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You CAN Preach a Dull Sermon!

Have you ever wanted to preach a dull sermon? You know, the kind that makes your people have to fight to keep their eyelids from falling down to their navels? It’s not that hard, really, but you have to know a few tricks to achieve that goal. Here are some pointers on reaching success in this noble enterprise.

Use very big and technical words and don’t ever explain them.

Most of us have a good feel for the intellectual capacities of our people. We know if we’re dealing with white collar, educated people, or blue collar folks who only went through high school. Know your audience and make sure that the words you use are over their heads. The more they understand, the more they’ll pay attention, so if you want to put them to sleep, use highly technical phrases and be sure not to tell them what they mean. If you can throw in some Latin, Greek, Hebrew, or Aramaic, or quote from people they’ve never heard of, that will help.

Stand still while you preach and adopt a detached, professorial manner.

People will be interested if you use appropriate body language, vary your tone, speak to their level. You don’t want to be engaging. You want to be sure that they walk away thinking your monotone oratory is one of the best sleep aids they’ve encountered.

Deal with concepts and not application.

As you prepare, look for areas where scholars debate the meaning of a passage. Share them all with your audience, no matter now obscure. The more time you spend sharing these seeming insignificant results of your study, the more boring you’ll be. If you try to relate the passage to the needs of people, you’re going to awaken interest, so be careful not to go in that direction. That’ll kill a boring sermon.

Make sure that what you could say in 30 minutes takes you 60.

The longer you preach, the more information you’re able to give. Don’t try to be succinct and don’t wrestle with what to include or leave out. Just dump the results of your study on your people no matter how tangential it might be. There are some fine preachers who can speak for an hour and maintain the interest of their people. You want to avoid doing that at all costs. You’re aiming for dull and irrelevant.

Use illustrations that people can’t relate to.

You have to be careful when you use illustrations to begin with, because any illustration has the potential to interest your audience. So be sure that you choose illustrations that are remote. A quote from a French philosopher, a story from a war that few people have heard of, an example using technical language with which people are not going to be familiar – these are the handmaidens of dull sermons. Use them to your advantage.

Obviously I am writing tongue in cheek, or lingua in maxillam (Latin). But you get my point. None of us wants to preach dull sermons, and while these are not the only contributors to verbal anesthesia, they are serious contributors. Checking our sermons to make sure that we are not doing any of the above will help us move toward being engaging preachers.

Every once-in-awhile (like weekly) it’s good to do a self-check!

Have a great week as you plan to preach or teach this Sunday.

Tools of the Trade for October 28, 2019

A Weekly List of Links and Resources for Pastors

I do my blog writing the day before I post, and was driving home from North Carolina on Thursday. Friday was “recovery” day, so I thought I’d just wait and begin my Monday-Wednesday-Friday posting again this morning. Here are some solid articles that I uncovered during the past week.

We’re leading up to the 502nd anniversary of Luther posting the 95 Theses, and Ligonier has been running some good stuff on the Reformation. This article is on Luther and the Life of the Pastor-Theologian.

Mary Kassian answers the question, “Where Can Women Teach?”

Tim Challies wrote about protecting our kids from sexual predators.

Here are two free resources – both very worthwhile – from Ligonier on the Reformation.

If someone asks you why doctrine is important, here’s a great article to hand them.

Here are the differences between Attractional and Gospel-Centered Churches. A Gospel Coalition Podcast.

John Piper answers the question, “What Makes a Sermon Good?”

What characteristics make a solid Biblical leader?

Here’s a new English Standard Version (ESV) resource for you and your people.

The article is titled “Content Isn’t Everything – Or, Some Help for the Boring Bible Teacher.”

What is the pastor’s primary duty? This Gospel Coalition article seeks to answer it.

I’ll just give you the title: “The Pastor as Hourly Employee?” Enjoy!

As always, thanks for stopping by. Have you considered printing some of these articles up and putting them on a table or in a literature rack for your people to read?

I will see you on Wednesday!

The Milt Galatzers in Your Church

One of my hobbies is participating in a kind of fantasy baseball league in reverse. Each winter, along with about 12 other guys, we use a a computer simulation called Replay Baseball, draft a team from a past baseball season and use the computer to play the games. This year we’re using players from 1934. In the 25th round of our draft, I chose Milt Galatzer as backup outfielder.

I don’t believe I had ever heard of Milt Galatzer prior to this past week. I’m a baseball nut, but I wasn’t alive and following the game in 1934, and Milt Galatzer was hardly a prominent player. He played part-time for the Cleveland Indians from 1933-1936. Then he had 5 at bats for the Cincinnati Reds in 1939 before calling it a career.

From the standpoint of baseball history, Galatzer was a somewhat insignificant player. He doesn’t compare well when putting his stats up against Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Mel Ott and other greats that played in that time period. But I got thinking – here’s a guy who made it to the big leagues, and somewhere in those four-plus seasons I am sure he made at least some some small contribution to his team.

Now this may seem like a stretch but this is how my mind works. Thinking about Milt Galatzer got me thinking about my parents.

Harold and Betty Bogert have been married 67 years, have been believers since the mid 1960s, and this week I have had the privilege of visiting with them. Dad turned 92 Monday. Mom hit 86 this past April. This is a picture of us taken last night when my sister and my niece met us for dinner. (Autographed copies are available for $50.)

On Sunday they get up early so that they could get to their church at 7:00AM. That’s right. 7AM. They go that early each week and while Dad opens many of the nearly 90 doors in their church building, Mom gets things ready for when the children’s ministry begins.

In the past Dad has served as a small group leader and an Elder. Until just a few years ago Mom taught in the children’s Sunday School. But these days their ministries are confined to seemingly small acts of helping get things ready for worship.

If I can be a bit corny, they are the Milt Galatzers of their church. They’re not going to make the headlines, and they work largely behind the scenes, but they are still (if I can continue being corny) in the game, doing what they can. I’m pretty proud of them.

Pastor, you need people like this in your church. You have those who are elbow-deep in work, teaching, leading, and doing all kinds of things. And they are easy to notice. But you also need people to fill the smaller roles, including older saints who can and so still help in small ways.

Baseball is best known by its big name players. But it also takes people like Matt Galatzer to make a team. Who are the Matt Galatzers in your church, and when was the last time you said, “Thanks!” for what you do?

Tools of the Trade for October 21, 2019

A Weekly List of Links and Resources for Pastors

Ligonier has been running a series of articles on the Reformation, and this one deals with matters of the Christian life. The Reformation, as you know, was about more than theology.

Here are a couple of articles on justification from Ligonier. Good reading for you and for your congregation. The Instrumental Cause of Justification and What Does the Roman Catholic Church Believe About Justification?

Tim Challies writes, The Pastor’s Job Isn’t to Fix Things.

We’ve made finding the will of God into a mystical process that lacks a lot of biblical basis. Gene Veith write “Just Do Something!

Here’s an article for your youth leaders or for parents about kids questioning the faith.

Pastoral counseling is not an easy task, and this article reminds us of what we are aiming for when we counsel our people.

Paul Tripp has some great thoughts on what lies ahead for us.

Here’s another article for those of you who work with teens. Don’t neglect teaching them sound theology!

In a culture of noise, here’s an article on the value of silence for the good of our souls.

“We’ve lost our sense of pride in the ordinary things of life, of loving our family and friends, and of being devoted to one another.” This is a solid article that is very share-able.

Did you ever wonder what will happen to your email, online banking, and other internet activities if you died? A good read from a secular source.

Senior Pastors – here’s an article on working with subordinate staff.

Matthew Barrett writes “God Doesn’t Need You, and That’s A Good Thing.”

The 9Marks website has a thought-provoking article on cooperation with other churches and groups and what we need to watch out for if we are going to obey Scripture.

Have a good week! See you Wednesday!

A Minister’s Prayer

I’m going to be leaving after work this evening for Charlotte,NC, where my parents live. Dad turns 92 on Monday and I am grateful that my parents are alive, healthy, and willing to have me visit for a few days.

Because preparation for the trip is cutting into my time a bit, I thought that I’d post the following prayer from the Valley of Vision, edited by Arthur Bennett and published by Banner of Truth. I appreciate this book of Puritan prayers, and commend it to you. You can get it from either Amazon or Westminster books.

Earlier in the summer I walked through one of the prayers called “The Minister’s Preaching” that meant a great deal to me when I was preaching. This one is simply titled “The Minister’s Prayer” and covers not only our preaching, but the way we conduct ourselves in ministry. It’s worth meditating on it as you consider your ministries this weekend.

O my Lord,

Let not my ministry be approved only by men,

or merely win the esteem and affections of people;

But do the work of grace in their hearts,

call in thy elect,

seal and edify the regenerate ones,

and command eternal blessings on their souls.

Save me from self-opinion and self-seeking;

Water the hearts of those who hear thy Word.

that seed sown in weakness may be raised in power;

Cause me and those that hear me

to behold thee here in the light of special faith,

and hereafter in the blaze of endless glory;

Make every sermon a means of grace to myself,

and help me to experience the power of thy dying love,

for thy blood is balm,

thy presence bliss,

thy smile heaven,

thy cross the place where truth and mercy meet.

Look upon the doubts and discouragement of my ministry

and keep me from self-importance;

I beg pardon for my man sins, omissions, infirmities,

as a man, as a minister;

Command thy blessing on my weak, unworthy labors,

and on the message of salvation given;

Stay with thy people,

and may thy presence be their portion and mine.

When I preach to others, let not my words be merely elegant and


my reasoning polished and refined,

my performance powerless and tasteless,

but may I exalt thee and humble sinners.

O Lord of power and grace,

all hearts are in thy hands, all events at thy disposal,

set the seal of thy almighty will upon my ministry.

God bless you as you serve him this weekend!

The Privileges of Ministry

This is my 51st blog post, and to date, several of my posts have focused on what I think is realistic look at pastoral ministry. For example, five weeks ago I wrote a two-part post titled “When Ministry Hurts.” And there are times when it does. And the hours can be long. People can disappoint. It’s not always easy to see results.

But ministry can be rewarding as well, and I thought I’d share some of the things that meant a lot to me through the years. It’s helpful to remember the “good things,” because we can easily be discouraged when hard times come. I’m sure you can think of many more than the few that I’ve listed. But maybe when the going gets tough, you can reflect on these privileges, and in the midst of burdens, hardships, and disappointments, you can remember the privileges that God has given to those who serve as pastors.

  1. We have the privilege of studying God’s Word in ways that most laypeople do not. Of course we want our people to be Bible readers. But the busy lives they lead make it hard for many to come close to the in-depth study that we are able to do. Not only are we able to spend time in God’s Word, we have access to a wealth of resources that help us understand the text better. We can ponder the meaning of a text, examine background, and get to know the Bible in a way that most people never have the opportunity to. 
  2. We have the privilege of communicating God’s Word. Whether it be from the pulpit, from the front of a classroom, in a discipleship context, or in a small group, pastors are entrusted with the privilege of speaking for God. We don’t speak our own words, but we explain and apply the Word that God has given us. We occupy a strategic place in God’s plan for the growth of his people. Isn’t that one of the implications of Ephesians 4: “And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ,” (Ephesians‬ ‭4:11-13‬ ‭ESV‬‬)? While that is a great responsibility, it is also a great privilege.
  3. We have the privilege of seeing people impacted by God’s Word. Sometimes we see people immediately affected and changed by the Word. Other times we compare people to where they were a few months or years before and we can see that they have grown to love God more deeply and know him more fully. They’ve been affected by the ministry God has allowed us to have in their lives. Under your ministry some people’s lives will be touched for eternity.
  4. We have the privilege of knowing that our work is not in vain. You may wonder if you do any good, if your ministry counts for anything. You may see fewer people attending your church, or see someone you’ve worked with fall back into a pattern of sin. But God promises that our labors are not in vain. In 1 Corinthians 15:58 he says to all believers – including pastors – “Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain” (ESV).

There are going to be times when you go through seasons of grief. There may be time when you wonder if you would be better off working in some other vocation. But take heart. We have gifts that God gives us – gifts that are privileges. Be encouraged by these gifts God has given you!

Tools of the Trade for October 14, 2019

A Weekly List of Links and Resources for Pastors

Will Generation “Z” Hold on to the Faith? Great question. May God give them grace to hold on and us to prepare them.

There are many expectations that people have for pastors, but John Frame wonders about the need for gentleness.

There are many expectations that people have for pastors (he said again), but we can’t meet everyone of them. You’ve noticed that, right?

In 1 Thessalonians Paul has such a great description of his ministry, including that of being a nurturing mother. Well worth reading and applying!

Music. Always an issue. It seems that so much of the music we sing is driven more by the fame of artists on Christianity radio than by thoughtful theologians. John Piper asks and answers a great question about the nature of our lyrics.

Had I stayed in ministry longer I probably would have done a series on Acts. It seems a bit daunting, but here are some reasons for preaching through the book.

Reformed and Always Reforming is a couple of minutes with R.C. Sproul that you should read or listen to.

This article on preaching pulls key ideas from 7 solid preachers.

Are you an “at risk pastor?” This article may save your ministry.