4 Must Do’s of Using Illustrations

sermon prep Jun 09, 2015

As a preacher you want to make your ideas come alive. When you labor preparing a message and perfectly craft your points you’re not thinking, I’m sure this will be altogether unremarkable, but I’ll give it a try. No, you’re thinking, How can I make them see this and feel it and be changed by it?

We all want this because what good is it if you make a great point, but no one feels it? If no one does anything with it? An effective illustration is the secret sauce that makes your listeners grab onto your ideas on an emotional level. I wrote about the importance of connecting with your listener’s emotionally in this article. A good illustration will reach out and grab your listeners and pull them into your content. It will make them care.

But how do you use illustrations? There are plenty of resources on where to find illustrations, but I want to talk about how to use them. You can have a killer...

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Five Things I Learned From Gary Thomas About Preaching

sermon development Jun 02, 2015

Recently my church hosted the Sacred Marriage Conference with Gary Thomas, bestselling author of Sacred MarriageSacred Search and others. My wife and I gleaned some helpful insights from Gary’s teaching over the weekend, and it was nice to meet him personally.

During the conference I listened to about five hours of his speaking. It struck me toward the end of the weekend that I enjoyed his teaching so much that I wasn’t getting tired of him. This is a rare quality in a speaker and one that we can learn from as preachers. He had some approaches and techniques that set him apart as a communicator.  I observed five things that we can glean from his approach that will make us better preachers. Some of these are standard best-practices of public speaking, but his execution of them was excellent.

Five Things I Learned From Gary Thomas About Preaching

1. He jumped right into his content. He didn’t begin his talks with...

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The Notes I Have With Me While I Preach

sermon prep Apr 21, 2015

In my last post I responded to a question from a reader regarding how I outline my sermons. This week I want to answer the second part of his question about and what I use for notes while I preach. Here is the original question:

Good morning Lane,

First off want to thank you for all of the work put into the blog and podcasts. I’ve personally found a lot of the content very helpful. I preach on close to a monthly basis and am a volunteer youth leader, so I teach youth on a monthly basis as well. I was interested in learning more about your method of outlining your sermon. I’ve been following a manuscript method because that’s how I’ve learned, however I find I never really stay on it and have a difficult time finding my place afterward. So my question is, what do you find to be the most useful outlining method? What do you take into the pulpit with you? Also, do you have an example of your outline you preach from? Thanks!

What do I take in...

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My 4 Step Method for Outlining Sermons

sermon prep Apr 07, 2015

Recently I received a question from a reader regarding how I outline my sermons and what I use for notes while I preach. I want to share his question and my answer with you. He wrote:

Good morning Lane,

First off want to thank you for all of the work put into the blog and podcasts. I’ve personally found a lot of the content very helpful. I preach on close to a monthly basis and am a volunteer youth leader, so I teach youth on a monthly basis as well. I was interested in learning more about your method of outlining your sermon. I’ve been following a manuscript method because that’s how I’ve learned, however I find I never really stay on it and have a difficult time finding my place afterward. So my question is, what do you find to be the most useful outlining method? What do you take into the pulpit with you? Also, do you have an example of your outline you preach from? Thanks!

I appreciate this question because I am always curious when I watch...

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If Christ Didn’t Rise, Preaching is a Waste of Time

easter sermon prep Mar 31, 2015

This Sunday is one of the biggest days of the year for churches. More people will attend church this weekend than any other time except maybe Christmas. Those of us preparing sermons for this Sunday know the pressure that Easter brings. Lots of people will be there who usually do not come. It will be a packed house, and we feel it.

But let’s not lose site of the main thing. When it comes to the things we preachers do… proclaiming the word of God, inviting people to follow Christ, communicating life-changing truths… If Jesus didn’t rise from the dead, none of it matters. But if he did rise, it’s all that matters.

The Apostle Paul said it this way:

…if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. …your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. …If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied. 1 Corinthians 15:14-19 (ESV)

If Christ...

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My 7-Step Survival Guide to Preaching Multiple Services

My church has three Sunday morning services. As I reflect on what it takes to preach three times in a day, I have put some things into practice that help me preach at my best at every service.

 The biggest challenge for me is maintaining and sustaining energy for all three services. I arrive at the church at 8:00 am and hit the ground running with the first service beginning at 9:15 am. The second service is at 11:00 am and the third is at 12:45 pm. By the time the 12:45 service is over I have been going hard all day – preaching, talking to people, and pouring myself out. It can be a long day. A great day, but a long one.

Preaching is such an energizing activity for me. I’m sure it is for you too. I’ll have these huge adrenaline highs while I’m preaching, then I come off the high just in time to preach again which brings me back up. I repeat this process for the next service, then I go home and collapse.

But the people at the second service...

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What do YOU Want in a Preaching Book?

sermon development Mar 10, 2015

This week I want to hear from you.

I am writing a book on preaching, and before I go any further with it I want to make sure it is the best it can be. The way I know it’s the best it can be is if YOU would read it. I want to share my vision for the book with you. Then, I want to hear from you to find out what you would like to see in it.

What the book is not. Before I get into what the book will be I want to share what it isn’t.  This book is not:

  •  a seminary textbook on preaching. I love my preaching text books from seminary but I have no desire to write one.
  • a preaching theory book. This book will be drop dead practical. It will only present theories to the extent they can be put into use.
  • a book of sermons or sample illustrations. It will be more “how to” than a resource of examples.

What the book is. I want to share the basic plan of my book with you and get your feedback. This plan may change, and I am...

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5 Ways to Overcome Nerves Before You Preach

sermon prep Mar 03, 2015

Nothing is more exhilarating than preaching! It’s like nothing else to get in front of a group of people, open the Word of God and point people to Jesus. I absolutely love to preach and help other preachers communicate better. But I still get nervous sometimes before I preach. Maybe you do too. A few months ago I was standing next to my wife just before my sermon. She took my hand which was freezing cold, leaned over and whispered, “Are you nervous? Your hand is freezing.” I nodded, “Yep.”

When I get up and start talking I’m completely fine. God calms my nerves, puts me at ease and gives me a confidence that can only come from him. Perhaps the pre-sermon nerves might be a way to keep me dependent upon his Spirit’s power. I am always motivated to pray like crazy before every sermon. There are three things that make me nervous before I preach. Perhaps you can relate to these:

What Makes Me Nervous Before a Sermon

1. I don’t...

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The Preacher’s Guide to Preparing Sermons in a Team

sermon prep Feb 24, 2015

This was originally posted on Preaching Donkey as a 3-part series. I’m re-posting it today because the practice of team preparation has been so instrumental in my own preaching experience. If you are not yet using a team to prepare I hope to convince you to get started. It changes everything! I would love to hear from you in the comments. Thanks for reading.


Preachers do weird things. One weird thing we do is prepare our sermons alone. Every week you have to get up in front of a group of people and say words. Those words have to be engaging, powerful, motivating, encouraging, accurate, practical and spiritual all at the same time.

Every. Single. Week.

And you prepare alone. All by yourself. I think this started with Moses. He went up on a mountain and heard from God. He came down and told the people, “This is what God said.” We’ve never really changed the model. Preachers have been preparing sermons alone ever since.

I used to prepare my sermons alone....

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Pastors: 4 Things You Wish People Understood about You

church leadership Feb 17, 2015

“What do you do for a living?”

This seems like a simple question. When normal people are asked this at a party or in some other social setting by a person they’ve just met it is an invitation to more conversation. There’s any number of acceptable answers:

“I’m a consultant.”  or “I work for a defense contractor.” 0r “I’m a web developer.”

When I’m asked the question, “What do you do for a living?” I know that what comes out of my mouth next, “I’m a pastor,” will produce one of the following outcomes:

1) It will kill the conversation immediately. We could be having a great conversation, even laughing, and then as soon as I come out with my man-of-the-cloth-ness, it’s over. They find a reason to be done talking to me.

2) The person I’m talking to will become the most religious person I’ve ever met. They’ll...

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