Bro. Jones, give us a little of your personal history.
I was born in Mississippi. My mother was a third generation Oneness Pentecostal. My father had a Pentecostal background, although neither were in the church until I was a nearly a teenager.
We moved to California when I was a baby and my family came into the church there. We moved back east to Mississippi and attended a church that was part of the Louisiana district. I received the Holy Ghost at the Louisiana campground in 1966. I attended college at the University of Louisiana at Monroe, met and married my beautiful wife, Phyllis, and we evangelized for seven years.
We became pastor in Metairie, Louisiana, in 1977 and pastored there for eight years. During that time, I served Louisiana as sectional youth leader, district youth secretary and district youth president. I was elected general youth secretary so we moved to St. Louis in 1985, and was elected general youth president in 1987. We served in the General Youth Division for eight years.
In 1993, we became pastor of New Life Church in Bridgeton, Mo. and pastored there for six years. I was elected general secretary/treasurer of the UPCI in 1999.
Is preaching a skill, a gift, or both?
Preaching is both a human skill and a gift. The human side of it is the result of a talent or gift that God gives an individual. How well he/she applies those gifts are skill. Preaching is a unique relationship between a human being and God. It is the result of human effort and the anointing of God’s Spirit.
The talent of the preacher is the least important aspect of the process of preaching. God gives the talent, but the preacher must maximize the talent to communicate truth to an audience. One can learn to preach because, obviously, the ability to speak before an audience is a learned process. Most of all, a preacher must be a man or woman of God because what makes an effective sermon is the anointing of God. We must have a walk with God and know how to allow the anointing to flow through us as we preach. It is the anointing that makes the sermon a spiritual event and not just a speech or lecture.
How much time should be devoted to sermon preparation?
Time in preparation is determined by the experience level of the preacher and how familiar he is with the text and its background. A sermon that is “material dense” will take longer to prepare and to ensure the thought is logical and flows in a way the listener can grasp. You can preach a complex scriptural or theological idea, but you must boil it down to where people can readily understand it while you remain true to the theology. This takes time.
Time spent in sermon preparation also depends on how the sermon develops. There are some sermons that literally take years to develop, starting as just an idea but developing in the heart and mind of the preacher until it becomes a fully developed sermon. Sometimes the sermon quickly comes together in a matter of hours.
Just as a starting point, for a novice preacher, approximately 20 hours of study and preparation is probably a good idea. However, for more experienced preachers, between eight and 20 hours in sermon preparation should not be unusual. Again, there is no hard rule that fits every situation.
Should preachers read their sermons?
There are some incredibly effective preachers who read large sections of their sermon. However, when they reach a certain place in the anointing, they no longer read but become more extemporaneous. In order to create the needed emotional response in your hearers by reading every word of the sermon, the preacher must be a better-than-ordinary reader and in addition must learn to read with anointing. In my experience, when the anointing is flowing, I find it difficult to remain tied to the pulpit enough to read my sermon.
What about preaching without notes?
Some preachers argue that, for them, notes are a hindrance to the operation of the Spirit. However, I have found that notes do not keep me from following the Spirit; they liberate me to follow the Spirit.
I find by using notes, I am more able to inject scripture word for word instead of simply alluding to it. I cannot trust my memory to do this. Also, notes can provide an anchor or base to return to if needed. For the vast majority of us, notes are vital for us to be comfortable because we know we can read the scripture we want to read and remember the facts we need to remember.
Novice preachers should write out their sermons and then make notes to take to the pulpit.
How do pastors keep themselves with fresh material?
This requires commitment. The example of Acts is that the apostles had to make a conscious decision to focus their time and energy on prayer and the Word of God. The pastor of a smaller church, who usually has less staff, or a church planter or a bi-vocational pastor must allocate their time based on the prioritizing of the demands of their day. Time spent meditating and studying is not wasted time, instead it must certainly be one of our top priorities if we are to be effective preachers. We must make the deliberate decision to guard our time and make sure we are giving ourselves to prayer and the preparation to minister the Word in the pulpit.
We must read! We must develop a habit of reading to further expand our understanding of the Word of God, and life itself. Challenge yourself beyond your comfort zone. Read broadly! Read quality material! Read and re-read the Word of God. Read everything devotionally but also with an eye toward crafting sermons. Make the commitment to invest the necessary time.
Where can your book be purchased?
We Preach can be purchased from Pentecostal Publishing House by calling 1-866-7667. A Kindle version as well as paperback is also available from Amazon.