Category Archives: Teaching
Good words hereabout packing too much into a sermon.
“I take it for granted that we all believe the Bible to be the Word of God, the only infallible rule of faith and practice. I take it for granted that we all read the Bible with regularity. What I am going to plead for, however, is concentrated, sustained, devoted study of the Bible, the kind of study that is not fulfilled by the perfunctory reading of some passages each day…
What I am going to stress is the necessity for diligent and persevering searching of the Scriptures; study whereby we shall turn and turn again the pages of Scripture; the study of prolonged thought and meditation by which our hearts and minds may become soaked with the truth of the Bible and by which the deepest springs of thought, feeling and action may be stirred and directed; the study by which the Word of God will grip us, bind us, hold us, pull us, drive us, raise us up from the dunghill, bring us down from our high conceits and make us its bondservants in all of thought, life and conduct.
The Word of God is a great deep. The commandment is exceeding broad. And so we cannot by merely occasional, hurried and perfunctory use of it understand its meaning and power. Sustained and diligent study of the Bible is indispensable.”
–John Murray, “The Study of the Bible,” in The Collected Writings of John Murray, Volume 1 (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1991), 3-4
A young Phil Curtis was trying to teach the junior high boys. He was being eaten alive by them. Jane Burchett gave him for simple rules and he never had any problems again.
The 4 principles:
1.Be (better) prepared with your lesson. By questioning me, she determined that I was not adequately prepared with my S. S. lesson. With Jr. boys I had to be much better prepared than for an adult class. Every 5 minutes had to be fully accounted for! I was the primary problem, not the kids.
2. Set the ground rules. I should have done this at the first class. I did the very next Sunday.
3. Follow through with discipline. As part of the ground rules, indicate what the consequences would be should they break a rule (in this case, they would be sent out to the dept. supt.). She suggested giving them one warning, if they should break a rule, and the next time, follow-through with the consequences. (On that next Sunday back, within a few minutes of the opening of the class, I had sent out a student to the dept. supt. He was stupefied! You could have heard a pin drop. I never had trouble with the class after that.)
4. Follow good classroom management techniques such as (1) eye contact with a talking student, (2) moving toward and standing next to a restless student while continuing to teach, etc.
Copied from BTW.
Collin Hansen has a good interview here with Mike Bullmore on the challenge and privilege of preaching from the Old Testament.
Pastors and seminarians, I highly recommend that you listen to Bullmore’s teaching on preaching. It is rich, practical, and doused with gospel grace. Here are some free MP3s preaching at Sovereign Grace conferences:
I use this grid on a regular basis. I commend it to you. – Chap
The application grid is a helpful tool from 9Marks that can serve pastors preparing sermons, as well as all of us when reading biblical texts. The grid has you examine how the main point of a passage applies to six areas:
- Unique salvation-historical. Does the main point address a text that thrusts forward the unfolding plot of redemption in history?
- Individual Non-Christian. Does the main point have implications for the unbeliever’s thinking, behavior, or motivations?
- Public. Does the main point have implications for how we conduct ourselves in the public squares of commerce, politics, justice, etc . . . ?
- Christological. Does the main point have implications for how we think about Christ Himself?
- Individual Christian. Does the main point have implications for my own persona discipleship to Christ?
- Local church. Does the main point have implications for how we conduct ourselves as an assembled congregation or in our corporate life together?
- Goal. The goal of a good intro is to show the unbeliever that we understand how they might perceive what we’re saying, and to show the believer why it is important for them to pay attention to this passage and this sermon.
- When. It’s best to wait the writing of the introduction until the end of your preparation. That way you know exactly what you’re trying to introduce.
- How. Use a story, quote, experience, or thought that frontloads the sermon’s application for the believer and identifies with the unbelievers’ skepticism.
The Main Meal
- Goal. To give the weight and balance of the passage, letting it speak, and being sensitive to when things in the text happen relative to salvation history.
- When. Write the body of the sermon first. Introductions and conclusions are easier to write if you first know what you are trying to introduce and conclude.
- How. State your proposition clearly. Then formulate main points that demonstrably relate to that proposition and expound the textual referent of each main point.
- Goal. The goal of a good conclusion is to make the whole weight of the text’s point come down on the listeners’ hearts in one concise statement or question.
- When. Conclusions are best written late, perhaps just before writing the introduction. Again, figure out what you’re trying to conclude first.
- How. Repeat your proposition, summarize your main points, and give a concise quote, hymn verse, or a well-phrased sentence that presses the weight of the text on the hearts of the listeners. Winsome second person speech (“you”) can be useful here.
From BTW: Excellent stuff on preaching and the way of thinking!
The dominant mode of evangelical preaching on sanctification, the main way to motivate for godly living, sounds something like this:
You are not _____;
You should be _________;
Therefore, do or be ________!
Fill in the blank with anything good and biblical (holy; salt and light; feed the poor; walk humbly; give generously; etc.).
This is not how Paul and the other New Testament writers motivated the church in light of the resurrection and the outpouring of the Spirit. They did give imperatives (=what you should do), but they do so only based on indicatives (=what God has done).
The problem with the typical evangelical motivation toward radical or sacrificial living is that “imperatives divorced from indicatives become impossibilities” (to quote Tullian Tchividjian). Or another way that Tullian puts it: “gospel obligations must be based on gospel declarations.”
This “become what you are” way of speaking is strange for many us us. It seems precisely backward. But we must adjust our mental compass in order to walk this biblical path and recalibrate in order to speak this biblical language.
We see this all throughout the NT. Here are a few examples of this gospel logic and language:
“You really are unleavened” (indicative),
therefore “Cleanse out the old leaven that you may be a new lump” (imperative). [1 Cor. 5:7].
“You are not under law but under grace” and you “have been brought from death to life (indicatives),
therefore “Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body. . . .
Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness,
but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness” (imperatives). [Rom. 6:12-14]
“Having been set free from sin, [you] have become slaves of righteousness (indicatives) . . .
[therefore] now present your members as slaves to righteousness leading to sanctification (imperative). [Rom. 6:18-19]
“Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires” (indicative),
therefore, “walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh” (imperative). [Gal. 5:16, 24]
Pastor, are you encouraging your people to become who they already are in Christ Jesus?
What a blessing when a sermon is a testimony. If the orator has had no living encounter with the material, the parishioners shift in their chairs. If God has done business with the man, we hang on every word. It astonishes. It comes with authority (Matthew 7:28-29). It surpasses mere textual knowledge as a road surpasses a map.
The testimony-sermon is the Word of God believed, then obeyed, then blessed in obedience, then reported to the congregation. It brings practical counsel from the crucible of personal suffering. It carries “the fullness of the blessing of Christ” (Romans 15:29), pushing into all dimensions. It lifts off the flattened page, from the realm of Idea to the realm of Incarnation in human affairs, providing entry points for God’s “kingdom come.”
I can tell when I am hearing a sermon on a doctrine that the speaker hasn’t experienced firsthand. It’s not that he’s lying. He himself does not realize; he believes that when he lays out a homiletically top-rate teaching, he has done all there is to do.
The sermon, as it leaves his lips, makes a hollow sound on the ears of the congregation, but no one realizes that either. It is homiletically top-rate and three-pointed. They know they should appreciate it if they are spiritual, so they believe they have been well-served. They say, “It was a good sermon.” If this goes on Sunday after Sunday, a vague melancholy sets in unawares.
From Kevin DeYoung. Good help for all teachers. – Chap
This has helped me. I pass it along to any young preachers out there looking for free advice.
When you come to a passage there are four things you can do: illustrate, defend, explain, apply. I rearranged the order from seminary class so the four points make a convenient acronym: IDEA. Most young preachers, and probably most preachers in general, gravitate toward “explain.” We do best at studying the text and communicating what we learned to others. If the passage is especially obscure or controversial, it makes sense to land heavy on the E. But sometimes the passage is relatively simple. In this case, don’t spin your wheels on endless word studies that basically repeat with synonyms what everyone can see immediately in the text.
Most preachers, myself included, need to incorporate the I, D, and A more often. One note on the D while I’m at it: it is rarely wise to spend a lot of time defending what your people don’t need defended. For example, in most churches you can probably skip the 15 minute intro on the Pauline authorship of Ephesians. Likewise, don’t waste time defending your interpretation against esoteric objections in the commentaries that no one in your church would ever think of.
“Illustrate” and “apply” are the hardest to do well. It requires a different part of your brain. You need to think creatively. You need to imagine what your people are or might be going through. You need to avoid the temptation to offer quick sermony points of application like “Don’t let money be your idol” or “Some of you need to trust God with your time.” Probe deeper. Use one good, personal illustration or one concrete point of application rather than firing application-buckshot with little imagination.
So remember, for every text and every point you can illustrate, defend, explain, or apply. It’s an IDEA whose time has come.