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Content about Preaching

February 11, 2019

A while ago a friend of mine (who is not a preacher) made a good observation. She noted that when she began attending a certain congregation, she found the pastor’s sermons to be mostly just OK. There was nothing wrong with the sermons. They were solid, fairly interesting most of the time, and very biblical.

April 17, 2018

In one of the congregations I served, a friend of mine went through the training to become a Stephen Minister. Stephen Ministers work alongside the church’s elders and pastors in providing pastoral care to members of the congregation. One week the training focused on how to handle mental health issues. The training was given by an expert from a local Christian mental health hospital, and among the topics covered that week were depression but also more severe chronic conditions including bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.

April 17, 2018

We are very grateful that Howard (Howie) willingly shared the wisdom he gleaned through out his years of ministry with Reformed Worship. Since 1990 he has written over eighteen articles and resources for RW, all infused with his pastoral heart. Howie passed away just before Holy Week and while these are his last words to us here on Earth we look forward to engaging with him again as we worship together in the new heaven and earth.   —JB

January 22, 2018

When I began to write this article, it had been only a few days since philosopher Alvin Plantinga formally received the 2017 Templeton Prize at a ceremony in Chicago. Through his teaching at Calvin College and then at the University of Notre Dame—and through a bevy of influential articles and books—Plantinga revived serious philosophical engagement with theological and religious topics.

January 22, 2018

Ted Kooser—Iowan, former US poet laureate, and, like Wallace Stevens, an insurance man—famously described the reader he would choose as someone with “hair still damp at the neck / from washing it,” who takes down his book from the bookstore shelf, peruses it, and puts it back, saying, “For that kind of money, I can get / my raincoat cleaned” (“Selecting a Reader,” Flying at Night, University of Pittsburgh Press, 2005, p. 3).

January 22, 2018

Orthodoxy is right belief. Orthopraxy is right action. Paradoxy is a faith riddled with seeming contradictions, and the Christian faith is paradoxy extraordinaire. At the very heart of our faith lies paradox: Death leads to life. In fact, our sacred story is more of a triple paradox: a God who is three in one, who embodies his divinity in humanity, and who dies to bring life.

May 3, 2012

Pastors encourage people in our churches to be more than passive observers. Affirming the priesthood of believers, we encourage members to be active participants in the life of faith and in the work of the church. But usually these encouragements happen in the context of a sermon, where we do the talking and they just listen. We teach with our words about participation, but the way we do it teaches people to be disengaged, silent, and inactive. In this article, pastors Michael Kooy and Mark Brouwer engage in a conversation about interactive preaching.

May 31, 2007

In Part One of this article I presented the case that the church should consistently instruct and encourage Christians to live in obedience to God. Some complain that God’s law is a burden. Yet God’s will for our lives is not a set of arbitrary demands, it is how God designed us to live and the path to blessing. “Blessed are those who do not walk in step with the wicked . . . but who delight in the law of the Lord” (Ps. 1).

December 1, 1999

In the very early years of its history the Eastern Orthodox Church adopted the custom of using the Paschal sermon of St. John Chrysostom at the Paschal Vigil service held during the Saturday night before Easter morning. Chrysostom first proclaimed this sermon as instructions to catechumens, new Christian converts, who were baptized during that vigil service.

December 1, 1998

In the continuing challenge to keep our evening worship fresh, our congregation recently embarked on an unusual study of the book of Revelation. This book—full of dragon stories, horsemen, and angels—provided an intriguing series of nine worship services.

August 31, 1997

Thanks to comedian David Letterman, everyone seems to have a "top ten" list for something. With a touch of embarrassment for joining in the chorus and a genuine longing to be helpful to pastors who find themselves preaching in Advent "yet again," I humbly offer my own contribution: Top Ten Ways to Keep Advent Preaching Fresh.

10 Plan ahead and plan communally.
May 31, 1997

My mother seldom let us off with easy answers. After the Bible reading that followed family meals, she would often wonder about the meaning of an obscure text by peppering our family with "why" questions:

Why does God act like a general in an army that is responsible for slaying thousands of Israel's enemies?

Why would God ask for the human sacrifice of Abraham's son, after the manner of pagan religions?

Why does Jesus curse a fruit tree for having no fruit in a season in which it was not meant to bear fruit?

May 31, 1996

One cold January night, I reached Haddon Robinson by phone in Charlotte, North Carolina, where he teaches at the southern campus of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. A professor of preaching, Robinson divides his time between Charlotte and the seminary's main campus in Boston.

December 1, 1992

Following a prescribed pattern for preaching, such as the Common Lectionary provides, is certainly not a new concept in Reformed churches. For centuries pastors in the Calvinist tradition have preached sermons based on the consecutive Lord's Days of the Heidelberg Catechism. It's a practice called "catechetical preaching," and it grew out of the church's need to educate its people about the doctrines and standards that they professed.

A Confession to Learn By
December 1, 1991

The anxiety begins around mid-February Palms sweating, lips thin and straight as a mail slot, you peek ahead in your calendar. There it is staring up at you from the page—the queen of Christian festivals, the holy day of holy days, Easter.

December 1, 1990

"What can I use for a Good Friday sermon next week?" my pastor friend moaned over the phone. "I'd like to focus on one of Christ's sayings from the cross, but many of my people will have attended a community service on the seven last words in the afternoon. What's left to preach about on Good Friday evening?"

August 31, 1989

Two heads may be better than one.

Duane and Carl are preachers. It's Wednesday noon, and they're having lunch together at Burger King. Over a Whopper and a large order of fries they discuss the meat and potatoes they'll be dishing up for their congregations on Sunday.

This lunch is a regular part of their week. If s also a regular and important part of their sermon preparation.

August 31, 1987

I was startled. The preacher announced that for the first three Sundays of Advent he would preach on the second coming. I felt a rustling of discomfort around me. Don't we have enough to think about in Advent without worrying about the second coming?

After all, Advent is the time to soberly and joyfully prepare once again to receive God's gift of Christmas. Advent is the time to remember the ancient promises to Abraham, David, and the prophets. Advent is the time to ready our hearts to celebrate once again the joy of God's incarnation.

March 1, 1987
Preaching Christian Doctrine.

William J. Carl III. Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1984, 167 pp., $8.95.

A theological identity crisis is, according to the author of this book, the most serious problem plaguing the modern church. Since the cause of this plague is lack of Christian doctrinal preaching, says Carl, the antidote is a renewed commitment to such preaching. In this book the author gives a guide to doctrinal preaching that will fill the void left by years of sermons on marginal issues.

March 1, 1987

The preacher apologized. There would be no sermon this morning. It had been a busy week, and he hadn't finished his manuscript until late Saturday night. He'd typed it into his computer, and that's where it was now. By the time he discovered his printer wouldn't work, the repair people were all asleep.

As the preacher stepped down from the pulpit, the people stared, then started muttering…

August 31, 1986

Few churches place as much emphasis on preaching as we in the Reformed/Presbyterian tradition do. A worship service without a well-developed sermon leaves many, perhaps even most, of our seasoned members feeling empty. And in many of our churches one carefully prepared sermon a Sunday is but half of what members expect. When Sunday comes, congregations look forward to hearing two carefully thought-out expositions of God's Word.

August 31, 1986

By William H. Willimon. Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1984, 116 pp., $7.95

Those who prefer to keep worship frozen in always-the-same forms like to quote C. S. Lewis's essay "Liturgy." Lewis felt that a service "works best ... when, through long familiarity, we don't have to think about it. ... My whole liturgical position really boils down to an entreaty for permanence and uniformity."