Category Archives: preaching

Transformational Preaching

Preaching is, for me, like swimming in the ocean. It is an awesome experience if you don’t die!

Nothing is more exciting and nothing is more intimidating. Preaching both charges me up and wears me down. It invigorates and it frustrates. It brings me the agony of labor and the joy of birth. It keeps me up at night and gets me up in the morning. Preaching is big and I know it.

If you are involved in preaching you know something of the dilemma we face. We are tasked with bringing God’s word to man. We are to speak sacred things to sinful listeners. This great responsibility can be a bit overwhelming. But here is what makes it even bigger. We need to preach for transformation.

Nothing is worse than boring people with the greatest news known to mankind. How terrible to think that I can make the gospel sound like average news rather than good news. How Continue reading

What a Good Sermon Does

There is some bad preaching out there.  There are sermons that are theological swamp lands and others too boring for the strongest caffeinated drinks.  Some sermons chase rabbits like a hound; others skirt the text like a ballerina.  Preacher, please don’t mislead me or confuse me or, heaven forbid, bore me with this great message.

I’ve been preaching most of my life- 25 years off, 28 years on. At the risk of opening myself to clever comments from amateur comedians who hear my sermons, let me tell you what a good sermon ought to do.

1. A good sermon informs. A good sermon tells us the truth. It teach us God’s word.  That should go unsaid, but because it too often goes undone, it needs saying.  Preacher, tell us what God says, not just what you think.  Tell us what we need, not just what we like or want.  Teach us the bible.  Tell us what God wants us to know.  This is an irreplaceable part of good preaching, but it isn’t enough.

2.  A good sermon inspires.  A good sermon tells us the truth in a way that moves our emotion as well as informs our logic.  It touches our spirit as well as our mind.  Preacher, use a story once in a while.  The bible is full of them.  Use some illustrations.  They grab our attention and they help us to see the truth in a different way.  Preach with some passion and stir us to greater things.

3.  A good sermon implements.  A good sermon applies the text to our lives.  It doesn’t leave us in theory, but connects God’s word to our practical world.  Preacher, answer the question “So what?”  Tell us why we need to know God is the creator.  Tell us why it matters that we understand what grace is.  Move us to action.  Move us to change.  We need to see that God’s word is relevant to our lives.

4.  A good sermon invites.  A good sermon invites us to trust Christ as Savior and to follow Him as Lord.  It invites us on this great journey of faith.  It calls us to decision as it confronts us with the truth.  There is an invitation to something greater and deeper and more real.  Preacher, don’t be satisfied for us to know the truth.  Call us with everything you have to follow the Truth with everything we have.

Excuse me now.  I’ve got to work on my sermon for this weekend.  This needs to be a good one.  Hey, even a pig can grub up a diamond every once in a while!

When Baptists Take Over Chick-Fil-A

Some changes that we will make when we Baptists take over Chick-Fil-A.

1.  We will replace “my pleasure” with “you’re in my seat”. 

2.  No more cash registers.  We will use offering plates held tightly by grim faced men looking disappointed if you don’t dig deep.

3.  We will change the recipe for the chicken sandwiches.  If it tastes that good, doesn’t it have to be immoral in some way?

4.  Our personnel committee will recommend cutting the salaries of the cows, citing poor spelling as one reason.

5.  We will ban the use of mustard in the store, citing “the incident” from the most recent youth lock-in.

6.  New motto- “Free sermon with any purchase!”

7.  We will definitely open on Sundays!

Lessons learned from Dr. Roy Fish

   I said at the funeral for Dr. Roy Fish last year that I believed him to be the most beloved seminary professor in the history of the Southern Baptist Convention.  I’ve thought of him often in the last year and wanted to note some lessons he still teaches.

Lesson 1-  Talent gets you admired; goodness gets you loved. Continue reading

Why Me, God?

Maybe you have asked God that question. It is commonly asked of the Lord, I suspect. “Why is this happening to me?” we cry out to God. But why do we ask that question only when facing problems? Why don’t we ask that question when we are blessed? Isn’t it just as legitimate to ask the question “why?” when good things happen to us as when bad things happen? Continue reading

Small Groups or Bust! 3 Reasons Small Groups Matter in Church Life

   I make a big deal out of small groups (we call our Sunday School classes LIFE groups) at FBC O’Fallon, IL.  Why would I even care since I’m not preaching in those classes?  (Insert your own sermon joke punch line.)  Here are 3 important reasons why Christians should be in a small group in their church. 

1.  For Connection.  People are like legos- made for connection.  Small groups allow people to get connected on more personal levels.  You need that connection- even you computer nerds who are socially awkward!  And, more importantly, other people need you.  Small groups allow us to know each other’s names and favorite ice cream flavors.

2.  For Information.  I don’t let people ask questions during the sermon.  I probably wouldn’t know the answer anyway!  But discussions can happen in small groups.  We can sharpen each other and think together.  It is a great way to learn and study and grow.  Attend a small group bible study long enough and you will probably know much more about the bible than you do now.  And that is a good thing.

3.  For inspiration.  Okay, I can’t relate to the pastor.  He’s kind of weird anyway.  But I can sure relate to that guy in the class who is struggling to live out his faith in a hostile work environment.  I can relate to the lady who wants to shine the light of Christ in her life even though she has a suspicious spot on the x-ray.  Those people inspire me- and I hope I can inspire them! 

   I love small groups enough that Vickie and I are going to teach a LIFE group on Saturday nights for the 7 weeks  our church goes through the “Immersed: 40 Days to a Deeper Faith” study beginning this weekend- even though I already preach my sermon 4 times each weekend. 

   Small groups or bust!

 

I Don’t Listen to Sermons

   The reason I don’t listen to sermons is because I’m usually the one preaching.  But during my vacation time this summer I sat in some other churches and listened to someone else preach.  It is a different perspective, sitting in the congregation instead of standing behind the pulpit.  Here are some lessons learned.

   1.  Part of a good sermon depends on the speaker.  On vacation, I heard some fine preachers deliver some fine messages.  When they spoke with passion and grabbed me through stories or humor, I tended to listen better.  Boring messages are, I have to admit, harder to follow.  Please, no “amens” from the FBC O’Fallon, IL crowd! 🙂  And really, boring people with the greatest message ever?  Unacceptable.

   2.  Part of a good sermon depends on the listener.  If I am eager to learn, eager to worship and listening carefully for the Lords’ Word for my life, It makes a difference.  Analyzing the preacher’s ability- or lack thereof- isn’t that helpful.  Allowing my mind to wander limits the impact of the word.  Focus and a tender heart makes a difference regardless of the speaker.  If I am prayed up and eager to listen, I tend to get more from the message.

   3.  Part of a good sermon has nothing to do with the sermon.  If I was drawn into worship through music and prayer I found my heart better prepared to listen to the sermon.  If I got some decent rest the night before, I found the message easier to follow.  If the congregation was friendly and inviting to me before the service even began, I was apt to anticipate the message with greater enthusiasm.  If my relationship with God and my family and others was right, I found I was better at listening to the message that day.

   4.  Part of a good sermon depends on the Holy Spirit.  There were times when I felt the Holy Spirit was applying the message to me in a way the preacher might not have been able to anticipate.  God can use the words of the message to draw us in ways that are only indirectly related to the message itself.  Sometimes the message was more of a “God thing” than the result of the preacher.

   I am so thankful for the opportunity to preach.  But I am so very thankful for those who listen.  I’ll try to do my best when I preach.  I will study and pray and practice.  But I know that it is about more than me and my abilities. 

  I pray- for those of you going to a church service this weekend- that you will be a good listener; that you will have a “God moment”.  I pray your preacher does a good job.  But, I pray that you do your part. 

   Listen well this weekend.