Today’s 10 Questions get answered by one of my best friends, Ross Strader. Ross is the pastor of Bethel Bible Church in Tyler, TX.
1. Where do you place the importance of preaching in the grand scheme of church life?
Preaching the life of the church is very important. It anchors the church. It is the place that doctrine and vision come together. People are grounded in God’s Word and inspired to life in the kingdom. If the church is a ship, a battle cruiser, then preaching is the helm.
2. In a paragraph, how did you discover your gifts in preaching?
By accident. When I was young (like 10) I remember sitting in church and feeling this overwhelming desire of wanting to do THAT (standing before the people and teaching God’s Word)… but I discarded it as something everybody wanted to do. I didn’t realize it was the first echos of my calling. While in seminary I had several opportunities to teach and preach. It was different from what I had done while on staff with Young Life. I absolutely loved it. It was what I was made to do. Along with my training and opportunities, there was affirmation from the body of Christ – both the places I would speak as well as our local body while in seminary. The Lord was very gracious to make it clear to me because it is also a place I feel the most vulnerable and insecure.
3. How long (on average) does it take you to prepare a sermon?
About 15 hours. I would love 20 hours but I seem to run myself out of time during the week. I find that I have to be very disciplined early in the week so I have time to think later in the week. The prayer and meditation over the passage is the most important time spent.
4. Is it important to you that a sermon contain one major theme or idea? If so, how do you crystallize it?
When that happens it is great. Sometimes it happens on purpose. Sometimes it happens on accident. Sometimes it doesn’t happen. I am committed to preaching through the Bible verse by verse. I begin books of the bible and walk through them with the congregation verse by verse. I usually start out with preaching calendar at the beginning of the series. I have a rough outline of the series and many of the weeks ahead. If I follow the preaching calendar like it is on paper… then yes. I have yet to do that however. If you ask my creative team, we hold it all loosely. My priority is to be faithful to the text… no matter where that takes me or how much time it needs.
5. What is the most important aspect of a preacher’s style and what should he avoid?
Be yourself. I am still learning this one. Every time I speak I still hear Chuck Rodgers in my head (a mentor and regional director for Young Life). Also, make sure your words are your words through your personality and life experience. Even if you want to capture an idea for your congregation that you have heard from Piper or Begg or a commentary you read, do the hard work to internalize it so that it becomes your idea in your words. If you can’t do that… then it is not for your congregation.
6. What notes, if any, do you use?
It depends on the week. Sometimes I feel the freedom to go without notes. Sometimes I take a full manuscript. I ask everybody I know who preaches what they take into the pulpit… and everyone is different. So, my conclusion this last year is – go with what works for you… what makes you the most comfortable and confident. For me that changes about every three weeks!
7. What are the greatest perils that a preacher must avoid?
Not reading, not praying and not listening to others. When you become your only voice… look out! Turn off the tv and and read a book. Turn off the radio and pray. Listen to a healthy variety of guys that are committed to God’s word and humble yourself under their teaching. Learn, Learn, Learn… then you are ready to teach.
8. How do you fight to balance preparation for preaching with other important responsibilities (eg. pastoral care, leadershipresponsibilities)?
This is the most difficult place in ministry for me. I often find myself overworking during the week because I did not balance the week well. I do not say No enough and Yes at the right time enough. You will have to find wisdom from another source on this one… and I will be reading!
9. What books on preaching, or exemplars of it, have you found most influential in your own preaching?
Piper’s, Brother’s We are Not Professionals, stand at the top of the list. Haddon Robinson’s Biblical Preaching is also up there. Ramesh Richards has done a great job in his book, Preparing Expository Sermons. Also, anything written by Mark Baily and Timothy Warren (mostly articles).
10. What steps do you take to nurture or encourage developing or future preachers?
Right now I am not. This question convicts me that I need to be thinking more strategically about that.