Ravi Zacharias and Barry Black are what are called “preachers’ preachers.” They are the kind of preachers other preachers like to listen to. And, of course, laity love to listen to them also.
Refreshingly humble, disarmingly direct, hilariously humorous, and penetratingly Scriptural, they capture attention and then hold it for 25-35 minutes. Most of us could have heard them go on for another 10-15 minutes without nodding a wink.
Several of us had the privilege of spending a couple of hours with Chaplain Barry Black over lunch at the end of the G.I.C. We were treated to delicious things sitting around the big square table in the Ann Hester Willis room and were given a chance to pepper Barry Black with our questions.
“How do you prepare?” “What place does humor have in a good sermon?” “Why do you quote Scripture so much as you preach?” “What great preachers have influenced you?” “What books on preaching do you read?” “Do you think it’s necessary to be able to summarize the main point of your sermon in one sentence?” “Do you always quote poetry?” “What if your wife doesn’t like what you’re about to preach?” “Are personal illustrations helpful? If so, what kind?”
As Chaplain of the Senate Barry Black often has to say a prayer at some official function where not everyone is a believer in Jesus Christ. So, does he always end his prayers “In Jesus name?” He was refreshingly honest here, and helped us see that sometimes he ends his prayer: “In the name of him who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.” Or, “In the name of him who is the Resurrection and the Life.” Believers recognize who he is talking about, while nonbelievers find it refreshingly “pluralistic.” Deception, or wisdom? We tended to think the latter.
On the length of sermons, he also had a surprising answer: “Some 10 minute sermons can bore you, while some 45 minute sermons can have you on the edge of your pew.” Thankfully, he struck a balance as did Ravi Zacharias. Both left us hungering for more.
~ Peter C. Moore, D.D.
Peter Moore will be leading two preaching workshops for the clergy of the Diocese of Albany, NY on March 8th. and 9th.