The Proclamation Trust Cornhill is a training course with the primary aim of training preachers. Robin Weekes serves alongside Christopher Ash as a full-time member of the Cornhill teaching staff in London.
Previously Robin served with Crosslinks in India, as pastor of the English-speaking South Delhi Congregation of the Delhi Bible Fellowship. We look forward to Robin answering our 10 Questions for Expositors today!
1. Where do you place the importance of preaching in the grand scheme of church life?
Preaching is – or at least should be – right at the heart of church life. That is because it is the word of God which creates the people of God, and the word of God which changes the people of God. If you want to think about this further, my colleague Christopher Ash’s The Priority of Preaching is excellent.
2. In a paragraph, how did you discover your gifts in preaching?
The chief way that I discerned that the Lord had given me the gift of preaching was by doing it and asking the wider church if they thought I was any good! Initially this was as a student, speaking at CU events and summer camps. After graduating I worked as a parish assistant at St Anne’s Church in Limehouse, where along with preaching opportunities I had the privilege of learning to preach at the PT Cornhill Training Course. Cornhill was immensely formative both in my preaching gift being identified and developed.
3. How long (on average) does it take you to prepare a sermon?
Martin Luther famously encouraged preachers to “beat your head against the text until it yields.” Some texts yield more easily than others, but I reckon on needing four mornings of 3-4 hours to prepare a sermon.
4. Is it important to you that a sermon contain one major theme or idea? If so, how do you crystallise it?
Here at Cornhill we encourage the students to identify a ‘theme sentence’ (or ‘big idea’) and an ‘aim sentence’ for every Bible passage they are teaching. The theme sentence is the main point of the passage. We believe that expository preaching is where the main point of the sermon is the main point of the passage. Whilst I don’t want preachers to be reductionistic or to flatten the Bible, I do think that discipline of identifying and communicating the main point is enormously helpful.
That theme then focuses the application which is what the aim sentence is all about. This is what we want people to think or feel or do as a result of this part of God’s word.
5. What is the most important aspect of a preacher’s style and what should he avoid?
It is vital that preachers find their own voice, and preach naturally, clearly and passionately. He should avoid trying to please men and trying to be someone else.
6. What notes, if any, do you use?
I still use a fairly full script, although I deliberately don’t script my illustrations so as to make sure that they sound different. Early on I employed an indented manuscript which means that it doesn’t look remotely like an essay! This helps me not to read the manuscript as if it were an essay, and to know where I am in the argument. It works for me.
7. What are the greatest perils that preacher must avoid?
There are many that I try to avoid and encourage others to avoid including:
• Teaching a passage rather than proclaiming & encountering the person of Christ (from a passage).
• Preaching to others what has not first run through my own soul.
• Being sound but dull and therefore bypassing people’s affections.
• Preaching imperatives without indicatives.
• Ignoring the Trinity.
8. How do you fight to balance preparation for preaching with other important responsibilities (eg. pastoral care, leadership responsibilities)
Things are a little different now that I am not currently pastoring a church. Early on in ministry I got into the habit of protecting my mornings for preparation and prayer. That habit has become ingrained and I find it very useful. As far as possible, I try to leave personal work, administration and meetings to the afternoons and evenings.
9. What books on preaching, or exemplars of it, have you found most influential in your own preaching?
I am greatly indebted to a number of very fine preachers who have helped and influenced me enormously including: Mark Ashton (the minister of the church I was a member of as a student), David Jackman and Dick Lucas (who taught me at Cornhill), Vaughan Roberts (the minister of the church I was a member of whilst at theological college), Jonathan Fletcher (who I worked under for four years and who was a great model as a preacher and very incisive in his feedback on my early attempts at preaching).
In terms of books, Ed Clowney’s Preaching Christ in all the Scriptures has shaped my preaching. Reading widely – especially books and sermons by John Flavel – also feeds my preaching.
10. What steps do you take to nurture or encourage developing or future preachers?
I have the privilege of serving full time on the teaching staff of the PT Cornhill Training Course in London where nurturing and developing future preachers is what we are all about. I do think that the course is an excellent way of training preachers. Most students do the course part time and so are with us for 2 days a week and in a local church for 4 days a week. This gives them the opportunity to put into practice what they are being taught at Cornhill while they are learning it. It roots them in the local church and by focussing exclusively on one thing (preaching), we are able to do one thing well.
For more information about the Cornhill summer school, check this out.Tweet