Pitfalls to preaching (Part 1)


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


Welcome to No Compromise Radio Ministry, Pastor Mike Gabendroth. Oh, sorry,
I forgot to pronounce my name properly. It's Dr. Mike Gabendroth to you, Steve Cooley. Whoa.
Doctor. How does it work out? I think you got your master's degree before you got your bachelor's.
How did that all work out? Well, everything is done in reverse order in your life.
Why is that? Because I'm very backwards. Okay. I see you got some paper in front of you before we get into that.
Well, you can tell it's good radio because I'm rustling papers around. Rush Limbaugh made that a signature.
With my formerly nicotine -stained fingers. Did you ever smoke cigarettes? Negative. Dude, if you grew up around my dad, you'd never want to smoke cigarettes.
Oh, because he smoked a lot. Yeah. I remember going to Grandma and Grandpa's house and they smoked for a long time and then quit.
I would borrow a book, like a Louis L 'Amour book, and it would be yellowish and it would smell like smoke, cigarette smoke.
Because I do have this hobby where I play games, and so now if you want to sell a game that you've owned for a while, you have to say non -smoking home kind of thing because people want to know that.
Oh, interesting. Yeah. Okay. Well, I guess if you did digital games, it wouldn't matter.
It sticks to the hard drive. What about that thing that Elon Musk is trying to inject into your brain?
Would it matter if I was a smoker or not in the midst of that? I don't know, but these days, anybody who wants to inject anything in me,
I have to think two or three times, so. Oh, I see where you're going with that right now.
Why is the music still happening? Is that the end of the show? I don't know, but I'm not allowed to talk during that music, so I don't know why
I'm talking now. Well, what I meant was just, I have to push the button and it's just like a half a second where we're not supposed to talk.
For the people who don't know this now at BBC, because we've become much like no -compromise radio, when
Pastor Mike starts preaching, we actually play this music prior to. Well, Steve, now tell the truth to people.
It's not when I start. I come out of my enclave to that music to walk up to the pulpit.
And the smoke has to be white before we even expect to see him. The music just keeps going and going and going.
Can you imagine walking up to that? Ladies and gentlemen, now Pastor Mike Abenroth.
All right, today we are going to talk about Bible teaching and preaching.
And so it is very relevant because some of you that listen are pastors and teachers, and some of you listen to sermons.
So I think it's going to be good for both. I hope. I would guess it probably, if we were going to put a number on it, 99 .999999
% of our audience listens to sermons. See, there you go. At least they listen to podcasts.
Yeah, but I mean, you know, if you're not a Christian and you're listening to this, yeah, and believe on the
Lord Jesus Christ, you shall be saved. Maybe they're just listening because they like, you know, they like our little shtick.
You want answers? I think I'm entitled. You want answers. I want the truth. You can't handle the truth.
I think they tune in just for that. Probably so. All right. All right. So today,
Steve and I are going to discuss an article, a well -written article written in 2016 by Michael Kruger, entitled
Seven Pitfalls to Avoid in Preaching. What to avoid in preaching.
And when I read this, I thought, you know what, he's got a lot of very good points. And I think Steve probably agrees with most of them, so make a good show.
Okay. You don't agree with most of them, otherwise you wouldn't say Steve does. Well, you know, it's like Hollywood, right?
You can't have just kind of an average person on a dating show. You have to set up an average date on a dating show.
You have to set up people that they'll either fall in love and get married or they are going to just like hate each other. Complete disaster.
Right. So, we're going to talk about preaching a little bit today. And again, if you are not a preacher, it would be good to pray for your preacher.
I probably should start with that, don't you think? You get the sermon you pray for? Yes. Absolutely. Well, I mean, you ought to be preaching, preaching, you ought to be praying for your pastor all the time because so many distractions and other things going on, you know, to put together a sermon is a lot of work and a lot of mental stress, you know.
Steve, I'm glad you brought that up because it's easy to criticize preaching and even for us to do some of these pitfalls.
But the dynamic of preaching and the hard work of preaching and the labor that goes behind it and trying to bridge gaps of Eastern, Western culture, language differences, cultural differences, manners differences, it's very difficult.
Let me just say one thing that is absolutely not helpful at all. You come alongside your pastor and you go, you know what?
I didn't like that sermon. Or I didn't agree with what you said. And the reason is because usually if I say, oh, really?
Well, what didn't you like or, you know, what should I have changed or what did I do wrong?
I just didn't like it. Okay. All right. That helps me.
That's a great encouragement. Thanks, brother. Sometimes people say things like that because they don't like you, the preacher.
Which is fine. They cannot like me. You know, that could be a whole show.
Funny things, interesting things, dumb things we've heard people say after our sermons.
Let's just pick that up a little bit more before we get into the article. What else did they have people said to you that afterward you didn't really need to hear?
I mean, we've gotten complimented. That's wonderful. Encouraged. I think I told you the story.
One time a lady heard me preach here and she said to me at the door leaving, you're the smartest person
I've ever met. I laughed just like this. If that's what
I communicate from the pulpit that I'm trying to be smarter than somebody here in Central Mass, that's a bad sermon.
Yeah, that's not the best. Or like if somebody said, people will say things, I've heard this kind of thing, you're my hero.
And you know, my response to that, aim higher. You know. Unless it's your grandson. Yeah. Yeah.
I mean, you know, Jude or Declan or Colt, boy if Colt said that, that'd be wild.
But yeah, that's not, those kind of things aren't helpful. But sometimes people just go, you know, I just didn't like it or that didn't move me or that wasn't your best.
Oh, that's always encouraging. Yeah. Yeah. I already say that to myself on the way down from the pulpit stairs weekly.
That wasn't my best. I mean, I would just encourage the listeners to just think about this. You know, if you were preaching and you were to go up there, what would you be thinking?
You could think about a lot of things like, oh boy, this is terrifying speaking before all these people, et cetera, et cetera.
But here's what you ought to be thinking. Whatever I say today, I'm going to be held to account for it.
Those who preach and teach are held to a higher standard. So you know, you mentioned
Sunday, you had this wild moment where you talked about if Jesus walked in and, you know, and I just thought, okay, well, and you did say rightly that Jesus is here, right?
He's not physically, humanly present, but he's here. Just the idea that the
God of the universe is listening to me present what he gave us, you know, and how would you, how would you like to have him say, you know, what
MacArthur's prof said years and years ago? You know, that was very interesting, but you missed the point of the passage or something like that.
You know, Jesus sitting there going, okay, Steve, I didn't really dig that.
You know, it wasn't good. I cut corners in life, sadly, and I'm lazy in certain areas of my life, probably.
But Steve, when I study a passage, if I ever say to myself, is that like a present tense or imperfect?
Or I'm just trying to figure it out because I've lost some of my declension abilities in terms of parsing verbs.
I think I can say this, honestly, I always look it up because I realize this is not, well, you know, put too much salt in the toll house cookies.
No, no, this is, I want to be, thus saith the Lord, and it just takes me a moment to look up on the computer, is that an imperfect or perfect or present or whatever?
So, I always double check. Yeah, when we talk about rightly dividing the word, we're talking about this is, it's labor -intensive, it's a spiritual exercise, it's draining, it's a lot of things.
But to just get up there and, you know, to listen to your pastor and think, it was okay, whatever, you just, you don't know what he goes through before he gets up there.
And if you had to do it yourself, you'd go, okay, I'm never going to say anything negative to the pastor again.
Even when it comes to scripture reading, it's a lot harder to do scripture reading than you think it is, right?
And that's why my preaching classes here, the first lesson is on scripture reading, and I have the guys get up in this very room and read scripture because it's a lot harder.
And then what happened to me on Sunday, Steve, I'd say when I do scripture reading, eight times out of 10,
I don't even make, I try not, well, I try never to make a mistake, but I don't think I make one mistake. I'm trying to enunciate and I'm trying to speak clearly.
I'm not trying to speak too fast. I'm trying to give pauses. If there's a question mark at the end, I know it.
And I'm reading the scriptures and I hardly make a mistake. Well, Sunday, I'm reading 1
John 4 to start the service. And there are several places in the Johannine writings that we have the word for only begotten.
And sadly, while translating many other passages wonderfully in the
ESV, they've taken only begotten out and put in only. And that's in 1
John 1 .14, 1 .18, 3 .16, and in one other place,
I think in Gospel of John and in 1 John 4. I hate it. I really do hate it.
So you heard me, Steve. I read 1 John 4 and it said only son in the
English standard version. And then I read only son. And as I read it and heard me say it, my mind said, oh yeah, 1
John, whatever the passage was, 4 .8, it's only begotten, monogenese. And then I said it over.
Now that's in my mind instead of thinking about how to read the scripture. It throws you off.
And then compounded with, I think in the NAS. I am at home, I read the
NAS. My mind's NAS. And then if there's a different way something's phrased... Or they put it in a different order or whatever.
I have not butchered scripture reading like I did Sunday in a long, long time, but I did it.
I'm giving you excuses. I know, but that's went through my mind. And so even scripture reading is difficult. And I'll get up there, you know, to just follow along with that.
I'll get up there and I'll find myself probably two or three verses into a chapter going, you know what,
I better put my finger on this because I feel myself wanting to skip lines or to, you know, and I'm going,
I can't do this. You know, and so, I mean, people don't understand. And, you know, you're just like, well, what's so hard about it?
It's just different when you're up in front of the congregation reading the scripture, as opposed to sitting in the pew during Sunday school, just reading a verse, right?
It's a whole different deal. 1 John 4, 9 actually, God sent his only begotten son into the world,
I think it was 1 John 4, 9. I mean, I want to do a monogamist translation of the...
Well, it's kind of like, you know, there's the slave translation. Yes. Right. There's the, you know,
Yahweh, et cetera. So today on No Compromise Radio, we're going to start to talk about pitfalls in preaching, something to pray for your pastor about, something to think through if you're a
Bible teacher. Not many of us should become teachers, James 3 says, so I think it's worth talking about.
Number one, the first pitfall, confusing expository preaching with running commentary.
Thoughts? Everybody who's listening to this should know that this is just one of the easiest things to fall into, especially if you're in a narrative passage, because narrative passages, having this, the second narrative book in a row that I'm preaching through, they're hard to outline, right?
They don't have the natural breakpoints that an epistle has. So, you find yourself just wanting to just read it and kind of take a line, make a few comments, take a line, make a few comments, and, you know, and you just realize, well, wait a minute, that's not a sermon.
That's just kind of, you know, me writing my own, you know, the Steve's commentary, which probably wouldn't sell very well, you know.
So, why would I want to do that? I need to take the time to break it apart, to sort of examine it, understand it better, so that I don't do this.
Expository preaching is not running commentary. It's not just reading the text and, you know, every few words breaking into a little comment.
Steve, I don't know how many sermons I've preached in my life that I'm sure ended up being a running commentary, and I think probably the issue is, at least initially for me, it was probably time factored in, right?
I'm learning what the passage says and means, which is more important than the delivery.
The delivery is important, obviously. We're to proclaim the gospel. We're to preach good news.
Content is important, obviously more important than delivery, but since content is important, delivery, therefore, is important.
And then I didn't have enough time at the end because I spent so much time in hermeneutics that I couldn't put it together.
I couldn't put a nice bow on it. I couldn't present it well, and so I just thought, I'll just explain what the text says.
So, what's the difference between just teaching an exegesis class, here's what the Bible says, and preaching?
What are the elements that are missing there? Well, it's something we were talking about before we got in the air, which is, you know, if I'm just doing a running commentary,
I don't really have a point. Yeah, I'm not really trying to –
I don't know why that makes me laugh. Well, I'm not really trying to urge the
Church to think about one particular thing. I'm not putting it – you know,
I'm just laying out this whole, like, it's not even like a smorgasbord. It's like,
I'm just opening up the doors of Costco and saying, help yourself, you know? I mean, you might – one person might get toothpaste, somebody else might get carrots.
I just don't, you know, it's not really a problem for me. Steve, don't you think it's – looking at the passage and you dissect it into word studies and everything else, that's easy, actually.
What's hard is putting those things together in a synthetic fashion and an organic way, saying, this is what the mind of God wants us to understand as he,
Paul, for instance, or Peter or James. They're addressing real people.
And so, therefore, I look at the passage and I go, hmm, oh, that's interesting. That's an imperative.
Oh, that's interesting. That's a plural. Oh, that's interesting. He makes reference to that with the word therefore.
But making random comments about the passage, that is the commentary. Short for commentary is comment.
We just can't make comments on the scripture. What do we need besides comments? Structure, you know, and so, you know, and a theme.
So, if I say, you know, I don't know, the theme is the power of the
Holy Spirit. That's the power of love. Right. Yeah. Who sang that? Huey Lewis.
See, of course you knew that. But if the theme is the power of the
Holy Spirit or the, you know, the wonders worked by him or whatever, I wouldn't name it that.
But however I'm going to put it, then, you know, the sub points of the sermon should all support that.
And there needs to be, it's kind of like you're writing, in my mind, like you're doing an essay, right?
I mean, if you turned an essay into your English teacher back in high school or whatever, and it was a running commentary with no structure and no points, you wouldn't get a very good grade.
And it's the same way if you're listening to a sermon. You know, a running commentary is not going to be very interesting.
And it's also not going to be very convicting. And it's not going to be very compelling. So, what you've said there is what
I was thinking about. You were focused on structure, which I completely agree with. And I was thinking about there's an exhortation.
There's a proclamation of truth. There's this compelling nature to it. The truth is to matter to the people and to affect them and to make them thankful, joyful, convicted, all kinds of things.
So, I think sometimes the comments, like, oh, this word has never been used in all the
New Testament corpus. It's a hotbox. Okay. Well, that's interesting. In fact, in all of Greek literature, it's only found...
People do stuff like that. Well, because maybe you don't know what else to say. Did you know there's over 100 hotboxes in the book of Job?
Fascinating. If you're studying Job, that's good to know. Yeah. But if I'm preaching
Job... I mean, it's not going to make the choir sing. Let's put it that way. You're not going to have everybody rush up to the front going,
Amen. You know, I mean, that's... What if I had this structure, Steve, for my sermon? Today, we're looking at Luke chapter 4, and the outline of my sermon that we'll stick to is 15 comments on the
Greek text in Luke chapter 4. That's some herlage there. That's bad.
But again, I just think, okay, what's your theme? And you don't have a theme. So, you know, and that's my argument.
We were talking about this earlier. You know, I talk about when you're going through a narrative, you got to figure out what the preaching point is.
And if you don't have a... In other words, what can you present to the congregation where they're going to go, Oh, not only do
I see that in the text, but I can see why that's important, right? If you don't have that, you need to back up and get more text, right?
And so, as I'm going through a narrative, some of my sermons are going to focus on fewer verses, and some of them are going to be longer.
And the reason is because of what's said there. If it's, you know, Jesus and his brothers talking before they go to Jerusalem, that's really not very fascinating unless I can, you know,
I've got to have more to it than, you know, just, hey, they had this little convo. Okay.
Steve, I was reading Esther this morning because I have a Bible reading program that McShane, Robert Murray McShane Bible reading program, and I have an app on my phone.
So, when you're done, you click for it, click on it, tells you what to read. And I was reading Esther. And just imagine if we did the comment only
Esther Bible preaching. And I was reading this morning, chapter six, on that night, the king could not sleep.
Did you know the Hebrew word for sleep is really like a deep sleep? It's really, really like a lot of REM sleep.
Before REM sleep was found out scientifically, it's REM sleep.
And he gave orders to bring the Book of Memorable Deeds. And, you know, there are many, many books out there that he had, but there was one called the
Book of Memorable Deeds. These were not forgettable deeds. The word memory there, memorable, to remember.
It all has the same root. It's a special word. The Chronicles, and they were read before the king, and it was found how
Mordecai had told him about Begthana and Teresh. All that to say, of course, we could talk a little bit about it, but who in their right mind would not say, can't you see this, dear congregation, the sovereignty of God?
God is going to rescue the Jewish people. He's going to preserve the seed of David, even. He's going to make sure that the
Messiah will be born. He is the king of the Jews, Jesus is. And way back here in Esther, in a foreign land,
God makes sure that the king doesn't sleep. And a particular book is brought to him. And can't you see it?
Can't you see the sovereignty of God? And then we look at the congregation and say, the same sovereign
God back in Esther and Mordecai's day is your sovereign God. And then we begin to preach to them.
It's not just a comment on the passage, in other words. Because I've heard a bunch of sermons where it was just like, yeah, okay,
I could have done this myself, you know, just kind of the – this sermon did not – it might have taken you 20 hours to prepare, but shame on you, because instead of spending 18 of those 20 hours researching words and, you know, everything else, you should have spent about eight hours doing that and then 12 hours actually putting into something.
You know, it'd be like, it's a difference. Let's put it this way. It's a difference between me making a meal and me throwing a bunch of ingredients on your plate, right?
I mean, it's the same stuff, but how it's presented makes a big difference.
Steve, we threw this gold in and out came this calf. Yeah. We threw all this junk in and out came a sermon.
No, no, it didn't. Maybe the best thing that people could do, and I've tried to use this advice in my own life and tried to teach it to others.
If you, mom or dad, sit at the kitchen table after dinner, before dinner, breakfast, whenever, and you're teaching your children the
Bible, you're reading them the Bible and making comments. Don't you do more than just make comments?
Well, did you know, children, here it says, the angel.
This is not a angel. It's the angel. And this definite article here shows a specific kind of angel.
You know, you don't do that. You say to them, we're understanding this passage. I'm trying to tell you about how wonderful this is, how important it is.
You're trying to make comments to the children so they can understand the passage better and then do something about it.
All right. Number two, assuming more illustrations is always better.
That's a second pitfall. Assuming more illustrations is always better.
Well, because it would be like a recent message I heard where I think a corollary to this would be assuming more quotations are always better.
Because, you know, essentially, you can do so many illustrations where people go, or quotations, where people just find themselves thinking, okay, what was the passage again?
What was the – you told us at the beginning that you had a purpose and I don't even remember what it was.
But that illustration you had was really cool. Yes. People love illustrations. I mean, now there's one, right?
People come up to you at the end and say, you know what, Pastor, I'm never going to forget that illustration. Happens all the time, though, doesn't it?
And then you just think to yourself, I never want to use an illustration that good again because it really – it obscures the message because it's just so spectacular and people are like, oh, that was great.
And you go, thanks. It took me, you know, 10 seconds on Google to find it. You know,
I'm not that excited about the illustration, but thank you. I used to have about 10 illustration books and they were right over there,
Steve, by the biographies in my study. Where are they now? I think
I donated them because I don't need them.
But I would try to find the most interesting, apropos, shocking, dramatic.
And I just think, you know what, the text, it's dramatic enough. Sin liberation has got enough drama for anyone.
And now I just try to make it to illumine. It was Spurgeon and Kruger even says that.
A sermon without illustrations is like a house without windows. But he adds, you don't want a house that has only windows. As you can't do it too often, you think, oh, well,
Jesus did parables and he talked aggregarian, you know, illustrations and stuff like that.
But it can't be only that. Right. Because again, then you're just, you're running far from the
Bible. You know, you start out with the Bible and now you're somewhere else. Nobody even knows.
Steve, you listen to me a lot. I'm wondering in my preaching,
I think I maybe find something on the internet that's interesting and has an interesting background or origin.
I think I might do that as often as I illustrate. In other words, oh, you know, they've heard
Jesus's fame through the grapevine. What does it mean? I heard it through the grapevine because I'm just trying to give people a pause in the middle of a sermon to go, oh, that's interesting.
Let's get back to it. So you could do that too. And you don't have to only illustrate. You can say, this is the origin of this word or background or something like that.
Well, yeah. For example, when you did that the other day, because it's a phrase that we often use, but you know, does anybody stop and think, where does that come from?
You know, I heard it through the grapevine because our, you know, typically we think, oh, it must be from Motown or some people might think, oh, it's those
California raisin commercials, you know. That's right. Assuming more illustrations, always better.
What about the preaching class that says, every point, you have to explain it, E, illustrate it,
I, and show how it's applicational, A. So E -I -A, every sermon.
I didn't say D -E -I, I said E -I -E -I -A, E -I -E -I -A.
What about that? Well, I'm going to go hollow notes on that. I can't go for that. No can do.
Well, and I'm just going to say, because I don't think any formula, you know, is particularly helpful when it comes to that.
But I also think I don't need to give application for, especially in what sort of narrative text, you know, sometimes there is application, but sometimes there's not.
Okay, I like that. Maybe what I was thinking about in defense of E -I -A, you're a brand new preacher, you're in an epistle, and you want to warn them against just a running commentary.
And so if you can find a good illustration in each point, you've got three points, then try to find it to break it up.
Sure, yeah. And then once you learn how to preach more, then you can abandon the E -I -A because you're just going to do it normally and naturally.
Of course, you're going to explain the text. That's part of preaching, saying this is what the text says it means. This is what the author wants you to know.
Okay. All right. So today we only got through two of these. That means tomorrow, Steve, or next Tuesday, we have to do five more.
We have to be much faster. Piece of cake. What about pitfalls of expository podcasting, that you go too slow in the first two points and you rush through the last five?
Would that be a problem? Totally fair. Totally fair. I think this is going to be one of the top rated shows we've ever done.
Ever. In history. You can write us, Mike. Wait, we can talk during the music?
Now you can. Okay. Not at the intro, though. You can write us, Mike, at nocompromiseradio .com
or Steve at nocompromiseradio .com or... Spencer at nocompromiseradio .com.