Pastor J. H. Osborne On Sermon Preparation -- Part 1

These are some notes that I took from a session that Pastor J. H. Osborne participated in at a young ministers meeting among the ALJC organization. I listened to the MP3 and gathered these thoughts from his session. In addition to these notes are some other things that I pulled out from when I went to the Fall Classic that Pastor Jerry Dean hosts annually in October in Bossier. I will make a designation so you will know what came from that event. In 2003 and 2004, Brother Osborne addressed about 50 men that were invited.

He mentioned that the only motivation and instruction he had came from one of the parishioners who told him, “You better be good because we have got a mortgage to make!” I think sometime I am going to do a blog about some of the crazy things that parishioners say to pastors. He felt that pressure to produce which is not all bad. One thing Brother Harrell routinely tells me is that Sunday comes around pretty regular. There are times when I am sure that every pastor feels like that it always seems like Sunday is the next day unless you are like my friend Ben Weeks who always has his gun loaded and stays ahead five or six at a time!

He also mentioned that in the early days not very many pastors were willing to share any of their notes, techniques, and methods for preaching. Many of those men were sermon graveyards and everything they did went to the grave with them. If we could gain from all the wisdom from the grave, it would be a huge blessing to us. Much of their progress in life never made it beyond the grave because of the lack of opportunity to pass it on to younger men.

Henry Clay, when he was about to speak out against slavery, was told by his closest friends that he shouldn’t make such statements if he wanted to be the President. His remarks were not going to help his cause but when he heard them out he answered them and said that he would rather be right than to be the President. This is what it all comes down to in life! Right in doctrine, in ministry, and in life needs to be the motivation for every man who is involved in ministry.

1. Look At Things That May Not Make Sense

When reading the Bible, there are events that are recorded that sometimes in reading them there is a tendency to think that it does not make sense that this character got involved with this, did this particular thing, or did not give himself to a particular action.

Ahithophel, who was one of David’s closest counselors and because of his human nature to hold on to things, changed his allegiance to Absalom. Absalom was doing his best to revolt against his father and now one of David’s strongest supporters became somewhat of a traitor. His counsel was like an oracle of God but when it was not received by Absalom the way that he felt like it ought to be, he went home and hanged himself. Actions like this that do not make sense in the grand scheme of things can be very ripe areas for sermons.

If a pastor was to go home and hang himself every time someone did not take his advice, you may as well leave the rope up. It just does not make much sense what Ahithophel did. There had to be an underlying source of motivation for his suicide. This is where the sermon production can grow. Find out what it was that caused him to do such a thing. Backtracking in his life, you will discover that he was Bathsheba’s grandfather and he apparently never could let go of what David did to her and killed her husband. When he finally figured out a way to retaliate against David, the plan did not work.

The sermon is worked out in this manner: Revenge eats away like a canker and it will destroy you. David had gotten over it, Bathsheba had gotten over it, God has gotten over it but Ahithophel never could get beyond it. This is typical for those who hold on to malice, anger, hate, and grief; it will end up killing them. This is the great value of letting things go and getting beyond it. The Old Hanging Tree! Look around you and you will discover that there are many people who are caught up in this kind of life.

2. Timing & Relevance

Timing and relevance is very important with preaching. A man can have a great sermon but if it is preached at the wrong time, it is going to be wasted. The revelation that you have has to be relevant. Brother Osborne made the analogy that if you happened to be called to work with a man that had been receiving care from a hospice, you probably ought not to start with the Tabernacle in the wilderness to explain salvation, you might need to move a little further over to the New Testament. The silver sockets and badger skins aren’t going to be very helpful despite the fact that you might have an awesome sermon on them! Sermons don’t necessarily need to be deep but it needs to be relevant to where they are living in life.

The badger skins came from porpoises in the Nile River. But the way that Moses got them was that their shoes were made of badger skins and they were needed to make the roof of the Tabernacle. So the children of Israel give up their shoes just before making a forty-year trek into the wilderness. That doesn’t make much sense! But when they had given up their shoes, God provides them with shoes that never wore out.

3. Cheap Bread (or The Cost Involved in Bringing the Bread)

John 6 mentions bread and Jesus identifying himself as the Bread of Life. In Matthew 4 the temptation took place in the wilderness and the devil tried to get the Lord to turn the stones into bread so he would be able to eat. All through the life of Jesus, he was a man who was very humble and his life would end in untold pain and rejection. He would finally suffer the excruciating and humiliating pain of death on the Cross. All of it had been laid out for him and his path was very difficult.

All three of the temptations were in actuality an easier path for the Lord to accomplish his goal. No need for divine order, future pain, and other matters that was required. The devil was simply offering the ability for him to get it all immediately. This is perhaps one of the greatest temptations to overcome.

He had been languishing in hunger and now his body is screaming for something to eat after the forty day fast. Just looking at this passage of Scripture and understanding these things is not particularly hard to grasp. In fact, when the Bible speaks of bread, in the general sense it is making the comparison to all food that would nourish someone. The word of the tempter always comes through our appetites. It was a reasonable solution to a physical problem. It was a cheap miracle that would have met the need for his hunger.

The reality of falling to this temptation would have meant that it would have set the tone for the rest of his life. It would have bypassed the whole set of necessary disciplines that his life was to be based on. Cheap bread would have saved him from the hardship and poverty. But instead of falling to the whims of his flesh, he chose to wait. In overcoming this pull for cheap bread, he then could go to prepare a feast that would meet the needs of everyone but it comes at a future point. The choice: Cheap bread today or wait and prepare a more expensive bread later that will feed the generations to come. He would have to eat alone if he chose cheap bread or in waiting, multitudes would be fed.

This generation of ministers is tempted by cheap bread. Bread that is painless and doesn’t cost anything will not last beyond the day. Cheap bread is not the plan or purpose of God for his church. The point to hammer home is this: Preaching genuine, heart-felt messages will not come some easy and painless way. There is a cost involved that is exacting, holy, godly, and excruciating but it will last beyond the day. Cheap bread always feeds the ego of a preacher but it does not last in the long run! Jesus chose to make bread in the costly way which put him on a trail of death. Yet through that death would mean redemption for all. His body is the bread!

The ultimate question: Does preaching feed the ego of the preacher or the needs of the people? The answer to that question helps us to understand volumes about a preacher’s motives.

Isaiah mentions bread corn that is bruised. The only way for bread to come about is for the corn or wheat to be ground to powder and then baked. Crushing, winnowing, and then the heat are the process that brings real bread. This is the way that God chooses to make His men preach the Gospel unflinchingly. There is going to be a great brokenness involved in a man who is going to be a true minister of Jesus Christ. You may fight it or you may settle for cheap bread and in the end, it will all come to nothing. Or you can resist the temptation to get involved in the trinkets of religion and pay the price!

More Later. . .

Thanks for reading. . .


Anonymous said…
I have followed this blog for about 3 years and I greatly regret not making a comment of appreciation for the way it has both blessed and sharpened me. A word of affirmation is often needful and I would like to offer my gratitude for the many insights, ministerial commentary, and thought provoking yet challenging musings that have impacted me.

I would be pleased to one day say thank you more personally.

Every Blessing,
Pastor Robert Wimberley
Anonymous said…
Thank you for taking the time to type this out. It was right where I am at. I don't want to just float through my preaching but Lord let true ministry happen. Much Thanks!

Bro. Aaron Witmer
None said…
I was at the meeting in Memphis when this was taught. Certainly this has brought back into my heart and spirit what is certainly needed in this hour.
Thanks for transcribing this for us readers. It is greatly appreciated!

Nate Whitley
Pastor Steve Breceda said…
The comment on cheap bread should get us to thinking. The ingredients make the difference. The more we add the more labor it takes. The more we put into our sermons the more our congregations will grow spiritually. Like my momma used to tell me "you are what you eat" you will never grow up to be a big boy if all you want to do is snack all the time. I guess that's the difference in a devotional and a message. Thank Bro Harrelson !
Anonymous said…
the comment on cheat bread means to me, as Pastor Osborne was trying to say is that the message has more of an impact if it cost you something. It will be anointed.

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