Archives For Preaching

Eventually every preacher gets stuck where Moses spent some time. In the desert, going nowhere, staring blankly at sheep.

Fortunately it doesn’t happen often, but it does happen. I recall Haddon Robinson warning a gaggle of green wannabes that sermon prep can become dull and mundane. “Like hammering doghouses together on an assembly line.”

The next time you’re staring blankly at the monitor or rummaging the Internet in desperate search of an idea it’s time for a little self-assessment. Chances are you’ll find your drought started in one of four areas: your circumstances, how you cultivate creativity, conflict in the congregation or you’re sensing the approach of your ministry’s closure.

Four questions should help you dial it in.

Circumstance: Am I managing well?

Circumstances will drain us if we grant them control. Sure, we all have stretches of extraordinary demands we have to power through. But if that typifies your ministry its time to ask yourself a hard question. How good are my management skills?

cross We live in a fallen world, and God’s will is not always done on earth.

Still, when we’re faced with such an immense tragedy as the shootings in Newtown, Connecticut, we are tempted to ask, “Why?”

But such questions are unanswerable – we simply don’t know.

Instead of asking, “Why?” we need to help our people ask, “What can I do now? What is my next step?”

As you know, the book of Nehemiah is about rebuilding after tragedy. Nehemiah tells the people, “You know well the tragedy of our city; it lies in ruins and its gates are burned. Let us rebuild the wall of Jerusalem and rid ourselves of this disgrace!” (Nehemiah 2:17 LB)

Rebuilding is much harder than building from scratch. It’s true for cities, and it’s true for our lives.

To help people rebuild their lives, we must help them understand this:

  • Express your grief. It is OK to mourn, but it is not good to resist, rehearse, reduce, or repress our grief.
  • Get help from others. The best way to do this is to get in a church and in a small group. Build a network of support to help…

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Our hearts are all broken for the families who lost children and loved ones this past Friday in Newtown, Connecticut. We pray for them as well as for emergency workers, teachers, and counselors who have been involved in helping the community in the aftermath.

Pastors fulfill a special calling in moments of tragedy. We carry the burden and the privilege of speaking into people’s lives in moments of pain, loss, and trauma. Biblical prophets shared a Word from the Lord appropriate to the moments that impacted culture so deeply. Pastors, today, occupy a similar role.

I’ve put together four resources to share with you as you minister on the front lines, handle the big questions, and comfort the hearts of those who are broken and bewildered this weekend.

The first is the transcript of a podcast we did a few years ago called Mobilizing Your Church in the Wake of Tragedy. The audio is available on iTunes.

Mobilizing Your Church In Times of Tragedy (pdf)

I’ve also collected three sermon outlines and transcripts to help you prepare to preach this weekend.

The…

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Planning ChristmasAs you know, people will show up at your church for Christmas that won’t show up any other time during the year. Here are three ways to help them see the importance of Christmas –

Remind them that they need a rescuer. Sheep who are lost can’t save themselves. If a sheep’s rescue is completely dependent upon itself, he’s a lost cause. He needs a rescuer. People do too. Lost in the pretty Christmas cards, festive parties and frantic gift-buying is the fact that Christmas is, first and foremost, a rescue mission. The Bible says humanity is enslaved to sin. Those without a relationship with Jesus desperately need Him to rescue them from that sin. Without Jesus, they truly have no hope.

Help them see what Jesus says about their deepest needs.  When people show up at your church this Christmas they’re coming with many needs. Many have been crushed by the world around them. They’ve lost marriages, children, jobs—and hope. Only Jesus can recover what they’ve lost. Like the coin that the woman lost in Luke 15, they can’t help themselves—and often they don’t really know they’re…

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CrowdsBeing a pastor is a great privilege that carries with the calling a great responsibility to care for people, study the scriptures and to maintain a lifestyle of constant prayer. With these responsibilities come stress, misunderstandings and the pressure to be a lot of things to a lot of people. When this stress reaches a tipping point, pastors, like everyone else, want relief.

Obviously, our only source for lasting peace and sustained strength is God and He is more than enough for a pastor or anyone else. Unfortunately, the world offers cheap and easy escapes, including one that is not on most pastor’s radars. The first four on the list are most often noted as counterfeit ways to dodge the realities that weigh us down.

  1. Illegal drugs or legal drugs used foolishly
  2. Excessive alcohol
  3. Food eaten just to comfort us and not to nourish.
  4. Illicit sex

But there is a fifth form of medication, one that most pastors are addicted to without even knowing. It’s the addiction of adoring crowds. Big crowds, little crowds and medium size crowds all have the power to medicate our egos and sooth our hidden pain. Why do you think…

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Santa ClausSaint Nicholas is a great story to share this Christmas! Nicholas was born in Southern Turkey in 280 AD and was a difference maker. Study the historical writings on this man, but I some it all up in this short video. Play it for your kids, or even your staff, just take the info and preach it. The enemy always has a counterfeit, and that’s where Santa Claus came from.

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It’s a natural process to be impacted by someone’s leadership and then copy that leadership for a season.

It’s what you know so it’s what you do.

But at some point you have to learn to lead through your voice and style.

Just because someone you deeply respect does certain things in their leadership of others doesn’t mean you should.

It’s so liberating to be able to lead from who you are. Here’s how to do it:

1. Learn to pay attention to your intuition.

Non-robotic leadership begins with learning to pay attention to your gut. Don’t gloss over moments. Watch body language. Try to discern the feel of the group you’re leading in relation to the issues that are most pressing. Don’t assume everyone’s on board. Don’t assume everyone is antagonistic. Where are you hyping yourself past reality? Where do you need to be brutally honest? Where because of insecurity do you want to ignore what is really happening?

2. Courageously experiment with different strategies and tactics.

Finding you own leadership voice and style won’t happen if you’re always waiting on someone to give you permission. Give yourself permission. And try…

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“For the lips of an adulteress drip honey, and smoother than oil is her speech.” (Proverbs 4:3)

Before there was a folk singer by that name, James Taylor was a professor of preaching. This veteran teacher of preachers held forth in classrooms at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary for many years. One day, in a room filled with young preacher boys, Dr. Taylor cautioned us about the temptations we would be facing.

“The day will come when a woman will sit in your office and proposition you. She will make herself available to you sexually. If your marriage is in trouble or if you are not up-to-date in your relationship with your Lord, you could get in big trouble fast.”

I raised my hand. “Dr. Taylor,” I said, “do you really believe that every one of us in this room will face this?” My mind was incapable of imagining a scenario in which a woman–any woman–would sit in a pastor’s office and try to seduce him.

“Yes, I do,” he said. “Even you, McKeever.”

That got a laugh.

I lived to see that day. (Fifteen years after she…

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Sooner or later the preacher runs into a wall.

He’s stuck. He doesn’t have a good answer.

When someone on staff asks, “what are you doing for your next sermon series?” they are met with a blank stare.

This happens to preachers of all stripes. Verse-by-verse expositors run into this wall when it’s time to figure out the ‘next book to preach.’ Topical preachers – who can still be expositors if they choose – hit a dry spell when they can’t read the ‘signs of the times’ and figure out what’s next. Our colleagues who preach from a Lectionary may have it over us, but I’d bet even they find themselves struggling once in a while.

The answer to the question lies in answering two other questions:

  • What is your weakest or least favorite area of theology?
  • What is your least favorite or least understood book of the Bible?

Your answers reveal which part of the “whole counsel of God”  you’ve neglected.Your congregation certainly needs you to teach them these things. After all, you’re the one who’s been neglectful.

So brush up your theology and do some exegesis in the less popular books. It won’t be long…

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Brandon PreachingThere are certain elements that must be included in every single sermon that we ever preach. They are non-negotiable. To put it another way, every sermon you preach has three key components…

The God Component

The “God component” is what sets preaching apart from other kinds of public speaking. We are God’s spokespeople. We preach His word, not ours. And as we consider the role of God in the sermon, we have to ask some pretty pertinent questions:

  • Have I recognized that God is the ultimate authority on the meaning of His word?
  • Have I consulted with the Author of the word in prayer?
  • Have I trusted the results of my preaching to the Spirit who moves among his people?
  • Have I made Jesus the central character of the sermon?

The Communicator Component

The component has to do with me, the preacher. I need to ask certain important questions about my own role in the preaching experience:

  • Have I live and embodied the word in my life? That is to say, have I been the incarnation of the message I hope to convey on Sunday morning?
  • Can I honestly say I’ve spent adequate time in preparation, so that…

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Questions“…knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance….” (James 1:3)

Pity the church with an immature pastor. He can drive good people crazy.

His ego is always out there seeking a caress, his stubborness could put a mule to shame, and his unteachable spirit frustrates even the saintliest. He thinks of himself first of all, what effect something will have on his career secondly, and of the church a distant third.

A few days after Hurricane Katrina went through our part of the world and left New Orleans flooded and hundreds of thousands of people homeless and vast numbers of churches destroyed, I had a phone call from one of our young pastors. His church had come through fine, but his members were scattered and some were not coming back.  He said, “Joe, I worry about the effect this will have on my future prospects. I mean, this will not look good on my resume’.”

Yes, he actually said that.

I replied, “My friend, you don’t have a resume’. You’re still in seminary.” I let that soak in, then added, “If you will do this right and be faithful, you will…

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Leonard Sweet and Frank Viola

JesusJesus: A Theography (Thomas Nelson, 424 pages, hardcover) is the new release by Leonard Sweet and Frank Viola (authors of Jesus Manifesto). This new book uniquely tells the story of Jesus from Genesis to Revelation, connecting all the dots together, showing that the Bible is one beautiful narrative of Christ.  The following is an excerpt from chapter 11, “Jesus: Preacher and Teacher.” Click here to read a sample chapter along with details, resources, and discounts.

The greatest communicator who ever lived – Jesus of Nazareth — had a nontraditional communication style. Jesus did not speak as other speakers or as an exegete.

He did not present Himself as a footnote to other rabbis (such as, “Rabbi Gamaliel says on the authority of Rabbi Hillel”). He did not engage in “Midrash Pesher” on Hebrew Scripture.

What He is, however, is a storyteller, metaphor maker, and sage who is always ready with a proverb, aphorism, riddle, and other one-liners. Whether the Sermon on the Mount was one cohesive unit delivered on one specific occasion or a Matthew miscellany of Jesus’ favorite sayings, the whole “sermon” can be found mostly…

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