Tag Archives: preaching


Here’s an embedded playlist of some sermons that I’ve preached at Covenant Presbyterian Church in Manurewa.

Most of the sermons are from either Mark or Titus.

A Sermon Without Christ In It

The motto of all true servants of God must be, ‘We preach Christ; and him crucified.’ A sermon without Christ in it is like a loaf of bread without any flour in it. No Christ in your sermon, sir? Then go home, and never preach again until you have something worth preaching.  — Charles Spurgeon (Sermon # 2899)

With varying degrees of regularity, I have been preaching for most of my adult life.  Over that time I have grown in my conviction of what Mr. Spurgeon is alluding to here and in several other of his sermons.

Sermon Without Christ

As I consider my pursuit of formal theological instruction, I began with questions:

  • How do I see Jesus on every page?
  • How do I preach Jesus in every sermon?

While these questions remain, I would say studying at Grace Theological College has thus far given me basic tools to answer them.  It’s these basic tools that I suspect will form the foundation of all and any ministry.

While I would be a fool to suggest one particular hermeneutic is as infallible as the text it seeks to exegete.  However, I anticipate professional development taking the shape of mastering that hermeneutic.  But this doesn’t mean I’ll never explore or glean from a differing one.

A Sermon Without Christ In It Is Like A Loaf Of Bread Without Any Flour In It.

Since my conversion in 2002, I have been exposed to at least 700 sermons.  This exposure has represented a broad spectrum of Christian expressions.  My assessment of these expressions has stood or fell on one criterion:  Is Christ being preaching?

Sermon Without Christ

TaleSpin was a cartoon I watched regularly as a child.  While its sagas were many a few standout.  Most noteworthy was a saga that involved what could only be a caricature of the Soviets.   Much as those who experienced life in Soviet camps, the characters of TaleSpin, imprisoned in these camps were subject to a similar diet.

Especially relevant to this comparison was the regular serving of steam soup.  No meat.  And no vegetables.  And no broth.  Rather, just steam scooped from a larger reservoir of steam.

Compared to the hearty Sunday Roast of English tradition, Christ-less sermons don’t even begin to compare to a sandwich.  Rather, Christless sermons aren’t even sandwiches without filling.  Instead “a sermon without Christ is like a loaf of bread without any flour in it”.

I consider this a grave injustice.  Consequently, I have made enemies within the so-called Christian church on account of my unwillingness to concede group on this issue.  It has lead to much anger, and need for repentance and reconciliation because many times, though the cause was noble, I was not.

As a result of conflict and the assessment of my own reactionary conduct, I realise that I can do little to change the menu in a church in which I have little if any influence.

Rather, the best thing I can do is to resolve, like Paul, to know nothing amongst the church but Christ and Him crucified.  That is my ambition in ministry.

The single greatest need in the world today

“The greatest need in the world today, is for a revelation of the love of our heavenly Father and that love is revealed in Jesus Christ. The greatest tragedy in the world today, is that those who are called to reveal the gospel, reveal something other than the good news of Jesus.” – – Paul Ellis

WWSS? (What Would Spurgeon Say?)

The greatest need in the world todayThe greatest need in the world today

“The very idea of a “Christless sermon” appalled Charles Spurgeon. It was a plague he confronted repeatedly (and vividly) in his own sermons. Although sometimes overstated to make his point, his words are a healthy challenge today over 100 years after his death.”  – – Erik Raymond

What is the greatest need in the world today?

That we preach Christ and Him crucified.

“For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.” 1 Corinthians 2:2

Why Knowing Your Flock Is Critical To Meaningful Preaching

Cross posted from 9marks.  Bits that caught my attention are in quote-format.

Why Knowing Your Flock is Critical to Meaningful Preaching

Jared C. Wilson

The preacher paced the stage, staring earnestly out into the congregation. It was time for his weekly invitation. He asked for respondents to raise their hands. Not a single hand was raised. But he had no way of knowing this because he was on a video screen.

I found myself at the nearest campus of this multisite church on assignment from the pastor himself, a man who had recently hired me to do some freelance research work for him. Visiting one of his many remote services was supposed to help me get a “feel” for his ministry. It certainly did. But I couldn’t help but be struck with the feeling that this way of doing ministry couldn’t really help the preacher get a “feel” for his congregation.

not satisfied with our sherpherding

I don’t know what you think about video venues or the multi-site model of church growth in general, but this experience and others has only affirmed some of the concerns I have about the disconnect between preacher and flock, a growing dilemma in all kinds of churches, big and small.

Indeed, this dilemma isn’t merely limited to multi-site, “video venue” churches. Pastors of growing churches of all sizes will continually struggle with staying familiar with their congregations. And the temptation to become more and more isolated becomes greater as more complexity is added to an increasing church.

And of course, it’s impossible for a preacher of even a small church to be best friends with everybody in his church, and it’s impossible for preachers of larger churches to know everybody well. But the preacher whose ministry is becoming more and more about preaching and less and less about shepherding, the preacher who is becoming less and less involved with his congregation, is actually undermining the task to which he is trying to devote more of his time! Good preaching requires up-close shepherding.

The ministry of preaching cannot be divorced from the ministry of soul care; in fact, preaching is actually an extension of soul care. There are a host of reasons why it is important for pastors who want to preach meaningfully to know their flocks as well as they can, but here are three of the most important.

1. Meaningful preaching has people’s idols in mind.

 As I travel to preach in church services and conferences, one of the first questions I usually ask the pastor who invited me is “What are your people’s idols?” I want to be able not to just drop in and “do my thing,” but to serve this pastor and his congregation by speaking as well as I can to any of the hopes and dreams he can identify within his church that are not devotionally attached to Christ as their greatest satisfaction. Sadly, some pastors don’t know how to answer the question.

When Paul walked into Athens, he saw that the city was full of idols (Acts 17:16). That said, he didn’t simply regard this as a philosophical problem but as a spiritual problem that grieved him personally. And when he addressed it, he did so specifically, referencing their devotion to “the unknown god” (17:23). And whenever Paul addressed specific churches in his letters, you will see that the kinds of sins and falsehoods he addressed were very specific. He didn’t speak in generalizations. He knew what was going on in these churches.

This doesn’t mean, of course, that you begin embarrassing or exposing people from the pulpit. But it does mean that you are in the thick of congregational life enough to speak in familiar terms.

Until a pastor has spent quality time with people in his congregation, the idols his preaching must combat with the gospel will be merely theoretical. All human beings have a few universal idols in common. But communities where churches are located, congregations as a subculture themselves, and even specific cliques and demographics within congregations tend to traffic in more specific idols and patterns of sin.

Knowing firsthand your flock’s misguided financial, career, and familial hopes will help you know how to preach. It will help you pick the right texts and the right emphases in explicating those texts. This is what makes preaching a ministry, and not simply an exercise.

2. Meaningful preaching has people’s suffering in heart.

 I can tell you firsthand that my preaching changed after I’d begun holding people’s hands while they died and hearing people’s hearts while they cried. Until you’ve heard enough people share their sins and fears and worries and wounds, your preaching can be excellent and passionate, but it will not be all that it can be—resonant.

Many preachers carry the burden of God’s Word into the pulpit, and this is a good thing. Receiving the heavy mantle of preaching hot with Christ’s glory, being burdened to proclaim the Lord’s favor in the gospel is a noble, worthy, wonderful task. But the preacher must also feel the weight of his people in that pulpit. He must ascend to preach having been in the valley with them. His manuscript should be smudged with the tears of his people.

Knowing what sufferings afflict his people on a regular basis will keep a preacher from becoming tone-deaf to his congregation. He won’t be lighthearted in the wrong places. It will affect the kinds of illustrations he uses, the types of stories he tells, and—most importantly—the dispositions with which he handles theWord. I have seen preachers make jokes about things people in his congregation were actually struggling with. And I’ve been that preacher. We come to lift burdens, but with our careless words we end up adding to them.

Preacher, do you have a genuine heart for your people? I don’t mean “Are you a people person?” I mean, do you know what is going on in the lives of your congregation, and does it move you, grieve you? Have you wept with those who weep? If not, your preaching over time will show it.

Think of Moses’ grief over his people sins (Exodus 32:32). Or of Paul’s abundant tears (Acts 20:31, 2 Corinthians 2:4, Philippians 3:18, 2 Timothy 1:4). Think, also, of Christ’s compassion, seeing into the hearts of the people (Matthew 9:36). You may believe you can work these feelings up without really knowing your congregation, but it isn’t the same, especially not for them. It’s not the same for them in the same way that hearing a stirring word from a role model is not the same as hearing a stirring word from your dad. Preacher, don’t take to your text without carrying the real burdens of your people in your heart.

3. Meaningful preaching has people’s names in prayer.

Every faithful preacher prays over their sermon. They pray that God’s Word will not return void (Isaiah 55:11). They pray that people will be receptive. They pray that souls will be saved and lives will be changed. These are good prayers. Better still is the sermon prepped and composed with prayers of John Smith and Julie Thompson and the Cunningham family on the lips of the preacher. Better still is the sermon prayed over in pleadings for Tom Johnson’s salvation and Bill Lewis’s repentance and Mary Alice’s healing.

Paul repeatedly tells the people under his care that he is remembering them in his prayers (Ephesians 1:6, 2 Timothy 1:3, Philemon 1:4). And since he is frequently naming names, we know he doesn’t just mean generally. And while Paul did not have one congregation to shepherd up close but rather served largely as a missionary church planter, he nevertheless worked hard to know the people he ministered to from a distance and sought to visit them as often as he could. How much more should the local church pastor develop relationships with his people! He should know their names and he should carry their names to heaven in prayer.

It is important to know who you’re preaching to. It’s important to know that Sister So-and-So doesn’t like your preaching. It’s important to know that Brother Puff-You-Up likes it too much. It’s important to know that the man in the back with his arms folded and his brow furrowed isn’t actually mad at you—that’s just how he listens. It’s important to know that the smiling, nodding lady near the front has a tendency not to remember anything you’ve said. When you know these things, you can pray for your people in deeper, more personal, more pastoral ways. And your preaching will get better. It will be more real. It will come not just from your mind and mouth, but from your heart, your soul, your guts.

This all assumes, of course, that you are interested in this kind of preaching. If you see preaching as simply providing a “spiritual resource” for interested minds or a pep talk for the religiously inclined and not as bearing prophetic witness from the revealed Word of God to the hearts of people, then you can safely ignore all the points above.




Jesus Prays

And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed. And Simon and those who were with him searched for him, and they found him and said to him, “Everyone is looking for you.” And he said to them, “Let us go on to the next towns, that I may preach there also, for that is why I came out.”  And he went throughout all Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and casting out demons. (Mark 1:35-39)

 Jesus Prays

Jesus Heals

And immediately he left the synagogue and entered the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John. Now Simon’s mother-in-law lay ill with a fever, and immediately they told him about her. And he came and took her by the hand and lifted her up, and the fever left her, and she began to serve them. That evening at sundown they brought to him all who were sick or oppressed by demons. And the whole city was gathered together at the door. And he healed many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons. And he would not permit the demons to speak, because they knew him. (Mark 1:29-34)

Jesus Heals