For You Know That We Who Preach…

“First Peter ends next week right?”
“What are you going to preach next?”
“I’m thinking 1 Thessalonians…maybe.”
“How did you decide on that?”

This was part of a conversation I had with my Dad this last Sunday. I’m not quite sure how I answered that final question. As I tried to explain exactly how the process of determining what to preach unfolds, I began to realize that I don’t think I have ever fully articulated it before, even in my own mind. That is the subject of this blog.

Here is the 5-step process I have come up with to answer the question “How do you decide what to preach?”

1) Make sure you’re burning real wood.
2) Keep the fire stoked, and always be about the business of gathering more wood.
3) When you see smoke, search for the fire.
4) When you find the fire, jump in.
5) If it is burning in you, preach it.

1) Make sure you’re burning real wood.

You know those fake fireplaces? They have plastic logs, some creative lights, and even some material that waves around appearing to be a flame. As you examine them closely it becomes evident that the “fire” is just a mirage. There is a switch on the wall that you can flip on and off which controls the heat. It’s not a fireplace; it’s more like a glorified space heater. It’s safe for children. It’s economical. It’s contained. Preaching can be like this. It can have the appearance of fire, but no one is really in danger of getting burned.

How do you make sure you’re using real wood in your preaching?

I think the key is starting with the text of Scripture.

This first step is vital to the entire process. We preach expositionally at LifePoint, which means we start with the text of Scripture, pull out what is there, and the ideas contained therein produce the content of our sermons.

Haddon Robinson’s definition of expositional preaching is helpful here:

Expository preaching is the communication of a biblical concept, derived from and transmitted through a historical, grammatical, and literary study of a passage in its context, which the Holy Spirit first applies to the personality and experience of the preacher, then through the preacher, applies to the hearers.[1]

Starting with the text means we don’t start with an “idea” or “concept” when we’re planning a series or a sermon, instead we start with a passage (or book) of Scripture. We also work hard to start with a “clean slate” as much as possible, going straight to the text first instead of saying “Hey, we want to preach on this, what is a text that will support that?” We start with the question “What does the text say?” before we determine the theme, topic, or creative concept of our sermons or sermon series’.

2) Keep the fire stoked, and always be about the business of gathering more wood.

I try to remain a couple of steps ahead at all times. This means having a good idea of the preaching direction 6 months to a year out. Before 1 Peter we spent 56 straight weeks in Mark’s gospel. About halfway through Mark we started praying about 1 Peter, and 4 months before Exile started, I started in-depth study and memorization of the letter.

3) When you see smoke, search for the fire.  

Most of the “wood gathering” I do occurs through daily devotional reading, Scripture memorization, or teaching leadership lessons from different texts. Sometimes I keep tripping over specific logs in the forest before I stop and start to examine them. Meaning, certain texts or books of the Bible will keep coming up while I’m counseling people, or in my reading (of Scripture and other books). There come certain points where I say, “You know what, maybe it’s time to pick this log up and carry it for a while.” This is searching for the fire as you see and smell the smoke.

4) When you find the fire, jump in.

Once I get an idea that a certain book of Scripture may be the next place we should be headed as a church, I dive in with both feet. This means memorization, study, reading a couple of books/commentaries, etc. Our LifePoint App has a “listening to the Bible” feature where it will read the Bible to you, so I often listen over and over to the book while I’m working around the house. A couple years ago I cut down 4 fruit trees in my backyard while listening to the gospel of Mark 3 or 4 times one Saturday.

5) If it is burning in you, preach it.

All Scripture burns, it is the word of God, a God who describes himself as “a consuming fire.” But in my experience preaching, some books of the Bible and some specific texts burn hotter in me at different times. As I remain about the business of constantly gathering wood, as I search for fire, and I jump in when I find it, sometimes that fire burns hot, as if it is “shut up in my bones” (Jeremiah 20:9). When it burns that way, I know it is time to let it out.

When I was praying through and studying 1 Peter, late 2013, the content was so clearly resonating with where we were at as a church. The more I studied, the heavier the burden grew.

At LifePoint I work through all of these steps in collaboration with my fellow elders and pastoral staff. After deciding on the next book we want to tackle, we’ll get the preaching and creative teams together to brand it, figure out the passage breakdowns, and get to the business of nailing out illustrations and concepts.

I am currently at Step 4 in regards to 1 Thessalonians. It’s getting warmer…

[1] Haddon Robinson, Biblical Preaching, p. 21.

About Pastor Andrew

Follower of Jesus, Husband to Carissa, Daddy to four daughters, Lead Pastor at LifePoint Church in Vancouver, WA.
This entry was posted in 1 Peter, 2theSource, For Pastors, Preaching and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to For You Know That We Who Preach…

  1. Pingback: Pastor, be a Christian First | 2theSource

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