Archives For Preaching

pastor

Truth: Your pastor is weak. He’s flesh. He’s human, frail, and doesn’t always have it all together. He may be faithful to God and thereby filled with the Holy Spirit, but there’s always a secret side to him. He will probably never mention it in a sermon or a deacons meeting. Chances are, he won’t even tell his wife, but he endures battles.

I’ve been a pastor since I was 19 years old, and I’ve fought these battles for all that time. I want to advocate for your pastor today to tell you a few things you probably weren’t aware of.

Your Pastor Battles Loneliness

Pastors are surrounded by people who love them, but who often don’t know them intimately. They are celebrated on Sunday, but wonder on a slow Friday morning if they’ll ever enjoy a deep friendship with anyone. Call him and encourage him.

Your Pastor Battles Feelings of Inadequacy

Most pastors today are expected to be great preachers, teachers, counselors, hospital chaplains, advisors, financial managers, publicists, apologists, scholars, organizers, recruiters, and sometimes maintenance men. That’s a lot of pressure. Most pastors are hardwired to do one or two of those things well, so it’s a virtual…

Continue Reading

Why do people go to church?

A recent Gallup study found that 76 percent of people who attend church at least once a month say that sermons that teach them more about Scripture are the primary reason they go.

Plus, 75 percent also listed sermons that help them connect their beliefs to their lives as a major factor for attending.

The study confirms what I have been saying for years: Preaching is the number one reason people go to your church. And it’s not just any kind of preaching, but biblical teaching that’s relevant to their lives.

It’s not the music (38 percent), community (49 percent), service opportunities (59 percent), or kids and youth ministry (64 percent).

All of these are still important. But the primary reason people listed for going to church was good preaching.

Some will be quick to argue that people should go to church for more than preaching. “It’s about Christian community! It’s about loving the bride of Christ!”

True. Church is about more than preaching. But it doesn’t change the fact that three-quarters of people come to church because of the preaching.

There’s no substitute for a good sermon.

Preaching Is a Pastor’s Primary Responsibility

This Gallup study…

Continue Reading

Train Station Schedule Board

“When he had received the drink, Jesus said, ‘It is finished.’ With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit” (John 19:30 NIV).

Timing was important to Jesus; everything in its time at just the right time. On his mission to bring you and me from death to life (Romans 6:13), he never rushed or struggled to play catch up.

He clearly worked from a different clock than everyone else. Instead of Eastern Standard Time, Jesus seemed to be on Eternal Standard Time. He never arrived late and he never arrived early; he simply arrived according to his purpose.

Jesus was born at exactly the right time to be in Bethlehem with his parents, right as the stars aligned to announce the birth of Israel’s long-awaited king. When he was older, he stayed to study Scripture in the temple, even though his parents had left for home.

When others thought he was late, Jesus arrived just in time to raise Lazarus from the dead. When his brothers wanted him to go with them to the Festival of Shelters, Jesus told them, “Go on to the festival. My time hasn’t yet come,…

Continue Reading

Empty Tomb

Easter services are among the highest-attendance events of the year for most churches.

It’s the big event — the church’s equivalent to the NCAA Basketball National Championship Game.

Hundreds, perhaps thousands, of people will trust their time to your church.

We often celebrate the number of people who come, but that’s not the real indicator of success. The real question is, will your guests come back?

This may be your only chance to make a good impression.

The stakes are high. So here are five tips that will help you preach an Easter sermon that brings guests back for more.

1. Serve an appetizer, not a buffet.

Think of your Easter sermon more like a gourmet appetizer at a fine restaurant than the average food you get at an all-you-can-eat buffet.

The appetizer is small, but it’s filled with so much flavor that you want more.

Preaching too much information or for too long will leave a bad taste in the mouth of your guests. Don’t try to cram everything about Jesus down their throats. Instead, give them a sweet taste of Christ like they’ve never had before, so they want to come again for more.

I won’t try to…

Continue Reading

Persuasion

Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade men” (2 Corinthians 5:11a NASB).

“And he was reasoning in the synagogue every Sabbath and trying to persuade Jews and Greeks
(Acts 18:4 NASB).

And he entered the synagogue and continued speaking out boldly for three months, reasoning and persuading them about the kingdom of God” (Acts 19:8 NASB).

Agrippa replied to Paul, ‘In a short time you will persuade me to become a Christian'” (Acts 26:28 NASB).

Persuasion gets a bad rap, especially when it comes to evangelism.

Sure, we all know those types who take it too far. We’ve all felt that holy cringe when we’ve seen pointed fingers and heard “repent” reverberating from a bullhorn on the street corner. But I think we can all agree that this style of “evangelism” is more coercion than it is persuasion.

The English word for “persuasion” smacks of the used car salesman stereotype of evangelism that asks “What can I do to get you to buy into Christianity today?” to a hurried, harried, and harassed customer. But the biblical Greek word for evangelism (“peitho“) is a whole different story.

Peitho means “to gently win someone over, to lovingly convince, to…

Continue Reading

Preaching to Unchurched

In terms of seeing radical life changes in individuals, nothing can take the place of Spirit-anointed preaching. The message is still the most important element of a worship service for the unchurched.

Saddleback’s growth — in spite of hot gymnasiums, cold tents, and crowded parking — has shown that people will put up with a lot of inconveniences and limitations if the messages are genuinely meeting their needs.

Here are a few tips I tend to share with pastors when they ask about preaching:

Provide an outline with the Scriptures written out.

I provide a printed outline of the message with all the Bible verses that will be used — and the verses are fully written out. There are a number of reasons that I do this:

  • Unchurched people may not own Bibles.
  • It relieves embarrassment in finding texts.
  • You can cover more material in less time. I once counted the number of times a well-known pastor said, “Now turn to this” in his message, and I timed how long he took. Seven minutes of his message was spent just turning pages!
  • You can have everyone read a verse aloud together because everyone has the same…

    Continue Reading

Stained Glass

Easter is coming again soon. Are you ready?

Every year pastors have the duty to come up with yet another great Easter sermon. But after years of preaching the same message, you can start to feel like a broken record.

The Easter message should be the same every year. You should preach the Good News of the resurrection of Jesus.

But don’t just dust off the same old sermon every year. You can still be creative in the way you tell the story.

So here are 30 ideas straight from the Bible to help get you started.

30 EASTER SERMON IDEAS FROM THE BIBLE

  1. Preach the Easter story from the gospel of Matthew (Matthew 28).
  2. Preach the Easter story from the gospel of Mark (Mark 16).
  3. Preach the Easter story from the gospel of Luke (Luke 24).
  4. Preach the Easter story from the gospel of John (John 20).
  5. Preach about Peter’s denial of Jesus three times (Matthew 26:30-3569-75Mark 14:26-3166-72Luke 22:31-3454-62John 13:36-3818:15-1825-27) and his forgiveness through Christ (John 21:15-19).
  6. Preach from Judas’ perspective: his betrayal (Matthew 26:14-2547-56Mark 14:10-2143-50

    Continue Reading

Memorial

Dr. Paul Powell was a major leader in the Baptist General Convention of Texas and the Southern Baptist Convention. His leadership in the Green Acres Baptist Church in Tyler, Texas, as well as his writings, served as an influence in my early pastoral ministry. Sadly, on December 28, 2016, Dr. Powell passed away at 83 years of age in Tyler.

I only had the privilege to meet Dr. Powell a couple of times, but I will never forget reading in one of his books about conducting and preaching someone’s memorial service. Although exceptions occur, I have practiced these three principles to this day. I must admit that while I remember the three principles from many years ago, I do not remember exactly what Dr. Powell said about each one. I have, however, learned a lot about each of the principles over the years. It is amazing that I am still sharing with other pastors the things that I learned in these principles in my very early 20s. These three basic principles are from the overflow of pastor and leader Paul Powell.

1. Be Biblical

A sermon for any person’s memorial service needs to be based upon…

Continue Reading

Preaching PulpitEvery time we preach we have an opportunity to fulfill our God-given calling to impact lives with the truth of God’s Word and the hope of the Gospel. But the effectiveness of our preaching is impacted by a host of variables we cannot control, including distractions in the room. But there is something we can control, and that is how well we prepare.

I’ve written extensively on several aspects of sermon preparation including forming a preaching team, nailing down a weekly prep schedule, and seeking healthy feedback. But I find one of the most often neglected aspects of effective sermon preparation is rehearsing the sermon. By rehearsing I mean preaching the entire message by yourself (or to a handful of people) before you actually preach the sermon to your church.

The reluctance to rehearse is varied. Some preachers might think it’s awkward to preach to themselves. They’re totally right, by the way. It is awkward, but that does not mean you shouldn’t do it. Other preachers might avoid it because they don’t think it’s necessary. Still others may have just never thought of it. I…

Continue Reading

Winners

If you’re a pastor, you’re a motivator. In fact, motivational preaching is one of the most powerful and persuasive tools for change our culture knows.

W. A. Criswell, one of my own preaching heroes, defined preaching as “seeking to move a man’s will God-ward.” He went on to define teaching as “instructing that man in the will and ways of the Lord.”

I agree with the late Dr. Criswell that both are the tasks of the local church pastor, but it was his words about the motivational nature of preaching particularly captured my heart.

The very idea of motivational preaching may have negative undertones with many people because we assume that the Gospel is at odds with a message of personal motivation. Or at least we feel that the doctrine of depravity is incompatible with a doctrine of personal achievement. But when we begin with a proper perspective of self — that we are completely and totally dependent on the redemptive power of God — then the Gospel becomes the most motivational message of all.

We win. We are winning, even when it seems that we’re losing. So we are winners, now and forever because of the grace of God…

Continue Reading

 

Do you remember what it was like to go to church for the first time?

A lot of pastors have been in church for so long that we can’t remember. Maybe you grew up going to church with your family like I did. If so, you can’t remember because you were too young.

If you came to faith in Jesus later in life, you might have an advantage in this area. You know how awkward it was.

Maybe you didn’t know anyone. Maybe you only knew one friend who invited you there. Maybe you were nervous. Maybe you were afraid it would be a cult. You were probably more than a bit skeptical.

Pastors cannot afford to lose touch with what it is like to be an unbeliever in church if we want to continue to reach people with the Good News of Jesus Christ. So, if your church is trying to reach your community, as it should, then you must assume that there skeptics in the room.

Maybe they were invited by a friend, family member, or co-worker. Maybe they found your church online. Maybe they had a horrible week and wandered in looking for something,…

Continue Reading

Microphone

Have you ever watched a really good TED talk?

Like this one, this one, this one, or this one.

TED talks are some of the best presentations on the planet. The single idea of a great TED talk often becomes viral.

As pastors, I believe we communicate the most important “idea” ever. If we want to reach our culture, we can learn from these popular public speaking videos.

What makes these presentations engaging to our culture?

What can we apply to our preaching without compromising our message?

I have studied the TED talk guidelines for speakers, and here are some of the rules that preachers could learn from.

1. Speak in 18 minutes or less

Why is this important? Because most people in your audience are good at focusing on an idea for a small piece of time.

Sometimes less is more.

There is nobody in church on Sunday who thinks, “Oh boy, I hope the pastor preaches 15 minutes over his allotted time again today!”

Nobody ever said, “Bummer, church let out early today.”

Now, I understand that TED talks are different from sermons; 18 minutes is probably too short if you are unpacking a larger section of Scripture.

However, few preachers…

Continue Reading