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andrew lim: a preacher ponders . . .

Tell us a bit about yourself Andrew

I’m a Malaysian of Chinese descent but have made New Zealand my home for the last twenty eight years. Coming to faith in Christ from Buddhism, I have had special interest in theology and apologetics and that landed me in the then Bible College of New Zealand and Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. The Lord has enabled me to serve him for forty years as a pastor and seminary lecturer. I stepped down from the pastoral ministry about three years ago, and I now preach and teach as doors are opened for me. Incidentally, I am currently teaching an eight-week course on the Book of Job at Emmaus here in Palmerston North.  I have a wife who works alongside me in the ministry and two daughters who keep me abreast with what’s going crazy in the culture out there! Last bit about myself, it sounds odd but I collect vintage brass plumb bobs!

Describe your natural preaching style

I am a manuscript preacher. I virtually write my sermons word for word. I have made several forays into extemporary preaching (preaching without notes) but I have never felt easy with that approach. One of the reasons for this has to do with my belief in the significance of the spoken word in preaching. The spoken word is weighty and consequential. Therefore, not any word will do for the crucial thoughts I want to convey. There are words and there are words. I work at getting the right word. This necessitates that I preach from manuscripts, though I have not been totally reliant on them.

It may sound a like a contradiction in terms, but manuscript preaching actually keeps me free from the manuscript. This preaching style unshackles me as a preacher to hear from the Holy Spirit even as I am preaching. Because manuscripting enables me to know my next thought with absolute clarity, I actually have more freedom to follow the dictates of the Holy Spirit should He prompt me with a thought which deviates from my prepared script. I know the way back with confidence. It is a fallacy that a well-rehearsed sermon from a manuscript binds the preacher from hearing the Spirit even as he or she preaches.

The other matter which I believe dictates my preaching style has to do with my conviction that if a sermon is to work, I need to consciously strive to preach to the heart, even as I strive to preach to the mind. I am persuaded that rigid textual sermons simply do not cut it where it comes to the matter of convicting the hearts of the listeners. That approach will invariably turn me into a lecturer and not a preacher. My sensitivity to this matter has shaped my preaching style. I tell stories; I draw ideas from experiences, biographies, nature, literature, current events or other corroborative biblical narratives. I believe the Holy Spirit uses such extra-biblical sources, working in tandem with the revealed, inspired text to convict the whole person, mind and heart.


What convictions have sustained you in your preaching ministry?

I believe the Bible is irrefutably the inspired, inerrant and infallible Word of God, and that it is our final authority for all doctrine and practice. This leads me to the conviction that the Bible is totally sufficient and trustworthy in revealing the mind and purpose of God to us. This conviction emboldens me and it has led me to preach expositionally through the books of the Bible. I have the confidence that if I exegete the text carefully I will be saying what God is saying. After all, as we all know, when you break down the word homiletics it simply means “saying the same thing as God says”.
The other conviction that has gripped me over the years is that unless the Holy Spirit speaks through me, I might succeed in persuading a few people some time, but fundamentally I will be bringing no impactful and lasting changes in their lives. Without the Holy Spirit’s conviction, my sermons may stir up some scintillating sentiments but they could bring about no conversion of souls. This has been a most humbling thing to note for indeed some of my “finest” sermons have fallen stillborn off my lips when some of what I’ve thought were my “lousiest” sermons have brought about genuine conversions.

How do you choose where from the bible you will preach from?

I became convicted in my early years at seminary by reading Andrew Blackwood on the importance of preaching through books of the Bible; what he called a “planned preaching program”.  Although his suggestion of preaching through a book in a quarter going through four books in a year didn’t work for me, I became convicted early in my ministry that I should be preaching expositionally through the Bible. I have largely alternate between the OT and the NT books. I felt compelled not to sideline any particular genre, particularly the problematic ones. This has safeguarded the congregation from my own predisposition to jump on my bandwagon of preaching the prophets all the time.

I must say that in my latter years, the choices of some of the books I have preached have been inspired by fine preachers out there doing a fine job preaching from those books.

If you were teaching a short course on preaching but could only cover three topics, what would they be?

One: Why and How Preachers Should Preach to the Heart.

Two: How to Preach the Old Testament Prophets.

Three: How to Read Worldviewishly

Which authors would you recommend to preachers?

My pick may reflect that I’ve been caught in a kind of a time-warp.

But I find myself going back to the first seven volumes not so much for the “how” of preaching but for the critical “why” of preaching; for inspiration over the basic motivations for preaching.

The last four are excellent on the practical matters of sermon preparation. I fail to understand why Daane is not as well-used as I feel it ought to be. It is excellent work on the power of the pulpit and his practical guide to expository preaching is a gem.

The first 7: the why of preaching

John Stott – The Preacher’s Portrait

Frank Colquhoun – Christ’s Ambassadors

John Piper – The Supremacy of God in Preaching

Donald Coogan – Stewards of Grace

Herbert Farmer – The Servant of the Word

James Stewart – A Faith to Proclaim

Martyn Lloyd-Jones – Preaching and Preachers

The last 4: the how of preaching

James Daane – Preaching with Confidence

John Stott – Between Two Worlds

Haddon Robinson – Biblical Preaching

Bryan Chapell -Christ-Centered Preaching

Some say a preacher’s personal Bible reading (devotions) should not be the basis for sermon preparation; others say it should. What do you think?

I have not read the Bible in my “devotion” with the sole aim of preparing for my sermon. This does not mean that I do not ponder over my selected preaching text “devotionally” seeking the Holy Spirit’s illumination on the text. But in practical terms, I simply don’t see how one could make one’s daily devotional reading the basis of sermon preparation. I don’t get the connectivity between the two.

Which genre of Scripture do you most enjoy preaching from; and which one do you find most challenging?

I have mostly enjoyed preaching through the prophets, both the major and the minor. That said, I have also enjoyed preaching from Paul’s letters. For me, although I didn’t get to turn it into a more thorough series, preaching through Romans was rather challenging.


6 Comments

  1. Sonja Dixon says:

    Andrew. I am being inspired and challenged by the Holy Spirit as you teach through Job. Really enjoying it. Thank you.
    I would be interested in the short courses you mentioned, if you are ever able to teach them.

    One: Why and How Preachers Should Preach to the Heart.

    Two: How to Preach the Old Testament Prophets.

    Three: How to Read Worldviewishly

    Thanks.

  2. Andrew Lim says:

    Thank you Sonja. You are very kind. We’ll see if doors opened up for such short teaching stints. Great having you in class.

    Andrew

  3. Tim Hodge says:

    Thanks for this; great insights in here which greatly encouraged me, particularly about how manuscripts actually promote not prohibit freedom in preaching.

  4. Andrew Lim says:

    Thanks Tim. I’ve enjoyed writing this. I hope you yourself have many opportunities to preach God’s Word in the years to come. Keep well.

  5. Jean Macfarlane says:

    Thank you Andrew. I have just read & have felt encouraged as you have shared some of the background of your journey. Your reliance and openness to be guided and used by the Holy Spirit was exciting to read!

    Every blessing as you continue in ministry.
    (If you have time I would appreciate a copy via e-mail).

    1. Geoff New says:

      Hi Jean
      If you email me (geoffnew1@live.com) I can send you a copy of the interview.
      Geoff New (Co-ordinator Kiwimade Preaching)

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