I recently was given a questionnaire to fill out about preaching by a student attending Bible school. After I wrote out my answers, I thought it might serve well as blog post for readers interested in learning more about teaching and preaching the Bible.
1. What characteristic/quality do you believe is most important for a Christian teacher to possess? Why?
Genuine, passionate, and personal worship of God is the by far the most important quality of a teacher of God’s Word. A teacher/preacher is simply a worship leader without music. I believe the Holy Spirit must first work in you so that he may more powerfully work through you. When I speak, I always pray to be the most convicted, worshipful person in the room (I think Pastor Matt Chandler of the Village Church in Dallas is one of the best models for this concept). As a leader, I know it is difficult to lead someone to a place I have not been personally. No one is perfect, but hypocrisy can and will undercut a teacher’s authority. No amount of clarity and cleverness can cover up a lack of authentic worship of Jesus.
Likewise, this means that the preacher/teacher actually needs to clearly, explicitly, and worshipfully talk about Jesus, not just tell entertaining stories or attempt to give good tips on life. There is a place for practical application in preaching, but the end-all of a sermon should be to stir the listeners to worship Jesus through teaching Scripture.
2. What do you enjoy most about teaching?
There are moments when I strongly sense the presence of God as I talk about the person and the work of Jesus. Those are my most joyful moments in preaching. It is as if the people in the congregation are hearing a better sermon than the one I prepared, because the Holy Spirit is doing a work in the hearts of hearers that goes beyond the words of man.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s nice when I think my delivery was well-executed, or when listeners are responsive, but nothing compares to a move of the Holy Spirit. It is one of the greatest joys on this side of eternity.
3. What frustration, problem, or situation makes teaching difficult for you?
At times the hardest part of teaching is the constant cycle of weekly preparation. In ministry you can make a good plan to manage your time, but almost every week that plan is interrupted by the unexpected. Sometimes (but not all the time) those interruptions are very good and godly. Sometimes those those interruptions are…”sanctifying.” I admit there are weeks when it feels like everything in the universe is coming against my sermon preparation and me. However, real one-on-one ministry situations also help contextualize biblical teaching into real life situations within the church.
I have also learned that I am a better preacher if I take a break every now and then, so as to relieve the cycle of constant preparation and prevent burnout. I try to take a week or two out of the pulpit every six to seven weeks to catch my breath, as well as give someone else an opportunity to preach.
4. Do you have a website or book (or other resource) that helps you be a better teacher other than the Bible?
Dr. Timothy Keller and the late Dr. Edmund P. Clowney taught a class on preaching entitled “Preaching Christ in the Post-modern World” at Reformed Theological Seminary, and the audio is available for free on iTunes U. It is probably the single most impactful resource on preaching that I have ever used.
Keller is a pastor in New York City, and is one of the best preachers alive today. Clowney was a professor for many years at Westminster Seminary in Philadelphia. This particular class focuses on preaching and applying the gospel of Jesus from every text in the Bible.
The audio is poor, but the content is golden. It has profoundly shaped the way that I teach Scripture.
5. What age groups have you had the opportunity to teach? What age group do you prefer?
For four years, I taught 18-to-25-years-old’s at a college and young adult ministry. For the last two years, I have been the primary preacher at a growing, multi-generational church. I have also had experience with teaching high school students.
Age-range-ministry is easier, because you are dealing with a fairly monolithic demographic. As a college minister I knew that the congregation watched the same movies, listened to the same music, and had the same sense of humor. Illustrations were much easier.
Multigenerational ministry is definitely more challenging. I have to work hard to get to know the congregation, and learn the questions they are asking as well as the challenges they are facing. I have to think outside my own generational paradigm and preferences. However, while it is more challenging, I would also say it is more fulfilling. I think the body of Christ loses something when we split the generations up in ministry all the time, and it has been one of the greatest joys of my life to teach Scripture to a church of multiple generations.