04 June 2013

Spurgeon — as guest preacher?

by Dan Phillips

The single most valuable lesson I took away from the Pastoral Ministry class at Talbot was something I learned from a book picked for collateral reading. Unfortunately, I don't remember the name of the book. But the author had a great idea, and it stuck with me.

He knew that pastors occasionally need study breaks, even beyond vacation times. His suggestion was to pick from the rich array of nearly 2000 years of Christian sermons, and have a "guest preacher" fill in on occasion. Find one of the great sermons, or one of the great preachers, and let him step in.

At our church, I did the Thinking Biblically series (22 sermons) then the Titus series (31 sermons), plus sermons for Reformation Day, Christmas, Resurrection Day... and now I plan to begin preaching through the first chapter of Proverbs. In all that there was, I think, one Sunday off, for the T4G 2012 conference.

So a study break seemed in order. "In order" or not, I needed it.

My terrific fellow-elders took the prayer meeting and Sunday School. Who for the morning service?

Well, you know. Had to be Spurgeon. Surprise!

Picking the sermon wasn't too hard, either. Of all the Spurgeon I've read, the single sermon that's done the most good for my own soul was The Security of Believers; or, Sheep Who Shall Never Perish. I knew that would be a joy to share.

So I read it through, worked out an outline, prepared, introduced my dear folks to Spurgeon, and delivered.

Since you'll ask: No English accent. I learned in preparing that, at this point, I could either deliver with my thoughts focused on what I was preaching, or I could do it with my thoughts focused on maintaining the accent. Plus, any false notes would ruin a solid-gold sermon; not worth the risk.

Did learn one important bit of mechanics. I preach from outlines, never manuscripts, so this was different. Normally I use my bifocals, and they come off and on. Well, practice in my office was uneventful. Then I tried practicing from the actual pulpit earlier Sunday morning, reading this manuscript with my bifocals — and the result about 20-30 min was the start of a nasty, nauseating headache. So I had just enough time to pop some meds, rest my eyes, increase font size, and switch to my plain reading glasses. Good thing I test-drove. I wasn't able to focus on the faces, but I saw the text fine.

For me, it was like introducing my dear ones to a beloved friend who is also a master chef, and watching them sample one of his signature dishes. It was a terrific blessing to me, and our folks here responded graciously and appreciatively. 

The down-side for them is that they'll get the usual guy next Sunday, Lord willing.

The up-side for me is — well, you know that awkwardness we preachers feel sometimes when people express appreciation for the sermon?

It was a lot of fun to be able to join in and say "Yeah! Wasn't that a great sermon?", and share a hearty laugh.

After all, it blessed me years before it blessed them — and many, many others, for more than a century before that!

BONUS: there's a companion-piece over at my personal blog.

Dan Phillips's signature


Michael Coughlin said...

That is really excellent.

Tom Chantry said...

Is OSH a Spurgeon fan? Or is he just sleeping in today?

Kerry James Allen said...

I've never done this, but I need to!

Aaron Snell said...

I've never even thought about this as an option. Was it something you ran by your elders first, and how would you compare it to just taking a week off and getting away?

DJP said...

Oh absolutely, I ran it by them first. Wouldn't have done, otherwise.

It isn't the same as getting away. I worked here all week. But I didn't have a fresh sermon to study up, pray up, think up and create. Working through Spurgeon's sermon to the point of working out the outline took some time, but it was a joy.

Scot said...

"I'm filing this away for future use, should the Lord bring me to a pastorate or elder.

Question: Do you think this would work as well in a Bible study? My initial thought is no, because that would turn the Bible study into a kind of Sermon Club.

DJP said...

BTW, I should have said this, rather than assuming everyone would know it intuitively:

If you're going to do this, you must read the sermon yourself until you know it well enough to preach it as you read, and not sound like you're reading a report.

JR said...

So technically, the Westminster Chapel of the 19th century just went multi-site.


Kerry James Allen said...

Dan preached a Lloyd Jones sermon and thought he was channeling Spurgeon?


DJP said...

Chantry, he woke up.

Tom Chantry said...

So we now know that OSH is a Spurgeon-hater and a sluggard. No surprises there.

Tom Chantry said...

Or as we used to call them: a "hinger." Prov. 26:14

Magister Stevenson said...

Was it ever an option to do a sermon given by a modern preacher, or did you limit yourself to the passed-on-to-glory crowd?

DJP said...

I limited myself to Spurgeon.

Future sermons, if I preach any that aren't Spurgeon, would be from those who've received their promotion.

Magister Stevenson said...

Limiting yourself to Spurge on is like saying you will only swim in the Atlantic.

semijohn said...

Careful, Dan. You know that at some point someone is going to show a video of Robert Schuller for their sermon, and when they get complaints, they will say "But DJP did it", lol.

Of course that also illustrates the wisdom of limiting it to Spurgeon.

DJP said...

Oh no... what have I done?!!


Morris Brooks said...

The tone of the response to Fred is much like they all are that come from that ilk, it is the tone of moral superiority. They are on their own high horse, but much like the emperor and his clothes, they are blinded to the truth about themselves by their own pride.

DJP said...

Wrong post, I think.

Stephen said...

This meta is already over 48 hours and so is beyond life support in internet time, but to add a little fuel for the curious: I believe Mark Dever has done this on one occasion before, when he preached "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God" on the 300th anniversary of Edwards' birth. He also has a "sermon" club, where he meets with his interns and other men and reads through classic (mostly Puritan) texts. I think currently they are going through a Richard Sibbes commentary.

That is not to praise Dever, just to say that Dan is not the only crazy one out there.

trogdor said...

I like this idea, and it can help preachers today with their own sermons. Would it benefit people to read this in a century or on another continent today? If not, it's probably not worth preaching to your people now.

trogdor said...

I remember hearing about a similar idea, but as a pejorative against multi-site churches. The idea is that all those campuses will benefit most from a recording of a sermon by a man somewhere else that they'll never meet. But if that's true, wouldn't it be even better to have someone read classic sermons from great preachers of the past? I mean, modern day mega-church preacher man, you don't think you're a better preacher than Spurgeon, do you? That none would dream of doing that every week, yet continue to project lesser messages from lesser lights week after week, is quite telling.