Models of Sermon Preparation Organisation

Weekly preachers have different ways of getting a message together each week:

  • Prepare early and relax. Often used by full text preachers who get it done on Tuesday or Wednesday then they can focus fully on other tasks.
  • Chip away day by day. This model is big on “ruminating” on the message wherever you go.
  • Forget about it until Saturday. Focus on other parts of the work completely and leave Saturday completely free for 1 solid block of preparation
  • Two part attack. Break the back of the preparation in one session during the week then use Saturday to complete and polish the result. Often used by people who have a Thursday or Friday day off and want to not be stressed about preaching as they rest.
  • Last minute rush. Harness the pressure and work on it until the late hours of Saturday night, or wake up early Sunday morning to plough through it. I knew one preacher who got up at 3am on Sunday mornings. These preachers come to the pulpit with zeal, their manuscript is hot off the laser printer as they preach.

I was floored reading Spurgeon’s autobiography 2 years ago when he says he prepared his sermon after early dinner on Saturday night, and the Sunday night message on Sunday afternoon.

I think I have used most of these models. I also have my own preparation process broken down into a checklist so when I am weary I can crank through the steps. I much prefer to be organised and well prepared. It is better for my family too.

I find it helpful to at least use Monday to create the electronic file with a full copy of the text and headings, so I have a document ready to type ideas into throughout the week.

Craig’s Blog: Bringing your kids to faith

Craig comments on Christian parenting. I disagree with some of the things he says. But I humbly believe Craig is right and Piper is wrong on the following foundational point:

Firstly, I believe a child born to a Christian parent and raised in the church community is a member of the kingdom. This is the reason I really truly do believe in infant baptism. I know some folk (like John Piper) believe your children are born pagans and you have to convert them. I believe they were (effectively) born Christian, and need to be discipled. I think this can make a pretty big difference to how you raise them.

Craig’s Blog: Bringing your kids to faith.

Craig’s view is basically a Reformation view. I will post some more on this topic.

Apostasy distinctions

I’ve been thinking about apostasy and heresy.

The latter is a subset of the former.

The people who are warned about in Hebrews 6 are not false teachers, but apostates.

All false teachers are apostates. But not all apostates are false teachers, even if their fall involved believing false teaching.

Apostasy is harder to spot, because a backsliding believer may come back in repentance at some later point. Or they may not. A person may be apostasising whilst espousing orthodox theology.

It is hard to tell which of the four soils someone is. But we need to work hard at warning people, as the New Testament does, against deserting Christ. God will sovereignly use it to keep his chosen saints.

There are two modes of apostasy – passive and active. Some people actively give up the Christian faith. Others passively drift. The difference is the former are conscious of what is happening, the latter are deluded – hardened by sin’s deceitfulness. Both types can happen quickly and slowly.

Passive apostasy seems very common, in our time. And yet we talk very little about it.

C. S. Lewis said “the safest road to Hell is the gradual one–the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts.”

Take a moment and reflect on your own walk with God – are you trusting and clinging to Christ as closely as you always have? Are you tempted to love the world? What excuses are you making up to allow yourself to indulge in worldliness?

Pray Psalm 51.

Franklin and Whitefield as Opposites :: Desiring God

I read “The Divine Dramatist” a few years ago, it truly is an awful biography of Whitefield. I missed the gem Piper found, click the link to see it. Whitefield’s journals are the best starting point to get into the man.

In the most cynical, unsympathetic, and misleading biography I have ever read, there is a magnificent paragraph about Benjamin Franklin and George Whitefield.

The Deist and the Calvinist were best friends. “Franklin became Whitefield’s best American friend and, reciprocally, Whitefield was Franklin’s only evangelical friend” (The Divine Dramatist, 220).

Franklin and Whitefield as Opposites :: Desiring God

A Campus Carol

A few years ago, in ye-good-old student ministry days, Helen and I led a strand group at the AFES National Training Event. I think it was the year 2000.

We were doing a study of Romans 3:21-26 and we wrote this awesome (IMHO) song about it, to the tune of Jingle Bell Rock:

Propitiate propitiate propitiate wrath

God turns his anger away upon the cross

Because we are dodgy, in Jesus we trust,

And see that God is just!

We even had actions that went along with it.

Now I reckon it is still a pretty good summary of:

21 But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. 22 This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. 25 God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood. He did this to demonstrate his justice, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished— 26 he did it to demonstrate his justice at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.

So sing it to yourself a few times, and as you hear the pagan version you can sing along the gospel.

Sure it doesn’t really work as a kids song, nor a youth group or even adults carol – only University students can handle both the silliness and theological precision required here. And that is what I miss most about Uni ministry.

Long term assistant ministers

A letter to the Sydney Anglican newspaper:

Underneath this is an important goal – promoting the option of long-term assistant ministers. But the way to do it is not to pretend they don’t exercise a similar kind of spiritual role in the congregation to the rector, and therefore not ordain them as presbyters. Ironically, it could have precisely the opposite effect than the intended one, and make it less likely that people will remain long-term assistant ministers. This would be significant, since one of the reasons we Sydney Anglicans seem incapable of growing genuinely large churches (say, more than 1000 people) is that we struggle to keep long-term senior assistant ministers.

The Rev Andrew Katay
Ashfield, NSW

sc articles – Letters to the editor September 2008

I personally am really enjoying being an assistant minister – I’m about to enter my 6th full-time year of it. Going into my third year at Holy Trinity, we are getting an MTS full time apprenticeship going, I’m running mission teams, doing lots of training of parents and marriage preparation, supervising and supporting other staff and generally lots of training and bible teaching. I wouldn’t get to do all this if I had the administrative and other acute pressures of being the senior pastor – especially a senior pastor in a small church (who deserve medals).

I also really love working in a great team, under a great senior pastor, and following and supporting him in his vision. It is invigorating to me knowing that I am trusted with key responsibilities and oversight in order to release the senior pastor to travel and work on wider projects.

My wife is happy that I don’t have the pressures some of our great friends have who have taken the gutsy move of being in charge in difficult parishes or places. At some point we will go down that track, but in the meantime we are thankful to God. I can see why some assistants get the itch to hold the reins, and that happens to me sometimes – then I simply remember the benefits of being an assistant and I praise God for this great opportunity.

Are Children of Believers Members of the Christian Church?

On holiday we visited two great churches and were deeply encouraged by both.

But they had very different views concerning children of believers.

One church counted children of believers as being Christians themselves. They were part of the whole service and very little was changed for them, except for a kids talk. There was no Sunday school within the service (though there was one beforehand – it wasn’t obvious to us from the church sign whether we could just rock up).

The other church had a separate building and events for the kids – we parted ways even before any services started. From what we saw, the kids-side was essentially an evangelistic meeting with an invitation to “put your hand up if you want to make a decision” prayer at the end. In fact the adult end was a version of this as well.

Theologically I think the first church had the theology right. There is a continuation between the old and new covenant in terms of inclusion of children of believers in salvation. Children of believers are rightly addressed and treated as saints throughout New Testament letters.

But it kind of felt like neither church had the practice right. The second church was much more tailored at the kids level – there was lots of energy and creativity well used. But my kids didn’t need evangelising – they needed to worship/praise God, be taught his Word and get fellowship with other Christians. On the other hand we could have been a pagan family visiting and the second church would have been on the money.

CS Lewis Science Fiction Trilogy

Read the Lewis Space Trilogy on my holiday and loved them all. Especially the much darker and edgier second book.

Being a lover of sci-fi I had long avoided Lewis’ “experiment” into this genre. But actually he does it very well. I’m amazed at how little the books have dated since the 1940s.

I loved how the books communicate a sense of God’s greatness and of living in a world of unseen hierarchies and creatures. It completely blows away secular “what you see is all there is” materialism. The great weakness of modern atheism is that it can’t account for beauty or evil. Lewis shows that the Christian doesn’t have to choose between secular materialism and a kind of ethereal spiritualism, or between mythical wonder and the scientific ordinary. Because of the incarnation and work of Jesus Christ, we can have our cake and eat it. Taste and see!

I also loved how none of the Christian characters have any predictable piety. They are just ordinary people fighting a battle with God and for God. The battle has been in principle won through the incarnation and work of the Son of God, but, as I once heard a preacher say, there is some mopping up to do. Conversion is about choosing sides. Worship is about declaring allegiance.

I live in a world of great beauty and great evil. Behind every human evil lies much darker layers. Behind every glorious part of creation are more hidden glories and agents. And behind them all is a glorious creator who has defeated and is transforming what is fallen, including my household.

Submissive Christianity

What are the differences between Christian submission and Islamic submission?

  • Christian submission is to a resurrected and reigning saviour, not an arbitrary divine will
  • Christian submission is to one who is both divine and incarnate, the ascended Lord Jesus Christ
  • Christian submission is to one who has submitted himself, Son to Father, and to the eternal Father who has given of his eternal son for submission
  • Christian submission is to both a creator/sustainer, but also a redeemer who has won atonement and defeated sin, death and the devil
  • Christian submission is to call on a king who rescues and fights on our behalf – it is essentially to call on grace
  • Christian submission is only by the power of the indwelling presence of the eternal Spirit of God

I wonder what else?

Jono Smith’s Blog: The ESV Study Bible is MINE!!!

Well we have some new idols at Holy Trinity Doncaster. We all got ESV Study bibles delivered yesterday.

Let the bibliolatry begin.

I can’t believe Jono opened his already. I thought we all agreed lay baskets of fruit before it for 40 days before opening…

Thanks to the fact that my boss is a contributor to the ESV Study Bible (he wrote the Deuteronomy notes) I have, what must be one of the first, ESVSB’s in Australia.

Jono Smith’s Blog: The ESV Study Bible is MINE!!!

Audio Files from EFAC Conference 2008

The EFAC National Conference at Melbourne a few weeks ago was a great time of encouragement and networking. Kanishka’s bible talks were excellent. Abp Peter Jensen’s post Gafcon comments were helpfully mythbusting and encouraging.

I thank God for the work of EFAC (Evangelical Fellowship of the Anglican Communion).

Audio FIles from EFAC Conference 2008

Abp Jensen EFAC Nat Conf 2008.mp3 (15MB)

Bp Cray Talk 1 Discipleship the Heart of Mission (14MB)(PDF slides 1MB)

Bp Cray Talk 2 Discipleship the Heart of Mission (15MB)(PDF slides 1MB)

Bp Cray Talk 3 Discipleship the Heart of Mission (11MB)(PDF slides 1MB)

Bp Glenn Davies Future of Anglican Communion (11MB) (PDF slides 600KB)

Evonne Paddison Making Disciples of Every Generation (13MB)

Kanishka Raffell Talk 1 The Cross and the Knowledge of God (10MB)

Kanishka Raffell Talk 2 The Cross and the People of God (10MB)


What if the hippest preachers and Christian music groups today date as quickly as DC Talk have in 15 years?

Back in their day, DC Talk were hip and Biblical. Cool and Christ-centred. They were it and a bit.


“We should not think of our fellowship with other Christians as a spiritual luxury, an optional addition to the exercises of private devotions. Fellowship is one of the great words of the New Testament: it denotes something that is vital to a Christian’s spiritual health, and central to the Church’s true life…The church will flourish and Christians will be strong only when there is fellowship.” -J.I. Packer

Colin Buchanan Concert


Originally uploaded by WayneSchuller

Every year Helen takes the kids and whoever will come to the Colin Buchanan concert.

I missed last year, so it was great being able to go this year.

Colin was fantastic. A great performer, great theology. We bumped into him on the street on the way out and he was very friendly.

The best thing about the concert was seeing so many Christian friends that I haven’t seen for a long time. We must have bumped into 30 people we know! Some of them I had not seen for over 10 years. Wonderful.[email protected]/sets/72157607476499670/

Kayaker ‘forced to break leg’ |

This story of a Kayaker breaking his own legs is a great illustration of Jesus’ teaching on hell: 29 If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. 30And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell. (Matthew 5:29-30)

There is a high cost to being a follower of Jesus, you have to give up your own self-rule to trust and follow the King of Kings. But it has an eternal benefit. It is the smart thing to do.

A spokesman for Ambulance Victoria confirmed that the man had broken both his tibia and fibula in order to free himself from the rapids.

“He knew in getting out he was going to sustain a serious injury, and in the end he broke his own leg to avoid drowning,” the spokesman said.

Kayaker ‘forced to break leg’ |

Peter Bolt – Living With The Underworld

It’s good.

Recommend to anyone concerned about deliverance or spiritual warfare.

Not a bad introduction to the Christian worldview for the stock Western materialist.

A quote on deliverance ministries toward the end:

The New Testament gives absolutely no encouragement to Christians to directly engage with the devil or demons through such practices as exorcism or deliverance or praying against territorial spirits. This must be stressed, because over the last 40 years or so a number of movements have arisen within the Christian orbit urging exactly this kind of direct engagement with the devil and his minions. There are exorcism ministries, and deliverance ministries, some even claiming that this kind of thing ought to form a regular part of congregational life. Please forgive me for speaking strongly, but love requires that a clear message be heard: these ‘ministries’ are not Christian ministries in a New Testament sense. They are profoundly misguided, and should be shut down, never to be re-opened.

One very important clue that these ministries are not truly Christian ministries is that they reintroduce the fear of the underworld that Jesus died to banish…


The Preaching Notes Series Introduction (Josh Harris)

This is a wonderful idea, sharing actual preachers notes to see how they tick.

There are many misunderstandings about how to make full-text manuscripts work. One neglected issue is a proper understanding of how to lay out and present the full-text notes you have prepared on your page.

Another is the role that notes play in the week of preparation. For me the full text notes are a document that is drafted and redrafted the whole week long. It not only contains my sermon notes but other thoughts, ideas, questions, and material that has been cut. By the time I get to Sunday my manuscript is in it’s third, fourth or fifth draft – it is part of me, my soul is in that manuscript.

For an example that I found fascinating, you can see one of Philip Jensen’s sermon notes on the Cathedral web site here:

Now I don’t actually know if they are his actual notes or just prettified and formatted for the web. But I love the beauty of these notes, they are very preachable, quality large font, lots of whitespace, indented according to emphasis, logically layed out.

Some people who have tried and rejected full-text only tried it preaching from blocky essay like pages of small font, large paragraph, dense writing. They haven’t mastered the art of the beautiful and workable full-text manuscript.

I look forward to seeing more examples from the great ones on Harris’ blog.

So over the next few weeks we’re going to do a series of posts that feature a brief introduction to a preacher and then a link to a PDF of the notes from one of his sermons. The PDF document will show exactly what that pastor carried into the pulpit when he preached his message. I think you’ll enjoy the diversity of styles. Some men do full manuscripts; others write out much less. Most type, one writes his sermons by hand. The goal is to show pastors the different ways that preachers work and hopefully encourage them in the preaching task.

The Preaching Notes Series Introduction (Josh Harris)

Slavery + CRE

From todays Christian Religious Education material, “Quest”, Unit 5, session 1:

“Clarify: Egypt – where the Israelites were Pharoah’s unpaid workers for many years”

Do grade 5 + 6 not understand the concept of slavery? Is it offensive?

The Exodus was not a workers union movement. Not to mention we jump into Numbers out of nowhere, then do Nehemiah the next week, and the following week back to Numbers. Why not just do books of the Bible in chronological sequence? I know that “educational experts” have put together this material, but it seems to be missing some common sense.

I love teaching CRE, but this is really frustrating.

Productivity and Thankfulness

I have a break from preaching for a few weeks, so I’m hoping to get lots of other work done and clear my huge (to me) backlog of tasks.

It is not that when I am preaching I do nothing else. But when I am preaching every Sunday the weeks are always packed, frenetic and somewhat stressful.

I remain ever grateful to God for the opportunity to teach, preach and expound the Word of God. I do not deserve this job or role, it is purely a gift of God.

Helen and I can honestly say we are loving being part of God’s people at Holy Trinity and partnering with them in gospel ministry. There is no more exciting place in the world than the local church where the gospel is preached, God’s Word expounded, God praised and worshiped, and God’s people encourage each other to love Christ more.

Most of all, I still remember daily, if not hourly, that God sent his Son to die in my place, to win my forgiveness and to atone for my sins, winning me eternal life. That is the greatest gift of all.