Benefits of Preaching through Books of the Bible: An Excerpt from Small Church, Excellent Ministry

Book Cover

The following excerpt is taken from chapter 4 of our recently released book, Small Church, Excellent Ministry: A Guidebook for Pastors. This chapter was written by Dr. Bo Rice. 

When it comes to weekly preparation, some of the wisest counsel I received early in my ministry is to preach through books of the Bible. As Vines and Shaddix state, “Numerous benefits surface when the truth of God’s Word is exposed, especially through the systematic preaching of a Bible book.”[1] Biblical literacy continues to wane in the United States. This increase in biblical literacy has caused the task of making disciples more difficult in the local church. Pastors are faced with preaching to congregations who are less likely to have any understanding of some of the most basic biblical stories and concepts. Vines and Shaddix state that “this scenario leaves the preacher with two options: either resign to the the generation by minimizing the role of the Bible in his preaching or determine to change the generation by systematically teaching the Scriptures. Systematic exposition, especially, enhances knowledge of the Bible.”[2] A thorough exegetical study and preaching through books of the Bible help preachers to become better communicators of biblical truth and the congregation to become more knowledgeable students of the Word.

A second benefit to preaching through books of the Bible is that it holds the preacher accountable. The preacher is held accountable for preaching what the Bible says and not what he wants to say. Preachers who approach the sermon with serious study know that they speak from the authority of the Scripture. Staying true to expositional delivery ensures that the preacher is conveying the intended truth of every text and not from the preacher’s views or opinions. Also, biblical exposition holds the preacher accountable to work diligently. It is laborious work to prepare sermons each week that hold true to the intended meaning of each text in succession. Finally, the pastor is held accountable through expositional preaching by dealing with texts that would be easy to skip over. Systematic exposition forces the pastor to faithfully deal with the full counsel of God’s Word.

A third benefit to preaching through books of the Bible is relieving the pastor from worrying about what to preach. Many pastors who do not preach through books of the Bible report feelings of anxiety in finding the perfect text each week. These pastors often take the “Barber Shop” approach to preaching—listening to the latest talk, concerns, and often gossip in the community, and then finding a text that may or may not address the situation. If the preacher will commit to faithful, systematic exposition, then he knows exactly what text he will be preaching every Monday he begins his study and preparation.

A fourth benefit to systematic exposition is appetite development in the congregation. Vines and Shaddix state, “Systematic exposition gives people an appetite for the Word that prompts them to go home and search the Scriptures for themselves.”[3] Systematic exposition encourages the congregation to become better students and even teachers of the Word. This, in turn, leads to further spiritual maturity for the pastor and the congregation.

Finally, there are practical benefits to systematic exposition. This type of preaching helps the pastor plan his preaching schedule for greater periods of time. Also, understanding the background to each text is much easier when you are systematically preaching through the same book each week. There is very little need to do much background study each week when you already put that time in at the beginning of your study of a particular book. This approach will save you a great deal of time as you prepare week after week.

[1]Jerry Vines and Jim Shaddix, Power in the Pulpit (Chicago: Moody, 1999), 32.

[2]Ibid., 33.

[3]Ibid., 36.

A Modern Parable for the Church

john deere

A Modern Day Parable

There was a man who invested in a small farm of about 300 acres. He bought a brand new John Deere tractor with all the necessary implements. He built a nice barn, and had enough seed to plant his crops in the spring. However, he didn’t plant anything. He would go out and ride his tractor through the field, occasionally dropping the plow into the dirt, but he didn’t sow any seeds. The bags of seeds sat in the barn, safe and secure. Some of the seeds were eaten by rats and birds so in a natural way, seeds made it to the field. At harvest time, the man went out into the fields and then bemoaned his lack of vegetables to harvest. He consulted with the experts at the agricultural colleges. They told him to sow more seeds, but he never planted the seeds.

The above story is ridiculous. What kind of farmer would invest so much of his life in a farm and not sow seeds? Yet this is what is happening in churches all over the United States. We have churches that have adopted an attractional model of evangelism, but they are not attracting anyone. We aren’t even trying to be engaged in the community with the gospel.

It is Campus Revival this week at NOBTS, and Dr. Tommy Green has already preached a wonderful message in chapel. Tuesday’s chapel message was based on the Matthew 13 parable of the Sower. As he preached, Dr. Green stated that the problem is not with the seed, it is with the sower. I agree. I don’t think we are doing our part. But we still can. Commit to be a sower who sows the gospel abundantly.

Five Suggestions to Be a Better Gospel Sower:

  1. Be intentional in meeting people. It’s too easy to stay in our rut of work, church, home, work, church, home. Find a consistent place to engage in your community. Meet people.
  2. Transition to the gospel quickly. Often we get nervous about someone’s response to our questions about Christ and let the moment pass. A great way to overcome this is to jump in before over-thinking the situation.
  3. Build relationships with people and share the gospel. It’s important for others to know that you care about them, but don’t fall into a paralysis of friendship. Love the person enough to share the most important message in your life.
  4. Be less discriminant about with whom you share the gospel. It doesn’t really matter whether or not you know someone. It’s more important that they hear the gospel.
  5. Commit to follow up with the people you talk to. An invitation to follow Christ is an invitation to relationships. Yes, they need a relationship with Jesus, but they are also going to need a relationship with a local church. Do your best to get contact information so that you can connect the people you meet to a local church. Better yet, invite them to be part of your church or to meet with you personally for discipleship.

What suggestions do you have? Answer in the comments below.


The Changing Picture of Faces in America


The following is an excerpt from Chapter 2 of Small Church, Excellent Ministry: A Guidebook for Pastors, written by Dr. Page Brooks. His chapter specifically looked at “Multiethnic Ministry in the Small Church.” The below is used with permission from Wipf & Stock Publishers.

Why should our churches be multi-ethnic? They are some practical reasons that multi-ethnic churches need to exist in America.

First, we are experiencing an increase in immigration in the United States. From the cities to the rural area, immigration is having a huge influence. Cities experience immigrants and refugees as they settle due to governmental relocation programs, settling with family, or for job opportunities. Immigrants also exist in large populations in rural area, often around farming communities. There is almost no place in the United States that a person cannot go with seeing the affects of immigrants.

Second, urbanization is also creating cities that are multi-ethnic. In the next decade or two, there will be more people living in cities than in rural areas for the first time in history. Urbanization has created cities that are no longer mono-ethnic, but are attracting people from all around the world. The affect is not only in larger cities, but now in smaller towns as well. The urbanization creates opportunities for churches that can literally reach the world within their own city.

Third, the denominations in the United States have a long history of systemic racism. By “systemic racism,” I mean that many of our denominations were formed because of the separation of the races in the earliest history of the United States. Often whites worshipped separately from black slaves. If they did worship together, the slaves were often seated separately. Several new denominations were formed due to these separations. For example, the African Methodist Episcopal church (and its forerunners) was founded because blacks worshipped separately from whites in the early Protestant Episcopal Church.

Today, whether intentionally or not, denominations continue the separation. Yes, worship styles and preferences have now developed over the decades and even centuries. But, an opportunity now exists in our society to correct the racism that developed at the founding of the United States. With the increase in immigration, travel to and from other countries, and technology that unites the world, churches have an opportunity like never before to truly be a local manifestation of the heavenly vision from Revelation for all the ethnicities of the world to worship together in a local church.

Hospitality in the Church


“Hello Dr. Farmer. It’s great to see you back again.” Becca the restaurant manager greeted me on Saturday evening. I had eaten dinner in the hotel restaurant the night before and decided to eat there again. After all, they had elk jerky.

Julia, my waitress, also remembered me. “A cup of coffee and a glass of water? How would you like to try the meatloaf sliders?”

In the first three minutes of sitting down in the restaurant, I felt welcomed and cared for. Is there any wonder why I returned for dinner? Hospitality is important in the service industry. It’s more important for the church.

Hospitality in the Church

The Caskey Center, in partnership with Lifeway Research and the Billy Graham Center for Evangelism, conducted research on small churches and personal evangelism last year. One of the interesting insights discovered was that though all churches in the study used greeters and encouraged members to be friendly with guests and non-Christians, the most evangelistically effective churches (Top 20% of churches who retained new commitments to Christ) placed a high value on hospitality.

Hospitality inside the Church

Hospitality inside the church refers to welcoming and loving guests who attend your church’s services. This means more than just holding the doors open and greeting people. It is more than handing out bulletins. A proper greeter will be smiling, friendly, and will anticipate any needs the guest may have. A well trained greeter understands that visiting a church can be very intimidating and will strive to allay any fears.

Hospitable churches go beyond the greeter. The more effective churches also teach church members to be friendly to guests every week. An attender would expect the church staff to be friendly. The attender would appreciate a group of volunteer greeters. But when the attender sees that the whole church body loves him/her that makes a big difference. When the whole church body is friendly, caring, and concerned, it communicates the love of Christ. This is what the guest has been searching for in life.

Hospitality outside the Church

Hospitality is not just something we reserve for when people darken the doors of our churches. It is an extension of the gospel. It is about showing the love of Christ to those who are estranged from God. As Willis and Clements noted in their book, The Simplest Way to Change the World: Biblical Hospitality as a Way of Life, “At its core, the practice of biblical hospitality is obeying the command in Romans 15:7 to ‘welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you.’ It’s receiving others into our lives—into relationship and, yes, even into our homes.”

Hospitality outside the church requires us to be friendly to non-Christians we meet. Missional hospitality teaches us to utilize the relationships we inevitably build from our friendliness as a way to share the gospel.



In light of the findings, the best way to prepare for guests to your church is to be hospitable outside the church and to treat guests in your church as you would guests in your home. Here are five practical tips for exercising hospitality in your church:

  1. Learn first names quickly and use them often.
  2. Have greeters in the parking lot to welcome and guide guests to where they need to go.
  3. Have large golf umbrellas on hand for rainy days. Walk guests to and from their vehicles.
  4. Ask ice breaker questions to find out something about the guests. If they don’t know anyone in the church family, introduce them to someone with something in common.
  5. Have church members prepared to invite guests to lunch (either at home or in a restaurant).

What practices of hospitality would you add to this list? Comment below.

Getting Small Churches on Mission, Part 1

My friend, Ed Stetzer, wrote a chapter in our book, Small Church, Excellent Ministry. Today he posted a blog  reflecting four big-picture ways for smaller churches to begin moving toward mission.

Be sure to read his blog today and part 2 tomorrow.

No Restraints 2018


Are you a minister serving in a smaller membership church and looking for a resource that will be refreshing and instructional? The No Restraints Conference is the resource for you. Registration has opened for this FREE conference at NOBTS.

Come to New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary for a time of fellowship and training. This free conference will allow you and your wife to worship and pray with other bi-vocational and smaller membership church ministers, as well as learn some new skills to assist with your ministry.

On April 20-21, 2018, we will gather to hear Dr. Frank Page and Dr. Robert Smith Jr. encourage and equip our conference attendees. Register now!

For more information and to register, click here.



Small Church Excellent Ministry Book Release

Book Cover

It’s official! While the paperback of the book was released a few weeks ago, the new resource, Small Church, Excellent Ministry: A Guidebook for Pastors, is now on Kindle. This book is a compilation of practical wisdom written by scholars who have served in smaller membership church ministries.

The introduction and conclusion were written by me (Jeff Farmer); setting the context of small church ministry in the United States. I served as a pastor/church planter of a network of simple churches (also known as house churches).

Chapter one focuses on small churches and the mission of the church. Ed Stetzer, Executive Director of the Billy Graham Center for Evangelism and a well-respected missiologist, provides guidance on leading a church to be on mission.

Chapter two addresses the necessity of multiethnic ministry in small churches. This chapter is written by Page Brooks, Assistant Professor of Theology at NOBTS and lead pastor/planter of Canal Street Church, a multiethnic congregation in New Orleans, LA.

Chapter three gets to the heart of pastoral ministry – evangelism. This topic is discussed by Jake Roudkovski, Associate Professor of Evangelism and Director of the Doctor of Ministry program at NOBTS.

Bo Rice provides excellent instruction on sermon preparation in chapter four, and Ed Steele covers the topic of worship leadership in chapter five. Rice is Associate Dean of Mentoring at NOBTS. Steele is Professor of Music at NOBTS.

For the administrative functions of the church, Adam Hughes writes about leadership in the small church in chapter six, Jody Dean details church administration in chapter seven, and Hal Stewart covers discipleship in chapter eight. Hughes is Dean of Chapel. Dean is Assistant Professor of Christian Education and Director of Mentoring in Christian Education. Stewart is Associate Professor of Discipleship.

The final two chapters are written by Patrick Weaver, Research Fellow at the Caskey Center for Church Excellence, and Mark Tolbert, Director of the Caskey Center for Church Excellence. Weaver discusses the vitality of the pastor’s personal discipleship, and Tolbert emphasizes the pastor’s family life in small church ministry.

As you may have noticed, nearly every author is on faculty at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. The primary reason for this is that Dr. Chuck Kelley, President of NOBTS, and Dr. Steve Lemke, the Provost Emeritus, assembled an all-star faculty who are both practitioners and scholars. These men are passionate about equipping pastors to equip the church. They are also men who “talk the talk” and “walk the walk.”

You can find this book for sale on Amazon or you can request it at your local bookstore.

An Often Overlooked Method


“Evangelism principles never change, but methods always should.” I’ve made this comment so many times when teaching students about the importance of evaluating their evangelism methodologies. While so many are unquestioningly committed to their traditional methods, Others are so infatuated with new and improved ideas, that they often overlook tried and true methods.

A recent article at the Mission Network News website reminds us that orality has always been an effective method of communicating the good news and discipling believers. Many believe that orality, sharing the Gospel and discipling people utilizing oral methods, is a missions practice best suited for global missions. However, it is quite effective in the United States as well. According to a study conducted in late April by the U.S. Department of Education and the National Institute of Literacy, 32 million adults in the U.S. can’t read. That’s 14 percent of the population.  Beyond that, most of the adults in the U.S. prefer learning using oral methods.

This year when you are developing your church’s evangelism/discipleship strategy, consider learning to use Oral approaches. You can find some great tools at the following websites:

International Orality Network

e3 Partners




Top 10 Factors Predicting the Most Committed New Members

10 Factors-New Members-01

The Caskey Center for Church Excellence, in partnership with the Billy Graham Center for Evangelism and Lifeway Research, recently completed a study examining the personal evangelism habits of smaller membership church pastors. These pastors are serving in 1,500 Evangelical Protestant churches in the United States.

While we asked, “the past 12 months, how many people have indicated a new commitment to Jesus Christ as Savior through your church?” a significant follow-up question asked was, “Among these commitments in the past 12 months, how many have ALSO become active in the life of your church?” The importance of this question reveals whether the churches are effectively fulfilling the Great Commission. While it is important to GO and make disciples of all the nations, a church isn’t making disciples if those new believers aren’t being taught to observe all that Christ has commanded.

The infographic above reflects the Top 10 factors predicting the most committed new members in a smaller membership church.

1. Higher Percentage of Unchurched Attendees

This is also the number one factor for predicting churches with the greatest number of new believers. Pastors and churches that are successful at reaching the lost and keeping new believers engaged in the life of the church are those churches (pastors) who have created an environment where unchurched people feel welcome and wanted.

2. Lower Church Attendance

This variable is number three for predicting new believers, it is the second highest factor in predicting the most number of committed new members. Rick Warren has often been noted to say, “churches must grow smaller in order to grow larger.” In this quote, Warren is referring to the importance of small groups in churches. In larger churches, small groups are the setting where people make meaning relationship connections with other believers. This becomes their spiritual “family” for support and encouragement. In smaller churches, that sense of family is church wide. New believers tend to have significant relationships across the entire church body.

3. More Classes Offered for New Attendees

The importance of teaching fundamental doctrines and disciplines to new believers cannot be overemphasized. Those who are given a solid foundation early in their commitment to Christ tend to maintain their involvement in the church.

4. More Training Events Attended by Pastor

As the pastor is better equipped to engage in personal evangelism, he becomes more effective at both personally sharing the gospel and coaching church members to share the gospel. Members tend to follow the example set by the pastor.

5. Pastors Ask for Personal Commitment More Often

It is certainly true that people cannot know Christ unless someone tells them the gospel. It follows that those who hear the gospel will not make a commitment unless they are invited to do so. We must invite people to make a commitment to Christ.

6. Higher Percentage of Church Budget Spent on Evangelism/Missions

Jesus said in Matthew 6:21, “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” In other words, we budget for what we value. If you are passionate about reaching the lost in this world with the gospel message, then you will devote financial resources to reaching the lost in this world.

7. More Reports of Members Evangelizing

Evangelism and ministry is not the exclusive responsibility of the pastor. The most effective evangelistic pastors are the ones who create an culture of evangelism within the church.

8. Higher Percentage of Hispanic Attendees

This is certainly a descriptive factor rather than a prescriptive factor. Of the pastors who responded to the survey, Hispanic churches are effectively engaging with the lost world. Can your church begin an outreach or mission to Hispanics in your community?

9. More Affirmation that Pastor Communicates Well with Unchurched

What is particularly interesting is that the ninth predictor for predicting the most new converts and the ninth predictor for the most committed new members are the only factors in each top ten list that are different. The ninth factor for the most new converts is “More Time Dedicated by Pastors to Evangelism.” While they are different factors, there is definitely a similarity. For one outcome (new convert), the pastor must dedicate more time to evangelism. For the other outcome (committed new believers), the pastor must be adept at communicating well with the unchurched. A key to that communication is to be able to share the gospel without using “churchy” words. Just because you know theological terms, doesn’t mean you have to use those terms all the time. Find ways of communicating the concepts clearly.

10. More Frequent Ministry Activities Outside of Church

Evangelistic churches are ones that are in the world, not withdrawn from the world. We must love people where they are in order for them to know the love of Christ. We cannot wait for them to come find us.