Honoring Haddon Robinson
Reflections from pastors on lessons they have learned from Haddon Robinson.
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Editor’s Note: On July 22nd we lost one of the master preachers in America—Haddon Robinson. His influence on preaching and pastors can be felt all over the world. But it really hit home with us here at Preaching Today since we consider him the Grandfather of Preaching Today, as he was a Senior Editor for Preaching Today. I never had the great honor to meet or talk with him, but the stories I hear from other pastors who sat under him, including my own father, move me to become a better proclaimer of the gospel. I hope these stories below show how much he loved preaching and preparing those who were called to the ministry. This post will continue to be updated as others share their stories and lessons learned from Haddon Robinson. If you have a story you would like to share about the impact he has had on your preaching feel free to email it to firstname.lastname@example.org.
You can read Christianity Today’s tribute here.
Ken Shigematsu – Pastor of Tenth Avenue Church in Vancouver, British Columbia
Several years ago, I was in the Boston area visiting my alma mater Gordon-Conwell. I walked into the office of my former professor, Dr. Haddon Robinson, and asked, "Have you had any new insights about preaching recently?" He replied, "I've discovered that our brain works on a ten-day creative cycle. So, if a person wants to prepare their best sermons, they need to begin their preparation at least ten days in advance. This will ensure a person will hit their creative peak somewhere in that cycle." That simple, yet powerful idea revolutionized my approach to sermon preparation.
Up until that time, I had typically prepared my entire sermon on the Thursday before the Sunday that I was to preach. I felt an enormous amount of pressure to come up with something creative on Thursdays, and I dreaded that day. With all the anxiety, I experienced regular "sermon block."
Thanks to Haddon’s insight, instead of preparing my Sunday sermon on the Thursday before, I began to prepare the message two Thursdays before, so that I would have a ten-day runway. Spreading out the work significantly reduced the pressure and my anxiety. The longer runway also gave more time for my creative ideas to emerge and I found that —for the first time—I began to enjoy the sermon preparation process, and it felt more prayerful.
Also, Haddon Robinson made us write out our sermon manuscripts, but did not allow us to take notes into the pulpit. He said when we are reviewing our sermon if we keep forgetting something—it likely doesn’t fit into the vertebrae of the sermon itself so we’re better off dropping it.
Haddon taught me that it takes three to five minutes for a thought to develop in a listener’s mind. So in any given sermon you can only have six or seven movements.