Tag Archives: Sermon Prep

E, S, V, P

First, let me just say that in the past 36 hours I have come up with some of my best political one-liners ever. They were funny. But they were probably also unnecessarily divisive. I also wrote half a blog post dealing on parts of what is currently happening in Cleveland. And yet, I practiced self-control and didn’t post any of it on FB and I deleted my post. I think I deserve a prize. Mint chocolate chip ice cream sounds pretty good…

Today’s post is quite different in nature, and it is particularly geared toward preachers.

I attended a training today at my engineering job. At the start of the training session we had an ice-breaker. Each person was instructed to state their name and whether they were an E, S, V, or P. “E”s are explorers, they are people who are very interested in the content of the class. “S”s are shoppers, they are interested in some of the material. They are looking for one or two takeaways. “V”s are vacationers, they aren’t really interested in the class but it got them out of their routine and they have no better place to be. Finally, “P”s are prisoners, they are in the class against their will – their manager made them come.

On any given Sunday, there is a mix of ESVPs in your congregation. This might be helpful to recognize.

When I prepare to preach I tend to “categorize” my audience and try to gear my preaching to a broad based of listeners. The broadest category is “believers” and “unbelievers.” I try to include a call to believers and a call to unbelievers. In other words, I try to both disciple and evangelize.

I also think through people in different life stages. How would a student understand and apply this message? How would a retiree? How would someone who is feeling sad about a recent loss? Etc.

I think I will add ESVP to my lens as well. How would this look?

Explorers: Explorers in a church setting are those people who come eager to learn. They love the Bible. Even if they can’t directly apply the message to their lives, as long as you faithfully expound the Word of God, they will stay tuned. These are the easiest to preach to. A seeker, even if not a Christian, could also be an explorer. They may still be interested in the message even if they don’t (yet) agree. I’m not sure you really have to do anything extra for the explorers, but it’s good to acknowledge that some people are eager to learn Scripture. If nothing else, this should encourage the preacher.

Shoppers: Some people are not really that interested in the whole service. Some might particularly like the music, or the social aspect, or perhaps they are looking for one or two “take home” points from the sermon. You have to work a little harder for their attention. Maybe they’re not interested in the “big idea” of the sermon because it’s not what they’re shopping for. We still, if we’re going to be faithful to the text, will want to draw them in. Here’s where a good “tension creating” intro can go a long way.

Vacationers: These are people who are really just apathetic. They aren’t hostile. Church is just another thing which breaks the routine. They don’t really have a better place to be – or the cost of getting to that other place is too high. I think the goal here is to awaken their passions and to do that by passionately proclaiming the gospel.

Prisoners: Prisoners are people who don’t want to be there. They were dragged by a spouse or a parent or were pressured by a friend. They are hostile. According to preaching books I have read the best ways to communicate with those who are hostile are with humor and story (two of my weakest preaching abilities).

Perhaps it might just be good to acknowledge that we have a mix of people in the audience. It’s not all explorers, it’s not all shoppers, it’s not all vacations, it’s not all prisoners. Assuming everyone is an explorer will grant you permission to be boring. Assuming everyone is a shopper will cause you to just focus on the “takeaways” without getting to the meat. Assuming everyone is a vacationer might make you force in passion where it doesn’t come naturally, or assume everyone’s problem is that they are “lukewarm.” Assuming everyone is a prisoner will likely either make you hostile and angry or overly deferential.

Sometimes I address a particular group: “perhaps you are here and you have never placed your trust in Jesus” or “perhaps you are here and you are really struggling with a loss right now…” Maybe I could do the same with ESVP… “perhaps you are here and you feel like a prisoner, you really don’t want to be here…” That acknowledges those “prisoners” where they are at and allows you to address them directly. “Yes, that is me, what’s he going to say?”

Preacher or congregants, what do you think, is this helpful?

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The Prophet and The Great Commission

This Sunday I’ll be preaching on Deuteronomy 34, especially 34:10-12 and the identity/characteristics of The Prophet in Deuteronomy 18:14-22.

I will also be highlighting one of the most important values of our church: obeying the Great Commission.

As I’ve thought through the passage, and how to highlight what our church does to obey the Great Commission, I’ve been struck by a few important points of connection.

Most importantly, is that The Prophet, of whom it is said, “you must listen to Him” (Deuteronomy 18:15) is Jesus, of whom the Father declared, in the presence of Elijah and Moses, at the Transfiguration “This is my Son, whom I love; with Him I am well pleased. Listen to him” (Matthew 17:5).

It is this same Jesus who commands us to go out and make disciples. From the testimony of the Father, we must listen to Him and obey.

Second, Jesus tells go out “teaching everything I have commanded you.” Part of what it means to make disciples, is to teach people to obey the Father, by obeying the commandments of the Son. This is important because, as God says in Deuteronomy 18:19 “I myself will call to account anyone who does not listen to my words that the prophet speaks in my name.”

Finally, the final compiler of Deuteronomy, the one who wrote Deuteronomy 34:10-12, was clearly looking forward to the future hope of The Prophet. The Gospel of Jesus contains within it the double joy of proclaiming the truth the future is already here and that the fullness of our hope is yet to come. Jesus has already come, died for our sins and been raised to eternal life, conquering sin and death. And, Jesus is coming again, to restore all things and to reign in the fullness of His glory, not only to defeat sin and death – which He has already done – but to destroy them completely.

Happy Thanksgiving.

This post, like many other posts that will appear on this site, was also posted on our church’s leadership blog: here.