Every preacher feels the impending deadline of another Sunday sermon. Think of the countless hours church leaders spend in their offices each week. They sip coffee, feverishly study, and type away on their computers, praying God uses their words.
If we don’t continue growing, preachers can quickly become stagnant in their sermons. Or worse, the pulpit can become a platform for preaching personal agendas instead of the sacred Word of God. Who teaches the teachers?
Last week I attended The Art of Teaching conference in Portland, OR. The conference featured John Mark Comer, Jon Tyson, Jefferson Bethke, Tim Mackie, and more! I’ve been to several conferences in the past, but never one solely devoted to preaching the Word of God.
Here are my Top 5 takeaways from the conference:
1. “The gospel is to be declared, not debated.” - Martyn Lloyd-Jones
In the opening session, Jon Tyson charged us to preach the Word. The environment church leaders find themselves in is increasingly more resistant to the gospel. This quote from Martyn Lloyd-Jones summarizes the best course of action. We need to stop worrying about winning every argument and declare the gospel with boldness.
2. Character, Content, & Craft.
John Mark Comer shared the three C’s of preaching:
Character — Do you practice what you preach?Content — Do you have something to say? Craft — Do you know how to write & deliver a sermon?
While much of the conference focused on the craft of preaching, John Mark was clear that character comes first and content second. It doesn’t matter how well we speak if what we say isn’t true. In the same way, it doesn’t matter how accurate our message is if we aren’t living it out ourselves.
3. “If you want to love the world, you have to understand the world.” - Jon Tyson
Jon Tyson taught a session called Preaching in the Secular World. He showed us the pathway that people walk away from God toward disenchantment. Then he gave us tools for speaking into the secular age for renewal. The central takeaway is that we have to genuinely love people in the world and seek to understand where they are coming from. Only then will we earn the right to speak into their lives.
4. Great Preaching Takes Time.
The difference between good preaching and great preaching is time. John Mark brought up Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000-hour rule. The principle is that it takes approximately 10,000 hours to achieve mastery of a skillset. The best thing young preachers can do is keep preaching.
Time is not only years logged, but hours scheduled for preparation in a single week. Jon Tyson shared some of his “extras” that he adds into sermons if his schedule affords him the time. These are bonuses like pictures, humor, pop culture references, and catchy one-liners. I appreciate his honesty when he shared, “I don’t always manage my time to do any of the things I’m telling you to do.”
5. Embody Psalm 1.
Tim Mackie’s session was an interview style. The best insight he brought up was about the importance of spending time delighting and meditating on the Law of the Lord. When Mackie was pastoring, he always blocked off a morning each week to spend in reflection on Scripture. As a person who writes sermons every week, I resonate with the tension between reading for personal formation and writing a sermon. If I want my preaching to prosper, I first need to spend time sinking my roots deep into the living waters of God’s Word.
There were so many other takeaways from this conference, but those are my top 5. To be honest, it was challenging to take the time to get away for this intentional time of learning. Things are crazy busy at the church and in my personal life.
Now that I’m (somewhat) caught up from a few days away, I’m so glad that I went. If you don’t make time for the important stuff, the urgent will quickly take its place.
How do you make time for personal development & growth? Let me know in the comments below!
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