Talented or Spiritually Gifted | Santes Beatty

Sermon Title: Talented or Spiritually Gifted

Preacher: At the time of recording, Rev. Santes Beatty was the High School Pastor at Kentwood Community Church. Now, Santes works at Wesleyan Church Headquarters in Church Multiplication and Discipleship. As director of multi-ethnic ministry, Santes is helping the Wesleyan Church grow in unity and diversity.

Here at Wesleyansermons.com, we think preaching reveals a lot about a pastor’s perspectives. Sermons often reveal a pastor’s views on life, Scripture, culture, and Christ. Through this sermon, Santes reveals some of his paradigms.

Santes Shows Us That:

  1. Direction is Clear: “We want you to discover, develop, and use your spiritual gifts.” Before coming to the platform, Pastor Santes knew what his sermon should accomplish. After deciding his direction, every element reinforced that trajectory. Each word, illustration, and explanation helps us understand how to discover, develop, and use spiritual gifts. Because of that clarity, we walk away from the sermon with clear steps toward life change. If the preacher doesn’t fully work out where the sermon is heading until standing on the platform, it can feel a little like watching birth take place. It’s painful for the preacher, and uncomfortable for everyone else.
  1. Uses the Sermon to Shape Culture: Listen to the way Pastor Santes uses the sermon content to shape the culture of KCC. “Consumers ask: ‘How can I maximize what I get, without giving that much?’ Christians think: ‘The leaders of the church exist to equip me so I can serve others. So how can I maximize my time, talents, and treasure to bring unity to the community I’ve been planted in?’” When you come to Kentwood, you don’t just sit in a pew; you stand up to serve.” Though this phrase may sound a little commonplace, it’s memorable and contrasts the culture of most churches. Preaching is a leadership activity and leaders speak to the same sort of culture-shaping values time and time again in memorable ways. If you haven’t found a new way to say something in the pulpit related to one of your church’s values the last two months, it probably isn’t truly a deeply held value.
  1. Turns a Negative into a Constructive: “When you come to church next time, think about what stuff in the church drives you crazy? That innate ability maybe isn’t to criticize; maybe it’s there to help you come alongside that area to make it grow stronger.” Santes affirms church critics, knowing that their areas of criticism may be their areas of giftedness. Rather than becoming defensive, Santes invites critics’ help. Without them, Santes reminds us, we’d never escape our ruts. In other areas of preaching we can do the same. Doctrinal differences become opportunities to display kingdom unity. Economic downturns are tests of faith. The preacher sees negatives that are destructive in the community and finds ways to jujitsu them toward constructive energy for the community.
  1. Stories are Integrated with Purpose: Through stories, Santes provides humorous examples of spiritual principles. Santes’ stories build toward his main points: helping us discover, develop, and use our spiritual gifts. A sermonic story done well doesn’t just give a mental break. It provides a mental leap. It helps people cross over a canyon of content effortlessly at the “aha” moment. Jesus says “The father put his ring upon him and his robe, can said “kill the fattened calf for my son who was lost has been found.” At that moment in the story, our minds leap across canyons of content it would have taken paragraphs to explain related to the character of our Father God and the nature of mercy and grace. Stories do that, but only when the intentionally are crafted and directed toward the focused purpose of the sermon.

Application Exercises:

  1. Plan a Flow: Planning a sermon flow is a little like planning a church vision. As you plan next Sunday’s sermon, create a “main mission.” What should the congregation do as a result of your preaching? Once you determine that, you’re able to harmonize every other quote, story, and word of your sermon towards that trajectory.
  1. Tell Stories: This coming week, let’s start becoming better storytellers. One of the ways stories are told well, is to tell them before you tell them. One of our mantras in preaching classes is “Never preach in front of people for the first time.” If you need an audience to give a story a practice run, then tell them over lunch or breakfast tables. Call a friend and share it over the phone. As you tell it, make every word count toward the purpose you are building.
  1. Sprinkle Application: This week, plan a sermon that doesn’t save the application for the end. If all our sermons place application points at the end, the formula becomes predictable. It’s an old Puritan form of preaching that has worked for centuries. But it doesn’t have to be our preaching straight jacket. Mix it up a little; put application points throughout your sermon points, so the congregation can hold onto what God calls them to do after leaving service. Rick Warren often suggests making each point an application point. At the end of the sermon, recap the application, reminding the congregation of their opportunity to respond to God’s prompting.

Sermon review by Dave Ward and Ethan Linder


Friending | LeAnne Ketcham

Sermon Title: “Friending”

Preacher: LeAnne Ketcham. LeAnne is a graduate of Indiana Wesleyan University where she won the annual preaching award as an undergraduate. This sermon was preached during her tenure on pastoral staff at Grove Church in Fort Collins, CO. LeAnne and her husband, Andrew, now reside in Princeton, NJ—where LeAnne is attending Princeton Theological Seminary on a full tuition scholarship.

Here at Wesleyansermons.com, we love featuring preachers whose paradigms are replication-worthy. Through “Friending,” LeAnne Ketcham provides us with some replication-worthy perspectives. Watch the sermon directly to pick out your own themes, or listen to it over our shoulders with the themes below. Sometimes the best way to sharpen preaching is to listen to preachers you don’t normally hear.

For LeAnne,

  1. Media is Relevant to the focus of the sermon: LeAnne uses media for the sake of driving the sermon forward. As soon as the video clip stops rolling, LeAnne ties it into her sermon’s trajectory. Instead of using media as a mere attention-grabber, Ketcham uses a video to make the sermon be even more memorable to the congregation. Most of us focus on sermons as relevance-to-culture tools. But sermons need to be relevance-to-scripture tools more than the other way around. If it doesn’t fit hand-in-glove with your sermonic aim, skip it.
  1. Digging is Important: “Just 20 years ago, the average American had five close friends. Now, the average American has only two close friends. Research provides us with three reasons why.” Throughout the sermon, Ketcham provides ample research to help us identify our culture’s friendship weakness. In preparing the sermon, LeAnne has done both ancient and modern sermonic archaeology: digging up ancient exegetical artifacts (like the details of Rehoboam’s life) and modern artifacts (like cultural studies on friendships). LeAnne’s cultural awareness demonstrates awareness of the way God’s purposes intersect with our lives. It also helps establish her authority and credibility as a preacher.
  1. Phrases are Sticky: “Show me your friends, and I’ll show you your future.” As we walk away from this message, it’s hard not to remember LeAnne’s words. Throughout the sermon, she uses artfully crafted phrases that make the message unforgettable. During sermon preparation, she’s taken time to wordsmith her message, weaving together statements that “stick” in the minds of the congregation. This is perhaps her greatest strength. She’s an artisan with nouns, verbs, and gerunds.
  1. Application is Interwoven: “In a world where you can be anywhere else, you need to be present. Unplug the phone and leave it in the car.” LeAnne’s application points are her sermon points—and they’re easily memorable. Congregants walk away knowing exactly what to do, because that’s what the sermon’s about. Because LeAnne intertwines exegesis and application, the audience knows the Gospel’s implications before the end of the message. Many listeners can only hold on for 5-7 minutes without clear, relevant, moving connection with their every day lives. When I teach preaching students I often call this the “seven minute itch.” Some people’s attention will start to itch as early as four or five minutes into a section of sermon content. Everyone’s will itch by minute seven. Don’t wait twenty minutes to bring homiletical ideas down to the formational ground.
  1. Stillness is Powerful: LeAnne stays put. Rather than frenetically pacing around the stage, LeAnne’s lower body remains rooted and listeners remain focused. Her upper-body movements correspond with the content of her message; her lower-body stillness allows listeners to connect with her. Ketcham’s posture (in sync with her purposeful upper-body movement) allows listeners to feel the sermon without being distracted by unnecessary gestures. The pacing of a lion in the cage. The frantic sprinkler like torso turn. The wildly waving arms. All of these are distractions from the point, not ways to emphasize the point. For pacing, waving preachers rooting the feet for one point is often a spiritual discipline in itself.
  1. The News is Good: “If we get our friendships right, we’ll set ourselves up for a lifetime of success…we want you to have friends that will be in your life to stay—friends who go through the decades with you, not just months.” LeAnne’s tone, posture, and message communicate God’s capacity for creating beautiful new possibilities. As listeners, we walk away from LeAnne’s message knowing God cares about our friendships: and we can have the right ones if we surround ourselves with the right people. You might have noticed this theme in sermons we’ve been highlighting lately. Wesleyans get a bad rap for being “legalistic” or “moralistic” or “self righteous.” It’s not that this doesn’t happen, it just isn’t the style of the best Wesleyan preachers. The best Wesleyan preachers gospel people rather than merely guilting people.


  1. Next Sunday, commit to keeping gestures purposeful: removing unnecessary “stage-laps,” and including purposeful hand gestures that communicate alongside our message.
  1. As we write our next sermons, let’s commit to remember that the Gospel’s both “Good” and “News”: it really does open up new possibilities, and those possibilities really do enrich the lives of the hearers. May we never forget either; and may we always communicate that message in our words and tone—just as LeAnne did.
  1. As we select sermon resources, let’s keep our media relevant. If we’re just including a video to get attention, let’s pick something different. If we think something won’t fit into the direction of our sermon, let’s choose the harder road: selecting relevant media that communicates alongside our sermons.

Sermon review by Dave Ward and Ethan Linder

You Can Begin Again | Kevin Fetterhoff

Sermon Title: “You Can Begin Again”

Preacher: Kevin Fetterhoff. Pastor Kevin is the lead pastor at Bethany Wesleyan Church in Cherryville, Pennsylvania. BWC is a thriving congregation, intimately invested in the life of their members and the surrounding community. Churches often thrive when preaching thrives. We feature sermons at Wesleyansermons.com because we think featured preachers get something “right” in their preaching. A preacher’s communication habits reflect their life perspective: so in this article, we’ll feature some of Kevin’s replication-worthy paradigms.

Kevin Shows Us That:

  1. Biblical Context is Relatable: Kevin introduces the sermon by talking about Peter’s cultural context. Obviously, Pastor Kevin’s done his homework; just as importantly, he thinks these ancient Near Eastern events have something to do with us. Throughout the message, Pastor Kevin uses exegesis to serve application. The sermon reflects that Peter is like us; he faces pressures and temptations like we do—he’s in need of grace like we are. If you think of the context then and the context now like two prongs of steel, pastor Kevin has crafted them to be a tuning fork. He oscillates back and forth between the then and the relevant now creating resonance in our spirits with the application made. If it was applicable then, and it still rings directly true now, we know we have tapped into something with staying power worth listening to.
  1. New Beginnings are Everywhere: God’s world is full of grace-laden new starts. Pastor Kevin gives vignettes about Biblical characters that exemplify the grace of new beginnings: David, Moses, and Peter, to name a few. New beginnings in God’s Word help us see new beginnings in God’s world—we need only look for them. God’s transformational power can bring about dramatic change: Fetterhoff encourages us to see Him in His re-creative work.  God didn’t stop working on day six. “My father is always working, and so am I” Jesus said. If we aren’t careful our preaching makes it sound like God did something in creation, let us go our own way until Christ’s redemption, and is now waiting again until resurrection. Preaching has to, even in its subtle commitments, keep God’s work first and primary, our response second and secondary.
  1. Holiness is Practical: “Mentors and support groups bring reformation; Jesus brings transformation.” Pastor Kevin points to the necessity of both elements without disparaging either of them. Kevin’s view of holiness is not “pie in the sky, by and by.” It’s a real thing: God’s grace affects how we work, how we live, and even how we pay our taxes. Yet God’s grace usually does this through every day relationships and structural support for our pursuit of holiness. And when holiness is realistic, it is a chance to live out God’s redemptive work through even our most mundane tasks.
  1. The Gospel is Good News: “I hope today can be the day when you see—with God’s help—new horizons.” Kevin explicitly states what his tone and demeanor implicitly express. Throughout the sermon, Fetterhoff makes it clear that the Gospel opens new possibilities for our lives. Faith is an opportunity to see the world with Christ-colored lenses: not glancing over harsh realities, but seeing hope through the dim circumstances of this world. God has invited us into an adventure; and the journey is exciting. When preaching leaves us with downcast eyes and slumped shoulders we eventually start to dread church for good reason. Only unhealthy people enjoy a good dose of that every week. Gospel-ing people through preaching lifts the head, lightens the shoulders, and does so without making everything okay. Conviction isn’t absent, it simply isn’t the last word. The idea of “new possibilities” implies some less than idea past or present. Good news always assumes bad news, there’s no need to overemphasize the bad.
  1. The Audience is Responsible: “The only way we get help is to acknowledge we’ve had a problem. We have to own the fact: ‘I did that. That’s me.’” Kevin helps us realize that the Gospel has implications. While sin derails our life, God offers opportunities for restoration. As we navigate the world, we know we’ll encounter failure; but Kevin reminds us of the need to allow God to restore our failure rather than believing we are our failure: “You don’t slash the other three tires because you blew one out.” Altogether, Kevin helps us (as listeners) to recognize our responsibility to partner with God in His restorative work. Kevin anticipates the different life circumstances the congregation is in: some of them are in literal prison—watching by video. Others are seemingly free, but inhabit a prison of their own making. Regardless of outer circumstance, Fetterhoff reminds us of Christ’s offer of truest freedom.

Follow-Up Exercise:

  1. If you were to pick one of these paradigms that your congregation is likely to recognize in you, which would it be? If you were to pick one that they might smile, even laugh at, saying “that’s not our pastor” which would it be?
  2. It may be worthwhile to listen to one of your most recent sermons and scale yourself from 1-10 on these paradigms.

Sermon review by David Ward and Ethan Linder.


By Faith—Moses | Steve DeNeff

Sermon Title: By Faith—Moses

Preacher: Steve DeNeff is the senior pastor at College Wesleyan Church in Marion, Indiana. Located adjacent to Indiana Wesleyan University, CWC is a thriving congregation, and is passionate about leadership development, outreach, and discipleship.

Sermon Video:

Sermon Audio:


Sermon Review: Sermons reveal preachers’ presuppositions. Here at wesleyansermons.com, we feature preachers because they have replication-worthy perspectives and practices. In this article, we’ll feature four of DeNeff’s perspectives and practices that we perceive from the perspective of an engaged listener. Often a preacher’s best gifts aren’t even realized by the preacher. If you interview them, and follow what they would suggest, it may do you as much harm as good. Expert preachers do things automatically, and forget they do them, that other preachers have yet to consider. Whether these concepts are new or familiar to you, think through how they might help drive your preaching forward.

In this sermon, Steve Shows Us That:

  1. Sermons Are Staircases: You may love them, but you won’t be able to keep them, because they’re Canadians. Canadians always go home. They hear the motherland, and they always respond.” Steve’s sermon makes us climb. The first stair step—that Canadians love their homeland—is an easy step to reach. The second—that Moses had an identity crisis—is a harder step. The third step—that we need to determine our own ultimate loyalty—is a cumbersome step. Each stair (easy, harder, hardest) builds on the previous steps. At the end of the sermon, we’ve followed DeNeff up the staircase; our perspective elevates as the sermon progresses. This old model builds on rhetorical principles that have been examined as long ago as Aristotle’s Intuitive preachers recognize the need for going from easy to hard even without reading rhetorical treatises.
  1. Tension is Opportunity: Listen to the tension in Deneff’s words: “Is this a Christian nation or not? No. You’re in Egypt. It’s not bad. You can thrive here, you can raise children here, but there comes a time—there always does—when you have to decide: who are my people?” Sermons are built on productive tension: they analyze discrepancy between where we are and where God is leading us. The best sermons help close the gap between the two. Even when Steve doesn’t mention the audience, we know our part in the story. We’re in between what is and what will be.[1]
  1. Anticipation is Good: Listen to the mental time capsule pastor Steve puts in the mind of the listener: “Some of you are here right now; others of you don’t know what I’m talking about. There will come a time when you find yourself here. When that time comes, remember: we had this conversation.” Sermons are time-sensitive; on certain Sundays, our messages might not resonate with part of the congregation. Steve knows this, and he’s made peace with it. Even though the sermon won’t be immediately applicable for everyone, Steve reminds us to hold onto it: it may prove useful in the future. As we craft our sermons, DeNeff helps us refine our anticipation for the Gospel’s consequences. Rightly preached, the Word never returns void; it might not bring immediate fruit, but seeds are planted. Pods are buried.
  1. Perspective Brings Hope: “It’s better to suffer now in what will ultimately succeed than if I succeed now in something that will ultimately fail. Now is where we need the capacity to see things everyone else will know in 100 years.” If we’re focusing only on now, our situation is discouraging; we need perspective that transcends our time. God’s constant presence (even in times of loss) reminds us of the Church’s ultimate victory. The Spirit provides perspective, reminding us that we’re “Not the experts. We may feel objective with rational minds, but we’ve been raised on Pharaoh’s lap.” We’re far more like Moses than the Israelites. By faith, we can see where we are…and we can also see where we’re going.

Application Points:

  1. Make it Portable: Rather than only measuring success by numbers at the altar or point of decision, we should make our sermons portable. Help people carry the message out of the church’s walls, into their businesses, homes, and social circles. A successful sermon doesn’t always pack the altar (though it’s not bad if they do) but it does bring about life change. As we prepare our next sermons, let’s ask: Is this sermon a gift that keeps giving? If it doesn’t touch people today, does this sermon still offer a valuable perspective for the future?
  2. Use (Productive) Tension: In thinking back to last Sunday’s sermon, ask: Did we display the discrepancy between where we are and where God is taking us? The Gospel always has trajectory; if it doesn’t move us forward, then it’s not Good This week, don’t just preach against sin; preach toward holiness. Otherwise, tension isn’t productive.
  1. Build a Staircase: Some of us have never preached a “staircase sermon” As you plan your next series, think about planning at least one “staircase” sermon model—that starts with an easily-acceptable first “step,” then leads the congregation to a higher perspective. Three point sermons work well with a staircase framework since it helps the point move somewhere, and move together. They also help you design a persuasive framework around the points you want to make (whether it is three or five). One yes leads to another, leads to a greater likelihood of the final, most important yes to God’s ultimate claim on our lives.

Ethan Linder is a staff writer and content curator for wesleyansermons.com. A fresh graduate of Indiana Wesleyan University, Ethan and his wife Sarah currently live in Marion, Indiana–where Ethan is pursuing a Masters’ Degree in Christian Ministries from IWU, and Sarah is a teacher. When he’s not writing, Ethan enjoys reading, listening to music, studying cultures, running, and following the Philadelphia Phillies.

[1] For more on productive tension in preaching read The Homiletical Plot by Eugene Lowry.

The Value of One | Benji Kelley

Sermon Title: “The Value of One”

Preacher: Dr. Benji Kelley, Senior Pastor at Newhope Wesleyan Church in Durham, NC.

Review: At Wesleyansermons.com, we feature preachers whose sermons demonstrate perspectives and techniques worth replicating. Dr. Benji Kelley, Senior Founding Pastor at Newhope Wesleyan Church in Durham, NC, is one such pastor. Below, we’ll examine what we believe are some of Benji Kelley’s core perspectives, at least from the perspective of the listener.[1]

For Kelley:

  • Sermons Teach People to Read: “Would you go after the one and leave the ninety-nine? The shepherds say, ‘Absolutely!’ but we say ‘No way!’” The best sermons teach congregants how to read and interpret Scripture. In helping the congregation see the gap between the original context and our context, Benji points listeners to the bridge between Scripture and application, leading them across it masterfully. Because of Benji’s sermons, Newhope congregants learn how to navigate this bridge, too. It would be difficult to overemphasize the need for pastors to model the pathway from scripture through interpretation to life application. Congregations need this more than we think, more often than we realize, and soak up more than they consciously remember.
  • Phrases Are Sticky: “When we become like Jesus, we are willing to go after the one.” Words matter. If we want sermons to stick to lives, we need phrases that stick to minds. Benji’s statements are beautifully memorable; thanks to his thoughtful preparation, we walk away with faithful exegesis wrapped in memorable, applicable principles. So many preachers I coach (Dave) have all the basic content they need once they are done with their typical exegesis. They have dug up enough “bones” from the layers of biblical history and biblical interpretation. The bones simply do not have flesh on them. They are not alive. They need to be inbreathed with the artistry of God-inspired wordsmithing. I like to think of the best preachers as Bezalel-like figures. Remember Bezalel? He was the anointed and ordained artisan for the ark of the covenant. The materials were there for anyone, as was the basic design and structure. But only someone who was willing to sweat for form and beauty was allowed to bring it to action. Preachers need to sweat over creativity in order to bring form and beauty to the content they have found. Sticky phrases are one way pastor Benji accomplishes this. Another way is sticky questions. Listen to Benjis sermon and notice how many times a carefully turned, directly phrased question draws the listener to think and reflect. Tweetable quotes and repeatable questions are powerful preaching tools that give the message shelf-life even after the sermon is forgotten.
  • Transitions Flow Smoothly: “People see something of great value and do what it takes to go and get it… and that’s exactly what I want to talk to you about today.” Kelley’s transitions gain attention rather than losing it. Benji seamlessly moves from Good Friday to the Gospel, and the congregation doesn’t feel mental whiplash. Because the illustration relates to our experiences and pastor Benji relates to us personally, we’re more likely to respond attentively to the Gospel. Check out the illustration in pastor Benji’s sermon. Pay close attention to how the illustration gets you from point a to point b. Most preachers listen to sermons as if they were in the congregation. That’s fine and it helps us hear the Word of God for us. But we need to shift to hearing sermons the way painters view paintings. They not only stand back and admire the whole, they get up close and study the brush strokes. Study the how of the illustration-as-transition and your preaching will benefit.
  • Delivery Matches Message:When Benji says, “You are not going to want to miss next week!” we know that Benji doesn’t want to miss next week. He’s excited! Some preachers pound the pulpit with an angry fist while shouting “God loves you!” The mixed messages are confusing. Others say the same words “You are not going to want to miss next week” with a flat face and flatter voice. Pastor Benji’s posture, pitch, and tone reflect excitement, energy, and engagement.  When Benji hits key sermon points, his demeanor reflects his words: he slows down for serious points, crescendos into high-energy points, and radiates joy in delivering the Good News. Consequently, we feel emotional resonance with Kelley’s words.

 Application Points:

  • Preach to Teach:As we prepare our next sermons, let’s consider how the sermon teaches congregants to read Scripture for themselves. Do our sermons give congregants insight into the process of exegesis and application, or do our sermons give “pre-packaged” exegesis and meaning? Let’s teach others to read through our sermons.
  • Iron the Seams: Think of the last sermon you preached: did your transitions build interest or lose it? As we prepare our next sermons, let’s brainstorm ways to smoothly move from one point to the next: garnering people’s attention, rather than having them slip through the divide.
  • Make the Ask: Great sermons don’t just make good statements; they ask the right questions. As we go through the sermon preparation process (and every pastoral meeting we have) let’s make a goal: ask more, talk less.

Sermon review by David Ward and Ethan Linder

[1] For a brief introduction into the “turn to the listener” in the field of homiletics, aka the art and science of preaching, see “Listening to the Listener” by Ron Allen and Mary Alice Mulligan at http://www.homiletic.net/index.php/homiletic/article/viewFile/3376/1597

If God were here speaking audibly, God would not say ‘Go to hell,’ He would rather make an appeal to them that would say, ‘Come unto me!’ He would make an appeal. But God does not speak audibly—you and I do.

Pastor Todd Crofford in his sermon, People of the Cross

Todd Crofford, People of the Cross

People of the Cross | Todd Crofford

Sermon Title: People of the Cross

Preacher: Todd CroffordTodd Crofford is the Lead Pastor of Real Life Wesleyan Church in Mechanicsville, MD. Real Life, planted in 2008, recently expanded to another campus—Real Life South, and is rapidly growing.

At Wesleyan Sermons we believe in creating a hub of preaching resources for Wesleyan pastors that includes articles by homileticians, books and resources for preachers in the Wesleyan tradition, practical insights from working preachers for working preachers, and sermons we can learn from. This week we’re sharing one of the latter. One of the things we love about this sermon is it gives us a chance to read a sermon through the lens of a particular homiletical theory: The Homiletical Plot by Eugene Lowry. For a summary of those thoughts click here. Gene’s work talks about several key things for preaching: the itch and the scratch, upsetting the apple cart of expectations, and maintaining attention by keeping the tension of the plot moving in one continual flow of the sermon. Here’s how we think Todd Crofford accomplished those things:

  1. Todd Scratches a Cultural Itch. Todd began the sermon with a video chronicling the martyrdom of Coptic Christians at the hands of ISIS. Culturally cognizant congregants are already familiar with this news. Many would likely come into Church with this burden on their shoulders; the martyrs’ sacrifice has subtly weighed on them during the week. Todd’s intro addresses those burdens while apprising the rest of the congregation of the news they’ve missed. The video itself personalizes these events by quoting an Egyptian Wesleyan Pastor familiar with the Egyptian martyrs, and listing each of the martyrs’ names.
  1. Todd Upsets the Equilibrium. Crofford’s appearance is a tangible reminder of upset: he preaches in an orange jumpsuit—the attire of the martyrs during their death. Crofford disquiets the congregation’s expectations for the sermonic trajectory: “This sermon isn’t about terrorism; I haven’t come here to talk about ISIS—this sermon certainly is not about Islam. Today I want to speak to you about what it means to be people of the Cross.” Todd reminds us that while we are thousands of miles away from the site of martyrdom, our identity is rooted in the same Christ. Crofford reminds us that our denominationalism and patriotism are often held in tension with our Christian identity. He calls out our tendency to quickly glance over tragedies and resume our “normal lives.” Todd’s upset of the equilibrium continues after the sermon’s end. His tone, presentation, and words communicate that we need to find a “new normal” that lives up to our Christian identity. You cannot shake this sermon of with a simple handshake followed by “Good sermon, Pastor.”
  1. Todd Holds Attention. Dr. Crofford never rambled. Nearly every sentence in the sermon was necessary to further the point. He told stories, employed humor, and used carefully-crafted phrases to “stick” in the minds of the listeners. We counted over fifteen “sticky statements,” each of which contributed to his point. Fortunately, Crofford is gifted with both stories and humor, both of which naturally re-engage listeners. The themes introduced at the beginning of the sermon are woven throughout the sermonic fabric. This plot-style beckons the listeners’ attention: how will the story be resolved? What turns will the narrative take?
  1. Todd Presents the Gospel as “Good News”“Our ministry is one of appeal, not accusation.” Pastor Todd embodied this in his words, presence, and delivery. Although his preaching calls hearers out of complacency, his delivery is a tangible application of loving appeal. As a preacher, Todd models the very message he is delivering—even in his tone, style, and verbiage. As Lowry reminds us, the experience of the good news is part of what makes preaching more than motivational speaking.
  1. Transfer of Responsibility. “If God were here speaking audibly, God would not say ‘Go to hell,’ He would rather make an appeal to them that would say, ‘Come unto me!’ He would make an appeal. But God does not speak audibly—you and I do.” In this statement, Pastor Todd upsets the equilibrium and reminds the congregation of their role as Christ’s ambassadors. At another point in the sermon, Pastor Todd reminds the congregation that they are the ministers at Real Life. Far from arrogantly hoarding ministry, Crofford reminds the congregation that the onus is on us—the collective body of Christ. His application (having them write down who they will pray for and reach out to) reveals this core value, and provides concrete transfer of responsibility.

There are plenty more golden nuggets of preaching principles found in this sermon. See what you can find and incorporate in your own preaching!

Followup Exercise: Write down ways that you can transpose the five preaching principles that Todd embodied into your preaching. What areas are you strong in? What areas are you weak in? Think about these and write them down. In preparing for your next sermon, pick one of the strong areas and focus on making it sing. In another sermon, pick one weak area and notch it up one level.

Sermon review by Dave Ward and Ethan Linder

Free: The Foundation | Pastor Kyle Ray

Sermon Title: Free: The Foundation

Preacher: Pastor Kyle Ray is the senior pastor of Kentwood Community Church, and a ministry thought leader in the Wesleyan Church. Under Kyle’s leadership, Kentwood has become a multi-ethnic, multi-campus church. Kentwood has grown to be an international church with a new campus in India.

Sermon Link: http://www.kentwoodcommunitychurch.com/media#!/swx/pp/media_archives/128299/episode/56132

Sermon Review:

  1. Kyle celebrates Wins: As he opens the sermon, Kyle purposefully celebrates the past week’s salvations. This is an important part of Kyle’s culture-making, as reflected by Andy Stanley’s principle: what we celebrate, we repeat. By using platform time to celebrate new salvations, Kyle explicitly expresses Kentwood’s culturally evangelical focus.
  1. Kyle Uses Concrete Imagery: Kyle places a massive cage on the stage, representing our interaction with bondage. When the congregation enters the sanctuary, narrative tension is already mounted. What is the cage for? What does this represent? Kyle addresses these questions enough to satisfy listeners—but he also utilizes the tension to maintain interest. Throughout the sermon, Kyle enters the cage when talking about bondage to sin. Later, he exits the cage—representing the freedom in Christ. Listeners begin to see the Gospel playing out before them: while we were yet sinners, Christ died to make us lastingly free. Concrete imagery like this impresses the mind more enduringly. The reason? The mind is trained to remember things in the real world: trees, walls, rain. It has to work harder to retain abstract concepts. Hook your abstract concepts to concrete objects and you win memory for the long haul.
  1. Kyle Establishes Importance and Urgency: In his introduction, Kyle articulates the types of interaction with bondage: those who know they’re in bondage, those who don’t know they’re in bondage, and those freed from bondage through relationship with Jesus. Everyone in the audience has a story of captivity—but there’s freedom and Good News in Christ. A sense of urgency is often the key ingredient missing from weekly sermons. The pastor easily slips into filing the time with content. When that happens, the sense of importance can slip as well. Give them content, but give them content you deeply believe has urgency attached.
  1. Kyle Intertwines Application: Kyle didn’t wait until the end of his sermon to provide actions steps. Even in the first few moments, Kyle portrays the Gospel’s demands on our lives. “Pay attention this week to areas of your life where you may be in slavery, and ask Jesus to set you free,” Kyle says. Kyle intertwines exegesis with application by helping us see ourselves in the Gospel narrative. Our freedom is wrought by an ongoing story of costly discipleship—but the resources for the story are already written through the life, work, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
  1. Kyle Brings Ancient and Modern Audiences Together: John 8 doesn’t just have application for the Jews; it has implications for us, too. Kyle sees a connection between both applications, and helps us draw the parallel, too. Kyle helps us read “over the shoulder” of the Jewish audience: even helping us see how we respond to Jesus calling us out of sin’s bondage. “Some of you are thinking, ‘I didn’t come to Church to be insulted!’ then you can relate to the Jews,” says Ray. Like the Jews, we don’t want to hear about our captivity—but because of Jesus, we (and the Jews) can be free.
  1. Kyle Winsomely Articulates Holiness: Holiness is a state of freedom: of loving obedience to God’s voice. Kyle thinks so, too. Throughout the sermon, Kyle associates holiness and freedom. Holiness provides full escape from the bondage of a divided heart. “When we follow Jesus, the way out (of the cage) becomes more straightforward.” Kyle also provides a strategy for inviting people to holiness: love. We have not “cornered the market” on holiness; we’re in need, too. Our cultural posture must be one of lovingly inviting others to journey with us in a lifelong cleansing.

Questions to Consider:

  1. How does your preaching help people to want to live in close relationship with Jesus? Or do they simply feel like they should? The difference is the gap between legalism and love.
  1. How can you utilize concrete objects or illustrations (not a video) to help congregants leave with a tangible image of the Gospel’s implications on their lives?

This review contributed by Ethan Linder, Staff Writer for wesleyansermons.com

Ethan is a staff writer for wesleyansermons.com. A fresh graduate of Indiana Wesleyan University, Ethan and his wife Sarah currently live in Marion, Indiana–where Ethan is pursuing a Masters’ Degree in Christian Ministries from IWU, and Sarah is a teacher. When he’s not writing, Ethan enjoys reading, listening to music, studying cultures, running, and following the Philadelphia Phillies. Follow Ethan on Facebook and Twitter.

Find Your Strength of Character for Preaching

  1. Do people tell you they feel like you read their journals?
  2. Have you had people tell you that you are a healing presence in the pulpit?
  3. Do you gravitate toward psychology as a helping discipline more than other schools of thought?
  4. Do you naturally think of the pain people are going through as a primary motive for preaching?
  5. Have you preached on grieving, suffering, or pain as a primary preaching theme this month?
  6. Would you rather consider yourself compassionate than passionate?
  7. Do you gravitate more toward Ephesians than Hebrews?

If you answered yes to 5 or more of the above questions empathy may be one of your greatest strengths in preaching.

  1. Do people tell you that they love your vulnerablitiy in the pulpit?
  2. Do others tell you your brokenness is one of your best qualities?
  3. Do you gravitate toward exegesis more than topical preaching because it helps you find something to say?
  4. Do you naturally think of the ways this passage confronts and challenges you before you think of how it might preach?
  5. Do you gravitate more toward Proverbs and Philippians more than 1 and 2 Kings or Romans?
  6. Are you surprised when numerous people respond physically, visually, or verbally to your preaching?
  7. Have you been told that your tone is easy to listen to and that you do not “talk down” to people?

If you answered yes to 5 or more of the above questions humility  may be one of your greatest strengths in preaching.

  1. Do you have a few burning concerns about unfairness in the world that you want to see changed?
  2. Have you been called a “prophetic voice” for your preaching in your community or broader ministry?
  3. Do you gravitate more toward James or the prophets than the Pentateuch or Galatians?
  4. Are there issues about which you feel you just cannot be silent in the pulpit and be true to yourself?
  5. Have you preached on racism, sexism, materialism, sex trafficking, or immigration in the last month?
  6. Do you serve on the board of a ministry to the poor or oppressed or regularly volunteer in one of those ministries?
  7. Do you feel that action is more important than words and that your actions are your best sermons?

If you answered yes to 5 or more of the above questions justice may be one of your greatest strengths in preaching.

  1. Do you feel that you have gathered many insights and ways of living over the years that you want to share with your congregation so they can live better lives?
  2. Have you been told you are mature for your age, have more knowledge than your years should allow, or that you are a trusted source of counsel in a way that surprises you?
  3. Do you naturally gravitate toward Proverbs, Romans, or James more than the Gospels or Psalms?
  4. Is cutting down your sermons more of a challenge than filling the time? Even before you add stories and illustrations?
  5. Has someone said that the “light bulb finally came on” for them after hearing one of your sermons on a difficult topic?
  6. Do you prefer reading Andy Stanley or John Kotter to Henri Nouwen or Mother Theresa?
  7. Do you find mentoring and coaching to be rather stress free but counseling others to be difficult and frustrating?

If you answered yes to 5 or more of the above questions wisdom may be one of your greatest strengths in preaching.

These strengths are not the kind of strengths you find in the secular model of the Strengths Quest, as helpful as that is. They also are not performative strengths exactly though some elements of performance can be of benefit. They are strengths of personhood. They are parts of our character as preachers. Each of them should play a role in every preacher’s life. But not preacher will be the perfect model of all preaching virtues. So think on these things:

  1. Growing your strengths is almost always more productive than trying to turn weaknesses into strengths. How can you emphasize the area of your greatest strength and bring others around you in the pulpit who complement you rather than clone you?
  2. Weaknesses that are too weak are like flies in the ointment, it damages the whole. Consider creating a targeted growth plan for the weakest of the three for you for the coming year.

Now read below for some next steps to grow your particular area of strength and minimize the downfalls of the strength:

Senior and young holding handsEmpathy: Empathic preachers really deliver well on topics related to therapeutic needs, personal growth, and human relationships. Be careful not to avoid the difficult theological work that needs done for counsel and healing to be truly Christian. The gospel is a healing power, but it is not self-help. Lean on others around you to press you to think more carefully theologically and to submit yourself to the teaching of doctrine not just the insights from psychology.

Humility: Humble preachers really deliver well on topics related to conviction, sin, and flaws of character. Be careful that your humility not turn to shame, otherwise you may put too heavy an expectation on yourself and your listeners as a result. Gospel, gospel, gospel people do not guilt them. Lean on people around you for the empathy to know when you are expecting too much, and the wisdom to know the difference between shame and conviction.

Wisdom: Wise preachers really deliver well on topics related to living well, discernment, difficult situations, leadership, doctrine, and finance. Be careful to remember that people do not always have the easiest time doing the wisest thing. Personal baggage, wounds, self doubt and more can cause a person to act against wisdom. Wisdom alone does not always win the day. Lean on people around you for the humility and empathy to realize that what motivates you does not motivate the average person.

justiceJustice: Prophetic preachers deliver well on topics related to social justice, oppression, greed, sexism, racism, or other prejudices. Be careful the fire of your passion does not leap the bounds and become a prairie fire of anger. Anger pushes people away, passion draws people in. Lean on those around you to help you discern when your sense of justice lacks compassion for the one in power or privilege. Also be ware that your passion areas may blind you to your own lack of just living. Also lean on those who are wise in the ways of the world to help you find strategic steps from the real toward the ideal.

© David B Ward, 2015

Thrive – Risk | Rev. John Lewis

Sermon Title: THRIVE: Risk

Preacher: John Lewis, Pastor of Servants of Christ in La Plata, MD. Servants of Christ is an affiliate of the New Life Wesleyan Church in La Plata. Pastor John started ministry by street preaching, ministering to the homeless, and engaging in prison ministry.

Sermon Link: https://youtu.be/v2phTIZew3k

Reasons this Sermon Was Highlighted:

  1.  John Engages Testimony:  As John surveys a Scriptural story he encourages listeners to survey their own stories. John recognizes that the congregation and the Gospel are each writing stories. John encourages the congregation to graft their stories into the larger picture of Christ’s works in the world. God is not a story, but humans often think clearest in story formats so this helps the human connect with the divine.
  2. John Does His Homework: John presents information behind the text: geography, history, original languages, Scripture parallels, and even feelings of the characters. His materially is rich, but his sermon doesn’t preach like a commentary. John’s homework it allows him to speak from Scripture’s context into ours: Philistine garrisons are “special ops soldiers,” Armor bearers are brotherly golf caddies, and the missional mindset is akin to being “on board” with a family budget plan. Though any metaphor breaks down if pressed too far, John’s familiarity with both Scripture and culture helps listeners connect both Gospel to application.
  3. John Purposefully Emphasizes Key Words: The audience knows what’s important because John slows down, changes tone and pace and therefore emphasizes the most important words the clearest. He has consistent energy, but he directs the energy towards a destination. This forward movement, and purposeful use of performative elements goes a long way toward clearing out the mental clutter every lister struggles through during a sermon.
  4. John Uses Humor: Rather than making humor the main course, John uses humor to “season” his sermon. After making a historical reference, he brings history to life with playful comments and wit. This reengages listeners who may have “tuned out” during background information about the text. This use of humor helps build preaching credibility without becoming a distraction.
  5. John Invites Everyone: “You don’t have to be good looking; you don’t have to be strong. You don’t have to have money. You have to have the courage to do the right thing when nobody else will.” John recognizes the Gospel’s universal call to redemption, and proclaims the invitation to participate.
  6. John Addresses Contemporary Issues:John addresses racial tension, economic struggle, and workplace integrity. He speaks the Gospel’s message of racial, ethnic, and economic reconciliation, boldly addressing contemporary society’s oversight: “There’s no one race that has cornered the market on bad people. Anything that tries to separate us is not of God.”
  7. John uses memorable phrases with theological depth. Depth does not necessarily mean complexity. Sometimes the deepest truths are communicated in the simplest ways. “Love your neighbor as yourself” is a scriptural example. If you read back through this review or listen to John’s sermon following the link above you’ll notice that a lot of what we love of John’s preaching comes through in tightly woven, well worded phrases.

Follow-up Exercises:

  • John encouraged the Church to be brave together. After listening to this sermon, think of ways your local church can love more audaciously.
  • What need can your church courageously meet for your community?
  • How can you be braver in your walk with Jesus and love for others?
  • Which of John’s greatest preaching qualities do you want to work on?

This review contributed by Ethan Linder, Staff Writer for wesleyansermons.com

Ethan is a staff writer for wesleyansermons.com. A fresh graduate of Indiana Wesleyan University, Ethan and his wife Sarah currently live in Marion, Indiana–where Ethan is pursuing a Masters’ Degree in Christian Ministries from IWU, and Sarah is a teacher. When he’s not writing, Ethan enjoys reading, listening to music, studying cultures, running, and following the Philadelphia Phillies. Follow Ethan on Facebook and Twitter.