Greg Scharf: How I Preach

November 17th, 2014| Topic: aBeLOG, How I Preach | 0

Greg Scharf: How I Preach

Greg Scharf: And this is How I Preach …

[Greg Scharf is a good friend, a fellow-member of the Evangelical Homiletics Society for many years, and a teacher of preachers at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. With a wealth of  both pastoral experience and teaching preaching behind him, he is a good thinker of all matters homiletical, and serves his students well, mentoring them in the science and art of preaching. Here’s Greg ….]

Greg R. Scharf
Chairman and Professor
Pastoral Theology Department

Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, Deerfiled, Illinois

Current gig (preaching, teaching, etc.) and years at it:
Pastor for over two decades in Fargo, North Dakota.
Teacher of preaching for about two decades at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School.
I preach monthly at O’Hare Airport’s chapel.

Who or what made you want to preach:
I did not have good models, but a United Methodist Youth Pastor asked me to preach at our nursing home services and those efforts were affirmed.

Who are you most indebted to for making you the preacher you are (besides God)?
John Stott with whom I served in London, England.

Most used English Bible version:
Revised Standard Version when I was in the U.K. and Canada.
New International Version during my years in Fargo.
English Standard Version currently (a bit like returning to my roots).

Use of Greek and Hebrew (light/moderate/heavy):
Heavy on Greek; sadly light on Hebrew.

Software that you use for preaching prep?

One word that best describes how you prepare to preach:

One word that best describes how you preach:
Expositionally (i.e., letting the text have its say).

What tools/aids for sermon prep can’t you live without?
Printed copy of the text in the original language and in English.
But I consult lots of commentaries later in the process.

What does your workspace look like when you are prepping?
I still use more printed resources than electronic so in addition to my computer screen there are books all around.
My desk has pull-out surfaces and my computer is on a separate stand, so I am surrounded.

Illustrations: Where do you go for them and how do you store them?
I rely mainly on memory, imagination, and Google, having no really commendable filing system.

Tell us your sermon-prep routine.
Since I teach preaching and do not preach every week in the same fellowship, my routine is not the same as when I served as a pastor. In those days, I laid out a series, most often consecutive expositions of Bible books, at least three months in advance.
Detailed preparation of individual sermons began thirteen days before the sermon was to be preached, when I wrote study notes on the preaching portion for the congregation. These were published in the bulletin the Sunday immediately before the sermon was to be preached.
Then, on the Monday before the sermon was to be preached, after staff meeting, I went back to the text and did more detailed work in the original language to try to determine the thrust of the text.
I continued this on Tuesday morning, supplementing my own study with insights from commentaries.
On Wednesday evenings, I led an assimilation group in which we did an inductive study on the passage.
By Thursday, I tried to have the sermon written and, by Friday morning, reduced to notes.
On Friday morning, I preached it through twice to an empty sanctuary.
I took Friday evening and Saturdays off, returning to church after supper on Saturday to preach through the message one more time in preparation for two services on Sunday morning.
Illustrations and implications occurred to me at all sorts of times in the process, usually in response to importunate prayer!
Time and again I saw the Lord bring sufficient faithfulness and clarity that the flock reported being fed.

Average numbers of prep hours per sermon?
Fifteen hours in the early days; less now.

What’s your best time-saving trick?
I don’t think the process can be rushed. I start early.

What time of the day are you most effective?
Early morning.

Any props used regularly in sermons? Powerpoint? Handout?
I prefer having people look at me, painful as that may be for them, so I avoid physical visual aids.
I try to turn the ear into an eye so listeners can imagine what I am saying.

No notes/some notes/extensive notes (manuscript)?
I write out all sermons, reduce the manuscript to the leanest notes possible.
Those I put on card stock and into a half-sheet sized three-ring binder.
I preached without notes for about two years well into my pastorate, but reverted to notes when people were more impressed with the preacher than with the gospel.
The practice did help me grow in clarity.

Who critiques your sermon, besides yourself?
I never had enough constructive feedback in the early years. Now I ask students for feedback.

How has your preaching improved over time?
I trust it is simpler and clearer without sacrificing some depth. It also takes genre into account in a way that builds in more balance and stylistic variety.

What everyday thing are you better at than anyone else?

What do you listen to while you work?

Are you more of an introvert or an extrovert?

What are you currently reading?
Michael Horton’s Calvin on the Christian Life: Glorifying and Enjoying God Forever

What do you wish you had learned when you were in seminary?
More about literary genres of Bible texts.

Exercise routine? Sleep routine?
I swim half a mile every morning before breakfast and in good weather walk with my wife after dinner.
I aim for bed by 9 and am up by 5.

Spiritual disciplines?
I listen to 1–4 chapters of Scripture with my wife every morning.
Devotional supplements like …
D. A. Carson’s For the Love of God and John Stott’s Through the Bible Through the Year.
My prayer life always needs work but the Lord and I talk about a lot of things through each day.

Favorite food?
This changes, but I have pan-Asian tastes.
However, my current favorite is grits and shrimp.

What you do when you aren’t involved in preaching-related activities?
I try to be a better teacher and mentor.
I am blessed to be a husband, father, father-in-law, and grandfather, and so love to interact with family.
I like old cars.
I do not have a “serious” hobby which I have mastered.

Fill in the blank. I’d love to see _____ answer these same questions.
I’d love to see anyone who was my student ten years ago answer these same questions.
I never know how much got through.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
It is hard to pick one thing. Probably, the best advice I received but still struggle to practice is to remember I have two ears and one mouth so listen twice as much as I talk.

Anything else you’d like to add?
It is a huge privilege and solemn yet joyful calling to speak for God. I want to be found faithful.

[For the archives of this series, How I Preach, see here.]

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