Sunday, September 16, 2007

Session XVI: Sermon Preparation

[Mark Dever 7:30pm Saturday evening 9/15/07]

Planning Sermon's/Length of Sermon:
Mark encourages expositional preaching as opposed to topical, anecdotal, stories, lectures, etc. This doesn’t mean that every sermon that the Bible is open for is expositional. This also doesn’t mean the sermon has to be verse by verse. An expositional sermon is not to be dry. It is a sermon on a portion of Scripture in which the point of the passage is the point of the sermon.

There should be a centrality of the Word in everything a church does, for instance CHBC's Wednesday night Bible study goes through books of the Bible verse by verse. CHBC's Sunday evening service has a sermon for 15 minutes on the same theological theme and anthropological theme from the opposite testament of the morning service. The sermon on Sunday morning is intended to be the main meal for the flock. This is the feeding of the Christians; however, they almost always appeal to and address the non-Christian. Mark encouraged the pastors to be non-apologetic to preach to Christians in order to help them with their lives, feeding the sheep. Mark also discussed how there is a power evangelistically in a congregation centered on the gospel.

Mark has a system of working through different literature of the Bible trying to preach through every type of genre of the Bible over the course of two year period (e.g. Gospel, Prophecy, Epistles, Poetry, Apocalyptic, etc.)

In regard to preaching overview sermons Mark talked about a "Powers of Ten" video he remembered from his youth:
“The video started focused on a hand, then the camera zoomed out and a couple was visible, upon zooming out a little more you can see the street that the couple was on, a little more you could see the entire city of Chicago, then the United States, then the World, suddenly the moon whizzes by, then the entire solar system…then it zooms back in, all the way back in to the hand.”

This is his approach to preaching Scripture. Sometimes a view from very high up and zooming in gives great perspective and understanding to a text. He encouraged preaching on these different levels (e.g. overview of Bible, Testament, Books, Subdivisions of Books, Verses, etc.).

Mark plans for the year in four month blocks…and puts it all on a sermon card. His sermons are 11 to 12 typed pages.
First, he writes a title for a series and then individual sermon titles, then as each sermon comes up he does his exegesis of the text. He read a that Ambrose, and Augustine preferred to do sermons in a consecutive series of expositional preaching through books of the Bible, but he doesn't think that this is necessarily prescriptive to how we should preach.

Mark does outlines, the exegesis of what the text means, and a homiletical outline concerning how to get the main points of the passage(s) across. He spends 2 days immediately prior to preaching on Sundays preparing a sermon. He made it clear that if we just preach metanarrative that we need make sure that we do not lose the personal appeal to the gospel. We need to make it clear what people are to do in order to be saved. So preach the gospel in every sermon! There is a balance between biblical and systematic, and between metanarrative and personal appeal of the gospel.

Mark said he uses a manuscript because of the importance of words. Augustine was against manuscripts in the pulpit and thought the preacher ought to form the sermon as he preaches and as people respond throughout the sermon. Mark pointed out that using a manuscript for most people is not a good idea.

Sermon Structure:
Mark begins his sermons with an introduction. D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones said to start with engaging the hearer. Mark uses an application grid…this includes, "what’s unique in salvation history, what does the passage say to the nonChristian, to society at large, what does it say about Christ, what does this say to the Christian, this congregation, etc.). The application grid is a structured meditation on the passage. Application does use illustrations from time to time, but Mark exhorted that we have to be careful on this front because we don't want our ministry to be centered on the preacher's personality, rather on the Word of God. He then recommended that we preach as an adult to adults…treat them as if they are very intelligent. This is Mark’s response to Carl F. H. Henry’s critique of him to, "not preach to the Giraffe’s rather God’s sheep." Mark tries to keep his right hand where he is in his manuscript and underlines the first word of each sentence in red as a reference point to be able to follow his manuscript well.

Mark also discussed humor, "it is usually a way to, 'feel the wall in the dark,' for many preachers.” It is a way to immediately feel a response from the congregation listening. He admonished that this is a very dangerous practice. He said we need the approach of Richard Baxter, “I preach as a dieing man to dying men.” Humor can be used, but it should be used extremely sparingly…because it is a way that we can accidentally make deep content falsely light and fake. He said that humor in preaching is, "like giving candy to kids. The more you give it out, the more the most immature among them will want it the most."

His last bit of advice was to use commentaries only after we have engaged with the text thoroughly. He uses commentaries only after he knows what he thinks the passage has to say, otherwise his sermons will end up being formed by commentaries rather than how the Lord works in his understanding of the text.

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