“I Want Deep Preaching”


Here are some things that if you preach on a regular basis, you will hear at least once in your life:

  1. I love that you preach deep.
  2. I left my last church because the preaching wasn’t deep enough.
  3. I’m so glad you preach the bible at this church.
  4. I don’t like your preaching because it is too topical.
  5. I’m leaving your church because you aren’t deep enough (maybe someone said this to you yesterday).

Deep preaching is a moving target, for the simple reason: Deep preaching takes on different meanings for different people.

Usually it is a churched person that wants deep preaching and what they often mean is, “I want preaching that makes me think.” Or, “I want preaching that fills me up.” Often, the person asking for deeper preaching is actually an immature Christian who doesn’t want to read their bible for themselves. Not always true, but I’ve found that to be common thread.

I was told by someone recently, “You preach too topically for me.”

If you’ve ever said that or thought that about a pastor, here’s something to keep in mind: every preacher preaches topical messages.

Topical preaching is simply preaching on a topic. A good preacher, looks at a text, studies it, prays over, discerns what they think the author is saying, what their church needs to hear from this text and then preaches on it. Now, some preachers will simply decide on a topic and go looking for a passage that says what they want it to say. That isn’t good preaching and that isn’t always what topical preaching is, though for the people who have a disdain for topical preaching, this is what they are talking about.

“Deep preaching”  to me is when the preacher is lazy. If a pastor isn’t careful, in an effort to be deep, his sermons will simply be an information mind dump. They stand up and preach a seminary lecture or quote a bunch of commentaries or dead guys.

That isn’t preaching.

I remember doing a preaching lab with some younger preachers and one of the preachers gave no application in his sermon. When I asked him about it he said that he wanted to preach a deep sermon and that “the Holy Spirit will apply what he just preached.” While I fully believe the Holy Spirit brings the conviction and change through a sermon, this is simply being lazy. If that is your view of preaching, why are you preaching? Why not just read a text and then sit down and “let the Holy Spirit do his work?” Or better yet, we don’t even need a preacher, just have people read a passage silently and then listen to the Holy Spirit.

That would be ludicrous.

Romans 10:14 tells us we need preaching. We need preachers who will do the hard work of studying, praying, confessing their sin and applying the text to their congregation.

Which means, you will preach on a passage and not preach everything in the passage. 

This is okay, but hard for younger preachers to handle.

You feel like you are failing or not being biblical. That isn’t the case. There are times when you get to a text and something jumps out for your church, but if you were to preach that passage in a year, you might emphasize a different part of the text. Are both right and biblical? As long as you say what the author said, yes.

It also means you edit your sermon. You spend more time on an idea than another. Every preacher does this, even though the Christians looking for “Deep preaching” don’t think it happens. If it didn’t, every pastor would simply preach on one verse every week or one word just so they preached the whole text.

Editing is one thing that separates a good sermon from a great sermon.

It is getting to what is most important in the text for your church to hear in that sermon.

We don’t need more “deep preaching” in our churches. We need more preachers who will do the hard work during the week so that when they preach, they are laser focused on the heart, so that we see the transformation we long for in our churches and in our society.


Book Notes | Soul Keeping, The Heart is the Target & Replant

Normally on Saturday’s I share some thoughts on a book I read recently. You can read past book notes here.

This week, I want to share some quick hits. I had a cross country plane ride recently, so I had the time to get through several books (and one of them was really short).


First up, Soul Keeping: Caring For the Most Important Part of You by John Ortberg.

This book was so good. Easily one of the best books of the year. As soon as I was done with it, I made Katie read it. Her take, if you love what Dallas Willard has to say but have a hard time understanding what he says, this is a great book. I found myself challenged, encouraged and challenged some more. It is a mix of how to care for your soul, how to rest and ultimately, how to connect with God at a deeper level.

Can’t recommend this book enough.


The second book is a preaching book called The Heart is the Target: Preaching Practical Application from Every Text by Murray Capill.

This is a book that every preacher should read, but especially if you are an expository preacher. This book is written to that audience and seeks to help pastors who are good at giving information, making sermons feel like seminary classes or preachers who excel at “deep preaching” but struggle to see transformation, apply what they preach to their churches or see hearts changed through their preaching. This was a stretching book and very timely for me and I’ve already seen a change in my preaching because of it.


Lastly, Replant: How a Dying Church Can Grow Again by Darrin Patrick & Mark DeVine.

Having replanted a church I was interested in the knowledge this book could provide. I also think replanting is something we will see more often in church planting circles in the coming years as more and more older churches die and their buildings sit vacant or with a small crowd. While this book tells a great story of a church that was replanted, it lacks a lot of how-to’s on the topic. If you want to see how one leader did it, this is a helpful book, but you will not find a ton of transferable lessons, only encouragement if you can relate to the situation Darrin and Mark found themselves in.

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Links I Like

Links I Like is a collection of blogs, articles and books I’ve come across recently and thought they were worth sharing. Click here for past Links I Like.


Frank on “It’s okay, it’s not your fault” and other lies our culture tells us.

There doesn’t seem to be an end to the list of things that our culture says are “okay” and that the person in question is not responsible for, such as:

  • being really out of shape
  • getting lousy grades
  • being addicted to drugs, alcohol, or porn
  • not being able to find a job
  • living with your Mom until you’re 50 years old

Tim Chester on How the growth of a church changes the church.

  • We have to accept that the preacher may not be our pastor.
  • We have to work harder at welcoming new people.
  • We have to embrace the face that there’s a greater diversity among us.
  • We have to accept things won’t ‘just happen’ with organization.
  • We have to be more willing to volunteer because initially we may not be working with people we know.
  • We have to communicate better because we can’t rely on word of mouth.

Burk Parsons on Real love wins.

“One of the more loving and merciful things Jesus did was preach on hell. He preached on hell more than He preached on heaven, and He did so in order to point the lost to Himself as the way, the truth, and the life apart from condemnation and eternal punishment in hell—which He created. Although most preachers have not denied the doctrine of hell outright, they might as well have, since it is entirely absent from their sermons . . .”

Scott Williams on Pastors need to keep calm and practice what they preach.

Pastors often preach about rest, worship and time off, while their team members can’t remember the last time they had a day off, attended a worship service or had a couple free weekends with family. Pastors often preach about not comparing ourselves to one another, while obsessing, comparing and ranking themselves to pastors down the street, around the corner and from around the country.

Thom Rainer on 11 of the most common mistakes churches make.

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Links I Like

Links I Like is a collection of blogs, articles and books I’ve come across recently and thought they were worth sharing. Click here for past Links I Like.


A Side to the Super Bowl You Won’t See

This is horrible and it happens every year.

Denny Burk on What Macklemore got wrong…And right.

The lyrics to Macklemore’s song took aim at Christians and their views on marriage. To be more precise, it takes aim at the God that Christians worship and offers another god in His place—a god that bears no resemblance to the God of the Bible. Nevertheless, these performers were obviously grasping for divine approval. All of the trappings of Christianity were invoked to bless “same love”—a stage decorated to look like a church, a “minister” presiding, and a gospel choir singing the words of 1 Corinthians 13. You might say that it had the form of godliness while denying its power (2 Tim. 3:5).

Diana Bass on The Obama doctrine (this is long but eye opening).

Despite his inability to implement important policies this past year, President Obama has already accomplished something that future historians may well consider one of his greatest achievements. In his second term, President Obama is helping to reinvent American civil religion, the way we think about God and national purpose. Call it the Obama doctrine of American civil spirituality.

Gracy Olmstead on Why millenials long for liturgy.

“If you ask me why kids are going high church, I’d say it’s because the single greatest threat to our generation and to young people nowadays is the deprivation of meaning in our lives,” Cone says. “In the liturgical space, everything becomes meaningful. In the offering up of the bread and wine, we see the offering up of the wheat and grain and fruits of the earth, and God gives them back in a sanctified form. … We’re so thirsty for meaning that goes deeper, that can speak to our entire lives, hearts, and wallets, that we’re really thirsty to be attached to the earth and to each other and to God. The liturgy is a historical way in which that happens.”

Yancey Arrington on Compliments and criticisms (a day in the life of a preacher).

I often tell young preachers that if there is only one person in the room that believes what they are preaching please let it be them. Those called to preach must root themselves in their identity in Christ, the bedrock of their calling, and the grace God gives in the preaching event. Why is this important? Because often you may have people who will be encouraged by what you say and people that will be irritated by what you say – and many times it will be over the same part of your message. So are you to feel encouraged or discouraged?

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22 Quotes from “Prophetic Preaching”

If you preach, I’d highly recommend you pick up the series by Craig Brian Larson on preaching. Here are some quotes from Prophetic Preaching:

  1. We can avoid and deny this spiritual disease for years until someone uses God’s Word, not as a weapon to bludgeon us, but as a scalpel to cut through our layers of excuses and evasions. It takes courage and compassion, but these trustworthy pastors speak the truth, identifying our sin, calling it by name, and then gently leading us to the One who can heal our souls. That summarizes the ministry of prophetic preaching.
  2. Prophetic preachers don’t sugarcoat the truth; they don’t ignore or minimize the painful verdict; and they’ll declare what we need to hear, not necessarily what we want to hear.
  3. Prophetic preaching always begins with a high view of Scripture. There’s an assumption that God has something to say right now, in this city, to this group of people gathered for worship—young and old, rich and poor, American and Nigerian and Brazilian and Korean, believer and skeptic.
  4. Prophetic preachers also know that during each sermon human souls hang on a precipice between good and evil, God and idols, obedience and rebellion, heaven and hell. Marriages, families, and communities desperately need direction and healing. Thus the end game of preaching isn’t providing information or entertainment. People (both Christians and non-Christians) need to repent, believe the gospel, grow in Christ, and serve the world.
  5. There’s also a dark side or a danger in prophetic preaching: a lack of love for others.
  6. We’ll never break and win hearts with narrow, prudish, moralistic messages.
  7. Biblical preaching always invites people into Jesus’ grand “kingdom adventure.” In other words, if we ask people to release their idols, we had better hand them something more adventurous and satisfying.
  8. Prophetic preachers dare to proclaim that ultimately there’s nothing more heroic, attractive, and adventurous than trusting Christ.
  9. The very concept of purity is much more attractive than morality. Morality, whether this is a misunderstanding or not, seems to traffic in rules—to say, “Here are the strictures; you need to mind your p’s and q’s and behave yourself.” Purity calls us to a life of God-ward-ness and adventure; there’s something heroic about it. There’s something winsome about the life of purity.
  10. The authority for prophetic preaching doesn’t reside in the preacher. It’s not in the preacher’s personality (although God can use many different personality types) or in the preacher’s attempt to be relevant. The preacher’s authority has one basis: the authority of God’s Word.
  11. God’s Word like a lion: let it out of the cage, get out of the way, and it will take care of itself.
  12. People are hungering to hear someone preach the truth of God’s Word without reservation.
  13. There are two elements that every preacher should have: urgency and clarity.
  14. Clarity brings power and the authority of God’s Word. Urgency—or the sense that this message matters, so decide today—also brings the authority of God’s Word.
  15. The goal of a preacher’s message is that at some point people would feel convicted. Conviction implies that people are overcome with the gaps that exist between the lives they’re living and the lives God wants them to live. Conviction can happen at the entry point of the gospel or at some point in the process of progressive sanctification.
  16. Prophetic preaching derails when it starts speaking forcefully about stuff that the Scriptures don’t address forcefully.
  17. Postmodern people aren’t seeking experiences; they’re seeking God. And the point of preaching is to unveil him.
  18. In studying a passage to preach, I ask three questions: Who is God? How is he revealed in this text? What are the most natural inclinations that resist or deny that truth?
  19. If you are preaching, and your audience is learning truth, but they could never imagine being like you—responding to the world like you, thinking like you, and feeling like you—that’s not good.
  20. When you look at the New Testament and what it says about the church’s responsibility with respect to what is declared, the authority for preaching is never placed in the community.
  21. Too often people see preaching as just teaching, but if it doesn’t have a component of exhortation and challenge that calls people to change, to grow in Christ, or to take purposeful steps to build the kingdom, it’s not really preaching; it’s only teaching.
  22. Never preach a text you haven’t lived or that hasn’t lived in you.”

Top Posts of July


In case you missed them, here are the top posts of July 2013:

  1. The Five Stages of Discipleship
  2. Why Pastor’s Should Take a Summer Preaching Break
  3. The Sins of a Pastor || The Pastor’s Family
  4. The Sins of a Pastor || Giving Away too Much at Home
  5. Adoption and the Desire to Control
  6. Finding an Accountability Partner as a Pastor
  7. 21 Skills of Great Preachers
  8. Interacting with the Opposite Sex as a Pastor
  9. The Things Pastors Know and See
  10. The Sins of a Pastor || Untouchable


Links I Like

Links I Like is a collection of blogs, articles and books I’ve come across recently and thought they were worth sharing. Click here for past Links I Like.


  1. Kevin DeYoung on Common fault lines in the homosexuality conversation.
  2. Philip Holmes on How we make marriage the ultimate and worship it. Good slant on this topic.
  3. Bold, daring preachers vs. Pretty boy preachers. This is a great line, “The problem with preachers today is no one wants to kill them.”
  4. Gloria Furman on How much God rules and cares about the mundane in our lives.
  5. 5 people we should pray for but don’t want to. This is a challenging post.

Pretty excited for this movie

Top Posts for May 2013

In case you missed them, here are the posts that generated the most traffic in the last month:

  1. 21 Skills of Great Preachers
  2. Bring our Child Home from Ethiopia & Serve a Widow
  3. My Notes from Preach Better Sermons
  4. Be Sensitive on Mother’s Day
  5. 15 Ways to Improve Your Marriage
  6. Is Love a Choice or a Feeling (And Why it Matters)
  7. 8 Ways to Know Your Reading is Too Limited
  8. How a Wife Handles Her Husband’s Sexual Addiction
  9. My Notes from Preach the Word 2013
  10. 3 Things Make a Sermon Great

Preach Better Sermons || Andy Stanley

bookI’m watching the online conference Preach Better Sermons today and wanted to share some of the learnings I picked up. One of the speakers was Andy Stanley, who is one of my favorite communicators. He’s the author of Deep and Wide and one of the best preaching books out there, Communicating for a Changeas well as a must-read for any leader, The Next Generation Leader

Here’s what I got out of Andy’s segment:

  • Preacher’s are addressing two crowds: Christians and not yet Christians. 
  • One of the myths of preaching is that if you have unchurched people in the room is that you have to dumb down things or skip over things.
  • The key to capturing both audiences attention is not content, but approach.
  • Approach makes something interesting or not.
  • Let unchurched people know that you know they are in the room. Tell them this is the best weekend they could’ve chosen to be here.
  • Acknowledge the odd things in the Bible. “If you are new to this whole thing, this may seem like a crazy story.”
  • Let people with doubts know that they are not alone.
  • Give unchurched people permission not to believe but also not to behave.
  • Dare them to try this at home.
  • The foundation of our faith is not Scripture, the foundation of our faith is Jesus.
  • Any background you can give about a person in Scripture is a win. It helps people connect with real people.
  • Cite authors in the Bible, not the Bible. Say, “The apostle Paul or John said,” not “The Bible says.”
  • Bring energy to your text not to your stories.

This was the best session of the day. I would spend a ton of money to hear Andy talk about preaching for hours.

Links I Like

Links I Like is a collection of blogs, articles and books I’ve come across recently and thought they were worth sharing. Click here for past Links I Like.


  1. Melissa Kruger on Is it better for kids to hear about sex in church or at school? Great point of view from this parent.
  2. Rob Bell on Whether we should call God “mother.” Rob Bell has always challenged my thinking, but he keeps getting further and further into bad theology.
  3. Ed Stetzer on What the changing opinion of same sex marriage in our culture means for churches and pastors. This is a dividing issue. It is not a civil rights issue as some would want you to think. Here are some resources I put together on how a Christians should respond to homosexuality through the lens of the gospel, along with 10 gospel truths about homosexuality.
  4. Seth McBee on How kids learn to follow Jesus.
  5. Brian Howard on Why family meals are so important. I couldn’t agree more.
  6. How to know if you have what it takes to be a preacher.