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The Spirit, the Preacher, and the Word (Part 6)

Biblical Eldership Resources (http://biblicaleldership.com/) has invited me to speak at their conference in March and my topic is “Faithful Preaching and the Power of the Spirt.” These posts are helping me to work my way through some of the issues concerning the preacher and the Spirit of God. Let’s look at our second section of the Upper Room Discourse again . . .

26 “When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father—the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father—he will testify about me. 27 And you also must testify, for you have been with me from the beginning. . . . 7 But very truly I tell you, it is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. 8 When he comes, he will prove the world to be in the wrong about sin and righteousness and judgment: 9 about sin, because people do not believe in me; 10 about righteousness, because I am going to the Father, where you can see me no longer; 11 and about judgment, because the prince of this world now stands condemned.

12 “I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. 13 But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. 14 He will glorify me because it is from me that he will receive what he will make known to you. 15 All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will receive from me what he will make known to you.”

 

 

 

 
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Posted by on December 9, 2017 in preaching

 

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The Spirit, the Preacher, and the Word (Part 5)

As we look at our next section of the Upper Room Discourse (John 15:26-27 and 16:7-15), we continue to ask, “How does the Spirit of God assist the preacher in his ministry?  In what ways can those of us who preach depend more fully on the Holy Spirit?”

26 “When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father—the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father—he will testify about me. 27 And you also must testify, for you have been with me from the beginning.  . . . But very truly I tell you, it is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. When he comes, he will prove the world to be in the wrong about sin and righteousness and judgment: about sin, because people do not believe in me; 10 about righteousness, because I am going to the Father, where you can see me no longer; 11 and about judgment, because the prince of this world now stands condemned.

12 “I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. 13 But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. 14 He will glorify me because it is from me that he will receive what he will make known to you. 15 All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will receive from me what he will make known to you.”

 

 

 

 
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Posted by on December 8, 2017 in preaching

 

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Ten Specific Steps You Can Take to Make Your Sermons and Preaching Better! (Part 10)

We will be offering this booklet, “Ten Specific Steps You Can Take to Make Your Sermons and Preaching Better!”, shortly as a downloadable pdf. We’ve covered a number of issues in preaching already:  serious study of the Word, developing clear outlines, the pros and cons of expository versus topical sermons, the need for a good introduction, the place and value of illustrations, why we need vocal variety in our preaching, the use of technology, how gestures help us communicate, and the challenge to listen to and watch good preachers.  Whew!  Here’s our last step:

“What do you mean — I ‘should do something with my hair’?!!”

STEP TEN: GET EVALUATED!
I know this is a touchy area. None of us like to be critiqued. To us our sermon is like a mother’s brand-new baby. No one would say to her, “Her nose is kind of big, isn’t it?” or “My, he doesn’t look like his daddy at all, does he?”

But evaluation is an important step to getting better as a preacher. I’ve heard too many stories of churches that were becoming increasingly dissatisfied with their pastor’s preaching. Months and maybe years went by, with the dissatisfaction growing. Suddenly, and without much of a warning, a congregational meeting from hell takes place, and the preacher is “let go.” No one stepped in months before to help the preacher improve his preaching. None of the elders suggested (or required) that he attend a preaching renewal seminar. Nobody loved him enough to assist him in seeing his weak areas and working on them. And now he is out of a job, discarded by the family of God who refused to work with him.

My wife Linda has been an enormous help to me in my preaching. She lets me know when I’ve tried to do too much, when I should have used better illustrations, where I could have employed better volume variety. But she loves me, and I greatly value her opinion.

We’re both converts of Chapman’s The Five Love Languages. Her love language (how she shows love) is giving. My love language (how I like to be shown love) is words of encouragement. After I’ve preached my heart out in a sermon, I’ll ask my wife after the service, “How did I do?” She’ll say “Fine.” That’s it. One word. But then the next day she’ll buy me a pair of socks.

Who is speaking words of encouragement to you? Who’s buying you socks? We need those who love us to tell us the truth about our preaching.

Apart from a loving spouse, be bold and give out a short sermon evaluation form (found at the end of this booklet) to several in the congregation whose opinion you value. Tell them you will love them even if they are brutally honest. And keep your word!

Evaluate yourself! Ah, technology! Unless we want to live in the land of denial, there is no excuse not to listen to or even watch our own sermons. You can record your own preaching with a small recorder, your iPhone, or your church’s sound system.

Where I am serving now as an interim teaching pastor, the church live streams their Sunday morning service, then archives the services on their website. It’s not a perfect system, but the next day I can watch my sermon. I can see how I moved, where my gestures might improve, what my PowerPoint slides (Keynote, actually. I’m a Mac snob) looked like, etc.

If you don’t want to listen to or watch your sermons, get over it. There’s a lot more at stake than your pride. Carefully critiquing yourself can be invaluable if you want to get better.

You might consider using one of the sermon evaluation forms on yourself. Ask yourself questions like:
Did I start well? How effective was my introduction?
Did I drive the congregation’s eyes to the biblical text?
Where did I punch with my voice? How could my vocal variety improve? Did I sound like a funeral director?
What illustrations did I use? Were any of them not about my family? (Be careful in using family illustrations. You have to live with those people).
Was my sermon easy to follow? Did my points logically follow one another?

Get over your pride. And evaluate yourself. Thank the Lord for the good elements of your preaching. And ask Him to help you in those weak areas.

There is one more decision you can make in having your sermon evaluated. Let me help you! Yes, I will listen to (or preferably watch) your sermon and give you my best feedback. No charge. Free.

Did you read those last two sentences? Pick the sermon you want evaluated and get it to me. You can either send me a dvd or upload your sermon to DropBox and send me the link to it.

The upside of my offer is that I won’t give my report to your elders or your church. This is between you and me. And God. The downside of my offer is I will be blatantly honest with you and provide my best feedback. Your mother cares about your feelings. Me? Not so much.

You can send your dvd to my home address: Dr. Larry Dixon 117 Norse Way Columbia, SC 29229. If you upload your sermon to DropBox, you can email me the link at: theoprof@bellsouth.net.

I would love to know if any of these steps have been helpful to you.  Please feel free to jot a comment below.  Blessings on you.  And your preaching!

 
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Posted by on July 7, 2017 in preaching

 

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Ten Steps You Can Take to Make Your Sermons and Preaching Better! (Part 9)

We will be offering this booklet, “Ten Specific Steps You Can Take to Make Your Sermons and Preaching Better!”, shortly as a downloadable pdf. We’ve looked at the following steps already: Step One was entitled “Do the Work!” Step Two was entitled “Develop a Clear Outline!” Step Three was entitled “Expository Versus Topical Messages!” Step Four was entitled “Begin with a Great Introduction!” Step Five was entitled “Illustrate. Illustrate. Illustrate!” Step Six was entitled “Vocal Variety!” Step Seven was entitled: “Use Technology!” Step Eight was on the issue of “Gestures!”  Here is our Step Nine:

“Humph! Who needs Hybels, Swindoll, Ortberg, and Brown — when you have ME?”

STEP NINE: LISTEN TO AND WATCH GOOD PREACHERS!
I love watching tennis on The Tennis Channel. My son-in-law is shocked that they have a whole channel devoted just to tennis. He is not a tennis player.

Why do I watch Raphael Nadal, Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic? It’s too late for me to become as good as they are in tennis. But I learn things as I watch them strike a cross-court topspin backhand or deftly lay a drop shot just over the net.

Excellent preachers are marked by certain characteristics, most of which we’ve tried to touch on in this booklet. They are well aware, as Walter Burghardt says in his book Preaching: The Art and the Craft, that “Life’s real enemy is not pain, not even death; life’s enemy is boredom.” They have excellent material and deliver it in attractive ways. As a friend of mine says, “Surely it must be a sin to bore God’s people with God’s Word.”

Pick a couple of preachers — they can even be TV preachers — and take notes on both their sermons and their presentation. What draws you to listen to them? What keeps you from changing channels? How are they encouraging involuntary listening in you?

One of my favorite preachers is Dr. John Ortberg of Meno Park Presbyterian Church in California. As a clinical psychologist, John peppers his sermons with secular studies on such issues as depression, cohabitation, and decision-making. His eye-contact is outstanding; his gestures complement his points. He is winsome and humorous and his messages are solid. I always learn something about living out the Christian life from John.

For years people have told me that my voice sounds just like Chuck Swindoll’s. I’m thinking about suing brother Chuck for impersonating me (just kidding). Swindoll is easy to listen to and his sermons are meaty and practical.

Bill Hybels encourages me to care more about lost people. He is not above shedding a genuine tear in his preaching. His practical illustrations and relevant application show why he is a favorite preacher for many.

My friend Stephen Brown (Key Life Network) is an outstanding communicator with a strong and deep voice. He has challenged me on many fronts, but I have been most affected by his wide use of illustrations.

You’re not trying to become the next John Ortberg, or Chuck Swindoll, or Bill Hybels, or Steve Brown. But you can learn from them. A lot. Become a student of those you respect and adapt their positive characteristics into your personality and style.

 
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Posted by on July 5, 2017 in preaching

 

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Ten Steps You Can Take to Make Your Sermons and Preaching Better!” (Part 8)

This booklet, “Ten Specific Steps You Can Take to Make Your Sermons and Preaching Better!”, will be offered as a pdf download in a short while. We’ve looked at the following steps already: Step One was entitled “Do the Work!” Step Two was entitled “Develop a Clear Outline!” Step Three was entitled “Expository Versus Topical Messages!” Step Four was entitled “Begin with a Great Introduction!” Step Five was entitled “Illustrate. Illustrate. Illustrate!” Step Six was entitled “Vocal Variety!”  Step Seven was entitled:  “Use Technology!”  Here is Step Eight:

“Gestures?! My mere presence captivates my audience!”

STEP EIGHT: GESTURES!
Gestures are extremely important. And we want our movement in the pulpit or behind the lectern to be purposeful, but not distracting.

Distracting gestures include jiggling the change in your pocket, touching your hair, overusing your hands to express every single point you are making, etc.

Purposeful gestures enhance the delivery of your words. Gestures may be whole body (in which you move out from behind your podium to illustrate a point) or partial body (you might spread your arms to illustrate the greatness of God’s love, for example).

If you are using your hands and arms to illustrate the differences between the godly man and the ungodly man in Psalm 1, make sure you keep your sides straight! If you begin describing the godly man with your right hand and the ungodly man with your left hand, don’t switch them. Keep the visuals consistent.

The combination of a strong voice and appropriate gestures, at the very least, communicates the preacher’s enthusiastic commitment to the point that he is making. I’m reminded of the story of a person being surprised at hearing that the skeptic David Hume was going to go listen to the preacher George Whitefield. The friend said, “Surely you don’t believe what Whitefield is preaching, do you?” David Hume answered, “No, but Whitefield does.”

 
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Posted by on July 3, 2017 in preaching

 

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Ten Steps You Can Take to Make Your Sermons and Preaching Better! (Part 7)

This booklet, “Ten Specific Steps You Can Take to Make Your Sermons and Preaching Better!”, will be offered as a pdf download in a short while.  We’ve looked at the following steps already:  Step One was entitled “Do the Work!” Step Two was entitled “Develop a Clear Outline!” Step Three was entitled “Expository Versus Topical Messages!” Step Four was entitled “Begin with a Great Introduction!” Step Five was entitled “Illustrate. Illustrate. Illustrate!” Step Six was entitled “Vocal Variety!”  Here is Step Seven:

This is another friend who thought these steps were not necessary in good preaching!

STEP SEVEN: USE TECHNOLOGY!
There are a few preachers who can communicate effectively with only their presence and their voice. But most of our preaching would be greatly enhanced with some use of technology.

Learn to use PowerPoint or Keynote in your preaching. But don’t allow its bells and whistles to overshadow your message. Remember that preaching is meant to be educational. Let’s use the best educational tools possible to effectively drive our message home. Don’t resign yourself to appealing only to the ear-gate. Take advantage of the eye-gate and craft your sermon with helpful images and, occasionally, short videos. Ask the educators in your congregation to help you use presentation software to your greatest advantage.

I’ve also found that a congregation occasionally appreciates some form of handout in their bulletin. For example, a fill-in outline encourages people to take notes and, if they do so, their attention will be more focused on the message.

Here’s an example of a fill-in outline I would use in preaching my message “The Waste of Worry” from Luke 12:22-31 (Remember the points I gave you under Step Two?).

“The Waste of Worry” (Lk. 12:22-31)

I.  Worry Causes Us to _______ _______ ________ (vv. 22-24)

II. Worry Is ______________ (vv. 25-26)

III. Worry Causes Us to ________ God’s ______ ____ ___ (vv. 27-28)

IV. Worry Can Make Us Look Like ________ (vv. 29-30)

V.  Worry Is a _______ to Our Seeking ______ ________ (v. 31)

 
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Posted by on July 1, 2017 in preaching

 

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Ten Steps You Can Take to Make Your Sermons and Preaching Better! (Part 6)

Friends: This booklet will be done soon and I will be giving it away on this blog. You might want to download this pdf and share it with your pastor or preacher. Step One was entitled “Do the Work!” Step Two was entitled “Develop a Clear Outline!” Step Three was entitled “Expository Versus Topical Messages!”  Step Four was entitled “Begin with a Great Introduction!”  Step Five was entitled “Illustrate.  Illustrate.  Illustrate!”  Here is Step Six:

This is my friend who tried to apply all of these steps!

STEP SIX: VOCAL VARIETY!
Can we talk? Some preachers’ voices sound like they are gainfully employed at a local funeral parlor during the week. I’ve sat under preachers (and you have too, if you would be honest) who could make a fortune bottling their voice as an anti-insomnia cure. A monotonous voice causes a congregation to fight to stay awake — and you don’t want their energy for your half an hour so misused.

Vocal variety is critical in preaching. There are times when we need to “punch” with our voice. The late Francis Schaeffer once preached on the topic of belief and truth, and the cruciality of strong evidence for what one believed. He concluded his lecture by almost shouting, “AND NEVER GET THE TWO REVERSED!”

I’ll never forget that quote. However, I must point out that he allowed his voice to become quite high as he hit his point. He should have consciously driven his voice down into a lower register as he emphasized his conclusion.

Dramatic pauses can be quite useful. Reading the Scriptures with excellence is also often overlooked. There are times to shout — and times to whisper! Your voice is your primary instrument. Treat it well. And learn its many dimensions.

If you use the following quote from Samuel Chadwick about prayer, and you don’t appropriately punch the word “trembles,” you’ve lost an opportunity to drive home Chadwick’s point.  “Satan dreads nothing but prayer. His one concern is to keep the saints from praying. He fears nothing from prayerless studies, prayerless work, prayerless religion. He laughs at our toil, he mocks our wisdom, but he trembles when we pray.”

Experts in communication talk about “involuntary listening” and “voluntary listening.” Involuntary listening is when one can’t help but listen to the speaker because he or she is following some of the guidelines we’ve covered in this booklet. That person makes it easy to listen to them. No real effort is expended by the listener.

Voluntary listening, on the other hand, requires a grit-your-teeth, grab-your-pew kind of determination to pay attention. You might say to yourself, “This person is very important and what they have to say is critical. And I have to force myself to listen. Hard.” That takes a great deal of effort. And you are probably more exhausted than the speaker at the end of the service.

What we want to strive for is involuntary listening. The audience can’t help but pay attention to you and follow you as you speak. Make it easy on them!

And let’s be careful not to fall into preacher-speak. This is a kind of holy language which is quite different than everyday speech. Do you know what I mean, Beloved? Be natural. Be engaging. But don’t let your words sound like you just came off Mt. Sinai!

 
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Posted by on June 29, 2017 in preaching

 

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