Ten Questions For Expositors – Roberts

May 2, 2007

I’m delighted today to interview Vaughan Roberts. Vaughan is the Rector of St Ebbes Church in Oxford, a growing evangelical, church planting congregation with an Anglican heritage. As well as a respected bible teacher in the UK, Vaughan has blessed the church with his writings, authoring such books as Turning Points, God’s Big Picture: Tracing the Story Line of the Bible, True Worship, and his latest offering Battles Christians Face.


1. Where do you place the importance of preaching in the grand scheme of church life?
Preaching is central. Christ gathers his church and rules it through his word. The preaching of his word must therefore be the focal point of our congregational gatherings if Christ is to be at the centre. That should in turn equip all God’s people for their ‘works of ministry’ so that the church is built up (Ephesians 4:12). Faithful preaching should act as a catalyst which leads to all church members serving one another and reaching the world.

2. In a paragraph, how did you discover your gifts in preaching?
I never really wanted to do anything but be a pastor-teacher after I was converted in my later teens but, being very shy at the time, I couldn’t imagine that anyone else would think I could do it. Helping at camps for teenagers gave me opportunities to give short bible talks. That led to more invitations and encouragement from people I respected that I did have some embryonic preaching gifts.

3. How long (on average) does it take you to prepare a sermon?
About 12 hours. Early sermons in a new series on a less familiar book can take a few hours longer.

4. Is it important to you that a sermon contain one major theme or idea? If so, how do you crystallise it?
It’s certainly important that the sermon should have an aim. It needs to have a clear sense of direction and of what it intends to communicate. That is not a single point that’s chosen arbitrarily from a number of different points that could be made from the passage; it should rather be driven by the thrust of the text itself. I try to follow Charles Simeon’s goal: ‘my endeavour is to bring out of scripture what is there and not to thrust in what I think might be there. I have a great jealousy on this head: never to speak more or less than I believe to be the mind of the spirit in the passage I’m expounding’.

In the back of my mind I tend to ask questions such as: ‘why is the passage here? What does the writer intend to communicate through it? What is the question it’s answering? How would the writer summarise that answer in just a few words?’ That helps to ensure the message I prepare is shaped by scripture and not imposed upon it.

5. What is the most important aspect of a preacher’s style and what should he avoid?
If preaching is ‘truth mediated through personality’, the preacher should be himself – seeking to use his personality and gifts, not to draw attention to himself, but to be God’s messenger. The preachers God uses vary greatly in style because they are very different as people. It’s a big mistake to try to be someone we’re not.

6. What notes, if any, do you use?
Fairly full notes (except for evangelistic talks when I tend to use much less).

7. What are the greatest perils that a preacher must avoid?
They will vary from person to person and from time to time. At the moment my biggest danger is taking on too much and drifting into a spiritually dull ‘professionalism’ as a preacher. I need to preserve the freshness of my own walk with Christ if my preaching is to remain fresh.

8. How do you fight to balance preparation for preaching with other important responsibilities (eg. pastoral care, leadership responsibilities)
I try to stick to a routine as much as possible – certain mornings for preparation; afternoons and evenings for meetings with individuals/committees etc. I prepare sermons at home and have a separate office for administration and meetings at church which helps.

9. What books on preaching, or exemplars of it, have you found most influential in your own preaching?
John Stott’s ‘I believe in preaching’ was the first book I read on the subject and I still go back to it. John Stott, Dick Lucas, Roy Clements and Jonathan Fletcher were influential models when I first began preaching.

10. What steps do you take to nurture or encourage developing or future preachers?
We have a number of apprentices on our staff team who are considering the possibility of gospel ministry in the future. I also run a ‘Simeons’ preaching course at church. I invite younger men who may have potential as preachers to join me for six sessions a year (over two years). We fix them up with opportunities to preach in a local church and I will talk through their sermon with them before and after.

* Tim Keller
* Philip Ryken
* Voddie Baucham
* Liam Goligher

I’m hoping to have more 10 Questions in the near future, pending busy preachers getting back to me!


Links to this post
Justin Taylor
Buzzard Blog



  1. Colin –

    I really enjoy your blog and particularly these ten questions that you are asking. This may be a stretch or too personal – I am not sure, but I wonder if these men would allow you to have a copy of what they carry into the pulpit when preaching. A copy of a sermon they have used. The description is good, but I am sure it is different than what I envision.

    Thanks again for your ministry on this blog.

  2. Hey thanks for these interviews. I had a chance to hear Vaughan Roberts last year at the Basics Conference held hosted by Alistar Begg (one of your fellow countrymen). His sessions were very helpful and refreshing to hear. Keep these interviews coming!


  3. Stephen, I have no idea if any of those being interviewed would be ameniable to this, but if so, I’d be happy to put copies up.

    Brett, I’d imagine those sessions must be available on line to download?

  4. Colin-

    TFL has them available for download. Just go to their store and do a search for Vaughan Roberts.


    By the way…do you serve at the church Derek Prime and Alistair pastored?


  5. Brett, yes that’s the church. Derek was senior pastor, and Alistair was, at one time, Derek’s assistant. We’re welcoming Alistair for our 200th anniversary next year.

  6. Brett:

    Sorry to be asking this in the comments, but I didn’t see any direct contact info on your site. I’m the webmaster for Westminster Bookstore (www.wtsbooks.com). We will be featuring God’s Big Picture in our email newsletter this week that goes out to over 13,000 subscribers. We were thrilled with the quality of your interview of Rev. Robers and were wondering if you would allow us to reproduce it on our site for our customers to see. We would give you full credit including a clear link back to this blog. Contact me at mtraphagen AT wtsbooks DOT com.

  7. Sure Brett, that’s not a problem.

  8. […] Toolbox * Recently I interviewed Vaughan Roberts. Through http://www.10ofthose.com you can purchase Vaughan’s new book for a stunning £3.50 […]

  9. […] Pastor Baughan Roberts […]

  10. Great stuff from one of the least pretentious pastors I’ve ever met, or perhaps it’s just so impressive given the magnificence of the building in which he preaches, etc.

    In other words, he’s a great guy. I got to meet him while I studied at Oxford and went to St. Ebbe’s, which is a great church in its own right.

    St. Ebbe’s is serious about developing young people interested in the ministry and their apprentice program is really good bull. They even let a spare like me from Texas preach one time as part of a series they did on Christ in the Scriptures (or some such).

    Any way, thanks for sharing some great thoughts with us, particularly from such a great brother in Christ.

  11. […] on 10 Questions * Tim Keller * Philip Ryken * Voddie Baucham * Liam Goligher * Vaughan Roberts * Thabiti Anyabwile * Peter Grainger * Derek Prime * John Brand * Steve Cole * A young Scottish […]

  12. I’m a Dutch Reformed minister in the centre of Cape Town and presenting a Bible School just after our morning services. I’ve used GODS BIG PICTURE as resource for a recent presentation – with great results. I have presented 6 talks on the theme “discover the bigger picture of the Bible” with Vaughans book as basis. Unfortunately few of you will be able to benefit from it because it is all in Afrikaans, my native language. But just a testimony to what extend the Lord is using the ministry of Vaughan Roberts!

  13. […] to enjoy Colin Adams’ series of interviews with well known preachers. This week Colin interviews Vaughan Roberts. Vaughan is also the author of this great little book on biblical theology, a book I’ve had my […]

  14. Hi, do u by any chance know if this book ‘GODS BIG PICTURE’ has a Chinese translated version? I was looking for something like this – big ideas being put across simply n clearly, quite badly while I was working in China.

  15. […] on 10 Questions * Tim Keller * Philip Ryken * Voddie Baucham * Liam Goligher * Vaughan Roberts * Thabiti Anyabwile * Peter Grainger * Derek Prime * John Brand * A young Scottish expositor! Like […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: