5 Questions on Preaching with Jason Allen
Dr. Jason K. Allen is the president of Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, in Kansas City, MO. – one of the largest and fastest growing seminaries in North America under his leadership. Additionally, Dr. Allen also serves as an associate professor for preaching and pastoral ministry. He has author two books: The SBC & the 21st Century: Reflection, Renewal & Recommitment and Discerning Your Call to Ministry: How to Know For Sure and What to Do About It. Keep up with Dr. Allen’s writings and podcast on his website, Jason K. Allen.
Q1: How long does it typically take you to prepare a sermon?
A: This is a difficult question to answer because no two sermons are alike. Throughout my ministry, different seasons of life, different contexts of preaching, my familiarity with the passage under consideration, and a whole host of other considerations often vary the amount of time it takes to prepare a sermon. Additionally there is a sense in which I have been preparing my whole life for any particular sermon–through life’s experiences, theological education, years of Bible reading, and countless other tributaries that make me the man in Christ that I am. With those caveats in mind, a rough estimate for my sermon preparation would be approximately 15 hours per sermon.
Q2: What do you ultimately want a sermon to accomplish?
A: I follow a relatively traditional triad, wanting my sermons to accomplish three things. First, I want my sermons to inform the mind. Preaching is bringing the truth to bear and that process simply cannot bypass the intellect. Preaching is, at its heart, teaching–explaining the Word of God. Secondly, I want my sermon to affect the heart. I aim for my preaching to stir one’s affections, to be moved by the presentation of Christ and the proclamation of his Word. Thirdly, I want my preaching to impact the will. Every sermon is an argument, calling for a verdict. I aim for those who hear my sermons to leave sensing they have been called to do something, and determined to do something.
Q3: What are one or two big mistakes people often make in preaching?
A: The most common mistake I sense from preachers today is an insufficient confidence in the Word of God. This reveals itself in many different ways, perhaps most especially by not simply relying on the text itself. Sermons that contain too many illustrations, too many pop cultural references or too many personal stories often communicate a subtle lack of confidence in the Word of God. While amplifications, illustrations, and stories are appropriate and can be helpful–if they are done in measure, and to amplify the truth of Scripture–when they dominate the sermon, they distract from the text itself and undermine the power of Scripture to affect change.
Q4: How do you handle the gospel invitation and preach toward it?
A: I believe a correct understanding of preaching assumes that the sermon itself is an invitation. That is to say, we are not Christian preachers if the gospel is not flavored throughout our sermons and is more than a brief tack-on at the end of it. So, it is imperative for the Christian preacher to present Christ from every portion of Scripture, and to bring that gospel message to bear throughout–especially at the end. Over the years, I have consistently brought the sermon to bear by inviting the hearers to respond to the sermon and to the gospel preached. As I said under question number two, all great preaching calls for a verdict, and the greatest verdict we can call for is people to repent and follow Jesus Christ.
Q5: What advice would you give to preachers doing pulpit supply?
A: Given my role as President of Midwestern Seminary, I am often invited to fill the pulpit in other churches. Any time I step behind the sacred desk, I realize it is a sacred privilege and stewardship to which I have been entrusted. One of the most obvious, but most important, factors to keep in mind within the pulpit is your context. I am always mindful of the congregation to whom I am preaching, the amount of time they have allotted me, and the broader needs of that local church. I want to honor the pastor and the church who have invited me, and preaching that is contextual–that is mindful of the setting in which it is being delivered–best does that.