Last Chance: Save Up to 40% in September’s Monthly Sale

This September, we’ve got a ton of great deals to keep your bookshelf full all season long. From books on biblical studies to Church history, you can save up to 40% in the monthly sale.

One notable book on sale this month is Peter G. Bolt’s excellent contribution to the New Studies in Biblical Theology collection, The Cross from a Distance: Atonement in Mark’s Gospel. Enjoy this excerpt—and get it on sale while you can! [Read more…]

3 Tips for Cataloging Your Sermons


I recently guest-taught a four-part series. Given a short turnaround time and other commitments, I needed to draw from past sermons. 

The problem? My sermons were everywhere. 

Some were hiding in the deep recesses of my external hard drive. Others were lodged in my Sent folder. One never even made it there—I found it as a half-finished draft that I must’ve printed and finished on paper.  [Read more…]

Are You Using the Same Preaching Illustrations Over and Over?

By Matthew Kim, adapted from Preaching Points: 55 Tips for Improving Your Pulpit Ministry.

I once sat under the preaching ministry of a pastor who loved his people. He cared about them. Everyone knew it. Everyone felt it. But after years of listening to his sermons, it was overtly clear that his illustrations came primarily from one source: quotations.

He would share lengthy quotes from his favorite preachers, famous pastors, and other well-known people. Those quotations served as the source of his illustrative material. He seldom deviated from using quotations.

Now there’s nothing wrong with using quotations. They can really shine light into a particular moment. Those exact words need to be expressed. But we know that illustrations could use some diversifying. I want to encourage you to diversify your illustrations.

Illustrations do primarily three things. They function to explain, prove, or apply, as Haddon Robinson explains in Biblical Preaching.

Some concepts need to be explained. Therefore, we’re going to use an illustration that explains the text.

Sometimes we want to persuade our listeners. We want to prove that the biblical concept or event actually occurred and validate its accuracy. So in those moments, we want to persuade or prove. To do so, we might tell a story from life to bolster persuasion.

Lastly, we want to apply the text. We want to help listeners put into practice exactly what is being taught. So we find an illustration from life that applies the concept.

Now where do we get illustrations? Illustrations can come from any source. You can think of personal examples. Think of the moment when you were driving down the highway and someone cut you off. Share with your listeners the things that you wanted to say, but couldn’t say or didn’t say. Give them examples of showing restraint in a moment of anger or frustration. You can think of a story that you tell your children at bedtime. Stories are powerful ways to illustrate what we’re trying to communicate.

We can also use movie clips with discernment. Sometimes a clip from a movie will convey what we’re trying to communicate in the sermon. We can create hypothetical situations. We can find them in newspapers or by observing people and how they interact with one another. Illustrations can come from statistics or novels. 

Simply put, illustrations can come from any source when we use our creativity. Instead of relying on one form alone, diversify your illustrations. Find creative ways to illustrate your points as you explain, prove, and apply the text. Diversify your illustrations.

Note: The Sermon Starter Guide in Logos is a great way to find new illustrations. It pulls illustrations, quotations, and more from your resources for passages and themes. Learn more and watch the video below.

This post is adapted from “Preach to one person at a time,” by Matthew Kim in Preaching Points: 55 Tips for Improving Your Pulpit Ministry, edited by Scott M. Gibson (Lexham Press, 2016).

What This Little-Known Social Theory Has to Do with Your Sermons

By Jeffrey Arthurs, adapted from Preaching Points: 55 Tips for Improving Your Pulpit Ministry.

Remember ERP: Estimated Relationship Potential. This is a social science theory from the field of interpersonal communication which demonstrates that when we meet someone we quickly form an estimate of the potential for a relationship. We start to calculate: What kind of relationship is possible here? What will the nature of our relationship be? Will it be a romantic relationship? Will it be an authoritative relationship? Maybe I want to avoid this person. [Read more…]

5 Things We Wish We’d Done in Seminary

seminary

A couple years ago, we asked some of our team members who attended seminary to share some of their experiences—what is the one piece of advice each one would want to leave for current seminarians. I hope the reflections are helpful to you. Many of them mention our book on this topic, Surviving and Thriving in Seminary.  [Read more…]

Preaching? Drain the Liquid Before You Give It to Others

Photo by Elevate on Unsplash

By Jeffrey Arthurs, adapted from Preaching Points: 55 Tips for Improving Your Pulpit Ministry.

In an issue of Leadership journal, Lee Eclov tells the story of a researcher named Hillary Koprowski, who was a leader in the search for the polio vaccine in the 1940s. Koprowski and his team had done animal tests successfully, and the next step involved a powerful but unwritten rule of scientific research: Before testing an oral vaccine on other humans, the researcher must try it himself. 

So late one winter afternoon in 1948, he and his assistant whipped up a polio cocktail and the two men drank from small glass beakers. They tilted their heads back and drained the liquid fully. They agreed it tasted like cod-liver oil. The assistant said, “Have another?”

“Better not,” Koprowski said, “I’m driving.”

Lee Eclov says that every preacher has to take the same gutsy step. We have no right to give other people our “holy vaccine” until we’ve drained the liquid ourselves. And sometimes it does taste like cod-liver oil.

As preachers we must drain the liquid. Preach to yourself before you preach to others. Ask yourself, “Am I living the life I’m recommending to others?” “Authenticity” is one of the god-terms of our culture—and rightly so. Of the members of the old rhetorical trio of ethos, pathos, and logos, Aristotle said that ethos is number one. Your character, trustworthiness, experience, and sincerity—your ethos—are the most persuasive tools you possess. 

So this week and every week when you’re doing your sermon preparation, remember to drain the liquid yourself.

***

This post is adapted from “Drain the liquid” by Jeffrey Arthurs in Preaching Points: 55 Tips for Improving Your Pulpit Ministry, edited by Scott M. Gibson (Lexham Press, 2016).

 

Why Haddon Robinson Says Less Is More in Preaching

By Haddon Robinson, adapted from Preaching Points: 55 Tips for Improving Your Pulpit Ministry.

There is an old story that preachers tell: A man came to church one Sunday and the only person who was there, besides himself, was the preacher. The preacher was hesitant to preach his sermon to one man sitting in the front row, but the man said, “Look, I came to church and I expect that you preach. I need to be fed.” So the preacher got up and preached his sermon and he got caught up in the moment.  [Read more…]

The Disease of Modern Preaching That Will Kill Its Power

By Scott M. Gibson, adapted from Preaching Points: 55 Tips for Improving Your Pulpit Ministry.

Charles Gore, formerly bishop of Worcester, Birmingham, and finally Oxford, wrote more than a century ago, “The disease of modern preaching is its search after popularity.” [Read more…]

Pastor, Your Empathy Is Not Enough (and That’s Good)

By Harold Senkbeil, adapted from The Care of Souls: Cultivating a Pastor’s Heart

Over the years I’ve developed, in good Lutheran fashion, ten theses on spiritual cure, the care of souls.  [Read more…]

Preach to One Person at a Time

By Matthew Kim, adapted from Preaching Points: 55 Tips for Improving Your Pulpit Ministry.

Many of us are familiar with the passage in Luke 15. It’s the Parable of the Lost Sheep. It goes like this: [Read more…]