Archives For Preaching

I remember the first time I preached a sermon, though it’s unlikely anyone else does. In fact, I’m actually relieved that no record remains of its existence. I was asked to preach one time and, like many other first-time preachers, I brought everything I knew into that message. It was long, painful, and scattered — but a kind group of older adults not only invited me to preach, they also patiently sat through my message — though they never asked me back.

Preaching a stand-alone message can be tricky. For me, they generally fall in between sermon series (as I much prefer to preach) or when I am invited somewhere as a guest preacher.

Sometimes, as a guest preacher you are part of a series. For example, at one church, I simply continued the series (though I was a little bitter with the passage I was assigned). This isn’t too difficult– you listen to a few messages before, tie in to those, and help the pastor along the way.

However, it’s harder when you are the guest preacher with a single topic. I think you can go about it…

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If your sermons are meant to transform lives, then the titles you use must relate to life. Writing a great sermon title is an art you must constantly develop. I don’t know anyone who has mastered it. We all have our hits and misses.

But if the purpose of preaching is to transform, not merely inform — or if you’re speaking to unbelievers — then you must be concerned with your sermon titles. Like the cover of a book or the first line of an advertisement, your sermon’s title must capture the attention of those you want to influence. In planning appealing sermon titles, I ask myself four questions:

1. Will this title capture the attention of people? Because we are called to communicate truth, we may assume unbelievers are eager to hear the truth. They aren’t. In fact, surveys show the majority of Americans reject the idea of absolute truth. Today, people value tolerance more than truth.

This “truth-decay” is the root of all that’s wrong in our society. It is why unbelievers will not race to church if we proclaim, “We have the truth!” Their reaction will be,…

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Does the following scenario describe you?

You have done your study. You have spent time in prayer. You have created your outline of the whole series. You know what you want to accomplish each week. You’ve identified the right analogies, found the perfect quotes, and designed a compelling PowerPoint template.

Throughout the series you spend additional time making sure that this Sunday’s message is just the way you want it. You create “next steps” for the back of the program. You send out discussion questions for the small groups. You write about it in your weekly newsletter, email, or blog.

Do you ever find yourself wondering if the people are “getting it?”

Several years ago, my home church was in the midst of a search for a senior pastor. I was helping with some of the preaching and decided to do a 3-week, very high level overview series of II Peter. One main point each week from each of the three chapters. The week before the series began I got up and said this one sentence:

“I want each of you to read II Peter at least four…

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One of the most powerful aspects of small groups is the opportunity to offer prayer requests, to pray together, and then to see how God follows through on those prayers.  It’s amazing to see how God works over three months or six months or a year.  Prayers get answered, situations change, hearts change – your group sees God work in mighty ways.

Just as powerful as the group dynamic of prayer is the impact that a praying leader can have on his or her group.  A praying leader ministers to the group not only by showing how much he or she cares about their needs but also by modeling a life of prayer.

As with most things, becoming a small group centered on prayer doesn’t just happen.  Here are 7 tips on how you can minister to your small group through prayer:

  • Dedicate the last half hour of each bible study to “personal prayer needs” time.
  • Write each member’s prayer requests down on 3×5 cards.  Bring the cards to every study so you can check back on their requests.
  • After the requests are given, pray immediately with your group.

Any pastor — no matter how small his church — can have a research team.

No matter what size your congregation, there are people there who like to read and research. They’ll be thrilled to help you, if you just give them a list of your sermon topics.

I meet with my lay research team every few months, and I explain to them the direction I’m going to take with my sermons, including any sermon series that I’ll preach. I then tell them what to look for: quotes, illustrations, articles, statistics.

There are two rules for the research team:

First, whatever they give me, they won’t get back. In other words, give me a copy, because I don’t want to be responsible for returning an article or a book, etc. If I don’t use it, then I’ll file it for future use.

Second, I tell them to not get their feelings hurt if I don’t use what they’ve given me. I always get more material than I could possibly use, and I don’t want someone saying, “Gee, I did all this research, and he didn’t use it.” Their research may have…

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Never waste a good sermon, especially after you’ve spent so much time preparing it! Thom Rainer recently wrote that more time in sermon preparation usually means a more effectively evangelistic church. If you’re one of those who spends 15 hours or more on a message, it must stink to realize that all you can squeeze out of all that work is 38 minutes of preaching on the weekend. So why not stretch it further?

In the world of blogging and social media, you can do just that, and here are some suggestions for how…

  1. Blog your points, one at a time. A full sermon transcript or manuscript is probably too long for a blog post, but one point with its explanation is just the right size. So if you’re presenting three or four major truths this Sunday, write three or four corresponding blog posts during the following week.
  2. Post memorable quotes from the message. Every good message needs to have single sentences within it that really drive home the truth of Scripture. If those sentences can be written in 140 characters or less, send them out…

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CalendarIt’s Tuesday morning early in July. I sit down at my laptop computer and begin planning for the next worship experience at Church Requel. I’m not working on next weekend, five days away. I’m working on August 5th – almost a month away!

Such working ahead does not come naturally to me. In college I was the guy who could type (yes, we used a typewriter back then) his paper the night before. As the pastor of a small church I used to get my week’s work done “just in time”. From many conversations with lots of my pastor friends, I know many of you are also working frantically at the last minute to finish everything for the coming Sunday.

Now that I’m working a month out, I never intend to go back to those pressure-filled days. Here’s 6 reasons why working well in advance of deadlines works so well for me.

#1 – My work is better. Instead of one crack at the sermon, I now have approximately a dozen opportunities to rewrite, rethink, and polish my work. When I do the artwork for the slides, I’m thinking about the sermon….

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Years ago, I heard Rick Warren say, “The deepest teaching is teaching that makes a difference in people’s day-to-day lives.” That simple statement challenged and encouraged me more than anything else I’ve ever read or learned about communication from the pulpit. From that moment on, I have worked hard to focus on life-application teaching in my weekly sermons. Jesus didn’t teach just to inform; He taught to transform.

I’ve also learned to evaluate my messages by asking these seven simple questions:

1.            Is it prophetic?

In other words, is it what God has said to His people? I take seriously the call I have to speak on His behalf. My words alone are empty. His Word is eternal. So I always ask: Is this what God has said and is saying to His Church?

2.            It is palatable?

I used to give people way more than they could chew on in one sitting. My mistake was thinking that many words make a better sermon. My goal now is to have them walk away with one or two important truths. Typically, the last step in my message writing…

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Sermon NotebookI had the chance to preach at Grace this Sunday.  It was a great experience communicating with my church family. And I learned a few things about myself through the preparation and delivery of this sermon as I reflected on it.  Things that seemed more tangible than other time I’d preached.  See if there are some here you’ve experienced if you’ve ever preached.

10 Personal Observations I learned through preaching

1. Preaching causes me to pray more.

I was on my knees more this past week than I have been in a long time.  I needed a fresh word from God, fresh insights, and a message that was True.

2. Preaching causes me to study more.

I can’t just pull a message out of thin air.  I have to study the Scriptures a lot in order to prepare a message.  It was a rich time for me.

3. Preaching humbles me.

a) Knowing I’m preaching the Scriptures and people are learning them through that preaching…that’s both humbling and intimidating.

b) Knowing I’m being prayed for…that’s humbling, too.  I can’t tell you how many people I heard from directly offering an encouraging word of prayer.  It was powerful.

4. Preaching causes me…

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When I was in Bible college, I was taught the same basic sermon preparation methods that thousands of other preachers have learned. It’s a linear outline that usually begins with a major proposition, continues with several major points, each supported with explanatory illustrations and then a conclusion that summarizes the truths presented. There’s nothing wrong with that approach, but my tendency too often is to rely on what I know.

This past Sunday, my wife sat and listened to the message, so I asked her how it went and she offered plenty of encouragement along with a question about why I had chosen a particular illustration that was a little trite and impersonal rather than a life experience we had endured that illustrated the point much more personally. Ultimately, it was easier for me to stay away from the deep, personal story that would have better connected with the audience and play it safe with something more light-hearted. Hence, I missed a great opportunity.


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All Pro Dad: Seven Essentials to Be a Hero to Your Kids is an excellent playbook for fatherhood. You can read my review plus share and comment for a chance to win a signed copy here. Mark Merrill has filled the book with lots of gems of wisdom. Here are 25 of my favorites.


1. Leading a family is the hardest job a man can ever have. –Dave Ramsey

2. Our job as dads is to stay the course and to persevere when trouble comes our way, even during the darkest and most difficult hours of our children’s lives.

3. People think love is soft and weak, but it is really a sign of strength. –James “JB” Brown

4. Love is not a feeling; it is a decision. Love is an act of the will to be patient, kind, gentle, humble, sincere, compassionate, giving faithful, trusting, forgiving, uniting, and persevering.

5. Hail Mary passes don’t work in fatherhood. Fathering is all about a dad moving the ball forward in his relationship with his child, one yard at a time, day in and day out.


6. Image is how we think others view us… Identity…

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What Is Next?Pastor, no one on the planet bears more responsibility for motivating a group of people than you.

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 definition of preaching that captured my heart. At the end of every message, I want to issue a strong appeal to my congregation to do at least three things:

  • Consider the truth I have presented.
  • Understand the personal application of it.
  • Act on it.

Motivation is not the primary goal of preaching – seeing lives transformed by the gospel is. But motivation is near the top of the list of priorities in preaching. At the end of our expounding of the Scriptures, people need to know what to do with what we just said, and they need to be provoked to take action lest they be hearers of the Word and notdoers.

Therefore, when I preach, I try to do certain things.

Connect the ancient text with the audience’s…

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