Dear Sovereign Redeemer and other friends,
Every sound, expository sermon becomes a building block for the man who preached it. What I mean is that the preparation required to preach a sound, expository sermon becomes a rich deposit which is then at the disposal of the one who did that work.
Having preached most Sundays for the last four years, I know this is true. You can listen to my early sermons and my later sermons and tell that I have more building blocks at my disposal now than I did then. Every week that a text of Scripture is studied to the depth required to give a faithful exposition, so much is learned, so many connections in Scripture are uncovered, so many applications are considered. And this accumulates week by week, and all things being equal, causes sermons to have more depth and breadth over time.
Here are a couple of implications:
– Preaching rotations have their “cons”. There are some “pros” to ongoing preaching rotations, but a definite disadvantage is that each preacher has less building blocks. Any preacher will tell you that only a fraction of what is learned in preparing to preach a sermon can possibly be learned in the hearing of it. The preparation for a sermon might easily consume ten to fifteen intensely focused hours, while the hearing of it rarely exceeds a partially focused one. When one man has the primary responsibility to preach sequentially through a book of the Bible, he has the definite advantage of acquiring building blocks all along the way, and building blocks that are closely related to upcoming sermons at that. For each new sermon, he is reaching back and pulling forward things learned in the preceding weeks and months.
– Setting aside a man reaps a harvest. Consider again my opening premise: “Every sound, expository sermon becomes a building block for the man who preached it.” A lot goes into that premise. A sound (careful, faithful, precise), expository (true explanation of the Scripture text) sermon doesn’t drop out of the sky. It comes from diligence, prayer, study, thought. It comes from time. When a church buys a man’s time and sends him off to go deep into the text, in order for him to bring them into the depth of it on Sunday, week after week, month after month, and year after year, that church is looking to reap the benefits of that, and they generally do. The ministry of the word is one of the core needs of a local church, and it is hard to imagine that it could be too lavishly provided for.
– Church planting multiplies this effect. When Hope Baptist planted Sovereign Redeemer over four years ago, the number of men who were acquiring a new building block each week doubled from one to two. What is the value of that over time and many church plants? Priceless. That is the tragedy of short-circuiting that effect through satellite campuses which pipe in preaching over the jumbotron. Depth that could have been added to the Lord’s people is lost, and we become more dependent on personality and the most gifted communicators. Don’t get me wrong. There is no virtue in bad preaching, and we should praise God for gifted communicators if they are also leading godly lives, but the sound preaching of a truly local shepherd is to be preferred to John Piper on the jumbotron every time.
I hope these thoughts are useful, and I plan for them to be the introduction of a short series of posts titled “The Anatomy of a Sermon,” where I will outline the methods I use to prepare and then deliver what I hope are sound, expository sermons.