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giving a sermon vs preaching a sermon – travis black


Do you ever feel like you are “giving a sermon” instead of “preaching a sermon?” The first feels like pushing a sermon off the pulpit and hoping it crawls to people. The latter, though, feels like a fire rising from the pulpit, in which you invite people to huddle around. Do you know what I mean?

This past Sunday, we had an Egyptian leader of the evangelical movement in Cairo light a fire in the pulpit. He is doing a tour here and Australia to raise awareness of what God is doing in the Arab world…you know that place where Christians (and a lot of others) are getting killed or severely harassed. What do you say when that is your life?

“Our God is great!” he proclaimed. He elaborated, working through the Biblical story from Exodus to Jesus, that God is greater than our future, our mistakes, our limited understanding, and the kingdom of darkness. What would our churches look like if we really got a hold of that?

He showed us. He showed pictures where he joined with thousands of Egyptian Christians in Egypt praying that God’s greatness in Christ would ring out in the chaos of the Arab world. In the increasing volume of violent persecution against them, they wanted to increase the volume of praise!

He showed pictures of the hundreds of young people in Egypt he was training to be sent out as missionaries to proclaim the greatness of God in Christ to the Arab world. He is training a generation to give their lives for the glory of Christ.

He gave testimony of God changing the hearts of all types of people from all sorts of religious backgrounds.

What was powerful about his message wasn’t its rhetorical brilliance, though it was well-constructed. It wasn’t his presentation, though he connected with us all. It wasn’t his exceptional exegesis, though the scripture was well-used. It wasn’t even his illustrations, though they were thoughtful and engaging. Why was it powerful? Why did it touched deeply?

He believed it! What he was saying had captured his life.

He wasn’t “giving a sermon.” He was preaching! And to see so clearly the power of someone really preaching helped me to see how it was different from times I have simply “given a sermon.”

Giving a sermon is communicating ideas about the scripture.
He preached a sermon proclaiming what God had spoken to Him as he soaked in the scriptures.

Giving a sermon is trying to help people understand God.
He preached a sermon trying to help people respond to God.

Giving a sermon is fulfilling the job of a pastor.
He preached a sermon that came from living the life of a disciple.

Giving a sermon might encourage church attendance.
He preached a sermon that seeks to encourage crucifixion and resurrection.

Giving a sermon is helping people think, “I can make it through life.”
He preached a sermon that helps people think, “My God is greater than anything I’ll face in life.

Not only did I leave the service with the confidence, “My God is great!” I also left thinking, “I’d like to be a preacher.”

the right question? – travis black



My office gets way too crowded when I write a sermon…

I’ve done the study of a text and begin to craft the rough draft of a sermon, when I get the first knock.

First, it is my former professor of exegesis. He exclaims, “Have you made sure you have really listened to the text, done the word studies of important words of the Hebrew or Greek, understood rightly the historical background, and matched your sermon logic to the logic of the scripture?”

Without knocking, my former professor of New Testament comes in and shouts, “Have you made sure that you have properly placed the scripture in its Old Testament context? People can read the scripture on their own, but need you to show them where it fits in the whole story of scripture.”

Then, it is though the rest of my former professors walk in making me the subject of their staff meeting. “Have you spent 50% of your sermon exegeting the scripture and 50% exegeting the culture?”
“Have you drawn from the church fathers and church history to enrich your sermon?”
“Is Jesus Christ at the center of the sermon?”
“Do you have a clear thesis statement with well-marked points?”
“Have you incorporated the different ways people learn in how you will preach this?”

And if it wasn’t crowded enough, usually a couple of people from churches I have been a part of barge in and give advice:

“It isn’t too long, is it?” (This is repeated by several of them.)
“Do you have a lot of funny stories, I like those.”
“I like, pastor, more when you preach than just teach. I want to feel the power of God, not just learn about Him.”
“I love when you did that really creative sermon. Could you do something unique like that again?”

My wife and child also somehow squeeze into the crowded room saying, “Are you coming home? Do you really need to spend more time on that sermon? We miss you!”

And though all of these people aren’t actually in my office (my office isn’t that big), they are all very much there with me. Their voices fill my mind with those questions. All of them great questions, but taken as a whole, it is exhausting trying to answer each one of them satisfactory in a 28 minute sermon. Whether I am aware of it or not, I will prioritize certain questions over others.

I am interested, then, if you had to choose the ONE question that a sermon should convincingly answer, what would it be? Why?