“A pastor is by definition something akin to a GP (a “general practitioner”). He is not a specialist in, say, divorce and remarriage, missions history, cultural commentary, or particular periods of church history. Yet most pastors will have to develop competent introductory knowledge in all these areas as part of his application of the Word of God to the people around him. And that means he is obligated to devote some time each year to reading in broad areas.” – D.A. Carson
In an interview, Peter Adam reveals (at the 12 minute mark) that he spends half of his time working on the text and half of his time praying for the people who will hear the sermon.
Preaching is not a performance, but ministry (16 minute mark). Therefore, we should pray.
Your first few sermons are always terrible, no matter who you are. – Russell Moore
Similar to sermon starters, book overviews are helpful in preaching/teaching:
- Help Me Teach the Bible with Nancy Guthrie – “Nancy Guthrie talks to some of the best Bible teachers and preachers of our day in hopes of equipping … anyone who seeks to open up the Bible and teach—to rightly, effectively, and creatively teach through specific books of the Bible.
- The Bible Project – Short video summaries of many books of the Bible plus theme videos.
- The Overview Bible Project – Short summaries of each book of the Bible.
- Talk Through the Bible – “an easy-to-use handbook that summarizes each book of the Bible with at-a-glance charts, illustrations, and outlines”
- How to Read the Bible through the Jesus Lens: A Guide to Christ-Focused Reading of Scripture – “connects each of the sixty-six books of the Bible to the person and work of Jesus Christ. By explaining each book’s theme and raising pertinent questions about the contemporary importance of that message, author Michael Williams sets readers on a path toward purposeful, independent reading and application of the entire Bible.”
- Clarifying the Bible – I’ve heard good things about this video overview of the Bible.
In addition to prayerful working with a text and reading helpful commentaries, sometimes short expositions of a text – with an aim toward preaching or teaching it – are helpful just to get an angle or idea for communicating a text.
Thus, here are a few “sermon starters”:
- The Text This Week – “This site features a wide variety of resources for study and liturgy based on the 3-year Revised Common Lectionary cycle.”
- Sermon Starters – Short commentary on the lectionary reading
- 5 Minutes of Bible Exposition – Audio podcast
- Working Preacher – “[H]ere to inspire better preaching by offering timely, compelling, and trustworthy content for working preachers”
- Look at the Book with John Piper – “Look at the Book is an online method of teaching the Bible. It’s an ongoing series of 8–12 minute videos in which the camera is on the text, not the teacher. You will hear John Piper’s voice and watch his pen underline, circle, make connections, and scribble notes — all to help you learn to read God’s word for yourself. His goal is to help you not only see what he sees, but where he sees it and how he found it.”
From Tim Keller’s Why Plant Churches [PDF]:
The vigorous, continual planting of new congregations is the single most crucial strategy for 1) the numerical growth of the Body of Christ in any city, and 2) the continual corporate renewal and revival of the existing churches in a city. Nothing else–not crusades, outreach programs, para-church ministries, growing mega-churches, congregational consulting, nor church renewal processes–will have the consistent impact of dynamic, extensive church planting. This is an eyebrow raising statement. But to those who have done any study at all, it is not even controversial.
Helpful article which responds to church planting objections and has some eye-opening stats such as:
Dozens of denominational studies have confirmed that the average new church gains most of its new members (60-80%) from the ranks of people who are not attending any worshipping body, while churches over 10-15 years of age gain 80-90% of new members by transfer from other congregations. This means that the average new congregation will bring 6-8 times more new people into the life of the Body of Christ than an older congregation of the same size.
The stats and story in Appendix A are noteworthy as well.
D. A. Carson writes, “A couple of years ago I sat down for coffee, after prayer meeting, with one of the most able preachers I have ever heard. This man is extraordinary. I have never heard him preach without finding my mind informed and my heart challenged . On the relatively rare occasions when I can listen to him, his ministry invariably reshapes my thinking by the Word of God . Though only in his late forties, he serves in a strategic church. But that night, over coffee, he quietly began to speak words along these lines: “Don,” he said, “if the truth be told, I am getting tired. For the first time I understand why some able preachers end up in administration or teaching at the age of fifty . I cannot maintain this level of ministry, Sunday after Sunday, week after week, without burning out. I am tired. And I confess I am enough of a perfectionist that I do not want to go into the pulpit unless I am thoroughly prepared. Unless I feel the message is ready, I am not content to preach it.”
I responded with a few platitudes, and we prayed together. Some months later, I was preaching and lecturing in Australia, when someone passed on to me one of the sayings of Broughton Knox, formerly the principal of Moore Theological College. According to this report, Knox told his students, “God is not interested in one hundred percentism.” There is a sense, of course, in which that is the only thing God is interested in. He wants us to trust and obey him wholly; he wants us to serve him with 100 percent loyalty. But then the focus is on him. What Broughton Knox meant is that very often what we call “one hundred percentism” is not unrestrained allegiance to God and his gospel but merely a reflection of a perfectionist personality. For some people, unless they tackle whatever they are doing with 100 percent of their energy and competence, the task is not worth doing at all. They cannot live with themselves unless they work that way. Frequently they are the high achievers. But from a Christian perspective, this attitude may turn out to be nothing more than another form of self-worship— in short, a form of idolatry. So I wrote to my fellow preacher and cited Broughton Knox: “God is not interested in one hundred percentism.” The fact is, I told him, I would much rather listen to him preach for thirty or forty more years at 80 percent of his capacity, than for three or four more years at 100 percent of his capacity. If the choice is to be made on the basis of what is for the good of the church, of the number of people who would hear the gospel powerfully and intelligently presented, and therefore on the basis of what would bring most glory to Christ, the same decision would be called for. In all our pursuit of excellence, we must never worship excellence. That would simply be idolatrous.”