Preaching with Bold Assurance: An Interview with Hershael York
- Wednesday, April 28, 2010
One of my favorite classes at Southern Seminary was "The Ministry of Proclamation" (i.e. Preaching 101) with Dr. Hershael York, author of Preaching with Bold Assurance: A Solid and Enduring Approach to Engaging Exposition. Dr. York's counsel has been of great benefit to me in preaching and teaching. I'm grateful for his emphasis on biblical exposition, application, and delivery. Today, I'm thankful that he has agreed to answer a few questions about preaching.
Trevin Wax: Your book divides sermon preparation into three parts: the text, the sermon, and the delivery. In your opinion, which part is the most neglected in preaching today?
Hershael York: I am confident that each part is neglected by different segments of evangelicals. Preachers tend to react against the abuses and errors of the climate in which they were nurtured.
As a result, preachers who grew up in churches in which the pastor was all flash and little substance tend to shy away from any emphasis on delivery, believing it to be man-centered, and focus on the text. On the other extreme, preachers who grew up in a lifeless orthodoxy may lean too far the other direction and substitute a great delivery and a few spiritual insights for rich biblical revelation. Many Millennials react against the revivalist sermon structure and rhetorical devices that seem trite and settle for a rambling narrative with little discernible structure at all.
So I would have to say that of text, sermon, and delivery, the most neglected today is the one that the preacher has seen overemphasized. But preachers need to master all three concepts. The preacher needs to discover biblical truth, organize it in a culturally relevant way, and deliver it in an engaging manner that reaches the mind of his listeners through their hearts.
Trevin Wax: How much time should a pastor spend on his sermon per week?
Hershael York: Every sermon I preach has taken me my whole life to preach it. Every sermon is the culmination of an invested life. I couldn't possibly quantify how much time actually goes into a sermon, because I'm drawing from things I learned as a child, a student, a husband, a father, a seminarian, a pastor, a professor, and everything else I've done in life.
Sermon preparation is like making wine. The grapes may be newly crushed but they come from vines that are old. That's why smart students and pastors invest their time in skills and strategies that will pay off many times over.
I don't have to consult a lot of Greek commentaries because I took four years of undergraduate Greek and then did 30 hours of graduate Greek before I ever went to seminary. Diagramming epistolary passages doesn't take very long because I've already diagrammed most epistles and work to stay intimately acquainted with the text. I invested in the Logos scholars edition so I can have those reference works at hand wherever I go. I don't buy books that I'll only use once, but rather invest in the kind of reference works that I will refer to repeatedly. All those things shorten the weekly time I will spend on an individual sermon because I've already spent it.
But having said that, I also believe that it takes a significant investment of time to think through a passage, especially to think how it applies to the people I pastor and then to figure out the best way to say it so it grabs them by the lapels and shakes them a bit.
Finding illustrations requires a great deal of time, too, because that never gets easier. In fact, it gets harder to be fresh, to find something new. How many different illustrations of faith can one find, after all? And I read and reject 100 possible illustrations to find that one window of light that illumines the subject at hand like I want it to.
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