Preaching (and Preparing to Preach) is (or Should be) Hard Work

Perhaps the reason why non-biblical styles of preaching are so rampant is because they simply require less work than the historic method of expositing the text of Scripture. They not only require less work each week for the upcoming Lord’s Day, but they also require less preparation of the preacher as an individual. The preacher does not have to have even a fundamental understanding of the Biblical languages, he does not need to understand the depth of the early church councils as they dealt with the Christological heresies, nor does he have to be skillful with the use of lexicons, commentaries, and theologies in order to preach basic business strategies and self-help psychology gleaned from popular-level books. The following lengthy quotes explain what preparation in the pastor’s study entails, or should entail:

Preaching is work, hard work. It takes real work with the text, real work with the context and real work with the redemptive-historical context. Preaching is not the calling for the man who spends the bulk of his weekday afternoons at Kiwanis, Rotary or Chamber of Commerce luncheons. Nor is preaching the calling for public relations types who are advancing their images with promotional campaigns which look like Madison Avenue or worse. What a pity that the Lord Jesus did not have a New York executive managing his “style.” And oh, the poor apostle Paul–he was born too early for the Church Growth Movement.

But biblical preaching requires work with the sources; hard work with the text, commentaries, journal articles, lexicons and a host of other resources. I had a friend who has been in the ministry for twenty-five years and liked to brag that he hadn’t read a theological book since he graduated from seminary. What a tragedy! If you are not now purchasing and learning to use the basic tools for working with a biblical text, then you are not learning what to preach. If you have no commitment to working at your preaching and working 20 hours per week in your study, then you are not working hard at mastering the content of the text of Scripture. If you believe that you are proclaiming the word of life and it is the difference between heaven and hell and that it is the building of the congregation in the fullness of the stature of Jesus Christ, then you will have 20 hours because that’s what it is going to take. You are going to have to work with books. You are going to have to work with the gold of God’s word. Like the Marines, the church needs a few good men–and your study is boot camp. You are on a battle field. So get yourself in shape now and start to begin to pay the price to be a herald of the word of life. It simply can’t be done with 2-5 hours of preparation a week.[1]

It appears, however, as if many preachers do little more than jot down a few thoughts on a legal pad and then fill in the gaps (and thus fill time) with whatever books they have been reading that week. In other words, they “shoot from the hip” as indicated above rather than delivering a carefully prepared sermon whose purpose is to exalt Christ and nourish the body of Christ.

[1] Both quotes from James T. Dennison, Jr., “Building the biblical Theological Sermon, Part I: Perspective,” Kerux: The Online Journal of Biblical Theology, http://www.kerux.com/documents/KeruxV4N3A3.asp.

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About Michael R. Jones

Pastor and PhD candidate writing on Paul's theology of suffering.
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