones’ remark that great preaching is preaching on great themes.  So be determined to find the big idea.  Then express it in a clear way.  Try expressing it verbally, as an active commitment, or encouragement, or command, or promise, or warning; try not to express it purely as a title or statement.  But these are guidelines, and there are different ways of doing it.  Preaching is an art, not a science.  One of the most effective outlines I ever heard was by the British preacher Dick Lucas who said when preaching on Eli that Eli was ‘good but weak, and we should be good and strong.’  Powerful stuff.

5. What is the most important aspect of a preacher’s style and what should he avoid?
Style?  There are whole books on that.  I think the most important thing to be avoided is faking it.  Not being yourself.  Trying to be someone else.  Preaching is a personal encounter.  You are there.  Make sure it really is you.
As important, if not more, is the idea of drawing attention to yourself.  Avoid that like the plague.  You are not there to draw attention to yourself you are there to draw attention to God.

There are many subtleties here of numerous kinds.  Spurgeon’s ‘Lecture to My Students’ has many helpful guides.  I would say that in addition to the things already mentioned it’s important, perhaps above all or nearly above all, not to be boring.  God is not boring.  Your manner of delivery must not be boring.  That does not mean you have to shout at your congregation for an hour.  You can be relatively quiet.  But there needs to be an electricity in the air.

In the end, it seems to me that all the rules of rhetoric can be boiled down to trying to teach us how to speak as if we really meant it.  There are other aspects of course, and that’s  a conversation on that idea I once had with someone about it.  But the key part of style in preaching is to really mean it. You can get away with a lot if there is that authenticity.  True preaching is not about having perfect grammar.

6. What notes, if any, do you use?
I’m developing.  When I first started preaching I hardly used any notes at all.  Then I found as I was preaching more and more that I was actually learning my message, and that became a mental strain.  Then I switched gradually to a full manuscript, and I found that that was what Edwards did and Lloyd-Jones did in their early years, and in Edwards’ case for most of his preaching ministry. I think there is real value, especially for the preacher who is preaching every Sunday and does not have the luxury of the itinerant of honing his message to perfection in his head, there is real value in the discipline of writing out every word.  It makes you think clearly.  It makes you look at what you are saying and ask yourself whether you really mean it.

That said, manuscript preaching should never be reading it.  A colleague of mine once said to me that it is more like a security blanket than something you actually read.  There’s a lot to that.

But as I say I am switching a bit at present.  I still have the manuscript but I find now that for various parts of the sermon, particularly the illustrations, or narrative parts, it’s better just to indicate with a word or two what I was going to say and then say it.  For the more accurate precise exegesis I still have large swathes of information.  My guess is that as a preacher develops through his life there are certain topics where it becomes almost a barrier to have extensive notes.  He needs the freedom to be able to express the idea with the words suited to the people in front of him at the time.  But I do think it’s particularly helpful for younger preachers to start with full manuscripts.  It develops precision, and people who have never done that can tend to sound rambling.  Of course there are always the exceptions, and probably the most important thing is to develop an approach that suits your own temperament, gifts and personality.

7. What are the greatest perils that preacher must avoid?
Pride is the classic one usually mentioned.  I think one that is seldom mentioned but which I find actually to be a more prevalent problem among preachers is discouragement.  Preaching, if you are doing it properly, demands your heart and soul.  As a pastor and preacher of God’s Word you want to see life change, heaven open, God descend, people saved, change, every time you preach.  You are the aroma of life and death.  Plus preaching is so personal and emotional.  You are very exposed in a pulpit.  It’s easy for a high on preaching Sunday to be a depressive low on day off Monday.  We should neither rejoice in our victories (for they are his) nor wallow in our defeats (for they are not necessarily ours).   Spurgeon’s story about ‘that terrible sermon’ of which he was so discouraged only to find several people had been converted through it is a lesson to all of us that the seed is sown and it gradually, and of its own, produces the growth.

8. How do you fight to balance preparation for preaching with other important responsibilities (eg. pastoral care, leadership responsibilities)?
Basically, I prioritize the preaching.  So that means my mornings, first thing, are given over to sermon preparation.  Afternoons are for admin and counseling.  Mornings are for preparation for preaching.  All day Friday is for preaching.  My job as a preacher/pastor is not to do the work of the ministry but to equip people to do the work of the ministry.  I am the equipper, and I equip through prayer and the ministry of the word.  As a senior pastor my job is to feed and lead, so there are many administrative tasks, but if the leading is primarily done through the pulpit, and when it is not it is still done out of God’s Word.  So practically I guard mornings like a mother lion guards its cubs.

9. What books on preaching, or exemplars of it, have you found most influential in your own preaching?
Books: Lloyd-Jones, Preachers and Preaching; John Stott, I believe in preaching; Peter Adams, Speaking God’s Word; Spurgeon’s sermons; Edwards sermons; Jackman and Green When God’s Voice is Heard; Piper The Sovereignty of God in Preaching. People: Dick Lucas, John Stott, Mark Ashton, many others.

10. What steps do you take to nurture or encourage developing or future preachers?
We have an internship and a ministry resident program at the church where I work, and both of those are vehicles for training up future ministers of the gospel.  I try to give people opportunities to preach – we have a large number of folk doing that over the summer months while I’m out of the pulpit – and good feedback when they do preach.  I seem to remember sermons pretty easily; I remember freaking out one preacher I was mentoring by quoting back to him large sections of his sermon or at least all the structure of it some months after he had preached when we finally got time to review how it was going.  It’s very encouraging to me to see folk I’ve been involved with over the years pastoring, teaching, preaching.  We all have to replicate ourselves several times over as a matter of great urgency.

10 Questions For Expositors – Steven Lawson

Some pastors lecture. Other pastors preach.  I can safely say that Steven Lawson falls into the latter category.

 


Faithfully preaching Scripture throughout 29 years of pastoral ministry, Dr Lawson possesses that rare combination of ‘light’ and ‘heat’ in his expository style. Its an immense pleasure to put our 10 Questions for Expositors to Steven Lawson today.

1.  Pastor Lawson, where do you place the importance of preaching in the grand scheme of church life?

I would place the preaching of the Word of God at the very center of the life of the church. It is biblical preaching that sets in motion and leads to everything that is good in the church—transcendent worship, godly living, loving fellowship, energetic service, and Christ-centered evangelism. We cannot worship God until we know who He is and what He has done for us. Expository preaching enhances such worship. We cannot live holy lives until our sins are exposed and the path of godliness is made known to us. Again, it is biblical preaching that leads to this. There is no true fellowship in Christ at a meaningful level apart from biblical preaching. Neither can we serve the Lord in the power of the Holy Spirit, nor carryout authentic evangelism, without being challenged by the truth in preaching.

A study of the life of Christ and the early church shows this to be true. Jesus Christ Himself launched His public ministry by preaching (Mk. 1:15-16). The first activity of the church in the book of Acts was preaching (Acts 2:14-40). One fourth of the book of Acts is the record of either a sermon or a defense of Christ. The early church was marked by powerful gospel preaching. No church will rise any higher than its pulpit. Strong churches are the result of strong preaching.

2. In a paragraph, how did you discover your gifts in preaching?

I discovered my gift in preaching in several ways. One, God gave me an overwhelming desire to proclaim His Word. The more I preached, the more I wanted to preach. God put such a strong desire in my heart (1 Timothy 3:1). Two, as I preached, I began to see people come to faith in Christ and believers were being encouraged in their faith. People began to give me positive feedback to my preaching, which was a needed confirmation. Three, I was providentially thrown into preaching. In circumstances beyond my control and through events that I would have never pursued, I suddenly found myself thrust into the arena of preaching. I could only assume that the invisible hand of God was moving me in this direction. Four, I had positive examples of biblical preaching placed before me. The more I heard true preaching, the more there was a fire ignited in my bones to do it.

3. How long (on average) does it take you to prepare a sermon?

The real answer on how it takes to prepare a sermon is all my life. In reality, the preparation of a sermon pulls forward all the years of one’s personal study of Scripture, as well as all one’s life experiences, including trials. God must make the preacher before the preacher can make the sermon. More specifically, it once took me about twenty to twenty-five hours to prepare an expository sermon. I can now do it in less than half that time, depending upon the ease or difficulty of the text and the occasion in which I am speaking.

4. Is it important to you that a sermon contain one major theme or idea? If so, how do you crystallise it?

It is certainly critical that a sermon contain one dominant idea. If you try to say twelve things, you will say nothing. But if you try to say one thing, you will say it well. There should be a straight-line of thought that runs throughout the entirety of the sermon, from the introduction to the conclusion. The preacher cannot be like the man who jumped onto his horse and rode out in every direction. He cannot head in every direction when he stands to preach. Rather he must have a clearly-marked path before him and stay on track, not veering to the right or to the left. Finding the central thrust of a text is a matter of capturing the thunder of that passage. It is finding what is dominant and what is driving the main thrust of the passage.

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 clarity. If he is not crystal-clear in what he is saying, it matters not how passionate he is or how compelling he presents his material. In other words, he must be insightful and speak in a manner in which he is understood. There is an old saying, “Just because a river is muddy does not mean it is deep.” Too often, people assume that a preacher, who is hard to understand, or who speaks over their heads, must be brilliant. The fact is, any speaker can be hard to understand with very little effort. The preacher who has truly mastered his subject is able to communicate it in such a way that others grasp what he is saying. Therefore, the preacher must be coherent and logical, then be fervent and passionate. We must not be like one preacher who wrote in the margin of his bible, “Weak point—yell here.” He must be clearly understood by the common man.

6. What notes, if any, do you use?

I carry a full-written manuscript into the pulpit, although I do not read from it verbatim. I stay fairly attached to it in the introduction, as I do not want to ramble as I come out of the starting blocks. I have written out my homiletical headings, transitions, explanation of the text, word studies, historical background, cross-references, geographical background, authorial intent, building argument of the book, implications of the text, application for the listener, and illustrations. I write the entire manuscript in full sentence form. However, I try to use these notes as little as possible. For the conclusion, I am usually in the overflow of the moment and in such a preaching mode that I am not using my notes.

7. What are the greatest perils that preacher must avoid?

The greatest perils that preachers must avoid: one, pride; two, lack of study; three, prayerlessness; four, withholding the full counsel of God; five, fear of man; six, lack of living the message; seven, a failure to “own” the manuscript; eight, being negative, rather than positive; nine, manipulating people; ten, a lack of compassion.

8. How do you fight to balance preparation for preaching with other important responsibilities (e.g. pastoral care, leadership responsibilities)?

There is no simple answer to this question. The temperament and personality of each pastor is different. The passions and strengths of each man differ. The pastoring demands of each church vary. The needs and age of each congregation differ as well. Each pastor is helped by different kinds of men around him. Each pastor must balance these competing demands, depending upon how he is wired by God and where he serves.

9. What books on preaching, or exemplars of it, have you found most influential in your own preaching?

The best books on preaching are those books which contain great sermons from great preachers. I have learned how to preach, primarily, not by reading books on how to preach, but by reading the sermons of powerful preachers like Charles Haddon Spurgeon, Martyn Lloyd-Jones, and John MacArthur. Great preaching is more caught than it is taught. Most who teach preaching are not the best preachers. And most of the great preachers are not writing books on how to preach. There are, of course, exceptions. The best book on preaching that I have ever read is Preaching and Preachers by Martyn Lloyd-Jones, himself a prince of preachers.

10.  Finally Steven, what steps do you take to nurture or encourage developing or future preachers?

In order to nurture future preachers, I do several things. One, I host an annual conference on expository preaching called the Expositors’ Conference (www.expositorsconference.org). In this conference, I invite a noted expositor to join with me in preaching on the distinctives of expository preaching, as well as modeling it. Two, I preach in numerous pastors’ conferences and bible conferences around America and in other parts of the world. These venues allow me to excite and encourage young preachers and model for them biblical preaching. Three, I have written several books and articles on expository preaching, which have been used by the Lord with positive effect upon future preachers. Four, I maintain correspondence with young preachers who write and seek guidance. Five, my sermons are posted on the webpage and become an example, of sorts, for young pastors. Six, I visit with pastors at conferences before and after I speak. Seven, I teach expository preaching in the Doctor of Ministry programs at various seminaries, such as Ligonier Academy in Orlando, Florida and The Master’s Seminary in Los Angeles, California. Eight, I teach the Expositor’s Institute with John  MacArthur in which we work with fifteen to twenty men in a small group setting regarding biblical preaching.

10 Questions For Expositors – Liam Garvie

God is raising up a growing band of young, faithful preachers in Scotland. One of them is Liam Garvie, pastor of St Andrew’s Baptist Church. I’ve often been edified by his sermons, and I appreciate his responses to our 10 Questions for Expositors.

1. Where do you place the importance of preaching in the grand scheme of church life?

Based on the understanding that the proclamation of the word of God is the ordained means by which God gathers his church and grants unbelievers life (Ezek 37; 1 Pet 1:23), and the means by which He grows his church and grants believers sanctification, I believe preaching, and expository preaching at that, should be considered by pastor and flock alike, absolutely central in the grand scheme of church life. God has spoken, and we should be a listening people.  What better way to exhort all to magnify Christ crucified and be conformed to his image and likeness than by preaching the Scriptures that testify about Him (Luke 24:27)? 

2. In a paragraph, how did you discover your gifts in preaching?

In short, through the affirmation of my local church in Dundee.  Not long after my conversion at the age of 19 I had a great appetite for God’s word and I became aware of a compelling desire to proclaim everything I was learning.  Having had opportunities to lead Bible studies for 18-25 year olds and given talks at our church youth group, I spoke to our senior pastor who explored my desire to preach, took me under his wing and gave me opportunities to preach in church.  Despite preaching some shockingly bad sermons, the church in Dundee were very gracious and encouraging and spurred me on towards full0time gospel ministry.  Ultimately the local church confirmed what i believed my compulsion to preach indicated… that I must preach.  It’s like what Spurgeon said in his autobiography, “A man who has really within him the inspiration of the Holy Ghost calling him to preach, cannot help it – he must preach. As fire within his bones, so will that influence be, until it blazes forth. Friends may check him, foes criticize him, despisers sneer at him, the man is indomitable; he must preach if he has the call of heaven.”

3. How long (on average) does it take you to prepare a sermon?

I usually give all of Thursday and Friday to sermon prep  – so on average about 16-20 hours per week.

4. Is it important to you that a sermon contain one major theme or idea? If so, how do you crystallise it?

I personally find it helpful in both sermon introduction and sermon conclusion to provide a clear one sentence statement summarising what the text is saying.  I would also add that I think it’s essential that each of the main points that make up the body of the sermon should a) be derived from the text with respect to the breakdown of whatever passage is being handled (not derived in order to fit a preferred outline), and b) serve to reinforce that clear statement that ‘bookends’ the sermon.  As for crystallising the key message of the text, I do that by reading, re-reading, and re-reading the text, taking notes, checking the context to see if there’s anything which negates any conclusions I come to.

5. What is the most important aspect of a preacher’s style and what should he avoid?

Two things:  1) He must be himself – that goes without saying.  2) He must be passionate – A preacher who is noticeably impacted by the text he’s preaching from will be listened to.  Even is those hearing don’t necessarily believe everything he says, they will hear! 

6. What notes, if any, do you use?

For 4 years I have used a full manuscript but over the past year I have moved to using detailed notes/outline.  But I am considering reducing my notes further after preaching with a bare-bones outline recently – not by choice I might add (I copied over my morning sermon with my evening sermon and only realised that 20 minutes before leaving the house for church).  I might add, for me, preaching with full script or outline does not reduce the amount of time in careful excavation of a text and in careful consideration of application.  I know I would have been flailing a couple of weeks ago if it hadn’t been for three things, a) the grace of God, b) preaching expositionally through a book of the Bible (greatly increasing my ability to understand the text) and c) devoting myself to the rigorous wrestling of the text in the study. 

7. What are the greatest perils that preacher must avoid?

The big one for me is this: Failing to preach Christ from every text.  If Christ is not preached, the Gospel is not preached; and if the Gospel is not preached you not only miss the mark when you preach, you miss the target altogether!  “The Scriptures testify about me”, Jesus says (Luke 24:27), and our preaching must not only reveal that we have bore that in mind in our preparation, but that we have made it the central question that infiltrates and informs every thought and every word and every teaching. 

8. How do you fight to balance preparation for preaching with other important responsibilities (eg. pastoral care, leadership responsibilities)

Admittedly, this is still something I’m working on, but by seeking to reserve Thursday and Friday for sermon prep, I try to fit meetings and pastoral appointments in to Tuesdays and Wednesdays).  I’m really keen to find ways of concentrating my time on discipling relationships and sharing life with the members of our local church.

9. What books on preaching, or exemplars of it, have you found most influential in your own preaching?                                                         

Re: Exemplars of preaching that have influenced me?  Without a doubt, Mark Dever for his expository faithfulness.  I have learned so much from him and particularly from hearing him preach larger texts (covering chapters and even books).  John Piper, for his passion.  My old pastor Jim Clarke, for all the times when he would walk out from behind the pulpit and stand, as it were, face-to-face with his flock spurring them on to Christ.  And my best friend Charles Haddon Spurgeon whose sermons were so saturated with grace that I cannot read one without being freshly amazed.

Re: books on preaching that have influenced me?  Between Two Worlds by John Stott;  The Supremacy of Christ in Preaching by John Piper; Preaching with Passion by Alex Montoya, Preaching and Preachers by Martyn Lloyd-Joners; Heralds of God by James S. Stewart; Preaching that Changes Lives by Michael Fabarez, Feed My Sheep edited by Don Kistler; Christ-Centred Preaching by Bryan Chapell; Kindled Fire (methods of Spurgeon) by Zack Eswine.

10.What steps do you take to nurture or encourage developing or future preachers?

Three things:  a) I set aside the evening service to make opportunities for discovering or developing preachers (as well as giving other gifted preachers in the church the opportunity to preach).  b) I invite those who are just starting out to lead every part of a service apart from the sermon just to give them the experience of putting a service together and standing up front.  c) This summer we’re giving a young guy the opportunity to work for us for 5-6 weeks, giving him the experience of preaching a 5-6 week series through a book of the Bible and he’ll be getting some feedback and encouragement from that.

 

10 Questions For Expositors – Melvin Tinker

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.

10 Questions For Expositors – Ray Orlund Jr

This is a real treat today. Ray Ortlund Jr kindly answers a series of questions about his preaching!

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By way of introducing Ray Ortlund Jr, much could be said:

Today, Ray responds to our Ten Questions for Expositors:

1. Where do you place the importance of preaching in the grand scheme of church life?

Preaching is central in the life of a church, because Jesus himself speaks savingly through the preached Word. The Second Helvetic Confession of 1566 was bold enough to say, “When this Word of God is now preached in the church by preachers lawfully called, we believe that the very Word of God is preached and received by the faithful.” Romans 10:14 (ESV margin: “. . . believe him whom they have never heard”) validates that conviction.

Another verse that means a lot to me is 1 Corinthians 14:8, “If the bugle gives an indistinct sound, who will get ready for battle?” I have never seen a church rise in spiritual power where the preaching was unclear, indistinct, overly cautious, timid. Every church I know of that is making a gospel impact has an unmistakably clear and winsomely courageous preaching ministry.

2. In a paragraph, how did you discover your gifts in preaching?

How does one discover gifts in any area? It just appears, as experience allows and in the fullness of God’s time. My own preaching started with complete ineptitude, graduated over time to struggle, and by now has advanced to varying degrees of effectiveness and ineffectiveness. My progress seems directly related to growing theological discovery of God’s glory in the gospel, through dissatisfaction with myself as a preacher, through the joy of seeing God use me, and through the assurance that at any time God can rend the heavens and come down in revival power.

3. How long (on average) does it take you to prepare a sermon?

Early in my ministry, I needed twenty-plus hours to prepare. By now, the disciplines are more streamlined. I average perhaps ten hours or so.

4. Is it important to you that a sermon contain one major theme or idea? If so, how do you crystallize it?

I often fall in love with every detail in my text, so that I tend toward excess at that level in my preaching. But I try to ask, “What is the precise pastoral burden of this unique passage?” Every detail, however fascinating, is there in the text to help construct that one overall message. So, after I have written my sermon draft, I go back and interrogate every sentence, “Do you really need to be here?” If not, it disappears.

5. What is the most important aspect of a preacher’s style and what should he avoid?

The most important aspect, in my view, is believability — the believability of the message and of the preacher himself. The first is a matter of clarity (exposition), defense (apologetics) and force (power in application). I want so to persuade the people that they are left thinking, “Well, of course. How could it be otherwise? I receive this as truth, I love this as beauty, I want this to change me.” I try to avoid everything about myself that may distract from that outcome.

6. What notes, if any, do you use?

I use a full manuscript. But I try to be in sufficient control of the flow of thought and certain key phrases that it doesn’t get in my way. I want to enjoy the sermon and the people in the moment.

7. What are the greatest perils that preacher must avoid?

The greatest peril is forgetting what preaching is there for in the first place. It is not there as a platform for pet theories, inner-church politics, the culture wars, developing a personal following for myself or for proving how cool I can be. The preaching ministry is there for the display of Jesus Christ, according to the gospel. It is for him alone, as he wants to speak to the people, love them, help them, save them. Preaching is a sacred experience and must not be profaned by misplaced enthusiasms.

8. How do you fight to balance preparation for preaching with other important responsibilities (eg. pastoral care, leadership responsibilities)

I wish I had a good answer here. It is a constant struggle. The only chance I have for success is setting aside protected blocks of time when I am quiet and alone with God and my books. That usually means I get away from my office. There is a difference between an office and a study. Right now all I have is an office. So I have to get out of here to do serious study.

9. What books on preaching, or exemplars of it, have you found most influential in your own preaching?

My favorite is Lloyd-Jones’ Preaching and Preachers, especially the final chapter, “Demonstration of the Spirit and of the Power.” I am stirred even now just to think about it. Oh, that I might preach just one apostolic, anointed sermon before I die!

10. What steps do you take to nurture or encourage developing or future preachers?

I want to do more in this way. I did teach at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School for nine years. And now, indirectly, my participation in The Gospel Coalition serves to lift up the next generation of preachers. I also desire to be encouraging to other preachers in the Acts 29 Network. And I hope that in five or six years my successor at Immanuel Church will be here, established in ministry, so that he can grow in authority as I fade away.

Previously on 10 Questions