The Net Pastor's Journal, Eng Ed, Issue 29 Fall 2018
Fall 2018 Edition
A ministry of…
Author: Dr. Roger Pascoe, President,
The Institute for Biblical Preaching
Cambridge, Ontario, Canada
Email: [email protected]
Part I: Strengthening Expository Preaching
The introduction and conclusion are two very important parts of a sermon, and yet they are probably two of the least well done. If your introduction is weak, you risk failing to convince your audience (1) that their need is addressed in the Bible and, therefore, (2) that they should listen to you. If your conclusion is weak, you will fail to accomplish the main task of preaching – namely, to persuade your audience to change, to generate a life-transforming response, and to make it effective in the lives of your audience.
A. Purposes Of An Introduction
1. To Transition From What Went Before
Every sermon is usually preceded by some appropriate pre-introductory remarks. Pre-introductory remarks (or, the introduction before the introduction) fulfill several functions:
(a) If you are a guest speaker, they allow you to introduce yourself, or say something to connect to the audience.
(b) They allow you to emphasize or confirm an announcement or something important in the life of the church.
(c) They allow you to connect with what has taken place in the preceding part of the service.
Generally, pre-introductory remarks form a bridge from what went before (e.g. by picking up on the theme of the preceding worship music) to what is coming after. They also give you opportunity to take care of pastoral issues like sickness of a member.
During this part of the introduction, be sensitive to what went before – don’t just ignore the previous part of the service like it never happened. And be sensitive to the mood and tone and atmosphere of the service.
2. To Pave The Way For What Comes Next
The purpose of the introduction is to introduce the sermon, not to make people laugh, not to tell a story or to use gimmicks to keep people coming back.
3. To Establish A Relationship Between You And The Audience
Use this pre-sermon bridge to personalize the atmosphere with your presence and personality so that the service is not clinical, sterile, or impersonal. This is where you connect with the audience on a personal basis, perhaps for the first time in the service.
B. Difficulties Of Introductions
Why is it so hard sometimes to know how to begin? Well, perhaps it’s because you are writing your introduction too soon. The introduction is normally one of the last items in sermon preparation. Or, perhaps it’s because introductions are so important and cover such a broad territory and require such creativity. You may have all your research done and your sermon outline, but you can’t prepare your introduction effectively without creative juices flowing.
C. Components Of A Good Introduction
What are the key components to introducing any public, verbal communication?
#1: Clarify Your Purpose / Burden
Your introduction must be consistent with, and establish, your purpose in preaching the sermon. If you don’t have a purpose, why preach? If you don’t know where you want to end up, how will you get there? Without a purpose, you may preach a sermon that is aimless and useless for your audience. You must have a goal to strive for, a target to hit. So, in your introduction clarify your purpose in preaching this sermon.
- Why are you preaching this sermon?
- What do you want to accomplish in this message? It can be very helpful to write out the purpose of the sermon at the head of your introduction to help keep you on track throughout the sermon.
- What is the response you are going to ask for at the close?
- What is your conviction about the truth of what you are preaching?
- Why is this message critical? (e.g. because obedience to the truth will change your life).
Keep in mind that there are four general purposes for every sermon - to inspire; to inform; to convince; and to exhort.
The purpose / burden of the preacher can be expressed as a personal concern or by way of an illustration of why this truth is needed. Here are some suggestions for expressing the purpose / burden of your message:
- “On the basis of the Word of God that we have read, the purpose of my message today is to call all of you to…”
- “My burden in preaching this message is that each of will be helped to avoid…”
- “Today this message is calling you to make a decision regarding..”
The burden / purpose of your message sets up the audience and your message for the close. It says up front where you are going with the message and what you expect the result to be.
How do you connect the purpose of your sermon with your proposition (i.e. the theme / summary statement of the sermon)? Ask yourself: “On the basis of the central proposition of this text, what does God want my people to understand and obey?” In other words, your purpose for preaching this sermon to this audience is to be consistent with the message of the biblical author to his audience. Why did he give this message originally? What did he want his audience to know or do or change or obey?
#2: Begin With An Introductory Point Of Contact
The purpose of an “introductory point of contact” is to immediately arrest your congregation’s attention and keep it. People are so saturated with secular communication that it shapes the way they listen – i.e. in short sound bites (e.g. TV, movies etc.). There are all kinds of distractions in the audience – things that have happened during the week; kids misbehaving during the service etc. The sermon can either be a time to tune out or tune in.
During the preceding part of the service, the congregation has been participating in singing, giving etc. that has kept them attentive. But now their role is much more passive as they become listeners and learners. The task of the preacher is to energize the atmosphere and get the attention of the audience without being trite, theatrical, or disingenuous.
What are some safe and effective ways to gain your audience’s attention? Let me give you some suggestions:
- Open with an illustration, example, or “slice of life” to which they can all relate and find interesting, and which connects with the subject of your message.
- Tell them something that happened to you personally during the week that connects with what you are about to say. But be careful here not to do this too much. Nobody wants to hear about the pastor’s life all the time.
- Open with some challenging questions. But again, if you do this every week it becomes boring and predictable and, thus, destroys the purpose.
#3: Make The Connection Between The People And The Bible
Your introduction must clearly establish a connection between the life of your audience (their needs and problems and questions) and the life of the Bible and the sermon (its answers and solutions). They need to know that you know their need and the Bible addresses it. So, surface their need and your empathy (i.e. “we” are in this together – we all experience this, including you, the pastor). You are on a mutual journey of faith and practice.
How do you establish or determine what the need is? Obviously, you need to know your congregation. You need to know:
- What’s going on in individual lives as well as the corporate church life.
- What things they are struggling with.
- What needs to be corrected, or developed, or commended.
- What has happened in world events that may cause them to question their faith or their understanding of God, and to ask the “why” questions.
- What is going on in the life of the church that must be addressed from the Word (e.g. splits, factions, jealousies, weaknesses in ministry etc.)
To know your congregation does not imply that you preach to “felt-needs” but to “real” spiritual needs, whether felt or not. The real needs of people today are often not “felt” – these are the needs that God addresses in his Word. It takes a great deal of prayer and wisdom to determine what the Spirit of God is directing you to preach on and how that addresses a spiritual need in your church.
How do you raise these real needs? One way is to ask questions such as:
- “How many of you have ever experienced…?”
- “Have you ever wondered about… in your own life or the life of the church?”
- “Would you like to find out what God says about…?”
Another way is to make an indicative statement about the need:
- “All of us from time to time suffer from…”
- “I’m sure that all of you have often wondered about why…”
- “I have the sense that it’s time for us to consider…”
Once you have established the need for this sermon, move to the Bible to show that the Bible addresses this problem, this need. You aren’t dealing here with your text yet – you are simply establishing that the Bible addresses this need and provides a solution. Their question is: “What does this have to do with me?” Your answer is: “Because I have an answer to your problem from the Bible”. Here, you are offering a solution (“take away”) at the end by telling them where you are going to end up and what the benefit is to them.
#4: Establish Your Authority
You are not giving all the answers, but you are promising that you have an answer from the Word. This is the time when the people need to know:
- That you are speaking about something about which you feel passionately.
- That you are speaking with “Thus says the Lord” authority (i.e. you have the answer) from the Word of God (not just your ideas).
#5: Supply A Motivation To Listen
The introduction should be motivational in nature. It relates to what you are about to say to your audience. It answers the question, “Why should I listen?” It convinces them that it will benefit them and that this is important.
Some approaches to supplying a motivation to listen are that:
- What you are going to talk about is something that affects everyone.
- What you are going to talk about will change their lives.
- You have the answer to their needs and problems.
#6: State Your Subject
State what it is that you are going to talk about. Be concise. Limit your subject – i.e. don’t make it too broad. Don’t leave your people guessing about what you are speaking about.
#7: Disclose Your Proposition
Condense your sermon into a sentence (sometimes called the proposition or thesis statement) so that the audience knows:
- The big idea / the central truth you are going to explain.
- Or, the question you are going to answer.
- Or, the exhortation you are asking them to follow.
Ask yourself: What are you going to prove, explain, exhort? What is the principle that you are going to communicate? What are you going to say about the biblical text? This is the thesis that you want to communicate. It’s the sermon in a nutshell, the theological point, the abiding principle as it relates to life.
Always state your proposition as a full sentence. A full sentence expresses a complete idea. That’s the only way you can adequately and intelligibly communicate.
The propositional statement contains two key components:
(1) The theme (the subject) of the sermon.
(2) The thrust (what you are saying about the subject) of the sermon.
Having already stated your subject, now in your proposition, you relate that subject to what you are going to preach about that subject. For example, if your subject is “the love of God”, ask yourself: “What is it about the love of God that the text is saying? What’s the point? What’s the truth to which we are to respond?” In other words, the proposition is a narrowing, a refining, a limiting of the subject.
I suggest that you state your proposition in such a way that it is applicational.
Applicational means using a direct statement that demands a response. For example:
- “True discipleship demands our (includes you and the audience) total allegiance to Jesus Christ no matter what the cost” (Mk. 8:34-38).
- “Influential Christians are those who make a difference for God in the world” (Matt. 5:13).
What we are doing by making it applicational is we are moving from the world of the text (its wording; its culture; its people; its time; its place) to our contemporary world by making the abiding principle in the proposition applicable to our lives.
How do you state the proposition so that the audience knows that’s what it is?
You can use an introductory phrase such as:
- “What we are going to find this morning in our text is…”
- “The truth is that…”
- “The truth we are proclaiming to day is…”
- “Today, I want you to respond to the truth of God’s Word, that…”
The big question is, how do you determine what the proposition is? Typically, one way to come up with your proposition is to write down the main points of your sermon, and determine what holds them all together. Thus, your proposition is a “main point of main points.” The proposition holds everything together because your main points flow rom it and, thus, the entire sermon. For more on this topic, see the Fall 2017 edition of this journal.
#8: Prepare Your Introduction Last Or At Least Only After You Have Done The Outline Of Your Sermon.
#9: Keep Your Introduction Succinct (Crisp, Clear, Focused, Purposeful).
If you limit it to about 10-15% of the sermon (3-4 minutes) you will have to be succinct.
#10: Write Out Your Introduction In Full And Memorize The First Few Paragraphs
Writing it out forces you to think it out well, but try to not be tied to notes during the introduction. Memorizing the first few paragraphs helps you to establish contact with your audience so that you are relational in your manner.
#11: Read The Scripture Passage And Pray
I recommend that you read the Scripture passage yourself. Announce the reference two or three times. You could make remarks to put the passage in context.
Note that good Scripture reading should be:
- Paced properly
- Appropriately emphasized
- Not too fast (this is usually the biggest mistake pastors make)
- Expressive but not phoney
This is an excellent opportunity for you to show them how to read Scripture and to draw out the meaning and sense by the way you read it.
Don’t forget to pray. This is natural after the reading of the passage. Make sure prayer is a prominent component of the entire worship service. It is an act of worship and should follow on from the previous part of the service. Offer the sermon as a sacrifice to the Lord.
#12: Try To Vary Your Introductions
By varying your introductions you prevent your audience from getting tired of them. But don’t try to be dramatic for the sake of it. There is a difference between creativity and gimmick.
Here are ten suggestions for varying the format of your introductions (they all contain the same basic elements, but arranged differently):
(1) A personal story from your own life, introducing the biblical text that connects with that experience, and then the purpose of the sermon.
(2) A slice-of-life from someone else’s life, followed by the purpose for the sermon and then the text.
(3) An example from history¸ followed by the purpose of the sermon, the reading of the text and the proposition / thesis.
(4) A direct statement of the biblical text and how it relates to the lives of your audience.
(5) Reference to a need, either stated or inferred, by some in your congregation, which connects to how the text promises to meet that need.
(6) Retelling a biblical story. Then state the purpose of the sermon, and the expectation that the same God who acted in the story can and does act now
(7) Statement of a contemporary problem, which allows you to move to the text and then state that the truth you are going to explain from the text is the solution to their problem.
(8) Ask a question or series of questions that force the audience to consider a real human need or situation. Empathize with that need (we all have it); state how God can meet that need and how the message will explain how He will meet it.
(9) State the proposition / central truth that you are going to explain, outline your main points and then move into the body of the sermon.
(10) Refer to a contemporary news item that is pressing on people’s minds and show how the Bible speaks to the issue (i.e. answers the “why” questions).
#13: Transition To The Explanation / Body Of The Sermon
(1) Give any contextual and background information needed to understand the passage. This is sometimes called the sub-introduction. This enables the audience to understand the text more accurately and fully and establishes that the Word of God is the authority for what you say. How much background information you give will vary depending on:
- The complexity of the passage.
- The type of sermon (doctrinal teaching; evangelistic etc.).
- Whether this is the first of a series (in which case you will probably give more detailed information) or subsequent messages in a series (in which case you may not give any or very little).
Make sure that you present background and contextual material in an attractive way – not boring but relevant to the message and to life; not too much so that you lose their attention.
(2) Transition into the first point of your exposition. Here are some techniques for smoothly transitioning into your exposition:
- Billboarding. This is where you announce up front what your points are going to be. “Today, we will see in our passage that…
… the Bible addresses this issue from three perspectives - 1…2…3…
… the Bible gives three reasons why… - 1….2…3
- Use just a little phrase such as “Notice that..” and then introduce your first point.
Remember that no part of a sermon is of any lasting effect unless it is prepared and delivered in the power and under the direction of the Holy Spirit.
Remember that no sermon model or methodology is necessarily good for all preachers on all occasions. Some of the great preachers of history did not follow the model I have outlined. But because these preachers did not make full use of introductions does not mean that you can dispense with them. What it probably means is that if they had developed a skill for introductions, their preaching would have been even more powerful than it actually was.
Remember that you must make the sermon your own before it can be of any effect in the lives of others. This is what we call incarnational preaching, “the Word made flesh”
Part II: Transformational Leadership
Understanding The Heart Of Pastoral Ministry (Col. 1:24-2:5)
The apostle Paul is clear and unwavering that pastors are “ministers” or “servants.” We are ministers of the gospel (Col. 1:23) and ministers of the church (Col. 1:25). These are our two primary responsibilities. Let us never allow other things to crowd them out, but make sure these are the things we are focused on – ministering God’s word and serving God’s people. So, I’d like to make a few comments from Colossians 1:24-2:5 on “The heart of pastoral ministry”. Paul’s point here is that “Pastors are Christ’s servants for the church.” Notice that…
A. In Pastoral Ministry, We Suffer For The Sake Of The Church (24)
“I rejoice in my sufferings for you and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions”(24a). This passage is tied together by “rejoicing” - at the beginning, Paul rejoices in his suffering (1:24) and at the end, he rejoices in their faith (2:5). There is great joy in serving Christ and his people. This is what motivates us; this is our reward. But mixed in with the joy is suffering and affliction. In pastoral ministry, we suffer for the sake of the church.
1. In Pastoral Ministry, We Suffer Because Of Our Relationship With The Church
Paul sees his sufferings as the result of what he did for the sake of the church – “my sufferings for you” (24a), for their benefit. As he ministered to them, so he endured suffering on their behalf, such as imprisonment, ridicule, beatings etc. Pastoral suffering for the sake of the church is real.
(a) We suffer because of our relationship w/ others who suffer. We enter into their grief and trials; and we perform a priestly function as we bear them up before God.
(b) We suffer when those we love and serve are attacked by Satan and their lives start to go adrift. And sometimes they won’t heed our advice.
(c) We suffer from criticism and rejection when others don’t like what we say or do.
2. In Pastoral Ministry, We Suffer Because Of Our Identification With Christ
“…in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ for the sake of his body, which is the church” (24b). Paul associates his sufferings with the “afflictions” of Christ. As he continued the work of Christ (in establishing and developing churches) so his sufferings were a continuation of the afflictions poured out on Christ himself. And all who minister in Christ’s name to Christ’s people will similarly suffer with Christ.
So, pastors suffer for the sake of the church. Understanding this makes pastoral afflictions and trials purposeful, meaningful, endurable, and valuable because it is experienced in serving the church and in continuing the ministry of Christ.
Pastors must see their work from that perspective in order to deal with the distress and anguish of pastoral ministry, for their own well-being and the well-being of the church.
B. In Pastoral Ministry, We Serve As Stewards Of The Church (25-29)
“…of which I became a minister according to the stewardship from God that was given to me for you, to make the word of God fully known” (25).
We are “stewards” of the church. A steward is someone who takes care of someone else’s possessions or affairs. Pastors are stewards of Christ’s church. Our position as ministers of Christ is one of servant-hood; our function as ministers of Christ is one of stewardship. We serve as stewards of God’s word and God’s people.
1. We Serve As Stewards Of God’s Word
Our first obligation as stewards is the full proclamation of God’s word - “to make the word of God fully known” (25b). The word of God which we make known is “the mystery hidden for ages and generations but now revealed to his saints” (26). Through our preaching and pastoral leadership we make known the “mystery” of the gospel, which was formerly hidden but now revealed to his saints, to whom “God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory” (27).
To make known the word of God is to preach “Christ in you, the hope of glory” (27b). It is to preach “Him…warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom” (28a).
We serve as stewards of God’s word. That’s our first obligation as pastors – the full proclamation of God’s word. And…
2. We Serve As Stewards Of God’s People
Our second obligation is the full spiritual maturity of God’s people – “that we may present everyone mature in Christ (28b). This is the goal for which we toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works in me” (29). The end to which we labour as stewards of God’s people is to encourage, equip, and empower those entrusted to our care so that “we may present everyone mature in Christ.” That must be our goal, to present every member of the body of Christ as mature in Christ at that future day.”
You might say, “Who is sufficient for these things? How can I do it? Such a stewardship is too great!” Well, pastors can take courage in this, that God enables us to accomplish this stewardship. Ministry is hard work. Sometimes the work is rough and tiring but as we “toil” and “struggle” in the work of God, we are aware that it is God who “works powerfully within me” (29b). The sufficiency for ministry is not from our own power or abilities but from God working in us.
Pastors must appropriate God’s power. When the ministry seems like hard labour (toiling and struggling), when we need energy to go the extra mile, we can draw on God who “works powerfully” in us. That’s our sufficiency for ministry. That’s where our strength comes from in times of trouble and strife and discouragement. His power energizes us, motivates us. His power is the secret of effectiveness in ministry - not our programs or techniques or promotions or psychology or gimmicks, but God “working powerfully in me”.
So then, in pastoral ministry, we suffer for the sake of the church (24), we serve as stewards of the church (25-29), and...
C. In Pastoral Ministry, We Strive For The Spirituality Of The Church (2:1-5)
Pastoral ministry is a constant struggle. To use Paul’s language, we “agonize / struggle” (2:1) in our ministry for God’s people. What do we “agonize” over? Why such turmoil? What are we constantly striving for? We are struggling for the spirituality of the church.
1. The Purpose Of The Pastoral Struggle Is To Encourage God’s People
…“that their hearts may be encouraged” (2a). What does that mean? That we make everyone feel good about themselves? That we indoctrinate everyone with a message of positive thinking? That we always say what the people want to hear? No! To “encourage” here means to give them confidence, to motivate them, to advance them forward, to lift them up spiritually. How do we do that? How do we encourage God’s people?
(a) By promoting their spiritual unity, so that they are “knit together in love” (2b). Unity was Jesus’ passionate desire for his people. It must also be the passionate desire of every pastor and church leader. A unity not based on duress, nor for personal gain, but based on mutual love and respect. That’s a powerful force in the world for Christ. Loving unity will make a congregation strong, stable, able to withstand the wiles of the devil, influential in the community, healthy and happy.
So, pastors encourage God’s people by promoting their spiritual unity. And they encourage God’s people…
(b) By advancing their spiritual understanding, so that they may “reach all the riches of full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of God’s mystery, which is Christ” (2c). Our task is to teach the congregation of God’s people the whole counsel of God so well, that they are fully assured of what they believe and who they believe in.
If we strive to encourage the hearts of God’s people in this way in our ministry, then, in God’s time and God’s way, we can look for the desired result.
2. The Reward Of The Pastoral Struggle Is To Rejoice In Their Positive Response
“...rejoicing to see your good order and the firmness of your faith in Christ” (5)
The evidences of a positive response to your pastoral leadership are…
- Good order in the church reflected in obedience, co-operation, respect, joy in the work of the Lord etc.
- Steadfast faith among the people. Faith in Christ that doesn’t waver when attacked. Faith that is loyal, steadfast no matter what.
This, then, is the heart of pastoral ministry. On the one hand, we “rejoice”. On the other hand, we “suffer”. But what makes it all worthwhile is the reward of seeing the people of God conducting themselves in good order and persevering in their faith. Is pastoral leadership hard? Yes! Is it worth it? Absolutely!
If your heart for your people is their unity in love and their full knowledge of God and his word, then you are a genuine minister of Christ. Let me challenge and encourage you today to perform your pastoral ministry…
… as one who suffers with Christ for the sake of the church
… as one who serves as a steward of the church making the word of God fully known
… as one who strives for the spirituality of the church as evidenced in their unity, understanding, good order, and steadfast faith.
This is the heart of pastoral ministry. May the Lord richly bless you in this task.
Part III: Sermon Outlines
Title: The Kingship of Jesus
Theme: The kingship of Jesus exposes a conflict of power
Point #1: The controlling power of public opinion (38b-6)
Point #2: The crippling power of fear (7-9a)
Point #3: The confident power of knowledge (9b)
Point #4: The conceited power of position (10)
Point #5: The comprehensive power of God (11-12)
Related Topics: Pastors