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:!/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

Ethan is a staff writer for 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.

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