If you asked me which virtue I undervalued before, but value now, it wouldn't even be close. Hands down, I'd say clarity.


Personal Clarity

Personal clarity is knowing who you are. It's being clear about your identity, what you value, and what you're good at. Without personal clarity, it's difficult to set a course for life, or to evaluate choices. It's a process of discovery more than invention. It's hard work, but it pays off in spades.

I appreciate Will Mancini's work on personal clarity. I've also appreciated Younique Ability by Strategic Coach, Why You Can't Be Anything You Want To Be by Arthur Miller, as well as Let Your Life Speak by Parker Palmer. Personal clarity is key.

Preaching Clarity

Haddon Robinson writes, "For preachers clarity is a moral matter. It is not merely a question of rhetoric, but a matter of life and death." Getting clear on the message of the text, and knowing how to clearly communicate that message to the audience in front of you, is crucial. Clarity is essential to good preaching.

Leadership Clarity

Marcus Buckingham says, "Clarity is the preoccupation of the effective leader.  If you do nothing else as a leader, be clear."

I know why clarity is so rare: it's costly. Its cost, though, is also what makes it so valuable.

Pursue clarity. As Will Mancini says, "Clarity isn't everything, but it changes everything."

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Darryl Dash

Darryl Dash is a graduate of the University of Waterloo, Heritage Theological Seminary, and Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. He’s married to Charlene, and has two children, Christina and Josiah. Darryl is currently planting Liberty Grace Church in Liberty Village, Toronto. He previously served as pastor of Richview Baptist Church and Park Lawn Baptist Church, both in west Toronto.

Questions to Ask the Text

One of the challenges of Bible reading, and preaching for that matter, is that we often start with the wrong questions. As a result, we often miss the message of the passage. Even more, we miss the central themes of Scripture, and end up with something sub-biblical.

That's why I've appreciated people who have given us questions that we can ask of the text that will set us in the right direction. Here are three sets of questions. All are excellent. Use them liberally.

Haddon Robinson, Biblical Preaching

  1. What is the vision of God in this particular text?
  2. Where precisely do I find that in the passage?
  3. What is the function of this vision of God? What implications for belief or behavior did the author draw from the image?
  4. What is the significance of that picture of God for me and for others?

Bryan Chapell, Christ-Centered Preaching

  1. What does the text mean?
  2. How do I know what the text means?
  3. What concerns caused the text to be written?
  4. What do we share in common with those to (or about) whom the text was written and/ or the one by whom the text was written?
  5. How should people now respond to the truths of the text?
  6. What is the most effective way I can communicate the meaning of the text?

Zack Eswine, The Imperfect Pastor

  • What does this passage show me about the loveliness of God? Or, put another way, what is it about God in this passage that calls for my love for him?
  • What does this passage show me about people and about what love requires of me on their behalf?
  • As one who has been shown mercy and love from God, what empowerment from him do I need to overcome my obstacles to love? What about the love of God in Jesus gives me hope and provision for my own lovelessness?

Discouragement and Preaching

I was in a room alone with Haddon Robinson, author of Biblical Preaching, and another examiner. He and a colleague had read through my Doctor of Ministry thesis. Haddon is kind, but he's not afraid to tell it like it is. I was concerned by what he'd find in my thesis that just didn't measure up.


I don't remember a lot of his comments from that day, but I remember one. My thesis was on God-centered preaching, which, I argued, is far better than  the human-centered preaching that is so easy to do. At one point I argued that God-centered preaching is much less discouraging. "One of the reasons for discouragement in preaching may be that an anthropocentric [human-centered] approach is unsatisfying, whereas a theocentric [God-centered] approach brings us to the only source of eternal satisfaction and joy," I wrote.

"I don't agree with that," Haddon said. He explained that discouragement is part of ministry, and that no kind of preaching would help a preacher avoid it.

I'm grateful for Haddon's correction. I don't get discouraged often, but when I do I remind myself that it's part of ministry.

I changed the paragraph to one that met with Haddon's approval:

Discouragement is part of the assignment of preaching, but a theocentric approach reminds us that our sufficiency is not found in ourselves. God, not the preacher, is the only source of eternal satisfaction and joy.

The Elements of Preaching

When I was young and thinking about preaching, wondering if I ever could preach, I came across The Elements of Preaching by Warren Wiersbe and David Wiersbe. There are only a few books that deserve the title life-changing, but this book deserves that status in my life.

The Elements of Preaching presents 26 simple lessons on preaching, along with 14 simple prohibitions. As the title suggests, it aims to cover the elements of the subject, "the simplest principles of a subject of study." It is not a book on how to prepare sermons. Instead, it is a book of basics that "that the preacher must grasp before he can adequately begin to use what the other books teach." It's like The Elements of Style, except it's for preaching.

Here's a sample of the simple lessons:

  • Preaching is the communicating of God’s truth by God’s servant to meet the needs of people
  • Keep your preaching within the bounds of what the text says and what the people can receive
  • Preach to express, not to impress
  • Never be satisfied with your preaching

Here's a sample of the prohibitions, "some of the sins preachers commit that we ought not commit:"

  • Wasting time on long introductions to our sermons
  • Basing our sermons on suppositions instead of Scripture
  • Concluding sermons with vague generalities

The book concludes with a ten-point inventory for the sermon. It deserves to hang in the study of every preacher. It's simple, but foundational. It includes questions like:

  1. Is the message solidly based on Scripture?
  2. Does it exalt the Person and work of Jesus Christ?
  3. Will it meet the needs of people?...

I wish every sermon I'd preached passed the test of this inventory.

The entire book is less than 12,000 words, and can be read in half an hour or so. And it should be. Even though I've been preaching for a quarter of a century now, and have taught preaching, I still need to be reminded of the basics outlined in this book.

The Elements of Preaching is available on Amazon, and it's also available electronically through Logos. Get it. Read it. You will enjoy it, and your congregation will thank you.

The Benefits of an Annual Study Group

Every year I gather with a small group of pastors for a week. We meet the same week every year. The agenda is simple: on Tuesday morning we catch up, and then we get to work under the leadership of a Bible scholar. By the end of the week, we've completed our study of a book of the Bible or a theme (like the parables) and are on our way to being ready to preach what we've studied.

Photo compliments of Chris Brauns

Photo compliments of Chris Brauns

This honestly is a highlight of my year. Some reasons:

The relationships — Having met with the same group for a number of years now, I really appreciate these people and look forward to seeing them every year. There's something about walking with a group of fellow pastors over the long haul, even if you only see them once a year.

The Word — While pastors should always be in the Word, we have to fight for time of study. It is a treat to dedicate a few days to the in-depth study that we crave.

The format — It's one thing to read a commentary. It's another thing to have a commentator in the room. And it's one thing to work alone on the big idea and approach to a sermon based on a text. It's another thing to sit in a room full of sharp people and work on it together.

The break — I am usually tired by this time of year. I've come through winter and Easter, but haven't yet slowed down for summer. This May retreat is a good opportunity to take a breath and begin to slow down, or at least change gears from the frantic pace of ministry.

We're not the only ones who do this. Other formal and informal groups hold retreats or colloquiums. It meets a real need.

If you know some like-minded pastors with a high commitment to the Word, and they're interested in dedicating a few days a year to this kind of thing, then you have a lot of what's needed. I'll bet you can find a Bible scholar (completely optional) who would be delighted to help you work through a portion of Scripture as you prepare to preach it.

I've often wondered why groups like this aren't more common. Try it. Big conferences are good, but I'd trade ten of them for one of these.


Darryl Dash

Darryl Dash is a graduate of the University of Waterloo, Heritage Theological Seminary, and Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. He’s married to Charlene, and has two children, Christina and Josiah. Darryl is currently planting Liberty Grace Church in Liberty Village, Toronto. He previously served as pastor of Richview Baptist Church and Park Lawn Baptist Church, both in west Toronto.