How To Prepare A Sermon: Part 7, Provide Supporting Material

By DrBillComments Off on How To Prepare A Sermon: Part 7, Provide Supporting Material

We are working on our ten-part series on How to Prepare a Sermon.  We’ve already given you all ten steps of sermon preparation, and Part 1, Praying about your Sermon; Part 2, Textual vs. Topical; Part 3,Study the Passage; Part 4, Read the Commentaries; Part 5, Arrive at the Proposition; Part 6, Develop the Mains.  Today is Part 7, “Provide Supporting Material”.

PROVIDE SUPPORTING MATERIALGreek building with columns

This is the main content of your message which supports each of your Mains. It is here that you are teaching the Scriptures, explaining, illustrating, applying, comparing, contrasting, etc., all to make a point. If you do a good job of studying and researching in preparation for your sermon, then you will have some very quality content to provide to your listeners.

So once you have established your Proposition, and your Main Points, what really constitutes the bulk of the supporting material? Some of this would be:

  • Explanations — For example, explaining the meaning of difficult Biblical phrases; original language nuances; aspects of OT semitic culture; socio-political realities of the Roman era; historical background;  — all with the express purpose of a better understanding of the Biblical passage at hand.
  • Illustrations — stories from one’s own life, or the life of others; testimonies; anecdotes; quotations; contemporary parallels; examples from literature, movies, or songs, etc. — all with the express purpose of a better understanding of the Biblical passage at hand.
  • Comparisons — locating other Biblical passages that explain the passage at hand; parallels; related passages, ideas or themes; — all with the express purpose of a better understanding of the Biblical passage at hand.
  • Contrasts — sometimes the best way to explain a Biblical passage is by telling the listeners what it does NOT mean. If a passage of Scripture sounds like it is telling you to do something that seems to contradict something else in Scripture, you have to lay the two passages side-by-side, and contrast them with each other, so that a true understanding can be reached.  The goal, after all, is better understanding of the Biblical passage at hand.
  • Applications — then, of course, the point of most passages is so that we can obey God, so application will necessarily have to come into play at some point. Some people feel that one should provide application after each main point, while others feel that it should be delayed until the Conclusion. It really depends on the passage itself, but I tend to make application an inherent point of the entire message. That is, I will often entitle a message something about “How to…”, and then include a verbal command in each Main Point. But it is really up to you as you feel led by God.

Why is application important? Because Jesus said in the Great Commission that we should be about “teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:20). Jesus wants us to teach them to “obey”, not just to “know”. We are not in the business of just tickling ears with fanciful ideas which people love to hear. Jesus wants us to help people to obey Him as a result of what they have learned.

If you want to really “teach” the Word, and not just “exhort” the Word, then you will need substantive supporting material which really helps to explain the passage to your people in a more understandable way. This will take research and study. Get as much learning as you can about the Word, so that you can be a workman who correctly interprets and applies the Word of Truth.

Blessings on you as you open and teach God’s Word! In Part 8 of this study we will look at writing the Conclusion, which is a really important part of the message preparation process. (It actually comes before the Introduction.)

Yours for great preaching!

Dr. Bill Miller

SermonBase.com

HighPowerResources.com

General, Sermon Preparation

How To Prepare A Sermon: Part 5, Arrive at the Proposition

By DrBillNo Comments

Hi All, especially up-and-coming preachers!light shining down

We are working on our ten-part series on How to Prepare a Sermon.  We’ve already given you all ten steps of sermon preparation, and part 1, Praying about your Sermon; Part 2, Textual vs. Topical; Part 3,Study the Passage; Part 4, Read the Commentaries.  Now, we need to talk about the Proposition.

This is key. The better you do here, the easier the rest of the sermon will fall into place. What is the Proposition? The Proposition is the entire message squeezed into one sentence. It is the ‘sermon in a sentence’; also known as “the Big Idea”. And please note that I said that you “arrive at the proposition”. You don’t create the main idea of the passage; you discover it. You don’t go to it; it comes to you. It IS the message. Then the Mains and supporting material are just unpacking that single idea.

The Proposition is the sermon in a sentence. Sound ridiculous to think you can pack an entire sermon into a sentence? If you cannot say what you intend to say in one sentence, then you do not have a clear idea of what you are talking about. Now, obviously all of the depth of meaning, the expanded content, and the specific application cannot be included in that single sentence; else you would have quite the run-on sentence. But yet, a well-designed proposition captures the essence of the sermon in its grasp.

The Proposition, or Big Idea, or Sermon in a Sentence is something you “arrive at”, you don’t create it. It comes to you as you study God’s Word. God the Holy Spirit reveals it to you, and then you write it out. The Word of God has a message for you and for your congregation. Because the Word is “living and active, and sharper than a two-edged sword” (Hebrews 4:12), it has a very specific application for your unique church situation. Discover it, and you have discovered the Big Idea for your sermon. How do you know if you have arrived at it? If someone says “give me a quick summary of your sermon”, you can actually give a quick summary, in just a sentence.

Once you have the Proposition, then the Main Points support and explain it more fully. Main points will not add anything new to the big idea of your sermon; they will merely expand upon concepts or themes which are inherent in your Proposition.

Once you have the Proposition, you have a significant part of your sermon already done. Now please note that we are at point 5 in your sermon preparation, and you have just arrived at the Proposition. So you have done quite a bit of research and study already. But once you get the Proposition down, the rest of the sermon will come together relatively quickly, because you already know everything you need to say. You just have to unpack it.

So that is the Proposition. You can read more about the Big Idea here if you like. We are half-way through the process of writing a sermon. Stick around for the rest of the series.

Exercise: Select a passage of Scripture, anywhere from four to ten verses; read it through several times; study it; then try to express its meaning in one sentence.

God’s best to you as you prepare to teach God’s Word!

Dr. Bill Miller

SermonBase.com

HighPowerResources.com

General, Proposition, Sermon Preparation

They’ll know we are Christians by our WHAT?

By Gladys Perez-NejudneComments Off on They’ll know we are Christians by our WHAT?

by Michael Tummillo

I used to work for a man who had been in the ministry when he was younger. He saw that his current secular job was ALSO his ministry and he was a very “at peace” and “comfortable in his own skin” type of guy.

He knew I was a Christian and we would often talk about the things of God. We became good friends. One day, he told me that he used to be an alcoholic and often drank away his problems, even as a minister. He even had a bottle in his desk draw while in secular work. Several Christians in the workplace had been having lunch hour Bible studies and, on one occasion, he overheard one of them misquote a verse of Scripture. He corrected the employee and that person was amazed. He said, “I had no idea you were a Christian, too!”

He testified that, at that moment, he became immediately convicted and quit drinking. As he said to me, “I realized that, if I were a Christian, people should KNOW that I am.”

Do they know that YOU are?

A 1990 Gallop poll found that 74% of Americans claimed to have made “a commitment to Christ,” yet George Barna’s Research revealed that 84% of born-again Christians deny that there is a Devil, a hell, or a Christian doctrine.

Read that again. It explains a great deal.

Apparently, many respected evangelists and pastors estimate that over 50% of our church members may not really be saved! (Mt. 7:21-28).

Dwight Moody lamented, “There is only about one in ten, who profess Christianity, who will turn around and glorify God with a loud voice. Nine out of ten are ’still-born’ Christians.”

OUCH!

Charles Finney repented of his Sinner’s Prayer concept and Altar Call that he had claimed would win souls from coast to coast because his converts exhibited so little fruit after their initial emotional moment with God.

Imagine that!

Dr. R.L. Hymers in his booklet, “The Falling Away,” provides the following estimates from renowned evangelists and ministers: Dr. W. A. Criswell said that he would be surprised to see 25% of his members in heaven! Billy Graham once estimated the percentage of lost people in evangelical churches to be 85% while Dr. A.W. Tozer put it at 90%! Dr. Rod Bell and Dr. Monroe Parker estimated 50%, while Dr. B.R. Lakin and Dr. Bob Gray believed that number to be 75%.

In December 1958, the Oakland Tribune reported that out of the 26,000 people who came forward at a Graham crusade, only 13 people actually joined a church. That’s less than 1%.

Andrew Wommack, who served in Katherine Kuhlman’s healing ministry, states on his website: “Billy Graham was quoted as saying that only fifteen percent of all the people who professed to be Christian are truly born again. Here is something else that may surprise you: Katherine Kuhlman said that only fifteen percent of those who were healed at her services kept their healing when they left the service. These numbers should tell us something about how we measure success in ministry.”

Have YOU had an encounter with God? If I were a few minutes late for a meeting but arrived clean and pressed, and said to the group, “Sorry I’m late but I was hit by an 18-wheeler on the way in.” You would think I was a lunatic or a liar, right? That’s because you know that anyone hit by an 18-wheeler would be forever changed. I’d be crippled, wounded, bloodied or dead. My car would not have survived the encounter either.

It’s the same way where an encounter with God is concerned. We either KNOW Him or we don’t. He has either impacted our lives , or He hasn’t.

I’m inclined to concur with the shocking statistics and comments you just read. Bearing that information in mind, all I can say is that we’ve got a long way to go. We’ve created this Christian world that consists of everything from T-shirts to bumper stickers, contemporary music to podcasts and magazines. If we could win the word with all our Christian stuff, I would think we’d be further along than we are. Truth is, we’ve created a Christian ghetto into which very few outsiders will ever stray, one from which very few of us ever venture.

There is one ministry that every adult Christian has, a mission field where we spend over half our lives and a ministry in which many of us wear the camouflage of a profession – be it a policeman’s uniform, a nurse’s scrubs, a construction helmet or a businessman’s tailored suit.

It’s called the Workplace Ministry.

Perhaps you’re already serving there. If not, are you getting prepared? Does anyone there know you’re a Christian?

If you’re a minister, are you training your Members on Sunday for their ministry there on Monday?

Every blessing,

Michael Tummillo
Workplace Chaplain

Preaching

How to Prepare a Sermon in Ten Easy Steps

By DrBillComments Off on How to Prepare a Sermon in Ten Easy Steps

Hey Preachers, and Future Preachers!

In this post, I’ll just summarize for you the main elements of sermon preparation. Then if you want to look at any of these elements in a greater way, take a look at the “Sermon Tips” category of this website.hands

Sermon Preparation in Ten Steps:

1. Pray

If you want to be engaged in a spiritual exercise like preaching, you will need spiritual power.

2. Select your Text & Topic

I believe in pursuing a more textual approach to preaching, rather than topically-based.  See the post “Sermon Preparation: Textual vs. Topical”.  The text will determine the topic; but if you choose topic first, then you need to make certain that you are addressing a significant portion of Scripture so that the text of God’s Word directs your message.

3. Study the Passage

Before you open any commentaries it is important to read, meditate, dwell upon the passage at hand. Study its layout.  Make an outline of the flow of thought.  Identify key themes; important verbs; repeating ideas. That is, thoroughly immerse yourself in the passage so that you know it really, really well. This is one of the most important parts of the sermon preparation process. It is here that you learn the message which God is trying to deliver in the passage. Find God’s message for you here, so that you achieve Focus.

4. Read the Commentaries

Once you have completed step three, then you can read the commentaries to learn the historical, socio, grammatical context of the passage.

5. Arrive at the Proposition

This is key. The better you do here, the easier the rest of the sermon will fall into place. What is the Proposition? The Proposition is the entire message squeezed into one sentence. It is the ‘sermon in a sentence'; also known as “the Big Idea”. And please note that I said that you “arrive at the proposition”. You don’t create the main idea of the passage; you discover it. You don’t go to it; it comes to you. It IS the message. Then the Mains and supporting material are just unpacking that single idea.

6. Develop the Mains

Your sermon can have anywhere from one to five Mains; usually no more. However, I did listen to a message by John Piper which had 17(!) points. But that message was aimed at pastors, so maybe you can break the normal rules in those cases. The Mains explain and unpack all the powerful concepts which are stuffed into your Proposition. The Mains need symmetry to be good Mains.

7. Provide supporting material

This is the main content of your message which supports each of your Mains. It is here that you are teaching the Scriptures, explaining, illustrating, applying, comparing, contrasting, etc., all to make a point.

8. Write the Conclusion

This is where you want to take it home. The conclusion must be powerful, personal, and memorable. This is where you touch the heart.

9. Write the Introduction

Yes, the introduction often comes right at the end. The main goal here is to get their attention and to introduce the topic, thus “introduction”. Once you know the main thrust of the sermon and the main points, it is much easier to write the introduction.

10. Create the Title

Finally, you can choose the title. The only point of the title is to advertise and promote the sermon and let people know in a very brief way what it is about. If you choose your title too early, you may find yourself preaching to the title, rather than the text. Don’t confuse the two.

So, there you have it.  How to prepare a sermon in ten easy steps. Now all you have to do is take a lifetime to master it.

Yours for great preaching,

Dr. Bill Miller

SermonBase.com

HighPowerResources.com

Preaching, Sermon Preparation

The Trouble with The Church? It’s Unavailable at this Time

By Gladys Perez-NejudneComments Off on The Trouble with The Church? It’s Unavailable at this Time

by Michael Tummillo

Sure, there are exceptions. But overall, The Church we’re so familiar with – the attractional model – whereby we spend perhaps $2 Million on a building that attracts maybe 200 people but rarely duplicates itself to 400, 800, etc. – from a marketing standpoint, will only attract a portion of a community’s population.

Frankly, statistically, we’re getting dangerously close to running out of potential patrons. What is often referred to as “church growth” is most often little more than transfer growth. As fishers of men, it’s easier to catch ’em than clean ’em. The flesh seems to always seek its own comfort.

God wants us out of that comfort zone. I’ve heard it said, “God and Satan have one thing in common: they’re BOTH trying to kill us.” It’s true, the only good Christian is the dead Christian; “dead to sin, alive to God through Jesus Christ.”

The Church is going to have to start acting like the model Jesus exemplified for us and start GOING to where the people spend all their time. It’s been referred to as Kingdom mobilization. Too many of us are passive, unengaged spectators. We may immerse ourselves into all kinds of good Christian stuff, but we’re not communing with God directly as individuals. Are we praying to Him (two-way conversation we call “prayer”)? Are we studying His Word (looking for revelation and inspiration, or merely parroting what we hear from “professional” ministers)? Too often, we’re motivated by a subconscious “what’s in it for me” agenda.

In general, our witnesses is pathetic and we have become, more or less, irrelevant to society. So, we settle into the comfortable belief that anything spiritual that must take place in people’s lives will occur during church services and only by those who are paid to do all the church stuff. All they have to do is go to a church building just as they would drive-in to any fast-food restaurant if they were hungry, right?

Wrong. We need to learn to hear from God directly and obey Him. After all, His sheep will know His voice.

I fear that one of the greatest problems we have in The Church is that so many who call themselves Believers in Jesus are merely Acknowledgers of Him. Doesn’t Scripture say that even demons believe, and they tremble?

We don’t even do that!

Can you tell when you’ve met a person who has had an encounter with Christ? They’re changed, just as one would be changed who had just had an encounter with a beer truck. Like any other relationship worth having, we must pursue the other person relentlessly, out of desperation, as though our life would simply be incomplete – not worth living – without that individual; Jesus, in this case.

Sadly, too many Western Christians have embraced the status quo; settled for Church-As-Usual. We’ve embraced religious routine over vibrant relationship with the Creator of all things. We’ve strayed so far from anything that remotely resembles New Testament Christianity and have started comparing ourselves with ourselves, thereby, lowering our standard immensely.

It’s been said that we’ve become the #1 cause of atheism because we aren’t making anybody jealous for what we’ve supposedly found in Jesus. We are STILL a mighty army on bivouac, awaiting marching orders that have already come: “Go yo into all the world and MAKE DISCIPLES.”

How’s that coming?

Healing, casting out demons, all the manifested Gifts of the Holy Spirit…these things are only difficult when we think we have anything to do with making them happen. No, all we must be is willing and obedient. Sadly, too many of us are fearful…afraid of being laughed at, ridiculed, scorned, rejected, disfellowshipped or fired.

“God hasn’t given us a Spirit of Fear but of Power, Love and a Sound Mind.” Jesus said He would never leave or forsake you. Dive in!

What was that about a Sound Mind? Yes, that’s where the battle begins and ends with most of us – our own Golgotha, the place of our skull where so many thoughts that have formed us must simply die a gruesome death.

“Resist the devil and he WILL flee,” but NOT until he see that we are serious about winning.

Today, multitudes of Christians will encounter people who are hurting, depressed, confused, betrayed, scared and afraid. They’ll stand inches from us, in need of a helping hand, but most of us won’t lift a finger to help them.

Are you available? If not, Jesus is being ignored by our willingness to do nothing. Whatever we do to them, we’ve done it to Him, right?

If you are in need of encouragement, training, prayer, Biblical counsel – or have run across someone who DOES – I am available. In fact, our ministry, The Church @ Work (TCAW) is currently endorsing others across the nation who are making themselves available as well.

Every blessing,

Michael Tummillo
A servant of God

Preaching

How to Write your “State of the Church” Sermon

By DrBillComments Off on How to Write your “State of the Church” Sermon

Hey all,George Whitfield

I just came across a nice article by Calvin Wittman on LifeWay about how to write your annual State of the Church message.  Here is the link.

He makes some good points, chiefly being these:

1.  Make your Message Biblical

2.  Focus on the Future of your Church

3.  Draw a Map

4.  Be Positive

And actually, these are good points for almost any sermon or message which you are going to deliver to your congregation.  But it is especially important for that annual State of the Church message.

Question:  do you do a State of the Church message?  Or do you consider that to be too much an imitation of culture?

God’s best to you!

For great preaching,

Dr. Bill Miller

SermonBase.com

HighPowerResources.com

General, Preaching

How To Prepare A Sermon: Part 6, Write the Main Points

By DrBillComments Off on How To Prepare A Sermon: Part 6, Write the Main Points

Hi All, especially up-and-coming preachers!Luther

We are working on our ten-part series on How to Prepare a Sermon.  We’ve already given you all ten steps of sermon preparation, and part 1, Praying about your Sermon; Part 2, Textual vs. Topical; Part 3,Study the Passage; Part 4, Read the Commentaries; part 5, Arrive at the Proposition.  Now, today we are looking at that part of the sermon which will be the most memorable part to your listeners, the Main Points.

What separates great! Mains, from so-so or ho-hum Mains? Here are some guidelines you need to follow to write good mains which will captivate your listeners:

1.  The Mains explain and unpack all the powerful concepts which are stuffed into your Proposition.

Remember that your Proposition, is actually the “sermon in a sentence”. What that means is that the key ideas for your entire message are already inherent in your Proposition. The Mains then, help to explain, unpack, unravel, and reveal all the concepts already hidden in your proposition. If the Proposition is the “sermon in a sentence”, then the Mains are simply the sermon in three, four, or five sentences.

So when you write each of your Main Points, you need to be asking the question, “Does this Main Point unpack my Proposition?” If it helps to make your Proposition more understandable, then it may be a useful Main Point (if it meets the following conditions as well).

2.  The Mains should not introduce a concept or idea which was not inherent in your Proposition.

The reason for this is that it destroys the Focus of your sermon. If your Mains do not contribute to explaining your Proposition, then you have not clearly figured out the main point of your sermon.  The Mains explain your Proposition, they do not confuse or expand into new territory which is not inherent in your Proposition.

3.  The Mains need symmetry to be most helpful to your listeners.

The Mains need to have a sense of flow and direction.  Mains can help your sermon to be understandable, memorable, and even beautiful.

4.  The Mains are most powerful when they are phrased as actions to be taken.

There are a number of different approaches which you can take when designing your sermons.  Some sermons are inspirational, some are informational, some are action-oriented. All three are needed.  I personally have a bias for action-oriented sermons. Many people need to know how to live the Christian life in a God-honoring way that helps them to truly follow God.  I believe a preacher’s job is to help them do that. So sermons which are addressed specifically to people to take certain actions will often have verbs in them. For example, your Mains may be something like this:  “Trust God during tough times,” “Follow God during rough times”, “Obey God during all times”. This is just a quick example, but it shows the key idea of placing an action step for each main. This pulls people into it, because you are talking to them directly.

5.  The number of Main Points should usually be from one to five points.

Finally, there is debate about just how many points a sermon should have. Andy Stanley makes a great case for just one main point. I think it is found in his book “Communicating for Life Change”. But some people prefer to take a more traditional approach to the Mains. In those cases, you need to have enough points to explain your Proposition, but not so many as to overwhelm the listener. Usually, from one (a la Andy Stanley) to five points is normal.

So there you have it. How you put your Mains together will make a big impact on your listeners. The Mains carry your content forward in an understandable fashion. Good Mains make for a good sermon.

Yours for better preaching!

Dr. Bill Miller

HighPowerResources.com

SermonBase.com

General, Preaching, Sermon Preparation

How to Prepare a Sermon: Part 4, “Read the Commentaries”

By DrBillComments Off on How to Prepare a Sermon: Part 4, “Read the Commentaries”

Hi All,books

We are working on our ten-part series on How to Prepare a Sermon.  We’ve already given you all ten steps of sermon preparation, and part 1, Praying about your Sermon; Part 2, Textual vs. Topical; Part 3, Study the Passage. Today, we will talk about using commentaries and other references well.

In part 3, Study the Passage, I warned all budding preachers not to run to the commentaries first. You must study the passage on your own, and let God speak to you first. I outlined a number of different exercises which you can do to study the passage. Now, once you have completed those studies on your own, you may certainly feel free to open up the commentaries and learn from those who have gone before.

What can Biblical commentaries give you that you can’t get on your own?

  • Historical Information – to see where this passage fits in the flow of Biblical and world history
  • Cultural Background – to understand the passage more thoroughly
  • Original Language Insights – even if you already know Hebrew and Greek, the insights of a language scholar can be very helpful
  • Linguistic & Grammatical Nuances – you may know the Hebrew or Greek word, but a good scholar can help you understand the unique nuances of the usage of said words in this particular passage
  • Related Texts – where else in Scripture this passage or theme is addressed

How can you use this information in your sermon?

The big mistake is to turn an inspirational sermon into a college lecture. That is not the purpose of the information you gain from the commentary. This “hard data” which you learn in commentaries is likened to the bones of a body. Bones give a body structure; no bones, and you have a jelly fish. Yet bones are often covered in soft flesh. So too, the information you gain from commentaries is there to give structure, strength, and content to your message. It is there to support your Big Idea or Proposition, and your Main Points. It is supporting material to the message which God has already given you as you executed Part Three of Sermon Preparation: Study the Passage.

What else can be used to study the Bible?

There are lots of great tools out there besides Biblical commentaries. Here’s a few:

  • International Standard Bible Encyclopedia
  • Greek & Hebrew Interlinears – provides English translation above the Greek and Hebrew words for each passage
  • Dictionary of NT Theology
  • The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah by Alfred Edersheim

Check out the reference section of a Christian bookstore for lots more.

So get a few commentaries and references and make good use of them; not as a crutch, but as a supplement to your own work and and study.

If you would like to keep your sermons organized, be sure to check out our “SermonBase Message Planning Software“.

God’s best to you as your preach God’s Word!

Dr. Bill Miller

SermonBase.com

HighPowerResources.com

Sermon Preparation

Sent to Make Difference

By Gladys Perez-NejudneComments Off on Sent to Make Difference

by Piotr Krakowczyk
 
 
Sent to make difference – reflection on Mark 6:7-13
 
Let me retell the story titled “Is your Jar Full?” by Alfred Rosa and Paul Eschholz.
 
An expert in time management was speaking to a group of business students. It was nothing unusual till he took out a one-gallon mason jar and began to fill it with stones. When the jar was filled, he asked: “Is this jar full?”
 
Everybody answered: “Yes.”
 
The expert replied, “Really?” He reached out for a bucket filled with gravel and loaded the jar with it. Then he asked, again: “Is this jar full?”  By this time, the students got the point: “Probably not,” they said.
 
“Good,” he said. He picked up the plastic filled with sand and threw it into the jar. It filled the space between the rocks and the gravel. Then he asked again: “Is this jar full?” All the students answered: “No.”
 
“Good,” he said. Then he took a pitcher of water and poured it in until the jar was filled to the brim. Then, he asked: “What is the point of this illustration?”
 
“No matter how full your schedule is, you can always fit some more things in it,” one student responded.
“No,” the expert answered. “That’s not the point.”
 
Words and actions have an impact on us. Jesus used them to touch and transform people’s broken lives. The disciples of Jesus were given a share in Jesus’ authority and were sent to make difference in the world. They performed well: “They went out and preached that people should repent. They drove out many demons and anointed many sick people with oil and healed them” (Mark 6:13). Two thousand years have gone by and we are left with the same mission: to make difference in the lives of others through our words and actions.
 
Words
 
Someone said that our words are never neutral. They can work either for good or bad. They can either encourage or put us down; they can either subjugate or set us free. Take these commonly use phrases in many of our conversations: “You are good for nothing;” “I am so stupid;” “S/he is awful.” You never find such words on the lips of Jesus. To the prostitute, he said: “I don’t condemn you. Go now and live your life without sin” (John 8:11); to the tax collector, he said: “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today” (Luke 19:5). We have associated the preaching of repentance with strong rebuke and judgment. It can be a part of the process towards change in life. The preaching of repentance, however, is about helping people to realize that they look at life from wrong perspective. Jesus effected change in Samaritan woman by conversing with her about her situation. He began it with a simple request: “Will you give me a drink?” (John 4:7). And he ended it up with the revelation of his identity: “I who speak to you am he (Messiah)” (John 4:26). There are many other Jesus’ life-changing words recorded in the Bible, for example: “Love one another as I have loved you” (John 15:12); “Don’t be afraid, just believe” (Mark 5:36); “You shall do even greater things than these” (John 14:12); “If anyone has faith like a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you” (Matthew 17:20); “Ask and you shall receive, seek and you will find, knock and the door will be open to you” (Matthew 7:7). All of them have just but one purpose: to effect change in one’s life.
 
Jim is the youngest in his family. He is a political science graduate from one among the top universities in the world. Happily married, and successful in his career, he is not aware that twenty eight years ago his life was being decided in one of those unnoticed conversations by a cup of coffee between his mother and her friend.
 
– I don’t know what to do. We are so financially stretched. This pregnancy is the last thing we need right now. How can we afford another child?
– Look! You have only two wonderful children and you are doing great. It will stay that way. Nothing will change.
– Everything will change! Where shall we find the means to support such a big family? John is already complaining that we need a new car.
– What if this child is destined for something? What if he or she will bring you blessing and perhaps fame and financial support in your old age? Did you think about it?
– No. I worry about now.
– Don’t you think that God can provide for you? Why not put faith in God and see this child as a blessing for you?
– Maybe. I still need to tell John about it. He might get mad.
– I don’t think so. I am sure, he will be happy.
 
Our words are never neutral. They effect change in life either for good or bad. In the case of Christians, however, the words we use should build up, encourage, strengthen, give direction and meaning. Do you know that one word or sentence can make you famous for generations to come? I am sure you are familiar with this phrase: “Lord, I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. But just say the word, and my servant will be healed” (Matthew 8:8)? It was said by a Roman centurion, stationed in Capernaum during Jesus’ time. These words will always exemplify the faith we should have in Jesus. Never underestimate the power of your words.
 
Actions
 
If our words have such great impact on us and others, our actions are even more powerful. They can either harm or heal; they can either destroy or create. Jesus’ actions were always for good, recreating the broken lives of people. Yet, the striking factor of his actions was simplicity. Aside from preaching and praying, the actions that affected people the most were simple acts of care and concern: listening to people’s problems and stories of life; embracing, touching, eating and having fun with others, giving advices and explaining the riddles of life. “The woman, knowing what had happened to her, came and fell at his feet and, trembling with fear, told him the whole truth” (Mark 5:33); “And he took the children in his arms, put his hands on them and blessed them”  (Mark 10:16); “Filled with compassion, Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man” (Mark 1:41); “While Jesus was having dinner at Levi’s house, many tax collectors and ‘sinner’ were eating with him and his disciples” (Mark 2:15); “I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born from above” (John 3:3). These are simple actions, and yet they meant a lot for those who experienced them.
 
She came to the Philippines for study. The program was interesting and her classmates were friendly. One day after the class, she felt dizzy. Reaching the boarding house, she laid down on the bed, trying to rest. By evening the fever ran up to 39°C. Her roommate called for help. Many people came, deliberating whether to bring her to the hospital or not. The question was: who was going to pay the expenses? Then her classmate, a Filipina, sat by her, took out a small container and began massaging her body with oil. Another classmate of her, a Chinese, brought a small capsule of herbal medicine, and still another one, from Tonga, prepared an orange juice. In two hours, the fever was down to 38°C, and in three days, she was back in the classroom.
 
Our actions effect change. Jesus does not expect us to do things that are beyond our abilities. Yet, He loves to see us listening to people’s problems and stories of life, embracing, touching, eating and having fun with others, giving advices and explaining the riddles of life. Are you aware that one action can make you unforgettable for generations? The Gospel of Mark relates a story of Jesus being anointed in Bethany by an unknown woman. Many were scandalized by her action and the waste of the expensive perfume, made of pure nard. Jesus, however, gave her a promise: “I tell you the truth, wherever the gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her” (Mark 14:9). Don’t underestimate the influence of your actions.
 
Conclusion
 
“No,” the expert answered. “It is not the point. The truth that this illustration teaches us is: if you don’t put the big rocks in first, you’ll never get them in at all. What are the “big rocks” in your life – time with your loved ones, your faith, your education, your dreams, a worthy cause, teaching or mentoring others? Remember to put these “big rocks” in first or you’ll never get them in at all.”
 
Preaching repentance, expelling demons, and healing the sick are all about making difference in the world. Our words are never neutral; our actions impact others. They outlive us in those who were influenced by what we said and did. Let us leave behind the traces of goodness, care and compassion that will affect others for life.

Preaching
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