Pitfalls to Preaching (Part 2)

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Part 2! Mike and Steve help both congregant and preacher navigate through some very common preaching errors. Always lively, always Tuesday Guy.  

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The Priority of Preaching - Part 3

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telling Steve not to talk during this intro. I'll be silent as I can be for sure.
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Welcome to No Compromise Radio Ministry. I don't know if Steve likes this or not, but sometimes
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I've been saying, Welcome to No Compromise Radio Ministry, a .k .a. Duplex Gratia Radio, DGR.
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I think that's some kind of WWE move, isn't it? Duplex. You're getting hit in the duplex.
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That is so funny. Solar plexus. Why are they called solar plexus? Because we're going to hit you in the solar plexus so hard you're going to see the sun shining.
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You're going to see stars. A bright light. Crazy. Well, we have picked up part two today,
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Pitfalls in Preaching. Pitfalls to Avoid in Preaching by Michael Kruger.
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I think he had this on the Gospel Coalition website. I'd like to make an alternative suggestion for the title.
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Yeah. Pitfalls to Fall Into. Do this. Do this. What about that guy that, you know, digs a pit for other people to fall in, but he falls in himself?
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Ooh. Yeah. I think that's probably, that's a word to the wise. The self -snare.
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Self -snare. So, we were going through the Kruger article. There actually are some good things published on the
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Gospel Coalition website. Do you agree? I'm thinking. Come on. Well, this is a good one.
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Okay. There you go. Well, we don't endorse everything on the website. There's a few good things.
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There's wheat in the chaff. Does Harrison Perkins write once in a while for them?
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I think maybe. Harrison Perkins. I have no idea who that is. Okay. I'm just displaying my ignorance.
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I don't know who it is. Well, I guess you're only in Baptist circles if you were in Presbyterian circles. Harrison, I believe, was a
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West Cal graduate and then moved to the British Great Britain.
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I was just looking. And now he's back in Detroit. I saw like a Venn diagram the other day of the British Isles and I'm like,
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I had no idea there was a British Isle called Guernsey or one called Jersey. And I'm like.
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I bet you that's where we got the cows. Probably. The Guernsey cow and then the Jersey cow. But I was like,
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I never heard of those things. And they're there. I mean, the Isle of Man, I only know because of what's his name?
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The bicyclist, the Manx Missile. When all those stages of the tour, he's like tied for the most part.
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Mark Candlish. Cavendish. Oh, you know what? I imported a commentator on the epistles of first John, Robert.
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Candlish or something. I thought you were thinking about Marie Callender. When's the last time you were at Marie Callender's in California?
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Well, they keep shutting them down, but I think it was before COVID hit.
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My stepmom and I went out there. Okay. Well, now they closed the In -N -Out Burger in Oakland because of crime.
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Yeah, I don't blame them. I think if you commit a crime, you should do the time. No doubt about that.
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All right. So the first one we looked at last time was confusing expository preaching with running commentary.
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So we don't want to do that. We don't want to just hear the dump truck backing up.
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Beep, beep, beep, beep, beep. We need one of these sounds here on our little control panel.
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I don't think we have one of those beeping sounds. Do we? I'm just trying to imagine, you know, you're sitting there listening to a sermon and you just start making that noise.
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Beep, beep, beep. Here comes the information. It's a data dump, baby. I don't have that one, but I have the sensor here in case you're going to say the wrong words.
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Steve, I can't believe you said that. Well, I didn't, but thanks anyway.
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Okay. And the second one was more illustrations is always better.
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So make sure there's some exhortation and structure in your sermons was the first alternative to the pitfall.
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And secondly, make sure you illustrate properly, but not too much. And then number three now is new. Thinking, this is the third pitfall, thinking that preaching
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Christ means preaching justification. So I didn't read what he said, but what kind of thoughts do you have there,
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Steve? Well, I mean, you don't want to equate those two necessarily, but on the other hand, if I preach
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Christ and I'm not talking about justification, I don't know what I'm doing, right? I mean,
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I think that has to be part of the picture. He says here it highlights his salvific sacrifice.
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It highlights his priestly office, but he's also the ultimate prophet and king. So. Okay.
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Well, that makes sense, right? If you're only focused on one of his offices, that's not going to be that helpful.
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And even Sunday, I'm talking about Jesus, the preacher, is his prophetic office.
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Sometimes I think Christ -centered preaching is simply, make sure you preach the gospel in the message.
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And it's just that, and that alone. We're not learning about his person and his attitudes of compassion and kindness for the lepers and other people.
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That is to say, Sinclair Ferguson would exhort us, don't separate the benefits of Christ from his person.
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And so here, if we're just preaching justification, as Kruger writes, then we're not talking about the one who's gentle and lowly in heart, right?
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In Matthew 11, we don't understand the kind of Savior that seeks and saves the lost, that has compassion.
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And if a father has compassion on a son, how much more does the Lord, does that make sense? Yes. Yeah, we want to talk about his condescension, you know, his reaching down.
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Right. So, if you do preach and you preach the gospel every Sunday, well, that's wonderful.
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I just want to stress the fact that while difficult to talk about other areas in the
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Lord's life, because we just default to death, burial, resurrection, it's worth it.
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It's good for the congregation to get to know Jesus better. You know, just reading this last thing he says here, if one fails to grasp this point, then every sermon gets bent around to justification.
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And I'm like, I've been accused of, you know, on occasion of making every sermon about the sovereignty of God, and I'm like, it's kind of hard to argue.
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I mean, it's kind of hard to get away from that, I guess is what I'm trying to say. You know, today's message has nothing to do with the
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He's pretty much sovereign throughout the whole scripture. I don't know. Maybe also what
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Kruger could be thinking, and we don't have to dive into this too deeply. But if you look at the two Westminster seminaries, one in Escondido and one in Philadelphia, with the same name, but not related in any way, shape, or form now in terms of, you know, the boards and all that.
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But if it could be said of Westminster Escondido that they have a focus on sola fide justification, and that Westminster Philly has a focus on union.
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I mean, they both believe the other, obviously. Maybe that's somehow what he's thinking about, that union is very, very important too.
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And of course, in Christ and in him and all that, used more than sola fide passages.
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But, you know, which one comes first? What's the emphasis? Do you have one without the other? So, we want to just make sure we talk about the
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Lord Jesus and not just his benefits, but the one who's giving us the benefits. Absolutely. All right.
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Number four, the fourth pitfall. See how much faster we're going now? Super fast. Fourth pitfall, refusing to cut good stuff from your sermon.
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Now, I'm going to let you make the comments again, Steve, first, because this is stuff
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I've heard you talk about a lot, i .e. cutting room floor. Well, because it's something that I think
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I learned. I mean, I'm still learning, but I think I learned fairly early on by listening to bad examples of it.
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You know, guys who are given 45 minutes to preach and they go for an hour, and it still feels like they're rushing to get to the end, you know.
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So, they go an hour and five minutes or something like that, because – and you and I have had conversations about different passages where it's easy to get caught up in the minutia and trying to understand everything to do with this text.
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And then here's the question I always come to. How does it preach? And if the answer is, well, it doesn't, or here's another question.
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How does this fit within the theme of my sermon? Well, it doesn't. Okay. So, you know, so what am
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I going to do with that? I'm just going to – you know what, guys, I just have to – I know my three points today are about, you know, the importance of baptism.
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But in the same context, I also read, you know, blah, blah, blah, blah, so I have to give you this.
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It just sounds like, you know, I had a really nice song going, and all of a sudden, somebody threw the cymbal down to the floor.
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What in the world was going on, you know? Well, we only have so much time, right?
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Let's say 45 minutes is the sermon, and we've studied, hopefully, depending on the week, 10, 15, 20, 25.
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I've studied over 30 hours for sermons in my life. I don't do that really anymore because of the aggregate knowledge, but we study a lot.
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And I have always said this, and it's good to hear Kruger say it. If you film a movie, record film in a movie for 12 hours, it's a good producer that can cut those 12 hours down to a wonderful 90 to 100 minutes, and you just have to leave the rest, and maybe you save it for an extended version or outtakes or something.
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But we've got to condense our 15 hours of study into 45 minutes. I mean, how many times to just stick with the film thing, how many times have you sat in a or watched a movie and just thought, okay, this scene has nothing to do with the movie?
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And, you know, you include it in the movie because I guess you liked it. You're thinking to the director, but this is 10 minutes of my life.
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I'll never get back, and it really wasn't worth it. And, you know, it's that same thing. We've got to think when we preach, we want to be putting the very best things that we've learned, and not only the very best things that we've learned, but the very best things that we've learned that fit within the parameter of what we've chosen to preach.
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Because it's possible. I mean, if you and me and three other guys who are expository preachers, if we all took the same text and we all did our own independent study,
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I can guarantee you that none of our sermons would be exactly like the same. You know, we may not even have the same points.
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We might not even have the same major theme. We could choose different ones because it just depends on the text.
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But this idea that, you know, that we can't edit things, we have to edit things.
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And, you know, I know there are guys who think, well, there's so much here that I've got to have three sermons.
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Well, maybe, but maybe not. Maybe you're not that good.
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Maybe you should just take the best out of all that stuff and put it together in one sermon and have a really good sermon.
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Steve, as you were saying that, I felt really convicted, especially early on in the ministry, even for a long time, first 20 years maybe of preaching.
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I think my sections of scripture were too small. I tried to exact too much stuff out of the passages and put them into my sermons instead of taking a larger section, a larger pericope, a larger paragraph or thought, and then letting the text do most of the speaking instead of me, who knows, adding in systematic theology or something like that.
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I went out for dinner the other day, and it was a nice dinner. And what do you notice, dear listener, about all nice dinners?
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The quality of the food is good, and there's not too much of it, right?
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And it's well -plated. So, it's good food, nutritious, tastes great, probably tons of salt and butter, and it looks nice on the plate, some drizzle, there's a lot of space on the plate, and it just looks nice.
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And therefore, lots of times our sermons, I think, need to be that. It just sometimes less is more, and all the stuff that we've learned, what?
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Because your analogy just had me thinking, can you just imagine, they bring out your food to you, they bring out the steak or whatever, and the chef comes out, and he's watching you eat, and he goes,
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I just couldn't bring myself to remove that gristle and fat. It's too good. You need to see that.
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And that's sometimes what preachers do. Here, this gristle and fat was just too interesting. I had to let you chew on it too.
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Kruger doesn't say it because he only gives seven, the perfect number, I'm sure, for that. But sermons are too long.
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That's a pitfall of preaching. We could add our own, they're too long, and it's related to this because you don't want to cut things, so then your sermon's too long because you feel like you have to talk about every little detail and every little nuance that you found.
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Long sermons. You and I know some people that are 60, 55, 65, 70.
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Because my people need it. Well, that, and then they say, well, I can carry them for that long.
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I've yet to meet the guy say, well, I'm so fascinating that people usually, after I've done 75 minutes, they're like, don't you have a little more, pastor?
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I'm sure I think too highly of myself. I think I can probably preach after 35 years of preaching, and I at least preach better than I used to preach.
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That's for certain. And I think I can preach better than quite a few other people, and that's at least in my own mind. Other people can be the judge.
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But I know that I should not be trying to hold people's attention for more than 49 minutes.
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I mean, a few times I've gone 52 this year, but I don't want to do that. I want to say, here's the message, and I want you to say, yes, biblical,
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Christ -centered, et cetera, but I wish he would have preached more versus when will he ever sit down?
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Boy, I thought that plane was going to run out of fuel a little while ago. I talked to someone today, a friend of a friend, and he's been diagnosed with leukemia,
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Christian man in the South, and he asked if he could call me. We talked for a while, and I walked him through things.
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And it was a longer story, and I said, now I'm going to land the plane. I can feel myself even talking to someone, it's time to land the plane.
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Isn't that funny? I mean, it's like being a quarterback in a pocket. You know, like you watch, if you watch an
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NFL game, the analyst will be a former quarterback, he'll be like, oh, you know, because they have that clock going off in their head.
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And, you know, it's just like with preachers, you're just like, you intuitively know some conversations need to come to an end, you know, it's time to land that plane.
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I know. Number five, this is an interesting one, the fifth pitfall, according to Kruger, assuming that using original languages means parsing verbs in your sermon.
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I mean, there are some guys I could actually imagine in my mind, them bringing their diagrams up and putting them up on, you know, on a whiteboard or an overhead projector.
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See, this is why I'm doing this. This is the adverb, and here's the, you know...
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I think they're known by doctor on their Twitter handles. I'm not going there, but, you know,
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I'm just saying, I'm just saying that some people are good. I mean, is it good to know these things?
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Yes. Is it good to study these things? Yes. Is it going to move the souls?
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You know, is it going to convict anyone? Is it, you know, well, you know, if I had just known that that adjective, you know, is only, you know, can only be placed between these two words, that would have,
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I never would, I'll never read the Bible again the same way. Thank you, pastor, for that. You know, I appreciate the grammar lesson.
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Steve, I think this is especially important for new pastors where they don't need to talk about all their Greek stuff that they've learned.
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And, you know, they're proud of it. They understand the Bible better when you can understand Koine Greek, but I don't want them to talk about it as much.
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I think if you have a congregation that you've been preaching to for years and years and years, and you've educated them, and if you tell them a present tense, in other words, it's a continuation, keep on doing this.
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Paul says, rejoice always. And the way it's written is don't ever stop. There'll be times where you want to stop rejoicing, but the command is don't ever stop.
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And so if you said it's a present imperative and then described what that means, do that once in a while.
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I don't, I wouldn't have a problem with that, would you? Yeah, I mean, you don't want to go, you know, this is the, you're in the
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Hebrew and you go, this is the pu 'al, you know, or whatever. I mean, there are things that people just don't, they just don't care about.
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But, you know, if you say, for example, this is in the perfect tense, and so it's a one -time action with ongoing effect, you know, and here's how that applies to you, right?
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You know, you're washing your sins once for all or whatever. It can help people.
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It can encourage them. But, you know, you shouldn't be, you shouldn't sound like you're the English teacher.
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Well, Steve, I hate to disagree with you, especially on this radio show. Go right ahead.
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But in light of what you've been saying in our disagreement, I think I'm going to change the name of the church just to make a point and to stick you in the eye with this stick, poke you in the eye with this stick.
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I'm going to change, because of my position of pastor, the name of the church from Bethlehem Bible Church to Pluperfect Bible Church.
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That's good. I like that. Well, instead of BBC, we'll be PPC, Pluperfect Church.
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Now, of course, I want the pastor in his study to know what kind of verb that is, and in the old days, you had to look it up.
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I had a New Testament parsing book that could parse every verb, and we'd have to look those up now with my phone.
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I just have Logos on my phone, and I can look any single time I want, and it'll say present, active, indicative, third person, plural, by one little look.
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Who shouldn't be a Bible scholar now? Anyone can do that. Right. Anybody can do that. So, I want them to do that in their study when
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I'm preaching through Luke 4, and he taught in their synagogues being glorified by all.
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I think, Steve, that is an imperfect verb, meaning he kept on teaching. We get one little glimpse here of what he said in the
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Nazareth synagogue, but he had been going around the surrounding country, in and around Galilee, and he would go and teach regularly.
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That's one of the reasons why his fame was preceding him, because he was preaching and preaching and teaching. And so, it's an imperfect, but I didn't really need to say that on Sunday, and nor did
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I. All right. We got two more to go, and we got 10 minutes. So, let's see. Five minutes a shot.
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We can do this. Number six, the sixth pitfall, according to Kruger, making application before you've developed a point to apply.
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He says, since preachers are eager to apply, sometimes it's easy to jump the gun. They will hurry over exegetical details and move to discussions about practical implications.
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Thoughts? I mean, I'm taking a moment here because this is really not a problem for me.
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I mean, I don't rush to application. But I think this is something that's common in evangelicalism, where application is the reason that people come to sermons, right?
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So, in that particular situation, I could really see where this is a problem.
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I think most no -compromise listeners, and maybe they listen to good podcasts and good preaching online, but their church isn't too good because they're out in the middle of nowhere.
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But most people, I think, that would listen to us, they wouldn't think this would be a problem that people have to avoid a lot, making application before you've developed a point to apply.
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This is something that's not really a pitfall in my mind either. Yeah. Well, but again,
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I would say if you go to, if you're in your big box store evangelical church, this is all they do, you know?
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And so, it's, you know, application precedes everything. You know, you find the reason that you're preaching, and then you find a verse or a passage to go along with it.
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Well, there's so many popular preachers, and they discuss marriage a lot, and the joys, and then how to solve problems in marriage, child raising, financial issues, like contentment at work, and things like that, that they just talk about it like a psychologist, and at the end, they add a verse on to somehow cloak it in the veil of the
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Spirit of God. Right. And so, you go, well, I know what that guy's going to preach on. He just has to find a text, and what they usually do, they put it up on the screen, and it's usually in the coolest version of their liking.
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It might not be message all the time, but it could be new living translation, has a cool phrase or something, so they use that up there.
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Or the New York Times translation, whatever, you know, whatever is coming down the wire these days, everybody's got their own translation, the passion translation, you know, whatever.
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Uh -huh. That's right. Did you know the ESV study, the ESV app on your phone, you can get different people now...
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To read it, yeah. Uh -huh. But I wanted to hear Conrad, but you have to pay. Yeah. They were going to pay me for Jackie Hill Perry to listen to.
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Yeah. I mean, some of the choices are a little odd there, yeah.
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Well, what happens is somebody comes onto the scene in a rush, and they haven't really been tested, not really any track record, and you're like, oh, they're kind of trendy, and they fit our certain demographic.
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Then you have them read the Bible. I'd like to know how much you get paid to read the entire ESV Bible. And then all of a sudden you go, oh, then they said that?
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Do we still promote that? By the way, if Crossway wants to talk to me about reading it,
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I'm available. I mean, just listen to our voices. I mean, it is... Voices made for audio.
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The way we think about our voices when we talk. Yes. I mean, come on.
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Steve wants me to do this one instead. It's my favorite. All right.
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Number seven, and we're going to disagree here a little bit, but that's all right. Number seven, seventh pitfall, thinking that preaching from a manuscript makes you a better communicator.
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So, before we do Steve does manuscript and I don't, what are the pros and cons of manuscript preaching?
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Because there are pros and there are cons. Let's start with cons first. I'll throw one out.
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Harder to do eye contact. Harder to think about something that's not in your notes and then add it in because you don't know how it's going to work out.
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No? I don't find it hard. I mean, because that will happen to me, but, you know,
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I could see where that...and I think, you know, I'm not going to take either side on this, but I think that when he says, thinking that preaching from a manuscript makes you a better communicator,
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I would tend to say yes and no. Yes, in the sense that from a manuscript, having written and thought everything through fairly thoroughly.
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Sometimes I'll spin a particularly catchy phrase or something like that.
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But I think on the other hand, what you're saying is true too. What makes you, you know, you in particular a good communicator...I
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mean, if somebody were to read a manuscript of your sermons, they might not go, that was as awesome as it sounded in person.
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But it's the personable nature of what you say that communicates in a very, you know, good way, in a very effective way.
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So I think there are pluses and minuses to both. I think there are probably, you know, when I was just recently down at a
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Ligonier event, I think basically almost nobody used any notes of any kind.
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I mean, it was like almost unnerving. Now, certainly they probably preached these messages a number of times, but there aren't many passages in the
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Bible where I'd go, you know, just hand me the Bible and let me go. Right? I mean, that's terrifying.
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I mean, there's probably a few where I would do that, but not very many. So I think, you know, in one sense,
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I think it can make you a better communicator in that, you know, you've got things more refined and you've kind of formulated them really well.
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But on the other hand, what you're talking about and what I agree with is, it's not just the eye contact, but it's also just the kind of you eliminating the distance between the preacher and the listener, you know, kind of making it so it's, it just really feels like you're talking to them, you know.
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Okay, Steve, I think that's an excellent insight. It's almost as if, all right, if I had a manuscript and I got up and I read it word for word on a
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Saturday night here practicing in the church building, and sometimes I used to do that, right? You get so nervous, you get there ahead of time and practice, and then get up and do it the same and read it on Sunday morning.
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With people there, it should be different. There should be a different feel, flavor. I don't know how to subjectively talk about this.
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I mean, this is Lord's Day aside and what the Spirit of God does on the Lord's Day, but it should be different, right?
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When there's people there, the way you deliver it is different. And maybe I could do that as I read the manuscript. Certainly with manuscripts, you know the time, right?
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You know exactly how long this is going to be. Yeah, more or less. If you're a new preacher and you need to have the value of words that are precise, you're saved through faith, not because of faith, and you want to make sure you're not a heretic, you write that down perfectly.
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You write down your intro word for word because you get up there and see the people staring at you with their
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Bibles open, and you're going to flub it because you're too nervous. You could write that down. So, I see benefits to manuscript preaching.
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I think maybe the longer you preach, though, maybe you rely on them less. What you probably do is you look down, and it says in your text, addressing these seven pitfalls won't automatically make preaching easy.
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You look at it, and then you look at the congregation, and you probably say something similarly, but not exactly. Does that happen?
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Yeah. And I think the other thing is, you know, even having a manuscript, the reason it's never going to go word for word with what
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I, it's not because my reading skills are poor or anything like that. It's because I'm also responding to what the audience, what
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I see in the audience, right? If they laugh at something I say, you know,
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I'm usually ready for that because I have an ear for my writing, if that makes sense.
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I know when something is going to make people respond in a certain way, right?
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And so, when they do that, then maybe I'll respond in a different way, kind of thing. You know,
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I mean, there is a certain response that goes on.
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But I think the other thing is, I'm going to veer,
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I mean, exactly what you said earlier, I'm going to veer away because something, even something I say as I'm preaching might trigger something that I didn't even think about when
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I was preparing my sermon. And so, I just kind of take it in a little bit of a different direction, not intentionally.
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And then, then I'll have to, like, later on, find my way back into my manuscript, wherever I am. That's what
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I meant about one of the possible cons, right? Good thought, Steve. We need to wrap this show up.
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What you said earlier, though, I want to highlight again. We write manuscripts for the ear.
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If you must write a manuscript, write for the ear. And that's why you should practice your manuscripts on Saturday nights or Saturdays, because, you know, typically when we write, we write for the eye, right?
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And that's why I think if you take my sermons, and if somebody wrote down everything I said, and then you handed it in for an essay for a class,
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I'd get a bad grade because it's disjointed, somehow it doesn't flow right, because it's not for the eye, it's for the ear.
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And therefore, if you're a preacher and you want to use manuscripts, I'm just glad if you're preaching Christ and not doing these other pitfalls.
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I do make the suggestion that use the strikethrough font in part of your manuscript that you're very familiar with.
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So, if you have to look at it to read it, you can still write, I mean, read strikethrough font, but strikethrough font should tell you, you know this, you can talk about it, right?
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If you were going to have in your manuscript, what is sola fide? And you wrote it out, forensic, judicial, legal, etc.
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And then I said, Steve, close your manuscript and tell me what justification is. You do it. Yeah.
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All right. So, Steve, I think we're 0 for 7 on this. We didn't do any of the pitfalls, nor have we ever done any of the pitfalls.
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I'm pretty glad. Well, I mean, see, I look at number seven and I'm going, well, you know,
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I mean, I think I probably hewn too close to my manuscript on occasion. So, you know,
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I'll plead guilty there. I meant in a joking fashion that I've done so many blunders from the pulpit, and it's not even funny.
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I used to think that BBC, and I'm sorry to admit this, but I used to think, you know what, they're blessed to have somebody like me.
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This is, you know, when I'm younger, preaching the Bible and not a bunch of church growth, weird stuff. And they're blessed to have somebody like me.
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You know, if I died, it's like Jonathan Edwards said, the death of a pastor is judgment on the church, you know, of a faithful pastor.
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You're like, oh. And now looking back, the patience of the people in this congregation for a young 36 -year -old who thought he knew everything,
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I'm so thankful for the patience of Bethlehem Bible Church. Well, I mean, the
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Lord is gracious and his people, you know, are gracious as well. Amen. Mike Avendroth, Steve Cooley, Michael Kruger, Pitfalls of Preaching.