Sermon illustrations are often hard to come by. But are we neglecting a treasure chest for our illustrations?
This gospel is so gloriously appropriate. It is the calibration for all of life. It instructs marriages and wipes away the widows tears. It humbles the proud and strengthens the weak. And in every situation it asserts itself as the beautiful sufficient, ultimate priority of all of life. The gospel is gloriously versatile.
Pastors can often become discouraged, wondering if they are making a difference. The Bible reminds us of the true measurement for a preacher and how he can be liberated to joyfully trust and serve God in the ministry.
With the constant exposure to the impact of sin, limited growth, and personal discouragement, the pastor may be tempted to believe his preaching is not doing anything. But, since Christ has risen from the dead, we can be assured that in fact our preaching is not in vain.
When you think of your pastor and his preaching don’t think of it like an uninterested consumer. Instead think in terms of a family, a partnership in the most important organization in the world. You are working together to display the glory of God as you hear and respond to God’s word together.
What preacher wants to put people to sleep? This book helps to ensure that the sermon is biblically faithful and, as far as it depends on the preacher, also interesting.
Charles Spurgeon’s Lectures to My Students is a favorite book of mine. The 19th Century Baptist preacher says things in such a way that he seems to bring home the point in a fresh way each time.
I’ve recently been thinking about not just what we say when we preach but how we say it. In this excerpt from Lectures to My Students Spurgeon hits on two often neglected tools in the preacher’s homiletical tool belt: variation and surprise.
Preachers often fall into the trap of saying the same thing over and over again. We repeat our canned phrases when appropriate. There is nothing wrong with what we are saying but it is just not as helpful as it can be. It would seem that the craft of preaching should demand some degree of thoughtfulness.
There is a great deal of force in that for winning attention. Do not say what everybody expected you would say. Keep your sentences out of ruts. If you have already said, “Salvation is all of grace” do not always add, “and not by human merit.,” but vary it and say, “Salvation is all of grace; self- righteousness has not a corner to hide its head in.”
I fear I cannot recall one of Mr. Taylor’s sentences so as to do it justice, but it was something like this: “Some of you make no advance in the divine life, because you go forward a little way and then you float back again: just like a vessel on a tidal river which …
We want results. And we want them fast. The trouble is we often have to wait. Whether in traffic, at the deli counter, at the pharmacy, at a restaurant, in a conversation, or for a website to load–we have to wait for things.
This is a problem for most of us. We tend to not like to wait. Conditioned by the technological improvements of our microwave society we have a reflex where we feel entitled expediency.
As a pastor I feel this pinch of impatience in a pronounced way. Pastors work all week-long putting their heart, mind and souls into their teachings for the week. Every time we open the Bible to preach God’s Word we feel as though it is the most important thing that we have ever said and will ever say. Preaching and teaching the Bible is an urgent and important matter. Like the Old Testament prophets we have a tremendous burden from the Lord that needs to be preached, heard, received and applied.
But here is the tension: we go to bed on Sunday night and wake up Monday morning and nothing has changed. We meet with the same people during the week and they seem like the same people. We see them again on the next Lord’s Day and they still seem the same. We want to microwave sanctification but we can’t. It takes time, oftentimes a lifetime.
This is why one of the most important decisions that the preacher will make each week will come on Sunday …
In 2013 selfie was the Oxford word of the year. This indicates an ongoing and widespread cultural fascination with taking pictures of ourselves and sharing them with the public. Of course there is nothing inherently wrong with the practice. For centuries we have captured moments and shared them with others. It helps us to celebrate, remember, and even cherish times in our lives.
There are a couple of concerns that tend to arise in our snap-happy age. The first is the frequency. One study found that young women spend nearly an hour per day taking selfies. This would seem to be a bit of an unhealthy preoccupation with self. Another concern would be the creation of a pretend world. Selfies tend to create a reality for the one behind the camera. They are in charge and they control what others see. It creates a look, a feel, that presents us in our best light in a way that we approve of. This is simply not the real world. In the real world we are seen at our worst and often limp along together as we grow older and less photogenic.
My concern here is not primarily with selfie snapping teenagers however. Instead, I am concerned with the selfie culture in the pulpit. The Apostle Paul exhorts believers not to be conformed to the world (Rm. 12:2). If you had a word for the bottom, the irreducible core of what is wrong with the world it would be selfishness. …
It is Sunday morning, nearly 168 hours from the beginning of last week’s sermon. It is about time for you the preacher to take that walk again. You are going to walk alone to the sacred desk to preach. Are you ready? As you reflect on this question you realize that your mouth is dry and don’t have any water. Your opening to the sermon just got eclipsed by the reminder of a heavy pastoral concern. But you have to take this solitary walk. It is time. Are you ready? As you walk you throw up a petitionary flare, “God, help me.”
This question of readiness is really subjective. Some guys will answer it by considering what they have done in sermon prep. They have spent adequate time in prayer, studied the text, made a sensible outline, drew out some practical implications, and are ready to help people to understand God’s Word.
These are all good, even very good things. I aim to do them all each and every week. However, I wonder if sometimes we miss a very important aspect to sermon prep. Preachers should be wrecked and rebuilt by the text before preaching the text.
Be Wrecked by the Text
When you are wrecked by the text you have been stripped of your pride. Like a divine power-washer, the Bible has blasted off the mildew, dirt, and residue of self-reliance. The text has shown you God’s character and made you feel very small. You have been made to see something of …