Knute Larson, Jeff Bogue, and Jim Brown talk about what it means to “Preach the Word.”Very few people stand up in a meeting and tell their friends what they should believe, or how they should live, or why they should feel a certain way.
But that is what we pastors do quite regularly.
We had better have a good reason and source for doing this. Like, a Word from the Creator of this whole thing called life.
And the good news is, we have it–the same Scriptures from which our Lord Jesus taught, with the addition of the New Testament added to the Old, and all about Him.
Why would we substitute our own human thoughts for God’s, as a basis for our sermons?
Why would we read some verses and dive into our humanistic philosophies that prove to be interesting or entertaining or popular, but that do not preach and expose the Word from above?
“Preach the Word,” the apostle Paul wrote to Timothy and to us (II Tim. 4:2).
This month we own up to that, reaffirm it, urge the most popular preacher in America to change his ways, and add some practical thoughts on being creative in our serious attempts to get people to receive and practice the Word.
To adjust what they believe, change the way they live, and worship and rejoice because of the way they feel in response.
Seriously, because of the high privilege,
Knute, for Jeff and Jim
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What does “preach the word” mean to you?
- Allowing the authoritative, complete, inerrant Word of God to dictate the truths you are communicating through your sermons.
- The Word of God is there to set the pace of truth, not reinforce my opinion of truth.
- I let the Word form the sermon, then I communicate what the Word of God says when I preach.
- Begin with the text and preach from it.
- Use the Word of God as the foundation from which your big ideas is derived.
- When studying and preaching allow the Word and its truth to bring change to your life.
- Simply stated, preach nothing more than what the Bible is saying.
- The Word of God is powerful, living and active…Open it and allow it to preach to you, too!
- Proclaim the revealed Scriptures, the Bible. Help people know what it means, do what it says, and trust its promises and world-view.
- Don’t preach other books, or sermons, or new ideas, or stuff I just thought of!
- It means I have a mandate with no other options when I study for a sermon or step behind a pulpit. Okay, up on stage if you have removed the pulpit. 🙂
- It means hard, serious work, because much of the Bible is not so easy to understand at first glance, or even after a couple of hours of study.
- It means the three hearts of preaching—studying to know what was in God’s heart when He had it written, getting it in my own heart for obedience, and then seeking to carry it by sermon into the hearts of the listeners.
- It means, as Jeff Manion just said at “Pastorpeida Live,” getting THEM and US TOGETHER—understanding what was going on when it was written (Paul was in prison when he wrote about contentment in Philippians 4, for instance), and what it looks like in our lives today!
Does it mean verse by verse?
- It depends on the setting. If I am preaching in a weekend service:I’m going to preach a passage, glean the truth out of that passage, and preach the verses that convey that truth.Weekend services are your largest public invitation. The apostle Paul tells us that when someone walks into a public service they ought to be able to “make sense” of what’s going on.If we’re spending our seventh week on the first half of one of the Beatitudes, a guest will come into that service and have no way to understand what’s happening.Weekend services should have a concise feel to them. A person should be able to engage a thought for the first time and be able to land at a point of completion.
- Another setting: Tuesday morning men’s Bible study:I literally go through the Bible verse by verse with those men. About 12 years ago we started with Matthew and last year finished with Revelation.This year we started over again with Matthew, and we will go word by word, verse by verse, taking as much time as we need, to understand and draw the truth out of those verses.On a side note, I actually encourage you not to preach that way in your weekend services. The mega/micro teaching that you would do in an elective Bible study is a bit of a different animal. People know what they’re getting into, and there tends to be less guests popping in and out of that environment.
- Yes, it can mean verse by verse when you work your way through a chapter or book of the Bible.
- And no. One doesn’t have to stay in one book of the Bible to have expository preaching, because it is possible to have topical expository preaching.
- I personally preach through books of the Bible and topical sermons.
- I personally believe that it is good to be in touch with the season that your church is in so that you can address God’s Word on that matter at hand.
- People respond much better to shorter sermons series than longer series.
- It is much more difficult to preach a topical sermon series than it is to preach through a particular book of the Bible.
- It does mean I preach in context rather than pull a phrase out of its context and make a sermon out of it. Like, “If any man would come after me, let him,” for a single girl’s talk. The context changes its meaning.Or even, “you know the plans I have for you”—and then go on to change those plans for those for Israel to be for our lives.The context means we must at least preach verse-by-verse around the text. To get meaning in context.
- “Verse by verse” implies I at least honor the settings and the way the Holy Spirit guided the words and thoughts to the writer. All of us communicate in contexts, not in single sentences (or verses).
- Demanding that all preachers only go verse by verse the way we do it, if that is the way we do sermons, seems not prophetic but presumptuous. “I can always tell a great thinker because he agrees with me.”
- As long as we honor the three contexts—the immediate paragraph, the very book of the Bible it is in, and whole Bible itself—there should not be an argument about verse by verse or topical exposition of the Bible.
- But the story line is also important, though not everything. Does the order of a Bible book or letter come with a purpose and some heavenly logic? Therefore, it is healthy, at least often, to follow the same order as the inspired writer.
What helps you to be creative and to keep attention?
- …I’m always looking for ideas. I encourage pastors to listen to podcasts, to be in tune to the culture, and to see how other people have tackled a particular passage, then glean ideas from them.
By the way, if you quote them, or use their idea or use even a general thought of theirs, give them credit for it! All you need to say is, “I was listening to a podcast and the pastor said,….”
- …We also use videos, stories, images, etc.
I don’t want to be cute with my teaching, but realize we live in a hyper-visual society where no one ever sits still. This needs to affect our preaching styles.
- Keep in mind that the majority of learners are visual learners, so use illustrations that allow them to connect the dots to the point at hand.
- Also, it requires extra work to be creative, and if you are not wired that way by nature, then surround yourself with creative people.
- There are two kinds of people: “Springs:” those that create ideas and “Reservoirs:” those who collect ideas.
- Preach with passion—and that doesn’t mean louder!—but it means it is Spirit-led from your heart. When the Word involves you it will move others too. It has nothing to do with my personality, and everything to do with the Holy Spirit.
- Illustrate well, tell a story, and learn to become a good story-teller. People remember stories. Don’t assume that people can make the jump from text to everyday life on their own very easily.
- Get the people engaged in the text as you preach. Ask them what it says. Give them questions that they may have to interact with out loud, by raising of hand, or some other response.
- Assess, analyze, ask input from others as I learn my own blind spots. Do not stay the same!
- Watch and ask and read others who are good at being creative and holding attention.
- Vary! Speed of delivery, volume, place where you stand or sit, type of content—these are some of the ways to bring variance and hold or go get attention. Even being loud the whole time gets monotonous! Vary.
- Be as creative as the Bible is—sometimes with stories, sometimes with history, or straight doctrine!—but always with personal application and encouragement.
- Skip long jokes and personal stories that feature you as the winner, again.
- Smile, when appropriate. Smile even more. All of us give more attention when someone is warm, and a smile is warm.
- Use “windows” or illustrations or very daily applications every few minutes. The attention span of phone-carrying, computer-attached, 140-character tweeting people is rather short.
- Show appropriate emotions. Speak with passion. Act like you mean it because you do. It is not just okay, but it is eternal high truth from God.
Pastorpedia is a ministry of CE National, a church effectiveness ministry. To receive an email when each Pastorpedia is available, sign up for ON MISSION Insights at cenational.org/omi_signup.
Pastorpedia is produced monthly by three experienced pastors: Jeff Bogue, of Grace Church, in several locations in the Bath-Norton-Medina areas of Ohio; Jim Brown, of Grace Community Church in Goshen, Indiana, a church known for its strong growth, family and men’s ministries, and community response teams; and Knute Larson, a coach of pastors, who previously led The Chapel in Akron for 26 years. Pastorpedia is brought to you by CE National. Visit cenational.org/pastorpedia for more issues and to read the bios of our contributors.