Ray Pritchard: How I Preach

December 15th, 2014| Topic: aBeLOG, How I Preach | 0

Ray Pritchard: How I Preach

Ray Pritchard: And this is How I Preach

[Ray Pritchard is a fellow-preacher who has been in the ministry for well over three decades. Author and reputed pulpiteer, Ray is great to listen to, whether on radio, in Dallas Seminary’s chapels, at Bible conferences, and in venues all around the globe. One of his three sons goes to the same church I do, and another was a student of mine. Let me tell you, Ray and his wife, Marlene, have left a grand legacy, both pastoral and familial. He is worth learning from and so, here’s Ray ….]

Ray Pritchard
President, Keep Believing Ministries

Current gig (preaching, teaching, etc.) and years at it:
26 years pastoring in Los Angeles, Dallas and Chicago.
Most recently pastor of Calvary Memorial Church, Oak Park, Illinois, for 16 years.
Preaching in churches and Bible conferences in the U.S. and elsewhere.

Who or what made you want to preach:
I remember as young boy hearing R. G. Lee and Angel Martinez preach and thinking how it wonderful it was to stand and speak God’s message to people. The month after I graduated from high school, I had a strong sense that God was calling me to be a preacher. I’ve never doubted that calling in the 44 years since then.

Who are you most indebted to for making you the preacher you are (besides God)?
I have always considered Pastor Ed McCollum my father in the ministry. He was the first expository preacher I ever heard. He is also the first person who explained the gospel to me. His example as a faithful preacher of the Word had an enormous impact on my life.

Most used English Bible version:
Here’s the evolution: King James Version → New International Version → English Standard Version → Holman Christian Standard Bible.

Use of Greek and Hebrew (light/moderate/heavy):
Moderate for Greek.
Light for Hebrew.

Software that you use for preaching prep?
No particular software.
Websites I use: Precept Austin and Bible Studies Foundation.
I can find almost everything I need on the Internet.
Plus I’ve switched over to ebooks to the point that I don’t like to have a printed book in my hand.
Partly that is for convenience and partly because of my eyesight.

One word that best describes how you prepare to preach:
(Because I believe God will give me a message to preach to his people.)

One word that best describes how you preach:
(Because I want people to know that I really believe what I am saying.)

What tools/aids for sermon prep can’t you live without?
Internet plus my e-books.
I like to do sermon prep using the whiteboard in my office. Somehow I think better when I can write notes in different colors and then draw connecting lines.
Plus in recent years I have switched to preaching from an iPad.

What does your workspace look like when you are prepping?
About the way it does any other day: cluttered.

Illustrations: Where do you go for them and how do you store them?
I have a strong conviction that God will give you everything you need to illustrate your sermons. You just have to open your eyes and then write down what you see. If I know I am preaching on Sunday, I will start on Monday making a list of ideas, thoughts, quotes, people I meet, questions I’m asked, sports news, world news, TV shows I watch, things my kids say, funny things my grandkids do, comments I hear, odd things that happen, etc. When I work the system every day, I end up with 65–75 items by Friday. I may only use 4 or 5 items from that list in the sermon, but they will be fresh in my mind.

Tell us your sermon-prep routine.
Study the text, outline it, read it out loud, listen to audio versions of the text, seek the key divisions, ask myself, “What’s going on here?”, read the commentaries, jot down notes, make another outline, read sermons on the text by others, pray over it, walk away from it, come back to it, make a working outline, fill in the details, write out the intro and the conclusion, practice it, make a “mind map,” walk around my room and practice some more, and then try to get a good night’s sleep.
Just before I get up and preach, I pray this prayer, “Lord, help me preach the sermon I need to hear.”
That puts me in the right frame of mind. I need to hear from God just as much as anyone else.

Average numbers of prep hours per sermon?
10–15 hours.

What’s your best time-saving trick?
Using the whiteboard. I need to “see” what I am going to preach. The whiteboard helps me see the natural connections. If it doesn’t “fit” on the whiteboard, it won’t “fit” in my sermon either.

What time of the day are you most effective?
Early morning for rigorous study.
Late night for final prep and practice.

Any props used regularly in sermons? Powerpoint? Handout?
I do my best not to use PowerPoint, which in this day and age makes me a troglodyte.
I do think PowerPoint really works for arresting quotes or maps or things that need visual clarity.
I walk around a lot when I preach. I don’t like to stay behind a pulpit if I can help it. I like a big stage where I can make a timeline and otherwise act out part of my sermon. That’s part of the reason why I answered this question this way. I tell people, “I am my own PowerPoint.”

No notes/some notes/extensive notes (manuscript)?
I’ve done all three at times. I prefer no notes but as the years roll on, that’s more challenging that it used to be.
I only preach from a full manuscript when I have a tough or controversial topic.
Most of time I use some notes interspersed with the text.
Let me add that I’m a big believer in writing out your sermon. It helps me to write out the key parts ahead of time. After I preach it, I will write a full version (not a transcript), which I then post on Keep Believing Ministries. Those written sermons form the online foundation of my current ministry.

Who critiques your sermon, besides yourself?
My wife is my best friend and my most honest critic. She has listened to me preach several thousand times and still says she loves to hear me. That’s amazing to me. So if Marlene thinks I was too long or too loud or not clear enough, I know enough to trust her judgment. And if she likes a particular sermon, I’ll probably preach it again.

How has your preaching improved over time?
I think I’m clearer than I used to be.
My philosophy of preaching comes from J. Vernon McGee (formerly of Church of the Open Door in Los Angeles) who said, “Jesus didn’t say, ‘Feed my giraffes.’ He said, ‘Feed my sheep.’ Put the hay on the lower shelf so all of God’s sheep can get to it.” Sounds right to me. I’ve spent my life trying to put the hay on the lower shelf because there are lots of hungry sheep out there.
I’m also more comfortable with who I am, both in my gifts and my limitations, than I was 30 years ago. As a wise man said, “Be yourself. Everyone else is already taken.”

What everyday thing are you better at than anyone else?
Not sure I’m better at anything than anyone else.

What do you listen to while you work?
I only listen to music while I’m working out—mostly Christian music.

Are you more of an introvert or an extrovert?
An introvert. Being in small groups or listening to small talk wears me out quickly.

What are you currently reading?
Last week I finished a yearlong reading project: three trilogies!
Shelby Foote’s The Civil War: A Narrative History.
Rick Atkinson’s Liberation Trilogy (about the US Army in North Africa/Europe in WWII).
William Manchester’s The Last Lion (a mammoth trilogy about Winston Churchill).

What do you wish you had learned when you were in seminary?
More about the nuts and bolts of the ministry.
Although I wonder if it would have made any difference. Most of what matters in the ministry you have to learn in the trenches.

Exercise routine? Sleep routine?
I ride my bike every day I’m home. So far this year I’ve ridden 2595 miles. My goal was 2400 miles but I passed that several weeks ago. Now I’m pressing on to 3000.
My wife would say I don’t have a sleep routine. I rarely sleep through the night. I’m up and down several times. I suppose I get 6–7 hours when you put it all together.

Spiritual disciplines?
Best thing I’ve done is to use an app called Chains to keep me on track in four areas of my life, one of them being “Quiet Time.”
I started doing “Bible Listening” several years ago using the Bible.is app that lets me listen to dramatic readings of the Bible.
Plus my wife and I do Bible reading and prayer most days.

Favorite food?
This is the meal we’ll eat every day in heaven: chicken-fried steak, mashed potatoes with gravy, cole slaw, pinto beans, cornbread, sweet tea, with peach cobbler for dessert.
I rarely get that here on earth, but I’m sure we’ll get that in heaven (and never gain weight!).

What you do when you aren’t involved in preaching-related activities?
I write for our website, travel, teach at various Bible Institutes, answer a ton of email, co-host “Today’s Issues” on American Family Radio, and provide leadership for Keep Believing Ministries.

Fill in the blank. I’d love to see _____ answer these same questions.
Joe Stowell.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
Hold lightly what you value greatly because it all belongs to God anyway.

Anything else you’d like to add?
I love this piece of wisdom that I heard 30 years ago: “Never overestimate the value of one great sermon; never underestimate the value of many good sermons.”

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

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