Talking Preaching: The Nation’s Premier Preachers Various July 1, 2005 For 20 Years, Preaching Magazine Has Interviewed the Nation’s Premier Preachers The very first Preaching magazine interview appeared in the September-October 1986 issue, our second year of publication. It was an interview with David Allen Hubbard, then President of Fuller Theological Seminary. Then came interviews with Fred Craddock, John R.W. Stott, John MacArthur . . . and the list continues. Since that first example nearly two decades ago, Preaching magazine has featured interviews with most of the best-known preachers in America. The majority of those interviews have been conducted by editor Michael Duduit, but not all of them. In the first few years of the magazine’s existence, many of the interviews were conducted by Associate Editor R. Albert Mohler, now President of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and a widely-known evangelical author and commentator. During his tenure as managing editor, Mark Johnson (now a Maryland pastor) did a couple of interviews. And Jim Barnette, Minister to the University at Samford University, led two interviews for us. Interview subjects are prompted for a variety of reasons. Sometimes the subject has a book coming out, and that sets the timing. For other interviews, we just think this particular preacher has some valuable insights other preachers would enjoy hearing. And how do we decide what to ask? As Duduit observes, “I just try to put myself in the position of a pastor who has been given a precious hour of this person’s time. What would I want to learn from a gifted preacher?” In honor of our twentieth anniversary, we’ve selected some interesting excerpts from among the dozens of interviews that have been published in Preaching over the past two decades. (The dates by the subject’s name refers to the date of the issue in which the interview was first published.) Leith Anderson (March-April 1992) A sermon must be biblical, but the preacher must present the biblical material in an interesting way. Baby Boomers do not like to be bored. If they are bored, they will tune you out, and stay tuned out. The sermon must be perceived by Baby Boomers as relevant, so that they hear the biblical text and say, “That’s my story C it has something to do with my life.” With that in mind, when I step into the pulpit I may do any number of things. I may use a first?person monologue. I might take a rather academic approach if the text and the issue demands it. I may use any combination of models to fit both the audience and the message. __________________________Leith Anderson is Senior Pastor of Wooddale Church in Eden Prarie, MN. Steve Brown (November-December 1992) Be the personification of what you preach. When I say that, I don’t mean in the old sense of model holiness. I’m talking about the kind of vulnerability and honesty that you appreciate in others C be that in the pulpit. The pulpit grants us a place to pontificate, to play games, and to look down arrogant noses at the poor peasants in the pew. In the church that I served, I came from the congregation to preach. I had a petition put on my desk by a number of people in the church who wanted me to sit up front behind the pulpit the way one always did. I tore it up because I realized the reason they wanted me to sit there said something really bad about them and about preachers. So I would sit in the congregation and when it was my time to teach the Bible, I walked up to the pulpit C well, we didn’t have a pulpit. I usually sat on a bar stool and taught. It was a statement: “Guys, as I teach you this stuff, you need to know that I’m placing myself under the authority of God’s Word, too. I’ve worked through some of this, I’ll be honest when I’m not living it. I’ll tell you where I am living it. I’ll tell you what’s helped me and made the difference. But above all, this is revealed propositional truth and we don’t have the freedom to change it.” That’s the kind of modelling that I think is good for a pastor. I think there were days in the past when pastors and preachers could pontificate C Beecher was one of those, I think Harold John Ockenga was one of those, Fosdick was one. I think our day and age has forced us to take the armor off, and the preacher who doesn’t will die. __________________________Steve Brown is Professor of Preaching at Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando, FL, and speaker for the Key Life radio ministry. Fred Craddock (May-June 2003) I think my change was born in my own inability to remember my sermons. I was putting a grid over the biblical material and sermonic material that was not normal. I was preaching it and I’d look down at my material and I was in the wrong place. What’s wrong with this? So on occasion, when I was asked to speak at a civic club or a Sunday School class, I would abandon my homiletical plan and talk to them. As I examined those speeches, they had as much content as the other, but they started at a different point. So one week I just said to my wife, “I think I’m going to try to preach Sunday morning like I talk to these other groups.” She was kind of aghast at what happened. People would say, “Well, that was interesting but was it a sermon?” It was a real struggle for me because I’d been doing it the other way, and I could have moved right along. So it was, first of all, running into myself in the pulpit. I had the feeling that good communications would flow normally and naturally enough that I could remember it and follow my own sermons without looking down and saying, “Oh, I’ve forgotten that.” So when I started teaching preaching, the campus revolution against everyone in authority was in full swing. Homiletics and preaching classes were made optional, and I struggled with the students: What’s wrong with this? Why is this not working? I took a year off and studied preaching out of the frustration that I wasn’t getting anywhere. It wasn’t working. I remembered my own preaching there in Columbia, Tennessee, and the changes I made in my preaching. So instead of teaching preaching classes like I was taught, maybe I can help them develop, if not like I do it, a way that they would be comfortable. So I played with that, took another year off and studied – I just had a rough transition. A lot of things I said in As One Without Authority I still hold to. I don’t believe that a lot of people who give me credit for getting them started thinking a new way – I don’t think many of them are doing what I thought I was doing. I don’t think many of them have had the agony I went through. I just don’t want to take credit for everything that’s going on that supposedly is called “inductive.” __________________________Fred Craddock is retired from the faculty of Candler School of Theology, and continues to lead training events for pastors. W.A. Criswell (May-June 1995) I studied! I tell preachers to make the announcement to your people that in the morning you want to be left alone with God. Don’t you call me, don’t come by to see me, don’t expect me to be a part of any kind of committee or program. In the afternoon, I’ll do any work of the church. In the evening, I’ll attend meetings. It was important for me to have my mornings devoted to study. I would always try to have the sermon prepared by Friday. Beginning Friday and Saturday I would be with God as I get it in my heart. I was just seventeen years old when I started my pastoral work. I got down on my knees before the Lord and said, “Lord, I am going to preach without notes and I am going to depend upon you to bless my memory, so that when I stand up there to preach I won’t forget or stumble.” I was terrified when I started doing that. What if I were right in the middle of the sermon and came to the third point and couldn’t remember it, couldn’t recall it? What would I do? It would be embarrassing beyond description. But I trusted God for it. And to this day I have never forgotten; I have never stumbled. Once in a great while, I might have a moment of difficulty in recalling that third or fourth point, but I just keep talking and in a moment or so it will come back to me. __________________________W.A. Criswell served for half a century as Senior Pastor of First Baptist Church in Dallas, TX. He died in 2002. Jerry Falwell (July-August 2003) Being a media minister helps you to say more with few words because it’s usually only the first two or three sentences, the sound bite as they call it, that the public is accustomed to capture. You will have others who will get it all, you will have many who will get a good bit of it, but most only get the sound bites. So it is important that your first paragraph is attention getting. It is important that at various points of the message where you want to drive home a truth, that something that will recapture their attention. It is important that the way you end is a memorable ending because two weeks from now they won’t be able to remember the topic they have heard so much since then. I try very hard to think of what I am doing at the pulpit as though I were on Face the Nation or one of the talk shows when you are across from an opponent. You don’t get the chance to go into all of your rationale. You will be shouted down or talked over. You’ve got to have two or three sentences that go right through. __________________________Jerry Falwell is Senior Pastor of Thomas Road Baptist Church in Lynchburg, VA, where he also serves as Chancellor of Liberty University. Jack Graham (November-December 2002) Preaching must come out of the life of the preacher, the authenticity of the preacher’s life and the character we build. There is no effective preaching without credibility in the pulpit – we’ve seen that many times. What I have tried to do is to build within my life the consistency of character that produces a consistency of message. The standard of biblical preaching and the call is a high call. We all fall short, yet we should aspire to preach a message that is consistent with our character and that our character will be consistent with our message. __________________________Jack Graham is Senior Pastor of Prestonwood Baptist Church in Dallas, TX. OS Hawkins (January-February 1996) This is an ecotonic world in which we’re living. An ecotone is that place where two ecosystems come together. I pastored down in Fort Lauderdale where that salt water from the ocean comes into the intercoastal waterway and meets the fresh water from the river. Where they blend together and merge together is called an ecotone and it’s a place of tremendous possibility. Fish lay their eggs there. It’s also a place of tremendous danger because certain things happen environmentally there. That’s the world we’re called to preach to. We have an incredible opportunity. We are meshing and blending right now our modern world with a postmodern world. The world I was educated in, the world you were educated in, most everybody reading this article were educated in is history C it’s over. I just read the other day that all the accumulated knowledge in world history is going to double in the next five years. We are already in a postmodern world, and it’s a time of great possibility for those of us who can translate the gospel in a contemporary way. It’s a time of horrible problems for those who are still locked in a time warp in the 1950’s or 60’s, trying to translate the Gospel in that manner. . . . The apostles were engaging the same kind of culture we are C a godless, pagan culture. That’s what America is. And they weren’t trying to be cute about it. They went in, and the power of God came on them, and the power of God is what brought all of this about. When we return to that and bring back a balance into our preaching, we can see something happen. __________________________At the time of this interview, O.S. Hawkins was Senior Pastor of First Baptist Church in Dallas, TX. He now serves as President of Guidestone Financial Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention. Jim Henry (September-October 1999) I realize that in preaching if I’m not where the people are and not engaged with them, then I’m probably not going to connect with them. God has given me a love for people ? to reach out to people and be reached by people. I love people. So when I became a pastor, I was engaged with the people their families from the very beginning: hospitals, weddings, deaths, standing around afterwards shaking hands. Having coffee, eating lunch or dinner with them just was part of my routine. I did not know any better. I thought that was what you did. Then as the churches grew that I was in, I tried to keep that connection and it became more difficult because your leadership role changes. You become more of a vision caster, the administration piles up. The fact that you’ve been at a place a certain amount of time, it’s kind of like a snow ball. You get more people that want you to write a letter of recommendation for them or they want to get into school. You get more of that just by being there C you get asked to do more things. But I still realize that I can’t pastor or preach to these people if I don’t keep doing this. So I find some other ways to try to stay connected. For instance, after the services, I’m usually the last one to leave. Not always, but usually I’ll stand around on Sundays and Wednesdays just to be with the people. They know I’m there. Or I will have a reception line where people can come by. But I am going to be available. If somebody wants to tell me something or introduce family or a friend, I want to be there. . . . I still do weddings; I don’t do them all because we have so many. I still do funerals; I don’t do many but I do some. I still go to the hospital; not every week but some. If I don’t live with the people where they are, then when I get up there to communicate with them I’m not going to be talking to them about where their needs are and what does God’s Word have to say to them. __________________________Jim Henry is Senior Pastor of First Baptist Church in Orlando, FL. John A. Huffman (July-August 1990) Know your people, love your people, let them know you, and share yourself. I would encourage them to trust their people, to let them know your own pain and doubts and frustrations, yet with the positive understanding that God is at work in your life and we are growing together. Do not be afraid to speak about what you really believe. Trust the Holy Spirit more and just go for broke C be less worried about what people think, a little less concerned about criticism. __________________________John A. Huffman is Senior Pastor of St. Andrews Presbyterian Church in Newport Beach, CA. Bill Hybels (January-February 1992) I think what helps in the application part of my preaching ministry is that I am in close relational contact with persons in my accountability group C couples that Lynne and I fellowship with. I am very tuned in to what most men and women in our community are wrestling with. When I’m giving a message in my “Parenthood” series, for instance, one of my closest friends has three preschool children and he is at the end of his rope most of the time because of the frustration of knowing how to bring the proper balance between love and discipline. In preaching on that subject I kept him and his family in mind during the whole preparation process so that others who would fall into that same category would benefit from the instruction and application I was making to him and his family. Most of the time in my preaching I’m really thinking of a few individuals that I know need instruction and application in the specific realm of information that I’m talking about that day. In the “Age of Rage” series, there are some people in my immediate world that are being consumed with anger, and I knew that when I gave the practical steps out C how do you move from anger to resolve and do it authentically and biblically? C I knew they’d be all ears. I had to do my homework carefully, I had to make sure my application was biblical and in general agreement with sound Christian psychological laws and so forth. __________________________Bill Hybels is Senior Pastor of Willow Creek Community Church in South Barrington, IL. David Jeremiah (March-April 2003) I’m an expository preacher in an age when expository preaching is viewed by most architects of the church as no longer relevant. If you look at the church-growth movement and the seeker-sensitive models, expository preaching is not even in the vocabulary. I do not say for a minute these guys are all wrong; I listen to some of them on tape, because many of them have a tremendous heart for God and a love for reaching this culture. But I fear the long-term absence of the value that’s involved in the expository preaching and teaching of the Word of God. I’ve been doing this no for thirty years, and I do not see any waning in the power of expository preaching. What I see is a lot of guys I know who started out with that passion, now giving into the cultural pressure of being relevant and cute and very topical, to the point where sometimes there’s not enough Bible in the message to know it’s a sermon. I really believe with all my heart that if those of us who are committed to the application-centered preaching of the Word of God – if we will just hang in there, then people will come back. They’ll realize they can’t live with anything other than the bread of God’s Word. The challenge for people who do what I do is to make sure we are committed to it enough to withstand the pressure that’s put on us by the culture – by the religious culture even – to change and move in a different direction. __________________________David Jeremiah is Senior Pastor of Shadow Mountain Community Church in El Cajon, CA. Walter Kaiser (September-October 1998) I led at one of our sister institutions a doctor of ministry class about four years ago. I had seventeen different denominational groups in there and I began the first lecture by saying how important this is, this is what we really need. I was trying to say that expository preaching is that form of preaching in which the text guides both the shape of the message and the content of the message. Most people say expository preaching actually is one in which the direct content ought to come out of the immediate context that you are looking at rather than sort of looking up verses all over the Bible. I’m arguing not only the content but the very shape of the message should in some way be determined by the teaching passage that we have there in front of us. I’m trying to get this across at a one?hour lecture and we broke for lunch. We went to the cafeteria and I heard a man four up from me in line C he came from another non?traditional kind of evangelical group C I heard him say quite clearly, “You know, I think I’m going to enjoy this course. This suppository preaching is something that is brand new to me.” When he said the word suppository, I said to myself, there is a man that needs a lot of preparation! __________________________Walter Kaiser is President of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in South Hamilton, MA. Max Lucado (March-April 1993) I really think that the questions people are asking are so different now than they were when I was growing up. When I was growing up the question people asked was, “Which church?” Today the question people are asking is, “Why church? Why go to church at all?” No longer can we afford the luxury of thinking that the people who are sitting in our pews are going to be there every Sunday. We have to arrest their attention. We have to use every device possible to reach them and to teach them and we need not be so apologetic about entertaining them. I mean, they’ve been entertained all week long, every time they turn around. I have no apology for putting a good singer in front of them to entertain them if they’re not Christians; you’ve got to do something to reach them. . . . If you’re up there speaking about where they live, about failures, about death and about futility, you’re going to connect with some of them. __________________________Max Lucado is Pulpit Minister at Oak Hills Church in San Antonio, TX. John MacArthur (November-December 1991) I generally preach through books of the Bible C with an emphasis on the New Testament. Early on, I felt that the Lord wanted me to focus on the New Testament, so I went to college and took four years of Greek and three more in seminary. The goal I set for myself when I entered the ministry was to preach expository messages through the entire New Testament, which I am still trying to do. With this method, I always know where I am. I take up a unit of thought C a paragraph C and I know every week where I’m going to go. Through that process I will be introduced to themes in my study that will launch me off on a special series of topics, but they are almost always connected to the text. What I basically do is spend Wednesday, Thursday and Friday of every week in preparation, and I still do that. I did it in my early years, and I am still at it three days a week. It takes a day and a half for the morning sermon and a day and a half for the evening message. I start by reading the text. I know what is coming because I am preaching contextual messages. I have anticipated its content. I take the text and read it repeatedly so that I have it clearly in mind, and then I begin to view things through the text. When I hit Wednesday, I go to the original language and really dissect the text so I know what I am dealing with. I want to know what it says. That’s really what I am after: What does the text say? I want to make sure that I have dealt with all the problems, all the issues, all the grammar, all the syntax, all the word study or whatever is involved. Then I take an 8.5 by 14 inch pad of paper and copiously take down all that data. By then I really have a feel for that unit of Scripture in its context. From that, the second step is for me to expose myself to commentaries C taking advantage of past illumination so that I don’t reinvent the wheel. I enjoy commentaries because they give me a sense of how the text has been interpreted within a range of theological frameworks. These are helpful, whether they are coming from hardline Calvinism, all the way over to Arminian, sacramentalist, or other systems. I enjoy a breadth of exposure to commentaries because I get a feel for how other theological systems have interpreted the text. . . . By the time I have framed a main idea C a main proposition that I will build the sermon around C the text begins to fall into a sequential pattern. That structural pattern C a series of points C is the third step in the process. That’s when I refine it down to what I want to say. The last thing I do is to put in illustrations. I primarily use biblical illustrations C those which come directly from other biblical texts. I do this for several reasons: One, they not only add interest but bring authority. Two, they teach as they illustrate. Three, they continue to familiarize the congregation with texts throughout Scripture. __________________________John MacArthur is Pastor-Teacher at Grace Community Church in Sun Valley, CA. James Earl Massey (September-October 1992) Preaching as God intended it will never lose its power nor its reason for being. Human concern will shift with every generation, but God’s means of addressing human need will never change. So, to find out how God has moved in history and to be open to follow that path is to remain relevant. Outside of that path, there is no relevance, even if there is, for a time, attractiveness. The only path of success in God’s eye is for us to follow what He has mandated for us to do. And that mandate, as spoken through His servant Paul, is to preach the Word, in season and out of season. __________________________James Earl Massey is Dean Emeritus of Anderson School of Theology, and currently lives in retirement in Greensboro, AL. John Maxwell (January-February 1998) All great leaders are effective communicators. It is the vehicle for the vision. For me to know where I want to take a group of people and not have the ability to cast that dream, preach that message, communicate that heart, makes the dream impossible. The vision won’t be accomplished. So one of the reasons I have committed so much time, not only in teaching leadership but communication, is I think they are so compatible. You show me a great leader and I’ll show you a person that became a great leader because of his or her ability to communicate effectively. You can be a good preacher and not a good leader but you cannot be a good leader without being a good preacher or a good communicator. You have to be able to communicate the vision. What I love about it is that they all do it differently, there is not a certain style or a certain method. But they all have the ability to get their heart into the heart of their people. And that is always done through preaching and through communication. __________________________John Maxwell is a former Senior Pastor who now leads InJoy in Atlanta, GA. James Merritt (March-April 2004) I think the first thing a pastor must never do, is lose confidence in the power of the preaching of the Word of God. So with all due respect, I don’t really start with felt needs; I start with God’s Word. Because I believe that God’s Word not only meets felt needs, I believe God’s Word will uncover needs that people don’t even feel. I’ll give you an illustration. I don’t believe that sinfulness and the need to deal with sinfulness is a felt need in a person’s life. If it was, our churches would be crowded next Sunday with people who would say, “I’ve got a sin problem and I want to get rid of it.” The fact of the matter is there is a world out there that’s sinning, having a great time and enjoying it. So it’s not a felt need. You have to show them why that needs to be a need in their life. So I begin with the understanding that the Word of God is sharper than any two-edged sword and the truth is still able to cut and penetrate whether a person believes it’s true or not. The sun rises in the east whether you believe it does or not. And if you’re facing west tomorrow at nine-o-clock it’s going to shine on your back – whether you believe it or not makes no difference. I believe the same thing is true about truth. So I always begin with a foundation that the Bible is the Word of God and I believe that truth can penetrate even the hardest heart. __________________________James Merritt is Senior Pastor of Cross Pointe – The Church at Gwinnett Center in Duluth, GA. Lloyd John Ogilvie (May-June 2002) I think there’s a great hunger in our time for biblically-rooted, Christ-centered, Holy-Spirit empowered preaching. Great preaching comes from exposition. An understanding of the original languages is very important, so that the messenger has a message that arises out of a study of the text. Then the whole question is application to the contemporary scene B the explanation of the text, the illustration of the text, and the application of the text becomes the task of the pastor. If you live in the text eventually it will grip you to the place where it becomes like a banked fire, just waiting for the bellows of the Holy Spirit to be placed on it, to set it aflame to warm the minds and hearts of the people. If it happens to us it then can happen through us, so the text must become very real to us. Then I think we’ve got to have Richard Baxter’s rule, AI preach as a dying man to dying men, as if never to preach again. So every sermon ought to be preached with vigor as if we will never have another chance. That kind of enthusiasm and passion is what is needed in the church in America today B and all over the world, for that matter. I call it preaching with passion, and that kind of preaching is an understanding, an appreciation and an acceptance of the passion of Christ, the suffering of Christ for us, and then an identification with the suffering of human beings, so that we really feel what is going on inside of people. We want to bring the two together in an enthusiastic, heartfelt but intellectually healthy presentation. __________________________Lloyd John Ogilvie is retired from his post as Chaplain of the United States Senate, and now has a ministry of speaking and writing based from his home in Los Angeles, CA. Stephen F. Olford (July-August 1997) It’s been my practice – even though I might preach totally extemporaneously – to write out that sermon in full. One day it’ll be an article, a chapter in a book. But, the most important thing was that when I had finished writing that out, closer to preaching time, I’d go through it with prayerful review and there I would eliminate all the bad symmetries, bad language, bad theology, bad exegesis, too many repetitions of a given word, and all that sort of stuff. Second, prayerful relationship of that message to my own heart – prayerfully reviewing. I believe in the glorious truth of John 1 that preaching is not redemptive unless it’s incarnational. It cannot be incarnational without the Holy Spirit overshadowing it all. That must relate to me. I am not going to preach to others what I haven’t preached to myself. So it has to come through incarnationally Then lastly, prayer. The manuscript is pushed aside and I go through it and say, “Lord, here’s what I’ve got.” I don’t memorize. I memorize conceptually but I do not memorize in words verse by verse. I ask “Lord, are you pleased with this?” Until I got through that with a sense of conviction and the favor of God in my own spirit, I’d go back over it until I’m totally released to preach that message. Now in between all that, I had breaks for wider reading. At one time in New York, I read 6 books a week. and kept that up pretty accurately, along with magazines, journals, and that kind of thing. I’m talking about studying, now. I’m not talking about committees and I’m not talking about seeing staff – I’m talking about study itself. I learned from John Stott – but I think the Holy Spirit deepened it in my life – the integrity of discipline. I did not waste time. I couldn’t be pictured as a pastor who spent two of his hours in his study putting balls on the carpet. I’d love to do that, but I was rigorous in my discipline. I think one of the greatest problems of preachers is to be disciplined in the study. The door is locked, your wife doesn’t know what you’re doing. Nobody knows what you’re doing but God and yourself. I trust that I was honest before the Lord on that. __________________________Stephen F. Olford was Founder and President of Olford Ministries International. He died in 2004. Michael Quicke (November-December 1996) I believe we have to rediscover the power of biblical preaching, which really listens to the text for the people today. I believe that because the Word of God is so sharp it is always going to make entrance into the culture when you don’t expect it. We’re being driven back to listen to the Word and with eyes wide open, in our context, to dare to speak the Word in new ways. I believe the unpredictability of preaching is part of the Spirit’s work. This is why a new generation is going to hear the old truths but with a fresh urgency and a new sharpness. There’s a tremendous mission field of people to hear the authentic Word, but we as preachers have got to make sure that we don’t think we know what it’s about, but that we let the Word do its thing – which is always unpredictable – so that Jesus is heard again. An illustration is my church in Cambridge. When we rediscovered the gospel for the poor – it is a city center church, with the homeless in the street and all the rest – in the end it was really the Word of God that challenged us. I’m hopeful for powerful expository preaching in Britain which relates the gospel, so that people say, “That really is critiquing what I’m doing, and making a difference, because it’s empowering.” I believe expository preaching remains powerfully evident. My own definition of expository preaching is that as the Word of God is first discovered and explored by a gifted and anointed preacher, then shared, the listener walks in that discovery with the preacher. I believe the most powerful expository preaching is not prescriptive – in the sense that it’s closed off its ends, in a neat package – which in some ways it’s been parodied as: a series of steps, almost a commentary, an outline by the time you’re finished. If you look at the best expository preaching, such as that of Lloyd?Jones, there’s an extraordinarily relevant edge, always cutting through at every stage. I also think that Lloyd?Jones is the most significant British preacher of this century, and his inheritance is still being worked out. He was far ahead of his time. __________________________At the time of this interview, Michael Quicke was Principal (President) of Spurgeon’s College in the United Kingdom. He is now Charles W. Koller Professor of Preaching and Communication at Northern Baptist Theological Seminary in Lombard, IL. Adrian Rogers (May-June 2000) I believe that the message, preaching, is the stackpole around which everything else is built. My psychology is always: if I develop the message, God develops the ministry. All that we see here, all that has happened here, I think is a response to a message. I’m not necessarily talking about homiletical structure or oratory, but truth and conviction. I believe that your zeal is never any greater than your conviction over a long period of time. I think that conviction comes out of truth and that the pastor and the pulpit articulate that truth. __________________________Adrian Rogers recently retired as Senior Pastor of Bellevue Baptist Church in Memphis, TN. Bill Self (November-December 2003) I think that preaching should explode inside the preacher – the text comes in and explodes in the preacher. Preach about David and Bathsheba so they are alive to the congregation. If you’re preaching about the disciples of Jesus, bring them alive in there. I try to think of ways to make these people live, not with artistry, but I think there is a mystical dimension where they get loose and live among the congregation during that time. You preach about Jesus and it’s more than just describing Jesus on the cross. That happens in there – it’s not because the preacher has the words to make it happen but somehow they come alive. Sometimes in my prayer I ask God to let that happen, to let that living event happen when I’m preaching and it gets beyond me and beyond them and it just happens to us. It’s a mystical thing. To overanalyze it is to destroy the mystery because you can’t really put handles on some things that happen. Then sometimes they don’t come alive, sometimes it doesn’t happen and it’s the hardest work for you. But when it does you would die for it. When it happens, when you’ve finished and you hear the applause of nail-scarred hands – I’ll put up with all the stuff that I’ve put up with to get there. It’s a mystery. __________________________Bill Self is Senior Pastor of John’s Creek Baptist Church in Alpharetta, GA. Robert Smith (January-February 2005) I want to be myself to a point that I’m kind of like Michael Jordan. He was asked, “What do you think about when you have 10 seconds left in a game and the score is tied and you’re one point behind? Are you going to make a hook-shot? Are you going to dunk, drive or you going to shoot a 20-footer, a fade-away?” He says, “I take what the defense gives me. If there’s an opening down the lane I take it. If someone backs off and I can fade, take a shot, I’ll do it.” That’s the way I am with preaching. I take what the congregation gives me. If the congregation is open to me swinging, I’ll swing. If it’s open to me lecturing more or whatever . . . I want to, at the same time, still be myself and perhaps take them further than they are used to going. And that can never be done unless there has been an engagement of the text all the way through. Otherwise it is just emotionalism. __________________________Robert Smith is Professor of Preaching at Beeson Divinity School in Birmingham, AL. Andy Stanley (July-August 2004) The irony is we stand up and talk about Daniel in the lion’s den but then we won’t even confront elders. All of these bible heroes – David and Goliath – and we love to preach those sermons and draw these parallels and then we’re scared to confront people. I think that dynamic alone is a big part of why the church is where it is. The leadership – or lack of leadership – is just so much fear of people. I don’t know where that comes from. I grew up with a dad who at a defining moment in my life I saw him slugged. When I was in the eighth grade this guy was at the pulpit one Wednesday night and he used profanity. My dad walked up beside him and said we’re not going to have that kind of language. The guy said, “You better watch out or you just might get hit,” and my dad stood there and he hit my dad in the jaw. I can remember where I was standing; I remember the whole thing. Well, you know that kind of marked me as a preacher’s kid and as a pastor that you do the right thing and then you deal with the consequences, but you don’t fear the consequences and do the wrong thing. I think it’s been easy for me to embrace that because of what I saw in my father and what I experienced, maybe partly because of my personality. When I see pastors who are scared I want to tell them, “Just lead. If they fire you and you don’t think God will take care of you, then you have no message for your people anyway, because we get up every Sunday and say God’s grace is sufficient. He’s going to take care of you, He’ll meet your every needs and you’ll never see the righteous go hungry.” It’s what we preach but if our lack of faith in those practical things causes us to not to be able to lead then what’s our message anyway? It’s easy for me to say that sitting here but when I started this church it was not easy for me to say because I had to face that whole issue of leaving my dad’s church to do something on my own. There were no guarantees, there were no promises. You walk through that wall of fire a couple of times and you realize it’s not so bad. God’s grace is sufficient. He does show up. Those are the times we look back to and say I know there is a God because you know during those circumstances. I just wish pastors would get over their fear. We should be the most fearless leaders. What do we have to fear? We’re the ones that say if God is for me who can be against me? Well, the deacons. Good grief. __________________________Andy Stanley is Senior Pastor of North Point Community Church in Alpharetta, GA. John R.W. Stott (March-April 1989) I believe that to preach or to expound the scripture is to open up the inspired text with such faithfulness and sensitivity that God’s voice is heard and His people obey Him. I gave that definition at the Congress on Biblical Exposition and I stand by it, but let me expand a moment. My definition deliberately includes several implications concerning the scripture. First, it is a uniquely inspired text. Second, the scripture must be opened up. It comes to us partially closed, with problems which must be opened up. Beyond this, we must expound it with faithfulness and sensitivity. Faithfulness relates to the scripture itself. Sensitivity relates to the modern world. The preacher must give careful attention to both. We must always be faithful to the text, and yet ever sensitive to the modern world and its concerns and needs. When this happens the preacher can come with two expectations. First, that God’s voice is heard because He speaks through what He has spoken. Second, that His people will obey Him – that they will respond to His Word as it is preached. __________________________John R.W. Stott is Rector Emeritus of All Souls Church in London, and President of the London Institute for Contemporary Christianity. Charles Swindoll (November-December 1993) If I’m in a tough spot I will manuscript it because, again, writing makes an exact man. I think: if it doesn’t make sense on paper, it’s not going to make sense verbally. The discipline of writing it down will help disentangle your thoughts. I learned a little piece years ago: “Thoughts disentangle themselves over the lips and through the fingertips.” Sometimes I will go down the hall to one of my friends on the staff and go into his study and say, “Can I have a few minutes? I want to talk this thing out. I want you to pick at the pieces or I want you to disagree with me. I want you to listen to this as if you were not a believer, you’re not a follower, tell me your reaction.” That’s always a good discipline; in fact, I don’t think I do that enough. When we write messages out, when we prepare messages, we need to have the guy in mind who’s not in our camp. I’m going to say something Sunday that’s going to be a little startling so I want you to be startled right now. Tell me what your reaction is – it’ll be good, it’s a good exercise. Sometimes you’ll say, “Man, I don’t buy that for anything.” If I said it more, would you buy it? “No.” Well, would you listen? “Yeah, I’d listen but you’d leave me disagreeing.” I said that’s okay. It’s all right to disagree. Is it true to what it seems like the Scripture is teaching? “Yeah, but I’m not even sure I could agree with that right now.” And I’ll say, that’s good – just so I’m not far afield from what the Scripture is saying. __________________________At the time of this interview, Charles Swindoll was Senior Pastor of First Evangelical Free Church in Fullerton, CA. He is now Senior Pastor of Stonebriar Community Church in Frisco, TX, and Chancellor of Dallas Theological Seminary. Gardner C. Taylor (January-February 1994) I think many preachers are overpowered by this society. When I went to New York, the Times on Monday would carry excerpts from Sunday sermons. There has been this draining out of religion from American life, unless it has an angle to it or is off?center. Uncertainty about the structures of the society seems to be clear and powerful – but here we are. Yet this is what Jesus said to His disciples: “I have sent you forth, sheep in the midst of wolves.” When those disciples looked at the magnificence of Herod’s temple, they oohed and said “aah.” Preachers are not to scorn the culture; there are notable and wonderful things about it. They are to realize that culture is human, temporal, passing. We are to address our culture as a part of it and yet not a part of it, and to address it with that kind of authority – not arrogance – that comes to one who believes that he or she is an emissary of a kingdom that will outlast all kingdoms. __________________________Gardner C. Taylor is Senior Pastor Emeritus of the Concord Baptist Church of Christ in Brooklyn, NY. Jerry Vines (January-February 2003) The preacher is facing tremendous obstacles today. Here he is preaching to a group of people who every night watch very polished people deliver newscasts, reading from teleprompters. And here the preacher is, perhaps with limited training, standing before the people – it can be very intimidating. But the preacher who is walking with God has a communicative tool that is unavailable to any other communicator on earth – and that is the power of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit can take a stumbling, stammering preacher’s message and use it to bring about miraculous changes. __________________________Jerry Vines is Senior Pastor of First Baptist Church in Jacksonville, FL. Warren Wiersbe (May-June 1992) In the first church I pastored (when I was a seminary student and pastor at the same time), I had no system. I should have had one, but no one told me exactly how to do it. When I was at Calvary Baptist in Covington, Kentucky, I always preached a series of sermons. I would work my way through a book. The mistake I made at Calvary was to let the series run too long. This was the thing you were supposed to do – to be able to say to your pastor friends, “I just finished two years in Philippians!” Spurgeon talked about the man who spent eight years in Hebrews. The preacher got to the closing chapter where it says “suffer this word of exhortation,” and Spurgeon said, “They suffered.” That’s what I am afraid I was doing. While I was at Moody Church, I learned that the attention span in the big city is not quite that long. So I limited a series to perhaps three months and then a break. When I did Acts, for example, I preached from Acts for three months, then took a break. Without telling people, I often followed the Christian church calendar. I recommend this. I didn’t announce it; it would have scared some of them! But I watched the calendar so that I was always ready for a break in my series at the Lenton season. I wanted to have the church prepared for Good Friday and Easter. I would prepare for the advent season in the same way. In planning a series, I would try to say to myself, “What is it that excites me?”, because I can do my best with that which excites me. Where is the state of the church? Do we need the outreach emphasis with Acts? Do we need the faith emphasis of Hebrews 11? What does this church need at this point? This is where pastoral work comes in. We must know our people. We should also listen to the people. __________________________Warren W. Wiersbe is former Pastor of Moody Church and spent ten years as General Director and Bible Teacher for Back to the Bible broadcasts. He continues an active writing ministry from his home in Lincoln, NE. James Emery White (January-February 1999) One criticism of seeker-targeted churches is it is all topical messages. Actually, it is more strategic than that. You have occasional messages on topics like marriage and family and parenting relationships. Then you will also have series that might be nothing but a section of scripture. We’ve done a whole series on the Ten Commandments. We’ve done a whole series on the Sermon on the Mount. Sometimes it is a theological series. We did five whole weeks on the problem of evil and suffering called, “When God doesn’t make sense.” So you do strike on theological issues and ethical issues. Sometimes you’ll do nothing but a doctrine studies on the character of God. So, it is more of a variety. Even when you do these topical studies, it’s more of a biblical theology. It may be pulling together a lot of verses instead of walking through one particular chapter of the Bible, although it can be one particular chapter. But it is doing it with great theological and biblical integrity. The best biblical theologies pull together the wide range of verses and passages and scriptures. The best way to interpret scripture is through scripture itself. Sometimes if you take just one small passage on a subject you can actually almost do more harm than if you pull together everything that the Bible has to say to get a well?rounded view. So I think if you are a good topical speaker you are doing good biblical theology. __________________________James Emery White is Senior Pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, NC. William H. Willimon (September-October 1993) One thing that really concerns me about a lot of preaching that I hear called evangelical is they act as if the goal is to make the Gospel as small as possible. We used to tell an old joke about the evangelist saying, “Come down to the altar and accept Jesus as your savior.” Nobody comes. He tries again, “If you want to lead a better life, come down to the altar.” Nobody comes. Again he tries, “If you love your mother, come down to the altar.” And it has kind of that quality – you know, get it down to a bumper sticker, or what you can put on a sign in front of the church. Then I say no, maybe the best evangelism is that which is larger – it’s just big – where people come forward and say, “Gosh, I have my college degree and I’m a very intelligent person, and I’ve never heard anything like this before, and I’m having difficulty with what you just said.” I’d love a race of preachers who take that as a high compliment and say, “Of course, as if you could possibly understand after visiting only one time. How much are you willing to pay for this? Are you interested? We do have a class.” To me, that would be fairer to the Gospel than bragging, “I am proud to say I have never ever confused anybody in a sermon. I have gotten it down now to where they’ll sit there and say, ‘Gosh, that’s what I’ve always thought. Yeah, thank you for helping me name that’.” By the way, that’s liberal Protestantism, which has bled in now to the church growth movement in some of its aspects, and I think it’s ugly. I think that’s cheap because it’s not fair to the Gospel. The Gospel is not what you’ve always thought. __________________________At the time of this interview, William H. Willimon was Dean of the Chapel and Minister to the University at Duke University. He recently became a Bishop of the United Methodist Church in Birmingham, AL. Ed Young, Jr. (January-February 2005) Creativity is not bouncing off the walls. It’s not gimmicky. It has to be biblically-driven. We’re not above the Bible or on the same level as the Bible. We’re under the Bible – we’re under scripture. So it has to be Biblically-driven. And I believe when its biblically-driven you’re going to find that sweet spot of communication. I think that small tweaks take us to giant peaks in communication. It doesn’t have to be these big honkin’ things and flying down from the ceiling or painting the walls orange and throwing sand in the foyer. It’s within your context and sometimes it can be as small as changing the time when you speak, or it can be maybe one time giving a message outline or message map and then one time you don’t do it. Maybe it’s having the choir or your praise team singing in one area in the church one weekend and another area another weekend. Maybe it’s using video clips for two straight weeks and maybe it’s not using it for six weeks. Maybe it’s being very loud and having all the lights for three or four weeks, and maybe it’s totally dialed down, totally simplistic for four straight weeks. So the church should be consistently inconsistent because the higher the predictability the lower the connectivity. And most of us are so predictable. We all kind of lend ourselves towards predictability but if we can be consistently inconsistent – consistent in our theology, consistent in rightly dividing the word but inconsistent in our approaches to it . . . I want people at Fellowship Church saying, “What is coming next? I’m not sure what’s going to happen next.” __________________________Ed Young, Jr., is Senior Pastor of Fellowship Church in Grapevine, TX. Ed Young, Sr. (November-December 1994) I think apologetic preaching has to be the mode if we’re going to get serious about reaching the secular person. I can stand up and say I believe this is what the Bible says – I believe it’s the inerrant, authoritative Word of God – but by the same token, there’ll be thousands of people out there in my congregation who don’t automatically share that view. For example, on any given Sunday we’ll have over a thousand people in one of our three worship services who are not Christians and not members of our church – that many will be there every Sunday. Now if these people are going to hear and are going to listen, a lot of them would say, “You know, I don’t know if I believe in God or not. I don’t know if the Bible is really true.” The purpose of preaching is to nurture and train the family of God – whose who are already Christians – but I think relevant preaching that is evangelistic is going to have to be apologetic. __________________________Ed Young, Sr., is Senior Pastor of Second Baptist Church in Houston, TX Leave a Reply Cancel Reply Your email address will not be published.CommentName* Email* Website Notify me of follow-up comments by email. Notify me of new posts by email.