Archives For Preaching

PreachingDo you ever get stuck in a sermon prep rut? I do. Sometimes the sermon comes together like a beautifully crafted work of art. But other times I struggle to make progress in my study. It’s hard to break out of sermon prep stuck-ness. I’ve learned a few things that help me overcome these stuck times, and I want to share them with you. Here’s 16 things you can do this week to get unstuck in your sermon prep:

1. Put away your study materials and pray for ten minutes about nothing but your sermon. Preaching is supernatural work and prayer reemphasizes in your own heart that you are utterly dependent on God to empower you to preach effectively.

2. Read the text five times slowly. It’s amazing how quickly we tend to move away from the text to study materials and sermon formulation. Put away everything else and just read the text multiples times letting it speak to you.

3. Open the voice memo app on your smart phone, hit record and start preaching what you have so far. You may find that speaking the words helps you formulate them better or in a different way…

Continue Reading

Revival

As a pastor, church members would occasionally ask, “Why don’t we have revivals?” To which I would sometimes answer, “I don’t know, but I wish God would send one soon –don’t you?”

Of course, I knew what they were really asking. “Why don’t we have a series of services set aside each year for preaching and singing?”

First, let me say that I love preaching and I love singing. And I don’t have a problem with setting aside a series of services. However, I do have a problem with getting the cart before the horse.

Revival is the supernatural moving of the Holy Spirit in the hearts of men drawing them to repent of their sins and follow Christ more vigorously. During revival, the backsliders become worshippers, the self-absorbed become Christ-infatuated, and the nominal become evangelizers. True revival is evidenced by vast changes in the way believers talk, serve, work, and live.

Over the history of Christianity, God has never sent revival because a church scheduled services, hired a preacher, arranged for musicians, or invited crowds. (This is where the cart gets before the horse) Instead, God has promised revival “if my people who are…

Continue Reading

Old BibleThere are no “good” people in the Bible – at least not in the theological sense – except for Jesus. Everybody else is wrecked and ruined by sin and desperately in need of a Savior. So the way we have traditionally approached character-based sermons has a tremendous flaw. Here’s the traditional approach…


  1. Tell the story of a Bible character.
  2. Highlight the good stuff they did.
  3. Challenge people to follow their examples.

I’ve done plenty of that kind of preaching in my life in ministry, and I wish I could go back and re-preach them all from a totally different perspective. There are some major flaws with this kind of preaching. First of all, it’s moralism. It gives the idea that we can, in our own power, actually DO the good things we see the characters doing. But we can’t. We don’t. We fail repeatedly.

Second, preaching in this way assumes that the central protagonist of the story is a human being such as Abraham, David, or Paul. But the real protagonist in both the metanarrative of Scripture as well as each of its rather diverse stories is God. It’s about him. It’s his book, he’s…

Continue Reading

School Kids

“I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength, that he considered me trustworthy, appointing me to his service.” So wrote the elder Paul to younger Timothy (1 Timothy 1:12 NLT)

Paul’s words are the introduction to the Bible’s three volume textbook on pastoral ministry (1 & 2 Timothy and Titus). And in that introduction, Paul issues a fairly stern warning to Timothy to watch out for three of the biggest false sources of security and confidence for those who lead in ministry. They were, and are, and have been for me in seasons when I’m not on guard…

1. Our preparation.

That is, we begin to rely on what we know, and we begin to assume that what we know is enough for us to coast. Here’s the thing. When God called me to ministry, I knew pretty much nothing. I was still cutting my teeth on trying to read through the New Testament for the first time. In my early years of ministry, I was a sponge. I learned enough before Bible college that I tested out of the required Old and New Testament survey classes and jumped right into some sophomore-level…

Continue Reading

Preaching and Teaching at Grace Hills ChurchWhen it comes to personal growth, the world has plenty of solutions, and all of them are incomplete. I like inspirational quotes and pithy sayings, but I can also feel the difference between wishful thinking and truth backed by divine revelation. This is what makes the difference between fortune cookies and biblical proverbs. God has inspired His word in such a way that it shapes us, molds us, and forms us as we hear it taught and expounded.

Practical teaching is one of the five things God uses to shape and grow our faith. The others are providential relationships, private disciplines, personal ministry, and pivotal circumstances. (I didn’t come up with this list – Andy Stanley gets the credit, but I agree with him completely.) It is because practical teaching plays such a prominent role in the spiritual growth of people that I’m absolutely passionate about getting it right on Sundays when I preach. God even says of His Word,

All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful…

Continue Reading

HatsJeff wears multiple hats. He pastors a church and works full-time in the medical field. After a long night shift, Jeff and I at a local coffee shop. Although I knew he must have been exhausted, the topic of local church ministry brought about an energy and passion in his voice.

In the midst of talking about current trends in ministry and the needs of churches, Jeff made an interesting comment that caught my attention. He said that he preferred bi-vocational ministry because of all of its advantages.

He went on to explain that even though many full-time pastors have given him the “bi-vocational pastoring is second-rate vibe,” he sees things differently.

The advantages to bi-vocational pastoring that he shared with me excited my heart and caused me to wonder if God might be preparing to raise up a new generation of pastors from men who already have careers in progress.

For years, older pastors have worried that there may not be a shortage of new pastors to carry on the ministry. However, taking bi-vocational pastoring into consideration immediately multiplies the pool of candidates. And, once you read about these advantages, I think you’ll see them as…

Continue Reading

Sunshine

It’s the end of the world as we know it, and I feel fine…

That’s a line from the chorus of a hit song by the band R.E.M. And I think, surprisingly, there’s a great deal of truth in it.

I was pulled aside after a Sunday morning service not long ago by an attender who wanted to know when I was going to be warning the congregation about the impending crash of the world economy that Illuminati would be orchestrating in order to decrease the human population by up to 90%. After several minutes of hearing of the danger of vaccines, conspiracies with communist nations, and the malicious intent of the heads of states, I finally held up a hand and said, “Even if this were all true, I’d be completely comfortable preaching exactly what I just preached.”

I believe, at the time, I was in a series called Roots based on the book of Colossians. We were covering such subjects as how to spot real love, how to grow deeper in Christ, and how to live a spiritually fruitful life.

This isn’t the first time I’ve been confronted about my lack of urgency about end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it issues. There are also these pesky…

Continue Reading

Passion

I’ve been there. I’ve been burned out and depressed, discouraged and defeated. I’ve led in atmospheres where every creative idea was smothered by questions rooted in fear. I’ve been distracted by secondary interests. I’ve given into my own emotions and have isolated myself from healthy, life-giving relationships.

And I’ve recovered. That doesn’t mean I’m where I need to be – I’m still on the journey and have a long way to go. But I’ve learned the hard way how to bounce back to passionate preaching and leadership in the local church. From my own past and my own painful experiences, let me shoot from the hip with five big ways you can bounce back from burnout and be a passionate leader once again.

  1. Repent of sin. Dig it out of the depths of your heart – the secret recesses where no one else sees but God and own your sin, especially the seven most life-stealing sins: pride, lust, laziness, envy, unholy anger, gluttony, and greed. If you’re hanging onto these, it’s no wonder you’re feeling defeated. You’re living as though victory isn’t already yours in Christ.
  2. Read the Word. Let’s be honest. Most of the time, when we’ve given…

    Continue Reading

mother's day sermon ideasI am studying this week for a Mother’s Day Sermon I will be preaching.

When I start the message prep process, I always begin with prayer and then find a text in the Bible that I will preach.

Since I am preaching on Mother’s Day, I did a study on all the passages of scripture that I might want to preach for a sermon about mothers.

The best sermon ideas come from scripture. So here are some Mothers Day sermon ideas for you.

My hope is that this list will be helpful to save some of you the time of having to find the passages on your own.

Mother’s Day Bible Verses

Note: All scripture below is from the ESV translation.

Jesus Takes Care Of His Mother

John 19:25-27

25 but standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. 26 When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, “Woman, behold, your son!” 27 Then he said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother!” And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home.

Timothy Is The Product Of…

Continue Reading

Head on cross

About seven hundred years before Jesus died on the cross, Isaiah wrote about it in extraordinary detail…

Who has believed our message? To whom has the LORD revealed his powerful arm? My servant grew up in the LORD’s presence like a tender green shoot, like a root in dry ground. There was nothing beautiful or majestic about his appearance, nothing to attract us to him. He was despised and rejected—a man of sorrows, acquainted with deepest grief.

We turned our backs on him and looked the other way. He was despised, and we did not care. Yet it was our weaknesses he carried; it was our sorrows that weighed him down. And we thought his troubles were a punishment from God, a punishment for his own sins! But he was pierced for our rebellion, crushed for our sins. He was beaten so we could be whole. He was whipped so we could be healed.

All of us, like sheep, have strayed away. We have left God’s paths to follow our own. Yet the LORD laid on him the sins of us all. He was oppressed and treated harshly, yet he never said a word. He was led like a lamb to the slaughter. And as a sheep is silent before the shearers, he did not open his…

Continue Reading

WolfI’ve never stood in the midst of a large pasture-tending sheep (the kind that say “baa-baa”). However, I have served as a shepherd of a local church (the kind that say “amen,” “God bless,” and “what time is the pot-luck”).

The Bible’s word-picture of the pastor or church leader as a shepherd is powerful. A shepherd must guide, lead, protect, watch, and guard. It is a weighty responsibility not to be taken lightly.

In Ezekiel 34, God entrust a message to Ezekiel for the purpose of prophesying against the bad shepherds (people leaders) of Israel. In a stunning rebuke, he declares “Woe to the shepherds of Israel who only take care of themselves! Should not shepherds take care of the flock?” (v. 2)

Next, the LORD proceeds to name these leaders’ laundry list of sins:

  • Demanding the choice animals for wool and food while neglecting the people.
  • Not strengthening the weak, healing the sick, or binding up the injured.
  • Not rescuing the strays or searching for the lost.
  • Ruling over the people harshly with brutality.

The result, God declares, is that the sheep were scattered and became prey to the wild animals and outside nations. Can you imagine being…

Continue Reading

Easter SermonToday I sit down to write my Easter sermon. My parishioners may be surprised to know that this sermon is one of the hardest to write. What can I say that hasn’t been said before? How do I keep it fresh and engaging? When I finally get over these concerns and start writing, I’m immediately slammed with another issue – how can I say everything that needs to be said and still keep my sermon down to the time I have to talk?

Here is what I remind myself each time I write the Easter message for my congregation.

Each year is different. The idea that I cannot write anything new or different is a fallacy of my limited imagination. The truth is each year is different. My audience is different. There will be people sitting in our pews that have never heard an Easter message in my church before. Even those lifetime members with perfect attendance haven’t heard the Easter sermon for at least 52 weeks. Most importantly I am different.

I am in a unique place in my Christian journey. This year I will reflect on the resurrection story differently than…

Continue Reading