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If You Want to Reach Skeptics, Start Your Sermon Preparation with Distress

Paul’s model for preaching with a missional edge.
If You Want to Reach Skeptics, Start Your Sermon Preparation with Distress
Image: Hannah Busing / Unsplash

Where does the sermon begin? I am all too familiar with the uneasy staring contest we preachers so often have with our blank screens—cursor blinking, taunting us to write something meaningful. But nothing comes. We’ve studied the text and done the exegetical work. We’ve prayed, pondered, and wondered. We’ve read the commentaries. And yet we somehow find ourselves back in our familiar place—blank screen, blinking cursor, at a loss.

There’s a story in Acts 17 that’s not usually thought of as a preaching story, because a whole lot more is going on in the narrative. But it is in fact—at least in part—a story about preaching. It’s right there in the text: “Paul was preaching the good news about Jesus and the resurrection” (v. 18).

The apostle finds himself in Athens, an influential city in the first century, full of aesthetic splendor and intellectual fervor. As he waits there for Silas and Timothy, the cultural and spiritual ...

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