This is the second part of an interview of my preaching experience. For the previous post, click here.
3) Who has had a large impact on how you teach/preach the Scriptures?
I actually do not listen to podcasts (nothing personal… I just have no idea when I would have time for it!). And there is no one that I intentionally try to emulate. Those who have had direct impact on me and how I conceive of the task of preaching include a wide range of people from Tom Tanner, Robert Smith, John Piper, Tony Campolo, etc. I think there is actually a lot of fluidity in my own preaching style, depending on the topic or text at hand.
4) Do you have a balance between reading theologians/commentaries and just spending time in the word/prayer?
Great Q. I am always fighting for time to read or bemoaning how much time I do not have to read. And my reading selections have often revolve around my planned preaching schedule. I do read commentaries when I prepare for sermons, but usually I only consult 2-3, and it is after I have done a great deal of exegetical work on my own. I do not want a commentator to steal my own joy of discovery in the text! But I do rely on commentators to keep me from saying something really dumb.
As far as which commentaries, I have gained enough familiarity with the field of biblical studies that I know who I trust—authors, publishers, series. Also, some commentaries are highly technical and others more devotional. I might read one of each, to help provide balance.
Pray is part of the entire process. I usually have time devoted specifically to asking God for guidance, but much of the praying comes in and through and during the research and writing.
5) In what ways have you seen emotion in speaking be positive and negative? In what ways have you seen your peers error in teaching the scriptures?
All of us are novices when it comes to proclaiming an indescribably holy God. We all fall short. I must say, though, nothing tends to bother me more than preaching that is unbiblical or overly emotional. Now, I believe that if we are preaching truth that does not move us emotionally, then something is wrong! And certainly a sermon must be heard as an urgent appeal. So we can and should be emotional over truth. But ultimately it is the truth that must make us emotional and engender emotion in our hearers.
I am shocked and dazzled at just how easily people are moved emotionally by the emotional rhetoric of a speaker. It is dreadful and horrifying. “Revivalism” is a term applied to the techniques employed by early American preachers to rouse the heartstrings of the hearers and move them into outbursts of passion and weeping. Let’s be honest that Adolf Hitler was able to produce a great deal of emotion in his strident rhetoric. But it was the emotion that moved in those cases, not necessarily truth. I have to be careful in preaching that I do not fail to be appropriately emotional over a glorious truth as it rolls off my lips. I must also be careful not to manipulate or toy with the emotional constitution of those in my hearing.
And yes, I have seen peers make mistakes in preaching. I am sure they have seen me make some mistakes as well. God help us all.
6) How has your view of the nature/character of God and your view of the word of God shaped your sermons?
These have tremendously shaped my preaching. The nature of the One whom I preach is such that I can never preach Him well… yet preach Him I must! And to be entrusted with His word is as exhilarating and joyful as it is downright unnerving.
7) Should Jesus/The gospel be present in every sermon/talk? If so, how so?
Not in a canned or forced way. For me, I preach Christologically. That is, I preach with Jesus always in my homiletical sights. But usually this means for me that I have the entire metanarrative of Scripture in view which includes Creation and Re-Creation and the return of Christ… but I try to honor the part of the metanarrative in which my text is found. So when I preach an OT text, I try to preach the text as it is found in that narrower setting but without forgetting the wider canonical story. This does not mean, however, that I cram a few words about Jesus at the end or make some tenuous connection between the two Testaments just to obligate my conscious.
As far as the Gospel goes, I am quite concerned with how it is conceived in contemporary evangelicalism. The Gospel is more comprehensive than personal forgiveness of an individual’s sins. The Gospel is the bell-clanging, siren-ringing royal pronouncement that the reign of God has come in Christ, and by their Spirit they are making all things new. The Gospel is cosmic in scope. And I actually try to preach with that massive, realm-exploding vision in my weak and unworthy mind.