Category Archives: bible

10 Suggestions for Young Preachers

Here are 10 suggestions I have for all young preachers. Some I learned from others (they are the good ones) and some I learned on my own or from the school of hard knocks.

1. Prioritize your devotional life. You ignore this one at your peril. You can get by for a while, I’m afraid, just on some ability and talent. But in the long run, preaching comes out of who you are and your own walk with Jesus. Read the Bible for yourself and not just for preaching. Spend time with Jesus in prayer, worship and his word. God wants you and not just your preaching.

2. Read the Bible through every year. Read for breadth and for depth. Get to know the Bible well. Study the details of a text for your sermon but don’t neglect to get to know the overall message of God’s word. Over time, reading the Bible annually allows you to see major themes, understand the relationship of the Old and New Testaments and know the Bible story in a way that nothing else can provide. It will provide clarity to your understanding, richness to your theological insights and familiarity with truth.

3. Watch some video of yourself preaching. It can be brutal to watch replays of your messages. We see quirky gestures, bobbled words and botched stories. But we must, if we are to improve, be honest about our sermons. Preaching is about communicating the truth. Are we failing to communicate well by distracting hand waves,  repeated usage of crutch words or never making eye contact with our audience? Learn to evaluate yourself rather than depending on spouse, friends or critics.

4. Preach out of love for God and people. Please remind yourself to preach for God’s pleasure rather than man’s. Remember to love those people in the congregation even though they are imperfect people just like the preacher. Beware angry preaching or reactionary preaching or depressed preaching. Be sure love is the motivation to do what you do. Love lost people, saved people, sweet people, sour people, people who love you back and those who don’t. Love God above all else.

5. Start your sermon preparation on Monday. Saturday night is a bad time to start the sermon and Sunday morning is even worse. Where possible, do at least a little sermon thinking on Monday and each day. Turning in my sermon notes by Thursday noon has been so good for me. Planning sermon texts and titles in advance is especially wise. (Though God can interrupt if he wants.)

6. Pray and get others to pray. Preaching matters so we should pray like it does. Ask God for direction in your planning. Ask him for clarity in your preparation. Ask for his power in your delivery. Prayer partners are wonderful. Ask some people to pray for you every day and especially before you preach.

7. Be the best version of you. Don’t be Billy Graham or any other preacher. Be you. Be the best version of you, but be you. God called you to preach your sermon. Learn from other preachers, of course, but be cautious about imitating them. Never plagiarize sermons. God wants this sermon to come out of your heart, mind and soul. God knows your weaknesses and abilities so be the best “you” you can be.

8. Learn to connect. Learn how to connect with people while preaching. Make eye contact rather than always looking down or over their heads. Tell some stories that grab their attention. Jesus told lots of stories. Connect with them before and after the message. Look them in the eye, shake their hand and laugh at their jokes. Listen to each but connect with as many as you can in those few moments before and after the sermon.

9. Preach with faith. God is big so preach like he is. He can do great things through you. That reality is more about God than about you. Believe he can use you. Believe he can use the sermon to changes lives. Trust him with everything and ask your hearers to trust him with everything.

10. Be passionate about preaching. Preaching is a God chosen method. Preaching isn’t your idea, but God’s. So bring some passion and some energy to this important task. Show some enthusiasm in your voice, mannerisms and words. Have more passion for preaching the eternal word of God than for hobbies, activities or politics. Preaching matters deeply so be passionate about doing it and, if God has called you to do it, pour yourself into it.

Preaching is a high and holy calling. Learn, study and improve. Preach with compassion, boldness and humility. But preach God’s word knowing that the One who called you did that for a reason. So preach it, preacher!

 

7 Reasons Our Church Does VBS

I love Vacation Bible School! I love the opportunity and joy and energy that comes with it. We have a large VBS at FBC O’Fallon, IL. (This was our second year in a row to exceed 1,400 children and workers enrolled.) It takes a lot of work and effort and commitment on our part. It is taxing on our building and our volunteers and our staff. But we believe it is worth it. Here are just a few of the benefits of VBS.

1. Children hear the gospel. I love that we can tell boys and girls the message of the gospel. Many come who have never heard a clear presentation of the truth that Jesus is the Son of God who lived a sinless life, died the death we deserve and rose from the grave to conquer sin, death and hell. 34 children professed faith in Jesus Christ in VBS this year. My wife led a little girl to the Lord who was as sincere and serious as any adult we have ever seen.

2. Children learn the bible. What a joy to teach, sing and memorize the bible! Children who know little of the bible can learn so much in a week of VBS. I loved hearing my own grandchildren quoting and singing bible verses. This will benefit them for the rest of their lives. And a shout out to Lifeway for some super work in providing curriculum that emphasizes the teaching of God’s word. Learning more about the bible is an integral part of the VBS experience. I love that Bible is the middle name of VBS. Continue reading

Why I Read Through the Bible Every Year

Few practices have blessed my life and ministry as greatly as my long time practice of reading the entire bible at least once each year. Of course, as a vocational pastor, I have some obvious advantages in doing so. If I am reading the bible at church, people say, “Don’t bother Pastor Doug!” If you are in bivocational ministry (God bless you and may your tribe increase!) or your ministry is not part of your vocation (How thankful I am for your willingness to serve faithfully as a volunteer!), you probably won’t have that advantage.

One other caveat. If you haven’t read through the New Testament (NT) fully, start there. Read it all the way through several times before going to the more daunting assignment of reading the entire Old Testament. I have sometimes used a reading plan to read the NT in one month (You can find 30 day plans online). After several times through the NT you are ready to read the entire 66 books of the bible.

Here are some reasons I read through the entire bible each year. Continue reading

Heroes Remembered: John Mason Peck

Harvard University does not single out many Baptist preachers for honorary degrees.  But in 1852, they did such for a Baptist preacher and missionary named John Mason Peck. Let me tell you a little of the story of this fascinating man in the hopes that his life will inspire you to leave a similar legacy and impact.

John Mason Peck (1789-1858) lived in Connecticut and New York state in his early years. He heard the message of the gospel and was saved while young. Personal study of the bible led him to leave the Congregationalist church over the issue of infant baptism and become a Baptist– despite the arguments of his pastor, Lyman Beecher.

Peck grew deeply in his faith and felt a call to preach. Time spent with Luther Rice led him to a deep interest in missionary work “out west”. So Peck loaded Continue reading

The Value of a Devotional Life

I’ve practiced daily devotions for many years now. I spend some time each day (mornings usually work best for me) reading my bible and praying. I read a certain number of chapters of the bible underlining as I go. I spend time praying by praising and thanking God, confessing sin, asking for my needs and praying for the needs of others.

I will tell you that sometimes I don’t feel much like doing that. But feelings are terribly fickle. I rarely feel like exercising or eating healthy or all kinds of things that need to be done. I like the phrase “spiritual disciplines”. I am to discipline myself in my devotional life.

But I will also tell you that feelings often follow discipline. I am glad I exercise and eat right when I do. And I feel especially glad that I regularly spend time in the word and in prayer. The longer I’ve practiced daily devotionals the more I’ve recognized their benefits.

Here are some reasons to value the practice of a devotional life. Continue reading

Did God Really Say?

A disappointing conversation reminded me that some problems never fully go away.

I recently spoke to an older pastor. Now I love older pastors. They have some experience and wisdom from which I can benefit. And, they can make me feel young– a sensation that doesn’t happen as often as it once did!

But this conversation was not so edifying. It served more as a warning. In the course of our conversation he said that not all of the bible is God’s word. Some of it is, but some of it isn’t. Some of it, he felt, was just some cultural baggage Continue reading

The Curious Case of Demas

“Demas has deserted me.” 2 Timothy 4:10.

I am curious about this biblical character, Demas. His name is only mentioned three times in the New Testament. But there is intrigue and mystery and disappointment surrounding him. What happened? Where did it go wrong?

Demas is mentioned in Philemon 24. Paul mentions him along with other, more prominent names like Mark and Luke. He is one of those Paul calls a “coworker.” It suggests Demas traveled with Paul, shared the gospel with Paul and planted churches with Paul. It leads us to believe that he started well in ministry and made a valuable contribution to the kingdom of God.

Colossians 4:14 says, “Luke, the dearly loved physician, and Demas send you greetings.” It seems just a bit odd Continue reading