7 Ways to Name Your Sermon

Let me say up front that I do not have 7 ways to name your sermon. The title is stated this way as a concession to the fact that people like reading articles that offer 10 ways, 5 principles, 7 shortcuts, whatever. That is what this article is about!

Recently on this website I wrote an article which I called “Worship: Doing It the Wrong Way.” It was a one-idea theme, basically that when we go to church to “get something out of it,” we’re doing it all wrong. We ought to go to “give to the Lord the glory due His name” (Psalm 29:1).

As with many other articles we post here, the little essay was promptly picked up by an online sermon service that repackages my writing and forwards it to something like 100,000 of their closest friends. No problem whatsoever with that. And in case anyone wonders, no, no money changes hands. No blogger that I know of makes a dime from articles which these services pick up and send out. That’s not why we do this. Certainly not why this farm boy does it.

What was interesting about that, however, is that in selecting the article and sending it out, the sermon service felt they should rename it in order to make it more attractive to readers. For reasons that I find baffling, they redubbed it “Seven Things We Get Wrong About Worship.”

I went to their site and enjoyed reading a large number of comments from readers. Most were positive, a few were combative, but not a one picked up on the fact that there were not seven things or even five or three things in that article which people get wrong about worship. There was just the one.

By now, I’ve done this enough to know that editors seem to gravitate toward articles that offer bullet points–7 things, 10 easy steps, 5 insights. I suppose it’s a concession to the reading habits of the modern male. Male? Since something like 99 percent of ministers are male, yes, that would be who these headings are directed toward.

Someone says, “I thought men weren’t readers.” Fact: ministers are. They have to be.

Only, they just like 7 points. It’s easier to follow. After all, they do not plan to devote a lot of time to any one article.

So, after giving it some thought, I’ve hit upon some titles for which I’m considering writing articles and posting here on this website in the near future. See what you think.

How many are there? You know the answer to that.

1. 7 ways to heaven.

There’s only one that I know of, and it’s a Person. So, here’s what we’ll do. First, let’s establish that Jesus Christ is the Way, the Truth, and the Life, and that no one comes to the Father except through Him (John 14:1-6). Then, we will list 7 ways to get to Jesus. How’s that?

1. Someone comes to your house and tells you about Him.

2. You go to church and hear Jesus talked about, sung to, and preached about.

3. You read your Bible and without any human aid, get on your knees and meet Jesus.

4. A family member brings you to Jesus.

5. You start going to church with your girlfriend, hear the gospel for the first time, and get saved.

6. You hear Charles Stanley in a hotel television and respond.

7. You are surfing the net and read something on how to be saved and you do what it said.

2. 7 ways to write an article without using a number in the title.

1. You could do this but it would be pointless since the editors will rename it anyway with a number.

2. You could do this but readers would find it boring. No one would get past the first paragraph.

3-7. Ditto.

3. 7 things the Lord gave the disciples during the 40 days between His resurrection and His ascension. (From Acts 1:1-4) The text lists only four but editors want more than that. Five is good, seven is ideal, ten is the upper limit.

1. He gave them instructions. 1:2

2. He gave them proofs. 1:3

3. He gave them insights. 1:3b

4. He gave them promises. 1:4

5-7. I’m sorry. There are probably more but “time would fail me to tell of” (Hebrews 11:32) all the other thoughts I have on this. Sorry.

4. 7 kinds of prayer every minister must master if he expects to become pastor of a mega-church.

Hey. This is a great idea for an article, and would be read by thousands of preachers. Now, if I just come up with something to put under the title. Let’s give ‘er a try….

1. The non-offensive prayer. If some fat cat is in the audience today and his company is polluting the water supply and poisoning the earth, you’ll want to tiptoe around any mention of “the stewardship of this good earth Thou hast given us.”

2. The all-inclusive prayer. Today, ecumenical leaders have decided to worship with your congregation. This is no time to preach on Jesus being the Way and the Only Way. So you celebrate the all-inclusive love of God, pray blessings on all who worship differently from us, and hope no one is offended.

3. The very brief prayer. That’s always impressive.

4. The big-word prayer. Memorize this phrase: “Lord, we do not want to pontificate on theological profundities.” Insert it into your prayer or sermon. It sounds mighty impressive.

5. The blessing-of-wealth prayer. In this, you thank God for the power to get wealth and pray His blessings on all who have honored Him by taking advantage of these opportunities.

6. The proud-humble prayer. In this one, refer to yourself as “This thy servant who was so honored this week to be given another doctorate” or “This poor unworthy pastor who has been so blessed by the local community with their Person-of-the-Year award.”

7. The Book-of-Common-Prayer Prayer. Get a copy of this Episcopal tome and memorize it. Great ideas for prayers you never thought of praying, all of them expressed in beautiful flowery phrases you could never have come up with in a hundred years.

If this doesn’t work, don’t say we didn’t try.

5. 7 Criticisms of Beth Moore’s Bible Teaching.

1. She’s skinny.

2. She’s really popular. She must be compromising.

3. She’s too cute to be spiritual.

4. She’s written all these best-sellers; Joel Osteen has written lots of best-sellers; therefore,she and Joel Osteen are birds of a feather.

5. She hasn’t been to my church. Too uppity.

6. She colors her hair. Worldly.

7. I saw her once in an airport and she didn’t speak to me.

How she keeps going is beyond me.

6. 7 reasons the number 7 is more biblical than most other numbers.

1. 7 days in the week.

2. 7 candlesticks in a menorah.

3. 7 disciples. (And 5 alternates, see?)

4. 7 sons of Jacob. (And 5 more of questionable parentage.)

5. 7 good years followed by 7 bad years in Egypt. It’s in Genesis somewhere.

6. Jacob served seven years for Leah, then another 7 for Rachel. He wasn’t too happy about it either.

7. Jesus fed the 4,000 people with 7 loaves of bread.

My Strong’s concordance actually lists about another 85 uses of the number 7 in the Bible. That clinches it as far as I’m concerned.

Pretty convincing, if you ask me.

7. 7 reasons no one is going to repost this article and no online sermon service is going to be picking it up for redistribution.

1. It’s silly.

2. The premise is true, but the sermon services won’t admit it.

3. Most of it is tongue-in-cheek. Some isn’t, but it’s not clear which is which.

4. Editors don’t like to be teased. It makes them seem human.

5. It doesn’t mention sermons anywhere.

6. It doesn’t promise anything.

7. It’s much too long.

4 thoughts on “7 Ways to Name Your Sermon

  1. 7 Things I Like About Joe’s Articles:

    1. Joe covers topics that seminaries don’t touch.

    2. He isn’t choosing sides between pastors and congregations; instead he’s all about obedience, godliness, and love that covers all offenses.

    3. He shares what he’s done right and wrong in his years of ministry.

    4. I usually end up crying and laughing while reading his articles. There’s enough truth to humble me and enough love to encourage me.

    5. Joe’s articles are relevant to the issues churches face and he doesn’t shy away from stating what needs to be said.

    6. He writes pretty near every day.

    7. Joe writes from his heart.

  2. Thanks for your articles. I just came across your site and really enjoyed it. I like your thoughts and humor. I look forward to reading more.

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