Archives For Brandon Hilgemann

Christmas Service

For a church, Christmas Eve services are typically one of the highest attended days of the year. A great message is absolutely essential on such a big day.

This may be the only time many of these people will give your church a chance. This may be the last time you get to speak to them if they are not compelled to return.

So here are some tips.
5 Keys To A Great Christmas Sermon

1. Keep it short.

I’m not going to tell you how long you should preach. But whatever your average time is, work to shave some time off of it. If you normally preach an hour, shoot for 45 minutes. If you speak for 30, shoot for 25. End early if at all possible.

Whatever you do, don’t go long! It is rude to families with plans afterwards. It is rude to volunteers helping at multiple services. Finish exactly on time or earlier than you said you would. Everyone will appreciate it.

The goal isn’t to cover the entire Bible in one message. The goal is to make a small section of scripture so life-changing that they are left wanting to come back to hear more.

2. Bring your A game.

Christmas…

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Falling HeartsCan you preach a good sermon without love?

I was at a gathering of pastors, and the gust speaker said, “You can preach a good sermon without loving your people, but you will never preach a great sermon without loving them.”

I immediately wrote the phrase down and chewed on it for a while.

Can pastors really preach good without love?

The more I thought about it, the more I realized it is true.

There are plenty of pastors who preach good sermons without love for the people they are preaching to. They preach well, because, although they don’t love people, they love preaching.

Their people even say afterwards, “That was a good sermon.” Because by all accounts it was.

The timing and delivery were good. The illustrations were well rehearsed. The pastor was likable. The interpretation of scripture was solid. But “good” is all their preaching will ever be.

There is just something missing. Something that cannot be measured, but it can be felt. Love.

On the other hand, there are other pastors who preach the same level of sermon (even less polished), but have a genuine love for the people they are preaching to.

Their love is obvious. It flows through them….

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Old ChurchIt is a sad reality today that many churches are simply not reaching many people for Christ.

No, it’s not all about numbers. Yes, fellowship and discipleship are important. But if we are trying to follow the great commission, why are we not doing more to try to reach more people?

Put simply, I believe it is because we have not created a culture of evangelism in our churches. Somewhere along the way, many churches have lost their evangelistic fervor.

If we want to create a culture of evangelism in our churches, I believe there are at least 5 things that we must do.

1. Model Evangelism Yourself

You cannot expect your people to do something that you yourself are not doing. It is as simple as that.

You can only lead people as far as you have gone yourself. If you are not actively seeking evangelistic opportunities, your people won’t either.

This should be a given, but I know this is something I need to get better at myself.

It is easy to get so consumed in the busy work of being a pastor that we neglect our own obligation to reach out to people who are…

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Break LightI have a friend who is really into rebuilding old cars. It is an art form to take a rusted out car from the scrap heap or auction lot and restore it to better than new condition.

He once told me that when you rebuild a car, you don’t just add the parts that are missing. That wouldn’t work. Why? Because many of the existing parts are beyond repair. Rust, corrosion, and years of damage have left them unusable.

The car must be broken down piece by piece, cleaned, restored, and reassembled with new parts for a proper restoration.

I think that is a lot like preaching.

Preaching could be described as the act of breaking down existing world views, and then rebuilding them Biblically.

You break it, then build it.

Do you ever do this when preaching?

For example, I were preaching about marriage, I would start by breaking down how most people view marriage.

I would talk about how the idea of marriage is eroding in our culture. I would talk about the rise in unhappy marriages and divorce, because our way isn’t working. I might tell a funny story or two about how my flawed…

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Composing Music

Did you know that for musical arrangements, composers write more than just the notes to be played? They also write the strength with which each note should be performed.

These markings are referred to as the “dynamics” of music.

A composer might write a pp, meaning pianissimo or “very soft,” or a ff,meaning fortissimo or “very loud.” There are multiple marks all meant to tell the musician roughly how strong or soft a note is meant to be played.

These dynamic markings make all the difference in a song. The best songs do not stay at the same level.

The dynamics of all great songs rise and fall from the forcefulness of a shout to the gentleness of a whisper.

I believe that preaching is very similar.

Great preaching doesn’t stay on one level. Great preaching is vocally dynamic.

3 Levels of Dynamic Preaching

I believe that every preacher should have three levels of vocal dynamics.

  1. Normal
  2. Quiet
  3. Loud

This isn’t complicated, but it takes a lifetime to master.

Every preacher should work to get comfortable using each of these levels of vocal dynamics. Think of them as tools in your back pocket to pull out as needed for emphasis.

Normal is your base level. This is…

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Easter He Is Risen

Easter Sunday is like the Superbowl of preaching.

This may be your largest attended service of the year. Statistically, people are more open to visiting a church on Easter (and Christmas) than any other time of year.

Because of this, your Easter sermon is infinitely important.

The eternal destination of many people in attendance is hanging in the balance. For many of them, this is the only chance you will get this year to reach them. For some, it will be your last chance ever.

The weight of responsibility on a pastor to preach on Easter Sunday should not be underestimated.

As you put in the study, hard work, and spiritual preparation to preach this Easter, here are 20 questions to ask yourself.

20 Questions to Ask Before Preaching This Easter

  1. Have I prayed about my sermon, given it over to God, and asked for the supernatural guidance of the Holy Spirit?
  2. Have I faithfully interpreted the Bible without addition or subtraction?
  3. Does this sermon make a clear presentation of the Gospel message?
  4. Have I used any Christian terminology that may be confusing or need explanation for visitors?
  5. Is this…

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BrainYou walk into the hall after church. A young man bounces up to you and starts talking like he has known you forever. He looks familiar, but you can’t remember his name to save your life.

Sound familiar?

Remembering names is hard!

If half the people in your church knew your dirty little secret – that you don’t know their name – they would be deeply offended. The bigger the church, the harder this gets.

Remembering a person’s name is important. You never know how such a small detail might have a profound impact on someone’s life.

I once talked to a girl about her testimony. When she was in high school, she attended a church youth group with her friend once. It was OK, but she didn’t bother coming back. However, a while later her friend invited her back and she reluctantly agreed to go.

When she walked into the church, the youth pastor said hello and used her name. She was so shocked that he cared enough about her to actually remember her name that she came back every week. Eventually she gave her life to Christ.

You may try to excuse yourself saying, “I’m not good…

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Crying Baby

What is the most distracting thing that has ever happened to you while preaching?

For me it was when I was a youth pastor at a church in New Mexico. I was preaching to a group of high school students.

In the middle of my message, a boy stood up, jump onto his chair and began to do what looked like an Irish jig. And before I could say anything, the chair flipped over, dropping the boy flat on his back. Everyone burst into laughter.

Fortunately, except for his ego, the boy was not hurt. But he definitely hurt my sermon. All eyes were on him. All eyes were off Jesus. Some students were literally rolling on the floor they were laughing so hard.

How do you recover from something like that?

Another time when I was preaching a silent fire alarm was falsely triggered somehow. So as I was wrapping up my message, four firemen in full uniform come walking down the aisle, up the side of the stage, and disappear into an electrical room behind me.

What do you do in that situation?

Nobody prepares you for falling dancers and firefighter appearances in seminary!

If you…

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Apple Ipad Air

What are the best iPad apps for pastors? Using my iPad as a pastor for the last 3 years, I have tried a lot of different apps.

If you are anything like me, you are in a never-ending hunt, roaming the iTunes App Store looking for the next app that will make your iPad better than ever.

After trying many different apps, I have compiled a list of my absolute favorite iPad apps for ministry that I truly believe every iPad packing pastor needs.

Day One Journal – Day One recently has won various app awards for a reason. It is the best app for anyone who journals. It is especially useful for your quiet time with God. If you are not into journaling, consider using Day One for recording prayer requests. Another great use is for having a record what God has been speaking to you in your quiet time with Him, so you can pull those thoughts for sermon preparation later.

Evernote – Never forget anything ever again. This the best note-taking app ever. I use Evernote for keeping a database of every sermon I have ever preached. I also use…

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Plane RideHave you been invited to be a guest preacher?

I have had the opportunity to do a bit of guest preaching lately. I have also dealt with my fair share of good and bad guest preachers.

Here are some tips to help make you a better guest preacher – one they will actually want to invite back.

1. Honor the senior pastor

Most pastors do not get nearly enough appreciation for the extremely hard work they do for their church. They will never stand up on stage and toot their own horn. So, as the guest preacher, you should toot it for them.

Let the people know why you love their pastor. Create an opportunity for everyone to clap for him. Give the man some honor and recognition. (1 Timothy 5:17)

2. Respect the time limit

Ask how long you are scheduled to preach and stick with it! DO NOT go longer than the time you are given. You are a guest. Don’t over stay your welcome!

Not all churches have a clock visible from stage, so I personally use thePresentation Clock app on my iPhone. I set the time I have to preach, and it counts…

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I love visiting other churches. I love walking on a church campus for the first time pretending I know nothing about church. It helps me understand how people might feel when they come to visit my church for the first time.

I visited a new church this week that I have never been to. They have a nice building. Their volunteers were friendly. The music was good. But as I sat and listened to the pastor, for some reason I was having trouble connecting.

The content was good, but something in his delivery was off. That’s when I realized the problem. The pastor had lousy eye contact.

His eyes bounced left, right, then down at his notes. Left, right, notes. Left, right, notes.

Although the message was thought out, his eyes betrayed him. His nerves showed. And it made it hard to watch and listen.

Eye contact is critical for four major reasons.

4 Benefits of Eye Contact in Preaching:

1. Eye Contact Builds Trust

When people lie, what do their eyes do? They look away! That is why people will say, “Look me in the eyes and tell me the truth.”…

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Are you losing people when you preach?

Do people check out during your sermons?

After listening to thousands of sermons and preaching quite a few myself, I have learned 8 different ways that pastors lose people in their sermons.

1. Sloppy Transitions

You just told a great story. It was funny and thought-provoking. But as soon as the story ended you suddenly switched direction and started talking about something else.

Wait… what? Slow down. How did we get from that funny thing your kid did to some old guy in the Old Testament?

Where is the connection?

You have to make clear connections between one part of your sermon and the next. Otherwise, people get lost in the transition.

It is as simple as saying, “that funny thing my kid did reminds me of a story in the old testament where a man named Samuel experienced something similar.”

Boom. Bridge built. Transition made. I see where you are going.

Typical transition points are after the introduction, before and after scripture, before and after illustrations, and before the conclusion.

Please don’t overlook how important a simple transition statement is in keeping everyone in the audience on track with you.

2. Too Many Points

I recently…

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