The Preparation of Expository Sermons
This message was given by Ray at the 1st Congress on the Bible in San Diego.
Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not for filthy lucre, and so on, but remembering that you are responsible to the chief shepherd. Just in line with that matter of visitation, you might enjoy the story that I heard recently of a pastor who was out visiting in his parish. He knocked on a certain door, and no one answered but he could hear people in the house. He knocked again and still no one answered. So finally in somewhat disgust he left his card. And he wrote on it Revelation 3:20 "Behold I stand at the door and knock; if anyone will open the door, I will come in." And he left. He didn't think any more about it until the next Sunday morning when he was preaching and he was standing at the door after the service, a lady came by. And without a word just handed him a piece of paper and ducked out the door. And he opened the paper and read, "Genesis 3:10: I heard your voice, but I was in the garden. And I hid myself because I was naked." Which says something about the variety of experiences that a preacher can have in his work as a visitor.
But we're trying to zero in these mornings on the work of preaching. Expository preaching. I believe with John R.W. Stott, whom many of you have heard, I am sure, one of the outstanding contemporary expositors, when he says that the only preaching worthy of the name is expository preaching. Now there are other forms. Dr Shaffer this morning was not preaching. I'm sure you'll recognize that. He was giving us a lecture, a verbal essay, on a subject, and a very helpful lecture it was, a very important subject, but that's not preaching, not expository preaching. Blaine Adams on the other hand I felt did give us a good example of exposition. He took the text and let it speak to us. Though it was a brief text it was a very cogent and a very important message that it gave. So exposition is allowing the text to speak to the people through the servant of Christ.
I want to say one additional word on that: Expository preaching, in my judgment, is not what is often called a verse by verse commentary. I know preachers who get up and ramble away at a passage of Scripture, giving thoughts off the top of their head usually as to what it means. And that type of approach almost inevitably deals only with the obvious. Anybody reading the text could say those things. And perhaps even supply much of the illustrations that might be used, because we all have similar experiences. But that's not expository preaching, even though it is based on a passage of Scripture. Expository preaching deals with the structure of the text. It wrestles with the text to the point that you can understand thoroughly what it is saying. And then reproduces it in language understandable by your hearers. That's the work of a preacher.
It's what Jesus meant when he said, "The good steward takes from his treasury things new and old." The old things are the eternal, unchangeable principles of that secret and hidden wisdom of God, which God ordained before the ages for our glorification. That's the text of Scripture, the truths of the gospel, the exciting revelation of the lost secrets of our humanity. I tried yesterday morning to set that before us so that we might grasp again the glory of preaching, and the uniqueness of it, that we're doing what no other spokesman on earth can do in helping people to understand both the nature of their humanity and the nature of the God they must deal with. Thought that is what we are called to do, you see, it isn't achieved by just a rambling commentary. We must understand these things. I've always benefited by the word of the Old Testament that says it is the glory of God to conceal a thing, but the glory of kings is to search it out. Now that's the business of the expositor: he searches out the deep meanings of the text.
John Stott, who is a dear personal friend, and he and I are working together to advance the cause of expository preaching around the world at this moment, has said there are four marks, in his judgment, of expository preaching. Before we get into the method of preparing, let me give you these. First, he says, expository preaching is thoughtful preaching. Thoughtful preaching. It is the first mark of expository preaching. And that means that the preacher takes the biblical text seriously. He sees it indeed as a word from God, and as Paul describes it, the deep things of God. Therefore he can't give just cursory attention to it. The truths, the deep things of Scripture, do not lie on the surface where anybody can pick them up. They lie beneath the ground, in a sense, where one must exercise penetrative analysis, dig deeply before they reveal themselves. So the first mark: thoughtful preaching takes the biblical text seriously.
And with it, takes the contemporary world seriously. Now that I think is what Dr Shaffer was saying this morning. The business of the preacher is to judge the culture of our day. This is where people wrestle. They come affected in one way or another by the cultural struggles that are going on today, by the clash of principles, by the uncertain voices that speak, and by the fantasies and illusions which the world pursues with avid conviction that they are truth. The business of the preacher is to expose that as false, to strip these ideas of their illusive character, and to show the corresponding reality that the word of God reveals. And therefore we must know the culture around us, we must be familiar with what is being taught, what is being said, we must read instruments that reveal to us how people are thinking, We must read some of the think magazines, perhaps, of our day, and listen to television, watch a movie now and then that speaks to the culture, so that we can take the contemporary world seriously and the biblical word seriously. That's thoughtful preaching.
The second mark, Stott says, of expository preaching is courage, courage. That is, to take the uncomfortable words of Scripture as well as the comfortable ones. To speak to the difficult issues as well as the ones that encourage and enlighten us. This is, I think, one of the chief values of exposition. When you take a whole passage, a whole book of the Bible or a major section of it, and you're preaching from that, you can't leave anything out. You have to cover it all. And when you do come to the uncomfortable words, words of judgment, words of conviction, words that contravene some of the popular issues of the day, that deal with divorce, abortion, or whatever, your hearers can't accuse you of choosing a text just because it is a pet project of yours. They see that it is something the Scripture has handled. That's one of the great values of expository preaching. We must remember the words of Jesus, Stott says: "Woe unto you when all men speak well of you." It is necessary at times to offend people, though we must do it lovingly.
Then the third mark of expository preaching according to John Stott, is sincerity, earnestness. That is, the preacher himself must fully believe what he is saying, he must feel passion in the delivery of it. He does not speak merely to titillate the senses of his hearers; he isn't trying just to light their fires a bit, or give them a good feeling. But he himself is declaring what he feels in the marrow of his bones. I love what Spurgeon said: He prays that his very blood might be bibline. That is, the Bible so saturate his thought that it actually flavors and colors his blood. That's the feeling the preacher must have when he is speaking out of deep conviction.
The fourth mark is that of humility. Blaine Adams gave us such a beautiful word on that this morning, such a helpful word from Scripture. I often say that text over to myself before I preach: "He that thinks he understands something knoweth nothing as he ought to know it." Pride, Stott says, is the chief occupational hazard of the preacher. When we get proud and arrogant and begin to think of ourselves as specially gifted , specially proficient, we are destroying the power of God through us. Pride is the chief occupational hazard of the preacher. We need the humility to submit to Scripture, the humility to let God speak and not us, and the humility to let the Holy Spirit act and not our natural gifts. And so Stott sets before us these four marks as characteristic of expository preaching.
Now how does one do it? This is the question that I find men are asking everywhere around the world. Our staff and I were out in Australia last year about this time. We preached all over that sub-continent, all the major centers there. And everywhere we found men who wanted to do expository preaching, but confessed that they didn't know how. They had not been taught this in their seminaries, or they had been given models to follow of thematic preaching, or of topical preaching, and they had no knowledge of how to go about letting the text deeply speak to the contemporary culture in which they were living. And that's what I hope to present to you this morning hour.
I would like to give you first an outline of the steps -- there are nine steps that I personally have learned to follow in this regard. And I don't apologize for using my own method because that's all I know really. But I recognize there may be variations of this in other men. Each man works out his own approach. I also confess to you that I found it very difficult to see what these steps were. In my earlier ministry I found that I kind of unconsciously sensed what I needed to do to take the text apart. But in doing it I couldn't watch myself. So that if I was intent on doing it I didn't know what I had done. And if I tried to watch myself, I couldn't do it. So it took a long, painful time, until I finally watched enough to catch a few glimpses here and there, to put this down on paper. So there's considerable sweat and strain behind this.
The first thing I do is to choose a major passage of Scripture. That is, I make a judgment about what part of the Bible I want to expound for the next few weeks or months to my people. Now at Palo Alto I'm preaching through the second letter of Paul to Timothy. I finished 1 Timothy last fall, and now I'm beginning 2 Timothy with them. And I'm going right through second Timothy, taking everything in it, in order to set forth the truth of that epistle. I try to alternate in my own preaching between the New Testament and the Old Testament. And I find that Old Testament preaching is both fascinating and helpful to people and one that they find little exposure to elsewhere. The Old Testament is the unknown section of the Bible. And that is much to our loss. The Old Testament is a rich book, a marvelous book. So I alternate between the Old Testament and then the New Testament.
I take into consideration the struggles people are going through. I preached through 1 and 2 Corinthians a year or so ago simply because everybody was struggling at that time with some of the issues that are treated there: sexual matters, how to handle single life, there is a great section there on that, how to handle conflict and division within the church. And all these issues are so evident in that series of letters that I chose that. So choose a major section to preach on.
Then, create from that major section a general outline. I think this is very, very important. I couldn't preach without this, my guidelines. It represents the fruits of reading the passage. I get the general breakdown of the thoughts of the writer. A get a bird's eye view of what the whole book is about. And that gives me a sense of security when I deal with the text. I know that if I see where everything is going I'm more apt to treat it accurately in its individual divisions. Heresy, as you probably know, is truth out of balance. That's all it is. Most heresies start with a very sizable nugget of truth. But they become heresies when they are pushed beyond the balance which Scripture so beautifully maintains. This is why the word of God does not follow the format of human books. When you read one of my books or somebody else's books, you'll find a chapter on this subject and another on that subject. But in the Scriptures God himself tells us through Isaiah the prophet it is here a little, there a little, line upon line, precept upon precept, so that truth is always balanced with other truth. And that is one of the major defenses against the intrusion of error into your preaching. Therefore it is important to understand where the passage is going in general.
Now to assist us in this I have brought along a sample of a major outline I prepared on the book of Collossians. You see it covers the entire book. I call this the condensed outline. I get this by reading, and as I read I just jot down. This is the introduction, this is the prayer of the apostle. That's a kind of introductory passage which covers the first 14 verses of the letter. Then I see the apostle moves directly into his subject, which is the power of God. It seems to me that the key verse of the letter to the Collossians is found in these words, where the apostle says in his prayer, "May you be strengthened with all power according to his glorious might." Now that is thrilling, isn't it, the power of God, the might of God, released in human life. But we can't stop reading there, for the apostle goes on to say what you use this power for. For all endurance and patience with joy. we think of power as something that you use to go out and do dazzling miracles with. But you need the power of God to be patient, to hang in there, to endure, and to be joyful as you do it. That's the key to the whole letter. Christ is the mighty power of God, and I saw that, and saw how he deals with the Lord as the firstborn of creation and the firstborn of the dead, and that strange mystery of God: Christ in you the hope of glory. Now that's my second major division, because it's the second change of thought of the apostle. This helps me to understand what the book is about.
(audience question, not audible)
I think it helps to find key verses, but I often don't find them until I've gone through something like this, and understand what the book is about. Then I often find -- especially in the writings of Paul -- that it's all summarized for me in one single phrase. And that was the case here.
Then he changes the subject in chapter 2 verse 8 to false approaches, philosophy and empty deceit, and the specific manifestations of false power: rituals, and worship of angels, and legalism and so on. You see, I'm just making headings, I'm not trying to get the whole passage in detail. I'm simply trying to get a bird's eye view of the whole book. And then he comes to the true processes of power, chapter 3. And tells us to deal with realities: that is -- remember the passage? -- set your affections on things above, not on the things of the earth. Now above doesn't mean off in space somewhere, it means in the invisible world of the spirit. That's what your to think about and deal with, so that your life is governed by realistic principles. And that's what he deals with, deal with realities. And then he says, "Practice what you believe. Put this to work in your life. And apply it universally. Fathers and children, wives and husbands, children and parents, servants and masters. Apply all this truth." And finally he has some closing instructions and concerns. Now that's all I'm after at this point. Just a bird's eye view of the passage.
Let me give you another example of this. Here for instance is a condensed outline of the letter to the Corinthians. Let me just give you the headings. Again, after some work with the letter, I found that the key verse of Corinthians is the ninth verse of the first chapter, where the apostle says, "God is faithful, who has called you into the fellowship of his son, Jesus, our Lord." Fellowship with Christ, personal walk, daily practicing the presence of Christ. That's the key. And then the passage breaks down very fitly into, first, the carnalities, and the apostle lists them. And the business of the preacher is to classify them according to the way they appear. There's pride, and its consequences. And he deals with that very plainly. There's divisions, boastings, jealousy and strife, and complacency. All those are manifestations of pride. Then the second division, lust and its problems. And there you have the shameful immorality that is mentioned in the fifth chapter, taking of one another to law, the lust for revenge, the unlawful, inappropriate litigation, and then the prostitution of the body as some of them were actually dealing with prostitution. And then the third division, life and its dangers. Here it's just a matter of listing the subjects: about marriage, about single life, about our influences on others, about personal rights, about self-discipline, about idolatry, and about how to handle tradition: the two traditions f the church, baptism and the Lord's supper. And then the apostle himself gives us the second major division. He says, "And now concerning the spiritualities." Not "spiritual gifts" as we have it in our King James Version, it's not spiritual gifts, it's not the word "charismata," it's the word "pneumatikoi," the things concerning the spirit. And in this he deals with, first, God, the goal of the Spirit, which is, how to identify the mark of error and the mark of the Spirit himself, unity. And then the gifts of the Spirit, and then the fruit of the Spirit, love, and then the relationship between the fruit and the gifts taken up in chapter 14. And finally the resurrection of the body - the spiritualities. And then a concluding chapter, 16, on the practicalities. Now I've got the epistle, you see, really in my mind, under just three major headings: the carnalities, the spiritualities, and the practicalities. And that's all I've been looking for as I read through this letter, what are these major divisions. They'll be my guidelines.
Here's another one of a similar nature on 2nd Corinthians. There is the condensed outline of 2nd Corinthians. It's very similar. It's a little harder to catch some of this, but this is where practice comes in. If you read this, and think through the letter you come to these divisions. First, the practice of the ministry, covered in chapters one and two, then the principles of ministry -- this is that great section, marvelous section, autobiographical section of Paul. The triumph out of pressures, the new covenant in other words, the opposition that comes from within, the flesh; the opposition from without, the devil. There's a great passage there in chapter four. The present experience of struggling with these. And finally the glorious future in chapter five. Remember those great words there about "when this earthly tabernacle is dissolved we have a house not made by hands eternal in the heavens." And then the great word on the reconciling ministry. Then he changes the subject. He talks about repentance, its pain and its joy. And then again in chapter 8 and 9 you get the subject of giving. Very helpful passage. Example of true giving, principles of true giving, and the possibilities of true giving are given there. And this is what I saw just working with a pencil in hand reading through this book several times. And finally, handling the devil's infiltraters. What do you do with errors, heresies, and those that propound them right in the midst of the congregation. That was Paul's problem in 2nd Corinthians. And he gives us most helpful guidelines on that. The weapons we must employ, the credentials we must have to do this work, the tactics we may use in this struggle, and the true apostleship which he represented, and then some final words on that.
Now the detailed outline takes this condensed outline and begins to fill it out, to flesh it out, when I get ready to preach. I'll get back to that in a little bit. All right, now let's go back to our guideline on how you work these things out. We've got "Create a general outline." Now once I have that then I'm ready to prepare to actually preach on the passage. There I start then working out what I'm going to preach the very first Sunday I take this. And I choose a manageable preaching section. That is based upon how much time I have, how deep I want to penetrate the passage, what is the level of understanding of the congregation -- are they beginners, do they need to be taught simple truth, not complicated, ABC's from this, are they able to handle the meat of the word as well as the milk of it? I need to answer these questions. Naturally if I'm preaching in my own congregation I'm pretty much aware of all that. And it helps me choose a manageable section. Now I would say that many of the modern versions today help us greatly by paragraphing the Scriptures. Whoever inserted the verses in the Bible I think was under the influence of demonic spirits at the time because he seems to put them at the very worse places, and sometimes cuts off the conclusion of a paragraph by making a chapter division immediately before it. And you have to ignore all those chapter division. But the editors of modern texts have helped us greatly by giving us a paragraph approach to that.
Then my next step is to check out in that passage that I'm going to preach on the first morning the theological and the linguistic problems that I find there. I find this very important. I don't bring all this into the pulpit with me. I probably will not even mention some of these problems. I may mention one or two if its pertinent to the text and if it's a problem among the people. But I want to know what the answers are as far as I can determine them. So that if anybody asks me about the text I have already wrestled with the issue. And so when I'm in my study I spend a lot of time trying to do word studies on the meaning of words, and check out some of the textual difference to make a choice as to which textual rendering is the right one, and work on some of the linguistic problems involved. Now some texts don't require a lot of work in this area. You have to determine that as you go along. But this is the order that I follow.
And then the fifth step is to set it in a historical context. Now here I am trying to be faithful to the culture of the first century, if I'm dealing with the New Testament, or the Old Testament times. I want to understand customs and attitudes and atmosphere of that first century world. I want to put myself back into it. Here's where I find a commentator like William Barclay very helpful. Barclay's theology cannot always be trusted -- he was confused in certain areas, especially on the inerrancy and authority of Scripture. But his background material is magnificent. And he will give you a great deal of help in putting yourself back into the situation that the writer was. Now, if we're going to be faithful workman rightly dividing the word of truth, we must do this. We must understand what the text meant to the people who heard it. And how they applied it to their culture and their life. And having done that, we mustn't leave it there. This is where a lot of so-called exegetes are content to do. They are busy teaching the people what this text meant to the early Christians. Well that's helpful, but that isn't really help enough. Our Bible is more than good news for first century man -- it is also good news for 20th century man. And we have to move on from that. Now this is where we do that.
Now at this point I develop an exegetical outline of the preaching section which I have chosen. And this is what I refer to as a detailed outline. For instance, here is an example, again from 2 Corinthians, of the introduction to that letter. I think that was the first message I preached, only on the first two verses. The apostolic authority, the ecclesiastical unity of the church, and the existential supply, grace, mercy, and peace, from God the father. Now I just made a whole message on that. You may not want to do that, you may want to just touch on that briefly and take a larger section. And here's where a preacher has a lot of choice, as to how much of the text he is going to handle, and how much and what in it he is going to emphasize. If I'd wanted to go on and just touch upon the outline, I would have taken the next section for my text that first time, which would be under the heading A: the practice of the ministry involves continual affliction and comfort. And this is a great passage for those whose hearts are hurting in your congregation. It falls under two major headings: the source of afflictions, which are the mercies of God, and the comforts that accompany them, and I just point that out. And then the second heading is the reasons for affliction, and that's the major issue of that passage. And I simply detail them. One, the first reason is to experience comfort ourselves. Remember how it says? That the comfort with which we have been comforted by God, we are to pass on to others, so that they may be comforted with the comfort that God showed to us. And therefore the first reason for experiencing affliction in our own life is to experience the comfort of God ourselves. God always deals with the preacher before he deals with the preaching.
And the second reason is to pass that on to others. And I found that could be broken down as comfort balances affliction, afflictions often are given because of others. Some of our afflictions like Job's didn't come because of any problems so much in him as in others that he was in touch with. And the fact that afflictions are no cause for being upset at God. That's a very important point. That's what Joni Erickson learned, didn't she? That God is not accountable to her. And then the second thing under that is to shatter our self-sufficiency. And Paul's great experience in Asia he lists as doing that very thing. He says we were so burdened, so crushed, so pressed down, that we felt we had received the sentence of death. He was shattered by this horrible experience he went through. And why? Well, in order that God's beyond hope deliverance might be experienced. God who raises the dead, so that no situation might be hopeless when God is involved. And then finally to increase thanksgiving.
Now there's a wonderful study there, you see, on affliction. A whole message devoted to it. But based on the text, bringing out what the text has to say. I could illustrate that further but I must hasten on. That's what I call an exegetical outline. Now you see in that passage that I just showed you, I included every single thing in that text. I left nothing out. Everything Paul said appeared in my outline as I saw the logical structure of it that he had in his mind as he was working on it.
But now I don't take that exegetical outline into the pulpit to preach from. At this point I shift from what is called hermeneutics, interpretation, to now preparing to deliver it, which is called homiletics. And I hope we've learned that homiletics is not simply a matter of rhetoric, of developing certain little gimmicks which you use to hold attention with. Homiletics is based upon primarily the psychology of communication. It's trying to understand who's going to listen to you, what state of mind they're going to be in, what the conditions are under which you're preaching, and how can you make appeal to them so as to captivate and hold their interest. You see preaching is all too often dull and deadly, because we don't spend any time thinking about its delivery. As soon as we get content, we want to rush up there and unload the whole load on our congregation, and all the process of our study. And nothing could be more deadly. That's why preaching has been described as the art of talking in someone else's sleep. A man said to me, "I always pray that my congregation will either arise greatly strengthened or awake greatly refreshed." One or the other. But preaching should be alive, it ought to be vital.
I learned a great deal on this from the apostle Paul, who said when writing to the Colossians, he said his text for his whole ministry was Christ in you, the hope of glory. Him we proclaim, he said. And then he gives us his method: Warning, and teaching every man in all wisdom. Warning and teaching. When I first read that, I thought, "He's got that reversed." You don't warn people before you teach them. You teach first, and if they don't heed it, you warn them what the results will be. And when I checked Paul's preaching I found that's what he did. So I said to myself, Why does he put it in reverse? And here's where settling linguistic problems will help you. When I checked the text itself, in Greek, I found it didn't say that at all. "Warning" is an editor's interpretation of the word the apostle used. The actual word is "to put in mind, to capture the mind." And it isn't a warning in our usual sense of that word. What it means is to alert, to grab hold of people, to get their attention. And that properly precedes preaching. When he was to speak to the citizens of Athens at the invitation of the leaders of the city, remember how he started? A beautiful way of getting attention. In effect, what he said was to put it in what must have seemed to them the contemporary language of their day, he said something like this. "You know, I've been walking around your beautiful city -- every tourist who goes to Athens goes sightseeing. And I've been sightseeing. And in the process of walking around, I've noticed something about you people: you're very religious people. You have a very deep interest in the things of God." You see he's complimenting them. He's getting their attention. That's a good way to start with people. "I noted that there were several shrines around the city, all of them dedicated to the unknown God. Now that's most remarkable. You people are interested in the things of God. And you've told me by this that there are things you don't know about God. And that's what I've come to talk to you about." See what an introduction! He's got them right with him. He's awakened their attention. And they gave him that attention right through to the end until he got on to the controversial things. Then some quit, but a few believed. But you see that's what I'm talking about here.
Now at this point you'll begin to do that. You'll first refer to commentaries and expositions. Now here is where you check your work against somebody else's. And that's very valuable. Charles Spurgeon used to say, "I don't understand how a man who thinks so highly of what the Holy Spirit said to him thinks so little of what he said to anybody else." And it's very important to read what others have done. Now there are commentaries and commentaries. Some of them aren't worth the paper they're printed on. I don't think I own a single multi-volume commentary like Matthew Henry or some of those, done by one man. Because I've found that one man cannot be expert enough in all the areas that Scripture covers. I prefer volumes of commentaries that are done by different men, all of whom are expert in the book that they are working on. Or even individual expositions of a book of the Bible. That's what I put in my library. Now some I find very helpful. I'll read anything Martyn Lloyd-Jones wrote on a passage; I don't always agree with him, but I always have to have a good reason why I don't. He forces me to think. I read John Stott on things. I got great help as a young preacher from G. Campbell Morgan. He was a great expositor, the prince of preachers. And he taught me how to expound and handle Scripture, and how to deliver it in an interesting and evocative way. So here's where you begin to get ready to deliver now.
And then I prepare a preaching outline. Now you notice I've got three different outlines that I've worked on: the major outline that covers the whole book that is my guideline to truth, which I'm free to change as I work through the book more in detail. I may say, oh, I missed that there, I think the break comes here, and perhaps he handles it a slightly different -- no outline needs to be set in concrete when you get it. Work it through. Then I develop an exegetical outline of each preaching section, which is tied together so in the end I have a complete detailed outline of the whole book. And then I come at last to the preaching outline. Now here I think about how I'm going to introduce this. I visualize the people. I think of standing up there and what I'm going to say that's going to capture their attention and introduce the subject in a way that means they're all with me right from the start and I put that down. I write down a brief phrase or something that calls that to mind. I don't write my messages out. I find that too cumbersome to work with. But I do put down something that will recall to my mind what I've thought through in detail.
And here I will put in all the illustrations of truth. Exegesis that is simply laid upon people in a heavy theological fashion is hard to handle. But illustrations lighten it and illuminate it and make it alive and vital. And I try to think of illustrations from my own life, from my experience, from the experience of others. I seldom use books of illustrations. Once in a while one will stick in my mind or seem appropriate but usually something out of my experience, or something I've run into, or a quotation that somebody has said in a striking way. I like to use little jingles now and then. One I often use when I preach away from my place at the close of a series of messages is a little doggerel that goes:
There was a young poet from Japan
Whose poetry no one could scan.
When told it was so
He said, Yes I know,
But I try to get as many words in the last line as I can.
And something like that sticks in people's mind. Adrian Rogers used a little jingle like that and it stuck in people's mind. "Be sure you've got the goods" -- remember that one -- the lion? And so on, and the mouse that tried that. That stuck in people's mind, that illustrated the point. And it takes as much work -- listen to me now -- it takes as much work to do the homiletical preparation as it takes to do the hermeneutical preparation. So when you get to the point where you've got a good, solid, biblical, exegetical outline of a passage, you're only halfway through. And unless you will do comparable work thinking through how you are going to communicate this truth you're going to find that all your labor in exegesis has virtually been lost because it is not communicable. And that's why it is important to do that.
Now the last step I have is: I prepare my heart and my body. I usually start working on the preaching section which I have chosen on Monday morning. I work on it again Tuesday morning. I spend a little time on it Wednesday and I then I have it down enough that I can think about it as I ride around in the car, do other things, work in the yard, and so on. And I'm meditating on that text all that time. Then on Friday I set aside the whole morning and even part of the afternoon if I need to, to do all the rest of the work necessary in preparation. Now for one message here. Usually on Friday afternoon I have everything ready except maybe my final preaching notes. On Saturday morning I may put those together -- it may take me an hour or two to do that. And then I set aside the passage entirely -- my notes and everything else. I do something else with my family on Saturday, or busy myself with yard work or whatever. And I never think of them again until Saturday evening. Then I take them out and I go to bed early on Saturday night. Now you can't preach two sessions as I do on Sunday morning -- an 8:15 service and an 11 o'clock service -- and stay up past 10:30 Saturday night. You'll be weary and tired and so on. And I go to bed at least by 10:30, possibly 10 o'clock Saturday night. So I can wake fully refreshed and ready to go.
And also I prepare my heart. I pray over this truth. I've been praying all along that God would open my eyes and teach me things. And I pray on Saturday night over it. And on Sunday morning I usually sit down again and read through my notes very quickly. And then spend 10 minutes or so just thanking God for what it means to me in my own life, and what it will do in the lives of my hearers, and I pray for them, and then I go down and deliver the message. And I find that is very necessary: to come into the actual preaching moment with your heart filled with a sense of the presence of the Lord, and your mind gripped by the power of the message which you've discovered for yourself out of the Scriptures. And the expectation of what this is going to do when it's turned loose among the people.
Now that's my style of preaching. Now let me just in conclusion suggest two fine books on preaching. Here is Martyn Lloyd-Jones' book on Preaching and Preachers. [click on the link to order through Amazon]. He just died about last March - but it's a great book and very helpful and Martyn Lloyd-Jones is an admirable expositor of preaching. He goes at it perhaps in more depth than any of us would want to. I think he took if I remember 14 years on the book of Romans, and only got to chapter 14 in that time. So you may not want to go that thoroughly.
Here's a new book by John Stott which I believe is not yet available here in the States, so I have an English copy of it. It's called I Believe in Preaching. [Now available in the US under the title Between Two Worlds: The Art of Preaching in the Twentieth Century. Click on the link to order through Amazon.] But it will be available very shortly. But it's a very helpful, practical book from an outstanding expositor and preacher of our day. John R. W. Stott, I Believe In Preaching, now published by Hodder and Stoughton in London.
Those are two excellent books on preaching. I would urge you also to read preachers, read expositors. Get to know their temperament, their approach, and it's very helpful to help you in your own.
Now perhaps we can take a few moments for questions.
Yes, the question is do I preach more than one sermon a week, and it seemed to this speaker that it's a little difficult to find the time to prepare for more. At the present time, yes, I preach only one sermon a week in my own church, delivered twice on Sunday morning. But for years I preached on Sunday morning, Sunday evening, and Wednesday night. And I prepared for it very much the same way I do now. I would say again that finding the time to do this means you have to really see preaching as your major work in your ministry. Now that doesn't mean to cut out your family. Families come before ministries. But it does mean that you have to see this as the major thing you do. And you must take whatever time it takes to get this done in a thorough way. Because this is what God is going to check you up on when you get to glory. I'm going to talk about that tomorrow, the accountability of the pastor.
Where do I start on Monday in this 9 step outline. Now you see before I begin a book at all I have already chosen the major passage, I've created the general outline, I have chosen a manageable section. I have to make announcements of what I'm going to speak on a couple of weeks before so my staff knows, so I've chosen all that by that time. So where I start on Monday is to check out the theological and linguistical problems, and begin to chew up the text, meditating on it and so on. I may yet still be working on my exegetical outline. That's where I start, doing that.
When have I done the first three? Well, sometime in the process of getting ready for the text I also look ahead as to what I might be preaching on next. I just squeeze that in in moments when I can. But I'm looking down the line from time to time. I don't try to determine a year in advance what I'm going to be preaching on, but I certainly do want to know several months in advance what's going to be the next book I'll be working on.
Sermon titles. How important and where do I get them. I think sermon titles are very important. They are what capture the attention. They are part of the introduction. And therefore they ought to be put in catching language. The first thing I do to get a title is having worked through all of this so I thoroughly understand the passage and also what I'm going to do with it is then ask myself, now, what is the theme of the passage? What is it talking about. Usually that will come to me in rather prosaic language. It's Paul's view of the church, the nature of the church, or something like that. Now all too often preachers stop with that. And they put that up on their bulletin board and everybody that goes by says, Oh, he's going to preach on Paul's view of the church. Well I must remind myself not to be there Sunday morning. But if you think it through a bit, and you try to capture the excitement of what Paul's view of the church is, you'll come up with a phrase that will say that, but say it in a much more engaging way. For instance, you might say, the most powerful body on earth. Now that's Paul's view of the church. But it will also capture the attention of somebody just walking by. So that's where I get titles.
Yes, or more, six or eight months if you want to. Well, I try to spend enough time on commentaries that I understand in general what other men are saying on this passage, and that I have satisfied myself that it either is or isn't what the passage itself is saying. And that varies widely with the passage. Some passages I have to wrestle with sometimes for weeks until I feel I have answered all the questions in my mind about what others have said about it. For instance, Romans is a good point: Just exactly what does justification by faith mean? Now there are several views of that, two primary ones which are very important distinctions. I have to know what these views are, see what the ground that others base their view is, and then make a decision as to which one the passage actually does teach, and why I think so. So that's what I would spend a lot of time with.
Yes, I think outlines are very helpful. I give them to my congregation after I've preached on them. And also all of our messages are printed up. Here's a detailed outline of 1 Corinthians. What you see is the result of all the exegetical outlines that I've worked through week after week after week. I tie them all together because that's one book, Paul wrote it that way. And it all has to fit together. That's just part of it -- there are four pages like that. That's how detailed it is. See here's dealing with lust and it's problems, and all the things he says about that, and then dealing with life and it's dangers, and all the things that come on that, and here's another page of it, and here I'm moving into the spiritualities, having concluded all he says about the carnalities, and then it comes into the relationship of fruit and gifts, the great theme of the resurrection of the body, and finally the section on the practicalities as well. Then I publish that for the benefit of our people, and I find they really appreciate having an outline of the whole book.
No, I don't. I abominate that. I may spend some time with other sections of Scripture that speak to my heart and prepare me, but basically I let the very text I'm working with speak first to me. That's what I want. I want to be the first one to sit under the judgment of the Spirit, and the impact of the word of God. I want to feel it in my own heart. And oftentimes in my preparation, oftentimes I will just bow in adoration of God and what I see, or break into tears over some sense of conviction, over something that needs to be changed in my life that's ministered to me. And I find that's very important.
[inaudible question] When do I discover in this preparation time what the aim is. Well the aim of course is determined by the passage. And in the process of making an exegetical outline is when I discover what the aim of that passage is. Yes, basically every passage comes to one single point, of what does God want me and my hearers to do.
Thank you for your attention. Tomorrow we'll go into the accountability.
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