Pastor J. H. Osborne On Sermon Preparation -- Part 3

Here is the last post on some more observations (Part 1, Part 2) from Brother Osborne’s advice he gave to a group of young men in Bossier City, Louisiana on October 27-28, 2003 and October 25-26, 2004.

7. Discipline Your Days

For every man who is called by God to preach it will have to be more than just a passing fancy with him. You must have an element of endurance and to do that a sense of discipline will have to be developed about the way that you live your life. In Egypt the water was carried from the Nile so the children of Israel could have water in Goshen. When Elijah was at the Carmel showdown, prior to the fire falling the water had to come from the Mediterranean Sea so the salt could be placed on the sacrifice. After you have been in the ministry for a length of time, it becomes work that you have to make sure you continue to fulfill. This will not be an easy task. You will come to the place where you preach far more out of the responsibility of your calling than the inspiration of your calling.

If a man jumps into the ministry without counting the cost, the perils of privilege will ultimately be the demise of your life. To be an able minister means that there will be a level of anointing that will carry you along however anointing and purpose are very closely related and the purpose you have will dictate the place in life that you live up to. Discipline helps us to find and fulfill this purpose.
Men who do not have discipline of ministry—prayer and ministry of the Word—will be a man who is out of place. When men are out of place, he lives in a state of massive frustration. There are some downward steps that will be noted.

Misplacement, discontent, and a lack of roots will mark that ministry. An example of this is how that Saul took the best and turned it into the worst and David took the worst and turned it into the best.

Discipline of your days means that the power of the journey is in the ability to take one more step. That is where greatness will be won or lost because it is the greatest challenge of all—day in and day out continuation in what you have been called to do. Never forget that a measure of grace has been allotted to you to fulfill this great task.

8. Odd Books Sometimes Birth Great Sermons

Brother Osborne encouraged that one look beyond his standard patterns of reading. One such sermon he mentioned that came to him when he ran across a book called “The New Goat Handbook.” He took the characteristics of goats and worked with the passage in Matthew concerning the goats separated from the sheep. I am sorry to say that I did not write down the analogies that he used on this part of the lecture. However I do remember some of the points to be hilarious and others to be very sobering.

Another book he mentioned that produced an out of the way sermon for him was from a book “How to Disappear Completely and Never Be Found.” It was a book he ran across while browsing in a Books-A-Million. One of the reasons that people disappear completely is because they try to take on too many roles in life.

He mentioned that a minister gains sermons because of a sovereign act of God, a need in the church, or an experience that births the message. During these times our prayers are more heart-felt because of what we have to endure.

How a minister handles the Word of God is also very important. He cannot handle it in such a way that personal agendas and impure motives are behind his preaching. He cannot use it in a way that is deceptive to what the intent of the passage is about. His life has to be God-centered and prayerful if the text is to come through in a way that will help the church.

9. Use Your Ability to Observe Things

Sometimes in the hustle of ministry, preachers get in a rush and often miss things that will come out by the simple power of observation. Between Genesis 16 and 17, there is a thirteen year time gap. Kids grow up, people change homes, jobs, and various things during a time gap like that. He mentioned taking this text and preaching a sermon called “When You’re All Done, Then God Becomes Almighty.” It centered on the actions of Abraham trying to accomplish the promise of God through human means. It ended when Ishmael was born and for 13 years, Abraham probably thought he had done God a favor but in Genesis 17, God becomes Almighty and Isaac enters the picture.

There is another avenue of expression which will require the use of imagination in preaching and that is making an observation of the unnamed characters in the Bible. He went to 2 Samuel 12 and began to take about the unnamed characters in Nathan’s parable. He noted the rich man to be David, the poor man to be Uriah, the great herds were David’s wives and concubines, and the little lamb was Bathsheba. David became angry with the “man” who took the poor man’s lamb. David was agitated enough to want to kill this “man” not realizing that he was the man.

However, Brother Osborne picked at the traveler, the wayfaring man. He began to describe him as a hungry traveler. In Job we find the devil to be a traveler roaming to and fro. The wayfaring man passed through and the lamb was devoured and then the traveler left. He had his meal and then he left the wreckage behind.

There is a traveling appetite that has laid low many a man and it left David with the lament of a life-time. David had to bury the past, marry the present, and produce the future. I would have greatly enjoyed hearing Brother Osborne preach this sermon but he only gave about a 5-7 minute treatment of this passage showing us how to use observation to create something worthwhile with imagination. This is where meditating on the Scripture brings great dividends to preaching.

10. Fellowship Is Crucial

The good man will always be inclined toward being with other good men. Men we meet are like tributaries that flow into rivers. Whatever is in the tributary, good or bad, will feed the life of the preacher and will affect how he lives. If dirty water flows into your “river” (i.e. soul) you are going to develop a dirty “river” but if good water flows into your “river” there will be a great deal of clean thoughts present there.

There are three aspects of preaching: The Logos which is the way that the Word is reasoned out and it will not change. The Pathos is the passion by which a preacher will deliver the message. The Ethos deals with the ethics or credibility that a preacher has. The Logos is what it is! The only way for it to be changed is for false doctrine to come into play but in the end, the Logos cannot change. However, both pathos and ethos are very strongly affected by who a preacher fellowships with. The Word is unforgiving to those who do not have high ethics. Furthermore there are times when there is no right or wrong thing to do but rather what is the honorable thing to do!

If a preacher always runs with rascals (Brother Osborne’s choice of wording), he will soon become a rascal himself. However, if a preacher is very careful and makes good choices about what “tributaries” he allows to empty out into his life, it will be a very honorable thing.

11. What Carrot Do You Chase?

This aspect of the time in 2004 was more of a life lesson than one dealing with the elements of sermon preparation. Although most preachers soon understand that how they live their lives will greatly affect what the quality of their ministry will be. A surgeon does not need a “fresh anointing” every time he does surgery. But the unique situation with the ministry is that we must have an active and fresh touch of God on our lives every day to effectively do the will of God.

It is normal for all men to seek for some measure of success in the ministry. There will be a carrot that he will chase. However, the mule never gets the carrot, he only gets hay! What is the carrot that motivates you? What keeps you going to visit the sick? What keeps you praying for the folks you are called to serve as pastor? What keeps you preaching even to deaf ears? What pushes you to go back at it again? What consumes you to pull the weight of ministry? What is the overall motivating factor of ministry for you? The list could go on and on. There are a lot of men who are under a delusion about what the carrot really is.

In Matthew 19:27, Peter was under the impression of gaining something for his efforts. Yet when you really analyze the men the Lord worked with, many of them were down and outers. In fact when the Lord turned away a man who had some means, it aggravated Peter. The Lord then informed him that a rich man will have a more difficult time getting to heaven than a man who does not have anything.

One of the most difficult things about ministry is that often the carrot will change. The ministry is not an inheritance or a house, the Lord is what we get out of the ministry. The Lord said, “I AM” your inheritance. The Lord has to be enough to get us into the place of duty because you will get bored/frustrated with the carrot chasing. You will get bored once you get it or you will get frustrated when you can never reach it. States of boredom and frustration are disastrous times of ministry because far too often poor choices are made during these times.

Be careful about what carrot you choose to pursue!

Thanks for reading. . .

Philip Harrelson


Anonymous said…
Thanks for this thought provoking material.

Pastor M.R. Hennigan

Popular posts from this blog


Characters from Pilgrim's Progress -- Valiant for Truth

Why You Should Have a Prayer Journal