One of the great responsibilities of a preacher is to help congregations...catch a glimpse of what an adventure it is in our little times and little places, to be part of this story...We are invited to see ourselves and our lives as part of God's story. That produces a people with a cause. (Hauerwas and Willimon, Resident Aliens)
Man-centeredness pervades our world. Even in the church, a gospel is often preached that makes man the focus and puts God at the edge. People become God and he becomes their lackey. Into this context, the Bible levels a radical challenge to feel, think, and preach with absolute God-centeredness.
In these three messages from the 2006 Phoenix Seminary Pastors Conference, John Piper preaches to preachers, urging them to lead in a way that keeps God where he belongs - the center. Also featured is an hour of Q & A with John Piper and Wayne Grudem.
During a Q&A, I asked him how long it to prepare sermons well. His answer has stuck with me:
If you're preaching every Sunday to the same group of people, you need to be at three stages all the time. You need to be thinking about what comes six months from now. You need to be beginning to start to read the text so you become the master of the text while you do the other.
So you have that part that's going on for the future. Then you have the part where you've mastered the text and you're raising questions and making decisions about what you're going to add. Then you've got the one you're going to preach on Sunday.
On average, it's about 8-10 hours to do that for one sermon...I would view it as the highest value priority you have. Please cancel the service before you ever walk into a pulpit unprepared. You know what the third commandment is? Thou shalt not take the name of Yahweh your God for useless purposes. I've heard that violated in sermons when pastors got up ill prepared, invoked the name of God, and dropped it all over the place. I've heard that violated in pastoral prayers. I violate it in my own prayer life.
I made a commitment in my first pastorate that I would never walk in the pulpit unprepared. I did have to cancel two services early on where I had made serious mistakes.
Revival is God's working radical Godwardness in lots of people at the same time. This comes by preaching as much as by prayer...We need reformation of preaching as much or more than gatherings for prayer.
From A.W. Tozer's The Pursuit of God:
It is true that order in nature depends upon right relationships; to achieve harmony each thing must be in its proper position relative to each other thing. In human life it is not otherwise.
I have hinted before in these chapters that the cause of all our human miseries is a radical moral dislocation, an upset in our relation to God and to each other. For whatever else the Fall may have been, it was certainly a sharp change in man's relation to his Creator...
As the sailor locates his position on the sea by "shooting" at the sun, so we may get our moral bearings by looking at God. We must begin with God. We are right when, and only when, we stand in a right position relative to God, and we are wrong so far and so long as we stand in any other position.
The greatness and the glory of God are relevant. It does not matter if surveys turn up a list of perceived needs that does not include the supreme greatness of the sovereign God of grace. That is the deepest need. People are starving for God. So I am persuaded that the vision of a great God is the lynchpin in the life of the church, both in pastoral care and missionary outreach. Our people need to hear God-entranced preaching. They need someone, at least once a week, to lift up his voice and magnify the supremacy of God. They need to behold the whole panorama of his excellencies.
God is on a mission, and we, in that wonderful phrase of Paul, are "co-workers with God."This God-centered refocusing of mission turns inside-out our obsession with mission plans, agendas, goals, strategies, and grand schemes.We ask, "Where does God fit into the story of my life?" when the real question is, "Where does my little life fit into the great story of God's mission?"We want to be driven by a purpose tailored for our individual lives, when we should be seeing the purpose of all life, including our own, wrapped up in the great mission of God for the whole of creation.We wrestle to "make the Gospel relevant to the world." But God is about the mission of transforming the world to fit the shape of the Gospel.We argue about what can legitimately be included in the mission God expects from the church, when we should ask what kind of church God expects for his mission in all its comprehensive fullness.I may wonder what kind of mission God has for me, when I should ask what kind of me God wants for his mission.(Christopher J.H. Wright, "An Upside-Down World," Christianity Today, January 2007, 45-46)