Sunday, September 2, 2012

Romans 14 My reflections

So I preached at Cornerstone Presbyterian Church, the mother-church of SOUL Presbyterian Church, on the way to the airport this morning (I'm in Sydney for Presbyterian Study, #BkofRevelation if you're on Twitter) because Campbell had fallen sick and I'd already preached on Romans 14.

I'm still working on becoming a better preacher so several people were taking notes, hopefully they'll pass the feedback on and I'll write a companion post to see if I'm facing reality! I'm going by the rule of thumb that if several people mention the same thing its a problem. So based on people's body language and my reflections these are the negatives (opportunities) positives (small mercies):


  1. My official big idea: "don't let the expression of your freedom in Christ damage Christ's work in others (or yourself)" didn't click neatly with my explanation of the two groups of Christians in Romans 14
  2. My gestures sometimes serve the purpose of "um" or "arh", I reckon for some they are very distracting
  3. Bring my own Bible instead of using a pew Bible
  4. A re-heated sermon still needs working over, I had to rework bits designed for SOUL on the fly and it showed
  5. A need to bring people along with me: here is one idea, and here is another and this is how they add up to the big idea (I feel this is important) 
  6. I didn't make any clear links to the Romans series which this sermon was meant to be a part of
  7. I rushed the context a little (I had done this well at SOUL) I could tell people needed more time
  8. In retrospect I should of shown how the work of the Holy Spirit shapes both groups
  9. Something went wrong with my opening setup, and I'm not sure what, it was partially successful in making people think about how they express their faith with one another
  10. I didn't do much to show people how I moved from the text to big idea


  1. People seemed to get the unofficial big idea that "there are cautious Christians and bold Christians in the church and there are strengths and dangers about both groups." 
  2. My Self-depreciating personal example about smoking seemed to work well
  3. Some gestures worked, I remembered where both groups were (I reckon I could do more with carefully controlled gestures) 
  4. Eye contact was excellent
  5. Following Churchill's advice I finished strongly
  6. I brought people back to the work of Jesus at the end


  • I could tell that at SOUL people thought I was allowing too much freedom and there a few at Cornerstone who thought I was devaluing freedom (based particularly on the facial expression of an Artist in the congregation). 
  • I wonder if I should have worked the application a bit harder or if that would have been too controversial? (I know Mikey would've but David wouldn't have.) 


Luke Isham said...

A friend sent me this link about the material Romans 14 which is a helpful angle: said...

G'day Luke

Did you tape this talk & if so where do I find it?

Cheers James

Luke Isham said...

and the same sermon previously at SOUL

Anonymous said...

I think by far this was your best sermon.

You wrote as a negative your lack of re-working, however I actually thought this was a positive in that it freed you up to think on the spot and let the Holy Spirit help. I feel this made your sermon much more real!

The "ums' and the "arhs" were noticeable :)

I thought the overall flow (although you critiqued yourself heavily) was good. Yes it could be even smoother but all your points tied back to the big idea excellently.

I thought you brought out some gems which I had never considered, which I have since forgotten but would see re-reading the text.

One Artist, let's call him Van Gogh, was questionable over your change of words from weak and strong to cautious and bold. How can you change the wording of the Word of God? I enjoyed the change, I think it saved people from being labelled as weak which would have turned people off. Weak does have a negative connotation and strong has a positive connotation. However in our circles cautious is deemed good and bold is deemed bad. So that messed with my mind a little bit your link between the words.

However saying all this shows that I am a cautious/weak Christian and appreciated your sermon greatly and Paul's rebuking of me being judgmental which was hidden but you brought it out with a scalpel. A sin which I was blinded to and still struggle with but less hopefully.

I feel further application was not required as you questioned, as the big idea was very clear and everyone knew the individual application for themselves, whether they are bold or cautious.

You have thoroughly hurt my brain, by me questing mine and others actions, and brought me back to the magnificent doctrine of grace, which ever good sermon should do! Well done! Andy Griffith

Luke Isham said...

Hi Andy Griffith, thanks for the feedback!

(I'd want to challenge you (but hopefully not damage the work of Christ in you) about your comment: "changing the Word of God", preaching isn't the bare reciting of the text, otherwise we'd just ditch the sermon and have a bible reading in Greek or Hebrew because even the words "weak" and "strong" are English translations!)

I'm glad to hear though that I helped you wrestle with what the Apostle Paul is saying in that chapter and again I appreciate the feedback.

A question: one person wanted me to go harder on the application and another was glad I didn't go harder on the application. Eg Connecting the groups more with issues of homeschooling, social justice etc. What do you think?

Andy Griffiths said...

Oh yeah I totally agree! The question "How can you change the wording in the Word of God" was asked to me. Which I of course answered "it's just a translation". I think that person was more struggling with the different connotations the words have and wasn't full convinced that "bold and strong" and "cautious and weak" share the same connotations. Cautious is typically viewed as a good thing in Christianity and weak is not.

By 'going harder' and discussing homeschooling, social justice etc, I think you would have undermined the whole idea of freedom in Christ which you pushed and it is not in line with the chapter...Romans 14:1 "disputable matters". Homeschooling, social justice, are disputable matters, and therefore I think there was no reason to discuss them, unless you were rebuking those who have become legalistic about such matters which I don't think is the case. After confessing voting Labour in the last election, many others said they did too... said...

G'day Luke

Just finished listening.

# I liked how you change to bold & cautious.
# Context was good, esp the 1 Cor 8 bit.
# Smoking illustrate was very good
# You had a lot of good lines.
# You kept me in the text and showed me where you were.
# You used good examples

To make the sermon sharper you could have:
# Linked the big idea through the sermon better (which was one of your own critiques)
# The intro felt like you hit me with to much straight up.
# Application could be stronger, I understood myself and others, I was left wondering how to make decisions
# I also wondered if there is a place for "bolder" Christians to share or show "cautious" Christians why they are bold.

Hope this is helpful

Happy to catch up for lunch again

In the end Luke you did a very good job and I look forward to listen to another one of your sermons in the future

Cheers James