15 Pointers for Preachers

  1. Preach doctrinally. Don’t only teach Bible doctrines such as justification and sanctification in your Sunday school. Preach these doctrines also during your worship service.  preach-the-word

  2. Preach discriminatorily. Address both believers and unbelievers in your preaching. Don’t assume that everyone in your congregation is saved. But don’t think either that no one is saved.

  3. Preach applicatorily. Apply your text to your listeners. With the use of practical illustrations, help them apply your message to their daily life. Remember a sermon without an application is like a lecture. You are preaching, not lecturing.

  4. Preach clearly. Organize your thoughts. Avoid high-sounding words. Consider the children in your congregation. If you have to employ a big word (e.g. justification), explain it using simple words.

  5. Preach evangelistically. Yes, preach against sin, but don’t stop there. Preach about salvation too. If you preach the Law without the gospel, you will make your congregation despair. Further, don’t think that the gospel is only for unbelievers. Believers need it as well for their sanctification.

  6. Preach powerfully. Preach with the unction of the Holy Spirit, as the Apostle Paul did, “[M]y speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God” (1 Cor. 2:4-5).

  7. Preach prayerfully. Pray before, during, and after you preach. Humbly acknowledge that without God’s help, you can do nothing. Realize that God alone can change the hearts of your listeners.

  8. Preach expectantly. Remember nothing is impossible with God. Expect greatly that He will do wondrous things—saving sinners and sanctifying saints. Be confident that His word will not return to Him void. He can even use your worst sermon to accomplish His wonderful plan.

  9. Preach persuasively. Show that what you proclaim is God’s word. Announce, “Thus says the LORD.” Also, don’t be afraid to declare God’s truths, even if by doing so some of your hearers might be offended. You are not to please people but God.

  10. Preach passionately. Love not only preaching but also the people to whom you preach. And if you love your congregation, you will feed them with spiritually nutritious food.

  11. Preach faithfully. Be faithful to your announced text(s). Don’t just read your text, and leave it. Use it. Expound it. Preach from it.

  12. Preach seriously. Preach in this manner because the very word that you preach is sacred. The God who has called you to preach is holy. Your message is a matter of life and death, heaven and hell. Thus jokes have no place in the pulpit. Preachers are not called to be entertainers.

  13. Preach Christ-centeredly. Learn from Paul who says, “I…did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified” (1 Cor. 2:1-2). In the words of the Puritan preacher William Perkins (1558-1602), “preach one Christ, by Christ, to the praise of Christ.”

  14. Preach exemplarily. Live what you preach. Demonstrate holiness, not hypocrisy. Acknowledge with Robert Murray M’Cheyne (1813-1843), “My people’s greatest need is my personal holiness.”

  15. Preach soli Deo gloria.  Your ultimate goal in preaching is to glorify God. Never attempt to take that glory that belongs to God alone. Sing with Fanny J. Crosby (1820-1915): “To God be the glory, great things He has done.”

Oh, Lord, help me to preach!

 

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Preaching Robert Murray M’Cheyne

Titling Your Sermon for Maximum Impact: The Case for an Integrative Use of Titles (Part 1 of 2)

jim

Dr. Jim Cowman

By Dr. Jim Cowman (guest blogger)

 

The lowly sermon title is the most commonly undervalued and neglected part of a sermon, despite its many useful functions. Like an individual’s name, it specifically identifies the work.  It serves as a descriptive summary of the content.  And it can entice the audience in a variety of ways to hear and remember. For maximum sermon impact, a concise and memorable title is as indispensable as a handle to luggage. Contemporary preaching would do well to integrate it creatively into each sermon for optimum effect.

The Form and Use of Titles in Biblical Literature

One has to admit at the outset of this line of inquiry, that in the few places where the Bible presents a sermon, there is no obvious sermon title.  For example, Jesus’ “Sermon on the Mount” (Matt. 5-7), Paul’s “Speech on Mars Hill” (Acts 17), and Peter’s “Pentecost Sermon” (Acts 2) came with no original titles.  Subsequently, common usage came to identify the speech only by where or when it was delivered so that these famous words could be easily referenced.

The books of the Bible, the next larger literary unit, were also given a minimalist title—something to identify it for referencing purposes. So the prophets, the Gospels, Peter’s and John’s epistles, James and Jude are named after the authors, while the epistles of Paul are named after their respective recipients. Fewer are the books that have a brief descriptive title: the books of Moses, Psalms, Proverbs, Lamentations, Acts, and Revelation. Again, a title is a name to identify, or minimally describe a document for easy referral. There are very few examples hinting at a more significant use of title for a document: The “Book of the Law” for Deuteronomy, found and restored to its rightful place of authority over Judah in the reign of Josiah (2 Kings 22; 2 Chron. 34), and “The Book of the Covenant” for Exodus 20-23, to which the Israelites swore allegiance.

The most developed use of titles in the Bible is to be found in the naming and renaming of individuals. Name and title are both labels and designations by which a person or thing is known or called. Name is the simpler and more general term or appellation. Title is the more formal and honorary attribution.  For our purposes, the two terms will be treated synonymously. For instance, consider four people in the Bible who had their name changed to refer to the changes that would take place in their character.

  • According to Abram, “Father of One,” a new name, Abraham (“Father of Many,” Gen. 17:5), conferred upon him a descriptive characterization that was true to the promise of God and Abraham’s certain destiny.
  • Likewise, Jacob became Israel (“He Struggles with God,” Gen. 32:28);
  • Simon became Peter (“The Rock,” John 1:42);
  • Joseph became Barnabas (“Son of Encouragement,” Acts 4:36).

The two most entitled Biblical persons are the antagonist, the Devil, with some 25 titles; and the protagonist, Christ, with over 50 titles.

  • So Satan is… “The Evil one” (1 John 3:12),
  • “The Tempter (Matt. 4),
  • “The Prince of Demons” (Matt. 12:24),
  • “The Great Dragon” (Rev. 12:9),
  • “The Ancient Serpent” (Rev. 12:9),
  • “The Roaring Lion” (1 Pet. 5:8).

Notice from this sampling that these are generally negative, alarming, and repulsive; that is, they add the function of warning, or driving the audience away from what it should fear him to be.

In Christ, titles rise to the highest level of complexity and function.  Whichever title we call him, we are always doing more than affirming his identity and describing his person and work.  For example, if we meaningfully call him “The Good Shepherd,” (John 10:11, 14), it is because “we all like sheep have gone astray,” (1 Pet. 2:25) and are in need of his protective care. But we are also attracted to being like him, as under-shepherds who “tend the flock of God” that is under our care (1 Pet. 5:2).  If we describe him as “The Prince of Peace” (Isa. 9:6), it is because our anxious hearts and troubled world need the calm that only Jesus offers (John 14:27; 16:33).  But we who enjoy his peace are also drawn to be peacemakers (Matt. 5:9).  In short, we call him what he is, what we believe him to be, what we trust him to be, what we need him to be to us; and we follow him in conformity to the likeness of his name.  We can comprehend better now why blind Bartimaeus included the title, “Son of David” in his plea of faith, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” (Mark 10:47)

The name for Christ that elevates titling to its highest pinnacle is found in Revelation 22:12: “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.” This is probably a form of synthetic parallelism in which each title variation is adding something to the basic title meaning:

  • “Beginning and End” affirms his eternal priority and finality over all that is temporal;
  • “Alpha and Omega” summarizes his authorship, keeping and disposing of all things:
  • “First and Last” emphasizes his meritorious elevation (ascension) over all moral creatures by way of the terrible humiliation of the cross (Phil. 2:6-11).

It is to the “First and the Last” that we are most drawn: (in Christ’s Kingdom those will be first who, for Christ’s sake, assumed the place of the last.)  In this, we follow Christ in his incarnation, humiliation, and exaltation.

In summary of the relevant Biblical teaching, then, there is not a single instance of a titled sermon.  However, there are plenty of titles in the Scriptures providing analogical evidence, at least.  So from all these usages, we can still profitably ask, “What use does the Bible make of a title?” That is, “What exactly can a divinely sanctioned title do?”

  1.  It identifies the individual bearer as an assigned name does.
  2.  It describes or characterizes the bearer as to its present or future qualities.
  3.  It confesses what the title user/hearer is trusting the title bearer to fulfill (positively); or, it repels the user from the title qualities, i.e., the works of darkness of Ephesians 5:11 (negatively).

We can summarize this more precisely by observing the first two are applicable to the title bearer, the thing being titled.  The last two concern the audience or hearers using the title:

The Biblical Uses of a Title

A. Affecting the Bearer

1. Identification by Name

2. Description of Qualities

B. Affecting the User

1. Affirmation/Confession of Qualities

2. Enticement/Conformation to Qualities

 

A couple of open-ended questions remain for further consideration.  Does this biblical usage, derive mainly from personal titles, carry over directly and fully to sermons, whether in written or oral form?  And, if the answer be yes in the whole or in the part, why does the Bible not evidence directly such title use for its sermons and documents? The two most obvious answers are not very satisfying: the lack of cultural progress in the area of oral communication; and that the issue is too peripheral to the central theme of redemption in Christ to warrant any more specific attention by the Biblical writers. This remaining element of biblical ambiguity invites corroboration for the use of titles from the secular sphere of life and work. I hope to address this matter in the context of building a case for an integrative use of titles in part two of this article.

 

____________

Rev. Dr. Jim Cowman holds a Doctor of Ministry degree from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois. For the past 14 years he has served Lead Pastor at the Wyandotte Alliance Church in Wyandotte, Michigan. This past summer he was honored for his 27 years of service with the Christian and Missionary Alliance, having served in three C&MA churches, including a new church plant near Rugters University, (“Grace Alliance Church”). In addition to being an online adjunct Professor in Crown College’s Christian Ministry department, he has also served 12 years on the Ordaining Counsel of the Great Lakes District located in Ann Arbor, as well as the Ordaining Counsel of Bethesda Baptist Church in Allen Park, Michigan. He welcomes your emails/comments with regard to his article: jamescowman57@gmail.com

Preaching Sermon

Top Twelve Reasons for Writing Out Your Sermon Manuscript

By Dr. Jim Cowman (guest blogger) mss1

  1. You can actually see, while you are writing, the progressive development of each part of the sermon and can alternately bolster each one to the highest quality, coherence and effect – regardless of the order of development.
  2. Any remaining weaker or missing elements will show up distinctly, crying out for corrective attention, in an otherwise completed manuscript.
  3. You can easily continue improving the sermon – long after initial delivery – by deletion or addition as you become aware of new or better information (e.g. proof-text, winning illustrations, clarifying background).
  4. The audience’s (or supervisor’s) response, as well as your own self-evaluation, can be incorporated into your delivered manuscript as a basis for continued growth in preaching.
  5. You can preach the sermon again – in the whole or in the part – in another venue without any loss of content.  Making multiple uses of your sermon manuscripts reduces preparation time and elevates the quality of your preaching.
  6. You can internalize (assimilate) the manuscript content by reading it a few times before you preach it so that the delivery can retain your written wording in an audience-focused presentation.  Note:  The detriments of being “manuscript bound” in delivery should not be confused with the benefits of manuscript preparation.
  7. You can assimilate the manuscript and reduce it to a half a page or one page outline that contains all of the essential elements that you will need to recall so that you can leave the manuscript behind and speak more extemporaneously.
  8. Your manuscript, with all its careful wording, serves to jog the memory in and out of the pulpit about how to best word the Bible’s teaching on that subject.
  9. You will have a record of illustrations you have already used so that you can avoid repeating them to the same audience.
  10. The finality and permanence of manuscripts encourages record keeping and calendar planning to avoid duplication and to treat “the whole counsel of God.”
  11. You may want to publish your sermon manuscripts someday.
  12. The length of your manuscript will give you a close approximation of how long it will take you to deliver it.

Rev. Dr. Jim Cowman holds a Doctor of Ministry degree from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois. For the past 14 years he has served Lead Pastor at the Wyandotte Alliance Church in Wyandotte, Michigan. This past summer he was honored for his 27 years of service with the Christian and Missionary Alliance, having served in three C&MA churches, including a new church plant near Rugters University, (“Grace Alliance Church”). In addition to being an online adjunct Professor in Crown College’s Christian Ministry department, he has also served 12 years on the Ordaining Counsel of the Great Lakes District located in Ann Arbor, as well as the Ordaining Counsel of Bethesda Baptist Church in Allen Park, Michigan. He welcomes your emails/comments with regard to his article: “Top Twelve Reasons for Writing Out Your Sermon Manuscript”: jamescowman57@gmail.com

Preaching Sermon

Sermon Conclusion at David Brainerd’s Funeral

When Jonathan Edwards wrote his biography of David Brainerd (1718-1747), he entitled it “An Account of the Life of the Late Reverend Mr. David Brainerd, Minister of the Gospel, Missionary to the Indians [Native Americans], from the Honourable Society in Scotland, for the Propagation of Christian Knowledge, and Pastor of A Church of Christian Indians in New Jersey…” This long title briefly describes Brainerd, a faithful and diligent servant of Jesus Christ. At the young age of twenty nine, Brainerd died from tuberculosis in Edwards’ house. According to Edwards, a few days before Brainerd died, “though he was then so low that he could scarcely speak, he so exerted himself that he made a prayer very audibly, wherein besides praying for those present and for his own congregation, he earnestly prayed for the reviving and flourishing of religion in the world.”[1] At the funeral of Brainerd, Edwards delivered a sermon which ended with the following prayerful words:

Oh, that the things that were seen and heard in this extraordinary person, his holiness, heavenliness, labor and self-denial in life, his so remarkable devoting himself and his all, in heart and practice, to the glory of God, and the wonderful frame of mind manifested, in so steadfast a manner, under the expectation of death, and the pains and agonies that brought it on, may excite in us all, both ministers and people, a due sense of the greatness of the work we have to do in the world, the excellency and amiableness of thorough religion in experience and practice, and the blessedness of the end of such whose death finishes such a life, and the infinite value of their eternal reward, when absent from the body and present with the Lord; and effectually stir us up to endeavors that in the way of such an holy life we may at last come to so blessed an end. Amen![2]

 

Note: This post is an excerpt from my recent book Jonathan Edwards: His Doctrine of & Devotion to Prayer.


[1] Jonathan Edwards, “A Sermon Preached on the Day of the Funeral of the Rev. Mr. David Brainerd,” in The Life of David Brainerd, ed. Norman Pettit, vol. 7 of The Works of Jonathan Edwards, ed. John E. Smith (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1985), 551.

[2] Ibid., 553-54.

David Brainerd Jonathan Edwards Prayer Preaching

An Interview with Albert N. Martin about his book Preaching in the Holy Spirit. Grand Rapids: Reformation Heritage Books, 2011, 67 pp., paperback.

Thank you so much for your willingness to be interviewed about your much needed book on preaching in the Holy Spirit. As a pastor, I found this volume a blessing to my soul.

Here are some of my questions for you about your work:

  1. In the preface of your book, you mention that you were only about 18 years old when you started preaching the gospel (vii). Obviously, at that time you were not yet an ordained preacher of the gospel. How would you then respond to people who say that the ministry of preaching is only for ordained ministers?

It is indeed true that I make reference in the preface of my book to my experience of street preaching when I was not quite yet 18 years of age. However, I did not engage in that act of witness bearing with any thought that I was a proven gift of the ascended Christ to serve within his church as a pastor and teacher. Rather, at the encouragement of some older mature Christian men, I and several others were simply doing what is recorded in Acts chapter 2.

According to Acts 1:12, 14, and Acts 2:1-4, when the Spirit of God came upon the 120 in the upper room, they were “all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak…” This description applies to all 120 – including the women who were in that company. Therefore, when Peter explains to the multitudes what has happened, he directs their attention to the promise in the book of Joel concerning the coming of the Holy Spirit. In that passage we are told that as a result of the coming of the Holy Spirit both “your sons and your daughters shall prophesy.” That is, they would all speak forth the saving truth of God. There is no indication that one needs formal ecclesiastical ordination to engage in this witness bearing to God’s saving action in Christ. Prophesying (preaching) and teaching by women are clearly out of bounds in the context of the gathered church under its God appointed male leadership. However, the kind of witness bearing “to the mighty works of God” recorded in Acts 2, describes a totally different activity and setting. I placed my experience of street preaching at age 18 in the context of this biblical perspective.

Likewise, Acts 8:1 along with Acts 11:19-21 clearly indicates that the “non-ordained believers” who were scattered upon the persecution of Saul of Tarsus, spoke forth the truth of God’s word in all of the places to which they were scattered by God’s providence. It is clear that these “non-ordained preachers” were even instrumental in the establishment of the church in Antioch.

In the London Baptist Confession of Faith of 1689, there is a very helpful statement in Chapter 26, paragraph 11 addressing this very concern. It reads as follows:

Although it be incumbent on the bishops or pastors of the churches, to be instant in preaching the Word, by way of office, yet the work of preaching the word is not so peculiarly confined to them, but that others also gifted and fitted by the Holy Spirit for it, and approved then called by the church, may and ought to perform it (my emphasis).

Even though I was very deficient in my understanding of biblical ecclesiology at that age, we were not engaged in a “free lance” activity. In the Mission Hall which I and my friends attended, there were two old men who functioned as our de facto elders. They were the ones who both encouraged our street preaching, our preaching in the Mission Hall, and carefully monitored the content and the manner of our preaching and our Christian lives.

 

To keep reading my interview, click here.

Holy Spirit Interview Preaching

Charles Haddon Spurgeon’s Appropriations of Bernard of Clairvaux

One of the great marks of the preaching and writing ministry of Charles Haddon Spurgeon was his vast knowledge of other preachers and writers.  Throughout his sermons, articles, and books he often cites great men and women that came before him.  He surely took to heart the words of John of Salisbury, “We are like dwarves sitting upon the shoulders of giants.  We see more, and things that are more distant than they did, not because our sight is superior or because we are taller than they, but because they raise us up, and by their great stature adds to ours.”[1]  Spurgeon was surely in his time a “shoulder stander” but he was no dwarf; and today, as he stood so tall on the shoulders of others, many are taking their post atop his broad shoulders.  Lewis Drummond said of him, “Spurgeon vividly recognized that Christians who truly want to walk with God must look back to the past and all that God has done in the lives of those who have preceded them.  Therefore he immersed himself in their writings.”[2]  From the Patristic writers, Spurgeon refers to Justin Martyr, Tertullian, Origen, Gregory of Nazianzus, Basil of Caesarea, Jerome, and most obviously Augustine.[3]

 

The article is by Jason Edwin Dees, pastor of First Baptist Church, Covington, Georgia. While pastoring, he is pursuing his Ph.D. degree in Biblical Spirituality at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Louisville, Kentucky.

Click here to read his entire paper.


[1] John, and Daniel D. McGarry. The Metalogicon of John of Salisbury: a twelfth-century defense of the verbal and logical arts of the trivium. Berkeley: University of California Press. 1955. (3.4). (John of Salisbury quoting Bernard of Chartres in his work The Metalogicon)

[2] Lewis A. Drummond. Spurgeon: prince of preachers. Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 1992. 572.

[3] Lewis A. Drummond. Spurgeon: prince of preachers. Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 1992. 572.

Bernard of Clairvaux Charles Spurgeon Preaching