• What is The Primary Aim in Preaching?

    What is the main aim in preaching? Is to teach the Bible? Is it to educate? Is it to persuade? To motivate? In Tim Keller’s great book Center Church: Doing Balanced, Gospel-Centered Ministry in Your City Keller has a great quote from Martin Lloyd-Jones about the primary aim of preaching:

     The first and primary object of preaching… is to produce an impression. It is the impression at the time that matters, even more than what you can remember subsequently… Edwards, in my opinion, has the true notion of preaching. It is not primarily to impart information; and while [the listeners are taking] notes you may be missing something of the impact of the Spirit. As preachers we must not forget this. We are not merely imparters of information. We should tell our people to read certain books themselves and get the information there. The business of preaching is to make such knowledge live.

    What do you think? Do you think the primary aim in preaching is to make an impression or something else?

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  • Tim Keller on Evangelism in the 21st Century

    Check out this video of Tim Keller talking about evangelism in the 21st century.

    What do you agree with? What do you disagree with? What would you like to ask questions about?

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  • Why Preaching Morality Doesn’t Work

    As a pastor I want to see people’s lives change. But when I am not being refreshed by the gospel I preach morality rather than  grace. I preach that peoples morals need to change rather than preaching the gospel and showing how the gospel changes morality. The difference is subtle but the outcomes are huge. In the end the very moral change I want to see in my people won’t come if I preach morality but, if over time, I preach the gospel the change will come. This is exactly what Tim Keller shows us in his great book Center Church: Doing Balanced, Gospel-Centered Ministry in Your City:

    Moralistic behavior change bends a person into a different pattern through fear of consequences rather than melting a person into a new shape. But this does not work. If you try to bend a piece of metal without the softening effect of heat, it is likely to snap back to its former position. This is why we see people who try to change through moralistic behaviorism find themselves repeatedly lapsing into sins they thought themselves incapable of committing. They can’t believe they embezzled or lied or committed adultery or felt so much blind hatred that they lashed out. Appalled at themselves, they say, “I wasn’t raised that way!” But they were. For moralistic behaviorism — even deep within a religious environment — continues to nurture the “ruthless, sleepless, unsmiling concentration on self that is the mark of Hell.”5 This is the reason people embezzle, lie, and break promises in the first place. It also explains why churches are plagued with gossip and fighting. Underneath what appears to be unselfishness is great self-centeredness, which has been enhanced by moralistic modes of ministry and is marked by liberal doses of sanctimony, judgmentalism, and spite. To complete our illustration, if you try to bend metal without the softening effect of heat, it may simply break. Many people, after years of being crushed under moralistic behaviorism, abandon their faith altogether, complaining that they are exhausted and “can’t keep it up.” But the gospel of God’s grace doesn’t try to bend a heart into a new pattern; it melts it and re-forms it into a new shape. The gospel can produce a new joy, love, and gratitude — new inclinations of the heart that eat away at deadly self-regard and self-concentration. Without this “gospel heat” — the joy, love, and gratitude that result from an experience of grace — people will simply snap. Putting pressure on their will may temporarily alter their behavior, but their heart’s basic self-centeredness and insecurity


    How can you remind yourself to preach the gospel for change and not just moral change itself?

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  • The Sin of Plagiarizing Sermons

    I went into this particular church for the first time. I had been interviewed to be on staff as a student minister and then I heard the preacher and his sermon convinced me not to take the position.

    No the sermon wasn’t heretical

    No the sermon wasn’t terrible

    But the sermon was plagarized

    I had heard this particular sermon a few months ago from another man who I know got it from a preacher in the states. When I confronted the Preacher who was interviewing me he didnt think preaching someone else’s sermon was a big deal. When I told  the search committee why I wasn’t taking the position no one seemed to mind that this man had plagiarized the sermon.

    With the advent of the internet and podcasting plagiarism in sermons is continuing to go through the roof. I have heard of more than my share of Pastors with theological degrees from great colleges plagiarizing sermons.

    But is this such an issue?

    I think it is and here is why:

    1. The pastoral task it to preach the word in season and out of season (2 Timothy 4:1-5) so there is a biblical command that you preach. But it is the content of what you preach that matters. The content is meant to be the word. I think that implies you have spent good amounts of time studying the text of scripture yourself and have let it shape the sermon. You haven’t merely downloaded the sermon  and become a human speaker for someone else.

    2. The congregation is paying you to preach. So there is a sense in which you are taking money under false pretenses if you plagiarize sermons.

    3. The sermon is meant to be from your heart to the congregations heart. Out of love for God and your congregation you are meant to preach.

    4. The heart of a pastor is corrupt when he plagiarizes a sermon because he thinks that faithful preaching isn’t good enough. That is why he plagiarizes the sermon because he thinks that what the congregation needs to is a killer sermon replete with great illustrations, awesome applications and a few great jokes. But in the end faithfulness not flair makes a good preacher. It is love for your congregation not laughter from your congregation that matters.

    If you are plagiarizing sermons you are robbing your church and yourself of great time in the word. Repent of this sin and take Paul’s words to Timothy to heart:

    In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge: Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction. For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry.

    2 Timothy 4:1-5

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  • How to Preach a Great Sermon on Mission

    Preaching on college mission is a huge privilege and responsibility. Think about it, this may be the one time this year that a person at the church you are going on mission to brings a non christian friend or family member to the event you are speaking at. What a privilege! What a responsibility! What an opportunity!
    In my experience, mission sermons either go over great or fail miserably. So if you are preaching on mission here are some things I would suggest you do:
    1. Preach from one of the gospels. The mission sermons that I have seen fail were the ones that were preached from an obscure part of the Bible. These sermons were usually a rehash of a sermon from church or a sermon based exegetical essay the person had just done for college. If you are thinking or saying something like “I think I make this passage/ sermon be evangelistic” you are better off starting again and choose an easy passage where you can preach the gospel easily to a non Christian. Remember you are there to preach the gospel not show how you can preach the gospel from a obscure text and impress everyone.
    2. Preach the text! If you are preaching from a passage that emphasizes the divinity of Jesus preach about the divinity of Jesus! If the passage talks about Jesus death preach Jesus death! The two mistakes that I have seen here are: 1. Trying to say everything you can about Jesus. You don’t have to say everything about Jesus for it to be evangelistic. Preach Jesus as he is revealed in the text and trust God. 2. Trying to preach an aspect if the gospel that is not clearly in the text. I once heard a guy spend most of the sermon talking about penal substitution from the story of Jesus calming the storm which is a story that is clearly about faith in Jesus who has power over sin and death. Now is it wrong to mention penal substitution when you preach this text? Not at all but we are there to preach what the text emphasizes and leave the rest up to God.
    3. Know your audience.  If you are preaching to blue collar workers you are going to have to preach differently than if you are preaching to a group of uni students. The mission sermons that I have heard  that nailed it were ones where the preacher knew who he/she was talking to so well and who worked hard to communicate to them at their level. This is hard work but it is work that is eternally worth it!
    What would you add to this list?
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  • When Poor Preaching Destroys the Biblical View on Gender

    Every few years there is a debate on the gender roles in Christianity. This is a good and necessary discussion to have.

    It has been said by complementarian Male pastors that a lot of women feel forced to step up into a role that they don’t feel comfortable taking on because the men in that role are doing a poor job. This idea was confirmed to me by Clare Smith, a woman with a PhD in New Testament. This is an excerpt from her book God’s Good Design:

    I have never felt that I have nothing to contribute. Because of this, as well as being convinced it is not God’s will for me to do so, I have never felt the need to teach the Bible to men or to be a leading elder in a church. I have had to ask myself if I wanted to do so — because invitations have come — but making the decision not to do so has not been a difficult one. I realize this is not always the case for some women who say they feel ‘called’ to those ministries.

    My decision has been difficult only when — if I can be brutally honest, brothers — I hear inept preaching from a man. I do not mean your average run-of-the-mill preaching, where the preacher loves the Lord and loves his word but there is something lacking in the power or passion or application of that word. I mean preaching where the clarity of God’s word is obscured, or where error is proclaimed as truth, or where the preacher preaches himself and not our wonderful Saviour. It is then that I feel the rub of the different God-given responsibilities of men and women that prevent women from preaching to mixed congregations.

    Of course, I realize the pride inherent in such a complaint. And I realize it is not only women who struggle with poor preaching. But perhaps this is a good place to remind those brothers who are preachers that you serve your sisters, in a way that you do not serve your brothers, by being the best preacher you can be — because if there is no lack in the pulpit, your sisters will be less tempted to want to fill it.”

    Clare Smith God’s Good Design pg 230-231

    Does that sting?

    One of the biggest questions I get asked about what the Bible says about gender is “What if a man sucks at preaching/leadership and there is a woman that is better?” Great question. The answer is not for the Bible to be thrown out but for men to step up and lead and preach well.

    Pastors’ are you tempting women to enter into unbiblical roles for them because you aren’t preaching or leading well?

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  • Are you Still Using Your Greek?

    One of the things I learnt at Bible college was New Testament Greek (I did a year of Hebrew but I really didn’t learn it!). One of the questions that gets thrown around between pastors that I meet is “Are you still using your Greek/Hebrew when you prepare sermons?”. To our shame the answer is usually no.

    I read this quote by John Wesley on a blog by Ray Ortlund:

    “Do I understand Greek and Hebrew?  Otherwise, how can I undertake, as every Minister does, not only to explain books which are written therein but to defend them against all opponents?  Am I not at the mercy of everyone who does understand, or even pretends to understand, the original?  For which way can I confute his pretense?  Do I understand the language of the Old Testament? critically? at all?  Can I read into English one of David’s Psalms, or even the first chapter of Genesis?  Do I understand the language of the New Testament?  Am I a critical master of it?  Have I enough of it even to read into English the first chapter of St. Luke?  If not, how many years did I spend at school?  How many at the University?  And what was I doing all those years?  Ought not shame to cover my face?”

    John Wesley, “An Address to the Clergy,”

    Ortlund then finishes the blog by saying:

    I do not believe that every minister of the gospel, to be faithful, must know the original languages.  But many should and must.  It is the standard.  Yes, let’s make room for special cases.  But they are special cases.  And if we have had the privilege of studying the Bible in the original texts, the Lord has given us a stewardship to cultivate, not neglect.

    This rebuked me because I find I use the Greek knowledge that I have only when I really have time. But using the Greek will help me with exegesis and it is a privilege  Consider this preacher thoroughly rebuked!

    Pastor, are you using your Greek/Hebrew that you learnt at college?

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  • A Tribute To Chappo

    Last Friday night the world lost someone who it was not worth of having. That man was John Chapman. I am extremely thankful to God for this great man.

    John took up his first post Bible College ministry position in my home town of Moree. To this day there are still people in Moree who remember Chappo and his sermons even though he kicked off his full time ministry decades ago! This was rammed home to me when, after I preached what I thought was a good sermon, a lady came up to me and said “Don’t worry even Chappo preached a few stinkers!” I dare say she remembered the stinkers because he was an unusually gifted preacher and therefore his stinkers were very rare and noticeable by their conspicuousness!

    It was Chappo and a group of other like minded clergy who worked hard at getting Peter Chiswell installed as Bishop of the Armidale Diocese in 1976. To my knowledge Peter was the first Evangelical Bishop to be installed as Bishop of Armidale. The knock on effect of this work is that every church in the Armidale Diocese has an evangelical minister and when I was a lanky 14 year old kid and I walked in to my local Anglican church I was smack dab in the middle of a great Bible teaching church. I don’t think it is too strong to say that I am a Reformed Evangelical who tries to preach expository messages because Chappo and his band of brothers worked hard to get an evangelical installed as Bishop in the Armidale Diocese.

    When I asked Chappo about what part he played to get Peter Chiswell installed as bishop he said “Oh brother I didn’t do that much. People wanted an evangelical bishop and I just said here is our man and I prayed. That is all brother!” When I asked other people who were in the know what part Chappo played in this story they always said he was instrumental or that he was a catalyst. This goes to show how much of a humble man Chappo was.

    On Saturday night I chatted two men who had worked very closely  in various contexts with Chappo and they both remarked to me that they had never heard anyone say a bad word about Chappo. He was always well liked and well loved because he exuded love and grace to all those he met.

    Chappo’s sense of humour was exceptional. I first heard Chappo at the Moree Christian convention in a Q&A time. When he got up to answer the first question I remember thinking “This is the guy who everyone was raving about?” Just when I was settling in for a night of boredom….. BANG!!! his first one liner hit me and then the next and the next. It is safe to say I have never laughed so hard in a church Q&A ever!

    Chappo was a committed Reformed Evangelical.  I remember having him for preaching class and he would press us not to care about what the academic world said about the Bible or what the outside world thought about the Bible but to hold firm and believe the Scriptures in their entirety. One time he said that we will have to read a lot of “Liberal rubbish that is for the birds. But don’t you lose your confidence in the Scriptures!” This made a huge impression on me as a college student.

    But the thing I will miss most about Chappo is his preaching. He was a man who God used mightily to bring many people to come to know and love and serve Jesus. I thank God for his preaching. It was simple without being simplistic. It was biblical and relevant. It was engaging but Chappo never included a joke just to make people listen. Although he did tell some great jokes! Chappo’s preaching was always Expository, it was always Christ centrered and always full of grace. This is the kind of preaching I want to mark my ministry.

    I thank God for Chappo and I know that as he was welcomed home he heard these words from Jesus

    “Well done good and faithful servant!”

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  • How to make your sermons stickier

    I have been listening to Chip and Dan Heath’s audio book Made to Stick: why some Ideas Survive and Others Die. It has been a fantastic experience. The Heath brothers say that most ideas don’t hang around or stick because the person delivering the ideas hasn’t thought about how to make them stick. As someone who wants his own preaching to improve all the time this got me thinking about how I can make my sermons “stickier”

    According to the Heath brothers sticky ideas have 6 attributes:

    1. Sticky ideas are simple. This doesn’t mean that you can’t go deep. A good idea may be profound but it is simply communicated so that everyone can understand it. To make our ideas or sermons sticky the question we have to ask is “What is the core of the message that I am trying to deliver?” Once we have that we ruthlessly cut out the chaff so that people get the idea and only the idea.

    2. Sticky ideas have an unexpected twist to them. We are wired to pay more attention to things that are out of the ordinary and so sticky ideas will make us do a mental double take. How can I make this Sunday’s sermon have an unexpected twist in it? Can I say old truths in a new which will make people sit up and take notice?

    3. Sticky ideas are concrete. Something becomes concrete when it can be described or detected by the human senses. A V-8 engine is concrete; “high-performance” is abstract. Concrete ideas are easy to remember. Experiments have shown that people remember concrete over abstract nouns: “bicycle” over “justice” or “personality.”

    4. Sticky ideas are credible. They are not easily dismissed as being stupid. This is hard for preachers because our message is foolishness to a perishing world (1 Corinthians 1:18). But is there a way we can preach that shows how relevant and true the gospel is?

    5. Sticky ideas are emotional. That means that sticky ideas convey or cause an emotion to be felt. How do we do this with our preaching?

    6. Sticky ideas have a story component to them. That is there is within a sticky idea a mini narrative or the idea is wrapped in a story. Stories communicate more than hard facts or intellectual ideas in most cases.

    How can we use these six principles to make your sermons “stickier”?

  • Why Podcasting Could Destroy your Faith

    I was at a good church, the minister was a great man of God. He was godly, humble a good leader and extremely likeable.  He had taken this almost dead church to be a thriving church. Almost everyone loved his preaching. That is almost everyone except me. I had gotten into podcasting great preachers about a year before I started not appreicating this man’s great preaching. I was subscribing to about 40 podcats (yeah you read that right). I was listening to all the big names like Piper, Driscoll, Mahaney, Macarthur, Chandler, etc. When I came to church my pastors preaching wasn’t as dynamic and riveting as the guys I was podcasting. Sure he was faithful but I wanted more. No, I needed more.

    What was the issue here? It was me. I was judging the sermon on how much it entertained me. I was listening to Podcasts for entertainment not for spiritual change. The things that I remembered from the podcasts and commented on was the funny/touching/gripping illustration and not how the word through the preacher had changed me. I was hooked to podcasts as entertainment and preaching was primarily a performance. A performance where if the preacher didn’t grip me it was his fault.

    Every week God was speaking at my local church through the preacher and I prepared my heart to be entertained and when I wasn’t entertained I grew cold to the preaching. What a sad state I was in!

    I was not being fed spiritually because I had the wrong expectations, I was not being fed spiritually because I was judging the preaching rather than sitting under it.

    And it all came from listening to podcasts in the wrong way.

    I think people being bored with the preaching at our local church is a huge issue today. One that is born out of an entertainment, me first culture combined with a listening to preaching for entertainment.

    Should you listen to podcasts of the greats? Sure if you want to.

    But why are you listening to them?

    And what are you doing after you listen to the podcast?

    Are you listening to the podcast because it is fun or because you want to encounter God in his word?

    Are you coming away from the podcast and repenting of sin and being inspired to tell the world about Jesus or are you laughing at the joke the guy cracked on the podcast.

    If you listen to podcasts for entertainment you will start judging all preaching by whether it is entertaining and you will take this attitude into your local church and you will become like I was, selfish and self centered, thinking the preaching was all about me.

    By all means listen to great preaching through podcasts but don’t listen to be entertained listen to be changed.