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Questions For Preachers To Ask Themselves About Their Sermons (via Kevin DeYoung)

In this post about ways that preachers can evaluate their own sermons, Kevin DeYoung offers some diagnostic questions preachers can ask themselves about their own preparation and sermons.
The ten questions range across different aspects of the preacher’s life, but I found these three to be challenging in the context of frequent and regular sermon preparation and delivery.
From DeYoung:

2. Did I learn anything new in my preparation? I love teaching and preaching because I love learning. I have to use old material at times (especially when speaking outside my church), but the thrill of preaching is much less that way. Half the excitement is having learned something new during the week that I get to share with others. Basically, preachers can hold the congregation’s attention in three ways: with the force of their personality, with the genius of their stories, or with the intellectual stimulation of their content. Of course, the Spirit is at work too and can work through all of these. But I think too many preachers run out of interesting things to say so they fall back on their own pathos (sometimes manufactured) to keep people engaged each week.
3. Was I personally moved by anything in my preparation? I don’t just want to learn new things in my study. I want to feel new things, or have old affections rekindled. It is hard for a sermon to move others that hasn’t first moved us.
4. Did the best parts of the sermon come from my closest attention to the text? Too often, the real payoff in the sermon has little to do with exegetical insight from the passage. The power (or so it seems) comes from an illustration, a rant, or a well-placed aside instead of from the treasures we’ve unearthed from the Bible in the past week.

Read the whole post here.

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Preaching Is The Most Important Task Of An Ordained Leader (via Will Willimon)

Leading With The Sermon is a new book on preaching by Will Willimon.
This taste demonstrates why I’m looking forward to it.

Preaching is at the center of pastoral work not only because in preaching a pastor is with more members of the congregation, in a more intentional and focused way, than in any other pastoral activity, making the pastor’s unique role visibly, definitively evident. Proclamation is at the center because of who God is and what God is up to. We know the truth about God only because of the proclamation of the one true preacher, Jesus.
The pastor who pleads, “Though I’m not much of a preacher, I am a loving, caring pastor,” is lying. There’s no way to care for God’s people as pastor without loving them enough to tell them the truth about God, what God is up to in the world, and how they can hitch on.
Christianity is a “revealed religion”; it happens when humanity is confronted by a loquacious God. We are unable to think about a Trinitarian God on our own. The truth about God must be revealed, spoken to us as the gift of a God who refuses to be vague or coy. It is of the nature of the Trinity to be communicative, revelatory—the Father speaking to the Son, the Son mutually interacting with the Father, all in the power of the Holy Spirit, God speaking to God’s world.


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Preaching – Unique Proclamation (via Adam Ch’ng at Gospel Coalition Australia)

The words ‘sermon’ and ‘preaching’ fall out of use in some churches for a variety of reasons, both social and theological.
None of the replacement words or phrases really embrace the fulness of God imparting his grace to his people that is the act of a sermon being preached.
Whatever it’s called, as long as that is what is understood is happening.

Adam Ch’ng, at Gospel Coalition Australia, writes that –
Preaching is more than “sharing the Word”
Preaching is more than “explaining the Bible”
Preaching is more than “giving a Bible talk”

And concludes by writing

How then should we introduce the sermon?
We might unashamedly describe the sermon as “gospel proclamation” and call our churches to repent and believe. We might pray for our church to be not just informed but transformed by the Word. We might even ask our churches to “prepare to hear God speak”.
Whatever we might say, we must not diminish the supernatural significance of the preached word. Instead, we must lift our churches’ expectations of this sacred event. We need to aim higher.
For when we preach the Word with faithfulness, clarity and conviction, we are declaring Jesus’ victory over sin and death. We are transforming hearts, saving sinners and sanctifying the church. And we are acting as the mouthpiece of God who in that very moment is speaking light into the darkness.

Read the whole article at Gospel Coalition Australia.

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Faithful Application Of Bible Teaching Terminates On The Glory Of God

Teaching the Bible involves application – the response to what is being proclaimed.

But application that halts on the benefit to the hearer undoes the centrality of the work of Jesus. Application must find its ultimate motivation in response to the glorious God who has saved us.

Jared Wilson offers this as one of three points about faithful application of the Scriptures.

…faithful application is not about self-improvement or self-actualization. Don’t tell your people that if they do steps 1-4 this week, they’ll have a successful life or a healthy marriage or a fat bank account or any other soft legalism quasi prosperity gospel. Tell them the gospel has set them free from working for God’s approval but to working for God’s glory.

If we obeyed for credit, we deem Christ’s sacrifice insufficient. But we don’t even get to take credit. The gospel empowers our works, so he gets the glory. As Paul writes, “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared ahead of time for us to do.” They’re not even your ideas!

Let your light shine before men this way: that those who would see your good works would glorify not you but your Father in heaven.


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Analysis Of 50,000 Sermons From The USA By The Pew Research Center

One of the more fascinating things I read this year was David Cook’s effort at auditing the preaching of the Presbyterian Churches of Victoria (Australia) in preparation for conducting a pastor’s conference in Melbourne.

This report from the USA based Pew Research Center computer analysed more than 50,000 sermons from a variety of churches in the USA over an eight week period around Easter 2019.
It’s interesting reading, though it provides mostly observation and doesn’t offer conclusions, except that there are differences in language, length, and Biblical referencing among various streams in the church.
That these sermons are from the period around Easter suggests that language, specific Biblical references, and themes might have their highest degree of commonality, so the differences may be all the more telling in how these churches focus on the same biblical and theological events in what would seem to be different ways.

Read the report here at the The Pew Research Center.

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Jesus Used Illustrations To Humble Pride, Not Encourage It (via Barry York at Gentle Reformation)

Illustrations, as their name demonstrates, are not the focus of a sermon’s message but serve to help important points of teaching or application be clarified and understood.
They must not distract or confuse, nor should they focus attention on the preacher or alienate hearers from the message.

This article about illustrations by Barry York is a good reminder of some basic principles.
I particularly appreciated this one:

Do not let them be boring or boorish.
If there is one place that should be guaranteed to be more lively and engaging in a sermon, it is when an illustration is given. If a story or anecdote is done poorly and does not hold the interest of the listeners, then things do not bode well for the rest of the sermon. Make them lively both in their content and presentation! Neither should the preacher seek to use the illustration in a condescending way, for instance having as its motivation an attempt to show the superiority of his church over others. Jesus used illustrations to humble pride, not encourage it.

Read the whole article at Gentle Reformation.

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In The Temptations Of Jesus, It Was The Devil Who Proffered Common Sense (via Will Willimon)

The temptation to adjust preaching from offering Christ to offering helpful advice about how to live you best life now has an old pedigree.
The temptation should be resisted at all costs. We live by the word of God alone.

From Accidental Preacher by Will Willimon.

I’m old enough to remember when preachers were expected to be good with Scripture. These days we’re cast into the role of experts doling out advice on marriage, business, the purpose—driven life, legislated justice, and sexual satisfaction. A lot of the preaching I hear today (and not only in a former stadium in Houston) is good advice; sentimental, worldly wisdom substituted for gospel foolishness; helpful hints for homemakers; tips for the anxious upwardly mobile; common sense widely available without having to get dressed and come to church to hear it. At least Rotary serves lunch.
In the temptations of Jesus, it was the devil who proffered common sense. Sanctimonious advice, even well meaning, is a bore. Most commonsense sermons — platitudes and principles foisted upon the congregation as if the preacher were an expert on life — are offered in the attempt to help us retain control over our lives by using common sense to keep a living God at bay. Preachers ought to remember the audience’s elation when Hamlet’s uncle — tedious, bloated-with—advice Polonius — finally gets a knife to the gut.
Will Willimon, Accidental Preacher, Eerdmans, 2019, pg 101.