Interview with Jerry Wragg

This is part one of a two part interview with “Expository Thoughts” contributor Jerry Wragg. Jerry is the pastor-teacher of Grace Immanuel Bible Church in Jupiter, Florida.

1. Have you always been a preacher? What did you do before ministry?

After four years with the Air Force, I worked for a defense contractor as a counter-intelligence representative for secret military weapons programs.

2. What about preaching challenges you the most?

The time-pressures and leadership challenges of ministry make it very difficult to read and absorb all the relevant material on a given passage or topic so as to handle it thoroughly.

3. What books outside of Scripture have most shaped your understanding of preaching?

Toward An Exegetical Theology (Kaiser)
Preaching and Preachers (Lloyd-Jones)
The Preparation and Delivery of Sermons (Broadus)
The Preacher and Preaching (Logan [especially Boice’s chapter])
Lectures To My Students (Spurgeon)

4. What is the biggest obstacle for today’s pastor who wants to devote himself to expository preaching?

Utter confusion in the world of hermeneutics and exegesis! True that today’s pragmatic methodologies publish daily assaults on Bible exposition, but the real beast behind that false prophet is a wholesale war on objectivity and authority in hermeneutical studies. My advice: Read everything you can on today’s hermeneutical challenges, work hard on biblical languages, and build deep convictions about the essentials of the faith.

5. What role did/does formal education play in your growth as a preacher?

Though formal studies at an institution may not be possible for everyone, it should be the pursuit of every Bible expositor. For me, some course work could have been eliminated, but the disciplines needed for long hours of study were forged in the fires of school work and research. Furthermore, certain teachers marked my life as a pastor-preacher, shaping and molding my character around the qualities that build faithfulness, endurance, and integrity. Finally, it would be very difficult to gain the necessary Greek and Hebrew skills without the steady work and scrutiny of the classroom.

6. What sermon series are you doing right now?

I’m preaching through John’s gospel on Sunday mornings. I’ve just finished John 14: 1-6, and will look to vv 7ff in the weeks ahead. Having completed Philippians in the evenings, I am teaching a series called “Reflections on Redemption”, looking at each glorious facet of our salvation. Haven’t decided which book study to do next on Sunday night.

22 responses to this post.

  1. Jerry, what similarities do you find between being a counter-intelligence representative for secret military weapons programs and a pastor/theologian?

  2. Jason –
    Only that both have a fancy title that basically stands for “one who serves another”.
    Other than that…perhaps…uh…things like: knowing the enemy—infiltration ops—espionage countermeasures—protection of vital assets…sounds a tad like pastoral ministry.

  3. My question: how many times have you heard that your singing voice sounds like Steve Green’s?

  4. Jerry,

    I was shouting “amen” when I read your comment that “The time-pressures and leadership challenges of ministry make it very difficult to read and absorb all the relevant material on a given passage or topic so as to handle it thoroughly.”

    This is a weekly frustration for me and I know for most preachers. Whereas in seminary I might have had an entire semester to study a topic, but in the pastorate it is like the semester is over in a few days. Many weeks pass where I wish I had just one more day.

    However, these are minor things compared to the joys of ministry. Thanks for your thoughts.

  5. An excellent idea Paul. I would like more interviews like this one seeing they are very helpful.

  6. Wondering what signs of apostasy you observe most in today’s church?

  7. (1) Inerrancy – I don’t believe the denial of inerrancy is driven so much by the academic community’s higher critics (as was the case years ago), but is the present result of the church trying to escape the absolute authority of scripture. Today, the Bible is viewed as a guidebook of vignettes designed to offer hopeful statements, historical examples, and moral fodder to “chew on”. We shouldn’t be surprised at this, since the above is precisely how today’s innovative, self-styled “preachers” serve up the Bible to their congregations.
    (2) Inclusivism – Whether it’s Open Theism’s humanized god, or New Perspectivism’s generic justification, or the disenfranchised Jesus of the Emerger’s…there is a powerful push to make the glorious gospel of Jesus Christ WIDER than revealed in scripture. The church is ashamed to proclaim the sovereignty of God…loathed to think of needing to be covered by a foreign righteousness…and embarrassed that past followers of Christ grew older and became “traditional”.
    (3) Truth – Modern linguistic theories, assumptions about individual biases, and timidity regarding the perspicuity of scripture have led to an unprecedented abandonment of objectivity and certainty in hermeneutics. No longer to conservative evangelicals even accept that objectivity in doctrinal studies is possible. We are told today that we must first assume that everyone’s personal biases always find their way into every doctrinal assertion (contextualization). Therefore, since certainty is unattainable, we must give up seeing the Bible as propositional, and begin reading it to understand the meta-narratives (the story behind the story) which leads to a grasp of the text’s ultimate “meaning” and “significance”.

    Of course, none of these things requires apostasy, but each one is a torrential gateway, undermining scripture’s authority, the gospel, and the objectivity of divine revelation.

  8. Posted by J. Daniel on October 14, 2006 at 8:41 pm

    Isn’t it true that the preaching of the Word (the true Gospel of Jesus Christ) will only affect (save) those whom God the father Himself draws by the power of the Holy Sprit, and that no amount of will or ambition on the part of the preacher himself enters into that salvation result?

  9. J. Daniel,

    I think your making a false distinction. Is not the preaching of the Word an act of the will on the part of the preacher? Your distinction seems to emphasize one aspect to the neglect of the other. Why not seek to persuade men through the preaching of the gospel (cf. Acts 18:4) and entrust the results to a sovereign God (cf. John 1:12-13).

  10. Posted by J Daniel on October 16, 2006 at 1:51 am

    Great Preachers or Great God?

    We live in a generation where men are making idols out of a both preachers and denominations.

    Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God…God uses the ‘foolish’ preaching of the cross’ to those who are perishing, while redeeming His elect.

    But God alone, not the preacher, brings about the Born again experience. God the Father not only saves by faith all who are drawn by the Sprit to Christ, but in fact provides the very faith by which that sinner is drawn. And he does that by the preaching of the Word. The true preacher, man of God is always a vessel, a humble messenger and slave of Christ.

    Yet there’s an incredible delusion by many in churches accross this country right now who’ve actually linked their belief in Christ to a cosy connection with a well-known evangelist or church, as if that’s part of the salvation process.

    “Many shall say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, did we not do many wonderful works in your name” to which the Lord will reply “I never knew you, depart from me…into everlasting fire”

    Meanwhile, in heaven, the greatest known sinners turned preachers on earth from Enoch to Paul, Spurgeon to M L Jones and all the redeemed of the ages, continue to boast alone in the cross of Christ and His blood sacrifice.

    BIBLE WARNING: “Make your calling and election sure”

  11. I don’t think anyone has said any different. Thanks for your comments.

  12. J Daniel

    Where did this post come from? Please visit for help.

    The greatest preachers were/are the one’s who exalt Christ and lift up the name of God.

  13. I agree with Richard Baxter, “God never saved any man for being a preacher, nor because he was an able preacher, but because he was justified, sanctifed man, and consequently faithful in his Master’s work.” (The Reformed Pastor)

    The same is true for those who attend godly churches led by godly men of God.

    We should honor faithful pastors though (note: 1 Thess 5:12-13).

  14. Posted by Mike Joyner on October 16, 2006 at 11:36 pm

    J Daniel, thank you for your insight, I found your thoughts biblically based and a refreshing insight.

    You might be interested in checking out John McArthur’s book, Hard to Believe, which has some other stunning revelations concerning today’s easy-believism concepts going on in many churches. Some of his thoughts, especially those discussing members who substitute their conversion with religious church activities with the blessings of the preacher, are a disturbing reality.

  15. Caleb, your statement: “The greatest preachers are those who exalt Christ” falls short of the definition given by Jesus on the subject of greatness.
    It’s only common sense that we should exalt Christ, if we’re saved, but that process is not reserved for pastors alone, it applys to everyone who knows Christ as Saviour and Lord. But regarding greatness:
    Christ said the greatest in heaven are those who are the “servants of all” That includes not only pastors/preachers and well-known evangelists but much more so simple common folk no one’s even heard of. Dish washers, Fork-lift operaters, janitors, bus drivers etc.Many thought of as greatest here, will the least in the Kingdom “The first shall be last and the last first, If you want to be great, learn to be the servant of all”

  16. Posted by J Daniel on October 17, 2006 at 12:30 am

    Mike Joyner,

    Thank you for your comments. I actually have a copy of hard To believe, and agree whole heartedly. In fact, some of my own opinions were influeneced by John McArthurs’observations and messages from that very book.

  17. Posted by Joe on October 17, 2006 at 1:34 am

    BJ: Good point made on greatness! it’s conforting to know that the current nobodies, this present world who are born again Christians, are already great in God’s future. Jesus defined it, and used you to remind us. Except we become as as little children, ye shall in no wise enter the Kingdom of heaven.

  18. Maybe I’m missing something, but who are you guys arguing against in this thread? J Daniel’s original comment came out of nowhere and started a strand of thought that was off topic asking “Great preachers or great God?” As I said before no one here has argued otherwise and cryptic comments left behind names with no profiles will not get you very far here (it appears you are hiding behind anonymous comments). Please stay on topic and leave a comment only if you have something that will add to the discussion.

  19. Okay Guys,

    J Daniel, Mike Joyner, BJ and Joe (if that’s your real names) are all using the same IP address. Coincidence? Please refrain from making anymore comments until you contact me at the above address and provide more info on who you are.

  20. Posted by J Daniel on October 17, 2006 at 2:07 pm

    Jerry Wragg’s father invited me here, I operate a sucessful ministry and am also intimately involved with the ministries of both Tony Evans and John McArthur as well as over-seas missions. That my comments have caused strong reactions were surprising, although I realize the Word always divides. However, I listed a fair comment that should have been answered by Jerry Wragg, instead I ended by answering my own question follwed by inquiries. I stand behind my comments with no apology. As for my profile, well the Lord has used me for a long while without making a big todo of my life, and that’s not even important.
    To those whom have pitched in to my denfense, I’ve asked and am asking all involved, please to not post here on my behalf, in fact –
    we should all be redeeming the time not wasting it.

    This is my final post.

  21. My friend, you obviously have an enormous chip on your shoulder. I think you’re misreading the comments when you say they “have caused a strong reaction”. No one here has reacted strongly nor have we disagreed but what appeared to be the case has proven true that you are obviously looking for an argument that you have poorly formed and presented in an old post on a blog.However you retreat to the “red herring” argument “I realize the Word always divides”. I can assure you that none of us are divided over the Word and we all seek to preach it faithfully. Your comments are out of hand and off topic and lack any sense of Christian charity. If you have a bone to pick with my friend Jerry Wragg then this is not the place to do it but you should call him personally (since you know him so well). Please honor my request in comment #19 that you refrain from making any more comments here. If there is anyway I can serve you please contact me at the posted address.

  22. Since Paul asked that we try and keep this post on topic i will not reply to any of the posts above. Suffice to say, Exalting Christ and magnifying God include both lips and life, words and practice. To God be the glory!!

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