How to Preach Theology-in-Genealogies (an example from 1 Chronicles 1:1–9:34)

If you’re committed to preaching through books of the Bible, sooner or later you’ll come face to face with an OT or NT genealogy. What’s an expositor to do?!

  1. Enjoy the thought of covering 9 chapters in one sermon. I am finding that there are large preaching portions in the first several sections of 1 Chronicles. This allows the series to cover large pieces of biblical real estate tracts with each sermon.
  2. The lessons for the Church from 1 Chronicles’ history includes the narrations sprinkled throughout the genealogy. In no particular order, the omniscient narrator reveals…
  3. that we are products of Divine election (1:26-28; 2:15 where Abram is selected out of the blue, Isaac is put ahead of Ishmael, and David is selected even though he was “the seventh,” not the first).
  4. we are a people who make the right choices (1:1; 4:9-10; 5:18-22 where folks like Seth and Jabez highlight those who call upon the name of the Lord (cf. Genesis 4:26)).
  5. but we are also a people who sometimes make fatal decisions (1:1; 2:3, 4, 7; 5:1, 25-26; 9:1 where we see sin entering the world through the likes of Adam, and Israel’s firstborn, Reuben; not to mention those that “broke faith with the God of their fathers…”). What an appropriate warning for our faith-families! Hebrews 2:1 warns us of the possibility of professing Christians to “drift away…”
  6. Finally, these chapters are filled with God’s people fulfilling certain tasks in the world (4:14, 23; 6:31-33, 48-49; 9:13, 26-33). The tribe of Levi, for instance, is situated in the middle of the lengthy genealogy. Worship had to be central for God’s people to enjoy His benefits. But there was the need for “craftsmen” and “potters” too. There is lots of work to be done.
  7. Finally, we find our place in this family tree through faith in Christ, the son of David (Matt. 1:1; Luke 3:23-28).

Everything in the genealogy is headed towards King Saul and the theological explanation for Israel’s predicament: “And Judah was taken into exile in Babylon because of their breach of faith” (9:1). Their only hope and ours is found in another King, David and, ultimately, David’s Son.

And when we say we’re in Jesus’ family tree, we have to be honest about what kind of family member we are. Which characters are we most like? It’s a time for us to bolster, not break faith. It’s a time for us to work hard by the grace of God at our worship of and work for our King.

I hope this gives some ideas for preaching an extremely difficult section of Scripture so God receives glory in the church and in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 3:21).


How to Preach 1 Chronicles. Really.

You know you want to preach through 1 Chronicles.

When you do, this series of posts may provide some help. Last month I launched a series through this book so I will try to provide examples of navigating this part of redemptive history in a way that functions for the Church.

First, the image I selected for the series connects to my chosen theme for the book: “Direct Our Hearts Toward You, Lord.” These are the words of king David recorded in 1 Chronicles 29:18.

I have written before about the importance of choosing a preaching theme for a book study. It takes some time but is well worth the effort.

Benefit for the Listener: Notice that I’ve chosen to word the series title as an applicational statement. In this case, a request that mirrors David’s original request. As we worship our way through 1 Chronicles each Sunday, we remind ourselves how we are supposed to respond generally to our God. The Faith-Family never has to wonder how 1 Chronicles applies. It’s relevant by design.

You can imagine that your congregants will question the book’s relevance when they begin reading 9 chapters of genealogies (more on that next time)!

Benefit for the Preacher: But, selecting a theme for the book benefits you too. The process requires some familiarity with the whole book. That means reading through it quickly and consulting some introductory studies.

In the case of 1 Chronicles, reliable guides will highlight the unique positive perspective of the Chronicler: David and Solomon’s kingdoms are held up as positive examples for God’s people to follow so they can experience the blessing of God as did Israel in their hay day.

When I read through the book, as is often the case, the ending of the book provided a clue of its purpose. Unlike king Saul, David seeks the Lord.

1 Chronicles 10:14 (the narrator’s comment in the opening story after all the genealogies) describes Saul’s way: “He did not seek guidance from the Lord…” But David prays in 29:18 “…direct their hearts toward you.”

That’s the difference between spiritual defeat and spiritual victory. And every sermon in 1 Chronicles provides an opportunity for God’s people to follow their Savior on The Way.

May you experience the privilege of preaching 1 Chronicles for the sake of God’s reputation in the church and in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 3:21).


Preaching Opposing Views Of Doctrine (part 2)

Last week I was saying that there are times when I will say to our parishioners, “If I believed in a prosperity, health and wealth kind of gospel, I would really push this Scripture. Look at what God’s Word says…”

I reject the notion that we should steer clear of such doctrines.

I am not geared for much apologetic exposition (in other words, you won’t find me spending much time proving a certain position or disproving what I believe to be a poorer reading of the Bible).

Instead, I prefer showing the best side of the other side. It’s the opposite of creating a straw man argument. In an article in the Atlantic, The Highest Form of Disagreement (June 2017), the author uses the term, “steelmanning.” Steelmanning considers and addresses “the improved version” of an opposing view.

Congregants of all stripes will appreciate your ability to think carefully about an opposing view and present its best side. Especially when you do it with humility and grace. You still move to a preferred reading of Scripture, but at least you have been more than fair.

(My experience over the years of research shows that most “sides” are not thorough in their appraisal or critique of the “other side.”)

A listener that was not fully on board with you on a doctrine would likely give you a better hearing if you steelmanned.

But more importantly to me is what steelmanning says about you and me. The author wrote,

“steelmanning makes you a better person….It makes you more compassionate, learning to treat those you argue with as true opponents, not merely obstacles….And it keeps us rational, reminding us that we’re arguing against ideas, not people, and that our goal is to take down these bad ideas, not to revel in the defeat of incorrect people.”

I’ve experienced more than one setting where a dose of steelmanning would have been a breath of fresh air. I vowed not to contribute to vilifying through focusing on the weakest point of the position. It smacked of lazy thinking.

Before Sunday, see if you will encounter an opposing view in your preaching portion. If so, think about presenting its best argument, not its weakest. God will receive glory in the Church and in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 3:21) because you will be gracious, fair, but clear in communicating the better reading.


How To Preach Opposing Views Of Doctrines

At times I find myself saying to our faith-family: “If I were a health and wealth preacher, I would use this verse. This verse…” Or, “If I were an Arminian, this is an excellent slice of doctrine to support the view.”

I never really gave it any thought, never felt any risk in saying such a thing to a very conservative congregation with a strong fundamentalist history. But recently I came across this article in the Atlantic, June 2017 titled, The Highest Form Of Disagreement. I present a few key excerpts below and then give my understanding as to why presenting the best arguments of the “other side” is healthy for preaching.

The article began with the frustration many feel while listening to recent political debates where someone attacks a person rather than an idea. The author highlighted the “weak man” argument where people attack the weakest part or the weakest version of an idea (think of the weakest part of, let’s say, a charismatic’s view on the miraculous gifts or the weakest part of a part of Calvinism). And then proceeds with…

“…America would benefit if our culture of argument elevated the opposite approach, steel-manning, “the art of addressing the best form of the other person’s argument, even if it’s not the one they presented.” Here’s Chana Messinger extolling it in one of those great old-school blog posts that I am honored just to honor:

We probably know best which arguments are most difficult for our position, because we know our belief’s real weak points and what kind of evidence we tend to find compelling … use that information to look for ways to make their arguments better, more difficult for you to counter. This is the highest form of disagreement. If you know of a better counter to your own argument, say so. If you know of evidence that supports their side, bring it up….Because if you can’t respond to that better version, you’ve got some thinking to do, even if you are more right than the person you’re arguing with.
In short, she says, ‘Think more deeply than you’re being asked to.'”

That’s good stuff! Thinking more deeply is helpful for Sunday soul-watching. It’s fair to the “other side.” It shows that there is no threat. It shows we’re intellectually honest.

Before Sunday, see if your preaching portion contains important information about opposing views of doctrine. Let your listeners know it and watch those minutes contribute to God’s glory in the church and in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 3:21).


Preach the Book of Job in One Sermon?!?

I hope Jesus returns before I have to preach through a few books of the Bible. One of them is Job. But nearing the end of our summer series, Worshiping the Creator Rather Than the Creature, I selected Job 38–42:6 as one of our Texts.

In the course of preparing to preach that section of Job, I quickly realized I had to help everyone know the context. That forced me to preach the theology of the entire book of Job in one sermon.

Here’s my approach:

Title: The Next Time You Ask, “Why?”

  1. The test every Christian must pass (Job 1:9-11, 22; 2:4-5, 10b). Satan wanted to show God that Job’s integrity was a sham. God knew better.
  2. The question that shows the test is a real test (Job 3:20-26; 40:1-2, 8). This is where Job begins to question, “Why?” He says some awful things about his life, like wishing he didn’t ever live!
  3. How our Creator “answer” our question (Job 38:1–39:30; 40:6-7, 9–41:34). God never answers Job’s questions. Instead, God bombards Job with over 50 questions of His own. As Job is forced to answer God’s questions…
  4. The genuine worship that results (Job 40:3-5; 42:1-6). Job no longer demands an answer, but takes his rightful place as a worshiper of God.

I chose not to include a thought block covering Job’s friends’ attempts to “help” him, but you may want to do that. They say some good things, but God indicts them in the end and vindicates Job.

And if you want to preach Christ from Job, one way to do that is to move from Job’s “Why?” to Jesus’ “Why?” on the cross, “My God, My God! Why have you forsaken me?!?” True worship begins by acknowledging our need for the Savior God provided for us. By faith, Christ’s righteousness creates the same kind of character exemplified by Job in the opening verses of the book and sends us on a journey where our faith is tested to produce maturity (cf. James 1).

This example provides some help for tackling other similar assignments. For instance, notice that I deal with the beginning and ending of the book of Job. Many books reveal their intention at the beginning and the end. Then, you’re able to make better sense of the middle portions.

I hope you’ll have an opportunity some time to preach a whole book in one sermon. When you do, God will receive glory in the church and in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 3:21).


P.S. Last week I referred to Mark Dever’s, The Message of the Old Testament. It’s an excellent resource when you plan to preach an entire book of the Bible in one sermon. Dever’s book is a collection of his attempts to do the same for the Old Testament.

My Best Practices For Choosing Our Next Through-A-Book Series

This weekend, Lord willing, I will complete our summer series. That means it’s time for me to move to our next through-a-Book series. Here’s how I go about deciding what to preach next.

First, my practices are based upon my philosophy of preaching in church. Different philosophies will determine different practices.

I believe in long-term pastorates if the Lord allows it and I don’t mess things up. That means I am counting on the cumulative effect of my preaching to contribute to the faith-family’s spiritual growth. For me this means alternating between Old Testament and New Testament and between genres within each testament. Over time, I want the congregants to experience as many facets of the Story as possible from as many angles as possible.

I believe in an exegetical/theological approach to preaching rather than an exegetical/historical approach. In a nutshell, this means I can often preach on large portions of Scripture, especially in Old and New Testament narratives and OT poetry and prophecy. In other words, my practice does not advocate spending years in Ephesians. I select preaching portions determined by my big idea approach outlined in Preaching With Accuracy (Kregel, 2014).

With that said my best practices for choosing where to preach next are:

  • I speed-read the beginnings and endings of potential books. This often yields their theological purpose–how they are intended to function for the church–and helps me decide on whether they’re next material.
  • I read at least two, sometimes all three, of the following books: Theological Interpretation of the Old Testament (there may be a companion volume for the NT?), Talk Thru The Bible, and The Message of the Old Testament (I believe Dever has a NT volume?). These are extremely helpful in concisely presenting the theology and key themes of books of the Bible.

  • Finally, I am asking God for wisdom to choose His message that best fits the current situation of the faith-family. This is extremely subjective. Soul-watchers who preach through books of the Bible have a God-given sense of what book is “best” for now.

I hope you will consider the value of preaching through a book or large segments of a book of the Bible. It’s hard work. Be prepared for tough Sundays. Great sermons require great Texts and not all pastors and parishioners consider every Text, let’s say, in First Chronicles, a great Text.

Choose your next sermon series through a book of the Bible so God receives glory in the church and in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 3:21).


The High EQ Preacher (part 6): Do you look friendly?

Please tell me that’s not your preaching face!

I can easily forget to smile when I first address the faith-family. Some of it is due to trying to remember all I’m supposed to say at the beginning. Some of it is due to my serious side and the seriousness of the task at hand on Sunday mornings. But none of that helps accomplish the goal of enjoying a vibrant relationship with a healthy church.

This is the final post summarizing some of the more relevant information gleaned from reading, Emotional Intelligence 2.0 (Bradberry and Greaves, TalentSmart, 2009). EQ is thought to be the most important indicator of leadership success. And you know that pastoring, preaching, and leading are intertwined, right? And a big part of  a healthy EQ has to do with the kinds of relationships we build with others.

So, when these authors tell us to “smile and laugh more” (p. 114), I had to stop myself and ask whether this was really that important.

The answer is, “Yes.”

Take Chuck Swindoll for an example. I first learned about the importance of smiling and laughing through my limited interaction with him during my years at DTS. His smile and laughing were infectious. And it did not detract from his preaching; it enhanced it because it was genuine Swindoll.

Ask yourself whether your smile and laughter is indicative of who you are as a Christian minister who has the benefit of the joy of the Lord as their strength.

And one final instructional nugget from EQ: “Greet People by Name” (p. 139).

I’m taking that one step further and asking you to consider addressing some of your listeners by name during the sermon. It’s the result of having built a strong relationship with them and realizing that the sermon is the time to address them about them from the Bible.

When you speak their name, watch the level of interaction increase. Often a smile will come to their face (if, as above, you’re smiling at them when you say their name!).

Before Sunday, let’s continue to be high EQ preachers who build strong relationships with God’s people so He receives glory in the church and in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 3:21).


P.S. If you have not read anything about EQ, this book is a good place to start. It’s an easy, quick read. You will find much that pertains to your church ministry, including food for thought on how to assess the effectiveness, or lack of, of your leadership.

The High EQ Preacher (part 5): Do You Have A Preaching Mentor?

Early last week I learned that one of my mentors, Dr. Haddon Robinson, passed away. Our relationship was one of God’s good gifts. I won’t bore you with details about what we enjoyed together, but will get to the point of this post about being a high EQ preacher.

In their book, Emotional Intelligence 2.0, authors Bradberry and Greaves advise, “Talk To a Skilled Self-Manager” (p. 112). In other words, make sure you have a mentor. If your mentor is a good preaching pastor, it’s a safe bet their emotional intelligence is high.

Sometimes a professor can function as a mentor. That was the case with Haddon. Classroom interaction led to ongoing interaction where I could observe his communication and people-skills. Other times a pastor or former pastor can become a mentor.

It’s a great relationship, but can also cause some angst. Mentors worth their salt are sometimes tough on us. As you can see from the picture below, Haddon was not overly thrilled with what he was hearing in the classroom that day. He combined tenderness and toughness.

A good mentor will, at times, push you out of your comfort zone. Mentors don’t always know God’s will for us. That means that following their suggestions could cause some bumps along The Way.

Like a good coach, good mentors want the best for us. That means they will push us hard to excel. In order to do that they will have to be the bearer of bad news at times to keep things real. Rarely anyone enjoys having their life or sermons critiqued. But it’s so important for spiritual and ministerial growth.

Part of being a high EQ preacher is having a mentor, someone who manages themselves and their sermons well. I hope our Lord has provided one for you (sovereignty); I hope you have been actively pursuing one (human responsibility).

May our Lord receive glory in the church and in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 3:21) because such relationships exist in our lives.

The High EQ Preacher (part 4): Invite Them To Think With You

I knew Emotional Intelligence 2.0 (by Bradberry and Greaves) was worth reading when I read: “If you want people to listen…” (p. 44). Every pastoral preacher or Bible teacher wants people to listen. And, evidently, from a human perspective, assuming God has graciously given ears to hear, a preacher’s emotional intelligence (EQ) is a factor.

But let’s start with this question: Do you ever think about what your listeners are thinking and feeling while you’re preaching? High EQ preachers want to know the answer and work hard at getting listeners to think and “talk” to them. It’s easy to get caught trying to remember what you need to say. When that happens, it’s impossible to think about whether you’re communicating effectively.

So, we certainly need to know our material well so we can focus on our hearers’ reaction to what we’re saying.

On page 46 the authors urge all their readers to

“…create a safe and inviting forum for discussion.”

That happens in two broad ways:

First, we must continue to work hard at our relationships with congregants before and after the worship services, and during any other times when interaction takes place during the week. As I’ve said before, our faith-family members need to know we love them dearly.

Second, we must continue to work hard at our relationships with congregants during the teaching times in church. You can create a warm, inviting atmosphere during the sermon. At a minimum, invite them to think along with you while you preach. At the maximum, invite them to talk to you while you preach. I enjoy actual, limited dialogue virtually every Sunday.

Whether your congregants actually enter into a conversation with you during the sermon is not the point. The high EQ preachers relate to their listeners in such a way that parishioners want to be a part of the conversation.

Maybe the most important thing you can do is make sure that you don’t sound so dogmatic that you shut down any discussion. If you heard that and raised your red flag, you might be prone to squelching dialogue. High EQ preachers have a way of speaking authoritatively for God without putting up unnecessary barriers to communication.

Before Sunday, work on knowing your material so well that you can focus on what your listeners are thinking while you’re preaching. And may our Lord receive His due in the church and in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 3:21) because you’ve created a safe place to interact with His Word.


P.S. A few days ago I watched a couple of sermons by T. D. Jakes, pastor of The Potter’s House in Dallas, TX. My mission was to simply watch how he relates to his faith-family during the sermon. He’s an extremely high EQ preacher!


The High EQ Preacher (part 3): The Dangers of Preaching When You’re in a Good Mood

I’ve discovered something about myself and my preaching: I don’t preach well when I am too down-hearted or too upbeat. Either extremes cause me some problems in the pulpit.

One of the benefits of reading Bradberry and Greaves’s, Emotional Intelligence 2.0 (TalentSmart, San Diego, 2009), is they helped me remember how important it is to be aware of my emotions. I want to get you thinking about how your emotional condition affects your preaching, especially when you’re in a good mood.

If you’ve been a pastor for a while, you probably remember times when you are downhearted due to criticism. As I read the book, I expected to come across a section like, “Know Who and What Pushes Your Buttons” (p. 72). High EQ pastors know what kinds of people and circumstances in church make them want to scream.

What I didn’t expect was the section titled, “Don’t Be Fooled by a Good Mood, Either” (p. 82). But then I spent some time reflecting on when my carnality is most apt to rear its ugly head during the sermon. You guessed it: when I am in a good mood.

The authors write, “Stay aware of your good moods and the foolish decisions these moods can lead to, and you’ll be able to enjoy feeling good without any regrets” (p. 83).

So, the high EQ preacher monitors his emotions and especially marks the times when things are going very well in the church, when everyone is singing our praises, when we’re feeling pretty good about ourselves. This helps us maintain the Spirit’s control and keeps us from saying things we regret after the fact.

At least, that’s the way it goes with me. When I’m in a good mood, I am more apt to say things in jest that I might not say when my emotions are evened out. Nothing puts me in a good mood more than ending a sermon knowing I didn’t say anything stupid due to being in a good mood!

Before Sunday, assess your mood. Avoid extremes and preach well for the sake of God’s reputation in the church and in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 3:21).