One 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…Continue Reading
“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…Continue Reading
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…Continue Reading
Sometimes 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
Is 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:
- 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.
- 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…
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.
Every 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).
1. Titles are critically important for their advertising and promotional value, so I suggest you make it “sexy” but not “cute.” “Sexy” simply means…Continue Reading
When 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…Continue Reading
“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…Continue Reading
Can you preach a good sermon without love?
I was at a gathering of pastors, and the gust speaker said, “You can preach a good sermon without loving your people, but you will never preach a great sermon without loving them.”
I immediately wrote the phrase down and chewed on it for a while.
Can pastors really preach good without love?
The more I thought about it, the more I realized it is true.
There are plenty of pastors who preach good sermons without love for the people they are preaching to. They preach well, because, although they don’t love people, they love preaching.
Their people even say afterwards, “That was a good sermon.” Because by all accounts it was.
The timing and delivery were good. The illustrations were well rehearsed. The pastor was likable. The interpretation of scripture was solid. But “good” is all their preaching will ever be.
There is just something missing. Something that cannot be measured, but it can be felt. Love.
On the other hand, there are other pastors who preach the same level of sermon (even less polished), but have a genuine love for the people they are preaching to.
Their love is obvious. It flows through them….Continue Reading
Do you remember public speaking in school when you were growing up? Maybe there was a class specifically dedicated to it, or maybe it would just roll around every once in awhile when projects were due or presentations were required.
The words themselves, “public speaking,” seem to carry an immense amount of pressure. They connote sweaty palms, cracking voices, and hours practicing in front of the mirror.
For some people, those words are about as welcome in their lives as a spider or a confined space.
Public speaking isn’t easy, but it is necessary—especially as a pastor.
So I’ve compiled the advice I’ve heard over the years into a quick, simple list.
Here are the three things every great public speaker knows:
1. Telling a story is the best way to engage an audience.
Telling a story is your best bet for not only connecting to and engaging your audience, but also for ensuring they’ll retain the information you give them. For some reason, our minds are wired to remember stories more than any other method of information delivery.
We can listen to facts all day and rarely remember more than a few of them.
But when we hear a…Continue Reading
One of the greatest challenges as a pastor is when you know God wants you to preach on a sensitive and challenging subject. Some pastors do all they can to avoid or ignore these kinds of matters.
Yet, I have a question for you. When God is so clear on a subject in His Word and the culture is facing the issue in a glaring way, how can a biblical preacher not address it? At the same time, I want to be more than clear: we do not need to do this continually, as if we are on the hunt for a fight. But there are moments when God has led us to deal with a current issue.
How do we preach sensitive and challenging subjects?
In mid-July, God began to put the immigration crisis before me and on my heart. You can go back and read various things I have written relating to this crisis in our nation. One was written before I went to the border of Texas and the other was written after returning from the border. Upon my return, I began to seriously study this issue and once I looked upon it from…Continue Reading