“All athletes are disciplined in their training. They do it to win a prize that will fade away, but we do it for an eternal prize. So I run with purpose in every step. I am not just shadowboxing.”
Every step in your journey with Jesus should be taken with purpose and intentionality. There’s a heavenly prize ahead—an eternal reward that awaits those who honor God in everything they do.
Living a life on purpose requires self-discipline. This means you won’t be able to do everything that other people do. God’s plan is different from the world’s plan. Being a disciple of Jesus often means taking the more difficult path.
Olympic runners must give up all kinds of stuff in order to go for the gold. They must go to bed at a certain time, eat a certain way, and train at a certain time. They must count the cost of what it will take to win. Then they make the necessary sacrifices, denying their natural urges and inclinations. The rigorous training is never the focus; their sights are set on the prize.
By Donna Yearsin, National Director Celebration Place
“I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.”
Romans 7:15-20 (NIV)
One of the most beautiful things about recovery involves introspection. Focus questions posed during Open Share Groups cause participants to stop and think about their own thoughts, feelings, and actions– an honest assessment of what is…Continue Reading
When I plan my preaching calendar, I start by analyzing my audience. I start where Jesus started—the needs of people.
You won’t learn that from a commentary set. Commentaries can help you analyze your text but not your congregation. You need to be able to answer three specific questions about your congregation:
- Where is my congregation right now?
- Where does my congregation need to go in the future?
- How can we help them get there?
So, how do you answer these questions about your congregation? Make these four activities a regular practice in your ministry, and you’ll develop a more relevant sermon schedule:
I get many of my sermon ideas from talking to people on the patio after worship services. I listen to people talk about their temptations, their habits, their sins, and their needs. As I listen, I’m constantly asking myself, “Do I need to do a message on this?” I also find that the letters and emails I receive give me great ideas about…Continue Reading
Timing affects everything we do in life. Learning to understand where God wants us in every season of life is essential.
Ecclesiastes 3:1 says, “Everything on earth has its own time and its own season” (CEV).
God has a plan for the transitions in your life and ministry—whether you’re considering a move to a new church or transitioning to a new phase in your current ministry.
You’ve likely heard that I’m transitioning to a new season of my life and ministry. I’ve always considered Acts 13:36 one of my life verses. “David served God’s purpose in his own generation” (CEB). I’ve had the opportunity to serve not just one generation at Saddleback but multiple generations.
But I announced in June that it was time for Saddleback to begin looking for my pastoral successor, who will serve the next generation of our church family. Since I’ve been the senior pastor of Saddleback since the beginning, this will be an incredibly significant change for myself and our church.
I know I’m not the only pastor navigating tough decisions…Continue Reading
Each hurt we go through can build walls in our lives; some can turn into good boundaries, others build walls of protection surrounding us and we think ugliness cannot break though to get to us. Hi, I’m a grateful believer in Jesus– I have victory over co-dependency, isolation, fear of abandonment, and shame. I struggle with food addiction and the effects of past abuse, and my name is Tiffani.
I grew up in an alcoholic home where both my father and stepfather drank heavily. My mom used shame, fear and withdrawal to parent us. I remember the night my dad left. A police officer woke me and my two sisters and helped us get dressed, they took us to a friend’s house to spend the night. I had so many questions but even at that young age I knew better than to ask. In my mind it was better to be as quiet and invisible as possible. My walls began to form. I had quite a few life-changing events all happening at the age of 6: my parents separated, I moved from a middle-class suburb area to a more inner-city location, I…Continue Reading
By Rodney Holmstrom, National Assimilation Coach
“Call to Me, and I will answer you, and show you great and mighty things, which you do not know.” Jeremiah 33:3
There was a man walking along on a cold winter day. Suddenly hitting a patch of black ice, he fell and then BAM! He wasn’t expecting this, but found himself on the ground, cold, wet, humiliated and seemingly alone. He cut his elbow and was bleeding quite a bit. He wanted to go crawl into a hole and hide. His first thought was complete embarrassment for what had happened and wondered if anyone had seen him fall so abruptly. Before he realized it, a stranger was kneeling by him grabbing his arm, helping him back to his feet. He felt embarrassed by the situation. However, the stranger wasn’t focused on that at all. Instead he focused on showing love and compassion while making sure he was ok. He knew he was hurting and came alongside him, helping him mend his wounds.
This has me thinking about my brothers and sisters struggling with mental health issues. Some may struggle with depression, anger, anxiety or other issues that make…Continue Reading
You are in a constant battle for your mind. That’s where temptation begins. When God gives you an idea, that’s inspiration. But when the devil gives you an idea, that’s temptation. Every day, you have to choose which ideas you’re going to accept.
The Bible says if you want to overcome temptation you need to resist the devil. How can you do that? By replacing tempting thoughts with biblical truth.
There are two steps you can take to prepare for battle:
The first step is to “accept God’s salvation as your helmet.” What does a helmet do? It protects your mind. Your mind is where the battle against temptation is fought. Before you can say “no” to the devil, you have to say “yes” to Jesus Christ.
The second step is to “take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God,” and use it against the devil’s temptations. This requires memorizing Scripture so you will know how to counter the devil’s lies. He isn’t afraid of your opinion,…Continue Reading
Listening is one of the most important skills you can develop in ministry.
But most of us simply talk too much. You may have heard before, “God gave us two ears and one mouth, so we should listen twice as much as we talk.” That’s true for those of us in ministry too.
People don’t fail in ministry because they don’t know the Bible well enough, can’t plan well, or struggle as leaders. Most people in ministry fail because they’re insensitive to people. They’re not good listeners.
Poor listening causes broken relationships, costs money, and leads to mistakes. It can ruin ministries.
But there’s good news: You can improve your listening skills. Here are eight strategies to help you become a better listener.
Don’t judge by first impressions.
First impressions aren’t just unfair; they’re also expensive. They can influence all aspects of your ministry—which leaders you choose to invest in, which pastoral care needs you meet, and so on. Often prejudices impact decisions.
The Bible says, “Don’t judge by appearances. Judge by what is right”
Pastors are often taught in seminary to develop a content outline for their sermons. This type of outline is designed to help you teach the Bible, but rarely does it lead to effective sermons and life change.
And the purpose of our preaching is to see God change lives.
That’s why I developed what I call a communication outline for my sermons. The purpose of a communication outline is to change lives rather than simply inform. Instead of a series of alliterated points backed by sub-points that simply describe the text, I turn my points into applications, and each one has an action to take.
Let me show you how these two outlining strategies—content and communication—might impact a typical sermon on the book of Jonah.
Here’s a content outline for the book of Jonah:
Jonah’s four chapters break down into four good points no matter which outline you’re using.
As you know, Jonah runs down to Joppa and gets on a boat headed for Tarsus in chapter one. God told him to go east, and Jonah went as far west as…Continue Reading
It’s not easy to be vulnerable—especially as a pastor. I know that firsthand, but I also understand it’s critical to your church’s ministry that you be open and honest about your weaknesses.
Many times, pastors fear that if they’re vulnerable with their congregations, people will use their weaknesses against them. But God does just the opposite. He often uses your vulnerability to bring you closer to your congregation.
I believe there are five key weaknesses we should be particularly open about with our congregations:
“I want to do what is good, but I don’t. I don’t want to do what is wrong, but I do it anyway” (Romans 7:19 NLT). Have you ever said something like that to your congregation? If not, you should! They need to hear that you’re one of them. They struggle with sin. You do, too. When you share your weaknesses, it gives them the courage to be honest with people in their lives as well.
Whenever I preach on marriage, I always share about the early struggles Kay and I had…
We need to balance both input and output in ministry to be healthy. You can’t constantly give unless you’re filling up your tank. You can do this through many tools—from reading books to listening to podcasts to participating in conferences.
I heard someone once say, “When your output exceeds your input, your upkeep will be your downfall.” You need a balance. Most Christians get too much input and not enough output. They’re involved in Bible study after Bible study but aren’t doing any ministry.
That’s not usually the problem with ministry leaders. We’re always giving out. But if we don’t get input, we’ll dry up.
The simple habit of reading fills me up and helps me stay fresh. Every leader is a reader. Not all readers are leaders, but all leaders are readers.
Here are four reasons reading is so critical to leading effective ministries:
Reading inspires and motivates us.
Harold Ockenga said, “Read to refill the walls of inspiration.” Reading enlightens us, calms us, collects us, and prompts us to better our efforts. I’ve often heard people say that…Continue Reading
Good sermons aren’t scattered. They are consistent and whole.
A great sermon is like a good flight. It includes a smooth takeoff, flight, and landing. But if you have a rocky landing, it doesn’t really matter if you had a smooth takeoff and flight. Because if you don’t land the plane well, you’ve got a problem.
A well-prepared message—where every piece of it ties back to the main purpose of your sermon—leads to spiritual commitments and changed lives.
To ensure that your preaching of God’s Word lands successfully into the hearts of your members, make sure these three elements tie back into your purpose:
Tie your introduction to your purpose.
One sign of an amateur public speaker is that they tell an unrelated joke at the beginning of their message. Jokes that don’t benefit your listener or connect them to where you’re going aren’t worth the effort for a few cheap laughs.
Everything you do in your sermon should be on purpose. Your introduction is no exception. In fact, when you don’t tie your sermon to the following four…Continue Reading