Category Archives: Preaching Instruction

The Power of Preaching

POWER

By Barry L. Davis

Approximately 50 times a year I stand up in front of a congregation and preach. I have been preaching for many years, and in my early ministries preached twice each Sunday. In other words, I’ve preached thousands of sermons, and chances are, you have too. For most of us in pastoral ministry, preaching is considered, both by the preacher and the parishioner, to be the most important thing that we do.

I always spend a great deal of time in preparation for that half hour or so that I am privileged to communicate on Sunday morning. In fact, I find it one of the most significant things that I can spend my time on, and that is why I have dedicated my life to doing it. The reason I do what I do in this regard is because I fully believe in the power of preaching to change people’s lives – and if I didn’t believe that, I’d quit doing it.

For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. – 1 Corinthians 1:21 (ESV)

He isn’t saying here that preaching is foolish, but that it appears foolish to those who seek wisdom through philosophical or other means. It appears foolish to those who are perishing because the main message being preached is one of God being murdered upon a cross. But God makes it very clear that through the preaching of His Word His power is revealed and it is the means by which people will be saved. We see a good example of this in Acts 14:1:

Now at Iconium they entered together into the Jewish synagogue and spoke in such a way that a great number of both Jews and Greeks believed. (ESV)

Paul and Barnabas were not offering sermonettes, or simply nice sayings to make everyone feel good, but were preaching in the power of God so that people’s lives would be changed. And lives really were changed as a result of the message they gave and the spirit in which they gave it. The exact same can happen when you preach God’s Word in power.

In this article I am using the word “PREACH” as a framework to help us understand how God uses this powerful tool, and hopefully to impress upon you the power that preaching can have over your unchurched friends. What I want us to do is see how God used preaching throughout the history of Acts and elsewhere and how He still uses it today.

PROCLAIMS

When we proclaim something we are making some type of an announcement. In preaching we are proclaiming the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. In a nutshell, we are giving the good news of the Gospel of Christ. Let me give you just a few examples from the book of Acts.

And as they were speaking to the people, the priests and the captain of the temple and the Sadducees came upon them, greatly annoyed because they were teaching the people and proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection from the dead. – Acts 4:1-2 (ESV)

And every day, in the temple and from house to house, they did not cease teaching and preaching that the Christ is Jesus. – Acts 5:42 (ESV)

Let it be known to you therefore, brothers, that through this man forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you. – Acts 13:38 (ESV)

In these three examples alone we see the proclamation that Jesus is the Messiah, that Jesus offers us forgiveness of sins, and that Jesus rose from the dead. We will see these same themes proclaimed by the apostles and others throughout the entire New Testament.

I have studied every sermon preached in the book of Acts and the most common theme by far is Jesus’ resurrection from the dead and the events surrounding it. From this fact we learn that the power of preaching is found in the message that we are proclaiming. And what we are called to proclaim to the multitudes is that God has come in the flesh, lived a sinless life, died on the cross as our substitute, has risen from the dead, and now sits in glory at the right hand of the Father. Please keep this in mind as you prepare your future sermons. While there is certainly a place for messages on family life, being a good boss/employee, and many other topics, central to everything we preach must be the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

RESTORES

[1]Peter Jenkins began a 5-year, 4,500-mile walk across America in Oct. of 1973. First published as two articles in National Geographic, his memoirs then led to two best-selling books. Two years into the journey, he stumbled into an Alabama revival and ended up accepting Christ. Jenkins says: “I grew up in Connecticut in a very quiet, official, East Coast Presbyterian church. My parents believed, and they made their 6 children go to church and Sunday school. I wanted a religion that had emotion in it – I wanted a religion that had life, action, and the kinds of things I found in the kind of music I loved. When the revival began, this guy from Texas named James Robison came out screaming and preaching and throwing his arms around. There was sweat dripping and everything. He was dressed in a three-piece suit and cowboy boots. The two of us could not have more unalike. I was this young man with sun-bleached reddish hair down to his shoulders and an unshaven beard. But I honestly felt like when he was preaching the gospel, a huge sword was slicing me into a whole bunch of pieces. He was saying, “Joining a church won’t make you a Christian any more than joining a Lion’s Club will make you a lion. From the day you were born, you wanted to do your own thing and you were rebellious against God. If you really want to really know God, you’ve got to repent of this rebellion which the Bible calls sin.”

I could relate to that – I thought I was a pretty good person – I thought I was in search of the truth. The more I heard this stuff, [the more I realized that religion is not the answer; salvation is. You just have something inside of you that knows when you hear the truth. All of the things we think about ourselves, how we define ourselves—all that is insignificant when it comes to what’s going on in our soul. James gave me one of the greatest gifts anybody could have ever given me – He led me to the Lord.

Preaching is not just proclaiming the truths of the Gospel; it is applying those truths of the Gospel to individual’s lives so that those lives are restored. Peter was quoting the prophet Joel in his first sermon and this is what he said:

“Everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”Acts 2:21b (ESV)

What was he saying? He was saying “I’m not proclaiming Jesus to you as a theory, but as a reality – not as a God who wants to condemn you, but as a God who wants to save you.” Preaching should bring restoration to those who have never known God as well as to those who once knew Him but have checked out for some reason or other.

EQUIPS

I’ve attended some churches where we never received any teaching beyond the most elementary doctrines of the Christian faith. The members didn’t know how to apply their faith to their everyday life because no one ever showed them how. One of the things that makes preaching powerful is that it can and should be used to equip those who are already believers in how to live their faith, share their faith, and know their faith intimately.

Therefore let us leave the elementary doctrine of Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God. – Hebrews 6:1 (ESV)

This maturity of understanding spoken of here comes only when the servant of God preaches and teaches the deeper things of God to the Christian community. It is our job as Christian leaders to make sure that our flock is learning, step-by-step, the deeper things of God.

(Paul saying farewell to the elders in Ephesus): …I did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable, and teaching you in public and from house to house.Acts 20:20 (ESV)

And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ. – Ephesians 4:11-12 (ESV)

While we talk a lot about evangelism, we must realize that our job isn’t over until we have fully equipped those who have been won to Christ. If you are staying true to your calling as a minister then your members should walk out of church every week better equipped than they were the week before. If that’s not happening, something is wrong. I certainly wouldn’t limit this equipping to the weekend sermon, as there should be plenty of other opportunities available, but it definitely begins for most churches in the corporate worship time.

ASSURES

There is nothing more comforting than knowing that you are a child of God, that your sins have been forgiven, that you are bound for heaven, and that God loves you. Preaching is powerful, because it takes the comfort of God from the Word of God and brings assurance to His people.

And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.  For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.”Acts 2:38-39 (ESV)

The promise of forgiveness and salvation is given as an assurance to all who turn to the Lord. I’ve been in churches where the minister actually said, “I hope that we’ll be saved…we’ll just have to wait to find out.” That is utter hogwash and goes completely against the mandate that God has given to His preachers. We are given the power to proclaim that God not only makes promises, but that He keeps His promises, and that we can live for Him because we do so with the assurance that we are His children now, and we will always be His children.

CONVICTS

Stephen Kingsley owns a carpet cleaning business and he offers a special service for removing pet urine odors. To show potential customers their need for the service, he darkens the room and then turns on a powerful black light. The black light causes urine crystals to glow brightly. To the horror of the homeowner every drop and dribble can be seen, not only on the carpet, but usually on walls, drapes, furniture, and even on lamp shades. One homeowner begged me to shut off the light: “I can’t bear to see anymore. I don’t care what it costs. Please clean it up!” Another woman said, “I’ll never be comfortable in my home again.” The offense was there all the time, but it was invisible until the right light exposed it. It would have been cruel to show customers the extent of their problem and then say, “Too bad for you” and walk away.  He brought the light so that they might desperately want his cleaning services.

In the same way, God shines the light of his commandments through preaching, not just to make us feel guilty and leave us that way.  He has a cleaning service to offer—salvation through Jesus Christ.

Peter preached: Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out.”Acts 3:19

The power to preach is found in its ability to convict us of sin, lead us to repent, and to experience the refreshing waters of salvation. I will never forget week after week, coming under the preaching of a powerful spokesman for God and having my sinfulness come to the surface. Did that anger me? No! It helped me to realize that my life was headed down the wrong path and that only Jesus could make me whole again. We must not be afraid to preach to convict those who are away from the Lord, as well as to those who have professed faith in the Lord but, to use an old and almost forgotten term – backslidden – so that they will turn back to Him.

HONORS

[2]Recently, a Kansas City pharmacist was charged with diluting cancer treatment drugs, Gemzar and Taxol, in order to make a larger profit. So far there are 20 felony counts against the pharmacist, Robert Courtney. He admitted to diluting the drugs during a period of time spanning from November 2000 to March 2001. This man held life-saving power in his hands and for the sake of personal gain diluted it to the point where it could not help people.

We can do the same with God’s life-saving truth if we do not respect and honor Him in the message we proclaim. The words said from the podium must always be said in such a way as to bring honor to the God we claim to worship. I don’t have a single verse to give you to illustrate this – to get a sense of the honor and esteem with which these early preachers spoke of God you would need to read through the entire book of Acts, and actually the entire New Testament. We obviously don’t have space for that, but we need to recognize that the real power of preaching is derived from the one whom we are preaching about. If we are going to see results God must be honored by every single word that comes from the stage – and we need to be committed to doing that every week.

[1] “Peter Jenkins Finds Jesus While Walking America,” accessed January 12, 2015, http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2003/januaryweb-only/1-6-22.0.html.

[2] USA Today (8-28-01)

 

Barry L. Davis

 

Barry L. Davis spent two decades as a Senior Pastor and started the ministry of The Pastor’s Helper in 1996. The Pastor’s Helper strives to provide tools and resources to help pastors succeed in their ministry calling. His latest book is God-Driven Leadership: A Call to Seeing, Believing, and Living in Accordance with Scriptural Principles, from which this article is derived.

10 Things You Shouldn’t Say to a Pastor Right After the Sermon

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By Thom Rainer

I’ve actually assembled more than ten things church members have told pastors immediately after they preached. But these are ten responses where pastors have had the most visceral reactions.

  1. “I am going to be late for lunch because you preached so long.”
  2. “You must not have had much time to prepare that sermon.”
  3. “My former pastor preached a much better sermon from that text.”
  4. “I wish {fill in the blank} would have heard that sermon.”
  5. “You act like you weren’t feeling well while you preached.”
  6. “I’m sorry I fell asleep while you were preaching. Your voice just puts me to sleep.”
  7. “Your subject/verb agreement was incorrect three times in your sermon.”
  8. “I wish you wouldn’t preach from the Old Testament.”
  9. “Let me tell you what you missed in your sermon.”
  10. “Are we ever going to be done with this sermon series?”

Pastors often take 10 to 20 hours to prepare a sermon. They pray for God to speak through them. They preach with conviction and fervency. And then they hear one of these sentences.

These ten responses are close approximations of what pastors have actually told me. I am sure there are many more. Let us hear what they are.

 

ThomRainer

 

This article was originally published at ThomRainer.com on March 2, 2015. Thom S. Rainer serves as president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources. Among his greatest joys are his family: his wife Nellie Jo; three sons, Sam, Art, and Jess; and seven grandchildren. Dr. Rainer can be found on Twitter @ThomRainer and at facebook.com/Thom.S.Rainer.

Prepare Better Sermons in Less Time

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By Ryan Nelson

Writing quality sermons takes time and energy pastors don’t always have. Discovering new insights can take hours of research, and assembling those insights can take hours. Logos Bible Software was built with pastors in mind—the more you use it, the more time it saves you.

Here are four ways Logos saves pastors sermon-prep time:

1. Turn personal study into powerful quotes
visualcopyVisual Copy is a powerful new tool available in Logos 6, and pastors can’t stop talking about it. With a click, Visual Copy turns any quote you highlight into a compelling quote slide, so you can build your sermon while you study. These slides also work great for social-media or blog posts (I used Visual Copy to create a post with Charles Spurgeon quotes). You can send slides straight to PowerPoint, Proclaim, or your social networks.

Logos 6 also comes loaded with hundreds of slides that cover every book in the Bible and visually compelling art for the most popular preaching topics. When you pick a passage you want to use or a theme to preach on, the images you need are right there in the same place you study.

Logos helps you make a smooth transition from study to sermon. Start your presentation with Visual Copy without interrupting your research.

2. Find everything there is to know about . . . anything
everythingsearchWhen you need more information on a verse, topic, person, place, or anything else you encounter in your studies, look it up with the Everything Search. This tool hunts through your entire library to find everything you could possibly need to start your sermon: media, Atlas maps, dictionary links, Bible references, commentaries, and more. Everything Search assembles all your advanced search tools, so you can see all the information your library has to offer about your search.

Everything Search is like your personal research assistant; Logos’ Factbook is your microscope. When you need focused results, Factbook takes all that information and arranges it like an encyclopedia. If you search for a person like Charles Spurgeon, Factbook gives you a short biography, famous quotes, links to key words, and relevant events in the Timeline tool. The same search on any book on the Bible pulls up Bible-verse art, overviews, key events, outlines, authorship, historical data, themes, and more. Factbook helps you spend more time preparing your message and less time wondering where to begin.

Logos 6 makes serious study simple. Get in and learn what you need, so you can get out and share it.

3. Bring ancient context to the modern church
culturalconceptsOne of the hardest parts of bringing the Bible to the context of our congregation is understanding the context in which it was written. Without understanding ancient culture, we might apply or interpret Scripture incorrectly—and worse, share our misconceptions with our church. Word choice, imagery, and concepts can all have completely different meanings in the context of ancient Judaism and early Christianity. What may seem insignificant to the modern reader could have meant the world to an ancient writer, and vice versa.

Logos 6′s new Cultural Concepts tool sheds light on over 1,000 concepts like music, food, burial practices, traditions, and titles you find throughout the Bible. You can see what they refer to in the Bible, other verses where they appear, and how they were used in other ancient literature.

Logos lets you explore cultural concepts and ancient literature, so you can bring fresh insights to your modern church.

4. Fight writer’s block with tools that spark sermon ideas
Logos has a custom search tool designed with pastors in mind. Search over 200 of the most popular sermon topics, and the Sermon Starter Guide retrieves key passages, excerpts, thematic outlines, illustrations, quotes, sermons, journals, and more. Say you have a big sermon coming up on the Resurrection. The Sermon Starter Guide lets you indicate exactly what you mean by “resurrection”—Jesus, his resurrection, and ascension. From there, you can see how Timothy Keller and others have preached on the resurrection of Christ, browse illustrations, quotes, prayers, and passages, and get started with an outline. With Logos 6, your library is packed with more sermons and tools for pastors, so the Sermon Starter Guide is more valuable than ever.

Watch this video to learn more:

Start writing better sermons, faster
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Save hours on sermon prep, so you can pour that time back into your family, your ministry, and your life. Do yourself a favor and get Logos 6.

How To Write Four Sermons at a Time

foursermonsBy Barry L. Davis

Before I was called into ministry I was a cabinet-maker. Most of the cabinets we made were store fixtures for places like The Limited and Victoria’s Secret, as well as furniture, conference tables, and other high end pieces for law libraries. Even though It was custom work built on a bench and not an assembly line, oftentimes there were multiple units needed of the same item. For instance, if it were a law library we would build multiple shelving units and multiple desks. Rather than cut material for each individual item, we would figure out the pieces we needed, and then multiply that by the number of units we needed to build. When all the pieces were cut, we would then assemble them. This saved a lot of time and also assured that quality standards were the same for each unit.

Awhile back I decided to apply the same principle to my sermon writing. Since I usually preach in series, it made sense to put together the whole series at once, rather than working on each sermon by itself. As you’ll see, each individual message gets its own personal attention, but writing multiple sermons at once results in better preparation, better use of time and resources, and is much more efficient in every way. I would estimate that my preparation time has been cut in half.

I am going to give you the basic principles for how I prepare multiple messages at once, but I am not going to go into great detail on basic sermon preparation. In other words, I am assuming you have done the proper Bible study, prayer, commentary reading, and other background work. This is simply the practical nuts and bolts of building a sermon series.

1. Name your series and how many messages there will be (“four” in the title is just an example).

For our example we will stick with four. Get out four pieces of paper, or open four documents in your word processor. Write down the name of the series on each document, and then the individual sermon titles.

multiple sermons2. Pick out the main Scripture text(s) for each message.

Insert the text into your document under the title for each sermon.

3. Write your outline for each message.

Outline the first sermon, then the second sermon, and so on. When you do this and look at all four sermons side by side, you will quickly see areas where you have been repetitive, or where you have not covered the topic/text fully, or other areas that need improvement. Edit and fix whatever needs adjustment. You are now outlining with the impact of the entire series in mind, and not just an individual message. You will find this will drastically alter your perception in a very positive manner. A sermon series is in some ways like a book — while there is a theme to each individual message, it should fit under the broader heading of the theme of the series. This will allow for a much stronger impact on your audience.

4. Place all the Scripture text in the appropriate places.

Insert all Scripture text that you are going to use under the appropriate outline headings. Do this for all points on the first outline, then the second outline, etc…. If you are doing your sermon preparation correctly, you already chose these texts before (or during the process of) making your outline(s). Now put them down on paper.

5. Pick out and place all illustrative material.

This is where you will see HUGE time-savings using this method. You are now searching for illustrative material for the whole series at once, with all four sermons open before you. For instance, you might be looking through an illustration book, reading a magazine, or skimming through videos and find a story or clip that fits well with the series — now determine which sermon it will help to illustrate best. While searching you might find a good illustration for Sermon #3 first, or #1, it doesn’t make any difference. Insert all the illustrations into your outline(s) under the appropriate outline points. If you’re like me, you’ll start moving some illustrations from one sermon to another because you’ll find they are a better fit (this is one of the reasons I do mine on a word processor — it’s much easier to “cut and paste” then retype).

6. Write your Introduction for each message.

Now, with the whole series in mind, write your Introduction, one sermon at a time. Each Introduction should contain some information, even if only a sentence, that connects it to the series as a whole. If you do this right, and you say something like, “In this series we are learning about how to control anger…” you might hook someone who needs help in this area to come back for the whole series. The idea is to build interest in the topic and get them coming back for more.

7. Now, finish writing each individual message.

Go back to Sermon #1 and start writing. You already have a title, outline, Scripture text, illustrations, and Introduction. All of the main parts of the message is already put together. Now begin to fill in the information that will explain each point, tie each point in the outline to the next, and to the sermon, and to the series as a whole. You will be amazed how easy this part will be. I have found having all the hard part done first removes any writer’s block I experienced prior to using this method. Write Sermon #2 and following the same way.

8. Write your Conclusion.

You can either write your Conclusion as a part of writing the individual message (above), or save it until everything else is done and then write all your Conclusions at once. Whichever way works best for you is the way that you should do it. Like the Introduction, try to tie the message to the series as a whole in the Conclusion.

That’s it! While this process is probably somewhat foreign to most of you, it really isn’t all that different from normal sermon preparation. I guarantee you that once you get the hang of this you will not go back to the old way of doing things.

Think of these benefits:

1) Tremendous time saver (without sacrificing quality)

2) Advanced preparation (have your sermons done a month or more in advance)

3) Consistency (your congregation will receive a steady diet)

I’d like to encourage you to try this method and then get back to me and let me know how it worked out for you. Of course, I’d love to hear your comments right now too. Just fill in “Comments” section below.

Barry L. Davis

 

 

 

 

Barry Davis is a minister, author, and owner of the Pastor’s Helper.

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