Archives For Preaching

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I was told, early in ministry, some of the most terrible advice: “Don’t get too close to people. You can never trust them.” I now give leaders the exact opposite advice. Fall into the depth of meaningful friendships. Will you get hurt? Yes. Such is life, but it’s worth it. From personal experience I can say, it’s worth it.

I’m thankful for the words Shawn Lovejoy wrote about this on Ed Stetzer’s Exchange blog…

The #1 mistake I see pastors make is living in isolation. We don’t mean to, but we just get busy, overcommitted, overextended, exhausted, and sometimes even numb. After a long week of ministry, many of us just want to go home and binge on Netflix or self-medicate in some other way.

What’s missing in the lives of many megachurch pastors I know is genuine friendship, camaraderie, koinonia, and intimacy. We are missing relationships that are FOR us and WITH us, not just BEHIND us or UNDER us.

Jesus is our greatest example. Why did He pick the 12 apostles? Mark 3:14 tells us: “And he appointed twelve (whom he also named apostles) so that they might be with him and he…

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The devil is a preacher. From the third chapter of the Bible onward, he is opening up God’s word to people, seeking to interpret it, to apply it, to offer an invitation.

So the old Serpent of Eden comes to the primeval woman not with a Black Mass and occult symbols, but with the Word she’d received from her God—with the snake’s peculiar spin on it. Throughout the Old Testament, he preaches peace—just like the angels of Bethlehem do—except he does so when there is no peace. He points God’s people to the particulars of worship commanded by God—sacrifices and offerings and feast-days—just without the preeminent mandates of love, justice, and mercy. Satan even preaches to God—about the proper motives needed for godly discipleship on the part of God’s servants.

In the New Testament, the satanic deception leads the scribes, Pharisees, and Sadducees to pore endlessly over biblical texts, just missing the point of Christ Jesus therein. They come to conclusions that have partially biblical foundations—the devil’s messages are always expository—they just intentionally avoid Jesus.

So, the scoffers feel quite comfortable…

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As pastors we know that Jesus teaches us to love God with all of our heart, mind, soul and strength (Matthew 22:37; Luke 10:27). But when we attempt to teach this love for God to others, we run into obstacles as ministry leaders. Why is this and what can we do?

Pay Attention to the Experiences (Providences) of Those We Serve

It can be hard to say, “I love you” to anyone.

For some of us it just isn’t “manly” or proper to do so. Love is weakness. Love makes a mockery of etiquette.

For others of us, we’ve said, “I love you” to so many people, only to learn later that we were holding on to something other than love. So, we don’t trust ourselves to say it wisely or truly anymore. We don’t trust others to mean it when they say it either. People can use love talk as well as any other thing in order to take selfies and get their own way. Maybe we’ve done this ourselves. Maybe God does the same. We are cynical about it all.

And let’s be honest – saying, “I love you” to someone we cannot see…

This post was originally published on Zack's blog, Preaching Barefoot.

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You step on stage. The lights come up. Everyone is looking at you.

Adrenaline starts pumping as your fight or flight response kicks in. You are nervous. You are about to preach a sermon.

The problem: the nerves and adrenaline that are common in public speaking naturally cause pastors to preach too fast.

You are either too excited or so nervous you rush to get it over with.

When was the last time you evaluated the pace of your preaching? How would you grade yourself?

If you speak too fast, your audience may have trouble keeping up with you. They won’t be able to think about the words you say, and your message will lose impact.

Preachers with a fast pace appear nervous.

But if you speak too slow your audience may become bored and wish you would hurry up and say it already. They may begin thinking about other things, and your message will lose impact.

Preachers with a slow pace appear to lack passion.

If you want to become a better preacher, you have to master the art of speaking pace.

So what is the perfect pace? Faster? Slower? Somewhere in between?

The answer is YES. All three.

If you preach at the…

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Growing up, I never wanted to be a pastor because public speaking was one of my biggest fears.

If I were to have ranked my worst fears in order, it would have been:

  1. Girls
  2. Public speaking
  3. Death
  4. Speaking to girls

My first sermon was terrible. I hid behind the biggest podium I could find, clutching my notes in both shaking hands

My sermon notes were my lifeline. I never took my eyes off of them.

That poor audience!

The content was OK, but the delivery stunk.

Fast forward a few years, and someone challenged me to preach without notes. It was one of the scariest thing ever did, but my sermon delivery improved considerably. And the more I practiced, the better I got.

My notes were a crutch. They made me feel safe when, in reality, they were an excuse for my insecurity and laziness. I thought they were helping me, but they were holding me back.

Today, I still prefer to write a full manuscript of my sermon to clarify my thoughts, but I only allow myself to bring one small page of notes with me on stage.

Most of the notes I have with me are direct quotes of the Scripture…

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Your congregation can invest in eternity by using their money for God’s purposes. It is secure. It is risk free. It comes with guaranteed interest. It yields dividends forever.

The Bible says, “Tell people to use their money to do good. They should be rich in good works and should give happily to those in need, always being ready to share whatever God has given them. By doing this they’ll be storing up real treasure for themselves in heaven. It is the only safe investment for eternity and they will be living a fruitful Christian life down here as well.” (1 Timothy 6:18-19, TLB)

1. Invest in God’s treasury fund (worship).

This is the investment fund most of your congregation will know about – tithing. We invest in the treasury fund by using some of our money to express worship.

There’s nothing we can give God that he needs. And God certainly doesn’t need our money. But when we give an offering to God – an undesignated, planned, and proportional offering where and when we worship – we’re saying, “God I love you.”

The Bible says, “Honor the Lord by giving him the first part of all your…

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Preaching is a sacred task. We who shepherd congregations are entrusted with the assignment of opening God’s very own words to his people, week after week, and translating ancient truth to today’s people. We are to preach so as to build up (edify), to hold up (encourage), and to fire up (exhort).

I’m burdened that so much preaching today remains in its ancient context and fails to be interpreted to our current cultural circumstances. I agree with Chuck Swindoll that boring preaching is a crime, and I wish more pastors would come to the pulpit not only prayed up, but touched with the feelings of their flock. In a given year of preaching, we ought to at least touch on every major area of doctrine, each genre of Scripture, and address the major points of pain and need in people’s lives from Scripture.

I do this by preaching thematically in shorter series’ but it can also be accomplished through an expository framework equally well. But this isn’t really a post about what topics, themes, or books of the Bible you should be preaching from. It also isn’t about preaching about current cultural crises which, while…

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A mist in the pulpit is a fog in the pew.“~C.H. Spurgeon

With each sermon you preach, you should be absolutely crystal clear what you want your people to take away from it. If you are murky about how they’ll be able to use your message, then you can be sure they’ll be clueless. Not to mention that they’ll pick up on your uncertainty and check out because their time is valuable and you have chosen to waste it.

As preachers who want to communicate well, clarity must be a top priority in every sermon. But it’s easy, and sometimes necessary, to focus a most of your prep time on your content and not your listeners. This makes it so crucial to think through how your listeners will receive and use your message. I want to give you three simple tests that will help you ensure that your sermon is ready to go in terms of its impact on your listeners and their ability to apply it.

This is drop-dead simple, and it’s meant to be. At this point in your prep you have already done the complicated stuff, this is the icing on the cake that…

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Foundations

The Bible says, in John 7:13, “No one had the courage to speak favorably about Jesus in public” (NLT). Even some of history’s greatest spokespeople for the gospel have struggled in their resolve to proclaim the truth boldly. The Bible says in Acts 18:9, “One night the Lord spoke to Paul in a vision: ‘Do not be afraid; keep on speaking, do not be silent'” (NIV).

In our current cultural climate, it’s more intimidating than ever to stand up for biblical truths that are seen as politically incorrect. And in order to do so, courageously, believers need a thorough understanding of the world that is framed by Scripture.

Everyone thinks about the world through a particular lens, or filter. We refer to this filter as someone’s “worldview.” And in our post-Christian culture, most Christians have a non-Christian worldview. In other words, a big part of our preaching assignment is helping our listeners to see the world through the lens of a biblical worldview.

Our task is not necessarily to shape the specific opinions that people should have on a particular topic, unless the Bible directly and clearly addresses it. Instead, our job is to present a biblical worldview…

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Revival FireDoes prayer make any difference? Absolutely! And prayer makes a difference because the living God, the Holy Spirit, lives inside the one praying. Further, when God’s people get together and pray as a community, amazing things happen!

I’m sure you’ve seen plenty of those before-and-after photos advertising the latest weight loss and fitness program. The Bible gives us a pretty neat before-and-after picture of the early church. Before the Holy Spirit empowered the church at Pentecost, the apostles are waiting, hiding, and hoping. And they’re praying.

Then Pentecost occurs. The fire falls. The Spirit empowers. And things begin to happen. Thousands are saved and added to the church. Miracles occur. Healing takes place. The impact is so tangible that the church leaders start getting in trouble for bringing attention to the crime of the unfair crucifixion of Jesus. Peter and John heal a crippled man at one of the temple gates and it lands them in jail where they take a beating and are sternly warned not to speak any more in the name of Jesus.

Upon their release, instead of cowering away in fear, the Bible says this…

As soon as they were freed,…

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How you begin your sermon is vital. It can mean the difference between your listeners checking out or deciding to pay close attention. The things you say at the beginning of a sermon are what your listeners subconsciously use to build a framework for your whole message. If your thoughts are murky and unclear, you’re laying an unstable foundation.

The first 90 seconds of your sermon are some of the most powerful seconds you have. Don’t waste them. Your listeners decide within these first 90 seconds whether they will keep listening to you or not. This is particularly true if they don’t know you. But even if they do know you and like you as a preacher, every Sunday is a new opportunity to engage them or lose them. And both engagement and disengagement happen faster than you think.

Here are 3 Must-Do’s of a Strong Sermon Opening

1. Start high. When you step onto the stage to present the Word of God you should be thrilled! You should revel in the privilege you have to teach people about the love God has for them. And it should show. Smile. Greet your people. Be genuinely energetic…

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Broken Guy

“I’m not broken. Get off my Facebook.”

Our church uses a lot of sponsored Facebook posts. Aside from attenders bringing friends, it’s the primary way that people in Northwest Arkansas discover us and check us out on Sunday. One of our posts referenced an upcoming message about brokenness and that comment was left by someone, annoyed that our sponsored ad showed up in their newsfeed.

I’m okay with that. I don’t like annoying people so we always apologize and offer a quick instruction for removing us permanently from their content stream. But I have to respectfully disagree with the comment’s author. There are actually two kinds of people in our culture.

  1. Those who are broken and don’t know it or won’t admit it.
  2. Those who are broken and do know it.

There are no unbroken people. Of this fact, Scripture is quite clear. It may help for me to define what brokenness is all about. We’re all broken because of sin. Universally, we’ve walked away from God, which has left a crack in our identity that can only be cured by the blood of the cross via repentance. And almost as universally, most of us are also broken by the sins of…

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