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HOW TO COMMUNICATE TO CHANGE LIVES Teaching and Preaching that Makes a Difference Part 1 Rick Warren

In this session Tom and I want to deal with how do you communicate to change lives. I dont care if youre a Sunday school teacher or a small group leader or a Bible study leader or a pastor, if you know the Lord and you work in the church youre in the communication business. Although what Im going to be talking about today has a lot of relevance to pastors as they prepare and deliver sermons it really applies to every Christian because God has called all of us to become master communicators. We have the greatest message in the world and I believe it is a sin to bore people with the Bible. I dont know how we do it but we take the most exciting, life changing, revolutionary book in the world and bore people to tears with it. That is wrong! If I deliver a boring Sunday school lesson or a boring message or a boring Bible study, people dont just think Im boring, they think God is boring. So they get the wrong impression. The Bible says, It is you then to preach the behavior which goes with healthy doctrine. The Bible says in Proverbs 11:30 The wise person teaches others how to live. Thats what I want to talk about in this session how do you teach others how to live? This is an issue that deeply influences the health of your church. Thats the teaching style. We pastors are particularly sensitive about our preaching. I saw this cartoon where the pastors preaching and says, I asked my wife to look over my notes of todays sermon and mark out everything dull. So in conclusion. We all heard about the young pastor preaching his first sermon in his first church. As he did the message he said, I want you to be brutally honest with me. Im just starting out so please tell me the truth because Id like to get better and better in my communication skills. So after the sermon was over he was standing at the back shaking hands, the glorification of the worm ceremony where they tell you how great a job you did. One deacon said, Pastor, that sermon stunk. So the pastors trying to be open about it and says, Can you be a little bit more specific? What was wrong with the message? The deacon said, In the first place, you read it. In the second place, you read it poorly. In the third place, it wasnt worth reading in the first place. Would you agree that teaching and preaching can make or break a church? Poor teaching is killing many, many churches. On the other hand, teaching in the pulpit is the ultimate tool for church growth. Where else do you get thirty minutes to forty-five minutes of undivided attention on a weekly basis. The larger your church gets the more the pulpit becomes the rudder. Because it has enormous power to shape and shift and lead and guide and direct the church in different directions. For fifteen years we had no building here at Saddleback. We used a tent where we would literally freeze in the winter, burn up in the summer, get wet in the fall and in the spring. But I want to tell you: people will put up with a lot if the teaching is genuinely meeting their needs. Theyll put up with all kinds of inconveniences.

TEACHING AND PREACHING THAT MAKES THE DIFFERENCE - Part 1 This next Sunday 55 million Americans will hear preachers deliver over one billion words of sermons. When its all said and done a lot more will have been said than done. The Bible says in James 1:22 Do not merely listen to the word and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Circle Do what it says. Ecclesiastes 12:11 The wise mans words are like goads that spur to action. My question is what kind of teaching produces that kind of result. What kind of preaching/communicating produces doers of the word and not hearers only? What kind of teaching spurs people to action? When I moved to Saddleback Valley in 1980 to start this church I completely changed my preaching style. Before I had been at Saddleback I had been involved for ten years in evangelism, full time and part time evangelism doing revivals, crusades and seminars and things like that. I had ten years of sermons stockpiled before I started this church. Honestly I could have just coasted for three or four years preaching standard messages that I had done in a revival type atmosphere over the many years. But when I started Saddleback and I took that survey that we talked about yesterday and went out and asked the unchurched, What is it that keeps you from coming to church? one of the number one answers was Sermons are boring and dont relate to my life. I thought, Ive got to reconsider my communication style. I went back and I looked at ten years of sermons that I had prepared over the years and taught in a traditional church. I didnt ask, Is this doctrinally sound? I didnt ask, Is this homileticly correct? I didnt ask, Do all the points start with P? I asked one question about ten years worth of sermons: Would this make sense to a totally unchurched person who had never been in church before, a pagan with no religious background, who knew nothing about the Bible, would this make sense to that kind of person? I threw out every single message Id preached in ten years except two. And I started over. I developed a whole new style of teaching and preaching. I developed a series of eight questions that I continue now eighteen years later to ask myself these eight questions when I am preparing a Sunday school lesson, a Bible study, a small group devotional, a message, anytime I preach or teach I ask these questions. I committed myself to the lifelong task of becoming a master communicator. Ive got a long way to go. But the Bible says in Proverbs 16:23 Intelligent people think before they speak. What they say is then more persuasive. Would you like to be more persuasive in your teaching? Sure you would. Then youve got to think through how you form the content and how you give the delivery. So I developed a set of eight questions. I want to tell you as we begin this session that Im not setting either me or Tom up as models for preaching. Were just students. Were just in this together. Were learning. The model for preaching, I believe, must be Jesus Christ. Not some professor in seminary. Not Paul. Not Peter. Not John the Baptist. Not Calvin. Not Luther. Not Martin Lloyd Jones. Not John McArthur. Not anybody else. I believe the model for preaching must be Jesus Christ. So today as we look at this stuff Im going to continually say, Lets look at Jesus. Lets look at Jesus and see how He taught because how Jesus taught is very different from the way most of us were taught in Bible school or seminary to preach and teach. Very, very different. Jesus was a master communicator. Thats for sure. In John 12:49 it says, The Father who sent Me commanded Me what to say and how to say it. Circle those two phrases what to say and how to say it. In other words, Jesus was taught by the Father not only the content what to say 2

TEACHING AND PREACHING THAT MAKES THE DIFFERENCE - Part 1 but He was also taught the delivery how to say it. So if we look at Jesus we can learn not only what to say as we teach and preach but we can also learn delivery techniques. And that is how to say it. When Im preparing my messages I ask myself two questions about what to say and I ask myself six questions about how to say it. I. To whom will I be preaching? 1 Corinthians 9:22-23 says this Whatever a person is like I try to find common ground with him so he will let me tell him about Christ and let Christ save him. I do this to get the gospel to him. Paul always start with his audience. Paul says who am I going to speak to. I start with my audience. So did Jesus in Luke 11:17 it says, Jesus knew their thoughts. So the first question you want to ask is Whos going to be my audience? I try to picture them in my mind. I ask myself three questions about the audience Im going to be preaching to. I ask What are their needs? What are their hurts? And, What are their interests? What are their needs? The problems, stresses and challenges that theyre facing? What are their hurts? The fact is everybodys hurting somewhere. They may be hiding it but everybody has a hurt. What are their interests? What are the issues that theyre thinking about? Annually, at least annually, I survey our congregation to find out what theyre thinking? What their interests are. Too often were answering questions in our preaching and teaching that nobodys asking. I saw this cartoon the other day. A guy kind of bug-eyed sitting on the side of his bed. He says, My wife just left me, I lost my job, and my spirit has hit bottom. Pastor, youve got to help me! Whats the difference between pre-, post-, and ammilenialism? I hate to tell you this, folks, but the burning issue on the street is not the difference between consubstantiation and transubstantiation. There just arent that many people asking that question out in the world. The average person is saying, My wife just left me, my daughters pregnant, my sons on drugs. Is there a word from God? Does God have anything to say about the things that Im going through? Too often were answering questions nobodys asking. God says begin with the hearers needs. Ephesians 4:29 Speak only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs that it may benefit those who listen. Circle only. This is not my command. This is a command from the Bible. God commands you when you speak in conversation, speak only whats helpful in building others up according to your needs? No. According to the hearers needs. If thats true in conversation its also true in preaching. You need to speak only whats helpful for building others up according to their needs that it may benefit those who listen. The fact is you would go crazy if you had to consciously respond to every sight and sound and symbol in life. So God has graciously put at the back of your brain a little filter. Its at the base of your brain. Its called the reticular activating system. You could look this up in any science book, any neurology book. Its the reticular activating system. Its right at the base of your brain. What that does is it filters out things. If you had to consciously respond to everything youd go crazy. 3

TEACHING AND PREACHING THAT MAKES THE DIFFERENCE - Part 1 For instance: can you hear the cars buzzing out side? Can you hear the hum of the air conditioning? Squeaking? If you had to consciously respond to every sight and sound youd go crazy. Were bombarded every second with all kinds of stimuli. So God put this filter at the back of your brain that there are only three things that get your attention. This has profound implications for teaching. Only three things get your attention. Studies have shown that what gets our attention are things that we value, things that are unusual, and things that threaten us. I happen to believe that things that are unusual and things that threaten us are not legitimate ways to present the gospel. I dont believe in fear evangelism. Because Ive discovered that fear evangelism only lasts about as long as the fear does. And if you do something unusual that means every week youve got to have a different gimmick and next week the gimmick has to be bigger than this week because theyre bored with that. So you get in this cycle of always trying to do something more and more unusual and you just become a freak show. But I do believe that God has called us to share things that people value. Whenever theres communication going on just like right now, the listeners (in this case, you) are constantly asking in the back of your mind unconsciously how does this relate to me? Does it relate to me? Is there anything of value? Right now if you have figured out that what Rick is saying has some value to me, youre still listening. If youve figured out, I dont think Im going to be interested in this session today youve already tuned out and started thinking, I wish I hadnt missed Seinfeld last night. Or thinking about what happened in the newspaper today. So you're always asking, every time you speak the people you speak to are saying, Does this have any value to me? If it does they listen. If it doesnt they dont. The goal of preaching and teaching is to move people from where they are to where they ought to be. But you cant start with where they ought to be. You have to start with where they are and show them the value of getting to where they ought to be. Does that make sense? Youve got to show how to get to where they need to be. But you start where they are. The reason why many pastors and teachers struggle with sermon preparation is because theyre asking the wrong questions. The wrong question is, What should I preach on this weekend? What should I teach on this weekend in my Bible study? Thats the wrong question. The right question is, To whom will I be preaching? The people who are there, their needs will give an indication of what you need to speak on. Do you believe that God is omniscient, that God knows everything? Sure. He knows everything. That means God already knows whos going to be in church on Sunday. If God already knows whos going to be in church and He already knows what their needs are why would He have me prepare a message totally irrelevant to the people Hes planning to bring? What I need to say is, God, You already know whos going to be there. And You know what their needs are. Would You let me in on that? What do You want to say to them about their needs? Because Youre obviously bring them. Why would God for instance have me do message on premarital sex to a group of 90 year olds? Somehow I missed what God wanted to say. Of course now that we have Viagra you never know.

TEACHING AND PREACHING THAT MAKES THE DIFFERENCE - Part 1 Can something be true but irrelevant? Of course it can. Imagine you go to the dentist. You walk in and say, Doctor, my tooth is killing me. Ive got a terrible abscessed tooth and Im in major pain. What if he wanted to talk about the history of dentistry? Youd say, Im sure thats great. Im sure thats fine. But Im in pain. Its killing me. Or lets say youre in a car accident and your hand is severed and youre bleeding to death and you go into the hospital to the emergency room and the doctor wants to talk about the Greek word for stethoscope. Youre going, Hello! Im bleeding here! Every week in your church people are coming in bleeding emotionally, spiritually and relationally. And we get up and talk about the history of this and the Greek word for that. It may be true but its irrelevant. A guy who comes to church and has just gone through a bankruptcy and hes just discovered hes got cancer and he comes in and I talk about, Who are the Jebusites. Its true but its irrelevant. To get peoples attention you have to begin with their need, hurt or interest. You dont leave them there. But thats where you have to start. This principle is used by everybody in the world except preachers. In education, every teacher knows you begin with the student not the curriculum. In sales, every salesman knows you begin with the customer not the product. In management, every manager knows you begin with the employees agenda not your agenda. Youre going to get to your agenda but you start where they are. If I spend the first part of a message on the historical background, by the time I get to my application Ive already lost the audience. It depends on who youre speaking to. When Paul spoke to Jewish congregations, he started with Jewish history. When he spoke to pagans, for instance in Athens, he began with a quote from a pagan poet and said nothing about Jewish history. So first ask, To whom will I be speaking? II. The second question you ask is, What does the Bible say about their needs? After youve figured out their needs or hurts, what does the Bible say about their needs? I searched through the Bible for everything I could find on the subject. This could take days when Im working on a new series. I use every reference tool I can get my hands on. My favorite tool is QuickVerse. Its a computer program which allows you to see about fifteen different translations all at once and look at it together. This next January, I believe its in January, Im going to do a one-day all day workshop on how I prepare messages. Were going to invite people in. Were going to set around tables and do it together and actually prepare some messages. I dont want to get into all that. But I use all the concordances I can find, all the translations I can find, life application Bible, handbook of Bible applications, topical analysis of the Bible, Thompsons chain reference. I use the Word, which is 26 translations. I just start looking. When I did the Purpose Driven Life series, I studied over 1000 verses before I ever preached the first message. A lot of work doing that. Youre saying, Wait a minute. Are you saying its ok to start with an idea and then move to a text? Instead of starting with a text and move to an idea? Of course it is. I dont think God cares at all whether you start with the idea or with the text as long as you get to the text and deal with it legitimately. 5

TEACHING AND PREACHING THAT MAKES THE DIFFERENCE - Part 1 Heres what preaching and teaching are all about. Heres the world over here and heres the word over here. Somehow youve got to get the world and the word together in an application. I dont think God cares at all whether you start here or here as long as you get them together eventually and adequately deal with the text as it applies to peoples lives. Again, study Jesus. Dont study all your heroes that tell you this is the only way to preach today. Study Jesus. Jesus always spoke to peoples needs, hurts or interests. Always. One hundred percent of the time. He didnt get up and say, Todays day 52 so were in chapter 52 of Isaiah. Hed get out in the boat, let a storm come up, theyd get all nervous. Hed calm the storm and theyd say Lord, we were afraid. Hed say, Lets talk about faith. He scratched where they itched. He started where they were always. In fact, in Jesus very first sermon He outlined this preaching agenda. Luke 4: 18-19 quoting Isaiah, He has appointed Me to preach the good news to the poor. He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to announce that captives shall be released and the blind shall see and the downtrodden shall be freed from their oppressors and that God is ready to give blessings to all who come to Him. In Jesus first sermon He gives His preaching agenda. Circle all the benefits: Im going to give good news Im going to heal the brokenhearted Im going to release the blind Im going to free the oppressed and Im going to give blessing to all who come. His message would be need oriented and He outlines five or so different benefits and says this is what My preaching is going to do. I believe that when you understand the purpose of the Bible your understanding of that will determine how you preach. What is the purpose of the Bible? I love the Phillips paraphrase of 2 Timothy 3:16, All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching the faith and correcting error and resetting the direction of a mans life and training him in good living. The ultimate purpose of the Bible is not to teach Israels history or even doctrinal facts. The ultimate purpose of the Bible is to transform character. . D. L. Moody said, The Bible is not given to give us information. It was given to change our lives. That means preaching must always be related to life, even when youre doing doctrinal preaching. Dont misunderstand what Im saying. You hear people all the time saying, Weve got to make the Bible relevant. I totally disagree. You dont have to make the Bible relevant. It is. Whats irrelevant is the way we share it. Its our preaching style and teaching style thats irrelevant. The Bible is incredibly relevant. We dont have to make the Bible relevant but you do have to show its relevance by applying it in a way thats personal, practical, and positive to todays needs. Some of you think, Which is more effective, topical preaching or verse by verse preaching through books of the Bible. I want to tell you that both are needed for a healthy church. You need to have both. I happen to believe that verse by verse preaching through books of the Bible is the most effective way to build up believers. I happen to believe that topical, verse with verse exposition is the most effective way to reach seekers, unbelievers for evangelism. In our seeker services we do verse with verse what I call topical exposition. And in believer service we do verse by verse or book exposition. Were going through the book of Romans right now. Pastor Toms teaching that. Let me clear this up because theres a lot of myths out there. There is no biblical method of preaching. There is no biblical method. In fact, all of the prophets preached in different ways. 6

TEACHING AND PREACHING THAT MAKES THE DIFFERENCE - Part 1 What do Wesley and Calvin and Spurgeon and Finney and Moody and Billy Graham and Paul and Jesus have in common? The answer is none of them were verse by verse book preachers. Not one of them. That is a modern day phenomenon in the last 200 years. Im not saying its wrong. In fact, I believe its important for healthy edification. But to say book by book preaching is the only way to preach is idolatry. Its making a method more important than the message. Its just not true. Jesus didnt preach that way. Paul never preached that way he never did. Peter never preached that way. I had a guy come to me and said, I know where you learned your preaching. He brought out a biography of Charles Finney. It said, A man in London came home one day from our meeting greatly convicted. This man had been a skeptic and his wife said, Have you been to hear Mr. Finney preach? The man replied, Ive been to Mr. Finneys meetings. But he doesnt preach. He explains what other people preach about. This is what Ive heard over and over again. They say, Any body could preach as you do. You just talk to the people. You talk as if you would have sat in the parlor with people. Others have said, It doesnt seem like preaching. It seems like Mr. Finney has taken me alongside of me and talking with me face to face. Heres my habit. My habit has always been to study the gospel and the best application of it. I do not confine myself to hours and hours of commentaries. But I go out among the people and learn their needs. Then in the light of the Holy Spirit I take a subject I think will meet their present necessities. I pray. I think on it intensely. I study over the subject. Then I go out and deliver it. Jesus so many times, people would come to Him and Hed say, What do you want Me to do for you? He would start with their point of need. And He never made them feel sad or bad or negative for coming to Him with a need. Again, I honestly dont think God cares whether the Bible is taught verse with verse. For instance lets take a subject like abortion. Theres no single passage in the Bible that deals with all there is to say about abortion. You just take verses from multiple different areas. When you deal with stress. Theres no single passage. You need verses from multiple different areas and deal with it. I dont think God cares at all whether the Bible is taught verse with verse or verse by verse as long as the Bible is legitimately taught. And by the way, most doctrines can only be dealt with topically anyway. In fact theres a word for topical preaching in seminary. Its called systematic theology. What Im going to teach you how to do today in your Sunday school, in your group, takes far more study than verse by verse. Ive done both for years and theres no comparison. If Im going through the books of the Bible and I get to a passage I know what Im studying, I just pull out the commentaries, read that, throw in some illustrations and Ive got it. It takes me twice as long to prepare a message for Sundays, the weekend, than it does for week day. Once Ive gathered all the scriptures on a subject, and again that can take an awful long time, then I begin to focus on the best way to communicate. This is what I want to spend most of our time on today. Most of you have been taught how to gather all the material. But I want to talk to all of you about delivery. There are thousands of baseball pitchers in America and they all stand 60 feet 6 inches from the batter, the same amount from the pitchers mound to the batter. They all throw the same 2-inch ball. But the difference between the minor leagues and the pros is delivery.

TEACHING AND PREACHING THAT MAKES THE DIFFERENCE - Part 1 I preach the same message four times every week and delivery makes all the difference in the world. The same message and you get different responses in different services all dependent upon how you deliver it. So after Ive figured out what Im going to preach on and to whom Im going to preach to, I then spend the vast majority of the time crafting the message so it could be delivered in a way that people remember it and people take it home and it changes lives. III. So the third question I ask is, What is the most practical way to say it? James 1:22, again in the Philips, Do not only hear the message but put it into practice. Otherwise youre merely deluging yourself. Christianity is a lifestyle. Jesus said, I came that you might have life. So preaching must teach people how to live. Jesus was always practical because His purpose was to change behavior. Luke 10:37 says Now go and do likewise. How many times did Jesus say that in His preaching? Go and do likewise. If the goal of preaching is changed lives then application is the primary task of teaching and preaching. Applying it to peoples lives so they can go and do likewise. In fact, look at this verse in Titus 2:1 You must tell them the sort of character which should spring from sound teaching. In the Jerusalem Bible it says, You must preach the behavior which goes with healthy doctrine. Its not just enough to interpret scripture. You must apply it in a practical way. Ive heard preachers says lots of times, I just preach the word and I leave the application to the Holy Spirit. Thats a big mistake. Because interpretation without application is abortion. You have not finished the task of teaching if you simply interpret. Heres what it means but you dont apply it heres what you need to do. Heres what it means heres what you need to do. Jesus did not say, I have come that you might have information. But in many churches people sit week after week after week with their notebooks taking notes on material thats totally unrelated to what theyre going to face on Monday morning. So how do you make your preaching and teaching more practical? Heres some tips. 1. Always aim for specific action. In every message, in every Bible study, in every devotional in your small group always aim for a specific action. What specifically do you want them to do? In the Great Commission Jesus said, Teach them to do everything that I have commanded you. You might suggest a project. I often give a homework assignment. Heres what I want you to do this week. Nothing becomes dynamic until it becomes specific. Aim for specific action. 2. Tell them why. Why should I make this change in my life? What will it do for me? Explain the benefits of why youre teaching them what youre teaching them. 3. Show them how. This is really what people need. I am convinced that today what the church needs is not deeper interpretation but clearer application. Teaching people how. All my life I was told, You need to study the Bible. From the time I was a kid I was told youve got to study the Bible. Every 8

TEACHING AND PREACHING THAT MAKES THE DIFFERENCE - Part 1 Christian needs to study the Bible. And not one person ever taught me how. So I went out years ago, 25 years ago, and bought every single book I could find on Bible study methods and read them all. They divided into two camps. Ninety-five percent of the books on how to study the Bible said, You need to study the Bible. Its important to study the Bible. Youve got to study the Bible but never taught me any step by step methods. The other five percent were technical you had to have a PhD in Hermeneutics to understand them. So finally I just went out and wrote one myself. I wrote a book on twelve methods of Bible study. Billy Graham took it, reprinted it and gave it away to all kinds of people in 196 countries. It was a simple thing eight steps for a character study, ten steps for a thematic study, nine steps for a chapter analysis, eight steps for a word study. Teaching people bam, bam, bam, and bam! People need to know how. The Bible, I believe, is a lot clearer than we give it credit for. Remember it was written for the common man. It was written not in classical Greek. It was written in common Greek. So you just need to use a clearer translation. You dont have to interpret much if you use a clearer translation. I know why some guys like to use King James because it gives them something to preach about. What this means is and what theyre doing is interpreting the Old English. If you dont have to interpret the old English you can get right to the application quicker. A lot of verses are selfexplanatory. They dont need interpretation. They just need application. For instance Love your neighbor as yourself. That doesnt need any interpretation. It just needs, here are five ways to love your neighbor as yourself Forgive other people as Christ forgave you. That doesnt need a whole lot of interpretation. Just, Here are four situations you probably need to forgive somebody this week. Do everything without worrying or disputing. That doesnt need a whole lot of interpretation. Here are the five ways youre most likely to worry Heres how you dont do that. A good example of a good sermon is Acts 2. Its Peters sermon at Pentecost. It began with peoples questions, What does this mean? and it ended with them saying, What shall we do? notice in Acts 2 it says The words of Peter moved them deeply and they said to him, What shall we do? The problem is after many of my sermons people are still asking, What does it mean? You want to give people a step by step procedure in making things practical. What are todays best selling books? Theyre How To books, arent they? How to save your marriage. How to overcome your depression. How to make your life count. People are looking for practical answers. About half of my messages have How to in the title. Sermons that teach people how to live will not lack an audience. Sadly, a lot of our preaching is what I call Aint it awful preaching. Its like, Look how bad the world is! Look how bad this is and look how bad that is. Its kind of like sin of the week what are we going to be against this week? I saw this cartoon of Dennis the Menace . Hes coming out of church and says to the preacher, Hey Rev, next Sunday just for fun could you tell us what were doing right? A lot of Aint It Awful preaching is long on diagnosis but short on remedy. Is that what you want when you go to a doctor? When I go to a doctor I dont want diagnosis. I want prescription. I want a remedy. When I go to a doctor and say, Doctor, Im feeling bad, I dont want, Oh, yeah, youre feeling bad. Heres why. Overwork, you weigh too much, you dont exercise, you dont 9

TEACHING AND PREACHING THAT MAKES THE DIFFERENCE - Part 1 eat the right food, seventy-five bucks please! Time out! I want remedy. I want a solution. Dont just tell me everything thats wrong. I grew up in a pastors home and not only that I grew up in a home where my dad was on staff at a seminary. I cant tell you growing up living on that seminary campus how many sermons I heard that I was writing the notes down I wrote in my Bible on the side YBH Yes, but how? You need to be a godly father. Yes, but how? You need to be filled with the Spirit. Yes, but how? You need to study the Bible. Yes, but how? You need to be out sharing your faith. Yes, but how? What we need is less ought to preaching and more how to preaching. Telling people the practical way. Exhortation with out explanation leads to frustration. We need to say, what is the most practical way to say it? IV. The next question I ask myself when Im preparing a Bible study many times is, What is the most positive way to say it? Proverbs 16:21 A wise mature person is known for his understanding. The more pleasant his words the more persuasive he is. Circle pleasant and circle persuasive and draw a line between the two. When Im abrasive Im never persuasive. If you want to persuade people you have to be pleasant. I didnt say that. The Bible says it. The more pleasant your words, the more persuasive youre going to be. The sad thing is the gospel has a negative image because its been communicated in negative terms. Would you agree that most churches are known more for what theyre against than what theyre for? Have you ever considered the fact that the word sermon and preach are always used in a negative context? Dont give me a sermon! Dont preach at me! Why do they say that? Unfortunately so many messages have been so negative all the time that the words preach and sermon are always used in a negative context in our society. I believe a constant diet of negative sermons one right after the other is detrimental to the health of the church. The most destructive kind of sermons are those where the pastors got all these pent up frustrations and he just kind of gets up and spiritually vomits on people! He goes home feeling pretty good but everybody else feels a little sticky! Have you ever wondered why some churches are filled with goofy people? Because neurotics need a weekly spanking. If Im going to give them this constant diet negative, negative, negative you get these people who come out and greet you, Great sermon, pastor. It made me feel so bad! As if I havent really worshipped unless somebody beat me up with a biblical bulldozer. Look at what Jesus did. Listen to Jesus. Dont listen to some other model. Listen to what Jesus did. Jesus said, I came to bring good news not bad news. Do you want to be like Jesus? Preach good news. By the way, its not the gospel unless its good news. Gospel means good news. Some pastors are always negative from the pulpit. Every week sin of the week negative, negative, negative. Then they have a business meeting and present a great idea and get voted down and they wonder why. Theyve set themselves up. If you give a constant diet of negative, negative, negative, you know what kind of people you attract to your church? Negative people. You fill a church with negative people and guess what? Theyre going to be against everything you come up with. 10

TEACHING AND PREACHING THAT MAKES THE DIFFERENCE - Part 1 Colossians 4:5 Be tactful with those who are not Christians. Talk to them agreeably. Circle agreeably. The idea of a seeker sensitive service is all through the New Testament. The point is you dont lift people up by putting them down. Im going to shock you right now. But Jesus never called anybody a sinner. Read your Bible. He never called anybody a sinner. He did call Pharisees white washed sepulchers and snakes. He afflicted the comfortable and comforted the afflicted. Jesus reserved His most severe negative warnings for those who were putting everybody else down. And by the way Jesus never tried to convert anybody with anger. Jesus said this, I didnt come to condemn the world. I came to save it. I want to have a ministry like Jesus. I want to be like Jesus. He said, I didnt come to condemn the world, and neither did I. He said, I came to save it. Lets take it on a practical level. Does nagging work on you at home? Nagging doesnt work at home and it doesnt work from the pulpit either. Criticism just makes people defensive. I could stand up here and start saying a few things and in about five minutes make every one of you mad. All I have to do is start criticizing you, attacking you and the defenses would go up and once the defenses are up you dont listen anymore. Youre upset. I believe our basic message to the church must be good news. Thats what the gospel is all about. So I ask two questions: Is this message good news? Im talking about preaching to the unchurched. Im not talking about prophetic preaching to the saved. Im talking about evangelistic preaching to the unchurched. Is this message good news? Theres so much bad news in the world the last thing people need to do is come to church and hear more bad news. Theres plenty of bad news at home. Second question I ask is does my title imply that I have good news to share? Heres a recent issue of the LA Times. This is the Saturday page and Im going to read you some sermon titles from the Saturday page. Tell me if youd go to any of these. Tell me if theyre good news. The Gathering Storm: Gods Chosen Ones. That sounds like a church fight to me! Walking Instructions no thanks! I had that lesson forty years ago. No Longer Walking on the Other Side of the Road - Is this the sin of J-walking or something? The Road to Jericho What are all these Road sermons. Is Bob Hope preaching? Becoming a Titus Whats a Titus? Im an unchurched person and I dont know what a Titus is? Do we want to become one? Give Me Agape a gape? The Ministry of Cracked Pots That sounds more like a ceramic class to me. A God-forsaken True Believer and a Benevolent Heretic Ill bet thats on Howard Stern and Rush Limbaugh, No Such Thing as a Rubber Clock Sometimes pastors try to use questions to create interest. Like What is More Blessed? Are You Pushing or Pulling Are We Having any Fun Yet? No, we are not! 11

TEACHING AND PREACHING THAT MAKES THE DIFFERENCE - Part 1 Have You Ever Been to Hell? Visit us. Im not making these up! Reverend Bill Vaugh will speak afterwards on How to make a fish vomit. The Lords supper will be observed. Getting neighborly with your personal demons. Come and be a part of our believers and seekers contemporary worship service. Tongan dance performed by the Tongan youth. Thats real seeker sensitive! I collect stupid sermon titles. If you get any good ones send them to me. Here are a few Ive collected, some of my favorite. The Destiny of the Dead - deacon ordination. Now I know what they do with dead Baptists. They make them deacons! What Hell is Like. Special music by our organist. I Remember Mama. Mama was a widow. Old Fashioned Hell Fire Preaching with evangelist Glenn Ice. Its funny how some pastors try to treat the subject of sex. Why its Risky to be Frisky Why You Need to Purge the Urge to Merge Some titles try to give a cute little Bible story. Heres the one on Naaman and leprosy and Elijah Seven Dunks in a Muddy River. Ehud the judge When Lefty Let Fatty Have It On the Gadarene demoniac A Nude Dude in a Rude Mood. I like these! Some pastors really go for bizarre titles Resurrected Brains of the Unsaved Dead A Hooker and Two Preachers Is that Baker and Swaggert? Fed Up at Fifteen, Fagged Out at Forty That was probably preached in San Francisco. Sometimes the morning title is ruined by the evening title. A.M. The preacher preaches; P.M. What the Fool Said A.M. Short bed and narrow blankets; P.M. Great Expectations Then this is my all time favorite sermon Oaklands Tenth Avenue Baptist Church. Reverend Cecil W. Johnson preaching A.M. Ten Virgins in a Crisis; P M. Im Only One Man; So hat? Im assuming this guys text was I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. Philippians 4:13 Are any of those titles going to attract an unbeliever? Its going to attract a few queer ducks, thats for sure. If your title does not imply good news and promote a benefit, dont even give it a title. 12

TEACHING AND PREACHING THAT MAKES THE DIFFERENCE - Part 1 These guys are wasting money in the newspaper. Why put a title like that in the newspaper that means nothing to an unbeliever? Theyre just wasting their money. They might as well not even give it a title. One good way to learn good titles is write for tape catalogs of different people and look down their tapes whether you ever get their tapes or not. You can do that with our tape ministry. Get a list of all the tape catalogues and look at the titles that Ive used. Ephesians 4:29 says this Dont use harmful words in talking but only helpful words, the kind that build up. Its all in the way you say it. How do you preach against sin in a positive way? The answer is promote the positive alternative. In other words, be for the right thing rather than spend so much time being against the wrong thing. For instance, I dont preach against unfaithfulness as much as I preach for faithfulness. (How to affair proof your marriage. How do you keep it from happening.) I dont preach against dishonesty as much as I preach for integrity. I dont preach against a lack of commitment as much as I preach for commitment. I dont preach against sin as much as I preach for righteousness. Sometimes its just a simple changing of the words. For instance, when I was an evangelist I used to have a message called Why No Revival. It was because We worship without passion, We work without priority, We warfare without power and another one. It was a negative message Why dont we have revival. Then I just turned it around and said, How to have revival. We must worship with passion. We must work with priority. We must warfare with power. Its the exact same sermon its just the way you say it. Thats not watering down the gospel its just all in the way you say it. It was the exact same sermon. Instead of saying, We dont do this, we dont do this, we dont do this. I said, We need to do this, we need to do this, we need to do this. Thats what Im talking about. When people come to you and say, Why dont you preach against sin, pastor? what they mean is why dont you preach against all sins I dont commit? Like adultery and drug addiction and abortion. They dont want you to preach against gossip or pride or self-righteousness. They always means preach against the sins that those evil, wicked, bad, nasty people in the world do so I can feel morally superior to everybody else. They dont want you hitting their sin. Preaching against sin isnt the good news. All have sinned! Thats not good news. Thats not even news. The good news is You can be forgiven. Jesus Christ shed His precious blood so you could be forgiven. Thats the good news. You say, Do you ever preach repentance? Of course. I preach it all the time. Repentance is the central message of the New Testament. You cant compromise the message. But what is repentance? Metanoia in Greek. It means, to change your mind. To repent means to change your mind. Change your mind about God, change your mind about your own sin, change your mind about the world, change your mind about the future. It means to think Gods way rather than your way.


TEACHING AND PREACHING THAT MAKES THE DIFFERENCE - Part 1 When I repented it was the happiest day of my life. I turned from darkness to light. I turned from guilt to forgiveness. I turned from no hope to hope. I turned from meaninglessness to purpose in life. I turned from doomed to hell to salvation and eternal life in heaven. When I repented, I felt relief. I really did. I thought why didnt I do this earlier? If I had known what a good deal it was I would have done it a whole lot earlier. Sometimes we make it sound like coming to Christ is like giving them cancer. Its the greatest decision in the world. Repentance is a positive term. Its turning away from all those things that are messing up your life destroying your life. Jesus said, I came that you might have life. The opposite of live, spelled backwards, is evil. Live is evil spelled backwards. So its the exact opposite. I turned away from evil so I could learn to live. How do you preach on a negative passage? You preach it with a humble, loving attitude. Not that youre superior to your hearers. Were all in the same boat. When you preach on a negative passage you confess weve all fallen short here. You change your pronouns from you to we. When you preach on hell you preach with a broken heart not like youre happy somebodys going there. Think about Jesus. How do you think Jesus would quote Romans 3:23? Do you think He would say, All have sinned! All have come short of the glory of God! I dont think so. I think Jesus would say Romans 3:23 like this, Its a fact of life: All have sinned. Youve all blown it. Everybody comes short of the glory of God. But the gift of God is eternal life. He wouldnt say it like Hes enjoying telling people theyre bad. Because He didnt enjoy telling people they were bad. Jesus lifted people up. You never convert anybody with anger. He didnt say it harshly. He said it with a broken heart. I love to preach on negative passages. I really do. I consider it an intellectual challenge. I like to preach on negative passages and present them in a positive way. Ive done a series through Ecclesiastes. You talk about a negative book! We were having a scripture reading at the start. Finally we had to cut the scripture reading during the Ecclesiastes series because people were committing suicide before the message came! Life is bad! Life is terrible! I preached on the seven deadly sins on Sunday morning to seekers. I preached through the Ten Commandments three different times to seekers. Why? I asked them, Whats the most negative passage of the Bible? They said The Ten Commandments. Dont do this, dont do this, dont do this I said Im going to challenge myself to do that in a positive way. In the first series on the Ten Commandments I changed the titles and here were the messages: How to Set Your Priorities - You shall have no other Gods before Me; How to Know the Real God - Dont make any graven idols; How to take God seriously (Dont take Gods name in vain; Remember the Sabbath and keep it holy as How to prevent burnout. Where did I get that one? Jesus said the Sabbath was made for man not man for the Sabbath. He said every six days you take a day off. The Sabbath was made for man not vice versa. By the way, pastor, do you take a weekly day off? If youre not taking a weekly day off youre breaking the Ten Commandments. Rest and relaxation are so important He put them in the big Ten right up there with Dont commit adultery and murder, every seventh day you take a day off. Your body was not made for constant work. Those of you who are pastors, believe me, Sunday is no Sabbath for you. Thats a workday. I take Monday off. Mondays my Sabbath. I dont like taking Monday off because I dont like feeling that bad on my day off. But after four services I find that I have to. 14

TEACHING AND PREACHING THAT MAKES THE DIFFERENCE - Part 1 So again, Honor your father and mother. You say, My father molested me. What about that? I talked about How to make peace with your parents. Dont murder. Jesus said if you think anger in your heart its the same thing as murder so I talked about How to tame your temper. Dont commit adultery. I talked about How to affair proof your marriage. The Bible says, Thou shalt not steal. I talked about How to prosper with a clear conscious. There are legitimate ways to make money and there are illegitimate ways to make money. I talked about that from scripture. I talked about How to be respected by others. Dont covet - How to find lasting contentment. What I did was say the negative in a positive way. You preach the whole counsel of God. Its just in the way that you say it. The way you say it determines how it is received. If you say it offensively its going to be received defensively. I want to beg you to work on being more positive in your preaching because the world is hungry for good news. It takes character to be positive. Any fool can be negative. Just read the papers. It takes no intelligence at all to be a critic. They build statues to people who are criticized all their lives but youve never seen a statue to a critic. One of the benefits of being positive in your preaching is that your sermons get shorter. You dont spend the first 25 minutes trying to work up guilt. I used to spend all the time trying to work up guilt then the last five minutes I kind of said, Heres how to be saved. Thats kind of like me walking up to a guy whos fishing, pushing him in the lake, offering him a hand to get out and then expect him to thank me. He says, Youre the guy who pushed me in! A sermon does not have to be eternal to be immortal. V. I then ask myself, What is the most encouraging way to say it? Proverbs 12:25 A word of encouragement does wonders. Thats why we named our tape ministry The Encouraging Word because we all need encouragement. You need to realize the Bible tells us that everything in the Bible is for our encouragement. Romans 15:4 Everything that was written in the past was written to teach us so that through endurance and the encouragement of the scriptures we might have hope. Even the negative parts God said are there to give you hope. On page 77. Every week those who listen to your message, your Bible study, your small group study have three fundamental needs. One, to have their faith reinforced. Two, to have their hope renewed. Three, to have their love restored. When you sand before congregation you need to realize that everybodys had a tough week. Your job is to encourage them to not give up. This week, somebodys discovered cancer. This week somebodys had their spouse leave them. This week somebodys had their kid run away. Your job is to infuse hope into hopeless situations. If youre preaching encouraging words to discouraged people youll always have an audience. Because, life is tough. So every week if you preach to broken hearts, youll always be relevant. We all need affirmation. We all grow stronger with encouragement. Jesus preaching brought the best out in people. If you dont get anything else, I want you to get this. This is the key to personal change. Dont tell it like it is. Tell it like it can be. Thats called preaching for faith. Dont tell it like it is. People say, I just tell it like it is. You can do that. But if you want to change lives you need to do something else. You need to tell it like it can be. Thats preaching for faith. Labeling just reinforces the negative. 15

TEACHING AND PREACHING THAT MAKES THE DIFFERENCE - Part 1 For instance, if someone comes and says, Rick, you are a lousy dad. My tendency is to say, Yeah, I agree. I need to be a better father. I need to spend more times with my kids Im so bad. Let me give you some examples of how Im a bad father. On the other hand, if somebody comes to me and says, Rick, I see in you the potential to become a great father. If you would just start growing, you could be a godly man. A godly man that your wife would honor and cherish, that your kids would respect, that the community would look up to. I see in you the potential with Jesus Christ in your heart and the Holy Spirit guiding you moment by moment you can become a godly parent, a godly father. That excites me. Not saying, Youre a lousy father. Dont tell it like it is - tell it like it can be. Jesus did this all the time. He looks at Peter and says, Peter, youre a rock! Right! Peter was anything but a rock. He was Mr. Impulsive. Mr. Foot In Mouth. Mr. Mischievous. Mr. Jump Out of the Boat and Sink. I see in you a rock. Hes Mr. Oh, yeah! Ill never deny You, and then he denies. Whats He doing? Hes pointing out what He can see. He was encouraging, bring out the best in Peters life. You say, Well Im called to be a prophet! When people say that they usually mean theyre called to criticize and condemn. Read your Old Testament. The prophets did an awful lot of comforting too. In fact, even prophets are supposed to encourage. The Bible says Everyone who prophecies speaks to men for their strengthening, encouragement and comfort. In other words, you build up, you hold up and you fire up. You build up strengthening. You fire up encouragement. And you hold up comfort. Those are the three things that biblical prophecy does. How do you fight a bad idea? Ill tell you how. You offer a better one. A lot of so called courageous preaching, folks, is just obnoxious preaching. You can state the truth but you can state it in a positive way. I got this in the mail a while back: Jesus is coming soon! Revival of repentance! He has on here the things that hes going to preach on: Read what the prophet says. Preaching against adultery, divorce, remarriage, marriage annulment, fornication, common law living, oral sex, lusting, homosexuality, lesbianism, pimps, pornography, mixed bathing, women wearing shorts, hatred, stealing, cheating, lying, deceiving, gambling, using Gods name in vain, dope addiction, alcohol beverage, tobacco use, smoking, pride, make up, certain television programs (which are they?), suicide, murder, rape, bribery, extortion, arson, mini-skirts, revenge, burglary, rock music and all the rest the Bible condemns. Then he says, If you want to know what the Holy Spirit says concerning television sets, He says, Move them out! Then he says, Love in Jesus, the Prophet. Jesus reserved His worst condemnation for the Pharisees. Why? Matthew 23 Pharisees pile back breaking burdens and lay them on other mens shoulders. He says they put impossible demands on people. What is the most encouraging way to say it? VI. I ask What is the simplest way to say it? as Im preparing a Bible study or a message. What is the simplest way to say it? Simple does not men shallow. Simple means simple. Simple does not mean simplistic. Simple means simple. 1 Corinthians 2:1 Paul says, When I came to you it was not with any show of oratory or philosophy. But simply to tell you what God had 16

TEACHING AND PREACHING THAT MAKES THE DIFFERENCE - Part 1 guaranteed. He said I didnt come with an oratory. I just came in a simple way to tell you what was happening. 1 Corinthians 2:4 My preaching was very plain not with a lot of oratory. What is oratory? Oratory is dramatically stating what everybody already agrees with. It is used to reinforce commonly held values and beliefs. Its the old fashioned way of communicating. In fact, the only place you hear oratory today are at pastors conferences. There are certain code words in your denomination that when you say those words theres a shout from the camp This guys ok! In my denomination its the blood, the book and the blessed hope! And inerrancy. Everybody will Amen! Everybody already agrees anyway. Were already on that boat. Oratory never says anything new or different. It just restates in dramatic ways what everybody already agrees with. Its like preaching to the choir. The problem is that oratory only works on people who are already convinced. It rarely converts anybody. It seldom changes anybodys mind. So why should my delivery be simple instead of in flowery oratory? Titus tells us Your speech should be unaffected and logical so that your opponents will feel ashamed at finding nothing in which to pick holes. He said, dont have this flowery thing or people will start making fun of your oratory. One of the things that I love about Jesus again study Jesus! Jesus taught profound truths in simple ways. We do the exact opposite. We teach simple truths in profound ways. I confused them again! We kind of take pride in that. A lot of times we think were being deep. Were just being muddy. Look at what they said about Jesus preaching. Mark 12:37 The common people heard Him gladly. Spurgeon once said, A sermons like a well. If theres anything in it its bright and reflective. If theres nothing in it its deep, dark and mysterious. A lot of preachers are just empty wells with dead cat thrown in it. Its easy to complicate the gospel. It takes a lot more effort to be simple. Einstein once said, You dont really understand something unless you can says it in a simple way. You can be brilliant but if you cant communicate it in a simple way then your wisdom isnt worth much. My kids, when they were growing up, I discovered that the simplest toys were the strongest. A simple molded plastic bat and ball. Theyre unbreakable. But these robotronic things that have a million parts they break pretty easily. The more complicated your sermon is, the easier it falls apart. The simpler your sermon is, the stronger it is, the longer its going to last. I live in the fortieth congressional district of the United States. According to a census its the most educated district in America. There are more PhDs, Doctoral candidates, doctors degrees, more college graduates in this area per capita than any other area of the United States. When I first came to Saddleback I tried to be profound. Ill admit it. Im not profound. Im simple. And the simpler I get the more God blesses it. I learned that God called me to feed sheep not bunch of intellectual giraffes. Ive got several advanced degrees and Ive got an earned doctorate and I could use large words. I could say all those fancy terminology words. But who cares? Im interested in changing lives not impressing people with my erudition and my acumen and my veracity of my languages. So what? What we want to do is see peoples changed lives. Jesus took profound thoughts and said them in simple ways. 17

TEACHING AND PREACHING THAT MAKES THE DIFFERENCE - Part 1 As I said, simple does not mean superficial. Simple doesnt mean shallow. Simple doesnt mean simplistic. Heres the difference. Simple is This is the day the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad. Thats simple. Simplistic is a happy face that says, Have a nice day! Thats the difference between simple and simplistic. Jesus taught us to be simple. 2 Corinthians 11:3 I fear Satan will corrupt you from the simplicity that is in Christ. The Christian message really is very simple. Satan wants to complicate it so he can detour us from the simple, obvious truths. One of the reasons why you want to make it simple is because we forget 95% of what we hear within 72 hours. If you want a statistic to depress the average pastor there it is. You go and study all week (teacher, preacher, pastor) you prepare all these pearls of wisdom and you deliver them on a Sunday. By Wednesday theyve already forgotten 95% unless they took notes. Thats one of the reasons why we pass out notes in this church. But the simplified message has the best chance of being remembered. So how do you simplify your message? Let me give you some tips and then were going to take a break. 1. Condense your message into a single sentence. When youre preparing it, condense your message into a single sentence. If I cant say it in a sentence then my purpose isnt clear enough. Unless I know where Im headed then the people cant follow it. Like the TV reporter who came to the pastor, Were from Unsolved Mysteries and wed like to do program on your latest sermon. If you dont know where youre headed you cant take anybody else there. Heres a very important point. The fewer the words the greater the impact. Thats why I love one liners so much. The fewer the words, the greater the impact. Let me give you an example. The Lords Prayer uses 56 words. The Gettysburg Address uses 267 words. The entire Declaration of Independence uses 1322 words. But a recent government report regulating the sale of cabbage has 26,933 words. Tell me which has the most impact! Condense your message in a sentence. 2. Avoid using religious terms in your service for seekers, in reaching out evangelistic preaching. Im talking about propitiation, sanctification those kind of things. Many pastors speak in an unknown tongue every week and theyre not even charismatic. I have a personal view that people who have to use big words have a big insecurity. They have this need to impress you with their words. Too many sermons, honestly, are just Greek word studies. I hate to tell you this, pastor, but nobody cares as much about Greek as you do. I saw this cartoon. Heres this pastor, hes got a church but its empty. Theres five people and hes going to sleep. Hes saying, Interestingly enough the Latin word for tapioca is [continued]