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Sam Chan: How the Topical Preacher Can Avoid Getting on a Hobby Horse

Sam Chan
Photo courtesy of Sam Chan

Dr. Sam Chan is a public evangelist with City Bible Forum in Sydney, Australia, where he regularly shares the gospel with high-school students, city workers, doctors and lawyers. He speaks at conferences around the world on the topics of ethics, storytelling, apologetics, and the practice of evangelism in a post-Christian culture. Sam is the author of several books, including “Preaching as the Word of God” and “Topical Preaching in a Complex World: How to Proclaim Truth and Relevance at the Same Time.”

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Key Questions for Sam Chan 

-When you’re preaching a topical message or series, how do you make sure you’re staying faithful to what the Bible teaches about that topic or theme?

-What’s the difference between topical preaching and evangelistic preaching? How do they overlap and how do they differ?

-How do you build out an effective message in a church setting?

-How does the topical preacher avoid getting on a hobby horse?

Key Quotes From Sam Chan 

“I have to speak in a variety of non-Christian, non-church settings where more often than not they do want me to speak on a topic. So I thought, you know, what do I have to do to get good at this? I can’t just front up with my normal Sunday church sermon. I have to give them something that addresses them where they are and who they are.”

“If the weather person says, ‘Today it’s going to be sunny, no clouds, 85 Fahrenheit,’ it will have a different significance for different audiences. For the farmer, it might mean, ‘I’m going to have to water my crops.’ For the couple getting married, it will mean, ‘I can do the outdoor wedding. We don’t have to have wet weather plans.’ For the painter, it means, ‘I can paint the deck today. It’s not going to rain.’ So same meaning, but different significances. And that’s what we’re doing as gifted preachers. We always know the meaning of the Bible, but…what is the significance for the different audiences that I’m speaking to?”

“We’ve become generalists. We have to speak or address a topic that we’re not experts on.”

“There’s more than one way to paint a sunset and there’s more than one way to preach the same topic. So for me, it just depends on what works best for my audience. And again, most of my audience is quite unchurched.”

“I usually try to work with the topic rather than against the topic. So we see the same variety in the Bible. Jesus when he works with the woman at the well, he’s actually working with her: ‘Hey, you’ve come for water, that’s a good thing, but you’re lacking one thing.’”