Help for New Expositors: Application in the Sermon

Getting the correct meaning of the text is first and foremost when you are preparing a sermon or Bible study. If you get that wrong, then everything else will be wrong. But the exegesis is only the beginning of sermon preparation. For the listener to gain any benefit from the exposition, the expositor will need to adequately illustrate and apply the text. Since application is a necessary element that newer expositors can struggle with, I’ve laid out seven helps for making sure that you get the application right.

  1. Apply the text. I say this because there are some young preachers who actually believe that it is not necessary to include application in the sermon. You can call it “implications,” but the fact remains that you are to bring the Word of God to bear upon the hearts and lives of your hearers. When John the Baptist preached in the wilderness, he applied the text specifically to his hearers–to the crowd, soldiers and tax collectors (Lk 3:10-14).
  2. Find the universal principles. These are the timeless principles which are true at all times for different groups of people. For instance, God tell his people that he will never leave them, that he will provide for them and protect them. He also says that they are not to worship any other gods. God’s people are also told that they are to love, pray, be patient and not anxious, etc. God is described throughout Scripture as never changing, and so his character is immutable. This can lead us to certain conclusions about him. He always keeps his promises, therefore the righteous will inherit life, and the unrighteous will be judged. These are just a few examples.
  3. Meditate on how you will respond to the text. Sometime a lack of application is a sign that the preacher has not meditated long on the text. Ask yourself the following questions to help: Does this text impact your life?What will you now do, believe, be thankful for or repent of because of this text? So what? Why did God inspire and preserve this passage of Scripture? If you can’t answer these questions for yourself, neither will your listener know what to do either.
  4. Think about your listeners. Knowing your audience will go a long way to help you think through the application and how it will affect their lives. Who are they? (Careers, education, marital status, children, etc.) What are they going through right now? (joys, trials, spiritual life) How will this text impact them when they hear it? Will it help them? How?
  5. Be pointed and specific. Don’t fall into the trap of just telling people to “pray more” or “read your Bible more” or “have more faith.” Tell them how. Be specific enough that they have a few ideas about how they can apply the text—this is helpful for the newer believer. Give the bigger theological picture so that the more mature believers can see other application in their own lives outside of your suggestions.
  6. Use “You” in your application. Don’t shy away from being the messenger of God. He is speaking to them through you.Don’t let a fear of man soften what the Lord has said. You may include yourself (“we”), but you must also speak directly.
  7. Point people to the Cross and the Holy Spirit. We don’t want to err into moralistic preaching that simply calls people to be good. The Bible does teach morality, but it does so by addressing the heart and God’s work through justification and sanctification. Don’t take a short cut and simply tell your hearers to “be good.” Also, preach the need for Christ to unbelievers who are unable to obey since they are unregenerate. Make sure you remember that your audience is mixed. Finally, preach the necessary power of the Holy Spirit for the believer to change. We cannot change in our own power. Don’t frustrate Christians with a command they cannot do by themselves. Teach them to depend upon the Lord for change.

Help for New Pastors-Planning a Funeral

Although there isn’t a substitute for actually conducting a funeral yourself, it is possible to be better prepared to have those conversations that will make for a better memorial and graveside service. Like many things in pastoral ministry, after struggling to figure out how to do something as a new pastor, I figured out a way that worked for me and then standardized a format that made my “system” repeatable.

After being contacted by a church member or someone who has lost a loved one, it is best to set a day and time as soon as possible to meet together to talk about planning their service(s). Because most people have been to a funeral, we can assume that they might have some idea about how they would want the service of their loved one to be ordered. That assumption is almost 99% incorrect. Most people have no idea how a service should be ordered, what elements they might want to include, who they want to speak, or even how long they want the service to be.

We obviously think about the need for comfort as a part of ministering to those who are mourning, but part of bringing comfort is helping the loved ones walk through a very confusing and difficult time by leading and guiding them through a very scary and unfamiliar process.

I developed my Funeral Service Planner as a way of walking through the typical services that people desire for a funeral, including a viewing/wake, memorial service, and graveside service. I not only ask about the particular elements that the family might want, but I also mark the order of each element in the service as well as which family members will be involved. The lines to the right are for names of those involved, including the pastor, if desired. The short lines to the left of service elements are to place a number for the order of the element when it will occur in the service.

Viewings or wakes are normally connected to Roman Catholicism, but sometimes they are conducted by a family of different faiths. If no priest will be present, then a Protestant pastor might be looked at as one who should do something. If this is the case, you might want to choose some passages of Scripture to read and pray. The rest of the time can be left for family to mourn together and if the casket is open, for them to say their goodbyes.

The last element, “full burial” follows the graveside service. Some families opt to wait until the casket is lowered and the vault (a concrete protective box) is placed over the casket, and then the whole thing is covered by dirt. In many funeral services, this is done for an extra fee and must be pre-arranged. If this occurs, it extends the time at the cemetery, and can be somewhat traumatic for the family to watch because it involves heavy machinery pounding down the ground to compact the soil. It would be best to know this so the family will be aware of the extra cost and what happens.

My form looks like this:

Funeral Service Planner

Decedent’s Full Name:__________________________________ Age:______ Saved? ____

Viewing/ Wake? Date, Time and Location: ______________________________________

Officiating? ____________________________________ Scripture Reading ____________________________________

Prayer ____________________________________

Other elements? ____________________________________

Memorial Service Date, Time and Location:_________________________________________

Suggested Order of Service (Length of Service? _________)

Welcome _________________________

Opening Prayer
___Scripture Reading _________________________
___Eulogy- Writing _____________________ Reading _________________________

___Video Presentation/Slideshow (How long? ________)

___Family and Friends Memories (Prepared or open? _________ How many?____ )

___Gospel Message

Closing Prayer

Other elements?

Special music? _________________________

Other minister co-officiating? __________________________

Graveside Service? Date, Time and Location: ____________________________________

Scripture Reading (Jn 11:25; Ps 103)

Words of Interment

Other elements? ____________________________________

Full burial?

Contact info: Pastor Richard Bargas Office: (XXX) XXX-XXXX

When I fill out the above form, I make sure to include as many details as possible. Some things, like particular family involvement, will sometimes be confirmed at a later date. After I have sat and walked through this process with the family, I will usually either photocopy or email a copy of the completed form to the family so they can know the order of the services and who is doing what. This is especially helpful the next day when they have a hard time remembering the meeting details because of their grief.

Normally, people are so overwhelmed with stress and the emotion of the day that they will need to be guided through each service element during the funeral, but it is good and comforting for them to know that you are in charge and know what is happening. I have included at the bottom of my form my church office number and my email in case they needed to get ahold of me, since I sometimes conducted funerals for friends of friends.

One last thing. There is a place in my form for a gospel message in the service. For me, this is a non-negotiable element. I won’t do a funeral if I’m not allowed to freely share the gospel, and I normally only take about 15 minutes to do so. I once had a person say they didn’t want me preaching at their guests. I replied that as a minister of the gospel I don’t know of any other hope to give to people than the hope of salvation in Christ. If they didn’t want this hope presented, then they didn’t want me to conduct the service. I spoke with a gentle but firm resolve. The widow took a second to think about what I said and then agreed that she did want this and asked me to do the service. She even thanked me after the service for the great comfort the Word of God brought. Fellow pastors, don’t fail to point the grieving to Christ, our only hope!

Below you can download a PDF copy of my form. Be aware that the contact info at the bottom of the form is no longer valid for me, so please don’t try to contact me at the phone number or email address.

Our Great Resurrection Hope (part 4)

He is risen! On this beautiful Resurrection Sunday morning, there is eternal hope for every believer in Christ Jesus. Although they are fun, the easter egg hunts, baskets, pretty Spring dresses, and bunnies cannot compare to the joy that rises in the heart of those who have placed their trust in Christ. In this final post of our great resurrection hope, we will look at the crushing of the enemy and the final victory that we are assured. Our hope is not a wishful thinking but an assured confidence.

In Part 1, we learned that Christ’s Resurrection Guarantees the Christian’s Resurrection, and in Part 2, we saw that Christ’s Resurrection Reverses the Curse of Humanity, and in Part 3, we saw that Christ’s Resurrection Gives Hope for the Future. Let us look at Paul’s words in 1Corinthians 15:24-26 as we consider the fourth reason this day is one of such great hope.

Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death.

(1 Corinthians 15:24–26, ESV)

Christ’s Resurrection Guarantees the Defeat of Every Enemy of Christ (vv. 24-26)

When Jesus Christ died upon the cross, he set into motion the assured and final victory over every enemy of God. This includes Satan and the demons and every human being that have rebelled against God. (v. 24)

Jesus Christ will destroy every rule, and every authority and power that will not submit to him. Not a single enemy of God will remain. His reign will last until every enemy is conquered and put under his feet (v. 25)

The final enemy shall be death (v. 26). Until the resurrection of Jesus Christ, death was the undefeated champion of every fight fought. Nobody faces death and walks away. Some might escape for a few more days or even years, but death always wins. But in Jesus Christ, death has met its match. Jesus Christ is stronger than death.

The great enemy of mankind that began in the Garden will finally be stopped. All the dead who have trusted in Christ will have been raised from the dead and transformed into glorified bodies, just like Jesus has been. There will be no more death at all.

The death of death will have come because of the death of Christ. All things will be made right.

This is the hope we have in Christ. This is what the resurrection means to Christians. It directly affects each of of us.

Charles Haddon Spurgeon said, “Death in its substance has been removed, and only the shadow of it remains.… Nobody is afraid of a shadow, for a shadow cannot block a man’s pathway for even a moment. The shadow of a dog can’t bite; the shadow of a sword can’t kill.” Christ Himself took the full force of death’s destroying power by dying and paying for our sin, then rising from the grave. Trusting Jesus may not remove death’s shadow, but remember, shadows can’t hurt us.”[1]

The resurrection reminds us of this truth. We are more than conquerors in Christ Jesus. We have nothing to fear, even death itself. We shall be raised from the dead, because Christ lives!

And all the enemies of God shall be dealt with as well.

That leads me to ask a question of you this morning. Do you have this hope in the resurrection of Jesus Christ? That would depend upon whether you have placed your faith and trust in him.

Jesus’ resurrection guarantees the resurrection of his followers. But it does something else. It points to the fact that he always keeps his promises. Jesus promised that he would rise from the dead. And he promised that he would come back. Not just to raise his disciples from the dead, but also to judge the unrighteous.

So, this Easter, what have you placed your hope in? Is it in the salvation in Jesus Christ or is it in yourself? Only salvation in Christ offers the great hope that we have this morning. Everything else is like a hollow chocolate bunny.