Tag: sermon

Digital sermon prep

For the last 6 months, every time I’ve spoken publicly, I’ve done so without paper.

In other words, no trees are killed because I preach.

I realize that I’m going against the method that many of you use to prepare, using printed pieces of paper, napkins you jot notes on, and paper outlines you preach from.


image credit: inmagine.com

Going digital was a big deal for me. I hate carrying around various papers. I hate writing notes down, only to forget where those notes are written. I hate wondering if I grabbed every note I need before I leave the house to preach. Hate it.

So here are the tools I use in the preparation, and delivery, of my sermon.

Digital sermon prep & delivery


YouVersion – my initial, first-pass reading comes here. I read daily from YouVersion.

Evernote – all of my notes, especially my sustained writing time, happens here. This is also my catch-all for creating a sermon over the course of time. As I’m prepping a sermon, I have two files: a “notes and ideas” file and a “final sermon” file. When I’m having lunch one day and an idea comes, I throw it in my “notes and ideas” file. Or I snap a picture for an illustration. Or I record myself speaking and come back to it later when I have time. Then, the week I’m preaching, I start compiling notes, illustrations, and ideas into my “final sermon” file.

iPhone – Instead of writing notes and ideas down on a random index card I find in my bag, I take them via Evernote on my iPhone. I don’t always have my computer or iPad with me, but I’ve always got my phone. For (as above) written notes, photos, videos, and voice records.

Things – In general, Things is a to-do list application. I keep all of my to-do lists here. For preaching, I have a “future sermon” to-do list (called a “project”) for capturing bigger ideas and checklists of additional resources to consult and additional thoughts to pursue. You can see more about Things HERE.

Google drive – at Grace, we keep our sermon series ideas, along with dates, Scriptures, and bottom line ideas, here (think “online share drive”). It’s shared (with all updates being reflected on everyone’s account) with our entire teaching team, giving all of us access to the remainder of the year’s flow of series and sermons. As I make more progress with a sermon, I’ll fill in more details on our Google drive, and everyone knows a clearer direction for my sermon.

Bible Gateway – I study a lot here, because it’s easy to switch back-and-forth between translations. They have just about every translation you’ve ever heard of. In addition, they have study tools and commentaries that are helpful (and free).

Monergism – This is a great resource of sermons and study resources such as commentaries, Bible resources, theology books, free books, and articles. This site can overwhelm you if you’re not careful. It’s well-done, but there’s a ton of information to slog through. This is never a “first pass” study resource for me. I use this in looking for specific, pointed information.


Pages – I transfer everything over to Pages, which is Apple’s version of Microsoft Word. Since it offers page breaks (and Evernote does not), it feels more natural to preach from than Evernote. This is just a preference thing for me. Combine this with the fact that Pages now syncs over the cloud with my phone, iPad, and computer, and I love this even more.

iPad – This is what I preach from. I’ve found it incredibly easy to preach from, and even making changes up until the time I begin is easy…just click and start typing. Or click and delete. Changes are quick and easy. It’s not nearly as intrusive as bringing a laptop on stage with me, and is much easier to work from than my phone.

The JoyFactory Case – I needed a way to prop my iPad up just a little so that it was easier to read. And I found a case I love, made by The Joy Factory. There are tons of cases that work well…this is just the one I use.

Is there still a place for printed resources? Sure. I’ve got loads of books that are very much worth consulting when I preach. On my shelf are volumes of commentaries, Puritan classics, and books that I’ve been given at conferences.

But when I preach, I have entered the digital age. And I challenge you to join me.


When you preach, or speak, do you use digital notes or printed notes?


The Burning Plow

I had the chance to speak yesterday at Grace Community Church, where I serve on staff.

As I looked through the life of Elijah and the calling of Elisha, the heart of my message was this:

Doing what’s right doesn’t always feel right, and many times when you do what’s right, it won’t make sense to everyone else.

If you’ve not heard the story of Elisha’s calling to ministry, it’s one of the most dramatic in all of Scripture.


The Burning Plow from Gcomchurch Sermons on Vimeo.


9 keys to preaching a lousy sermon

Most people, when they preach, want to do well. Right?

Most people want others to experience God, encounter truth, and leave changed. Most people want the hard work they put into their sermons to have some sort of impact on the people listening.

image credit: Creation Swap user Justin Knight (http://creationswap.com/justinknight)

Most people.

But not everyone. Some people aim to preach a lousy sermon. If you’d like to be one of those preachers, here’s your list.

9 keys to preaching a lousy sermon

1. Spend very little time praying.

If your sermon is going to be lousy, this is where you’ve got to start. Don’t seek God in prayer. Don’t spend time begging Him to lead your thoughts and your words. Don’t plead with him to soften hard hearts and open blind eyes.

2. Make your sermon purely about “teaching” propositional truths.

Go at it like your 7th grade history teacher…the one that you thought was boring. The one that you didn’t remember anything from her class. Just teach lofty moral platitudes and propositional truth statements that don’t drive any application home. That’ll get the job done.

3. Make your “study time” primarily about listening to other preachers talk about that passage.

Whatever you do, don’t read the Bible for yourself and study the Scriptures to show yourself approved (2 Timothy 2:15). Live off of others’ relationship with God, their experience with Him, and the knowledge and insight they’ve gained.

4. Don’t use the word “I” at all.

Don’t let things get too personal. Use ‘they’ and ‘them’ primarily. Slip in a few ‘you people’ and you’re good to go. Talk about “those people” a lot.

5. Heap burden after burden on top of your people.

Condemnation is the way to go. Try to make sure those condemning thoughts weave themselves throughout your sermon. Something like ‘The 5 ways you sinned this week and didn’t know it’ or ‘Why God hates you’ or ‘The 17 ways you’ll never measure up” or “Quit trying…you’re not doing any good anyway.”

6. Be sure to yell. Loudly. And obnoxiously.

Be careful with this one, though. People might think that, because you’re yelling, you’re saying something important. We all know you’re not. Just be careful.

7. Be completely absent and disengaged from people the entire week leading up to your sermon.

Because, if you’re not careful, your ministry of loving and serving people could bleed over into your sermon. The times you spend praying with and for people could have a drastic impact on the way you teach and preach. Be careful.

8. Don’t ask for anyone else’s input prior to preaching.

Study, prepare, write, and rehearse on your own. Don’t let anyone else take a look at your notes, your wording, or the direction you’re going to head on Sunday. Go it alone, my friend. Nobody else is as awesome as you are. The moment someone else tries to offer you a bit of advice, refer back to #6, above.

9. Don’t spend time wrestling through your own sins and weaknesses.

Just focus on other people. It’s much easier this way. Focusing on yourself gets all personal. And it means you have to be vulnerable. And…well, I’ll stop right there. I was just about to go into confession time. I can’t go there…and neither can you.

There you go. 9 steps to preaching a lousy sermon. Now get out there and start preaching!


Ever seen/heard a pastor lead this way?



5 Things a Pastor Should Never Say

Ever heard a pastor say something that made you cringe?

We pastors say a lot. From the stage, to the phone, in an email, and in passing conversations, we are communicating with people most of our days. And while much of what we share is (hopefully) helpful, there are certain things that should never be said.

image credit: Creative Commons user The Justified Sinner

5 Things a Pastor should Never Say

1. “If it weren’t for the people, I’d love being a pastor.”

You’ve probably heard this one. In fact, you may have said it yourself. Often said in a moment of frustration or as a passing joke, this is a statement that can be incredibly hurtful to the people that need help the most. It inadvertently creates a wall between the pastor and those who are in need of grace and hope. And it makes people feel like there are problems too big to bring to their pastor.

 Truth: Being a pastor is about the people. It’s about serving and giving and loving and pouring yourself out for others.

2. “This week was so busy, I didn’t even get a chance to work on my sermon.”

This is sad, really. There are a handful of things that only the pastor can do. (qualifier: having a teaching team is an option that many churches utilize, but when it’s your week to preach, this is no excuse). Preaching is one of them. It’s not that others aren’t qualified…it’s that your role that Sunday is to preach.

Truth: Having the stage (or the pulpit, depending on your context) on a Sunday morning is a great privilege. Neglecting that gift is irresponsible.

3. “I don’t have time for a small group.”

Thankfully, our pastors at Grace have never said this. But many pastors have. Their weeks are so busy with other activities (even good things) that they don’t feel like they have time in their lives for a small group. But if relationships are vital to growth in discipleship, you’d be foolish to neglect this. And it’s hard for you to tell them that small group life is worth bending their life around if you aren’t living that.

Truth: you don’t have time to not be involved in a small group. 

4. “And my ninth point, again starting with the letter ‘W’…” Seriously, just write a book. 🙂

Truth: people will not remember all 9 points. Pick the most compelling, helpful point, and preach a sermon with that as your bottom line.

5. “Someone like you is not welcome here…”

I got a call this recently from someone, who said, “I have a friend, her name is ____. And she’s done ____. She talked with another church, and they have asked her not to come because of some stuff in her past. Is she welcome at Grace?” Honestly, I was taken aback. It literally took my breath away. I told her that there are few things in life that cause my blood to boil. This happens to be one of them.

Truth: God’s grace is huge. Minimizing it is foolish.


What have you heard a pastor say that caused you to cringe?

 * image credit: Creative Commons user The Justified Sinner


The “cheap” generation

If you’re a part of my generation, you probably expect that everything that’s digital should be free.

From music, to articles, to old sermons, podcasts, TV shows, and movies.  If you can find it online, it should be free, right?  And it should give you exactly the information that you want.  And you should be able to easily find it.  And it should be presented well, with a good eye for design.  And it shouldn’t be too long.  Or too short.  Or have too many internal links, because that’s just self-serving.  Or have too many external links, because I’m probably not going to click on them anyway.

You want it your way.  And you don’t want to have to pay a penny for it.

And for much of that, we can be thankful.  So many great leaders offer high-quality content online for no charge.  What a great blessing that our generation can enjoy.

What kind of content should be offered for free?

Is there a blog, a site, or a podcast you’d consider paying to get updated content from?  What makes it worth the cost for you?

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