You Preach Too Much

Repetition of simple truths is your most powerful asset

youdeservelove andyou willget it.Pastor – you preach too much. I do not mean that you preach too many weeks out of the year, or that you preach too long (although, those are probably true as well). You preach too much content – so do I, but I’m trying to do better

Consider the advantage of identifying a few mega thoughts and drawing them out of every text you preach. Imagine the long term impact of repeatedly showing your congregation the same truths over the course of years in new and creative ways each week.

As I near 20 years of preaching I’m beginning to see that the dynamics involved in steering a large group of people are very unique.

Practically every sermon I deliver will expand on one or more of these issues:

  1. God – I want to present a infinitely high view of each person of the Godhead (Father, Son and Spirit).
  2. Man – More and more I am seeing the need of explaining who mankind is, unpacking the implications of the fall, as well as the fact the are image bearers of God. Implications of gender are becoming more important. Clarity in regards to marriage, homosexuality, gender roles is needed more and more.
  3. Gospel
    • Micro Gospel – Show how the text helps us understand the work of Christ and how we should respond by faith.
    • Macro Gospel – That is to show the overarching Meta-Narrative of scripture from creation, the fall, Christ, and culmination (second coming).
  4. Pre-Evangelism – This would include apologetic work that sets the stage for the Gospel. For example, we spent five weeks last year delving into why we believe the bible. This could also include arguments for the existence of God from a philosophical or scientific perspective.
  5. Mission – Stirring the emotions and educating the mind of the congregation to engage them in mission both personally and corporately.
  6. Embodiment – Show how the truth of God’s word and work is fleshed out through our life, career, family, hobbies, etc.
  7. Church – What are the unique implications of the text for the local community of faith?

As I think through the last couple of years of preaching, practically every sermon I’ve preached has sought to move the congregation in a certain direction on each of those issues.

Is there anything you would add to that list? Leave your thoughts in the comment section below.

EXAMPLES of preaching by Zach Terry may be found on our YouTube channel.

Theology in Ancient Graffiti

The Alexamenos graffito

2016-12-13_21-35-10The Alexamenos graffito is a piece of Roman graffiti scratched in plaster on the wall of a room near the Palatine Hill in Rome from around 200AD. The Greek inscription reads something like “Alexamenos worships [his] God.” While it was meant to demean Alexamenos, it perfectly communicates his theology and how it was received. He worshipped Jesus, as God, who died on the cross. This Gospel was not well received by his friends.

Have you ever considered the fact that some of the things people say about you may be around for 1,000 years. Will it reveal the sincerity of your faith? 


Black and White Etching

Ironically, in the next chamber adjoining where the Alexamenos graffito found – another etching was discovered which reads –  Alexamenos fidelis, Latin for “Alexamenos is faithful”.

2 Corinthians 2:15–16 (ESV)

15 For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, 16 to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life. Who is sufficient for these things?

What is Preaching?

Disclaimers: Over the next few weeks I am going to be posting my thoughts about the science and art of preaching. Two things I preachingwant to say up front:

  1. I am not writing this material I think I am personally a great preacher. I think of myself more like a coach. The coach (at times) is the overweight guy on the sidelines yelling at the players, but his perspective and experience can make each player and the team as whole better.
  2. I know that not all of you who follow this blog are Preachers. But, it’s my blog and I can post what want. 🙂

With that said, let’s begin…

What is Preaching?

According to Mounce the most common Greek word translated preach, kēryssō means to proclaim, tell, often urging acceptance of the message, with warnings of consequences for not doing so.

Preaching is different from reading, teaching, or dialoging. We get a hint of this in 2 Timothy 1:10–11, when Paul writes, “[Christ] abolished death, and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel, for which I was appointed a preacher and an apostle and a teacher.”

Notice that there is a difference in those three tasks…

  • As an Apostle Paul was to Record the Truth
  • As a Teacher Paul was to Explain the Truth
  • But as a Preacher – Paul was to Herald or Proclaim the Truth.

Preaching is an authoritative declaration.

John Piper described it this way – Preaching is what a town crier does when there is a message from the king. He gathers a group of people and says, “Here ye, hear ye, be it known to you today that by royal order of his highness, the king, there will henceforth be granted to this town an imperial watch of one hundred soldiers to protect you from the rebel bands who plunder the king’s subjects.”
 And a cheer goes up among the people. (Those are the amen’s of the congregation.)
 And he continues, “Furthermore be it known to you that the cost for this protection shall be born not by taxation but by the beneficence of the king from his royal treasury!” Again cheers! (Amen!) “Moreover, the king would have you know that he loves you, his loyal subjects, and will use all his royal counsel and power to defend you and supply your wants.”
 Again cheers. (Amen! Amen!) “And lastly he sends through me his royal blessing. Blessed be the people whose trust is in the king!” Cheers. (Amen!)

Preaching is more than teaching – it is, heralding a message. Preaching is one man standing and speaking with authority to others. Preaching is calling people to account. A.W. Tozer said, “We come not as diplomats but as prophets and our message is not a compromise but an ultimatum.”

Preaching, however,  in and of itself is arrogant and meaningless unless it is saturated with truth. That is why the Apostle Paul urged his young protege in the faith to “preach the word” (2 Timothy 4:2). Thus, the content of the sermon is vastly more important than any aspect of it’s delivery.

So in this series of posts I am referring to preaching in this sense – a man compelled by the Holy Spirit to deliver a message that accurately and authoritatively explains the truth of God’s eternal word.

Rest for the Soul

Hebrews Part 4

According to Dr. Jim Folk – Anxiety has become the number one mental health issue in North America. It’s estimated that one third of the North American adult population experiences significant anxiety issues. Another report found that more than half of college students sought help for their anxiety issues. That’s not even to mention those who self medicate or never seek help. Of the top 7 most prescribed Psycho-tropic Drugs – 6 of the 7 are specifically to treat Anxiety and only one for is for depression.

Perhaps it is one of the most often used quotes throughout church history – from Augustine who wrote in his book, “the Confessions” a prayer, “Oh Lord – thou hast made us for thyself, and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in thee”.

The restlessness of the heart is mark of this generation. Our hearts grow restless, wandering, searching, seeking – that for which they were made. This passage of Hebrews gives us the cure for the restless heart.

The Over Burdened Soul

Through the years I’ve heard several Christian leaders make reference to the expansion of one’s soul. The word “soul” is used to define two different things, depending on whether the teacher is a Dichotomist or Trichotomist.

  • The Dichotomist typically uses the word “soul” to speak of that eternal part of us, the eternal self.
  • The Trichotomist uses the word “soul” in reference to one’s mind, will and emotions.

Either definition will fit our needs in this article.

My question is – does the soul have a limited capacity? Can it be expanded? Can it be exhausted? Is it like a tank that can be emptied then refilled again? If so, it would be wise of us to consider prioritizing that which has the attention of our soul, specifically in an age where the tragedies of an entire world are laid before us on a daily basis. One has to wonder if any person’s soul is designed to carry such a burden! It seems more likely that our souls are designed to carry the ordinary, immediate burdens of our lives. When we attempt to allow our souls to match the emotions expressed in the myriad of tragedies we are faced with through the international news media, our souls’ capacities quickly hit their limits. As a result, we have no capacity for the trials and tribulations in our immediate context, whether it is the trial of our teenage daughter, or the man who just lost his wife to cancer down the street. Could it be that we are not intended to take in all that is thrown at us on a daily basis – but rather just those things happening in our immediate circle of influence? How would life be different if we guarded our souls from international concerns and allowed ourselves to be more deeply affected by concern in our particular community? One has to wonder if depression is not a symptom of the overburdened souls of our population.

Consider a personal experiment where you begin to draw boundaries around your soul. Let in those things that you can see, touch, feel, and in which you can affect change. Limit the national and international drama that so many others are concerned with. You will at first feel as though you are coldhearted toward the pain of others around the world, but soon you will recognize that your heart is newly attuned to pain you never knew existed happening all around you.

Why I Believe the Bible

Before he launched his career, Billy Graham wrestled with doubts about the trustworthiness of Scriptures. His close friend and fellow evangelist Charles Templeton had recently left the faith and fell into liberalism.

Graham was at a personal crossroads uncertain of which direction he would go. Recalling those days of struggle, he says:

I believed it was not possible for me to understand everything in the Bible intellectually. One day some years ago I decided to accept the Scriptures by faith. There were problems I could not reason through. 

When I accepted the Bible as the authoritative Word of God—by faith—I found immediately that it became a flame in my hand. That flame began to melt away unbelief in the hearts of many people and to move them to decide for Christ. The Word became a hammer, breaking up stony hearts and shaping men into the likeness of God. 

A decision to believe the word of God really is a keystone decision. That is, it is one of those decisions that settles 1000 other decisions. It determines the course of your life, the quality of your relationships, as well as the destiny of your soul. I want to show you 6 reasons that I feel so strongly that the Bible is the word of God. 

  1. It’s Source – 

The bible (Old and New Testament) is humanly speaking a Jewish Document. Is there any argument that this relatively small and insignificant nation of people has wielded undue influence over the course of history as long as history has been recorded? They and their ancestors occupy a piece of land in the Middle East that is just over 8,000 square miles. They boast no large reservoirs of oil, or natural resources.

Yet again and again throughout history they have been attacked, dispersed, deported, detained, and murdered. It seems every villain history has produced has been fixated on the destruction of Israel.

This relatively small and insignificant people gave us the Bible. From the Patriarch Abraham to Moses, David and the Prophets – our Lord Jesus Christ and his Apostles were primarily of Jewish origin.

Time and again they have been attacked and defeated – from Babylon, Persia, Assyria then Rome. The majority of their enemies not only wanted to destroy them – but they saw it as essential that they destroy their book. From Antiochus Epiphanes to Adolf Hitler – there has been a concerted yet unsuccessful effort to destroy the bible.

Even in our day – you can hardly turn on the news without world events being described as they relate to Israel. Every world leader must declare his or her position on Israel before they take leadership. WHY? Wouldn’t you expect that this is how the world would respond to people who were uniquely chosen by the creator to be His mouthpiece? As one who came onto the world scene in 1976 – this was just something that I observed to be true – at a college student in 1994, I had to wonder why.

NOT ONLY THE JEWISH PEOPLE – but men like Wycliffe, Huss, Tyndall and Cranmer – People who sought to translate and preserve the text became the scourge of society. The fact that my father and mother handed me a bible was one thing – but my natural teenage rebellion had a tendency to reject my Father’s concept of truth. But the fact that throughout history the people who loved this book the most handed me the Bible with bloodied hands…and it’s very pages seems to carry the smell of smoke… I had to take a closer look at this book. I look at their life, I look at their death.. and I have to wonder – what is it about this book?

2. It’s Worldview- 

Every religious book must answer 5 basic questions.

  1. What is our origin?
  2. What is the meaning of life?
  3. What should be our morality?
  4. What is our destiny?
  5. How do we enter into a relationship with Deity?

Atheistic Evolution answers the question of origin. But notice that it has no answer for meaning. If atheistic evolution is true – there is no meaning. You are simply a chemical accident. What is the use of morality? What difference does it make if we love our neighbor or eat or neighbor for breakfast?

But, I have never met an Evolutionist who does not hold to some form of morality. They all exhibit a belief in the inherent meaning and value to human life. The evolutionist has a moral system, they express moral outrage, why is that?

Islam answers the question of origin and destiny but look at it’s morality. Sherea Law states that if a woman has been raped she must produce four men as witnesses who suddenly develop a conscience and actually confess to witnessing the rape. If she cannot produce four witnesses she is tried for adultery and flogged.

Compare these things to scripture – Scripture describes the world being created perfect, mankind being created in the image of God. But then a terrible fall into sin. As such Man continues to bear the residual image of God yet in a fallen and shattered sense. God has pursued man, given him a moral law that tends to permeate every society.

The Bible tells us that God so loved the world that he would one day send a Messiah that would make all things new. He came in the person of Jesus Christ. That message has radiated out of Jerusalem into all the world for the past 2000 years.

Everything I observe in the world makes sense according to the worldview presented in the Bible. From the deepest and darkest effects of sin, to the most brilliant and ingenious evidences of human achievement.

3. It’s Accuracy 

The bible is not primarily a history book but when it speaks to historical events there are extra-biblical sources to corroborate it’s claims. The Bible is not primarily a science book but when it speaks to science it is remarkably accurate.

The bible begins will an account of humanity flowing from a single human individual  – The most modern science tells us that DNA research proves that every person alive on earth today can trace their origin to one man who lived on earth many years ago.

The bible tells of an ancient flood through which God destroyed the world and began again with Noah and his family.  One would expect that we would find evidence of sea creatures on Mountain tops and desserts all of which have been discovered.

The bible tells us that all people lived together and spoke a common language. They they were dispersed throughout the earth by God himself outward from Babel. If this were true one would expect there to be similarities in the ancient accounts of creation as well as record of the flood – We have such a reports in ancient writings, for example:

  • The Enuma Elish – The Babylonian Creation Account
  • The Epic of Gilgamesh
  • Even native american histories record similar creation and flood accounts.
  • Aztecs and Mayans have similar stories.

The more localized events of history have been disputed by historians time and again yet without fail the bibles accounts of history have been affirmed with discovery after discovery. Whether is it the walls of Jericho that clearly fell outward rather than inward, or the discovery of the ancient city of Ur. Archeology affirms again and again the historical record of the Bible.

Not only History but Science – If you read ancient literature you will see that all ancient people had certain beliefs about the nature of the earth. The Greeks believed the earth rested on 5 pillars. The Hindus believed it rested on the back of an Elephant – when the Elephant shook it caused earthquakes. The Elephants was on the back of a turtle, the turtle on the back of a serpent. The serpent swimming in a cosmic river.

Yet Job (The bible’s earliest book) in Job 26:7 (ESV) tells us…

7 He stretches out the north over the void and hangs the earth on nothing.

For centuries man believed the earth was flat, but now we know the earth is a globe. The prophet Isaiah, writing 750 years before the birth of Christ, revealed that “God sitteth upon the circle of the earth” (Isaiah 40:22). The word translated here as “circle” was more commonly translated “sphere.” In other words, Isaiah explained that the earth was a globe centuries before science discovered it.

When Ptolemy charted the heavens, he counted 1026 stars in the sky. But with the invention of the telescope man discovered millions and millions of stars, something that Jeremiah 33:22 revealed nearly three thousand years ago: “The host of heaven cannot be numbered.”

The hydrological cycle. Rain or snow falls to the ground and runs off into streams, which run into rivers, which run into the sea. Water evaporates from the surface of the ocean and returns to the clouds, where it becomes rain and snow, which falls to the ground. The hydrological cycle is a discovery of fairly modern times, but the Bible speaks of it in Isaiah 55:10: “As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth …”

In the ceremonial laws Leviticus God commanded Israel to quarantine people who were sick. In the 14th century scholars studying the bible discovered that this could be the cure for the plague – it wasn’t doctors who stopped the plague it was theologians.

4. It’s Honesty – I love biographies but I have found that one of the biggest problems in reading biographies is that they are typically written by fans and we have a tendency to glamorize our heroes.

Consider how the Bible treats it’s heroes:
ENOCH – is one of the first good guys described in scripture but did you know that the bible says he walked with God 300 years. He left this earth when he was 365. So for 65 years of his life one of the greatest men in the OT didn’t walk with God.

ABRAHAM – the father of the Jewish People shared his wife with another man, lied about her, and when he discovered she could not conceive he took another woman as his wife.

MOSES – the lawgiver, was an insecure, reluctant leader, who, in his first attempt to come to the aid of his own people, killed a man, and then ran for life to the desert.

DAVID – Israel’s most loved King was an adulterer who took another man’s wife and then, to cover his own sin, conspired to have her husband killed.

In Ezekiel 16 the Scriptures describe the people of God, the nation of Israel, as being so bad they made Sodom and Gomorrah look good by comparison.

My observation is that men typically embellish the stories – the fish was never that big, if it existed at all.  But scripture presents it’s heroes WARTS and ALL.

5. It’s Prophecy– One would think that if a document was in fact the Word of God it would be able to predict future events specifically and accurately.

When Julie and I went to Israel we heard about a ministry there that sought to convert ethnic Jews to the Christian faith. It was called the Isaiah 53 project. One of the things they would do is read Isaiah 53 to a jewish person and ask them who it was talking about and where the passage was found. Keep in mind in the Jewish calendar there is no reading of Isaiah 53, they read 52 and 54 but not 53. So they would read…

Isaiah 53:4–10 (ESV)

4 Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. 5 But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed. 6 All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all. 7 He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth. 8 By oppression and judgment he was taken away; and as for his generation, who considered that he was cut off out of the land of the living, stricken for the transgression of my people? 9And they made his grave with the wicked and with a rich man in his death, although he had done no violence, and there was no deceit in his mouth. 10 Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him; he has put him to grief; when his soul makes an offering for guilt, he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days; the will of the Lord shall prosper in his hand.

Then they would ask they question – who is this talking about and where is it found? Most of the time the jewish person would say – that’s talking about the Christian Jesus and it’s found in the New Testament. Then they would open the Hebrew bible and show them it was written by the Prophet Isaiah 700 years before Jesus walked the earth.

Peter W. Stoner, a scientist and mathematician, utilized what he called “the principle of probability.” This principle holds that if the chance of one thing happening is one in M and the chance of another thing happening is one in N, the chance that they both shall happen is one in M × N. This equation is used in fixing insurance rates.

Stoner asked 600 of his students to apply the principle of probability to the biblical prophecy of the destruction of Tyre (see Ezek. 26: 3-16), which claims 7 definite events:

Using the principle of probability in a conservative manner, the students estimated the chances of all seven events occurring as described at 1 in 400 million, yet all seven did occur.

Stoner’s students did a similar study on the prophecy that predicted the fall of Babylon (see Isa. 13: 19). They estimated the chances of the Babylon prophecies occurring at 1 in 100 billion, but everything stated did come to pass.

Bible Prophecy is 100% accurate.

6. It’s Unity  – 

Keep in mind that The Bible is a collection of 66 documents (39 OT and 27 NT) written over the span of 1,600 years by over 40 authors on 3 different continents (Asia, Africa, and Europe) in 3 different languages (Hebrew, Greek, and Aramaic) that reveals one unified, progressing and unfolding message – which we call the Gospel.

Imagine we sent out at request for people from all 50 states to send a rock of their choosing and their particular cut to Huntsville, AL. So we have stones from CA, to NY. Then imagine if once they arrived in Huntsville someone was able to assemble those stones to create a perfect replica of the statue of liberty. Wouldn’t you assume that this was not random chance? Wouldn’t you assume there must have been some Mastermind at work behind the scenes telling each Mason how he was to cut a particular stone?

The same is true of the bible over 40 men wrote sections of this book, but when it is assembled it presents the greatest story ever told and becomes the best selling book of ALL TIME.

As logical and reasonable as a belief in the truth of scripture is – I didn’t come to my belief in scripture simply by logic and reason. those were means to an end but ultimately faith in God’s word is a gift.

1 Corinthians 2:14–16 (ESV)

14 The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. 15

In the New Testament Jesus often taught in Parables. People would ask him, “why do you do that”? He said, “because it hasn’t been given to them to understand the word of the Kingdom but it has been given to you”. You see – the ability to embrace the bible as the living word of God is a gift that only God can give and He gives it to his children.

I’ve been preaching this book for over 20 years in those 20 years I have not found more and more errors and reasons not to believe, but my faith in the power of this book has grown.  The longer I read it, the more I study it – the more I see it as a living document.

  • It brings peace to the troubled heart.
  • It stirs the complacent heart.
  • It heals the broken heart.
  • It uplifts the sorrowful heart.
  • It calms the anxious heart.

Friend – The Bible is God’s Word. It is an anchor for your soul, it is a foundation for your family, it is a guide for our church – may God be true, and every man a liar by comparison.