Saturday, January 28, 2017

Timothy Keller on How to Preach to and Reach a Culture

Great post: view it here:,%202017&maropost_id=729720769&mpweb=256-2609185-729720769

By the way, I highly recommend the book that this post is based on.  ed.

Thursday, February 04, 2016

3 Definitions of Expository Preaching

First, E. K. Bailey defined it as a message that renders the precise meaning of a passage of Scripture. In doing so, the preacher pointedly motivates the hearer to adopt actions and attitudes dictated by the text in the power of the Holy Spirit. Second, John Stott said expository preaching is opening up the inspired text with such faithfulness and sensitivity that God’s voice is heard and his people obey. Robert Smith: The third definition is what I try to try to teach. Expository preaching is the ushering of the hearer by the Word of God into the presence of Christ, the Son of God, through the power of the Spirit of God, for the purpose of transformation. It’s Trinitarian. It’s our job as preachers to move people by the Word of God. The Word is our map and GPS. I have nothing to say to anyone unless I’m saying it by the Word of God. We preach for transformation, not just information or inspiration.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

I know, I haven't posted in a long, long time. Life's been busy, crammed with all kinds of stuff. But this is too good not to post. The thing is, if you preach every week, or on a regular basis, you are being called upon to cooperate with God's Spirit, hear God's voice, and say something in such a way that others want to listen to you.

That's a tough assignment, and many of us face that every week. As Nelson Searcy says, Sunday comes along with amazing regularity. Yes it does.

So, here's something to get you unstuck when you do get stuck and you're feeling the pressure to come up with something. It's from Pixar and it's called Pixar's 22 Rules of Storytelling - Visualized. Enjoy:

Saturday, August 02, 2014

5 Things You Can Do Today to Sharpen Tomorrow's Sermon

Erik Raymond more from this author »

Date Published:
If you want to make tomorrow's sermon shine even more, START HERE.
Every preacher I know wants to get better; we are all clawing forward amid the windstorm of our own inability.
In this, I don’t pretend to be an expert, but I do have the sand in my face. I’m with you trying to get there.
In this post, I want to talk about a few items that you can do in the delivery of the sermon that I have found to help. Let’s call them five friends that you want to invite to every one of your sermons.

1. Word Pictures

Do you want to liven up your sermon? Hang up some pictures. Paint some rooms. Open a window.
Sermons should not smell like an old musty closet; you need some air, some life, and some color in it. This whole world is stamped with God’s creative seal; therefore, find how it illustrates, elucidates or further communicates your point and go and get it.
If you want more help on this, read Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount. You could also read Thomas Watson, a homiletical artist. I also found this bookhelpful.
Fill your sermon with word pictures.

2. Interrogatives

We too often forget that the sermon is a conversation. No, we are not audibly dialoging back and forth, but we are at our best when we are homiletically talking back and forth.
If the sermon is simply the giving of information, then interaction will be limited. It will be like getting a tour through an old museum. Instead, we want to engage our listeners.
One of the best ways to do this is to ask questions. You might ask, “What does a lack of prayer say about your view of yourself?” This crucial step makes the person actually answer in their minds.
You could just say, “A lack of prayer indicates that you believe that you are self-sufficient.” However, that crucial step repeated dozens of times during the sermon helps to keep people tracking and finding the answers in the Bible.
Fill your sermon with questions.

3. The “2nd Person Plural” 

This goes along with the previous point; you have got to engage people. If your sermon is propositional (and it must be), then it must call them to believe something, address something or do something.
Mixing in some 2nd person “You!” is very helpful.
Of course, that could go overboard, so you want to mix it up. I have found Mark Dever to be a very helpful example of this. He has a ton of phrases that he uses, such as: friend, brother, sister, you, we, church, single person, married person, Christian, men, women, children, etc.
Thoughtfulness here will only help you hit the mark.

4. Personal Transparency 

The preacher is most effective when the sermon’s truth has gripped him. He not only needs to know the subject, but he needs to believe it.
As a result, the sermon will seep down into his life and get ahold of him. This brings about conviction, repentance and change. It is healthy and helpful to model this as a pastor.
I should also say that, taken to its extreme, this could lend itself to a public personal show every week. This would become a distraction and problem.
Be gripped by the truth, and then show how it grips you; in so doing, don’t make it about you.

5. Acknowledged Tension 

Since you are preaching propositionally, there is going to be some type of opposition to the truth. “Husbands must love and lead their wives.” There is the truth right out of Ephesians 5.
Now, don’t just tell people why to do it and that they need to do it; actually tell them what type of opposition there is to doing it. Expose the idols that get in the way. Show that a love for self and stuff will always suffocate a love for God and others. Tease it out and put it on display.
I like how Matt Chandler repeatedly does this in his preaching. He says things like “What are the obstacles to obeying this truth?”
Another aspect of acknowledging tension is to tease out the difficulty of the passage. For example, we are called to forgive one another. What about those who will not confess or repent? How do we handle that? How does 70 times 7 play out?
Tease it out. Your people are already thinking it; you should have thought of it, so go ahead and work it out.
Remember, you are a shepherd.


These are things you can do right away, and they will bring immediate impact.
As I look back on sermons that have seemed to have the most traction, they have most often been the ones when I have faithfully unfolded the passage, gotten out of the way and let these five friends loose.
Give it a try; I guarantee it will work. If not, then I’ll give you a full refund.

Erik Raymond
Erik is a pastor at Emmaus Bible Church (, a church plant south of Omaha. Converse with Erik on Twitter at @erikraymond.


Wednesday, July 30, 2014

I found this while looking for a children's sermon on the feeding of the 5,000 from the John 6:

Learning Objectives: After this lesson, children will demonstrate knowledge of the key people and events in this passage … by retelling the story back to the teacher at the end of the session. Key points include:
  1. Situation: Large crowd follows Jesus up the mountain.
  2. Problem: No food for all the people.
  3. Complication: Jesus tells his disciples to feed the crowd.
  4. Complication: A young boy shares his lunch – but it’s not enough
  5. Resolution: Jesus performs a miracle by multiplying a small boys gift.
Think about using this format for a sermon, not only on John 6, but for other problem/solution sermons.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

10,000-hours-preachingIt takes 10,000 hours of deliberate practice to become an expert at something, according Malcolm Gladwell in his book, Outliers. That’s not very good news for preachers. To reach that number, you would have to preach a one-hour sermon every week for over 190 years, if you only counted the time spent preaching your Sunday morning sermon. But there are many more ways than preaching alone that can help you grow in your expertise as a preacher. Before I suggest some of those ways, I want to defend the priority of seeking to become an expert preacher. Someone might rebut, “There’s a lot more to pastoral ministry than preaching, you know.” Yes, I know. Pastors are not just prophets, they’re priests and kings, too. That’s why this blog is devoted to help people become better all-around pastors, not just preachers. But there is no getting around 1 Timothy 4:13-15:

13 Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching. 14 Do not neglect the gift you have, which was given you by prophecy when the council of elders laid their hands on you. 15 Practice these things, immerse yourself in them, so that all may see your progress.

Verse 14 probably doesn’t describe your experience, but if you’re a pastor vv. 13 and 15 do. Paul calls Timothy to immerse himself in the task of preaching. Do you know what the Greek word is for “immerse”? It’seimi, which means, “to be.” Be in them, Timothy. Never let the things of preaching be absent from you, Timothy. The call to preach is a call to a new atmosphere. Now you’re a fish, and the things of preaching are water. When you dive in, everyone who listens to you will notice that you are getting better. That’s a good thing. So what else can you do besides preaching on Sunday morning that is total immersion in the craft of preaching? Here are seven suggestions.

7 Shortcuts to hitting your 10,000 hours

1. Practice your sermon before you preach it. Maybe you already do this, but if not, it is a great way to work out kinks in your sermon that you didn’t know were there.
2. Add some time to your weekly sermon preparation. Thom Rainer has noted that almost half of all preachers study 12 or less hours on their sermon each week. Could you add another half-day to your sermon prep, not merely for the sake of growing as a preacher, but also to push your individual sermons to the next level?
3. Listening to other gifted preachers. I have found this to be extremely helpful, and I’ve shared what I’ve learned from other preachers here at the blog. The Gospel Coalition is a great place to go, having thousands of sermons and lectures from hundreds of pastors and professors.
4. Sermon feedback. Assessing how well you are doing is a necessary aspect of deliberate practice. There are various ways to get feedback on your preaching. You could watch or listen to each of your sermons to evaluate them. If you don’t trust yourself, you can enlist the feedback of others, perhaps from a trusted elder, or by starting a sermon feedback meeting.
5. Leading Bible studies. Although it is not strictly preaching or teaching, this is a way of helping people understand what the Bible says. Plus leading Bible studies is like doing reconnaissance. It helps you get into the heads of people who don’t think about the Bible all day, every day, making you more effective at application.
6. Reading books on preaching. If you haven’t read much on preaching, I’d start with ChapelPiper,SpurgeonMurray, and Helm if I were you. Then go slow through Broadus. If you’ve already read them, consider RobinsonStottAkin et. al.Greidanus, or Perkins. Reading books on rhetoric and communication will help you, too.
7. Blogging. There are numerous benefits to blogging for pastors. In terms of developing as a preacher, it gives you extra opportunities to address a problem Christians face and then solve it with a gospel-based solution (basically what you do in each sermon). It also helps you grow in as a communicator, and develop your “voice.” Just ask yourself a few questions before you make this plunge.

Now let’s do some math to see how these activities might add up to 10,000 hours. If you…

1. Preach a 30 minute Sunday morning sermon 40 times per year, and practice it for 45 minutes before you preach it (50 hours per year total)…
2. Spend 16 hours preparing each of those 40 sermons (640 hours per year total)…
3. Listen to one sermon from another preacher every week (39 hours per year total)…
4. Watch/listen to each of your 40 sermons, as well as participate in a feedback meeting 40 times a year (60 hours per year total)…
5. Lead a one-hour small group Bible study two times per month (24 hours per year total)…
6. Read books on preaching for 20 minutes, five days a week (83 hours per year total)…
7. Spend 2 hours a week writing a blog (104 hours per year total)…

…you will spend exactly 1,000 hours per year immersed in the task of preaching, thus hitting your 10,000 hours in just ten years – a much better alternative to 190. And I want you to know that I didn’t work backwards from 10,000 to figure out how to get you there in 10 years. I went the opposite direction, and the numbers coincidentally sovereignly came out that round. I tried to think what could be a reasonable target for each of the categories I laid out, probably even aiming low on how long and how frequently you preach. I hope the result of this exercise is that you feel like becoming at least an above average preacher is within your grasp, if you work at it. But allow me to encourage you that I believe that even becoming an expert preacher is within your grasp. Why do I believe this? Because between colleagues I’ve gotten to know in my own ministry experience and opportunities to coach pastors on their sermons, I’ve seen too many really good, but not famous preachers – guys who are on their way to becoming experts. Don’t think being well known is the sign reaching expertise in this field. The clue that you are exceptionally honing your gifts is simply that the people in your church can see your progress, not necessarily that TGC is asking to put your sermons on their resource page.

Some takeaways

1. Practice doing the actual preaching is the best practice. If you do everything except teaching and preaching, you’ll learn a lot about preaching, but you won’t really learn how to do it. But if you’re at a point on your ministry trajectory where you don’t have many (or any) opportunities to teach or preach, learning about preaching is better than nothing.
2. Associate pastors who don’t get many (or any) Sunday morning opportunities don’t have an excuse for waiting to grow as a preacher. There are plenty of other ways to hone your skills as you await your call to perhaps be the regular preacher at a church.
3. There is a difference between acting like an expert preacher, and having a humble attitude as you grow in your expertise as a preacher. Keep that distinction at the forefront of your mind as you pursue growth in this area. (Not that I struggle with that.)
4. Also, being qualified as a preacher and being an expert preacher are two different things. According to 1 Timothy 3, you only need to be “able” to teach to be qualified for it. But if you love money, you’re disqualified, no matter how good you are at it.
5. No one ever “arrives” as a preacher. Because culture constantly changes, you need to keep evolving in your communication skills, in order to reach the people of the day. Because each generation faces its own winds of false doctrine, you have to stay on your toes as a theologian. Because you are on this side of heaven, you have not attained perfect holiness, so you need to keep growing in your qualifications to preach in the first place.

(Image credit)

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

I want to ban the story that is vague. That vagueness is often seen in lack of detail: "There's a story of a man who made lots and lots of money. He found a family in need and helped them. By his giving, he showed the love of God."

We would serve our listeners much better if we did some writing and said, "Jon earned $650,000 last year, counting his bonuses and stock options. He was excited, because he and Betty needed only $80,000 a year to cover all expenses. He began to think about families he could help and bless. By their generous planned giving, Jon and Betty showed the love of God."

I want to ban the mono-genre illustration. I have a pastor colleague whose every illustration is from the world of sports. Another friend draws every illustration from politics and current events. To demonstrate a balanced and well-rounded life, I want to draw from the fields of literature, the arts, sports, military history, entertainment, and business.

Read it all.