John Knox (1513-1572)

A prominent leader of the Scottish Reformation. Knox was born in Haddington, educated at St Andrews and ordained a Roman Catholic priest in 1536. Persuaded to the Protestant cause under the martyr George Wishart, he pastored an English congregation for five years before fleeing from persecution to Scotland and then Geneva, where he ministered to an English congregation while studying under Calvin. After his return to Scotland, his fearless reform, fiery preaching and theological perspective influenced the Scottish Parliament’s rejection of the papacy in 1560 and their adoption of the Scots Confession coauthored by Knox.

(from Pocket Dictionary of the Reformed Tradition)

Katharina von Bora (1499-1552)

A German nun who later became the wife of Martin Luther. Bora left her life as a nun and fled to Wittenberg after she became convinced of the theology being taught by Luther and other Reformers. She married Luther in 1525 and became actively involved in his ministry and helped to provide for them financially by managing their household, farm, brewery and other properties. As the wife of such a prominent theologian, she helped promote a positive view of Protestant family life. Together they had six children, four of whom survived to adulthood.

(from Pocket Dictionary of the Reformed Tradition)

Philipp Melanchthon (1497-1560)

A German Reformer remembered as the close friend and colleague of Martin Luther. Melanchthon came under Luther’s influence after taking a professorship in Greek at Wittenberg. In 1521, Melanchthon published Loci Communes, the first systematic presentation of Reformation doctrine. Throughout the Reformation, he strove for unity wherever possible, but at the Marburg Colloquy, he sided with Luther against Zwingli. While controversial because of certain aspects of doctrine that diverged from Luther’s earlier theology, he remains a central figure in the development of Lutheranism, exemplified in his role writing the Augsburg Confession and reforming education throughout Germany.

(from Pocket Dictionary of the Reformed Tradition)

Menno Simons (1496-1561)

A leading Anabaptist theologian. Simons was born in Friesland and ordained as a Roman Catholic priest, but immediately after his ordination he began doubting Roman Catholic teaching on transubstantiation, and his views of baptism and church authority underwent similar transformations over the next sixteen years. A violent uprising in Munster (1534-1535) prompted him in 1536 to promote vigorously his Anabaptist convictions, especially pacifism, in order to prevent similar catastrophes. He wrote several devotional and theological works as an itinerant minister and hunted heretics, persuading many toward pacifistic Anabaptism, particularly in North Germany and Holland. In a letter to Martin Micron, Calvin opposed Simons’s view that Jesus was only born in rather than of Mary and defended a Christology that takes seriously Jesus’ full humanity. After Simons’s death, many of his followers came to be called Mennonites.

(from Pocket Dictionary of the Reformed Tradition)

William Tyndale (1494-1536)

An English Reformer, a martyr and the single greatest translator of the Bible into the English language. Educated at Oxford and Cambridge, Tyndale’s passion was to make the Scriptures available to ordinary people. It is estimated that as much as ninety percent of the 1611 King James or Authorized Version of the New Testament was taken from Tyndale’s earlier work and somewhat less from his translation of the Old Testament, which was never completed because of his execution outside Brussels on false charges of heresy.

(from Pocket Dictionary of the Reformed Tradition)

The Preachers’ Problematic Practice The Preachers’ Problematic Practice As a Christian, I enjoy listening to sermons. That’s because it is God-ordained means to grow and mature me. “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Rom. 10:17). According to the Westminster Confession of Faith, the ministry of the word is the ordinary means of grace whereby my faith is increased and strengthened (WCF, 14:1). As a preacher, I also enjoy listening to sermons – from others that is. I like to learn how others handle certain texts and topics. And there are many fine preachers today (and past) that I can learn from. As a student of preaching, however, I don’t always enjoy listening to sermons. That’s because as a student, I’m required to listen to some bad sermons – sometimes even by fine preachers. As one of my homiletic professors used to say, “That’s a great sermon, but wrong text!” His point was the sermon wasn’t based on the text though it was a good sermon. It was not exegesis, but eisegesis. Many of us who preach regularly, we’re all guilty of such practice. However, this is not the only pitfall to avoid as preachers. The following are some common problematic practice that preachers (new or seasoned) make:

  1. Preaching is not a Bible study.

There’s a distinction between preaching and teaching (cf. Luke 20:1; Acts 5:42; 15:35; 28:31; 1 Timothy 5:17). If you don’t know the difference, then that’s for you to know. :)

  1. Preaching is not a running commentary.

Some pastors think of themselves as “expository preachers” when their sermons sound more like a running Bible commentary that of J. Vernon McGee or Chuck Smith. Running Bible commentary is not expository preaching.

  1. Failing to give the direction at the onset.

You need to give a clear direction at the onset what the sermon is about and where it’s going. Effective preachers give signposts at the beginning of their sermons (and often throughout the sermon as a reminder). The listeners are clear what the sermon is about and where it’s heading at the onset. They’re not confused nor do they try to guess to the end. Sermon shouldn’t be a guessing game for people. It should be very clear. That’s why one of the most difficult jobs in preaching is clarity. It’s hard work. But it pays off.

  1. Burying yourself to your notes.

Don’t bury yourself in your notes when preaching. It’s perfectly OK to use notes since many of us can’t remember everything we studied in our preparation. But do make eye contact with your audience. And do so often. You may argue that Jonathan Edwards read his notes when preaching. But let’s be honest. You’re no Jonathan Edwards. And I’m not either.

  1. Failing to pause.

One of the most effective tools in preaching is to pause. When done it rightly and appropriately, it powerfully aids your sermon. One of the preachers that is masterful at this is R.C. Sproul. Learn to pause.

  1. Citing names of scholars and pastors in your sermon when majority don’t know who’s who.

I’m all for source citation. There’s enough plagiarism in academics, especially, in the institutions of higher education. I even witnessed seminarians who were being trained as pastors or already as pastors get caught in academic thievery! I also know of plenty of preachers who steal quotes, ideas, or phrases from others, and preach as if they’re the originators. Hence, I’m all for giving proper citation for your source. But in preaching, it’s unnecessary to cite names of scholars, pastors, and even naming theological journals. Honestly, most people in your congregation probably have never heard of Geerhardus Vos, Herman Bavinck, Victor P. Hamilton, and so on. I’m not sure if they even care. However, without citing the last name(s) of your source, to say something like “according to one scholar…” and having footnote(s) in your sermon notes is sufficient. Naming the names may be impressive if you are presenting a paper at ETS or other scholarly meeting, but not when preaching.

  1. Using Hebrew, Greek, or Aramaic words in your sermon.

I often wonder why? Is it to impress the audience? Let’s be honest again. You know and I know, we’re no experts in the biblical language. According to Douglas Moo, “The desire to show off our knowledge of the original languages and make a simple and useful point can lead us to say quite foolish things about words and their meanings” (We Still Don’t Get It: Evangelicals and Bible Translation Fifty Years After James Barr [N.p.: Zondervan, 2014], 13). When I plan to listen to a preacher or I know ahead that a preacher will preach something out of the New Testament, sometimes I’m in the audience with my copy of Bruce Metzger’s The Greek New Testament (4th edition) along with my English translation as a Berean. And so often, I’ve witnessed preachers fail to pronounce the word properly or say something is in Greek when it isn’t. As one of my teachers used to say, if you’re going to say something in the original language, at least say it right. When you’re tempted to use a Greek or Hebrew word, ask yourself whether it’s really necessary. This is not to say that you can’t ever use it. Sometimes using the original language in preaching can be helpful. For instance, pointing out the difference between agapao and phileo in John 21:15-17. Understanding the difference is not only important in your exegesis, but also in your exposition. Your people will appreciate such exegetical observation. So, if you think it’s necessary, then mention the original word. If not, keep it out.

  1. Failing to answer “so what?”

Ask “so what” question throughout your sermon, especially, your sermon points. And then see how they are related or relevant to the overall message of the sermon. Sometimes the “sermon points” hinder than help. It’s always a good practice to ask yourself “so what” and then see if your sermon points provide the answer and clarity to the main point of the sermon.

  1. Sermons are not compilations of quotes by various people.

In his book Lectures To My Students, Charles Spurgeon equates illustrations to windows in the house. Just as the primary purpose of windows is to let the light in, so do good sermon illustrations.[1] However, having too many illustrations is likened to having too many windows open in the house, whereby greater chance for bugs and birds to come in and become nuisance. So is with sermons with too many quotations and/or illustrations in the sermon. They become nuisance.

  1. Saying too many “um,” “uh,” “like,” and other filler words.

I concur with D.A. Carson that filler words, such as, “um” and “uh” are one of the most unintelligible sounds, not only in American language but in any language. Preachers are given the highest task for delivering the message from the highest one. As ambassadors for the highest kingdom and as representatives for the king of kings, our presentations should not be tainted with unintelligible noise or with other hindering manners.

  1. Preaching is not a means to promote yourself or tell your stories.

Woe unto preachers who use their pulpits as a platform to promote themselves. Woe unto preachers who are more interested in telling their stories than the redemptive story. Woe unto preachers who think preaching ought to be funny and entertaining, and fail to be the prophetic voice. As a student of preaching for 20 years, I’m still learning. To preach well doesn’t happen overnight. But we all need to commit to become skillful of our craft. [1]Charles H. Spurgeon, Lectures To My Students (Grand Rapids: Ministry Resources Library, 1954), 349.

Argula von Grumbach (c. 1492-c. 1563)

A German Reformer remembered for her defense of Luther and the Reformation to the German nobility. Born into a struggling Bavarian noble family, Grumbach was trained to be a maid to Emperor Maximillian’s sister and learned to read and write German. After reading the works of Luther – with whom she regularly corresponded – and other Reformers, she used her knowledge of the German Scriptures to refute the clergy who attacked the Reformers. Her criticism of the Roman Catholic Church led to her husband’s removal from his position as prefect, after which she endured personal and public abuse.

(from Pocket Dictionary of the Reformed Tradition)