Work hard so you can present yourself to God and receive his approval. Be a good worker, one who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly explains the word of truth (2 Timothy 2:15, NLT).
I’ve been to several ordinations of pastors, and all the vows of commitment contained this phrase . . .
Need not be ashamed and who correctly explains the word of truth!
Usually, the ceremony also included this verse . . .
Whoever speaks, is to do so as one who is speaking the utterances of God (1 Peter 4:11, NASB1995).
I was 23 years old when I was ordained.
Before my ordination, I went on a three-day wilderness retreat of fasting and prayer, asking for an infilling of God’s Spirit, as I felt very uncomfortable and ill-equipped to speak the utterances of God and to correctly explain the word of truth.
On that retreat, I began to formulate a plan for how I would prepare sermons in my ministry, and I made three commitments.
First, I would study!
Over 51 years, I’ve read several thousand books. A sizable portion of my paper book library was destroyed by a leaking roof in my office in 2020. I’ve since transitioned to using only Kindle books.
I have about 600 books on my computer now.
Besides reading books, I’ve attended conferences, had mentoring, consumed e-content, and for years jotted down notes on ideas and lessons learned to be used later in a sermon.
Most pastors will confirm that great preaching is an all-consuming lifestyle.
Second, I would be honest!
During my seminary days, one of my professors said that we should only preach what we practice. This became a problem for me while preparing 30 to 40 original sermons a year as I soon found out that I’m not spiritually precocious enough to learn 30 to 40 lessons a year from God.
So, my plan became simple honesty.
I learned what a text from the Bible revealed and preached that people shouldn’t do what I did but what I was attempting to do. I’ve found that my implementation of Scriptural truth involves stumbling a few times.
Sharing my stutter starts of attempted holiness makes my sermons authentic, practical, and often humorous.
People laughing at me are my best sermon illustrations!
Third, it would be interesting!!!
I grew up as a youth in a church, listening to many boring sermons. As I began sermonizing, I determined to be interesting. Timothy Keller writes in his book entitled Preaching . . .
In the end, preaching has two basic objects in view: the Word and the human listener. It is not enough to just harvest the wheat; it must be prepared in some edible form or it can’t nourish and delight.
Amen! What real use is a sermon that’s too dull to hold our attention?
I’ve found that illustrating sermons takes effort; it’s a craft that gets better with practice.
Study, honesty, and being interesting have been my formula for preaching. Those who have listened know that I failed often. But I got back in the pulpit the next week for another attempt.
I’m not interested in accolades from other believers but in correctly explaining the Word of Truth while including some humor from my own foibles.