Month: May 2007

10 Questions: Ross Strader

The Unashamed Workman blog has interviewed several pastors {Tim Keller, Philip Ryken, Thabiti Anyabwile} with these 10 questions, so I thought I’d start interviewing a few pastors that I know.

My good friend Ross Strader is Senior Pastor of Bethel Bible Church in Tyler, Texas. He blogs at Charcoal Fires.

1. Where do you place the importance of preaching in the grand scheme of church life?
Preaching the life of the church is very important. It anchors the church. It is the place that doctrine and vision come together. People are grounded in God’s Word and inspired to life in the kingdom. If the church is a ship, a battle cruiser, then preaching is the helm.

2. In a paragraph, how did you discover your gifts in preaching?
By accident. When I was young (like 10) I remember sitting in church and feeling this overwhelming desire of wanting to do THAT (standing before the people and teaching God’s Word)… but I discarded it as something everybody wanted to do. I didn’t realize it was the first echos of my calling. While in seminary I had several opportunities to teach and preach. It was different from what I had done while on staff with Young Life. I absolutely loved it. It was what I was made to do. Along with my training and opportunities, there was affirmation from the body of Christ – both the places I would speak as well as our local body while in seminary. The Lord was very gracious to make it clear to me because it is also a place I feel the most vulnerable and insecure.

3. How long (on average) does it take you to prepare a sermon?
About 15 hours. I would love 20 hours but I seem to run myself out of time during the week. I find that I have to be very disciplined early in the week so I have time to think later in the week. The prayer and meditation over the passage is the most important time spent.

4. Is it important to you that a sermon contain one major theme or idea? If so, how do you crystallise it?
When that happens it is great. Sometimes it happens on purpose. Sometimes it happens on accident. Sometimes it doesn’t happen. I am committed to preaching through the Bible verse by verse. I begin books of the bible and walk through them with the congregation verse by verse. I usually start out with preaching calendar at the beginning of the series. I have a rough outline of the series and many of the weeks ahead. If I follow the preaching calendar like it is on paper… then yes. I have yet to do that however. If you ask my creative team, we hold it all loosely. My priority is to be faithful to the text… no matter where that takes me or how much time it needs.

5. What is the most important aspect of a preacher’s style and what should he avoid?
Be yourself. I am still learning this one. Every time I speak I still hear Chuck Rodgers in my head (a mentor and regional director for Young Life). Also, make sure your words are your words through your personality and life experience. Even if you want to capture an idea for your congregation that you have heard from Piper or Begg or a commentary you read, do the hard work to internalize it so that it becomes your idea in your words. If you can’t do that… then it is not for your congregation.

6. What notes, if any, do you use?
It depends on the week. Sometimes I feel the freedom to go without notes. Sometimes I take a full manuscript. I ask everybody I know who preaches what they take into the pulpit… and everyone is different. So, my conclusion this last year is – go with what works for you… what makes you the most comfortable and confident. For me that changes about every three weeks!

7. What are the greatest perils that a preacher must avoid?
Not reading, not praying and not listening to others. When you become your only voice… look out! Turn off the tv and and read a book. Turn off the radio and pray. Listen to a healthy variety of guys that are committed to God’s word and humble yourself under their teaching. Learn, Learn, Learn… then you are ready to teach.

8. How do you fight to balance preparation for preaching with other important responsibilities (eg. pastoral care, leadershipresponsibilities)?
This is the most difficult place in ministry for me. I often find myself overworking during the week because I did not balance the week well. I do not say No enough and Yes at the right time enough. You will have to find wisdom from another source on this one… and I will be reading!

9. What books on preaching, or exemplars of it, have you found most influential in your own preaching?
Piper’s, Brother’s We are Not Professionals, stand at the top of the list. Haddon Robinson’s Biblical Preaching is also up there. Ramesh Richards has done a great job in his book, Preparing Expository Sermons. Also, anything written by Mark Baily and Timothy Warren (mostly articles).

10. What steps do you take to nurture or encourage developing or future preachers?
Right now I am not. I plan in the next year to take on a pastoral intern. This question convicts me that I need to be thinking more strategically about that!

Piper on Anger

Couldn’t pass this one up. I know, Piper again?! Yep. He’s got great things to say about fighting anger…

Kill Anger Before It Kills You or Your Marriage

By John Piper April 23, 2003

In marriage, anger rivals lust as a killer. My guess is that anger is a worse enemy than lust. It also destroys other kinds of camaraderie. Some people have more anger than they think, because it has disguises. When willpower hinders rage, anger smolders beneath the surface, and the teeth of the soul grind with frustration. It can come out in tears that look more like hurt. But the heart has learned that this may be the only way to hurt back. It may come out as silence because we have resolved not to fight. It may show up in picky criticism and relentless correction. It may strike out at persons that have nothing to do with its origin. It will often feel warranted by the wrongness of the cause. After all, Jesus got angry (Mark 3:5), and Paul says, “Be angry and do not sin” (Ephesians 4:26).

However, good anger among fallen people is rare. That’s why James says, “Be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God” (James 1:19-20). And Paul says, “Men should pray, lifting holy hands without anger or quarreling” (1 Timothy 2:8). “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you” (Ephesians 4:31).

Therefore, one of the greatest battles of life is the battle to “put away anger,” not just control its expressions. To help you fight this battle, here are nine biblical weapons.

1. Ponder the rights of Christ to be angry, but how he endured the cross, as an example of long-suffering.
For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. (1 Peter 2:21)

2. Ponder how much you have been forgiven, and how much mercy you have been shown.
Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. (Ephesians 4:32)

3. Ponder your own sinfulness and take the beam out of your own eye.
Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, “Let me take the speck out of your eye,” when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye. (Matthew 7:3-5)

4. Think about how you do not want to give place to the devil, because harbored anger is the one thing the Bible explicitly says opens a door and invites him in.
Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil. (Ephesians 4:26-27)

5. Ponder the folly of your own self-immolation, that is, numerous detrimental effects of anger to the one who is angry – some spiritual, some mental, some physical, and some relational.
Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD, and turn away from evil. It will be healing to your flesh and refreshment to your bones. (Proverbs 3:7-8)

6. Confess your sin of anger to some trusted friend as well and as possible with the offender. This is a great healing act.
Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. (James 5:16)

7. Let your anger be the key to unlock the dungeons of pride and self-pity in your heart and replace them with love.
Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. (1 Corinthians 13:4-7)

8. Remember that God is going to work it all for your good as you trust in his future grace. Your offender is even doing you good, if you will respond with love.
And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28)

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. (James 1:2-4)

9. Remember that God will vindicate your just cause and settle all accounts better than you could. Either your offender will pay in hell, or Christ has paid for him. Your payback would be double jeopardy or an offence to the cross.
Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” (Romans 12:19)

When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting [his cause] to him who judges justly. (1 Peter 2:23)

Fighting for joy and love with you,

Pastor John