Advice on Sermon Prep from Some Vets

I really appreciated this brief video from The Gospel Coalition. Bryan Chapell, Mike Bullmore, and Alistair Begg discuss some important reminders concerning the process of sermon prep. I am thankful for these guys, who, being veterans are willing to share with a younger generation.

In particular, I liked Begg’s words here:

Each week I…

    Pray.
    Think myself empty.
    Read myself full.
    Write myself clear.
    Pray myself hot.
    Be myself.
    Forget myself.

Here is more from this group (RSS readers may have to click through to the site to view the video)

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The Missing Ingredient in Many Sermons

So often it’s the little stuff that makes the biggest impact.

This is true in my home as I am blessed to enjoy delicious meals on a regular basis. I often ask, “What is in this?” when enjoying a new dish or a new twist on an old dish. My wife will usually give one-word answers, “Lime.” “Cardamon.”  ”Turmeric.” “Honey.” “Pesto.” I am always surprised. I am always delighted. We rarely eat bland, ordinary, lifeless meals—for this I am daily thankful.

Like cooking, preaching can become bland. It can fail to have that freshness worthy of the gospel table. There are many reasons why. One could identify a lack of preparation, lack of understanding, poor delivery, and shallowness. We would not disagree that under-cooking the homiletical meal is a problem. But there is something else that can make preaching bland: the deadly reality of not being personally wowed by the subject.

I have seen this in some otherwise terrific sermons. Guys can be exegetically sound, communicate with clarity, illustrate with profundity, and then at the end of the sermon it tastes like grandma’s meatloaf: somewhat filling but not so memorable.

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The Evolution of My Sermon Notes

If you get around a couple of preachers you will hear them eventually begin to discuss preaching. At some point in the discussion they will talk about how they prepare their sermons and what formate that use for their notes. It’s very interesting shop talk actually.

Myself, I have, over the last several years, significantly adjusted the way I prepare and use my notes for preaching. Much like a batter adjusting his swing to gain some advantage, a preacher is always analyzing, evaluating, and tweaking.

I have gone through several variations and now am at the place where I am comfortable (for now). Here are some of them. If you are a preacher, I’m sure you can relate to a few.

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What is the most crucial thing in the life of the church?

According to John MacArthur:

“Expository preaching is the most crucial thing in the life of the church.”

The most effective thing you will ever do is preach the word of God from the pulpit.”

More below:

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Do You Call Audibles When You Preach?

How do you deal with difficult passages in the Bible? Thankfully the Bible is straight-forward and understandable. The most important things are the most clear. However, there are passages that are more difficult, requiring more work by the interpreter.

I remember about 12 years ago as I worked as a pastoral intern at a church. I was teaching through a passage and my pastor gave me some feedback. “You are calling out audibles like a quarterback.” I was working through a difficult passage and in order to prove my interpretation I marshaled some other (many) verses. Like Peyton Manning yelling “Omaha! Nascar! Bradshaw! Montana! Hut Hut!” I was calling out Bible verses from everywhere.

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Does Your Pastor Love You?

How can you tell that your pastor loves you? This could get tricky. We might be tempted to exegete his facial expressions, evaluate his manners, or consider whether or not he sends you a birthday card. However, the Bible actually gives several ways that demonstrate this love.

One of the ways the pastor shows his love is by feeding the flock (the church) the Word of God.

Where do we get this from? There are many places in the Bible, but a good place to see this is in John chapter 21.

“When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.”” (John 21:15)

Jesus tells Peter to feed his lambs. He says the same thing in verse 17. The word has to do with caring for or looking after the flock. In the Middle Eastern agrarian culture the shepherd would lead his flock to food and the still waters of refreshment. He ensured that they were properly fed.

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We want: Calvary Theology, Books, and Sermons!

This sermon and this section in particular was a great blessing to me today. Is Spurgeon’s great longing and prayer beginning to be realized in our day? To some degree you would have to say “yes.”

Read and enjoy!

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Delayed Adolescence in the Church

Delayed adolescence is a reality in American families. There is no disputing the massive increase in number of young people that choose to live with their parents late into their 20’s and in some cases into their 30’s. Insurance companies have taken notice of this and have extended coverage of “children” well into the mid to late 20’s. There is no surprise then that while adolescence is prolonged the expreriences that correspond with being an adult are decreasing. Marriages are decreasing while video games sales are increasing. The delayed adolescence of the American youth is a fascinating and increasingly troubling trend.

But I am not a sociologist. I am a pastor. My concern is with the attitude and culture of delayed adolescence in the church. More specifically, I am not here thinking primarily about the evangelical culture that tends to awkwardly squirm away from and therefore curiously mute the conversation of male leadership in the church. I am thinking far more broadly than even this, to the philosophy and theological vision of churches that cultivate and promote a delayed doctrinal adolescence in the church.

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Is There Anything Wrong with Not Preaching on Giving?

This past weekend I preached a sermon on giving. As I was preparing the sermon I realized that in over 8 years of full-time ministry I have never preached a sermon on giving. My first response was a self-congratulation. I am not like those unbalanced, prosperity guys nor like the manipulating, arm-bending preachers who guilt trip those who don’t tithe.

Amid the back-patting I was convicted. The Bible talks a lot about giving and Jesus rings the stewardship bell quite often himself. How is it that I have gone through this many sermons without addressing it?

So why don’t we preach on giving?

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Preaching is Basically a Hail Storm

One interesting aspect of living in the Midwest is the sudden change in weather. We can go from sun to ominous clouds to run for cover faster than an opponent can score on Nebraska’s Defense. A particularly captivating expression of this extreme weather is the hail storm. It is not unusual to see quarter, even golf-bowl sized hail bouncing off the sidewalks, cars, and roads. Once the storm has passed the damage is assessed and often times cars, roofs, garage doors and other personal property has suffered at the hands of the storm.

It is this hail-storm that has been a perennial reminder for me of my job in the pulpit.

Let me explain. The preacher’s job is to preach the Word of God (2 Tim. 4:2). That is, we are to herald, proclaim, or declare what the Bible says. As we do this we will be highlighting the unique beauty, excellency and glory of Jesus Christ. This is the preacher’s job year after year, month after month, weak after week, and sermon after sermon. We proclaim him! (Col. 1.28).

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