Preaching

Pastoral Pointer | Personal Illustrations

Few illustrations grab attention and create interest like personal stories from a pastor’s life, but the path to clarity has some hidden and dangerous landmines. Is it too personal? Does it embarrass family members? Does it distract from the goal of the sermon and the meaning of the text? Dr. York helps preachers think through the purpose and process of using personal illustrations without hurting relationship or the exposition of the Scriptures.

If you liked this video by Dr. York view other Pastoral Pointers here

Choosing the Right Lens

Last year, while far away from home in Manaus, Brazil, I made the mistake of trying to run across the busiest street in that city of 2 million people. While dashing wildly across five lanes of traffic to reach a tiny concrete median and pause before sprinting the opposite five lanes, I recognized I had joined a real-life game of Frogger (to date myself) and that I faced the distinct possibility of being squished.

When I finally made it across, the heart-pounding terror turned into triumphant exhilaration. As I entered the door of my destination and took off my sunglasses, I felt my shirt pocket for my very expensive no-line progressive trifocal prescription glasses so I could see indoors, but to no avail. They were gone. The short-lived elation gave way to the despair of realizing they had jostled out of my pocket and by now had been ground to dust under the weight of a hundred speeding cars.

A Brazilian friend, realizing my plight, offered to get me a pair of glasses that would suffice temporarily, but he only had three lens thicknesses from which to choose. He randomly chose the prescription that corrected my distant vision, so until I got home a week later, I felt handicapped. If someone waved to me from across the room, I could recognize them, but I couldn't recognize people 4 or 5 feet away; and when I preached, I constantly was taking glasses off or putting them on, sometimes alternating between reading glasses, my new stop-gap glasses and none at all. I only could see one distance, but life required more than that.

The congregation who only sees Scripture through one type of lens is missing something, too. Some pastors always look at Scripture with a wide-angle lens. They show their people the big picture of the book they're preaching, or perhaps the grand narrative of redemption history, yet fail to get the nuances, the warp and the woof, the grain of Scripture up close. On the other hand, some pastors are so oriented to a magnifying lens or microscope that their congregations never see the big picture.

Part of pastoral preaching not only is alternating texts between Old and New Testaments, between law and gospel, between different genres, but also switching lenses. While pastors should have a careful strategy to preach the whole counsel of God, that strategy should include different depths and fields of vision.

First, the Bible itself does this. God chose to reveal truth in different doses. Some passages such as Romans 8 are saturated with gospel content and require a closer look, a more deliberate pace. Others such as Joshua 13—21 (the allotment of the land to the tribes) don't require as much time and legitimately can be taken together without doing injustice to the text.

Similarly, congregations need to know the overall argument and application of entire sections or books, as well as the exegetical peculiarities and distinctions of individual verses or small passages. In other words, they need gospel trifocals. Pastors need to plan preaching that sometimes looks from a distance so it catches sight of the whole, other times from mid-range to grasp a smaller section, still other times exposing the text thoroughly and closely to provide an intimate look at an author's intended meaning.

So change the lens. Preach 12 overview sermons of the Minor Prophets that give the gist and application of each with a clear explanation of its place in the story of redemption. Follow that with a lengthy series in an epistle, carefully laying bare the meaning of each verse. Then preach a series of sermons in an extended Old Testament narrative such as the life of David, taking representative chapters of the great king's life to preach the story of redemption and to make your congregants long for the greater King.

If sameness and predictability are enemies of being interesting and engaging, changing the focal length of the lens through which we look at Scripture not only will make preaching more effective, but also more interesting.

Pastor Well – A Crash Course in Pastoral Ministry

Come to the well and be refreshed!

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What: A crash course in pastoral ministry
Where: Buck Run Baptist Church, 3894 Georgetown Road, Frankfort, KY
When: Monday-Tuesday December 16-17, 8:30am-3:30pm
Cost: FREE!
Lodging: Free upon request in homes (limited availability), local hotels

As much as I love preaching, perhaps my favorite of all the courses I teach at Southern Seminary is my 40301 Pastoral Ministry course that I have taught for 17 years. Since I grew up a pastor's son, am father to a pastor, and serve as a pastor, I obviously have a love for pastors and, even more, a love for the Lord's church.

Next Monday and Tuesday, December 16 and 17, the media folks at Southern are coming to Buck Run to film me teaching the content of that course for future online use. It's much easier to teach and to be engaging if I have a live audience, so I am inviting anyone who wants to come for those two days to make a trip to Buck Run, enjoy our hospitality, and draw from the Pastor Well so you can, um, pastor well. No academic credit is being offered for being in the audience, but you get the content of the course lectures. If you desire to serve as a pastor or if you are a pastor in need of some new ideas and challenges, this will be a great opportunity.

We'll talk about church discipline, how to baptize, working with staff, how to build a culture of generosity and grace, how to deal with a search committee. Things we aren't even planning will come up. And if you come, you can submit some questions for me to answer if they would be helpful. You can see below a partial list of things I will cover.

Some of the wonderful saints at Buck Run have volunteered to open their homes, and more will if I just ask, so if you want to come and need a place to stay, send my assistant, Tracy Hodges, an email at thodges@buckrun.org and we will do what we can. Or you are welcome to commute, to come for one day, or to make your own arrangements.

I hope to see you there!

 

Session 1: The Call to Ministry

The call is not a general to all Christians but a specific moving of the Holy Spirit.

The call is the intersection of desire, gifting, opportunity, and the testimony of the church.

The success and survival of your ministry depends on the strength of your calling.

Session 2: The Call to a Specific Ministry

The biblical emphasis is on doing the will of God more than knowing the will of God.

Friesen’s view of God’s will: sanctified common sense coupled with a passionate desire to honor the Lord in every situation.

          Christians also experience an inner witness of the Holy Spirit.

Session 3: Licensing and Ordination

Licensing is the church’s permission to exercise gifts to fulfill one’s calling.

Ordination is a formal and legal acknowledgment of one’s calling, competence, and conduct.

Session 4: Finding a place of service

Preparing and sharing resumes, making contacts, answering ads, getting recommendations and writing cover letters.

Dealing with search committees, what materials to ask for, what to provide, what questions to ask.

Session 5: Your first church

Be honest in evaluating expectations: are you going to plant your life here or is it a “learning church”?

Lower your expectations of them, raise them of yourself.

Hone your skills: preaching, people, prayer.

Session 6: Deacons

What they do, what they should be, biblical qualifications, function in the church

How to get them on your side, how to keep them focused

Rotation system vs. DFL (deacon for life)

Session 7: The Ordinances: Baptism

Ordinances are not sacraments, the four essentials of scriptural baptism, whose baptism does the church recognize

How to baptize

Session 8: The Ordinances: Communion

            The elements, who may partake (closed, close, open communion)

            How to serve, meaningful components

Session 9: Church Discipline

The three grounds for church discipline

How to practice discipline, the circle of confession and the circle of knowledge

Restoration

Session 10: Weddings

            Developing a personal wedding policy, church use policy vs. officiating policy

            Premarital counseling, the rehearsal, the ceremony

Session 11: Funerals

Dealing with grief and bereavement, visitation

Conducting the service, sermons, the graveside

Session 12: Leadership

            The top ten mistakes leaders make (Finzel’s book)

Session 13: Personal Life

Maintaining a devotional life, personal purity

Marriage, family, parenting your children

Ten commandments for self and staff members

Session 14: Personal skills

Being a people person, making people feel important

Overcoming introversion

Getting the most out of your time, returning calls, thank you notes, keeping in touch, using social media for communication

Session 15: Leading through exposition

Developing a preaching plan

Using the Bible to move the church

Fostering a culture of generosity and grace

Session 16: Leading a church through change

Changing the church focus

The worship wars

Building projects, relocation, celebrating the past while embracing the future

Session 17: Leading in church business

            To moderate or not to moderate, Robert’s Rules of Order, handling conflict

Session 18: Church finances

Developing a church budget, the pastor’s involvement in church finances

Giving, cooperative program, Lottie Moon Christmas Offering, etc.

Church debt, capital campaigns

Session 19: Working with staff

            Searching, hiring, working with, leading, trusting, correcting, firing

Session 20: Evangelism

Developing a missional spirit

Using evangelism training programs, 8-touch system, connect teams, advertising

Using holidays and special events

Mission trips and their purposes

Session 21: Miscellaneous matters

Integrity in accepting members from other churches,

Allowing people to leave well

Leaving well

Your Baby's Ugly

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The following is a guest blog post written for Project TGM.

Read it and interact on their website at here.

I often have to answer the strangest question anyone could ask a preaching professor: “Do you think preaching can be taught?” I always want to respond, “No, I’m just going through the motions for the money.” Of course I never do, not only because it’s best not to say the smart aleck things I sometimes think, but because I know what they mean when they ask. It’s not really an unfair question.

No one denies that a preaching class and some coaching can help anyone become better. What we question is the possibility that someone with no natural giftedness and ability can be taught well enough that he can become really good.

For the last sixteen years I’ve sat in a seminary classroom, listening to student sermons on an almost daily basis, and I’ve heard every kind of sermon and every level of preacher. I’ve seen guys so nervous that they had to stop and vomit during the sermon, and I’ve been so moved by a student’s sermon that I felt I had been ushered into the presence of the risen Christ. I’ve seen guys who were no better the fifth time they preached for me than they were the first time, but I’ve seen guys whose initial sermon was depressingly awful turn it around so radically by the end of the semester that I almost couldn’t recognize him as the same preacher.

On the first day of the semester or the first time I hear a student preach, I have no way of knowing if he has what it takes or is willing to do what he must to be the preacher he needs to be, but I can usually tell by the second sermon if he does, because that is when he has to act on what I told him after his first sermon. What makes the difference?

1. Calling

The most frustrated preacher is the one who has a sense of duty but not a burning calling. Preaching is not just another helping profession, a Christian version of the politics or the Peace Corps. The call to preach is a definite demand issued by the Holy Spirit that ignites a fire in one’s bones that cannot be extinguished by the hard-hearted, stiff-necked, or dull of hearing. A preacher who has been called must preach what God has spoken simply because God has spoken it. The success of one’s ministry will depend on the strength of his calling. His willingness to work at his preaching will be proportional to his conviction that God has called him to preach and to be as fit a vessel for God’s use as he can be. The Holy Spirit must undergird everything else from preparation to delivery, and that will not happen apart from that calling.

2. Teachability

Being a preaching professor is like getting paid to tell a mother that her baby is ugly. It might be the truth, but it’s not a truth anyone wants to hear. Most guys I have taught dread my comments and cringe when I tell them they missed the point of the text or seemed unprepared. They tire of hearing me tell them they lack energy or failed to establish a connection with the audience. Every now and then, however, someone smiles gratefully as I offer corrections and suggestions. Someone may even say, “I want you to be really tough on me. Tell me everything I’m doing wrong because I really want to do this well.” That guy is going to be fine because his spirit is teachable and he’s willing to pay the cost of personal discomfort in order to be effective. He understands that he is a vessel in service of the text and his feelings are not the point.

3. Passion

Almost all my students are passionate about Christ, about reaching the lost, and about the Word of God. The problem is not that they don’t feel passionate but rather that they do not show passion. What I feel is never the point, whether good or bad, but rather how I act. If my delivery of the Word does not convey that passion, then my audience will not be moved to be passionate about it either. The prophets were all passionate. The apostles were passionate. Jesus was passionate. Why else would farmers, fisherman, and housewives come stand in the Galilean sun for hours just to hear Him?

I once heard a missionary preach at the Southern Baptist Pastors Conference. He was dynamite, preaching a great expository sermon with incredible energy and moving the entire audience by his treatment of the Word and his testimony of baptizing tens of thousands of Africans. Astonished by his great preaching, I approached him and held out my hand to introduce myself. “Hershael.” he said, shocking me that he knew my name, “we went to seminary together.” Embarrassed, I admitted that I did not remember him. “You had no reason to,” he explained, “I was very quiet, never spoke in class, and never went out of my way to meet anyone.” I asked him to explain what happened. “When I got on the mission field, no one would listen to my preaching of the gospel. I was putting them to sleep. When I came stateside and preached in churches, they were bored to tears. Finally I realized that the only way to be effective was to preach the Word in the way it deserved to be preached, so I became willing to go beyond my natural personality and comfort zone and allow God to make me effective. I prayed for the Word to so grip me in the pulpit that I would never be boring again.” His teachability led him to show a passion that was not natural to his introverted personality. It was supernatural.

4. Reckless Abandon

The generation of students I now teach have grown up with the written word—on screens, smart phones, blogs, Kindles, and now iPads. Through video games they have raced cars, built civilizations, won wars, destroyed zombies and killed hundreds. They communicate orally far less than any previous generation, and when they do so, they typically do it with less passion. Yet God still uses the preaching of His Word—an oral event—to edify the church, encourage the saints, and engage the lost.

So to preach the Word, a young man has to be willing to get completely out of the comfortable cocoon he’s built in his personality and habits, and recklessly abandon himself to risk being a fool for Christ. I tell my students, “That little voice inside your head saying ‘That’s just not who I am’ is not your friend. Sanctification is the process by which the Holy Spirit overcomes ‘who I am’ and shapes me into who He wants me to be. So if I need to preach with a reckless abandon that is foreign to my natural way, I will beg the Holy Spirit to help me do it for Christ.”

Pay the Price

Frankly, very few students I teach fail to get the meaning of the text. They often demonstrate an exegetical and hermeneutical sophistication that astounds me. They are serious about the Word. But they make the mistake of thinking that if they just feel that way, and if they just say the words, the preaching will take care of itself. And if they keep thinking that, if they insist on “data dump” sermons that just concentrate on the content and not also the delivery, there’s not much I can do for them. They will be the kind of preachers they want to be.

But if someone has a burning calling, a teachable spirit, a passionate heart, and a reckless abandon to pay the price to preach well, then not even the limitation of their own background, personality, or natural talents will keep them from preaching the Word of God with power.

For the last sixteen years I’ve sat in a seminary classroom, listening to student sermons on an almost daily basis, and I’ve heard every kind of sermon and every level of preacher. I’ve seen guys so nervous that they had to stop and vomit during the sermon, and I’ve been so moved by a student’s sermon that I felt I had been ushered into the presence of the risen Christ. I’ve seen guys who were no better the fifth time they preached for me than they were the first time, but I’ve seen guys whose initial sermon was depressingly awful turn it around so radically by the end of the semester that I almost couldn’t recognize him as the same preacher.

On the first day of the semester or the first time I hear a student preach, I have no way of knowing if he has what it takes or is willing to do what he must to be the preacher he needs to be, but I can usually tell by the second sermon if he does, because that is when he has to act on what I told him after his first sermon. What makes the difference?

1. Calling

The most frustrated preacher is the one who has a sense of duty but not a burning calling. Preaching is not just another helping profession, a Christian version of the politics or the Peace Corps. The call to preach is a definite demand issued by the Holy Spirit that ignites a fire in one’s bones that cannot be extinguished by the hard-hearted, stiff-necked, or dull of hearing. A preacher who has been called must preach what God has spoken simply because God has spoken it. The success of one’s ministry will depend on the strength of his calling. His willingness to work at his preaching will be proportional to his conviction that God has called him to preach and to be as fit a vessel for God’s use as he can be. The Holy Spirit must undergird everything else from preparation to delivery, and that will not happen apart from that calling.

2. Teachability

Being a preaching professor is like getting paid to tell a mother that her baby is ugly. It might be the truth, but it’s not a truth anyone wants to hear. Most guys I have taught dread my comments and cringe when I tell them they missed the point of the text or seemed unprepared. They tire of hearing me tell them they lack energy or failed to establish a connection with the audience. Every now and then, however, someone smiles gratefully as I offer corrections and suggestions. Someone may even say, “I want you to be really tough on me. Tell me everything I’m doing wrong because I really want to do this well.” That guy is going to be fine because his spirit is teachable and he’s willing to pay the cost of personal discomfort in order to be effective. He understands that he is a vessel in service of the text and his feelings are not the point.

3. Passion

Almost all my students are passionate about Christ, about reaching the lost, and about the Word of God. The problem is not that they don’t feel passionate but rather that they do not show passion. What I feel is never the point, whether good or bad, but rather how I act. If my delivery of the Word does not convey that passion, then my audience will not be moved to be passionate about it either. The prophets were all passionate. The apostles were passionate. Jesus was passionate. Why else would farmers, fisherman, and housewives come stand in the Galilean sun for hours just to hear Him?

I once heard a missionary preach at the Southern Baptist Pastors Conference. He was dynamite, preaching a great expository sermon with incredible energy and moving the entire audience by his treatment of the Word and his testimony of baptizing tens of thousands of Africans. Astonished by his great preaching, I approached him and held out my hand to introduce myself. “Hershael.” he said, shocking me that he knew my name, “we went to seminary together.” Embarrassed, I admitted that I did not remember him. “You had no reason to,” he explained, “I was very quiet, never spoke in class, and never went out of my way to meet anyone.” I asked him to explain what happened. “When I got on the mission field, no one would listen to my preaching of the gospel. I was putting them to sleep. When I came stateside and preached in churches, they were bored to tears. Finally I realized that the only way to be effective was to preach the Word in the way it deserved to be preached, so I became willing to go beyond my natural personality and comfort zone and allow God to make me effective. I prayed for the Word to so grip me in the pulpit that I would never be boring again.” His teachability led him to show a passion that was not natural to his introverted personality. It was supernatural.

4. Reckless Abandon

The generation of students I now teach have grown up with the written word—on screens, smart phones, blogs, Kindles, and now iPads. Through video games they have raced cars, built civilizations, won wars, destroyed zombies and killed hundreds. They communicate orally far less than any previous generation, and when they do so, they typically do it with less passion. Yet God still uses the preaching of His Word—an oral event—to edify the church, encourage the saints, and engage the lost.

So to preach the Word, a young man has to be willing to get completely out of the comfortable cocoon he’s built in his personality and habits, and recklessly abandon himself to risk being a fool for Christ. I tell my students, “That little voice inside your head saying ‘That’s just not who I am’ is not your friend. Sanctification is the process by which the Holy Spirit overcomes ‘who I am’ and shapes me into who He wants me to be. So if I need to preach with a reckless abandon that is foreign to my natural way, I will beg the Holy Spirit to help me do it for Christ.”

Pay the Price

Frankly, very few students I teach fail to get the meaning of the text. They often demonstrate an exegetical and hermeneutical sophistication that astounds me. They are serious about the Word. But they make the mistake of thinking that if they just feel that way, and if they just say the words, the preaching will take care of itself. And if they keep thinking that, if they insist on “data dump” sermons that just concentrate on the content and not also the delivery, there’s not much I can do for them. They will be the kind of preachers they want to be.

But if someone has a burning calling, a teachable spirit, a passionate heart, and a reckless abandon to pay the price to preach well, then not even the limitation of their own background, personality, or natural talents will keep them from preaching the Word of God with power.