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Ten Questions for Expositor Preaching

Thursday, October 18, 2007

The following is provided by the preaching pastor at Christ Church of the Carolinas. He has been in the ministry as a pastor for 15-20 years.

All posts related to this topic, may be accessed here.
10 Questions for Expositors

1. Where do you place the importance of preaching in the grand scheme of church life?
Robert Murray McCheyne ever dreaded the reproach of a dying woman addressed to John Newton: “You often spoke to me of Christ; but oh you did not tell me enough about my danger.” Mr. McCheyne warned fellow ministers, saying, “Our people will not thank us in eternity for speaking smooth things, and crying ‘Peace, peace, when there is no peace.’ No, they may praise us now, but they will curse our flattery in eternity.”

God’s preachers are called to preach the contradictions. They are called to preach: “Behold your God,” translated, “Cease beholding you.” The preacher has no message unless he preaches “Behold your God.” Biblical preachers set forth before their congregations man’s invertedness upon himself.

God’s preacher must make certain to declare those truths particularly relevant to his times. He is responsible for bringing to the fore those doctrines of grace most assaulted by his unbiblical culture. Though he holds forth from every genre of the Spirit’s Bible, his concentration is upon the teachings of God receiving the least favorable treatment both within and outside the Church. An old Scotsman said: “What would you think of the man who, when the city was besieged, should buckle on his armor, and run to the east gate, where there was no danger, while the enemy was at the west.”

George Whitefield was preaching in what is presently America in 1740, and said of the preaching in America: “I am persuaded that the generality of preachers talk of an unknown and unfelt Christ. The reason why congregations have been so dead is because they had dead men preaching to them. How can dead men beget living children?” Richard Baxter preached in Kidderminster, England, declared, “If God would but reform the ministry … the people would certainly be reformed.”

The preacher is a lion behind the sacred desk and a lamb in the counseling chamber. He devotes his energies to protecting the sheep from the wolves rather than petting the sheep. When God’s preacher preaches he calls upon his hearers to run toward the roar of Judah’s Lion.

Your Christian responsibility is to understand the times wherein you live so that you might know the direction of your nation and the national correctives sorely needed (I Chron. 12:32). Jesus is often portrayed as one who never said anything harsh to others, but what does such a biased revisionist interpreter of the Lord’s word do when knowing that the King of glory openly criticized the societal leaders of His day, saying, “Do you know how to discern the appearance of the sky, but cannot discern the signs of the times?” (Mt. 16:3).

There can be no effective application of the most powerful preaching without the saints of Christ thinking deeply and reading the more difficult works of past Christian titans. Are you willing to join the cloud of witnesses who have gone before and support those faithful preachers whom the Lord is deploying to beget many sons and daughters to glory?

Unsaved people need saving (Acts 4:12). Saved people cannot be saved again, so their greatest personal need is sanctification (Jn. 10:28f.). Some think they are saved – but are not – they need exposure to the Lord’s word alerting them to their hypocrisy and their imminent danger.

Biblical sermons should express God’s desire for people’s salvation and for the saved to be sanctified (to be holy). Some messages focus on the salvation one can only receive from Christ Jesus, whereas other communications direct the hearer’s attention to the Christian’s need for sanctification. No one is profited by the same focal point in every sermon and since the saved person cannot be saved again, he may be encouraged by a salvation message but his continuing benefit will be limited.

America still boasts of large church membership rolls. Nonetheless, you know that a significant percentage of church members resting in the pews on Sundays are not saved. They attend church due to their traditions, habits, and social desires, to network for economic gain or out of family responsibilities such as a saved spouse’s desire to worship or to provide their children with moral sustenance.

Many church members have heard salvation messages all their lives, but no apparent personal application has occurred. They are not offended by salvation sermons because they think they are saved and have every confidence that the message is for anyone but them. Perhaps the time arrives when the unsaved, long time, church member needs to be confronted by the herald with the sanctificational messages that the Holy Spirit will liberate to alert the unsaved to realize they do not have what they think they have.

Sanctification sermons are for saved people as well as those who have heard salvation sermons all their lives. Many saved people think sanctification sermons are too deep for their unsaved family members. They are concerned that the unsaved family member will be offended by the depth or the personal application and turn away from the Lord. The problem with this illogical conclusion is that the unsaved family member is already turned away from the Lord and unless something changes he will die away from the Lord. Can strong medicine be too strong for a spiritually dead person?

Scores of saved spouses allow their unsaved spouses to remain in situations where they are not going to hear a message any different from what they have heard for years. They are unwilling to place the spouse they love before the stronger teaching because of their cowardice or their hope that one day their spouse will just wake up. If for years you took your loved one to a physician every week for a condition that the physician’s prescriptions failed to address, would you continue to patronize that physician’s establishment or would you consider your other options?

How would your Lord Christ respond to your failure to position your spouse or family member so that he could hear what he has not heard before? “Behold, your house is being left to you desolate!” (Mt. 23:38).

2. In a paragraph, how did you discover your gifts in preaching?
Those in authority over me recognized it before I did. They advised of their awareness, opportunities were allowed for its exercise and confirmations resulted. For the man committed to preaching God’s heart, the Bible is his sandbox where he goes to play even as he works. He enjoys his play because though to many it is work, to him his eternal labor in the Lord is his recreation. He discovers in His Lord’s word the theological firestones/touchstones that force his parishioners living an unholy life to argue against or adopt the holy life set forth in the Bible.

3. How long (on average) does it take you to prepare a sermon?
Most messages are labored upon for months in advance and I have no way of determining the time placed into those preceding months. In the several weeks preceding and the week of the delivery of the message, I suspect approximately 15-18 hours are presently invested.

4. Is it important to you that a sermon contain one major theme or idea? If so, how do you crystallise it?
In most instances, I am unable to discern the primary “word” that any particular hearer shall receive from the message delivered. I have a working knowledge of the primary theme within a few minutes of beginning the delivery of the word. I seek the movement of the Holy Spirit for His gathering of His focus for the sermon in the study and as I take His position behind His sacred desk.

5. What is the most important aspect of a preacher’s style and what should he avoid?
The preacher should pray to present the message as the Lord would present should He be the presenter on the day of the presentation. His affect must be that of the Author’s in light of the spiritual disposition of the hearers both individually and collectively. He should avoid frothiness, insincerity, forced humor and casual addresses. The passage should determine the style.

6. What notes, if any, do you use?
It varies with the type of sermon (topical, verse by verse expositional, etc.), the intent of the gathering and the time allowed for preparation (as some messages are forged subsequent to standing behind the sacred desk).

7. What are the greatest perils that preacher must avoid?
Kindness in a preacher is cruelty when it refrains from proclaiming reality to one who is perishing. If there is no judgment, why did Christ die? Why does He demand your allegiance if He did not pay for it. Remove from your theology the truth of Jesus bearing the consequences of your sin and you abort the most sterling example of His love. Any teaching that reduces the sinfulness of sin and its consequences does not come from God. It was the serpent of old who first advised “Has God said?” and moved it to the lie, “You surely shall not die” (Gen. 3:1, 4).

Perhaps true preaching can only be identified by its content rather than by the intention of the preacher, the presentation of the preacher or the response of the congregation. If so, what is God commanding in this very verse to be preached? The word – His, not yours!

The word is “like fire… and like a hammer which shatters a rock… all Scripture… not of seed which is perishable but imperishable… men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God (Jer. 23:29; II Ti. 3:16; I Pe. 1:23; II Pe. 1:21, respectively). The Lord reveals Himself by His word, so if His word is withheld from His people then they lack His revelation of Himself (I Sam. 3:21).

Preachers are to preach the whole counsel of God by taking those under their care from Dan to Beersheba – spanning the whole countryside. Preachers set the mortality of their sheep before them every Lord’s Day. They preach as though they genuinely believe that everyone must truly appear before the judgment seat of Christ – there is but one moment between the hearer and the final judgment – and they will either be transformed or they will be damned.

8. How do you fight to balance preparation for preaching with other important responsibilities (eg. pastoral care, leadership responsibilities)?
Diligently, purposely; yet failing every week.

9. What books on preaching, or exemplars of it, have you found most influential in your own preaching?
The writings/sermons of the Puritans

10. What steps do you take to nurture or encourage developing or future preachers?
Advise them on appropriate institutions to attend. Assist in their formal education financially as well as allowing opportunities for those with the gift to access opportunities to exercise the gift.

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