• How I Prepare My Sermons

    A few words of caution

    This way of preparing sermons is something I have worked on for the past 10 years and so it is very comfortable for me. It may not be for you. With this in mind, I suggest you read this blog only as a guide and not as a fixed rule of how you should prepare. I also try to do all my work on the text on Tuesday and then let all the information go around my head for a few days before I write out a final script. Once again, you might be able to do this, but you may not. Find a way of preparing that helps you preach the best sermons!

    Step 1: English

    In this step I am looking at the English text. I preach using the NIV, so when I am preparing I read the NIV. I ask the following questions when looking at the text:

    1. How does it fit into the:
      1. structure of the book in which it is in?
      2. canon in which it is located (ie. New Testament or Old Testament)?
      3. whole Bible?
    2. Are there any allusions to the Old Testament?
    3. What questions do I have of the text?
    4. What pastoral issues are raised by the text?
    5. If I could summarise what the author is saying, how would I say it?

    Step 2: Flowchart

    If I am preaching from a New Testament Epistle I always flowchart the Greek text. If you have not learned how to read Greek yet flowchart in English. For more information on flowcharting or sentence diagramming go here.

    Step 3: Greek

    When I am in the New Testament I do my own translation and try to use Wallace[1] to see what is ‘happening’ in the text. If you do not know how to read Greek yet I would read a few different literal translations (e.g. NASB, ESV etc.)

    Step 4: Application

    When I work on application, I think of hitting a home run in baseball:

    • 1st base is me. How does the text apply to me? I find I preach far better if the text has ‘hit’ me and I have allowed the Holy Spirit to apply the text to my heart. I also want to live out the application – starting as soon as it hits me.
    • 2nd base is the worldview base. I am asking ‘What worldview does this text confront, respond to or justify?’ and ‘How would I preach this text in such a way that people can see how this text relates to their worldview?’
    • 3rd base is my hearers. I am trying to directly apply the text to two different groups of people here, and within those two groups I am thinking of many subgroups. The two main groups and their subgroups are as follows:
    1. Christians
      1. a.      Strong Christians
      2. b.      Weak Christians
      3. c.      Hurting Christians
      4. d.      Sinful Christians
      5. e.      Men
      6. f.      Women
      7. Non- Christians
        1. a.      Near to the gospel
        2. b.      Far away from the gospel
        3. c.      Hate the church/Christianity/religion
        4. d.      Backslidden Christians
        5. e.      Different groups within our community, e.g. environmentalists

    Step 5: Break up and big idea

    By this stage I should have a breakup of the passage, which I try to make memorable. For example, if I was preaching on Mark 8:27-38, I may break it up like this:

    • Jesus – The man (8:27-30)
    • Jesus – The mission (8:31-33)
    • Jesus – The cost (8:34-38)

    I also should have a big idea. The big idea is a one-sentence summary that should encapsulate what the text is about. Using Mark 8:27-38 as an example again, I might say “This passage is teaching us about the identity, mission and call of Jesus.”

    Step 6: Commentaries

    I try to read 6 different commentaries. I try to read different types of commentaries (e.g. technical, narrative, theological, expositional, etc.). I am looking for answers to the questions I have about the text as well as any insights into the original language, theology or historical background of the text.

    Step 7: Canonical Theologies

    I then read an Old/New Testament theology. I look up the Scripture index to find out where my text is referred to, and then I read those pages/sections and note down anything that I can use.

    Step 8: Systematic Theologies

    I do exactly what I did for Canonical Theologies with Systematic Theologies. I always read Calvin’s Institutes & supplement this with one or two others.

    Step 9: Historical Theology

    By this time I may have some idea of where the doctrines in the text have come up in church history and based on time and relevance I may get a feel for how the issue has played out in history (given what I know of church history). Or, I may read a sermon from one of the ‘greats’ (Spurgeon, Edwards, Luther, Calvin etc.) on the text I am looking at. However I never listen to mp3’s of great preachers of today on the text I am preaching on, because I feel it leads me to either despair because my sermon sucks or I find that I just use what they say and don’t do the hard work on the text myself.

    Step 10: Full text

    I then write out a full text of the sermon which helps me get my ideas together and I have found if I do not do this my delivery is not as good as it should be.

    Step 11: Summary

    I write out a summary of my main points and give myself little phrases to jog my memory for illustrations, quotes, etc.

    Preparing sermons or talks is a massive responsibility which should not be taken lightly. I hope this blog helps you to work hard on preparing any talk whether it be a talk for your youth group,your  church a camp or wherever.


    [1] Daniel B. Wallace, Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics: An Exegetical Syntax of the New Testament with Scripture, Subject, and Greek Word Indexes (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996).

     

  • Preparing for a preaching series

    So you have been asked to give a bunch of talks for a youth group camp or maybe your pastor has asked you to preach a four week series for church. You now have about 3-6 months to prepare for the series, what do you do?

    I have developed a process for preparing for a series based on advice Don Carson gave at a preaching conference. Here is what I do if I am preaching through a book:

    1. I read and read and reread the book. I want to know the argument of the book and its main themes without going to a commentary or some other book. From this reading I usually choose the breakup of the book and the passages in consultation with the Elders at Resolved.
    2. After I have read the book I read two dictionary articles on the book or a two entries about the book in an introduction to the New or Old Testament
    3. I then read the introductions of the commentaries I am going to use.
    4. Then I may read a bunch of books on the topic(s) that the book I am preaching through deals with. For example, before I preached through Galatians earlier this year I read a bunch of stuff on Paul, the Law and justification. This helped me no end with my understanding of Galatians.
    5. While I am doing all this reading I am always on the lookout for illustrative material.

    If I am preaching a topical series like “Sex and Relationships” My process goes like this:

    1. Figure out the broad topics I want to hit. In the “Sex and Relationships series I wanted to preach on marriage, singleness, love for the gay community, struggling with same sex attraction, lust, sex etc. ‘
    2. In consultation with the Elders at Resolved select the passages to preach on.
    3. Read very widely on these topics from both every background I could. For example for the sex series didn’t just read evangelical books on sex and relationships. I read secular books, liberal books, evangelical books. Now if you are starting out preaching or giving talks I would say go to some books that your pastor recommends because reading widely like this can confuse you and shatter your confidence.  But if you are a trained pastor do hard work in this area.
    4. While I am doing all this reading I am always on the lookout for illustrative material.

    In doing this reading I have found that when I come to a text I already have a good idea of what the passage is about and exegesis time is cut down significantly. It also teaches me that preaching is hard work and I need to devote many hours to it!

    So that is what I do. How do you prepare for a series?

     

  • Leaders communicate clearly

    There is nothing worse than talking to someone and you walk away not knowing what they really said or meant. It is tough listening to someone who is just not clear in their communication.

    Leaders however must be noted by their clarity of communication.

    If you hang out with a great leader you see they communicate with confidence and with clear direct words. But how do you develop this?

    I have asked leaders and studied them and it seems that they do or are the following:

    Competent in their field – The reason a leader can be clear in their communication is that they know what they are talking about. They have had years in their field and they have thought deeply about what it means to be successful in their field. So when they speak they have a wealth of knowledge backing up their words which in turn makes their communication are clear and direct.

    They are prepared – Leaders are over prepared and this helps them to clearly communicate what they want. They have prepared what they want to say, how they want to say and why they want to say it.  I once sat down with an ex CEO of a multibillion dollar company and asked him about communication and he said that before every meeting whether it be a phone meeting, board meeting or just a meeting over a beer he would write down on a piece of paper what he wants to say and he would rehearse how he wanted to say it so that the best outcomes would be brought about. It is no fluke then that he was a brilliant communicator and leader. As leaders we should be striving for this kind of preparation.

    They are direct – Leaders never want to leave the people they lead thinking “What was I meant to do?” So they are very direct in communicating what they want and what is best for the organisation they lead.  This directness takes time to prepare but when they are prepared, leaders are direct in their speech.

    They have energy – When they communicate leaders have an energy that is infectious. They use words which have energy built into them. They use phrases which push forward in a loving way. They have artful turns of phrase that inspire, energize and encourage. Do you, as a leader, use your words to inspire, energize and build up?

    They love their people- as we have seen in the last post leaders love their people. This love helps the leader shape the way they communicate to each person they talk with.

    Leaders communicate in a way that inspires the people they love. They are direct and clear because they are prepared and competent in their field.

     

  • Leaders connect with people on an emotional level.

    Think of a leader you would die for? Think of a leader you love? Why do you love them? Why would you die for them? Is it because they have a title or a name? Is it because of their level of skill?

    Generally not.

    See we have all met people with a title (boss, pastor, rev, CEO) who are jerks and yet we have met people with a title who we love. Also, we have all met people who have great skill and knowledge and yet we don’t like to talk to them let alone die for them!

    What is the difference between a leader who you love and leaders who you don’t really care about.

    The difference is the leaders who we love make an effort to connect with us on an emotional level.

    Do you make an effort to connect with the people you lead on an emotional level?

    How do you do that?

    Speak – you need to speak to the people you lead and let them know how much you value them. Tell them that you love them, tell them that they did a good job and be specific and enthusiastic in your praise. Don’t say “hey that was very helpful”  say “Man I loved the way you did X because of these four reasons and I found it encouraging because of Y and man I can’t wait to see you do that again. Great job! Leaders connect with words

    Understanding- we all want to be understood. But do we as leaders go out of our way to understand the people we are leading? Do we seek to ask the question “Why are they thinking this?” or “Why is this an issue for them?” before we launch into a rebuttal of their views?

    Emotional intelligence – I sat down with a woman a few days ago who interviewed a bunch of candidates for a pastoral position. I asked her what she thought of the talent coming out of the local bible college and her response was “They generally lack emotional intelligence!” Emotional intelligence is the ability to discern the where a person or a group of people are at emotionally and to tailor actions and words to the emotional climate. Young men find this extremely hard because we want to fix things and win. Emotional intelligence forces us to slow down and think but also do the hard work of communicating and caring. As leaders we need to work on our emotional intelligence. We need to empathise with the people we lead and we need to laugh and cry with them too.

    Do what you say you will do – A way of loving people is to come through on your promises. If you say you will pray for them do you pray for them? If you say you will do something by this time do you do it? Are you a person who the people you lead can say “He or she loves me because they show it in their actions.”

    Apologize – When leaders who connect screw up they apologize. Not because it is a wise tactical move but because they are genuinely sorry. Who do you have to apologize to?

    Leaders do the hard work of connecting with people. They know that leadership is all about relationships. They love their people and this comes our in everything they do.

  • Who should I date?

    When you look at the media and what it thinks are desirable qualities in a mate it seems like the qualities are very shallow.

    If you are looking for a girl you want her to be thin and yet stacked, flawless skin and yet look like that in the morning etc. She must always ready for sex, always funny, never angry or moody and be dressed like she is trying to be the next Paris Hilton and yet be sweet enough to be taken home and charm your mother!

    If it is a guy you are after, he is meant to have the right kind of facial hair, a six pack, he must wear no shirt like McConaughey and be manly enough to go bear hunting with a twig and come back with seven carcasses and sensitive enough to write a poem about his feelings about killing the bears!

    The issue is that looks fade. The bag and sag hits everyone’s body and so in 10 or 20 years we will not look as good as we did now let alone when we were 18.  The only option is to become a gym junkie or have so much plastic surgery that we end up not looking our age or our species. And the people we will be with will not look as good as they did when we met them.

    So if you are single you must train yourself to be attracted to and date people who have qualities that are more than skin deep.

    When  you look at the ideal wife in the bible (Proverbs 31) there is nothing to do with her looks, her body or the fact that she is a fun chick to be around. No what God says men should go for is a woman of wisdom and character.

    There is not a similar list for the ideal husband in the bible but there is a list of characteristics that a leader of a church should have (1 Tim 3). It is a list which I think should be the list of things single woman train themselves to be attracted to.

    So who should you date if you are single?

    Someone of character who loves Jesus.

  • What I learnt from John Stott

    Today I read this:

    “Those self-appointed evangelical leaders come across as hypocrites, monetizing Jesus rather than emulating him. Some seem homophobic, and many who claim to be “pro-life” seem little concerned with human life post-uterus. Those are the preachers who won headlines and disdain.”

    The quote is taken from a piece in the New York Times about John Stott who passed away last week. This article basically says how well Stott did at emulating Christ and how badly other more well known christian leaders have done in this area.

    It made me think what does the world hear from me?

    What does the world hear from my church, Resolved?

    What does the world hear from us as Christians?

    Do they hear that we love them as we take a stand on the issues we should take a stand on?

    Do they hear compassion as we preach?

    Do they hear and see both truth and tears or is it just cold truth?

    One of the things that I loved about John Stotts writing and his preaching was his ability to say what was true about our world and our condition and yet he came never across as judgmental but loving and caring. You could hear and feel as he preached and wrote that these weren’t just ideas and words he was preaching and writing about. These words and ideas were designed and crafted for people and so he needed to communicate them with care and love.

    I hope one day I can master preaching the hard truths of the gospel with love and care just like John Stott did.


  • An apology from a Pastor to the gay community

    To the Gay community,

    As a pastor I want to apologise to you for so much.

    • I am sorry that a lot of Christians have not treated you with dignity and respect even though as people you are created in the image of God
    • I am sorry that a lot of Christians have not listened to you. We haven’t spent the time to hear about you and your hurts and fears and dreams.
    • I am sorry that a lot of Christians (especially the ones on T.V.) talk about being gay as if it is the worst thing even as we turn a blind eye to our greed, gossip, slander and other sins we make excuses for
    • I am sorry for TV Evangelists because they are TV Evangelists
    • I am sorry that in our conversation we major on your sin when I think Jesus would have majored on his love
    • I am sorry that we have not been there for you in your dark times. When you have seen friends die of AIDS. When many from within your number have committed suicide.
    • I am sorry that we have not preached against the sin of Homophobia
    • I am sorry that we have kept saying that we are all sinners which has made many of you wonder why is being gay so bad if we are all sinners? We should have communicated that the response we all have to make to Gods love is one of repentance.
    • I am sorry that we have tried to cure you of your homosexuality instead of helping you see how Jesus transforms who you are and gives you a new identity.
    • I am sorry that we have not loved you as God himself loves you.

    I am sorry for all these things and I hope you can forgive us. We would love to start a conversation about who Jesus is and how much he has done for you and how much he loves you.

    In love,

    Hans

  • Lies the church tells about sex: When you are content in being single he/she will come along.

    “Oh darling, when you are content in being single that is when he/she will come along”

    How many of have heard this statement? How many of us believe this? I think Christian girls are especially susceptible to this believing this statement. It seems like so many of my single sisters are working so hard at being content and at the same time they are waiting for God to drop Mr Right out of the sky. A lot of my sisters would settle for someone to asking them out on a date.

    See the old chestnut “When you are content in being single He/she will come along” is

    Just

    A

    Lie!

    Yes a lie!

    God has wired us to be relational creatures and so there will always be some kind of angst if we are single.  So when we tell the lie “When you are content he/she will come” we are actually denying what the Bible says about us as creatures. We are denying the way God has made us.

    Also, this lie gives the picture that God is up in heaven looking down on the single person waiting and watching their “content gauge” and when they are finally content enough God flips the switch and the next time that single person gets onto a train and sits next to someone, spills a drink on someone, talks to the owner of the cute dog they pat at the park, (insert your favourite romantic comedy cliché here), that person will be “the one”.

    But God doesn’t work like that. The most important thing for God is that we would desire to know him and we love him. So God is orchestrating our lives for that end. Also, God doesn’t say anywhere in the Bible that he gives us good gifts when we are content or deserve them or whatever. No, God is the God who gives generously to those who don’t deserve anything.

    So for now if we are single we have to trust God that he has out best interests at heart.

    These truths are tough to swallow for many of us.

    But tough truths are better than stupid lies which make us feel good.

     

  • Guest post: How the Gospel Shapes Me as a Mother to Young Children by Erin Crispin

    Hans’ note: As a basketball player I love Erins blog! On her blog she details the life of a young Christian mum who is married to a pro baller Joe Crispin (who can flat out shoot!). Please check out her great blog www.marriedtoaballer.com and follow her on Twitter

    I remember being a young 24-year-old preparing to have our first child. I had read countless books, visited various websites and was a plethora of information on how to best raise a Christian child. What none of these resources ever told me was that in the process of “raising a child” it was me who would do the most changing.

    I have now been a mother for 7 years and have four children ages 7, 5, 3 and 13 months. Every day is a reminder that although I need to preach the gospel to them, often that preaching is just as much for my own heart as it is for theirs. Whereas I used to think of our teaching and discipline times as opportunities to plant the seed of gospel into their young hearts. Now I see that it serves as a reminder to me of what God has done and is doing for me through the work of Jesus.

    We use a little saying in our family whenever we are speaking of obedience. It is from the definition of obedience in “Shepherding a Child’s Heart” and it goes like this:

    The happy way is to obey without challenge, without excuse and without delay.

    The reasons we added the “happy” part in their is because Jesus did not call us to obey out of duty, but out of finding our delight in His perfect plan for our lives. The obedience comes with a reward. Instead of “happy”, our Bibles often have Jesus using the similar word blessed. The Beatitudes (here quoted from Matthew 5) are usually the most recognizable of Jesus’ sayings where He promises that good will come from obedience to Him:
    “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

    “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.

    “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.

    “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.

    “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.

    “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.

    “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.

    “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

    “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”

    As we read these words, we see that we are motivated to obedience through finding greater delight in God that we do in sin. So when I share the gospel with our children throughout the day, the message is:

    Jesus died so that you can be forgiven of your sin and live in victory over it because you have been given a new heart to now find God as your treasure instead of sin.

    And this is the message I need to be reminded of every moment of the day. Because like the old hymn says:

    Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it
    Prone to leave the God I love;
    Here’s my heart, O take and seal it,
    Seal it for thy courts above.
    “Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing”

    When we believe the truth that God’s way is the happy way, we all obey without challenge, without excuse and without delay. The gospel is the reminder we need consistently to trust that moment by moment.
    Erin

  • Lies the church tells about sex: if you have sex outside of marriage you are damaged goods

    The speaker held the two blocks of wood and she said each of these represent a person. She took out her tube of super glue and she glued them together and she said this is what happens when two people have sex, it is like sex glues them together. She then invited two young men up on stage to rip apart the two blocks of wood. They savagely ripped the wood apart leaving shards of wood everywhere.

    She gazed out over the young crowd and said :

    “this is what happens when you have sex outside of marraige” Sex will cause you to stick to somone and when  that someone leaves you will be ripped apart”

    Then in a hushed tone she whispered

    “If you have sex outside of marriage you will be damaged goods!”

    At this time my friend who was sitting next to me was holding her knees to her chest while rocking back and forth crying because if this lady was right she was damaged goods and she felt like no one wanted damaged goods.

    Once again this thing we say about sex leaves me asking a bunch of questions:

    Why pick on sexual sin as making us damaged goods? Doesn’t all sin make us damaged goods?

    Where does it say in the bible that sex outside of marriage makes us damaged goods?

    Is this the message about sex that  Jesus would have brought to a group of teenagers?

    It is interesting when Jesus walked on this earth he talked to a lot of women who were “damaged goods”. Women who had a past, a background, a life before they met Jesus. Not once did he ever use a phrase like damaged goods. He used words of love and forgiveness, he used words that gave life and asked them to leave their life of sin but he didn’t condemn them.

    Also, when  I read the bible it doesnt even hint that if you have had sex outside of marriage you are “damaged goods”. It rather says things like this

    Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! 2 Corinthians 5:17

    This says that if you trust in Jesus you are not damaged good you are a new creation.

    This is the message of the Bible. That, sure sin does corrupt us and make us filthy to God, but because of Gods grace no one is damaged goods more than anyone else. Sin does corrupt us all but the free gift Gods grace transforms us into a new creation.

    That is the message that God has for all of us.