Archives For Preaching

WinterDecember is crazy. It’s chaos for most American families. We’re rushing from one party to the next, getting the shopping done, and wrapping up the year at work and at home, hopefully before we have all the kids in the house full-time for their two weeks off.

December also tends to highlight our consumeristic tendencies. We go from celebrating thankfulness and contentment on Thanksgiving to the mad dash for cheap stuff on Black Friday. Just take a glance at the condition of the Nike Outlet Store in Seattle after Black Friday shoppers went a bit mad…

If you don’t think consumerism is that much of a problem for us, consider some highlights of this story from Becoming Minimalist‘s website – 21 Surprising Statistics That Reveal How Much Stuff We Actually Own:

There are 300,000 items in the average American home (LA Times).

The average American throws away 65 pounds of clothing per year (Huffington Post).

Americans donate 1.9% of their income to charitable causes (

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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, 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 them 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 time. If…

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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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High Pressure PreachingPreaching to people who aren’t accustomed to church isn’t like preaching to a well-churched community. Too many preachers say they want to reach people who are far from God, but they don’t adjust their preaching style to impact the spiritually lost.

One change in your preaching style to consider is how you ask for a commitment. I believe it’s essential that every Gospel preacher ask his listeners to make a commitment. Jesus did it. Paul did it. Faithful preachers throughout the ages have done it.

But an effective invitation to make a commitment to Christ isn’t a high-pressure pitch. I’ve found that pressure is actually counter-productive. It becomes a battle of the wills. It often simply hardens the heart of the listener. That’s the last thing you want!

If the fruit is ripe, you don’t have to yank it. People who listen to God’s Word on a regular basis will commit to him and his ways. It’s just a matter of time until the Holy Spirit draws the person to the Lord. Evangelism is usually a process of repeated exposures to the Good News.

In fact, we tell people at Saddleback to take…

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bible

Preaching, as a pastor, is hard. It’s not hard to get up and say something inspirational. It is hard to get up and rightly divide God’s Word, build a bridge from an ancient culture to our own, and then to call people to an appropriate response to God’s revealed truth consistently week after week.

On a recent Sunday, I kind of bombed. Most of the congregation probably couldn’t tell; partly because they’re so stinkin’ nice, but I knew driving home I had missed the mark. For my own benefit, and for the benefit of pastors who may read this, I wanted to use a blog post to explore where I think I went wrong.

You must understand that every pastor prepares messages a little differently. I plan a year of preaching in advance using a spreadsheet, then write an overview of each series a couple of weeks before it begins. On Sunday night, I start reading and soaking in the primary passage and theme for the following Sunday. On Tuesdays, I study hard and usually by Wednesday, I have an outline. I purposely wait until Saturday to turn it into a publicly presentable outline and slideshow…

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Recently, I was attending my home church and listening to the guest speaker’s message. He started out by asking everyone to close their eyes. He said, “Picture a used car salesman. Picture a librarian. Picture a sumo wrestler.” Then, he said, “Picture a spiritual person.”

He went back and addressed each one. He asked the congregation, “What did you see when you pictured a used car salesman… a librarian… a sumo wrestler…?” And with each one he described the stereotypes and asked people to raise their hands if they pictured the same thing.

Then he asked, “What does a spiritual person look like? How many of you pictured Billy Graham? How many of you pictured Mother Teresa?” Then, like a brilliant communicator, he asked, “How many of you pictured yourself when I asked you to picture a spiritual person?” 

He went on from there, but I was so proud of the preacher and here’s why: Over the past 12 years when I have spoken at pastors and leadership conferences, I have urged pastors to, “Paint a picture with your words. Don’t underestimate the power of imagination.” 

“Imagination is more…

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I want to be a great pastor. I make no apology for that. It’s an ambition. I want to lead and shepherd well. I want to preach and communicate effectively. I want to develop leaders and cast vision and build a great staff. So where should I start?

Level zero.

One of my favorite lines from the original Kung Fu Panda is when Po shows up at the dojo to begin his training and tells Master Shifu, “Let’s just start at level zero.” Shifu explains that there is no such thing, but gives Po a chance to prove his most basic skill of punching one of those wobbly inflatable toys. It doesn’t go well, and after Po returns to Shifu’s feet, beaten, bruised, and burned by all the equipment he accidentally stumbled through Shifu pats him on the head and softly declares, “There is now a level zero.” Here’s the clip, in case you need a break from politics.

That’s me! Sometimes, I just need to go back to level zero. What’s level zero, for pastors and church leaders? What is it that we need to put into practice before we begin doing anything else?…

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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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I procrastinate on writing my messages.

I plan lots of time at the beginning of my week to study and write my message but inevitably something arises leadership-wise that causes me to take the time I planned for sermon development and devote it to some other worthy cause.

Why do I keep doing that? Let me pull the lid off this thing and examine it.

The Cause of Procrastination

First, I think I do this because writing sermons is tough work.

It is grueling. Sermon crafting is like having a baby – some come out with one push, others come out breach. Having a baby 48 times a year is tough. Sermon writing is just tough work. To do it well you have to be disciplined and sit at that desk whether or not the inspiration comes.

Second, I think I postpone sermon writing because I like to gravitate to something that is more fun to me – leadership challenges.

Leadership challenges energize me. They are reflexive. Leadership comes naturally to me. I know I have the gift of teaching, but it ranks second in my gift mix. Having the gift of leadership and teaching is a wonderfully troublesome combination.

Third,…

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tim-keller

While reading Timothy Keller’s new book, Preaching: Communicating Faith in an Age of Skepticism, I ran across a quote that, I believe, is wildly telling. In this passage, Keller is talking about legalism (dependence on morality to save us) and antinomianism (the belief that God’s grace doesn’t mean we have to live holy lives).

“Here is where the issue affects your preaching. If you think legalism is simply too much emphasis on the law, then you will think the antidote is to talk less about obedience and more about acceptance and forgiveness. If you think that antinomianism is simply too loose an attitude toward morality and law, you will assume the remedy is to talk less about mercy and acceptance and more about God righteousness and holy commands. In short, you will try to cure one with a dose of the other. This will be a disaster, because both of them have the same root cause. Both come from the belief that God does not really love us or will our joy, and from a failure to see that ‘both the law and the gospel are expressions of God’s grace.’”

I like…

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man-person-relaxation-steps-large

This week, Pastor Pete Wilson’s name is coming up on newsfeeds after he stepped down as Pastor at Cross Point Church in Nashville. Pete’s a great guy and handled his resignation in a positive way. He stepped down primarily because of exhaustion and burnout. He’s tired. He’s broken. He’s not okay. But he is in the good hands of a good Father.

Unfortunately, over the last month or two, dozens – perhaps hundreds of pastors, have stepped down from their positions because of burnout. It’s epidemic. And that’s the point Karl Vaters addresses on his blog, Pivot, this week…

The pain of one pastor is intensified under the unforgiving glare of the spotlight, while the pain of another is ignored. Both hurt equally…

The pain of the megachurch pastor is intensified by failing under the unforgiving glare of the spotlight, while the pain of the other is amplified by failing in anonymity. Forgotten by almost everyone.

Both scenarios are toxic. They break the heart of Jesus, they damage his church, they devastate pastors’ families, they ruin ministries and they make it harder for church members to trust a pastor again – or to…

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One of my favorite things to do is to speak to a group. It’s mostly because I am a teacher at heart and I really enjoy helping people understand a new idea, deepen their knowledge about a topic, or help them move from point A to point B about a subject. From a young age I wanted to be a teacher and I have been blessed to be a teacher for most of my career.

Similar to leadership, teaching is something that has naturally come with each of my positions. When I’m a manager, I train others how to do their job – teaching! When I’m in a meeting presenting a new way to reach customers, I’m teaching! When I’m in the classroom in front of a bunch of college students teaching them about leadership, I’m teaching … okay, that one was kind of obvious.

One of the best ways to spread your message is through public speaking. Whether you’re in a pulpit on Sunday morning, presenting a PowerPoint presentation to your colleagues, or leading a family meeting at home, you’re speaking. And most of us can get better at this skill. And, I am…

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