Phillip Jensen, Pastor of St. Matthias Anglican Church, Sydney, Australia
(Excerpted from an interview):
If [seminary students are] just out of college, theyre boring. If youre not boring just out of college, you didnt learn enough in college. Its when youre five years out and youre still boring that youve got a problem. I know my blokes coming out of college are a bit heavy; Im more worried about them coming out of college and being a bit lite. Thats a bigger problem, cause in five years theyre dead boring. The age is one thing. Say theyre out a few yearstheres a few factors involved.
If youre trying to woo a congregation onto this, you must see it as part of the ministry youre exercising, and its important that you love the people youre speaking to and that they learn to love you. There are certain issues in ministry that youre going to be fighting about. Therefore, you mustnt fight over the ones you dont have to fight about. Youve got to choose which hill youre going to be dying on.
I think expounding the scriptures is the hill to die on. So I wouldnt go for negotiation over that. But if I were going to die on that hill, I really have to win them over on everything else I can win them over on. And if that means that Ive got to go and kiss babies and Ive got to go and pet dogs (and I hate dogsits not mutualdogs love me, for breakfast, lunch and dinnerany time), but thats their life, theyre the people God has entrusted to my care and Ive got to care for them, really and properly. If they know that I love them, they are much more willing to listen to my leadership when I say weve got to start listening to the Bible and stop playing superficial games on pop psychology, that theres something.
When I actually do preach, Ive got to be really good. When youre in a context when people are used to hearing good preaching, you dont have to be really good, because theyre already accepting of those things, but if Ive got to persuade people that theres something better out there, I have to really be better. To really be better, it may be that I have to compromise on the length of time. Theres nothing expositoryan explicatory preacher doesnt have to preach for 50 minutes whereas a topical preacher can do it in five. It may be that youve gotbeing married is key at this point, because your wife will tell youyouve got to learn how long you can genuinely preach for and hold the interest of the congregation. You need some people in the congregation to tell you that at 35 minutes they were all fidgeting or at 20 minutes there was actually nobody listening anymore, sounds to me like youre a 20 minute preacher and you need to make sure you succeed in 20 minutes.
Rather than feeling like Dr. Lloyd-Jones preached for 45 minutes and therefore I must preach for 45 minutes, that thats the magic part of the process. Ive got to seduce and woo people into hearing the Word of God, then Ive got to avoid the commentaries. Commentaries are a very useful tool, but they can be deadening on preachers. Youve got to spend more time in the text, more time thinking about the Bible yourself, and less time answering all the problems that the commentators have. The commentaries are written by a group of scholars who are talking to each other, and they raise questions and answer questions, and the debate has been moving on, and its been running for about a hundred years or so. It is not where the person in the pew is asking any questions, and its often not what the text of the Scripture is saying either.