Preaching Sun, 30 Aug 2015 11:56:36 -0400 Joomla! - Open Source Content Management en-gb Joe McKeever: How to Avoid Sermon Killers

My friend Dave, who pastors a church in my neighborhood, reminded me of a story that used to show up in sermons from time to time.

After the war, a soldier who was severely wounded was returning home. As soon as he entered the states, he phoned his parents to say he was bringing with him a buddy who had lost (fill in the blank–an eye, a leg, both legs, etc.) and was confined to a wheelchair. He wanted the guy to live with the family and promised that he would take care of him.

The mother said, "Now, honey, we appreciate your compassion and your dedication to your friend. But this would be too heavy a burden on your family. This is not a good idea."

A few days later, the family got word that their son, the one just home from the war, had ended his own life in a hotel in a distant city. When the remains were shipped home, the family discovered he had one eye, one leg (or no legs), etc. He had been telling his parents about himself.

Dave and I agreed that such a story, whether true or untrue—it's impossible to know—is a showstopper; a sermon killer.

Let the preacher tell such a story and no one will hear a word he says afterwards. The congregation will be sitting there reflecting on that story, grieving and imagining and reflecting.

The wise preacher will never tell a story that clobbers his sermon and destroys the point he was trying to make.

I reminded Dave of another one which thankfully I never used, not even once, but which fits this sad category. A father took his young son and another boy on a fishing trip. A storm comes up, the boat swamps, and they are all dumped into the lake. Since the boys cannot swim and the father cannot save both, he has to make a quick decision. According to the story, his son is saved and the friend is unsaved. So, Dad abandons his son to drown knowing he will go to Heaven, and rescues the other kid.

That tragic story is supposed to make the point that we must do all we can to reach the lost, and that the saved person goes to Heaven. However ...

The message actually received by the congregation is more along the lines of "the preacher just told a weird story of a father who abandoned his son to drown in order to save a kid he barely knows."

Such an emotionally packed story destroys a sermon. No one ever hears another word the preacher has to say.

Now, it's possible to take one sermon and build the entire sermon around it, the way our Lord did with the Prodigal Son story in Luke 15. But, man, that takes skill most of us do not have. I sure don't.

Better to prayerfully build your sermon first, then, looking at the various points you are making, find appropriate illustrations. Not too many or their effect will be lost. And, don't use anything distracting or "attracting," because the illustration is not the point. The point is the point, if you will.

A fail-safe method for determining whether a story is a sermon-killer is this: try it on your wife.

You will know in a heartbeat. She will tell you one way or the other. You may not like her reaction, but you'll not be in the dark.

If she reacts negatively at all, friend, you have your answer. Do not use the story. Her instincts tend to be more sensitive than yours in these matters. (I recognize that's a broad generality, and like most generalities, it has its exceptions. But not many, I submit.)

The sermon is the thing, not the story. Never let the story hijack the sermon.

Preach the Word.

After five years as director of missions for the 100 Southern Baptist churches of metro New Orleans, Joe McKeever retired on June 1, 2009. These days, he has an office at the First Baptist Church of Kenner, where he's working on three books, and he's trying to accept every speaking/preaching invitation that comes his way.

]]> (Joe McKeever ) Preaching Wed, 26 Aug 2015 18:00:00 -0400
Greg Stier: A Case For Public Baptisms

"Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day" (Acts 2:41).

Last April as I stood on the southern steps to the Temple in Jerusalem I wondered to myself if the ritualistic baths that had been chiseled into the stone were the same ones used on the Day of Pentecost to baptize 3,000 new believers.

If so, the site of their baptism was a hustling, bustling place. After all Jews and God-fearing Gentiles came from all over to celebrate this ancient Jewish festival. These steps were most-likely full of spectators coming back and forth from offering sacrifices at the Temple as they witnessed thousands of new believers declaring, "Jesus is Lord!" (the original baptism declaration) before or after they got plunged into the water.

Sure, it could have been a river or stream where they were baptized but whatever or wherever it was baptism in the book of Acts tended to be a very public event. Think about the power of that for a moment. You just put your faith in Jesus and make that "public declaration of your inward transformation" in front of believers and unbelievers alike. You were identifying with this new tribe of people nicknamed by Jesus as "my church" in Matthew 16:18.

I've recently witnessed the power of this with my 10-year-old daughter. We decided to baptize her on our recent cruise to Alaska. While we didn't want to immerse her into the frigid waters of Glacier Bay (hypothermia!), we decided we could do the baptism in the swimming pool on the deck of the cruise ship (heated!). Other than maybe getting baptized in the Jordan river, it's hard to beat the setting. But baptism on a cruise ship in front of kids, teenagers, family, which led to an interesting questions like:

"Shouldn't baptisms be done in a church?"

"Aren't baptisms to be done by the pastor?"

"Isn't a baptism for the believers to witness, not as much for non-Christians?"

All of these questions and then some rattled around in our minds before the baptism. We wrestled with it as a family and were finally convinced it was something we should do.

After all, there were no church buildings in the book of Acts. With the exception of the Ethiopian Eunuch, all baptisms that are described seem to have some sort of public in-front-of-God-and-everyone element to them.

The Great Commission, (which includes baptizing new disciples) is directed to all believers. My deduction from this is if all Christians can do the greater (lead someone to Jesus), then they can do the lesser (baptize that new believer.)

As for the audience, of course believers in Jesus can and should be witnesses! But why not as many unbelievers as possible witnessing this sacred event as well?

Standing on my tippy toes in the 5 ½-foot deep water of the swimming pool with my little Kailey perched on my knee I began the baptism "service." Of course my wife, brother and sister-in-law, nephew and father- and mother-in-law were there with us. But so were five or so teenagers that my son brought from the friends he had made on the boat. There was also Maddy (26-year-old Nanny) and Sierra (her 15-year-old cousin) that my daughter had befriended while in the hot tub a few nights earlier. There were also about 20-30 others (some kids, some parents, some people drinking it up at the bar just feet away, etc) who were witnesses to this spontaneous baptism.

I took less than five minutes to explain that although baptism doesn't save anyone it symbolizes something significant. At this point I gave the gospel and invited anyone else who was listening to put their faith in Jesus and consider getting baptized right then. By the time we got to dunking time it was a powerful moment. I plunged my daughter into the pool and baptized her in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

People cheered (believers and unbelievers) and gospel conversations ensued for the rest of the trip.

What if? What if we saw baptism, not as a hide-away-in-a-church-building private ceremony but as a truly public proclamation? Whether it be in a pool, ocean, lake, river or in a church building that was specially stocked for this occasion with unbelieving friends, co-workers, classmates, teammates, family, etc., believers and unbelievers alike could witness this powerful ordinance. I get the sense that this is exactly what happened with the early believers when they got baptized publicly. Who knows how many spectators put their faith in Jesus as a result of witnessing one of these baptisms and the conversations that followed?

However your church does it, consider making baptism a public spectacle that can lead to more gospel conversations among those who are watching. It will get the good news out to more people and help seal and steel the decision that a new believer has made for Jesus. Because now the wet cat is out of the bag because that soggy new believer has now been publicly branded as a Jesus follower.

Minutes after the baptism, while warming up in the hot tub, two half-sloshed partiers asked me, "What was that all about?" There, in the heat of the hot tub, I got to use Kailey's baptism as a watery pulpit to have another significant gospel conversation.

That, my friend, is the kind of conversation that baptism should trigger.

Greg Stier is the president and founder of Dare 2 Share Ministries, which is mobilizing teenagers across America to share their faith. Visit him at

For the original article, visit

]]> (Greg Stier ) Preaching Mon, 24 Aug 2015 18:00:00 -0400
Why Some Christian Movements Avoid the Law of God

Historically there have been many expressions of Christianity that have held less then a scriptural view of the Law of God. In this article, the Law of God refers to the Ten Commandments given to Moses (Ex. 20) and the civic laws that apply these commandments as case law in society. (For a brief example: Exodus 20 reveals the Ten Commandments and Exodus 21-23 apply these commandments as civic laws.)

Since there are 613 civic laws, hermeneutically we need to discern which ones were only for the nation of Israel during Moses' time period. We also need to know how the application and penalty for breaking these commandments have been modified in the New Covenant. (We furthermore need to understand the fact that the ceremonial law has been done away with after the death and resurrection of Christ. Read Hebrews 10.)

I contend that the Ten Commandments are still in effect in this present time because said commandments are rooted in the created order since they reflect the holiness and character of God. Hence, they are trans-historical, multi-generational and trans-cultural.

This is why each of the Ten Commandments had been restated in the Gospels and the Epistles numerous times as a standard both for personal holiness and for civil law.

In this day, many evangelical teachers and groups have disregarded and or misinterpreted the purpose of the Law of God. Groups that avoid or undermine the law do so at their own peril!

For example, the evangelical church that avoids the 613 civic laws has no specific biblical text that deals with the matter of abortion. Exodus 21:22-25 clearly illustrates that God considers an unborn child a living person and grants them the full rights and protections granted other persons. Of course there are other texts that can demonstrate the pro-life position—however they are not as direct as this case law passage in Exodus.

There are many other laws necessary to understand, especially if the church is serious regarding the application of the gospel in the various spheres of culture. Many Christian leaders flee from integrating the Law of God in their theological construct because its implications would obligate them to participate in the life of their community and nation.

I also believe that many believers are just plain lazy, and would rather focus their Bible reading to further their own personal well-being and not be bothered with the biblical implications for society. I don't know of one evangelical Christian who doesn't believe the Bible gives the church and family specific rights and ethics under God's kingdom jurisdiction. But most of these same believers have no biblical understanding regarding what the Word of God says regarding ethics in the political and economic realms!

Furthermore, it would be very difficult for anyone to prove from Scripture that believers should consign themselves to be continually ruled by secular humanists, atheists, communists and other antibiblical factions. If that were the case, then it behooves the church to integrate the law of God in its respective theological systems so it can apply it practically for human flourishing.

The following is a broad overview of Christian movements that have avoided the law of God in their theology:

1. The Roman Catholic Church. Historically, the R.C.C. has embraced a view of natural law in regards to ethics that is a synthesis of both Athens and Jerusalem (Greek and Roman philosophy and the Bible) Thomas Aquinas, their greatest teacher—devoted his life to combining theology with Aristotelian thought, leaving a lot of gaps regarding biblical law and ethics. If a person goes to a typical R.C. seminary to prepare for the priesthood, they will get a spoonful of theology along with a full-course meal replete with philosophy, sociology, anthropology and the like that serves as their main reference points for societal ethics (I have also studied many of these secular disciplines as part of my academic training but find them wanting compared to biblical ethics as found in the law of God).

2. The Evangelical Pietists. By Pietism, I am referring to the movement that de-emphasized doctrine and theology in favor of a personal relationship with Christ. This experience was quantified as a subjective inner consciousness with the presence of God. Augustus Franke and Jacob Spener made pietism as a movement popular in the 17th century among the Lutherans. It soon influenced many denominations and movements including the Moravians, Anabaptists and Methodists. Although pietism was originally a much-needed movement to bring balance to the dead, creedal, state-recognized Protestant church, extreme Pietism eventually produced individualistic Christians who used their faith to escape from the world instead of the biblical mandate to use the power of Christ to transform and engage the world (John 17:15, Acts 1:8,9; Gen. 1:28, Matt. 5:13-16, 28:19,20). Those in this camp usually view the moral law of God in a spiritual way as a personal standard of holiness rather then also viewing it as a standard for civil society.

3. The Word of Faith Movement. I will forever be indebted to the teachings of men like Kenneth Hagin, who had a real understanding of divine healing and faith. However, I have heard brother Hagin say that he did not spend much time reading the Old Testament but focused on the New Testament because the New Testament was founded upon better promises. It is not really what the Word of Faith movement taught that is a problem—it is what it did not teach that left it lacking in regards to preparing the church to transform cities. By embracing the cultural mandate of Genesis 1:26-28, those like myself who once embraced the WOF movement have learned to expand the use of our faith to include prosperity for human flourishing in communities and beyond—not just for individuals. Those with a theology that neglects the first testament will never understand the law of God.

4. The Hyper-Grace Movement. The hyper-grace movement popularized by prominent teachers like Joseph Prince has done a lot of good for those under the onerous burden of works and condemnation. However, their teachings tend to dismiss the law of God as not applicable for the church. There are several problems with this: One, the Holy Spirit may write the law of God on a believer's heart—but we need the written moral law to bring a consciousness of it to us to convict us of sin (Rom. 3:31, 7:7).

One lady wrote to me recently and said that we do not need the written law of God—all we need is love. The weakness of this argument is obvious—how do you define love without the moral law of God? Without the biblical framework, a person's definition of love can include pedophilia, bestiality or polygamy! Secondly, because teachers in this camp focus more on individual prosperity and blessing, they neglect the primary calling of the believers—which is to fulfill the Cultural Mandate (Gen. 1:26-28). The law of God is absolutely needed according to Saint Paul (1 Tim. 1: 8-11) especially to restrain the sin of the ungodly in a civil society.

5. The Dispensational Fundamentalist Movement. The Fundamentalists came to prominence during their battle against the modernists in the beginning of the 20th century. These generally had a hyper-pre-millennial, dispensational view regarding the Scripture. The dispensationalists of that ilk generally regarded the kingdom age as coming only when Jesus bodily returned and reigned for 1,000 years on the earth (in Jerusalem). This led them by and large to separate the gospel from the kingdom, to disengage from culture and to fervently preach about the rapture. They generally neglected the first covenant—especially the application of the law of God in society, since they had no vision for societal transformation. Prominent study Bibles that codified their belief system were the Schofield, Dakes and Ryrie study Bibles.

6. Various Pentecostal movements. Generally speaking, the various Pentecostal movements of the 20th century focused more on individual transformation and the use of the gift of the Spirit. These generally were fundamentalists who spoke in tongues—hence they basically had the same (non) view regarding the application of the law of God in civil society as those described in point five.

7. The Transformation Movement. Many if not most in the seven-mountain transformation movement of today rarely refer to the law of God as the standard of ethics for a culture. The problem with this is, without the moral law of God, there is no real reference point for what true biblical transformation should look like. Hence, it is common to preach transformation but not offer any explanation regarding the objective of said transformation and what it would look like in a community, city or nation. God tells us in Isaiah 2:2-4 that His view of transformation includes the nations coming to Him to learn His ways and His laws. Unless we adopt this view of transformation, our reference point for changing a community will only involve many souls getting saved (revival) that results in a quality of life shift (both very good and important things to work towards).

However, by what standard or by whose standard of ethics will nations be held accountable economically and politically? I contend that long-lasting systemic change will only come when the church agrees to work together towards the clear biblical standard of ethics. Without this, those preaching on transforming the mountains of culture will not be taken serious for much longer. Furthermore, without understanding how the Ten Commandments and its 613 case laws can be applied in principle, how can we disciple present and future gatekeepers who will frame laws and systems for nations?

Joseph Mattera is an internationally known author, futurist, interpreter of culture and activist/theologian whose mission is to influence leaders who influence nations. He leads several organizations, including The United States Coalition of Apostolic Leaders ( He also has a blog on Charisma magazine called "The Pulse." To order one of his books or to subscribe to his weekly newsletter go to

]]> (BIshop Joseph Mattera) Preaching Tue, 18 Aug 2015 12:00:00 -0400
8 Signs of Hypergrace Churches

The past several decades we have seen a dramatic decline in doctrinal and biblical preaching. We have gone from theology to therapy in the pulpits. In the past decade we went from therapy to motivational speaking instead of preaching.

In addition to this, whole churches and movements have oriented themselves to a distorted understanding of the gospel by espousing a "hypergrace" approach that trickles down to not only what they preach but who they allow to minister and teach. (I was told there is even a new television station devoted to this view of "grace.")

Furthermore, many churches and preachers refuse to take a stand against sin and rarely if ever mention the need for repentance and topics like hell and judgment! Many of these same churches allow people to minister in music, as small group leaders, and even as ministers with no personal accountability while looking the other way when they are living sexually immoral lives and regularly engaged in drunkenness!

This is nothing new. For centuries the body of Christ has wrestled with something called antinomianism (anti means against; nomos means law). This is the belief that the moral law of the Old Testament has been done away with, and that, once we are in Christ, there is free grace in which we can almost live any way we want since we are not under the law but under grace. Thus, according to this view the Old Testament is not that important to read except for metaphors, types and symbols regarding the coming of Christ. The New Testament is all about grace and does away with the Old Testament law!

Of course, Paul the apostle warned against this sort of thing in Romans 6:1-2 when he rhetorically asked: shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? His response: God forbid! How shall we that are dead to sin live any longer in it?

The first thing Jude the apostle says in his epistle (in the context of contending for the faith in verse 3) is that ungodly men among them were turning the grace of our God into a license to sin. Evidently, these free grace preachers were twisting the Scriptures by teaching that 'we are no longer under the law,' meaning that we are no longer under any obligation to obey the moral law of God once we are saved.

This in spite of each of the Ten Commandments being directly cited or taught indirectly in the New Testament. Examples of exact citations are Ephesians 6:1-3 which quotes the fifth commandment; James 2:11 which quotes the sixth and seventh commandments (regarding murder and adultery) and says in verse 12 that believers will be judged according to the "law" of liberty; in Romans 7:7 Paul quotes the tenth commandment regarding not to covet; Paul also says that we dishonor God when we disobey the (moral) law (Romans 2:23).

Obedience to the Ten Commandments (the moral law) is also taught indirectly as in 1 John 5:21 which instructs believers to stay away from idols (from the second commandment regarding not to make a carved image to worship); and when Jesus said that the greatest commandment in the law is to love God with all the heart, mind and soul (Matthew 22:37-38) which corresponds to the first commandment regarding having no other gods before Him.

Paul makes it clear in Romans 7:12 that the law is holy, righteous and good and that the purpose of being filled with the Spirit of Christ is so the righteousness of the law would be fulfilled in us (Romans 8:4)—not so we can just float around as spiritual beings without any standards for obedience and disobedience!

Although we cannot be saved by following the law (because everyone is guilty of breaking the law according to Romans 3:19), God uses the moral law as the standard of righteousness in which to judge us of sin. Thus the law doesn't save us but it sanctifies us when we yield to the power of the Holy Spirit dwelling in us because through it we have the knowledge of sin (Romans 3:20).

So then, what does Paul refer to when he says that we are justified apart from the law (Romans 3:21) through grace as a gift (Romans 3:24)? The context of these statements and the other teachings of the New Testament regarding the law is clear: while the moral law doesn't save us, it is still in effect as a guide and standard for righteous living, but the ceremonial law is no longer in effect and has been totally done away with!

This we know because circumcision (Romans 3:30; Galatians 5:1-2) and animal sacrifices (Hebrews 9:12-14) are always brought up in context of Paul teaching that the law has been nullified in Christ. Thus, Paul is affirming that the ceremonial law has been done away with in Christ because He was the perfect lamb of God who took away the sins of the world (John 1:29) and in whom by a single offering of Himself (Hebrews 10:14) abolished the law of commandments and record of debt that were against us (Colossians 2:13-14, because we violated them).

In Him we are no longer obligated to follow the levitical system for, although the Old Covenant terms are no longer in effect and faded away (Hebrews 8:13), the New Covenant clearly is a more perfect continuation of the Old Covenant because of its prophetic fulfillment in Messiah (Hebrews 10:1).

The following are signs of a hypergrace church:

1. The preachers never speak against sin. If you are in a church like this, you will notice that the word sin is usually only mentioned in the context of forgiveness of sins in Christ but hardly ever in the context of taking a stand against sin, except, of course, when they condemn the sin of "legalists" and "Pharisees" who are the ministers they denigrate for preaching against sin.

2. The lead pastor never takes a cultural stand for righteousness. When issues like abortion come up, these pastors will shy away from mentioning it because they are afraid of offending new people. I can understand this to a point. But I counter that we as ministers of Christ are obligated to at least mention our positions publically so that we use it as a teaching moment for the sheep following us. Not saying anything about an issue like abortion is another way of condoning it!

3. The Old Testament is almost totally ignored. In these churches the Old Testament is treated as only types and shadows for sermon illustrations but has no real value regarding our standard of living today. As I show in this article, my position is that the New Testament and Old Testament are organically connected together with the New building upon the Old, not eradicating it altogether!

4. People are allowed to teach and lead ministries who live immoral lives. One pastor was telling me that sexual immorality and drunkenness is rampant in many evangelical churches—even among small group leaders and other leaders in local churches! This is because there is very little accountability.

5. The lead pastor speaks often against the institutional church. Many hypergrace pastors constantly denounce churches that are conservative in their values because they believe those churches represent the 'old school' that is no longer relevant to today's culture.

6. The lead pastor preaches against tithing. Although I believe tithing carried over into the New Testament, I believe it is more of a biblical principle that preceded the Law of Moses (Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob all tithed before Moses gave the law), was taught by Jesus (Matthew 23), and was mentioned in other passages like Hebrews 7.

These pastors denounce tithing as a law that was done away with in Christ. (For more on this, read my position paper entitled "Is Tithing in the New Testament?")

7. The lead pastor only preaches positive motivational messages. Those attending hypergrace churches only hear positive messages on health, wealth, prosperity, God's love, God's forgiveness and on how to succeed in life. Although I also agree with and teach on these topics, we have to be careful to include in our preaching the whole counsel of God so that we feed the flock a balanced diet instead of just the sweetness of feel-good messages. We must do this so we are free from the blood of all men (Acts 20:26-27)!

8. Key members of the church are regularly living sinful lives with impunity. Those attending a hypergrace church will most likely find that, because of the strong emphasis on grace—with no teaching against sin or on repentance, judgment, or hell—there is an atmosphere of loose living with many involved in sexual immorality and drunkenness as well as other physical vices.

The reason for this is "the law is our schoolmaster that leads us to Christ" (Galatians 3:24) because through the (moral) law comes the knowledge of sin (Romans 3:20). If the moral law of the Ten Commandments is not preached or alluded to, then in ignorance the people will live foolish lives and will be like the blind leading to blind because: "Where there is no prophetic vision the people cast off restraint, but blessed is he who keeps the law" (Proverbs 28:18).

In conclusion, there are many other things I could mention regarding hypergrace churches and their preaching, like how it is one step away from universalism (the belief that all people will eventually be saved, whether they believe the gospel or not, e.g. Love Wins by Rob Bell) and liberalism, because an increasing amount of Scripture is eviscerated because it is culturally offensive (like husbands being the head of the house, views on homosexuality, etc.).

I believe antinomianism is a dangerous trend in evangelicalism and is something we need to lovingly take a stand against with our brothers and sisters who espouse it.

Joseph Mattera is an internationally known author, futurist, interpreter of culture and activist/theologian whose mission is to influence leaders who influence nations. He leads several organizations, including The United States Coalition of Apostolic Leaders ( He also has a blog on Charisma magazine called "The Pulse." To order one of his books or to subscribe to his weekly newsletter go to

]]> (Bishop Joseph Mattera ) Preaching Wed, 12 Aug 2015 12:00:00 -0400
WATCH: REINHARD BONNKE Says the Baptism of the Holy Spirit Should Be Simple

"When He created us, He created us in a way that we would be power assisted."

In this video, worldwide evangelist Reinhard Bonnke teaches on the baptism of power in Acts 2. He refutes bad teaching and reminds us of how simple it should be.

]]> (Charisma Staff) Preaching Mon, 10 Aug 2015 21:00:00 -0400
Five Lies Preachers Believe About Preaching

Pastors suffer from an abundance of unsolicited advice about their preaching. Many not called to preach think themselves the most gifted to critique. Despite this, there are few church members more critical of the preaching than the one who delivers the sermon.

After I have preached my wife usually asks, "How do you think it went?" Most of my responses are in the "I guess it went alright" vein followed by, "How did you think it went?" Assurances of "it was great" or "that was one of the best sermons you've ever preached" are mostly doubted. I know the times I've lost my place in the notes, become mentally distracted, and realized the second point had too much or too little content. My train of thought has refused to leave the station, or derailed once it did.

A pastor's normal excessive scrutiny about his preaching is bad enough, but it is made worse when these five lies are believed.

1. If I just preach the Bible my church will grow. Churches grow or don't grow for any number of reasons. Good location, good organization, an overwhelming move of the Spirit of God or a charismatic leader are some possible reasons. Churches almost never grow solely because of the preaching. Conversely, churches almost never stay small or plateau as a result of the preaching.

2. If I study and pray enough I will always get God's mind on the sermon text. We all approach the Scripture with certain biases. These are not always erroneous, but they can cause the preacher to mistake an interpretation or application. I remember a well-known pastor saying: "One Sunday night I preached a sermon on why the Antichrist has to be a Jew. After the service a member graciously approached me with a few Scriptures. The next Sunday night I preached on why the Antichrist has to be a Gentile." There is a reason Paul calls us "jars of clay." The treasure is priceless and eternal; the container is aging, chipped and fading every day. The Word has enough power to overcome the frailty of the one delivering it. When you mess up a text, admit it and move on. If you have not landed on particular interpretation out of three, preach them all and let the Spirit do His work.

3. There is a single best way to preach. Whether a pastor preaches expositorily or topically is not typically the reason a church grows. It is humorous how often I see a pastor advocate for expository preaching as a key to church growth when his own church is not growing. Both history and our contemporary setting provide numerous examples of Christians growing in the faith, and churches increasing in number under different styles of preaching. I prefer expository for a number of reasons, but am not inclined to limit the work of God to a single style. Preach with confidence from the gift(s) God has given you.

4. I'm the worst preacher in the world. I don't know anyone who thinks themselves the best, and I hope no one believes about themselves the worst. Every pastor has a bad day, an off Sunday. Chances are on any given Sunday all of us are the worst preacher in the world. We are fallible. We all have grand slams in the study that turn into strike outs in the pulpit. But most neither hit it out of the park nor foul it into the stands week after week. We do well to remember that a string of singles and doubles scores a lot of runs too.

5. A lack of audible feedback equals a lack of hearing. Congregations are different. Some say "Amen" or "Preach it" quite a lot. Most pastors love this. For some communicators, audible feedback is the connective tissue of receptivity. But not all congregations are comprised thus. Some are more reflective. Among our people are auditory, visual and experiential learners. Attention is given in different ways.

I rely on body language for feedback more than amens. Is anyone asleep? Are people checking their watches? Has a conversation broken out on the fifth row? Has anyone closed their Bible and moved on to Facebook?

Conversely, are eyes facing forward and are they alert? Are notes being taken? Are their nods or head shakes at appropriate places? Are students engaged? One of our campuses has light dimmers for the auditorium. Our lighting techs always make sure the lights are bright enough for me to get the visual cues I need to read as much body language as possible.

Pastor, neither exalt yourself more highly than you ought, nor think more badly of your preaching than you should. You may not be as good as you wish, but you probably are not as bad as you fear. Work to improve the craft of preaching, and trust God for His blessing on it. Faithfully teach the Word, for it has the power, and do not believe enemy lies that will haunt your soul and hollow your preaching.

For the original article, visit

Marty Duren is a Christ follower, husband, father, writer, social media strategist and general provocateur living in Hermitage, Tennessee, just east of Nashville.
]]> (Marty Duren/ Preaching Thu, 30 Jul 2015 12:00:00 -0400
How to Preach Like Jesus: Get Practical

I love the practicality and simplicity of Jesus' teaching. It was clear, relevant and applicable. He aimed for application because His goal was to transform people, not merely inform them.

Consider the greatest sermon ever preached, the Sermon on the Mount:

  • Jesus began by sharing eight secrets of genuine happiness.
  • Then he talked about living an exemplary lifestyle, controlling anger, restoring relationships, and the issues of adultery and divorce.
  • Next he spoke of keeping promises and returning good for evil.
  • Then Jesus moved on to other practical life issues, like how to give with the right attitude, how to pray, how to store up treasure in heaven, and how to overcome worry.
  • He wraps up His message by telling us to not judge others, encouraging persistence when asking God to meet our needs, and warning us about false teachers.
  • Finally, he concludes with a simple story that emphasizes the importance of acting on what he's taught: Put into practice what you've just learned!

This is the kind of preaching that we need in churches today. It changes lives! It's not enough to simply proclaim, "Christ is the Answer." We must show the unchurched how Christ is the Answer. Sermons that exhort people to change without sharing the practical steps of how to change only produce more guilt and frustration.

A lot of preaching today is what I call "Ain't it awful!" preaching. It just complains about our society and makes judgments about people in general. It's long on diagnosis and short on remedy. It makes Christians feel superior to "those out there" but it rarely changes anything. Instead of lighting a candle, it just curses the darkness.

When I go to a doctor, I don't want to just hear what's wrong with me, I want him to give me some specific steps to getting better. What people need today is less "ought-to" sermons and more "how-to" sermons. Exhortation without explanation leads to frustration.

The deepest kind of teaching is that which makes a difference in people's day-to-day lives. As D.L. Moody once said, "The Bible was not given to increase our knowledge but to change our lives." The goal is Christlike character.

Jesus said, "I have come that you might have life." He didn't say, "I've come that you might have religion." Christianity is a life, not a religion, and Jesus was a life-application preacher. When He finished his teaching to the crowd he always wanted them to "go and do likewise."

Christlike preaching explains life to people. It produces a changed lifestyle. Life-related preaching doesn't just inform; it transforms. It changes people because the Word is applied to where people actually live. Sermons that teach people how to live will never lack an audience.

Please understand this: The unchurched are not asking that we change the message or even dilute it, only that we show its relevance. Their big question is: "So what?" They want to know "What difference does it make?" I've found that unchurched Americans are intensely interested in Bible doctrine when it is applied in practical and relevant ways to their lives.

I love to teach theology to the unchurched without telling them it's theology and without using theological terms. I find it challenging and enjoyable. I've preached sermon series to the unchurched on the incarnation, justification and sanctification without ever using the terms! I did a series on the moral attributes of God and simply called it "Getting to Know God." I've preached sermons to seekers on stewardship, the work of the Holy Spirit and even the Seven Deadly Sins.

It's a myth that you must compromise the message to draw a crowd. Jesus certainly didn't. You don't have to transform the message, but you do have to translate it.

In next week's column, I'll talk about what to learn from Jesus' style of teaching!

Rick Warren is the author of the New York Times best-seller The Purpose Driven Life. His book The Purpose Driven Church was named one of the 100 Christian books that changed the 20th century. He is also founder of, a global Internet community for pastors.

Note: This is the second of a three-part series. For part one, click here.

For the original article, visit

]]> (Rick Warren ) Preaching Mon, 27 Jul 2015 21:00:00 -0400
How to Preach Like Jesus: Start With People

Jesus' preaching attracted enormous crowds, and the Bible often records the positive reactions of those crowds to His teaching.

  • Matthew 7:28 – "... the people were astonished at His teaching."
  • Matthew 22:33 (TLB) – "... the crowds were profoundly impressed."
  • Mark 11:18 (TLB) – "... people were so enthusiastic about Jesus' teaching."
  • Mark 12:37 (NASB) – "The great crowd enjoyed listening to Him."

These crowds had never heard anyone speak to them the way Jesus did. They were spellbound by His delivery.

To capture the attention of unbelievers like Jesus did, we must communicate spiritual truth the way He did. I believe that Jesus—not anyone else—must be our model for preaching. Unfortunately, some homiletics classes pay more attention to Aristotle and Greek rhetoric than to how Jesus taught.

In John 12:49 Jesus admitted, "the Father who sent Me gave Me a command, what I should say and what I should speak." Notice that both the content AND the delivery style were directed by the Father. This is extremely important to note. We often overlook the manner in which Jesus preached.

There is so much we can learn from Jesus' style of communication, not just His content. But for now I want to briefly identify three attributes of Jesus' preaching.

Jesus Began With People's Needs, Hurts and Interests

Jesus usually taught in response to a question or a pressing problem from someone in the crowd. He scratched where people itched. His preaching had immediacy about it. He was always relevant and always on target for that moment.

When Jesus preached His first sermon at Nazareth, He read from Isaiah to announce what the preaching agenda of His ministry would be: "The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He has anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the broken-hearted, to preach deliverance to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed; to preach the acceptable year of the Lord" (Luke 4:18-19, MEV).

Notice His entire emphasis on meeting needs and healing hurts. Jesus had Good News to share, and people wanted to hear it. He had a message that offered practical benefits for their lives. His truth would "set people free" and bring all sorts of blessings to their lives.

Our basic message to the lost must be good news. If it isn't good news, it isn't the gospel. We must learn to share the gospel in ways that show it is both "good" and "news." The gospel is about what God has done for us and what we can become in Christ. A personal relationship to Christ is the answer to all of man's deepest needs. The Good News offers lost people what they are frantically searching for: forgiveness, freedom, security, purpose, love, acceptance, and strength. It settles our past, assures our future, and gives meaning to today. We have the best news in the world.

Crowds always flock to Good News. These days, there is plenty of bad news in the world. The last thing people need to hear is more bad news in church. They're looking for hope and help and encouragement. Jesus understood this. That's why He felt so compassionate toward them. He knew that the crowds were "harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd."

By beginning with people's needs when you preach, you immediately gain the attention of your audience. Practically every communicator understands and uses this principle except pastors!

Wise teachers know to start with the student's interests and move them toward the lesson. Effective salesmen know you always start with the customer, not the product. Smart managers know to begin with the employee's complaint, not their own agenda. You start where people are and move them to where you want them to be.

Pick up any textbook on the brain and you'll learn that at the base of your brain stem is a filter called the Reticular Activating System. God graciously put this filter in our minds so we don't have to consciously respond to the millions of stimuli that we're bombarded with on a daily basis. It continuously sifts and sorts the things you see, hear, and smell—forwarding only a few of those stimuli on to your consciousness. This way you're not overloaded and overwhelmed. If you had to consciously respond to every stimuli your senses pick up, you'd go crazy! Your Reticular Activating System determines what gets your attention.

Now, what does get people's attention? Three things always make it past your reticular activating system: things you value; things that are unique; and things that threaten you. This has profound implications for the way pastors preach and teach. If you want to capture the attention of an uninterested group of people you must tie your message to one of these three attention-getters.

While sharing the Good News in a unique or threatening way can get attention of unbelievers, I believe showing its value to people is most consistent with how Christ taught. Jesus taught in a way that people understood the value and benefit of what He was saying. He didn't try to threaten unbelievers into the kingdom of God. In fact, His only threats were to religious people! As the cliché goes, He comforted the afflicted and afflicted the comfortable.

Because preachers are called to communicate truth, we often mistakenly assume that unbelievers are eager to hear the truth. They aren't! Unbelievers aren't that interested in truth these days. In fact, surveys show that the majority of Americans reject the idea of absolute truth.

This is the source of all the problems in our society. People don't value truth. Today people value tolerance more than truth. People complain about crime, drug abuse, the breakup of the family, and other problems of our culture, but they don't realize the cause of it all is their rejection of truth.

Moral relativism is the root of what is wrong in our society. But it is a big mistake for us to think that unbelievers will race to church if we just proclaim, "We have the truth!"

Their reaction will more likely be, "Yeah, so does everybody else!" Proclaimers of truth don't get much attention in a society that devalues truth. To overcome this, some preachers try to "Yell it like it is." But preaching louder isn't the solution to this apathy. It starts by being "wise as serpents and harmless as doves."

While most unbelievers aren't looking for truth, they are looking for relief. This gives us the opportunity to interest them in truth. I've found that when I teach the truth that relieves their pain or solves their problem, unbelievers say, "Thanks! What else is true in that book?" Sharing biblical principles that meet a need creates a hunger for more truth.

Jesus understood this. Very few of the people who came to Jesus were looking for truth. They were looking for relief. So Jesus would meet their felt needs, whether leprosy, blindness, or a bent back. After their felt needs were met, they were always anxious to know the truth about this man. He had helped them with a problem they couldn't solve.

Ephesians 4:29 says, "...[speak] only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen" (NIV). Notice that who we are speaking to determines what we are to say (this has nothing to do with compromising the message and everything to do with understanding the needs of your listeners). The needs of those listening decide the content of our message. We are to speak ONLY what benefits those we are speaking to. If this is God's will for our conversations, it must also be God's will for our sermons.

Unfortunately, it seems that many pastors determine the content of their messages by what they feel they need to say rather than what the people need to hear.

One reason sermon study is so difficult for many pastors is because they ask the wrong question. Instead of asking "What shall I preach on this Sunday?" they should instead ask, "To whom will I be preaching?" Simply thinking through the needs of the audience will help determine God's will for the message.

Since God, in His foreknowledge, already knows who will be attending your services next Sunday, why would He give you a message totally irrelevant to the needs of those He is intending to bring? Why would He have me preach on something unhelpful to those He's planned to hear it? I believe that people's immediate needs are a key to where God would have me begin speaking at that particular occasion.

What I'm trying to say is this: The crowd does not determine whether or not you speak the truth. The truth is not optional. But your audience does determine which truths you choose to speak about. To unbelievers, some truths are more relevant than others.

Can something be both true and irrelevant? Certainly!

If you'd been in a car accident and were bleeding to death in the Emergency Room, how would you feel if the doctor came in and wanted to talk about the Greek word for hospital or the history of the stethoscope? All he said to you could be true but irrelevant because it doesn't stop your hurt. You would want the doctor to begin with your pain.

Your audience also determines how you start your message. If you are speaking to the unchurched—and you spend the first part of the message on historical background—by the time you get to the personal application you'll have already lost your audience. When speaking to the unbelievers, you need to begin where your sermons normally end up!

Today "preaching to felt needs" is scorned and criticized in some circles as a cheapening of the gospel and a sell-out to consumerism. I want to state this in the clearest way possible: Beginning a message with people's felt needs is not some modern approach invented by 20th-century marketing! It's the way Jesus always preached.

It's based on the theological fact that God chooses to reveal himself to man according to our needs! Both the Old and New Testament are filled with many examples of this.

Even the names of God are revelations of how God meets our felt needs! Throughout history when people have asked God, "What is your name?" God's response has been to reveal himself according to what they needed at that specific time: those who needed a miracle, God revealed himself as Jehovah-Jireh ("I am your provider") to those who needed comfort, God revealed himself as Jehovah-Shalom ("I am your peace") to those who needed salvation, God revealed himself as Jehovah-tsidkenu ("I am your righteousness").

The examples go on and on. God always meets us where we're at—our point of need. Preaching to felt needs is a theologically sound approach to introducing people to God.

Preaching that changes lives somehow brings the truth of God's Word and the real needs of people together through application. Which end of the continuum you begin with is irrelevant as long as you bring them together.

Rick Warren is the founding pastor of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, California, one of America's largest and most influential churches. Rick is author of the New York Times best-seller The Purpose Driven Life. His book, The Purpose Driven Church, was named one of the 100 Christian books that changed the 20th century. He is also founder of, a global Internet community for pastors.

Note: This is the first of a three-part series. For the original article, visit

]]> (Rick Warren ) Preaching Wed, 22 Jul 2015 21:00:00 -0400
How to Push Through the Preaching Curve to Better Sermons

Preachers, have you ever noticed that some of your most well-received messages are the ones for which you have studied the least?

Don't worry, I'm not advocating a lack of study. However, I think it is important to understand why this phenomenon occurs.

When an idea first enters your mind, it is simple to comprehend. Just consider the experience of reading Scripture and having a new insight, which revolutionizes your thinking. All of a sudden, you see everything through the lens of your new insight. At this stage, you don't have a lot of information, which allows you to have amazing clarity. Let's call this stage one.

Stage one preaching tends to flow brilliantly from your mouth because the insight is clear—there is no "extra information" to trip over in your presentation.

Of course, the beauty of stage one preaching is also the fault: lack of information. This leaves stage one preaching open to misleading statements, unbalanced presentation of Scripture and misapplication of the text.

Perhaps you have preached a stage one sermon and received wonderful compliments. Then, the next time you have an opportunity to preach to a different audience, you decide to share the same message. Excited for the opportunity to share a message that has been previously well received, you decide to study more and make it even better.

In the midst of your study you chase a few rabbits, delve into original languages, and become interested in the context of the text. Those are all strong marks of good sermon preparation.

The only problem is that your sermon notes are not as clear as before. They have become cluttered with insights that are great by themselves, yet seem unconnected on paper. Even worse, they are cluttering your mind. This is stage two.

You stand up to preach believing this version of the message will be more powerful than before because you have more ammunition. The only problem is that your shooting spree has no focus. In the end, everyone in the audience is a casualty.

You walk away wondering what happened. Why, if the first version of the sermon was so well received, wouldn't a more researched version be even more effective? The answer is simple: The more information you have the more challenging clarity becomes. That's why I call stage two the "Chaos stage." Unfortunately, I have plenty of experience with stage two preaching.

But don't be discouraged. The answer is not to quit studying. No, the answer is to move to stage three—editing.

I've heard that the most difficult part of filmmaking is editing. The editor takes all of the raw film and puts together the story line—leaving behind the parts that take away from communicating the message clearly. Most directors have to stay away from the editing room because it is too painful for them to see their favorite shots left on the cutting room floor. Yet, that is the price of clarity.

The same holds true in sermon preparation. Only, most of us preachers don't have an editor to do the work for us. We must be courageous enough to cut the brilliant details of Greek word studies or the masterful illustrations if they don't aid in the clarity of the main point. The most interesting description of a Shepherd's staff or the High Priest's garb—if distracting from the point of the text—is just that: a distraction. Many creative analogies, humorous stories, and cultural denunciations have distracted men and women from the clear message of the text.

As preachers, we hate to leave them on the cutting room floor because we have become emotionally attached. That's why we have to keep the importance of clarity in mind at all times. The audience will never know what gets left on the cutting room floor. Alternatively, if you don't put it on the floor, they might never know the main point of the sermon.

Does that mean the study from stage two isn't worth the effort? No, but the value of stage two is not seen until the excess information is trimmed away. Like panning for gold, you must sift through large amounts of material in order to find the treasure.

Next, you must take the treasure and place it in the most effective order. Don't disseminate it indiscriminately. Spend time contemplating how each piece of the puzzle is connected and how it should be presented. Will the information be presented chronologically (by timeline), progressively (growing in detail) or logically (building a case)? Different sermons call for different orders.

Once you have placed your material in order, make sure you know how to transition from point to point. I like to think of this as "greasing the joints." Like a machine, each part benefits from smooth, friction-free movement where it connects to other parts.

Finally, once you have edited, ordered and polished your message, you are ready for stage three preaching. Stage three combines stage one's clarity and stage two's information for maximum effectiveness.

In graphical terms, the three stages make a curve that resembles the Nike swoosh in which clarity is measured top to bottom and information is measured left to right. Stage one is high on clarity but low on information. At stage two, the curve moves downward for lack of clarity while moving to the right for increased information. Notice this is the lowest stage—for both you and your audience. Finally, however, stage three moves sharply to the upper-right indicate the greatest display of clarity and information.

So, don't settle for stage one—and certainly don't stop at stage two. Push on through the preaching curve to stage three. You'll be glad you did—and so will your hearers!

After serving in campus ministry at the University of Central Arkansas and coordinating student conferences for the Department of Church Ministries from 2000-2005, Scott Attebery pastored Wyatt Baptist Church in El Dorado, Arkansas. In 2008, Scott's wife, Jill, passed away in an automobile accident. He recalls, "God used our Church to be Christ to my family and me during that time." After seven years of pastoring, Scott was selected as the executive director of DiscipleGuide Church Resources, a department of the Baptist Missionary Association of America. Scott's most important ministry is to his son, Bryce. They love to play in the backyard and cheer for the Razorbacks together. Scott holds a Bachelor of Arts in Bible from Central Baptist College, a Master's of Divinity from the BMA Theological Seminary, and is a candidate for Doctorate of Ministry from Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary. You can read his blog at

For the original article, visit

]]> (Scott Attebery ) Preaching Tue, 14 Jul 2015 18:00:00 -0400
John Bevere Urges All Pastors to Speak Up Sunday About Supreme Court Decision

Saturday, internationally known evangelist and author John Bevere sent out a Facebook post directed to pastors in hopes of mobilizing preachers to use their pulpits to address the United States Supreme Court's ruling yesterday on same-sex marriage.

The Supreme Court ruled by a 5-4 vote that same-sex marriage would be allowed in all 50 states, and that it is now the law of the land.

In a short message, Bevere asked preachers to "speak the truth in love," but not to be silent about what God's Word says on the subject. Bevere said on Facebook:

"To my fellow Christian leaders in the United States: Tomorrow is a crucial day. Tomorrow we need to speak to the people we pastor. Our nation made a decision to take a huge step further away from Our Creator yesterday. God spoke through the prophet Isaiah, "For the leaders of my people—the Lord's watchmen, his shepherds ... are like silent watchdogs that give no warning when danger comes" (Isaiah 56:10, NLT).

"It saddens my heart to see what our government leaders have done, but what is heartbreaking is the responses that so many 'Christians' are posting on their social media. Many are saying, 'love wins.' How can 'believers in Jesus' say this?

One reason is that they've not been properly warned. Paul the Apostle states, "Don't you realize that those who do wrong will not inherit the Kingdom of God? Don't fool yourselves. Those who indulge in sexual sin, or who worship idols, or commit adultery, or practice homosexuality, or are thieves, or greedy people, or drunkards, or are abusive, or cheat people—none of these will inherit the Kingdom of God" (1 Cor. 6:9-10, NLT).

"We should tell our people to LOVE ALL mankind, but to hate the sin that ensnares them, and keeps them from truly knowing our wonderful Jesus. Don't be silent tomorrow. Speak the truth IN LOVE."

John Bevere and his wife, Lisa, are the founders of Messengers International ministry. He is the author of several books, including the best-seller The Bait of Satan.

]]> (Shawn A. Akers) Preaching Sat, 27 Jun 2015 19:10:00 -0400