March 31, 2015 | by: Bob Schilling | 0 comments
We come today to eavesdrop on the 8th preacher giving us an overview of their weekly sermon preparation in a book highlighting the practice of ten faithful pastors:
"Unashamed Workmen: How Expositors Prepare and Preach"
edited by Rhett Dodson
Hershael W. York, a Professor of Preaching at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, KY and Senior Pastor at Buck Run Baptist Church in Frankfort, KY (some of his writings here), says this in introducing this engaging volume,
"I have frequently attended Bible conferences to hear an accomplished expositor and, after my soul was fed by his preaching, I wanted to sit with him and have a conversation about how he did it.
- To what extent does he consult commentaries?
- How much does he think about illustrations?
- If the text has three common interpretations, does he tell the congregation all three, or just the one he thinks correct?
- How much of what he does relies on creativity as opposed to merely restating the text?
- Is application necessary in the sermon?”
“'Unashamed Workmen’ is like looking into the mind and over the shoulder of ten master expositors as they prepare, and then sitting in the audience as they deliver the fruits of their labors. The beauty of this project is that the reader can get answers, clearly noticing the differences of style and approach between the authors and yet also the one thing they hold in common: the primacy of the text.”
Every chapter has been an encouragement. It truly is beautiful to see the unity of diversity in the Christian Church. Main things held in common, and lots of leeway and legitimate dissimilarity between them. We've got just a couple more left - here's where we've been and where we're headed in the final two weeks of this series:
- Peter Adam, St. Jude's Carlton in Melbourne Australia
- Rhett Dodson, Grace Presbyterian Church (PCA) in Hudson, Ohio
- Iain Duguid, Christ Presbyterian Church (ARP) in Grove City, Pennsylvania
- Ajith Fernando, serves as Teaching Director of Youth for Christ in Sri Lanka
- David Jackman, former President of the Proclamation Trust, retired, London
- Simon Manchester, St Thomas in North Sydney, Australia
- David Meredith, Smithton Church, Iverness, Scotland
- Today: Josh Moody, College Church in Wheaton, Illinois
- Douglas Sean O’Donnell, Senior Lecturer at Queensland Theological College, Brisbane, Australia
- Richard D. Phillips, Second Presbyterian Church in Greenville, South Carolina
Section 8: Josh Moody: Blood, Toil, Tears, and Sweat
Here's the information about Josh listed at the link above:
He serves as senior pastor of College Church in Wheaton, IL. His books include Burning Hearts (Christian Focus 2014), Journey to Joy (Crossway 2013), Jonathan Edwards and Justification (Crossway 2012), No Other Gospel (Crossway 2011), The God-Centered Life (Regent 2007; IVP UK 2006), and Authentic Spirituality (Regent 2009; Kingsway 2000). He was an associate fellow of Jonathan Edwards College, Yale University (2007-2011), and his doctorate is published as Jonathan Edwards and the Enlightenment: Knowing the Presence of God (UPA 2005).
Josh grew up south of London in England, became a follower of Jesus in the Church of England, was an undergraduate at Cambridge University where he was president of the Cambridge Inter-Collegiate Christian Union. He served as the college pastor at Eden Baptist Church in Cambridge, England, did pioneer mission work in the former Soviet Union countries of Georgia and Azerbaijan, and was senior pastor of Trinity Baptist Church in New Haven. He is married to Rochelle and they have four children.
In a book of very good material there are some sections that are going to stand out for any reader – and this was one of those chapters for me. Like the other contributors, Josh truly just lets his hair down and very succinctly and frankly walks through a typical week in his life as a pastor – focusing on when and what he does regarding sermon prep for the coming Sunday.
He leaves out a discussion on the important elements of prayer and all “the pre-work" that goes into planning out my sermon series ahead of time
“When I come to the actual week of before preaching on a Sunday, a lot of the groundwork has been done. I have a pretty good sense of what the book is about as a whole, and how the particular passage I am preaching fits into that, before I even begin my weeks work in the text.” (191)
In a very simple and refreshing manner he walks through a typical week, Monday through Sunday, giving us a peek into his current routine.
“My day off. Recover from Sunday. Get over moping if I think my sermon bombed. Get over preening myself if I think my sermon was angelic. Normalize, breathe, walk, breathe some more.” (191-192)
That was worth the price of the book – Amen.
He schedules his Tuesdays through Thursdays as devoted by and large to study in the morning hours, other pastoral duties for the afternoons.
The first thing he does Tuesday morning really impacted me as I was reading.
“I ask myself the question, ‘If I had to preach this sermon right now, or in five minutes, what would I say?' I create a very quick, handwritten outline which attempts to structure a sermon from the passage as if I were preaching it right away. This does several things for me. It gets me into the sermon passage so that I am thinking about it all week…I have this quick outline as a sort of ‘Idiot’s Guide’ to how to preach the passage, and it anchors me through the week. Sometimes I significantly change it later; sometimes it becomes the basic outline of the actual sermon. But either way, it is not just a starting point; it is an important trajectory which can act as a handrail for the later work. This is all Tuesday morning.” (192)
At the top of this handwritten page he has an Exegetical Outline and at the bottom of the page he has an Expository Outline. His expository outline always has a conspicuous line that begins,
MP:_____________________________________________ (Main Point)
“I try to see if I can make the Main Point include a verb, so that it is actually calling us to do something, believe something, say something, or change something.” (193)
He tries to craft a draft introductory statement, subpoints and a statement about the relevance of the text. If you’re not preaching with people in mind, Josh says, you’re not preaching:
“Preaching is not teaching the Bible;
Preaching is teaching the Bible to people.”
Good words. You might teach by a class making an instruction video for remote learning. Preaching can never be accomplished in a vacuum.
At this point in the chapter Josh explained a concept that, though I’m aware of it and would assent to it – I have never had it driven home like he did in this paragraph:
“Then right at the top of the expository outline is an answer to the question ‘hook.’ Some people will hate the idea that on Tuesday morning I’m already thinking about the hook for Sunday (or think about a hook at all). Bah, humbug, I say. If you want to pretend that it doesn’t matter that we get people’s attention at the beginning of a sermon, be my guest. But don’t read Jesus’ or (Paul’s) sermons too closely. ‘What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you’ (see Acts 17:23). ‘A certain man had two sons’ (Luke 15:11). I have to have a hook. It only needs to be attached to the main point of the sermon, which actually needs to be the main point of the passage; otherwise I am not doing expositional preaching. But if I am not asking application questions when I am preparing to preach, then I am not preparing to preach, I am preparing to lecture. That will empty my church pretty quickly, and I don’t blame them. It’s like preparing a really nice meal, but not putting it within reach on the table. The sheep will go somewhere they are fed, and quite rightly too.” (193)
I wrote under this paragraph in my copy of this book, “Help me God”
- I need to hook my hearers
- I need a clear main point that accurately reflects the point of the text
- I need to prepare a nutritious meal and ensure that it is digestible and suited to my hearers.
This is his morning for commentaries. Commentaries and the works of others, keep us from error, keep us humble (“people have thought far more profound thoughts than I have on this passage”), and I would add, they bring aspects to light that we hadn’t thought of; they confirm some of our hunches and reflections; and usually one or two of them say something that ends up crucial in either my understanding of the text or in my preaching of it. Spurgeon speaks of books as “thought breeders.” Remember the lesson that Ajith Fernando (the fourth section of this book) learned from John Piper, “Books don’t change people; paragraphs do. Sometimes even sentences.” Thoughtfully reading through some commentaries, for me, in part, is culling for some of those “sermon-changing” sentences.
Josh says that he “was trained to read fast-ish at university.” I only add that for my part, yes, some things need to be read intelligently, briefing over some sections to get to relevant parts speaking directly to the issue your seeking clarification on. But, there’s a danger in being hasty about our reading. A few good, proven, standard commentaries ought to be carefully read through while preaching a series of sermons in consecutive texts. Remember the words of one of our “practitioners” from two chapters ago, David Jackman: “The secret of good preaching is careful listening.” That applies not only to our study of Scripture, but the reading of good books as well.
Better a little read and well digested than a lot read and little retained.
“Structure, structure, structure.” He’s working hard this morning to craft a “tightly meshed skeleton” for the sermon. His handwritten outline gets typed into a Word document. Illustrations, clarifications, transitions, pithy phrases, applications – he’s trying to get preachable material down on paper to make it as easy as possible on Friday to craft his manuscript.
I heartily agree that once you’re able to work out a well-framed outline with a solid handle on the text knowing where it’s going and consequently, homiletically where you plan to be going – once this is down on paper, the crafting of the sermon has a bit of a flow. His recommendations here are good. If this work can be largely completed by Thursday, then Friday you bring it home (you finish your work) and Saturday, optimally, you own it. You work it into your soul and lips.
“Friday, the whole of Friday, is my ‘lock-down-don’t-disturb-me-unless-you-are-dying’ day. My phone is on ‘Do Not Disturb.’ My cell phone is turned off. My outer office door is locked. If I need to walk out of the office down the corridor to get a coffee, I may not greet someone as I walk past them. This is Friday [and Sunday’s coming]. Everyone knows it. My mind is on the sermon. This is important stuff.
On Friday I write out a whole manuscript, word for word, writing as if I was preaching it. I imagine myself at the pulpit speaking, based upon the outline and the work I have done that week…Hopefully, and usually, by the end of Friday I have ‘something.’ That’s usually the phrase I use when my wife asks me how it went. ‘Well, I’ve got something.’ I don’t know whether it’s any good, I don’t know whether it is finished, but I have a full manuscript sermon.” (195)
He takes Saturday morning off to spend time with his family – particularly, time with his kids. At about 4:30 he gets back into the office and works through the whole sermon. He alters the type from 10 point Times New Roman to 14 point Calibri, switches the paper to landscape orientation, double column. He cuts the pages in half so they can slip snugly into his Bible. Usually he’s done by 7:30 or 8:00.
Currently with three services on Sunday, the first at 8:00am, he rises early to again spend time with the message.
“I warm up my voice so I don’t stretch the vocal cords and eat a good breakfast. I also take some fruit with me so that I can snack between services…I like to read the passage because it helps me gauge where people are that morning in their mood or feeling by their response to the Word, and also because reading the Scripture is a big part of what I am doing, and I hate it when it is read badly. In between the services, I hide away and get ready for the next service, but after the last service, I go to the back of the sanctuary and greet people and pastor people as appropriate and needed.”
“Shake, rinse, repeat.”
Good, practical advice. These are the kind of pastors I’m glad are out there.
The title of Josh's chapter, “Blood, Toil, Tears and Sweat” doesn’t quite match the content – but I agree that a faithful preaching ministry is all those things combined. And I loved the chapter. He is succinct, clear, and unambiguous. The chapter reads like hearing a good sermon – few words are wasted, at times it was gripping and he speaks with an appropriately humble authority. It left me with some great take-aways, and made me want to be like the speaker.
His sermon was from Revelation 3:14-22, “What Jesus Thinks About Religion”
Well, this sermon on the lukewarm Laodiceans was a rather tepid sermon for me. Not every sermon is a home run – I’d say this was a single.
What I liked was the clarity, the simplicity and the smooth transitions from point to point. I love this kind of a simple outline - and the symmetry of the points was excellent. The Main Point was oddly phrased for me, “Religion which shuts Jesus out is useless.” His three points were:
I. Wealthy or Poor?
- Religion which shuts Jesus out is useless, because Jesus is necessary even for the wealthy.
II. Clothed or Naked?
- Religion which shuts Jesus out is useless, because Jesus is necessary even for the beautiful.
III. Seeing or Blind?
- Religion which shuts Jesus out is useless, because Jesus is necessary even for the healthy.
The sermon struck as far more “clever” than the deep resonating you want when the Scriptures are faithfully “opened up.” The introduction having to do with the loss of “friendship” in Western culture didn’t seem to blend well with the point of the text, or even his driving point, as he phrased it at the beginning, the haughtiness of self-reliance. The parallel was a little lost on me. Some good things were said – I’m not a huge proponent of the convenient ironies that are revealed in all the historical parallels between the cultural reconstruction (Laodicea, situated between the hot-springs of Hierapolis and the cold, fresh water of Colossae; the textile prosperity of Laodicea; and the ophthalmology specialization of the Laodicean eye-salve) – those things are probably all true, but none of it opened up the text for me.
I loved the summary comment he made after walking through these three points:
“What was going on? Why did they seem so respectable, organized, pitiful, poor, wealthy, well-clothed, balanced, and yet were really pitiful, poor, naked, and wretched? I don’t think they would’ve realized it. This, of all the letters, would have come as a shock. They were doing just fine, or so they thought…” (204)
The end of the sermon really fell flat for me – cliché-ish, tepid. And yet a true point, well stated at the conclusion – we don’t have it together, we all need Jesus. And amen to his final words:
“Who knows, maybe even you need a friend in heaven.”
Next up: Douglas Sean O’Donnell, “Spirit-Filled Sitzfleisch: The Prayerful Art of Sermonizing”
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