Young people coming of age in these days of self-service stations may have never heard those words familiar to drivers of an earlier day. You’d pull your automobile next to the pumps of your favorite service station, lean out of the window of your car and proclaim to the smiling young man in greasy overalls: “Fill ‘er up!”
Has there ever been a preacher who, on some lonely Saturday night, didn’t sit meekly in his study and wish he could say to some spiritual service attendant: “Fill ‘er up!”?
John A. Huffman, Jr., tells about a preaching seminar he attended at Princeton Seminary. The instructor was Raymond I. Lindquist, former pastor of the Hollywood Presbyterian Church.
A young pastor, just a year out of seminary, recited this lament to the teacher:
“Dr. Lindquist, I’ve enrolled in this seminar for one reason. I’ve been in the ministry for a year now and I’ve run out of things to preach about. I’ve preached my sermon on love, my sermon on forgiveness, my sermon on race, and I’ve run out of fresh topics. I’m here to get some new sermon material.”
I can visualize that young pastor in all of his frustration hoping that someone would “fill ‘er up” so that he might return to the pulpit with a fresh supply of fuel — at least enough to get him through another year of Sundays!
That experienced pastor diagnosed the problem immediately and, as Huffman observes, “wielded the pastoral scalpel deftly” as he responded to the young man:
“Young man, you may have exhausted your own human understanding of these topics but you will never exhaust the Word of God if you faithfully proclaim it week after week after week!”
The temptation is always present to shape our preaching around our personal insights concerning the needs of the congregation. The danger of such preaching, as John Huxtable observed, is that we resort to “making weekly sallies into the good book to discover some peg on which to hang some scattered observations about men and affairs.”
The only remedy for this kind of superficial preaching is a systematic, expositional approach to preaching the Scriptures. Whether we use a lectionary as a guide or adopt another method — such as a progressive approach to a single book of the Bible — such preaching provides more complete nourishment to a congregation while protecting the preacher from a recurring “Fill ‘er up” syndrome.
John Killinger notes: “It is always tempting for an educated preacher to deliver personal opinions. The greater the education, the greater the temptation. But it is the Bible that speaks most clearly and authoritatively to people’s needs — especially when one reads the Bible critically, with a theological eye to its major themes and interests.”
We live in an era that is restless and rootless. People hunger for a certain word — a word of hope, a word of life. When we stand in the pulpit and proclaim the eternal truths found in the Word of God, we become bearers of a powerful message that will lift spirits and change lives.
Our call is to proclaim that Word. In so doing, we become instruments of God in producing a “filling” that lasts.

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About The Author

Michael Duduit is the founding publisher and editor of Preaching magazine. He is also the founding Dean of the new College of Christian Studies and Professor of Christian Ministry at Anderson University in Anderson, South Carolina. Michael is author and editor of several books, including the Handbook of Contemporary Preaching (Broadman & Holman Press), Joy in Ministry (Baker Books), Preaching With Power (Baker) and Communicate With Power (Baker). From 1996 until 2000 he served as editor of the Abingdon Preaching Annual series. His email newsletter, PreachingNow, is read each week by more than 40,000 pastors and church leaders in the U.S. and around the world. He is founder and director of the National Conference on Preaching and the International Congress on Preaching, which has been held in 1997 at Westminster Chapel in London, 2002 at the University of Edinburgh, Scotland, and 2007at Cambridge. He has been a pastor and associate pastor, has served a number of churches as interim pastor, and speaks regularly for churches, colleges and conferences.

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