10 Things Preachers Should Not Do in their Sermons

1. Don’t tell too many personal stories. An occasional one is ok, but don’t do too many. Your focus should be on God’s story. Especially don’t talk about your kids all the time. In sets them up to be mascots or examples instead of people in the church community.

2. Don’t tell the story of how you came up with the sermon idea. It is cheesy, and rarely adds to the sermon.

3. Don’t switch sides if you are making a comparison. If the old self is the right and the new self is the left, you can’t switch the directions half way through the sermon. If your left hand is the Old Testament and your right is the New Testament, you have to keep them that way. You will have a mutiny if you switch.

4. Don’t tell a joke unless it actually adds to the sermon. Seinfield doesn’t preach. You are not Chris Rock.

5. Don’t overthink your beginning. Most sermons can drop the first page of writing and be totally fine. Get going as quick as you can.

6. Don’t turn every text into a sermon that you believe in. We get it. You believe strongly in a certain cause or message. But if you turn every passage into the same sermon, then you are not reading the text well, or not letting the text read you.

7. Don’t say the same words over and over again. We all get ticks and fillers that we pick up, like people who say “Lord” every fourth word in their prayers (as if they forget who they are talking to) or people who fill every pause with “um” or “right?” Listen to a recording of yourself, and stop it. It drives people crazy. Especially the term “like.”

8. Don’t use Greek or Hebrew words unless they add to the sermon (or are fun to say). It comes across like you are just trying to make yourself look smart. You can talk about what a word means without showing off your seminary education. If they are fun to say, make sure you make the congregation say them too.

9. Don’t preach to an ending then start preaching to another ending. I wrote about this in another blog about LANDING THE PLANE. Don’t start landing your sermon, and just as people think it is ending, you take off on another point. Pick a landing point and land there. End your sermon mercifully.

10. Don’t preach certain biblical passages if you talk with your hands. If you can’t control how you talk with your hands, you are forbidden from preaching Bathsheba, any reference to “and he knew her,” Song of Solomon, Hosea, and especially Galatians 5:12.

Bonus—Never refer to yourself in the shower or the bath. Some of your people are too visually imaginative for that kind of reference.

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God brought the Growth

One of the Bible verses that has most impacted my life is a verse that most people don’t really know about. Paul is writing the church at Corinth, and they are fighting about who they follow. Paul says, basically, What is Apollos? What am I? We are servants of God. And here is one of the core verses for the Bible in my life. Verse 6: “I planted, Apollos watered, but God brought the growth.”

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The Parable of the Prodigal God

THE FOLLOWING IS A SERMON THAT I DID AT NORTHMINSTER CHURCH ON JANUARY 14, 2018. YOU CAN LISTEN TO THE FULL SERMON HERE. I am indebted to Timothy Keller, Matt Chandler, and Kenneth Bailey for helping me rethink this parable every time I study it and preach it again.

To understand this parable, you have to understand two things

The first is- Who is hearing the parable? The beginning of Luke 15 tells us: “Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear him. And the Pharisees and the scribes grumbled, saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.”

Tax Collectors and Sinners were a group of people. Tax collector not a cheat trying to get rich. Not like a bad used car salesman. They were sell outs who made money by supporting the occupying armies. They were traitors. They were hated by the community. Sinners are a class of people who, because of illness or livelihood, could never enter the Temple. This included deformities and diseases such as the blind, lame, bleeding, or lepers, and jobs such as prostitution, working as a mercenary for the Romans, and the tax collectors.

These people are drawing near to hear him. They were taught that they were outcast and cursed by God. They can never be made right with God. But they are attracted to the teachings of Jesus, and welcomed by him.

The Scribes and Pharisees are the other side of spectrum. They are super religious and upright. They believe they have gained favor with God and have a special relationship with God. And they are questioning why Jesus would associate with these Tax Collectors and Scribes.

Jesus gives this parable to these two specific groups, and you can’t understand the parable if you don’t understand those groups. Continue reading

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A New Call and a Hard Goodbye

I am excited to announce that, beginning in January, I will be the pastor of Northminster Presbyterian Church in New Castle, PA. (http://npcnc.org/) This is larger church than the one I currently serve, and they are doing some great things. I will get to work with the church staff and serve a place that seems ready for energy and creativity. The plan will be for us to move to a rental house right now and then potentially buy a house later in 2018. I will be preaching there for the first time on January 7.

I have actually been discerning God’s call for some time. I sensed earlier this year that I was going to be making move, I just could not find the right fit. I turned down several jobs or withdrew my name from consideration from a number of others because I felt a sense of God saying “no.” I will confess to being frustrated with God at times as I was wondering what he was up to.

When Northminster came open, I set up to do an interview with them. I had a good feeling going into the meeting, and about 10 minutes in I thought this really might be the place. They were sensing the same thing, and it was a God-thing that we found each other. Continue reading

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A Different Kind of Advent Wreath

I just wanted to share an idea I used in Advent a few years ago. Instead of one Advent wreath, I had two–a dark one and a light one. For each week, we extinguished something and lit something else. This way, the darkness slowly overcame the light throughout Advent. We also used crackled glass with floating candles in colored water. This is the only picture I have of it. Feel free to use it and make it your own.

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Happy Anniversary, 95 Theses!

I have had a great time preaching the life, theology, and legacy of Martin Luther and the reformation he helped start. This day, October 31, 500 years ago, Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the door at Wittenberg, and the world will never be the same. Here are the sermons, all in one place. Enjoy.

 

 

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The Story of Luther and His 95 Theses

The following is Jordan’s sermon from October 1.
You can listen to the sermon by CLICKING HERE.

The date was October 31, 1517. A relatively unknown professor, Martin Luther, nailed 95 arguments or theses for academic debate to the doors of the church in Wittenberg, Germany, where he lived, taught, and preached. This should have been an unimportant moment. In fact, this Augustinian monk had posted theses to that same door a month before that got no response. But that simple act and that ordinary date, the eve of All-Saints day 500 years ago this month, would be the match that lit a fire to the world, and that fire continues to impact your life every day, though you probably don’t even realize it.

There would be no Presbyterians without Luther and no Protestants. We might all be Catholic. Worship would be in Latin without Luther. Pastors could not marry without Luther. That means there would be no Rimmer children without Luther. In fact, the great importance you probably place on marriage and some of your views on marriage are developed by Luther. Luther developed the printing industry. You have pretty books because of Luther. Law and Education are different because of Luther and his movement. There would be no United States of American without Luther. In fact, the idea of a nation-state would not exist without Luther. People did not emphasize following their conscience before Luther. There would be no Bible in English, let alone in German, without Luther.

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TEACH US TO PRAY

On September 24, I preached a sermon on how to pray. I am sharing my thoughts from that sermon in this article, but you can also listen to the sermon at HERE.

If you look at the Lord’s prayer in the Bible, what you will find is that the typical ending that we give to the prayer is not there. You will also find that Jesus gives this prayer after his disciples ask him to teach them to pray.

I am convinced that the Lord’s Prayer, while a vital part of our worship service, is not primarily a prayer to be repeated. Rather, it is an outline that Jesus gives his disciples about how to pray. In other words, it is a guide for the topics and the order of prayer. When you understand it this way, it can be really helpful for your prayer life.

Let’s look at the order: Continue reading

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The Bible is not a Microwave Instruction Manual

Can we as Christians just all agree, right here and right now, to give up the metaphor of an instruction manual for the Bible.

First of all, when is the last time you read an instruction manual? Have you ever poured your morning coffee, sat down on the porch, and did quiet time with the manual for your microwave? No. You only read an instruction manual as a last resort. You microwave is smoking and you find the dusty manual to find out what is happening.

Second, if the Bible is an instruction manual then we need to admit that it is horribly written. You can’t find easy answers. Things are not laid out clearly. Even core Christian doctrines like the Trinity and the dual nature of Jesus as fully human and fully divine take 300 and 400 years respectively for the church to decide on.

Can you imagine if your microwave instruction manual was written like the Bible?

In the beginning was the microwave, and the microwave was with the manufacturer, and the microwave was the manufacturer…
In him was popcorn, and the popcorn was smelled by all men. The smell flowed in the darkness, but the darkness comprehended it not…
There was a man, sent from the manufacturer, he was called the salesman… He was not the microwave, but was sent to bear witness about the popcorn.

The Bible is not strengthened when we try to make it an instruction manual. It is weakened. The Bible at full strength is a book of stories and poems that shock you and make you think. Let it be what it is.

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God’s Will–Fuzzy before Clarity

In Acts 9, Paul is threatening the church, and gets letters so that he has legal permission to arrest these new followers of the way and bring them bound to Jerusalem. He is on a self-righteous crusade against what he feels is a threat to Judaism.

Then, on the way to Damascus, BAM! He is stopped in his tracks. He is surrounded by light. Light is a great symbol in the Bible, and even to this day. When someone learns something, it is said that they are enlightened. In cartoons, when a character has an idea, a lightbulb turns on. Light was a symbol of good in the darkness, and direction in the darkness, and new ideas. Continue reading

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500 Years of Reforming- Worship Resources

October 31, 2017 marks a monumental moment for the church and the world. It was on that day 500 years ago that Martin Luther posted his 95 Theses to door at Wittenberg.  This is typically noted as the beginning of the Protestant Reformation. It was a moment that sparked a movement that continues to influence not only the Christian faith but also daily life.

To celebrate, I am planning to do a whole month of worship and preaching around Martin Luther. They are not perfect or in their final form, and I am sure the will take a little different shape by the time October comes around, but I thought I would offer them to others as a starting point for celebrating this important date.

You can click HERE or the picture below for the document. Please adapt it and use it, and I would love to hear what you do with it.

 

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Why Feeling Unworthy can be Good and Important

In Isaiah 6, Isaiah is taken in a vision into the throne room of God. His reaction—“Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!” He panics. He is unworthy of God’s presence. He has said bad things, and his people have said bad things.

But an angel comes over and touches his lips with a coal from the altar. He is declared to be atoned for and without guilt. Then, when God asks who God can send, Isaiah responds, “Here am I; Send me.”

We often feel unworthy when God calls us to things. And we think because we feel unworthy that we must be unworthy. Why would God use us? How could God use us? We have made to many mistakes. We are not holy. We are not the most talented.

But let me tell you a paradoxical truth. While we think feeling unworthy makes us unworthy, feeling unworthy is actually the first step on the path to being worthy. Think about it this way—what makes you truly unworthy is thinking you are worthy. If God calls you to do something and you say, “Yep, I got this,” then we have a problem. There is no space in a big head for God’s leading. Our pride and arrogance constricts the Holy Spirit.

We must confess that we are unworthy so that God can use us. We must walk through saying “Woe is me” so that we can be ready to say, “Here I am. Send me.”

You think you are not worthy? Good. You are not worthy. I am not worthy. But when we admit that we are not worthy, we actually become ready. Ready for God’s grace and ready for God’s sending. I am not arguing for some kind of negative self-view, but rather for a self-view that comes from God’s view.

You say, “Woe is me. I am not worthy. I am not able.”

God responds, “Good. You admit it. Now, let’s get to work.

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Pastors as “The Elite of Prayer”

Today I came across this great quote by Peter Taylor Forsyth. He was a Scottish theologian who lived from 1848–1921. In his book, Positive Preaching and the Modern Mind, he writes:
I speak to and of the ministry, which is at once our despair and our hope. If the preachers have brought preaching down it is the preachers that must save it. The Church will be what its ministers make it. A Church of faith like Protestantism must always be what its chief believers make it. And these foremost and formative believers are the ministers. The real archbishops are the archbelievers. If a Church has not its chief believers in the pulpit it is unfortunate. And if a whole denomination of Churches fail in this matter there is something fatally wrong. The ministers are in idea the experts in faith. They are the élite of prayer. If the Church is to be saved from the world it is the ministers that must do it. And how can they do it but as men pre-eminently saved from the world? And no man has the seal of that salvation on him except by action—by thought and prayer which become moral action. A man has the stamp of supernatural reality upon him only by such prayer. If another than the minister carry that stamp in any Church he is its true minister. The true minister, in the pulpit or out, does all his business in the spirit of this prayer. The man of commerce may say he cannot. I will not argue that now. I will only say that the minister has this advantage—he not only can but he must, if he know his business, and is to keep it going. And no man ought to take up this business unless he know it. A preacher whose chief power is not in studious prayer is, to that extent, a man who does not know his business. A stringent ethic would say he was in danger of becoming a quack. That of prayer is the minister’s business. (pgs 129-130) Continue reading

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Lessons on God’s Calling- Abraham

When I was in seminary and going through the ordination process, I was forced to use the language of call. I was supposed to be able to share the story of God’s call on my life and particularly how I felt called to ministry as a full-time vocation. This was a consistent conversation in those days with seminary admissions counselors, professors, classmates, denominational committees, and the floor of Presbytery.

Saturday, July 15 was the 5-year anniversary of my ordination. As I look back, it is rather striking the difference between my seminary and ordination days and now. The language of call that was so valuable in those days is almost non-existent in the church. So I am taking some time in sermons and blogs to reflect on what it means to listen to and follow God’s calling and leading in our own lives.We begin with the calling of Father Abraham, then still called Abram, in Gen 12: Continue reading

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Trusting God in Anxiety–No If’s, And’s, or But’s

We all go through times of anxiety where we don’t know what is going to happen. We want to do God’s will, but we find ourselves waiting and wondering what that will is. So let me give you a little bit of spiritual guidance for anxious times. There are 5 things I hope you remember as we have these conversations in the coming months.

1. God has plans and purposes for us. (See Jeremiah 29:10-14). Plans for good. Plans to use us. Plans for a future and a hope. I do not believe in a God who is distant, out there, surprised about the circumstances we pray about. If God is in any way out there, then God is out there in the future and knows what lies ahead.

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Sermon: True Freedom

The following is a sermon given July 2, 2017 with thoughts for the 4th of July. You can listen to the sermon HERE.

Galatians 5:1 For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.

Today, with the 4th of July this Tuesday, we are taking a break from out series on the Bad Habits of Jesus. Instead, I want to take a biblical look at the themes of the Fourth, namely, words like liberty, independence, and freedom. What does biblical freedom look like?

Freedom is a major theme in the Bible, but to understand it, you have to understand the cultural contexts that were the opposite of freedom. Freedom in the Bible is not defined by itself, as grace or love might be. Freedom is defined by its opposites.

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Religious but not Spiritual…and Phone Booths

It is very popular today to say that you are “spiritual but not religious.” It is one of those over-used phrases that I am not sure has a real meaning. I think it means that people want to have experiences with the Divine, but they don’t want to have those experiences in a structured religious settings.

This is a dynamic that churches need to get their heads around. I heard a lot of church people who claim that the world is not spiritual at all. In fact, there is a narrative in the church that the world is becoming more secular. In fact, the opposite is happening. The world is becoming more sacred. In fact, everything is sacred. People talk about their pets, their sexuality, their gun rights, and their conservativism as holy. And people are more open to spirituality than ever before, they just find it in other ways. Continue reading

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My Dissertation, My Book, My Doctorate, and My Story

My dissertation and the start of my book are now live online. YOU CAN READ AND DOWNLOAD IT HERE. This means that I am officially “The Reverend Doctor Jordan Rimmer.” I am not too formal, however. You can call me Rev-Doc. Here is my story of this journey.

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But the Light Fades- A Lesson from Thomas R. Kelly

I read this quote in A Testament of Devotion by Thomas R. Kelly today, and it really moved me:

But the light fades, the will weakens, the humdrum returns. Can we stay this fading? No, nor should we try, for we must learn the disciplines of His will, and pass beyond this first lesson of His Grace. But the Eternal Inward Light does not die when ecstasy dies, nor exist only intermittently, with the flickering of our psychic states. Continuously renewed immediacy, not receding memory of the Divine Touch, lies at the base of religious living. (pg 5)

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Why the Bible is not “Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth”

I have heard people acronym that the B.I.B.L.E. stands for “Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth.” But that description bothers me for a number of reasons.

First, is it really basic? If it is so basic, why do we have so much trouble understanding it? Why do we so often disagree on a fundamental level about what it says or what we should do about it? The Bible is actually a very complicated library of books that tells stories to get its point across. It is not basic.

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