Think Small for Big Improvements in Preaching

"...all preachers should be thoughtful, planned, and intentional with how they spend the precious currency of the last minute." - TGC

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Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

Interesting post with some good advice.

I'm not for saving all the application for the end, though. For one thing, I can't seem to keep the energy and rhythm of the message if I do nothing but analysis for 20 minutes or so then get practical at the end. For another, human nature: a % of listeners are no longer listening by the time you get to the end, so why save the best for last? Third, related, application can be important way to draw listeners back in after you've waded through some exposition and they're starting to drift. (But there are ways to create tension before you wade through the exposition, and that certainly helps!)

Views expressed are always my own and not my employer's, my church's, my family's, my neighbors', or my pets'. The house plants have authorized me to speak for them, however, and they always agree with me.

Jonathan Charles's picture

I find a good conclusion the hardest part of preparing a message.

Bert Perry's picture

...to be practical?

I'm serious.  I've had the privilege of teaching in nursing home ministries and such, and one of the best things about teaching through the book of Matthew is that many times, it seems that a great portion of the message is "this is who Christ is, this is who God is".   

We might infer that if we did more about "this is what this passage says about the character of God" and such, maybe we'd do a little better at evangelism.  I'm not against practical applications where they're appropriate, but sometimes it seems as if too much preaching makes a beeline for the application and misses out on all the fun of the intermediate steps.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

sometimes it seems as if too much preaching makes a beeline for the application and misses out on all the fun of the intermediate steps.

Agree. I forget that when I say "practical stuff," it's not always clear what I include in that. To me, "how should I think differently?" is practical. It's behavior. You don't have to see it for it to be action. So, often, when I'm "getting practical," it's very much along the lines of "what this passage says about the character of God," only framed a bit differently: "Here's how we tend to think about God and how this passage straightens us out."

Some questions I like to use during prep for developing applications:

  • What do we tend to do or fail to do that this passage speaks to?
  • What do we tend to think or fail to think that this passage speaks to?
  • How does our own nature or our culture push us in ways this passage corrects/confronts?
  • What do we tend to desire or fail to desire that this passage speaks to?

The third one is really a refinement of the other three, but it's worth setting apart because we tend to be blind to the ways "normal" in our culture (or our church subculture) is not Christian.

Views expressed are always my own and not my employer's, my church's, my family's, my neighbors', or my pets'. The house plants have authorized me to speak for them, however, and they always agree with me.

josh p's picture

Great questions Aaron! Thanks for that. As a person who preaches about once every couple of months, there seems to be no end to all there is to learn to preach well. I've come a long way but every time I preach I have a whole laundry list of things I did wrong. 

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

Jonathan Charles wrote:

I find a good conclusion the hardest part of preparing a message.

I struggle with it also. For me, though I speak very extemporaneously, there are portions I have to pretty much read verbatim--some transitions, parts of intros and parts of conclusions. So, it's helped to fashion a strong opening sentence and a strong closing sentence and plan to read those. I don't always follow the plan... not a slave to it, but usually it's better if I do.

Books on preaching often list different ways to intro and conclude. I often relied on a concise recap and then a short restatement of the central theme. Nothing fancy, but it ties everything together and avoids the "trailing off randomly followed by 'let's pray'" scenario!

@Josh, I'm glad that helps. I'm sure I heard or read them somewhere, but no clue where at this point.

Views expressed are always my own and not my employer's, my church's, my family's, my neighbors', or my pets'. The house plants have authorized me to speak for them, however, and they always agree with me.