Archives For Brandon Hilgemann

Millennial

Hi, I’m Brandon, and I’m a millennial.

I am one of those so-called entitled, snowflake babies born between 1980 and 2000.

Being a millennial comes with many unfair stereotypes:

  • We are lazy.
  • We want trophies just for participating.
  • We can’t find stable jobs or move out of our parents’ basements.

While some of the stereotypes are true for some millennials, I know a lot of millennials who break the trend.

But there is one stereotype about millennials that is scary because it’s true. Millennials are leaving the church in droves.

So while I cannot pretend to speak for all millennials, I can tell you what my millennial friends and I want to see in your church.

1. Put millennials on stage.

When we go to church and see a bunch of gray-haired guys on stage and a bunch of gray-haired people in the crowd, we wonder if we fit in.

Find ways to get younger people on stage. And let a millennial pastor preach every once in a while.

If you don’t have one on staff (or at least as an elder or high-capacity volunteer), that may be part of the problem.

Show us that your church isn’t just…

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Sad

Christians get depressed too — even pastors. I know because it’s part of my story.

Years ago, my family and I went through a series of difficult events. I was hurt. I was bitter. It led me down a dark road.

The first feeling I remember was like being tired. I didn’t know I was depressed. But getting out of bed every day took all the strength I could muster.

I had been working in the trenches of ministry for years. Was I just burned out? I’ve heard so much about burnout. Maybe this was it.

So I got a lot of rest, but it didn’t go away.

If you saw me at church or around town, I would have smiled and told you I was good. On the outside, I wore the mask that so many Christians do. Inside, I was dying.

My wife will tell you that it was the darkest year of our life. I was tired and sad every day. I was present with my wife and kids physically, but mentally I had checked out.

Six months in, I finally admitted that I wasn’t just burnt out. I was depressed.

But I’m a pastor! I’m…

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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 okay, 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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Why do people go to church?

A recent Gallup study found that 76 percent of people who attend church at least once a month say that sermons that teach them more about Scripture are the primary reason they go.

Plus, 75 percent also listed sermons that help them connect their beliefs to their lives as a major factor for attending.

The study confirms what I have been saying for years: Preaching is the number one reason people go to your church. And it’s not just any kind of preaching, but biblical teaching that’s relevant to their lives.

It’s not the music (38 percent), community (49 percent), service opportunities (59 percent), or kids and youth ministry (64 percent).

All of these are still important. But the primary reason people listed for going to church was good preaching.

Some will be quick to argue that people should go to church for more than preaching. “It’s about Christian community! It’s about loving the bride of Christ!”

True. Church is about more than preaching. But it doesn’t change the fact that three-quarters of people come to church because of the preaching.

There’s no substitute for a good sermon.

Preaching Is a Pastor’s Primary Responsibility

This Gallup study…

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Empty Tomb

Easter services are among the highest-attendance events of the year for most churches.

It’s the big event — the church’s equivalent to the NCAA Basketball National Championship Game.

Hundreds, perhaps thousands, of people will trust their time to your church.

We often celebrate the number of people who come, but that’s not the real indicator of success. The real question is, will your guests come back?

This may be your only chance to make a good impression.

The stakes are high. So here are five tips that will help you preach an Easter sermon that brings guests back for more.

1. Serve an appetizer, not a buffet.

Think of your Easter sermon more like a gourmet appetizer at a fine restaurant than the average food you get at an all-you-can-eat buffet.

The appetizer is small, but it’s filled with so much flavor that you want more.

Preaching too much information or for too long will leave a bad taste in the mouth of your guests. Don’t try to cram everything about Jesus down their throats. Instead, give them a sweet taste of Christ like they’ve never had before, so they want to come again for more.

I won’t try to…

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Stained Glass

Easter is coming again soon. Are you ready?

Every year pastors have the duty to come up with yet another great Easter sermon. But after years of preaching the same message, you can start to feel like a broken record.

The Easter message should be the same every year. You should preach the Good News of the resurrection of Jesus.

But don’t just dust off the same old sermon every year. You can still be creative in the way you tell the story.

So here are 30 ideas straight from the Bible to help get you started.

30 EASTER SERMON IDEAS FROM THE BIBLE

  1. Preach the Easter story from the gospel of Matthew (Matthew 28).
  2. Preach the Easter story from the gospel of Mark (Mark 16).
  3. Preach the Easter story from the gospel of Luke (Luke 24).
  4. Preach the Easter story from the gospel of John (John 20).
  5. Preach about Peter’s denial of Jesus three times (Matthew 26:30-3569-75Mark 14:26-3166-72Luke 22:31-3454-62John 13:36-3818:15-1825-27) and his forgiveness through Christ (John 21:15-19).
  6. Preach from Judas’ perspective: his betrayal (Matthew 26:14-2547-56Mark 14:10-2143-50

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Do you remember what it was like to go to church for the first time?

A lot of pastors have been in church for so long that we can’t remember. Maybe you grew up going to church with your family like I did. If so, you can’t remember because you were too young.

If you came to faith in Jesus later in life, you might have an advantage in this area. You know how awkward it was.

Maybe you didn’t know anyone. Maybe you only knew one friend who invited you there. Maybe you were nervous. Maybe you were afraid it would be a cult. You were probably more than a bit skeptical.

Pastors cannot afford to lose touch with what it is like to be an unbeliever in church if we want to continue to reach people with the Good News of Jesus Christ. So, if your church is trying to reach your community, as it should, then you must assume that there skeptics in the room.

Maybe they were invited by a friend, family member, or co-worker. Maybe they found your church online. Maybe they had a horrible week and wandered in looking for something,…

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Microphone

Have you ever watched a really good TED talk?

Like this one, this one, this one, or this one.

TED talks are some of the best presentations on the planet. The single idea of a great TED talk often becomes viral.

As pastors, I believe we communicate the most important “idea” ever. If we want to reach our culture, we can learn from these popular public speaking videos.

What makes these presentations engaging to our culture?

What can we apply to our preaching without compromising our message?

I have studied the TED talk guidelines for speakers, and here are some of the rules that preachers could learn from.

1. Speak in 18 minutes or less

Why is this important? Because most people in your audience are good at focusing on an idea for a small piece of time.

Sometimes less is more.

There is nobody in church on Sunday who thinks, “Oh boy, I hope the pastor preaches 15 minutes over his allotted time again today!”

Nobody ever said, “Bummer, church let out early today.”

Now, I understand that TED talks are different from sermons; 18 minutes is probably too short if you are unpacking a larger section of Scripture.

However, few preachers…

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preaching lessons from Charles Spurgeon

Charles Spurgeon is arguably one of the greatest preachers in the history of Christianity.

  • He preached over 600 sermons before the age of 20.
  • The collection of his recorded sermons fills 63 volumes and over 20 million words, making it the largest collection of books by a single Christian author.
  • He once spoke to an audience of 23,654 without the use of a microphone or sound system.
  • He frequently preached ten times per week because he accepted so many invitations to speak.1

Spurgeon was so gifted and influential that it’s no wonder he earned the nickname of the “Prince of Preachers.”

It’s safe to say that we could all learn much about preaching from such a prolific preacher.

So here are 12 preaching tips that Charles Spurgeon taught his students:

1. PRAYER IS SERMON PREP

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Church In WinterAre you ready for your Christmas sermon?

As you are well aware, Christmas Eve services are one of the highest attendance days of the year for most churches.

It’s the big event, the big night.

Hundreds — maybe even thousands — of people will trust their valuable time to your church. But the week after that, will your guests come back?

This could be the only chance you get to make a good impression.

The stakes are high. So here are five tips that will help you preach a sermon that brings guests back for more.

1. Think appetizer, not buffet.

Think of your Christmas sermon more like a gourmet appetizer at a fine dining restaurant than the average food at an all-you-can-eat buffet. The appetizer may be small, but it’s packed with flavor, and you’re left wanting more.

Preaching too long will leave a negative impression. You will never have enough time to cover everything in a single sermon. The goal should be to give people a delicious taste of Scripture so they want to come back for more.

I won’t dictate how long you have to preach, but try to shave some time off your average…

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christmas-ornament

It’s Christmas time again.

And every year pastors have the task to create yet another great Christmas sermon. But after many years of preaching the same message, you can get repetitive.

The message every year should remain the same, but you need a bit of a creative twist on the way you present it every year to keep the message fresh.

So, if you’re stuck in a rut trying to come up with a different way to tell the Christmas story once again, here are 40 ideas straight out of the Bible to get your started.

40 CHRISTMAS SERMON IDEAS FROM THE BIBLE

GOSPEL NARRATIVES OF JESUS’ BIRTH

1. Matthew 1:1-17 – Preach the genealogy of Jesus in Matthew traced from Abraham through David all the way to Jesus. Matthew is unique because he includes women in his genealogy.

2. Matthew 1:18-25 – Preach the Christmas story through the eyes of Joseph, who planned to divorce Mary quietly until an angel came.

3. Matthew 2:1-12 – Preach the Christmas story through the eyes of the wise men, who seek to worship the newborn king.

4. Matthew 2:1-23 – Preach the Christmas story through the eyes of King Herod,…

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Pastors

Let’s cut the fluff and get real for a moment. Being a pastor is incredibly difficult.

The church is often guilty of only painting a picture of the wonderful blessings of being called to ministry – like it only gets better day after day.

We somehow forget to talk about the suffering involved. Did we forget, or are we afraid people won’t go into ministry if they know the truth?

I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but there are some things we are failing to prepare new pastors for.

I wish someone would have sat me down at age 20 and told me the following as I have spent the last decade learning these the hard way:

1. It will be the hardest thing you ever do.

No seriously, it is really, really, really hard! Imagine the most difficult thing you have done and multiply it by a hundred. That may be close to how hard ministry is. If you want to be a pastor because it sounds fun or easy, do something else.

2. Integrity and a love for Christ will not be enough; you have to be able to lead people.

Your character and love for Christ are…

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