Today's Word for Pastors...
But the angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God. You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus.
Today's Preaching Insight...
Trimming Your Sermons
In the most recent issue of his Ministry Toolbox newsletter, Rick Warren offers some suggestions for tightening those sermons. Among his suggestions:
Background material: I hate to tell you this, but your members aren't nearly as fascinated by archeology and linguistics as you are. Do as much background study as you can in the exegesis, but share as little of it as possible in your sermon. Remember, preaching is not a seminary class. You are preaching for life change. You don't have to explain everything about a text to your congregation. Describing too much detail of the text can actually hide or dilute the power of the text. When you pay too much attention to secondary issues, you miss the point and purpose of the verse. Figure out the purpose of the text and emphasize that.
Points: The Puritan preachers often would use 30, 40 or 50 points in their sermons. But exhaustive sermons are exhausting to the congregation. Here is a principle of life -- confinement often produces power. When an artist confines his painting to a canvas, a picture comes out. When water is confined to one channel, it produces hydroelectric power. When pianists confine their playing to the score, music is produced. When you confine your sermons to fewer points, you get a sermon with power.
Quotes and illustrations: You've got to trim your illustrations, too. Often we spend way too much time telling a story. Don't draw out your stories; condense them. A good story becomes a great story when you use as few of words as possible. Take a look at all of your stories. Can they be any shorter? Also, don't forget to take a look at your quotes. Sometimes you will find an archaic quote that has a kernel of a good idea in it. Well, just rephrase it. Shorten it to give it zing. You also can look at limiting the number of quotes or outside illustrations you're using if your message is too long. (Click here to read the full article.)
In the Dec. 11 edition of his Turning Point Daily Devotional, David Jeremiah writes: "A gospel group called The Williams Brothers had a hit with their song, 'I'm Just a Nobody.' It was about a down-and-out man who lived on the streets and spent his days telling people about Jesus. He was laughed at and harassed by passersby, but that didn't stop him. The chorus of the song was his life message: 'I'm just a nobody trying to tell everybody about Somebody who can save anybody.'
"The shepherds in the fields outside Bethlehem might have felt the same way when the angels from heaven appeared to them: 'Why did God choose us, a bunch of nobodies, to be the first to hear of the birth of the Messiah in Bethlehem?' They were just a bunch of nobodies who probably later told everybody about the Somebody in Bethlehem who could save anybody. Why did God reveal Himself to shepherds instead of to important royal officials? Perhaps to signal the kind of king who was coming into the world: gentle and humble, a servant-Shepherd who came to tend to God's flock.
"If you sometimes feel like a nobody, rejoice! God seems to gravitate to the nobodies of this world when He wants them to meet Somebody who can save everybody" (www.davidjeremiah.org).
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