As I’ve been continuing to develop as a preacher (albeit slowly), one of the great temptations I’ve come across has been imitating other men. I mean, seeing these guys who are extraordinarily gifted by God to preach His Word—guys like my pastor, Norm Millar, and guys like Driscoll, Chandler, Francis Chan, Piper, MacArthur, Platt—and it’s really tempting to want to be like them.
To say things the way they would say it. To act the way they would act.
But isn’t that dishonoring to God?
The other day, I came across this video where Matt Chandler reminds us of the danger of trying to be who you’re not:
As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry. (2 Tim 4:5)
Fulfill the ministry God has intended for you, not for someone else. Don’t be who you’re not.
Preaching is incredibly difficult; it’s something far different than simply speaking or communicating… and learning how to do it has been challenging.
Seasoned preachers, including John Piper, understand. In the following video, Piper shares where and how he learned not only to preach, but how he developed a passion for communicating God’s Word:
The edited transcript follows:
Where and how did you learn to preach?
I don’t know. Watching my dad when I was six, eight, ten, twelve. Watching how not to do it in lots of places. Being unable to speak in front of a group from grade five to my sophomore year in college. I think I was learning to preach during that time because I was so hurt, so wounded, so discouraged, and so desperate that I had to go way down into God, and way into Scripture, and way into pain, and God was making a preacher by shutting my mouth.
You don’t become an effective preacher by becoming a loquacious and effective communicator at age sixteen. You become a clever communicator, but you don’t become a preacher of the holy things of God. So that was a piece.
I don’t know. The courses that I took on preaching were marginally helpful. I got the lowest grade in seminary in my preaching class. I think I got a C minus in James Daane’s preaching class at Fuller Seminary. We never agreed on anything except the principle that every sermon should have one point, he said that over and over again. So I made a terrible grade there. But there were other teachers that…
I think the way that I became a preacher was by being passionately thrilled by what I was seeing in the Bible in seminary. Passionately thrilled! When Philippians began to open to me, Galatians open to me, Romans open to me, the Sermon on the Mount open to me in classes on exegesis (not homiletics, but exegesis), everything in me was feeling, “I want to say this to somebody. I want to find a way to say this because this is awesome, this is incredible!”
So for preachers today that go everywhere but the Bible to find something interesting or something scintillating and passionate, I say, “I don’t get it. I don’t get that at all!” Because I have to work hard to leave the Bible to go somewhere to find an illustration, because everything in the Bible is just blowing me away. And it is that sense of being blown away by what’s here—by the God that’s here, and the Christ that’s here, and the gospel that’s here, and the Spirit that’s here, and the life that is here—being blown away by this, I just say, “That’s got to get out.”
And then I suppose how it gets out. What is that? I don’t know what that is. That’s just the way I’m wired that I would say it a certain a way. It’s owing in part to me being a lit major, you know, I studied language a little bit. Goodness, a thousand things go into your life and nobody can copy anybody else. I don’t know. God makes us who we are. I don’t think there is much you can do to become a preacher except know your Bible and be unbelievably excited about what’s there. And love people a lot, that is, you want to make the connection with people and what’s in the Bible.
On August 22nd, 2010, I had the privilege of preaching a message titled Be Heavenly Minded, It Only Leads to Earthly Good, at Brussels Community Bible Chapel in Brussels, Ontario. Sunday’s sermon looked at Colossians 3:1-4 and the necessity of keeping our focus heavenward.
The last time we were together, we looked at Psalm 63. And we learned what David’s inspired prayer teaches us about the heart of spiritual abundance—that as we seek God, as we worship Him, we become satisfied by Him and because we are satisfied by Him, we can rejoice in Him, regardless of our circumstances.
The key to all of this is being Christ-centered in our worship and our lives. That everything is to be focused on Him.
But since the last time we were together, I’ve not been able to stop thinking about one thing:
Do we really understand how important it is to be focused on Christ? Continue Reading…
As I’ve been going down this road of substitute preaching, there’s one thing that’s become obvious:
I’m not good with illustrations.
I know that there are some, like Martyn Lloyd-Jones, who are staunchly anti-illustration. Then there are others who are of the opinion that illustrations will, to a limited degree, make or break your sermon. Personally, I really appreciate good illustrations, but don’t find it terribly interesting when a message is basically a long series of them that don’t really have a lot to do with the text being preached.
Probably one of the best illustrations I’ve heard is one that Mark Driscoll used a while back to talk about the power of forgiveness. My paraphrase of the story is this:
Just before a couple from Mars Hill got married, the wife committed adultery. She kept it hidden from her husband for years until finally she couldn’t any longer. When she told him, he left the house, got in the car and left; she wasn’t sure if she’d ever see him again.
A while later, he came home. He asked her to undress and he put on her a white nightgown that he’d gone out to buy for her. And all he said to her was, “I choose to see you the way Jesus does.”
That was an extremely moving example; in my mind it’s one of the best that Driscoll’s come out with.
Matt Chandler’s “Debt is Dumb” illustration is genius:
as is “Jesus Wants the Rose”:
While I’m sure a lot of it is just that I need practice, a problem for me is I’m not always sure where to look. Despite writing a blog filled with my opinions on theology, I don’t actually like talking about myself (I’m not all that interesting), and I’m not always comfortable talking about work (particularly since I wouldn’t want to say something that could be misconstrued). Plus, my wife has mentioned how much she dislikes it when preachers talk about their wives in sermons excessively, so out of respect for her, I am cautious about family remarks.
So I’ve got a couple of questions:
What’s an illustration you heard in this weekend’s sermon that brought the message home for you?
Do you have a “favorite” sermon illustration?
And for the preachers out there:
Do you find it challenging to find appropriate illustrations? Where do you look first?
How do you use an event or conversation involving another person without it coming across as defaming or dishonoring of the person talked about?
How are you doing on mastering the art of the illustration?
On Sunday, July 25, 2010, I had the privilege of preaching a message called Spiritual Poverty and the Word of God at Brussels Community Bible Chapel in Brussels, Ontario. This message from Psalm 63 looks at our need to be satisfied and comforted by God’s presence as we seek Him in His worship.
Over the last couple of years, I’ve felt a growing need/desire to preach. In some ways, it’s not unlike, as Jeremiah put it, “there is in my heart as it were a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I am weary with holding it in, and I cannot” (Jer. 20:9).
When this first hit me, it caught me off-guard. Historically, I’ve not been known for my abilities as a presenter. In fact, just the thought of standing in front of my class in high school made me feel sick. (Anyone who might have seen me give a presentation in school will back me up.)
After a year and a half in Toastmasters (2008- 2009), so I’ve been able to overcome my fear of speaking and my general incompetency in that area. I can make a presentation. I can give a speech.
But preaching is not “speeching” as some like to call it.
It’s something completely different.
D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones gave the following example to illustrate:
I remember reading years ago an account by a well-known journalist in Scotland of a meeting which he had attended. He used a phrase which I have never forgotten.; it has upbraided me and often condemned me. He had been listening to two speakers speaking on the same subject. He went on to say that they were both very able and learned men. Then came the devastating phrase, “The difference between the two speakers was this; the first spoke as an advocate, the second as a witness.” . . .
The preacher is never just an advocate. . . . This is [. . .] one of the differences between the preacher and the lecturer. The preacher is involved all along, and that is why there must be an element of zeal. He is not just “handling” a case. Tod o just that is one of the greatest temptations of many preachers, and especially those of us who are combative by nature. . . . [I]f the preacher gives the impression that he is only an advocate presenting a case he has failed completely. The preacher is a witness. . . . Nothing is so fatal in a preacher as that he should fail to give the impression of personal involvement. (Preaching & Preachers, pp. 88-89)
In order to preach God’s message to a congregation, it must also be God’s message to him. Because preaching, true preaching, transforms—not just the hearer, but also the preacher.