The most valuable lesson I learned in seminary was imparted to me by a professor who stole the idea from John Henry Jowett at an unguarded moment when Jowett was combing his moustache and not paying attention. “If you have trouble getting a sermon from a text,” he advised, “just try to imagine how some great preacher would handle it. Ask yourself, ‘How would Joseph Parker handle this text? What would Maclaren do with it?’ This will stimulate your creative homiletical juices.”
Well, last week I tried it, Monday morning I sat at my desk (while my friends were playing golf), I stared at my text, and I got nowhere. Then I said to myself, “What would Robert Schuller do with this text?” Immediately I thought of window panes, and my conscience stabbed me. I had promised my wife to help her wash windows. That took care of my creative juices for Monday.
Tuesday I was back at my desk (I’m very disciplined), and I said to myself, “What would Balthaser Hubmaier do with this passage?” Don’t ask me why I thought of him, because his name flashed into my mind unbidden. I spent the rest of the morning scanning church history books and trying to identify Dr. Hubmaier. This detoured my creative juices; I spent the rest of the day dusting my library (church history books get terribly dusty) and rearranging the books. I still don’t know who Hubmaier is.
Wednesday morning I determined to write a sermon if it killed me, and it almost did. “What would Maclaren do with this text?” I muttered. “No doubt he would find three points. He always said he fed his people with a three-pronged fork.” The mere mention of the word “fork” started some other juices moving, so I crept to the kitchen for a snack. Before I knew it, my wife had me on a ladder helping her reorganize the pantry. I fell off and nearly broke my neck. That ended the homiletics for the day.
The rest of the week found me in panic. Thursday I envisioned Jerry Falwell and spent most of the day watching television. Friday I conjured up Martin Luther, and soon I found myself nailing up wallboard in our unfinished attic. By Saturday evening, I was beyond fear: I was petrified. Then I recalled that Spurgeon always prepared his Sunday morning sermon on Saturday evening. Immediately I calmed down, reached for a volume of Spurgeon’s sermons, and within an hour I was ready. Spurgeon never preached better!
Thank you, Jowett! Thank you, Spurgeon! Thank you, Gutenberg!
Written by Warren W. Wiersbe
Originally appeared in Christianity Today, 1/25/80.
Used by permission. Not to be reprinted.
Dr. Warren Wiersbe (1929-2019) was an internationally known Bible teacher, author, and conference speaker. He graduated in 1953 from Northern Baptist Theological Seminary in Lombard, Illinois. While attending seminary, he was ordained as pastor of Central Baptist Church in 1951 and served until 1957. From September 1957 to 1961, Wiersbe served as Director of The Literature Division for Youth for Christ International. From 1961 to 1971 he pastored Calvary Baptist Church of Covington, Kentucky south of Cincinnati, Ohio. His sermons were broadcast as the “Calvary Hour” on a local Cincinnati radio station. From 1971 to 1978, He served as the pastor of Moody Church in Chicago 1971 to 1978. While at Moody Church he continued in radio ministry. Between August 1979 and March 1982, he wrote bi-weekly for Christianity Today as “Eutychus X”, taught practical theology classes at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois, and wrote the course material and taught a Doctor of Ministry course at Trinity and Dallas Seminary. In 1980 he transitioned to Back to the Bible radio broadcasting network where he worked until 1990. Dr. Wiersbe became Writer in Residence at Cornerstone University in Grand Rapids and Distinguished Professor of Preaching at Grand Rapids Theological Seminary. In his lifetime, Dr. Wiersbe wrote over 170 books—including the popular Be series, which has sold over four million copies. Dr. Wiersbe was awarded the Gold Medallion Lifetime Achievement by the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association (ECPA).