…and then the preacher says, “lets pray”.
I think this point of the sermon (nay – the church meeting) is the pinnacle. This is the moment when you’re asking people to turn what they’ve heard into gospel centred action…
The action of prayer.
This is the moment of instant application. Your flock can respond to their God’s words right there and then.
Surely the first application of any Bible talk is praying, right? So do you preach with the closing prayer in mind? Are you spending that 20, 30, 40 minutes building up to that moment, when people can depend on Jesus and speak to the Father and say…
What do you want them to say to God at the end of your sermon?
Got it? Good. Now write your talk with that in mind.
It is that… but “to another human”. Think about that for a moment; it’s an important aspect not to miss. You don’t just “do” ministry, you do ministry “to people”.
God made, became and uses humans. Ignoring the human aspect of ministry is a denial of God’s creation. You’re speaking to God-designed humans; humans who have been made to think, react, feel, engage, etc. Disregard for their humanness when speaking God’s words is a disregard for God’s design.
So how are you thinking about the humans you’re doing ministry to?
If you’re still one who prints their sermon scripts, here’s some tips I’ve picked up from others;
- Print to read at a glance; Use 15pt font or larger, double spaced, 2cm margins
- Serif fonts (e.g. Times) are easier to read fast than Sans-serif fonts (the pointy tips on the characters help the eye flow onto the next character).
- If you lean against your lectern, it’s worth keeping the lower third of your page empty because otherwise you’ll need to tilt your head down to read it.
- Print page numbers, just in case they get out of order
- List any props or slides you need to remember on the top of the first page (no use remembering half way through your talk when you actually need them)
- Don’t print on both sides of the page (you’ll forget whether to flip or discard each page)
- Most printing preachers I’ve seen choose not to place their finished page at the back of their stack as they go. Rather, they slide each page to the right, keeping two pages face up, and end up with a reverse-ordered stack at the end of the talk.
- Write your opening prayer, but don’t write you closing one. Each talk lands slightly differently, so it’s worth praying from that uniqueness because its not a lecture, it’s not an mp3; it’s the word of The Lord for those there at that unique instance. Pray for them.
If you’re preaching, you are the messenger. And if your passage is saying “hard things” you – as the preacher – can feel like you’ve got to be the messenger of these hard words.
But that’s not the best way to go about it. Partly because people will simply dismiss YOU. Once they decide you’re a jerk or that you’re too young to know or anything like that, they have “shot the messenger” and have no reason to listen to the message. But the primary reason you shouldn’t make yourself the sole messenger is because you’re getting in the way of God speaking from his Word.
The “harder” the message, the more you need to show people that it’s not your message, its the bible. Keep pointing them to it. Say things like, “Look at verse 3 again… verse 3…”, “Read these words with me in your head…”, “This is not me saying this, this is the bible speaking”.
And once you start seeing how important this is with “hard things” in the bible, the more you realise you should do the same for “all things” in the bible.
This term our church is in it’s 4th year of taking 10 weeks (term 2) to slowly move through Romans. So, for our first bible study, rather than picking up in Romans 13 straight away, we did a basic overview of the whole book.
It seemed to work pretty well. I’ve taken a certain view of Romans that assumes Paul has got two audiences in mind (See P.Barnett’s “Why Paul Wrote Romans” RTR 2003). And therefore, each chunk of Romans makes the same point for everyone at Rome, before explaining it again with particular reference for the Jews in Rome.
- Romans 1:1-17 : Introduction: the Gospel as the Power of God
- Romans 1:18-3:19 : No-one is Righteous
- 1:18-2:16 No-one is Righteous… Not the Gentiles
- 2:17-3:20 No-one is Righteous… Not even the Jews
- Romans 3:21-4:25 : God Righteously Forgives through Faith in Christ
- 3:21-31 God Righteously Forgives All through Faith
- 4:1-25 God Righteously Forgives even the Jews through Faith
- Romans 5 : God’s Salvation is Certain and Assured
- 5:1-11 Salvation from sin’s punishment (for all)
- 5:12-21 Salvation from the law’s punishment (for the sake of the Jews)
- Romans 6-7 : Jesus is the new Lord in our Salvation
- 6:1-23 Jesus is our new Lord over life and death (for all)
- 7:1-25 Jesus replaces the law of sin and death (for the Jew)
- Romans 8-11 : Nothing will stop God’s Promise to Save his Elect
- 8:1-39 Nothing will stop God’s plans (for all)
- 9:1-11:36 Nothing will stop God’s plans (for the Jews)
- Romans 12-15:13 : God’s Mercy calls for new lives
- 12:1-13:14 God’s Grace calls his people to love all people
- 14:1-15:13 God’s Grace calls his people to love – even to love the Jews
- Romans 15:14-16:27 : Final Greetings and Instructions
There’s lots of communication tools one can use while preaching; illustrations are the most well known. Another method of communicating an idea is to keep using different synonyms.
It’s where you take one idea from the verse you’re looking at and explain it by defining it again and again.
E.g. (From yesterday’s post) Jesus is the King; the ruler, the sovereign, the all powerful, the master of the universe, the final judge of all things, the most excellent, most praiseworthy, most important, most wonderful and fearsome human who ever lived, and the one you will have to give an account to at the end of time.
Does it work? Yes and no.
It’s probably not a great explanatory tool… Every synonym needs its own explaination. But it is a very good focusing tool. It helps our hearers feel the weight of one idea in the verse. It’s like a big sign saying “watch out! Big idea here!”
Therefore, it’s a communication tool to use sparingly.
I wonder if you should – in your mind at least – start the application from your very first words.
See, if it’s the application of the truths of the bible, then understanding and being convicted of the truths are integral to the application.
Don’t we want our hearers to believe everything we say (assuming it’s true)?
And, if the application rightly flows out of the teaching, then all that teaching should be building up to that point, it is like pulling back a sling-shot before letting it fly.
Shouldn’t we be thinking, “I really want them to get this point so they understand the application better!”