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5 Practical Things Preachers Can Learn from Paul

sermon prep Oct 21, 2014

In our effort to become better preachers we often learn from the best preachers in our generation. We watch the superstars and take notes gleaning all we can from them. This, by the way, is a good thing. While you should never seek to copy someone else or become them, you can always learn a great deal from studying best practices. But we have a lot to learn not only from our contemporaries, but also from those who have gone before. One leader and preacher who we can learn a great deal from is Paul.

Paul, the Apostle, was not only a top notch theologian who wrote a huge part of the New Testament. He was also a missionary, pastor, church-planter and movement leader. We can gain a lot from watching his life and ministry. Here are 5 practical things preachers can learn from Paul:

1. Paul relied on the prompting of the Holy Spirit. The discussion of whether churches should carefully plan out their ministry strategy or rely on the Holy Spirit’s guidance creates a false...

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Here’s Why You Need a Weekly Sermon Prep Schedule

sermon prep Oct 14, 2014

The days leading up to a sermon can be very stressful for a preacher. Your sermon content is on your mind constantly. The responsibility of preparing a sermon can be daunting because when Sunday comes you have to deliver. You need a plan, a guide, a schedule to keep you on track. Here’s why you need a weekly sermon prep schedule: 

  1. So you can stay on schedule

As a preacher you never want to procrastinate and put off your sermon prep. But things come up and you have to deal with unexpected events. Your study gets interrupted and it’s difficult to stay on schedule. A written sermon prep schedule is an objective measure. It can help you stay on track with your prep. If you get behind, you’ll know it. If you get ahead, you’ll know it. Sometimes writing the schedule down is half the battle. This helps you avoid scheduling other meetings on top of your most important preparation times.

  1. So your sermon prep doesn’t become all-consuming

It is easy to...

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4 Mistakes Preachers Make When Ending a Sermon

sermon development Oct 07, 2014

How you begin your sermon is vital. It can mean the difference between your listeners checking out or deciding to pay close attention. The things you say at the beginning of a sermon are what your listeners subconsciously use to build a framework for your whole message. If your thoughts are murky and unclear, you’re laying an unstable foundation.

But the way you end a sermon is just as important. If the closing of your message is disorganized and unclear, then your listeners will walk away feeling the same way about your message – that it was disorganized and unclear. I’ve written extensively about the important role you play as the communicator in setting the tone for how your audience perceives your message.

When I first began preaching I would prepare relentlessly for the first five minutes of my sermon. I wanted my opening thoughts to be perfect. I would prepare the opening remarks and the body of the sermon with careful detail. But when it came to the end of...

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Why You Should Prepare Sermons in a Team (Part 3 of 3)

sermon prep Sep 30, 2014

This is the last post of a three part series on the benefits of preparing sermons in a team. Part one discussed the different reasons why a lot of preachers prepare their sermons solo. Part two examined what happens as a result of preparing sermons alone.

For this final post I want to give you some practical tools for how to get started preparing your sermons in a team. This practice changed everything about the way I prepare sermons and enriched my preaching experience.

 It’s important to recognize what constitutes a team. For the purposes of sermon prep, a team could be a structured group that meets regularly or it could be an unstructured collection of people that you seek out to collaborate with. The point is that you are intentionally broadening the preparation process to more than just you.

Our preaching team is made up of our pastors who preach in the main services, the service programming coordinator, other staff members and a note...

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Why Alliterated Outlines are Almost Always Absolutely Atrocious

sermon development Sep 23, 2014

Some preachers alliterate their outlines making all their points begin with the same letter. Sometimes just the main points are alliterated, other times the sub-points are alliterated, still other times the sub-sub-points are alliterated. At one point it was taught as a great way to organize your message and really get your listeners to remember. To make it stick, alliterate! was the mantra. But we don’t see as much alliteration anymore. But does it make a difference? Alliterate or not, does it matter?

Here’s why alliterated outlines are almost always absolutely atrocious:

1. They make your message seem contrived. Alliterated outlines can appear contrived and forced. Like the preacher just needed a matching, neat outline so he grabbed whatever word fit the others regardless of whether it was actually the best word that communicated the meaning he wanted. Like this:

God wants three things from you:

1. Surrender
2. Service
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Why You Should Prepare Sermons in a Team (Part 2 of 3)

sermon prep Sep 16, 2014

If you haven’t read part one of this series, make sure to check it out. In that post I discuss four reasons why most preachers prepare their sermons alone. In this post I address the question of why it matters because you may be asking… So what if I prepare my sermons alone, what difference does it make?

When I went from solo preparation to a team based model my sermons improved dramatically. They became much more connected to my listeners. I am convinced that a purposeful team approach with intentional input from others at every stage of preparation has been THE thing that has most improved my sermons. In the final post of this series (part three) I will discuss exactly what this looks like for me and offer suggestions on how to get started. Before I get to that I want to address one question:

What’s wrong with preparing Sermons alone? 

 If almost everyone does it this way, then how could it be so bad? If you prepare your sermons alone...

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Why You Should Prepare Sermons in a Team (Part 1 of 3)

sermon prep Sep 02, 2014

Preachers do weird things. One weird thing we do is prepare our sermons alone. Consider the absurdity in that. 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. I would read commentaries, watch sermons and research articles, but it was mostly just me by myself.

If you’re like most preachers, you prepare alone. The problem is you are not Moses. You are not an Old Testament prophet. There is nothing requiring you to use this method.

I’m not saying God can’t speak to you in your...

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Why Great Preachers have a Balance of Intensity and Relief

sermon development Aug 26, 2014
For your sermons to be most effective you should have moments of great intensity balanced with moments of relief. Let me explain…
I saw an interview with Mel Gibson talking about producing the Passion of the Christ. He said the scenes of Jesus’ crucifixion were so intense that he knew he had to “hold the viewer’s hand through the movie.” This is why the movie goes from scenes of intensity to scenes of relief. One scene might be Jesus being flogged and beaten followed by another scene that shows him with his mother back in time building a chair.

Gibson could have written the movie where it begins intense, remains intense for the entire film and ends with great intensity. The problem with that approach is that viewers can only take so much. There has to be a balance of intensity and relief.

This same principle applies to preaching. I once preached a sermon on how to change. The sermon was intense because it dealt with the fallen human condition....

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Why Shorter Sermons Are Almost Always Better

sermon development Aug 19, 2014

Shorter sermons are almost always better. You might say, “Well, Matt Chandler speaks for an hour and he has hundreds of thousands of people listening to him!” Okay, sure, but he’s engaging, insightful and a captivating communicator. Not everybody can do what Matt Chandler does. But even if you can do all of those things for an hour, it doesn’t mean you should. Few public speakers can keep an audience’s attention for that long. Few should even try. Here are three reasons why shorter sermons are almost always better:

1. You don’t need to say everything in a single sermon. 

We often think back on a sermon and ask ourselves: Did I say all the words that I needed to say? The better question is: Did they hear what they needed to hear so they can do something with it? Part of the reason you may speak for a long time is you think you need to say everything…

Everything that you could possibly point out that is in a...

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How to Stop Using Throw Away Words in Sermons

sermon development Aug 12, 2014

Pauses are great. They can add emphasis and give more weight to your point. A well-placed pause is a powerful public speaking tool that you should know how to use.

But the wonderful effect of a pause is destroyed by a terrible public speaking mistake preachers make: the audible pauseWhat’s an audible pause?

Well, um, it’s uh, um, I think it’s uh… (Sorry, just had to do that).

An audible pause is when you fill in the gaps of your speech with throw away words like “um” “uh” “you know” “like” and others.

These throw away words are a huge distraction, and every public speaker must deal with them if they are going to stand out. To audibly pause is natural. To quit audibly pausing is a lot of work, but it’s what separates the preachers from the donkeys. Here’s how to stop using throw away words in sermons:

1. Rehearse your sermons out loud. 

This is a vital step to...

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