This interview was recorded live from the exhibit floor of the 2018 Southern Baptist Convention Annual Meeting in Dallas, Texas. H.B. Charles is the Pastor-Teacher at the Shiloh Metropolitan Baptist Church of Jacksonville and Orange Park, Florida, where he has served since the fall of 2008.
Michael Duduit: Welcome to Preaching Magazine video interview. I am excited right now to be visiting with HB Charles, who is the senior pastor of the great Shiloh Church in Jacksonville, Florida. HB, thanks so much for visiting today.
HB Charles: Michael thanks for having me. It’s a joy to be with you.
Michael Duduit: Well you are known as a powerful expositor in your approach to preaching. Talk to me a little bit about why you believe so much in expository preaching.
HB Charles: I think first of all this is our command in 2 Timothy 4:2, to preach the word. And that is to preach the divine truth rather than human ideas. I believe 2 Timothy 4:1-2, rest on 2 Timothy 3:16-17. That, “all scripture is breathed out by God.” And I believe that a high view of scripture really calls for diligent, faithful, biblical preaching. Whatever you want to call it, text-driven, which may be a big term used a lot, expositional preaching, I think you should preach the word of God. And I believe the Bible has the answers for the needs of people, the hope of the world, the direction and the mission of the church. And I think the confidence we have in that should just lead us to do our best to faithfully and clearly proclaim its truth.
Michael Duduit: Now as you prepare week by week, do you tend to preach through biblical books, do you preach more thematically? How do you approach this?
HB Charles: So my system is Old Testament book, some theme around which I can do some exposition, say, prayer. And then New Testament book theme, Old Testament theme. New Testament I am currently in the very early stages of the gospel of Mark. I’m at the end of chapter one. So from week to week, I am working through the gospel of Mark.
Michael Duduit: How long do you anticipate being in Mark?
HB Charles: About two and a half years. My wife Crystal will tell you I’m gonna be in there for 10 years.
Michael Duduit: Oh they know us too well.
HB Charles: Yeah, yeah, yeah. At the rate I’m going, she said it’ll be 10 years.
Michael Duduit: That’s great. Well, tell me about your process of getting ready to preach, moving from one Sunday to the next as you’re preparing these expository messages. What does that look like for you?
HB Charles: I am blessed to have a research assistant, but by that, the research assistant for me just makes sure I have what I need to do my own research. And I travel a little bit, so I’m usually dealing with copies-
Michael Duduit: That’s an understatement. You just travel a little bit.
HB Charles: Little bit. And someone copies my texts, the resources I’m going to need. Because I’m kind of old-fashioned. My memory, my focus, is aided by reading with a pen in hand, marking margins, drawing circles. So I’m gonna by the weekend have my text and material for the next message. Basically, I am doing the inductive study bible method, observation, interpretation, and application. So I’ve really put a lot of weight on observation. I try to resist the temptation to start answering the question, ‘What does the text mean?’ before I have spent time asking, ‘What does the text say?’ And I start there with observations. And then I’m going from translations, cross reference, word studies, and historical literary background and context material, and commentaries from exegetical to homiletical, and even a few devotional. And at the need of that process, I am crafting a sermon skeleton. Which is really a roadmap for the entire message. Really once I have completed that skeleton, I feel confident that I can go preach it. But from there, I also try to write a complete sermon manuscript that I get in my system before I go to the pulpit.
Michael Duduit: And what do you actually carry into the pulpit with you?
HB Charles: From most weeks I’m just trying to take my bible. But I’m not neurotic about that. If I need the whole manuscript I take it. Most of the time, though if I feel I need something, I just take a card, index card, and only give myself half of the index card to use as much of that as I can. So that I got the notes I need, but I’m not a slave to a script. I want to preach to people, not read to them.
Michael Duduit: Yeah, yeah, that’s good. Now you’re still a relatively young man. But you’ve been preaching quite awhile. How has your preaching changed from when you first began to where you are now?
HB Charles: Yeah I’ve been thinking about that recently. And I would say one big thing, from the very beginning of my ministry, I think, I have been determined to do 2 Timothy 4:2, the beginning of the verse, “preach the word.” As I am getting older and I hope that means I’m getting more mature, I am more burdened about the end of the verse, “with complete patience and teaching.” And I really do feel like that’s the key to effective pastoral preaching. A faithfulness in preaching the word, but a loving pastoral patience with the word of God to work in people as you teach them year in and year out.
I think, to be honest with you, being a part of the Southern Baptist Convention. Where I have been, as they say, on the circuit. And you are preaching in places where you have 40 minutes, 30 minutes, 20 minutes. And you’ve got to respect this timing. But it’s making me think through what is necessary to say. And I feel like my goal is to be faithful and clear, and I am learning, I hope, as I get older that it doesn’t take me an hour to communicate something. I feel like I’m learning how to be a little more clear and concise. I feel like I am still working on slowly growing on application. I am bent toward research. I am bent toward explaining stuff. I feel like these latter years I hope I am growing in my ability to apply more effectively.
Michael Duduit: Yeah they say one of the great skills required of an expositor is the ability to edit.
HB Charles: Yeah, absolutely. When they started doing the DVD’s of movies and the extended cuts and deleted scenes, I’m like, “That’s great.” And then I picked up a few movies I liked and I’m like, “Man I’m glad they didn’t put those things in, it would have messed the story up.”
Michael Duduit: You can usually see why they cut them out.
HB Charles: You see why they cut it out. And they say really great movies are not just what’s filmed, but what’s edited out. And I think great sermons are the same way. It’s not just what you study, it’s what you edit out so that you are not bringing the recipe and pots and pans and utensils to the pulpit. You’re bringing fresh bread.
Michael Duduit: Now you pastor a predominantly African-American church. But you preach in a lot of different settings, multi-ethnic and mostly Anglo, just all kinds of different settings. How do you see the difference, how do you adapt in terms of the settings? Or to what extent do you try to adapt styles as you move from one setting to the next?
HB Charles: So I do feel, as I said, bent toward explanation. And I feel like I’m a glorified Sunday school teacher. So either way, I’m talking in a way that there’s material I want to communicate. There’s a message I want to communicate. So if I’m in a Black setting where they’re going to talk back to me, I’m encouraged to do that. But I can’t get too affected by that, because there’s something I need to say. And then if I’m in a White setting, if they’re not talking back, that’s kinda okay, too. Because I stood because I had something to say. I do believe in White and in Black settings where there is not a knowledge of expositional preaching, which I consider myself a student of. When you are opening the word for people, and they are understanding the word, they may not know what to call it, but they are grateful for it.
I also think that a level of passion in preaching in Black and White settings is becoming more of a priority. That for you to be sound does not equate to you being dry, or monotone. That we should preach like satisfied customers, not like paid advertisers. So there is a freedom in that. And yeah, I do feel like the intentionality of our clarity and application also have become greater priorities for me, because I’m in different settings. Where the exposition, the exegesis is what it is, but you’ve got … I’ve got a friend who says all preaching is ‘venue specific’. And you have to be intentional about how you are speaking in the setting where you preach.
Michael Duduit: So HB, what do you enjoy most about preaching these days?
HB Charles: My wife and staff and church may tease about how slowly I’m going through Mark, but to be talking about Jesus every week, and to be studying, I must confess this is my first time preaching through a gospel. And to just follow the train of thought of Mark, declaring that Jesus is the Son of God has been a renewing for me. I’m enjoying, to be honest with you, preparation these days. I’m here and I’m focused on the things are my assignments here. But my mind and heart, every free moment is preparing for this coming Lord’s Day, God willing. I’m enjoying the preparation for pastoral preaching to my congregation. Praying for revival as I’m preparing the message that God will save souls and change lives and build us up. These things, simple things, but they’re bringing me great joy.
Michael Duduit: That’s great. HB, thanks so much for taking the time to visit today.
HB Charles: Thank you, Michael, glad to be with you.