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Pastor Sermon, Prayer and Teaching Resources
What is a Pastor (Some definitions)
"A Christian minister is a person who in a peculiar sense is not his own; he is the servant of God, and therefore ought to be wholly devoted to him. By entering on that sacred ofﬁce he solemnly undertakes to be always engaged, as much as possible, in the Lord’s work, and not to choose his own pleasure, or employment, or pursue the ministry as a something that is to subserve his own ends, or interests, or as a kind of bye-work. He engages to go where God pleases, and to do, or endure what he sees ﬁt to command, or call him to, in the exercise of his function. He virtually bids farewell to friends, pleasures, and comforts, and stands in readiness to endure the greatest sufferings in the work of his Lord, and Master. It is inconsistent for ministers to please themselves with thoughts of a numerous auditory, cordial friends, a civilized country, legal protection, afﬂuence, splendor, or even a competency. The ﬂights, and hatred of men, and even pretended friends, gloomy prisons, and tortures, the society of barbarians of uncouth speech, miserable accommodations in wretched wildernesses, hunger, and thirst, nakedness, weariness, and painfulness, hard work, and but little worldly encouragement, should rather be the objects of their expectation." William Carey (Missionary to India), from Enquiry into the Obligations of Christians to Use Means for the Conversion of the Heathens
Though Jesus unflinchingly spoke out against all forms of hypocrisy, unbelief and sin, when speaking to the sincere hearers, his words were as gentle and life-giving as the dew of heaven. There is more power in these refreshing and gentle words, than the most effective arguments.
"The love of Christ, manifested in unselï¬sh ministry, will be more effective in reforming the evildoer than will the sword or the court of justice. These are necessary to strike terror to the lawbreaker, but the loving missionary can do more than this. Often the heart will harden under reproof; but it will melt under the love of Christ…." Read more on Loving Words.
E. M. Bounds
"The superficial results of many a ministry, the deadness of others, are to be found in the lack of praying. No ministry can succeed without much praying, and this praying must be fundamental, ever-abiding, ever-increasing. The text, the sermon, should be the result of prayer. The study should be bathed in prayer, all its duties so impregnated with prayer, its whole spirit the spirit of prayer."
"The life of Reginald Radcliffe, of Liverpool, is especially instructive for its examples of failure turned into success by supplication. For example, at Rothiemay, near Huntly, England, the church was crowded, but as he proceeded in his address, not only did others who were with him, but the evangelist himself felt the absence of the power of God. The speaker paused, in the midst of his address, acknowledged his conscious lack and said, "We must appeal to God," whereupon he poured forth his soul in prayer.
As he prayed, the place seemed to be shaken, and every heart was singularly moved; a great awe from God wrapt the hearers as in a cloud of His presence, and God wrought so mightily that it was impracticable to deal that night with the crowds needing personal help. Mr. Radcliffe therefore appointed an early hour next morning for such personal converse with inquirers, and, notwithstanding it was in a rural district, the building was filled the next morning with anxious souls."
"Prayer is the breath of the soul. It is the secret of spiritual power. No other means of grace can be substituted, and the health of the soul be preserved. Prayer brings the heart into immediate contact with the Well-spring of life, and strengthens the sinew and muscle of the religious experience. Neglect the exercise of prayer, or engage in prayer spasmodically, now and then, as seems convenient, and you lose your hold on God. The spiritual faculties lose their vitality, the religious experience lacks health and vigor. It is only at the altar of God that we can kindle our tapers with divine fire. It is only the divine light that will reveal the littleness, the incompetence, of human ability, and give clear views of the perfection and purity of Christ. It is only as we behold Jesus that we desire to be like Him, only as we view His righteousness that we hunger and thirst to possess it; and it is only as we ask in earnest prayer, that God will grant us our heart’s desire."
August Hermann Francke (1663-1727) was a German Protestant churchman and one of the fathers of Pietism. Before the end of his life he founded the great orphanage of Halle that could care for 2,000 orphans, actively supported university students of whom Nicholas Zinzendorf went on to do a great work, an apothecary, publishing house, divinity school and school for pastors. His work greatly influenced Nicholas Zinzendorf who led the Moravians at Herrnhut, and George Müller who founded the orphanage at Bristol.
"It would further be useful, and it is highly necessary, that ministers should not only preach up the necessity of conversion, and instruct their hearers to depend on the grace of Christ for it, but also that they should, very frequently, in their sermons explain the nature and the whole progress of conversion, sometimes more largely and distinctly, and at other times more briefly, endeavoring thereby to lead their hearers into a true knowledge of the state of their souls; and showing them how they must repent of their sins, what they must do to be saved from their natural misery and ruin, and, in short, how they may obtain the full salvation of the gospel; that so every one may be able to give an answer to that most important question, 'What must I do that I may be a child of God and inherit eternal life?'" (Read more on preaching)
William Bramwell (1759-1818) was one of the most significant Methodist revivalist preachers in his time. You can learn much by reading about his life and ministry. I have gathered a few things to encourage you on a page devoted to his life.
William Bramwell: Bramwell Resource Page
"This is the time for your improvement. Give yourself entirely to the work. Rise early. Continue in prayer, in earnest prayer. Keep all your life, all your zeal, yet never be wild…Go on your way. Speak evil of none. Never debate about the work. ‘Be a lamb dumb, open not your mouth.’ Live in entire sanctification – all your heart God’s throne. Never grieve Him, or cause Him to depart from you. Take care how you act toward women: keep your eyes, your heart, from wandering. Determine, if you need it, upon fasting. Keep your body under. Be a man of God."—Sigston, p. 105.
"Nothing makes for a preacher's effectiveness more than a true conception of his calling. He is a messenger. That which he speaks is not his own. He is not at liberty to criticize, modify, or tamper with that which is entrusted to him; neither has he any right to withhold it from any person to whom it is sent. But he is neither a postman nor a phonograph. He delivers an open message which he has received from God for men. His first business is to wait for his message, and his next is to see that it is faithfully delivered." (Read the rest of his lecture on this subject)
“The real difficulty with the outsider begins at the church door. When the four men of Capernaum got the man sick of the palsy to the house where Christ was, they found the way blocked with the crowd. Some church doors are blocked against the outsider, even where there is no crowd. The church that really wants the outsider gets him, and the church that has not got him does not want him. That is the plain English of the situation. The church that is not prepared to welcome the man it invites had better go on with its pious prosing and let the outsider alone. That outsiders flock to religious services outside churches proves clearly that their objection is not against Christianity, but against the church.” (Read the rest of his presentation on reaching outsiders)
Charles Gradison Finney (1792-1875), called "America's foremost revivalist," was a major leader of the Second Great Awakening in America. His Memoires and Lectures on Revival were carefully studied by the contemporaries of his time, who were inspired to believe God could do the same thing in their location. Adopting his principles, they succeeded in bringing about the desired results. Trained as a lawyer, Charles Finney had a remarkable ability to win people to Christ and his converts tended to remain strong Christians on a long-term basis. He also wrote with great wisdom and clarity on soul winning. I don't agree with everything Finney suggests, and therefore ask that you read with discretion.
Charles Finney: Preaching So As To Convert Nobody.
Here are two of his points:
"24th. Leave the impression that they are expected to go away in their sins, and to consider the matter at their convenience.
25th. Dwell much upon their inability to obey, and leave the impression that they must wait for God to change their natures."
Charles Finney: Revival at Evans' Mills
Finney discusses many interesting things about his work, including his effort to preach very simply. (Read more about the revival at Evans' Mills)
He was a prince of preachers. Here are some of his thoughts on preaching:
“If the pulpit is to be occupied by men with a message worth sharing, we must have time to prepare it.” J. H. Jowett
“I have a conviction that no sermon is redy for preaching, not ready for writing out, until we can express its theme in a short pregnant sentence as clear as crystal. I find the getting of that sentence is the hardest, the most exacting, and the most fruiful labour in my study. To compel oneself to fashion that sentence, to dismiss every word that is vague, ragged, ambiguous, to think oneself through to a form of words which defines the theme with scrupulous exactness—this is surely one of the most essential factors in the making of a sermon; and I do not thnk any sermon ought to be preached or even written, until that sentence has emerged, clear and lucid as a cloudless moon. Do not confuse obscurity with profundity, and do not imagine that lucidity is necessarily shallow. Let the preacher bind himself to the pursuit of clear conceptions, and let him aid his pursuit by demanding that every sermon he preaches shall express its theme and purpose in a sentence as lucid as his powers can command.” J. H. Jowett
Until those who are sought for vacant pulpits are men of something more than scholarship and popular power, and are messengers of spirituality and true Gospel power, we shall continue to have pulpit artists who have little or nothing of the Holy Spirit effectiveness. The secrets of the highest power in preaching are neither occult nor difﬁcult, for they are open secrets. In the view of Keswick teachers all that is essential is embraced in these three: ﬁrst, the true and genuine Gospel message; second, a man behind the message with faith in it and true experience of its power; and third, the Holy Spirit setting on ﬁre both the man and his message. (Read all of A. T. Pierson on Keswick's impact on gospel preaching.)
F B Meyer
Frederick Brotherton Meyer (1847-1929) was a Baptist pastor and evangelist in England. Meyer was part of the Higher Life movement and often preached at the Keswick Convention. He was known as a crusader against immorality, and preached against drunkenness and prostitution. He is said to have brought about the closing of hundreds of saloons and brothels. Meyer wrote over forty books, including Christian biographies on Bible characters and devotional commentaries on the Bible. I consider Meyer's biographies some of the best Bible biographies ever written.
Hints To Lay Pastors provides many practical suggestions on how to develop and deliver sermons. I have read and gathered key concepts together. Here is a key quotation:
“In every sermon we should present our theme to the intellect with a thoughtful exposition of its truth; to the imagination, that it may be seen under the prismatic lens; to the conscience, that it may receive the sanction and acquiescence of what is best in man; to the heart, that the fountain of emotion may be deeply stirred; to the will that it may be forced to take sides, and choose."
Read more of Meyer's: Hints to Lay Pastors A (Ch. 1 and 2)
George Müller: On Choosing the Text
"We may see a subject to be so very full, that it may strike us it would do for some other occasion. For instance, sometimes a text, brought to one’s mind for a week-evening meeting, may appear more suitable for the Lord’s day, because then there would be a greater number of hearers present. Now, in the ﬁrst place, we do not know whether the Lord ever will allow us to preach on another Lord’s day; and, in the second place, we know not whether that very subject may not be especially suitable for some or many individuals present just that week-evening. Thus I was once tempted, after I had been a short time at Teignmouth, to reserve a subject, which had been just opened to me, for the next Lord’s day. But being able, by the grace of God, to overcome the temptation by the above reasons, and preaching about it at once, it pleased the Lord to bless it to the conversion of a sinner, and that too an individual who meant to come but that once more to the chapel, and to whose case the subject was most remarkably suited." (Read the rest of Müller's thoughts on choosing the text and preparing a sermon)
George Müller: Choosing to Be God's Humble Instrument
Müller wrote a most instructive letter to Hudson Taylor which I discovered in the Taylor Archives in England. In it he shares how he spent three years trying to write great sermons but had no success, nor did he obtain any fruit from his efforts. As a result he decided he would only be God's humble instrument and seek to honor God. Immediately his sermons bore much fruit. In the same letter he then goes on to show that the care of his own soul was his most important work.
"And the point to which as an older brother allow me to draw your attention is this: For the first 3 years that I preached, I saw scarcely any fruit resulting from my labors, but when 4 years, 3 months since it pleased God to bring me into such a state, that I was willing to be content to be only the instrument provided any good was done, and was willing to give to God all the glory if any good was accomplished, it pleased Him to allow me at once to see fruit, yea much fruit resulting from my labours." (Read the rest of Müller's letter to Hudson Taylor)
George Müller: His Preaching (a pdf)
This helpful pdf comprises an article written on Müller's preaching that appeared in The Christian, September 2, 1875. It is also well worth reading.
"Always go sword in hand, and beg of God the power of the Spirit, while you raise it to His glory. Now is your time to play the man. Do not study until your head aches. Lay your plans, short but clear; look always for divine aid, and after you have spread the net, close it with great care, that you may there and then bring some to shore. Preach, in the Holy Ghost, and before you dismiss your audience offer them salvation now. Never lose sight of present salvation, nor of God who is to work it. Give Him all the glory. Should any attempt to praise you, turn immediately to God, 'Lord, I am thine, save me!" (Words sent to Methodist Circuit Rider John Smith)
J. C. Ryle
Ryle was an Anglican pastor who served numerous parishes. At the age of 64 he became the Bishop in Liverpool. He died in 1900. He came to Christ through hearing a reading of Ephesians 2 in a church service.
J. C. Ryle's book Holiness is among the best one can read on the subject. I'have assigned it to students in the Seminary and more times than not the students have spoken of being greatly blessed in their reading. The reasons Ryle so succeeded in writing on the subject are many, and include content, style, and much Biblical support. You can't read his book without agreeing with much of what he says, and finding many sermon ideas. But there is another reason for his success, which is highlighted in his essay on sermon preparation: his choosing to write with simplicity. He was a master of making simple that which other authors would greatly complicate. I urge you to carefully read Simplicity in Preaching and incorporate his ideas into your sermon preparation.
Here is a quote:
"To use very long words, to seem very learned, to make people go away after a sermon saying, “How fine! how clever! how grand!” all this is very easy work. But to write what will strike and stick, to speak or to write that which at once pleases and is understood, and becomes assimilated with a hearer’s mind and a thing never forgotten-that, we may depend upon it, is a very difficult thing and a very rare attainment." Read more of J. C. Ryle: Simplicity in Preaching
Spurgeon is considered the prince of preachers and preached more than 1,900 sermons during his lifetime. His lectures are considered by many people his best book, and is full of practical instruction for pastors. Among topics are selection of the text, use of the voice, the way of illustrations, etc..
Lectures to My Students
Here are a few quotes:
"Another grieving fault is a want of truthfulness. When a great musician takes a guitar, or touches a harp, and finds that the notes are false, he stays his hand. Some men’s souls are not honest; they are sophistical and double-minded. Christ’s Spirit will not be an accomplice with men in the wretched business of shuffling and deceiving. Does it really come to this—that you preach certain doctrines, not because you believe them, but because your congregation expects you to do so? Are you biding your time till you can, without risk, renounce your present creed and tell you what your dastardly mind really holds to be true? Then are you truly fallen indeed, and are baser than the meanest of slaves. God deliver us from treacherous men, and if they enter our ranks, may they be speedily drummed out to the tune of the Rogue’s March" (p. 18).
"Dear Fellow Soldiers! We are few, and we have a desperate fight before us, therefore it is needful that every man should be made the most of, and nerved to his highest point of strength. It is desirable that the Lord’s ministers should be the picked men of the church, yea, of the entire universe, for such the age demands; therefore, in reference to yourselves and your personal qualifications, I give you the motto, “Go forward.” Go forward in personal attainments, forward in gifts and grace, forward in fitness for the work, and forward in conformity to the image of Jesus" (p. 23).
"A minister of Christ has no right to be at ease and sit down submissively in view of the fact that his presentation of the truth is powerless and souls are not stirred by it. He should resort to prayer, and should work and pray without ceasing. Those who submit to remain destitute of spiritual blessings, without earnest wrestling for those blessings, consent to have Satan triumph. Persistent, prevailing faith is necessary. God's ministers must come into closer companionship with Christ and follow His example in all things, in purity of life, in self-denial, in benevolence, in diligence, in perseverance. They should remember that a record will one day appear in evidence against them for the least omission of duty." Testimonies, Vol. 2, p. 635.
The Consecration and Role of Pastors
Spener's Pia Desideria is one of the "must reads" of Christian History. One of the Pietists who sought to reform the Lutheran Church, Spener wrote Pia Desideria in 1675 as a preface to a new edition of Johann Arndt's True Christianity. In it, Spener proposed changes that would restore practical godliness to his church, including reading the Scriptures more broadly at church and in small group settings in private homes, broadening the priesthood of believers to include more lay members, assuring that pastors were converted when they graduated from the seminary, making sure students were properly mentored and prepared for ministry, practicing one's religious convictions such as showing love to one's neighbors, and being more careful to give no offense when debating theological differences.
Here are some concepts drawn from his book:
In spite of all the sermons being preached, much is lacking in those sermons. Some pastors embellish their sermons with ideas and information that is intended to highlight their own learning and oratory skills, even though the people listening don't understand what is being said. Sometimes foreign languages are quoted in spite of the fact that not even one person understands the foreign language. There is also more concern about writing eloquent introductions, effective transitions and clever outlines, to say nothing of impressive wordsmithing and following the rules of oratory, than developing sermons to help people make right choices when they are choosing between death and life. This is a mistake. The pulpit is not the place to demonstrate one's learning or oratory skill, rather it is the place to preach the word in simple, but powerful ways.
Always make preaching to the "ordinary" people your primary focus, rather than preaching to the few well educated people who may or may not be present."
Don't be shy about constantly reminding your hearers of what they know.
Because the Christian religion primarily has to do with the "inner" man, preaching should be accordingly directed. In so doing, the preacher should not only encourage and strengthen the inner man, but also encourage the spiritual works that proceed out of the inner man--and thus help the hearers to not only refrain from outward vices and practicing merely outward virtues, but to help the people become accustomed to working on that which is inward and thus awakening a love towards God and man that is truly godly."
Down through the centuries God has raised up champion pastors who greatly impacted their parishes. Among the factors contributing to their success were, personal godliness, a personal knowledge and experience in the transforming power of the gospel, serious prayer, jealousy for God, effective simple communication, and MUCH visitation. We would do well to follow their example.
William Grimshaw (1708-1766)
He was a “plain” preacher. His first aim was to preach the whole truth as it is in Jesus. His second aim was to preach so as to be understood. To accomplish this he was willing to make many sacrifices, including preaching with words that were below his education, but words, none-the-less, that communicated with his parishioners. John Newton, speaking of him, said: “The desire of usefulness to persons of the weakest capacity, or most destitute of the advantages of education, influenced his phraseology in preaching. Though his abilities as a speaker, and his fund of general knowledge, rendered him very competent to stand before great men, yet, as his stated hearers were chiefly of the poorer and more unlettered classes, he condescended to accommodate himself, in the most familiar manner, to their ideas, and to their modes of expression. Like the apostles, he disdained that elegance and excellence of speech which is admired by those who seek entertainment perhaps not less than instruction from the pulpit. He rather chose to deliver his sentiments in what he used to term ‘market language.’ (Read more about Grimshaw...)
"Of late I have had some precious seasons, both in public and private. I want more of the spirit of prayer. There is nothing like getting filled with the Spirit before we go to the house of God, and then pleading with God in the presence of His people. Oh, let us go on in the name of the Lord, and expect present effects; yea, let us be restless for the salvation of souls. We shall not labour in vain. What condescension in God to use such unworthy creatures in the accomplishment of His designs!" (Read more about John Smith)
Gal. 2:20 "I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me."
"Ministers who are self-sufficient, and feel that so much depends upon themselves, give Jesus no room to work, and but little credit when he does work. They trust in their own ability, forgetting the words of Christ, "Without me ye can do nothing." The man that is self-righteous and wise in his own eyes,--rich and increased in goods, having need of nothing,--cannot ask in faith, and receive, because he trusts in himself, and feels no lack. His works testify that he labors out of Christ. It is those who feel themselves sinful before God, poor and helpless, that Jesus loves to help; for they will appreciate his aid. They have a longing desire to do the Master's work, and, knowing that the power is not of themselves, they take hold of the mighty arm of God, and by faith claim his promises."—Review and Herald, July 1, 1884 par. 12}
"Luther made the statement that religion is never so much in danger as among reverend men. I can say that many who handle the truth are not sanctified through the truth. They have not the faith that works by love, and purifies the soul. They become accustomed to handling sacred things, and because of this, many handle the word of God irreverently. They have not walked in the light, but have closed their eyes to light."—Paulson Collection, p. 54.6
"When men who urge conversion upon others are not themselves converted; when they commend to others the love of Christ, which does not glow in their own souls, preaching repentance which they themselves have not practiced, and faith which they have no experimental knowledge of, telling of a Saviour whom they have never known except by rumor? They are self-deceived men, not far from destruction. Pitiful indeed is their situation. All may seem peaceful to them, because the palsy of death is upon them
.—Paulson Collection, p. 54
"We are fully aware that dishonest men, immoral men, who preach the word, are not always reproved and warned. They are not unmasked. They learn to hold the truth in unrighteousness
, and can tamper with it without a trembling heart and rebuke of conscience. O that with pen and voice we might lead the people who claim to be depositaries of sacred and eternal truth to feel the necessity of enthroning the word of God in their heart, and bringing every thought, word, and action into subjection to Jesus Christ. It is a fearful responsibility to be in daily connection with the truth of God, telling others of eternity, and yet be unsanctified through the truth
.—Paulson Collection, p. 57.
1 (read the entire sermon of pastoral admonitions
The chapters of Octavius Winslow's "The Lord is My Portion" and the associated texts could form the backbone of a wonderful series of sermons.
Here are resources that are helpful on teaching classes.
This is the first chapter of Trumbull's marvelous book on soul-winning. Originally written by his father Clay Trumbull, Charles Trumbull made Taking Men Alive more readable and added questions at the beginning and end of each chapter, to assist class leaders facilitate discussions on soul-winning. Trumbull is a master teacher and the suggestions made in this initial chapter in Taking Men Alive are worth pondering. (Read Charles Trumbull: Hints To Class Leaders)
Here are a few tips:
- "The wise and skilful leader will invariably do less talking than his class does."
- "If he (the instructor) does not get it (the content of the session) back again from them, by the giving out of questions and opinions and experiences on their part, he will have taught them little or nothing."
Working With Young People
Additional links on this topic: