10 Hindrances to Transformative Expository Preaching

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The call to preach is both a glorious and fearful one: glorious because God uses His proclaimed Word to give life and transform hearts, and fearful because we are imperfect vessels with the potential to hinder God’s transformative work in the world.

The following ten hindrances to transformative expository preaching* will undermine faithful ministry over the long haul.

1. Unbelief.

The author of Hebrews reminds us that “without faith it is impossible to please Him” (Hebrews 11:6)—a truth for preaching and all of life. To faithfully preach the truth, you must believe the truth and be compelled by it. While God backs His proclaimed Word no matter what, the effectiveness of preaching can be greatly hindered if people sense insincerity or artificiality in the preacher. Preachers need to exercise faith in and out of the pulpit in order to please God, set a faithful example (1 Timothy 4:12) and persevere under trial (2 Timothy 3:12). As sinful people prone to faithlessness, we must make the prayer of the man with the sick child in Mark 9:24 our own, “I believe! Help my unbelief.”

2. Lack of personal holiness

“It is not great talents God blesses so much as great likeness to Jesus.” —Robert Murray McCheynePaul warned Timothy in 1 Timothy 4:16 to, “Keep a close watch on yourself and the teaching.” Preachers must exemplify the message they proclaim in Word and deed, and if they don’t, they not only disregard qualifications for elders in 1 Timothy 3:1–7, but also will hinder the work of God through them over the long haul. A preacher that fakes holiness and love for others will undermine and hinder the fruit God desires to bear while storing up judgment for themselves (James 3:1).

3. Prayerlessness

A preacher who is prayer-less misunderstands the task of preaching. God calls preachers to proclaim His life-giving word to the spiritually dead—and only God’s Spirit can bring the dead to life. With the enemy of our souls on the prowl, we must pray, and call our people to pray, for the powerful proclamation of God’s life-giving Word.

Charles Spurgeon comments on the need for prayer:

The bell in the steeple may be well hung, fairly fashioned, and of soundest metal, but it is dumb until the ringer makes it speak. And … the preacher has no voice of quickening for the dead in sin, or of comfort for living saints unless the divine spirit [Spirit] gives him a gracious pull, and begs him speak with power. Hence the need of prayer for both preacher and hearers.

4. Lack of clarity

“Remember that to attain simplicity in preaching is of the utmost importance to every minister who wishes to be useful to souls,” writes J.C. Ryle in Simplicity in Preaching. “Unless you are simple in your sermons you will never be understood, and unless you are understood you cannot do good to those who hear you.” The Apostle Paul agrees, and that’s why he asks for the Colossian church to pray “that I may make it [the gospel] clear, which is how I ought to speak” (Colossians 4:4).

This is one reason Leadership Resources uses the hermeneutical principle called “Finding the Big Idea.” One Indonesian pastor confessed that before learning this principle, “I would preach thirty minutes to an hour and still have no right direction to the sermon.” But now, sticking to his Big Idea gives him clarity—and his people are understanding God’s Word more deeply.

5. Not laboring for author’s intent

Preachers must resist the urge to use the Bible as a launching pad for their thoughts or ideas. We need to diligently and deeply study Scripture to uncover the main message that God, through the biblical author, wants to communicate through a text. Once we find that message, it is our task as preachers to shepherd hearts with it.

Many preachers stop just short of the Scripture’s authorial intent. In their preaching, they will answer the question, “What does the text say?”, but will avoid taking the needed step to ask, “Why does the text say what it does?” Asking why a text says what it does leads to the transformational intent God of the passage (or book).

6. Lack of application

“The exposition of Scripture remains incomplete until a preacher explains the duty God requires of us.” —Bryan ChapellGod’s Word is meant to be heard and obeyed. In sharing specific points of application, we can help connect the transformative intent of the Scriptures with the daily thoughts and actions of our hearers. When studying a passage to preach, we need to ask, “What transformation was God seeking to accomplish through this passage in the life of the listener?” This is the Intended Response of a passage, fleshing out the passage’s transformational intent for the lives of your hearers.

7. Preaching a Christ-less sermon

Jesus Christ is at the center of not only the Scriptures (Luke 24:44), He’s at the center of the entire universe (Colossians 1:16–20). If we preach a message that fails to present how a particular passage testifies to Christ, we fail to communicate the full meaning of the Bible, we fail to point people to the only Way to the Father (John 14:6), and we fail to testify about the living Savior who alone has the power to save and transform.

Our preaching must help people encounter the risen Savior, and not merely preach morals or steps for a better life. The law (i.e. God’s commands) was never meant to transform hearts apart from the context of God’s grace to us in Christ (Romans 7:7–12, 8:2–4).

8. Not communicating the tone of the passage

Preachers need to dial into the underlying mood and emotion of a text. For example, when preaching Ephesians 1:3–14, preachers need to rejoice as they unpack the glorious riches of God’s love for us in Christ, while preaching a passage of judgment will mean a serious tone and emotive plea for repentance. Helping people feel what the author of the text felt in a certain situation will help shape biblically-informed emotional lives.

9. A lack of knowledge of the audience

For preaching to be transforming, it must rightly apply God’s Word to the lives and circumstances of the audience. It also must be accompanied in love. The more a preacher knows the lives and struggles of his congregation, the more he can apply the truth and grace found in Christ to their situations.

Consider how Jesus’ personal knowledge of the woman at the well in John 4 informed His words that led to her transformation. He knew she tried to quench her spiritual thirst with men, and offered her Living Water from which to drink. Tim Keller says it another way, “It is also impossible to understand a culture without discerning its idols.”

The apostle Paul is another example. He knew and loved the churches he planted and applied God’s Word to their situations, even being stern with them if the situation required—just ask the Galatians (Galatians 3:1–3)!

10. Impatience for God to work

A lack of patience will lead preachers to frustration and discouragement. It also may demotivate them from the hard work of faithful ministry. Scripture calls preachers to “preach the word…with complete patience and teaching” (2 Timothy 4:2, emphasis added). Patience is needed because transformation doesn’t always (or usually) take place immediately. We need a steady diet of God’s Word week after week to continually work toward full maturity.

In which of these ten areas do you most need to grow? Since the preaching of the Word has eternal ramifications, dedicate yourself to prayerfully pursue growth in each of these areas. As you grow, God will work His transformation in both you and your listeners.


*This list presupposes getting the content of the text right.


On April 3–5, Leadership Resources will have a booth at The Gospel Coalition National Conference in Indianapolis, IN.

Tuesday, April 4th, LRI will be presenting at 7:45am on the topic of Unlocking the Potential of Your Missions Strategy.

If you plan to attend TGC17 and want a reminder email for this event, sign up here.

Stay tuned for more information, or save $20 on your registration with the discount code “LRI”. TGC.org/2017.

5 Reasons Preachers Avoid Sermons on Hell

Article originally appeared on The Gospel Coalition.


What if someone said your preaching was missing one ingredient that could undermine the effectiveness of your entire ministry? Sadly, this is the state of much preaching today that aims to be biblical but misses something essential to a full-orbed biblical Christianity: the judgment of God.

Some who seek to be faithful to Scripture unconsciously avoid preaching hell because of an underlying framework; others consciouly avoid it because they perceive their listeners don’t want to hear about it.

Here are five reasons why preachers, whether consciously or not, may avoid preaching judgment:

1. They have subtly bought into a version of the prosperity gospel. 

Even pastors who formally reject the prosperity gospel can be tempted to functionally believe it in their hearts and proclaim it from the pulpit. Our materialistic culture only compounds this danger. Instead of proclaiming eternal judgment, preachers blunt the sharp edge of God’s wrath out of a desire to highlight what can get out of Christianity.

2. They have idolized God’s love to the neglect, or denial, of his other attributes.

While Scripture is clear that “God is love” (1 John 4:16), it’s equally clear that he is holy, righteous, jealous, and just—the judge of the universe to whom all will give account. Our feel-good culture of positive thinking may not like to talk about negative things like death or hell, but God’s Word has much to say about it.

A couple of years ago there was a controversy surrounding the lyrics of the song “In Christ Alone.” Those compiling a PC(USA) hymnal wanted to remove the line “the wrath of God was satisfied” in favor of “the love of God was magnified.” Exalting God’s love to the exclusion of God’s wrath does the opposite of what it seeks to accomplish: it avoids the bad news and makes the good news optional. This is one reason why starting gospel presentations with “God loves you” can be unhelpful. Well, of course God loves me, many in our culture might think. I’m pretty special. Then they might close themselves off to hearing and embracing the gospel that rescues us from God’s wrath.

3. They have a tragically diminished view of God’s holiness.

The holiness of God is one of the most neglected doctrines in evangelicalism today. Both the prophet Isaiah and the apostle John received glimpses into the heavenly throne room and heard the content of heavenly worship: “Holy, holy, holy.”

Only when we see God in light of his blinding holiness can we understand how flawed rebels like us deserve his righteous wrath. When we lose a sense of God’s holiness, his judgment begins to seem arbitrary.

4. They have a pragmatic approach to ministry.

Many churches today run like businesses, basing their definition of success on metrics. Instead of prioritizing faithfulness to Scripture and making disciples, they focus on weekly attendance, bigger and better programs, and the amount of money in the plate. When the goal is padding numbers for a human definition of success, though, it’s not surprising some of the more “unsavory” doctrines—like hell—get left by the wayside.

5. They fear man more than God.

Once we begin fearing our neighbor more than our Maker, a desire to please people will shape the content of our sermons. As preachers we must pursue the fear of the Lord, which is the beginning of wisdom (Prov. 9:10), and let him define ministry success. In ministry as well as in all areas of life, these words ring true: “The fear of man lays a snare, but whoever trusts in the LORD is safe” (Prov. 25:25).

May our attitudes echo that of Paul: “For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ” (Gal. 1:10).

False Savior, False Salvation

In A Quest for Godliness: The Puritan Vision of the Christian Life, J. I. Packer observes what happens if we neglect to preach God’s judgment on sin:

We cannot present Christ as a Savior from sin and the wrath of God. And if we are silent about these things and preach a Christ who saves only from self and the sorrows of this world, we are not preaching the Christ of the Bible. We are, in effect, bearing false witness and preaching a false Christ. Our message is “another gospel.”

A false Christ cannot save from God’s justice. Preaching a false Christ will lead, among other things, to false assurance. Indeed, proclaiming the good news while neglecting the bad undercuts the glory of the good.

Don’t Shrink the Story

It’s often easier to see where others ignore the obvious than to see where we do. Do we preach God’s judgment according to Scripture? Do we, like Paul, preach God’s kindness and severity (Rom. 11:22), Christ as Savior and the one appointed to judge the living and the dead (Acts 10:42)? If we are failing to present a biblically balanced message of God’s judgment, then we must confess this sin to him. Believe in the God of judgment who is also the One who extends mercy to us in Christ. Preach and read Scripture expositionally to give weight to everything God so graciously communicates to us.

Cultural pressures and itching ears can make us forget the great privilege and joy that comes with preaching judgment—the opportunity to proclaim the excellencies of the One who took the judgment that we deserve upon Himself, making the true life we all long for available to us.

Let us faithfully proclaim His gospel and pray our listeners would look upon the Savior in faith to escape the wrath to come.


Before you go:

 

“True Spirituality is Cross-Shaped”: David Jackman on 1 Corinthians and Gospel Ministry

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Leadership Resources recently had the pleasure of hosting David Jackman, the former President of the Proclamation Trust and founder of the Cornhill Training Course, for a week long session talking expository preaching and training preachers.

This video is an interview Kevin Halloran conducted with him about true spirituality and gospel ministry coming from our study in 1 Corinthians 1-3:

Here is a quick guide to the video contents:

  • 00:30 – What is going on in the Corinthian church and how does that relate to us today?
  • 01:11 – How should we think about spirituality and gospel ministry through the lens of the Corinthian experience?
  • 2:24 – How does our culture fall into the worldliness trap?
  • 4:10 – True spirituality is shaped by the cross of Christ. What are some of the implications of this for preaching and preachers?
  • 5:22 – What is the relationship between the Word and Spirit in preaching?
  • 7:05 – Can you explain the connection between the mind, the heart, and the will in preaching?
  • 8:50 – What are some of the greatest encouragements you’ve gleaned from 1 Corinthians for authentic gospel ministry?

Here are a few quotes from the interview:

“It is the power of God at work through the cross which brings people to faith and grows them in the church. Today, we are in danger of losing confidence in that.”

“The Spirit of God takes the Word of God to do the work of God.”

“The progress of the Word of God is through the mind, to the heart, to activate the will.” (borrowing from Martyn Lloyd-Jones

“Preaching is always with the view to a change of life.”

Here’s a two-minute highlight from the video:

Interview with David Jackman on Expository Preaching, Gospel Ministry, and Scripture’s Authorial Intent

David Jackman Expository Preaching Gospel Ministry Authorial Intent in Scripture
Leadership Resources recently had the pleasure of hosting David Jackman, the former President of the Proclamation Trust and founder of the Cornhill Training Course, for a week long session talking expository preaching and training preachers.

The video below is an interview Todd Kelly (Leadership Resources‘ International Director) conducted with David Jackman in which they cover the heart of training preachers, the heart of expository preaching, authorial intent in Scripture, and how biblical genre affects the task of preaching.

Here is a quick guide to the video contents:

  • 0:00 — Introduction
  • 0:40 — John Milton Quote… “The sheep look up and are not fed.”
  • 2:20 — What is at the heart of training preachers for gospel ministry?
  • 3:43 — The Heart of Expository Preaching: Who is in the driver’s seat of your church?
  • 6:12— What are some of the marks of a sermon that takes the Bible seriously?
  • 8:10 — What is authorial intent? How should it shape the sermon and where should it lead us?
  • 10:45 — Application and Authorial Intent
  • 12:36 —  What is biblical genre, and how does it affect the task of preaching?

Here are a few quotes from the interview:

“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, and then it will flow richly into other people’s lives as you are the channel of His grace.”

“Where the Word of God is rightly handled, the voice of God is heard.” click to tweet!

Here’s a three-minute highlight from the video:

Do You Love Books More Than People?

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The question, “What are characteristics of good preaching?” can bring many answers: a faithful handling of the Scriptures, relevant real-life applications, a clear communication style, and something that doesn’t put the congregation to sleep.

But how many people would include love for the congregation as one of the characteristics? Peter Adam shares the following in Speaking God’s Words: A Practical Theology of Preaching:

“To be servants of the Word it is not enough to love preaching: we have to love people. To love preaching means that we are loving our own actions, that we enjoy the ministry we do. To call it a ministry is a deception, because we are not ministering or serving anyone but ourselves and our sense of achievement. To love effective ministry is not enough, to love success in ministry is not enough, to love achievement in ministry is not enough. We must love people well. Our ministry is a means to an end, and its only value lies in the extent to which it serves the people who hear us. Why else would we call it a ministry?”

Loving others well is easy enough to understand, but harder to put into practice. Loving the needy and hard-to-love people is by definition, well, hard. One helpful way to evaluate your love for people is to compare it with another love, as Adam does, “It is one of the curious features of those who take preaching seriously that they often love books rather than people.”

Zing! Love books over people?

Books may seem preferable because we can control them. They don’t bother us with problems or need special attention. Books are good, but they are a means to which we perform our duty of loving others by feeding our flock God’s Word. How do we know when our love for people is not where it should be? Adam asks pastors four questions:

  1. When you buy the next book, is it because you would love to have the book, or because you love your people and want to use this book to help in your preparation to serve them?
  2. When you pray for your preaching, do you pray that you will preach well, or that the people will hear and receive your ministry and that it will bear fruit in your lives?
  3. Are you praying for yourself or for your people?
  4. Are you praying for your own achievement or for their edification?

Those questions get to the heart of the matter and reveal a misplaced focus that can creep into the life of a minister.

What does a deep love for people look like?

While many things can be said, consider two Scriptural examples:

1.The Apostle Paul.
While we know that Paul loved books (2 Timothy 4:13), his epistles reveal that his love for those he ministered to was deeper and more profound:
• “For I wrote to you out of much affliction and anguish of heart and with many tears, not to cause you pain but to let you know the abundant love that I have for you.” 2 Corinthians 2:4
• “For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them…I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings. ” 1 Corinthians 9:19, 22b-23
• “Even if I am to be poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrificial offering of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all.” Philippians 2:17
• “My love be with you all in Christ Jesus. Amen.” 1 Corinthians 16:24

2.The Lord Jesus Christ.
The gospels are peppered with demonstrations of the compassionate heart of Jesus when He saw lepers, widows, and people who are like sheep without a shepherd. His love even extended to those who nailed Him to the cross, as evidenced in His words, “Father, forgive them” (Luke 23:34). And of course the greatest action showing Christ’s compassion was hanging on the cross of Calvary, absorbing the wrath of God so we could have the opportunity to become redeemed children of God. “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).

Paul and Jesus loved people. My charge for you is simple: Love people.

Let every action you do in ministry be done to love others for the glory of God. Praise God that you can preach His Word for the transformation of your people. Praise God that you can administrate for the flock God has entrusted you to care for. Praise God that you can set up chairs, vacuum the lobby, and print Sunday morning bulletins that will aide your people in worshiping God.

Like Paul, lovingly pour yourself out for your people. Like Christ, love those undeserving of love. As you make the conscious choice to love others, something strange will happen: you will begin to feel love for people that wasn’t there before. Love is an action, not just an emotion. When we put love into action, the emotions will follow.

As we love others in the Spirit’s power for the glory of God, people will see and experience the love of Christ through us–which is what true ministry is all about.

“Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.” 1 John 4:7-8


All quotations taken from pages 162-164 of Peter Adam’s book Speaking God’s Words: A Practical Theology of Preaching.

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8 Reasons to Love Sound Doctrine

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Este artículo está disponible en Español.

I recently talked with a pastor who told me he was happy that 450 people left his church of what used to be 600. Why would he be happy?

For years Pastor Frank preached a prosperity message promising the blessings of health and wealth upon those in his church. And his people liked it. Then two of his children died over a short period of time, one from violence and the other from disease. His prosperity theology began to unravel. Where was God’s blessing? Why was this happening to him?

God revealed to Frank that he was preaching a false message that hurt his congregation and left them ill prepared when they experienced life’s deep reality of suffering. Preaching this unsound doctrine might have seemed to pay off in the short-run, but in the end it was leading people astray to pursue riches and blessings that Scripture never promises, and removing the focus on the better promises of Scripture.

The church needs sound doctrine to deal with complexities of faith and life.

What is Sound Doctrine?

Doctrine is “scriptural teaching on theological truths.”[1] Adding the adjective “sound” to doctrine sharpens the definition with the ideas of ‘healthy’ or ‘accurate.'[2] A good working definition of what the Bible means when it says sound doctrine is thus:

Sound doctrine is accurate scriptural teaching on theological truths that leads to the spiritual health and transformed lives of both individuals and the church as a whole.

Sound doctrine should be the content of every sermon, Bible study, song, and book we read at church. And it should be loved. Here are a few reasons:

1. Love sound doctrine because God loves sound doctrine.
Scripture commands leaders to “hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught” and to “give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it” (Titus 1:9). Sound doctrine flows from God’s words and revealed will in Scripture. God gave us His Word and sound doctrine so we could know Him, love Him, obey Him, and teach others about Him and what He’s done for us in Christ. Let us love it because we love Him.

2. Love sound doctrine because sound doctrine matures individuals and the church.
Unsound doctrine upsets faith, leads people astray, and ultimately wastes our time (like in Pastor Frank’s story). Teaching sound doctrine leads to spiritual maturity in both individuals and the church as a whole (Ephesians 4:11-14). As we feed on sound doctrine, we have less of a taste for theology that tickles our ears but ultimately leaves us unsatisfied and lacking what we truly need. Sound doctrine grows our faith and leads us invest time wisely for Christ and His Kingdom by maturing individuals and the church into the image of Christ.

3. Love sound doctrine because sound doctrine flows from the gospel.
In 1 Timothy 1:11, Paul says that sound doctrine is “in accordance with the gospel of the glory of the blessed God.” The gospel is a message to be proclaimed and taught. Sound doctrine is the substance of true gospel teaching. Our love for the gospel should be tightly bound with a love for sound doctrine because sound doctrine communicates gospel truths that bring salvation to their hearers (1 Timothy 4:16).

4. Love sound doctrine because it leads us to holiness.
1 Timothy 1:10 tells us that there is a type of living that is contrary to sound doctrine. Correct doctrine is tied with correct living, which is what Paul means when he speaks of “a knowledge of the truth, which accords with godliness” (Titus 1:1). Sound doctrine teaches us about a holy and wrath-filled God who hates sin but loves us enough to sacrifice His Son on our behalf to free us from that sin. True doctrine from a holy God produces holy people.

5. Love sound doctrine because it keeps us from false doctrine.
Scripture points to three sources of doctrine: devils (1 Timothy 4:1), men (Matthew 15:9), and God Himself (Titus 2:10). Sound doctrine flows from God Himself and is both uncorrupted and life giving. Sound doctrine is an anchor of truth, which steadies us from being “tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine” (Ephesians 4:14). A love for sound doctrine will be a “shield of truth” against lies and doctrines of the enemy, which are rampant today–even in many churches.

6. Love sound doctrine because it leads to action.
Scripture prepares men and women for every good work God (2 Timothy 3:17). Likewise, a healthy teaching of Scripture’s doctrine catalyzes both service and witness by instilling deep conviction and joy into Christians’ lives. Hearing the truth of Scripture taught clearly will exalt the mercy and grace of God, which will cause us to be thankful and obey His commands to be a light in the world and proclaim the gospel and “adorn the doctrine of God our Savior (Titus 2:7-10).

7. Love sound doctrine because a love for sound doctrine is a love for Jesus Himself.
Nothing makes me cringe like hearing Christians say, “I don’t need doctrine, I just want to love Jesus!” These people misunderstand that doctrine is what tells us about Jesus, who is Truth in the flesh (John 14:6). Jesus came to preach (Mark 1:38). His preaching involved communicating doctrine that would proclaim who He is and how His followers are to live in relation to Him and the world.

8. Love sound doctrine because it ultimately leads to worship
Contemplating truths about God and His works among men causes us to wonder in amazement at his goodness (Psalm 107). Worship is not just the end result of doctrine, it is also the reason it exists. Paul exemplifies this by concluding one of the most doctrine-rich portions of Scripture with this doxology: “Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!  (Romans 11:33)

God wants the sound doctrine to fill the church with holy, Christ-exalting and Christ-proclaiming believers who are maturing daily in their knowledge of God and obedience to Him.

Pastor Frank has learned a lot since he stopped preaching the prosperity message and began focusing on Scriptural teaching. Although many people left the church, new people began to come eager to hear truth. Teens that used to sit in the back of the church and send text messages during the service have now moved to the front rows and have began to serve and reach out to their community. This is a picture of sound doctrine in action. Teaching sound doctrine matters.

Where Sound Doctrine Begins

While studying doctrine in the local church is one great way to grow, perhaps the most important thing we can do on a daily basis is study the Scriptures carefully and faithfully. As we have trained pastors in the Fellowship of the Word program, we have often seen how growth in sound doctrine comes when the Word topples unsound doctrines rooted in a faulty theological framework, specific cultural values, or simply not reading Scripture in it’s proper historical, biblical, and literary context.

Let us heed Paul’s command in 2 Timothy 1:13 and, “Follow the pattern of the sound words that you have heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.”

[1] Baker’s Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology
[2]Entry for ὑγιαίνω in Louw, Johannes P. and Eugene Albert Nida. Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament: Based on Semantic Domains. electronic ed. of the 2nd edition. New York: United Bible Societies, 1996.

Kevin Halloran is the Content Strategist at Leadership Resources and on the Latin America Training Team. Follow Kevin on Twitter.

Are Preachers More Like Lawyers or Doctors?


In our pastoral training program Training National Trainers, we often illustrate one of the Dig & Discover Hermeneutical Principles called “Asking Good Questions” by contrasting the way doctors and lawyers operate.

lawyer-preacherThe illustration goes as follows: A lawyer starts with a conclusion (whether a person is innocent or guilty) then sets out to prove it. Sure, he may look at all the facts, but he emphasizes only those facts that will help win the case and downplays those that will jeopardize it. He starts with a conclusion then points to, or proceeds to, the facts. Preachers can often act this way as well by imposing their preconceived ideas on the biblical text instead of letting the biblical text shape their outlook.

doctor-preacherA good medical doctor, on the other hand, asks many questions about the symptoms, makes a thorough examination, asks more questions still, then arrives at his conclusion, the diagnosis, and ultimately decides on a treatment. Even then, further investigation may sharpen or alter his prior conclusions. He starts with the basic facts then proceeds to a conclusion. Preachers should be like doctors and let Scripture give the diagnosis and lead to the substance of their messages.

In the video above, Allan, one of the men we train in Honduras, shared how much this illustration changed his perspective about studying the Bible and preaching. (He shares at 1:10-2:05 in the video.) You can read his words below.

“All this teaching and all this presentation makes me search my own heart. Another thing I learned that … every pastor was like ‘wow!’ was when Paul was talking about how the lawyer operates and how a doctor operates…

The way that [Bible study] is done mostly in Honduras, is that we draw a conclusion and then we start looking for things that support our conclusion (what a lawyer does). A doctor asks all the questions and [understands] details first so he can arrive at the conclusion. That is something the pastors said they hadn’t heard before. If they hadn’t heard it, they hadn’t done it.”


“Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.” 2 Timothy 2:15

All part of training pastors to preach God’s Word with God’s heart!

Three P’s of Preaching from J.I. Packer

JI-Packer-Definition-of-Preaching2

How do you define preaching? You could answer that question a dozen different ways.

In an essay titled, “The Preacher as Theologian,” Dr. J.I. Packer defines preaching from a biblical and theological approach. Here is his definition:

“Preaching is incarnational communication from God, prophetic, persuasive and powerful…”¹

The second half of his definition includes three “P’s” describing God’s divine purposes for preaching and how it is that God can speak through human preachers:²

1. Prophetic

The preacher’s role is like the Old Testament prophets in the sense that he is bringing God’s Word to bear on his congregation. The difference between Old Testament prophets and preachers today is that preachers today communicate God’s message from the Bible instead of from a variety of means including oracles, visions, or revelations. According to Packer, the text of the Bible is “God preaching to us.”

When a preacher faithfully communicates God’s message from the Word, preachers act like God’s mouthpiece–which is one reason why Packer includes “incarnational communication” in his definition of preaching.

2. Persuasive

Preaching is different than merely giving a lecture–preaching demands a response to the truth of Scripture. It is to persuade others to receive and obey the Word of God. The Apostle Paul agrees, “Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade others…” (2 Corinthians 5:11). Preaching should be targeted not only by knowing the main point of a passage, but also knowing the aim (or desired response) of the sermon. Knowing a desired aim will cause the preacher to focus on the persuasive element of the sermon.

3. Powerful

When the Word is preached, truth is communicated in a living and power-packed way. “My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power” (1 Corinthians 2:4-5). As preachers faithfully proclaim the Word, the same God that brought creation into being is working in His power to sow the Word into the hearts of hearers by His Spirit.

Much more can be said about preaching, but I find Packer’s definition quite helpful due to its focus on the nature of the preacher in relation to God (prophetic), the goal of the message (to persuade), and the heart-piercing effects of God’s Word as carried by the Spirit (its power).

May all preachers of the Word prophetically persuade their hearers backed by God’s power!

Kevin Halloran is the Content Strategist at Leadership Resources and on the Latin America Training Team. Follow Kevin on Twitter.

Leadership Resources International trains pastors and church leaders in the US and worldwide to study the Word of God in depth using a variety of hermeneutical principles. Learn more about our training in the US and around the world or how you can help strengthen the global church with the Word of God!

¹From Packer’s essay, “The Pastor as Theologian” from When God’s Voice is Heard: Essays on Preaching Presented to Dick Lucas.
²The categories are Dr. Packer’s, the explanations are mine.

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The Assumption That Our Churches Can’t Afford

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An article was published recently on The Gospel Coalition by Jen Wilkin called, “The Assumption We Cannot Afford.” The assumption she warned against was assuming that people in our congregations know how to read the Bible for themselves.

Wilkin’s first glimpse of the degree of this neglect was after leading a year-long women’s Bible study and being overwhelmed with comments saying, “I’ve been in church for years, but no one has taught me to study my Bible until now.”

We often hear the same types of comments from pastors we train. While these comments can be very encouraging on the one hand about the importance and effectiveness of our training, they are also profoundly discouraging when thinking about the lack of training many pastors have.

Wilkin continues,

Church leaders, I fear we have made a costly and erroneous assumption about those we lead. I fear that in our enthusiasm to teach about finances, gender roles, healthy relationships, purity, culture wars, and even theology we have neglected to build foundational understanding of the Scriptures among our people…When we offer topical help–even if the topic is doctrine–without first offering Bible literacy, we attempt to furnish a house we have neglected to construct.

All Christians should have a solid foundation of Scriptural truth and a working knowledge of how to read the Bible. The Bible can be confusing and hard to understandPastors must teach their people the Bible and how to study the Bible for themselves.

Doing this will help their congregation more faithfully feed themselves the Word of God during the week and not rely on the knowledge or abilities of others. The more people get into the Bible for themselves, the more God will use it to sanctify them and prepare them for their own ministry (2 Timothy 3:16-17), and the more people will understand why the Psalmist could say the Word is more to be desired than gold and sweeter than honey (Psalm 19:10).

The results of our training are much like how Jen Wilkin describes the women she equipped as excited, “well-watered plants after a drought…finally being given some tools to build Bible literacy.

And yet so many church goers are plants still in a drought, so many pastors and church leaders are not being equipped or nourished with God’s Word. We recently heard a confession of a Honduran pastor who said that for thirty-five years in ministry (before receiving our training) he had been preaching nothing.

Does that break your heart? Hearing that story broke our hearts but encouraged us that God would not give up on this man but equip him for his remaining years in ministry through receiving training in the Word through Leadership Resources.

Will you pray with us that God would equip and nourish His people with His Word all over the world and have it increase and prevail mightily (Acts 19:20)? Would you pray for pastors like Rolando in Oaxaca, Mexico, a man who desperately longed to be trained in God’s Word and had God answer his prayer by sending Leadership Resources?

The Word of God is sufficient to do the work of God. It is our job to make it and its’ life-giving message accessible and understandable to others. We thank God for His power displayed in His Word!

Browse our site for more information about Leadership Resources or Training National Trainers.
Learn about how you and your church can impact a nation by sponsoring pastoral training.
Donate to Leadership Resources to advance and strengthen biblical ministry worldwide.

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Sermon on the Book of Acts: “God’s Plan for You” by Craig Parro

Craig Parro, President of Leadership Resources International, recently shared a message called “God’s Plan For You”, preaching through the book of Acts in one sermon. In the message, Craig expounded and applying its amazing truths to everyday life.

Listen to the message below or download this message on mp3.

Some notes from Craig’s sermon:

The Big Idea for the Book of Acts:

“The good news of Jesus’ death, resurrection and reign, authenticated by the Holy Spirit, spreads like wildfire throughout the Roman empire, bringing faith and joy, as well as suffering and opposition.”

2 Major Application Points:

1. Resolved, this year, by the grace of God, the Word of the Lord will increase, spread, multiply, and prevail mightily through me.

2. Resolved, this year, by the grace of God, I will seek to walk in the fullness and power of the Holy Spirit.

Summarizing Bible Verses in Acts:

Luke, the author of Acts, included many summary verses transitioning into a new section of narrative that describe the spread of the Word and the church. Here are five of those summary Bible verses:

  1. Acts 6:7: “And the word of God continued to increase, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests became obedient to the faith.”
  2. Acts 9:31: “So the church throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria had peace and was being built up. And walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, it multiplied.”
  3. Acts 12:24: “But the word of God increased and multiplied.”
  4. Acts 16:5: “So the churches were strengthened in the faith, and they increased in numbers daily.”
  5. Acts 19:20: “So the word of the Lord continued to increase and prevail mightily.”

Having “the Word of the Lord increase and prevail mightily” is exactly what Leadership Resources International strives for in our pastoral training. In our training program Training National Trainers, we equip pastors worldwide to study, teach, and preach the Word of God with the heart of God. The trainees then go and train others to teach and preach the Word, creating a pastoral training movement, making the Word of God run like in Acts!

Learn more about Training National Trainers, where we work, and how to get involved.

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