We all have our heroes. We all love our heroes. They became our heroes because we tasted life through their ministry. In fact, we might even be in the ministry because of their ministry. Their preaching changed us. We want to preach like them. So we do….just like them.
- We talk like them.
- Inflect our words like them.
- Gesture like them.
We copy their illustrations, intonations, and applications.
We preach their sermons, their way. Without even realizing it – and with the best of intentions – we become parrots. I know I have.
What’s the problem?
The problem is not that we have our heroes. We should.
The problem is not that we are trying to preach like John Piper, Tim Keller, or Charles Spurgeon. We should.
The Church and the world would be better places if there were more preaching like theirs.
The problem is that we are not mimicking them in the right way.
Think about it this way: practically every skill, in every field throughout the history of humanity, has been taught through the apprenticeship model. Why should preaching be any different?
Beginners sit at the feet of mentors and they mimic. This is how they learn. This is how they develop. This is how they find their voice.
However, we have to learn to mimic in the right way. This is the goal of our Preaching Apprenticeships. The key skill we want to develop is the ability to internalize the mentor’s dynamic.
This means not simply copying the rhetorical externals but doing the hard work so that we can understand and internalize what makes the preaching so powerful.
We have all tasted good preaching. The goal of our Apprenticeships is to take the meal, dismantle it, ingredient by ingredient, and then re-cook it in our kitchen with our flavor added in. Sound good?
So How Do We Do It?
Each of our Preaching Apprenticeships is structured around a 3-Step process geared to help us internalize our mentor’s power without simply parroting their content. With each sermon we study we will seek to Investigate, Interrogate, and then Imitate.
The first thing we have to do is to understand the sermon at the structural level.
We all know that in every sermon we hear we only hear the tip of the iceberg. Massive amounts of labor and material are just under the surface.
The goal of this stage is to learn how to break down the sermon so that we see all of the structural components. We work on reading and listening between the lines.
We want to identify the parts that make up the entire sermon: the introduction, central point, illustrations, applications, etc… then clearly mark them, and see all the parts that make up the whole.
The question that drives this stage of inquiry is the “WHAT” question. What is here? What are the main points? Illustrations? Applications?
2. Step Two: Interrogate (The WHY Question)
Once we are clear on the structure, it is time to drill down deep.
In step two, we take the structural work we have done and bombard the sermon with skillful questions. Just like a three-year-old, you will ask “WHY” for everything. Why this introduction? Why this illustration here? Why this point first? Why this application? Why this conclusion?
For example, if you are studying Tim Keller’s sermon from Acts 19: The Gospel and Idols, from “Step One: Investigate” you already notice that he has two short introductions. He introduces the sermon series and the sermon. In the first introduction, he introduces the sermon series with a few short comments on why both Christians and non-Christians alike need to hear his message. So, you bombard the intro with questions: Why does he do that? Why in that way? Why this? Why not that?
You go through the entire sermon – start to finish – asking these types questions of each component.
Once you have thoroughly and lovingly interrogated the sermon, now the fun begins.
The key here is creative adaptation. Here you will follow the mentor’s footsteps, but you will put your own stamp on the material. The key question here is “HOW?”
How can we accomplish the same things he has accomplished, but in our own way? We ask ourselves, “How can I illustrate the same point, but in my own context and in my own voice?”
This is a lot of work. But it is worth it.
Realistically, you probably couldn’t go through more than two sermons a week like this.
That is why we have structured our Apprenticeship series to only cover around 8 sermons in 4 weeks.
We try and pick the best. And after you actively drill down deep into those 8 sermons, you will have gained more than if you passively listened to 80.
But the great thing is that you are given the tools so that you can, on your own, listen to 80 sermons and thoroughly internalize the mentor’s dynamic. Sitting at the feet of the masters, we will become better preachers.