Preaching Articles

Our preaching can be diminished by certain ruts. One of these ruts is the temptation to preach week after week about behaviors and actions that people should not do. I have known lots of preaching that picks a negative action or a sin and goes on about how it is bad, why it is bad, why it should not be in our life, and then closes with how bad it is again.

Topics such as don’t lie, don’t be negative, don’t sin, don’t be legalistic, and on and on. Now there is nothing inherently wrong with this but the it becomes a problem when that is all your people hear and they start to see Christianity as a list of rules they have to check off and make sure they are not doing a bunch of things to be “right with Jesus”


So here is how we can preach about what we should do instead of what we shouldn’t:

Preach on what positive actions people should be doing

I make it a point in my preaching in teaching to focus on the positive action as much as I can. For instance: instead of do not lie instead focus on be honest, instead of do not be negative focus on living positively, instead of do not sin focus on doing good, instead of do not be legalistic preach on Christian freedom and tolerance in non-essentials.

Preach about how to love Jesus, how to love others, how to pray effectively, how to give effectively, how to serve, and on and on. 

If our lives are focused on the positive actions to do instead of the negative actions we should not do then that is good! 

Always Present the alternative positive action to a negative action

Sometimes we do have to focus on not doing the negative action. That is okay but when we do this we should always present the alternative to the negative action. So for instance is you are going to preach on how destructive gossip and negative talk about other people present the alternative to that lifestyle which is encouraging and uplifting speech.

This way your audience understands that a life following Jesus is not just about getting rid of a bunch of behaviors but it is also about living out positive actions inspired by the grace and love of Jesus. 

Emphasize grace

When we do have to preach on not doing certain things it is always imperative to emphasize grace in that teaching. I try not to just bang away at people about a certain sin or attitude and then just leave them hanging. Share the good news! No matter how bad the subject is that you are preaching on Jesus clears all our sin if we only  call on his name! So emphasize that good news do not just drone on about bad news and how everything is hopeless.

This is especially important-emphasize the grace of Jesus because doing things or not doing things would not even matter without it.

But do not under emphasize holiness

I have already talked about how I like to emphasize the positive action we should be doing in our life not the negative things we should not be doing. But, in doing this I try to be careful that I do not under emphasize living a life of holiness.

I have found the best way to look at this is to teach people how if they have good fruit and live a good life trying to follow Jesus then they will be valuing the role of holiness in their life.

Joe Hoagland is the preaching pastor at Pleasant View Church of Christ in Jeffersonville, Ohio. He is newly married to his awesome wife Jenna, and together they have a spoiled little Chihuahua-Cocker Spaniel puppy named Yoda. Joe loves to lead people to Jesus and preach God's word. You can oftentimes find Joe hiking, camping, writing or enjoying technology (Android over iOS, Windows over OS X).

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Jd Hine

commented on Nov 25, 2015

Hi Joe, You're proposition has some great points. However, the bottom line is, we must preach the whole counsel of God. Jesus warned about Hell, but he died so that we could go to Heaven. He called the Pharisees hypocrites (boy, did He!), yet he extended mercy to a seeking Pharisee, Nicodemus, in John 3. Just preach the Bible, verse by verse, with conviction and compassion and let the chips fall where they may. Otherwise, we turn into Joel Osteens just preaching the "positive Gospel" without warning people about sin. Redemption is about delivering people from sin and sanctifying them from a sinful lifestyle. User friendly Gospel messages will only make people feel better about their sin, not reveal their sin that Christ died to save them from. Study Christ's messages. They contained both positive and negative!

Lawrence Webb

commented on Nov 25, 2015

I agree, it's easy to slip into the negative mode in our preaching and teaching. I'm on an email list from a fellow minister who sends little daily devotions. A high percentage of his messages stress things his readers shouldn't do. That said, there are times when we need to point up problems: sinful things in church, community, and national life. Certainly, our underlying theme and bottom line should point to new life through the love and forgiveness of Jesus.

Mary Spiegel

commented on Nov 25, 2015

amen and amen. years ago I tried to save my home for my two little babies after finanacial ruin and strife in my home as they needed a Mother and Father I never had. I was told I was crazy and unrealistic and they labeled me and their alternative to not support me turned disaster and no one healed and my children are the ones who lost. Let's also end the shame that binds us when we are negative to people, etc. and lift each other up. We need each other as well as we all need God to make this a better place to live. The song of solomon and it's beauty and no one wants to talk about it, is an alternative to adultery and divorce and pornography and in that regard what we should be doing to work on our marriages too as that is the Cornerstone of a family and when we destroy the family with the should nots, no one knows what they should be doing. Keep up the positive alternatives to the sometimes ways of negativity we all feel sometimes when we are beaten down in shame about oursleves and we have to remind ourselves if we are to love our neighbor as ourselves, we are important too and to take care of ourselves with God's help as we are all important to him. We are his children.

Markyle Corbilla

commented on Nov 26, 2015

Hi Joe, your conclusion proves that we need to preach both "shoulds and should nots". I agree with Jd and Lawrence - we need to preach whole counsel of God. In fact, if possible, we need to preach both, but emphasize on the positives in the end. No matter what our subject is, we should always conclude with hope, love and forgiveness and the Good News.

Tim Richards

commented on Nov 27, 2015

Joe, I generally agree with what you've said, however, I'm reminded of the words of King Solomon in Ecclesiastes, "There is a time for everything..." A generation ago I think far too many preachers focused most of their energy on what we shouldn't do. I think today many of us go too far the other direction. I am blessed and encouraged that a young pastor like you is thinking and writing about issues like this one. Thanks for sharing your perspective.

E L Zacharias

commented on Nov 27, 2015

Preaching is not about should and should nots. That gives preaching a bad name. The Bible is about proclamation of what Jesus DID: He alone succeeded in the shoulds and the should nots, for simple reason that we CANNOT. Holiness is NOT about what we can or cannot do or even about what we think God wants us to do. Holiness is believing that Jesus DID and always WILL DO for those who believe. Write these words on your foreheads and wrists and upon your doorposts and upon your children's heads: Those who BELIEVE in Jesus will not perish but will have eternal life. Want holiness? Want to do the work of God? Believe. Preach the Gospel and you will know the whole point about preaching: it's about proclaiming the Savior Jesus who DID all these things so that we will have eternal life.

E L Zacharias

commented on Nov 28, 2015

In other words, Joe, you are reacting to the legalistic preaching (the should-nots) by preaching moralism (the shoulds). Both legalism and moralism is accursed, because it is based on law and not Gospel. We are not saved by what we do but by believing in what God has done. We are saved by God?s grace, through saving faith in Jesus Christ. Salvation is not by works, lest anyone should boast. Our Christian life is built upon that saving work of Jesus; that is our foundation. Building with anything but Christ is futile and vain, like building with sticks and straw. Build on the Rock and live. Thanks for starting the conversation.

John Steenhof

commented on Dec 3, 2015

JD Hine makes a very good point. Just preach the "Whole counsel of God". Our danger in reading the Bible is to reduce it to our theological deductions from favorite doctrines.(Which often suit our cultural context)For example, some cults conclude that the Holy Spirit and/or Jesus are not really God by autonomous deduction from one point, "There is one God." And so with preaching grace. Some interpret grace as so free, that we "don't have to speak about sin." Or, "we don't have to worry about obedience to God." Or, "There can be only one motivation to good works and that is gratitude." or "Let us sin that grace may abound." Or"Talking about sanctification as obedience to the law is not warranted." Or "All are saved if salvation is really by grace." The real answer is not to deduce all from a particular doctrine(autonomous understanding) but the whole counsel of God by preaching through his word, with each doctrine interpreting the other. Joe Hoegland tried to achieve some sense of balance, and if he preaches through books of the Bible will continue to achieve that balance. The Heidelberg catechism(not a foundation for truth but an exposition of truth) does what Joe recommends, explains the negative and positive implications of all the commands. But let us not forget that God gave us ten negative commands. So it is not out of the question. Spurgeon was asked if he was an Arminian or a Calvinist and he answered, that he believed in man's responsibility and in God's sovereignty because God's word affirms both. He did not feel the need or have the ability to logically show how they fit together. We are creatures who receive God's full counsel.

Delwyn Campbell

commented on Aug 19, 2019

Dr. Martin Luther solved this problem over 500 years ago: Law and Gospel. "Therefore whoever knows well how to distinguish the Gospel from the Law should give thanks to God and know that he is a real theologian. I admit that in the time of temptation I myself do not know how to do this as I should. The way to distinguish the one from the other is to locate the Gospel in heaven and the Law on earth, to call the righteousness of the Gospel heavenly and divine and the righteousness of the Law earthly and human, and to distinguish as sharply between the righteousness of the Gospel and that of the Law as God distinguishes between heaven and earth or between light and darkness or between day and night. Let the one be like the light and the day, and the other like the darkness and the night. If we could only put an even greater distance between them! Therefore if the issue is faith, heavenly righteousness, or conscience, let us leave the Law out of consideration altogether and let it remain on the earth. But if the issue is works, then let us light the lamp of works and of the righteousness of the Law in the night. So let the sun and the immense light of the Gospel and of grace shine in the day, and let the lamp of the Law shine in the night." Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 26: Lectures on Galatians, 1535, Chapters 1-4, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann, vol. 26 (Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1999), 115–116. This is why, when it comes to the truth as it is in Christ, sticking with the foundation - Apostolic Doctrine - is a blessing. Luther did not discover something new, He recovered what the Church Universal had faithfully taught for centuries, from the Apostles through the Fathers both pre- and post-Nicene. The Reformation, properly understood, was calling Rome back to the true heritage and proclamation of the Church, the pure Gospel. Some of us are part of groups that attempted to "go back to Pentecost" as if the Church forgot everything that the Apostles taught them as soon as they all died.

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