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Preview and Input

It almost always happens, unless the sermon is an absolute dud.

Someone shares a great insight with me after the service, something that occurred to them during the sermon, triggered by a particular point, a particular statement, the passage, or perhaps, just a phrase.  And I think, “Wow, that’s great!  I wish that everyone could have heard you say that.”

When I was preaching two services I would sometimes incorporate what was said to me after the first into the second, especially if what was said was a question or a search for some clarification.  But, often it was a personal experience that perfectly illustrated the point of the sermon. 

I have a couple of ways to get ahead of this insight-sharing process, a couple of ways to capture some of it before the actual delivery of the sermon.  For years I have conducted a sermon prep group, open to anyone.  This group would study and discuss the passage on Tuesday nights.  It wasn’t a focus group, where I would come with a prepared sermon and see what they thought.  I chose not to come that prepared.  We studied the passage together.  And some of the best insights for Sunday’s sermon came from that group, from people attempting to live the text.

If I can find a place and time I’m going to start such a group again.  Because it’s a blast.  We also review the sermon from the week before.   Believe it or not, I find that fun, too, even when it got really stormy after a sermon out of  Amos that some thought was way too political, attacking one of the parties.  There were fireworks that night in the group, but also growth.



I’m going to use the world wide web, or at least the ten people who may read this post.

On Tuesdays I’m going to preview the sermon theme and/or passage for the following Sunday and invite discussion, questions or comments.


So, here goes:

This Sunday I am beginning a new sermon series, What We Most Need to Know About . . . , and it will focus each week on different topics, starting this week with the topic of God.

How do you think the Bible answers this question:  What do we most need to know about God?

How would you answer this question from your personal experience?  What do you know about God that you have most needed when it counts?

If  you boiled it down to 3-5 truths about God that are absolutely essential, what would they be?

If you think that such a question is wrong, misguided, too simplistic, or whatever – why?

This is your chance, especially if you attend the Gathering Church.  I know that you really don’t have time to engage, but something might just occur to you to share.

Go ahead, I dare you.

(If you think that I should have had the sermon written  six weeks ago so that all of the multi-media, songs, drama, dance, and special affects would be set, you may be right, but, sorry, I haven’t learned to roll that way.)


  1. God is:

  2. I think starting a tuesday night group again would be so great. I know that group I was in with you was just wonderful, yes, even With the firworks.
    I dont know about 5 truths about God. I do know that God isnt worried. It comforts me to know that when I am running around chasing my tail and stressed, I can look to God and find that he isn't worried at all. When I think of God, I think of warmth ~
    When I have a question about God, and I read something in the bible, it may not answer my question right away. It usually gives me something to chew on, something to sit with and meditate on. After awhile, I find I dont have that question anymore. I have peace instead. A warm peace.

  3. Christi Kurtz says:

    Mark, I think the main thing I need to know about God is that He is FOR me.   My main struggle in my Christian life (and I've observed this being as being the most serious struggle Christian women experience) is knowing, really knowing, FEELING, EXPERIENCING, that God loves me just as I am.   I'm beginning to really believe He totally accepts me (3 and a half years of AlAnon has been most helpful to me in really comprehending that He accepts me.)
    Sad to say, often the church (what's preached and what's lived out) hasn't helped me out very much.
    I love that you're asking for questions/ideas.
    Praying for you, brother.        Christi

  4. Karen Perron says:

    I think back on when I was ending an amazing time of being in ministry, having been on the radio, traveling to other cities and holding services, moving in supernatural insight and even power.  I felt so humble and excited and connected to God and  saw and experienced miracles.  All the stuff many folks dream of.  A ministry partner got caught up and got us in debt without our even knowing it, and my husband and I got out, rather suddenly. 
    A hard period ensued and although many offered support and encouragement, I fell away from the study and worship and intercessory prayer in which I had immersed myself .  I didn't understand why and I wrestled with myself.  What I found was that it was NOT all the amazing gifts of the spirit, and miracles to which I clung.  Nothing I had learned or taught or experienced sustained me.  {By the way, Frank Tozzalino was a radio listener who joined our church and then supported our ministry and one with whom we stayed connected. Kate we knew from back east originally and then later introduced her to Frank.]
    It was only what my little mom had taught by gentle words and deeds that sustained me…that God LOVED me, no matter what I ever did or felt.  Even as a child  my mother's words comforted me:"Oh, God's not mad at you, honey.  He's not like that.  He will always love you, no matter what."  and , as a child, I believed her.  And I saw that SHE was like that.  And she KNEW Him.  I know now that I saw HIM in her.
    Here, years later, it was THAT only to which I clung, not all the ministry hoopla, the so called wisdom of all the studying and fellowship.  Nope.  It was as nothing, as Paul says, if I had not love.  It was the simplicity of Him as a loving Father, all knowing, all covering and all faithful that brought me through.  And I find in the dark times, it is still that which comforts me and encourages me and even helps my perspective when I am full of my own failings.   I am most thankful that I had the great fortune of a loving family, whereas so many others have not.  I know of love.  Many do not.
    And I have come to know that it is testimonies I have heard from folks who have gone through really hard times of God being FAITHFUL that encourage my faith.  I remember their testimonies and I think of their struggles and loneliness and fears and that He was always there, always faithful, even when they did not know it.  And I can hope to endure, strengthened by their example of clinging to Him.  I am strangely comforted by the words of Job."Though He slay me, yet shal I trust Him."  And I remember that Christ cried out, "My God, why hast thou forsaken me?" and I know that He experienced that sense of being all alone, forsaken, not rescued, not comforted.   I may not understand, but others have come through, others have suffered much more than me, and I can hope in His faithfulness.
    Seeing God work in others reminds me in all my stubbornness that He knows we need that fellowship, in the Word and with each other, to remind us of His Love and His Faithfulness.  I need, as a child still, to know of His presence for OTHERS.  He knows that in our frail humanity we need to SEE Him in others, it seems, and I am helped by thanking Him for making us a body…not just individuals.
    I hope this rambling may be of some small use to you. It's always a good reminder for ME! = )  That time in my life leapt to mind when I read your invitation to share.   It's all nothing if I don't believe He loves ME. I think you do a wonderful job of making that real for us, Mark.  I thank God for His ministry through you.  Maggie tells me Ray went home Sunday and got in the word and online with your writings and that He enjoyed himself at church.  She said, "It's a start."  Yes.

  5. To piggyback on Christi's comment.  I, too, need the reassurance that God loves me as broken as I am.  I have a difficult time letting go of the guilt of past sins and forgiving myself.  Intellectually, I know that God has forgiven me and wants me to do the same.  My heart has a harder time letting go.  I keep reminding myself that I am a work in progress and more importantly, His work.  When I back off and let Him do His job, I'm a happy person.  The truths about God that are important to me are:  1) He is all forgiving,  2) He is in charge and has a great plan, and 3) we are all a part of that plan.

  6. I purposely didn't read other comments as to not sway my original thoughts…sorry if I repeat what others say. đŸ™‚
    1st question – God is all powerful.
    2nd question -God is everywhere…but not doing everything. So many people blame God in situations or occurrences that He most certainly is sad to see happen. Bad things happening on this earth seem to draw so many people away from God. God is good and love.
    3rd question -Love, Mercy, Grace, Just, Never Changing