Tuesday, April 26, 2022

What’s in a sermon? Part 8: Delivery A

 April 25 2022

What’s in a sermon? Part 8: Delivery A

Delivery. It’s how the sermon goes from your ideas to the congregation. I will mostly address audible delivery, because that is the world I operate in. ASL and other forms of communication like it are not my language group and just as I would be hesitant to tell you how to preach in Chinese, since I don’t speak the language, I will be hesitant to tell you how to preach in ASL since I don’t speak the language. 

That being said, there are commonalities across language groups but you’ll want to translate concepts and terms.

The first thing about Delivery of a sermon is this: you need to be fully present in the moment. There are plenty of things that need doing during a church service where a sermon is being delivered, but you need to be doing as few of them as possible. That may mean that you need to train some more sound people or figure out how to “set it and forget!” with your sound board. 

That also means that you need to solve your technical issues before the sermon and be ready to abandon the tech stuff if you it does not work at point of need. If you are constantly fretting over the technology or are also having to make any sound adjustments, lighting changes, you will split your attention and your message will suffer. Get other people involved. If there are not enough other people to do those items, you might consider that your congregation is small enough not to need those bells and whistles.

Next, when considering Delivery, is planning ahead for visibility and clarity. This is what the platform at a church is for—it is NOT a stage—so that people can see you better and thus aid in processing the sermon you are presenting. You are not ‘elevated’ for your own sake but for the sake of the congregation. Make those decisions ahead of time: where are you going to preach from? Are you going to use a microphone? What kind? Your traditions may dictate these rather than allow you wide open freedom, but you want to look at them just the same.

Then, as you Deliver the sermon, be ready to minimize distractions. How you dress is only important if you are distracting in your choices; you need to know your folks to get that clear in your context. Every sermon is not the time to defend your tuxedo or your flip-flops. Further, what do you rattle around with? Keys in your pocket? Get a KeySmart so they don’t rattle. If you are using a microphone, have your cell phone…elsewhere. Seriously. It may or may not buzz and cause chaos. And if you keep your Bible and sermon notes on it…get a different device.

Seriously, on that note: if you are note-dependent, have a dead battery plan or a failing device plan for your notes. Your iPad is a piece of technology. It will fail at some point…watch it install an iOS update during Sunday School and lock you out.

Ultimately, the first part of Delivery guidance on a sermon is to minimize any distractions that are within your control. You don’t need to worry about babies—although having childcare for young ages can be a blessing to parents, it’s another matter—but you do need to worry about you.

Next sermon talk will be about actually getting the sermon out of your mouth! 

Monday, April 25, 2022

Sermon Recap for April 24

Here is what you’ll find: there is an audio player with the sermon audios built-in to it, just click to find the one you want. You’ll also find the embedded YouTube videos of each sermon.

If you’d like, you can subscribe to the audio feed here: http://feeds.feedburner.com/DougHibbardPodcast

Audible Link is coming soon! Search "Doug Hibbard" to see if it's there yet

Spotify is here: https://doughibbard.libsyn.com/spotify

The video is linked on my personal YouTube Page here: https://www.youtube.com/user/dheagle93

Sermons are stockpiled here: http://www.doughibbard.com/search/label/Sermons

Friday, April 22, 2022

Habit or Goal Part 2

 April 22 2022

Habit or Goal Part 2

Building on the previous post about whether or not you want to build a habit or accomplish a goal, that also can change as you progress through something. For example, your weight loss/health journey may start with the cardiologist saying “drop 30 pounds, big guy, or you’re in trouble.” (Or perhaps the pre-op nurse doing an EKG, as a *purely* hypothetical possibility.)

You need to hit the goal, but then transition your choices to developing a healthier lifestyle.

Or perhaps your goal was to become mostly famous as a blogger, build that into a writing career and have loads of influence. You may discover that the path is fraught with peril and that you have to go down roads lacking integrity to get to the fame and fortune. Or that someone else has filled the niche and there just isn’t space for you to be rich and famous, too. 

Either way, it may be time to rethink the goal and ask if there is a habit that you want in place of being a famous blogger. Maybe you want to substitute sleeping, reading, or using your writing time to encourage and strengthen whoever may read it rather than trying to be famous from it. 

You can keep pursuing the fame and fortune as a goal or you can make a different habit. I am actually not really intending to advocate for one or the other here but just noting that some may find the habit a better thing in the long run than accomplishing the goal.

Maybe your goal is to save a great historic treasure, like a building or a long-standing high-school tradition or event. Or should you encourage people to have a habit of remembering well the past and honoring it by engaging in meaningful events now? Or by holding on to some of the older physical reminders and honorably removing the rest so that there is a focal point? 

Ask yourself: is the goal to retain a building or to encourage the habit of remembering? 

The overall point I want to make is that sometimes we can lose ourselves in chasing goals. We can become so goal-driven, task-oriented that we miss the fact that there are people involved in the world around our goals.

There are other people in your life, and they matter. Are you using them to accomplish your goals? Should you use people? Or are they benefiting from you growing in healthy habits? Are they encouraged or embittered by your pursuit?

There is also a key person in this: you. What are you becoming in pursuit of your goals? Consider the affect on your energy, your enthusiasm, the other aspects of your life in pursuit of your goals and decide if it is a price you really want to be paying.

And especially for the Christian: are you growing in your walk with Jesus as a result of your behaviors? Or are you increasingly alone and chasing something that will be a feather in your own cap?

Either way, it is something to consider: do you want the goal or do you need a life change? Some goals are good: getting CPR-certified is a goal, having a habit of performing CPR on random dummies isn’t necessary. Other habits are better: a degree is good and (sometimes) necessary, but lifelong learning is a better habit than a 4.0 GPA.

Don’t give in to the pressure that you have to do only one or other.

Thursday, April 21, 2022

A goal or a habit?

 April 21 2022

A goal or a habit?

We had this discussion at home today, and it feels worth sharing here—though with a few details obscured for your own sakes :)

Oftentimes, we start on a pathway because we have a goal to achieve. An example would a weight-loss journey or a degree-based learning journey. You know what you want: to weigh X number of pounds or to complete Y diploma/certificate/degree. Those markers become the answer to whether or not your work is going well or going poorly. If it’s weight loss: did I lose a pound or not? Education: did I make an A or not?

After all, as the management mantra goes: you can only manage what you can measure, so you have to measurable deliverables or it’s no good. Right?

Well, right, some of the time.

After all, there is a time to need to make specific weight-loss drops. There are definitely moments that you need to be finishing a training course for your life goals. Or in other areas: you need to make X amount of money to pay off the car or you are starting a business and you need it to be profitable before you get evicted. 

Goals are not bad things is what you need to hear me saying, and evaluating decisions against your goals is also not a bad thing. I am choosing, today, to not make a quick donut run because I have actually lost a pound and a donut run will undo that. Further, I have specific education requirements to complete so that I can finish my degree—just like the last two degrees!

However, in the long run, these goal-oriented processes should produce something different from simple completion of the goals. They should produce life changes that look like habits. 

For example, many of you may know people who attained a level of education and then just…quit learning. All of their thought patterns and learning base, even in their field of preference, just stops with the year of their graduation. (Which, practically-speaking, means it stopped wherever their professors stopped. And if it’s a school that engendered a ‘you’re done learning’ mindset, then those professors probably stopped learning a generation before.)

Or someone who lost a truckload of weight before the high school reunion but then packed it back on the next year. Maybe you pushed hard to complete your first creative project like a painting or a sewing idea.

The question now is this: do you want to have done it that one time, or is this something you want to continue? Did completing your PhD make you someone who wrote one thing one time, or do you convert it into a lifelong habit of writing and learning?

Do you say “I lost my weight” or do you become someone with healthier habits?

If it is all about the goal, then the habits will always wrap themselves around the goal. Weight loss is a great goal, but you can lose weight in unhealthy manners—personally and socially. I’m a Baptist, after all, and we like to eat together. I could refuse to eat anything but nut grub trail mix for a month and drop weight fast, but who would I be living my life around to do that? Not many Baptists. So when I get down to my goal weight, I toss the trail mix and get back to deep-fried and covered with gravy…and the cycle continues.

Instead, I need the habit of eating healthier and, if deep-fried feeds the soul today, maybe going ahead with it. Because living a long-term healthy habit life is better than being 10 pounds lighter next week.

Same with learning: I will finish this degree. But if the long-term effect is not that I now research, study, learn, and share on an ongoing basis, it’s a dead-end.

You would do well to consider your goals and whether or not they help you develop better lifetime habits. Maybe reconsider how you are evaluating your progress: did I stick with healthy choices this week even though the scale didn’t move? Am I making space to be creative even if I didn’t make a retail painting?

Am I blogging every day to make the writing habit start up again or did I stress about a lack of followers and so I gave up?

Wednesday, April 20, 2022

Sermon Length Thoughts

 April 20 2022

Sermon Length Thoughts

Douglas Adams once wrote that “Time is an illusion, lunchtime doubly so.” While Adams was famously not talking about sermons, given his disinterest in Christianity, he makes a good point that figures into our discussion about sermons.

Here in the US, church services are most commonly happening on Sunday mornings. They do occasionally happen at other points in the week, but our main point of engagement is in that space.

In some churches, outside constraints such as a TV broadcast or a rental agreement will force the service to fit a definite time slot. In other places, internal constraints like a second service or a standing event immediately after the service will force a schedule on the plan. Of course, in both of those, there is still a conversation that must be had about start times or allocation of the time available.

Many of us, though, labor under no such constraints. We can preach as long as we’d like to—20 minutes, 40 minutes, and so forth. Thus the question arises: “How long should a sermon be?”

Answering that question requires us to hit a couple of additional thoughts. First, remember that you as the preacher are typically far more interested in the background material, theological truths, and historical settings than most of the congregation. The same is true of some of the underlying controversies connected to your passage. Guess who cares about the Documentary Hypothesis? Fewer people than you think.

Second, remember that (in most churches) for every minute you preach, someone is trying to keep up with small children. Maybe it’s the parent in the pew. Maybe it’s the nursery worker. But somebody’s wrestling with kids while you preach. At the very least, it will be helpful for them if you are consistent with your sermon time.

Now, to the point of the length of the sermon: if you look at the Bible (a great place for sermon information!), you do not find transcripts of sermons that took hours to preach. You find references to Paul and Ezra speaking for hours on end, but Peter’s sermon at Pentecost did not take that long. Neither did Paul’s at Mars Hill.

So we should be cautious about assigning prescriptive value to what were, honestly, special events. Paul was, after all, a traveling preacher, and hearing from him was an extra. If I could get Danny Hays to come preach and teach on the Old Testament, I’d plan for it to be several hours longer than me preaching out of the OT, because it’s different.

How long, then? How long hinges on some factors: first, your own physical stamina. You should not be nigh unto death at the end of every sermon. And your stamina also applies to how long you are able to speak plainly and coherently. Do not assume the sermon is the only ministry you need to do—you don’t need to be so wiped out that you stumble quickly away from the invitation/response time and collapse on the couch. At least not regularly…being asthmatic, I’ve had my days. 

Second, consider the ability of your congregation to track your sermon. That’s a function of their attention span, physical situation, and the location of the sermon. Is there always a train blasting through at the conclusion of your sermon? SHORTEN YOUR SERMON, because you can’t change the railroad schedule. You may long for the days when people could listen for hours on end, like the Puritans claim they did, but answer me this: if those multi-hour sermons were effective, why didn’t that practice stick? If your congregation cannot listen for an hour and truly gather the point—don’t preach that long. Yes, there are always those folks who will say “Preacher, keep on!” Some of them mean it. Some are being nice.

Traditions of the church also weigh on that capacity for the congregation: some ethnic groups are more willing to stay, listen, and participate than others. You won’t re-adjust clock-driven white folks by preaching longer than they can listen every week, though. You’ll train them to tune you out. And your congregation may have legitimate outside concerns: if you’re preaching in farm country, there are 7-day-a-week seasons even for Christian farmers. They are going to carve out as much as they can on Sunday, but that water has got to get turned off, checked, or moved when it has to be done.

Third, consider your ability to be interesting. I know, the Gospel is always interesting. That’s true. God is always exciting.

Preachers are not God.

So maybe you can be engaging for 30 minutes or 40 minutes. But are you really? Most people are done with a speech at about 30 minutes. 40 pushes it.

“But they go to 3-hour sporting events!” Ever been to a 3-hour football game or baseball game? Do you sit still the whole time and listen to one person talk? No. The action happens, things change, and you eat nachos.

Mix up the sermon with changing preachers, timeouts for music, add nachos and then talk about having a 3-hour sermon.

What I am saying is this: you should preach as long as you believe the Lord has given you words to say. But you should make sure it is the Lord and not yourself. That’s what your preparation time is for: study and prayer, to ask the Lord to guide you and to help you trim it up and make the point.

How long should a sermon be? Long enough to make the point. Short enough that folks want to hear another one. Let that be your consideration.

After all, lunchtime is coming after your sermon...

Tuesday, April 19, 2022

What’s in a Sermon? Part 7: Presentation

April 19th 2022

What’s in a Sermon? Part 7: Presentation

At this point, you’ve developed a sermon using the four points that we’ve looked at so far and answering the questions involved with them:

Context: “How does this passage fit in the big picture of God’s glory?”

Overview: “What is going on in this specific passage of Scripture?”

Reflection: “What is the main point of this passage of Scripture?”

Expectations: “What do we do about it?”

In other words, you’ve developed your sermon CORE and, whew, good timing because the Sunday School hour is almost over and it’s time to preach! Well, hopefully you’ve had the opportunity to get a little farther ahead than this, because you are not done.

A sermon, after all, is not just a written document. It is a delivered message—usually audibly delivered, but I have some friends in the Deaf Community who would point out that “audible” (or “spoken”) may be incomplete concepts for us. My sermons are always spoken, even if they aren’t audible. Not the case for a couple of good pastors I know, whose sermons are “signed” into existence.

That being said, an outline on a page may be the final record of your sermon, but it has to get off the page and to the congregation for it to reach its goal. You are going to take your CORE outline and look at it for presentation purposes.

First of all, look at the introduction you intend to use. It does not need to be crazy-flashy, but it should not be dull, either. I personally tend to lead with ‘turn in your Bibles to…(passage)” and then provide some basic directions to that passage. From there, I will detour to some form of attention-getting point, like highlighting a question or a modern situation that I think this sermon helps address. Or, at least once recently, I’ll draw a sword from behind organ and start talking about the historical idea of swords and power.

Second, you should examine how your sermon is going to transition into your church’s response time. I’m proceeding on the assumption that you want people to respond, even if your tradition calls simply for a reflection time or a verbal response like a Scripture reading. Those points in the service are often fairly standardized, so how do you move from your sermon into them?

Third, you need to look into the transitions between each of your points. You can preach a sermon and just go from one to the next with “and next, this point…” And it is helpful to your orderly-thinking congregation for you to be clear when you hit your points. But there may be better ways to smooth over those interchanges. You are looking for the transitions in your sermon to feel more like a traffic circle than a left turn at a 4-way stop.

(I know, most of us aren’t traffic circle fans yet, but someday I hear we will like them!)

You want to plan through these for a couple of reasons:

First, to make sure your connection points are valid. Pay attention to what kind of stories you are telling, what angles you are approaching from. Why? Because you don’t want to fall back on the same story every time. And you want to be certain that you are not constantly jabbing in the same direction. (Oh, and try to leave your kids out of it. Preachers: you cannot complain that your kids are forced into fishbowl lives as preacher-kids when you keep throwing them in the water.)

Second, you want to make sure your connection points hold up. I have never gotten blowback from folks over preaching a truth. But I have gotten in trouble over an illustration that wasn’t on-point and definitely over some that people thought I was making fun of them in!

Remember, when the content is done, the sermon is not. You take the CORE outline and then polish it for presentation. That will ebb and flow from week-to-week, and this is where your personality comes through most strongly. 

Monday, April 18, 2022

Sermon Recap for April 17 2022

Here is what you’ll find: there is an audio player with the sermon audios built-in to it, just click to find the one you want. You’ll also find the embedded YouTube videos of each sermon.

If you’d like, you can subscribe to the audio feed here: http://feeds.feedburner.com/DougHibbardPodcast

Audible Link is coming soon! Search "Doug Hibbard" to see if it's there yet

Spotify is here: https://doughibbard.libsyn.com/spotify

The video is linked on my personal YouTube Page here: https://www.youtube.com/user/dheagle93

Sermons are stockpiled here: http://www.doughibbard.com/search/label/Sermons

Friday, April 15, 2022

Good Friday

 April 15 2022

Good Friday

It is interesting to stop and reflect today as we mark the point in the life of Jesus that He was executed by the Romans on behalf of the Jews…as part of God’s original plan to redeem sinful humanity. There are church services and events and dinners and, apropos to the era, hashtags for the day.

A couple of thoughts:

First, remember this as you remember Good Friday: yes, Jesus died. No, Jesus did not stay dead. It is valuable to remember that you are not obligated to live as if Jesus died today. You are, as a Christian, supposed to live every day in light of the fact that Jesus is risen. He is risen indeed, so let us not forget that. We should never forget or take lightly that our sin that brought the need. 

Don’t forget the Resurrection, though, and the Grace of God. Mourn, weep, dance, and celebrate on this day.

Second, remember that everything appearing to fall apart: the fullness of humanity, the great earthly empire of Rome, the great spiritual group of the Jews working together to execute the sinless Son of God was always God’s plan.


So very often we think that God is having to react to us people. That our actions are what drive God’s responses. This doesn’t hold, though. God does not experience doubt or uncertainty: He does not sit on the throne of the universe and hope it works out.

Nor does He wonder what we will do.

How God’s sovereignty and our freedom work together is the subject of a great many ink, pixel, and even blood battles over the years. I will not resolve it in my lifetime but I will trust God to know His business.

What that means for us is this: God is not surprised, therefore we do not need to be distressed. Concerned? Confused? Perhaps. But we can come back to knowing that it will all work out to point to His glory.

Is He glorified when life goes well for us? Yes. Is He glorified when we stay faithful in suffering? Yes.

The reality here is our need to learn to trust. And that’s a hard one.

Yet when we see Jesus go to the Cross, trusting His Father in Heaven, we see that humiliation and death—even death on a cross! (Philippians 2!) is able to bring glory to God and life to us all.

Thursday, April 14, 2022

What’s in a Sermon? Part 6: Expectations

 April 14, 2022

What’s in a Sermon? Part 6: Expectations

Well, just like a sermon, blog series must also come to an end. I will not say “In conclusion” yet, as this is not the conclusion. It is, however, the last step before we talk about how the whole sermon wraps together.

This time, we are on to the segment of the sermon called “Expectations.” The first thing you might notice is that this is a plural heading: there’s really only one Context, one Overview, one Reflection—though how you find emphasis in these may be different either depending on your personal understanding or your study methods.

Expectations, though, are more varied from the passage. Let us return to the Beatitudes and pick one: “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called the children of God” (Matthew 5:9). When you look at the “Expectations” portion of the sermon, you are now going to take the whole of the Biblical understanding you have just presented and then give practical ways in which your hearers can work with it. You are striving to answer the question:

“What does God expect us to do with this truth?”

As an aside: this concept is based on the assumption that God expects us to respond to the truth we see in Scripture. This particular post is not the place to wrestle with Law/Gospel/Spirit/Letter/Grace/Response issues, but I will acknowledge that there are varied understandings of the nature of God expecting our response to His truth.

Here in Expectations, the preacher should be working to connect the timeless truth of Scripture with the real lives of the hearers. This is a place where it can be extraordinarily tempting to pad it with a personal agenda, but beyond the jokes by bald guys about Elisha and the bears, don’t do it. Instead, you want to connect with where the people are right now. And because your congregation is not all in the same place in life, there are multiple Expectations to be found.

First of all, there is the key idea that Jesus has brought us peace with God. You can respond to this truth by encouraging people to trust in Jesus, to tell others about Jesus, and so forth—there is a salvation-message expectation in almost any reasonable unit of Scripture.

Second, there is the idea that we are called to be peacemakers with others, so what actions can that look like for us? You may find it good to encourage the congregation to forgive one another, make peace with troublesome folks in their life, be sure they are peaceful in a chaotic world. It would be valuable to note that “peace” is the presence of right relationship, not just the absence of conflict, and that right relationship is not possible between an abusive individual and survivors of abuse: do not add trauma to trauma by making all conflict as simple to resolve. Some conflict requires separation and protection of one party to bring peace.

Third, there would be ideas about how the Christian is called to intervene and bring peace into a chaotic world and how the Church, in its local and global forms, could be a part of bringing peace. This looks different based on differing contexts of the church, but consider the possibility that you are in a community with divisive issues. How can the church help? The bare minimum is to do no further harm—but what could you do affirmatively to promote peace?

Expectations is where you, the preacher, are connecting the truth to ways that your hearers can live it out. Your creativity really comes into force here, but you must also keep your ego in check. Your job here is not to prescribe absolutely (in most cases; should be obvious that “do not murder” means… “do not murder” for all) but to show what Scripture does prescribe and illustrate ways to live it out. 

At this point, you are not proclaiming eternal truth, as you are with the Overview and Reflection, summarizing what the Holy Scriptures say, but you are presenting your own opinion. Be clear, be humble, be aware of your hearers and their world.

Next up, we’ll see how all this rolls together to make a sermon.

Wednesday, April 13, 2022

In Defense of Lots of Books

 April 13 2022

In Defense of Lots of Books

Something that the pandemic launched were lots of videos from pastors posted on the Internet, along with lots of Zoom interactions with people in ministry. That led to a spike in discussions about the bookshelves often spotted behind those ministry leaders during their videos.

Some folks noted that a good many preachers seemed to have expensive-looking hardwood bookshelves in their study space, while others noted that many also had nice leather-bound volumes lined up behind them like they were in a classical library. In turn, I’ve seen some discussions across social media about pastors and showing off books and bookshelves. Let’s talk about that for a minute.

First, the bookshelves should be addressed: many of those videos were shot in offices and studies that belong to either a church or an educational institution. Probably those bookshelves are hardwood, handcrafted years ago by a church member who does woodworking and you’re right: on the open market, if you could pry them out of the church, they would be expensive. But they aren’t necessarily a flaunting of wealth. After all, they belong to the church (or school), not the speaker. The bookshelves are built solid because they are built to last as long as the building. Does that mean it would be good for a church to spend thousands upon thousands now to build those kind of shelves? That’s a different discussion…but I’ve served a church where I had lovely built-in hardwood shelves all around me. They were about 80 years old and had been built in a different time.

Second, the books. Now, I can’t speak about having the rows upon rows of leather-bound, museum-grade books. I have a sneaking suspicion that some of those visuals are books that again belong to an institution that are just there for show—which to me is not a good thing—but I don’t know that. It may also be their hobby to collect vintage books. (And something that’s interesting is to see people rant about another person’s monetary spending from a $1000 phone, but that’s another show.)

It is worth noting, though, that many folks in ministry are working not only with their own books but a hand-me-down collection of books from other ministers. I’ve been the recipient of boxes of books from a church that shut down its library, and many of the older books have that nice, leather-look and old binding. So that is where some of them come from. (Why not sell them and give the proceeds to the poor? First issue: you have to find a market for them. If we all sold every copy of Matthew Henry’s Commentary, we’d flood the market like a pollen dealer in the South and they’d be worthless.)

The rest of those books? 

Why keep them? Why have them?

We tend to keep the books that we acquire along the way, which means the more schooling you’ve done, the more books you have on hand. Pastors who pursue the traditional ministry education have done a BA of some sort (120-140 College hours) and then a Master of Divinity (90 or so Graduate-level hours). That’s a lot of classes to buy books for and many of those classes call for more than one! Then you pick up one or two for this study or that purpose, and the collection grows. You attend a conference and see a recommendation and decide to learn more by reading about it.

You might find a hole in your understanding—I’m currently trying to read up on “Cultural Intelligence” from Michigan State University to strengthen my understanding of dealing with people not like me—and the better path is to read up on the deficit before you track down someone to pepper with questions. Those stay.

That’s why I have lots of books: because the more I know, the more I realize I don’t know. That’s most pastors I know, because to a great degree, our work is the work of a teacher for a class that sees a constant stream of individuals promote, graduate, transfer out, transfer in, and repeat the subjects. So we are always in need of learning for ourselves so that we can enable learning for others.

Now, do some pastors have stacks of books to try to make themselves look smart or fancy? Sure. There are posers in every vocation, so the ministerial vocation is no different. 

But if we expect ministers to have a hefty helping of humility (and we should!), then we should expect them to know their need for learning. And that’s where the books come in.

All told: you should have lots of books. Even if you don't read them all in your lifetime.

(Plus, there should be books you read for fun. I have books I read for fun. I’ve never seen someone more aghast at a book, though, than when they saw fiction on my shelf. I’ve got primary sources on cults—the cult’s own writings. I’ve got conspiracy theory books. Liberal books. Fundamentalist books. But more people have been bothered by Star Wars books…go figure.)

Tuesday, April 12, 2022

What’s in a Sermon? Part 5: Reflection

 April 12 2022

What’s in a Sermon? Part 5: Reflection

Having looked at the Context of a Bible passage and an Overview of what is happening in the passage as a whole, we come to the main point of the sermon, which is derived from a Reflection on the passage.

Now, to be honest, “Reflection” may not be the best title for this point in the sermon but it fits the acronym we are working toward, so “Reflection” it is. The idea is to provide a summary of the main point of the passage you are working with—what you find, upon Reflection, Prayer, Contemplation that the Scripture is saying.

In this section, you are still in the process of getting at the heart of what God has said in the text. Your creativity so far is still about explaining what is already there. While you may be seeing it in new ways, your main goal through all three of the first points is to get at the heart of the text, that people would see the Word of God plainly.

Reflection gets to the heart of your exegetical work. It is here that the meaning in the text should be plainly articulated to the congregation. They need to hear from you what you see as the meaning—and how it fits with the faith once delivered to the saints. 

This is, ultimately, the truth you are delivering that you want remembered. If nothing else is remembered from your sermon, you want this remembered. Why? Do you really think that folks are going to need that cute story about the dog next Thursday in a family tragedy? Or that they will always remember how well you raised money for the new kitchen?

Neither one of those are eternal truth. You want this to be eternal truth, truth that the Holy Spirit can work deeper and deeper into their hearts throughout the week.

Returning to the previous example of the Beatitudes, one might find several high points of meaning that share well in the Reflection, though you would be able to narrow it down to a summary that the blessed life is found counter to the normal expectations of this world. You could then use those sub-points to help explain how that is the main meaning in the passage.

I would refer you to works such as Grasping God’s Word by Hays/Duvall to address the question of “one meaning” in the text. I find it valid to say there is a primary meaning and also to note that this primary meaning is universal. That is—the blessed life is found counter to the normal expectations of this world holds true in 21st century America, 8th century Polynesia, and 2nd century China. How it fleshes out may be different, what aspect of the cultural push is hardest may be different. But if your “Reflection” finds a truth that is only valid in your current cultural climate, you have probably jumped ahead to an application point and need to slow down a step.

Are you going to get the Reflection perfectly? Probably not, but you will do well to put your research time into this. See what other commentators and preachers have found. Read widely—from the Ancient Christian Commentary Series to the Commentary for Christian Formation to the New Horizons Commentary and so forth. You want to work on seeing robustly into the truth here, not just hitting the flavor of the moment.

This gets us to the heart of the sermon: you are proclaiming God’s clear truth here. You will likely find a couple of things to note, because you should almost always be able to find the Gospel of salvation in the text. Share them plainly. Share them with enthusiasm. If you believe that the Holy Spirit will take the Word of God and remind His people of it in the week to come, this is where you push hard for understanding, because this is where you are dealing with the Word of the Lord.

Monday, April 11, 2022

What’s in a Sermon? Part 4 Overview

 April 11 2022

What’s in a Sermon? Part 4 Overview

So, we looked at the “Context” portion of the sermon a few days ago, and now we’re moving ahead to the “Overview.” (By the way, there’s a plan that this all fits under, you will see it in the summary in a later post!)

Overview is where the sermon works to answer the question: What is going on in the specific passage of Scripture? It is, essentially, where the preacher needs to summarize the passage, and may be the right place to read the passage. Or to read it again. Generally, this is a good place to read through the whole passage even if you’re going to go back and read each verse as you highlight it later.

Oh, and have you noticed that so far we have not talked about creating the central point of the sermon? That’s right. Because you will create that—it comes from the passage itself—but you do not need it as you construct the Context or the Overview. You will use that central point when you edit the Context and Overview down to size for the time available.

This section, Overview, gives the summary of what is happening. At times, this is a longer section than the Context but it can also be shorter. You may need to use this segment to explain what is happening around a speech—like the Sermon on the Mount—but you’re mainly looking at the overall passage. 

You would take the Beatitudes and summarize the general idea of that segment of Jesus’ teaching, how it was contrary to the prevailing wisdom of the day, how each one interconnects with the others.

In Context, you want to leave the hearer with an idea of how this passage fits with the Big Picture of God’s Story. In Overview, you want to leave the hearer with an idea of how this passage works.

Overview is also one of your primary defenses against bad application later. In Overview, you would note what Paul is writing about, overall, in Philippians 4 when he goes on to say “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me…” (Phil. 4:13). Without being clear in the overview of the passage—Paul thanking the Philippians for supporting his work even when things went poorly—you might focus on that verse as if it empowers you to do whatever you want.

(Hint: it doesn’t.)

The Overview section of your sermon is a key part to helping people see Scripture as more than just disconnected sentences. It, along with Context, also aids hearers in putting the text together on their own, equipping them to read the Bible well. After all, one of the best things a preacher can have is hearers who know the Word well. Keeps you working hard and working humble.

Sunday, April 10, 2022

Sermon Recap for April 10 2022

Here is what you’ll find: there is an audio player with the sermon audios built-in to it, just click to find the one you want. You’ll also find the embedded YouTube videos of each sermon.

If you’d like, you can subscribe to the audio feed here: http://feeds.feedburner.com/DougHibbardPodcast

Audible Link is coming soon! Search "Doug Hibbard" to see if it's there yet

Spotify is here: https://doughibbard.libsyn.com/spotify

The video is linked on my personal YouTube Page here: https://www.youtube.com/user/dheagle93

Sermons are stockpiled here: http://www.doughibbard.com/search/label/Sermons

Friday, April 8, 2022

A Brief Word on Ukraine

 I have hesitated to actively encourage the United States and other nations from becoming directly involved in repelling the Russian invasion of Ukraine for a couple of reasons. I am going to change my opinion—not that anyone cares what I would think, since to Democrats I’m a useless fundamentalist and to me, the Republican Party ceased to be a viable option when they chose not to have a party platform in 2020 and went with “Whatever Donald Trump Wants” as the motto. That’s the first step toward tyranny: adherence to personalities over principles. And it historically tends to start when you like the principles of the personality so you have to oppose good things now to avoid horrible things later. Few people choose bad principles first; usually, they choose the expedient path to accomplish what they see as good and lose sight of reality.

Either way, my political views don’t amount to much more than a rapidly depleting hill of beans in their influence, but that’s neither here nor there.

So, my couple of reasons for not advocating directly involvement by other nations:

First, because I am asthmatic, I have never served in the military and cannot do so. I’ve tried and been rejected 3 times, once even got all the way to the physical and could not breathe well enough to get a “your asthma isn’t too bad” waiver. Since sending the United States Army or Marines into a shooting war involves no risk to me (or my children, as they are not in the service, either), I do not think I should be quick to advocate sending others into harm’s way. Because this is a reality of war: people die and people suffer. Probably if you let veterans of war vote, you would find peace a much more preferable option. So, in deference to those with an up-close risk, I have not wanted to say “somebody else should go die for Ukraine.”

Second, there is the very real likelihood that if other nations get involved in Ukraine, we will see the cascading expansion of the war like World War One started: small conflict, got bigger, engulfed a lot of nations. The possibility that other nations could equip Ukraine to handle the invasion and then see Russia depart seems better for the world overall.

However: we need to remember how World War Two started while we try to avoid going down the path of World War One: an aggressor nation, seeking to reclaim its former glory and empire, began by conquering its nearby, smaller neighbors. Those neighbors appealed to stronger nations for assistance and received none on the grounds of avoiding the cascading growth of the war.

That aggressor nation then committed atrocities like the Holocaust and millions of other murders as part of their overall strategy of conquest and it cost hundreds of thousands of lives to end that war. The leadership of nations like the United Kingdom and France were leery of getting into another situation like the trenches of World War One. Many of them had fought there. It was not wrong to be hesitant.

It was wrong to trade the lives of others thinking that a bloodthirsty aggressor would be satisfied. He was not, neither was his circle of advisers and supporters. The cost was too great.

Now, we have a hesitancy based off of years in Iraq and Afghanistan (wars whose situation we’ll leave aside for now) and the memory of Vietnam, the ongoing conflict in Korea. All of these lead to the question: is it worth it?

The answer we should be seeing more and more clearly. The answer is yes. 

This is not an empire-building crusade by the European Union or NATO. (And the UN is always too weak to do much and the pairing of Russia and China will prevent them from doing anything.) This is about right and wrong.

You may ask…but what about when Putin and Russia invaded Syria? Or what about this wrong that we left unaddressed?

I would hope you don’t mean that, having not done the right thing in the past, we are therefore obligated to never do the right thing in the future.

Meanwhile, what could be done? That’s a question for professionals, but I would wager a pack of bacon that there are military personnel who could walk to a file cabinet and pull out a stack of options.

It’s time to make that call and get those options.

Thursday, April 7, 2022

What’s in a Sermon? Part 3: Context

 What’s in a Sermon? Part 3: Context

Apparently, you’re here for the long-haul on the sermon methodology, so let’s get straight into the first point of the sermon:

Context. Every sermon that I write and preach aims to lead with idea of “context,” which answers this question: How does this passage fit in the Big Picture of God’s Glory?

Why this question? 

Because the typical American Christian will hear dozens of sermons a year, plus Sunday School lessons, Bible studies, radio broadcasts, and more. And it is important that the sermon—because we tend to elevate its value—help us all see that the Word of God is a connected masterpiece and not just a moderately curated collection of one-liners.

(Delete rant about single-verse quips on tweets and t-shirts that miss meaning terribly.)

Context, for the sermon is going to cover important parts of the big picture. That’s going to include where in the Bible your passage is—it’s not a bad idea to give your hearers the run-down on how to get to the book you’re preaching from. In fact, the more we are preaching in environments that are not heavily Bible-saturated, the more we should do that. “We’re in Genesis, which is the first book in your Bible, it’s part of what we traditionally call the Old Testament. If you use one of the pew Bibles, it’s on page 9” may seem like a bad opening, but it points people to the text rather than engages them with your cleverness.

Remember, after all, the sermon is not about your cleverness. You can be clever and creative, and you should be. You ought not be boring.

But that doesn’t mean you need to hit the hook ‘em statement right at the beginning like a speech.

Your time to work on being interesting hits with the context, though: this is where your Biblical study, background research, historical efforts all come into use. Your goal here is set the stage for what this passage would have looked like to the initial audience; what are some of the key facts about when it was written or why it was written. And no, you should not punt this to “It’s in the Bible because God wants it there” without any other discussion. Yes, we accept by faith that God put it there for a reason. Your job in preaching is to help people understand the reason!

You don’t want to spend too much time on context, though, because it’s a sermon, not a history lecture. Trust me: this is an easy mistake to make, especially if you are rushed in your preparation time. Remember this principle: be short, be clear, be moving on to the next point.


For starters, this is often repeatable background information. If you are preaching a series in Ephesians, then you don’t do the full workup on context every sermon. You can spread it out, make it sequential as you address what Ephesus was like. Touch on covenant development along the way.

Second, you may take some of this material and sink into the rest of the sermon. If there is something specifically applicable about part of the context (presence of an imperial prison, perhaps?) to one passage, fix into discussing that passage and why it is relevant.

You’ll front-load this material, because it’s basic introductory matters and it’s fine if your hearers do not remember it perfectly. After all, you do not remember it perfectly, either, or you wouldn’t need those reference books, would you? The purpose here is for the hearers to get a feel for the situation.

Context is not the part of the sermon that typically connects to life-change, but it helps make the connection from the original direction of the text to the present day. It helps with the footing to make that solid throw downfield.

Wednesday, April 6, 2022

What’s in a Sermon? Part 2

 What’s in a sermon part 2

So yesterday, when all our troubles seemed so far away, I addressed a bit about the purpose of the sermon. Today, we’re going to get into the content of the sermon. This will take a post or two to cover the approach that I use.

I should also make the observation that there are several good books on preaching out there. Preaching God’s Word by Terry Carter is a favorite, as is Saving Eutychus. There are other works out there, though I would argue (and probably will some other time) that one is better served to learn to preach by listening to good preaching and studying historically good preaching. If everything you know about preaching is drawn from books written in the last 100 years, realize that your learning encompasses 5% of church history. And substantially less of church geography, because it was likely developed in England, New England, or the American South. Lots of years of Christianity before Billy Sunday; lots of Christians from places not called London, Louisville, or Boston. (Not that these points of learning aren’t useful. Just that they are not all-encompassing!)

So, get you one or two books that help guide the preaching preparation process, then do a lot of reading of sermons. Start with the era of the Early Church Fathers and see how they did it. John Chrysostom is a favorite of mine, but there are good ones across that landscape. Read homilies from the Catholic and Orthodox traditions: you may be like me and find the result of Pope Urban II’s sermon at Claremont in 1095 sad, but a preacher would be foolish to suggest it was not an effective message.

(He just got his prep work wrong and launched the First Crusade.)

This leads to another caveat on preaching: one must learn the discipline of Biblical interpretation (or hermeneutics) before you prepare sermons. The first step in sermon preparation is to strive to understand the text well, to internalize what the Lord is saying through His word in that passage. This is not work that a preacher can assign to someone else or simply download from the Internet. You have do the work yourself. You can (and should!) consult others about what you are finding. You should learn from others.

And if you’re like me and sometimes stumble in presentation, then absolutely get some help with that. Learn how to present; read some books looking for good illustrations. Listen to other sermons from good preachers that hold your attention and have done the exegetical work well.

Because what goes into a sermon?

First, good exegetical work. The time put into understanding the Word of God. We’ll cover that next.

Second, relational work: the time time and energy put into understanding your hearers. That will come after we cover the exegetical side.

Third, presentation work: this is the part that makes you go viral on Twitter and it’s the least of the sermon work. It still needs done—and we’ll cover that last.

Tuesday, April 5, 2022

What's in a Sermon: Part 1

 For those of you who don’t know it, I’m primarily a preacher for a Baptist church. I also do other things, but that is a pretty substantial part of every week. Now, there are dozens upon dozens of how-to preach books out there in the wild, but I thought I’d spend a little time here walking through part of how I do it.

The first thing about a sermon is this: purpose. This where some of what I learned in speech classes comes into play. Speeches come in many shapes, sizes, and forms. Some speeches are to education. Some are to inform. Some are to persuade.

Sermons are primarily intended to persuade, but they are not just a subset of the classic “persuasive speech.” While a sermon is intended to persuade the listeners of a truth, it is also intended to inform and to motivate to action. A sermon will typically also include the desire to inspire and encourage hearers in their faith.

The purpose, essentially, carries aspects of many types of speeches in it. That purpose is driven by the Word of God, because a true sermon is also a very niche type of speech. It is a speech intended to advance the cause of the Kingdom of God and not for anything else. 

It is not intended to motivate for an earthly cause, even if it is a good cause. Political speeches, for example, are not sermons and sermons ought not be political speeches: while I could write a speech telling you who I think you should vote for (NOT THAT GUY!), and I could even use elements of Christianity to support that purpose…but that would not be a sermon.

Within a church, a speech could be made about how to make the budget or why a plan should be adopted, but that speech is not a sermon unless it is actually aimed at the Kingdom of God itself. It may be a good cause speech. It may be a speech about the need for organizational development. It may be a good cause.

After all, no reasonable person would object to someone suggesting we find a way to eliminate cancer or feed the hungry or end war and everyone be nice to each other. Those are not bad ideas, bad causes, bad speeches.

A sermon, though, highlights the Kingdom of God and calls people to live in it. It may include that the Kingdom will be cancer-free, because the Great Physician will heal. It may include that there will be no hunger there, for there will be no more curse on the ground or corruption to keep people from food. It may include that the swords will be plowshares and the spears pruning hooks, because the Prince of Peace reigns over all.

The sermon does not fail to include the responsibilities of the hearers to act, but it puts the focus on acting in response to the Kingdom of God. The sermon aims at results that are seen in the Kingdom. Not in church growth—though that may happen. Not in measurables about this week’s deliverables…

But in people, both individually and collectively, having one more encounter with the Risen Jesus so that they are drawn that much more to be like Him in the core of their being and the actions of their lives.

The day after…

 The day after…

So I’m writing Monday’s blog post on Tuesday morning. Why? 

Because Monday did not go as planned. It frequently does not in the pastoral world. Partly because every pastor is a little bit different and so we all try to tackle Monday in those differences. 

Why is Monday a day to tackle?

Well, in the business world, Monday’s usually your starting point. So you have to fire up from downtime and get to work. That’s a challenge in its own right, getting started progressing through what the new week will bring, seeing what someone might have done over the weekend, restarting on this week’s deliverables, that kind of work.

In the church world, though, Sunday is the main day. Now, for some of you, this is going to sound less spiritual than you’d like, but the big “deliverable” for churches is typically the Sunday activities. There are a lot of other things that go on, that are important, crucial, parts of being the body of Christ in our current context.

But Sundays are a big part of what we do. It’s also become the habit, over the years, of being the one time some folks in the church try to talk to each other or ask about happenings in the church that may be months away. Any way you slice it, there’s a lot going on in the typical Baptist church on Sunday morning.

Monday, then, is a combination of recovery and action based on what happened during that Sunday time. As a result, it’s one of the most unplannable days on the calendar. Sure, I am heavily in favor of schedules and planning. Those make the days turn out functional.

Mondays, though, just don’t fit that. 

Which means that what you schedule on Monday may not get done until Tuesday.

Like this blog post.

Or plans for committee meetings.

Why does this matter? It’s a good reminder of a couple truths.

The first is that the more one can distribute responsibility, the better off an organization is. That applies to the big moments—I know some churches that have only 2 or 3 people handling everything that goes on during Sunday morning, and it’s exhausting—and to the every day. Organizational leaders have to find, develop, empower others to handle the work of the organization. It’s crucial.

The second is to hold plans loosely. You don’t want to have none, thus losing your time into the void. But you also want to know which times are hardest for you to hit with stability and keep your options a bit more open in that timeframe.

Those are the Monday thoughts…that had to flow over into being shared on Tuesday.

Sunday, April 3, 2022

Sermon Recap for April 3

 Here is what you’ll find: there is an audio player with the sermon audios built-in to it, just click to find the one you want. You’ll also find the embedded YouTube videos of each sermon.

If you’d like, you can subscribe to the audio feed here: http://feeds.feedburner.com/DougHibbardPodcast
Audible Link is coming soon! Search "Doug Hibbard" to see if it's there yet
The video is linked on my personal YouTube Page here: https://www.youtube.com/user/dheagle93
Sermons are stockpiled here: http://www.doughibbard.com/search/label/Sermons

Saturday, April 2, 2022

Chaos Comes to Town

 Second day of April. Where are we now?

Well, there should be a useful, thought-provoking post that I can put up but instead I’ve got this: there’s always something that’s going to go wrong.

Look, I hate to be the bearer of that bad news, but it’s fundamentally true. Something is going to go wrong. You just cannot prevent it. You cannot out-think it. You cannot out-prepare it. You cannot simply wish it away as if, by keeping a positive outlook, the bad won’t creep in.

So what do you do with that?

Three steps:

1. Recognize the inevitability of chaos. Chaos comes in; therefore it is likely not your fault that it hit. Did you plan the reasonable things? Did you prepare for normal issues? Were you ready for one injury but not four? Were you hiking in the woods and therefore not expecting electrical shocks? That may sound like an appeal to absurdity, but look—that type of thing does happen and it’s not your fault for being in the woods. Did you plan to rely on someone normally reliable?

See, when you add others in, there’s a chance for chaos there: a reliable person isn’t exempt from flat tires or dead batteries. It happens. The world is not stacked toward easy street; it’s stacked toward chaos.

That means: do not blame yourself if you have prepared for reasonable situations. And use someone else’s definition of reasonable, Overthinkers of the World! Yes, asteroids have hit the earth before but it is not reasonable to expect it again during your golf game.

2. Start with a simple purpose that can be recovered when things go wrong. What was your purpose? For a church event—was it eat perfect food or have fellowship time? Have a defined purpose for what you are doing and when the chaos hits, focus on recovering the purpose not the plan. 

Say that with me again: focus on the purpose, not the plan.

Tomorrow morning, we gather with the church family for our weekly time of worship. Our purpose is to speak to one another in psalms, hymns, spiritual songs, feast on the Word, pray together, and have fellowship time. It is not to accomplish the bulletin points—though those fit that purpose. If it goes off the rails, the purpose can still be recovered.

3. Remember that blame is cheap but learning is priceless. Why do you want to know whose fault anything is? To blame them? Lazy move. Almost useless.

To learn and to help others learn? Invaluable move. It helps alleviate the chaos and provides a purpose going forward. One can find fulfillment even when it goes wrong.

Oh, and if someone claims to take the blame but doesn’t take responsibility for learning? Then they are not getting the point.

Chaos happens. Things go wrong. Survive it and thrive with it as best you can. 

Friday, April 1, 2022

Things I have learned since I started blogging…

 February 26, 2008, I started this blog. At the time, blogging was all the rage in both social media and as a side function in church ministry. Several folks made money blogging, a few even got books deals based on their blog popularity. Some are still quite famous for putting together a blog and keeping it going.

Me? I haven’t garnered any money from this project. There for a time, I was signed up for Google AdSense, a program I don’t even know if they still have, but I made exactly nothing and so just deleted that. (If you see an ad here, it’s from the blog-host company, not me.) What I have done, though, is learned a few things. I thought I’d attempt a re-start into this habit by considering those.

To get there, though, let’s review some changes since that February…

First, when I started this, I lived in Southaven, Mississippi, with my wife and three small children (oldest was 6!) We owned a house. I worked for UPS and had just resigned from a bi-vocational (part-time pay) pastorate in Northeast Arkansas. 

Now? We live in Southeast Arkansas. Our youngest child is 15, the oldest is a junior in college, and we don’t own a house anymore. We learned in 2008-2010 the chaos of a bad housing market and in 2021 what a seller’s market looks like. We’ve passed through all the potty training and are almost done with driver training. I don’t work for UPS anymore and now am a full-time pastor.

Second, when I started this I had given up on formal education for me. I was about a third done with a Master of Divinity and thought that was all I would do there. Maybe I would stay with UPS and get a business degree and make lots of money.

Now? I finished the Master of Divinity and learned a lot about the differing educational environments in Christian seminaries. I am one dissertation and presentation short of a Doctor of Philosophy in Christian Heritage and also have two probable next degrees after I take some time off.

Third, wow, did I mention the kids have grown up a lot?

Fourth, we have moved and are on our fifth home since 2008. It’s a lot. Probably too much, to be honest, but you go where you need to and when you need to.

So, what have I learned?

I have learned that even with a broader depth of experience than many of my peers over the years, there is still a lot that I didn’t know. I personally would love to delete every website comment I made prior to about 2015 because I just don’t know if I agree with them anymore—and maybe half the ones since then! I might say the same things; I might say the same things in different ways; some I might completely disown.

I have learned that you can do the best you can and it will still fail. You will still fail. That does not make me a failure, or you one. It means you failed, yes, but what you do is only part of you who you are. 

I have learned that I talk too much and don’t listen enough. And still do.

A key thought, though, is this: I have learned that some folks do not accept that others are allowed to keep learning. It is important that we all keep learning, and it’s important that you let other people learn. Across those last 14 years, I have been rejected for jobs that I am glad I didn’t get; rejected for some I wonder if would have been good; but it’s all water over the levee at this point. There’s only one that still stings: a church in 2010 called a church I worked for in 2000-2002 and took that pastor’s word that I was immature, as if I hadn’t learned or grown in the life experiences across the 8 years since that time.

It bugged me that they then didn’t ask me about it. 

Here’s the rub, because I don’t really want that job (I like the one I have): I wonder how often I’ve done that? Judged someone based off of a long-ago portrait? Now, some character traits show easily and you it’s hard to change, but do we evaluate a person at 40 based on whether or not they were mature at 22? 

Do we in Christian circles judge someone’s theology based on papers they wrote at 24 and before they even knew Greek or Hebrew or what “homoiousious” means? 

Make space in your life to learn, but keep at a close second this truth: allow for the possibility that others have learned, as well. You are not who you were 14 years ago; make no assumptions that the other person is, either.

(Oh, and I haven't learned how to make anything but a flat text blog post.)

Sermon Recap for June 9 2024

 Good morning! Here is yesterday's sermon from Mt. Olive Baptist Church