If You Can Keep From Preaching, Do It!

One day, I had a conversation with a friend who was seeking to discern whether the Lord was calling him to pastoral or pulpit ministry. As he discussed it with me, he noted that he had mentioned this matter to me several times before without comment from me. He was right. I hadn’t responded. And I sensed that he was waiting on a response this time.

So I prayed an emergency prayer to God about what to say. And what came to my mind is what my father said to me some twenty years ago about whether I should continue in the ministry: “If you can keep from preaching, do it.”

I was about fifteen years old. And my father had given me the opportunity to preach his 11 AM service. I remember two things about that sermon.

It was the hardest I had ever worked on a sermon.

It was also the first time I received direct criticism about my preaching. First from my dad. As he made his pastoral remarks, he reminded the congregation of our afternoon fellowship with a sister church. He informed them (and me) that I would be preaching the afternoon service. He then promised that I would not preach that long in the afternoon service. This was his only comment about my sermon. Ouch. Right after service, one of my dad’s associates was first to greet me. He told me how “long-winded” I had become (a polite term used for those who speak too long, I guess). Double-ouch. Then, as I sat in my dad’s study after service, my sister ran in to kiss my cheek. She said she would see me in the next service, and apologized for rushing out, but she was in a hurry because I had preached so long. Triple-ouch. And strike three.

In comparison to the criticisms I have received about my preaching in later years, this was nothing. Absolutely nothing. But these remarks knocked me off my feet that day. And though I was able to preach that afternoon service, I was swallowed up in a black hole of discouragement the next several days. I couldn’t eat or sleep. And I would stay up at night, reading, praying, and crying.

One of those nights, my father came into the front room and heard me crying. He demanded to know what was wrong. I told him about what happened and how I felt about it. And I concluded that I didn’t know if I wanted to preach any more.

When I finished my rant, my father said he understood and that he would not sit up with me all night. “The only advice I’ll give you is this,” he said as he got up to head back to bed. “If you can keep from preaching, do it.”

Huh?

He continued, “If preaching is something that you can get into and out of when you want to, it’s a sign that the Lord did not really call you. So if you can choose whether you are going to preach or not, I recommend that you don’t preach.”

That was all he said. He then turned and disappeared into the darkness of the hallway as he went back to his room.

I was angry at how seemingly unconcerned my father was. I was also surprised at how his advice (or non-advice) was exactly what I needed to hear. By the Lord’s gracious help, I was able to pull myself together. And I continued to preach. And I am still preaching more than  twenty years later, to the glory of God.

By the look on my friend’s face, I am not sure he found my father’s advice to be very helpful. But it definitely helped me. Again.

As I wrestle with frustrations over my need to grow as a preacher, and as I face the various, inevitable challenges of my pastoral assignment, I need to be reminded that my calling is not my choice.

I keep preaching because I do not have a choice. And I pray that I will never have a choice in the matter. May the Lord gracious choose to continue to use me to herald the word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ.

“For if I preach the gospel, that gives me no ground for boasting. For necessity is laid upon me. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!” - 1 Corinthians 9:16 (ESV)

Romell Williams Jr. Interview

Romell Williams is the Pastor of the Lilydale Progressive Baptist Church of Chicago, where he has served for the past eight years.

Romell and I met about ten years ago or so. A mutual friend told me of Romell’s ministry and thought we should hook up. I reached out and we have been friends ever since.

Pastor Romell is a clear, strong, faithful preacher of the gospel of Jesus Christ. He is committed to biblical exposition. And he takes the art and craft of preaching seriously. He is one of the finest young preachers (i.e., under 35) that I know.

I recently interviewed Romell about his personal testimony, sermon preparation process, and pastoral experience. I trust you will be encouraged by the conversation.

Did you find this email helpful? Please join the conversation in the comments section.

Notes from Sunday – 11/25/12

It was the Sunday after Thanksgiving, which is always an interesting Sunday. But it was a good day.

I taught on 1 Timothy 2:8-15 – “Men and Women in Worship” – in my Bible Study Fellowship. I did an overview of the passage. But I plan to spend the next several weeks going through it in more detail. It’s a controversial subject. But I am looking forward to the study.

As always, I am grateful for all the guests in worship today. It was cool to meet the family of members visiting for the holiday.

Praise God for the two brothers we baptized today. One of the men drives to our church from Miami each week. Way cool.

I preached from Psalm 100 – “A Psalm for Giving Thanks”

I argued that it is your duty to give thanks to God for who he is and what he has done.

Psalm 100 issues a twofold call to worship:

  1. Be joyful (100:1-3)
  2. Be thankful (100:4-5)

Praise God for those who were added to the church today.

The Jacksonville Jaguars defeated the Tennessee Titans, 24-19, to pick up their first home win of the year.

So I guess Jim Harbaugh did the right thing by starting Colin Kaepernick today over Alex Smith.

After disappointing me all season, all I asked of USC was that they take down Notre Dame. Alas, USC loss 13-22.

So who do you think Notre Dame will play in the BCS Championship Game, Alabama or Georgia? Do you think Notre Dame can defeat whichever team wins the SEC Championship?

Andre Berto got beat up Saturday night by Robert “the Ghost” Guerrerro Saturday night.

Former champion Ricky Hatton was knocked-out by Manny Pacquiao in 2009. He retired afterwards. He made his return to boxing Saturday night. Well, he was knocked-out by Vyacheslav Senchenko. Afterward, he promptly retired again.

Former boxing champ, Hector “Macho” Camacho, died from gun shot wounds. He was 50-years-old.

How was your Sunday? How did your teams do this weekend? 

Saturday Shout-Outs: Thanksgiving, Cleansed Lepers, & Ministry Links

Happy Thanksgiving! I hope you had a safe, blessed, and restful holiday.

The Shiloh Church met for worship on Thanksgiving morning. What a service! I love my congregation.

I preached a 1st person narrative on the 10 Lepers that I called, “The Testimony of a Cleansed Leper” (Luke 17:11-19). I almost chickened out in the last minute. I’m glad I hung in there with what I prepared.

I am grateful to have my sister, Harriette, and niece, also named Harriette, here with us from Los Angeles for the holiday.

That Dallas Cowboys tried as hard as they could to ruin my holiday! Looks like we will miss the playoffs again this year. Now what?

Thanks for reading my blog. Sign up under the picture to the left to receive free updates of new posts.

Check out the George Hurtt interview I posted this week.

Download the free Shiloh Church App today!

An important Thanksgiving reminder: You don’t have to like what is happening to you… so long as you rejoice.

Check out 9marks new journal: Lay Elders: A User’s Guide (Part 1)

Pastors, read this! Sacrificing your marriage on the altar of your job: Examining John Wesley’s train wreck of a marriage.

Paul Tripp advises pastors to extend the same grace you preach.

What are 3 common areas of neglect in a pastor’s life? 

Here are 10 things that happen at the moment of salvation.

The cure for backsliding

Brothers, here are 5 date night tips with your wife.

MEN: Protect these 7 women by watching yourself.

4 reasons men don’t read books (with a practical suggestion)

Is your checkbook the best measure of your stewardship?

Here are 7 ways to write an awful worship song.

Surely praise and thanksgiving are ever to be the great characteristics of the Christian life. – D. Martin Lloyd-Jones

How was your Thanksgiving, Do you have any shout-outs? Did you read anything this week worth sharing? 

Praise and Thanksgiving

O my God,

Thou fairest, greatest, first of all objects,

My heart admires, adores, loves thee,

For my little vessel is as full as it can be,

And I would pour out all that fullness before thee in ceaseless flow.

 

When I think upon and converse with thee

Ten thousands delightful thoughts spring up,

Ten thousand sources of pleasure are unsealed,

Ten thousand refreshing joys spread over my heart,

Crowding into every moment of happiness.

 

I bless thee for the soul thou hast created,

For adorning it, sanctifying it, though it is fixed in barren soil;

For the body thou hast given me,

For preserving its strength and vigour,

For providing senses to enjoy delights,

For the ease and freedom of my limbs,

For hands, eyes, ears, that do thy bidding;

For thy royal bounty providing my daily support,

For a full table and overflowing cup,

For appetite, taste, and sweetness,

For social joys of relatives and friends,

For ability to serve others,

For a heart that feels sorrows and necessities,

For a mind to care for my fellow-men,

For opportunities of spreading happiness around,

For loved ones in the joys of heaven,

For my own expectation of seeing thee clearly.

I love thee above the powers of language to express, for what thou art to thy creatures.

Increase my love, O my God, through time and eternity.

 

The Valley of Vision, pp. 26-27

George E. Hurtt Interview

George E. Hurtt is the Senior-Pastor of the Mt. Sinai Missionary Baptist Church of Los Angeles.

He is the fourth pastor of the congregation. My father, H.B. Charles, Sr. was the second pastor of the church. He served the congregation for over forty years. I was the third pastor of the church. I served the congregation for almost eighteen years.

During the later years of my tenure at Mt. Sinai, George served as my preaching assistant and pastoral assistant. He was the Executive Pastor of the church, even though we would have never thought to call it that.

After I called to the Shiloh Church in Jacksonville, Mt. Sinai selected George as its new pastor, where he has served for four years. The Lord is blessing their labors for the gospel.

I recently interviewed George, sort of. We actually just reminisced on our friendship and ministry experience together, along with George’s testimony of conversion, call to ministry, and early influences. It is a unique story that I hope you find encouraging.

Did you find this interview helpful? Join the conversation in the comments section.

On Sermon Preparation

Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth. – 2 Timothy 2:15

A pastor’s primary responsibility is to preach and teach the word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ (2 Tim. 4:1-5). Faithfulness to this holy charge requires personal devotion, diligent study, and laborious preparation. Sermons don’t grow on trees! Well, biblical, Christ-exalting sermons don’t. Good preaching is hard work.

But how do you get from text to sermon? What steps should a preacher take to preacher a sound, clear, and helpful sermon?

The following steps represent my regular process of sermon preparation. It is not the only way to do it. But you may find it beneficial to compare another preacher’s process of sermon preparation.

Pray. Start your sermon preparation with prayer. Pray that the Lord would open my eyes (Ps. 119:18) and give me understanding (Ps. 119:34). But do not let this become a perfunctory act. Prayer needs to pervade every aspect of the process. Pray that Christ would oversee your study. Trust the Holy Spirit lead to you to the truth. Seek the mind of God in the text. Repent as the text confronts you with sin in your life. Pray for wisdom as you read. Ask for clarity as you write.

Read and reread the text. Before you understand what a text means, you need to listen to what it says. So don’t begin crafting an outline before you have spent time reading the text. Read prayerfully, slowly, and carefully. Read it aloud. Mark it up as you read. Read expecting the text to speak to you. Then read the text again. And again. Saturate your mind with the text until it gets into your system.

Compare translations. You may study and preach from a particular translation. But it pays to read the text from several different versions. It can help you to see the text with fresh eyes. It will highlight words that need to be studied further. And it will further get the text into your heart and mind. Read the committee translations, like the New King James, New American Standard, English Standard Version, and New International Version, and the Holman Christian Standard Bible. Likewise, read some good paraphrases, like the Living Bible, J.B. Phillip’s paraphrase, or Eugene Peterson’s The Message.

Do observations of the text. The inductive Bible study method asks four big questions of the text: (1) Observation: What does it say? (2) Interpretation: What does it mean? (3) Application: How does it apply? And (4) Correlation: How does it relate (to the rest of scripture)? But it all begins with Observation. Start your formal study of the text with an open Bible, pen and paper (or computer keyboard). Just work through what you see in the text. Note long, important, repeated, difficult, or repeated words. Do sentence diagrams. Ask journalistic questions (who, what when, where, and why?) Do “sanctified brainstorming” until you have thought yourself clear.

Perform word studies. You may not be an expert in the original languages. But with all of the study helps available, there is no excuse for you misreading the words of the text. Study word meanings, grammar, and usage. Then make sure you put what you learn in clear, picturesque language, so that you do not drown your people in technical details unnecessarily.

Review the cross-references. This is the Correlation part of the inductive Bible study method. You want to make sure your reading of your text lines up with what the rest of scripture has to say on the subject. If you have an idea that cannot be backed up anywhere else in scripture, you’re wrong. So let scripture interpret scripture by carefully reviewing pertinent cross-references. Some may suggest themselves as you study. Or use a topical Bible (like Nave’s) or The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge.

Read the commentaries. There is wisdom in the multitude of counselors. So take advantage of the wisdom of diligent Bible commentators. Don’t treat commentators as if they are divinely inspired. But be humble enough to learn from the wisdom of others. Read exegetical commentaries for insights into the text. Read homiletical commentaries with a view toward shaping the text for the pulpit. Read devotional commentaries to get at the heart of the text for application. Read the commentaries to sharpen your thinking, not to steal material. Milk a lot of cows, but churn your own butter.

Survey additional sources. Thank God for the Internet! There are many church and ministry websites where sermons outlines, manuscripts, and audio messages are posted. Likewise, there are books of sermons, which may have a chapter on the text you are working on. And there are sermons tapes, CD’s, and mp3s you can pick up to hear how different preachers have dealt with your text. Take advantage of these resources to broaden your thinking as you prepare your message.

Develop a Sermon Skeleton. A “Sermon Skeleton” is a statement of your sermon’s purpose, aims, and structure. This is where you put your study material together in sermonic form. Pick a title. Identify the doctrinal theme of the message. State the point, thesis, or Big Idea of the sermon in a single sentence.  Work through the objectives for the sermon (What do you want the hearer to think, feel, do?). Craft your outline. Write out your transitional sentences.

Write a complete sermon manuscript. If you develop your Sermon Skeleton carefully, you may be tempted to slap an introduction and conclusion on it and declare yourself ready to preach. Resist that temptation. Take the time to write out a complete, word-for-word manuscript. You may not take it to the pulpit. In fact, I recommend you don’t. You should prepare a brief set of notes for preaching. But these pulpit notes should be pared down from a complete sermon manuscript.

In summary, your sermon process should consist of several practical steps: Think yourself empty. Read yourself full. Write yourself clear. And pray yourself hot. Then go to the pulpit and be yourself. But don’t preach yourself. Preach Jesus to the glory of God!

Did you find this article helpful? How do you go from text to sermon? Any sermon preparation ideas you want to share? Join the conversation in the comments section. 

Notes from Sunday – 11/18/12

I couldn’t wait to get to worship today. I was really looking forward to preaching today. Glad to be in the service one more time!

I missed our 33 Men’s Bible Study Saturday morning. But I heard it was a great meeting and that even more men showed up. How big is God!

Saturday was also our Thanksgiving Outreach. I am told that 1,500 meals were served over the course of the day. Winter clothes were given away, along with other acts of service. Matthew 5:16 in action!

Glad to have our guests in worship today.

Praise God for the two young men who were baptized today.

I finally made it back to 1 John!

I preached on “Love One Another” from 1 John 3:11-18.

Sermon point: Love is the evidence of life (1 John 3:14).

In 1 John 3:12-18, John gives two ways to live out this divine call to love one another:

1. Reject the way of Cain the murderer (vv. 12-15).
2. Follow the way of Christ the Savior (vv. 16-18).

This passage weighed heavily on me this week. It is important for the saints to know that love is an essential test of true assurance. Likewise, I pray that Shiloh will increasingly characterized by our love for one another.

Praise God for those who were saved and added to the church today!

I plan to preach 1 John 3:19-24 next Sunday – “The Heart of the Matter.”

The Dallas Cowboys overcame a halftime deficit to defeat the Cleveland Browns 23-20. It was the first time the Cowboys have won back-to-back games this season. We are now on a winning streak. And we are back to .500.

The Jacksonville Jaguars had a great showing against the Houston Texans. But they fell to close the deal in overtime, losing 37-43.

The USC Trojans lost to their cross-town rivals, UCLA, 28-38. It was their fourth loss of the season, after going into the season ranked #1. Plus, Matt Barkley was injured. Not good.

USC should hire Phil Jackson to be its new coach.

What a great weekend of NCAA football. Since my team cannot win it all, let there be chaos! Down goes Oregon! Down goes Kansas State!

Could we be in for a Notre Dame, Alabama championship game?

Last night, up and coming heavyweight, Seth Mitchell, got knocked-out in the second round by Jonathan Banks. It was a special night for Banks who attended the funeral of his longtime trainer, this week.

On the same card, young “Mayweather” wanna-be Adrien Broner defeated Antonio DeMarco by TKO in 8 rounds. He may have a good career, if he can just get his own identity.

Did you know that the NHL was on lockout?

I wish the Los Angeles Lakers well with their new coach, Mike D’Antoni. Not really. For the record, my wife, who is an avid Lakers fan, has had no comment on these turn of events.

How was your Sunday? How did your teams do this weekend? Join the conversation in the comments section. 

Saturday Shout-Outs: Wade Interview, Final 2012 Speaking Engagements, & Ministry Links

Thanks for reading my blog this week. Thanks to my new subscribers. And thanks for your comments.

Make sure you sign up for this blog under the picture to the left to receive email updates of new posts.

If you missed my interview with my Dr. Melvin V. Wade Sr. this week, check out Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.

Shout-out to Pastor Mike Stone and the George Southern Baptist Convention for the opportunity to speak in their Pastor’s Conference in Warner Robbins this week.

Shout-out to Pastor John Barber and the Mt. Sinai Missionary Baptist Church of Miami for the opportunity to minister the word this week.

Shout-out to Cameron Triggs for blessings the saints at Shiloh this Wednesday night.

What!?!? Hostess is closing down? What is the world coming to?

Ezra and 3 steps to pastoral ministry: Which is the weakest link in  your chain?

Wisely Handling the Bible’s Wise Sayings by R.C. Sproul

Don’t sanitize the Psalms.

Thom Rainer on adultery and leadership.

Here are 3 questions to ask of your sermon.

What are 10 practical tools to hospital visitation? 

Stop pastoring like you’re afraid you’ll be fired!

Why we should rejoice when God blesses others

Attitude is worth more than aptitude

Wanted: More Older Women Discipling Younger Women

10 hard questions we asked before we got married

9 things that Christian Worship Should Be by Zac Hicks

A Pharisee is hard on others and easy on himself, but a spiritual man is easy on others and hard on himself. – A.W. Tozer

Do you have any shout-outs? Did you read anything this week worth sharing? Join the conversation in the comments section. 

Melvin V. Wade Sr. Interview (Part 3)

Here is the last section of my interview with my pastor, Dr. Melvin Von Wade Sr. 

Make sure you check out Part 1 and Part 2. And share this interview with those you think will find it helpful.

Please continue to pray for Pastor Wade and his ongoing work at the Mt. Moriah Missionary Baptist Church of Los Angeles.

Did you find this interview helpful? Join the conversation in the comments section.