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preaching

Excellence In Teaching & Preaching

Dr. Charles Revis, Executive Minister, ABC of the Northwest

I think engaging, life-transforming, biblical preaching is huge. Same thing goes for teaching. Pastors are under tremendous pressure to be at everyone's beck and call. As a result it's easy to cave to the pressure, attend to all the needs, and fail to give sufficient time for sermon preparation. Shoddy, shallow sermons can be found at the top of the list for reasons for failure in the church.

One of these days I plan to do a blog series on preaching. Until then I cam across this simple four point message from Josh Hunt about good Sunday School teaching. I thought every point was equally applicable to preaching, including the fourth one about "involvement." A preacher may not involve the congregation with the message the same as in a Sunday School class, but there should be the intention that the people will engage at some level. Excellent preachers monitor the involvement of the people during the delivery. Changing the pace, asking a rhetorical question, walking out into the crowd, using a prop...these are ways to keep people involved in the message.

Anyway, check out these four points from Josh Hunt. Good stuff:

Solid Biblical Content/Depth
The number one complaint I hear about lessons is "lack of depth". People want to learn something. They want to hear something they have not heard before. In my lessons, I try to include quotes from some of the greatest Bible scholars around. Great teachers are always investing in great books, scanning the Internet and doing whatever they can to bring some depth to the table. Crummy teachers give Sunday School answers.

Humor
I love to laugh. In a healthy group, the group will provide the humor. It is not such a bad idea to try to find some funny stories in every lesson. Obviously, we want the story to relate to the text and the point of today's lesson. One of the many reasons I like John Ortberg is he nearly always sprinkles a little humor into his messages. Just a spoon full of sugar helps the medicine go down, and just a bit of humor makes every group better.

Personal application
Big question: what do you want me to do about what I heard today? Our goal is not to make smarter sinners, but to teach people to live the John 10:10 abundant Christian life. Not, "teaching them everything I have commanded you" but, "Teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you." Good lessons have lots of take-home value--something for me to do this week to make me a little more like Christ.

Lots of participation
In an ideal class, everyone participates--more or less evenly. No one is completely silent, and no one dominates the conversation. I am working an experiment in my own group where I pass out the lessons to each participant and have them take turns asking the questions. They can answer or not. It is going pretty well.

Josh Hunt offers excellent teacher training materials and ideas on his web site: www.joshhunt.com (most of it is free). If you are running a Sunday School program I would suggest signing all of your S.S. teachers up for a weekly email message from Josh. Very good stuff here.

2009 © Dr. Charles Revis, ABC Northwest
[This article is from Dr. Revis’ blog, www.missionnorthwest.blogspot.com]

Preaching and Leadership

Dr. Charles Revis, Executive Minister, ABC of the Northwest

Every minister stands on the shoulders of others who have preceded us. These may include the former pastor of your present church, your junior high English teacher, or a spiritual mentor. One man who shaped my life, especially in the realm of theology and books, was Bob Cahill, an ABC pastor, who is now with our Lord.

Bob wrote sparely, with precision and grace. I treasure a small collection of his church newsletter articles. As I was reading through some of them, this one jumped out at me, because it reinforced some of my recent reflections on what the minister is to do first, if he or she strives to be effective, and faithful.

“Like lightning on a clear day or cold water on the face William Perkins always gets my attention with his pointed words ‘Thou are a minister of the Word: mind thy business.’ Departures and deflections from that determined course means death to the pastor/teacher. He may, and often does, remain the ‘talking brother’ for the congregation but that is all—talk. With wit he may stir some. With charm he may entertain others. But he feeds not. He heralds no News from ‘the outside.’ All his resources are mirrors and psychological exercises. He may urge self-renewal but not Redemption. He suggests an easy diagnosis without sensing ‘sickness unto death.’ His healing art prescribes a ‘pill for an earthquake and a poultice for a cancer’ as another Puritan has it. Without the Word he knows neither peril nor Judgment. He sails in raging seas without compass or map.

‘Mind thy business’ warns Perkins. But grace converts warnings to invitations. The ‘business’ is so demanding, exacting and rewarding that leaving it is simply unthinkable. It is like a stern invitation to a joyful feast.”

Paul reminds Timothy of the centrality of the Word, and the high priority of delivering it faithfully to the flock. “Preach the word.” He urges this all-important task with Christ as his authority, lending extra weight to his charge. “In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge: Preach the Word, be prepared in season and out of season; correct rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction.” (2 Timothy 4:1,2)

There are so many tasks that a minister must discharge. There are numerous voices each telling the pastor what must be done. There are many temptations to put our hopes for church transformation in techniques and programs.

It would be easy to overlook job number one: faithful, clear, convincing, proclamation of God’s Word through preaching and teaching. And, it is foundational to leading a church towards health and transformation.

The book Surprising Insights from the Unchurched, by Thom Rainer, affirms this. In it he draws conclusion from research conducted among 353 formerly unchurched people. These folks reveal what drew them to faith, and the church. It’s an intriguing book with much to teach us. I highly recommend it.

One of the questions asked of the formerly unchurched was “What factors led you to choose this church?” This was an open-ended question with multiple responses possible.  There were numerous answers, and the pattern reveals that no one factor was determinative. However, 90% of the responders indicated that the “pastor’s preaching” was the most important determiner for choosing a church. The second largest grouping of  answers was “clear doctrine” with 88%. The third factor, which led responders to choose a church, was “friendliness” with 49%. “Worship style” ranked tenth with 11%.

High on every former unchurched person’s reasons for why they chose a particular church was strong biblical preaching that communicated truth in an accessible manner. Strong biblical exposition with application proves to be life-giving and life-transforming, and the unchurched are hungry for it.

I urge you in the midst of this busy world in which we live, to give of your best to your preaching. Through faithful proclamation of God’s Word you will lead seekers to the Savior, you will grow disciples,  and you will strengthen the church. Your 25 to 35 minutes on Sunday morning are the most important minutes of your week.

Originally published May 5, 2004 © Dr. Charles Revis, ABC Northwest