Get free email updates as I write new articles:

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!

This Coming Weekend: How to Have Hope Every Day

Easter offers us hope for the forgiveness of sin and for eternal life. But there is more! God offers us some huge reasons to have hope every single day! In part two of Why We Hope, coming up this Sunday at Grace Hills, we’ll look at the three big gifts Jesus gives today to help us live with hope every day no matter what:

  • His Word (the Bible)
  • His Spirit (the Holy Spirit)
  • His People (the Church)

We’ll define and discover how to take full advantage of each.

You can always help us spread the word by visiting our Facebook page and clicking “Like” on the current weekend preview video.

One More Way to Outline a Sermon

Sermon PreparationAdrian Rogers outlined sermons using four phrases:

  • Hey You! (Get the audience’s attention)
  • Look! (Examine the Scriptures)
  • See! (Explain the passage)
  • Do! (Make application)

Andy Stanley is famous for one-point preaching, but really breaks his messages into five movements:

  • Me (How do I struggle with this?)
  • We (How do we all struggle with this?)
  • God (What does the Bible say about this?)
  • You (What should you do about this?)
  • We (How can we all live this out together?)

And I’m not sure who came up with it, but another well-known system is:

  • Hook (Get attention)
  • Book (Examine the Word)
  • Look (Expound the passage)
  • Took (Make an appeal)

The Puritans jumped right into point one of 27ish as they preached for several hours and there are plenty of other outlining methods as well. I’ve changed my system several times over the years, which I think is important to keep us out of a rut. Lately, I’ve been outlining my messages around three movements..

WHERE WE ARE

In the first part of the message, I speak about the problem or issue that the message addresses, hopefully in a way that motivates my hearers to identify with the problem personally as in, “Oh yeah, I struggle with that too!”

WHAT GOD SAYS

In the middle part (the longer part), I dig into the passage, or sometimes several passages, that address the issue, provide a historical context and expound on the meaning. Sometimes there are three or for “points” here, but not always.

WHAT’S NEXT?

Finally, I move to how we need to live out the solution that God’s Word has provided. I try to be as concrete as possible such as challenging people to go sign up for a ministry, buy a particular book, talk to their next door neighbor, etc.

I’ll probably tweak and change it up again soon, but for now, this system works quite well for me right now.

8 Ways to Hook Your Congregation Into Your Message

HookThe biblical text should be the grand centerpiece of every sermon. But we often take what should be the centerpiece, and move it to the front of what we have to say. In most cases, reading the text should come first in importance, but not first in the order of a message. Whether you’re looking back at Plato or Jesus, virtually every culture has had great communicators who realized the power of attention-grabbing hooks.

1. Start with a deep, human need instead of jumping right into the exegesis and historical-grammatical analysis of the text. When you move from the need to the text, people have the context of its meaning for their lives.

2. Launch with a relevant story. We remember stories that are vibrant, funny, and powerful. And stories connect my heart to the text before my head grabs hold of it.

3. Tell a joke. That is, if you’re funny. I know a fellow Pastor who served a very discouraged congregation, but after years of opening with humor, they experience joy together every week.

4. Use an object lesson. You may not be able to match Ed Young’s capability to drive a tank on stage to illustrate spiritual warfare, but you can hand out puzzle pieces to represent how we all “fit” in God’s family or hold up your shoes as an illustration of an essential need many people live without.

[bcoxlike]

5. Begin with someone’s testimony. This is also great for the middle of the message, but having someone address your topic from their life’s experience shows the congregation that there are others who struggle and others who overcome. Your words have increased credibility when someone “normal” has already proven the practical possibility of achieving what you’re about to preach.

6. Share the results of some word-on-the-street interviews. You can find these clips, or film them yourself as a chance to connect with your community. If you’re going to preach an apologetic message, interview people about their religious viewpoints.

7. Show a related video clip. Some great storytellers and artists have invested their talent into framing concepts in motion pictures. Take advantage of their work for the purpose of setting up your message in an artistic way.

8. Talk to the crowd. This, of course, depends on your setting, but with text messaging and Twitter, we can talk with our audience in real time as never before, fielding questions and allowing the crowd to speak to itself as we teach.

Our options for opening a message are almost limitless, but what we don’t have to do is jump right into the text. It’s still the most important thing we will share all day, but it doesn’t have to come first.

Photo Credit

Easter Means Healing Now, Hope Forever

Let me focus in for a moment on Simon Peter, one of the key disciples surrounding Jesus. You may know the story by heart in which Peter asserted that He would never dessert the Lord Jesus, to which Jesus replied, “Before the cock crows, you will have denied me three times.” Sure enough, Peter forsook his allegiance to the Lord Jesus and denied Him, even cursing, to distance Himself from the cross.

For Peter, the story didn’t end there. There was a time of restoration and healing. Two elements would dominate Peter’s life for the rest of his existence. First, healing now. Second, hope forever!

Let’s listen to the heart of one man who was radically changed by the first Easter… one man who would never be the same again…

[Read more…]