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Thoughts on Sermon Preparation

I have frequently heard men express reservations about listening to other men's sermons on a particular passage upon which they are preparing to preach. While I understand the desire to do one's own work and to wrestle with the text before God, I find it hard to believe that the same individuals would not read commentaries or written sermons on the passage they will preach. Why then is there a reservation in regard to listening to sermons? It might be an overly scrupulous desire to be careful not to plagerize, or it might simply be pride. Whatever the case, it is a real tragedy that ministers do not make more use of the resources available to us in this technological age.  In fact, there is perhaps no more urgent need at present, for the church of Jesus Christ, than for ministers of the Gospel to learn how to preach with  theological depth, clarity, urgency, and passion. I would strongly recommend that any man currently in the ministry, or preparing for the ministry, spend a large portion of their time listening to sermons online by such men as Sinclair Ferguson, Eric Alexander, Derek Thomas, John Piper, Edward Donnelly, Ligon Duncan, Ian Hamilton, Phil Ryken, Rick Phillips, Joseph Pipa, John Carrick, Tim Keller, Joel Beeke, Kent Hughes, D. A. Carson, Mark Driscoll etc. Listening to these men will certainly help shape a much needed theology of preaching and teaching.  You will find The Gospel Coalition, Sermon Audio, and Monergism to be wonderful sources for ministers in this regard.

That being said, we need to beware of a cult of personality. While I am certainly not bothered when I hear a minister say something that he has obviously learned from another minister (this is inescapable if we are really in a constant posture of learning), I can hardly stand to listen to a minister copy the verbal intonations and manner of preaching of another minister. That sort of imitation is ineffective and counterproductive. Just as each of the biblical authors had specific personalities that God worked through in the inspiration of Scripture, so each minister of the Gospel has a particular personality that the Lord uses in the proclamation of His word.

On the other hand, I have noticed another trend in the 21st Century church. Young ministers are rushing headlong to read and listen to other living ministers. This is, again, a good thing. But it is an insufficient route of preparation for preaching. We have a vast reservoir of sermons and books from the history of the church. As technology advances, these resources advance as well.

Google Books has made hundreds of thousands of books in the Public Domain available for free download. Using the PCA Historical Society's Sermon Archive, Spurgeon's Commenting and Commentaries, and personal catalogs we can more efficiently look for sermons on a particular text. The Jonathan Edwards Center at Yale University has a very helpful sermon index as well.

All this would be incomplete without giving ourselves to the books written to help men think through the construction and delivery of sermons. While there are so many that are beneficial, I have personally found the following to be most profitable:

1. J.C. Ryle's Simplicity in Preaching 2. Feed My Sheep 3. J.A. Alexander Thoughts on Preaching 4. Arturo Azurdia Spirit Empowered Preaching 5. Kent Hughes edited Preach the Word 6. Eric Alexander What is Biblical Preaching? 7. Edmund Clowney Preaching Christ in All the Scriptures 8. Edmund Clowney Preaching and Biblical Theology 9. Al Martin What's Wrong With Preaching Today? 10. D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones Preaching and Preachers 11. John Carrick The Imperative of Preaching 12. Dennis Johnson Him We Proclaim 13. T. David Gordon Why Johnny Can't Preach 14. Alexander Vinet Homiletics: or the Theory of Preaching

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