5 Itchy Ear Preachers

Presenter2Paul urged Timothy to preach the word in his final letter.  One of the reasons he gave was that the time would come when people would not endure sound teaching, but instead would accumulate teachers to suit their own passions.  Itchy ear preachers.  Here are some possible itchy ear preachers:

1. Preacher Myth – this is one Paul referenced, preaching that strays into the realm of speculative mythology.  We have our own versions of this today.  Sensational, conspiratorial, and often offering insight that nobody else can offer.

2. Preacher Fun – this is always going to be attractive to people, the preacher who is just plain fun to listen to.  There is nothing wrong with your humour coming through as you preach, but if that is your defining quality, perhaps something is broken?

3. Preacher Easy – this is the preacher who makes the listener feel like life and Christianity is without cost, an easy road.  The Gospel is a message of cheap grace that does nothing to a life except take away consequences.  The listener can be what they like and do what they like, because it doesn’t matter anyway.  In reality the Gospel transforms lives and following Christ can be extremely painful at times, but this preacher seems oblivious to that.  (Please note that I wrote the Gospel transforms lives.  It is not up to the preacher to twist arms and achieve conformity, although that is an itchy-ear option…)

4. Preacher Hard – hang on, isn’t this contradicting number 3?  In reality, no.  Preacher hard is like an old school personal trainer at the gym.  This preacher piles on the pressure and appeals to the religious fleshliness of the listeners.  They will typically walk out after being burdened with duty and responsibility, stretch their arms and grimace, “Wow, I needed that!”  Our flesh loves the idea of our autonomy, which means we love the idea of being pressured to be better people.

(Both Preacher Easy and Preacher Hard are essentially appealing to the flesh of the their listeners, speaking of which…)

5. Preacher Rich – this is the preacher who loves to highlight out of context promises of blessing for the nation of Israel under the Palestinian Covenant and promise the listeners that God wants nothing more than for them to be ridiculously wealthy and perfectly healthy.  (The pressure is on them to believe enough though, so it ends being combining both types of worldly fleshliness – both the desire for pleasure/possession and the desire to self-strive and be independently religious).

Do you see yourself in any of these categories?  If you do, please take a serious time out from ministry, soak in the Bible and get together with God . . . you don’t want to be the kind of preacher Paul was warning Timothy about!  Next time we’ll consider a further five . . .

10 Pointers for “Untrained” Preachers

10 target nonsemLast time we looked at some pointers for preachers who have had formal theological training.  This time let’s ponder the situation for those that haven’t.  There are many, many preachers, in many denominations, in many cultures, that are doing wonderful ministry without ever having had the privilege of formal training.  Here are 10 pointers for the “formally untrained” preacher:

1. Don’t wallow in insecurity because of a lack of formal training – Most of the “formally untrained” preachers I have met would love to be able to study in a Bible College or Seminary.  There are undoubtedly great benefits from being able to do so.  However, God knows the circumstances of your life and He is thoroughly committed to developing your character and ministry.  There is no need for insecurity because of a training path you have not been able to take.

2. Don’t be proud of your lack of a degree – Some of the strongest critiques of the arrogance that can result from formal training have come from people who reek of pride.  Why the pride?  Because they haven’t been “formally trained.”  They are self-taught.  They are self-made.  Sadly, they are often also self-absorbed and self-deceived too.  The “formally untrained” preacher can be wonderfully godly, but this person can also be horribly arrogant and painfully unaware of what they don’t know.

3. Recognise the first of two big weaknesses of “self-taught” ministry: a lack of exposure – It is hard to know what you don’t know if you have always chosen what you have read and studied.  A formal curriculum helps to force exposure in areas you might never choose otherwise.  I remember a conversation with a man who claimed all he needed was his “library of 66 books” (i.e. just his Bible).  In the same conversation he revealed his commitment to a major heresy, but he had no idea.

4. And note the second of two big weaknesses: a lack of critique - While there are a lot of problems with Bible schools, there are some great benefits.  One is to have your thoughts challenged.  You have to express your thinking on paper, and you then get those thoughts shot at by someone who knows a lot more than you.  You get to discuss with fellow students over lunch, who also are happy to test your thinking with alternative viewpoints.  A “self-taught” preacher is in real danger of carrying untested thinking through life, into the pulpit, and straying theologically as a result.

5. Beware of trying to sound educated in ways you are not – Actually, this could have gone in the list for the seminary trained preachers too.  It is tempting to try to sound more knowledgable than we actually are.  For instance, having read some commentaries, it is tempting to drop a Greek term and its definition into the message.  Please don’t.  Anyone who has studied Greek will spot a lack of awareness, anyone who hasn’t might be impressed by your knowledge and there is a chance you will preach error.  The goal in preaching ministry is simplicity that communicates truth and serves the listener, rather than complexity that communicates nothing and serves the preacher’s ego.

6. General critiques of people with training are unbecoming – Some trained folks are worthy of great critique, but don’t generalise (and typically, don’t verbalise either).  I remember one preacher I used to enjoy who suggested that everyone with a PhD is insecure and gave a harsh alternative for what the three letters stand for.  I am not sure what benefit his listeners derived from this critical spirit, but I know his shelves were full of the fruit of the labour of numerous PhD’s.  Tearing others down to strengthen your own position will always come across poorly.

7. Grow – Lean into your walk with Christ with an inquisitive spirit, a disciplined reading schedule, a passion for ministry and you will grow.  Do that for a decade and your ministry impact will add up to much more than a highly educated, but spiritually stagnant minister down the road.  (And if the highly educated individual is not stagnant, but is also growing and thriving?  Then praise God and press on!)

8. It is hard to know what you don’t know – I’ve met many people who assume seminary is a place to learn obscure theological trivia.  Actually, the best theological training is not about probing the frontiers of obscure theoretical theology.  Rather, it is about probing the very foundations of our faith and discovering the richness of the Gospel.  There are a lot of people with a very “thin” Christianity who are convinced they know all there is to know (that is worth knowing).  They are wrong.  There is a rich Christianity that standard fare evangelical preaching knows all too little about.  Perhaps you could get a taster in Mike Reeves’ The Good God, for instance.

9. Get training – Don’t miss opportunities to attend training courses, seminars, workshops, etc.  Is there a Bible school where you could take a single course?  Diligently hunt the best books to read, as well as well-informed people to engage with in conversation.  Pray about finding someone who can mentor you in some way.  Not going to Bible school is not a commitment to solitary learning – look for conversation partners who can help you think, and nudge you to read things you never would otherwise (Luther, Sibbes, Edwards, etc. or maybe a book about early church history like JND Kelly’s Early Christian Doctrines).

10. Being in a seminary is a privilege, so is being in God’s school – But taking pride in either is dangerous.  Be sure to keep up your conversation with the ultimate conversation partner – God himself.  Ask him questions, write them down, see how you learn and grow.  Pride always manifests in an “I don’t need you” attitude.  It is ugly irrespective of educational opportunity or lack of it.  Humbly walk with Christ, prayerfully engage with him through your study of the Bible and he will equip you for every good work.

What would you add to this list of pointers for preachers who have not been “formally trained?”

10 Pointers for Seminary Trained Preachers

10 target semThe periodic 10 Pointers series is going to add two more posts this week.  Previously we’ve considered younger preachers, older preachers, and preaching teams.  Here’s a set of 10 pointers for those of us who have had the privilege of studying in a Bible College or Seminary.  Next time we will offer 10 pointers for those without formal training.

Disclaimer – I get frustrated with articles written about “all the things I never learned in seminary.”  I really praise God for the time I got to spend at two great seminaries and feel they prepared me very well for ministry.  This post is not intended to critique formal training, I believe in its value, but I also want to be honest about its dangers.

1. Graduation is not the end of learning - I am so thankful for the years I was able to spend in seminary, but I have learned a lot since.  Seminary equipped you to some degree for ministry (some institutions do better than others at this), but most of all, it equipped you to keep on reading, studying, learning and growing.  You cannot have a fresh and vibrant ministry today based on how good your Romans lecturer was back in the day.

2. Don’t treat your pulpit as a surrogate classroom – Academia has a habit of stirring a desire in some, though not all, to pursue further degrees and to aspire to teach in the classroom.  I am probably right in stating that you didn’t yet get hired by the seminary of your dreams to join the faculty.  Please don’t impose that aspiration on your church by turning your preaching ministry into pulpit lecturing.  Create venues to train, accept invitations to lecture, but when Sunday comes, be sure to preach the Word!

3. Seminary is a glory environment, but ministry is done in the trenches – I loved my years in seminary, but it is clear that academia has the poison of human glory in its very DNA.  There’s the prestige of the institution, regular praise from feedback on projects, peer competition via grades, ego stroking through certification and awards.  Everyone in seminary should ponder the last verses of John 5 at least twice each day.  If you are now out of seminary and in church ministry, welcome to the trenches.  Ministry tends to keep its servants wounded and humble.  This is probably healthier than the intoxicating glory chase of academia.

4. Education can undermine authentic spirituality – Having left the institution of learning, you probably need to detox.  I am being provocative, even though I loved my seminary years.  However, the human glory DNA can really undermine a close daily walk with Jesus.  Our spirituality can grow sophisticated, our theology can grow heady, and our Lord can seem to grow distant.  Beware of plastic spirituality. Your church needs you walking closely with Jesus more than they need your great learning.

5. Pray for God to develop a loud pride radar – You may have thrived in studying languages, or theology, or whatever.  Perhaps, post-Seminary, God needs to help your character catch up with your learning.  One helpful tool would be a loud radar that beeps whenever your fleshly inclination toward pride rears its head.  Pray for this.  And speaking of pride – don’t name drop.  You may have learned Romans from Professor Doctor Exegenius, but people probably don’t need to know that.  Just give them Romans!

6. The Bible says more about the heart than a lot of academia does – Due to a potent combination of emphasising the intellectual, mixed with some philosophical assumptions, and buried in dubious exegesis, many in academia turn the biblical emphasis on the heart into a matter of cognitive processing.  Good preaching, good counselling, and good living, all requires a spirituality that is hearty, not just heady.

7. Make sure your learning closes the gap through clarity, rather than extending it through impressiveness – Watch you vocabulary as well as your attitude.  Technical terminology is typically unnecessary.  Grammatical and original language references are almost always unhelpful.  The best athletes make their sport look easy.  The best preachers don’t obfuscate.

8. Good classrooms include robust discussion, but good ministry requires Christlike love - So perhaps you formulated a watertight theological position on divorce or whatever.  In church world you need to be able to lovingly shepherd real people with real pasts and real struggles.  You will need the biblical basis, and you will need a heart of love and compassion.

9. Incidentally, your listeners are typically not as interested in your Bible school experiences as you are interested in telling the stories – They need to know that the Gospel works in real life, so don’t keep talking about how good it was when you were in seminary.  That can seem like a bubble to those who’ve not experienced it.  Instead, talk about how good God is in the midst of the life experiences you share now.

10. Own what you preach, and be owned by the One you preach about – Don’t regurgitate your class notes.  People can tell.  Instead preach out of the overflow of a present day walk with Christ that is vibrant and vital.  Be thankful for your seminary years, but never despise where you are now.  God has brought you to this point to know Him now and spill that goodness onto others as you preach.

I am sure there are many points that could be added.  I probably should have written that you should wear your learning like your underwear: It is important that you have it on, but don’t let it show.  Maybe I should have nudged you to pray about paying off any education debts.  But, I ran out of points.  What do you think should be included here?

3 Ways Preachers Fear Listeners

Fear2Preachers can fear listeners.  When they do, the ministry suffers.  Here are three ways preachers fear listeners:

1. I am scared because you are there!  This “deer in the headlights fear” is typically an issue for the beginner preacher.  Actually, the fear is usually of public speaking.  Seeing all the faces looking toward them, the preacher freezes and goes into a restricted function coping mechanism.  Vocal range becomes limited, pauses disappear, body language gets stuck, the mind struggles to think clearly.  This can occur for more experienced preachers under specific circumstances (perhaps a special event, preaching in a new venue, preaching after illness), but typically preachers who have moved past the deer in the headlights fear will be able to adjust fairly easily to new circumstances.

2. I am scared of what you might do!  The itchy-ear-scratching fear can occur for a variety of reasons.  Perhaps the preacher wants to keep listeners happy rather than stirring any controversy.  Maybe the preacher feels their position or even salary is being threatened (after all, churches can become hideously political environments).  The result of getting the gaze fixed on the listeners evaluations will be preaching that is stripped of its potential.  Sometimes God wants to stir up listeners, or challenge them, or change them.  Itchy-ear-scratching preachers are dull tools for divine purposes.

3. I am scared of what you will think!  This need to impress is closely related to the itchy-ear-scratching fear.  The preacher’s insecurity is more about self than about what the listeners want.  This is about what the listeners think.  Are they impressed?  Do they think I am clever?  Spiritual?  A good leader?  Because if they think that, then maybe I am.  All fears are forms of insecurity, and this one is certainly a matter of insecurity.  This is a preacher whose identity is found in what others think rather than in what God says to be true.

There are other fears too.  The fear of consequences if we preach certain things will probably only grow as culture “progresses.”  What fears would you add to the list?  What fears do you sense in your own heart when you preach?

Let Historical Details Be Details

5StonesbThe Bible contains a lot of historical narrative.  Historical narrative contains details.  Let’s not be unnecessarily clever with these details.

Hypothetical Tale 1 – In 1964 a preacher at a Bible teaching conference was preaching on the story of David and Goliath.  He came to the verse that tells of David taking five smooth stones and putting them in his pouch before going to face the giant.  “Now you may be asking, why five smooth stones?  Why not just one?  Does David lack faith in God?  Not at all, I tell you, he was just prepared for Goliath’s four brothers!”  The audience all gave a 1960’s Bible conference chuckle, except for one character who guffawed with awkward volume.  The preacher’s joke had gone down well.

Hypothetical Tale 2 – In 1964 another preacher at a denominational conference was also preaching on David and Goliath.  He read 1.Sam.17:40 and launched into an explanation of the five stones.  “Some will say that faith trumps wisdom.  Not so.  The story has become something of a tale of mythic proportions, but here we catch a glimpse of the original reality.  David was not foolhardy.  He was prepared.  Here was a man with his faith, and his wisdom.  Facing the foe, David went prepared into battle.”  The audience diligently made 1960’s style notes and headed home encouraged to not be foolhardy in their daily lives.

These two tales are both made up.  One is about a Bible-believing preacher who sought, humourously, to honour the giant-killing faith of David.  The other is about a preacher with a lower view of inspiration, and a desire to give good human wisdom to his listeners.  As much as I dislike the assumptions behind the latter preacher’s comments, let’s ponder the first preacher some more.

Imagine if, in that crowd, were several hundred pastors and lay preachers.  Some found the Goliath’s brothers comments humourous, while others found it stirring.  All of these later made the same point as they preached the passage.  Somehow the various settings don’t all react in the same way, and another generation of listeners hear the comment as received wisdom in Old Testament interpretation.  By the 1970’s several devotional expositional paperbacks include the significance of the number of stones.  Fast forward a generation or two and this insight is established as truth.

But what if it started as a joke?

What am I saying?  Just because we hear something from other preachers doesn’t make it true.  Just because it is published in a book or two doesn’t make it true.

Let’s grow in discernment by learning all that we can about the culture, the history, the geography, etc.  Let’s be discerning in our understanding of a text by evaluating carefully the context.

David was not hedging his bets by taking more stones – there is nothing in the text that points to a blending of faith with human wisdom.  He had seen God at work before and anticipated seeing it again now.  These giants were supposed to be eradicated from the land and David trusted God to complete the mission now.

So why five stones?  Did he lack faith to take more than one?  How many stones in your pouch would cause you to trust in yourself against a monster like Goliath?

Perhaps David’s pouch held five stones.  Perhaps his habit was to always have five for a day’s work protecting sheep.  Perhaps he always grabbed the right shape and size, and this day there were five such stones where he looked.  Perhaps he gave it no thought at all.

What we know is that he took five smooth stones.  Historical detail.  And unless the text pushes us to see meaning in such a detail, let’s not get distracted from the bigger issues in the narrative.  Giant king Saul was scared.  Young king-to-be David trusted God.  The stones were a detail.

Let’s be careful not to be too clever with details of stories.  Read stories carefully.  Every detail matters.  But not every detail is a sermon in its own right.  You never know who will take your clever quip and run with it!

What Are You Giving Away?

“The value of a life is always measured by how much of it is given away.” – Andy Stanley

Any preaching ministry involves giving.  You give of yourself in preparation.  You give of yourself in delivery.  And often you feel spent when you are done.  But the relationship between visible ministry and giving is a complex one.

The value of a lifePublic ministry is certainly demanding, but it can also come with its own rewards.  People see you.  People may respect and appreciate you.  People may even pay you.  Once there is reimbursement in the equation, then the giving nature of ministry can become murky.

This is why I think Andy Stanley’s quote is so important for those of us who are involved in visible ministries – whether that is preaching, or teaching, or leadership, etc.

What are you giving in secret?

Please don’t comment and answer that question!

Here are some quick thoughts to ponder:

1. If all your giving in ministry is public, then your giving is not secret.  There is something about giving of ourselves without attention that is so important.

2. If all your giving in ministry is public, then your giving is being rewarded.  There is something about rewarded giving that somehow undermines the reality of the giving.

3. Even if you ministry is public, there is plenty you could give that is not.  Obviously there is financial giving, but there is a lot more too.  What about mentoring other preachers and leaders?  What about leveraging your contacts and resources for the sake of others in ministry?  What about strategizing together with others about their ministry?  What about dreaming together with an individual and believing in them as they launch something you aren’t associated with?  What about encouraging folks by private message, personal phone calls, etc.?  What about praying – and not just for your own ministry and its multiplication?

The value of your life is not measured by the profile you achieve in ministry, but by the reality of how much of it is given away.

10 Pointers for Preaching Teams

10 targetdContinuing this periodic series of “10 Pointers” that began with “young preachers” and “older preachers,” here is a set of pointers for those who preach in a team.  We asked why people don’t share their pulpit or their preparation in the last post.

Preaching has been a solo sport for too long, it is time we started engaging this ministry by means of a team:

1. Be a team in reality and not just in name.  Pray for each other, support each other, spend time with each other.  Just because a handful of people take turns in the pulpit does not mean you have a preaching team.

2. Play a key role in each other’s spiritual growth.  If your collective goal is to preach the gospel to others and see people grow closer to Jesus, then make that the DNA of your team – that you care about each other’s growth and look for ways to promote it.

3. Share your resources.  Between a handful of preachers you will probably have access to a decent number of commentaries and reference tools, as well as to creativity and the shared capacity to implement creative ideas.

4. Preview and review together.  Previewing together helps identify blind spots in a message, and it helps to overcome the mental logjam that can occur.  Reviewing together helps to improve every preacher after every message.  In our church we don’t allow a sermon to be preached unless it is first previewed in conversation with other members of the preaching team.  The preaching is stronger as a result.

5. Plan series together.  When you plan a series together, you can be sure that each voice within that series will be preaching from the same paradigm.  What is the background to the book you are preaching?  Can you be on the same page about the setting, as well as the flow, and the purpose of the series?  To preach well as a team, you have to be together.

6. Play people in their best position.  That is, work to the strengths of different people in the team.  Some people do better with big picture sermons, others are great with complex detail.  Some are at their best on special occasions when guests are visiting.  Some are great at launching a series, or concluding it.  Work to the strengths of the team.

7. Don’t play every player every game.  That is, just because there are six people who preach in your church, don’t automatically schedule all six in a series.  You can, but you can also form a smaller sub-team for a series.  Perhaps two voices for a 4 to 6 week series would make it cohere more effectively.  This way the others can be preparing for the next series and playing a support role in this one.

8. A preaching team is not just a collection of preachers.  Ok, typically it will be a collection of preachers.  However, in an ideal world, we would be able to recognize those who are good at shaping content, others good at crafting presentation (think visual aids, for instance), and even those who are strong in delivery.  Then we could genuinely strengthen the preaching of each individual preacher with the loving support of a team.

9. Beware of competition.  Nothing kills the health of a ministry team quite as effectively as the insidious danger of competition.  Do whatever it takes to make sure that you don’t end up in a silent struggle for praise, affirmation, prized opportunities, or whatever else our flesh might crave and corrupt.

10. Mentor preachers.  Maybe you have three people that preach in your church, but what are you doing to develop others?  Preaching team gatherings, preview sessions, review sessions, series planning sessions, etc., can all be places to develop others with an interest in this area of ministry.  Mentor others and create a legacy together.

This is scratching the surface . . . what would you add?  What does your team do that works well?  What do you wish you could implement?

Who Turned Preaching Into a Solo Sport?

SoloSport2The vast majority of churches rely almost exclusively on a solo preacher.  The vast majority of preachers prepare in isolation.  Who turned preaching into a solo sport?

Here are six factors that have influenced this situation.  None of them make a good case for going solo!

1. Tradition! – it is hard to overstate the impact of what you have always seen and experienced.  Pastors protect their pulpits and prepare alone.  It is what our fathers and forefathers before them have always done.  So it must be right!

2. Solitary Spirituality – the preacher is, after all, the anointed individual that climbs the stairs to the study and meets with God, alone.  We are much more into Moses on the mountain in Exodus 33/34 than we are into the Moses + Joshua in the tent with the LORD earlier in Exodus 33, or Moses and all the elders together meeting with God in Exodus 24!  Actually, if truth be told, we aren’t Moses.  We are members of the Body of Christ – and the New Testament description of spirituality is far more communal and shared than it is isolationist and solitary.

3. Clergy-Laity – the church has been a big promoter of a gulf between clergy and laity for centuries, but it is difficult to make a case from the New Testament for the distance that has been created.  A priestly class feels threatened by the invitation to share ministry with others, and a comfortable laity feels intimidated by the idea of joining in.  Perhaps we need to revisit the Bible regarding this assumption about the people of God.

4. Single Salary – since many churches only pay one person to be the pastor, there will be a pressure for that pastor to be the preacher.  Unless something is done about it, the default assumption of both congregation and pastor will be that the pastor should preach.  What are we paying for?  (Actually, much more than just preaching!)

5. Fallen Nature – preachers are human and suffer the same weaknesses others do.  This means they are likely to self-protect, both in terms of sharing the pulpit, and in terms of sharing preparation.  Human nature wants to be at the top of a pyramid, not sharing credit with others.  Human nature is such that I will assume my ideas are better than your ideas, so why should I hear your ideas anyway?

6. Insecurity – this one is massive.  How much spirituality is actually a mask for personal insecurity?  We don’t want to share our sermon thoughts with others until we roll out the finished article on Sunday, no matter how much it might help us to do so.  Insecurity will always seek to undermine ministry in team.  What if someone is better than me?  What if their input improves my message?  What if they are?  Praise God if it does!

On Monday I will post 10 Pointers for Preaching Teams.  This preparatory post is intended to stir our thinking.  Why do we prepare alone?  Why do we resist sharing our pulpits?

Turning Blah Blah to Wow!

wow2A lot of people in our churches read a lot of the Bible as filler and waffle.  They wouldn’t state that overtly, of course.  After all, it is the word of God!  But actually, in practice, a lot of the Bible is read without real engagement.  Consider the epistles, for instance.  Why does this phenomena occur?

1. Because of complex sentences.  It can be hard for any of us to truly track a sequence of sentences from Paul.

2. Because of unfamiliar words.  Stewardship. Saints. Manifold. Rulers.  Not necessarily unknown words, but not words most people tend to use in normal life.

3. Because it seems to lack direct relevance.  We can’t help but look for what it is saying “to me,” which means the rest can seem distant or theoretical.

4. Because of familiar words.  Hang on, didn’t we say unfamiliar words were the issue?  Actually, Christian terms can grow too familiar – grace, given, revelation, promise, gospel, church, wisdom, boldness, confidence.

I am looking at Ephesians 3:1-13, for an example.  Paul begins a prayer in verse 1 and then gets distracted before returning to the prayer in verse 14.  Why does he get distracted?  Because he mentions his imprisonment for the sake of “you Gentiles.”  This triggers his explanation of why those Gentiles in Ephesus shouldn’t feel the way they probably do feel – i.e. losing heart.  (Actually, it was Trophimus, sent from Ephesus, who indirectly led to Paul’s arrest and imprisonment in Acts 20, so they probably felt an extra burden over Paul’s imprisonment!)

So to lift their hearts regarding his sufferings for them, and therefore to make clear their glory (i.e. their value expressed in his sufferings as part of God’s plan), Paul goes off on a theological digression that should thrill our hearts as well as it did theirs!

But instead most people read it as “blah blah blah…Gentiles…blah blah…grace…blah blah…wisdom…blah blah blah”

Enter the biblical preacher!

The preacher’s role, is, in part, to slow people down in this text and to help them make sense of what Paul is actually saying.  No word is wasted, and no word should be lost under an indiscriminate “blah blah” flyover reading.  So?

1. God gave Paul a key role in unveiling new news – God gave Paul a key role in his forever plan for the sake of the Gentile believers, which was to reveal the momentous new news of the Gentile co-equality in the gospel!

2. God gave Paul grace to preach Christ and explain the news - God gave the ultimate-sinful-nobody, Paul, grace to do two things – first, to preach the unsearchable riches of Christ; and second, to make clear God’s great plan, the new news about the Gentiles.  Why? So that the church can be God’s trophy cabinet to show off his multi-coloured wisdom to the spiritual realms!

3. God’s plan gives us Gentiles stunning boldness! – God’s plan in Christ means that we Gentiles have ridiculous boldness when it comes to entering God’s presence (don’t forget the temple imagery in the previous section)!

So, the Gentiles in Ephesus shouldn’t lose heart, but instead they should be thrilled at their glory/value demonstrated in Paul’s suffering for their sake!

This is true for us too, just as the scars of Christ are beautiful to us because they show God’s love for us.

(I wouldn’t preach these three points as they stand, but I would make it my aim to help listeners hear the content of a section like this, turning the blah blah blah into Wow! after Wow!)