Notes from LP Training Days 2010


Thanks for asking me   -   first time,

-        don’t claim to be a great preacher,

-        do not enjoy preaching, thinking, reading about it – share …         


I don’t know if you have heard about the elderly Minister who was searching for his socks one day and right at the back of the drawer found a box with three eggs and a hundred pounds in 50p pieces in it,

he called his wife and asked her what this was,

  she blushed with embarrassment,

    and then admitted that it had been hidden there for the forty years of their   


The minister was disappointed and hurt, and asked her why such secrecy,

his wife responded that she hadn’t wanted to hurt his feelings,

to which the minister responded how on earth could a box with eggs and money in it hurt his feelings?

She said that every time during their marriage he has delivered a poor sermon she had placed an egg in the box,

the minister felt that three poor sermons in 40 years wasn’t too bad a score and that didn’t upset him at all,

but what was the £100 for?

“O dear” sobbed his wife “every time I got a dozen eggs I sold them to the neighbours for 50p”.


Well I often preach poor sermons,

   I am sure you do as well,

     and we know also that worship is more than just the sermon,

the hymns…atmosphere…tone,

   the readings…Bible…contemporary,

       the prayers…response…silence,

         even the way the notices and offering are handled,

all these are a vital part,

however I would argue that the sermon is crucial,

that is why we have our focus here today on preaching.


Let me tell you where we are going in this first session,



1.      A Personal Reflection


Particularly as you do not know me I think it might be helpful for you to know where I am coming from as regard preaching,

* As a teenager searching, for me faith became real on a particular place on a particular night through the words of a particular preacher in a particular sermon,

-         place – a Tent in Woodford Green, Essex

-         night – June, when  17

-         preacher – Michael Perrott

-         following Jesus.

* Westminster Chapel – Martyn Lloyd Jones

* Local Methodist Church – Revd. Bob Morris

-         great reader of the Puritans / Wesley’s journal,

-         preaching which always demanded action of some sort

-         passionate

-         7 into ministry.

* Theological College

-         Donald English

-         Peter Stephens

-         John Newton

-         Kenneth Wilson

-         Raymond George

all different – all taught me through watching – good preaching breeds good preaching


* Eastbrook Hall

-         all the great preachers of Methodism

-         my job – sit on platform, read lesson on good day!

-         some dreary – forget / sleep!

-         entertaining – great at the time but little impact,

-         spellbinding plus impact

     -  saw lives change,

     -  noticed these preachers worked through the text

-         like most young preachers sought to emulate, only discovered later that this was called expository preaching.


·       What right have you and I do any other sort of preaching?

·       Why should folk listen to my/your latest theory or idea?

·       Why should they want to hear about the latest book you have read?

·       Our people want to hear from God, if you anchor what you say in His word then they will do just that – also so much easier – Giles Arnold,   

so expository preaching is based firmly upon the word of God,

and although it can be thematic it is more usually the unpacking of a particular passage of Scripture and its application to the present.














What then is expository preaching?


There are many different types of preaching,

 sometimes reflective style leading people into thinking and quiet reflection,

  sometimes evangelistic – leading up to a challenge to deeper discipleship,

   sometimes teaching - building up the faith,

    sometimes story preaching - telling a story and leaving our hearers to make  

    up their own minds about the point of it – Jesus was rather good at this!

     many kinds,

      but I want to focus my thinking on expository preaching

·       What right have you and I do any other sort of preaching?

·       Why should folk listen to my/your latest theory or idea?

·       Why should they want to hear about the latest book you have read?

·       Our people want to hear from God, if you anchor what you say in His Word then they will do just that – also so much easier – Giles Arnold,   

so expository preaching is based firmly upon the word of God,

and although it can be thematic it is more usually the unpacking of a particular passage of Scripture and its application to the present.


Let me show you some definitions, some relate to all sorts of preaching and

some more to expository.


PUT UP OHP – Some definitions:-


“the bringing of truth through personality”

                                                Philip Brooks


“the manifestation of the incarnate Word,

    from the written word,

      by the spoken word”

                                                B.L. Manning


“By expounding the Scripture faithfully, the preacher

  makes Christ manifest……….when genuine

  preaching really happens, Christ is made present”.

                                                Richard Holloway


“The word of God is not a feast for the ears but a hammer.  A man who comes from it unbruised need not think it has taken root in him.  Enthusiasm is in most cases a straw fire”.                                                          Helmut Thieliche


“Life changing preaching does not talk to people about the Bible.  Instead it talks to people about themselves – their questions, hurts, fears and struggles – from the Bible”.                                                                          Haddon Robinson




Thus preaching is not lecturing – a common complaint to me as Super,

             preaching is not oratory – a few orators left in either the Church or


               preaching is not entertainment – although watch Jasper Carrot, Billy

               Connolly and you learn a huge amount about communication,        

preaching is that which touches the inner being,

which moves,

   which resonates with that which people know to be true in either their

   everyday experience or true deep down in those things which they find it so

   to put into words,

     and preaching is that which demands a response,

Puritan divine – after every sermon a steward could say, “I therefore propose that …….”


But to be concerned just about definitions of preaching is not enough, for there is also the preacher, the person to be considered,

what is the definition of the preacher?

I would say it is two-fold.


First and crucially we are preachers because of the

call of God.


HOW that call comes I do not care,

Some – inner compulsion,

              word of a friend,

                  literal voice from God,


                     word of a sermon,

                        verse from a Bible or page from a book,

                          I could go on and on,

how the call comes is not of importance,

what is of importance is that the call was from God and not our own ego,

and what is important also is that we said yes to it,

either at a particular time or through a whole series of steps and circumstances.

My call – Romans chapter 10, the whole passage and especially verse 14,


And how can they hear without a preacher”.


Biblically the classic Old Testament calls are those of Isaiah, Jeremiah and Ezekiel.


Isaiah in Isaiah 6 and verse 8, - READ


Jeremiah in Jeremiah 1 and verses 4-10, - READ


Ezekiel in Ezekiel 2 verses 1-4 – READ


In the New Testament the initial call of Jesus is not so much to speaking and preaching as to discipleship,

Mark 1:14-20 recording the words of Jesus to “Come, follow me”,

but out of that following comes the charge of Jesus to the 12 in

Matthew 10 and verses 5 to 10, - READ,


this charge being echoed in Luke Chapter 10 when the seventy two are sent out.


The birthday of the Church at Pentecost was followed up by a sermon from Peter, out of which some three thousand were converted,

and time and again in Acts we read of the effective preaching of St. Paul,

these early preachers had one thing in common,

they were called by God who then by the work of the spirit blessed their preaching with a great response.

Crucial to what we are about is that we are called,

preaching can be defined but all definitions fall if the person preaching is not called by God,

something will be happening when the person who is not called speaks,

but it is not rightly called preaching.


Second we are called to work at expressing that call,

we are called, as the Bible puts it, “To toil and strive”,

I think it was about preaching that someone said it was 10% inspiration and 90% perspiration,

effective preaching will not happen without prayer,

                                                                   without study,

                                                     and without a great deal of sheer hard


that is why the Faith and Worship course is so demanding,

and that is why we sometimes gather together for days such as today!


So if preaching is hard work,

and expository preaching in particular is that which is anchored in a passage of the Bible,

where do we start,

my third point,



When you think about preparation I want us to make a start way back further than you might expect,

in fact I want to say to you that you are preparing at the moment for preaching next year or the year after!

Why do I say that?

because we are all of us on a spiritual journey,

and where we are on that spiritual journey is one of the key factors shaping our preaching,

to put it another way it is no good you or I standing up on a Sunday to preach the word of God if we have not been regularly reading it and if we are not living our lives worthy of the gospel which we preach.


When I was in Yorkshire there was a Local Preacher I once heard and thought excellent, but very few folk came to his services and some of the churches has asked that he be not planned in their pulpits,

as I was longer in the Circuit and got to know the folk I discovered that was because he was a well known local businessman who had a terrible reputation for dis-honest and under-hand dealings,

the folk knew that and voted with their feet.

I am reminded of the woman who remarked to the excellent but hypocritical puritan preacher,

“You light a good candle on a Sunday parson, but what a pity you blow it out in the week”.


We need to win the respect of our hearers,

they see us during the week and not just on Sundays,

  they know what sort of mothers and fathers we asre,

    they might be friends with our next door neighbour and hear all about us,

       they might deal with us in some way within the community,

as preachers we must have respect from both within and without the Church,

and that is not the work of a day but the work of a lifetime,

as people of the book we need to live by the book,

 as ministers in the Spirit we need to be open to the Spirit of love at work in us,

   as followers of Jesus we need to reflect his life and priorities,

     as servants of the living God we must have a concern for all his children.


Then secondly as preachers we need to build up resources.

I have already spoken about the spiritual resources which are quite crucial but there is so much else we must lay hold of as well,

we must understand the society in which we operate,


when did you last go to the cinema? Last week/month/year – key shaper of opinion.


what paper do you read?


how many books have you read this last month?


do you watch all manner of programmes on TV, especially very topical (Big Brother?)

As information comes to you make a note of it,

Frank Thewlis

example from Tea shop, “Upstairs Downstairs”,

read book with pencil……


So what we might call general preparation,

What about the specific?


What text?


Lectionary / Salt notes / Church year / thematic / what you feel led to preach about (prison and John 3.16),

obedient to the well thought out policy of the local Church,

but open also to the wind of the Spirit.


Once you have your text READ IT

Different versions,

   out loud,

     time and again – Donald English up to 40 times!,

        pray over it as to what God wants to say to you and to your hearers,

I would add to that


read other sermons on the passage,

   read the sermon outline in the Salt notes,

     read any commentaries,

all these too easily shape what you write,

just read the Scripture and let the Scripture shape what you are to say rather than anyone or anything else,


and here we move to our fourth point,

sort out your framework, or outline.


When thinking about a framework it needs to be a number of things.

-         Which key point, teaching or truth do I want to get across?

-         Am I reflecting the passage?

-         Am I reflecting the bias and weight of the passage?

-         How do the sections fall?  Could I write a sub heading for the various sections, or is it a complete whole?

-         Be flexible – e.g. not always with three points,

try just one or try eight!

-         don’t get too hung up with snappiness.

self great one for alliteration – Don E

“Sometimes Martin you must let the Bible say what it says rather than what you would like it to say to fit in with your titles!”

-         Think about what you could leave out – there could be several different sermons from the same passage, don’t try and preach them all!

-         Keep your framework to one side and when you have finished your script or outline notes check it has survived, if it hasn’t can you find a new structure in what you have prepared, if not folk might not be able to follow it.


So number five, exposition.


By this stage you will know the passage well, perhaps carrying with you in your head as you work on other things, or travel, or lie in the bath or in bed,

  you have become soaked in,

    you have asked for the Spirit to guide you as to the key things you want to


      you have sorted out your framework or rather fuller outline,

now comes the refining process,

now is the time to look at the commentaries,

   to read what other people have preached,

     to look up the key words in dictionaries.

Now out of this process you might discover that the point you are intending to make is way off beam,

that is the risk you run if you start with just you and the Bible,

if you are way off beam check it all again,

  perhaps you will now understand where you went wrong,


    or perhaps you may feel that the insight you have is quite valid and go


      but if you are totally at odds with everyone else do be careful!


As you work at the more detailed level there are key questions to be asked.


1       What kind of literature am I dealing with?  We will approach parable differently to historical record and differently to letter.


2.      How much do I need to say about the context,

preached at Easter People on a passage which started “therefore”, that one word demanded that I go back and share with the congregation the key ideas of the previous chapters out of which the teaching here grew, that one word therefore was crucial.  Also what comes afterwards can sometimes need to be pointed to, a good example would be trying to explore 1 Corinthians 12 without pointing forward to 1 Corinthians 13!


3.      What does it say  - words and phrases change meaning, we need to try to get back to understand what this word or phrase would have meant to the people when they first heard or read it, what did it mean then, if a letter how would the readers have received it, if a word of Jesus how would the hearers have responded to it?


4.          Linked with that, what does it mean?  Sometimes it is good to read another version of the Bible, good to try and paraphrase what it means in your own words which might make it more accessible to your hearers, if a very non-academic or theological congregation try writing it out without any theological jargon at all.


5.      How does this passage fit in with the whole of the book or letter, with other passages and with major Biblical themes?


6.      How has the Church handled this passage over the centuries?  For example the way that the Church has dealt with the role or women has changed profoundly, the Scriptures have not changed, but we would argue that our present interpretation is the correct one!


7.      What modern issues tie in with these themes, either directly in specific teaching, or indirectly in attitudes and principles which we can apply?


8.      How much do we know about the situation outside the passage, do we need to check or read – e.g. “Don’t preach about Salt at Oxlease” – a chemist there!


9.      How much can expect of our hearers?

          Last Sunday I preached at the local prison,

          the Sunday before at the Elim Pentecostal Bible College,

          in the first I expected very little in terms of theological understanding,

          in the second I assumed a considerable amount of knowledge.                  


10.    How do my hearers usually learn? – used to words or pictures.

Interesting sermon should be short – stand up comedians at it for perhaps at hour!


Linked very clearly to all this is my sixth heading, illustrations, and the question How might I illustrate this point?

a)   Does the illustration actually make the point or am I using it just because it is a good story or joke?

b)   “Is the story the servant or the master of the point?”

c)    Is the story true?  e.g. “There is a Redeemer” written for funeral – not!

d)   Am I telling it with integrity?

e)    Will the story re-enforce the point?

f)     Am I making fun of someone?

g)   Am I breaching a confidence?

h)   Am I re-enforcing racial or other stereotypes?

i)      Would the person referred to be happy about my using it? e.g.   Children

j)      Have I enough illustrations, are they spread across the sermon?



Then finally to the end!  My seventh heading, Conclusions


1)   When am I going to stop?

Don English, “Many preachers pass a lot of good stopping places”.


2)   Is there a response of some sort which I wish to draw from my hearers?

social action,

  openness to the Holy Spirit,

    understanding of a particular idea or concept.


3)   How do I draw that response out in order for it to become real?


4)   Have I got a helpful conclusion summing up most of that I have already said?  However sometimes leave a response or question hanging in the air!


Here then we have a pattern for approaching expository preaching,

this is my pattern, some of it might be useful for you and some if it not,

but whatever pattern or method we each of us take up expository preaching ends up

first centred upon the biblical passage and nothing else, the passage controls the shape of the sermon,

  second speaking for and from the text, interacting with it, wrestling with it,

  bringing out the hidden points and subtleties

    and then third applying the text to the world in which we live, to my life,

    your life, the problems and the issues we all of us face in today’s society,

such is expository preaching,

I love being involved in it as a preacher,

and I sincerely believe that such preaching builds up the spiritual life of  congregations as does nothing else,

I commend it to you.


ASK  -  any questions, feedback, response of any sort?


In this last hour together we are going to spend the first half hour feeding back and discussing the sermon outlines we have come up with,

then in the last half hour I will give a little more feedback and there might or might not be a chance for discussion.


A word about style


I want to emphasise again the difference between a sermon and a lecture,

I sit and hear some preachers who have excellent material but their style of delivery is such that their hearers eyes glaze over after a few minutes and much of the material never strikes home.


Let me give some common sense pointers which at a Local Preacher’s refresher course might well be teaching Grandmother to suck eggs,

if that is so I apologise, but we need to be reminded of the obvious things every now and again.


First – Can the congregation hear you?

I may be thought a reactionary here but I feel that the preacher should be able to be heard without a microphone,

I realise that nearly all of us will be using a microphone,

and that with deaf loop systems they are such a wonderful aid to so many,

but from the number of people who tell me that my sermon is the first they have heard for several weeks my impression is that too often preachers,

even with the aid of an amplifier and a deaf loop system,

are not using their voices properly.

We all of us go to a great deal of trouble to prepare what we say, let us make sure that all can hear it,

they may not agree with it,

but at least they must hear it,

Linked with this remember to vary pace and tone,

a monotone delivery is so boring,

whether it be the twenty minute harangue from the loud preacher or the somnolent gentle lilt of the preacher who sounds more like a counsellor to the troubled,

we need both,

and we need the tone and the pace that goes with the matter in hand.


Second – Are you familiar with your material?


We all have different systems of preparation.

I personally preach from a full script,

  every word there,

    and with colour coded highlights with

      red for headings and bible passages,

        blue for quotations

           and green for illustrations.

That suits me,

  it might not suit other people,

     and I hope that although I have before me a full script the sermon still

     comes over as preached rather than read.


When I worked with Michael Townsend,

   writer of many Local Preachers text books and now Chair of the Leeds


     he wrote his sermons with a full script and then learnt that script by


       not all of us have the intellectual capacity to do that.


When I was assistant minister to Bill Davies,

    later President of Conference,

       he would stride into the pulpit with a post card with some scribbles on the


          he would have thought and prayed about his topic and his structure,   

 but nothing at all other than those few scribbles would be written down.


How we prepare does not matter,

    what does matter is that we DO prepare thoroughly,


I am reminded of the minister who told his congregation that he always prepared his sermons

as he walked from the Manse to the Church on a Sunday morning,

and they sold his manse and bought another five miles away!


Thorough preparation means that you know the material,

  you are therefore less tied to a script or notes,        

   and the whole matter of preaching seems so much easier and more natural,


However remember that preaching isn’t about being word perfect like the actor in a play of Shakespeare,

as the words flow they might not be exactly what you so carefully planned,

but the life and vigour which will come through cutting loose from the exact notes or script will more than make up for the loss of a carefully tuned phrase.


Third, are you familiar with yourself?


I sometimes sit in front of a mirror and preach my sermon,

   that way I can see how much eye contact I am creating and I can get a grip

   of the material in a way which relates to my preaching,

In most Circuits there will be a number of people with video camera’s,

   get someone to use one on you on a particular Sunday.

     perhaps even show the footage of some brave volunteer at the Local

     Preachers Meeting!

and of course many Churches tape the service,

  ask for a copy every now and again and see if you stay awake in the car

  listening to yourself preach,

     if you can’t stay awake there’s no hope!


Fourth – do you seek feedback?


When we are on note or trial we get plenty of helpful feedback,

   once we are fully accredited we often enter a situation where we get no

   proper feedback for the next thirty years!

Take a risk and ask someone what they think of your preaching,

   not just your friend,

     but a cross section of people,

        it can be done with a very simple questionnaire.

In some Local Preachers’ meetings two or three folk covenant with each other

to attend services and give some feedback  - this system can be very helpful

for feedback will be far more graciously expressed when the person speaking knows that next time it will be their sermon under the spotlight!

In most jobs these days there is some form of assessment at a regular interval

when there can be some reflection upon both what is achieved and upon where

progress could be made,

  we need to take our preaching seriously enough to do the same thing.




Fifth – Be Yourself!


I think it is Martyn Lloyd Jones in his magnificent book “Preaching and

Preachers” who tells of the great Welsh Bible College Lecturer and preacher

who had a lock of hair he would regularly flick back with his hand whilst


and this man was so greatly admired that soon all over South Wales there

were young Bible College students flicking their hair out of their eyes!


Now I have to admit that here I have struggled over the years,

   and still do to an extent.

I go and hear one of the great preachers of our day and straight away I think

   “how can I ever preach again!?”,

they are so good that my sermons seem so shallow and feeble,

    their stories seem so relevant,

       their jokes so hilarious,

          their spirituality so deep,

and the lesson I have had to learn is that yes these are great preachers whose

words are used to touch many people,

but that God need my words as well,

for it might just be that my far less deep and erudite offerings might touch a

life which the other preacher cannot relate to.

So I say to you – be yourself,

if you are a gentle and quiet person start with that as your base,

but work on bringing in some fire when you need to.

If you are naturally a bubbly and confident person start there,

but work at bringing humility and grace to the pulpit as well.

God can use each person here to speak to someone the rest of us might never


so thank God for the woman or man he has made you,

be yourself,

don’t even dare to come out with some plumby parsonic pulpit voice,

   the person God has called is YOU and he wants YOU as you are.


Sixth – Believe in what you are doing


If you think preaching has had it’s day then don’t bother to preach,

you are wasting your time and wasting the congregation’s time.



If however you still thrill at the call to preach,

 still relish that struggle with the text in order to get hold of divine truth,

   still long that others may come to understand how much Jesus loves them

     and what mighty power is available through the Holy Spirit.

still hold that vision of the Kingdom of God coming on earth as it is in


   if you still believe all that then keep at it,

   and may God bless you in all that you do.


“Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved,

How then can they call on the one they have not believed in?

And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard?

And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?

And how can they preach unless they are sent?

As it is written,

“How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news”


Sisters and Brothers,

may you have beautiful feet!

































Local Preachers
Webpage icon An Oyster Man
Webpage icon Lectionary notes
Webpage icon Local Preachers - Resources
Webpage icon The Lectionary
Webpage icon Two reports to Conference
Printer Printable Version