Be Diligent to Present Yourself Approved to God
2 Tim. 2:15a
I had been preaching for a couple of years whenever I was invited to do so. And everyone was very appreciative and complimentary. Looking back, I realize that they may not have been completely honest. As I mentioned earlier, I didn’t know what I was doing. Worse yet, I didn’t realize that I didn’t know what I was doing. Fortunately, I did know that I needed some further training of some kind. My first semester in seminary I was placed into a homiletics class. Homiletics, as I had to learn, referred to the art of preaching. I figured it couldn’t be too difficult. After all, I had been preaching for a while.
There were about 25 men or so in my introductory homiletics class. After a few lectures that I didn’t fully grasp, we were all assigned a day to preach in class. Not only did the instructor critique each of us, but each class member also had to fill out a multiple page critique form on each speaker. When we received our grade the instructor also gave us every other student’s critique form containing their comments as well. I was one of the first one’s assigned to preach. I was given a topic, but could chose my text. We each had an abbreviated time in which to preach which was fortunate since we were not allowed to have any written notes before us⎯only our Bible. I didn’t receive a very good grade. I don’t remember what it was, but I remember being disappointed. Then, I sat down to flip through my fellow student’s critique forms. Surely, they would be an encouragement. Instead, a whole litany of critical remarks followed as I examined each and every page. There was, however, one positive comment⎯just one. We were required to wear a tie and sports jacket to class in those days, and one of my fellow students wrote, “I like your tie.” Obviously, I had more to learn than I realized. Over the years, I have jokingly told men that I have mentored this story, and advised them to always wear a nice tie. After all, it may be the only positive thing anybody notices. These days fewer and fewer preachers even wear a tie, but I have found it to be a good reminder that good preaching isn’t easy.
Dr. Steve Euler, long time pastor of Grace Baptist Church in Chattanooga, Tennessee, was the instructor of my first homiletics class, and every other homiletics class that I had while in seminary. Our textbook was Biblical Preaching by Hadden Robinson. It is still available on Amazon, now in its third edition. I ended up taking Dr. Euler for five classes as I remember⎯Homiletics I, Homiletics II, Senior Homiletics, Evangelistic Preaching, and a couple of other classes that included preaching as part of the curriculum. I always received decent marks, but never made an “A” until the last homiletics class I had, and on my last assignment before graduation. No, good preaching, expository preaching is not easy. My learning wasn’t complete when I finished seminary, but I had a good foundation. Over the last 40 years I have disciplined myself to do the work of an expositor, and I have continued to learn in the process. It is not easy, but it has always been worthwhile. The principles that I learned in seminary long ago have made my work as a preacher what it is today. The best advice that I could possibly give a young preacher is to learn the art of expository preaching, and to never forsake it. There are easier ways to preach, but nothing compares to the depth, precision, and power of expository preaching.