SBTS profs on first pastorate: Jim Orrick

Communications Staff — September 25, 2009

This is the fifth post of a seven-part series running each Friday. Jim Orrick serves as professor of literature and culture at Boyce College.

Jim Orrick
Jim Orrick
First position/length: My first pastorate was in Buffalo, W. Va., and I was there for seven years. I have been preaching for more than 30 years.

Early mistakes/lesson: One of the biggest mistakes I made in that first pastorate was that I tried to fit too much into a single sermon. As a result, I had unrealistic expectations of myself, and I had unrealistic expectations of my congregation’s capacity to listen.

My lofty expectations of what could be done in a single sermon made my sermon preparation unnecessarily burdensome. I was responsible to preach three times a week, and early in my preparation for each sermon I would go through my library and pull out the various commentaries, systematic theologies, and other books that I thought I needed to read before I was ready to preach on my anticipated text. Then I would stare in dismay at the clock and the stack of books, exasperated because I never had enough time to read all that stuff. Granted, sometimes I truly did need to read up on a particular text or theological issue that was addressed in the text, but often my expectations unnecessarily paralyzed my preparation.

My early preaching also put unrealistic expectations on my congregation. Very few modern hearers can listen to 45 minutes of closely reasoned exposition if it is not sufficiently illustrated. To this day I commonly preach 45 minutes or more, and I try to make it closely reasoned exposition, but I use illustrations far more liberally than I did 25 years ago. It is selfish for a preacher to drone through his sermon notes when everyone is so bored that listening is virtually impossible.

Words of wisdom: Here is a little verse I made up:

God’s work

God’s place

God’s way

God’s pace

Be content to do God’s work using God’s methods in the place where God has put you, and do it at God’s pace. Learn what true expository preaching is, and devote your ministry to preaching the Bible. Let Alexander Mclaren and G. Campbell Morgan show you how. Your main job is not sermon preparation; it is preacher preparation.

Seek God. Fear God and you will not fear man. Trust in God and do the right. Read and meditate on the Bible day and night. Memorize whole books of the Bible. Sing Psalms.

Memorize the Baptist Catechism. Carefully read Calvin’s “Institutes” and John L. Dagg’s “Systematic Theology.” Make good friends with Matthew Henry, C.H. Spurgeon and Martin Lloyd-Jones. Let a poet like George Herbert get into your soul, or at least read a poet-hearted preacher like Alexander Whyte or John Bunyan. It is better to be thoroughly acquainted with 10 great books than it is to be superficially acquainted with 10,000 good books. If you cannot understand poetry, learn how; one third of the Bible is poetry.

Pray without ceasing. Turn off the television, smash the X Box, stop being a slave to email and cell phones. Take a walk every day so you can experience the weather and listen to what God is saying in general revelation. Stop gorging yourself with food. Talk to old people. Refuse to bore children.

Commune with your own heart upon your bed, and be still. Dig a deep well, and you can draw water out of it on a moment’s notice — even during a drought. No matter how hard you try, you cannot fall off the floor. If your people really know and feel that you love them, they will follow you to the ends of the earth. If you want to be great in God’s kingdom, learn to be the servant of all. You have enough time to do everything that God wants you to do without being anxious or frantic.

Are you ready to become a pastor, counselor, or church leader who is Trusted for Truth?

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