Interview with Matt Waymeyer: Part One

We will return to our series on prayer over the weekend. I wanted to take the time to introduce someone to our readers that they should know. We live in a day of mega-star pastors and when most folks are asked which pastors they admire the most, they can rattle-off familiar names that belong to either this or that persuasion. High on my list of men who inspire me in various ways is my friend Matt Waymeyer. I say this for reasons that you will probably pick-up as you read the following interview. I will post the interview in two parts and then end by providing a few links to some of Matt’s writings. Our readers also might like to know that I have attempted a grand coup d’État and have almost convinced Matt to become a full-time contributor to Expository Thoughts. Enjoy the interview, here’s part one:

PSL: Tell us briefly about you and your family.

MW: My wife Julie and I were both converted while students at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh and met because we were involved in the same campus ministry. We became good friends, which eventually led to our marriage on May 6, 1995. She really is absolutely incredible, far better than I could have ever hoped for. I constantly marvel at what a blessing she is, and I honestly can’t imagine life without her.

After our honeymoon, we packed up and moved out to the San Fernando Valley just north of L.A. so I could attend The Master’s Seminary. I served on staff at Grace Community Church during that time, was ordained by GCC, and graduated from TMS in 2003. Just before graduation I began pastoring a church plant up in Montana and was there nearly two years. Then, in November of 2004, God brought us here to Community Bible Church in Vista, California—which is just north of San Diego—where I serve as pastor-teacher. CBC is an independent Bible-preaching church that was founded 10 years ago this month, and Julie and I often praise God for bringing us to such a great place and such great people. As the pastor of CBC, I totally love what I’m doing, where I’m doing it, and who I’m doing it with.

We have five children: Jessica (9), Caleb (7), Courtney (6), Jacob (3), and Zachary (3 months). Like most parents, I could go on and on about each of my kids, but suffice it to say that they are cuter, cooler, and smarter than yours. Oh, and we home-school our children, but we’re not weird like those one home-schoolers you probably know. The only other thing you need to know is that I was once held out of a third-story window by my ankles. Longest 30 seconds of my life.

PSL: Why are you doing what you’re doing in life?

MW: I’m not one of those pastors who is good at a lot of other stuff. You hear people give their testimonies about how they gave up a lucrative career in such-and-such to become a lowly preacher. I was basically a loser who was going nowhere and God not only graciously pardoned my sins through Christ, but He gave me a clear direction and passion in life. Immediately after my conversion, I had an insatiable desire to study and teach the Word. This God-given desire, along with the thrill it is to see the Lord transform His people through the preaching of His Word, fuels me daily as I seek to shepherd the flock.

PSL: Briefly walk us through the steps you take in going from text to sermon.

MW: The process varies depending on the genre of Scripture, but right now I’m preaching through 1 Peter, so I’ll think in terms of a NT epistle. I start by line diagramming the pericope in Greek and then block diagramming it in the English translation I am preaching from (currently the NASB, although I confess that the ESV is really growing on me). This helps me understand and see the grammatical flow of the passage. As I’m doing this, I do most of my syntactical exegesis, paying special attention to conjunctions, prepositions, and adverbial participles (side note: as I was just writing this, my son Caleb came into the room with a Bible question—he wanted to know the significance of the conjunction “for” at the beginning of Ephesians 2:8!). My Greek is strong enough that I am often able to do much of this without cracking a grammar, but at some point I usually find myself in Daniel Wallace’s Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics seeking clarification on something.

My goal is to keep my homiletics completely separate from my exegesis and to not even think about how I’m going to preach the passage until I have thoroughly interpreted it. But realistically, this almost never happens. Nine times out of ten, as I am doing my exegesis, I am already thinking about how to frame up the passage in some kind of outline. Oftentimes the diagram itself will tell me how many points I am likely to have, because I try to let the structure of the passage inform the structure of my outline (with a NT epistle anyway). I am convinced that the main verbs are the key in this regard.

Once I understand the flow of the passage, I begin to study key words or concepts in the passage itself. I start with Bauer’s lexicon (third edition) and oftentimes don’t go far beyond it (although it’s not uncommon for me to trace down the various uses of a Greek word using Englishman’s Greek Concordance). It’s at this time that I will look into the historical or cultural background of a concept found in the passage. Because I preach verse-by-verse through entire books of the Bible, I am already good-to-go on the literary context and historical background of the book as a whole, but sometimes a new concept is introduced in the passage. Also, I am not a big cross-reference guy, but I do want to see how any themes I’m studying in the passage may be developed elsewhere in the epistle and incorporate it into my study.

When my exegesis is completed, I try to capture the main essence of the pericope in a single statement, which I eventually develop into what I call my proposition. My proposition is a single statement which captures the main idea of the message. In order to zero in on this main idea, I look for the common thread which weaves its way throughout the entire passage. I often rework the proposition several times before I get it just how I want it.

Next come the points of my preaching outline. I begin by isolating units of thoughts and summarizing each unit as clearly and accurately as I can in a single sentence. Only later do I take these statements and shape them into points that are concise and ready to preach. I sometimes use alliteration in the final points of my outline, but more often I simply aim for a parallelism which communicates clearly and accurately. My mantra is to never sacrifice clarity in the name of being clever.

From there I begin to work on the actual body of the sermon, which primarily consists of explaining the meaning of the text I am preaching. I am big on pointing the hearers to the words of the passage and making sure they are clear on the actual meaning of the text. As I work on this, I incorporate into the body of the sermon various points of application and exhortation rather than saving these until the end. I am also on the lookout for illustrations which will serve to clarify key concepts in the passage.

The penultimate step in my sermon preparation is to develop an introduction, hopefully one that captures the listener’s attention but also that leads into the proposition by highlighting the spiritual need that the sermon is intended to meet. Lastly I work on a conclusion, although I confess that sometimes I leave myself with a single statement of transition and then permission to exhort the people in an extemporaneous fashion.

PSL: What is the most challenging aspect of preaching for you?

MW: I think my greatest challenge is to maintain a proper intensity in sermon preparation and delivery without getting burned out. One of my all-time best friends and favorite preachers is Rick Holland, college pastor at Grace Community Church. After sitting under Rick’s preaching for six years, what impressed me most was how he always seemed able to capture and communicate the profundity of the passage he was proclaiming. And I mean every single time. He always said that his favorite passage in the Bible at a given moment was the one he was preaching that Sunday, and his preaching made you believe it. I find it difficult to maintain that kind of intensity week-after-week without getting exhausted.

I once heard a preacher exhort a group of other preachers not to aim for the fences every week, but just to try to hit a single every time up. That was liberating to me when I first heard it, but eventually I found that it led to temptation toward laziness in my sermon prep. When I was pastoring in Montana, my office was in our garage. Sometimes I would come into the house on Saturday night shaking my head and telling my wife that I just wasn’t quite satisfied with my sermon. To which she would respond: “Then get back out there until you are!” That’s what I really needed to hear.

Along those same lines, about five years ago I was talking to Dan Dumas (also a pastor at Grace Community Church) after he had preached an especially good sermon on a Sunday morning. He mentioned to me that he had started to go to bed the night before, but he just wasn’t content that he was ready to go the next morning. I can’t remember if his concerns were exegetical or homiletical, but they led him back to his study where he stayed the entire night to make sure he was prepared. Dumas is the kind of preacher who has the rhetorical ability to get by without that extra preparation, and his refusal to do so left an abiding impression on me.

In the end, all this has led me to consider why my diligence often leads to fatigue and burnout. I’ve concluded that what ultimately wears me down is not diligence per se, but rather things like personal sin, laziness, an idolatrous craving for comfort and ease, a desire to impress people with my preaching, and a failure to depend on the Lord in prayer. Recognizing these as the enemy has been far more liberating than the recommendation to take it easy.

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22 responses to this post.

  1. This is encouraging Matt! Thanks.

    Andrew

  2. Posted by Mike Jarvis on November 8, 2006 at 11:06 pm

    Matt (& Paul), thank you for the interview. As a new pastor, I find this very encouraging and a helpful reminder to stay on task. My question is how do you divide up your time throughout the week between completing your exegesis and actually crafting the sermon?

    Mike

  3. We are homeschoolers as well, and I found it funny that you spoke about this in the same breath as being hung out of the window by your ankles. Are those two connected?

  4. Matt –
    Great thoughts!!! By the way, there are two obvious reasons why Paul is recruiting you: (1) Because of your unquestionable skill, (2) Because he longs for the plural “contributors” to acutally mean something!

  5. Thank you very much. I am looking forward with great anticipation for part two…

  6. Posted by Chris Pixley on November 9, 2006 at 12:29 pm

    I’m enjoying the interview guys. And Matt, don’t be afraid to join the team. By “full-time contributor” Paul obviously means “has his name on the contributors list while only making an annual post.”

  7. Matt,

    Thank you for your thoughtful answers and for your own personal example of faithfulness. I look forward to PT 2.

  8. Posted by Judy Nelson on November 9, 2006 at 3:54 pm

    Matt Waymeyer! My old friend! I stumbled on this interview while looking for something else. What a wonderful surprise to hear of your life with Julie (and five kids!), and of your pastorate.

    Judy Nelson

  9. Posted by Matt Waymeyer on November 9, 2006 at 4:39 pm

    Mike: Not every week is the same for me, but ideally I am far enough ahead that I start my diagramming and syntactical exegesis on Saturday (eight days before I preach the sermon). Then, the following Monday, I try to get as far into my exegesis as I can. After my day off on Tuesday, I begin to work on the homiletical process on Wednesday. I usually try to keep my mornings as free as possible for study, but every week seems to be different.

    Jason: Hysterical connection, but no, this was long before I was even married. In fact, this was a few years before my conversion, which is a significant detail. But I’ll leave the rest to your imagination.

    Jerry and Chris: Actually, when Paul and I were discussing it, I asked him what the other contributors thought of the idea. To which Paul responded, “Who?”

    Judy Nelson!!! Wow. What a cool surprise! I think I’ll track down your email address so we don’t have all these people eavesdropping. Great to hear from you—brings back some of the good old days at WC. I’m guessing you’re probably the CEO there now, but I’m sure I’ll find out soon enough. Blessings.

  10. […] Interview with Matt Waymeyer: Part One « Expository Thoughts […]

  11. Posted by Mike Jarvis on November 9, 2006 at 5:01 pm

    Matt, Thanks for your response! It was very helpful! I’m looking forward to the remainder of the interview.

    Mike

  12. All,

    I will post part two of the interview late tonight and it should be up all day Friday.

  13. Great interview!

    Put me on the Matt Waymeyer fan club list.

  14. Chris –
    Obviously, you define “annual” loosely!

  15. Posted by Chris Pixley on November 10, 2006 at 12:16 am

    Jerry-

    Yeah, I take it to mean something like “twice as often as Jerry” :-)

  16. Are you challenging me to an overall post-count?

  17. Posted by Chris Pixley on November 10, 2006 at 1:29 pm

    Jerry-

    Touche’. I place my hand over my mouth!

  18. Paul
    I like what Matt said about Rick Holland’s preaching, (as I have also found about John MacArthur as well) They hit the mark every Sunday. I have never heard John preaching a bad sermon. How is that possible!

    Charles

  19. […] Last week, I introduced Matt to our readership with a two part interview (here and here). Be sure to check out the interview and while you’re at it, here are a few articles below to get you started. Welcome aboard Matt (everyone give him a warm golf clap). […]

  20. Posted by Chrissie on January 28, 2011 at 2:54 pm

    Hi Matt! It’s your niece Chrissie.

  21. Posted by Matt Waymeyer on January 29, 2011 at 3:33 pm

    Hi Chrissie! How’s it going? Are you coming out to Southern California any time soon? It’s 70 degrees, blue skies and sunny today–just like yesterday, just like tomorrow!

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