Sermons

Summary: While there are a number of preaching patterns to follow, I keep coming back to a simple outline I first learned some forty years ago. It goes like this – Hook, Book, Look and Took.

The Sermon that Launched the Church

Acts 2:14-41

Rev. Brian Bill

October 12-13, 2019

I’ll never forget what happened when it was my turn to preach in my first homiletics class at Moody. I stood up, nervously cleared my throat, and apologized for the corny illustration I was about to use for the introduction. Immediately my preaching prof stood up and stopped the sermon and turned my mistake into a teachable moment for the whole class. I don’t remember exactly what he said but it was something like, “If the illustration is lame either don’t use it or act like it’s really good. As soon as you apologize for it, you’re telling the listeners they don’t have to listen to it.” And with that, I began my preaching career.

A couple years later I preached my first sermon at Calvary Memorial Church about Lazarus being raised from the dead. Not wanting to take anything out of context, I summarized all of John 11. Then I proceeded to give an overview of the Gospel of John, pointing out the similarities and differences between John and the other Gospels. After losing at least half the congregation, I decided to describe in excruciating detail what the tomb would have smelled like, quoting medical experts. I remember panicking when I saw the clock because my time was up. I said a quick closing prayer and rushed back to my office. The good thing is most didn’t realize how bad the message was because they had fallen asleep.

Several years after this message misfire, I was challenged by my ministry mentor to preach a sermon without using any notes or standing behind a podium. I was extremely nervous and floundered around, missing transitions and making up stuff as I went. I remember feeling embarrassed when I was finished but that was nothing like how I felt when Beth told me my fly was open during the whole message!

When I went to my doctor for a check-up on Monday, the nurse asked a question I had never been asked before. She wanted to know if I had any hobbies. My very first thought was that I love to listen to, watch and read sermons. In a given week I probably listen to three sermons and read at least 10 more. I’ve put sermons into various categories over the years.

• The worst sermon ever – was preached by me (several times).

• The shortest sermon ever – not preached by me (no surprise). The shortest sermon I heard was by Dr. Rascher during a chapel when I was a student at Moody. He walked up to the pulpit, looked to the left and then to the right and announced his topic: “Today I’m preaching on evangelism.” He looked to the left and to the right again and declared, “Just do it!” With that he walked off the platform and out the door. We were stunned and didn’t know what to do.

• The greatest sermon ever – definitely not preached by me. The winner would most certainly be the Sermon on the Mount preached by Jesus.

• The most effective sermon ever was preached by Peter in Acts 2. Verse 41 tells us what the people did in response to his preaching: “So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls.”

Last week we learned the Holy Spirit gives us power to accomplish His plans. We’ll see today that Peter’s preaching was persuasive and practical and we can learn from his example for our gospel conversations.

I love reading preaching books, attending preaching conferences and enjoy listening to podcasts about how to improve my preaching. While there are a number of suggestions, patterns and models to follow, I keep coming back to a simple outline I first learned some forty years ago. It goes like this – Hook, Book, Look and Took.

As I studied the sermon that launched the church I saw each of these elements. Let’s utilize them as a way to unpack our passage.

1. Hook. Turn to Acts 2:14-15: “But Peter, standing with the eleven, lifted up his voice and addressed them: ‘Men of Judea and all who dwell in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and give ear to my words. For these people are not drunk, as you suppose, since it is only the third hour of the day.’”

Peter does at least four things to grab their attention.

• Stand. It was normal for teachers to sit when teaching so when Peter stood up the people would have wondered why. Peter is introducing a new preaching style that is simple and straightforward.

• Shoulder. Peter knew he was not alone because he was “standing with the eleven.” A couple months ago before I stood up to preach on a very difficult topic I looked across the aisle and saw one of our deacons bowed in prayer for me (or maybe he was getting ready to take a nap). That meant the world to me.

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