Jesus left his followers with the commission to, “teach them to obey everything I have commanded you.” That’s a pretty tall order in itself. It’s even harder when you wrestle with the two parts that you need to get right. There’s teaching and there’s obeying (application).
Jesus says it another way in a parable:
“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”
Once again, there are two important parts to teaching and theology – the “hearing” and the “putting into practice.” You’re not built on a rock until you’ve done both with God’s words.
Here’s the dilemma for any pastor, teacher, or anyone who’s doing their best disciple others toward Jesus: where do you put the emphasis? Some fill heads well with Bible knowledge, but might not produce people who act more like Jesus at the end of the day. Others cut to the point of smiling more and being at peace, but it might not have much integrity in the gospel truths we find alone in Jesus. “Balance” sounds like the easy answer, but every time I prepare and share a message, I’m making intentional choices to emphasize the teaching to some extent and the application to another. Balance might not even be the right answer!
Think about this… Continue reading
Andy Stanley is the guy when it comes to Sunday teaching; and usually the guy behind the guy. Most young teaching pastors I know are patterning themselves off of him in some fashion.
Communicating for a Change by Andy Stanley is the best book I’ve read on teaching in Church settings. He’s got his particulars, that’s for sure, but it’s a great framework for thinking through message prep.
He’s an advocate for “one point” sermons. Just tell them one thing, with enough repetition and creativity, that it sticks. That concept has given me freedom and focus in my teaching.
With one point in mind, Stanley suggests a format of ME-WE-GOD-YOU-WE. Introductions that help people connect with “Me” gives some credibility and voice to listening for the time that follows – and it creates some tension that the listener wants to see resolved. “We” is a transition to how this topic matters to everyone – not just me. Then go to what “God” has to teach us on the subject, which should relieve the tension. Finally, hit a conclusion that aims at individuals (“You”) as well as vision for what the church (“We”) would look like if everyone applies this.
So what’s better, pop or exegetical?
Some Sunday teaching topics fit well in the pop category – it touches a felt need or an issue that everyone can relate to, with Biblical teaching to address it.
Exegetical typically teaches what the Bible has to say, but then works it back into a commentary on what that means for us today.
It could be a lost argument, as we’re essentially talking about starting on one side and working our way to the other either way.
That said, they do feel pretty different. So what’s you’re favorite?
Here’s another excerpt from the Preaching Rocket Seminar I attended a few weeks back. Andy Stanley shared this portion…
The right message with the wrong approach doesn’t deliver your message. Your approach trumps your content. You see this especially with communicating in the family – you had something to say that the other needed to change, but you end up being the one who’s apologizing because you took the wrong approach.
We all need to answer, “Does my approach to teaching support my goal, or does it trump it?”
Five Guides to Preaching Amongst the Unchurched
- Let them know you know they are there, and that you’re happy they are there. For example, every guy who’s new is wondering “How long will this last,” so they tell them in the opening that it’s 65 minutes. Every sermon has a funny statement that breaks the ice in acknowledging those who don’t consider themselves Christians.
- Choose a passage of Scripture. Make it so interesting they read it again at home. Make the text as interesting as your illustration. Nothings worse than making it sound like you have to speed through the Bible to get to the stories.
- Give them permission not to believe or obey. They’re not accountable to it until they adopt Jesus as their standard for living. “What business is it of mine to judge the outsider,” I Corinthians 5:12. They need space to count the cost. When you give unchurched people an out, they want to jump in. It takes them off of the defensive and puts choices back in their lap. Police Christian behavior, rather than expecting unchurched people to behave as Christians – “Today’s text is going to make you glad your not a Christian.”
- Avoid saying, “The Bible says.” You’ve set-up an obstacle to the gospel if you preach as though someone has to agree with and believe the Bible before they can commit to Jesus. Christ is first, the Bible is not. You need to phrase things so that Jesus is the first thing they are asked to welcome.
- Don’t refer to the Bible as a book – it’s bigger than that.
- Sight the author, not the book (makes it personal and doesn’t require that you know your way around the Scripture).
- Acknowledge the odd things odd. Just say what you think they’re thinking, and that ought to give you credibility. Don’t give the impression that you have to choose between faith and science (science is the study of how God put the universe together).
HERE’S ANOTHER EXCERPT FROM THE PREACHING ROCKET SEMINAR I ATTENDED A FEW WEEKS BACK.
- What do they need to do?
- Simple Messages Connect. What’s the one thing you want them to do? You have 1.5 seconds to make a billboard impression. For example, Chick-Fila is: Eat More Chicken.
- People don’t need more information. People need their lives changed. Your goal is not to get people to think you know something, your goal is to lead them to change.
- Don’t just say it, show it. This is why a one-point sermon does in fact require some time to deliver, and is very effective. Every 10 minutes the brain asks, “When is this going to be over?” You need props and illustrations every 10 minutes to bring them back.
- What does my audience currently think, and what do I want them to think? Continue reading
I’ve begun preparing messages for the opening season of Lakepoint Church. In the midst of it all I’m pondering what God hopes to have come out of the teaching efforts of a church.
Change is the first thing that comes to mind. If the teaching doesn’t help people become more like Jesus, then what was the point? It stands to reason then that every message ought to have a clear point – something to know and something to do.
On the other hand, it sure looks to me that there are some things that are just good to know, even if there is nothing to do about it. Old Testament Narrative Literature for example – God rarely caps it off with an applicable lesson or action item. He just wants us to know him through the recounting of Israel’s history.
I’m not throwing out application by any means, but I wonder if sometimes God would just have us teach His history without inferring or allegorizing a lesson?