This is part of a series called Faithful Shepherd Friday, which attempts to learn from faithful shepherds of Christ’s church laboring in obscurity.

Today’s faithful shepherd is Jordon Willard. I had the pleasure of getting connected to Jordon when I was a student at SEBTS. I have been continually encouraged by his love for Christ, love for the church, and faithful presence everywhere he has ministered. Please be sure to pray for Jordon and his family!

Where do you serve as pastor and how long have you been there?

I have been pastoring in NC for almost ten years. Previously, I served as Senior Pastor of two SBC churches in Eastern NC. Currently, I am the Senior Pastor of First Baptist Church of Weddington. I arrived at FBCW in February, 2021.

How do you go about sermon preparation?

My sermon preparation process can be seen at two levels: macro and micro. At the macro level, I typically go on a retreat to do sermon planning once a year, usually in late October or early November. I pray over and meditate on what my church needs in their spiritual diet for the coming year. There are times during the year when I have had to change course from my plan, but for the most part I try to stick to my preaching calendar. When planning, I try to map out each sermon text and discover and develop three things: the central idea of the text, the proposition for the sermon, and the purpose of the sermon.[1] Then, I try to develop a homiletical outline that considers the text’s substance, structure, and spirit.[2]

I am not always able to accomplish these things in the initial sermon planning retreat, but this is what I aim for. I mainly preach expositionally through books of the Bible, but sometimes I will preach standalone series which consist of sermons made up of one passage that, together with the other passages in the series, addresses a certain topic.

The micro level occurs when I come to each individual text during the year. When I approach each text, I try to prayerfully and carefully work with the original languages of the text first, then engage with the English translation of the text through reading it silently and aloud as well as writing and typing it out several times. When I am preaching through a book of the Bible, I try to read that book over and over as many times as possible during my devotional time to keep the individual sermon within the larger context of the book.

After engaging with the text and either confirming my work done during the macro level (on the retreat at the previous yearend) or making changes, I consult commentaries. I like to work first mostly with technical commentaries which engage with the original languages and then branch out to more pastoral commentaries. Once I have a grasp on the text’s meaning within its immediate context of the book, the broader context of its placement in the canon, and the comprehensive context of the metanarrative of Scripture, I move forward to prayerfully considering how to apply the text to my congregation. The last pieces of sermon preparation usually consist of crafting a good introduction, summary, and invitation, as well as illustrations for interpretation and application.

My sermon preparation process may look different from week to week depending on my familiarity with the passage. But one thing remains each week: I am committed to biblical exposition which makes the meaning of a particular passage the main point of each sermon for the glory of God and the equipping of the saints for ministry, maturity, and multiplication.

What book has impacted your preaching or pastoral ministry? Why do you think it is important for pastors to read this particular book?

There are so many to name! I wish I could give twenty recommendations. But I’ll give two: one for preaching and the other for pastoral ministry. For preaching, Jonathan Griffiths’ Preaching in the New Testament: An Exegetical and Biblical-Theological Study[3] from the New Studies in Biblical Theology series has been formative for me. I believe all pastors should read this work because of its thorough exegesis of key NT texts that deal with preaching the Word. For pastoral ministry, John Piper’s Brothers, We Are Not Professionals: A Plea to Pastors for Radical Ministry.[4] I read this book a few years before I became a pastor. It both challenged me and resonated with me and the call God had placed on my life to be a pastor. Every pastor should read it to be challenged and shaped by what the Scriptures have to say about our calling to shepherd.

What figure from church history has been a source encouragement for pastoral ministry?

Charles Spurgeon has been a constant source of encouragement for me in pastoral ministry. Not only his faithfulness to preach the Word, but his unique struggles in ministry have been particularly helpful for me. Spurgeon, though considered by many a towering giant among Gospel preachers, struggled frequently with depression in his ministry and was very vocal about it. If a pastor has been shepherding for a couple years, he knows both the highs and lows of ministry. Knowing that someone like Spurgeon also experienced the lows has greatly blessed me.

If you were speaking to someone new to pastoral ministry, what encouragement would you give?

In this particular season of my life and ministry, I would give three words of encouragement: Be humble, be patient, and stay hungry.

First, be humble, because you will soon find out—as I did early on in ministry—that you don’t know everything there is to know about pastoral ministry. No matter your level of education, you have a lot to learn and a great deal of wisdom to gain. Don’t act like this is not true. “For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.” Embrace this reality with meekness. For “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble” (James 4:6).

Second, be patient. Study all the attributes of God in Scripture. But in these early days, give particular attention to studying God’s patience from Genesis to Revelation. Develop a biblical understanding of how patient our Lord is with both the lost and saved and apply this patience to your ministry. In an age of instant gratification, we must re-learn that God’s work in his people is a long, slow, patient work. How swift we are to quote Paul’s towering command to “preach the Word,” but slow to follow it up with the rest of his counsel: “Preach the Word … with complete patience and teaching” (2 Timothy 4:2). In the face of our culture’s lust for instantaneity, commit yourself to leading God’s people God’s way—the way of patience—for the long-haul.

Third, stay hungry. Never settle for yesterday’s victories. In both your personal holiness and public ministry, be zealous for more Christ-likeness, faithfulness to the Word, and fulfilment of the Great Commission. Stay hungry for God and his glory.

How can we pray for you?

As I type these words, the Lord has given me a fresh start at a new church. There is so much excitement and expectancy in any new work. Pray for me and my family as we get acclimated to our church and new surroundings. And pray that the Lord would continue to sustain the flame of my devotion to Him, increase my zeal that he be glorified in our midst, and deepen my desire to faithfully shepherd FBC Weddington to greater ministry, maturity, and multiplication (Ephesians 4:11-16).

[1] Jerry Vines and J. Shaddix, Power in the Pulpit: How to Prepare and Deliver Expository Sermons (Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, 2017).

[2] Daniel L. Akin, D.L. Allen, and N. Matthews, Text-Driven Preaching: God’s Word at the Heart of Every Sermon (Nashville, TN: B&H Academic, 2010).

[3] Jonathan L. Griffiths, Preaching in the New Testament: An Exegetical and Biblical-Theological Study, NSBT (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2017).

[4] John Piper, Brothers, We Are Not Professionals

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