Month: November 2016

Fields of Faith events see rich harvest

EULESS—“If you follow Jesus and the Holy Spirit lives inside you, you are the church now,” Shane Pruitt, SBTC director of missions, told a crowd of 545 youth gathered Oct. 26 at the West Campus of First Baptist Euless for the 2016 Hurst-Euless-Bedford-area Fields of Faith event held in conjunction with Fellowship of Christian Athletes and area churches.

“You have a responsibility now…. You are a part of the kingdom of God now. Live it now,” Pruitt challenged an audience used to hearing that they are the “future” of the church.

The Field at First Euless was one of 466 held nationally throughout October. In Texas, 105 Fields were held, most on Oct. 12. The Euless Field was originally scheduled for the HEB school district’s Pennington stadium, but for financial and logistical reasons, was moved to The CITY, the student center at First Euless’s Campus West, said Kent Wells, First Euless student pastor.

FCA provided food for a tailgate party and First Euless and First Baptist Church of Hurst contributed support, Wells said. Area churches brought students.

Pruitt described the evening as one of “high energy” music, interactive games, worship and testimonies by student athletes. It was Pruitt’s second Field of Faith event this year.

First Euless has participated in Fields of Faith for the past six or seven years, Wells said, adding that this year, 20-25 of the more than 40 event counselors and volunteers came from his congregation. The event was part of a comprehensive strategy to reach students in their area. Many students walk from local Trinity High School to Wednesday afternoon and evening programs at The CITY. Wells serves as chaplain for Trinity’s football team, and church members volunteer in a school-sponsored mentoring program.

Due to the broad diversity at Trinity, Wells said, “You can literally touch 72 different countries.”

Local churches have begun following up with the 14 students who made professions of faith and dozens of rededications recorded at the Euless Fields of Faith.

The ninth annual Fields of Faith event held Oct. 12 at Gordon Wood Stadium in Brownwood, Texas, attracted a less diverse but larger crowd, as more than 3,000 students attended.

“In a city, students may have to travel in traffic, come long distances. It’s easier to run a Field of Faith in a rural community,” said Ricky Cavitt, youth pastor of Brownwood’s Coggin Avenue Baptist Church.

The Brownwood Field featured the band Firetown, and Marcus Wasson, a local pastor, spoke of the tragic drowning of his grandson. Kevin Kirkland of San Angelo’s PaulAnn Baptist Church was the main speaker. By the night’s conclusion, 684 students had indicated decisions for Christ with 93 rededications.

“It was beyond our expectations,” said Tony Daniel, FCA area director for Brownwood. Daniel attends Coggin Avenue BC and is grateful for their involvement and 85 other area congregations for bringing students and providing volunteers.

Of the 207 event volunteers, some 107 came from Coggin, Daniel said.

Cavitt echoed the importance of the church’s partnership with FCA. “Our role as a church is to make disciples. Fields of Faith is a target event that helps us carry out the Great Commission. We know the gospel is going to be shared.”

“We encourage our youth to be attenders and bring their friends. We spend time praying for the event. Our whole church gets behind it.”

Follow-up began the day after the Brownwood Field as 10 area youth pastors met to divide the names of students who had professed faith and begin the process of contacting them.

“We invite them to follow-up meetings to take the next steps,” Cavitt said “It’s a process.”

“We [must] make sure those decisions are reinforced and supported. If something happens later on, they may decide it was just an event. If we don’t get them in church, we don’t have that opportunity [to disciple them],” Daniel said, explaining the importance of local church involvement.

Daniel added that statistics for his region indicate that 80 percent of the students are unchurched.

“We’ve got a generation that doesn’t know what God has done for us. I think our young people are hungry for truth and for the Lord, and if we would take seriously the Great Commission, the fields are ripe for the harvest.”

For more information, see

Long-range sermon planning lessens anxiety, increases freedom


It’s the nightmare that jolts a pastor wide awake at 3 a.m. 

You’re sitting on the platform. The final strains of the special music are fading. Anxiety gives way to panic as you step into the pulpit and lay your closed Bible in front of you. You speak the words you’ve always dreaded: “I don’t have a word from God today.”

What makes that dream sequence so frightening is that, for many pastors, it could so easily become a reality.

Far too many preachers suffer from what seminary professor Wayne McDill calls “the Saturday night panics.” A constant stream of emergencies compounds the pressure of too-many ministry demands. A disgruntled church member’s revolt deepens your frustration and discouragement. You’re working an outside job to make ends meet, and your family’s needs always seem to come last.

Finding time to prepare this week’s sermon is hard enough. Who has time to plan sermons for the year ahead?

“The pastor’s No. 1 stress factor is lack of time,” says Mark Tolbert, professor of preaching and pastoral ministry at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. “Some might say I don’t have enough time as it is. How could I possibly take more time to plan my preaching when I’m out of time already? It’s the old illustration that the workman doesn’t waste time when he stops to sharpen his axe. You’re going to be more effective in a lot of ways if you plan your preaching.”

Sermon preparation is like gassing up your car for tomorrow’s cross-country drive. But sermon planning is the road map that shows where you are going and how to get there.

Long-range sermon planning isn’t unrealistic, once a person knows how to plan and understands preaching as “leading your people through discipleship from the pulpit,” says Jim Shaddix, a preaching professor at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, N.C.

“The great benefit of planning for the preacher is that it avoids getting to Saturday night or Sunday morning, not knowing what you’re going to preach and therefore dishonoring the weightiness of God speaking to his people—not to mention wasting people’s time,” Shaddix says. “The starting point is knowing what your congregation needs to hear from God in order to be moved along in Christlikeness and spiritual maturity.”

Benefits for both shepherd and flock

“Know well the condition of your flocks, and give attention to your herds.” (Proverbs 27:23)

Better than any visiting preacher, a pastor knows his congregation and is able to give them the messages they need, Tolbert says. In addition to relieving Saturday night’s panic, he cites two other important benefits of long-term sermon planning:

  • “It allows your mind and spirit to marinate on where you are going. If you are planning several weeks ahead, thoughts will come to you as you are driving, talking with your children, or visiting with somebody at work. That will inform a sermon, maybe not next Sunday, but two or three weeks from now.”
  • “It helps your congregation by modeling for them how to approach the study of God’s Word. I don’t know of any pastor who would recommend that the best way to study your Bible is to flip it open, put your finger down on the page and start reading random verses. But that’s almost what we’re doing if we just preach isolated Scriptures. A planned series of sermons models how we approach serious Bible study—with a plan and a strategy.”

A congregation’s music leader also benefits greatly from long-range sermon planning, says Mike Harland, director of LifeWay Worship. A music leader who knows where the preacher is heading can plan for music that resonates much more deeply with the proclaimed word.

“What is happening on Sunday is not two people doing two things; it’s two people doing one thing,” Harland says. “One thing is happening in corporate worship, and it’s a discipling process.”

If two people are going to work together to disciple a congregation, it requires much more than a preacher giving the music leader a heads up about next Sunday’s text and title, Harland adds.

“I’d rather have a pastor’s heart than his text,” Harland says. “It’s about more than getting power words so I can do a concordance search of the hymnal. From a vision standpoint, what is your sense of what God is saying to you? What are the spiritual disciplines you are trying to address? What are the key ideas or theological points you will emphasize?”

That kind of partnership requires more time and a deeper relationship than a weekly staff meeting provides, Harland adds. A constant flow of open communication allows rapport and trust to be built over time. A pastor might give the music leader a copy of a book he is reading, and in return the musician can share copies of the music he is listening to.

“It takes time to get there,” Harland observes. “It requires real maturity and openness between you.” 

A strategy for sermon planning

Long-range sermon planning is easier if a pastor doesn’t start with a blank sheet of paper.

Mark Tolbert suggests a pastor sit down at least twice a year to plan specifically where he is going for the next few months and to think more generally about the year ahead. He outlines a four-part strategy: 

  • Plan a book study. These sermons should be completed in no more than 12 weeks. Plan to preach on one Old Testament book for every two or three New Testament books covered. 
  • Preach for six weeks on a spiritual discipline, such as prayer, evangelism, Bible study, or Christian growth.
  • Schedule a doctrine study on a topic like the role of the Holy Spirit or the person of Christ. 
  • Be sure to include a four-week evangelistic series. 

David Daniels, a Fort Worth pastor and contributor to, outlines three levels of planning:

  • An annual “look ahead” in September. Identify immovable dates like Mother’s Day and Easter. Look at notes you’ve jotted down about possible series or topics and see whether any of the immovable dates work within a particular series.
  • Gather the worship planning team at least once a quarter. Discuss how upcoming series are going to “land” visually. Decide how each one will be presented and publicized.
  • Each week, debrief the previous Sunday with the worship team and look intensely at the upcoming Sunday. Depending on available time or season of the year, look several Sundays ahead and begin to nail down particular elements of worship services.

All pastors wrestle with the time crunch, and even some full-time pastors say they don’t have time to plan, Daniels notes. But the consequences of not planning are far worse than the cost of taking regular time to strategize.

“We live in a busy, chaotic world, and it never feels like there’s enough time to get everything done,” Daniels says. “But it’s a little bit like the maintenance on your car. You can take your car in for regular oil changes and have a car that hits 150,000 or 200,000 miles, or you can avoid taking the time out and it will cost you in the long run. You will end up in a bad place. 

“Taking a day or two out of my year to plan ahead gives me tremendous freedom the rest of the year because I already know where I’m going.” 

Listeners have role in sermon preparation

DALLAS Preachers are not the only ones who need to prepare for an upcoming sermon. Church members have an important role as well. 

“I wish they knew how critical it is that they show up for the sermon prepared to hear what their preacher has to say,” shared Jeffrey Campbell, assistant professor of preaching at Criswell College, during a podcast interview with the school’s president, Barry Creamer.

“If you’ve prayed about receiving that word, prayed for your pastor through the week while he’s prepared, and he gets up there and reads the text, shares what’s gone on in his life because of that word, and tells you about the meaning in the text, you can get something out of every sermon,” Campbell said.

Creamer admitted how easy it is to become a critic of the sermon. “I know how to sit and listen to a sermon and just detail what’s wrong with it. No sermon is perfect,” he said.

“You probably need to look at your own heart before you look at your preacher’s preaching. You need to come in, sit down, listen and count on hearing something from God.”

“Most people don’t know how emotionally draining it is to preach a sermon,” Campbell added. “You preach once or twice on Sunday and you’re wiped out. You lay your soul out there, and you want people to get it.”

A kind word following a sermon can go a long way to encourage the preacher. “Give good honest feedback,” he suggested. “If the guy fumbled, let him know in a loving way.” If the pastor has built a relationship with the member, he can handle constructive criticism, he added.

“I guarantee he wants to preach better and communicate better,” Campbell said. “They want to share the Word in a way that is creative and engaging so that people will understand it.”

The Oct. 31 interview with Campbell is available at or by subscribing to the podcast for “Coffee with Creamer.” 

Evangelistic appeals should spring up in every sermon text

AUSTIN Evangelistic preaching involves more than tacking an invitation onto the end of a sermon. Danny Forshee, pastor of Great Hills Baptist Church in Austin, recalled the advice of 19th century British preacher Charles Spurgeon to take the text and make a path to Christ.

“When the cross is always on my mind in preaching, it’s easy to make that segue to directly appeal to man’s need, God’s provision and man’s response,” Forshee told the TEXAN. 

He recommends including an evangelistic appeal multiple times throughout a message, encouraging those who are listening to give their lives to Christ. 

“Some of the texts lend themselves more easily to making an evangelistic appeal,” Forshee conceded, but added that the “scarlet thread of redemption that runs throughout the Bible from Genesis to Revelation” provides opportunities to point people to salvation.

In a recent sermon series on the life of Joseph, Forshee drew parallels to Christ. “There are some beautiful moments in there that just lend themselves to shout the gospel.”

He offered practical ways to preach for a response at, an online resource of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary that focuses on equipping preaching in text-driven preaching.

Prayer must be a part of sermon preparation as the preacher asks God to save the lost through his preaching. “Prepare your message with lost people in your mind and on your heart,” Forshee added. 

“I have found that the Holy Spirit is powerfully present in the presentation of the message if he is also deeply involved in the preparation of the message,” he reminded.

Forshee also recommends sharing personal stories of witnessing to lost people and leading them to Christ. “It will inspire and motivate (church members).” 

Preachers should expect there will be a response to the gospel in their messages, he added. “Billy Graham would extend the invitation with these words of anticipation, ‘As you come forward, we will have people at the front to help you.’”

Forshee told the TEXAN he is careful to avoid any form of manipulation. “It’s very grace-based. How can we help and minister to you?” he asks.

Southern Baptist Convention President Steve Gaines believes every preacher should follow Jesus’ example by preaching evangelistically. “A preacher should open his Bible and preach for a verdict—the conversion of men, women, boys and girls,” he shared on the same online preaching resource.

“Jesus’ primary purpose was not to heal the sick, feed the multitudes or clothe the naked,” Gaines wrote. “His priority was preaching the good news of the kingdom of God.”

Currently serving as pastor of Bellevue Baptist Church in Cordova, Tenn., Gaines said he has preached evangelistically since 1977. “I can attest to the fact that more people are saved at a church that preaches the gospel and offers an evangelistic invitation than at a church that does not. If people come to church and are not given the opportunity to hear the gospel and be saved, a reprehensible tragedy has occurred.”

Gaines also underscored the need for evangelistic sermons to be bathed in prayer. “A preacher who rarely talks with God has no business trying to talk for God.”

After explaining, illustrating and applying a biblical text that shares the truth of the gospel, Gaines said a preacher should conclude “by lovingly and articulately inviting his hearers to repent of sin, believe in Christ and receive him as Savior.”

Genuine evangelistic preaching is needed in churches, the Southern Baptist Convention and the nation, Gaines added. “If a preacher should be able to do anything, he ought to be able to preach. If he preaches, he ought to preach evangelistically.” 

Going Viral: Timely sermons garner wide appeal

Ever since they were translated into a medium that could be distributed en masse, carefully crafted messages have been going “viral”—a term used to describe information that gains popularity and circulates rapidly. At the forefront of these messages are timeless sermons, which not only impact their immediate audiences but also pay spiritual dividends for decades and even centuries.

Charles Haddon Spurgeon, pastor of the Metropolitan Tabernacle in London and known as the “Prince of Preachers,” preached to as many as 10,000 parishioners each week. His legacy has endured for more than 150 years due to the wealth of sermons preserved by faithful transcriptionists: 63 volumes constituting over 3,500 individual sermons.

During his ministry in the mid- to late-19th century, Spurgeon’s sermons were circulated weekly in the Penny Pulpit, and the demand was so great that publishers often struggled to keep up. His is the first example of a preacher going “viral,” but Spurgeon is remembered more for the quality and immensity of his sermon library, along with his vibrant ministry at the Metropolitan Tabernacle, than for any one particular sermon.

David Allen, a longtime pastor who now serves as the dean of the School of Preaching at Southwestern Seminary, is a trained homiletician who regularly teaches advanced classes to students who will go on to preach on a weekly basis for most of their lives. 

Allen points to Jonathan Edwards’ famous “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God”—often studied by high school English students—as a prime example of a particular sermon that has stood the test of time. 

“Today, his sermon is studied primarily for two reasons: its historical impact, and Edwards’ current popularity in the evangelical world,” Allen said. “Outside of this, I wonder whether Edwards’ sermon, if preached today, would still go down in history. I doubt it.

“The sermons that have lasted through history, and there aren’t many of them, have done so because in one way or another they made a significant impact in their own contex.”

It comes as no surprise that context is a significant factor when evaluating the legacy of any particular sermon. When Southern Baptists faced a crossroads in the late 20th century, a handful of sermons paved the way for a group of conservatives to reclaim the direction of the denomination.

As 45,000 messengers assembled in Dallas in 1985 for what would become a historic meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention, First Baptist Church of Dallas pastor W.A. Criswell addressed the Pastors’ Conference on a Monday night with a sermon titled “Whether We Live or Die,” outlining the stakes of the controversy.

Criswell considered it the most important sermon he ever preached. As Baptist historian Jerry Sutton put it, Criswell felt his address “set forth the two directions and the implications of those directions in the Southern Baptist Convention.” 

The sermon went on to have a life of its own, impacting not just those gathered but also those who would listen to it on tape or on the radio for years to come, and it is featured as one of the classic sermons at the Criswell Sermon Library online at

Jerry Vines has garnered an international audience through his preaching ministry but will perhaps best be known for his address to the 1987 Pastors’ Conference in St. Louis where he preached “A Baptist and His Bible,” yet another sermon addressing the controversy between conservatives and moderates.

Vines outlined a historical understanding of how Southern Baptists have viewed Scriptures throughout the years, and the audience responded enthusiastically.

According to Allen, Vines’s sermon that year “may have been the most important single sermon preached at the Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting during the (Conservative) Resurgence.”

In his book Southern Baptist Identity: An Evangelical Denomination Faces the Future, David Dockery lists “A Baptist and His Bible” as one of the watershed sermons for the conservative movement in the late 20th century.

One of the first viral sermons on YouTube began making waves across the internet just over 10 years ago. Paul Washer, a Southwestern Seminary graduate and former missionary to Peru, was addressing more than 5,000 students at an evangelism conference in Alabama.

With the metered pace of Mister Rogers, Washer opened his sermon with a warning: “I will tell you things that make you so angry with me, and I’ll tell you things that you will deny.”

A few minutes into the sermon, he railed against those who “judge themselves by themselves” and are deceived into believing they are saved but are not. As the crowd of teenagers broke into thunderous applause, Washer quietly extended a finger to the audience and said, “I don’t know why you’re clapping. I’m talking about you.”

The sermon, variously titled “Shocking Sermon” or “Shocking Message,” has been viewed more than 4 million times on YouTube. By comparison, Criswell’s “Whether We Live or Die” has just shy of 5,000 views.

Blake Stiles and his wife Connie run SBC Tapes, which they founded in 1997 to record and distribute the sermons of the Southern Baptist Convention’s annual  Pastor’s Conference. While sales are not the only indicator of a sermon’s popularity, having spent the last 20 years taping and selling Southern Baptist sermons has given Stieles insight into what sermons hold the most appeal and what audiences various preachers and sermons best connect with. According to Stieles, the appeal of a sermon has much to do with the relationship between the preacher and the listener.

“Having done this business for 25 years, we’ve seen many preaching styles,” he said. “Adrian Rogers’ style of telling stories and offering practical applications seemed to stir the hearts of the congregation best. Ed Stetzer, a very practical, statistically driven preacher, seems to reach the more intellectual person. The younger preachers like David Platt and J.D. Greear always reach the youngest generation best.”

Unsurprisingly, Stieles said, the best-selling sermon at the 2016 SBC was that of president Ronnie Floyd.

There is no one indicator that makes a sermon go viral or last the test of time; a combination of factors goes into it. Spurgeon had a massive pulpit and a means by which to keep his sermons preserved through mass transcription, while Edwards had a significant impact on the culture and historical setting in which he lived. Criswell and Vines appealed to a specific controversy, while Washer’s shocking sermon made its way onto YouTube at just the right time.

“Who are the preachers of this generation whose sermons will be remembered 50-100 years from now? I couldn’t tell you because I don’t have a clue,” Allen said. “Great preachers are not always remembered. Great preaching is not always remembered either, oftentimes because such preaching is done by someone whom the world has never known and never will know as a great preacher. But heaven will know  … and that’s all that matters.”  

Legacy of solid preaching steadies church

IRVING A history of strong biblical preaching has strengthened MacArthur Blvd Baptist Church in Irving as a succession of pastors have emphasized God’s Word and the congregation now expects to be challenged rather than entertained.  

Longtime church member Shirley Laughlin noted that in uncertain times, such as during the Iran hostage crisis, for example, the church needed strong preaching as an anchor. 

“There was so much fear and anxiety, and yet we knew the strengthening power and presence of God in the life of our church,” Laughlin recounted about the early 1980s. “In the midst of turmoil and rebellion in the world, there was peace in the church.”

From Ron Dunn to John Meador to David Allen to Josh Smith, MacArthur Blvd has seen God faithfully provide men to rightly divide his Word through the years. 

When a frustrated Dunn was ready to give up the pulpit, a friend asked him to preach a revival in Colorado, and it changed his life. The Holy Spirit gripped him, Laughlin said, and when he returned to MacArthur Blvd, the church changed too.

“When God does a new work in the life of the man behind the pulpit, it impacts the entire church,” Laughlin told the TEXAN.

Nelson McKinney, another longtime member, said Dunn came back and told the church they would no longer go through the motions. They were going to do whatever it took for God to find favor with them.

Dunn led the congregation to start a 24-hour prayer chapel, and 200 people signed up to pray around the clock for specific needs. As many as 15 groups of church members spontaneously began praying in homes around the same time. 

“Nobody wanted to miss church because God was moving in our midst when we came together as a congregation,” Laughlin said. “It was a miraculous unfolding of the power of God, and it was through the strong presentation and focus on the Word of God—not on the power or eloquence of men but on seeing through the Holy Spirit the reality of what the Christian life is in a new way.”

As a result of the praying and the biblical preaching, many became convicted that either they were not really saved or they had not totally committed themselves, “that being a Christian was more than just coming on Sunday and Wednesday,” she said. “People’s spiritual lives deepened and broadened and became real.”

Many souls were saved in that period, McKinney said, and the church grew phenomenally.

Even after Dunn left MacArthur Blvd to start an evangelistic ministry, he continued to disciple church members such as Mary Lou King through his tapes, CDs and DVDs, she said. “He could take one verse and take it almost word for word apart and make you see it like you’d just never seen it before.”

Following Dunn, John Meador pastored the congregation from 1992-1999, leading them to relocate to Valley Ranch. His commitment to faithfully preaching God’s Word was a great blessing during those years.

God later sent David Allen, now dean of the school of preaching at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, to pastor MacArthur Blvd.

“He would tell stories that would go along so strongly with the Scripture that you could remember what he was preaching about,” King said, “things that just really hit us where we were at the time.”

Josh Smith was called as pastor in 2006, continuing the legacy of expositional preaching. King marvels at the way he is preaching through the Psalms, helping her understand the book in new ways even after she has studied it most of her life. 

Preachers who dig deep into the Word to bring out the meaning and application “don’t just leave you with good feelings,” King said. “They leave you with a hunger of wanting to know God better and deeper because of having gone into the Word.”

MacArthur Blvd members, once they started seeing the good that comes from strong preaching, wanted to make sure they sought men for the pulpit who “could preach and not scratch ears and not entertain,” McKinney said. 

“There has to be not just a bright mind but a godly mind that says, ‘I’m looking deep for what God says,’” McKinney said. 

Pastor George Harris to receive Paul Pressler Award

AUSTIN Former Southern Baptists of Texas Convention president, George Harris, will receive the Paul Pressler Distinguished Service award during the convention’s annual meeting, Nov. 15. 

Paul Pressler, a former Texas Court of Appeals judge, demonstrated godly leadership during the Southern Baptist Convention’s Conservative Resurgence at the end of the 20th century. The Paul Pressler Distinguished Service award is presented each year to a leader in ministry who demonstrates such service in working for the Lord.

George Harris served in several ministry positions during his career, most notably as the pastor at Castle Hills First Baptist Church in San Antonio from 1975 to 2002. Harris’ pastoral career also included his 28-year appearance on “Truth For Today,” a ministry broadcast that airs over television stations nationwide. 

Harris’ pastoral presence not only influenced America, but the globe as well. He has been the keynote speaker in the European Baptist Convention and taken part in preaching engagements around the world. He founded Theological Insights for the Presentation of Scripture (T.I.P.S.), which aids bi-vocational pastors, preachers and laypersons in studying and teaching God’s Word. 

Harris’ pulpit approach comes from Nehemiah 8:8, “they read from the Book of the Law of God, making it clear and giving the meaning so that the people understood what was being read.” Throughout his ministry, the main focus of his sermons is making the Word of God clear. 

Harris received his bachelor’s from Ouachita Baptist University in Arkadelphia, Ark., his Master of Divinity from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, and his Doctor of Ministry from Luther Rice Seminary in Jacksonville, Fla. He influenced the lives of countless students pursuing ministry as a professor of preaching at Criswell College in Dallas and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. 

Harris has been married to his wife, Lynda, for 58 years and has four children and 10 grandchildren.  

New SWBTS website a “one-stop shop” for sermon prep

With a goal of equipping pastors with more tools for sermon preparation, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary’s School of Preaching has launched a website,, that faculty members hope becomes a weekly go-to for pastors and anyone else who preaches or teaches from the Bible. 

The website went live in September, giving visitors access to everything from sermon illustrations to preaching workshop videos to detailed information about books of the Bible. 

David Allen, dean of the School of Preaching, is editor-in-chief, while Steven W. Smith is general editor. The other six members in the School of Preaching are contributors.  

“We have tried to design it to be a one-stop shop for preaching,” Allen told the TEXAN, “so that no matter what someone is looking for, they can find something about their area of interest—whether it be theology of preaching, how to do a sermon introduction, how to do a conclusion, or how to do illustrations. There will be articles on that, podcasts on that.”

The website includes nine primary resources:

  • Sermon illustrations – a collection of some of the best ones from faculty members.
  • Sermon “structures” – a semantic layout and analysis of a biblical passage.
  • Sermon starters – video tutorials of a specific book.
  • Sermon videos – a lengthy collection of videos from chapel.
  • Journal articles – articles from the Southwestern Journal of Theology.
  • A preaching blog – new articles are posted about three times a week.
  • Preaching interviews – weekly conversations on relevant issues in preaching, hosted by faculty member Barry McCarty.
  • Expository preaching workshops – audio from the SWBTS workshops dating back to 2005. 
  • Genre videos – videos explaining the different genres and how sermons will vary depending on the book of the Bible.

The sermon structures section, Allen said, could be the one of the most beneficial resources for pastors. 

“For each paragraph [in the book of the Bible] we’ve given basic information about that paragraph, as well as the semantic structure of that text—what is the main point and what are the secondary points, for sermon outlining? It’s one of the most important parts of this website,” he said.

A structure for the first six chapters of Hebrews is on the website, and structures for Titus, Jonah, 1-3 John, Jude, Philemon and Haggai are scheduled to be finished by year’s end. The structure for the rest of Hebrews also will be posted. Eventually, will include structures for all 66 books of the Bible.  

The website also includes links to more than 300 preaching resources on the internet, with links arranged by topic. is designed to help pastors employ “text-driven preaching,” which the website defines as “interpretation and communication of a biblical text in a sermon that re-presents the substance, structure, and the spirit of the text.”

Allen called text-driven preaching “expository preaching as it was designed to be done.” 

“We are all about expository preaching; we are just defining it in a more refined way,” he said. “Text-driven preaching is expository preaching as it was designed to be done. The reason we’re using the phrase ‘text-driven preaching’ is because the term ‘expository preaching’ has become so elastic in recent years that anything and everything goes under it—a lot of which is not truly exposition. So we’re trying to go back to what genuine exposition is supposed to be and staying true to the substance, structure and spirit of the text.”  

Rural school district near Austin stirs up transgender bathroom debate

DRIPPING SPRINGS  Another Texas school district is embroiled in controversy over its decision to reportedly allow an elementary school student—a biological boy who identifies as a girl—to use the girls’ restrooms. Dripping Springs Independent School District (DSISD) parents told school board members they should have been informed of the unwritten policy as it directly impacts their children.

Parents, on both sides of the debate, spoke out during the public forum portion of the September and October DSISD school board meetings. Because the issue was not on the agenda, board members did not respond to statements or questions. The board, to date, has refused to put the matter on an upcoming agenda, with Superintendent Bruce Gearing remaining mute on the subject. Citing privacy laws the district stated in a press release it would not respond to “inquiries about any individual student’s accommodation.”

“In the absence of clear guidance from the courts on the question of accommodations for transgender students, the district is handling individual student requests for accommodations on a case-by-case basis, taking into consideration the age of the student, the nature of campus facilities, the activities the student participates in and the privacy interests of other students,” the district stated in a press release.

The TEXAN received the press release in response to several questions.

Dripping Springs, about 25 miles southwest of Austin, maintains a small-town atmosphere. The city proper population of 1,788 is surrounded by 30,000 residents including 6,000 DSISD students who attend the district’s five schools.

Testimonies at the meeting indicated the lack of transparency by the district angered parents as much as the policy. In late September, when social media lit up over the decision to allow a young boy to use the girls’ bathroom, parents felt betrayed.

“That hit me hard,” Steve Curran, a father of two daughters, told the TEXAN. “We tend to be conservative out here. That sounds like something that should have been discussed in the open.”

Curran’s reaction echoed that of parents who addressed the school board Sept. 26, a day after word began to spread. Concern over the violation of the privacy and dignity of girls gave way to frustration with the district for keeping parents in the dark.

At the September board meeting, parent Glenn Banton condemned the board and administrators for making a “unilateral decision” without communicating with families whose children would be impacted by the unwritten policy that Banton said put the needs of one student over the needs of all others using the same facility.

“Who gets priority?” he asked the board.

Before he addressed the Oct. 24 board meeting, Curran filed a letter of protest with the district asking the principals on his daughters’ intermediate and high school campuses to discuss the issue with him.

Students, not district officials, made Curran aware of a transgender junior high student. District officials told him the student does not use the single-sex bathrooms on that campus. A high school representative told Curran transgender restroom use was not an issue at the district’s lone high school.

“It will be,” Curran said, if students coming up through the system are accommodated as the elementary school student is now.

The Dripping Springs controversy comes on the heels of a months-long protest by parents in the Fort Worth Independent School District over a written policy drafted and implemented by district administrators without school board or community input. The policy allowed biological males and females to use the private facilities of their choice, including restrooms and locker rooms.

An open records request by the TEXAN to FWISD revealed guidance material for the policy amounted to little more than news articles and blogs about the plight of transgender teens. The material included no medical or statistical studies on the nature of gender confusion or best practice recommendations from objective sources. But documents did include material sourced from LGBT advocacy organizations that often help draft bathroom policies.

Public pressure forced FWISD to rescind the transgender bathroom policy.

The Texas Legislature will address the issue during the 2017 legislative session, said Nathan McDaniel, who serves as communications director for Texas Sen. Donna Campbell. Campbell represents District 25, which includes Dripping Springs.

“It has become a priority for the Lt. Governor, and we plan to file legislation to protect the dignity and privacy of women and children,” McDaniel told the TEXAN.

In a statement released to the district prior to the Sept. 26 board meeting, Campbell said, “I strongly encourage Dripping Springs ISD to support bathroom and locker room policies that reflect common sense, take every student’s safety into account, and give full consideration to the concerns of parents in the most transparent manner possible.”

Curran said he knew nothing of the roiling pro-transgender movement prior to the issue arising in his own district. As a Christian he said the Bible instructs Christians to treat everyone with compassion and dignity but to also stand for truth.

When he addressed the school board during its Oct. 24 meeting, Curran prayed, set his prepared notes aside and spoke off the cuff. He knows most of the board members and attends the same Catholic Church as the superintendent.

Parents who spoke in support of the policy at the September board meeting said the children should be able to declare their identity and the adults should affirm it.

Kindal Baker insisted the little boy is a girl and any child uncomfortable with “her” using the girls’ restroom can use a single-stall bathroom elsewhere on campus.

Another parent, Grant Tait, said he understands the policy seems “weird” because it is a new idea that the community at large has not come to terms with. But, he said, if elementary students are taught that a biological boy who presents himself as a girl is “normal” then that idea will be normal on the intermediate, high school and college campuses. And, ultimately, in society in general.

“And that’s fine,” Tait concluded.

“That’s indoctrination,” Curran said. “It’s not OK to act out on this. Sometimes love says, ‘No.’”

Stop forcing 3 points on every biblical text, prof urges pastors

FORT WORTH  Anyone who has attended church for more than a few years knows the basic outline of a typical Sunday morning sermon: An introduction, a few points and a conclusion.

This is so common, in fact, that some churches hand out fill-in-the-blank sheets so that attendees can easily remember the outline, with the three to four points serving as the core.

Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary preaching professor Steven W. Smith isn’t opposed to such a structure in a sermon, but he does believe it is far too common in today’s preaching—and often does not fit the text.

In Smith’s book Recapturing The Voice Of God: Shaping Sermons Like Scripture, he explains how a sermon’s structure should be radically different depending on the genre of the text. Sure, he says, a three-point sermon might work for some books of the Bible, but not all of them.

“In well-meaning expository preaching, we use the same outline on every type of genre in Scripture,” Smith told the TEXAN, explaining his concern. “What we’re inadvertently teaching people is that the Bible is flat and monochromatic. But you can have as many sermon structures as there are Scriptures. That’s not because we want to be creative; it’s just because we want to be faithful.”

Smith argues for text-driven or genre-sensitive preaching, where the genre of the text determines the sermon structure. There are at least nine genres of Scripture, according to the Smith, and all of them fit into three categories:

  • Story (genres: Old Testament narrative, law, Gospels/Acts, parables).
  • Poem (genres: Psalms, prophecy, wisdom literature).
  • Letter (genres: epistles, Revelation).

The book devotes one chapter to each genre. Genres, Smith said, speak to “God’s creativity.”

“Sometimes we need someone to get up in our face, like Paul in Galatians 3, and other times we need to cry out to God and complain, like Psalm 13,” he said.

Smith developed his view of sermon structure over the past decade as he prepared sermons and saw that the traditional sermon outline was “not really stapled to the text.”

“The problem is that it can be forced,” he said.

For example, although the epistles lend themselves “to multiple points,” other genres may not.

“The main genre of Scripture is narrative, and there aren’t any points there,” he said. “If we want to represent Scripture well, we have to honor the genre. So working off our definition of text-driven preaching – which is interpreting and communicating a biblical text and a sermon that represents the substance, structure and spirit of the text—we have to figure out how we can have sermon templates that faithfully get at the text.”

In the book, Smith asserts that “there are aspects of the meaning” of the text that “will never be understood clearly without wrestling with the genre.”

“Therefore, to preach the Word of God in the voice of God we must first listen carefully to hear the voice ourselves,” he writes.

Smith asks in the book: “Is it the pastor’s responsibility to explain Scripture to his congregation?”

To do that, he says, the genre must be explained and must form the basis of the sermon.

“At some point in recent times evangelical preachers decided they are not preachers as much as communicators,” Smith wrote, arguing that such a concept is wrong. “We are indeed communicators, but we are more than communicators. We are standing before the people answering the question, What did God say?”

This does not mean, though, that the preacher is merely reading the text.

“Peaching is more than re-presenting a Scripture, but it’s not less than that, either,” Smith told the TEXAN.

Text-driven preaching, he added, makes sermon preparation easier—and more natural.

“I think it’s one of the most liberating things I’ve experienced,” he said. “It’s much more natural, because you’re deferring to the text. I never have to come up with another sermon outline.”

It also makes preaching exciting, he said.

“When I started preaching, the most fearful thing was I didn’t know how to structure a sermon,” Smith said. “Now, the most fearful thing is that I do know how to structure a sermon. … To me, the thrill of this is that for the rest of my life, I have the joy and the anticipation so that when I discover things in the Word of God, it’s fresh and it’s real, and it’s not flat and three points.”