Notes from my Preaching Class

Posted in christian habits, christian thought, preaching by Nathan Creitz on December 3, 2008

bibprerob1I’ve been preaching for years but I am just now taking a seminary class on the subject and it has transformed the way I approach the preparation to preach. My professor is Haddon Robinson (one of the top ten most influential preachers according to Christianity Today. He wrote Biblical Preaching which is “Still the preaching primer of choice!” according to Preaching Magazine) so you can imagine the intimidation I felt yesterday when I preached in front of a class of my peers with Dr. Robinson and his little yellow notebook sitting directly to my right.

Does preaching have purpose? I’ve written elsewhere that I believe preaching is Biblical and necessary for the strengthening of the church but in this post I want to describe my personal experience with what happens when a pastor faithfully preaches the Word of God.

Praying the Text

What I want to describe here is something I have experienced many times, not just in preparing a sermon, but also in personal Bible study. However, as I prepared to preach Romans 3:21-26, I remember spending a lot of time in prayer and reflection. These times of prayer change me every time I preach. It helps me to move from thinking “I hope I do well” and “I want a good grade” and “Maybe I will win some kind of preaching class award” to praying “Lord, may I find your Truth from this text” and “Who cares if I get a good grade, if only you will change me through this process”.

Preaching is a Discipline

Prayer helps to reduce my own pride in preaching. Preaching is a discipline that encourages me to pray for humility, to pray for the people that will hear the message, to pray for transformation in my life and theirs. Preparing to preach is a process of thinking Christianly. This isn’t a time to search the internet for someone else’s sermons. It isn’t a last minute scrambling to throw something together because you “have to”. Preaching is a unique exercise in loving God with our heart, soul, mind, and strength and loving our neighbor as ourselves. It is introspective and revealing. I experienced a transformation in my own heart as I wrestled with the main idea of the text.

Preaching is a Process

As I submitted my study to the rigorous discipline of Dr. Robinson’s “stages” of sermon preparation, I was amazed at how articulate I became. I couldn’t just throw something together. I had to wrestle with the text. I had to argue with it. I had to be frustrated by it. I had to ask my wife for help. I had to come up with a way to articulate. When I finally wrote down the words that became my “homiletical idea” it was a word from the Lord. It hit me hard. I literally fell to my knees and wept when God gave it to me. What struck me were the words in Romans 3:26 which says “He presented Him to demonstrate His righteousness at the present time so that He would BE righteous and declare righteous the one who has faith in Jesus.” After struggling for hours over how to articulate the main idea I wrote, God would not BE a good God, if He had not sent His Son to die. I didn’t get that sentence from John Piper or Mark Driscoll or from someone else’s blog. I received it as a reward from God as I wrestled with Him and His Word. Feel free to disagree with my homiletical idea…feel free to disregard it as common knowledge. But it was so clear to me that this was the word I was to preach for that particular time and place that I was overcome with emotions of gratitude and praise to God for His providence – not just of providing the words for a sermon but of providing us with His Son.

Where We Go Wrong

If I hadn’t waited for that word from the Lord I would’ve settle for something else. I would’ve preached a message that hadn’t gripped my heart. I think preachers often sell themselves short. Many preachers don’t preach a word from the Lord; they preach a plagiarized copy or a watered down version of what God has to say in His Word. If we don’t grapple with the main idea of a text and let it shape us and let it guide our prayer for the congregation and for the world and let it tackle us with its simplicity and its power then we will never be preachers, we will only be talkers. Preaching is discipline. Preaching is a selfless, pastoral act given to the church of God. Preaching is humility. Preaching is a process. If our preaching is anything less then it is disqualified.

What Happens After the Sermon?

What happens after the sermon leaves our mouths? That is not my concern. I don’t need to hear “Good job, pastor!” or get a pat on my back. I don’t need to hear someone talk about how it changed their life. I don’t need an email from someone on the mission field saying I preached a sermon that inspired them to move to Africa. If I prepare to preach with discipline and humility I will know that whatever happens after I preach has nothing to do with me. If I am diligent in my preparation then I will know that God’s Word changed me, that God’s Word presented me with the main idea, that God’s Word shaped how I crafted the sermon, that the Spirit presided over the process and the delivery, and that the Spirit of God was at work in the people’s hearts and minds. Charles Spurgeon entered his pulpit every time praying, “I believe in the Holy Spirit. I believe in the Holy Spirit.” A preacher is a servant with a mouth, nothing more.

So these are reflections of my experience in preparing to preach yesterday. What are your thoughts on the purpose of preaching?


One Response

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  1. ben said, on December 22, 2008 at 11.27 am

    Awesome experience. I continue to struggle with the balance between humility and using God’s gifts to present his Word faithfully. I am finishing up my Seminary years at Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary and we often talk about Haddon Robinson and his books. I look forward to more of your findings as you wrestle with the Word through study and prayer and present God’s best to God’s people.

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