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I spent my first few years in Italy. One enduring result of this is a long-term liking for Nutella. The original and best chocolate hazelnut spread! Australians might love their Vegemite and the Americans their peanut butter, but this European can’t get away from Nutella. Except when I see it in American shops, that is.

In recent years I have seen it appearing in the grocery store during my visits to the US, and have bought a jar or two. Same jar, same wrapping, same colour, but not the same taste. One ingredient is different—just the oil. One ingredient on a long list, but it makes a difference.

The same is true with preaching. One ingredient modified slightly and the whole product can taste wrong. Here are three examples of tweaks that might ruin preaching:

1. Tweaking the tone from good news.  Same passage, same illustrations, same length of sermon, but if you replace the good news aspect of the message with pressure to conform, guilt for failure or legalistic righteousness, I guarantee the message won’t taste the same!

2. Tweaking “of” to “from.”  This is a common one. Instead of passionately pursuing the preaching of the message of the text, many preachers choose instead to preach their message from the text. That is, they use the biblical text as a starting point, but at the end the listeners don’t feel they know the text any better than at the beginning.  Don’t preach from a text, preach the text.  (I think this is the hardest one to spot in a mirror—every preacher thinks they are explaining the text. Perhaps you should ask someone who knows the Bible well and be ready to listen to what they tell you!)

3. Tweaking the text to fit an outline.  Some preachers don’t go near this neighbourhood; some seem to live there. It's where the text is twisted slightly to help it fit in a certain outline. Perhaps a three-point alliterated outline.  Is that really what the writer was doing in the text? Was that his intended outline? If not, you may leave a sour taste for listeners who sense that you’ve done a bit of a number on the text!

These feel like relatively small adjustments, but they leave a very different impression.



Peter Mead is involved in the leadership team of a church plant in the UK. He serves as director of Cor Deo—an innovative mentored ministry training program—and has a wider ministry preaching and training preachers. He also blogs often at BiblicalPreaching.net and recently authored Pleased to Dwell: A Biblical Introduction to the Incarnation (Christian Focus, 2014). Follow him on Twitter

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Talk about it...

Sterling Franklin

commented on Nov 17, 2011

Papa John's

John E Miller

commented on Nov 18, 2011

I believe that these are very telling points. It is very searching to consider what is being put forward here. My observation is that there is a strong tendency, particularly in "liberal theology" to carelesly adapt scripture to a certain point of view. This is not what the Word of God is for. It is the revelation of God's purpose for man to enter into a relationship with Him, based on the Person and work of His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. In Galatians ch.4, Paul asks, "What does the scripture say..." This is in direct reference to Genesis 21. But in actual fact it must apply to every application and interpretation of God's Word. Divine principles never change. God's truth never changes. God's purpose is eternal and has never been subject to variation. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever. His cross is the lesson book of God's eternal purpose.

John E Miller

commented on Nov 19, 2011

If I may just add to my previous comment. The writer refers to a three point alliterated outlne. When I hear this in a sermon, sadly I tend to lose interest. It is artificial, mostly irrelevant and sadly without any biblical basis. It reflects an almost childish desire to impress the congregation with an erudition that is fleshly in origin. Go to the cross and you will not find there "apt alliteration's artful ease". You will find there God's wrath, Satan's power and man's utter weakness. You will find there the outshining of God's love in a brilliance that blinds unbelief but illumines the darkness of a repentant sinner who comes craving nothing but mercy. Where is the alliteration in the simple command, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved!"

Elizabeth Mcmanus

commented on Nov 29, 2011

I am American but also a European nutella fan - I never realized the oil was the difference... now I know... and now I know why there are certain sermons that ring true and those that don't. I am most grateful for the first ingredient - it is the good news that inspires us to be all God created us to be and none of us has the right to judge, scold, or discourage.

Dave Campbell

commented on Nov 29, 2011

A couple of things. First, to Sterling F. great visual! That's good preaching. I think I get it. And second, I remember sitting under a brother who was struggling with getting material from the WORD, so he bought his sermons from John Maxwell. they were good sermons, but the WORD had not been wrestled with. I would rather hear a the peson's wrestling points than an imbalanced non-three point sermon, if you know what I mean.

Colin Bain

commented on Nov 29, 2011

Certainty, Saviour Salvation! I often, but not always, use alliteration. It makes the points easier to remember. I find it as effective as illustrations, with similar drawbacks. People often remember the illustration but not the point. This doesn't stop me using illustrations. I've experienced each of these temptations. Let's face it, we all approach the scripture with a mindset, and can miss the point if we are not open to alternate interpretations that will help us to get closer to the real point.

Alexander Shaw

commented on Nov 29, 2011

Having just returned from three and a half week's ministry in KENYA speaking and teaching at Pastors and Leaders Seminars in Nairobi, Mombasa and Kisumu, I have been encouraging men to STOP preaching sermons, but to START PREACHING THE WORD OF GOD. Take your people through the Word - feed your sheep and lambs the Word. It will challenge you too, to deal with the more 'difficult' passages. Take your people through a Book of the Bible.

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