“It is no secret that Christ’s Church is not at all in good health in many places of the world. She has been languishing because she has been fed, as the current line has it, “junk food”; all kinds of artificial preservatives and all sorts of unnatural substitutes have been served up to her. As a result, theological and biblical malnutrition has afflicted the very generation that has taken such giant steps to make sure its physical health is not damaged by using foods or products that are carcinogenic or otherwise harmful to their physical bodies. Simultaneously a worldwide spiritual famine resulting from the absence of any genuine publication of the Word of God (Amos 8:11) continues to run wild and almost unabated in most quarters of the Church.” –Walter C. Kaiser, Jr., Toward an Exegetical Theology (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1981), 7-8.
Dr. Kaiser’s quote is a good reminder for those of us that are leaders in the church and will be stepping into pulpits and classrooms this coming Sunday. Serve a hearty meal of the Word to God’s people. Leave out the artificial fillers, by-products, dyes, and chemicals. Give them rich doctrine, deep theology, and filling and nutritious worship. Point them to God and leave them with a sense of awe. Make it your goal to have the best fed sheep in town who long to hear from God and love to sit at His feet.
It’s no accident that the New Testament uses the term “pastors” because of the similarities of the duties of Christian leaders and the herdsmen of the time. The pastor or sheep-herder/shepherd was to constantly be among his sheep, tending them, feeding them, watching over them, leading them, and caring for them personally.
We are called by Scriptures to do and observe all that the Bible teaches. So, as a people who desire to be not merely hearers, but doers, I give these five applicational thoughts about how to “use” the Bible more effectively.
By saying this, I don’t mean that we should jump from reading to application. There is a very real danger in doing this improperly. There needs to be serious study and understanding of what the Bible meant to its original context and to its original audience. But in a sermon, your pastor/expositor has done this (or should have), and now, on Monday, we need to know how to put what we have learned into practice.
Notate. Take note of application given in sermons you hear. Literally take notes! Look for what God would have you DO with his Word. Don’t just collect biblical information. Then, go back and review your notes, praying for help to obey what you have seen that he wants you to do.
Saturate. On your own, re-read your Bible with an eye for application. This means that you need to know how to find universal principles in the Bible. These are truths that are good in every time and every culture. They are also consistent with the whole Bible.
Categorize. Take those universal truths and begin categorizing them into useful headings as you see the need for them in your own life. Begin by setting up categories for your roles in life–Bible verses for you as a Father/Mother, as a husband/wife, as a son/daughter, as a Christian, as an employee, as a neighbor.
Organize. Put Scriptures (and the principles that they speak of) in categories that will lend themselves to your use–such as pride, humility, gossiping, the tongue, hope, fear of man, decision making, forgiveness, etc. Some of these will be more useful to you than others, so be sure to put them on a list that you can tuck into your Bible, or even write into the end papers of your Bible so they are handy whenever you need them.
Apply. Now, when you are having a bad day with your mouth, for example, or you keep hurting others, or maybe you’ve lost your temper–you can turn in your Bible and meditate on what God’s Word says about that issue and what you need to do. As you do this over and over, you will not only begin to remember where to go without having to look at the list, but you will slowly memorize those verses and have them available for those times of temptation when you don’t have your Bible handy.
It’s not brain surgery or rocket science, but it does take discipline and effort. Jesus said for you and I to “do and observe” His Word. If you claim that the Bible is truly your authority, then you need to know it so you can obey it. If not, then you are merely a hearer of the Word and not a doer–fooling yourself. May we never find ourselves there.
Last week I asked for you to send me any questions that you might have that I could answer in future blog posts. One question asked about my top three favorite preaching books. Since I love preaching, and spent 12 years teaching the subject at a seminary, I have amassed quite collection of books on the subject, making my task a lot harder.
So instead of trying to whittle down my top three from my collection, I thought that I would pick my top three in different areas of focus. Today I want to share with you my favorite books in the area of preaching mechanics. These three books excel in the nuts and bolts of preaching by making the process simple and taking out the highly technical language by instead approaching preaching from the practitioner’s point of view.
Here are my top three practical preaching books, in no particular order, along with a link to them in Amazon to make finding them easier.
12 Essential Skills for Great Preaching by Wayne McDill (Amazon)
Funny enough, this book was never assigned for my preaching classes while in seminary, nor was it on any recommended reading lists. As a matter of fact, I had never even heard of this book until I was given it as a gift from my pastor, who is also the author of the last book. This book is gold. It is so helpful that I made it a required reading book in my preaching clinic class and constantly was asked by students why they weren’t required to read this book earlier.
McDill has set up his book as a practical handbook with an essential skill being presented in each chapter along with a worksheet to help the expositor develop the skill they have just learned. Although it is good to read through the whole book, you will find that it will be a book you come back to over and over again as you seek to strengthen or develop in a particular area of weakness in your preaching.
Preaching That Changes Lives by Michael Fabarez (Amazon)
This book excels in teaching how to make a sermon proposition and outline much more applicational and helpful to the congregation. Very often seminary students that have no experience preaching will come out of seminary with skills in biblical languages, exegesis, hermeneutics, theology, and other technical skills (which they need), but struggle with how these fit into a sermon without overloading the congregation with unnecessary and technical details.
Fabarez teaches the reader how to think through the sermon as it relates to the listening audience. This should lead to a sermon outline that is both faithful to the text as well as points to what the text is calling the listener to do. For those who don’t believe that the preacher should make application of the text in their sermons, the forward by John MacArthur might help overcome their resistance.
Pastor Alex Montoya taught at The Master’s Seminary for many years in pastoral ministries and taught several courses in Expository Preaching. This book is largely constructed from the framework of his preaching class notes.
Dr. Montoya is pastoral and practical in his book, seeking not only to instruct pastors who may have lost their passion in preaching, but he also aims to set the newer preacher’s heart aflame with practical discussions on what makes a pastor have passion, what kills his passion, and how passion can be developed in a sermon without it being a phony show or emotionally-driven using wonderful illustrations from his many decades of pastoral ministry.
Now its your turn. What have been your most helpful preaching books with this practical focus?
When I was pastoring in California, we used to pick a Sunday night every so often to allow for Questions and Answers from the congregation. It was interesting not only to share an answer from the Word of God, but also to hear the variety of things they wondered about.
I haven’t tried this before here, and it may not work well, but I thought I’d give it a go anyway. I thought I’d ask YOU what questions you have that I might be able to answer in a future post.
As you consider your questions, I would remind you that I am not looking to pick a fight, nor am I interested in seeing if you can stump me with a hard question. Also, the subject of this website is somewhat narrow with my predominant focus being on the subjects of the Christian life, theology and doctrine, church planting, biblical teaching, and preaching.
If there is something you’d like for me to address, put your question(s) in the comments section and I will do my best to address those questions in the near future.
“What are some examples of questions we could ask?” I’m glad you asked! Here are some of the creative things people asked in one of those times we had Questions & Answers at church:
What does the Bible mean in 1 Corinthians 7:14? Is there a life application today?
In Isaiah 9:6, why is Jesus called “Everlasting Father?”
Why do we worship on Sundays instead of Saturdays?
How do I know what the Lord wants to do with my life? How can I be led in His ways?
What’s wrong with listening to “worldly” music?
Are the books of Enoch, book of Wars and other books referred to in Scripture part of the canon?
What does the Bible say about handling depression or feeling anxious?
How can we correlate the two creation accounts of Gen 1 & 2?
I’m looking forward to reading your questions and seeing what is on your mind. And if you don’t already subscribe to this blog, then make sure you do so that you will get an email notification when I put up new articles—and maybe your question will be answered!