No one can preach effectively without in some measure being a student of preaching. The preacher has to hone his craft and has to learn from others. That happens in seminary classes, more often by sitting under good preaching, and sometimes by reading books. I’ve profited significantly by sitting under good preaching and by reading.
But perhaps the most notable impact on me as a preacher (not so much on the act of preaching, but the preacher) have come from individuals. These were exhortations or encouragements that have lodged in my mind and heart and “fence me in” when I think about who I am and what I should be doing as a preacher.
“You Preach for an Audience of One”
That’s what Pastor Peter Rochelle told me on July 4, 1999 when I preached my first sermon and was licensed to the gospel ministry. I gave my attention to 6 that morning. It was and continues to be a text that grips my heart and defines pastoral ministry for me. As I flitted about that morning before the service, Pete pulled me aside to pray with me. We prayed. Then with one hand on my shoulder he looked at me and said, “Remember: you preach for an audience of One.” It was the thing a first-time preacher most needed to hear and understand that morning. Though a man may preach to man, even thousands, he should only ever preach for the One who sits high and looks low, the One who saved him and calls him to this indescribable gift. That morning the Lord used Pete’s words to not only quiet me before Him but to cut the tangling cords of the fear of man off this preacher’s heart. I’m forever grateful.
“Bring the Book”
On February 6, 2007, having only served as a Senior Pastor at First Baptist Church of Grand Cayman for about six months, I sat on the front row with other speakers at Desiring God’s pastors’ conference. I’d been invited by John Piper to address holiness in a pastor’s life. The theme was “The Holiness of God” and to my right sat Dr. R.C. Sproul, the guy who wrote the book by the same name. I’d been indebted to Dr. Sproul since the early days of my Christian life when I listened daily to his radio broadcast. The previous night my wife and I had shared dinner with the Sprouls and the Pipers, listening with rapt attention as they discussed the theological affairs of the day. That’s when I discovered up close that “most fun grandfather ever” quality of Dr. Sproul. He laughed, he joked, his eyes beamed all the while. As I stood to take the pulpit that morning, Dr. Sproul, eyes twinkling in laughter, as if they held a joke they couldn’t wait to tell, leaned over to me, caught my eyes with his, and said enthusiastically, “Bring the Book!” It startled me a little. But it also reassured me. That was my job–to bring the Book. That sentence liberated me from trying to be impressive or clever or inventive. I had only to bring with me God’s word and give it to God’s people. To this day, my wife will sometimes lean over to me or gently put her hand on my knee before I preach and quietly say, “Bring the Book.” It’s what I try to do whenever and wherever I have the privilege of preaching.
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SOURCE: The Front Porch