Part of the elder-candidacy process at Redeemer Fellowship is the practice of ongoing training and discipleship. The process takes about a year and involves reading books, writing reviews, attending elder meetings, leading out in various ministry responsibilities, as well as shadowing an elder as they shepherd.
The first book that I am reading through is Christ-Centered Preaching by Bryan Chapell. I have the privilege of reading through it and discussing it with Pastor Brian. We have enjoyed it thus far and have gathered some great pointers in sermon preparation.
Dr. Chapell begins by setting out a case for the need of expository preaching and the various principles and components of expository preaching. Some of these have been noted by other professors of preaching such as Haddon Robinson in Biblical Preaching: The Development and Delivery of Expository Messages. For example, see Robinson's emphasis on a sermon's "Big Idea" (What is the author talking about?" and "What is he saying about what he is talking about?")
One Main Point
The practice of boiling down a sermon into one clear idea or theme is crucial and for myself, very difficult. I find commas and semicolons to be my friends as I work out the main idea. Which leads to my sermons possibly being confusing or muddy. Pastor Joe is constantly encouraging me to stop writing a complicated thesis statement and to be looking for that statement that is faithful to the text and draws God's people to respond in worship.
Along with the encouragment to have one major point in a sermon, Dr. Chapell offers two more suggestions to keep in mind; the reminder of classical rhetoric and finding the FCF.
Aristotle famously broke down persuasive speeches into three elements, logos, pathos, and ethos. Logos is how logical is the argument, Pathos is the appropriate (very important) passion and emotion the speaker conveys and the audience feels. Ethos is the credibility and character of the speaker. I have gone over these elements in other public speaking courses or clubs but have never seen it applied to sermon delivery. Dr. Chapell goes a step further than Aristotle and explains that these three elements of persuasion are not just from speaker to audience, but then audience to the word of God.
For the preacher, the sermon ultimately flows from how God has captivated our hearts and how his Word has impacted our lives. It is displayed in how we live, feel, and is then articulated in words to the people of God.
For those listening, they hear the preaching of God's Word, God captivates their heart, and it is then embodied in how one lives, which is an act of worship.
Fallen Condition Focus
Finding the FCF (Fallen Condition Focus) is critical to finding the purpose of a text and a key in how to best preach it. Dr. Chapell defines the FCF as "...the mutual human condition that contemporary believers share with those to or about whom the text was written that requires the grace of the passage for God's people to glorify and enjoy him." The FCF can be found by asking three successive questions as listed by Dr. Chapell:
- What does the text say?
- What spiritual concern(s) did the text address (in its context)?
- What spiritual concerns do listeners share in common with those to (or about) whom the text was written?
With a upcoming sermon series on Jonah I have been praying and working through these questions. Ultimately, I pray that God will be glorified and his people will be drawn closer to their Living God who is merciful, gracious, abounding in steadfast love and worthy of all honor and praise.