Why Planning Your Preaching Matters

You can easily tell the difference between a well-prepared meal and one that was just thrown together at the last minute. 

If you eat all your meals at fast-food restaurants, you likely won’t be healthy. The same is true if you feed your church fast-food sermons. You can’t grow a healthy church on sermons you don’t prepare with care. When you skimp on sermon preparation, your church gets cheated. 

That’s why sermon planning is so important. I know many pastors who don’t plan their preaching at all. They wake up every Monday morning asking themselves, “What am I going to preach on this week?”

Some pastors don’t plan because they believe spirituality and spontaneity go together. There’s a constant tension between the human and the divine in what God does through people, whether it’s preaching or something else.

When it comes to planning, we need to depend upon the Holy Spirit. We need to be willing to throw everything out if the Holy Spirit tells us to do so. Our sermons must be about God’s agenda, not ours. 

Yet planning…

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Facing Your Struggles

By Rodney Holmstrom, Global Field Director

I am a big sports fan. Of course, my desire is for my team to win the championship every year. Not a very big wish, huh?

I was thinking this morning, what if when the season started, they just automatically said, “Rodney, without even starting the season, your team won. They are the new champions of their league.”

If I’m being honest, that excitement might last about 3 seconds and then I would be asking questions like, “What?! How? They didn’t do anything?!” Holding the trophy in the end without the journey toward it doesn’t quite mean the same thing, does it?

You see, what makes crossing the finish line sweet is not just about receiving a trophy, but it’s also about understanding and being satisfied with the work that went into the process and the journey.

Think about the stories of the journeys we took to get to where we are now. You will hear things like, “We had some rough spots that challenged us, but with God’s help, we persevered and kept fighting.”

I am reminded that while I have been given the privilege and honor of…

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By Rodney, Carol, Taylor, and Jason

I’m a grateful believer in Jesus and I struggle with drugs, alcohol, and food issues.

My name is Rodney.

I came from a dysfunctional home, one of four boys and a mom dealing with her own pain, addictions, and baggage. We lived in a home where verbal, emotional, and physical abuse ran rampant. At the young age of 10, I began smoking marijuana and when that wasn’t enough to mask the pain, I turned to alcohol and eventually, cocaine.

My mom moved away, and I stayed behind to live with my “friends” who were drug dealers. I was now homeless, a high school dropout with absolutely no hope for a future. I found myself wandering the streets with no sense of purpose. God certainly didn’t know I existed. He wasn’t present in my madness and certainly wasn’t strong enough to help me out of this mess, or so I thought…

I knew it was time to get out of there and so I moved to stay with my mom. I truly believed I was leaving my problems behind. Little did I know, running would not bring me the peace I…

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Who Is Your Provider?

By Rick Warren

Who Is Your Provider?

“My cup overflows. Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life.”

Psalm 23:5-6 (NIV)

Is your focus on what you can provide or on what God can provide?

Even though he was walking through difficult times, David was able to be thankful for God’s goodness and love because his cup was overflowing. God was his Provider, so David had more than he needed.

As you walk through the different seasons of life, you can choose between two different attitudes. You can have a shortage mindset or a surplus mindset.

With a shortage mindset, you constantly think, “I don’t have enough time. I don’t have enough money. I don’t have enough energy. I don’t have enough contacts, opportunities, knowledge, or education.” It’s the sense that you’re always a day late and a dollar short.

A shortage mindset focuses on your limited resources, and the result is an overwhelmed life.

A surplus mindset focuses on God’s limitless resources, and the result is an overflowing life. He wants to meet all your needs—beyond what you can imagine—and he’s the only one who can! Have you ever worried that…

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Five Kinds of Goals God Blesses

As you look ahead, I hope you’ve already penciled in some goals to pursue over the next 12 months. January is a great month to rethink your priorities and refocus on what really matters. 

In my last Ministry Toolbox article, I shared with you five reasons goals are important. But that doesn’t mean every goal is good. There are some goals God won’t bless. For example, you could set a goal to watch every television episode this year, and it’s likely God won’t bless that kind of goal.

On the other hand, God blesses goals that honor him. What are those goals?

Goals that bring glory to God.

The Bible tells us everything we do can bring glory to God if we do it in the right attitude and with the right motivation (1 Corinthians 10:31). Any goal that makes us more grateful to God, draws us closer to him, or involves sharing Jesus with others brings God glory.

This means the same goal can be one God blesses and one he doesn’t, depending upon the motivation behind it. If…

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Why You Need Goals in 2022

Most of the people in our congregations are stepping into 2022 hoping it will be better than 2021. Many have already identified specific changes they want to make in their lives. They want to get healthier, heal their marriage, or get serious about their spiritual growth. 

But despite their best intentions, many of those changes will fizzle out. 

That’s where goals come in. It’s critical that you have a vision for what God wants to do in your life. You have to see the goal before you can reach the goal. But once you’ve seen it, you must believe you can achieve it. That’s where your faith in God comes in.

A few years back, I asked a world-famous psychologist, “In all of your work over the years, what has been the most helpful thing you’ve given to people that has made a difference in their lives as they were seeking change?” 

His answer was surprising. 

“There’s no question about it,” he said. “I’ve discovered the most helpful thing I can do for people in a personal or relational…

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It’s no secret that people look to make changes in their lives at the beginning of the year. It’s a time when people get back into fitness, get their finances under control, and get serious about their spiritual lives.

But too often these changes don’t stick. As a church leader, you’ve likely seen it many times before. You’ve probably even experienced it yourself, knowing that lasting change isn’t possible without going back to the operating manual of our lives—God’s Word. 

Romans 12:1-11 gives us six important principles for making a lasting change in our lives.

We must commit our bodies to God. 

No matter what kind of change we want to make in our lives—mental, physical, financial, spiritual, or social—it will require energy. The reason we don’t change is because we have no energy. The truth is, sometimes we’re just too tired to change. That’s why change must start with our bodies.

Everything you do for God in this life, you’ll do in your body. In fact, God says to offer your body to him. Romans 12:1 says, “Therefore, I urge you,…

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Five Steps to a Fresh START

Our God is the God of second chances and fresh starts.

Pastor, as you head into 2022, you may be ready to let go of a dream or a vision that God has given you. But don’t give up, because the year ahead is another opportunity to pursue the dream God has given you.

God’s Word gives us five simple steps for seizing the fresh start he wants to give us. I’ve created an acrostic, S-T-A-R-T, to help us remember these steps as we try to apply them in 2022.

Stop making excuses for not starting.

The biggest barriers to your success are your own excuses. God has a lot to say about your excuses. Just look at the four most common excuses we make when giving up on a dream. 

  • “I don’t have what it takes to go after my dream.” Many people in the Bible tried making this excuse, including Moses, Jeremiah, and Gideon. But God reminded each one that he is with them as they fulfill his calling for their lives. And God’s answer to your insecurity is to also…

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Sharing Jesus With the Lost This Christmas

I’ve preached well over 100 Christmas messages during my 40 years as pastor of Saddleback Church. We’ve looked at Christmas from every possible angle. We’ve looked at it from the perspective of Mary, Joseph, the wise men—and even God himself. We’ve studied Christmas from the vantage point of the shepherds, the innkeeper, and King Herod.

You’ve probably preached Christmas messages from a variety of angles as well. But the most important perspective our communities need to understand is the purpose of Christmas.

To preach all the intricacies of Jesus’ birth but miss the purpose of Christmas is to miss the point entirely. If you ignore the reason for Christmas, you might as well take down your Christmas lights, forget about your Christmas cards, and cancel your Christmas services.

Luke 19:10 tells us exactly why Jesus’ birth matters so much: “For the Son of Man came to seek and save those who are lost” (NLT). And as you and your church proclaim the Christmas story this holiday season, nothing matters more than that simple message. Luke 19:10…

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Testimony: The Transformative Power of Jesus Christ

I’m a grateful believer in Jesus who has issues with anger, codependency, shame, blame, and fear. My name is Kenny. This is a testimony of the transformative power of Jesus Christ in the lives of my wife Karla and I.

I remember the day we met, but the icing on the cake was when, during a conversation, we discovered we were born in the VERY SAME HOSPITAL. We met in Los Angeles, but we were both born in Philadelphia at the University Hospital. Now that’s what I call a divine connection!

Our childhood traumas would lay the soil in which the enemy would plant seeds for our ultimate demise.

I was raised by a single parent. Blame was cultivated in my life after an incident with my little sister. She fell down the stairs while we were playing and broke her hip. For years I went through life thinking I must have pushed her accidentally. The truth of the event came out when I wrote it on my 4th Step Inventory. While working Step 9, the amends process, I was talking to my mother and mentioned the incident….

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“A person without self-control is as defenseless as a city with broken-down walls.”

Proverbs 25:28 (NLT)

Anything that’s uncontrolled will eventually destroy you.

In today’s society, it’s obvious we don’t know how to handle anger. We live in a fast-paced, hectic world where people get stressed out. We’re always on the go and trying to burn the candle at both ends.

Anger is not a sin; if you read the Gospels you will see that Jesus got angry. What’s important is how you express your anger. If you don’t learn how to manage it wisely, it will destroy you and your relationships.

If handled correctly, managed anger actually becomes an asset. There are some situations where the only proper response is to get angry. For example, when you see someone being taken advantage of or when you see an injustice, anger is an appropriate response.

If you’re going to learn how to control your anger, you have to stop making excuses and start accepting responsibility for your reactions. Anger is a choice, just like every other emotion.

When you realize that anger has a cost, you’re more likely to control it. You always lose…

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Jesus Is Making All Things New

By Lori Smith, Cultural Communities

But there is a place where someone has testified:

‘What is mankind that you are mindful of them,
    a son of man that you care for him?

You made them a little lower than the angels;
    you crowned them with glory and honor
    and put everything under their feet.’

In putting everything under them, God left nothing that is not subject to them. Yet at present we do not see everything subject to them. But we do see Jesus, who was made lower than the angels for a little while, now crowned with glory and honor because he suffered death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.

Hebrews 2:6-9 (NIV)

I opened up my news app and there it was. Shutdown. Lockdown. Forced quarantine. Overnight,…

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