Practical Hints on Preaching
The Preacher's Equipment
By Professor W. J. McGlothlin, 1917
The preacher is called to fill one of the most difficult places that falls to the lot of mortals. With the help of God he is to lead men out of darkness into light, out of death into life, out of doubt into faith, out of blindness into clear vision, out of religious carelessness and unconcern into moral and religious earnestness and activity, from the love of the world and material things to the love of the invisible spiritual realities, the love of God and all good things. If he is to accomplish this great task worthily, he must be equipped for it. No man needs equipment more urgently.
I. - The Body.
He should have and preserve a strong and clean body. The body is the necessary basis for all strenuous work. If a man's body is weak he is incapable of performing any severe and prolonged tasks. He should know the conditions and laws of good health and resolutely observe them - how much and what to eat, how much to sleep, the value of fresh air and pure water taken internally and applied externally, the necessity for healthful exercise, how to dress so as to keep comfortable, how to use nature's great gifts for securing health and happiness, rather than medicines. Let him labor to preserve a sound and strong body, which ought to be the temple of the Holy Spirit.
II. - The Mind.
He should have a strong and clear mind. The effective preacher must be a vigorous thinker. He must be able to distinguish between truth and error, fact and fancy, reality and deceptive appearances. His thinking must be clear, deep and straight. He deals with the profoundest things in life; religious error, haziness and shallowness are prevalent and require mental keenness for their detection. He should be an independent thinker, not dominated by his friends or his opponents; a fearless thinker, confident that truth is of God and is always a blessing. Let the preacher care for his
mind - its independence, its courage and its thoroughness. Let him take every available opportunity for further train- ing and improving his mind and filling it with all useful knowledge.
III - The Conscience.
The preacher should have a good strong conscience. He is compelled to meet the temptations that are common to men, and also those that arise out of his own particular, calling. The work of the ministry has its own particular perils that no preacher can ignore without danger of disaster to himself and to his work. In view of these facts, it is incumbent on the preacher to furnish himself with a good conscience, one that is sensitive and strong. An effective conscience is one that discerns clearly and promptly what is right and what is wrong and then unfailingly impels to the right. The preacher should be able to fulfil his Master's injunction: "Judge not according to appearance, but judge righteous judgment" (John 7:24). The line that divides right and wrong is not always obvious, but who more than the preacher should be able unfailingly to see it? The preacher needs to brush away mere conventions and customs and see infallibly what is essentially right and what is essen- tially wrong.
The preacher's conscience should sternly and unfailingly enforce on himself what is right. Of all men the preacher cannot palter with truth and righteousness. He must do the right and preach the right at whatever cost to himself. Right and truth may hurt some people tempor- arily; but if so, they ought to be hurt. In the long run, it can do neither individuals nor communities anything but good. The demands of truth and right are absolute. Faithfulness to conscience will make it clear and strong; to play with it will weaken and destroy it. The preacher who is not equipped with a good and effective conscience is con- tinually in danger of making shipwreck of his life.
IV. - A Clear Religious Experience.
He must be equipped with a genuine religious experience. He must know what it is to repent of sin, to exercise faith,
to live in fellowship with God. Without this personal experience he can never fulfil the work of the ministry. A genuine experience of grace will give vitality, warmth and power to his preaching. Hearing with the ear is not sufficient; he must understand with the heart. The spiritual world must be real to him before he can make it real and attractive to others. If he has never come to God, he can never bring others to him. A genuine experience of grace, continued and increased by a constant communion with God, is absolutely essential to efficiency in the ministry.
V. - A Good Education.
The preacher should have as good an education as it is possible for him to get. The proper kind of education trains his whole being so as to make him most efficient. It should help him to acquire a sound mind in a sound body, with a clear conscience and a warm heart. "Knowledge is power." All knowledge will somewhere be useful to the minister. Education does two things for a man: First, it trains his powers and enables him to use them; and that is its most important function; and, second, it gives him knowledge and puts him in the way of finding more knowledge as needed. It opens up the channels of information and gives him the instruments for the acquisition of knowledge. Every intelligent man must continue to learn all his life, but the educated man will do it systematically and effectively and with ease, while it is difficult to the uneducated man.
VI. - A Good Library.
The preacher should be equipped with as good a library as he can afford to buy. Some books are indispensable. He must of course have the Bible first of all, and those books that are necessary to the proper understanding of the Bible. If he reads the Hebrew and Greek, he must have and use them. He would find various English translations helpful - the American Standard Version as his constant companion on the study table, then the King James and any others that have been made by able and reverent men. Each version will help him to see the passage from a new standpoint.
Then he should have a good concordance, a Bible dictionary, an atlas of Bible lands, a good work on Bible customs, and such commentaries as he can afford. In addition to his distinctly religious books he should have at least a good English dictionary, a good atlas of the world, a reliable grammar of the English language, and also such works of history, science and standard literature as his tastes and pocket-book will warrant him in purchasing.
VII. - A Comfortable Study.
He should be equipped with a comfortable, convenient and quiet study. No man can do proper intellectual and spiritual work without proper physical surroundings. It should be light, airy, cool in summer and warm in winter, with a pleasant outlook. It should be furnished with a comfortable chair, a writing desk or table and book-cases and paper racks as needed. It should have a filing case for preserving clippings and such other things as may be useful in the future. Money spent in properly equipping a study is money well spent. It should be sacred to him and to his work.
[From Practical Hints on Preaching, Nine Lectures on Sermon Building - a booklet by Professors of SBTS, via E-Text digital, Adam Winters, Archivist. Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall.]
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