Advice for preachers: Live in the Word, avoid temptations of pride
That was the e-mail I received when I was part of a search committee looking for a pulpit minister. In a world heavily influenced by media and the hype of pop culture, the church needs preaching inspired by the message of God.
I have valued preaching most of my life. Attending church infrequently until I was about 12, I don’t have early memories of preaching, but preachers had a mystique. Because I have been fascinated by words, stories and messages, preaching was attractive to me. I especially loved the stories of Bible characters.
Delmar Owen was preaching at the East Side church in Tulsa when my family moved there.
Delmar was an effective speaker who was developing past the early stages of preaching.
Reflecting back, I think he was fully recognizing the power of biblical preaching to transform.
He was working with elders who respected him and valued his growing skills as a preacher and spiritual leader. He was studying the great preachers of an earlier age. That study combined with his concentrated analysis of biblical texts made him extremely powerful. His preaching, drawing on his study of great preachers, biblical texts and doctrines, taught me much. He also made me sensitive to the inward nature of morality, and he converted many people to Christ. I hardly knew Delmar outside the pulpit, but few people have made such a lasting impression on my mind and character.
Through years of working with the college ministry at my home congregation, I have had the chance to learn regularly from young preachers of great ability. For nearly 10 years, Shon Smith worked with college students. I heard him preach twice a week, and it was really encouraging to see him grow as a teacher. A great sports fan, he often began with a sports story or illustration. Although not everyone in his audience loved sports, his humor and drama connected him to everyone. His details were vivid and fresh, presenting a dramatic element of connection.
In teaching the postmodern believers, he understood the importance of explicating texts with meaningful illustration and clear focus on Jesus the Savior.
Shon has always kept up with the newest books on spiritual disciplines and personal development. He connected with some of his audience because they had read those books, and he connected students to books that provided insights about faith and spirituality. Shon has an amazing grasp of Scripture, and I learned much as he taught week by week. I especially admired his ability to speak the truth in love through his preaching, a trait that really transformed the hearts and minds of college students. He now preaches in Alabama and is a regular on lectureship programs.
Shawn Fowler, another youth minister who is now filling a pulpit in Oklahoma, has a fine analytical mind. When I first met him, he was preparing for medical school, but his heart gradually turned to ministry. I heard him teach for nearly five years, and during that time, he covered great texts from the Old and New Testament. Converted in college by a visiting missionary, Shawn has great insights about the unchurched and the messages that touch them. He made every effort to understand the needs of his audience and the state of their lives. He is especially good at teaching from a text, providing background, explanation and applications.
He is effective with topical and expository sermons. Shawn loves learning, and he enjoys mentoring others. He was extremely effective in preparing groups for summer mission efforts. Never allowing the groups to forget their purpose of sharing Jesus, he produced great teams. Shawn’s passion for preaching keeps him in the Word and attuned to people.
Great preaching helps the Kingdom to grow by touching the mind and spirit. But great preaching is possible only when the preacher is immersed in the Word and when he is filled with the Spirit. Only when the preacher is disciplining himself to grow spiritually and to be a channel for God’s message to believers and seekers can he touch hearts. Preachers enhance the Kingdom when they live in the Word, avoid the temptations of pride and never become mere entertainers.
Thank God for great preachers and great preaching.