Sermon S.T.R.E.S.S. Test
I recently challenged myself (see "Jump Start Your Preaching") to make a more focused effort on improving the quality of my sermons (still have a long way to go, but I feel like I'm making baby steps!). After I was done adding 6 specific "challenges," I decided to turn it into an acronym that would better help me to remember each of these challenges every time I'm preparing a sermon.
Here is what I came up with:
If you are a preacher, I hope this can help. I'd love to hear some feedback on any additional thoughts if you have them. God bless you, and my your passion for ministry grow as you addict yourself to it (1 Corinthians 16:15)
I got behind again, but finally I am adding the last part of the challenge I set out to help jump start my own preaching. Of course there are so many more challenges and tips that could be added to the list of areas that I (or anyone who wants to be a better preacher) could work on and try to remember when preparing to preach a message. But doing pretty much ANYTHING is better than doing nothing.
Honestly, I can't say I have seen a huge improvement in my preaching, but I think as I continue to focus on some of these areas the extra work will pay off. I'm trying to continue each week with the tips I've picked up from previous challenges. Here is a review:
Week 1 - Scripture reference familiarity (being familiar with all the scripture you use in your sermon, and being able to quickly turn to, locate, or (even better) quote from memory).
Week 2 - Transitional statements (making sure the thought process of your overall message is clear and the points flow well from one to the other)
Week 3 - Sentence structure (working out how you are going to say things so that you aren't shooting from the hip with bad vocabulary, grammar, etc.)
Week 4 - Eliminating bad habits (figuring out some of the annoying and counter productive habits you have picked up, and trying to eliminate them)
Week 5 - Stepping out of your comfort zone (working on things you know would make your preaching more effective but you are too uncomfortable to do them)
So, for the final challenge, I want to work on something that isn't necessarily a super important part of communicating the Bible... but at the same time, it can be instrumental in helping people to remember the message we are preaching. Here is the challenge, I hope you will try it out as well...
Week 6 - Adding memorable material (finding appropriate material that will add something to the sermon that can not only clarify the main point but make it one that will be memorable to the congregation).
Some of sermons that have left the biggest impression on me, and that have helped me make much needed changes in my life, were sermons that had very memorable parts added skillfully to the presentation of the sermon. I have heard some preachers call this "theatrics," which at first didn't seem appropriate in regards to preaching the holy word of God. But then I considered many examples from the Bible:
So, after some thought, "theatrics" might be just the right word! I saved this for last, thought, because I have seen people make such a big emphasis on an object lesson or illustration that it took from the preaching of the Bible. We certainly don't want to sacrifice sound biblical preaching and teaching for a good show or something that will be memorable (I can think of preachers jumping over pews or climbing on top of the pulpit... and I don't remember anything about the message they preached that night that got me any closer to God!) So here are some guidelines to this challenge:
This can be a very fun part of putting together a sermon, and people will definitely appreciate the effort that you put into it. It takes work, but that is why I'm calling it a "Challenge!"
Hope this helps. God bless you, and may your passion for ministry grow as you addict yourself to it (1 Corinthians 16:15).
Obviously 6 weeks isn't even close to enough time to see major improvement in my preaching... I realize that. However, I plan on continuing with these challenges, so I'm quite certain their will be significant improvements in time. I have at least begun to more clearly recognize the areas where I need the most work.
However, I am going to move on to the next area I feel I should work on and that is learning to do things that are out of my comfort zone. For example, I don't typically get very loud when I preach (I don't think by any means a preacher has to be loud to be effective), and it is mostly probably just because I would feel embarrassed to do so. Getting loud isn't something that comes naturally with my personality. Sure, there are times I am a little more passionate about the message I'm trying to give... but never really loud. So, I believe it would be a good challenge for me to add some places in upcoming messages where I have to step out of my comfort zone and get loud (maybe in imitating a character in a story I am telling where the character is crying out I might put my hands over my mouth and cry out like the character might have cried out)
Week 5 - Stepping out of your comfort zone
So, here are a list of things I would like to add (for each of us there are probably different areas where we feel uncomfortable, but these are the areas that I personally want to work on this week):
Basically, I want to get more comfortable with being uncomfortable. I have found that, even if I feel weird trying something new, afterwards I usually wonder why I had never done it before.
Hope this helps. God bless you and my your passion for ministry grow as you addict yourself to it (1 Corinthians 16:15)
I'm a week late putting this out. Part of the reason for that is that last week I didn't do as much preaching as usual, so I wanted to spend another week working on the challenge from part 3. So, I'll be at least 7 weeks now in completing this "6 week challenge" (typical!)
This week I want to challenge myself (and anyone who wants to join me) with something I know I need a ton of work on. As I continue working on the challenges from the past few weeks, I now want to add the following challenge:
Week 3 - Eliminate bad habits (personal "crutches," etc.)
Before our next Ministry Training Workshop at our KC Mission work, we are working on making some evaluation sheets to use in helping our preachers receive some helpful criticism from others. This is something I have thought about a lot, and hesitated to implement, because I don't want people to get into the habit of criticizing preachers while they preach. Instead, we should be listening to the preacher and applying what they preach to our own lives. However, I do want our preachers to have some good feedback to help them improve.
Sometimes it is difficult to know what our bad habits are. Here are some of the challenges that might help:
I'm challenging myself for 6 weeks in taking some intentional steps toward improving the effectiveness of my preaching. I can use some improving for sure, as I know many preachers can. Maybe these steps can help you too
Note: I am currently blessed to be able to preach around 6 times per week. If you don't preach very often, you may need to stretch these 6 weeks out to 6 months.
Two weeks down, and I've already seen myself easily slip back into some old habits. I am definitely making some improvements, however, where I have set out to make improvements. They might not be drastic improvements, but... you know... "babysteps."
The area I want to work on this week will be a bit harder to see immediate results, but it is an area where I (and I would suspect many, many preachers) really need some work.
Week 3 - Sentence structure (vocabulary and clarity)
There are few things worse, for the effectiveness of a sermon, than getting ready to make an important point and not being able to find the right words to say. The words don't come, so you fall back on some old "crutches" and stammer "Uh, uh, uh..." and begin using phrases like "...You know...such and such...and what have you.." (Anyway, if you didn't figure it out, those are some of my "crutches.") We may be able to get our points across that way, but (whether knowingly or unknowingly) it puts the people on edge and make it hard for them to follow us. Worse yet, they might just tune us out totally.
The point here isn't to become so formal and scripted with our words that we lose our audience and come across as phony and impersonal. The point is simply to have an arsenal of words ready to be pulled out at a moment's notice and to be able to pull them out smoothly and effortlessly. Let's face it, that is going to require a lot of study, diligence... and just plain, old experience.
So here are the challenges of the week that I will be working on I want to offer the challenge to others:
Let me know if you try it or if you have any other suggestions that might help. God bless you, and my your passion for ministry grow as you addict yourself to it (1 Corinthians 16:15)
For the last week (actually, a little longer), I have been making sure to put to practice what I talked about last week in the first part of this series. It seems like such a no-brainer, and perhaps I need this a lot more than any other preacher that might be reading this; but making sure to labor a little longer at familiarizing myself with the passages I'm going to be using in my preaching, and making sure to mark them in both my notes and the Bible I'm using while I preach, has already helped me significantly.
In the last four messages (or so) that I have preached, I haven't had to be embarrassed for turning to the wrong place and not being able to find the verse I was looking for... or making the congregation wait for me as I fumble around trying to get to the right page while I keep talking (I'm a poor multi-tasker).
So, having been working on the important practice of being more familiar with scripture passages (although there are obviously a whole lot of other factors I haven't addressed), and recognizing the benefits of adding just a few simple steps to my sermon preparation; it is now time for me to move on to another important issue--transitions.
Notice: That last paragraph was actually an attempt at the very practice I'm addressing in this week's article.
Week 2 - Transitional statements
We all use these regularly, to some degree, without thinking much about it, but the idea here is that we work on improving in this area so that our thoughts are more clearly received by our audience. Let me give some very basic examples:
Do you see how those sentences could help the audience understand my thought process as I take them from one section of my presentation to the next? This is something I have been working on doing in my sermons to emphasize my points; however, I think the following practice will help me take this to the next level:
Hopefully, this will establish a habit that will eventually allow us to make these transitions more naturally without spending a whole lot of time working on them. But for now, let's labor at them the best we can! Let me know if you have anything to add that would help, or if you decide to join the challenge.
God bless you, and may your passion for ministry grow as you addict yourself to it. (1 Corinthians 16:15)
I've been a pastor for close to a year and a half now. During this time I have already preached well over 200 sermons (not counting Sunday School classes and nursing home ministry). Along with that, we recently started a mission work in the Kansas City area where I preach 2 more times per week.
So, you would think I should have become a pretty decent preacher by now... unfortunately, I recognize many of my faults and shortcomings when it comes to preparing and delivering sermons. In fact, I think I have picked up a lot of bad habits already that are going to be hard to break. So, I have come up with a plan of attack on improving my preaching, and I decided to encourage other preachers to join in on the challenge.
Here are some of the goals I want to achieve with this series of challenges:
Now, before you get super spiritual and say "Preaching isn't about YOUR abilities, you should just let the Spirit lead..." let me stop you and ask you of a few things. Aren't we to be good stewards of everything God gives us? Aren't we supposed to strive for the mastery? Shouldn't we give God our best?
It is a great shame to think that a lazy preacher would blame the Holy Spirit for the lame sermons that he stumbles through week by week while putting his poor listeners to sleep. I know I've been guilty of preaching plenty of duds... but I certainly am not going to blame the Holy Spirit for my lack of preparedness.
I'm going to make 6 posts in this series (1 post per week for 6 weeks).
Note: the idea is to continue working each week on all that has been practiced in the previous weeks.
Week 1 - Scripture Reference Familiarity
I am starting with this subject because it is the most important. We are BIBLE preachers! No matter how we preach or what mistakes we make while preaching, we want to at least make sure we are clearly getting God's Word into God's people! In order to do that, we should be very familiar with what scriptures we are using in our sermons! Following are the challenges of the week:
If you can think of some other challenges or thoughts that might help us to improve on "scripture familiarity," please share in the comments below. God bless, and may the Lord increase your zeal for ministry as you addict yourself to it (1 Corinthians 16:15).
What Brand of 'Independent, Fundamental, Bible-Believing, Sin-hating, Soul-Winning, KJV-Only...Baptist' Are You?
You know why there is a shoeless man in the Australian bush, wearing nothing but a pair of shorts, using nothing but the basic elements provided by nature to survive, making videos and getting millions and millions of viewers on YouTube? I think it is because people are tired of gimmicks! They are tired of power tools and fancy products. It is refreshing to watch someone just get back to the basics...as basic as they can get.
Unfortunately, "Primitive Technology" now has tons of followers who are trying to mock his image in an attempt to capitalize on a new "brand!" So many are selling a product and trying to gain followers to their particular brand of a brand. It's what our society does, and I'm noticing more and more that my Independent, Baptist friends have been doing this too. Whether they are the contemporary, "new" Independent Baptists, or the ultra-conservative, Independent, Fundamental, Bible-believing, sin-hating, Soul-winning...Baptists. Who cares about your brand?!
There was once a rather strange man. He was a hairy mountain man who lived very primitively. He did his best to obey the word of God and he preached hard against the sins of his people. For this he was hated by all the "religious crowd" and their leaders. Yet God was pleased to glorify Himself through this man. He worked great miracles through this man. This man (Elijah by the way) prayed and God sent a drought. When challenging the prophets of Baal, he had them pour 12 barrels of water on the altar before praying that God would consume his sacrifice...and God sent down fire.
I've got many preacher friends who share the popular books and visit the popular websites. They share ministry ideas and join all the groups to ask advice. They encourage each other to "do what that one guy does." They ask the people they are supposed to be leading what it is they think would help them be a better organization.
Let's be clear. If God is going to be glorified, it isn't through our gimmicks! If He is going to manifest His power, He isn't interested in our "brand." God wants empty vessels that the world would never expect to amount to much. It is then that He will pour out His blessings and reveal Himself. That way all will know that it was God that did it and not Such and Such Baptist Church.
I'm ready to give up the gimmicks and get back to the basics. I'm ready to give myself to the Lord and watch Him do amazing things. How about you?
God bless, and may your passion for ministry grow as you addict yourself to it (1 Corinthians 16:15).
I feel for the women, especially moms. I really do! I can't imagine being a woman. I'm glad I'm not! I don't understand them and I certainly can't relate to them.
Don't get me wrong, I deal with my own personal emotions once in a while (all men have them, don't be fooled), but the emotional make up of a woman doesn't compare. The Bible calls the woman the "weaker vessel" and yet men are scared to death of women. They can be like ticking time bombs ready to go off at any moment. And we have all heard the saying, "if mama ain't happy, ain't nobody happy."
So how should men in leadership positions deal with women? In many regards, we shouldn't! The Bible clearly places men in authority positions in the church and in the family. No need to question it, debate it, figure out why...it is pretty clear. But in regards to men dealing with women, there is very little:
- "Honor widows that are widows indeed." (1 Timothy 5:3)
- "Husbands, love your wives, and be not bitter against them." (Colossians 3:19)
and then there is this one...
- "The aged women...teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children" (Titus 2:3)
In this passage, preachers are told to teach sound doctrine that puts everyone in their place (I mean that in a positive way). And it is the older women's place to teach the younger women. Other than faithful widows who have no family and are cared for by the church (a case we seldom see today), every woman in the church has their own authority: a dad, step dad, foster dad...or husband.
I'm glad I am only responsible for two women: my wife and my daughter (and I can't be more thankful for the one's I've got). One day (Lord willing, MANY years from now) I'll give my daughter to another man (thinking about it makes me want to buy a gun), and then I'll only be responsible for my wife. This is the way God designed it. We don't need to deal with other men's wives or daughters...that is just a problem waiting to happen.
This can be particularly difficult in youth ministries. Youth pastor's should never usurp the authority and responsibility given to any young person's parents (unfortunately there are many parents who willingly give teachers, youth pastors, etc. this type of liberty in their child's life...and it is dangerous). Nor do I believe the youth pastor should deal with the mother of the youths (any more than is necessary), but he should deal with the father as much as is possible.
It is also important to point out that (it is my opinion, but I believe I have biblical basis to back it up) a youth pastor should be married and therefore his wife may be able to deal with young ladies, or at least be present when he is dealing with them (it should be between the youth pastor and his wife to what degree the wife is actively involved in the ministry).
I realize that in our culture there are many cases that come up where young ladies don't really have father figures in their lives. These cases are heartbreaking and will have to be dealt with carefully, but I believe the principle still applies: Older women should deal with younger women, and men should lovingly and patiently lead their own wives and daughters.
God bless, and may your desire and passion for ministry grow as you addict yourself to it (1 Corinthians 16:15)
(See part 1 - Motivations for Evangelism)
II. The Methods of Evangelizing
"Evangelism" (1828) -To instruct in the gospel; to preach the gospel to, and convert to a belief of the gospel; as, to evangelize heathen nations; to evangelize the world.
There are many ways in which we attempt to evangelize the world. Some ways are more confrontational than others. In the following list of methods, we are going to try to start with some of the least confrontational methods and work our way up to the "more advanced" forms of evangelism. If we are going to effectively reach the lost, we should probably be doing a combination of these:
A. Lifestyle Evangelism - In the process of everyday life, our testimony sometimes opens doors to be able to give the Gospel message (explained more in the next lesson, "The Message of Evangelism")
a. Others (family, classmates, co-workers, neighbors...) see us living godly and are attracted to it.
b. Inviting others to a service at our church where preaching the Gospel is involved
c. Building relationships with people in an attempt to witness to them later.
d. Wearing clothing that promotes questions (message on T-shirt, button/pin, wrist band...even peculiarly "modest" clothing)
a. Biblical examples:
1). Wife reaching her husband (1 Pet. 3:1-5)
2). Man that was blind (John 9:8-10)
3). Inviting others to "come and see" (John 1:45,46)
b. Christians should be living for Christ anyway, so this should be the easiest method and a minimum of our evangelizing methods.
a. It can become an excuse not to properly confront people.
b. As a result of this, it often doesn't go far enough and is not effective.
c. Christians often don't "shine" in the world as they should.
B. Broadcasting (Radio, TV, internet, phone...)
a. Though this technology wasn't necessarily available in Bible days, we can make a pretty good guess that if Paul were here today he would use every means necessary to reach the lost with the Gospel.
1). Paul said he had become "All things to all men" (1 Cor. 9:19-22).
2). Paul's approach to evangelism in Athens (Acts 17:16,17)
b. Power of numbers (the more you contact, the more chances of successfully reaching someone with the gospel).
c. Broadcasting can reach many people (all over the world) that you wouldn't otherwise have opportunity to reach.
d. We live in an age where broadcasting doesn't have to be expensive (could cost next to nothing)
1) Social media is free.
2) Video and sound editors are free.
3) Fairly good quality videos can be made from our phones (that we already have and use anyway).
a. This could be expensive.
b. There are obviously dangers associated with the use of modern technology.
1) It can easily become a time-waster and be counterproductive
2) It can encourage you, and those to whom you are witnessing, to take in ungodly things.
c. This could become an excuse to be lazy and non-confrontational.
d. We cannot really connect with people in the same way that we can face to face.
C. Tract/Flyer distribution ("blitzing")
a. People do read gospel tracts and get saved!
b. This is a very easy way to get the Gospel to a lot of people
c. In the process of passing out the literature you often meet people who will talk to you about what you are doing.
d. This could lead to "personal evangelism" which will be discussed more in detail later.
a. There is a minimal cost involved which could hinder mass production of good quality material.
b. Although people do get saved reading tracts, the percentage is very low.
c. Much of the material ends up blowing into the yard and becomes unsightly litter.
d. This could become another excuse not to be confrontational in our approach.
D. Public Preaching
a. Church "revivals."
b. Evangelism "Crusades."
c. Street preachers
a. Usually involves effective preachers who can connect well with people.
b. Unsaved people who have come are more likely willing to hear what the preacher has to say.
c. Prospects are usually recorded and follow-up visits can be made.
a. Many feel out of place in a "church setting."
b. Many don't know how to respond properly to the message.
c. An alter call can be a hindrance to introverted people and a false security for extroverts.
E. Public Speaking/Debate (Not to be confused with public preaching, this is more like a trial or a hearing in which one attempts to prove their faith before a particular audience and where someone else may then have an opportunity to make some opposing arguments).
a. Paul at Areopagus (Mars' Hill) (Acts 17).
b. Paul before Felix, Festus, Agrippa... (Acts 23- 26).
c. 1 Peter 3:15.
1) Sanctify the word in your heart.
2) Be ready (not necessarily to have the particulars of your presentation planned out, but to know the facts and the issues before being asked of them).
3) Give an answer (regarding the hope that is in you).
d. Present day examples: Ken Ham, Kent Hovind, Ravi Zacharias, Craig Lane...
a. People are not typically there out of obligation, but there to hear what the speakers have to say.
b. Speakers have opportunity to clearly present their position.
a. Everything the speaker says will be criticized publicly by someone else who has an opposing view.
b. People typically have their minds made up regarding which position they favor.
c. Although your position might be considered by some of your audience, most people will not change their position, but will simply learn how to better debate their position.
F. Personal Evangelism
a. Jesus and the woman at the well.
b. Phillip and the Ethiopian Eunuch.
c. Paul and Silas and the Philippian Jailer (we'll talk about the power of evangelizing "partners" later).
a. Many other methods will lead to this method eventually.
b. The "one-on-one" approach is usually the most effective method of evangelizing people.
c. We can be more assured that the person being evangelized understands what we are saying.
d. If they don't understand, we can usually answer questions or clarify ourselves.
e. We can personally witness conversions and get information for future discipleship (we'll cover discipleship later in the series).
a. Many are turned off by a "high-pressured sales approach."
b. We physically see more rejection than most methods.
c. More knowledge of the Bible and doctrine are required.
d. Takes more physical effort to reach people "one by one."
Feel free to add some methods you can think of or comment about any of these. Lord bless, and may your passion for ministry grow as you addict yourself to it. 1 Corinthians 16:15
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