Application and preaching

Application via exhortation is an important aspect of expository preaching.  One of the great challenges in preaching is trying to manage your time.  I rarely have enough time to say all that I want to say on a given passage.  One of the things i try and do from time to time is provide “application handouts” for my congregation.  These handouts typically go along with the morning message but sometimes highlight areas that i don’t have time to go into in great depth.

Here is one such example.

The Discerning Church: Ephesus

Revelation 2:1-7

Part 3



There are two levels of biblical discernment needed to maintain a vibrant Christian walk and a healthy Christian church. 


One is the ability to discern error or half truth, especially when it is being presented as truth.  First level discernment is needed to protect and preserve the purity of the Christian gospel (note Galatians 1, Jude 3, 2 John 7-11, Matthew 7:15-16, Acts 20:27-32, Romans 12:9, 1 Tim 6:20).  “Discernment is the process of making careful distinctions in our thinking about truth.”  “Discernment is the skill of understanding and applying God’s Word with the purpose of separating truth from error and right from wrong.”  Study the example of the church at Ephesus in Revelation 2:2-3, 6.


The following list includes some recommended books that deal with this 1st level area of biblical discernment. Books that defend the gospel against various heresies and cults:


The Kingdom of the Cults  by Walter Martin

Spirit Wars by Peter Jones

Is the Mormon My Brother?  by James R. White

The Roman Catholic Controversy by James R. White.

The Future of Justification: by John Piper


The second level of biblical discernment is the ability to distinguish between ok, better, and best.  In other words, just because something isn’t rank heresy doesn’t mean that it should be accepted hook, line, and sinker.  With that said, the Bible forbids hypocritical judging (Matt 7) or judging another person’s thoughts and motives (Prov. 16:2, 1 Cor 4:5). But God does want us to examine everythingcarefully (note 1 Thess. 5:21-22) and to test everything against the Divine standard, God’s Word.  Study the example of the Bereans in Acts 17:11.


The following list includes some recommended books that deal with this 2nd level area of biblical discernment. 


The Discipline of Spiritual Discernment by Tim Challies

Fool’s Gold? Discerning Truth in an Age of Error by multiple authors

Charismatic Chaos by John MacArthur

Church on the Rise: Why I Am Not a “Purpose Driven” Pastorby Larry DeBruyn

Jesus Christ: Self Denial or Self Esteem? By David Tyler

Will Medicine Stop the Pain?By Elyse Fitzpatrick & Laura Hendrickson



The following list includes some recommended websitesthat often include discerning articles and blog posts.

5 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Daniel Saugstad on December 9, 2008 at 9:23 pm

    Two questions….

    Don’t most people disregard hand outs? I think this is a great idea being as you will never hit every applicable point you might have, but most won’t have the passion for the passage that the preacher will… What has been the response to this practice?

    Also, are you of norwegian decent? Whenever you see the STAD suffix, you are norwegian. Funny thing is since my last name is Saugstad, I always look for others who share that suffix. This will be the first time I’ve seen Kolstad. Others I’ve seen would be Olestad, Bumstad. Nice to meet another Stad!

  2. You are correct my dad is a son of Norway and my mom is a daughter of Sicily.

    Many do disregard handouts but i am more concerned that the handouts become a distraction during the actual sermon. They may choose to read it rather than listen to the message.

    I do not create one every week but i do think from time to time they can be most helpful. The faithful ones that actually think about the sermon again on Monday morning really appreciate helps and handouts…

  3. This is a great idea. thanks for this.

    I think inserting them into the Sunday Service program would work for me since we give them every Sundays so there wouldn’t be extra handouts.

  4. Posted by tshuck on January 4, 2009 at 6:11 pm

    Thanks for your thoughts and examples of application. It is much needed.

    In my preaching at Kerrusso Bible Church in Pune India, I will hand out a brief sermonic outline. It includes the preaching point and the main points. Typically, there is fill in the blank for these main points. On the back, of the outline are some more application questions that the sermon could not cover that the flock can go over later.

    We, the pastors at KBC, see the flock wanting the outline and the questions. The parents, not all-but many, will review the questions with their families later. We keep it to one sheet. The outline on one side and the application questions on the other so that the flock does not have a bundle of paper to manage during the sermon. A half of a 8 x 11 is used. Also, when we give additional resources we list them after the questions, and keep them brief.

    Here are a few thoughts that I have processed regarding the sermon, application and handing on some type of notes.

    1. Application handouts should not take the place of “the exhortation” in the sermon- 1 Tim. 4:13.

    2. Application handouts should be simple so that children can use them.

    3. Application handouts should not be simplistic so that adults find them trite and unhelpful.

    4. Application handouts should flow out of the text, the preaching point, main points to reinforce the message.

    5. Application handouts should be thought through and developed with prayer as the sermon is being prepared so that they do not become a rush-job.

    6. If the flock is distracted with my handout instead of following the sermon, then most likely my sermon was not clear or helpful.

    Anyway, these are some guidelines I have and do use. These are just my thoughts. Take them or leave them.

    The other pastors and I have found that even the children have used these handouts with their parents (who were not coming to KBC) and now their parents are coming to Church. It can be a helpful tool for shepherding.

  5. Posted by ckolstad on January 6, 2009 at 10:09 am

    Thanks for your ideas Tom!

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