Pastor Keith: Welcome to this episode of Doxology Matters, where we desire to help Christians think deeply about God’s Word as we praise Him. We thank you for joining us. Maybe this is your first time listening, and if it is, we really are grateful for that. You can check us out on Apple Podcast, that may be where you’re listening now, or Spotify, and search for Doxology Matters. We hope that you’ll subscribe. Click the link. Join the conversation as we want to think deeply about God’s Word. Today I’m really excited to have two of the pastors here at Bethel Baptist Church. We have the senior pastor, Pastor Doug Echols, and we’re glad to have you.
Doug Echols: Thank you. It’s good to be back with you.
Pastor Keith: Yeah, this is your second time.
Doug Echols: Second time, yes.
Pastor Keith: All right, yeah. And we have Pastor Kevin Sherman. And he is the student pastor, and you’ve been here –
Kevin Sherman: Almost a year now.
Pastor Keith: Almost a year, okay. And Pastor Doug, in November, it’ll be –
Doug Echols: Ten years.
Pastor Keith: Ten years.
Doug Echols: In November, yeah.
Pastor Keith: Wow. And both of you are Southeastern Seminary guys, right? So I’m the Southern Seminary on the other side of the table.
Kevin Sherman: Yeah, you’re outnumbered here.
Pastor Keith: Well, I have the host mic though.
Kevin Sherman: I don’t care.
Pastor Keith: Well, we’re really glad to have you guys on this day, and have you contacted the – contracted the Corona yet? That’s the thing.
Doug Echols: No. No, we’re washing our hands.
Pastor Keith: That’s a good practice to have.
Kevin Sherman: Let’s not spread any rumors right now, Keith.
Pastor Keith: Okay. Well, I’m glad you guys are healthy, well, and wise. Well, today’s topic is expository preaching and the sufficiency of God’s Word – expository preaching and the sufficiency of God’s Word. One of the things that – I love many things about Pastor Doug, but one of the things that we started, maybe when Jeff was here, when you started having us read books.
Doug Echols: Yeah, it was back – it’s been several years ago, we started doing some books during our staff time.
Pastor Keith: Yeah, you would have us read different books as pastors and talk about the chapters, and I love that. That was one of my most favorite parts of the meeting is talking about things. And for this year, we are reading 12 books from 9Marks Ministry, at Capitol Hill there with Mark Dever. And the first one that we have read together as a postoral team is Expository Preaching [sic] by David Helm. And so today we want to have the conversation in a public forum that you may grow in your understanding of expository preaching and see the value, the sufficiency of God’s Word. So Pastor Doug, how would you define expositional preaching?
Doug Echols: Well, expositional preaching is basically where you take a passage of Scripture and you allow that passage of Scripture to be the source of the theme, the source of the outline. The Scripture is what molds the sermon, is expository preaching.
Pastor Keith: Now is that something, when you were at Southeastern, did you have classes in that?
Doug Echols: Yes. It’s been several years since I was in seminary, as Pastor Kevin is a little bit younger than me. But when I was in seminary, that was basically what we were taught from the very beginning. It’s pretty much drilled into our heads that preaching verse by verse, chapter by chapter, book by book through the Bible is the best approach to preaching.
Pastor Keith: Do you think our churches are in a growing trend of doing more of that or moving away from that?
Doug Echols: Well, I would hope that the conservative resurgence that took place in the Southern Baptist Convention and the way that the seminaries are teaching, I’m hoping, it seems like that we’re on a better trajectory as far as implementing more expository preaching.
Pastor Keith: Yeah, amen. I agree with that assessment. Pastor Kevin, how would you say God’s Word, that having a strong view, doctrine of scriptura, would connect to expository preaching?
Kevin Sherman: Well, I think that’s the heart of expository preaching. When you look through even people’s definitions of expository preaching, you don’t necessarily get the same answer every time. Everyone kind of has a different answer on what exactly it is, whether it’s book by book, chapter by chapter, or whether it’s just holding up Scripture as holy and worthy of just kind of walking through in the manner that it was written. So I think the heart of expository preaching really is just seeing Scripture in a high view and just seeing that the scripture needs to be the thing that shows us what we’re preaching on, as opposed to whatever it is we feel like we have on our hearts, or whatever our phrase may be for that, for the week. We just want to go through the passage itself, allow that to mold whatever it is we’re preaching from the pulpit.
Pastor Keith: Yeah, that’s right. I mean, we have nothing to give the people of value unless it’s God’s Word. My professor, the late Carl Stam, used to tell me at Southern, “Set the banquet of God before the people and let them come and feast.” Everything that you do should be filled with God’s Word in song, in prayer, and preaching. So after your initial reading of this wonderful volume, Expositional Preaching by David R. Helm, after your initial reading, do you consider yourself on a good trajectory of being an expositor? Maybe let’s come to you, the student pastor, and see where you are. How long have you been preaching?
Kevin Sherman: Year and a half.
Pastor Keith: Year and a half, okay. What was your first sermon like?
Kevin Sherman: [Laughs] That’s a rough question. Did you ask what it was on or what it was like?
Pastor Keith: What was it like? How did you feel about it? Yeah.
Kevin Sherman: If I had to preach my first sermon again, I think I’d cry. I don’t know. I think it was probably pretty rough.
Pastor Keith: Same for you Pastor Doug? Or do you –
Doug Echols: Oh, yeah. I don’t want to go back there. I think any preacher, you ask them to go back even to a year ago, and they wouldn’t. I think we’re constantly growing in our knowledge of God’s Word, and we’re constantly growing in our knowledge of what it means to even be in front of a group of people and have to speak on something. And as you know, I go from quicker, and now I’m trying to slow down in my preaching. I don’t even want to know what speed I was at for that first sermon.
Pastor Keith: Yeah, probably warp speed. You might have broken the sound barrier.
Kevin Sherman: Yeah, right. I was done in five minutes and it was a 40 page manuscript.
Pastor Keith: Well, I mean, it’s a lifelong learning of continuing to hone the craft. I mean, both of you have preaching gifts that is from the Lord. We just taped a podcast on using your gifts as an act of worship, and both of you definitely have preaching gifts. Pastor Doug, you’ve been preaching how long?
Doug Echols: Twenty-three years.
Pastor Keith: Wow. As you look back on your preaching, how would you say you have grown, and what’s been some of the markers of your preaching journey?
Doug Echols: Well, I would say – I mean, I definitely have tried to continually sharpen my skill. So I don’t know if there’s been any particular markers along the way, but I’ve just tried to continue to develop the skill that God’s given to me, continue to read books and articles about preaching, continue to go to conferences, where I can be exposed to expositional preachers. So those have been the things that have really helped me the most as far as continuing to hone the skill that God’s given me.
Pastor Keith: I remember when I was interviewing for Bethel and listening to your preaching – I don’t know if I ever told you this. But what came to mind right away is your boldness to proclaim the Word. There was no timidity. It was very much a, “Thus saith the Lord,” that was coming through, and I love that. Yeah, that really was encouraging to me. So in this book that we’re using as a conversation launch from, he talks about how biblical exposition does the heavy lifting of building a church. What is he getting at there?
Doug Echols: Well, I would say that the best discipleship takes play in the pulpit. It’s during those moments in the pulpit where you have the opportunity to share doctrine and then also share Scripture, obviously share application to people’s lives and people’s hearts. And I believe that healthy churches are going to be the churches that are continually, faithfully proclaiming the Word of God.
Pastor Keith: Amen. I don’t know who said it, but they mentioned that the pulpit, the preaching ministry, is like the rudder of the church. It really, really steers the church. What are some benefits and dangers of contextualization as you think about preaching? I know you preach primarily to students, and contextualization is probably something you think a lot about or –?
Kevin Sherman: I mean, yes, it’s definitely something you have to think a lot about, both on the end of figuring out how much you’re going to use and how much you shouldn’t use of what you know about the students. Part of being a student pastor is just getting to know the students as well as possible, and you can’t let individual things from individual student’s lives slip into your sermons a lot of the time, because then you’re over contextualizing. Right? But you also have to realize what students are going through.
I think the biggest danger in that is shifting your preaching to line up with whatever it is they’re going through and you kind of start to misuse the passage, because you know these students are struggling with their identity. And I’m preaching a passage that doesn’t have anything to do with identity, but I want them to feel like their identity is rooted in Christ, so you start pulling out some things that aren’t necessarily there. They may be biblically true, but they’re not necessarily in the passage. And as you’re preaching through the passage, you’re teaching them, without knowing it, subconsciously, to mishandle the Word themselves as they go through it to kind of see themes that aren’t necessarily present. I think that’s one of the major dangers of over contextualizing.
Pastor Keith: Wow, I’ve never thought of that like that before. I mean, there’s a didactic aspect of that. You’re teaching them by a wrong approach. It may not start in your heart as that. You may have a very genuine, well-placed pastoral care for the students, but there definitely is that danger of stepping away or maybe coming to the text in an eisegesis way. The students, how do they resonate or lack of resonate with expository preaching?
Kevin Sherman: That’s a tough question.
Pastor Keith: I know it probably is the gamut with middle school to high schoolers.
Kevin Sherman: Yeah, that’s a big distinction, middle school to high school. But a lot of the times they go along with it, because students are constantly in school every day. They’re being taught how to read well. A lot of students know how to read better than a lot of adults a lot of the time, because they’re in day in and day out studying literature. How many adults do you know that go study literature in their free time, and students are doing it all the time in school. So they know how to read something well.
So as you’re going through the passage, and you’re reading it well, they can see it. And they can see, this is the point that’s driven from that passage, because they’re learning it every day at school. So they travel along with it really well. And a lot of students love to just be able to see A plus B equals C, and if you can point back to the text, which I try to do all the time when I’m preaching, if you can just show them back to, “This is where I’m getting this from. I’m not just kind of saying these main points, pulling them out of nowhere.” And they resonate really well. And I tell a silly story in the middle, and then they laugh, and then they get back to the passage. So I think they resonate with it really well.
Pastor Keith: I know Pastor Doug, one of the things that you say, you’ve said it on a number of occasions, that turning a page is – the sound of the turning of the pages is the most beautiful sound to you. Could you unpack that a little bit?
Doug Echols: Well, it’s just every time I hear people turning in their Bibles, it’s just a reminder that we are holding in our hands the Word of God. And that’s one of the ways that God speaks to us is through His Word, His revealed Word. And so I know that when people are turning in their pages in their Bibles, that they’re getting to hear from the Lord.
Pastor Keith: We’re thankful to be shepherds at a church that the body loves and values God’s Word.
Doug Echols: Amen.
Pastor Keith: And I’m so, so thankful for that. Is expository preaching an acquired taste? I’ve heard some pastors and scholars say that it can be acquired taste. Because it’s not the tickling of the ears so much in consistent topical preaching, but it’s more starting at the beginning of John and working your way through. It’s deep. It’s like MacArthur’s mission statement, “Unleashing God’s truth one verse at a time.” Is it an acquired taste? Dou think it’s a bit upstream?
Kevin Sherman: I think not so much as acquired taste as much as there’s tons of other options out there. There’s tons of churches offering the over-topical and all these things. So I mean, coming from a perspective of someone that didn’t come to church till I was 17, if I see a church that’s offering a series on movies that I like, or I see a church that’s offering a series on the book of John, that I know nothing about, it’s going to be a lot easier to go towards the movies, because I know what they’re talking about. And the book of John would have been unfamiliar for me. So I would have naturally just tended to go towards the familiar. So an acquired taste in the sense of, there’s other options out there, so it’s a lot easier to go towards the easier, more convenient things that you know better, yeah.
But acquired taste as in you don’t really enjoy it the first time you hear it, I don’t think so much. Because the Word of God is fruitful in itself. We’re trusting on the Word of God and not the word of the preacher. Right? So even the first time I ever heard expository preaching, it resonated with me. And I mean, 17, I knew nothing about the Bible and I was a typical high school kid who didn’t care. Right? And it still resonated with me the first time I heard the Word of God preached faithfully. So acquired as in there’s other options and you could go out and get them and it’s just easier to go that way, yeah, but the Word of God is still sufficient. And we’ve got to be careful, I think, trying to delineate between, well, how do I make this more attractional so that people can come get the acquired taste, and how do I just let the Word of God be the Word of God?
Pastor Keith: One of the things that I’ve mentioned on this podcast is that my pastoral approach and heart is not to point out folks that are doing it wrong. Because if you’re on social media and in our culture, there is rampant critical spirits everywhere. And so with that caveat in mind, you mentioned people using movies to go from a sermon series. What’s the danger in that, when people are – what is it innately saying when people have their fundamental starting place from a position other than God’s Word?
Doug Echols: I think it says something about the sufficiency of God’s Word. I believe God’s Word is sufficient for all things, and we should – that God’s Word should be the starting place for all that we are dealing with in our society, all that we’re dealing with in our families. God’s Word should be the starting place in all of those, and so I think it says something about the sufficiency.
Pastor Keith: It does, yeah. Amen. In the book we read about having a Debussy or Monet approach, like the impressionist preaching. I don’t know if you remember that. So are you like Debussy or Monet in your preaching or are you more balanced with realization of the text?
Doug Echols: [Laughs] I’ll jump in. So I went ahead and I looked up the definition that he talks about as impressionistic preaching, because a lot of people may not know exactly what that means. And so he defines it as a method that takes what the eye sees and interprets it, exaggerates it, ignores part of it, and ultimately distorts it. And so it basically means that you take a passage of Scripture and you focus in on the relevant impressions that you may draw from that passage. And when you do that, you’re avoiding or you’re not seeing the historical, the literary, the theological context of the passage. And so there’s a real danger in impressionistic preaching. And really it goes back to contextualization and how we contextualize the people in the church and those types of things.
Pastor Keith: He mentioned in this book inebriated preaching, and when I first read that I thought, “Inebriated?” You normally think of people that have had too much alcohol. But he used that word, I think, strategically. Kevin what was he getting at when he talked about inebriated preaching?
Kevin Sherman: Well, he goes from a quote here. He says, “Some preachers use the Bible the way a drunk uses a lamppost, more for support than for illumination.” And I think that that’s really what he’s trying to get at here, is just getting to the point where you’re using the Bible for support of your own messages and you’re just kind of leaning on it and saying, “Hey, this backs me up. Here’s what I have to say, and look, God backs me up in this,” as opposed to letting the Word be the word that you’re proclaiming. You’re proclaiming something and you’re using God as a secondary source, saying, “God agrees with me in this point. Here’s a verse.”
Pastor Keith: Is that easy to do? I mean, even faithful expositors like yourselves and others, is it easy in maybe the week you didn’t have enough time to work on a sermon or something just came up or something you really want to say, is it easy to be inebriated in your preaching? Do you have to push back against it?
Doug Echols: I think you have to push back against it for sure. We all have our own passions, and we all have our own perspectives. And a lot of times we try to take the text, take the Scriptures, and read our passions and read our perspectives into it, and that’s where the danger comes. Some people are passionate about God and country, and there’s nothing wrong with being passionate about God and country, but if you read every single text and somewhere in that sermon, somewhere in that sermon you bring it back to God and country, then that’s when I think you’re doing what Helms refers to as inebriated preaching.
Kevin Sherman: And as we said before, you care about the people you’re preaching to, so you know what’s happening in their lives and you want to hit on what’s happening in their lives. So a lot of the times, you may feel like, “I want to say this sentence really bad, because I know it’s going to hit So-and-so really hard.” Or, “I want this to be part of the message, because I know that these people are struggling with this.” And if it’s not part of the passage for that particular week, it can be very tempting to be like, “Oh, I’ll just squeeze it in,” or, “Look, this verse could kind of mean that.” I know it really doesn’t mean that, but they don’t know that. And then all of a sudden you realize you’re starting to twist the Word a little bit.
Pastor Keith: So are you kind of turning a blind eye to James 3 about teachers are judged with stricter judgement.
Doug Echols: Yes.
Kevin Sherman: Yep.
Doug Echols: Sobering. Sobering verse for sure.
Pastor Keith: It is, isn’t it. Whoowh. It definitely is. So he mentions in this book – it’s aptly stated I think, that contextualization can be a good dance partner. What is he referring to about that? How do we view contextualization in preaching from brothers that do this all the time?
Doug Echols: Well, I think that that statement that he makes about a dance partner is – basically it has to do with who’s in the lead. Okay? So if the text is in the lead, then that’s okay. All right? And then the text drives everything. The text is the one who is leading everything. The text is the one who is driving the sermon, and then contextualization comes in secondary. And so if contextualization gets out in front of the text, then that’s when the order is confused.
Pastor Keith: That is an excellent description of that.
Kevin Sherman: I mean, that whole idea of a dance partner, right, if you’re doing a dance that’s meant for two and you’re doing it by yourself, then people might just be looking at you and like, “Okay, what’s the point?” Right? But if you have that dance partner and you’re leading her well in this situation, then all of a sudden the dance becomes more beautiful and becomes more purposeful. Right? So if you allow the text to lead, you allow the text to be what the text should be, but you have that dance partner of contextualization, then you’re allowing the Bible to speak for itself, but you’re also allowing it to hit the people where they are. I think that that’s what he’s really getting to by saying, “Hey, it’s a good dance partner. You should have it in the dance, but don’t ever let it lead.”
Pastor Keith: And the Bible gets, by the power of the Spirit, it gets to people that the Spirit wants to get to. The text speaks to things that you wouldn’t normally speak to if you’re coming to it from an inebriated or valuing contextualization.
Kevin Sherman: Yeah, I mean, absolutely. Because like I say, you care about the people you’re preaching to, but you don’t know everything about the people you’re preaching to. God does. And you could think, “They don’t really need that.” God knows better than you do.
Pastor Keith: Yeah, His Word is sufficient. One of the questions he asked on page 39, “How do we prepare messages that are both faithful to the text and fruitful for today?” I mean that connecting to this conversation we’re having about contextualization.
Doug Echols: Well, I think it goes back to the idea that every message that we preach starts with the text and starts with the historical, the theological, the understanding of what was going on at that particular time. And then as we talk about the text, we make application to today. We make application to what’s going on in people’s lives. And so instead of the other way around, some pastors will start with application and they’ll start with, “Okay, we need to raise some money in our church,” and so we’re going to preach a six-part series on giving. And so they’ll start with that idea, and then go grab texts to bring in to support that idea, instead of the other way around.
Pastor Keith: Thinking about that, your application – you usually form your applications – they can be peppered throughout, but you usually do those towards the end of your sermons.
Doug Echols: A lot of times, yes.
Pastor Keith: Yeah, a lot of time. Kevin, how about you? How do you weave in application?
Kevin Sherman: Usually towards the end of my points, so each main point, and then I try to bring it all back together at the end. Students need responses. I mean, if you’re honest with yourself, you know students, a lot of the times, are zoning in and out for a good 30-minutes sermon. Right? So they need something where they can put their hands to something afterwards. So my wife Alex and I are really good about teaming up together to do some type of response. She’s the creative one, so she’s really good about helping me figure out responses and stuff like that. But I like to have it towards the end of my main points, because I like to make sure they see what the passage is saying. I teach inductive study as much as I can to these students, so I kind of let them see the process in my preaching of, “This is the comprehension. This is what the passage is saying. This is the interpretation. This is what it means. And here’s the application. This is how we can apply it to our lives today.”
Pastor Keith: Is preparing a sermon like doing a paper? Do you have a thesis statement, like a main idea that you’re going from?
Doug Echols: I typically try to take a passage and write out a one sentence –
Pastor Keith: Oh, do you? Okay.
Doug Echols: Usually try to do a one sentence theme of the actual passage.
Pastor Keith: Now do you do a manuscript, sort of?
Doug Echols: Yes, I do.
Pastor Keith: I thought you did.
Doug Echols: Do a full manuscript.
Pastor Keith: And I know you do a manuscript.
Kevin Sherman: Yes, I do. In seminary, one of the big things they hit us with was figure out the main idea of the text first. So as you’re reading the text, look at it and figure out, okay, what’s the main idea that the author intended for this passage to send? What’s the message he’s trying to get across? And then only after getting the main idea of the text do you build the main idea of your sermon. And that’s where you kind of marry together the biblical passage and the context you’re in today. That’s where you can use contextualization well is, okay, this is the main idea of the text, now how can I preach a message to my people that this will be useful for them from this text. That’s where you get this thesis statement or this main idea of the message that you’re going to be preaching to them.
Pastor Keith: We have all heard people and maybe it’s been us – I’m not sure at times – but use Scriptures out of context. “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me,” running a race at the track on a sporting event. Or, “Where two or three are gathered in my name,” that’s out of Matthew 18, I believe, taking verses out of context. How important is the context when you’re preaching? What word would you say to people quoting Scripture about context?
Doug Echols: I think context is –
Pastor Keith: Key.
Doug Echols: Obvious. It’s a key point of preaching. It’s a key point of daily Bible reading. People that are listening to this, many of them may not be preachers, but hopefully you’re reading your Bible on a regular basis, and you need to look at the context. Read what comes before it, the passage. Read what comes after the passage. Like you said, there are a lot of passages out there – Philippians 4:13 is one of the more famous passages that people quote and take it out of context. So it’s important to look at, what was the author’s intention?
Kevin Sherman: I mean, just imagine any other book, just flipping to a random page and reading a sentence and trying to make that sentence mean something to you.
Pastor Keith: It doesn’t even logically make sense.
Kevin Sherman: Yeah, one of my pastor’s back home just says, as a funny way of illustrating it, would often say it’s like picking up your Bible and just opening it up and seeing the verse, “Judas went and hung himself,” and like, “Okay God, well, what do you want me to do with that?” And then flipping to another page and then it says, “Go and do likewise.” It’s like you could get yourself in some really dangerous situations if you’re just pulling random verses out and not getting any of the context that surrounds it.
Pastor Keith: What authority do you have as a preacher? Where does your authority comes from?
Doug Echols: Well obviously, the authority that – any authority that I have as a preacher comes from God, and I’m just there to shepherd and share the Word that He’s already given.
Kevin Sherman: Yeah, if I’m going to claim something’s from God, it better be Scripture, in my mind.
Pastor Keith: I remember hearing an intern when I was serving years ago that advocated towards, “We need to use more yous in preaching and less we.” That the preacher should say, “You.” There is something to the we, because it’s a humble thing to recognize that we, preachers, struggle with sanctification and sin struggles. But more direct in that pronoun to use you. Do you all think about the you and the we much? Do you use we or do you use you more?
Kevin Sherman: So seminary, they teach us, “Use we.” That’s the big thing. Use we. You’re in the same boat as them. You’re a member of the same congregation as them. You are an elder, but you are still in this battle with them. I use ‘we’ a majority of the time. But speaking to students, there are some times when I’ll break down something that’s specifically them. It would be very strange if I was saying ‘we’ and I was talking about high school or middle school. Right? So there are some times were I do go into the yous, and there are some times when I will say, “You,” just to drive a point home. But the majority of my preaching I go from ‘we,’ so they can see it – even though they are students, we’re all struggling with the same sins and the same tendency to put ourselves first sometimes.
Pastor Keith: Pastor Doug, I would say you would be a ‘we.’
Doug Echols: Yeah, I try to be. I’m understanding that the sermon that I’m preaching to others is a sermon I’m preaching to myself as well.
Pastor Keith: Yeah, you definitely have that humble balance, I’d say, both of you. What’s your preaching preparation look like? I mean, we know that people who are listening are members of our church and members of other churches that maybe don’t get to see behind the curtain of what sermon preparation looks like. I mean, what are you doing as you prepare? When do you typically start preparing? When is it for you, Pastor Doug?
Doug Echols: For me, it’s usually about 12:05 on Sunday, after I’ve finished the sermon from Sunday morning.
Pastor Keith: Hey, that’s quick.
Doug Echols: I’m starting to think about, “Okay, what’s next?”
Pastor Keith: Are you?
Doug Echols: Yes. So I’m thinking ahead, thinking about – right now I’m in the Gospel of John. So soon as that sermon’s over, I’m starting to think about, “Okay, what’s next in the Gospel of John?” And then, so Monday morning, I typically will just start off by reading the text over and over and over, just to try to understand what’s – again, what’s this passage saying? What’s the author’s intent? And then from there, I’ll start to formulate that theme, that thesis. And then from the thesis, I’ll look and see what the Scriptures – how the Scripture is structured for the main points of the message.
Pastor Keith: When do you go to commentaries? When is that in your –?
Doug Echols: Typically it’s after I have already gotten the points, the main points, and then I’ll go to the commentaries and the helps that are available to kind of put the meat on the structure.
Pastor Keith: Yeah, you’ve kind of understood it by the power of the Spirit on your own first and then you go to the commentaries. Is there a point when the sermon is finished? How do you know when it’s finished? Do you try to get it done by an arbitrary date, like Friday of every week or Tuesday night of every week.
Doug Echols: I try to get mine finished, try to have it pretty much done by Thursday. And then I – I forget who taught me this, but I basically will try to have it done by Thursday, lay it aside on Friday, not look at it at all on Friday. Because I’ve spent – like I said, I’ve spent Monday through Thursday in pretty heavy sermon preparation. And then lay it aside on Friday and then pick it back up on Saturday afternoon, Saturday evening and just kind of read back through it. Sometimes there may be another illustration or something else that comes to mind after having taken a day off, so to speak.
Pastor Keith: Now do you pull open your computer and work on the manuscript some on Saturday? Do you ever do that?
Doug Echols: Yes. Yeah, I’ve done that many times.
Pastor Keith: Pastor Kevin, what’s your – I mean, I know a little bit of your – we kind of joked about you stay up late when you’re working on different series.
Kevin Sherman: Yeah.
Pastor Keith: When do you start your preparation?
Kevin Sherman: So I will start it on Thursday. So Thursday, as a student pastor is a lot of my paperwork day, because Wednesday night just happened and I can kind of breathe for a second and start hitting a lot of this other stuff that needs to be done. But I will start it on Thursday, and I’ll just start reading through the passage. And Pastor Doug and I have never actually talked about this, but I’ll actually form my main points before approaching the commentaries as well. So I’ll look at the passage and I’ll break it up myself. And then I’ll pray through it and I’ll read through it again and again and look at all the other verses that are linked to it elsewhere in the Bible.
Pastor Keith: Cross references.
Kevin Sherman: Yeah, cross references, and then I will form my own points that are very application driven. And then I’ll start going to the commentaries and all these different resources that I have. So Thursday, I like to try and get that done if I can. I did do one series that was a little topical, so I made sure to keep myself very Scripture based on that, so I had to do a lot more research on that series. So that kept me up very late on Tuesday nights. But then Monday, I like to try and get as much of it done as I can.
Pastor Keith: Okay, Monday.
Kevin Sherman: So I try to have it done by Monday, so that Tuesday I can just kind of be revising it, looking over it, and then getting some of the other things that I need to be doing as well. A lot of the times, I end up doing it Tuesday, so I get most of it done Monday, and then Tuesday I have to put the finishing touches on it. And then Tuesday night I like to read through it. And then Wednesday morning I come in a little late, but I actually read through it at my house, before coming in, two or three times. And as I’m reading through it, other things pop in my mind. I’ve actually already printed it off at that point. But I’ll go through with a pen and write different things off to the side and stuff like that.
Pastor Keith: Are you in a room preaching it out loud?
Kevin Sherman: Yeah. Yep. So I’ll run through it, once the kids and the wife are gone, going to preschool, so that they’re not having to hear the same sermon over and over again. But I will read it out loud.
Pastor Keith: Is that a practice that is just normal for younger preachers? Do you advise that? Do you have time for that as you’re – as older preachers, more seasoned preachers?
Doug Echols: I don’t know if I would say it’s – I mean, I think it just depends on the person’s personality, how they remember things. I mean, I don’t necessarily preach the message to a wall before Sunday, but I will read it.
Kevin Sherman: Was that a shot?
Doug Echols: I will read it over and over and over again.
Kevin Sherman: My dog’s there. Right? It’s not just a wall.
Pastor Keith: You could just set up some of your kids’ toys.
Doug Echols: Is your dog saved?
Kevin Sherman: Definitely not.
Pastor Keith: How, as listeners, can – frame this question. As the people of God are listening to – hopefully receive the Word meekly, what can the church do to better receive God’s Word on a Sunday during a sermon or maybe the students on a Wednesday? What word would you say you would give as a word of encouragement to those listening to the preacher?
Doug Echols: That’s a great question. I think for a church like Bethel or any church that has an expository preacher, who’s preaching through books of the Bible, you pretty much know where he’s going to be going the next week, and so you can read ahead. Like I said, I’m doing John right now, and so hopefully people are reading John. They can read it devotionally. They can read it on Saturday night before they come on Sunday. So what that does is that allows the Word of God to start to work in people’s lives even before they come. And so come in having read the Word. Come in having prayed. We definitely need to be prayed up before we come in to worship on Sunday morning. So come in having prayed and prepared yourself to receive all that God wants you to receive.
Kevin Sherman: I think a big component of it too is just realizing that receiving the Word from a preacher isn’t necessarily a passive thing. Come in ready to actively receive the Word. As you’re reading through the passage, and as a member of the congregation, I know it. It’s so easy, as we stand and we open the Bibles and Pastor Doug is reading off the passage, to zone out. Yeah, he’ll get there. He’ll explain what it means. Right? We’ll figure it out when we get there. But to actively read the passage yourself as he’s preaching through it. Obviously still paying attention to Doug and everything he’s walking through or still paying attention to me and everything I’m walking through. But actively allowing yourself to read the passage and see, “Okay, what would I think this means in my own?” And then here he is interpreting it, and, “Oh, I missed that.” All of a sudden you’re going to learn things a lot deeper if you’re allowing yourself to see what the passage says and then hearing as Doug walks through it.
Pastor Keith: Would you say taking notes is a way to be more active in the listening and receiving?
Kevin Sherman: Yeah, absolutely.
Doug Echols: I think so too, yes.
Pastor Keith: On Sunday, I look to the right, and of course my wife Joy was there, and she was writing down what you were saying, and she was drawing lines to it. I thought, “Wow, she’s really ingesting it in.” I do think about, we do have some members that come, and I guess they’re not attending Bible fellowship currently, they’ll sit in the pew before the service, and they’ll go and they’ll read your text, preparing. I know Passion did something years ago where they called it Acclimate. I don’t know if they still do it, to before the conference they would do like days of acclimation, getting ready to hear the Word. I loved when they did that. How do you hear what he calls the melody of a passage? And he says the best preachers are listeners. The best preachers are listeners. What does he mean by that?
Doug Echols: I think he’s referring to looking at – going back to context again, the context of the Scriptures, and looking at the entire book of the Bible. That the passage might be referring to or the passage might be in. And then seeing how does that passage fit into the overall message of the book. So if we know that the book of Philippians is all about joy, then as we read a passage of Scripture that we’re getting ready to preach on, how does that passage fit into the whole message of the book, and how do we tie that all together.
Pastor Keith: And you back up – lens, this will be our next podcast in this miniseries – do you back up and look at the biblical theology from where that book then fits within the framework of the whole Scripture?
Doug Echols: Absolutely, yeah, from Genesis to Revelation and just a reminder that all of it points to Jesus.
Pastor Keith: Yeah, amen. Can we preach over our people’s heads, and is that a good thing to do from time to time?
Kevin Sherman: Being in student ministry, I think a lot of people have a low view of students all the time, and, “Hey, you need to keep your preaching as low as you can.” Right? But like I said, how many adults do you know that are studying ancient literature in their daily lives? I think a lot of times we kind of treat students with kid gloves when we don’t need to. And I think there’s an importance of showing people that, the deep intellectual truths of the Scripture, and allowing them to see how deep these truths can go.
Because a lot of times they know the surface level already. They’ve heard – I mean, Pastor Doug went through John 3:16, and he broke it all apart last week. Right? But they’ve heard John 3:16 how many times? But to be able to show them, “Oh, this one verse that you’ve heard 40, 50 times, look how much deeper it goes. Look how deep the Word of God is.” I think it’s important for them to see that, because the other side of the coin is them getting bored with it, and just, “Yeah, I know what that means. Why would I study the Bible? I’ve already read the book of John. Why do I need to read it again?” So I think there is real importance to showing them how intellectually deep the Scripture can be. Now going over their heads, that’s a whole other issue. Right?
Pastor Keith: I think with intellectually deep sermons, like when I read his statement about we need to avoid preaching overly intellectual sermons, first I was like, “What? No, I love really, really deep sermons.” I mean, I love a lot of deep thought, but as this organic conversation is happening, I don’t need to just love it because it’s deep. I need to love it because it’s God’s Word and hear what He has to say for me about that point. Because the point that I need to hear from the text is the text, and my life needs to be conformed to the image of the Son, not just my mental brain stimulated with more knowledge. My obedience needs to follow. Was it, I think, Maxwell said a long time ago, “We’re educated far beyond our obedience.”
Doug Echols: Yes.
Pastor Keith: Do you encourage the church to listen to other preachers through the week? In our digital age, where people can listen to nearly anyone that they want to listen to, what’s the value in that? What words of caution would you give?
Doug Echols: Yeah, I think it’s fine to listen to other preachers, especially preachers that are expository preachers that stay close to the Word. I think it’s good to use your time wisely. If you have a long commute in your car, what better way to fill your heart and your mind than listening to messages. And so I would encourage that. Again, the caution, like you said, there’s all kinds of preachers and podcasts out there, and so you need to make sure that the person that you’re listening to is doctrinally sound. You may need to do some research. You may need to come talk to me or one of the other pastors before you listen. If you hear something that you are concerned about, then definitely listen and do the research if you’re concerned about something.
Pastor Keith: Yeah, that comes back to active listening, really.
Doug Echols: Absolutely.
Pastor Keith: Yeah, be active listeners. Concerning the invitation after a message, a call to action, how important is that after hearing a sermon? What should the Christian in the pew, our faith family, take away from a message? Is there an action step?
Doug Echols: James says, “Be doers of the Word and not just hearers only.” And so I think that once a person has heard the Word, they’re held accountable for what they’ve heard. And so we need to, as pastors and preachers, we need to give them action steps that say, “Okay, you’ve heard this message on John 3:16, how can you put that into your action on Monday morning? How can you put that into your life on Monday morning?” So I think giving an invitation, whether that’s an invitation for salvation or whether it’s an invitation for a new commitment, I think giving an invitation for a decision, whether that’s a public decision or whether that’s a private decision, but giving an invitation for a response is critical.
Pastor Keith: Yeah, I was just thinking, a call to response is paramount. So that end time of the sermon is paramount. It’s not a time to close your Bible in anticipation of where you’re going next.
Kevin Sherman: Sneak out the back door to Wendy’s.
Doug Echols: Yes.
Pastor Keith: Yeah. I mean, it really is the – that’s the time where you don’t want to move in your mind to the next spot.
Kevin Sherman: I think the call to response doesn’t always have to be – in student ministry, we do a lot of movement. Right? Like, “Write this on the card,” or, “Go do this,” or, “Lay this at the altar.” But it doesn’t always have to be something like that. John Piper says, “Sometimes the response to the text is just, ‘Behold Your God,’ and look at His glory.”
Pastor Keith: Yeah, absolutely.
Kevin Sherman: But you have to give them some way to take what you’ve just preached at them and apply it to their lives.
Pastor Keith: Any word that you would share that maybe we haven’t covered in this podcast today about expositional preaching?
Doug Echols: I was just going to share the passage of Scripture that was given to me when I was ordained almost 30 years ago. But anyway, this passage of Scripture still – 2 Timothy 4 verse 2 says, “Preach the Word. Be ready in season and out of season. Reprove, rebuke, and exhort with complete patience in teaching.” And that was, like I said, a sermon, passage that was read, preached on, when I was ordained. And that’s still the driving force of what we do as pastors and preachers.
Pastor Keith: Amen. That’s a great way to end this podcast, brothers. Thank you so much for being here.
Doug Echols: Absolutely, thank you.
Kevin Sherman: Thank you.
Pastor Keith: Thank you for listening to this episode. We hope that you will continue to join the conversation and subscribe to Doxology Matters podcasts on Apple Podcast or Spotify. And if you have benefited and enjoyed this conversation, if you send me an email at email@example.com, we have a book for you, Expositional Preaching by David R. Helm. It’s in the 9Mark series of building healthy churches. If you email me, we will get you a copy of this book. I only have one now, so you have to be the first one. And the way our listenership is going, it’s usually on Monday morning, so we pray that you will continue to join the conversation as we desire to think deeply about God’s Word to become more like the Savior.