A Word to Those Who Preach the Word

I am in preparations for preaching through the Gospel of John.  I have never done it before and am eager to dig deep into this vibrant personal testimony from ‘the disciple whom Jesus loved’.  Along the journey I have turned to many familiar sources and was struck this morning by something I already knew, but has been stated clearly and passionately by R. Kent Hughes…

Whether you are a preacher, a teacher, a reader or a lover of God’s Word, these words are healthy for you.  Enjoy…and take them in.


There are times when I am preaching that I have especially sensed the pleasure of God. I usually become aware of it through the unnatural silence. The ever-present coughing ceases, and the pews stop creaking, bringing an almost physical quiet to the sanctuary—through which my words sail like arrows. I experience a heightened eloquence, so that the cadence and volume of my voice intensify the truth I am preaching.

There is nothing quite like it—the Holy Spirit filling one’s sails, the sense of his pleasure, and the awareness that something is happening among one’s hearers. This experience is, of course, not unique, for thousands of preachers have similar experiences, even greater ones.

What has happened when this takes place? How do we account for this sense of his smile? The answer for me has come from the ancient rhetorical categories of logos, ethos, and pathos.

The first reason for his smile is the logos—in terms of preaching, God’s Word. This means that as we stand before God’s people to proclaim his Word, we have done our homework. We have exegeted the passage, mined the significance of its words in their context, and applied sound hermeneutical principles in interpreting the text so that we understand what its words meant to its hearers. And it means that we have labored long until we can express in a sentence what the theme of the text is—so that our outline springs from the text. Then our preparation will be such that as we preach, we will not be preaching our own thoughts about God’s Word, but God’s actual Word, his logos. This is fundamental to pleasing him in preaching.

The second element in knowing God’s smile in preaching is ethos—what you are as a person. There is a danger endemic to preaching, which is having your hands and heart cauterized by holy things. Phillips Brooks illustrated it by the analogy of a train conductor who comes to believe that he has been to the places he announces because of his long and loud heralding of them. And that is why Brooks insisted that preaching must be “the bringing of truth through personality.” Though we can never perfectly embody the truth we preach, we must be subject to it, long for it, and make it as much a part of our ethos as possible. As the Puritan William Ames said, “Next to the Scriptures, nothing makes a sermon more to pierce, than when it comes out of the inward affection of the heart without any affectation.” When a preacher’s ethos backs up his logos, there will be the pleasure of God.

Last, there is pathos—personal passion and conviction. David Hume, the Scottish philosopher and skeptic, was once challenged as he was seen going to hear George Whitefield preach: “I thought you do not believe in the gospel.” Hume replied, “I don’t, but he does.” Just so! When a preacher believes what he preaches, there will be passion. And this belief and requisite passion will know the smile of God.

The pleasure of God is a matter of logos (the Word), ethos (what you are), and pathos (your passion). As you preach the Word may you experience his smile—the Holy Spirit in your sails!

R. Kent Hughes

Wheaton, Illinois


Hughes, R. K. (1999). John : That you may believe. Preaching the Word (11). Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway Books.

Gateway Bible Church Inaugural Sunday: September 18, 2011

Dear Friends,

It is with great joy that I announce to you that Gateway Bible Church will be celebrating and officially launching on September 18th.

It is hard to believe that last July a group of about 25 people gathered to pray for God’s direction in our lives.  Those repeated prayer meetings gave birth to a Bible Study which began in September and continued through December.   Then, those involved joined me to help the transition of the Evangelical Free Church of Oakland (EFCO) to replant a new church, Higher Ground Church, now under the direction of Pastor Billie Dempsey and in partnership with NorthCreek Church in Walnut Creek, CA.

As God launched that ministry He was also at work in our group affirming His intentions for us to plant a new church that would have as its target the communities around the 580 corridor (San Leandro, San Lorenzo, Hayward, Castro Valley, San Ramon, Dublin & Pleasanton).  As we met to pray and work on details God continued to demonstrate His provision in supplying the necessary funds to support and help establish a new church plant.  He also allowed a Core Team of seven couples to use their various gifts to develop and commit to the establishing of Gateway Bible Church.  Although we were not looking to be in Castro Valley proper, it was clear that Creekside Middle School in Castro Valley was exactly what we needed and was in the right location, being just off the freeway.  God provided this centralized meeting location far beyond our expectations.

As we began to gather informally for services on May 1st  we took time to assess our gifts and the necessary ingredients, or foundations, for a Gospel Centered church by walking through Mark Dever’s 9-Marks of a Healthy Church and adding a few Marks of our own (Hospitality, Investing in the Next Generation).  Over the past few weeks we have had to take a hard look at ourselves through the lens of the little Old Testament book Jonah where God has challenged us to trust Him even though we may not like what we are going through or the responsibilities He has called us to.  As we look ahead we will take a longer journey through the powerful Gospel of John.

So, as we approach our Launch Service we have so much to be thankful for.  So many of you have been praying with us in this endeavor, have attended our services or have walked with us along part of this journey.  You have been a blessing and are to be commended for your affirmation in the faith for the promotion of the glory of God in His gospel.

Having said all this, it would be our joy and delight for you to attend our launch service on September 18th at Creekside Middle School, 19722 Center Street, Castro Valley 94546.  The service will begin at 10:00 a.m. followed by a full lunch at the Earl Warren Park (4660 Crow Canyon Rd, Castro Valley, CA 94552) which is just around the corner from the School.

You can visit our “The City” page to sign up and let us know of if you are able to attend by clicking here http://bit.ly/oAA0yU .  You don’t need to bring anything except yourselves.  Dress is casual, i.e. no jacket/tie for men…there will be lots of denim.

Once again, thank you for all you do and have done to help in the establishing of Gateway Bible Church.

Please take time to visit our web site and read through our Mission, Core Values & Beliefs.  This is God’s church!  We want to be sure that He and His Gospel are central in all we do.

God bless,

Rod Phillips – Teaching Pastor

Gateway Bible Church


“Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me.” Colossians 1:28–29 (ESV)