Archives For Preaching

“For the lips of an adulteress drip honey, and smoother than oil is her speech.” (Proverbs 4:3)

Before there was a folk singer by that name, James Taylor was a professor of preaching. This veteran teacher of preachers held forth in classrooms at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary for many years. One day, in a room filled with young preacher boys, Dr. Taylor cautioned us about the temptations we would be facing.

“The day will come when a woman will sit in your office and proposition you. She will make herself available to you sexually. If your marriage is in trouble or if you are not up-to-date in your relationship with your Lord, you could get in big trouble fast.”

I raised my hand. “Dr. Taylor,” I said, “do you really believe that every one of us in this room will face this?” My mind was incapable of imagining a scenario in which a woman–any woman–would sit in a pastor’s office and try to seduce him.

“Yes, I do,” he said. “Even you, McKeever.”

That got a laugh.

I lived to see that day. (Fifteen years after she…

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Sooner or later the preacher runs into a wall.

He’s stuck. He doesn’t have a good answer.

When someone on staff asks, “what are you doing for your next sermon series?” they are met with a blank stare.

This happens to preachers of all stripes. Verse-by-verse expositors run into this wall when it’s time to figure out the ‘next book to preach.’ Topical preachers – who can still be expositors if they choose – hit a dry spell when they can’t read the ‘signs of the times’ and figure out what’s next. Our colleagues who preach from a Lectionary may have it over us, but I’d bet even they find themselves struggling once in a while.

The answer to the question lies in answering two other questions:

  • What is your weakest or least favorite area of theology?
  • What is your least favorite or least understood book of the Bible?

Your answers reveal which part of the “whole counsel of God”  you’ve neglected.Your congregation certainly needs you to teach them these things. After all, you’re the one who’s been neglectful.

So brush up your theology and do some exegesis in the less popular books. It won’t be long…

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Brandon PreachingThere are certain elements that must be included in every single sermon that we ever preach. They are non-negotiable. To put it another way, every sermon you preach has three key components…

The God Component

The “God component” is what sets preaching apart from other kinds of public speaking. We are God’s spokespeople. We preach His word, not ours. And as we consider the role of God in the sermon, we have to ask some pretty pertinent questions:

  • Have I recognized that God is the ultimate authority on the meaning of His word?
  • Have I consulted with the Author of the word in prayer?
  • Have I trusted the results of my preaching to the Spirit who moves among his people?
  • Have I made Jesus the central character of the sermon?

The Communicator Component

The component has to do with me, the preacher. I need to ask certain important questions about my own role in the preaching experience:

  • Have I live and embodied the word in my life? That is to say, have I been the incarnation of the message I hope to convey on Sunday morning?
  • Can I honestly say I’ve spent adequate time in preparation, so that…

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Questions“…knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance….” (James 1:3)

Pity the church with an immature pastor. He can drive good people crazy.

His ego is always out there seeking a caress, his stubborness could put a mule to shame, and his unteachable spirit frustrates even the saintliest. He thinks of himself first of all, what effect something will have on his career secondly, and of the church a distant third.

A few days after Hurricane Katrina went through our part of the world and left New Orleans flooded and hundreds of thousands of people homeless and vast numbers of churches destroyed, I had a phone call from one of our young pastors. His church had come through fine, but his members were scattered and some were not coming back.  He said, “Joe, I worry about the effect this will have on my future prospects. I mean, this will not look good on my resume’.”

Yes, he actually said that.

I replied, “My friend, you don’t have a resume’. You’re still in seminary.” I let that soak in, then added, “If you will do this right and be faithful, you will…

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Leonard Sweet and Frank Viola

JesusJesus: A Theography (Thomas Nelson, 424 pages, hardcover) is the new release by Leonard Sweet and Frank Viola (authors of Jesus Manifesto). This new book uniquely tells the story of Jesus from Genesis to Revelation, connecting all the dots together, showing that the Bible is one beautiful narrative of Christ.  The following is an excerpt from chapter 11, “Jesus: Preacher and Teacher.” Click here to read a sample chapter along with details, resources, and discounts.

The greatest communicator who ever lived – Jesus of Nazareth — had a nontraditional communication style. Jesus did not speak as other speakers or as an exegete.

He did not present Himself as a footnote to other rabbis (such as, “Rabbi Gamaliel says on the authority of Rabbi Hillel”). He did not engage in “Midrash Pesher” on Hebrew Scripture.

What He is, however, is a storyteller, metaphor maker, and sage who is always ready with a proverb, aphorism, riddle, and other one-liners. Whether the Sermon on the Mount was one cohesive unit delivered on one specific occasion or a Matthew miscellany of Jesus’ favorite sayings, the whole “sermon” can be found mostly…

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Good title, right?

Now a confession. I was never afraid to stand in front of a group and speak. Not ever. In fact, quite the opposite.

As a fourth grader in our little West Virginia schoolhouse, teacher Margaret Meadows would periodically invite class members who had read an interesting story to stand and share it. I recall Violet Garten (love that name!) was so good at it. But when she called on me (I’m the guy frantically waving my hand) and I walked to the front of the class, I broke the rules.

I did not relate a story I had read somewhere.

I made one up on the spot.

That is serious something or other, I don’t know what. Was it a love for being the center of attention? Self-confidence on steroids? Not given to introspection, I’ve never tried to answer that, but I am confident that little snapshot reveals a world of insight on the man I became. Positive and negative.

In high school, one of the requirements for presidents of local chapters of the FFA (Future Farmers of America) was that we be able to address an audience of our members…

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Old PewsEverybody worships. Not everyone believes in God, or in gods, or in the God of the Bible, but everyone worships. Everybody ascribes worth to something, which is one of the basic definitions of worship.

My favorite book about worship, outside the Bible, is Warren Wiersbe’s Real Worship: Playground, Battleground, or Holy Ground?. Wiersbe offers this concise definition of worship…

Worship is the believer’s response of all that they are—mind, emotions, will, and body—to what God is and says and does. This response has its mystical side in subjective experience and its practical side in objective obedience to God’s revealed will. Worship is a loving response that’s balanced by the fear of the Lord, and it is a deepening response as the believer comes to know God better.

As my favorite Worship Pastor on the planet likes to say, “worship is both revelation and response.” It’s tuning in to listen to a holy God, and it’s responding to what I hear and see. Genuine worship results in a net increase in my personal awe of God and ultimately changes my life in…

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By Bryan Cribb

Maybe I’m alone in my struggle, but in the preaching task, I’ve always had difficulty with illustrations. I don’t quite know where to look for them. I’m not a natural storyteller. And I always botch the proverbial punch lines.

Yet this same illustration inadequacy has driven me to what I believe is perhaps an even more effective way of communicating and illustrating the message of a biblical text. That method involves describing in a vivid manner the original context of the particular passage. My conviction is that this oft-ignored and untapped approach to preaching can make a text come alive and make its message stick in the minds and hearts of the flock.

Let’s say I find an old love letter — worn with time, riddled with holes, but obviously full of passionate prose of a man for his wife. If I try to explain that letter to you, I could obviously exegete its contents. I could even give you personal examples and modern illustrations of what it means to love someone as deeply as this letter relates.

Would you feel the impact of the letter and its…

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Growth“Like newborn babes, long for the pure milk of the word, that by it you may grow in respect to salvation….” (I Peter 2:2).

The bane of the church today is immaturity.

A Sunday School class is asked to relocate so a growing class can have a larger room and it sets off a firestorm of belly-aching.

A longtime church leader does not get the recognition he feels is his entitlement and his family threatens to leave the church.

The pastor teaches a rich lesson from Romans or Hebrews and the congregation isn’t capable of understanding it. The sermons they prefer include “four reasons to be saved today” and “the sin which God hates above all others.”

The preacher brings a message on the tithe and church members criticize him for emphasizing money. At the monthly business meeting, they gripe because the church’s income is lagging.

The church hears a missionary’s report on a great harvest of souls in Singapore and balks at being asked to receive an offering on its behalf.

The pastor is asked by an influential group in the church to invite a flashy, carnal evangelist whose message is God-wants-you-to-prosper. When he hesitates,…

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There has been a lot of talk in recent years about making the Gospel announcement of Jesus Christ front and center in our preaching and teaching. As our society becomes increasingly post-Christian, it is critical for us to not assume lost people know who God is, what He is like, and what He has done for us. We need to be clear in what we teach, with a laser-like focus on Jesus Christ our Savior.

But how do we make sure that Jesus is center-stage in our church? How do we keep other things from taking His place in our sermons, our Sunday School classes or our small groups? In other words, how do we maintain Christ-centeredness when there are so many other good things vying for our attention and time?

As editor of The Gospel Project, LifeWay’s new curriculum for Sunday School classes and small groups, I’ve wrestled with this question. It’s one thing to have “core values” like “Christ-centered” and “mission-driven” written on the page. It’s another thing entirely to make sure that these values are actually expressed in the lessons. To help our writers, we’ve…

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I’m in the middle of delivering my sermon from my shiny new iPad. I’m focused on making the point and communicating God’s truth from His Word to His people. Then my preaching device sings a loud “ding!” Up pops a notification badge: “Want to get away from it all? Cruises for as low as $399!” It took every ounce of self-control not to break out laughing. The funniest part was watching some of my older parishioners looking around to see which kid in the congregation was playing a game. I never told them the kid was me.

For the past 15 months I’ve been preaching from my first-generation iPad. It truly has been a gift from God, a tool that helps me be even more effective as a communicator. I use my iPad rather than paper notes for 3 reasons. First, it saves me time and money. Connecting the word processor from my laptop to my iPad through iCloud means no more printing and cutting. Second, it provides me the opportunity to make last minute edits right on my iPad.

Third, and this is the most important reason, it gives my parishioners permission…

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SermonsIn the process of wrestling with God over Mission, Vision and Direction, I “fell into” a new sermon outline that has proved to be extremely helpful to me. And I love its simplicity. It goes like this…

  1. Story-Opened
    • Open with a story that has enough weight to carry the entire sermon. It can be the context of Scripture you are preaching, but doesn’t have to be. But the story must be “heavy” enough to thread through the entire sermon.
  2. Head
    • This is what some are thinking  now. The wrong frame of thinking in their heads that is producing the wrong beliefs and wrong actions.
  3. Heart
    • This is that God says we should be thinking and believing. The real Truth that will bring transformation to those who receive it.
  4. Hand
    • This is what we should do with this new revelation of Truth
    • Many times I will break this up
    • A challenge to those Outside
    • A challenge to this Inside the Kingdom
  5. Story-Closed
    • I like to go back and tie a knot in the thread of the story that has been woven through out the sermon. And end it in a way that adds an urgency to the previous challenge.

I’ve been using this for…

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