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preaching article 4 Points of Principle Preaching

4 Points of Principle Preaching

based on 2 ratings
Sep 9, 2015
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I love mentoring pastors because of the questions they ask. Recently, at a pastor training seminar I was conducting in Haiti, one local pastor asked me, “If I know a member of my church is committing adultery can I call her up to the front on Sunday morning, have her sit in front of the congregation and use her sin as an example?”

I asked if he had done that. He said yes. I asked how it went. He said, “Pa bon.” (Not good). This has to be the grossest example of calling out sinners instead of sin that I have ever heard of. And no matter where you preach, it's a terrible idea. I went on to explain to these very well intentioned, but very poorly trained, pastors what I have come to call “Principle Preaching.” Simply stated, principle preaching is an expository method of searching a specific section of Scripture for its highest principle and then developing a sermon that explains, elevates, elaborates, and engages the audience with an action plan. 

Here are the 4 points of principle preaching, using Matthew 10:42 as example. “And whoever gives one of these little ones even a cup of cold water because he is a disciple, truly, I say to you, he will by no means lose his reward.” (ESV)

1. Explain the highest principle of the Passage.What is Matthew 10:42 about? Chiefly that God calls us to unselfish action. Christ-likeness is the central task of the follower of Jesus, as exemplified by the simple act of giving a cup of cold water to a child who most likely cannot possibly return the favor. Explain the meaning of the passage for understanding. More cerebral preaching is appropriate here. Word studies and academic references apply but the chief concern is the prayerfully identify the highest principle of the passage. If you fail to do that all the rest is just showmanship and oratory skill. We need real power from the presence of the Holy Spirit in our preaching.

2. Elevate the highest principle of the passage.This passage is not essentially about rewards. It is about unselfish Christ-like action in the world. Elevate that principle through illustration, example, testimony, or other means for devotion. Explanation engages the mind. Devotion engages the heart.

3. Elaborate the highest principle of the passage.Now you are moving toward application but you’re not quite there yet. Elaborate the highest principle. Restate the main point with ever increasing clarity using pithy statements that are memorable. Supporting Scripture citations are very appropriate at this point, as are quotes and your clearest one liner. This is the point where you seek to stir the soul and engage the whole person in the coming instruction for application.

4. Engage the audience with an action plan.Give your people a real action plan. You just called people out for the sin of inactivity in simple actions of Christ-likeness. There are thirsty people all over the world and they now know they need to give them cold water. How specifically do they do it?  Give them instruction in their daily life. Give them an opportunity for a regional or global mission trip. Give your audience a specific action plan to implement the Scripture. 

Principle preaching keeps us from basing sermons off of that last counseling appointment where we learned that Mrs. Jones is having an affair or that Mr. Smith is stealing from his boss. Principle preaching allows us to seek the Holy Spirit to lead us in preaching Christ alone from the Scripture alone. If we do that we’ll call out sin directly from the Scripture rather than from the audience.

In addition to shepherding the flock as Pastor of Liberty Spring Christian Church in Suffolk, Virginia. Chris Surber is also Founder and Director of Supply and Multiply in Montrouis, Haiti. 

Talk about it...

Mark Hadfield avatar
Mark Hadfield
0 days ago
, "when we are pointing our finger at somebody else we are pointing three back at ourselves", gravoria quaedam sunt remedia periculis (L.), some remedies are more grievous than the perils. Cheers. Thanking you, Chris. Nice one!
Chima Wilson avatar
Chima Wilson
0 days ago
But Chris, how do we expose sinner without calling out to let them know about their sin? Please I need a clarification and more explanation on this issue? Thanks and God bless and prospers your ministry. Chima Wilson.,
Chris Surber avatar
Chris Surber
0 days ago
The point here is to call out sin directly from Scripture. Allow the Scripture to drive what you say and how you say it.
Binoy Varghese avatar
Binoy Varghese
0 days ago
...Follow God's direction prayerfully... Mt 18:15-17 says ?If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector." Galatians 6:1 instructs us: ?Brethren, even if a man is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, lest you too be tempted.? The ministry of restoring a fallen brother belongs to all who are spiritual, which means, spiritually mature, those who walk in the Spirit (Gal. 5:16-26).
Gary Gustman avatar
Gary Gustman
0 days ago
Did this man meet the God inspired qualifications for a "pastor" found in 1 Timothy 3? Some denominations train men to be preachers, but then "place" them as pastors, who are simply unqualified. They even have "lead" pastors which is unheard of in scripture. Not conducive to humility.
Chris Surber avatar
Chris Surber
0 days ago
The opening illustration is not the main point of course, but he does meet those qaulifuqualifications. Pastors in Haiti tend to be rather legalistic and very confrontational.
Chris Hearn avatar
Chris Hearn
0 days ago
Granted, the example at the beginning of the article was quite extreme. But at the same time, as pastors we do need to speak to our congregations. If there is pervasive sin in the congregation, the pulpit is one way that it can be addressed. It takes prayer, love and empathy, but can and should be done.
Chris Surber avatar
Chris Surber
0 days ago
Absolutely. Just let Scripture speak for itself through your rhetoric.
David Beirne avatar
David Beirne
0 days ago
"But Chris, how do we expose sinner without calling out to let them know about their sin?" Maybe if you confronted the sinner in private like Matthew 18:15-20 before bringing in front of the church. As far as the article's main thrust, pretty good stuff there. Too bad we get distracted so easily.
Chris Surber avatar
Chris Surber
0 days ago
That's what I'd say. "Call out" individual sin in private counseling sessions or in small settings with appropriate people. Matthew 18 is good guidance there.
Kevin Mcdonald avatar
Kevin Mcdonald
0 days ago
It is amazing how we cannot see the forest for the trees. Next time Chris, write an article that tells us how to confront individual sinners in our church from the pulpit. Or how not to choose an introduction that will not distract readers or listeners from a well-written from a pretty good article. The point was about PRINCIPLES for PREACHING, not specifics on how to abuse the pulpit.
Mark A Smith avatar
Mark A Smith
0 days ago
Good preaching and writing captures the mind and heart, then leads us to a place of truth. While I've never used the pulpit to confront someone's specific sin, God often brings different people to mind as I prepare each week. I'm convinced that this preparation is not only for those specific people, but for me and others who are struggling with the same issue. This is part of the work of the Holy Spirit in the process of preaching each week.
Chris Surber avatar
Chris Surber
0 days ago
It's probably impossible to remove that influence completely and probably uneccesary BUT we need clearly to allow Scripture to drive preaching primarily. We are harbingers of God's Word, not our assumption judgement.

So, what did you think?


Thank you.