How to Prepare to Preach When You Have No Time

According to an unscientific poll, Thom Rainer found that approximately 70% of pastors spend 10 to 18 hours in sermon preparation before preaching.

What about the pastors without 10–18 hours?

Many pastors (especially bi-vocational pastors and church planters) have to balance the rigors of a full-time job, family responsibilities, and shepherding the flock into their work week, and an extra 10 hours isn’t possible. And what if someone dies? Last-minute funeral sermons don’t prepare themselves during already busy weeks.

What is one to do?

This is a question we think about regularly, usually in regard to bi-vocational pastors we train around the world. My colleague and LRI trainer, Sean Martin, suggests overloaded preachers consider this simple method for squeezing in more prep time:

  1. Get up thirty minutes earlier than normal and work your way through the text with a hermeneutical principle, taking notes along the way. For example, Monday might be the day for Asking Good Questions, while on Tuesday you consider the structure of the passage.
  2. Keep your notepad with you during the week, and squeeze in times of meditation and reflection on your text, taking notes as thoughts percolate. Your lunch hour may prove fruitful, as well as other random times in the day.
  3. Before bed, take 20 or 30 minutes more to think and pray through the text.

When this is faithfully practiced during the week, it may open up an additional five or six hours for study and meditation on your text.

  1. Come Saturday, a substantial part of the work is done, and you would then need to organize your thoughts and finalize sermon details.

Six months after recommending this method to a group of Haitian pastors we train in exposition, Sean returned and asked what was new. Arnaud, a bi-vocational pastor, eagerly shared how much of a difference this method made in his preaching. With extra study and meditation time, and thus a better grasp of the passage, Arnaud testified that this method has changed him. Now he feels more confident handling God’s Word, and many in his congregation have noticed a positive difference.

Pastor Arnaud (blue shirt) works through 2 Timothy with other pastors in Training National Trainers program.

While there are reasons why following this method isn’t the ideal situation, many busy pastors will never have the “ideal.” If you are able to have considerable sermon prep time, rejoice!—and don’t take your privilege lightly.

But if you struggle to balance full-time work with shepherding your flock, take heart that God knows your situation. He is not a taskmaster demanding you prepare more hours than you are able. He knows your sacrifice and effort. Do the best you can with your time, and pray for grace in your preparation and preaching of God’s Word. God will both help you and honor His Word.

Tracing Theological Themes Through the Whole Bible Story

The Bible is one main story with one main focus, sharing what God has done and will do through His Son Jesus Christ. Like any epic story, there are many threads that run through it. Understanding those threads and how they develop aids our study of Scripture. LRI’s Kevin Halloran interviewed Tim Sattler, International Training Director for Leadership Resources, on the importance of tracing themes throughout the whole Bible.

Kevin Halloran

Kevin Halloran

Kevin: Tim, can you explain the importance of tracing Biblical Theological threads?

Tim: Sure. The Bible’s one story, and like a story, there are multiple threads that develop and are involved. These threads hold the story together all the way along. We don’t have a series of disconnected stories. There are threads that pick up early on.

Example 1: Comparing Genesis with Revelation

Tim Sattler

Tim Sattler

If you have ever looked at the beginning chapters of Genesis and the ending chapters of Revelation, it’s interesting how many of those threads come together. We see the heavens and earth being created in Genesis and the new heavens and new earth being announced in Revelation 21. We see land and water and sea at the beginning, and land and no sea at the end. We see a garden in the presence of God and God dwelling with man—the great announcement of Rev. 21 is the dwelling of God is with man again.

Example 2: The Promised Seed

There are these different threads that pick up through the storyline. One key thread would be the promised seed that is going to conquer Satan and overcome sin (Genesis 3:15). The whole genealogical structure of Genesis follows this thread along. Abraham it picks up again. Later in the Davidic promise focused more specifically so that we would know who we are looking for in this king that would come.

Example 3: The Temple

One great thread is the temple, the idea of God dwelling with His people. They were pushed out of that dwelling because of their sin. They were pushed out of that place of His presence but the tabernacle, the temple—all these symbolic images where God comes and dwells among His people. Interestingly, both the tabernacle and temple are filled with God’s glory, but the third temple after the exile isn’t. You don’t see that glory come back to the temple. There’s something missing.

But then you have Jesus standing and the Spirit descends on Him like a dove. We understand that He came and tabernacled among us. This is God Himself tabernacling. It’s not an accident that John uses that terminology in John 1:14. All along we see that God is wanting to restore His presence with His people.

In Ephesians, Paul says we are being built up into the true temple, the dwelling of God in the Spirit. You can follow the theme of the Holy Spirit from the garden all the way through the book of Acts. It’s God’s presence restored through Christ that makes us the indwelling of God.

Example 4: A sin-atoning sacrifice

The strand of sacrifice goes along right from Genesis 4 all the way through to the cross.

These stories ebb and flow in the overall story but they are all pulled together like the strands of a rope. As a rope has many different strands, so the story of the Bible has many different strands.

Kevin: It’s rich to see how the story develops and those threads develop, how the Old Testament points forward to Christ. Also, as we understand who Christ is for us, we can look back at the Old Testament and see the build-up and appreciate Christ all the more.

Tim: You can. That’s right.

Kevin: You’ve mentioned to me in the past that you prefer to say tracing Biblical Theological threads rather than themes. Why is that?

Tim: It’s not a big deal to me frankly! I would use theme and thread interchangeably except for this: As we have been training pastors and sometimes use the word ‘themes’, it gets confused with thematic preaching. Instead of telling the story or understanding the development of Biblical Theology in a storyline, it becomes a topical proof-texting of a theme in the Bible—which really doesn’t help. That is more systematic theology (which is fine) rather than biblical theology.

As we are talking about tracing a thread or a theme, we are really trying to unfold the natural development of each part of the story. The tabernacle isn’t as great as the temple, is it? One’s a more permanent place, there’s been a development from one dwelling place to another. It’s there to show us that God wants to be in a permanent place with His people. In Genesis the dwelling place was lost, but it will be restored. We find out that that the tabernacle and temple were never intended to be the permanent place—the permanent place is the New Heavens and the New Earth.

What we’re trying to do is keep it in language that helps us understand the development of a storyline. Not simply tracing thematic theological ideas.

Kevin: How do you recommend tracing Biblical Theological themes?

Tim: Read the Bible.

Kevin: Good answer.

Tim: We need to know the Bible.

Kevin: There’s no shortcut. We shouldn’t want a shortcut.

Tim: If you really want to know what David Copperfield is about, read David Copperfield. You need to read the whole book; you need to read the whole story. Dickens put a marvelous story out there for us and the Bible is an even greater story. We really do need to read the Bible. We need to know how each book fits with the unfolding of the story, which books are really mainline in the story, and which are commentary on the main story. We need to know what’s happening.

Kevin: Which biblical books are main-line verses commentary on the main story?

Tim: Genesis and Exodus would be mainline. Leviticus would be commentary into the story because it’s not moving the story along, it’s bringing more depth to the story. It’s the whole sacrificial system. Numbers is moving the story along, in the wilderness. Deuteronomy at a point where you are getting ready to transition, but is at a moment in time as Moses is giving his last words. Joshua moves us along. Judges moves us along. 1 & 2 Samuel move us along. Kings does as well. Ezra and Nehemiah coming back from the exile carry the story along. Most of the prophets would be voices spoken into the people and the times. The Psalms speak into the times. Basically, Psalms are songs about the times that are put together in kind of a symphony looking back, the last compilation of these is looking back over Israel’s history from Moses all the way to after the exile coming back into a temple that’s been rebuilt. It’s a commentary into how God has been working among His people and that it’s God’s king meets God’s people through this valley to God’s grace. There are books that carry the story along; there are books that speak into it.

The storyline is contained in fewer books than we think so it’s easy to get that storyline.

Kevin: You had mentioned before that you recommend four key questions for understanding Biblical Theology as it pertains to a passage.

Tim: Yes, they are questions a friend Phil Wheeler from Sydney, Australia, put together. I think they’re really good questions:

  1. What’s the story so far?

Wherever you are in the Bible, you need to know what the story has been leading up to that point in time. What’s happened so far?

  1. What’s this story about?

Now we are looking at what a particular story contributes. What is it about?

Take Judges, for instance. What is Judges about? It’s about everybody doing what’s right in his own eyes. That’s commentary. It’s also about a leadership gap after Joshua. There’s a question, who would be king? The more you study these judges the more you see they are trying to fill a leadership void. But they are going about it the wrong way. We find out the end in the next story, not Ruth, but Samuel—God provides a king. He wants it to be His king and His way: David.

  1. What do we learn about how God does things?

Before we even look at leading us to Christ there are lessons about the way God works. The way God is accomplishing things in the world.

  1. What do we learn about the way God does things through Jesus?

Not every story is on a major highway towards Jesus. We need to learn about the way God does things. But there are major stories; every book is contributing to the major story of Jesus. So, what do we learn about how God does things through Jesus.

Often times we miss true Biblical Theology because we don’t get it on the book level first; we are looking for Jesus in every little detail. A lot of preachers look for Jesus in too many places and make too many wrong connections. We need to understand what the book contributes to the story first.

What we learn about how God does things through Jesus and then how pieces unfold that. There may be more than one strand in a book, but at the same time, we want to be with those major strands as we are talking about Christ.

Rejoicing in the Promised Shepherd-King

The Shepherd — Ezekiel 34

One of the scary facts about life is that a bad leader can greatly damage to a nation and its people. People don’t want their lives in the hands of people who don’t know their needs and seem only out to help themselves!

The book of Ezekiel chronicles the horrific consequences of Israel’s bad leadership. Israel had been taken captive by Babylon. Jerusalem had been pillaged, and many began to doubt God’s care for His people. God’s promises to bless Abraham and to crown an everlasting Davidic king in seemed like wishful thinking, or even a lie.

Ezekiel 34 diagnoses the leadership problem, lambasting Israel’s leadership for failing to care for God’s flock and only being out for themselves (Ezekiel 34:2). Instead of caring for the weak, sick, injured, or stray sheep, leaders ruled violently and with cruelty, leaving Israel to become food for the wild animals. This selfish and corrupt leadership kindled the anger of God enough to say, “I am against the shepherds. I will demand My flock from them and prevent them from shepherding the flock.” (10).

When God’s appointed leaders fail, He took matters into His own hands and promised a future leader, His “servant David”, to make a covenant of peace between God and His people (25), bring “showers of blessing” (26), create peace and prosperity (28–29), and usher in God’s glorious presence for His people (30–31).

Oh, how we need such a shepherd!

The Coming of the Promised Shepherd King

Six centuries after the initial promise, the Davidic Shepherd-King finally arrives in the person of Jesus Christ, and His coming couldn’t be better news for a vulnerable world longing for a good leader.

With the words of John 10:11, “I am the good shepherd”, Jesus identifies as the promised Shepherd-King who would feed His sheep lasting food, care for and protect the sheep entrusted to Him, seek out lost sheep (John 10:16), and know His sheep intimately (John 10:14). Far from fattening Himself by feasting on the sheep, this Shepherd provides spiritual nourishment to the vast multitudes that draw near to Him (Mark 6:30–44) and loves them so much that He laid down His very life (John 10:11).

Jesus Christ: Our Good Shepherd

We all have moments where God’s promises seem too good to be true. But as we ponder how Christ cares for us each day, we will see just how great and glorious His coming into the world is.

  • When it seems like God has abandoned you, trust that Christ, “God with us”, has sought you out and signed a covenant with His own blood, bringing peace with God and His comforting presence.
  • When you don’t know what to think in our truth-starved, relativistic world, listen to the Good Shepherd who speaks eternal truths to His sheep.
  • When you feel like no one cares for you, draw near to Christ your shepherd who knows you intimately and loves you enough to lay down His life for you (John 10:15).
  • When the world’s many dangers bring fear, rejoice that He will protect you from the worst spiritual assaults, bring perfect justice to the false shepherds and that He will not let anybody or anything separate you from His love.
  • When you feel like you can’t go on spiritually, the Bread of Life will satisfy your hungry souls by leading us beside still waters and green pastures (Psalm 23:2–3).

God has not left us helpless!

The Good Shepherd Jesus Christ, through His Word and Spirit, and through the care of faithful pastors and leaders, provides for us more richly than we could ever imagine. Let us give glory to Him!

Top 10 Blog Posts of 2017

The end of the year is a good time to reflect on what God has done in the year. Here is a smattering of the posts that God used to edify and empower pastors we train and friends of the ministry in 2017.

Top Blog Posts

1. Eight Reasons Why Consecutive Expository Preaching is Needed: An interview with LRI’s Tim Sattler. Also: Three Ways to Keep Consecutive Exposition Fresh.

2. Free Video Bible Overview Course: God’s Big Picture by Vaughan Roberts

3. An Interview with Your Favorite Preacher’s Favorite Preacher: Dick Lucas of the Proclamation Trust.

4. One-to-One Bible Reading: A Simple Way to Fulfill the Great Commission. An interview with LRI’s Sean Martin on a powerful, but neglected, discipleship tool for every Christian.

5. Fighting the Prosperity Gospel in Africa through Bible Training: An interview with LRI’s Doug Dunton.

6. 10 Hindrances to Transformative Expository Preaching by Kevin Halloran

7. How One Man’s Heart for Discipleship Became a Worldwide Movement of Biblical Exposition: The Story of Leadership Resources: An audio interview with Bill Mills testifying to God’s amazing–and surprising–grace over 40+ years of ministry. You may also enjoy this interview with Bill: Adequate: How God Empowers Ordinary People to Serve.

8. Tim Keesee calls TNT “Nation Shaking” on Dispatches from the Front. Several years ago, LRI’s TNT program and Doug Dunton was featured on the popular missions DVD series Dispatches from the Front. This post shares the video and transcript of what was said. What a privilege we have to serve God in the way we do!

9. How a Biblical Theology of Work Can Transform Your Life: Interview with Dr. Jim Hamilton.

10. 10 Subtle Ways to Abandon the Authority of Scripture in Our Lives (D.A. Carson)

Bonus: Preaching the Bible’s Transformative Intent: The Why and How

Stories from the Field

Here are a handful of the stories how our training in biblical exposition is impacting pastor’s lives and ministries throughout the world:

Thank you for your support of LRI! We wish you a wonderful and blessed 2018 in Christ. If you would like to make a year-end donation to help support this blog and the work we do, donate here.

Preaching the Bible’s Transformative Intent: The What and the How

Preaching the Transformational Intent of the Bible / Authorial Intent

If you have been around Leadership Resources’ people or training for more than a little while, you probably have heard us talk about the transformational intent of the Scriptures, which is foundational for our ministry and all transformational word ministry.

LRI’s Kevin Halloran recently talked with Tim Sattler, LRI’s International Training Director, on preaching the Bible’s transformational intent. Listen to the audio of our conversation below (or through this link) or read the transcript. Subscribe to our YouTube channel for future interviews.

What is the transformational intent and how does it relate to authorial intent?

Tim Sattler: Intent is connected to our view of inspiration. If we believe in divine inspiration, we need to think about it the way Peter thinks about it in 2 Peter 1:16–21.

The intent of the way they proclaim the gospel message is to not by following “cleverly devised myths when they made known to you the power and coming of the Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. And He received glory and honor from God the Father and the voice was born to Him by the majestic glory, ‘This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well-pleased,’ we ourselves heard this voice from heaven for we have heard him from the holy mountain…” And he goes on to talk about the prophetic word being fully confirmed and to pay attention to it “as a lamp shining in a dark place until the day dawns and the morning star arises in your hearts. Knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from one’s own interpretation for no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.”

And he goes on to talk about the prophetic word being fully confirmed and to pay attention to it, “as a lamp shining in a dark place until the day dawns and the morning star arises in your hearts. Knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from one’s own interpretation for no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.”

Part of his argument here is that it’s not human intention, it’s God’s intention and God’s Spirit moving the authors of Scripture to write with a purpose—what we believe is a transformational purpose.

Every time God proclaims His Word, it has an intended response.

God wants people to respond to His gospel call in all of the Scriptures. Right from the very beginning when you see Him pursue Adam and Eve, He wants them to respond to what He is saying. When Moses went to Pharaoh, we see a response that is given. Every time God proclaims His Word, it has an intended response. We call it “transformational intent” because we believe that God gave the gospel to transform hearts and lives, hopefully into the image of Christ and not a hardening like Pharaoh. One of those things is going to happen. It is the authorial intent. Our goal is not just communicating information but bringing about transformation.

Our goal is not just communicating information but bringing about transformation.

I’ve asked a lot of pastors when we first start our work with them, “What the goal is of preaching out of any passage?” Most guys who have been exposed to exposition (about 90%) say, “To clearly express or explain what God has said.” If that’s the goal on a Sunday morning, all you will give is information. But if your goal is transformation, the explanation of God’s Word becomes the process, not the goal. If transformation is your goal, that process will always be driven to how the author is intending people to respond.

Paul said in Colossians 1:28, “We proclaim Christ that we might present every man complete in Christ.” He gives the goal of apostolic preaching as being, “to be transformed into the image of Christ” every time the gospel is being proclaimed.

An Example from Ephesians 1

Let’s look at an example from Ephesians 1, where Paul starts his great doxology that goes for verse after verse, a long run-on sentence, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places.” Then he goes on pouring out all of the blessings we find in Christ.

I remember as a young man hearing sermon after sermon on Ephesians 1 and hearing a doctrinal defense of election or something like that, really not in line with the intention Paul has here. His intention is that we would praise God with Him. Multiple times he says, “To the praise of His glory” and “to the praise of His glorious grace.” He’s wanting the Ephesian heart to enter into the praise and worship of Christ that he’s expressing himself. It’s far different than a doctrinal examination of election.

There is a building in that passage—all of the blessings we have heard about in the Old Testament, through Abraham, that were promised very early in the book have now been fulfilled in Christ—and they’re ours, as Gentiles! Paul’s intention is that we would walk away with this same doxology in our hearts.

Kevin: What happens if we don’t preach the transformational intent?

Tim: We preach content. We preach a lot of information and wonder why lives are not being changed. We will wonder why they are falling asleep. We will wonder why their hearts aren’t being captured in our preaching.

Eventually, I think, if we are not thinking through transformational intent, we might rely on human emotion to drive transformation. We might make great emotional appeals and make sure our voice and theatrics are going. We try and force the transformation ourselves, instead of expressing it as God has expressed it.

We have simple principles that help get to the transformational intent, here are a few. (Browse our Dig & Discover Hermeneutical Principle booklet for more.)

Hermeneutical Principle #1: Asking Good Questions

There are a lot of good questions we can ask of any passage. There are a lot of questions we need to ask. These questions help us get to the intent. There are basically six investigative questions you can ask: who, what, where, when, why, and how.

The questions, “Who”, “What”, “When”, or “Where” need to be answered to explain the text, but the majority of the answers will be content. The “Why” question is what gets you to the reasoning or the intention or the transformation idea in a text:

  • Why does he say it here?
  • Why in this way?
  • What’s surprising about this?
  • How did he want his readers to respond to what’s being said?

These questions will help us with the reasoning of the passage and help us get to the author’s transformative intention. We need content, but we need to go deeper to get to the “Why” questions.

Hermeneutical Principle #2: Structure

Structure is not just an outline. We think of structure as helping us see the direction of the author. We use the illustration of a bridge. The most important part of the bridge is the roadway getting you from one place to another. While there’s a lot of structural pieces that uphold that, the real goal when you come to the bridge is know where you will come to on the other side.

People think of structure like an outline or just dividing verses. But when you see the end from the beginning, understanding where the author is headed, you begin to see his intention. Structure will help you see how the message unfolds in a book or passage. Knowing the author’s conclusions are helps you get to intent.

Hermeneutical Principle #3: Traveling Instructions

God is speaking to us, but he has already spoken in His Word. We want to know what God is saying and how God wants us to respond in any age. He has spoken in His Word, but He hasn’t spoken directly to Chicago in 2017. He has spoken [first] to somebody else. Again, with our view of inspiration, He has moved an author to write what he writes. We must first understand what the passage meant in the original context before we apply it to ourselves today.

An Example from the Entire Book of Ephesians

In Ephesians, Paul is in a prison and the gospel is being threatened. All through the book of Acts, you’ve seen the unbelieving Jews rise up and stir trouble from the very moment the gospel goes out to the Gentiles. They don’t want Gentiles to become equal heirs and share in the equal blessings of Christ that God has promised Israel.

In Acts 15, it is said that unless someone is circumcised according to the custom of Moses, they can’t be saved. Move into Acts 21, and the situation is even worse. There are thousands of Jews who have been convinced that the gospel Paul is teaching is wrong. Their solution again doesn’t work, they end up arresting Paul. They want to kill him. Paul appeals to Caesar. He always wanted to go to Rome, now he’s in Rome with the Gospel. He wants these churches to stand firm in the gospel. The very last chapter, that’s his command: to stand firm. Love Christ with a love that is incorruptible (Ephesians 6:24). What would corrupt it? Going back to Old Covenant ways—that would corrupt the New Covenant. Paul is writing to this church to talk about the blessings they have received and how God has transformed all of humanity. He has reconciled the Gentiles with the Jews, humanity with Himself. He’s building a new temple with the people of God. Paul’s intent is that they would stand firm in that truth.

An Example from Philippians

Paul writes another letter to Philippi, to a church that has supported him from the very beginning. They had fellowship with him and his gospel. Paul wrote to thank them for a gift he received in this prison cell. He knows there’s a problem in the church with Euodia and Syntyche (Philippians 4:2). They have the potential to cause division in the church that is similar to the division between the Judaizers and the true gospel followers. He is wanting to help this church get along. He has a lot of build up to that point in that letter (chapters 1-3). He’s writing them to maintain this joy of partnership in this gospel and not let it be divided in the church. There’s intention in everything that these authors write and there’s a response that they want.

Kevin: One thing that I appreciate about the way LRI talks about transformational intent is that pastors should shepherd their people with the transformational intent. Can you explain what we mean by that?

Tim: It comes down to application. Once you understand the intent, why Paul or Mark or why any author is writing a book to an audience, you can now shepherd your church and bring the Word of God to today by asking a few questions.

The weakest part of most preaching is application. But in looking for intention, you need to ask, “What would that look like in my context today?” “What are similarities?” “How would that response look like in my context in my city with my people?” “What would God want us to do?” That’s the way you begin to shepherd with the author’s intent.

The weakest part of most preaching is application.
Kevin: Tim, you shared once about transformation in the life of one pastor in the Philippines when he finally got what it meant to preach the transformational intent. Would you mind sharing that story?

Tim: I’ve known this guy for about ten years. He was a representative of one of the large ministries in the United States in the Philippines. His preaching for many years was to transpose commentaries, preaching chapter-by-chapter out of them. He realized it was doctrinally driven and that he wasn’t doing his own study. We’ve worked with him and he has gained confidence seeing the Word of God clearly himself; he doesn’t need to rely on commentaries to make sure he had a good message (even though commentaries can be useful conversation partners)—he can now see what God is saying and bring that to his people. Most importantly, he sees that he used to give a lot of information to his people and not transformation.

When he saw the difference in how these principles help you get to transformational intent, he got rid of all those commentaries he was using as a crutch and has been preaching on his own. It’s interesting; his congregation has responded quite favorably. They have constantly remarked on how his preaching has changed. He even had one lady in his church who wanted to sponsor one of his trainings on another island. He’s going and multiplying what we’re doing in the Philippines—part of what we are seeing as a movement start over there. She wanted to pay for work to go.

When he was chatting with her, she had an unsaved husband and asked her what his thoughts were about sponsoring training. The husband had actually said this, “If this type of preaching can bring about this change in my wife, it’s worthy of my financial investment.” The nonbelieving husband was seeing such transformation in his wife that he wanted to invest.

Kevin: Tim, thank you for your time. It’s my prayer that this conversation spurs many pastors and leaders to be transformed by God’s word themselves and also to preach in a transformational way.

Related Links:

Help us strengthen Cuban pastors this #GivingTuesday

Help us strengthen Cuban pastors this #GivingTuesday.

The Cuban church faces many challenges: overcoming Catholic frameworks, ministering amongst spiritist religion, a lack of resources, and a lack of equipped gospel workers. All of these factors make advancing the gospel difficult.

Equipping pastors to faithfully preach God’s Word through LRI’s training strengthens the Cuban church by helping pastors avoid legalism, prosperity preaching, and unbiblical messages.

LRI Training has already begun in Cuba, but without needed funding, we risk shutting down. We want to see the Word of God flow mightily through every church in Cuba and Latin America—and you can help!

Donate this Giving Tuesday and help us reach our goal of $9,000 to cover one year of our Cuba training expenses.

A $25 donation helps one pastor attend one workshop.

Learn more or Donate.

“God has been revolutionizing our personal lives and the lives of the leaders we are training.” —Pastor Armando

10 Ways to Pray for the Latin American Church

In Western conversations about missions, Latin America doesn’t seem to have the emotional pull other regions have. Countries riddled with poverty or those in the 10/40 window rightly receive a great missions focus. But what about Latin America?

10 Ways to Pray for the Latin American Church

Some even consider Latin America a region ‘reached’ with the gospel. That was the position of the First World Missionary Conference in Edinburg in 1910. But many who know the name of Jesus do not know why He came or what He offers to sinners in our broken world. 500 years ago, the Protestant Reformation took the Western world by storm but left Latin America basically untouched. This ‘reached’ land needs true gospel transformation as much as anywhere.

Here are ten prayer requests for the Latin American church. You may consider praying for one Latin American country each day: Argentina, Belize, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Puerto Rico, Uruguay, Venezuela.

1. Pray for the true gospel to be known and believed throughout Latin America.

Many false gospels and gospel substitutes permeate faith in Latin America. Syncretism, the worship of Mary (due to major Catholic influence), and the prosperity ‘gospel’ hold millions captive in false systems of belief. Pray for the gospel of the risen Christ to be proclaimed, believed, and treasured.

2. Pray for more to hold to the authority and sufficiency of Scripture.

Many outright reject the Reformation doctrine of Sola Scriptura. Catholics, for example, claim tradition and the Magistrate function as authority in addition to Scripture. Others functionally reject Scripture’s authority by placing personal experience at the same level of Scripture. Pray for more brothers and sisters in Latin America to look to Scripture alone as the authority and worship God for the sufficiency of His Word.

3. Pray for the prosperity gospel’s counterfeit promises to be exposed.

The prosperity gospel’s rampant influence in Latin America decimates churches and leads adherents—often the poor and needy—astray. Pray for prominent prosperity preachers to repent of their ways. Pray for the deceitfulness of the prosperity gospel to be exposed and for the true gospel to heal wounded hearts. Pray for the unsearchable riches of Christ to lay bare the fraudulent promises of prosperity theology.

4. Pray for a deepened understanding of Scripture among leaders and believers.

Latin America’s historical roots in Catholicism means many respect the Bible even if they don’t know its message or how to read it. The church in Latin America (and all the world) needs to be biblically literate to address doctrinal attacks on the church from the culture and within.

Pray for a deepened understanding of the Bible and the grand story of Scripture (Biblical Theology) that will help individuals and churches live out a Biblical worldview and more faithfully engage the world around them.

5. Pray for expositional preaching to become the preferred preaching style.

Expositional preaching gives God’s Word functional authority in the church. Topical preaching largely depends on the abilities and knowledge of the preacher, risking legalism, shallow and repetitive messages, and not proclaiming the full counsel of God. Whether they know it or not, believers hunger for the Word of God.

Pray for faithful, Christ-centered expository preaching to grow in prominence and strengthen the church as God designed.

6. Pray for online ministries to reach more people with sound doctrine.

Just like the Gutenberg Press helped propel the Protestant Reformation in the 1500s and beyond, internet ministries like The Gospel Coalition’s Spanish site (Coalición por el Evangelio) are helping bring the Reformation to Latin America. Pray for God’s Spirit to move through online resources and rescue many from unbelief and false doctrines and ground them in sound doctrine.

7. Pray for more theologically-sound resources to strengthen the church.

Solid evangelical resources can be hard to come by in countries with a population of less than 4% evangelical. Pray for the expanded reach and influence of Christian publishers, radio ministries, and theologically-driven worship music. Pray for Latin American theologians to write sound theology to address contextual issues and strengthen the Latino church.

8. Pray for more trained gospel workers.

It is estimated that the United States has one trained Christian worker for every 235 people. Outside the USA, it is one trained worker per 450,000 people.1 Pray for more nationals to be trained to plant churches, pastor, and train other workers in both formal and non-formal settings.

“The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.” Matthew 9:37-38

9. Pray for the unique challenges the churches in certain countries face.

  • Pray for the strengthening of the Cuban church amidst isolation, government surveillance, and a general lack of trust. Scroll down to see how you can help us strengthen the Cuban church.
  • Pray for the Venezuelan church as they endure and minister through an economic and political crisis. Pray for unity of denominations and the gospel to bring great joy in this time of sorrow.
  • Pray for the Puerto Rican church to faithfully serve their people as they recover from major hurricane damage.
  • Pray for the Latin American church as a whole to faithfully navigate cultural challenges of gender ideology, gay marriage, and more.

10. Pray for missions organizations to make a lasting impact in the indigenous church.

Missionaries and their sending organizations have made great gospel advances in the last century. Pray for continued fruit in evangelism, church planting, and equipping national leaders in programs like Training National Trainers. Pray for full funding for missionaries and organizations who have sacrificed much for the sake of Christ.

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We invite you to pray for our work equipping Latin Americans in biblical exposition:

  • Pray for trained leaders in Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Ecuador, Haiti, Honduras, Peru to grow in abilities in preaching the Word and to bear much fruit.
  • By God’s grace, we are seeing movements of God’s Word take root in Brazil, Honduras, and Ecuador. Pray for these movements to expand and impact the whole region with training in exposition.
  • Pray for Mentor Trainers, gifted graduates of our TNT program, to be strengthened and energized as they extend training in their countries and beyond.
  • Pray we would receive funding to start or continue work in Chile, Costa Rica, and Cuba.

Partner with us November 28th to strengthen the Cuban church by equipping national pastors in biblical exposition. Learn more or donate here.

1 – Statistic shared by David Sills at the Despierta! 2016 T4G Conference.

One-to-One Bible Reading: A Simple Way to Fulfill the Great Commission (Part One)


Jesus’ command to make disciples doesn’t have to be overcomplicated. In fact, there are many seemingly ordinary things Christians can do to make an impact on those around them.

Kevin Halloran recently conversed with Sean Martin, LRI’s Director of Training in Europe, to talk about one-to-one Bible reading.

Listen to the audio below (or through this link) or read the transcript.

Kevin: Can you start off making the case for one-to-one Bible reading?

Sean: I want to start on the personal level. My case for one-to-one Bible reading goes back twenty years to when I became a Christian. The man who led me to the Lord met with me regularly to read the Scriptures, pray, and disciple me. It had an enormous impact on my life and I’m very grateful to God for that.

One-to-one Bible reading is something that captured me on the personal level as a disciple of Christ in my early walk and I’ve kept up one-to-ones the last twenty years as I’ve walked with Jesus.

To make the case for one-to-one Bible reading, I think it’s helpful in the midst of being in the trenches of life and ministry to go to the 10,000-foot level and ask, “Why do we read the Bible anyway?”

Two Core Convictions

1. The Bible is the Word of God

The prime reason I read the Bible with people and would encourage others to do so as well is because we believe, as evangelical Christians, that the Bible is the Word of God. We believe that God speaks, and what He has spoken has been written. We believe that the Word of God brings life and transformation. When God speaks, things happen.

Consider Genesis 1 when God spoke the creation into existence. As He spoke, so it was. As He spoke, so it was. That’s a common refrain in the creation narrative. We see that creation and life is a direct result of God speaking. In Isaiah 55:10-11 God compares His Word to the rain that comes down from heaven:

“For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose…”

We need to ask ourselves: do I share that conviction? Do we really believe that God is a speaking God and that what He has spoken is written in the Old and New Testament Scriptures? Do we believe that His Word still brings life and transformation today?

This is why we share the gospel with unbelievers. As we tell people the gospel message, Paul says in 1 Corinthians 1:23-24 it is the power of God to save those who believe, both Jew and Gentile. This is a conviction that underlies all Bible ministry, not just one-to-one. Do you share that conviction?

2. Christ commands us to make disciples

Secondly, we have a conviction about the Great Commission. In Matthew 28, the risen Lord Jesus says He has all authority on heaven and earth and commands all disciples in every age to make disciples of the nations. One-to-one Bible reading is another way to fulfill the Great Commission.

How do I make a disciple? I can read the Bible with someone one-to-one. Both they and I will grow as disciples of Jesus as God’s Word speaks its life into our hearts and as we pray.

“One-to-one Bible reading is a simple way to fulfill the Great Commission.” Sean Martin

One-to-one Bible reading is a simple way to fulfill the Great Commission. One of the reasons I like one-to-one Bible reading is that you don’t have to be a professional pastor, a great evangelist, or seminary educated. What are the qualifications? Three things: 1) Do you love God? 2) Do you love people? 3) Do you love the Scriptures? That’s it.

Whether you’re a new Christian, a mature Christian, young, middle age, or old—it doesn’t matter. It’s a simple way to fulfill the Great Commission. Sit down with someone for an hour a week to pray and read the Scriptures together, and watch God do His work. I’ve seen God do it over and over again as I do one-to-ones and as I’ve been discipled myself. It’s terrific.

Kevin: One of the challenges I had when I first started one-to-one reading is focus. There are a lot of different rabbit trails you can go down trying to answer every question someone might have from the text. What is your main focus in one-to-one Bible reading?

What are the qualifications for one-to-one Bible reading? 1) Do you love God? 2) Do you love people? 3) Do you love the Scriptures? That’s it.

Sean: I think focus is a key word Kevin because, in some senses, one-to-one Bible reading time is like any meeting. Imagine a work meeting, for example. Many people express their frustrations for meetings because we thought we were going to meet about a certain topic, but we talk about other things and go on tangents. A one-hour meeting turns into a three-hour meeting. If you don’t have a focus, a goal, and some organization, the same thing can happen in your one-to-one.

To focus, I use the Swedish Bible Study Method. When I start to meet with someone one-to-one to read through Genesis a chapter at a time, I say, “I want you to read Genesis ahead of time. I’ll read it too. Let’s answer four questions before we come so we’re prepared.” Those four questions are:

  1. What do you see? What stands out in the passage?
  2. What questions do you have about the passage? If Moses was here and you could ask him a clarifying question, what would your question(s) be? We’ll wrestle with those questions together as we look at the text.
  3. What is the heart of the passage? What is the main thing the author is trying to say?
  4. What is the intent or application of the passage? What was the application for the original audience, and what is it for us today?

These four questions give us a focus and drive the meeting. We know those questions will shape our time and we will move methodologically through the questions. It’s a rich time and helps us avoid rabbit trails.

Our goal isn’t to answer every single question, but rather to understand the main idea of the text, apply it to our lives, and pray over it.

In Part Two, Sean shares recommended books of the Bible for one-to-one reading and tips for preparing.

Review: Preaching the Whole Bible as Christian Scripture by Graeme Goldsworthy

I love the story of Jesus on the road to Emmaus teaching two disciples how the whole Old Testament testifies of Him in Luke 24. It mesmerized (and still mesmerizes) me thinking of Christ as the culmination of the entire Old Testament. For a while though, I was disappointed that Luke didn’t include a transcript of their conversation for us!

I wanted to understand more how the Old Testament pointed to Christ but didn’t know what to do. I didn’t realize it at the time that I lacked an understanding of biblical theology, something that is vital for every Christian and especially preachers. Yet, while there is a great need for preachers to understand biblical theology, most preaching books barely touch on biblical theology.

Thankfully Graeme Goldsworthy, the Aussie theologian, wrote Preaching the Whole Bible as Christian Scripture (read 30 quotes). He defines biblical theology as “nothing more nor less than allowing the Bible to speak as a whole: as the one word of the one God about the one way of salvation” (7).

Preaching the Whole Bible as Christian Scripture lays out his methodology of biblical theology as it relates to expository preaching (Part One) before applying his methods to eight distinct biblical genres (Part Two). Goldsworthy’s stated purpose is to “provide a handbook for preachers that will help them apply a consistently Christ-centered approach to their sermons” (ix).

Not Easy, but Vitally Important

Goldsworthy grieves how much evangelical preaching misses the unity of the Bible story:

Texts are taken out of context; and applications are made without due concern for what the biblical author, which is ultimately the Holy Spirit, is seeking to convey by the text. Problem-centered and topical preaching became the norm and character studies treat the heroes and heroines of the Bible as isolated examples of how to live. The old adage about a text without its context being a pretext needs re-examination. (15-16)

Biblical theology is not easy, Goldsworthy concedes, but is essential to truly understanding the Bible’s message and what it means for us today. Goldsworthy shows the Christological focus of the Scriptures by unpacking the sometimes-tricky dynamics of Old Testament typology, law versus gospel, promise and fulfillment, along with the telos of the Bible. In doing so, we are reminded time and again just how badly sinful humanity needs to hear the message of Christ:

Why would you even want to try to preacher Christian sermon without mentioning Jesus? Is there anywhere else we can look in order to seek God? To see true humanity? To see the meaning of anything in creation? … If we would seek God, he is most clearly revealed in Jesus Christ. If we would see what God intends for our humanity, it is most clearly revealed in Jesus Christ. If we would see what God intends for the created order, we discover that it is bound up with our humanity and, therefore, revealed in Christ. (115-116)

The book’s second half provides framework, examples, and practical tips necessary to preach Christ from all literary genres of Scripture. This section (for which ‘handbook’ is a great label) is helpful, but not comprehensive (which would be near impossible). You may choose to skip around in this section to the genre of a book you are currently studying or one that you have difficulties with.


As the title of this book suggests, Preaching the Whole Bible as Christian Scripture is most valuable to preachers and other communicators of the word. It compellingly shows that failing to preach Christ from all of the Scriptures comes with great danger:

Any sermon, then, that aims to apply the biblical texts to the congregation and does so without making it crystal clear that it is in Christ alone and through Christ alone that the application is realized, is not a Christian sermon. It is at best an exercise in wishful and pietistic thinking. It is at worst demonic and its Christ-denying legalism. (124)

This book’s unique contribution is combining biblical theological methods with practice. Most other books won’t provide a theological feast as rich (and important) of the first half, nor the practical guidance of the second—let alone the combination. Many preachers will find themselves consulting this book after they read it, even if it is a little erudite and lengthy. (Handbooks aren’t always meant to be read straight through.)

Overall, Preaching the Whole Bible as Christian Scripture is a very important book. It will challenge the preacher’s assumptions and encourage him to dig into the Scripture text for himself, which is the only way to grow as a preacher of Christ. I think that it will encourage many to preach Christ and the gospel in diverse ways as it imparts insights on the unsearchable riches of Christ from various parts of the Bible. This won’t be the only book of preacher needs on biblical theology and preaching Christ, but it would be hard to find one more helpful to someone with an intermediate grasp of biblical theology. For those wanting a more introduction-level book, we recommend God’s Big Picture by Vaughan Roberts (free video course), which is an accessible introduction.

Today, I’m content we don’t have Jesus’s sermon from Luke 24. (Although I’d still like to read it!) Christ wants us to discover His glorious riches for ourselves in all 66 books of the Bible.

Our task of preaching Christ from all the Scripture will never be easy. But as we faithfully labor and grow in understanding, our joy will grow as we see the One to whom the law, the prophets, and the Psalms testify and preach Him to our people.

30 Quotes from Graeme Goldsworthy’s Preaching the Whole Bible as Christian Scripture

One of our recommended books on biblical theology is Preaching the Whole Bible as Christian Scripture by Graeme Goldsworthy (read our review). In what he describes as a ‘handbook’, Goldsworthy helpfully explains many facets of biblical theology’s intersection with expository preaching and shares his methods applied to eight different genres of Scripture. Below we share quotes from the book to give you a taste of its richness.

“We believe that preaching is not some peripheral item in the program of the local church, but that it lies at the very heart of what it is to be the people of God.” (1)

“There is, first, the correct assumption that the Old Testament is Christian scripture and that, despite the difficulties in doing so, it must be appropriated for Christian people.” (2)

“The Resurrection is portrayed as the event that encapsulates and fulfills all the theological themes of the Old Testament.” (6)

“Biblical theology is nothing more nor less than allowing the Bible to speak as a whole: as the one word of the one God about the one way of salvation.” (7)

“As evangelical preachers, we will need to work very hard to ensure that the nature of our preaching is truly biblical. Using Bible texts, focusing on biblical characters, or using well-worn clichés that are asserted as biblical are not in themselves a guarantee that our preaching is essentially biblical.” (12)

“We must also recognize that the unity of the Bible has suffered by default in the evangelical camp. This is nowhere more clearly evident than in the way the Bible is preached by many evangelicals. Texts are taken out of context; and applications are made without due concern for what the biblical author, which is ultimately the Holy Spirit, is seeking to convey by the text. Problem-centered and topical preaching became the norm and character studies treat the heroes and heroines of the Bible as isolated examples of how to live. The old adage about a text without its context being a pretext needs re-examination.” (15-16)

“I will seek to show that a biblical theology consistent with evangelical presuppositions has great explanatory power and preserves the sense of the unity of scripture while also recognizing the great diversity that is there.” (16)

“I can think of no more challenging question for the preachers self-evaluation and to ask whether the sermon was a faithful exposition of the way the text testifies to Christ.” (21)

“Geerhardus Vos defines biblical theology as ‘that branch of exegetical theology which deals with the process of the self-revelation of God deposited in the Bible.'” (22)

“If we allow at the Bible to tell its own story, we find a coherent and meaningful whole. To understand this meaningful whole we have to allow the Bible to stand as it is: a remarkable complexity yet a brilliant unity, which tells the story of the creation and the saving plan of God. Preaching, to be true to God’s plan and purpose, should constantly call people back to this perspective.” (22)

“I know it will not always be a simple matter to show how every text in the Bible speaks of the Christ, but that does not alter the fact that he says it does.” (21)

“Biblical theology helps to deliver the preacher from the doldrums of not knowing what to preach about. It is the fitting helper to expository preaching, that’s strangely neglected in the literature dealing with that subject.” (30)

“When done properly, preaching Christ from every part of the Bible need never degenerate into predictable platitudes about Jesus. The riches in Christ are inexhaustible, and biblical theology is the way to uncover them.” (30)

“Jesus didn’t invent biblical theology. He showed himself to be the real subject of the biblical theology that had been developing ever since human beings first received revelation from God.” (52)

“The idea that evangelical pastors can be sent to have ministerial oversight of congregations without first having a solid grounding in biblical theology is one of the scandals of our time. Show me a church without a good appreciation of the Old Testament and biblical theology and I’ll show you a church with a weak understanding of the gospel.” (52)

“Probably one of the most useful things we can do in this manner [that is, making the Bible’s storyline clear] is to help our congregation to engage biblical history without fear.” (69)

“Salvation was not an afterthought brought on by the unforeseen catastrophe of the fall. This Christocentric perspective is vital to understanding the Bible, and the preacher should constantly remind the congregation of it.” (79)

“Proper interpretation of any part of the Bible requires us to relate it to the person and work of Jesus.” (84)

“The essence of the kingdom is God’s people in God’s place under God’s rule.” (87)

“World history, written from God’s point of view and without the debilitating effects of human sinfulness and human ignorance, is ultimately the history of the gospel.” (89)

“It is thus quite acceptable to say that the Old Testament saints were saved through faith in Christ, for he is the ultimate substance of all the promises of God in which these people trusted (2 Cor 1:20).” (108)

“The central thesis of this book: all texts in the whole Bible bear a discernable relationship to Christ and are primarily intended as a testimony to Christ.” (113)

“Any attempts to relate a text directly to us for our contemporary hearers without inquiring into its primary relationship to Christ is fraught with danger.” (113)

“Since there are inexhaustible riches in Christ, and the implication of these for our Christian experience are endless, I doubt very much that there is any need for a preacher to be boring and repetitive.” (115)

“Why would you even want to try to preach a Christian sermon without mentioning Jesus? Is there anywhere else we can look in order to seek God? To see true humanity? To see the meaning of anything in creation?” (115)

“If we would seek God, he is most clearly revealed in Jesus Christ. If we would see what God intends for our humanity, it is most clearly revealed in Jesus Christ. If we would see what God intends for the created order, we discover that it is bound up with our humanity and, therefore, revealed in Christ.” (116)

“Expository preaching is essentially the practice of explaining the meaning of a passage of scripture.” (120)

“Any sermon, then, that aims to apply the biblical texts to the congregation and does so without making it crystal clear that it is in Christ alone and through Christ alone that the application is realized, is not a Christian sermon. It is at best an exercise in wishful and pietistic thinking. It is at worst demonic and its Christ-denying legalism.” (124)

“If we are not going to proclaim some aspect of the riches of Christ and every sermon, we shouldn’t be in the pulpit.” (126)

“In preparing a sermon we should pray that the Spirit of God will be active to reveal to us the riches of that word. Yet the Spirit’s ministry is not an automatic and mystical thing. He works through our minds and our efforts to responsibly explain the biblical text.” (127)

“A neglect of biblical theology means putting ourselves and our hearers in danger of losing the way so that an unbiblical application is substituted for the biblical one. Biblical theology is, I submit, a matter of giving free reign to the great Protestant principle that was enunciated at the Reformation: scripture interprets itself.” (128)

“Being able to label the genre is not as important as understanding the nuances of each literary expression and what the author wants to achieve by it.” (137)

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