[Tony Evans is pastor of Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship in Dallas, Texas, and author of a number of books. He has become well known recently for his involvement with Promise Keepers, a movement which calls men to renewed spiritual leadership in their homes.]
Preaching: You have spoken for several Promise Keepers events and been involved with the renewal movement for Christian men. Within the pastoral setting, is it important for preachers to focus their attention on preaching to men and their specific needs?
Evans: There definitely is a need. As I understand the word of God and God's hierarchy, God calls men to take a lead role in a number of areas. One is certainly in our homes, just to set a spiritual pace with the family and then in our churches. That certainly is not to negate the significant and critical world of ladies, but it is to recognize that God has called men to this responsibility. That means that men must understand the relevance of the scripture to them and their responsibility. So I think the pulpit has to address that and not to skirt it, skip it or ignore it.
Preaching: Are there some particular areas in your own preaching in which you are putting greater emphasis on the needs of men?
Evans: Yes, first of all I call on men to take responsibility for their own families. Because as the foundation, the institution, as the family goes so goes civilization. Plato was right on this one, and that is the life of the nation is the life of the family writ large. And so, as a result, men must own that, and we must convince a man his own happiness is not the first issue.
The first issue is guarding the future through strong families. So we press that with not only our own family but with the men in our church and across the country. And I think Promise Keepers epitomizes that. Then calling on men to stop sitting on the sidelines of the church and to get involved—using gifts, skills and talents for the Kingdom and not only for themselves. And then to represent Christ in the marketplace. That kind of fundamental value—if we get men active we'd be in a lot better shape.
Preaching: Are there other cultural issues that preachers need to address over the next several years?
Evans: Well I think the issue of race is a dominant issue. The mere fact that the White House has made it a watershed issue says that this issue of taking responsibility for racial harmony through the church—rather than waiting to find out what 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue is going to do—is a critical issue. It is a massive issue that we are going to face as we move through the 21st century and as we watch the browning of America.
Preaching: What are some things specifically within the work of the preacher that can be done to address that issue?
Evans: Well, first of all you're going to have to use the pulpit more strategically to deal with this sin, as you do with other sins. Secondly, you've got to create sermonically and programmatically illustrations of your point where they reach out to people who are unlike the mass of people in your congregation. Where there's a great sense of welcome, where they partner with other churches of like faith, but which are different culturally and racially, for impact strategies. It starts with the pulpit, because the priority of the pulpit comes to be the priority of the pew.
Preaching: Are there particular issues within the African-American community that you think preachers within that community really need to focus on?
Evans: Absolutely. I believe that we need to strengthen our job of biblically educating our population. I think we suffer from a couple of extremes: those who have become secularized and therefore don't operate from a biblical world view, and those who don't see hope from a biblical world view that they need to see. The Bible has answers to their plight. I think both of those can be handled from a biblical pulpit that is relevant to the cultural needs.
Preaching: Let's step back and talk a little bit about your own preaching ministry. How do you approach the planning process?
Evans: I plan generally in six month intervals. For six months I know where I'm going and most of that is in series. Every year I try to present what I call a balanced diet. The balanced diet consists of a book study, a doctrinal or theological study, and then a topical or popular study. Every year I will rotate among those three. A typical series can go anywhere from six to sixteen weeks. Generally in that range.
Preaching: Tell me about your preparation process as you move from the series to a specific sermon.
Evans: Once I have decided on a series, about once a quarter I go away for three days, and then I will do all of my major exegesis for the whole series. So that week by week when I come back I'm putting the sermon together not starting from scratch at the beginning of each week. Because weeks have too many interruptions for me, and I may have it planned well but it keeps being inundated. So that way if I've got my exegesis done, then I can spend time on sermon preparation and also ministry to my thoughts during the sermon because I'm not just pressed on the content only.
Preaching: What's the thing you enjoy most about preaching?
Evans: The power of it. It is a transforming, powerful art to be able to move the minds and therefore the lives of men through spoken words—certainly through the power of God's Spirit, but preaching is part of that process.
Preaching: What do you find to be the biggest challenge, the toughest thing for you in preaching?
Evans: The toughest thing is maintaining creativity so that everything doesn't sound the same, so you are fresh. Staying fresh. People get used to you—especially in a pastoral situation—so you want to stay fresh and sharp.
Preaching: I hear from preachers a lot that this is a major struggle, especially if they have been in the same church for a number of years. What are some things you try to do to stay fresh?
Evans: Well, I read fairly voraciously. I'm an avid reader, so I'm getting new thoughts and new ideas all the time. I'm also an observer of life. I can turn anything into an illustration! Something I watch on television, something I see in the newspaper all becomes part of my preaching. I virtually do nothing that doesn't at least have the potential of becoming sermonic support.
Preaching: That raises an interesting question of pulling illustrative materials from all kinds of sources. How do you maintain that? How do you keep track of illustrations?
Evans: I don't keep track of illustrations. Illustrations are tied to sermons. Once I do it, then if I want to recapture an illustration, I have to go back to that sermon. It is too much of a headache to try to file.
Preaching: What would you like to say about preaching that I haven't asked you about?
Evans: Preaching is a powerful tool. It starts with your view of the Word. If you believe in an inerrant, authoritative Word, then that means you take preaching very seriously and you look at it as a powerful process of making a difference. And you don't just preach to teach, you preach to transform. So, the issue at the end of the sermon is not only did they understand, but what will happen differently because they came here and I was in front of them with God's Word? When you look at it that way, preaching becomes a very powerful, powerful thing that we cannot take lightly.