Speaking with Matthew Anslow

I love getting the opportunity to hear people preach. I am also curious about how different people prepare sermons. So with that in mind here are some questions I asked Matt.

Can you think of a sermon that had a big impact on you? Why has it stayed with you?

Oh, that’s a good question. To be honest, I don’t remember all that much about many sermons I’ve heard. They all kind of blur into a big mess of memory. That’s not to say they’re not important, it’s just that I’m more likely to remember how I felt and what I was compelled to think about rather than what I heard. But I do remember hearing CB Samuel from New Delhi, India, preaching at a conference in Melbourne, maybe about seven or eight years ago. For me, CB is like a living legend. The thing I most vividly remember was him talking about the lifelong nature of mission. At one point, he said, “Who invented short-term mission? ‘Short-term’ mission? What is that? I hate that!” I still think about that sermon from time to time.

What was your process preparing to teach at Seaforth?

To be honest, I’m answering this question before I’ve actually prepared the sermon! But I’ll probably follow my normal routine: Sit down in front of my laptop; acknowledge that I don’t yet know what to say; pray that God might say something meaningful through what I preach; map out some initial thoughts on the passage or theme; read some book sections and articles; start writing; stop, have a break for a day or two; go back and finish it off. I don’t think I’m the most compelling or entertaining speaker in the world, but I think I’m pretty good at pulling apart our assumptions and reconstructing something more interesting and (hopefully) Christ-centred.

Do you think sermons still have a role in a church’s worship gathering? Why/why not?

Of course, otherwise, I’ve wasted a lot of my time, haha. I think most sermons make very little difference on their own. However, the ongoing, faithful preaching of the word of God, week after week does make a huge difference in the long run. I think of it like a rudder on a large ship—small changes don’t seem like they’re achieving much, but even a tiny redirection can lead you to a completely different place over a period of time. Or I think of it like a stone on a beach. The waves beat the stone day after day after day. After a week, a month, or even a year, you might not notice much difference. But after a long period of time, the stone has been smoothed over by the relentlessness of the ocean. I’m inclined to think of preaching in a similar fashion—the faithful preaching of the gospel slowly redirecting us to a different destination, or reshaping us to look different than we currently do. We look back and realise that, without having noticed it happening, we’ve developed Christlike habits that would have been impossible without constant exposure to the Word of God.