Authentic preaching taught at workshop
By Bruce Tegg
RAYTOWN—What compelled approximately 55 pastors and church leaders to invest two days, drive through snowy, gusty winds and come to First Baptist Church here Dec. 1-2? Would you be surprised to learn they met together to sharpen their preaching skills at a preaching workshop?
Some drove more than four hours through patchy snow showers just to attend this year’s workshop, “Preaching for Changed Lives” crafted by Gary Taylor, director of evangelism for the Missouri Baptist Convention (MBC), to give pastors and church leaders the tools they need to effectively reach the post-modern generation and help keep sermons from becoming irrelevant.
Initiating the conference with worship, MBC Worship Specialist John Francis led each session with a variety of music that brought the focus immediately upon the Lord. Francis used a trumpet, a box drum, various percussion instruments and the piano to give a fresh sound to contemporary and traditional worship music. Francis made available the Worship Leader’s Tool Box, a free tool for worship leaders.
In the first session, Greg Heisler, assistant professor of preaching at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, Wake Forest, N.C., preached out of Colossians 1:23-29. Heisler gave each attendee a copy of his book, Spirit-led Preaching: The Holy Spirit’s Role in Sermon Preparation and Delivery, and used it, along with the Bible, as a textbook.
Heisler taught every sermon is to be centered on Christ. The method combines warning about what is wrong and teaching what is right, and its purpose is to present every person to Christ as a mature Christian. Heisler also taught preaching is a cooperative partnership between the preacher and the Holy Spirit empowering him.
Heisler noted many preachers are looking for the “quick fix” for preparing a sermon. He emphasized the need for personal prayer, humility and brokenness.
“You have to get the guy in the mirror fixed first before you can attempt to fix the sermon,” he said. “Like a doctor, God can use all kinds of scalpels to do an operation. He can use a cracked scalpel, a broken scalpel, a bent scalpel but never a dirty scalpel.”
Heisler stressed dependence on the Holy Spirit to work through the sermon to bring change in the hearts and minds of the listener. He explained the Holy Spirit is not going to empower sermons that present the Bible as a self-help book instead of a theological book.
Kenny Qualls, pastor, First Baptist Church, Arnold, was introduced by Taylor as a practical preacher who entered the pastorate in 1990 without formal seminary training. In spite of that fact, since 2006, God has used him to lead one of the state’s largest congregations in the context of averaging more than 100 baptisms per year. This year Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary recognized Qualls as the Honorary Alumnus of the Year.
Qualls taught three times on the “nuts and bolts” of preaching. First, Qualls encouraged preachers to be converted, called and committed in their preaching. By contrast, Qualls said he knew a pastor that served a church for two years before becoming saved.
He taught on the importance of commitment in devotional life (being conformed to the image of Christ), in family life (placing the wife above the ministry), in personal life (living an authentic Christian life), in disciplined life (working with a sense of urgency), in a dependent life (not trusting in the flesh but in God), in a pure life (God does not operate on people’s hearts with dirty tools) and in a wise life (people skills are vital to a successful pulpit ministry).
Qualls used the image of a semi-tractor trailer truck transporting gasoline. The truck has a smaller diesel tank supplying its fuel and if that small tank is empty, it can’t transport the gas to the people. Qualls then stated, “Seventy percent of pastors only spend time in God’s word when they study for a sermon.” Qualls encouraged pastors to be committed to their own personal quiet time on a regular basis to maintain their relationship with God and a “full tank.”
Qualls repeatedly emphasized that the post-modern generation is looking for authentic Christian pastors to live like authentic Christians. Qualls concluded that before developing or delivering the sermon, you must live the sermon so the people see it before they hear it. “If you are preaching what you are not living, you will have no power in the pulpit.”
Next, Paul Brooks, host pastor, began his presentation about reaching the cultural post-modern people, stating that by the year 2040 there will be twice as many Muslims worshipping in mosques as there will be Christians in churches. “Many of our churches are unaware of the critical nature of the disaster we are in,” Brooks said.
Brooks is determined that First Raytown “is not going to be a monument to the past.” He explained that post-moderns, persuaded by tolerance, believe truth is negotiable and not absolute.
“The post-modern mind is only intolerant of those who claim absolute truth,” he said.
Brooks then outlined each age group found today. From older to younger, they range from “Builders,” (loyal, dedicated, respectful) to “Boomers” (selfish, self-absorbed) to “Busters” (asks why, challenges everything) to “GenX” (non-lineal thinking, tolerant of all except for absolutes).
Brooks said reaching the younger generations begins by learning their language. He emphasized the importance of keeping truth while changing the delivery style, and he taught the need to be biblical as well as authentic because “post-moderns can spot a fake a mile away.” Finally, pastors need to use more stories and illustrations from their own experiences.
Many free tools, resources, and materials were highlighted for attendees to secure. And everyone knelt before the Lord as Robert Loggins, MBC spiritual awakening consultant, led the closing prayer.
First Baptist Church, Wentzville, will host next year’s preaching workshop April 20-21. Already confirmed is Kerry Skinner, an author and biblical counselor well known for his teaching on repentance at this year’s MBC annual meeting.