From Aleppo to Arkansas, Little Boys are Precious

Perhaps you’ve seen the picture of Omran Daqneesh, the five-year-old little boy pulled from the rubble and placed into an ambulance, following an airstrike in Aleppo, Syria. I stared at the photo for a long time. And I watched the footage – just barely over a minute (before clicking, know that it’s graphic) – of the rescue worker placing him in that chair. Rather than crying in fear or from pain, he stared calmly at the cameras, likely disoriented and in shock.

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Image via The Guardian

The photo reminded me of the face of my own three-year-old son, Drew. I swiped through photos from our recent vacation and stopped on this one, taken on a pontoon boat near Crab Island in Destin. That was a good day. Sam bounced on inflatables in waist-deep water while Drew munched on a snack under the canopy of the boat. Our biggest worry that day was that there were quite a few jellyfish in the water – the kind that sting like a wasp and not much more.

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I don’t ever want to grow cold. I don’t want to become so desensitized that I stop feeling the difference between the world I know and the world of those trying to survive the carnage of war. I want to remind myself that wherever little boys are, in Aleppo or in Arkansas, there is the image of God himself dwelling in precious little human form.

My Drew is precious. He can be obstinate. He can throw fits. He ignores our shouts to stop when running away from us down the aisle of a store. But he gives amazing hugs and kisses at night, laughs easily, and is bewildered to discover all the sights and sounds of the world around him as he grows up.

Omran is precious too. He’s grown up on the other side of the world in a predominantly Muslim, war-torn country. But Omran bears the image of his Creator as much as any other little boy in the world.

God made it clear that it would be better for us to have a giant stone tied to our necks and be cast into the sea than to harm one of these little ones and then face the judgment of the Almighty. Yet every day, all over the planet, terrorists victimize children.

They are killed, captured, and enslaved. They are used as human shields and brainwashed into carrying out violent jihad. Just a few hours away from my home in Northwest Arkansas, parents (or at least two people who biologically produced an offspring) were arrested for severely abusing and neglecting a little girl who literally thought her name was “Idiot” because she’d heard it far more than her actual name from this man and this woman.

The news is rife with stories of stings and busts where preteens are liberated from the horrors of sexual slavery. We’ve aborted millions of unborn, precious, human lives – each one bearing the image of the Creator.

What are we doing? These are precious kids. Every. Last. One. Of. Them. We’re responsible for leaving behind for them a world in better shape than we found it. And honestly, we’re blowing it.

I don’t have all the answers, and I feel as helpless as most of you who will read this about bringing down the global giants of war and violence, poverty and hunger, illiteracy and ignorance.

But I’m a firm believer that there is always hope for people, and that you and I can be at least a small part of the solution. How? Here are a few thoughts.

  • Tell everyone who will listen about King Jesus. Social change starts with spiritual change. Cultures are reborn as the individuals and leaders within them are reborn.
  • Value life. Remind yourself what it is to be human, to be made in God’s image. And then mentally label every person you meet or see: Human – Made In God’s Image.
  • Value kids. Protect the unborn. Fight for just laws against abortion. Help parents-to-be find alternatives. Foster. Adopt. Volunteer in kids’ ministry.
  • Follow the hard teachings of Jesus. While the Bible assigns the role of justice-keeping to government, Jesus challenged his followers to love their enemies.
  • Protect the environment. Soil erosion, rising sea levels, and a constantly warming climate are real issues with real humanitarian ramifications.
  • Speak peace to a world in chaos. Give encouragement and affirmation, love and value, even when politicians spew divisive rhetoric.
  • See the world. Go on a mission trip. Volunteer with a nonprofit or relief organization. Touch and be touched by the hurting and desperate.
  • Pray. Pray for a softened heart. Pray for deliverance for captives. Pray for workers in the harvest. Pray for mission fields to open.

There is more, I know. I’m scratching the surface. But for most of us, we simply need to move from feeling nothing to feeling the pain of others, from saying nothing to speaking peace to power, from doing nothing to doing whatever we can to help.

From Aleppo to Arkansas, all life is precious.

A Simple Gospel Invitation to Give Your Life to Jesus

There are so many ways to word an invitation to people to become Christians…

  • Repent and believe…
  • Admit, believe, confess…
  • Invite Jesus into your life…
  • Ask Jesus to be your Savior…
  • Give your life to Jesus…
  • Believe and receive…
  • Commit your life to Jesus…
  • Ask Jesus into your heart… (which can mean so many things)

I’m from an area of Kentucky where some fringe Baptist groups put up billboards that say things like, “You don’t accept Christ. Christ accepts you.” And of course, that clears things right up, right? 

I recently wrote about Scot McKnight’s book, The King Jesus Gospel, in which McKnight offers a ton of clarity about what the “gospel” really is. It isn’t a plan of salvation or a Reformation-era articulation of the doctrine of justification by faith. The gospel is, according to McKnight (and I wholeheartedly agree), 

It’s to the saving Story of Israel now lived out by Jesus, who lived, died, was buried, was raised, and was exalted to God’s right hand, and who is now roaring out the message that someday the kingdom will come in all its glorious fury.

This explanation really leaves us with a big question, though. When we’ve presented the gospel, what’s next? What kind of invitation do we give? To what kind of commitment to we call our listeners? I loved this follow-up piece on McKnight’s blog offering a pretty thorough answer…

What do you say, then, when you are calling people to … here the words matter but I don’t want to parse them at this point … decision? The Sinner’s Prayer is neither here nor there; it’s not the point; it can be the right thing for the right person but it can (too) easily become a magical potion for some evangelists and for some responders. We need to begin at the core of what the proper response to the gospel is:

1. Remember, gospeling is not fundamentally about pleading, persuading, pleasing, or getting folks to decide. Gospeling is to announce something about Jesus. The rhetorical bundle of revivalism, which I have sketched in The King Jesus Gospel, is not the gospel of Jesus or the apostles, and it is bundle of rhetoric designed to persuade and plead and to precipitate decisions. This bundle has convinced many that the bundle is the gospel. It’s not. The revised edition of The King Jesus Gospel has a chapter on how this bundle developed and who is responsible for it.

2. The gospel itself awakens, through the power of God’s Spirit, folks to respond. Don’t forget this: our calling is to witness and declare; God’s Advocate, the Spirit, awakens and draws people to God. God’s Spirit is at work in all and for all.

3. The appropriate gospel message about Jesus is a message that generates this question: Who is Jesus? The proper response then is to repent, to believe, and to be baptized. Confession, yes, of course — inchoately or not — but all of these can be wrapped up into the notion of surrender. I make no apologies for these terms repent, believe, baptize — they are rugged, pervasive terms in the apostolic writings, the source of Christian theology.

4. What we are to do is point people to Jesus in his dimensions, and each dimension summons to a different dimension of the response of surrender to Jesus: we ask them to look to him, to love him, to live before and under and through and by and in him, to call them to give themselves to Jesus and to what he calls us to do. God’s Spirit is at work; God’s Spirit works repentance and faith and leads to baptism. When we get ahead of the Spirit, we run the risk of aborting new birth.

5. What do I say? “Give yourself to Jesus!”

Via Scot’s blog, Jesus Creed.

And there you have it. Our role is to represent our saving King, to tell his story and allow the Holy Spirit to produce life in those who hear. Yes, we ought to let people know that they can, should, and must respond. But our emphasis doesn’t have to be on getting anyone to say certain words. Rather, we’re inviting people to come with us as we follow the King. 

So,

  1. Tell the saving story of Jesus.
  2. Trust the Spirit to bless his gospel and to quicken the dead to life.
  3. Invite people to give themselves to Jesus.

I’m a Pastor who preaches almost every week, and every single time, I do these three things. It’s not enough to ask people to behave differently. We must call them to believe in Jesus and become his followers. So make the gospel clear in every single sermon. 

Have you, in light of who Jesus is, given your life to him?

The “Gospel” Is More Than You’ve Probably Ever Imagined

King Jesus GospelIn modern evangelicalism, we have several versions of the gospel with which people are familiar.

  • The doctrine of justification by grace through faith, which, may describe the theological ramifications of the gospel, but isn’t actually the gospel.
  • The “plan of salvation” including four spiritual laws, or five steps to peace with God, the Romans Road, or some other presentation and decision-centric idea.
  • The death, burial, and resurrection of Christ, which is really close. It’s a huge part of the gospel, but not the whole thing.

The problem with all of these is that they can all be shared with little connection whatsoever to creation, to the Old Testament, and to the church. They can be shared without most of the story and without any kind of actual relationship between the presenter and the audience.

In The King Jesus Gospel, Scot McKnight takes us back – way back – to grasp a more complete version of the gospel. It all started when God made the first humans to be his image-bearers in the earth. Those humans sinned and God raised up Israel from among the earth’s peoples to usher in the Messiah and deliverer. The gospel, as the early church understood it, is how God restores us as his image-bearers in the world through a relationship with Jesus Christ, the promised King whose story ultimately resolved the story of Israel.

Here are a few of my favorite quotes from the book…

Most of evangelism today is obsessed with getting someone to make a decision; the apostles, however, were obsessed with making disciples. Those two words — decision and disciples — are behind this entire book. Evangelism that focuses on decisions short circuits and — yes, the word is appropriate — aborts the design of the gospel, while evangelism that aims at disciples slows down to offer the full gospel of Jesus and the apostles

If the gospel isn’t about transformation, it isn’t the gospel of the Bible.

The idea of King and a kingdom are connected to the original creation. God wanted the Eikons, Adam and Eve, to rule in this world. They failed, so God sent his Son to rule. As its King and Messiah and Lord, the Son commissions the Church to bear witness to the world of the redemption in Jesus Christ, the true King, and to embody the kingdom as the people of God.

I’m convinced there’s a fundamental misperception at work in the motivational ploys. Namely, not only have we reduced the robust view of salvation to these four or five points; we are also asking the Plan of Salvation to do something it was never intended to do. The Plan of Salvation, to put this crudely, isn’t discipleship or justice or obedience. The Plan of Salvation leads to one thing and to one thing only: salvation. Justification leads to a declaration by God that we are in the right, that we are in the people of God; it doesn’t lead inexorably to a life of justice or goodness or loving-kindness. If it did, all Christians would be more just and more filled with goodness and drenched in love.

The Plan of Salvation and the Method of Persuasion have been given so much weight they are crushing and have crushed the Story of Israel and the Story of Jesus.

One reason why so many Christians today don’t know the Old Testament is because their “gospel” doesn’t even need it!

The authentic apostolic gospel, the gospel Paul received and passed on and the one the Corinthians received, concerns these events in the life of Jesus: that Christ died, that Christ was buried, that Christ was raised, and that Christ appeared. The gospel is the story of the crucial events in the life of Jesus Christ. Instead of “four spiritual laws,” which for many holds up our salvation culture, the earliest gospel concerned four “events” or “chapters” in the life of Jesus Christ.

Jesus died (1) with us (identification), (2) instead of us (representation and substitution), and (3) for us (incorporation into the life of God).

Not only is Jesus Messiah, but Jesus over and over in the New Testament is the one true Eikon of God. What the apostles were telling us is that the assignment God gave Adam, the assignment transferred to Abraham, Israel, and Moses, and then to David has now been transferred to and perfectly fulfilled by Jesus.

Whether we look to the words of Jesus in the Jesus Creed of loving God and loving others, or to the words of Jesus in calling us to follow him, or in the words of the apostle Paul to let the Spirit of God loose in our lives to produce the fruit of the Spirit and the gifts of the Spirit, the gospel story will not leave us alone. As our God is a sending God, so we are a sent people. As our God is an other-directed God, so we are to be other-directed. The gospel propels us into mission, into the holistic mission of loving God, loving self, loving others, and loving the world.

There’s our gospel: it’s the saving Story of Israel now lived out by Jesus, who lived, died, was buried, was raised, and was exalted to God’s right hand, and who is now roaring out the message that someday the kingdom will come in all its glorious fury.

McKnight’s writings have been challenging my thinking for some time now, since I first heard him preach at Saddleback Church during our annual Apologetics Weekend. I often find myself wondering if we haven’t somehow overcomplicated the gospel and bogged it down in all kinds of attachments that wouldn’t even have been familiar to the earliest Christians. The King Jesus Gospel confirms this. We’ve drifted from loving the story of the gospel to loving only the saving effects of the gospel.

Read this book to understand the scope of the gospel narrative, and to fall in love with the King all over again!


The King Jesus Gospel: The Original Good News Revisited
By Scot McKnight / Zondervan

Is the gospel you’ve been told the one Jesus taught? In this provocative study, McKnight opens up the Scriptures to reveal that much of what the church claims as good news is not what Jesus preached. Discover the difference between a salvation and a gospel culture, how to put Jesus’ teaching into practice, and more. 184 pages, hardcover from Zondervan.

Jesus, the Prophet, Came Preaching

Jesus was more than a mere prophet – he was the sinless Son of God, the human-divine sacrifice for our sins. But he is a prophet nonetheless, and the greatest prophet the world has ever known.

We like to think of Jesus in any kind of role except that of preacher and prophet, but preaching was a primary component of his earthly ministry. He was a truth-teller and herald of the good news and eternal truth of God.

Mark, who was first to write an inspired biography of Jesus, jumps right into Jesus’ adult years and gives us a summary introduction to Jesus’ ministry with these words…

Later on, after John was arrested, Jesus went into Galilee, where he preached God’s Good News. “The time promised by God has come at last!” he announced. “The Kingdom of God is near! Repent of your sins and believe the Good News!”

Mark 1:14-15 NLT

Jesus’ ministry was, of course, more than just words, but he started his ministry with words, uttered vital words from the cross, and gave even more words of empowerment after his resurrection. Preaching the good news mattered a great deal to Jesus, and preaching the good news is still the primary ministry of the church two thousand years later.

Preaching, as a communication method, may sound outdated and unpopular, but that’s only because of the traditional baggage we attach to it. The fact is, human beings are still deeply moved and motivated by the art of spoken word, even in our visually-stimulating media-rich culture.

From campaign stump speeches to TED talks, we listen to words conveyed through human personality.

THAT Jesus preached matters greatly to how we serve truth to the world today, but WHAT he preached matters even more. And this is where I believe we misunderstand him most.

Jesus didn’t just preach “good news” TO people.

His message wasn’t motivational fluff. It wasn’t self-help gibberish or mystical, pithy sayings. It was good news, but there was a call to action. Specifically, there was a call to repentance based on the good news. Jesus expected his listeners to consider changing their minds about God, about sin, about themselves, and about their way of life. He called them to a radical commitment to believe and trust in him.

When we simply preach good things without any call to repentance, we make the good news seem a little too good. Don’t change. Just stay where you are and God will overlook the deep brokenness within you.

On the other hand…

Jesus didn’t just preach “repentance” AT people.

My big problem with most street corner preachers is that they claim to speak a bold message of repentance – turn or burn, get right or get ready to hell – but what they really do is skip the good news or skim over it at best and head right for the call to action.

When we skip the good news and start our presentations of the gospel with “You’re a sinner… own it… admit it… repent of it… or else…” then we make the good news seem… not very good. In fact, the gospel is the best news anyone could ever hear, and we should present it so.

What, then, was Jesus’ message?

Jesus preached the best news the world has ever heard with an invitation FOR people to turn from sin, trust him, and have their lives changed forever!

Jesus started with the wonderful news that the deliverance broken humanity had been waiting for so long had finally arrived. And more specifically, the messiah for whom Israel had been waiting so long was finally being presented. Sin and the grave would soon be defeated. The King of all kings would be coronated over a Kingdom into which all who would believe in and follow him would be included.

The gospel is really, really good news for broken sinners. Luke is a little more specific about one of Jesus’ earliest messages. One day in the synagogue, Jesus announced the purpose of his ministry by quoting Isaiah…

“The Spirit of the LORD is upon me, for he has anointed me to bring Good News to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim that captives will be released, that the blind will see,that the oppressed will be set free, and that the time of the LORD’s favor has come.”

Luke 4:18-19 NLT

Do you hear that? Because of Jesus, you can be rescued from povertyreleased from slaveryrestored in your sight and your soul, and redeemed from all oppression! Addictions can be broken. Diseases lose their power. Demons have to flee. Cruelty and tyranny won’t last. The gospel is good news!

One of the reasons we doubt the power of the gospel is because we fail to understand that God’s Kingdom is both now, and not yet. Deliverance is both gradual and eventual. Victory is sure, but it is only enjoyed partially, until the King returns to be worshipped by all.

And as Jesus preached the good news of the ultimate deliverance from sin’s curse, he also called his hearers to respond. His calling to repentance and faith is both a command and an invitation. It is the required response of sinners to the gospel, and it is the offer of a good Savior to the broken.

Biblical preaching is both a presentation of the good news of Jesus and a challenge to embrace it with the whole heart and mind. Both are necessary in our faithfulness to the great commission of Jesus to his church.

If all you can do is yell at people about their sin, don’t call it gospel preaching. And if all you have the courage to do is speak the positive things of Christianity without any call to repentance and faith, don’t call it gospel preaching.

I’m a big believer in being creative, in striving to communicate well, and in adapting our presentation methods to each new generation. And I think the content of Scripture ought to be presented in a way that connects with the brokenness and deep-seated needs of its audience. But at the end of the day, here is the non-negotiable core of all good preaching – preach the good news of Jesus, and invite people to embrace him by repenting of their sins and believing in him alone.

Whatever You’re Preaching This Sunday, Talk About THIS!

Preaching is a sacred task. We who shepherd congregations are entrusted with the assignment of opening God’s very own words to his people, week after week, and translating ancient truth to today’s people. We are to preach so as to build up (edify), to hold up (encourage), and to fire up (exhort).

I’m burdened that so much preaching today remains in its ancient context and fails to be interpreted to our current cultural circumstances. I agree with Chuck Swindoll that boring preaching is a crime, and I wish more pastors would come to the pulpit not only prayed up, but touched with the feelings of their flock. In a given year of preaching, we ought to at least touch on every major area of doctrine, each genre of Scripture, and address the major points of pain and need in people’s lives from Scripture.

I do this by preaching thematically in shorter series’ but it can also be accomplished through an expository framework equally well. But this isn’t really a post about what topics, themes, or books of the Bible you should be preaching from. It also isn’t about preaching about current cultural crises which, while highly appropriate at times, shouldn’t be the general shaping influence of our pulpits long term.

This is a post about one of the most neglected topics in preaching – the gospel of Jesus Christ.

I once hosted a revival service and invited a man to preach whom I had known in the past as a very talented guy. I had heard him expound the Scripture and explain the gospel well, but his life and ministry had changed significantly since my last contact with him. The revival wound up as a series of really good motivational speeches with no mention of Jesus, of the cross, or of any way to be saved and changed by the good news of Jesus’ death and resurrection.

Tragically, this happens weekly in pulpits around the world. In various kinds of churches there are various kinds of messages given and various approaches to preaching taken. Some address issues of social justice and others offer practical help in the areas of family and finances. But too often, Jesus is absent, or receives an honorary mention at best.

I believe strongly that modern preaching suffers from a lack of relevance, but I believe relevant preaching is a pointless waste of time if it doesn’t ultimately center around Jesus and drive toward the gospel.

Whatever you’re preaching on this Sunday, preach the gospel! Present Jesus. Adorn the doctrine of Christ. Make it clear that King Jesus is the star of the story and is ready to save anyone who calls out to him and make an appeal in every single message for people to place their trust in him. There is an urgency about this issue that I can’t express in a single blog post. Jesus matters more than anything else you could possibly preach this weekend.

Yes, preach about finances, but always point your hearers toward the ultimate Giver of life. Yes, preach about marriage, parenting, and relationships, but always point the audience toward the Father who is gathering a family to himself. Yes, preach about addiction and brokenness, but always point people toward the Healer and Great Physician. Yes, preach about the cultural issues of our present hour, but always point people toward the timeless Creator and Savior who came and just the right time in history.

As I write this, I’m preaching a three-part series of messages called Margin. We’ll use pieces of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount to address our deepest anxieties about time, money, and relationships. We’ll talk about how we need some space and solitude in our day for the sake of our sanity and our spiritual growth. We’ll talk about dumping our relational baggage from past hurts so we can have healthier friendships and marriages now. But…

Each and every one of those messages will ultimately point people to find their salvation, their healing, their rest, their confidence in Jesus, who died to forgive our sins and rose to lead us as our King!

I’m an advocate of being very sensitive to the seekers among us, but I’m even more an advocate of exalting the Savior to every seeker. I love cool sermon graphics, clever titles, and services that are crafted to communicate ancient truth in a modern context well. But we can have “church” on Sunday and everyone can go home happy and still on their way to hell if we who preach neglect to offer forth the most life-changing truth of all – the good news about Jesus’ death, burial, resurrection, and eternal reign.

Whatever you are preaching this Sunday, talk about the gospel. The world needs it desperately, and God has called you to be the messenger of this sacred good news.

That Time God Told a Man to Kill His Only Son

Sacrifice_of_Isaac-Caravaggio_(Uffizi)

Our culture has bought into this strange notion that we are ever-evolving in our enlightenment and everyone who is old and dead is dumb. Everything we thought pre-Elvis is primitive and ignorant. So ancient story about God visiting an old man named Abraham and instructing him to sacrifice his teenaged son Isaac on an altar with a knife is downright offensive to our modern sensibilities. It’s one of those stories skeptics zero in on to illustrate the outlandish nature of God’s brutality.

And I’ll admit, I’ve often struggled with the story. Human sacrifice is certainly out of line with everything else that God has revealed and seems to break several of the big ten commandments. Could the story really be the account of a senile old man hallucinating? Or was God just that mean back then? But my doubts seem to wash away when I realize what’s really going on in the story, found in Genesis, chapter 22. And when I get it, I’m overwhelmed with the nature of God’s grace.

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The Pleasure and Power of Preaching with Sincerity

imagePaul addressed the issue of sincerity in preaching on several occasions throughout the New Testament. One such instance is 2 Corinthians 2:17, “For we are not as many, which corrupt the word of God: but as of sincerity, but as of God, in the sight of God speak we in Christ.” As I have reflected on this verse, it’s given me some comfort to know that the issues that plague modern Christianity also faced the apostles. I’ve also found an important value in preaching – sincerity.

Sure, there are false teachers, hucksters, and impostors in pulpits across the land today. There were in Paul’s day too. It’s nothing new. But the contrast to this trend is a revival of sincerity in the pulpit. Preaching has been defined by D. Martin-Lloyd Jones as “the communication of God’s truth through human personality.” So we preachers get to represent God’s truth through our very personality. The prayer, “hide me behind thy cross, O Lord,” doesn’t reflect an accurate understanding of what preaching is all about. God has called me to represent Him as only I can, and for you to do the same.

So sincerity is a key to effective communication. You can’t fake sincerity for obvious reasons, but you can certainly do a self-test to ask the tough questions…

  • Do I really believe what I’m saying?
  • Do I live what I’m asking others to live?
  • Am I preaching as me, or as Billy Graham?
  • Am I wearing a mask or being transparent?
  • Am I preaching at people, or having a teaching conversation?

I greatly appreciate fine oratory. Two generations ago and further back, oratorical skills were at the top of the list of qualifications for great preaching. There’s nothing wrong with this. In fact, if preaching can be viewed as a creative art, then we certainly ought to make it pretty for God’s glory. And words are certainly the tools of our trade, so we should study them and utilize the power of them. Nevertheless, preaching is still a conversation that takes place between a preacher and each member of his congregation. It ought to come from the heart.

One of my own heroes was W. A. Criswell, who often referred to himself (making light of what others were already pointing out) as “a holy roller with a Ph.D.” I’ve listened to hundreds of his messages over at WACriswell.org and I can tell you, this genius of a man involved his emotions in the communication process, as should we today. It’s part of sincerity – bearing all.

Sincerity is one of my own core preaching values as well as somthing I continually have to fight myself for. And it can’t be faked. So how do you bear your honest heart for a greater impact in communicating the gospel?

Believe the truth

It’s my strong opinion that those who do not trust the entire Word of God as the whole, pure, and perfect book that it is, should not be in a preaching ministry. Period. We may not understand it all, but we can certainly take God’s Word at face value if we’re going to claim to represent it.

Prepare Well

Preparation prevents faking it in the pulpit. One HUGE rule of preaching is “don’t just make stuff up!” So study, prepare, work hard. Every Sunday is a test of your dedication and commitment to the Word.

Preach With Few, If Any Notes

This adds time and energy to preparation. You not only have to compile material and arrange it in a way that makes sense, but you must commit it to memory. If I’ve studied well, the sermon flows from the heart rather than having to leap off of the page. Having said that, some of the greatest preachers in history have been those who utilize manuscripts, so this is admittedly my own angle and not prescriptive for everybody.

Make Eye Contact

See the eyes of your people when you preach to them and you’ll see a piece of their heart as well. Of course, preaching without notes helps this process a great deal, but even if you use notes, glance at them and then return your attention to those from whom you’ve asked attention.

Tell Your Story

Every sermon represents biblical and doctrinal truth, but it also says something about your life, so tell your story. Your testimony and experiences mean a great deal to your congregation. They know you more by hearing about your personal life, so let them in and they’ll trust you more and respond well when you have to apply the truth in highly convicting ways. And, humorous and painful stories create highly teachable moments with our fellow human beings.

Live It Out

Jesus embodied all of God’s truth. He “tabernacled” Himself among us. He is God wrapped in human flesh. We ought to follow in His steps and be God’s truth, wrapped in flesh. Sermons are not just taught on Sunday, but demonstrated daily as we are observed by those who listen to us. We live life in a fish bowl, to some degree, so put on a show – not the kind where you act like a believer, but where you become a trophy of God’s marvelous and powerful grace.

Love Your Listeners

One of the things I pray before every sermon is “Lord, help me love people as I preach.” It’s easier to get messy in ministry when we love people the way God does. And what we say matters to people only when we’ve loved them in saying it.

Do It All Over Again

Sincerity goes along with consistency. We must be sincere week in and week out. There must be a pattern. Sadly, one mistake can blow our testimony for a long time into the future, so we must live consistently, prepare consistently, and preach consistently.

Sincerity matters in preaching. It’s a key value, a core component of effectively representing the gospel and communicating God’s truth in this present age. In fact, we need it more than ever!