Archives For Preaching

Yesterday, I asked a group of pastors if they believe minister’s should address pop culture related topics in their messages. Over 1500 pastors responded to the survey. A whopping 74% of them said, “Yes”—ministers can and should talk about culture from the stage.

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Recently, I chatted with Ministry Pass’ Content Manager, Wade Bearden, about pop culture and the Bible. Along with leading our sermon series planning department, Wade is also a film critic in his spare time. His work has been featured on Christianity Today, RogerEbert.com, and ChristandPopCulture.com. He’s also gearing up to help launch a new podcast on film and television in the next few months.

Here’s a quick summary of our conversation about pastors and pop culture:

1. Jesus used the common imagery of his day to illustrate deep, spiritual truths, we should do the same. Seeds, sheep, and vineyards; Jesus utilized all of these pictures to help an ancient middle eastern culture understand the Kingdom of God. We too should leverage our contemporary culture’s interested in film, television, and art to communicate the message of the Bible. Films are modern day parables. Facebook is a contemporary…

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QuestionsEvery church I know of holds weekend worship services. Most of them hold at least 52 a year. Nearly all of them will have visitors show up, even if by accident.

What we don’t often realize is the incredible anxiety most of them are feeling as they walk through our doors.

Their minds are racing with questions.

The answer to those questions will most likely determine whether or not they ever come back.

For some, it may even determine where they spend eternity!

Here’s my unofficial list of a first time guest’s questions:

1. Is the roof going to cave in on me? Or sometimes stated, “Am I going to get struck by lightning?”

Many of our guests are feeling the incredible contrast between their current lifestyle and what they know God wants from them. Because of this, they think that God and them are on the outs and that He’s probably ticked off at them.

2. Is anyone going to acknowledge me?

This is human nature. Whether we are visiting a church or a restaurant or a store. When we enter walk into an organization we believe to be customer-driven, we expect someone to speak to us. In fact,…

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The average attention span of an adult is about five minutes. The average weekly sermon is 30-40 minutes.

This can be a problem.

If you’re a pastor, you might notice individuals nodding off or reaching for their phones during your messages. What can you do to help your congregation stay engaged? What methods work best to curb waning attention spans?

It’s known that some audience members learn better when visuals are used during a presentation. Others thrive off of auditory or tactile illustrations. While you can’t always be sure which style works best with each specific individual, you can keep their attention by constantly changing up your approach. Utilizing multiple methods and illustrations during talks will keep your audience engaged for longer periods of time. Psychologist Dan Willingham of the University of Virginia argues that mixing up presentation methods is scientifically proven to boost attention spans.

Here are a few ways you can mix up your messages and keep your congregation’s attention. Each sermon should have at least two (or more) of these techniques:

1. A Well Told Story.

Nothing beats a well told story. Notice I didn’t say story, but well told story. Do you bring life to your stories…

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pastor losing weightOne of my big goals this year is to lose weight and be healthier.

After having a new baby, moving to a new state, and transitioning to a new job, I looked in the mirror one morning and realized I was about 40 pounds overweight.

If you are overweight or have ever been there, it’s not a fun realization to say the least. How did this happen?

I was so focused on church and family last year, that my own physical health suffered. Can you relate?

So I made a commitment, got my family onboard with me (because I know I don’t have the strength to do this alone), and I’m happy to say I have lost 15 pounds in a little over a month.

3 Ways Losing Weight Made Me A Better Pastor

I have noticed 3 major benefits of losing weight so far.

1. More energy. 

When I get home from a long day of work, I no longer just want to crash on the couch in front of the TV. I have the energy now to get on the floor and play with my kids! I am not as lazy at home and work.

2. Better focus.

I feel more focused and productive at work. I have more…

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SO2Almost instantaneously, sermon series have taken the preaching world by storm. Visit a handful of church websites and you’re bound to find a majority promoting their hot, new sermon series.

Despite the popularity of sermon series, many ministers still view them with suspicious glances. Are sermon series really that important?

Over the years, I’ve found sermon series to be an indispensable tool for both spiritual and numerical growth in the church. If you’re not utilizing sermon series, you could be missing out on an incredible way to teach others about the Bible.

Here are four reasons why:

Reason #1: Sermon Series Function as Mental Reminders for Your Church

Last year, I preached through series called, “I Work Out.” Because my messages explored spiritual disciplines like prayer and Bible study, I flooded our congregation with images of bodybuilders and exercise equipment. The whole point behind subjecting my group to biceps and back muscles was so I could create in their minds a mental, relatable reminder of my messages. Essentially, a sermon series is the creation of a metaphor by which your audience can relate to, group together, and recall your messages.

Psychologists tell us that the key to moving…

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This past Sunday, Grace Hills had our big Premiere Sunday at the Malco Pinnacle Hills Cinema. We had less than three weeks to prepare for the big move after making the decision to switch locations, so the last week or two have been fairly stressful, but when the big day arrived, our minds were a little blown away by the response. God showed up in a powerful way!

Here are eight factors that have been on my mind since we left the theater…

God

I have to point out up front something I repeat often when people are expressing gratitude for how well things went: “We blame the good stuff on Jesus.” He guided our planning and preparation, energized our team for the task, and His Spirit filled the theater with His powerful presence and blessed His truth.

Prayer CircleA lot of prayer

Not only had our staff been praying hard during the days leading up to Sunday but the whole church was praying that God would use the day in a powerful way. When our…

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Griffith Thomas Outline

It has been my experience that books on preaching lift up the wrong kind of sermons as examples. They tend to teach you to prepare academic outlines so vague and general that they are robbed of power.

For instance, here’s an outline for a sermon based on 1 Corinthians 12, “The Corinthians and Spiritual Gifts:”

(Does that title make you want to sit up and listen?)

Point #1 – The source of the Corinthians’ gifts
Point #2 – The function of the Corinthians’ gifts
Point #3 – The purpose of the Corinthians’ gifts

Now, here’s what I think is wrong with this outline:

1. It’s abstract and suggests an academic outline rather than a plain explanation of biblical application.
2. It’s in the third person, and therefore, not personal at all.  It’s about somebody else – the Corinthians.
3. It’s in the past tense, which gives the impression “that was then and this is now.”
4. It doesn’t mention either God or people. Do you really have a great sermon if you don’t mention either God or people?

In short, the points don’t say much of anything to anyone. You can avoid this pitfall by taking a few simple steps toward creating…

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Fallow GroundGrowing up, I remember the announcement every year in church: “Ladies, please sign up to bring food for next week’s revival services.” I loved that announcement. Why? Several reasons: Home-made fried chicken, sour dough bread, mashed potatoes, and CHOCOLATE PIE!!!

Revival: The very word has different meanings for different people. For some, it means week-long meetings in the Fall and Spring (with lots of fried chicken). For others it means gathering for services two or three times a day for intense worship and prayer.

The biblical concept of revival refers to an awakening in which the souls of believers are stirred toward greater affections for Christ. It is a time in which men draw close to God as God draws close to them (James 4:8) and the presence of God seems unusually strong (Psalm 16:11).

I can’t imagine any believer who does not desire revival. Which begs the question, “Who is responsible for revival? -God or man?” Since only God can grant revival, should we take a passive “wait and see” position, or is there something we can be doing to prepare for revival? It really comes down to the age-old…

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Rick Warren Martin Luther King JrOne of the greatest privileges of my life was being invited by Dr. King’s children and family to preach from the same pulpit that he preached from at the great Ebenezer Baptist Church , the congregation Dr. King pastored in Atlanta. The occasion was the 40th Anniversary of Dr. King’s death, and the family told me that I was the first white preacher to preach there.

People forget that, first and foremost, Martin Luther King was a PASTOR, He was not a politician. He was a Baptist minister of the Gospel, and a pastor of a local church. Everything he did to promote freedom, justice, and racial equality flowed out of his understanding of God’s Word. I have read hundreds of his sermons and they are rich biblical content.

Hanging on the wall of my study is hand typed and signed note from Dr. King. It hangs next to a handwritten note from Mother Teresa and a letter of encouragement from Billy Graham. Each of these 3 Christian leaders left their mark on me as I was a young man.

In honor of Pastor Martin Luther King…

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“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”

Those words are quoted from the Emma Lazarus poem, New Colossus, inscribed at the base of the Statue of Liberty. While the original intent is to describe all who are welcomed by Lady Liberty, they may also sound like an apt description of a near-burnout pastor.

  • Tired? Check
  • Poor? Check
  • Yearning to breathe free? Check

How is it that pastors, ministering the gospel of Jesus Christ, experience such stress? Didn’t Jesus say, “My yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:30)?

Multitudes of statistical data point out the fact that pastoral burnout has become epidemic. Many reasons exist for such burnout:

  • Many pastors feel isolated and fear sharing their problems with others.
  • Some churches have unrealistic expectations for their pastor.
  • The work of a pastor is never done.
  • Many pastors believe they can never rest or take vacation for fear that someone will need them.

Perhaps pastors facing burnout feel like the prophet Elijah in I Kings 19. In the previous passage, He had just faced off with the prophets of Baal and watched God’s fire from Heaven consume the drenched sacrifices on Mount Carmel.

However, this action…

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Hidden Discipleship

By Scott Attebery

Here’s a phrase you’ve never read in Scripture: “And Jesus called aside the apostles saying, ‘take up your discipleship workbooks and gather for the lesson.’”

There is no doubt that Jesus was a disciple-maker and there is no doubt that He taught the apostles lessons. However, there is great doubt that he ever announced His discipleship in this way.

Certainly, in calling the apostles to “follow” him, He announced a general call to discipleship. But when it came to day-to-day learning, Jesus utilized a more potent method: hidden discipleship.

Hidden discipleship simply means it was unannounced.  Instead of being situated in a classroom, Christ’s discipleship was wrapped in real life.

For instance, Jesus didn’t announce, “Today I am going to teach you lesson seven: God will supply your every need.” No, instead, He took advantage of a real-life situation where masses of people were hungry. He involved the apostles in searching for a solution. Then, he took their incomplete understanding -five loaves here and two fish- (Matthew 14:13-21) and demonstrated His sufficiency. He even put an exclamation point on the lesson by giving each apostle a basketful of leftovers.

Jesus took advantage of another real-life…

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thankfulSometimes I complain about being a pastor.

There are times when I have Elijah moments. I feel depressed and whine to God about how I don’t have the strength to keep going.

I think, if we are honest, we would admit that most of us have felt this way about ministry.

Ministry is difficult! It can be extremely discouraging and defeating.

It is times like these, when you feel down or discouraged in ministry, that you have to remember why you got started in the first place. You have to remember why you made the decision to follow God’s calling to ministry.

I have to constantly remind myself why I should be thankful. So, I made a quick list over Thanksgiving of ten reasons I am thankful to be a pastor.

No matter how difficult ministry may get, I can look at these things and know I am truly more blessed than I think.

10 Reasons I Am Thankful To Be A Pastor

  1. I get to tell everyone about the hope and salvation I have found in Jesus, and have a front row seat to see God change people’s lives.
  2. I get the privilege of…

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