Matt Leroy at Embrace

Preacher: Matt Leroy is the teaching pastor at Love Chapel Hill in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Love Chapel Hill is known for recklessly loving their community—which includes the University of North Carolina right across the street. This sermon was preached at Embrace Church —a missional congregation in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

Sermon Link: http://iamembrace.com/message/matt-leroy/

Sermon Review:

Sermons teach us about a pastor’s presuppositions, paradigms, and practices. To hear them, we just need to listen carefully. During this sermon, Matt drops several principles we think are worth replicating. We’ve listed a few of them below.

Through This Sermon, Matt Teaches Us That:

  1. Posture Reflects Narrative: Excessive movement (like pacing the stage, roaming in the audience, or raising the arms over the head) invades the congregation’s psychological space. That’s not captivating; it’s intimidating. Matt moves with purpose. His stage presence reflects the sermon’s narrative. While making a point, he channels his energy into upper-body movement rather than pacing. As a result, listeners remain focused, attentive, and undistracted by needless gestures.
  1. Topic Parallels Tone: “You may be saying, ‘I’m covered in filth.’ Jesus is saying ‘I know it all… and this offer’s good for you.’” Matt’s tone reflects Jesus’ demeanor with the woman at the well. If tone and words send disparate messages, the congregation receives mixed signals. Leroy doesn’t leave confusion—he fosters harmony. When talking about the tension between Jews and Samaritans, Matt increases speaking pace. When discussing the brokenness of the woman at the well, Matt’s tone becomes correspondingly gentle. In delineating new hope in Jesus, Matt’s tone was victorious. The congregation isn’t left in a lurch; they’re left with a unified package of message, delivery, and application. Matt harmonized tone, message, and demeanor to deliver a sermon that delivers incarnational grace.
  1. Words are Instruments: “‘For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.’ There is a history of pain packed into that parentheses.’” Like a fine instrument, great phrases are works of craftsmanship. They’re built, honed, and tuned to perfection. Leroy’s sermon is the work of a craftsman. Matt prepared this sermon with “sticky” phrases that remain with the listener long after the sermon’s conclusion. As a result, the audience is enraptured with the content, direction, and application of Leroy’s message. Background context, subtle emotions, and cultural tensions become interesting when we spend time on crafting phrases that shed clarity on those areas. Leroy spends time tuning his sermons; when they’re delivered, they sing beautifully.
  1. Tension is OK: “My prayer is that your reputation as a church gets trashed because of how far you believe the grace of God is willing to go.” God’s plan can sometimes go against the grain of our values, leaving us with splinters. This sermon fights our values, too…and Matt doesn’t clear it up right away. Instead, he allows the congregation to go through the sermon thinking about an effective church with a trashed reputation. Tension is a great homiletical device. We don’t have to create tension; we just have to expose the discrepancy between God’s plan and our values (Gene Lowry, Homiletical Plot). Our application points help the congregation close that gap. Leroy does this masterfully, refraining to this statement: “Love has the courage to cross every line drawn by hate, and to climb every wall built by fear.” Because Leroy is comfortable with tension, the congregation sees the Gospel’s demands and their obstacles to fulfilling it. His application points ensure they can quickly begin surmounting those hurdles.

Application Exercises:

  1. Hone The Instrument: As we prepare this Sunday’s sermon, let’s focus on carefully crafting “sticky” phrases. We can try to think of creative ways to word your points; and don’t settle for alliteration (like Promise, Pursue, Practice). If we can get more creative with our wording, the congregation will lean into the content, background, and application of the sermon.
  2. Make Tension Productive: Sometimes, our sermons create the wrong kind of tension, because we don’t offer hope. Making tension to keep interest but failing to preach the good news is a shirking of our first and final duty, the gospel. This week, let’s build a sermon that analyzes the gap between our lives and the Gospel—then offer application that helps close the gap. And don’t make it simply “try harder.” We are doing what we can. Let’s help Christians live wiser, not keep trying harder.
  3. Move with Purpose: This Sunday, let’s commit to making our movements count. Unless our movement reflects the narrative, we do not need to move around platform. Instead, let’s commit to channeling our movement into upper-body motions that shed light on the biblical narrative. When we need to shift to bring in another part of the congregation, we should move there, plant our feet, and stay rooted for a time.

By Dave Ward and Ethan Linder

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