The conviction to ward off this temptation says, when the Bible is preached God's voice is heard. When I lead a workshop on biblical exposition for the Charles Simeon Trust, my first lesson usually begins by answering the question, why does expository preaching matter? At my most recent workshop in Dublin, Ohio, I included some quotes from two authors that nicely solidified my thoughts and personally reconvicted me!
The first author is John Owen. In his classic Of the Mortification of Sin in Believers first published in , he writes and I paraphrase :. Sometimes as we read the Word, God makes us stay on something that cuts us to the heart and shakes us as to our present condition.
- 'Application-less preaching' isn't biblical, Warren says.
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More frequently it is as we hear the Word preached that God meets with us, for preaching is God's great ordinance for conviction, conversion, and edification. God often cuts us by the sword of his Word in that ordinance, strikes directly on our bosom-beloved lust, startles the sinner, and makes us engage in the mortification and relinquishment of the evil of our hearts.
Is that your conviction? Do you think "sacramentally" about preaching—that it is God's "great ordinance" for conviction, conversion, and edification? The other author I quoted was Frederick Dale Bruner. Let the two quotes below burn within:. Preaching and teaching that is born of a prayerful wrestling with the biblical texts in an almost athletic attempt each week to find the real meaning of these authoritative scriptural sentences— that is evangelical-catholic preaching and teaching. Such preaching and teaching is, when it pleases God to honor it, filled with the Spirit If believing Christ is the way we ourselves are filled with the Spirit I love exegesis.
But exegesis may not be every pastor's or teacher's main gift 1 Corinthians Am I wrong, however, in believing that exegesis is almost every preacher's, and many church teachers', main responsibility? Bruner is not wrong. It is our main responsibility to join the nearly thirty centuries of Bible expositors before us to cohabit with the divinely inspired texts Monday through Saturday in order to speak on Sunday "the honest truth about the words of God to the real needs of the people of God," believing that "the Sunday morning sermon has been the ordinary conduit of the life-giving Spirit to the people of God through the ages" and that God's voice is heard when his Word is opened, explained, and applied.
Our second temptation is sermon-prep procrastination. We live in an age of remarkable advances in technology. Let's use that technology. We shepherd people who have real physical, emotional, and spiritual needs. Let's love people.
However, let's not allow technology and people to persistently push us away from our study of Scripture. Sermon preparation is sacred time. It is as sacred as prayer, burying the dead, baptizing your firstborn, and kissing your wife with Song of Solomon kisses. Sadly, I know too few pastors who are in the habit of getting to this sacred duty and delight early in the week and often throughout the week.
Rather than redeeming the time, too many pastors you? At their ordination these same pastors were likely commissioned to make their life verse "Preach the Word," but their weekly, out-of-context, much-perverted proof-text for procrastination has become "Do not be anxious beforehand what you are to say, but say whatever is given you in that hour, for it is not you who speak, but the Holy Spirit" Mark ESV.
The foolishness of preaching and the foolish preacher are vastly different realities. And the pastor who thinks the Spirit will bless his sermon if he refuses to sit, read, study, and pray through that Spirit-filled book is foolish! For this second temptation, the corrective measure is discipline. I don't mean a slap on the hand or the bottom although perhaps starting there might get your attention. I mean learning the discipline of Spirit-filled sitzfleisch.
'Application-less preaching' isn't biblical, Warren says
Sitzfleisch is a German word composed of the words sitzen to sit and fleisch flesh. I first heard this word from my church history professor in seminary. If I recall correctly, it was a term used often by the great Reformation scholar Heiko Oberman, referring to what it takes to be a good scholar.
It takes "sitting flesh," that is, the ability to stay glued to a chair until the task at hand is complete. The same is true of the good preacher. The preacher who can't sit early and often meditating on Sunday's text will not preach well. I'll put it that simply and, Lord willing, prophetically. Let him who has ears, hear. We are used to hearing the phrase Spirit-filled preaching, which emphasizes the Spirit spontaneously assisting the preacher in the act of preaching. I take no issue with Spirit-filled preaching so long as it is properly defined and acted out.
Let us "give room" for the Spirit in the pulpit. But let us also "give room" for the Spirit in the study. Why not ask the Spirit to give you the desire to sit and study? Why not ask the Spirit to open your eyes to see the text's truths, implications, and applications?
Why not ask the Spirit to inspire you to study the text in community—with other pastors, interns, commentators? Why not ask the Spirit to broaden your mind with the reading of the best books of poetry, novels, and theology?
Why not ask the Spirit to make you a pastor-scholar, someone who lives and works by the discipline of Spirit-filled sitzfleisch? Our third temptation is to forget or neglect basic hermeneutical principles. You may not be able to spell hermeneutics I misspell it every other time I type it , but you had better know basic hermeneutics.
These are all based on the theological assumptions that the Bible is a divinely inspired, accommodated-to-humans, and progressively written revelation.
Did you seek to understand how the original audience understood God's Word to them before you applied it to your hearers? Did you interpret Scripture with Scripture "the analogy of faith" , the unclear by the clear, and the implicit by the explicit? Did you examine the text's context—its immediate context, the book's context, historical context when and by whom it was written, if known , and literary context genre?
Did you examine the text in light of the main message of the Book?
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That is, did you relate the text to the centerpiece of the canon—the person and work of Christ? Did you, without straying from historical Christian orthodoxy "the rule of faith" , allow the text to shape and change, if needed, your theological framework? Did you read solid commentaries to help with difficult issues, correct your interpretation, and add exegetical insights?
Did your applications come from what is explicitly or implicitly found in the text, or did you add your own legalisms or liberalisms to the Bible? If I were to add an eleventh question, it would be related to the first; did you take at least the other half of the day to make more observations on the text? I emphasize the art of observation, and I'll end here with its emphasis, because I believe that good preaching is derived from pleasurable yet painstaking examination of God's Word.
What the prominent New Testament scholar Adolf Schlatter said of the science of scholarship—that it is "first observation, second observation, third observation," I say of preaching.
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Our fourth temptation is to cower under cultural pressures. Dallas Lenear suggested that pastors should do some kind of training at every board meeting.
This had a good, practical purpose, but it cemented our relationship, too. So what is the right way? John Kaiser, one of the authors, lays out the Cycle of Responsibility, which outlines what each major body in the church is responsible for:. Which leads right back to 1. The congregation empowers the board; the board does not exert power over the congregation.