I spent a couple of hours this morning in a meeting with R Kent Hughes and various pastors from Scotland. He spoke very eloquently on the subject of his pastoral experience and his belief in ‘expository’ preaching. RKH has written numerous books and we as a church have been using ‘Disciplines of a Godly Man’ as a discipleship tool for Christian men across our congregation. Whilst many of his illustrations are obviously culturally American they do translate well enough to have a meaningful impact, even in Niddrie!
In His view the preacher has done his work when:
* He has worked out the theme of the book – the ‘melodic line’.
* He has prayerfully interpreted the text in its context, using the established principles of interpretation
* He understands the text’s application in its historical setting, and in the whole of scripture
* He has discerned wherein it is a revelation of Jesus Christ, and has made the appropriate inter-canonical connections
* Has made the trip from ‘Jerusalem to Edinburgh’ and understands its present relevance.
* He has stated the theme of the text, its ‘big idea’.
* He has outlined his exposition using the literary structure of the text as a guide to his sermon’s symmetries
* He has written or outlined his sermon using language that actually does communicate in today’s culture
* He has used stories and illustrations which really do illumine the text.
* He has submitted himself to the text so that it has sow ploughed his soul that he is sympathetic to, and desires the truths of the text to be active in his life.
* As he stands in the pulpit in full dependence upon the Holy Spirit, the exposition of God’s word passsionately flows from the inward affections of his heart with affectation.
Now some of those points are a real mouthful but what I appreciated about this man was his careful and thoughtful manner and the way he was gentle yet firm in his convictions regarding the truthfulness of the Bible and the importance of preaching systematically through the Bible. He answered some questions on preparation time and giving adequate time to family.
My own personal convictions match his. I believe absolutely in the complete inerrancy and all sufficiency of the scriptures. Every ‘jot and tittle’, as RKH put it (and Jesus before him!). My own prep time for a 30 minute sermon is about 12-15 hours. I like to set aside a Tuesday for reading thinking and jotting down key phrases or words that jump out at me or confuse me. I like to then leave it a day to ‘prayerfully stew’ over it. I then try to have it nailed by Thursday. I will then go over it on Saturday afternoon and do my power point (if I can be bothered doing one). That is my habit unless I have had a heavy week (like this one). Weeks when I am not preaching and one of my assistants is, give me the opportunity to catch up on reading, visitation, planning and hanging around in our community cafe talking to the locals. My concern for many men from ‘reformed’ traditions is that we love the study more than we love the people and that is perhaps why many sermons may be ‘right’ in their execution but woeful in their application.
As for my personal life: Teatime is the consecrated hour in our house. It is the time when we sit together as a family (my wife and two girls) and talk over our day. We share any high and low points and then we read the scriptures together and pray around the table. Sometimes, we will play a game before bed. Miriam and I also like to have a ‘date night’ – usually a Friday and on a Saturday afternoon/evening it is ‘chippy night’ and BGT or X-Factor! Only death can change this system! I have had to work hard over the years to make sure that when I am with my family I am ‘with’ my family and I block all others pressures out, no matter how pressing. This is obviously not always possible but, thankfully, I have a very perceptive wife who knows when I need space sometimes. We have brought the girls up with the mantra that we love Christ above all, each other next and then the work of the church. Sometimes there are emergencies that can’t be helped but it has to be serious to get me away from my family. As RKH said today, the years pass by so quickly and I want to be there to share in as many of their special moments as I can.
We have a heavy responsibility as preachers. James 3v1 hangs over me every time I step into the pulpit or engage in any teaching for that matter. We also have a heavy responsibility toward our families. And we must work hard at not letting them become another ‘thing to do in the diary’ or ‘event to go to’ but put to death our natural selfishness and love them as they deserve.