Best preaching lessons

Pastoral Ministry, Sola Panel

If you’re a preacher of God’s word, what’s the best preaching lesson you’ve ever learned? See if you can jot down your answer before you read on, and then perhaps share it in the comments section.

It was Russell Moore’s absolutely excellent post a few weeks ago that caused me to reflect on this question:

Your first few sermons are always terrible, no matter who you are.

If you think your first few sermons are great, you’re probably self-deceived. If the folks in your home church think your first few sermons are great, it’s probably because they love you and they’re proud of you. If it’s a good, supportive church there’s as much objectivity there as a grandparent evaluating the “I Love You Grandma” artwork handed to them by the five year-old in their family.

(That may be so, but I thank God that people in my home church gave me a go!)

Moore goes on to explain that any young preacher should want his sermons critiqued—not harshly by a congregation with a critical spirit, but critiqued nevertheless:

Great preachers are the ones who preach really bad sermons. The difference is that they preach really bad sermons when they’re young, and are sharpened for life by critique.

So I return to my opening question: what’s the best lesson you’ve received from a sermon critique, or otherwise?


How to encourage your kids’ Sunday school teachers

Everyday Ministry

On Sunday mornings, I come to church wearing two hats: parent and Sunday school teacher. Drawing on my experiences from both roles, I thought I’d put together a few thoughts about how parents can encourage our children’s secondary ‘disciplers’ (in this case, their Sunday school teachers) to keep doing the job with perseverance, diligence and joy. It’s a somewhat random list based mainly on my own frustrations and joys over the years. I’d love to hear your additions to the list.


Please hurt me, I’m not a masochist


I have an admission, and it’s time to make it public: I suffer from CPA (Chronic Pain Avoidance) syndrome. I hate conflict, so I try to avoid saying things that will cause it. I don’t like physical pain, so I try not to exercise too hard. My eight-year-old son gave me what he describes as a squeeze cuddle the other day, and my ribs hurt for the next 24 hours. The older I get, the more pain-averse I become. (more…)

Self-knowledge for godliness and ministry (Part 5)


Jennie and I have been discussing personality theories as a worked example of pursuing self knowledge in the service of godliness and ministry. Jennie has discussed some of what they offer, and in my last post, I discussed two interlinked possible problems they can create: justifying sin in ourselves or others. Over the next two posts, we turn to two more related weaknesses—weaknesses arising from over-valuing the insight that personality tests might offer.


Bethlehemian rhapsody

Everyday Ministry


I feel a bit wrong posting this video to the Sola Panel as an actual contribution, but if I were God, this is how apologetics would be done: (more…)

Self-knowledge for godliness and ministry (Part 4)


Jennie and I are pursuing a series on self-knowledge in the context of godliness and ministry, and we have been looking at personality tests as a kind of ‘idiot’s guide’ example—a way to begin cultivating the kinds of non-biblical (but not anti-biblical) knowledge and thinking that will promote a good understanding of ourselves. Last time around, Jennie looked at some of the strengths of such tests—the kind of issues they can flag for us, and hence the kind of resources they can offer.

However, it is one of the perennial features of sinners like us that there is no gift that God gives, however powerfully good or however prosaic, that we cannot pervert and turn into fuel for further sin. And personality theories, like more serious psychology in general, often generate certain characteristic abuses of what is offered. These are the weaknesses of personality theories, and without a serious engagement with the problems inherent to personality theory, one cannot use the tool properly; one has to understand the limitations and problems, as well as what it can do, to have any chance of using it in the service of the glory of God.

So over my next couple of posts, here are a bunch of weaknesses to do with personality theories—again, not an exhaustive list, but a list designed to prompt the kind of thinking that makes us self-aware about the limitations to the self-awareness that such tests can offer.


A Twilight romance


Today die-hard fans are rejoicing over the release of New Moon, the second movie in the Twilight series based on the bestselling quartet of books by American author Stephenie Meyer. For those who have been living in a vacuum and therefore don’t know what I’m talking about, the Twilight series is about the relationship between Isabella ‘Bella’ Swan, a child of divorce who goes to live with her father in Forks, Washington, and Edward Cullen, a telepathic 104-year-old vampire who feeds off animals instead of humans and who finds Bella strangely irresistible. The books, with their themes of romance, budding sexuality and forbidden love, are hugely popular—not just with teenage girls (who comprise Meyer’s core audience), but with women of all ages. Furthermore, their status in pop culture has paved the way for a host of other vampire-related literature and entertainment (e.g. True Blood, Vampire Academy, The Vampire Diaries), not to mention an increasing interest in paranormal romance. (For those interested, I’ve blogged elsewhere about Stephenie Meyer, Mormonism, love and Twilight.) (more…)

Admitting our sins

Life, Sola Panel

I’d like to admit something to you. My admission isn’t particularly juicy or scandalous, but it’s an admission, nonetheless. The admission is this: I’m not honest enough with people when it comes to my sins. I don’t admit my sins to others often enough. The reason I don’t do it is pride, fear of what people will think, and general obliviousness to my own sin. (more…)

How important is the piece of paper?

Everyday Ministry

I’m very new to the world of being a provider of formal theological education (having had some experience as a student), and am learning lots along the way. One of the issues that is really big beyond the shores of Australia is the question of accreditation and qualification. (more…)

WordWatch: Ivory tower

Word Watch

Today, we think of an ‘ivory tower’ as a place where you are separated from the flow of ordinary life. We are most likely to use ‘ivory tower’ when speaking of academics—on the rather quaint notion that they only need to understand the philosophy of the later Middle Ages, or the conjugation of irregular verbs in Urdu (or whatever), and that their specialist knowledge somehow puts them out of touch with the ‘real world’. (more…)