Archives For Preaching

Prayer

Does 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, Peter…

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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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You don’t know it all. There are limits to your knowledge, ability, and energy. And while the competitive nature of our culture, which often sneaks into our lives in ministry, would have us to hid all of our weaknesses in fear, there is tremendous power in becoming vulnerable with people.

Deciding to become vulnerable is risky. As church leaders, there will be people in our congregations who don’t want us to be human. They would prefer that we wear a halo and pretend that we’re never really tempted to sin in the same ways that they are. They feel safer if we, as spiritual leaders, are immune to the crass realities of life.

But when we hide our weaknesses, three big problems arise:

  • Our weaknesses get worse, feeding off of the shame and secrecy.
  • We become dishonest and hypocritical.
  • The truth inevitably comes out and people are disillusioned as a result.

So is bearing our vulnerability worth the risk? Absolutely. Here are some important reasons why vulnerability is a forgotten virtue of great leadership…

1. It’s emotionally healthy.

Maintaining an image of perfection requires enormous amounts of emotional energy. One of the reasons we sometimes get so stressed out and depressed is…

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CrossChurch

Once a year, we have an unprecedented opportunity to welcome some in our communities who would not normally attend church. I want to give you some things to consider as we move toward the final planning stages for Easter weekend.

1. Plan for Easter to be a Great Success

If you do not plan for success, it will not happen. What is success? You will have to pray about and define what you believe success looks like in your church. For us at Cross Church, success for Easter weekend looks like:

  • God is present with us in great power
  • Increased numbers of people present that exceed a regular Sunday
  • People hear the gospel and place faith in Christ alone for salvation
  • Extra services so more people have the opportunity to hear the Gospel
  • Members and guests have a fabulous experience at Cross Church

The last several years we have had a major Passion Week emphasis each day leading up to Easter Weekend. Since our spring break occurs at the same time as Passion Week this year, we have decided not to do our Passion Week emphasis and will do other things to accelerate forward.

On a normal Sunday, we have eleven services on…

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If there’s one thing we know about Easter, it’s that many Senior Pastors go to great lengths to mobilize their congregations to get new people to attend on this day.

Many think this is a wasted attempt to pander to “Chreasters.” I completely disagree.

Increasing your Easter attendance is important, but not for reasons commonly thought. Here are four reasons why doing everything you can to increase your Easter attendance matters to the mission of your church.

1. More Than Likely 25% of All Your Visitors This Year Will Come On Easter

At CCV we know that roughly 50% of all newcomers will come at Easter and Christmas. The rest are evenly sprinkled throughout the year. That obviously means that half, or 25%, of all the visitors that come to your church this year will come this Sunday. Most outreach-focused churches have similar newcomer attendance and retention figures.

2. Only 10% Of Those Visitors Will Come Back

We also know that if 10 people visit our church, 1 of them will return and become a growing Christ Follower. Why is this important?

It’s important because if you are a church of, say, 150, that wants to break the 200 barrier and grow to…

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No other institution on earth has the potential to change the world and address global issues as the local church. No force on earth is as unstoppable as the local church when it is functioning as a unified body of believers. And nothing brings a church together in unity better than a growth campaign.

The greatest waves of growth that Saddleback Church has ever experienced have been the result of the various church-wide campaigns that we’ve done. When we set aside six to eight weeks to concentrate, as a church family, on a single theme, amazing things happen, such as…

  • People bring their friends, co-workers, and neighbors to church.
  • Hundreds of people are baptized.
  • All kinds of new small groups form and launch.
  • Some people give financially for the first time, and everyone sacrifices for the Kingdom.
  • The church grows larger, deeper, broader, warmer, and stronger.

As you plan your preaching over the next twelve months, plan at least one, if not two, opportunities for your church to align around a single theme. Some of our more well-known campaigns have included Decade of Destiny, 40 Days In the Word, What On Earth…

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The question often comes up: How can a service be both worship and seeker-friendly? At Saddleback, we believe you can have both without compromising either.

When we speak of worship, we’re talking about something only believers can do. Worship is from believers to God. We magnify God’s name in worship by expressing our love and commitment to him. Unbelievers simply cannot do this.

Here is the simple definition of worship that we operate with at Saddleback: “Worship is expressing our love to God for who he is, what he’s said, and what he’s doing.”

We believe there are many appropriate ways to express our love to God: by praying, singing, obeying, trusting, giving, testifying, listening and responding to his Word, thanking, and many other expressions. God – not man – is the focus and center of our worship.

God is the consumer of worship

Although unbelievers cannot truly worship, they can watch believers worship. They can observe the joy that we feel. They can see how we value God’s Word and how we respond to it. They can hear how the Bible answers the problems and questions of life. They can notice how worship encourages, strengthens and changes us. They…

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Years ago, I brought a group of high school students to a Christian conference in California. The first night, hundreds of high schoolers packed into the gymnasium to worship God and hear a message from the guest preacher. The preacher took the stage and gave a compelling sermon about how much we should love people. While the content was true and good, I walked out that night with a funny feeling about the sermon. Something was not right. Then, I realized the problem: the preacher made no mention of Jesus.

Is a sermon really a sermon without Jesus? More specifically, is a sermon ever complete without the preaching of the Gospel? I do not believe so. Every sermon should find its resolution in the Gospel—the good news of Jesus Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection to pay the penalty of our sins so that all who believe in him may receive forgiveness. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is the defining belief that distinguishes a Christian message from every other religious or self-help talk. A sermon without the Gospel is incomplete.

All Scripture is Fulfilled in Jesus

To understand why the Gospel should be in every sermon, we…

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My very first ministry internship was with a pastor who, by his own admission, wasn’t really into scholarly study.

“Brian,” I remember him telling me; “you’ll find that the guys out there leading the big churches are pragmatic leaders. That should tell you something.”

When Church Fads Backfire

What I remember most about him however was his penchant for getting carried away with the latest church fads to try to spur church attendance.

When I showed up that summer he was well into a “get everyone to the church at 5am to pray for exactly one hour” kick.

I heard through the grapevine that some well-meaning person slipped him a book on prayer and that was all she wrote.

For 13 weeks straight I would get up at 3:45am, take a shower, get dressed, and then make the 55 minute commute to the church building just in time to hit my knees and join the faithful.

For 60 minutes of prayer.

On my knees.

Every flippin’ morning.

For 13 weeks.

I kid you not.

“The Koreans are doing it and their churches are growing like wildfire,” I remember him telling me.

“That’s great,” I said, “but can’t God hear us just the same at 9am? And…

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Calendar

I’ve spent the last month or so mapping out the next year of preaching. That doesn’t mean I’m preparing a year’s worth of sermons in detail or that I won’t make changes along the way. Sometimes a congregation experiences unexpected transitions or cultural events, and sometimes God just makes it clear that what was planned isn’t the best message for the moment. So I’m flexible, but I want to think ahead.

I believe annual sermon planning is vital for several reasons.

1. TO BALANCE WHAT THE CONGREGATION IS BEING FED.

When I map out a year of sermons I try to be intentional about balancing certain factors, such as:

  • I want to teach from both testaments and every major genre of literature – narrative history, prophecy, poetry and wisdom, the gospels, and the epistles.
  • I want to touch on all of the major areas of systematic theology – bibliology (the Bible), soteriology (salvation), pneumatology (the Holy Spirit), anthropology (mankind), ecclesiology (the church), etc.
  • I want to talk about all five purposes of the church, and of life – worship, evangelism, discipleship, fellowship, and ministry.
  • I want to plan series designed to reach seekers, ground new believers, and take…

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Extending a public invitation at the conclusion of the preaching experience is no longer a normal part of local church worship.

My goal is not to debate this issue; however, I strongly believe it is obvious in the New Testament that people were given some kind of opportunity to respond to God. My goal today is to share four helpful things to keep in mind when you give a public invitation, asking others to respond to God.

1. Keep the invitation in mind from the beginning.

When you are planning your preaching and order of worship, keep the invitation in mind from the beginning. In reality, a message built on the Word of God and centered on the gospel should be an ongoing invitation to follow Jesus Christ.

The worship order does not need to be crammed from beginning to end, but should provide both flexibility and latitude. An invitation is not the pastor’s invite to follow Christ, but the Spirit’s invitation to respond to God. We need the flexibility and latitude to follow His leadership; therefore, time needs to be allocated.

2. Clarity in the invitation is imperative.

Oftentimes the public response during the invitation is…

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