A couple of months and my first year of lead pastoring comes to an end. While not my first year in vocational ministry, pastoring requires essentials not always necessary for associate pastoring or parachurch ministry. Among those essentials are a spirit of consistency and flexibility.
You’re not flexible, take up another calling! Members get sick (hospital sick not I stubbed my toe sick), members die, members get married, marriages hit rough spots, members and non-members need spiritual and economic assistance. You get the point. Flexibility best not offend a pastor. The deacons, trustees, teachers and members at my church are not overbearing, but flexibility’s still mandatory.
Some areas of shepherding call for another quality, though – consistency. Take preaching. Preaching comes every week, regardless of ever changing weekly circumstances. Preaching places the minister in front of the entire congregation every week, providing an open window into the pastor’s prayer and study habits.
Waiting to enter my first pastorate allowed for observing some gifted preachers. Donnie Miles (Florence, SC) showed me a single sermon’s potential for lovingly and firmly addressing difficult topics. Randy Sawyer (Gastonia, NC) proved expository preaching’s scope Sunday after Sunday. Due to illness, Randy often could barely stand and sometimes did not try, but his preaching verified the preached Word’s power. Gordon Conwell professor and mega-church pastor James (not the Calvinist apologist!)Emery White’s theology class persuaded me against exorcising theology from sermons; just not to turn sermons into theology textbooks!
Along with mentors, books exposed me to other preachers’ insights. Books on preaching philosophy abound. Two preaching streams often discussed significantly shaped my own: expository preaching and narrative preaching. Playing those approaches off against one another occurs with annoying frequecny. Yet, as an advocate of expository preaching, I find narrative preaching’s emphasis necessary and helpful. Perhaps that explains why I enjoy the preaching of both Jerry Vines and Will Wilimon (while agreeing with neither on everything).
Wonderful memories, lessons learned and relationships deepened describe my first year in the pastorate. The work demands flexibility for impacting lives, but it also allows for the consistent preaching of God’s Word.
Here are 10 books that influence my preaching outlook:
- Biblical Preaching: Haddon Robinson
- The Supremacy of God in Preaching: John Piper
- The Modern Preacher and the Ancient Text: Interpreting and Preaching Biblical Literature: Sidney Greidanus
- Between Two Worlds: The Challenge of Preaching Today: John R. W. Stott
- On Christian Doctrine: Augustine
- Preaching: Fred Craddock (Along with Augustine – duh!, Craddock is the lone non-evangelical on the list. Craddock falls roughly in the post-liberal camp)
- Preaching: The Art of Narrative Exposition: Calvin Miller
- On the Preperation and Delivery of Sermons: John A. Broadus
- Annointed Expository Preaching: Stephen F. Olford
- Preaching Christ in All of Scripture: Edmund P. Clowney