Archives For Preaching

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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BibleMost people, when they preach, want to do well. Right?

Most people want others to experience God, encounter truth, and leave changed. Most people want the hard work they put into their sermons to have some sort of impact on the people listening.

Most people.

But not everyone. Some people aim to preach a lousy sermon. If you’d like to be one of those preachers, here’s your list.

9 keys to preaching a lousy sermon

1. Spend very little time praying.

If your sermon is going to be lousy, this is where you’ve got to start. Don’t seek God in prayer. Don’t spend time begging Him to lead your thoughts and your words. Don’t plead with him to soften hard hearts and open blind eyes.

2. Make your sermon purely about “teaching” propositional truths.

Go at it like your 7th grade history teacher…the one that you thought was boring. The one that you didn’t remember anything from her class. Just teach lofty moral platitudes and propositional truth statements that don’t drive any application home. That’ll get the job done.

3. Make your “study time” primarily about listening to other preachers talk about that passage.

Whatever you do, don’t read…

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10 Ways to Build Momentum with Your Groups

Steve Gladen and Brett Eastman talk about Summer and how to make Summer Time a little more dynamic in your groups.

They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Acts 2:41-43

1. Stay consistent: continue to meet when you regularly meet.
2. Uplift someone or a group in your area.
3. Modify group meetings.
4. Make a plan for spiritual growth.
5. Explore Rotating leadership and homes.
6. Reassess
7. Try a different type of study.
8. Involve everyone in an overnight retreat together.
9. Minister together, do a serve project!
10. Experience a night of worship.

Watch the Video

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By Russell D. Moore

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP) — Mother’s Day is a particularly sensitive time in many congregations, and pastors and church leaders often don’t even know it. This is true even in congregations that don’t focus the entire service around the event as if it were a feast day on the church’s liturgical calendar. Infertile women, and often their husbands, are still often grieving in the shadows.

It is good and right to honor mothers. The Bible calls us to do so. Jesus does so with his own mother. We must recognize, though, that many infertile women find this day almost unbearable. This is not because these women are (necessarily) bitter or covetous or envious. The day is simply a reminder of unfulfilled longings, longings that are good.

Some pastors, commendably, mention in their sermons and prayers on this day those who want to be mothers but who have not had their prayers answered. Some recognize those who are mothers not to children, but to the rest of the congregation as they disciple spiritual daughters in the faith. This is more than a “shout-out” to those who don’t have…

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Geoff Surratt PreachingI find writing sermons incredibly difficult. I wish that I could just read a scripture, give the historical context, make wry observations and then call people to repentance, but sermon writing is a gut-wrenching, arduous process for me. I would compare it to childbirth, but every mom would rightfully slap me down. Nonetheless it is really hard.

Here is how sermon preparation often goes:

Stage One: I am a Prophet

There’s a whole lotta sinnin’ going on and I’m the man to point it out, I’ll open a big ole can of Jeremiah on the church this Sunday. They won’t know what hit them. I do a quick search for every scripture that refers to the sin of the week and I get worked up into a lather of righteous indignation. You can almost smell the fire and brimstone coming off the computer screen as I type out the sermon.

Stage Two: I am a Sinner

After studying scripture for a little while I begin to feel convicted. It seems that there is two-by-four attached to my retina that is blurring my vision for speck extraction. By midweek I realize that I am such…

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