The pastor’s life never goes as one would imagine it. The highs are much greater and heartfelt than you anticipate; the anxiety and stress are deeper and last longer than you expect. Add to this mix the possibility of working a full time job in addition to pastoring, and you can see why a pastor's time is in such great demand. What if you could hold in your hand a resource that would jump start your sermon writing process, allowing you to save time and still deliver a trustworthy sermon? Dr. Paul Cannings, once a young pastor himself, remembers the days of struggling to balance it all. Now he has written a helpful guidebook that provides everything a pastor or lay teacher needs to write an effective, moving, and biblically sound sermon for each of the fifty-two weeks in the year. In Big Idea Sermons, Dr. Cannings clearly lays out the key components of a good sermon by including sermon outlines, series, background information, illustrations, holiday messages for Thanksgiving, Christmas, Mother's and Father's Day, and more. He also includes references to the Hebrew and Greek texts for further validation. By working with the original languages, Dr. Cannings proclaims the gospel in a clear, engaging, and trustworthy manner. Pastors, preachers, lay teachers, and anyone in position to preach a sermon or teach a lesson: Big Idea Sermons is here to help. All that you need to write a good sermon is included. Be sure to read, meditate, and pray so you may use this resource wisely and effectively.
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About the Author
Dr. Paul Cannings is a well-known pastor, teacher, and author. Widely regarded as the “Pastor’s Pastor,” he has devoted the last thirty plus years to training pastors domestically and internationally, teaching them how to effectively administer, manage, and grow their churches. Dr. Cannings is the founder and Senior Pastor of Living Word Fellowship Church in Houston, and is the founder and president of Power Walk Ministries, a national and global training resource for clergy and lay leaders. He also serves as president of Living Word Christian Academy, is an adjunct professor at the College of Biblical Studies in Houston, and National Director of The Urban Alternative. Dr. Cannings studied at Oxford University, England, and holds a Doctorate in Philosophy/Theological Studies in Religion and Society from Oxford Graduate School in Dayton, TN. He earned a Master’s Degree in Theology, Bible, and Christian Education from Dallas Theological Seminary and received a Bachelor of Arts degree from Austin College, Sherman, Texas. He is the author of many books, most notably, Why Can’t Mondays Be More Like Sundays?, Biblical Answers for the 21st Century Church, Making Your Vision a Reality, Jesus and Money, and Give Fear a Knock Out Punch. Dr. Cannings and his wife Everette are the parents of two adult sons, Paul Jr. and Pierre, who are married to Tanisha and Monica, respectively. They have seven grandchildren.
Read an Excerpt
Safeguard the Church
General Overview of the Passage
Along His travels, Jesus decided to stop in the middle of Caesarea Philippi, a fully functioning pagan society. The city had Greek mythological influence, pagan worship, and even a place for people to worship Caesar. It was here that Jesus asked a question to His disciples — His most devoted followers and the men He poured His life into for almost three years. The question that He asked is an action that has no completion and whatever people are going to say will continually be said. When disciples provide Christ the answer, what they say will be a repeated action that is continuous with no end in sight. So the wrong answer to the question will continue to be the wrong answer. The right answer will continue to be the right answer.
Peter answers that Christ is the Son of the living God, meaning Christ is deity, the promised Messiah. He is independent of everything yet begotten by the Father. Christ blessed Peter because the revelation of who Christ is in the midst of a pagan, godless world was a supernatural revelation. God revealed to Peter the true nature of Christ.
Christ again uses a mood in this verse that says what He is saying is continuously going to be said. Christ tells Peter that this confession of faith, which was influenced by God, is a revelation from God that demonstrates that Peter is to become a "mass of a rock." This means that the influence of the Holy Spirit upon Peter's life is the same experience that the church is going to be built upon (John 14:16–17; Acts 2:1–13; Rom. 8:1–25). It also means that Peter is going to be the primary leader of the disciples (Acts 10:23–48; 15). Christ, however, is still the person who builds the church (Eph. 1:22–23; 4:11–13). It is Christ who provides salvation. He is the Word and the church is His body; He is the one who calls pastors, and as a result of His death and resurrection the Holy Spirit will come as our Helper and Advocate, our peace and Comforter. So even though this revelation establishes Peter, Christ is the true Rock (1 Cor. 10:4).
The gates of Hades will try to pollute God's Word. Satan sends wolves, false teachers in the church who have selfish ambitions (Acts 20:28–30; 2 Tim. 3:1–9; 1 John 2:18–24). Satan even seeks to imitate Christ (2 Cor. 11:12–15). Christ protects the church that is truly committed to Him because Christ's power is greater than anything Satan can do (Eph. 3:10). Christ supplies the keys to the gate (2 Tim. 3:17; 2 Pet. 1:3–4), but the authority to open and close the gate is in the hands of the disciples.
Jesus stopped in the most unusual place to ask this question. Caesarea Philippi was a place devoted to the worship of a pagan god called Pan. Herod had a temple set up for the worship of Caesar. "The city was some twenty-five miles from the Lake of Galilee and about seventeen hundred feet higher, hence the need to stop along the way (Matt. 15:21); it lay near the source of the Jordan, at the Old Testament Dan, the northern boundary of ancient Israel."
Christ has always been associated with being the Rock. "He is the Rock, His work is perfect" (Deut. 32:4). "The Lord is my rock and my fortress" (Ps. 18:2). "For who is God, except the Lord? Or who is a rock, except our God?" (Ps. 18:31). "A living stone (1 Pet. 2:5)." There are several times He is mentioned as the Rock (Ps. 118:22; Isa. 28:16; Acts 4:10–12; 1 Cor. 2:1–2; 3:11; Eph. 2:20). "The word refers neither to Christ as a rock, distinguished from Simon, a stone, nor to Peter's confession, but to Peterhimself, in a sense defined by his previous confession, and as enlightened by the 'Father in Heaven.'"
Jesus talks about Hades and mentions that to get to Hades you have to go down. So it seems like Hades is down in the earth. "According to Jesus, Hades is down (Matt. 11:23), and it is a prison to which He holds the keys (Rev. 1:18)."
Gates are very important to the Jews. They serve as a kind of City Hall for a major city. The elders sit at the gates, as we can see in the case of Boaz and Ruth.
The gates can also be a place of commerce (Deut. 16:18; 17:8; Ruth 4:11). Christ talks about the gates as a place of authority. The same idea is attached to keys. "Keys here refer to the authority to admit into the kingdom (Matt. 23:13), based on the knowledge of the truth about Jesus (16:16)."
What Does the Context Mean?
Even though the disciples walked with Christ and saw all the miracles and heard Him teach, they could not identify Him as the Christ without God's revelation. If the Spirit of God does not illuminate the Word of God, we would not be able to know Christ or be the church (1 Cor. 2:10–15). Bible knowledge alone only puffs up (1 Cor. 8:1). The Word of God needs to be brought to light as we walk in the light. Once the church has experienced Christ it then holds the keys to keeping Satan out of its doors. When Christ is placed first, a church truly becomes "the church of the living God."
It is the church that serves as a covering, protecting the believer from Satan (Eph. 3:10), equipping them with the armor of God (Eph. 6:11–17) and strengthening each believer through spiritual gifts. The church is the only organism that Christ is attached to and will redeem.
Sermon Subject and Title
Sermon Title: Safeguard the Church
Big Idea: The church is an organism that is shaped, empowered, and finds its authority from the lordship of Christ exercised through the ministry of the Holy Spirit.
Sermon Outline (Matt. 16:13–16)
A. Keep Christ First (vv. 13–16)
1. The church must be made up of people who are saved.
2. Knowledge alone does not put Christ first (John 6:41–43; 1 Cor. 8:1). Pharisees, Scribes rejected Him (John 5:39–40).
3. Christ is first when believers commit to be His disciples. Christ must move from Savior to Lord.
4. Sincere believers of Christ truly come to know Him (2 Cor. 4:4; Anna, Luke 2:36–38; Simeon, Luke 2:25–32; 1 John 2:3–6). 4.
B. Allow the Holy Spirit to Illumine the Word (v. 17; 1 Cor. 2:10–15)
1. Christ told Peter that flesh and blood did not reveal Christ to him, but His Father.
2. The Spirit comes into those who accept Jesus as the Christ (John 10:9; 1 John 4:2; Eph. 1:13–14).
3. The Holy Spirit illuminates our lives to have a true experience of Christ (Rom. 8:9–16).
4. The Holy Spirit helps us to understand the deep things of God (John 14:26; 1 Cor. 2:10–15).
5. Spiritual blindness remains if we do not practice the things we know (Eph. 4:17–23; 2 Pet. 1:3–11).
C. Christ Must Shape and Establish the Church (v. 18a; 1 Cor. 3:10–11)
1. Christ is the Rock, the foundation, the cornerstone and the head of the church (1 Cor. 3:10–15; 10:4; Eph. 2:20–22).
2. Christ builds the church and it belongs to Him.
a) He is our salvation.
b) He is the Word.
c) Spiritual gifts shape the church to be His body (Rom. 12:3–8; 1 Cor. 12).
d) He calls pastors (Eph. 4:11).
e) The Holy Spirit guides us into truth (John 14:16–17; 16:13). Jesus is the truth (John 14:6).
3. Satan and his forces use many gates:
a) Pollute the Word (1 Tim. 4:1–4).
b) Send wolves into the church (Acts 20:29).
c) False apostles and workers (2 Cor. 11:13–16).
d) Selfish ambition (James 3:13–15).
e) Anger (Eph. 4:26–27).
4. Christ protects the church that is truly committed to Him because Christ's power is greater than anything Satan can do (Eph. 3:10).
D. We Must Use the Keys, His Word (v. 19)
1. The keys (the Word of God) are supplied by Christ (John 17:20–21).
2. The keys open the truths of God for believers. Truth sets us free (John 8:31–32).
3. The keys provide access to the kingdom of heaven (God's rule) within the hearts of believers on earth (Luke 17:21).
4. The keys provide authority to handle church discipline issues (Matt. 18:17; 1 Cor. 5:1–5; 2 Cor. 2:8; Titus 3:10).
5. The keys make sure that whatever is being bound or loosed has been approved in heaven (Matt. 16:19; 18:15–18).
What about our church looks like Christ? I cannot recall a time when Christ said to sing songs everyone likes, to make sure worship does not require too much time, to make sure the preacher never talks about money, and that he does not say things that offend those who attend. So why is it that these and other issues are struggles that dominate what many believers seek to receive from church?
In this passage, Christ focuses on the essentials. The essentials to all that a car has are the engine, transmission, brakes, and electrical system. Without these essentials, having a battery and gas becomes useless. Christ does not ask the question before many of the crowds He spoke to, but only to the men He took time to disciple. This is definitely an essential because one of the first things He told His disciples is to go make disciples (Matt. 28:18–20). Christ told Peter that the only reason he recognized Christ is because of the Father illuminating his mind. Christ must always be the head of the church (Eph. 1:22–23). It does not matter who has been in the church the longest, who gives the most, or who speaks the loudest; what matters is that the instructions of Christ, through His Word, are implemented accordingly (John 15:1–111). Another essential is that the Holy Spirit, the Helper of Christ (John 14:16–17), must be in a person's life (they must be saved; Rom. 8:9–11) so that the Word of God can be illuminated (1 Cor. 2:10–15) and the believer can experience the influence and power of God.
Another essential is the Word of God, often called "the keys." Since the believer is committed to be a disciple, they have a heart for the Word like the Bereans (Acts 17:11–12; 1 Pet. 2:1–2). There must be a serious commitment to preach in season and out of season (1 Tim. 3:15; 2 Tim. 4:1–4). The New Testament church structured itself accordingly. "And they continued steadfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers" (Acts 2:42). When these elements are totally functional in the church, Satan is resisted and the believers experience God's powerful protection. When we have the essentials in the church, the music and décor can then lead to celebratory worship.
Therefore do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is. And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord, giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another in the fear of God. (Eph. 5:17–21)
The church must secure the essentials because if it does not, the lampstand is removed (Rev. 2–3). If the Word becomes corrupted, Satan takes over (2 Cor. 11:14–15; 1 Tim. 4:1–4), leaders become wolves (Acts 20:29–30), believers' lives become darkened (Eph. 4:17–21), believers are not healed from struggles or sicknesses (James 5:13–18), believers are misled by those who have only a form of godliness (2 Tim. 3), and the church can become divisive, destroying the lives of those who attend (Rom. 16:17–18; 2 Thess. 3:14–15; Titus 3:9–11). The essentials hold the church together because, as Paul says:
According to the grace of God which was given to me, as a wise master builder I have laid the foundation, and another builds on it. But let each one take heed how he builds on it. For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each one's work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one's work, of what sort it is. If anyone's work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward. If anyone's work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire. (1 Cor. 3:10–15)
The church may be vibrant, based on our evaluation, but there is no Christ if He chooses to vacate the building:
And to the angel of the church in Sardis write, "These things says He who has the seven Spirits of God and the seven stars: 'I know your works, that you have a name that you are alive, but you are dead. Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die, for I have not found your works perfect before God.'" (Rev. 3:1–2)
This does not mean that the church needs to be boring and the pastor does not seek to keep the message interesting and the service lasts three hours. God does not like a dull church (Deut. 28:47–48). When Christ spoke to the Samaritan woman, He told her to worship Him in spirit (small s) and truth (John 4:24). He loved how vibrant the Samaritans were on Jacob's mountain, but they did not use the historical books in the Bible, so they lacked truth. The Jews used all the books but lacked spirit. Christ wanted both.
We must function with a deep commitment to let the church be the church. When Christ's headship is essential and there is one Christ, when the Holy Spirit is not quenched (1 Thess. 5:12–22), when there is one Spirit, and when the Word of God is applied truthfully, all believers grow into the nature of Christ and there is unity (Eph. 4:12–13; 2 Pet. 1:3–4). "There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all" (Eph. 4:4–6). The powerful influence of the Holy Spirit that binds the body together blesses God (Ps. 133).
Unless Christ is the center of everything that is done in the church, there is no point to doing anything. It is like believing a person has experienced salvation but doesn't believe in the resurrection. It is like wanting to live but preferring not to have a heart, lungs, or brain. Is that even living?
Christ must be purely who He is (1 John 4:4), or He is not Christ at all. So when we worship Him, we need to come to know Him and experience Him. Reading the Bible while practicing it is essential; loving others while serving them is essential (John 13:35), so that we become more like Christ and, therefore, become His church functionally.
It was said that more and more people have less time for church. It's almost as if there are too many alternatives on Sunday. And as people are working harder and longer during the week, Sunday is their only day off. With the world becoming more impersonal, people would rather stay home and watch television.
The church is the only place that Christ is the head of and the place He is directly attached to (Eph. 1:22–23). It is the place to call the elders to pray to be healed; it is the place where you find all the spiritual gifts that serve to strengthen a person in a broken world; it is the place where a pastor/teacher resides to mend broken lives; it is the place where Christ wants His death remembered; it is the pillar and foundation of truth; it is where the nation of God gathers each week; and it is where love matters most.
Why do believers come to it with a watch, a complaint, no time to serve, and with a critique? It is because they have become so influenced by the world that church has lost its taste. It is like a young man in college who drank beer so much that the taste of water became bitter.
H. W. Beecher says that "some churches are like lighthouses, built of stone, so strong that the thunder of the sea cannot move them ..." The light that shines from these churches is the light of Christ shining through his believers. Sinners are not reached solely through the church's ceremony, pomp, beautiful music or largeness — they are reached through the Christ-likeness of its individual members.
Return to Your First Love
General Overview of the Passage
Christ speaks to the seven churches through an angel. The identity of the angel is not completely clear. Jesus' message shows Jesus as holding, with a determined grip, seven stars, which represents the seven pastors in these churches (1:20). These pastors serve as lights to the world. They can also be presented as a single cluster of stars that shine as one with one unified message. He holds these stars in His right hand demonstrating a position of honor and equality (the church represents His headship and body). Christ walks among the churches. His walking demonstrates that the Lord continually patrols the churches and is always on the spot when He is needed; His presence is not localized but coextensive with the church. His walking also implies that He provides constant and vigilant supervision. His holding of the stars and His continual walking among the churches also demonstrates His power and authority. We see that He walks with this kind of authority among the seven churches. "As for the mystery of the seven stars which you saw in My right hand, and the seven golden lampstands: the seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lamp-stands are the seven churches" (Rev. 1:20 nasb).
Excerpted from "Big Idea Sermons"
Copyright © 2018 Paul Cannings, D. Phil.
Excerpted by permission of B&H Publishing Group.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Sermon Series 1 Rethink Church 1
The elements that makes the church an organism that Christ establishes and protects is a church where Christ is first and last. It is a group of believers committed to loving one another. These believers depend daily on the ministry of the Holy Spirit to work in and through their lives. These believers completely accept God's Word as the rule of Christ for the day-to-day operations of the church.
Passages of Scripture:
1 Thessalonians 1:1-5
Sermon Series 2 Giving that Blesses 67
Giving is an act of gratitude and appreciation. It rises from a deep commitment to see God's kingdom agenda progress in the local church. It's a decision that is made before church begins because it is purposeful. It blesses not just the kingdom of God but also the giver.
Passages of Scripture:
Sermon Series 3 Programmed for Victory 91
This series covers selected passages throughout the book of 1 Peter. It is focused on guiding a believer through difficult life experiences so that each problem leads to spiritual maturity.
Passages of Scripture:
1 Peter 1:6-9
1 Peter 1:13-16
1 Peter 2:9-10
1 Peter 2:18-20
1 Peter 3:13-17
1 Peter 4:7-9
1 Peter 5:6-11
Sermon Series 4 God and Me: The Holy Spirit's Work in the Life of a Believer 143
For many believers, experiencing the Holy Spirit has to do with how that person feels. The focus of this series is to expose how the Holy Spirit influences a believer's spiritual growth so that person powerfully overcome obstacles and the attacks of Satan. 8
Passages of Scripture:
1 Peter 4:10-11
Matthew 28:19-20; John 8:31-32; 15:8-10
Sermon Series 5 Back to the Basics: Marriage and Parenting 201
This series takes us back to Genesis to discover the fundamentals that God has provided to make marriage great. It also covers the strengths and weaknesses of parents in the Scriptures.
Passages of Scripture:
Hebrews 12:7-9; Ephesians 6:4
Judges 13:4, 10-11; 14:2-3, 10; 15:3, 7; 16:28-31
Genesis 25:19-28; 27:5-17
Ecclesiastes 12:1, 13-14
Sermon Series 6 Evidence of True Faith 261
This series answers the question, How do we put our faith to work? We cannot just claim we have faith but must focus on experiencing how it works. This series explains how faith empowers us to live a victorious Christian life.
Passages of Scripture:
Sermon Series 7 Experiencing God 291
This series reviews the life experiences of Moses and exposes how through the most difficult times in his life he experienced God powerfully working in and through him. This blesses his life and the lives of those who depended on his leadership. We can learn from how God worked with Moses to experience God intimately each day so like Moses we accomplish great things for God.
Passages of Scripture:
Exodus 2:11-15; Acts 7:22-25; Hebrews 7:24-25
Exodus 9:13-17, 27, 30
Exodus 14:10-20, 25, 28-31
Holiday Messages 333
Easter-1 Peter 2:21-25
Mother's Day-1 Timothy 5:3-10
Father's Day-Genesis 35:1-7
Christmas-1 John 5:1-5