Posts belonging to Category Preaching

The 5 Audiences for Every Sermon

I found this quote about preaching both encouraging and illuminating.

What other form of speech has these five effects: to delight God, to astonish angels, to discourage devils, to encourage saints, and to restore sinners? I’ve done my time preaching to virtually empty halls and churches, and it is a great fillip to remember that three of the five audiences of a sermon are unseen. (Ron Boyd-MacMillan, Explosive Preaching: Letters on Detonating the Gospel in the 21st Century, p. 79)

(fil’lip [noun]: 1. the snap made by a finger which is held down toward the palm by the thumb and then suddenly released; 2. a light blow or tap given in this way; 3. anything that stimulates or livens up; piquant element)

HT: Biblical Preaching

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“I Am Tired of Preaching”

Someone, presumably a pastor, visited my blog early Sunday morning after running a Google search on the phrase, “I am tired of preaching.” (Here is the post Google returned: Preaching Tired.) It was a reminder to me that many pastors struggle with the week in and week out preaching of God’s word.

Preaching is hard work. The preparation is demanding — both the preparation for the message as well as the personal preparation of the preacher. And then the act of preaching itself is demanding. The prophet Habakkuk called it a burden (Habakkuk 1:1 – the Hebrew word for “oracle” carries the idea of a burden). C.J. Mahaney once said he heard that a pastor does the equivalent of four hours of work in just one hour of preaching. He then added with a sly grin, “I don’t know if that’s true, but it seems to be a rumor worth spreading!”

How long has it been since you expressed appreciation to your pastor for the weekly work of preaching God’s word? Perhaps today would be a good day to send a note of thanks and encouragement.

P.S. If you’re the pastor who visited my blog yesterday, hang in there. I hope you had a good day yesterday. And here is a good verse for you from the book of Galatians: “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” (Galatians 6:9)

The Sermon (Cartoon by Dave Walker)

Why people may have their eyes closed during the sermon:

The Sermon (Cartoon by Dave Walker)

Do you ever close your eyes during the sermon? I like the pastor who said, “Once I dreamed I was preaching, when all of a sudden I woke up and found that I was!”

HT: The Cartoon Blog

Related posts:
    • After-Service Coffee
    • The Dullest Blog in the World

Pastors Name Top 10 Most Influential Preachers

Lifeway Research recently conducted a survey asking Protestant pastors to “name the top three living Christian preachers that most influence you.” Billy Graham topped the list followed by Chuck Swindoll, Charles Stanley and Rick Warren. Here is the complete list:

  1. Billy Graham, preacher, evangelist, founder of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association.
  2. Charles Swindoll, senior pastor of Stonebriar Community Church in Frisco, Texas, and founder of Insight for Living Ministries.
  3. Charles Stanley, senior pastor of First Baptist Church, Atlanta, and founder of In Touch Ministries.
  4. Rick Warren, senior pastor of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif., and author of the best-selling book, “The Purpose-Driven Life.”
  5. John MacArthur, pastor-teacher of Grace Community Church in Sun Valley, Calif., and president and featured teacher of the Grace to You ministry.
  6. Barbara Brown Taylor, religion teacher at Piedmont College in northeast Georgia and author of 12 books including “An Altar in the World.”
  7. David Jeremiah, founder of Turning Point Radio and Television Ministries and senior pastor of Shadow Mountain Community Church in San Diego County, Calif.
  8. Max Lucado, minister of writing and preaching at the Oak Hills Church in San Antonio, Texas, and the recipient of three Christian Book of the Year awards.
  9. John Piper, pastor for preaching at Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis and author of more than 30 books, including “Desiring God.”
  10. Andy Stanley, senior pastor of North Point Community Church, Buckhead Church, and Browns Bridge Community Church – all in the Atlanta area – and founder of North Point Ministries.

I am familiar with most of these names, and I would say most of them have had a positive influence in my life. Still, none of them have influenced me as much as the pastors who have faithfully preached God’s word to me over the years in the various churches where I have attended.

On Resolving Every Issue in the Text

Here’s some good advice from James MacDonald of Harvest Bible Fellowship at Straight Up, a new blog by pastors for pastors. Question: Should a sermon resolve every issue in the text? (Visit the link for the video clip.)

I don’t think that the sermon needs to resolve every single tension and answer every question that the text raises. I think that I will say that my intellectual curiosity greatly exceeds my people’s capacity to listen, and it grieves me when I hear preaching and teaching that tries to nail down every single corner, answer every issue.

I love commentaries like that, and I love to study and answer all the questions that are in mind so that I can preach with confidence. But I think a lot of times I refer to this as not preaching your homework. And you need to know what it says, and you need to have it all nailed down according to the dictates of your own conscience, but then you need to carve out of that the fillet part which is what the people need for their own souls.

I do actually struggle with preaching that overly intellectualizes the text rather than forming it into a meal that actually will feed the souls of the people.

How Sermons Changed American History

Trevin Wax has a great series of posts on Larry Witham’s book: A City upon a Hill: How Sermons Changed the Course of American History.

Help Me Preach a Good Sermon

The preacher’s 5 year-old daughter noticed that her father always paused and bowed his head, for a moment, before starting his sermon. One day, she asked him why.

“Well, Honey,” he began, proud that his daughter was so observant of his messages, “I’m asking the Lord to help me preach a good sermon.”

“How come he doesn’t do it?” she asked.

How Long Should Pastors Preach?

I got this question by email the other day:

Hi Ray! Can you help settle a discussion issue for S. and me? Is there any research on how long the average sermon is? Or “should” be? Thanks! We love to pester our pastor friends with random questions.

Here was my answer:

Great questions! The first question is the easier one. Average sermon length seems to be about 30 minutes for Protestant churches in the United States. How long “should” a sermon be? Probably depends on whether you’re asking the preacher or the people listening! I usually preach somewhere between 25-35 minutes on a Sunday. At the nursing home I preach for about ten minutes. A lot depends on the congregation and the particular situation.

The main consideration should be effectiveness rather than length. In other words, what length sermon will be most effective in communicating this portion of God’s Word to these people at this time? Here are a couple links with some more information:

Ellison Research:  Facts & Trends

Although much has changed in worship just in the last five years, one thing that has not changed is the length of the sermon. The average pastor preaches for nearly 31 minutes today – about the same as five years ago. Pastors in the study preached for anywhere from eight minutes each week to almost two hours. Pentecostals tended to have the longest sermons, averaging just under 40 minutes. Of the major denominational groups, Lutherans (20 minutes) and Methodists (just under 22 minutes) had the shortest sermons, on average.

Internet Monk: What’s Wrong With The Sermon? It’s Too Long


How long does your pastor preach? How long do you think pastors should preach?

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If American Idol Judged Preachers

   American Idol Judges - Randy Jackson, Paula Abdul, Simon Cowell

Mark Roberts has some fun imagining what it would be like if American Idol judged preachers.

Can you imagine what it might be like if the American Idol judges weighed in after your pastor’s next sermon?

Randy: Look, dude, check it out. Ya know, that really worked for me, man. That sermon was outstanding. It was da bomb!

Paula: I’m so proud of you because you’re really being yourself with us. Plus, you look great today. I just love you and can’t say anything bad about you because I never say anything bad about anybody, except Simon.

Simon: I’ve got to be honest with you, pastor. I came to hear the word of God today. But what I got was more like the baby talk of demons. You just didn’t do your homework this week. Frankly, your sermon was a nightmare! If I were you, I’d pack my bags.

I don’t think I want Simon on my board of deacons. Have you ever played “judge the preacher” during Sunday lunch after church? (Be honest now!)

Back from Study Retreat

Well, I am back from my study retreat. (Last week I took a three-day study retreat to prepare for the next message series at church.)

Wednesday morning I drove up to my parents’ home in Kennebunk, Maine. It was about a three-hour drive, so I began my retreat on the road by listening to some of my favorite music that helps me focus my heart on God. I arrived just in time for lunch (how convenient!) and spent some time catching up with my parents over a meal before settling in to study for the afternoon.

For the retreat I spent my mornings and afternoons in study and prayer. I spent Wednesday afternoon just reading through 1 Samuel 1-7, lingering in the text, taking notes on various themes and looking for connections. The next several days I spent blocking out the sermon texts and themes while interacting with several commentaries. I took breaks for meals and in the evenings to enjoy time with my parents.

It is amazing how much you can get done with large blocks of uninterrupted time. Time management experts say that even a five-minute phone call can disrupt your concentration and easily cost you 30-40 minutes of productivity. The computer with email and internet access can also be a source of small interruptions during the day. To guard against this, I did all of my studying away from the computer, writing out my notes longhand on lined paper in a notebook. Hopefully, I will be able to read my own handwriting as I reference these notes in the coming weeks for sermon preparation!

All in all it was a great study retreat. Thanks to my wife and children for graciously letting me take off for several days. Thanks to my parents for hosting me at their home. Thanks to my church for letting me take the time away from the office for this extended time of study. And thanks to my blog readers for being (mostly) nice in the comments while I was away.

Study Retreat

I am off this morning for a three-day study retreat in preparation for our next sermon series. I don’t often get to do this, so I am looking forward to some uninterrupted time with God in his Word in a different setting than at home or at church.

Needless to say, the blog will be on vacation while I am gone. I should get back to posting on Monday. In the meantime, here is a fun little commercial from the Discovery Channel that has been making the rounds. Enjoy!

Discovery Channel: I Love the World
(Video length: 1:00)

C. J. Mahaney on Dissatisfaction in Preaching

C. J. Mahaney on dissatisfaction in preaching:

I think we should remain dissatisfied with our preaching, so that we are always motivated to grow in our preaching. But I think there is a difference between being dissatisfied and being discouraged. For me, when I’m discouraged, normally that reveals the presence of pride, that to some degree in my preaching I was attempting to impress rather than serve.

This is from a panel session at the T4G’08 Together For the Gospel Conference that is taking place Tuesday-Thursday this week in Louisville, Kentucky. All talks from the conference are available for free listening or download here: Free Audio Downloads from Together for the Gospel.