Preaching with Bold Assurance: An Interview with Hershael York
- Wednesday, April 28, 2010
So I can't really give you a specific time allotment for my sermons as it varies, usually due to whether I'm preaching a NT text with which I have great familiarity or an OT text (like Isaiah) for which I feel much less adequate and out of my expertise. My goal is the same, however. By the time I stand in the pulpit to preach, I want to know that text so intimately and thoroughly that I am saturated with it. If I don't have that, then I haven't spent enough time with it.
Trevin Wax: Is it possible to spend too much time on a sermon?
Hershael York: One can spend too much time on sermon preparation in the sense that one neglects other appropriate areas of life and ministry. A sermon will never be perfect, but a text can be dealt with adequately if not exhaustively.
Trevin Wax: You advocate making the main points of the sermon applicational. What's the difference between this style of preaching and other styles? And why is this important?
Hershael York: I heard an excellent sermon today by Mark Dever, "Children" from Mark 10:13-16. The three points of his sermon were all imperative statements that were the result of asking the question, "What should we do if we understand the truth in this text?" That's what applicational points look like.
Simply preaching knowledge-based sermons that don't advocate action is suggesting that biblical truth has no practical value. Every doctrine leads us to a behavior, even if that behavior is trust or rest.
Paul clearly reveals his hermenuetic of OT interpretation in 1 Corinthians 10:1-13. He recounts the story of the exodus, pointing out that the majority of the Israelites died in the wilderness because of unbelief in spite of high spiritual privileges afforded them by the Lord. Then he admonishes us not to do what they did, and he enumerates those ethical deductions.
I frankly cannot understand the sentiment that I often hear from some homileticians who seem phobic that we should tell our people what to do or avoid based on an OT passage. They fear that we will detract from God's grace; but of course it's God's grace that gave us the OT text and the ability to either emulate or avoid the behaviors described in it.
I do not want to preach a sermon that even the devil can agree with. James warned us of precisely that kind of faith. If we preach a sermon that only states truth but does not exhort to action, then all we have done is raise the faith of our listeners to the level of the demons-who even tremble at the truth, but do not act on it.
Trevin Wax: What are some common pitfalls in the delivery of a sermon that can distract from the truth of the sermon's content?
Hershael York: One of my axioms is what I call the paradox of preaching: the better you are, the less they notice you. If the preacher is nervous, stammering, repetitive, jittery, wooden, frenetic, frozen, or any other distractive adjective one might imagine, the audience will hardly hear what he is saying, regardless of how true or helpful it may be.
The most common mistake I see among conservative and especially reformed preachers is the belief that if we just get the truth out there, the Holy Spirit will use it, in spite of our poor delivery.
The Millennials have a great challenge because they are far more accustomed to communicating via texts, emails, blogs, and the written word than they are orally, but preaching is oral, and that is a very different means of communicating truth than through words on a page. The biggest mistake I see is when preachers preach like writers, concentrating more on the specific words that they want to say-basically reading the sermon-than on communicating with a real audience.
Trevin Wax: Where do you find good illustrations for sermons?
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