Archives For Preaching

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 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? What…

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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 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.

Here are some things I wish someone would have sat down and told 20-year-old me. I have spent the last decade learning these the hard way:

Things I Wish I Knew Before Becoming a Pastor

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…

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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.


This article originally appeared at

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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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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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If you want to initiate change, the best place to start is by creating a captivating sermon series. Preaching is the single greatest contributing factor to church-wide growth. It is also the one thing we have total control over as Senior Pastors. If we want to change, nobody is stopping us.

The most common thing I discover when I begin a new coaching relationship is not that they don’t know how to preach. All are exceptional communicators. The common struggle they face is “putting all the pieces together.” This includes prioritizing, creatively planning, studying, writing, promoting, and executing the task of preaching week in and week out.

Oddly enough, what I find is that all the guys I coach have a home run sermon at least once a year. People love it. But when I ask what happens the following week, they tell me that they strike out. And the next week they barely get a walk. And the next week they get depressed, eat too much, and want to quit.

Great Preaching Begins With Consistency

As a fellow preacher, I’m not interested in home run sermons. Home runs are flukes. Home runs are statistical anomalies. Given enough time, everyone hits a home run. My goal in preaching is to…

This article originally appeared at

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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 might send them out…

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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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