Journeyman Project Dispatches from the Life of Patrick Fowler: Christianity Explored


Preaching Genesis 25–Isaac and Rebekah

My final sermon of the semester was on the text of Genesis – the birth narrative of Jacob and Esau. It’s a simple passage, but one that created a lot of controversy in my class. It’s a text with many meanings…

The birth of Jacob and Esau is preceded by the prophesy that the “older shall serve the younger”. In the immediate text, this response is given to Rebekah after she inquires of the Lord regarding the pain that she is enduring in pregnancy. The prophecy in this respect is comforting: God assures Rebekah that her pregnancy is going properly—she will certainly bear children.

However, in the larger context of Genesis and in the mind of the Israelite audience, this prophecy also indicates that God is going to work through the younger son—Jacob/Israel, instead of the older son. AND, in the larger context of the Bible through the prophet Malachi and the letter to the Romans, this prophecy emphasizes God’s sovereignty in being able to direct circumstances as He desires: having control over and a knowledge of the future.

I had a hard time preaching the second meaning of the text in my sermon this semester—I didn’t feel that it represented the meaning of my specific passage: Genesis 25:19-26. I wanted my audience to walk away from the sermon thinking: Genesis 25 teaches Isaac and Rebekah’s faith and God’s comfort. I felt that if they walked away thinking: Genesis 25 teaches God’s sovereignty, they weren’t really getting the main point of the text—they were instead getting the main point of the whole Bible’s treatment of the text, or the main point of another text. I just could not see God’s main point in Genesis as God wishing to declare, “I’m in control”—I think we hear that message in the book that long before chapter 25.

Don’t get me wrong: you can use Genesis 25 to preach God’s sovereignty, but I think the audience should really walk away thinking that your main text was something other than Genesis 25—they should hear your main text as Malachi 1’s prophecy, “I have loved Jacob; but I have hated Esau” or Romans 9’s quotation of the text as it says, “…there was Rebekah also, when she had conceived twins by one man, our father Isaac; for though the twins were not yet born and had not done anything good or bad, so that God's purpose according to His choice would stand, not because of works but because of Him who calls, it was said to her, "THE OLDER WILL SERVE THE YOUNGER ." Just as it is written, "JACOB I LOVED , BUT ESAU I HATED."”

Anyway—you’ve heard this rant before…perhaps my sermon will convince you. I hope you like the fruits of my labors, shared below…

My Sermon Preparation Documents: (Click to Download) 

The specific way I chose to illustrate the passage – My Homeletical Sermon Outline

The final result: My sermon audio – Version 1Version 2
My sermon script – click below to read…


The REAL Preacher (Quote)

One of my professors shared this quote with me...since I'm preaching this semester, it has stuck with me.

"It took me a little while as a preacher to appreciate the significance of the fact that God’s Word is a two-edged sword. It wounds the listener, in order to heal him; but it also wounds the preacher. I believe this is the ultimate explanation for many of the mysterious experiences we have in preaching. At times we are elated, yet the people seem not to share that elation. At other times, even while we speak we are inwardly weeping over our failures, and confessing ‘I am a man of unclean lips.’ Yet so often we discover that on such occasions God spoke with great grace and power. No one else knew what we were going through (except perhaps a fellow preacher who recognized some of the telltale signs!). Or, more accurately, no one beside the Lord. He knew, because he was speaking to us through his Word, as well as through us to others. In this intimate way, the Lord teaches us that while ours is the responsibility rightly to handle the Word of God in preparation and exposition, yet it remains the Spirit’s sword, and not ours."

Sinclair B. Ferguson, “Communion with God through Preaching,” in Inside the Sermon, ed. Richard Allen Bodey (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1990), 83.


Remember, before you talk to the men about God, talk to God about the men!

~ Dr. Paul Pettit


Preaching the Gospel of Mark

Preaching is one of those classes where I am challenged to put all the things I have learned together in order to teach in a way that reflects my knowledge of the original text, my understanding of the story of the entire Bible, my heart for the audience, and my skills as a communicator.

The key questions I must ask are: 
(1) “What is the original author trying to communicate to his audience?”
(2) “What is the universal principle in the author’s message?”
(3) “How can I challenge my contemporary audience to apply this in a specific area of their life?”

Studying the gospel of Mark for this particular assignment, I was astounded at the level of irony that he writes into the stories early in his gospel. It appears to me that much like modern commercials, Mark used the “shock factor” to get his audience’s attention on a critically important issue: a person’s willingness to consider Jesus’ claims to be God is necessary for them to understand the gospel.

I hope you like the fruits of my labors, shared below…

My Sermon Preparation Documents: (Click to Download) 
The breakdown of the passage – My Exegetical Outline (page 1)
& the general principle we can apply to all situations – My Theological Outline (page 2)

The specific way I chose to illustrate the passage – My Homeletical Sermon Outline

The final result: My sermon audio
                        My sermon script – click below to read…


The Reluctant Preacher, Part 2

Tomorrow I will once again approach the pulpit, in an attempt to communicate the Word of God effectively. It is a task that requires a TON of diligence, and one to which I feel totally inadequate. Give me a classroom, and I feel right at home, but put me behind a pulpit, and all is lost. Here are a few reasons why:

The sermon requires a monologue, not a conversation:
During my first sermon I approached the message with a concrete knowledge of my outline, thinking the inflections of my words and motions of my body would simply fit themselves to the message. I was wrong. I spent 12 minutes pacing back and forth with my hands bouncing together as if they were connected with a giant rubber band. My motions failed to follow my words and distracted the audience from God's Word.

I've realized since then that a monologue is best fit into the category of acting, rather than speaking. It requires diligent rehearsal...both of words and physical actions. This time I wrote out my outline with inserted body movements, and I have practiced on the stage and in front of the mirror, rather than across a blank table. Next, I should allow my wife to critique my practice...but I just don't have the guts for that yet.

Outline or Full Manuscript, I still cannot decide!
It really is quite difficult for me to decide whether I would prefer to preach from an outline or a manuscript. The manuscript allows me to be more eloquent with my words...but the process of revising it over and over along with my constant habit of  changing the wording in the midst of the sermon makes all that hard work seem useless.

Using Scripture to Explain Scripture: Bad.
There is rarely a sermon that I hear today that does not seem to need to validate the words of a passage of Scripture with the example of David, Abraham, Joseph or Jesus. It carries with it to negative connotations.

Firstly, it seems to imply that if Jesus didn't say it, it's not as important to us as what He said--or that it doesn't apply to us today. My professor jokingly said it this way: why do we need red-letter Bibles? The church believes that the entire Bible is the written product of the Holy Spirit. He's just as much God as Jesus. The entire thing should be red-letter!

In addition to this, it is REALLY common to use Scripture to validate Scripture. We preach from Proverbs, only to pull in an example from the book of Job. The problem again is this: Scripture does not need to be repeated to be true. One lone command should be just as powerful in our lives as a command repeated 10 times. I cannot think enough to elaborate on this more right now, except to say this: beware filling the need to make Joseph or David the example for everything you teach. We should feel the need to enhance the commands of Scripture with stories of Scripture. Examples from real life are often more applicable, especially since many of the story examples I hear used to validate lessons on character or leadership tend to take the intention for the stories of these Biblical figures out of context.

Send up a prayer for me...this may be a class assignment, but it still involves proclaiming the Word of God, and I never want to take that lightly.


The Reluctant Preacher, Part 1

This semester finds me navigating uncharted waters...particularly in the area of public speaking. I have often used my education in Christian matters to speak before other people, but the majority of that speaking has been in a classroom setting. Now that I am faced with the prospect of spending forty minutes exhorting and explaining the Word of God to a crowd, I am terrified. And not without good reasons:

1. DTS has convinced me that Scripture must not be misused...and staying true to the text is harder than it looks. I spend hours on assignments, only to have my understanding of passages corrected in class. I thought I was smart!

2. Writing eloquently is easier than Speaking effectively. You can pause and collect your thoughts between sentences when you write, but when you collect your thoughts while speaking, it's usually accompanied by the word "Ummmm"

3. Exhortation only works when you are yielded to the Spirit. Being earnest requires having applied the Scripture to your own life, as well as to the life of others. Understanding comes faster than application. Proper application takes time...and how many of us plan far enough ahead in our teaching to allow the Scriptures to sink into our own actions?