In the qualifications of a bishop, pastor, or elder, 1 Timothy 3:2 says he should be, “Apt to teach.” A pastor must be able to teach God’s Word. Have you ever wondered what makes the difference between great Bible teachers and average ones? It’s not the Bible—they are teaching the same one. It’s in their delivery.
If you’re in the ninth inning of a baseball game, and you have a choice of a relief pitcher, who would you choose? You can either bring out Brother Jim Schettler to throw the pitches to hopefully the last batter of the game, OR you can bring out Mariano Rivera. And, remember, you have a choice. Who are you going to give this baseball to? Jim Schettler or Mariano Rivera? You know you would pick Mariano. Why? Not because he is going to throw a different ball, but because his delivery is going to be better and different than Jim Schettler’s.
We know that there is power in the Word of God, and that the way we deliver the Word of God is important. Let’s look at ten principles that could transform your delivery:
1. Use Running Narrative for Bible Stories
Every preacher has pet peeves. One of mine is when a preacher gets up with a story from the Bible, and he goes ahead and tells the entire Bible story. Then he says at the very end, “Now let me give you five observations from this passage,” or “let me give you four points from this passage.” I want to get up and say, “Buddy, you just blew the whole story!”
You may think, “They already know the story, I’m going to do ‘Daniel and the Lion’s Den,’ so I am going to read the Scripture, tell the story, then I’m going to come back and give the points to it.” You should never do that when you’re preaching God’s Word. We are always looking to find new illustrations, more illustrations, or better illustrations. You don’t need anything greater than God’s stories. I use personal illustrations sometimes, but the Word of God and the stories of God’s Word are absolutely incredible.
When you’re giving the story, you need to stop and put the biblical truth in, and then go on with the story. While their hearts are tender and open to the story, while you have their attention with the story, that’s when you want to drop in the truth. I guarantee you, if you tell the entire Bible story and then come back and give the four points, they will have checked out. Why are they not receiving the Word of God? Your delivery.
Here is an example of how to have a running narrative in your sermon.
From Mark ten, we read the story of Bartimaeus, verse forty-six says, “And they came to Jericho.” This is the only time Jesus comes to Jericho in His ministry. Why in the world is He coming to Jericho? He is about to die on the cross, He’s coming from Capernaum, and He doesn’t need to go through Jericho at all… except for the two people that He has to make a visit with. One’s a blind man and one’s a little rich man. One He meets in a tree and the other is going to be brought to Him.
And I’ll tell you boys and girls, teenagers, moms and dads, that God will go anywhere for you. He went to Jericho for these two men, and He will go anywhere for you. [So you put the point in, preach it, and move on.]
“And as he went out of Jericho with his disciples and a great number of people, Blind Bartimaeus…” Bartimaeus means, “The son of Timaeus.” So what’s the guy’s name? We don’t know. Nobody knows this man’s name, but the Lord knew, and He knew what He was going to do in Bartimaeus’ life.
To the Lord, Blind Bartimaeus was important. [Talk about being blind, talk about the great opportunity that Bartimaeus had.]
Bartimaeus had heard about this man for three-and-one-half years, he probably wondered if Jesus, the Yeshua, would ever come to his little town of Jericho. “It’s a cursed city, but maybe Jesus would come, because if He came, I know I would get my eyesight.” He had faith. What a great opportunity that he had. [Then you preach about that for a while then you move on.]
The son of Timaeus, sat by the highway side begging. And that’s where we all are. We are a bunch of blind people who need Jesus Christ to save us. [You go on to verse forty-seven] “And when he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to cry out, and say, Jesus, thou Son of David, have mercy on me.”
He didn’t care what people thought. He knew this was his one opportunity to get saved. He would never have Christ come through the city again. He didn’t care if people said to be quiet. And I love talking about the Hebrew word for quiet. It’s Sheket. So the people are saying, “Sheket, Bartimaeus, he’s not interested in you!” And Bartimaeus yelled louder because he knew he only had one opportunity.
Let me tell you—this is your opportunity to come to Christ. The reason you’re here today is because this is your opportunity. [You preach on that for a while, then move on with the story.]
Verse forty-eight, “And many charged him that he should hold his peace: but he cried the more a great deal, Thou Son of David, have mercy on me.” There are going to be people who tell you it’s not worth it, or they will say “Don’t do it, your life is so messed up that God can’t help you.” “And Jesus stood still, and commanded him to be called.” Isn’t it interesting that Jesus didn’t go to him, but they brought him to Jesus? You members in the church, let me tell you something, you’ve got to bring people to Jesus. God’s given us the opportunity to be a part of a miracle. [Talk about soulwinning.]
“And they call the blind man, saying unto him, Be of good comfort, rise; he calleth thee. And he, casting away his garment...” What was his problem? He was a blind man. Do you know if you’re a blind beggar the greatest possession that you own is your coat? That’s your blanket; that’s your mat; that’s your warmth; that’s everything. Probably the most valuable thing any blind beggar has is his coat. He left his coat. And by the way, if you’re blind, you don’t just leave things laying around, because you’re going to have a hard time finding them. Unless you believe that you’re going to get your eyesight, and if you get your eyesight, you’re not going to need that coat anymore, and if you do need it, you’re going to be able to find it. [You can also preach about it being a symbol of him putting off the old life.]
You haven’t even gotten to the biggest part of the story yet, but you’ve got the people still with you because you’re doing a running narrative. As you’re telling the story, you’re dropping in the truths.
Sometimes we think, “Maybe we need to eat some more goldfish in front of children to keep their attention.” No, you just need to tell the Bible stories. And if you tell the Bible stories with running narrative, you will hold their attention because they want to hear the rest of the story.
And we aren’t just talking about children, adults are the same way. “But Brother Schettler, my church has heard the story of Bartimaeus before!” But they’ve never heard it from you before. When you’re doing David and Goliath, NEVER stand up and say “I know you’ve heard this story a thousand times.” Let God’s Word be fresh and new in their lives! So as you’re going along, you’re telling the story. To complete our example:
Look at verse fifty-one, “And Jesus answered and said unto him, What wilt thou that I should do unto thee?” Now to me, this is one of the funniest questions in the Bible. They bring a blind man to Jesus, and Jesus asks “What do you want Me to do for you?”
Does Jesus know this guy is blind? Of course He does. Jesus never asked questions for information. He always asked questions for examination. He didn’t ask this question to find out what was wrong. He obviously knew.
Don’t you love Bartimaeus’ response? He doesn’t say “Jesus could you give me a few shekels?” That wasn’t his real need. His real need was his eyesight, and that’s what he asked for. [And you can preach on that!]
“What wilt thou that I should do unto thee? The blind man said unto him, Lord, that I might receive my sight. And Jesus said unto him, Go thy way; thy faith hath made thee whole. And immediately [our salvation is immediate—preach that] he received his sight, and followed Jesus in the way.”
You don’t tell the whole story and then say, “Now, let me give you five things from this story” They will turn your message off. As you’re telling a Bible story, drop the points in. Even if you have a message that has a long personal illustration, use it, but while you are doing the personal illustration, give the truths as well.
When I give my salvation testimony, I don’t tell all the historic stuff by itself. As I give the facts, I drop in the Romans road. As I am telling it, I am giving Scriptures along the way. And that’s the best way to give your testimony—add scriptural truth!
Using running narrative and dropping biblical truth in along the way is a good way to plant the seed while the ground of your listeners’ hearts are tender.