2000 Sermons, 25 Years - Some Observations (Part 1)

My filing system shows that I recently preached my 2000th sermon. This year I will complete 25 years of pastoral ministry. Praise God for His grace. I want to write down some of the things I have learned along the way. I think I’ll do it in 3-4 separate posts, including what I have learned about preaching, about ministry and churches, about people, and about God.

Here are some things I have learned about preaching, in no particular order.

Preparing and preaching a sermon is like having a baby. You labor over it for many hours, sometimes right up until the minute you start speaking, and then it is born. If you’ve prepared diligently, something good will come out. It isn’t always pretty, but it has potential.

Trust the text. You don’t have to make up stuff to say. Let the text speak for itself. Explain what it means and apply it to life. If you are struggling with what to say in a sermon, keep digging in the text. Good stuff will come out of the text. Say it.

Don’t just repeat what you learned in seminary or have heard others say. Study out difficult passages, complicated theological points, and biblical positions on current issues.

The commentaries aren’t always right. Use them, but study for yourself and reach your own conclusions.

Most people need help applying truth to their lives. Include enough application to help people grow, not only in knowledge, but also in practice.

Don’t rush through important topics and difficult, profound truths. Give thorough attention to a text or topic. If necessary, turn one sermon into three, or extend a series. The truth deserves full treatment, and people need to understand it.

Shepherd the flock with the Word. Teach truth from Scripture in order to bring the immature to maturity, the weak to a place of strength. If a tragedy impacts the whole church, don’t ignore it in preaching. Take a Sunday and address it lovingly and compassionately with comfort and encouragement from God’s Word. If changes in church culture are needed, teach on the issues from the Word, then lead in a biblically-based direction.

Have an organized filing system for sermons. As years pass, you will benefit from being able to find previously preached material and from knowing what you preached at certain times.

Be as simple, clear, and practical as possible. Make the complex simple. Make the eternal understandable.

Preaching is communicating. Develop and grow in communication skills.

Be yourself. Don’t use other preachers’ material, other than brief summaries or quotes. Don’t mimic the manner or channel the personality of other preachers. Develop your own characteristic style, rhythm, and sense of humor. Be who God made you to be.

Use canned illustrations (the ones you find in a sermon illustration book or on a preaching website) sparingly. Look around you and use illustrations from your own life, the news, nature, and people you meet. Make up analogies that give insight to complicated truths. Jesus illustrated His teaching and preaching using the circumstances around Him and stories He made up. It’s fresh, engaging, and it works.

Don’t let your preaching be colored by frustration or anger at someone who has hurt you.

Be humble and transparent without telling all of your sins.

When you think your sermon was good, well, it might not have been that good. When you think your sermon was horrible, you will often hear from people how it was just what they needed.

John MacArthur’s advice is to keep your rear “in the chair until the hard work is done.” In other words, study until you understand the text and have something to say about it. Put in the time. Don’t give up. Don’t get lazy. Don’t “wing it.” Fight off distractions. Do the hard work of preparation, for as many hours as it takes to be ready to explain and apply the text. (I can’t write that word out, my Mom might read this.)

Make your exegesis precise.

Make your exposition clear.

Make your delivery conversational yet passionate.

God uses the preaching of His Word to grow people. This growth happens over years of time. It is one of my greatest rewards to see years of expositional ministry bear fruit in peoples’ lives.

Pray. Pray for understanding. Pray for power. Pray for conversion. Pray for growth. Pray for fruit.

Preach Christ. Preach the gospel. Preach truth. Preach grace.

Preach the Word.

Dean Taylor bio


Dean Taylor is Senior Pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in Simpsonville, South Carolina. He has served in pastoral ministry for twenty-five years. Dean is a graduate of Bob Jones University and Seminary (BA Bible, MA Theology, MDiv) and Northland International University (DSM). His delights include his family, reading, and the great outdoors.

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There are 10 Comments

Jonathan Charles's picture

Wow!  I have a filing system, but I would have no idea how many sermons I have preached, other than making an estimate. 

SBashoor's picture

I totally identify with the opening comment about sermon prep and delivery being like birthing a baby. But I've learned to never repeat it again Smile None of the mothers I know appreciate it. I only dug my hole deeper when I commented that preaching twice on Sundays was like giving birth to twins each week Smile

 

M. Scott Bashoor Happy Slave of Christ

Anne Sokol's picture

SBashoor, that is hilarious. As a mother, I can see your point! As a writer/speaker, I have also felt like it was like having a baby. But since I've actually had babies, I'm not sure I've made that comparison again. Though there is some level of parallel ...

*laughing*

Like this list (in the article) and series in general!

Dean Taylor's picture

Far be it from me to compare the level of exertion and pain associated with childbirth to anything I do :)! My comparison is to the process of labor and delivery. In preparing a sermon, the "labor" starts out early in the week and grows more intense as Sunday approaches. On Sunday morning (or evening, or whenever) the sermon is "delivered." So I suppose I should say it's sort of like having a baby, or a little like having a baby.  *Digging myself out of the hole* 

              DeanHTaylor.com 

SBashoor's picture

Dean Taylor wrote:

Far be it from me to compare the level of exertion and pain associated with childbirth to anything I do :)! My comparison is to the process of labor and delivery. In preparing a sermon, the "labor" starts out early in the week and grows more intense as Sunday approaches. On Sunday morning (or evening, or whenever) the sermon is "delivered." So I suppose I should say it's sort of like having a baby, or a little like having a baby.  *Digging myself out of the hole* 

Oh, totally understand. There's a kind of mental gestation and healthy hopeful anxiety in sermon prep. And we can't help it that the the word "deliver" is right there for us to pun away with. I think we should blame Spurgeon. If I remember correctly, he was either the originator or popularizer of the sermon baby illustration Smile

M. Scott Bashoor Happy Slave of Christ

Dean Taylor's picture

Ah, I did not mean to use his idea without giving credit. I remember when I first started pastoring, I assumed you worked on a sermon through the week, printed it out on Friday, and just got up and preached it on Sunday morning. Then I experienced the reality of the "labor and delivery" process. I said to my wife one Sunday, "It's like having a baby." So I guess the idea was not original with me. 

"mental gestation and healthy hopeful anxiety" - good description!

              DeanHTaylor.com 

SBashoor's picture

I don't mean to get too caught up on the baby thing. Thanks for your post on preaching!

M. Scott Bashoor Happy Slave of Christ

Don Johnson's picture

Dean, I want to take a slightly contrarian position on this comment:

The commentaries aren’t always right. Use them, but study for yourself and reach your own conclusions.

While I agree that the commentaries aren't always right, they are probably more right than individuals are. Personally, I think one should be using multiple good commentaries on a passage to get a wide range of interpretive viewpoints. If there is a consensus view (as their often is) we should only depart from that consensus with very good exegetical reasons to do so. The "reach your own conclusions" part of your quotation has led many a young pastor to say some very odd things. (I speak partly from experience!) There might be too much confidence in one's own abilities when greater humility would on the part of the pastor/interpreter would be more helpful.

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

Dean Taylor's picture

Don Johnson wrote:

Personally, I think one should be using multiple good commentaries on a passage to get a wide range of interpretive viewpoints. If there is a consensus view (as their often is) we should only depart from that consensus with very good exegetical reasons to do so. 

I agree.

              DeanHTaylor.com 

Ron Bean's picture

When I started preaching my desk would be covered with commentaries as I prepared sermons. As a result, I was preaching a digest of the commentaries and my sermons were a sort of academic exercise. After 30 plus years of preaching, I now tend to go to commentaries for difficult passages and background information. I prefer to try to "own" the text (or have it own me). I'll spend a lot of time reading and re-reading the text and pray for insight into the text, trusting the Holy Spirit to guide and instruct me. I don't think that makes me a charismatic.

BTW, Exegetical Fallacies by D.A. Carson and, most recently, Urban Legends of the New Testament by David Croteau made me keenly aware of extra-Biblical comments that have sometimes made their way into our preaching.

"Some things are of that nature as to make one's fancy chuckle, while his heart doth ache." John Bunyan

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