Archives For Preaching

Preaching PulpitEvery time we preach we have an opportunity to fulfill our God-given calling to impact lives with the truth of God’s Word and the hope of the Gospel. But the effectiveness of our preaching is impacted by a host of variables we cannot control, including distractions in the room. But there is something we can control, and that is how well we prepare.

I’ve written extensively on several aspects of sermon preparation including forming a preaching team, nailing down a weekly prep schedule, and seeking healthy feedback. But I find one of the most often neglected aspects of effective sermon preparation is rehearsing the sermon. By rehearsing I mean preaching the entire message by yourself (or to a handful of people) before you actually preach the sermon to your church.

The reluctance to rehearse is varied. Some preachers might think it’s awkward to preach to themselves. They’re totally right, by the way. It is awkward, but that does not mean you shouldn’t do it. Other preachers might avoid it because they don’t think it’s necessary. Still others may have just never thought of it. I…

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Winners

If you’re a pastor, you’re a motivator. In fact, motivational preaching is one of the most powerful and persuasive tools for change our culture knows.

W. A. Criswell, one of my own preaching heroes, defined preaching as “seeking to move a man’s will God-ward.” He went on to define teaching as “instructing that man in the will and ways of the Lord.”

I agree with the late Dr. Criswell that both are the tasks of the local church pastor, but it was his words about the motivational nature of preaching particularly captured my heart.

The very idea of motivational preaching may have negative undertones with many people because we assume that the Gospel is at odds with a message of personal motivation. Or at least we feel that the doctrine of depravity is incompatible with a doctrine of personal achievement. But when we begin with a proper perspective of self — that we are completely and totally dependent on the redemptive power of God — then the Gospel becomes the most motivational message of all.

We win. We are winning, even when it seems that we’re losing. So we are winners, now and forever because of the grace of God…

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Do you remember what it was like to go to church for the first time?

A lot of pastors have been in church for so long that we can’t remember. Maybe you grew up going to church with your family like I did. If so, you can’t remember because you were too young.

If you came to faith in Jesus later in life, you might have an advantage in this area. You know how awkward it was.

Maybe you didn’t know anyone. Maybe you only knew one friend who invited you there. Maybe you were nervous. Maybe you were afraid it would be a cult. You were probably more than a bit skeptical.

Pastors cannot afford to lose touch with what it is like to be an unbeliever in church if we want to continue to reach people with the Good News of Jesus Christ. So, if your church is trying to reach your community, as it should, then you must assume that there skeptics in the room.

Maybe they were invited by a friend, family member, or co-worker. Maybe they found your church online. Maybe they had a horrible week and wandered in looking for something,…

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Microphone

Have you ever watched a really good TED talk?

Like this one, this one, this one, or this one.

TED talks are some of the best presentations on the planet. The single idea of a great TED talk often becomes viral.

As pastors, I believe we communicate the most important “idea” ever. If we want to reach our culture, we can learn from these popular public speaking videos.

What makes these presentations engaging to our culture?

What can we apply to our preaching without compromising our message?

I have studied the TED talk guidelines for speakers, and here are some of the rules that preachers could learn from.

1. Speak in 18 minutes or less

Why is this important? Because most people in your audience are good at focusing on an idea for a small piece of time.

Sometimes less is more.

There is nobody in church on Sunday who thinks, “Oh boy, I hope the pastor preaches 15 minutes over his allotted time again today!”

Nobody ever said, “Bummer, church let out early today.”

Now, I understand that TED talks are different from sermons; 18 minutes is probably too short if you are unpacking a larger section of Scripture.

However, few preachers…

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preaching lessons from Charles Spurgeon

Charles Spurgeon is arguably one of the greatest preachers in the history of Christianity.

  • He preached over 600 sermons before the age of 20.
  • The collection of his recorded sermons fills 63 volumes and over 20 million words, making it the largest collection of books by a single Christian author.
  • He once spoke to an audience of 23,654 without the use of a microphone or sound system.
  • He frequently preached ten times per week because he accepted so many invitations to speak.1

Spurgeon was so gifted and influential that it’s no wonder he earned the nickname of the “Prince of Preachers.”

It’s safe to say that we could all learn much about preaching from such a prolific preacher.

So here are 12 preaching tips that Charles Spurgeon taught his students:

1. PRAYER IS SERMON PREP

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Preparing Sermons with a Team

Preachers do weird things. One weird thing we do is prepare our sermons alone. Every week you have to get up in front of a group of people and say words. Those words have to be engaging, powerful, motivating, encouraging, accurate, practical, and spiritual all at the same time.

Every. Single. Week.

And you prepare alone. All by yourself. I think this started with Moses. He went up on a mountain and heard from God. He came down and told the people, “This is what God said.” We’ve never really changed the model. Preachers have been preparing sermons alone ever since.

I used to prepare my sermons alone. I would read commentaries, watch sermons, and research articles, but it was mostly just me, by myself.

If you’re like most preachers, you prepare alone. The problem is, you are not Moses. You are not an Old Testament prophet. There is nothing requiring you to use this method. I’m not saying God can’t speak to you in your study. You should hear from God as you prepare. If you’ve been preaching for any length of time, you know how exhilarating it is to spend time in…

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AdventAlways.

’Tis the season of Advent  –  the celebration of the coming, the appearing of Jesus Christ. Advent consists of the four Sundays leading up to Christmas, and Christmas Day. Traditionally, the Christian church has used the first two Sundays of Advent to anticipate the second coming of Christ and the last two Sundays to celebrate his first coming, as a baby in a manger in Bethlehem.

Different church traditions approach Advent in different ways, but I favor the approach of focusing on the four key messages of the Christmas story: hope, peace, joy, and love.

This year, we’re doing an Advent message series based on these themes…

The Christmas season seems to do two things in relationship to hope. It highlights and accentuates the hopefulness we can have when we follow Jesus, who came once and who is coming again. But this time of year also exposes the hopelessness that so many feel because of loneliness and losses.

It’s a tough time of year for a lot of people financially, with winter coming on and the days getting shorter. There’s less sunlight and therefore a little less energy and a little more sadness…

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WinterDecember is crazy. It’s chaos for most American families. We’re rushing from one party to the next, getting the shopping done, and wrapping up the year at work and at home, hopefully before we have all the kids in the house full-time for their two weeks off.

December also tends to highlight our consumeristic tendencies. We go from celebrating thankfulness and contentment on Thanksgiving to the mad dash for cheap stuff on Black Friday. Just take a glance at the condition of the Nike Outlet Store in Seattle after Black Friday shoppers went a bit mad…

If you don’t think consumerism is that much of a problem for us, consider some highlights of this story from Becoming Minimalist‘s website: 21 Surprising Statistics That Reveal How Much Stuff We Actually Own:

There are 300,000 items in the average American home (LA Times).

The average American throws away 65 pounds of clothing per year (Huffington Post).

Americans donate 1.9 percent of their income to charitable causes (NCCS/

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Church In WinterAre you ready for your Christmas sermon?

As you are well aware, Christmas Eve services are one of the highest attendance days of the year for most churches.

It’s the big event, the big night.

Hundreds — maybe even thousands — of people will trust their valuable time to your church. But the week after that, will your guests come back?

This could be the only chance you get to make a good impression.

The stakes are high. So here are five tips that will help you preach a sermon that brings guests back for more.

1. Think appetizer, not buffet.

Think of your Christmas sermon more like a gourmet appetizer at a fine dining restaurant than the average food at an all-you-can-eat buffet. The appetizer may be small, but it’s packed with flavor, and you’re left wanting more.

Preaching too long will leave a negative impression. You will never have enough time to cover everything in a single sermon. The goal should be to give people a delicious taste of Scripture so they want to come back for more.

I won’t dictate how long you have to preach, but try to shave some time off your average…

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christmas-ornament

It’s Christmas time again.

And every year pastors have the task to create yet another great Christmas sermon. But after many years of preaching the same message, you can get repetitive.

The message every year should remain the same, but you need a bit of a creative twist on the way you present it every year to keep the message fresh.

So, if you’re stuck in a rut trying to come up with a different way to tell the Christmas story once again, here are 40 ideas straight out of the Bible to get your started.

40 CHRISTMAS SERMON IDEAS FROM THE BIBLE

GOSPEL NARRATIVES OF JESUS’ BIRTH

1. Matthew 1:1-17 – Preach the genealogy of Jesus in Matthew traced from Abraham through David all the way to Jesus. Matthew is unique because he includes women in his genealogy.

2. Matthew 1:18-25 – Preach the Christmas story through the eyes of Joseph, who planned to divorce Mary quietly until an angel came.

3. Matthew 2:1-12 – Preach the Christmas story through the eyes of the wise men, who seek to worship the newborn king.

4. Matthew 2:1-23 – Preach the Christmas story through the eyes of King Herod,…

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High Pressure PreachingPreaching to people who aren’t accustomed to church isn’t like preaching to a well-churched community. Too many preachers say they want to reach people who are far from God, but they don’t adjust their preaching style to impact the spiritually lost.

One change in your preaching style to consider is how you ask for a commitment. I believe it’s essential that every Gospel preacher ask his listeners to make a commitment. Jesus did it. Paul did it. Faithful preachers throughout the ages have done it.

But an effective invitation to make a commitment to Christ isn’t a high-pressure pitch. I’ve found that pressure is actually counter-productive. It becomes a battle of the wills. It often simply hardens the heart of the listener. That’s the last thing you want!

If the fruit is ripe, you don’t have to yank it. People who listen to God’s Word on a regular basis will commit to him and his ways. It’s just a matter of time until the Holy Spirit draws the person to the Lord. Evangelism is usually a process of repeated exposures to the Good News.

In fact, we tell people at Saddleback to take…

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bible

Preaching, as a pastor, is hard. It’s not hard to get up and say something inspirational. It is hard to get up and rightly divide God’s Word, build a bridge from an ancient culture to our own, and then to call people to an appropriate response to God’s revealed truth consistently week after week.

On a recent Sunday, I kind of bombed. Most of the congregation probably couldn’t tell; partly because they’re so stinkin’ nice, but I knew driving home I had missed the mark. For my own benefit, and for the benefit of pastors who may read this, I wanted to use a blog post to explore where I think I went wrong.

You must understand that every pastor prepares messages a little differently. I plan a year of preaching in advance using a spreadsheet, then write an overview of each series a couple of weeks before it begins. On Sunday night, I start reading and soaking in the primary passage and theme for the following Sunday. On Tuesdays, I study hard and usually by Wednesday, I have an outline. I purposely wait until Saturday to turn it into a publicly presentable outline and slideshow…

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