Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Peter Mead: Most Illustrations Need More Time

image Peter Mead over at Biblical Preaching has an interesting post re: illustrations. He notes that their is a hierarchy of illustrations and some require more time in preparation in set-up and delivery.  He begins:

Robinson and other instructors teach a hierarchy of illustrative materials.  In a simplified four-level hierarchy the list would be as follows:

Level 1 illustrations come from the experience of both the speaker and listeners.

Level 2 illustrations come from the experience of the listeners, but the speaker has to learn about them since they have not personally experienced the same.

Level 3 illustrations come from the experience of the speaker, but must be learned by the listeners.

Level 4 illustrations lie outside the experience of both speaker and listener.

He goes on and describes the process well.  You can find the full post here.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

P. Mead: Rumors of Commentaries

image Peter Mead over at Biblical Preaching has what is a very important post on the use of commentaries; not necessarily their use, but their misuse.  Like children of old, they should be seen, but not heard.    He asks:

I wonder whether the commentaries have been conversation partners in the personal study of the text, or crutches leant on to short-cut the process of exegesis.  I wonder whether the commentaries have simulated wrestling with the structure and flow of the text and consequently the sermon, or whether they have merely furnished a dissected structure on which to hang the broken pieces of a partial sermon.

 

Find the whole post here.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Spirit-Led Preaching: Some Highlights

Spirit led PreachingSome quotes that particularly struck me from Heisler's Spirit-Led Preaching (besides the other ones on which I have already blogged):

p. 84: "I pray that your character will keep you where the call of God places you.  Preachers sometimes let their talent take them where their character cannot keep them."

pp. 118-19:  "What are the responsibilities given to the congregation for the preaching of the Word? 

  • First of all, we must teach the flock who the Spirit is and what they can expect him to do in their lives
  • Second, teach the church that the Holy Spirit can be quenched and grieved.
  • The third truth the congregation needs to be taught is that the goal of all preaching is the glory of God.
  • Fourth, teach the congregation to pray. 

Heisler has good expansions on each topic.

p. 75: "The man with a chip on his shoulder has no room for a cross on his back."

P. 64: "Christological preaching happens when we build the theological component of our message upon one significant question:  How does this text testify to the person and work of Jesus Christ?  Whether preaching in the Old Testament or in the New Testament, we should constantly seek to understand how Christ's death, burial and resurrection fulfill the redemptive focus of the text that we are preaching."

(I now think I am done blogging great stuff from SLP. Obviously I think it is an excellent book worth your time..)

Sunday, February 24, 2008

OK, This Isn't Working Well

I am attempting a major change in my preaching style and it is not going all that image well.  Several things I have read recently, particularly "Spirit-Led Preaching" [you have picked up that I am reading that, right?] have led me to the conviction that I have to get away from my manuscript preaching.  I have used manuscript preaching since 1980.  (that's 28 years, folks!).  Before that, I had preached numerous sermons and simply used outlines.  But the senior minister I worked under in 1980 always used a manuscript [his sermons were also almost always "borrowed" from others] and he really encouraged me to do the same.  And it seemed to work, so I have stuck with preaching from a manuscript for over a quarter of a century (yikes!) 

But I have come to realize a couple of things:

  1. I am not as good at faking that I am using a manuscript as I thought I was.
  2. By being chained to the manuscript, it is harder for the Holy Spirit to interrupt and take me in a different direction. 

My philosophy has been that if the Holy Spirit wants to take me in a certain direction, he is just as able to do it in my prep time just as much as spontaneously from the pulpit. He knows what is going to happen.  And that philosophy has meant that I have tried to be sensitive to the Holy Spirit throughout the week in my preparation.  That's good...not bad.

But it is not true that he should, therefore, not be expected to move during my preaching time.  And if he wants to, I need to put myself in the best situation to be able to receive that.  Eye contact and interaction with the congregation is limited with manuscript preaching.  Focus on a manuscript limits my ability to be listening to him while I preach.  It sets an unspoken presumption that he isn't going to speak to change anything. 

So...over the past few sermons I determined to take far fewer notes into the pulpit.  I KNEW my sermon...the extensive manuscript was really just a crutch based on fear. 

But over the past few weeks when I have tried to simply take a brief outline into the pulpit...by taking notes from my mss and only taking that into the pulpit...my notes basically have just duplicated my manuscript.  "I can't leave THAT out!"  "I think it is important to phrase this just like this."  "It is important to have the introduction/transitions/conclusion [whatever] written out so that it goes smoothly."

Today first service, I floundered worse than ever.  So, after I had given the welcome and greeting time in second service, I retreated to my office and basically re-worked the sermon and went back to more of a manuscript format.  The sermon second service was smoother, but it is not the direction I want to go. 

Part of it pride...I have 25+ of preaching experience. I don't want to sound like a beginner.  I serve a congregation that both in size and expectation does not want a beginner.  But there has to be some format in which I can grow in using less or no notes without doing a disservice to the body to whom I preach.  We'll see. 

What I probably need are training wheels for preaching (thus the above picture).  Ideas?  Suggestions? 

Guaranteed Revival in Seven Easy Steps

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Jeff Weddle is the pastor of Rhinelander Bible Church.  He writes a blog entitled,  "The Anti-Itch Meditation."  Recently he wrote a thought provoking blog post on "How to Get Revival."  It is a helpful reminder to us all.

 

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Heisler: The Ingredient Lacking in Our Preaching

Spirit led Preaching

Continuing to share quotes that struck me from Greg Heisler's excellent book on the Holy Spirit and Preaching: 

"Let's face the facts for a moment. We have more commentaries today than we know what to do with or have time to read, so understanding the text should not be the problem. We have access to millions of illustrations with Google and the Web. We have entire Web sites dedicated to helping us preach, and we have powerful computer software that can exegete the Hebrew and Greek text for us at the click of a mouse. Even when it comes to delivery, we have programs like PowerPoint to help us present our message in a visually stimulating way. We are spoiled indeed! So why, even with all these wonderful tools and technologies, do our sermons come across as boring, uninteresting, irrelevant, and uninspiring?

Could it be that the most important ingredient to engaging and powerful preaching cannot be boxed up and sold on a shelf or downloaded from the Web? Could it be that the reason our sermons are so passionless and powerless today is not that we lack resources but that we lack power supernatural power? Yes, we have made ourselves more efficient, but has the Spirit made our messages more powerful?" (p. 9)

Friday, February 22, 2008

Limiting Our Application of the Text

Spirit led Preaching

Greg Heisler has a thought provoking section on limiting how we apply a text.  I have always thought that the more specifically we apply a text the better.  But he counters that in doing so we are trying to do the work of the Holy Spirit and are in fact counter-productive;

Partnering with the Holy Spirit in application means we let him be the one to fill in the blanks for a persons life.  We lay out for our listeners the general application, perhaps give them some examples from contemporary life, and then trust the Holy Spirit to fill in the blanks for their own specific life. Preachers who try to fill in the blanks for their listeners tend to come across as push, manipulative, and legalistic.  Rather than trust the Spirit, they try to be the Spirit.  Teach the audience the truth of the text--God expects purity of mind in all our thinking--and then apply it by saying, "This text applies in all our thinking--and then apply it by saying, "This text applies to what we allow to come into our minds.  Our television viewing habits must line up with what Paul is saying here in Philippians 4:8-9."   But let the Spirit fill in the blanks and convict them about their own questionable viewing habits and whether their favorite shows line up with the moral grid of Philippians 4:8-9. 

Legalistic preaching fills in the blanks for the people and does not build disciples.  Spirit-led preaching trusts the Spirit to make the connection and builds mature, Spirit-filled fruit-producing disciples.  Tearful stories with guilty endings may stir people for a moment, but only the Spirit's stirring causes people to change forever.  (p. 123)

While I will have to give that some more thought, I believe that Heisler makes an important point.  What do you think?

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Heisler on Internalizing the Message

Spirit led PreachingContinuing this series of quotations from Greg Heisler's Spirit Led Preaching, he addresses the fact that for our preaching to be incarnational, it is not enough to simply present material.  We must have INTERNALIZED the message God has for this time. 

"What are the keys to internalizing the message? How can a preacher more effectively incarnate the truth he will preach?

  1. First the preacher must be committed to prayer. Ask God to burn the truth on your heart first so you can deliver it hot to others. Follow the wisdom of sermon preparation that goes,
  2. Second, the preacher must take time to internalize. You must allow time for the message to germinate in your heart, soul, and mind.
  3. Third, for incarnational preaching to take place, there must be a fresh commitment to clear thinking. Like an Olympic downhill skier who visualizes every inch of the course before the gate is even opened, so the preacher needs to think through the sermon from start to finish, visualizing how he will negotiate every segment.
  4. The fourth key to incarnational preaching is the preacher’s resolution to be himself in the pulpit. Everyone has a preconceived idea or image of what a preacher is supposed to look like and how a preacher should act. The preacher who tries to become all preachers to all people fails because the Spirit has uniquely shaped you and transformed you to be who you are, not someone else."

For me, this is quite a helpful list.  In the interest of not just plagiarizing his work, I have deleted major sections of discussion of each of these points which is worth your time in checking out. 

Book Suggestions for Preachers

image Terry O'Casey is the minister at High Lakes Christian Church in LaPine, OR (in central Oregon). Terry was for many years the preaching minister at the Seaside Christian Church in Seaside, OR.  He grew that church in a solid way and has done an incredible job turning around what was a dying church in LaPine.  Terry is more than a little unorthodox in his methods, but God has blessed his work. He also is an adjunct professor of preaching and ministry at Boise (ID) Bible College and Northwest Christian College (Eugene, OR). 

In a conversation with Terry, I asked him if he were to recommend ten books to preachers, what would they be.  His list (like Terry) is different from what I might have expected from others, and so I thought I would share it with you: 

    • The Tanakh-Torah, Navim and the Katavim-“The Old Testament”
    • The New Testament-I put both of these first, because we read so much about the Bible, but not the Bible itself.
    • Practicing the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence. You have to make sure you get a good translation however.
    • The Contemplative Pastor by E. Peterson. This book gives a fatal blow to busy pastors.
    • Life Together, D. Bonhoeffer-Written on the run from Hitler
    • Velvet Elvis-Rob Bell-This stresses the importance of seeing the core of what we do in the church from the standpoint of the Hebrew mindset and discipleship Jesus’ style
    • Organic Church by Neil Cole, for the utter simplicity of the house church
    • Jesus I Never Knew-Philip Yancey
    • Sabbath, Abraham Heschel-An example of rich Jewish spirituality by a well known Hassidic Jew.
    • The Endurance, Caroline Alexander-the amazing leadership skills of E. Shackleton

Thanks Terry! There are a couple here I want to run out and get.  I look forward to sharing lists from others.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Preaching Till Our Tongues Rot

image Charles Spurgeon writes:

The gospel is preached in the ears of all; it only comes with power to some. The power that is in the gospel does not lie in the eloquence of the preacher; otherwise men would be the converters of souls.  Not does it lie in the preacher's learning; otherwise it would consist in the wisdom of men.  We might preach till our tongues rotted, till we should exhaust our lungs and die, but never a soul would be converted unless there were a mysterious power going with it--the Holy Ghost changing the will of man.  Or Sirs!  We might as well  preach to stone walls as preach to humanity unless the Holy Ghost be with the Word, to give it power to convert the soul.

Trip to Seattle

image Sorry not to post for a few days. Loretta and I made our way up to Seattle for a prolonged weekend to see our eldest son and his wife and to worship with them at the church where he is worship minister. We got to hear the new preacher at their church for the first time. While Loretta and I differed on our reaction to his content, his style and delivery was outstanding. His life and teaching should be a blessing to that church.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Preaching to Those Not in the Room

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Steve Matthewson over at PreachingToday.com has a fascinating post that arose from a comment by Tim Keller (who is pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in NYC.)

The comment is this:

“If you speak and discourse as if your whole neighborhood is present eventually more and more of your neighborhood will find their way in or be invited.”

Mark Driscoll echoes that comment:

“Preach to the people you want to have in the room, not the ones who aren’t. What this will do is put your people on alert that they need to bring those people.”

The rest of the post is worth your time. Steve has a great perspective on it.

Find it here.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Offending the Spirit in Our Preaching

image "I believe we are grieving and quenching the Holy Spirit when we say less than what the Bible says in an effort not to offend anyone or more than the Bible says in order to impress everyone.  The reality is that we are offending someone--the Holy Spirit--and he is not impressed!  Preaching that is soft on sin and fearful of confronting people reveals that we prefer the Spirit of God who comforts us but run from the Spirit who convicts us."

--Greg Heisler, Spirit Led Preaching, p. 60.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Preaching Extemporaneously... Spurgeon's Example

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Last Sunday we had a guest missionary speaker from Mexico. I had met him at a church event Saturday night, so I knew he was in town. I had not yet seen him, however, when the service began. None of our Cross-Cultural missions team seemed concerned, but the longer the service went on, the more uneasy I became. For the first part of worship, I admit I didn't worship much. I sang the words, but my eyes were scanning the sanctuary. (We have a fan-shaped sanctuary so it is easy with a turn of the head to see 85% of the seats.) My thoughts went directly to the question: If I had to speak extemporaneously, could I? When I was in Toastmasters (a public speaking training club if you are not familiar with it) extemporaneous speaking was always my weak suit. As we approached the Lord's Supper, I knew that the sermon was only 5-7 minutes away! Should/could I run and pull something out of my office? Should/could I speak extemporaneously? I turned to leave the auditorium to see what I could find, and there he was, sitting two rows behind me! He had been there all along!

I didn't have to do it, but the question remains on the table...if I had to preach extemporaneously, could I? I am not so sure. This thinking was prompted by an entry in the blog Expositionalogistix re: Charles Spurgeon's regular practice of extemporaneous preaching at one of his weekly services.

Matt quotes Spurgeon from his autobiography:

Ever since I have been in London, in order to get into the habit of speaking extemporaneously, I have never studied or prepared anything for the Monday evening prayer-meeting. I have all along selected that occasion as the opportunity for off-hand exhortation...

He then gives the rationale and preparation that he does for this. I would recommend Matt's post.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

What Can Preachers Learn from Politicians

image The title of this post may seem ludicrous or even insulting to some.  But in reading an article in Newsweek, I think that preachers might benefit from paying attention to a lesson that politicians have learned well. 

Bryan Chappel (president of Covenant Seminary and author of Christ Centered Preaching) speaks of the three elements Aristotle says are found in every persuasive message:

  • Logos -the verbal content
  • Pathos -the emotional character
  • Ethos-the perceived character of the speaker.

The Newsweek article addressed the second (Heaven forbid we let the candidates influence our verbal content).  But the pathos and (and to a lesser degree the ethos) is a different matter. 

The article is entitled "When It's Head versus Heart, the Heart Wins."  Sharon Begley refers to several books on voters' behavior to note that (this is not big surprise) voters decide much more based on emotion than knowledge.  One of the sources she quotes is How Voters Decide by Richard Lau of Rutgers Univ.  Lau states: "When voting your party doesn't apply [as in a primary], and when the candidates don't differ much on the issues, you have to choose on some other basis. That's when you get people voting by heuristics [cognitive shortcuts] and going with their gut, with who they most identify with, or with how the candidates make them feel."

Begley comments "What has emerged from the volatile and unpredictable primary season so far is that the candidates who can make voters feel enthusiasm and empathy—and, perhaps paradoxically, anxiety—are going to make it to November and maybe beyond."

She gives examples:

Campaign ads therefore aim for the heart even when they seem to be addressed to the head. One Clinton ad shows a skydiver in free fall against a background of headlines about the housing bust and stock-market gyrations. A parachute opens—and Clinton's image appears. The emotional goal is clear: stir up fear and anxiety about the economy, then present Clinton as savior. In another ad, Clinton talks about her economic-stimulus plan, followed by a voice-over warning that "we know you can't solve economic problems with political promises." By reminding voters that these are risky times, the ads are meant to make voters feel anxious and thus more receptive to the argument that this is no time to gamble on a relative newcomer such as Obama.

When voters consider candidates' positions, they are drawn to the candidate who assuages fear, inspires hope, instills pride or brings some other emotional dividend. People are not dispassionate information-processing machines. "When a candidate says he is pro-life or antiwar, for example, he is giving voters a policy position but also appealing to strong emotional elements," says Democratic strategist Carter Eskew, who is not affiliated with any campaign this year. In Clinton's health-coverage ads, "she identifies with people she says have been forgotten or invisible. It's a policy position with an emotional appeal."

The article goes on to note that the most common emotions "in play" are fear, the yearning for security, hope, a desire for inspiration and a wish for a certain level of comfort with a candidate." (The Newsweek article can be found here.)

So what does this lengthy summary of the article have to do with preaching? 

It is a reminder that logos is not enough.  To simply share information will inform, but not move people.  If the goal of preaching is life transformation, information alone does not transform lives.  We must be aware of the importance of the emotional message.  This is not to sanction manipulation (as many of the political ads seem to do), but it causes us to ask the question, how will/should this message make people "feel"?  Does the message reach people on both levels?

This is not to attempt to do the work of the Holy Spirit, but it is to recognize that our work is on several levels. 

Give me feedback.  How do we do this without being manipulative?  Do YOU think that this is preempting the work of the Holy Spirit? Why or why not? 

How to Speak the Truth and Lie at the Same Time

image Bryan Chapell says:

To speak of the love of God in a way that does not move you is actually to speak untruth. It is to say, “This is not very important. This is not very significant.” Your manner is now contradicting your message. This is a standard rule of communicators: if your manner contradicts your message, your manner will be believed. Thus the manner needs to go with the message.

How to Use Other People's Sermons with Integrity

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  Craig Brian Larson over at PreachingToday.com has a helpful article on the ethical use of other people's sermons. If you come from the presumption that it is NEVER legitimate to borrow from the work of others, then this post is of no real use to you.  (But I pity the congregation of the pastor who thinks that everything he has to say is the best and the greatest to be said on any subject).

Now, I recognize that Larson works for a company that is marketing sermons for sale.  He has a vested interest in ministers being willing to borrow from the work of others. His company makes money when preachers buy their product:  sermon manuscripts and tapes. 

But I believe that there are legitimate times and ways to borrow from the work of others.  I think Larson's words are a helpful guide:

Can we preach borrowed sermons with integrity? Yes, if we follow several guidelines.

1. Borrow for a good reason.

A commendable reason for borrowing a sermon is the desire to feed the flock with quality sermons. If a pastor is responsible for delivering multiple messages every week, the study time required to produce several quality sermons may be hard to find. Borrowing sermons for one of those occasions each week may be a wise decision.

Some weeks have more emergencies than others. We may need to borrow in order to give the congregation a quality sermon.

Some preachers may feel their ability to take the truths of Scripture and shape them into compelling sermons is limited no matter how much time they invest in preparation. They borrow so they can give their flock the best available.

Some pastors borrow sermons because they lack discipline and diligence. That motive lacks integrity.

2. Meditate prayerfully over the Scripture text and sermon.

Borrowing a sermon does not relieve us of the responsibility to meditate over the Scripture text until we understand it and feel the heartbeat of God in the text. We must take the time to let the Spirit of God breathe the text anew into our spirits. And then we must meditate prayerfully over the sermon until we can own it. Only when we own the message can we preach it with integrity and passion because then it is our message.

3. Give credit.

Most people assume the pastor writes most of the sermon, albeit with the help of various study tools and assorted good ideas gleaned from others. For that reason, if we borrow most of the sermon, we should inform the church in some manner. Otherwise people will feel betrayed when they learn the truth. Before borrowing sermons, we should discuss doing so with church leadership to be sure they understand the reasons and support it.

There are several ways to acknowledge the source of a sermon.

A note in the bulletin can say:

Today Pastor Smith preaches a sermon by Richard Allen entitled "Five Reasons to Believe."

Today's sermon by Pastor Smith relies heavily on a sermon by Richard Allen entitled "Five Reasons to Believe."

Key ideas in Pastor Smith's sermon today are based on a sermon by Richard Allen entitled "Five Reasons to Believe."

The outline of Pastor Smith's sermon today is based on a sermon by Richard Allen entitled "Five Reasons to Believe."

A pastor can say at the beginning of the sermon something similar to the examples above, or…

Recently I saw a sermon by Richard Allen entitled "Five Reasons to Believe" that spoke to my heart (or, that I believe is a word to our church), and I want to share it with you.

--Craig Brian Larson

You can find the original article here.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

When and How to Cite Sources of Illustrations

Chris Stinnett wrote an article eight years ago about attributing the source of illustrations in sermons.  It is a particularly helpful article.  But he ends the article by giving a checklist for verbal attributions:

"Not every illustration merits citation. So, when should we footnote material during sermon delivery?

When they said it better. There aren't many new ideas under the sun, but many are better stated than ours. Borrowing a memorable line without attribution is plagiarism. By including the source, we show integrity and professionalism in research and presentation.

When expert opinion is helpful. We can lend power to the information by disclosing its origin and the authority behind it.

When it sounds too good to be true. Illustrations sometimes sound contrived and, therefore, manipulative. In the case of an amazing but true story, citing the source makes it more believable.

When local people are involved. Given opportunity to quote a hometown hero, the inclusion of the person's name will stimulate interest in the rest of the presentation.

When the sermon is distributed in print. In such cases, full attribution is a must."

Why Pastors Should Plagiarize

image Our small group ministry team and elder board were becoming familiar with Bill Hybels research in Willow Creek's "Reveal" project on Sunday night.  Yesterday the chair of our elders sent out an eleven part review of Reveal from Bradley Wright's weblog. 

In jumping around on Wright's site, I came across his article from last year on "Why Pastors Should Plagiarize."  (WHAT??!!??!!)  His article is not really on plagiarizing, but on significantly drawing from the work of others.  In part he says:

There seems to be a norm among pastors that all sermons have to be original in idea and expression. The problem is that this is very hard to do, so a lot of sermons aren't really that good. That's why the few pastors, such as Mark Driscoll and Ben Dubow, who excel at this form of expression have their sermons downloaded by so many people.

Let me come at this from a different angle. In two weeks I'll be teaching a course on criminology. If I had to present *only* my own ideas, the class would be equal parts useless and boring. Instead, I use the work of many scholars (with proper citation, of course) to help my students to understand how to think about crime. Yes, I give my own ideas and analyses (and probably more than I need), but the the core of my material is the work of others.

Pastors almost seem to feel guilty about using the ideas of others--as if somehow they are avoiding their pastoral responsibility.

To be clear, whenever we use others' ideas or words, we need to clearly indicate the source; otherwise it is plagiarism. (Okay, the title of this post isn't quite accurate, but it's catchy, no?). So, I'm advocating using others' ideas with full acknowledgement.

In short, I propose that many pastors would preach more effectively if they sometimes simply summarize and illustrate the ideas of others.

It really is thought provoking.  One of the bases of expository preaching is that people need to hear the Word of God more than the words of men, therefore his ideas re: sermon series on the work of Dallas Willard or others seem lame to me. 

But I think he does provide a good perspective.  Attribution can go a long way toward removing some of the moral dilemmas of presenting someone else's work as your own.

You can find the entire article here.

I have a couple of articles on attribution and borrowing from others that I will include after this.

Monday, February 11, 2008

John Piper on the State of Preaching

I came across this clip from John Piper today re: the state of preaching.  I would affirm what he says.  When we do not preach from a conviction that Christ working through the Word of God can change men and women's lives, then our preaching lacks the power we are called to have. 

 

Not to nitpick, but I think his comments about illustrations, video clips, etc. is misdirected.  I would alter what he says to say that if we use illustrations, video clips, etc. to BE THE POWER of the sermon, it is indeed sad.  I have no problem with (and many times have used) illustrations and video clips to show the need for the main idea of the message or to show how it can be lived out.  But that is really nitpicking what he is saying.  All in all, I believe a helpful video clip. 

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Business Week on Tips to Speaking Effectively

Sometimes in reading blogs and in listening to lectures on preaching (particularly lectures on expository preaching) I get the idea that there is something evil about paying attention to technique.  At least recently, I have been inundated with content that stresses that the Word itself is what has power (which is true).

But I also believe that just as how you dress or how you speak can help or hinder the message, so how you present the message can help people hear the message of the Holy Spirit better or worse.  Call that heresy, but I grow weary of expositional purists who sneer at learning the basics on communication skill. 

Towards that end, I was reminded of some basics in an article that is about a year old from Business Week.  The article is not about preaching, but is about presentations, specifically business presentations.  And yet, should we who handle the gospel of truth be just as aware of and motivated to use the skills that enable people to hear our message even more than those who do so for sales or business advancement?  At least I hope we would.

Here are four tips to Speaking Effectively from Carmine Gallo: 

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 The Hook: Listeners make up their minds about a speaker in the first 30 to 90 seconds, which means you have less then two minutes to make a lasting first impression.  Start with the end in mind.  Alert your audience that their world can (and probably should) change, and then hit them over the head with it right out of the gate.

Brevity:  Research shows our attention span drops dramatically after approximately 18 minutes.  15-18 minutes is what speaker coach Carmine Gallo calls the "window of impact" to get you re message across.   If your message needs to run longer, then break it up after 10 or 15 minutes.  She a piece of video or hold a demonstration.  Break up the monotony so your audience doesn't get bored.  Shorter really is stronger.

Visual impact: When you do view a slide show on video from the perspective of your audience, is it hard to read?  Do you have too much text?  Replace text and bullets with highly visual, graphic representations.  The most exciting presentations have few, if any, slides just bullets.

Adapted from "The Camera Doesn't Lie", Carmine Gallo, Business Week, 1/3/07

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

More on Spirit-led Preaching

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While I think he has the order wrong, still Greg Heisler has a powerful comment on the role of the Holy Spirit in changed lives, using the example of the disciples on the road to Emmaus:

 

Go back with me...to Luke 24 and the disciples on the Emmaus road.  Jesus, in a post-resurrection appearance, revealed himself to the disciples on the road to Emmaus. The preaching of Jesus resulted in the disciples' introspection: "Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?" (Luke 24:32)  Every preacher longs for his listeners hearts to be set on fire by what he is saying, yet the preacher cannot forget the preceding verse:  "Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him."  The opening of the eyes came before the burning of the heart.  What kind of preaching opens the eyes of listeners?  The kind that always recognizes Jesus!  The Spirit opens eyes, but the man of God must take the Word of God and present a clear picture of Jesus.  Not only must you paint them a clear picture of Jesus, but you, as God's preacher, must incarnate the truth you are preaching about the Savior as well.   (Spirit-Led Preaching, p. 34)

It is tough to be a bit critical about this quote, since there is so much I like about it   Let me point out the one problem I have and then reflect on the point of the quote.  Their hearts burned BEFORE their eyes were opened and they "saw" Jesus.  They are simply reflecting on it here after Jesus becomes recognizable to them.  And so you can't probably read as much into the order as Heisler does.

That being said, I REALLY like the quote.  There IS a direct relationship between the Holy Spirit causing our hearts to burn--touching the heart as well as the head--and people's vision of Jesus.  And if the goal of preaching is changed lives, then that burning heart is a vital step. And the burning heart comes only with a vision of Jesus and who he is.  "Sir, we would see Jesus..." said the Greeks who approached Philip.  That cry is the same for those who hear us preach.  When they see Jesus, the Holy Spirit works in their hearts to bring about that longing. 

Saturday, February 2, 2008

The Holy Spirit and Preaching

One of the books that kept appearing on "the best of..." lists for preachers from 2007 was "Spirit Led Preaching" by Greg Heisler. It received rave reviews. And so, I recently picked it up and am well into it. So far so good...Spirit led Preaching

Heisler gives a kind of outline of what he is going to be discussing for the rest of the book in the first chapter, "What Spirit-Empowered Preaching Looks Like."

While he doesn't follow the outline point for point throughout the rest of the book he does so in big broad brush-strokes. The specifics that he is using for the book he labels as "Ways the Holy Spirit is at Work in Preaching:

  1. The Spirit's inspiration of a biblical text
  2. The conversion of the preacher to faith in Jesus Christ
  3. The call of the preacher to preach the Word
  4. The character of the preacher to live the Word.
  5. The illumination of the preachers heart and mind in study
  6. The empowerment of the preacher in proclaiming the Word.
  7. The testimony to Jesus Christ as Lord and mediator.
  8. The opening of the hearts of those who hear and receive the Word.
  9. The application of the Word of God to the listeners' lives.
  10. The production of lasting fruit displayed in the lives of Spirit-led believers.

I like this list because it fleshes out what it really means for the Spirit to work through preaching. Too often what is meant by Spirit-led preaching is spontaneous, off-the-cuff preaching that is generally shallow, repetitive and filled with jargon.

Coming from a fellowship of churches that has always been a little suspect of the Spirit (we were cessationists who also often limited the Spirit to speaking only through the written word); and then coming of age during the days of the controversies over the Holy Spirit and "charis-mania" in the 60's and 70's, I will admit that a thorough thinking of the role of the Spirit in my preaching has been lacking. I am already gaining from my time in this little book (only 153 pages). I expect to gain much, much more. I'll let you know...

"The Integrity of Preaching" on Relevance

In my last quote/excerpt from John Knox's little book "The Integrity of Preaching" he makes what at first appears to be an important statement of how to apply narrative texts to our selves and our hearers. I would agree that his third method of applying the passage is more effective than the first. And I agree that is is likely ONE of the reasons why this passage was included. (I am not ready, as he is, to exclude the other two). image

But the conclusion he draws from it are troubling and show the theological basis (biases?)from which he comes:

When we speak of the “original sense” of a passage or of its meaning in its “original context,” we should have in mind, not simply its logical relations within the sentence, paragraph, chapter or book in which it is found, but also something vastly richer and more significant. The “original context” is not a mere form of words, but is the actual like of the ancient religious community in which the text was first heard and treasured.

I can imagine, for example, three types of sermon on the familiar Gospel story of Bartimaeus, the blind beggar who cried out, as Jesus passed by, "Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!" (Mark 10:46) and whom Jesus healed with a word. One sermon will find in the incident the proof that Jesus was the Messiah—he was called "Son of David" and he demonstrated that he deserved the title by his miraculous act. The purpose of the sermon will be to awaken or confirm the belief that Jesus was in truth the Christ.

The second sermon will emphasize the human compassion of Jesus. Jesus is walking by, concerned with other business, when the beggar's cry is heard. He stops, asks what the man wants, and graciously fills his need. The purpose of the sermon will be to encourage a similar sensitiveness, courtesy, and generosity. The first of these two sermons can make the better claim to using the text authentically, but it is in the last resort irrelevant, and therefore, however true it may be, it is not a true sermon. No one can be convinced by an incident in the past that Jesus was the Christ, and an intellectual conviction based on a past fact of this kind would not be significant anyhow. The second sermon could make a better claim perhaps to being relevant; but certainly so shallow a use of the text cannot be authentic. The story was not remembered and finally recorded in the Gospel because this kind of meaning was found in it.

But the third sermon will treat the incident, not as a past event from which we can derive true or useful lessons—whether doctrinal or ethical—but as an event in our own history. We are blind Bartimaeus. Christ calls to us, "What do you want me to do for you?" It is we who answer, or would answer, "Master, let me receive my sight." And in the measure of our faith we are brought out of our darkness into his marvelous light. It is obvious that only when the text is understood in some such way is it deeply relevant. But it is just as true that only such an understanding is historically authentic. For that is the kind of meaning the text had from the beginning. It was because it answered thus to the realities of the life of the primitive church that it became a part of its preaching and was later embodied in the Gospel. Such use of the text is not fanciful allegoriza­tion. It rests on the only adequate kind of exegesis. For if we do not hear such texts as spoken to us, we do not hear them as they were heard in the early church, and therefore we do not hear them in their true and original context.

Unfortunately, Knox then goes on to say that this way of interpreting/applying the scriptures means that "questions about who first spoke or wrote it or about how closely it corresponds with some actual incident or fact become, largely irrelevant." I don't believe that this is a necessary corollary. Some might say that it is. I believe that his technique of putting himself in the place of Bartimaeus is helpful. But if it means that the integrity of the text is violated, then is it not helpful.

Input? Thoughts? Ways to help me clarify this for myself?

Friday, February 1, 2008

D.A. Carson on Defining Preaching

image Several preaching blogs have referenced Irish Calvinist's post quoting from D.A. Carson about a definition of preaching.  Carson wrote one of the chapters in the book "Preach the Word."  I would add my "Amen" that it is an excellent and important statement of definition. 

You can find the post at Irish Calvinist.

The Nonsense of Ignoring the Original Sense

pulpit-3As I review The Integrity of Preaching by John Knox which I finished this week, this quote stands out to me as both true and hard at the same time. I have earlier blogged on preaching from the secondary meaning of scripture, examples of which we have in the preaching of Jesus. And yet these words from John Knox prove to be a very fair warning of the danger inherent in excesses of this practice:

The tendency to neglect the original sense is enhanced by a not uncommon view of the nature of the Bible as the Word of God. As such, according to this view, it is not only infallible, but also incalculably weighty and mysteriously pregnant. There is literally no limit to what the text may mean. Whatever the words suggest to the interpreter--or, as he would often say it, whatever the Holy Spirit imparts--must be what, or at least a part of what, the text is intended to convey. Since the meaning the words had for its readers does not in any degree determine or limit their real meaning, why trouble to inquire into it? Thus it happens that the preacher's own conceptions take precedence to the words of Scripture itself, and the very affirmation of the Bible's unlimited meaning amounts to a denial to it of any definitive meaning at all. Perhaps none of us would express himself quite as the preacher did who said, "I am not mathematician, no biologist, neither grammarian, but when it comes to handling the Bible, I knocks down verbs, breaks up prepositions, and jumps over adjectives"; but not infrequently we act with equal arrogance, riding roughshod over the clearly intended meaning of the text in order to make our own point. It is amazing, when you think about it, that one can do this under the impression that in thus disregarding the original meaning of the words of Scripture one is in some way exalting the Word of God." (pp. 37-38)

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