Preacher: Ken Murphy is the pastor of Cypress Wesleyan Church—a multi-site church near the Columbus, Ohio area. He is a gifted leader and a compelling communicator. One of the things we love most about Ken though, is his humble bearing.
Sermon Link: https://vimeo.com/140435746
Sermons reveal a lot about preachers’ perspectives. Through “Change,” Pastor Ken Murphy provides us with some replication-worthy perspectives. Watch the sermon yourself to see which themes you identify, and take note of themes we’ve provided below.
Through this sermon, Ken shows us:
Contrast is Useful: “Sometimes we just get busy living life, then remember we should pray. So we just say, ‘God, would you just sprinkle your goodness and your grace on this?’ But God asks us in Scripture to live lives soaked and saturated in prayer.” Great preachers don’t stop at lament; they offer a way forward. Murphy does this masterfully: offering a detailed account of how we shouldn’t be praying, then transitioning into the correct alternative. Preaching drives the church forward by creating new possibilities.
Message Mobilizes Mission: “Although change is difficult, change is the reason God came to us.” Jesus didn’t die for our programs; He died to make us new. Murphy utilizes his sermon as leverage towards his church’s mission. But more importantly, Murphy leverages his sermon to point towards Christ’s mission in the Incarnation. Preaching only drives the church forward when it locates itself within God’s work of redemption and transformation. Murphy reminds us of the mobilizing power of words. Preaching drives the church forward by imploring the congregation to be part of God’s work.
Movement Mirrors Message: Body language changes the congregation’s reception of the message. Although Murphy walked around the stage, his body movement was almost always purposeful. When saying “You have passed from death to life,” Murphy moves his hands (and his body) to indicate this procession. As Murphy says, “It’s not like you’re turning over a new leaf; the Holy Spirit is giving you a whole new life,” he motions his hands as if he was turning over a leaf, then moves to a different position on stage—indicating a larger change. As a result, the congregation has a visual “hook,” reminding them of the Spirit’s transformative power. Any lack of congruence between body and message creates a mixed set of signals that can subconsciously undercut the gospel.
We Journey Together: “Over the past 6-8 months, can you readily identify an area of your life where you clearly know the Holy Spirit has been speaking and convicting you—and as a result of your time together, you’ve changed? If not, maybe we’re stuck.” Exhortation can often feel like a “Me vs. You” proposition. Preachers often stand behind the pulpit decrying societal ills, never realizing their own part in propagating them. But great pastors don’t point fingers; they know they need redemption. Ken humbly delivers an exhortation that resembles a family chat. Rather than using “you” language, Ken uses “we” language. This subtle change enables the sermon to feel less like a lecture and more like a family chat. Because Ken sees the Gospel’s demand on his life, the church family is more likely to respond to the sermonic demands on their lives. Preaching drives the church forward by reflecting humility and togetherness.
Recap is Interwoven: “We’ve talked about this before.” This message is part of a series called “Come. Connect. Change.” On this final Sunday of the series, Ken gives an initial “recap” of the previous two weeks’ messages. But later on in the sermon, Murphy continues building upon the series’ previous sermons—describing how change often occurs by coming and connecting. This is the benefit of a series: rather than being standalone messages, each week’s sermon serves as a launching board for the next. In this final message, new visitors feel like they’ve been attending for the whole series; and regular attenders feel they have context for the day’s message. Both demographics win; neither has to “miss out” on Murphy’s sermon. Preaching drives the church forward when it’s inclusive, not confusing.
- Construct A Series: As you build your next series, approach it like a construction project, not a lineup. “Lineup” series are comprised of standalone sermons next to one another. “Construction Project” series are comprised of distinct parts that build upon one another to reach a specific goal. You might think of them as successive floors in a building, each with it’s own reason to exist…but connected and foundational to the next.
- Evaluate Your Paradigm: Listen to your last sermon. Did you set up a “Me vs. You” paradigm, or did you use “We” language—reminding the congregation of your shared ownership of the Gospel’s implications? As you build your sermon this week, think of how your sermons can be more a family chat than a lecture.
- Mobilize Your Mission: As you prepare your next sermon, see how you can connect your message to your local church’s vision, your denomination’s core mantra, and God’s ongoing work on His universal church. Leadership from the pulpit is a key pastoral task that we all need to engage whether in youth ministry, young adult ministry, whole-church leadership, or even children’s ministry. Preaching is a powerful leadership tool that we can and should use wisely.
By Dave Ward and Ethan Linder