Feature Preacher: Alvin Lau
Today’s feature preacher is Alvin Lau. I met Alvin about 15 years ago. Over the years I have had the pleasure of working with Alvin a few times, and he is a faithful servant, a strong leader, and diligent in his ministry. Alvin’s ministry experience makes him a wealth of knowledge and an ideal preacher to feature this week. Also, he has a unique method for writing his sermon notes that makes preaching without notes easier.
Here’s the interview:
Q: How do you write your sermon?
Because I typically speak in different congregations, I lean towards what the pastor’s (or leader’s) insights into the context of the congregation. Sometimes they already have a pre-determined passage/topic. Other times, it’s completely my choice. I usually ask what sermons are scheduled around that time to see if there’s something I could do to complement what’s already been arranged.
If the text is already designated, I’ll spend some time reading through it several times to pinpoint what the main idea of the text is.
If it’s more of a topical sermon, I’ll see if there’s a key passage whose main idea addresses that topic.
I’ll aim to solidify that main idea. My writing is primarily in point form. I’ll have a separate document with all my research notes and then transfer what’s more applicable to the direction of the sermon. Once the biblical text itself seems complete, then I’ll supplement with illustrations to help accentuate the main idea.
I’ll then take my outline and begin to condense it into 140 characters i.e. 1 “tweet” note. In my first preaching class with Dr. Kent Edwards, he challenged us not to use notes because, if we can’t memorize what took us 10+ hours to study, how can we expect our congregation/audience to remember after 30 min of hearing us speak.
My “tweet” note helps me to focus on the main items and allows me to do quick reviews (e.g. if I have a minute standing in line while grocery shopping). While it may look confusing to others, it makes sense to me. (At times, I’ve told people to look for the note before my sermon so they can attempt to “decode” it while I’m speaking.)
I confess that, while I do believe it’s worthwhile manuscripting to have on record (not necessarily to bring to the pulpit), I don’t do that as often as I should.
Q: How do you prepare your sermon?
I approach sermon writing similar to marinating a steak: it has to have time to sit there and settle. I usually have 2 primary writing times, one to create that initial outline and the second to flesh it out. There’s usually at least 10+ days in between (the latter typically 2-3 days before the sermon date). Because I don’t preach on a weekly basis, I have the opportunity to allow the sermon to ruminate in my mind for those dates, periodically bringing it to mind and dwelling on the text. I aim to be very clear with that main idea and to soak that in prayer as well. I sense that his (God’s) message is meant for this specific group, at this specific time for a specific purpose, and I want to be as attentive to that as I can.
Q: Where do you find inspiration for your sermons?
I usually try to see what the context of the church is and whether there’s something specific that needs to be addressed (either based on the church’s feedback and my own observations). I typically try to allow the text to inspire me. I find, as I’m researching that passage and the text begins to come alive, it excites me to share that message in the expectation that the congregation will either be inspired by God or challenged/rocked by God.
Q: What is your favourite book about preaching?
Q: Where can readers listen to your sermons?
I don’t have one location where I store audio sermons. Some of them can be found at mimicobaptist.ca. Sometimes other churches post ones I’ve done as part of their series.
More about Alvin
Since his baptism at the age of 16, Alvin has been involved in a variety of ministry settings (e.g. student leadership, university campus ministry and local youth ministry). With his Bachelor of Arts in Psychology (University of Western Ontario) and Masters of Divinity in Youth and Family Ministries (Tyndale College and Seminary), he joined CBOQ Youth in 2000 and ordained in 2004. Alvin was formerly accredited as Masteries Practitioner with the International Association of Coaching. Alvin attends Mimico Baptist Church with his wife, Natalie, and their two children.
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