Category Archives: Preaching

Another way of stating Nevin’s defense of justification by faith as opposed to “justification by fancy”

“It is vitally important that the subjective realities of the Christian life always be kept in the closest contact with the objective realities of what God has done for us in His Son. It is the job of preachers and preaching to make that connect clear” (Wagner, Tongues Aflame, p. 102).

via Doug Wilson: Life in the Historical Realities.

Rules for preaching

  1. Never use a “religious” word where a “secular” word is sufficient. (No: “God is our savior”; Yes: “God is our rescuer.”)
  2. Look up meanings of all Biblical words in original language and use translations that cover the most cases. (No: “Solomon built God’s Temple”; Yes: “Solomon built God’s palace.”)
  3. Never use any Latin term when an English equivalent is available. (No: “ordo salutis”; Yes: “order of deliverance”)
  4. Don’t pretend your survey of topics is a logical chain (No: “order of salvation”; Yes: “aspects of deliverance”)
  5. Don’t use synonyms to disguise repetition as meaningful content (No: “Our church believes teaching doctrine is important”; Yes: “Our church believes that teaching Biblical content about topics related to God and man is important.”)
  6. You are never called to tell your congregation that the Bible doesn’t really mean something it says.
  7. The dead theologians who have helped you, if they have really helped you, have helped you better explain the Word of God in a convincing manner from its own words; they have never wanted to help you promote their names to your congregations, except if they are currently in Hell.
  8. If you are a Protestant who knows better than to pray to the saints, you should know that they can’t protect you on the day of judgment if you preach their words rather than God’s.

Advice to pastoral candidates

In light of our recent search for an Assistant Pastor at Main Street Pres. I want to offer some advice for candidates preparing to apply to churches for a pastoral ministry position.

I offer the following points in all humility and in no particular order, in the hope that someone out there might find them useful…

Read the rest at Advice to pastoral candidates « Letters from Mississippi.

David Booth and I offer some interaction in the comments.

Thus Saith the LORD

A minister who preaches on the authority and infallibility of Scripture is often accused of being arrogant, said one pastor. Such criticism, however, is withheld from someone who sits on a stool in a cardigan and chats with the congregation, telling personal stories.

Criticizing the latter form, Doug Wilson, pastor of Christ Church in Moscow, Idaho, made the case for the preacher who declares “thus saith the Lord.”

“A minister should ascend into the pulpit in order to declare what would have been true had he never been born. He is there to preach what was written in the Word before all ages and is utterly disconnected from his personal dreams, hopes and aspirations,” Wilson said at the Desiring God Ministries’ national conference in Minneapolis on Saturday. “A minister is not up there to develop a relationship with everybody individually.”

Read the rest at: Reformed Pastor Preaches on the Proper Role of Ministers |

Preach the Gospel, not the enlightenment

Here’s a quickie idea for preaching and for reading the Bible from the pulpit.

Never, ever, use words such as “salvation” or “saved” or “redeemed” etc. Never.

Use “deliverance” or “rescue.”  Say “liberator” rather than redeemer, just as most translations do for Moses in Acts 7.35 (but hats off to the ESV for being consistent).

Also, in Samuel and Kings, there is no such thing as a “Temple.”  There is a palace, or rather two–one for YHWH and one for Solomon side by side using exactly the same word.  If you want to be extra literal, use “great house,” but I think palace will work fine.

The point here is that the Bible was written long before “religion” got reduced to a special (and perhaps marginal) area in life and society.  All our “religious” vocabulary teaches a lesson that does not come from Scripture.  At one time, “salvation” was a term that could apply as much and as easily to the healing of a disease, or the discharge of debts, or the killing of a tyrant, as it could to escaping eternal condemnation in the afterlife.  But with the modern turn certain words have been associated with either one side or the other of an alleged divide.

Do your part to break down the dividing wall.

Find the right role model (Preaching again)

Nothing can make a good preacher worse than trying to follow the style of a great preacher.

That’s an exaggeration. There are probably many things that can make one worse.

But my point is simple: you can’t just imitate anyone and expect the results to be the same as those of the person your imitating.  People have different voices and different personalities that come across in the pulpit.  It isn’t merely their sermon style that attracts people but how this is perceived as an extension of a person’s character.

So, if you want a role model for preaching, you need to find someone who fits who you are.

A word about seminaries: No school can afford to have many professors of homiletics.  Typically there will be one gifted preacher there.  Some students will gravitate toward him and his style and gain a reputation as great preachers.  Whether you are one of those people is mostly outside your control.  You simply may not fit the professor’s personality and style.

Don’t worry about it.  Just learn what you can, remain on friendly terms with everyone, and wait for the next stage in life.  Doing two or more messages a week is an entirely different world than the two or three sermons you have to do in a semester of a homiletics class.  Pretty much everything you think you know gets tossed out the window; you have to go pick up the pieces and arrange them so they fit into you new and very non-seminary life.

Don’t try to say too much

A minster once told me that, before preaching any passage, he thinks about how long the Bible is compared to how much longer he can expect to live and reminds himself that this is probably the last chance he will ever have to preach that particular passage to the congregation.

Since the man is a successful pastor I will have to assume that he is able to accomplish something close to this week after week. But for me, this would be a paralyzing nightmare.

There are very few passages in Scripture that–when thinking of how you could unpach their relations to other Scripture, and how differently you could apply it–you won’t be able to think of two or three different sermons you could easily preach from the text. If you try to pack it all into one sermons you are going to find it really hard to get anything ready by Sunday morning.

And frankly, it is completely self-defeating.  People only remember a small percentage of what they hear.  Furthermore, they usually remember what is repeated.  While you can show a bunch of complicated argumentation if you need to, you need to make sure it focuses on a few basic points (tell them what you’re going to say, say it, and then tell them what you said).  So in a way, you need things to be unified and kept simple.

You simply can’t say everything at once and you shouldn’t punish yourself by trying.

Striving for average?

OK, it hit me this morning that I have done something insane. I have blogged about preaching. Worse, I think I’m going to do it again. I’ve even added a category.

Well, just for the record, this doesn’t mean I think I’m a great preacher. One of the things I think that keeps preachers from being good as they can be is assuming that they can be just like some really great preacher. But the odds are, you can’t. The majority of preachers will all be average. By definition.

And that’s OK because, no matter how many numbers great preachers reach, God still reaches the majority of people through average preachers. By definition.

But average preachers can always improve. And sometimes, to do that, they can get advice from another average preacher. In fact, the advice might even be more appropriate for them than anything else.

So, all this is to say, I hope I can blog about this from time to time without being suspected of megalomania.