Archives For Preaching

2015-01-25 09.44.02

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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AudienceIs your audience boring?

Do they respond to your preaching? Do they laugh at jokes? Do they say “Amen.” Do they ever clap their hands? Are they leaning in to listen? Are they taking notes?

You may think the problem is your people, but I want to propose something different here: If your audience is dull, maybe the problem isn’t your audience. Maybe, the problem is how you have engaged with them.

Audience engagement starts with the speaker. People will do what they are taught., Many pastors just don’t encourage engagement.

In my opinion, good preaching sits somewhere in between monologue and dialogue (a lecture and a conversation). The preacher does the talking, but the audience is engaged and gives feedback with their body language and occasional with their mouths.

So how do you help build audience engagement? Here are five ways I have found helpful.

But first, I need to make 3 important disclaimers:

  1. Just because people says “Amen” or clap a lot  doesn’t make you a better preacher. There is such a thing as too much engagement. 
  2. Audience engagement will vary by church tradition. I am not saying that any one tradition is better than another. This advice is only if you want to encourage more…

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Christmas Service

For a church, Christmas Eve services are typically one of the highest attended days of the year. A great message is absolutely essential on such a big day.

This may be the only time many of these people will give your church a chance. This may be the last time you get to speak to them if they are not compelled to return.

So here are some tips.
5 Keys To A Great Christmas Sermon

1. Keep it short.

I’m not going to tell you how long you should preach. But whatever your average time is, work to shave some time off of it. If you normally preach an hour, shoot for 45 minutes. If you speak for 30, shoot for 25. End early if at all possible.

Whatever you do, don’t go long! It is rude to families with plans afterwards. It is rude to volunteers helping at multiple services. Finish exactly on time or earlier than you said you would. Everyone will appreciate it.

The goal isn’t to cover the entire Bible in one message. The goal is to make a small section of scripture so life-changing that they are left wanting to come back to hear more.

2. Bring your A game.

Christmas…

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SpeakingEvery day, someone in America is committing career suicide. But it’s not with a gun or even drugs – it’s with a podium. Respected men and women – often excellent leaders and employees – but who end up dying a horrible death in front of an audience – usually at an industry conference, corporate meeting, or workshop.  It doesn’t take a CSI officer from the crime lab to analyze the evidence from the scene. It can easily be found in an audience filled with people nodding off to sleep, checking their e-mail, mumbling to themselves, or finding excuses to leave early.

The truth is, most speaker mistakes could easily be solved with a few easy steps – keys that only take a short time to learn, but could literally catapult your speaking career to an entirely new level.  So if you’re preparing for an upcoming conference or workshop, or know someone who is, look over this list carefully.

…It might save you from the dreaded “ECH” (Early Career Humiliation).

Workshop Titles:

1. Titles are critically important for their advertising and promotional value, so I suggest you make it “sexy” but not “cute.” “Sexy” simply means…

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Candle LightsWhen man landed on the moon, that was big news. It was almost as if the whole world stopped to watch Neil Armstrong’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind. But it is nothing compared to the news that God landed on the earth. Jesus Christ is God, and his birth is when God came to Earth.

The Relevance of Christmas: God Came to Earth

Jesus “always had the nature of God …” (Philippians 2:6 TEV) Jesus was God, and he came to live among us for a while (John 1). That is the relevance of Christmas.

Jesus didn’t start in the stable. He existed even before Creation. The preeminence of Christ is explained in Colossians, where we are told he is the exact likeness of the unseen God, he existed before anything else, and, in truth, he is the Creator who made everything in Heaven and on Earth (Colossians 1:15-16).

We may have a hard time relating to a vague being in the sky, but Jesus is God in the flesh. The Bible says if you’ve seen Jesus, you’ve seen God (John 1). If Jesus really is God and God…

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Turkey“Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again—rejoice!” (Philippians 4:4 NLT)

When the Apostle Paul says, “Always be full of joy in the Lord,” he doesn’t say to only be joyful in good times. Even when times are tough, the Bible teaches we can be joyful if we follow this simple strategy:

Don’t worry about anything.Worrying doesn’t change anything. It’s stewing without doing. There are no such things as born-worriers. Worry is a learned response. You learned it from your parents. You learned it from your peers. You learned it from experience. That’s good news: The fact that worry is learned means it can also be unlearned.

How do you unlearn it? Jesus says in Matthew 6:34, “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own” (NIV). He’s saying don’t open your umbrella until it starts raining. Live one day at a time.

Pray about everything. Instead of worrying, use your time for praying. If you prayed as much as you worried, you’d have a lot less to worry about. Is God interested in car payments? Yes. He’s interested in every…

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