Archives For Justin Trapp

Sermon Cards

I attended a book-writing workshop recently that revolutionized how I write sermons. Let me explain.

The instructor had a great way of mapping out a book using what I would describe as a “building blocks” approach. Apparently, this is not a new technique, but it was new to me.

To accomplish this method, you take index cards and write every thought, every story, every illustration, and every quote on individual index cards, color coordinating them as you go (illustrations in green, your quotes in red, and so forth).

Once you’ve written it all down, you begin to assemble your thoughts and your cards piece by piece, in the order you want.

She explained that most people use Microsoft Word to write a book, which is incredibly slow and cumbersome because you have to copy and paste anytime you want to move your copy around. Additionally, you can only see a small amount of your work at a time.

Using her method makes it a lot easier because it allows you to lay it all out and organize it before you ever start writing.

As I was sitting in her workshop I thought, “This would be a…

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While reading Timothy Keller’s new book, Preaching: Communicating Faith in an Age of Skepticism, I ran across a quote that, I believe, is wildly telling. In this passage, Keller is talking about legalism (dependence on morality to save us) and antinomianism (the belief that God’s grace doesn’t mean we have to live holy lives).

“Here is where the issue affects your preaching. If you think legalism is simply too much emphasis on the law, then you will think the antidote is to talk less about obedience and more about acceptance and forgiveness. If you think that antinomianism is simply too loose an attitude toward morality and law, you will assume the remedy is to talk less about mercy and acceptance and more about God righteousness and holy commands. In short, you will try to cure one with a dose of the other. This will be a disaster, because both of them have the same root cause. Both come from the belief that God does not really love us or will our joy, and from a failure to see that ‘both the law and the gospel are expressions of God’s grace.’”

I like…

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Mark Cuban once said…

Tithes…Sales cure all.”

Now, I understand having a stronger tithe base doesn’t cure all. But it sure does help alleviate several church tensions for pastors. Use these 7 ways to boost your church giving.

1. Buy a Giving-Themed URL

Most churches have a giving link on their website, but it takes some time to explain to congregants how they can find it. I tried something a few years ago and our online giving grew from 25% to 55% of total monthly giving. Buy a domain that is related to your church name and giving. Our church name is Northwood Church so I bought and forwarded it to the url for our giving page.

During the giving talk we created a simple graphic with and we mentioned it every service. “For those of you who don’t carry cash or check, you can give at right there on your phone.”

Giving increased overall because we added a new way for people to give. became a popular phrase in every department for event registration and signup payments.

2. Get Automated Payments

We have seen a surge in the business world the last several years on monthly subscription pricing. The theory…

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Last week I blogged about the 58 things that were killing me.

That post came from burnout I had as a small business owner. Right in the middle of that process, it got me thinking…

I wonder if pastors are getting burned out for the same reason as me?

With that question on my mind for a few days, I decided to send a quick survey to the pastors on my email list. The results were just as I suspected, and they point to the real reason why I believe pastors are so worn out.

It was the same reason I had experienced burnout as a small business owner in the height of our successes.

This revealing survey had two questions:

In what areas does your team need the most training?

I received a total of 17 different answers. Organization, volunteer management and spiritual development were just a few of the answers given.

The #2 answer on the list was Leadership, with 38% of pastors saying leadership is at the top of the list of areas their staff needs training in.

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This answer wasn’t surprising considering we are an industry…

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Your church website may be breaking some unspoken rules.

If you follow these rules they will dramatically impact the way your website functions.  Your church site should be an asset used to generate results.

Most church websites are simply a window for viewing static info. Your website is a tool to connect with people in your community and beyond.

If you want your website to work for you, follow these 5 rules.

1. Get rid of the homepage slider

I have had so many pastors make the case for the slider in the name of, “We want people to see things are happening.1

The problem is, no one clicks on the slider. In fact, some studies have shown only 1% of people will click on your slider.

Don’t take up valuable real estate on your website with something that continues to generates low results.

Sliders also don’t work well on mobile devices or smart tablets. The rise of one-page websites has risen dramatically with mobile traffic.

2. Build A Site For Outsiders

Filling a slider with your church’s “current events” caters to insiders.

We have done testing with our church clients and found, the majority of traffic came from non members.


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I see preachers today erring in one of two directions and rarely finding the balance. That is, some preachers are grounded in the world of the Bible and committed to the text, but when they preach they’re dull and lifeless. They put their people to sleep. On the other hand, there are other preachers who are very creative and passionate and effective communicators, but they are not rooted in the biblical text. I’m seeing both of these extremes. We need to have preachers who marry these two things—a commitment to the biblical text and a commitment to passionate, creative delivery.

Dr. Hershael York (Professor of Christian Preaching at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky)

Dr. York makes a point that I think most ministers miss: It’s important that preachers be both biblical and creative. We don’t have to sacrifice one for the other. Creativity and solid theology are not mutually exclusive.

This conversation can get people antsy. Talk about creativity, and some take it as an attack on the Bible. Talk theology, and some pastors think you want them to live in…

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Jesus used sermon illustrations.


We usually call them parables. Let me tell you about one from the book of Matthew.

After performing a miracle, Jesus turned at his disciples and said, “If you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move” (17:20).

The imagery of a mustard seed moving a mountain is powerful. First, a mustard seed is incredibly small. Yet, given the proper environment and resources, it grows to be a large plant.

Second, Jesus is not far from a place called Herodian. Herodian is what King Herod called the mountaintop palace he built to celebrate a victory over the Parthians.

There’s something interesting I should share about Herod’s mountaintop palace. Before he built it, THERE WAS NO MOUNTAIN.

How can you build a mountaintop palace without a mountain?!

Simple, Herod had a mountain built.

He took dirt from another place to create his very own personalized mountain.

Using this popular image, Jesus taught his disciples an important truth: if they have faith in God, they can do greater things than King Herod.

The disciples probably never forgot what Jesus said that day.

When it comes to using…

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The winds of change blow from time to time in our lives. I am currently in a transitional season in my life.  This process is producing some valuable lessons I thought I would share.

I have learned several things but for narrowed it down to four for this post.

1. Relationships are like bridges

And like bridges, they can have a lot of mileage on them. Keeping these relationships strong demands we inspect them so they are well maintained.

According to the Transportation for America, one in nine bridges are structurally deficient.  In fact, there are 260 million trips per day on deficient bridges. Like bridges, our relationships can be deficient and still get the job done for a season.

I have seen many leaders light a bridge on fire. They watch it burn as it gets smaller in the rearview mirror.  Then later in life, they need to cross that bridge to get to another destination.

If we want our relationships to survive through transitions and the test of time, we must inject intentionality into their survival.

2. It’s easy to make assumptions

In horse racing, almost everyone in attendance are guessing at who will win the race. The oddsmakers and commentary fill the air…

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Yesterday, I asked a group of pastors if they believe minister’s should address pop culture related topics in their messages. Over 1500 pastors responded to the survey. A whopping 74% of them said, “Yes”—ministers can and should talk about culture from the stage.

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Recently, I chatted with Ministry Pass’ Content Manager, Wade Bearden, about pop culture and the Bible. Along with leading our sermon series planning department, Wade is also a film critic in his spare time. His work has been featured on Christianity Today,, and He’s also gearing up to help launch a new podcast on film and television in the next few months.

Here’s a quick summary of our conversation about pastors and pop culture:

1. Jesus used the common imagery of his day to illustrate deep, spiritual truths, we should do the same. Seeds, sheep, and vineyards; Jesus utilized all of these pictures to help an ancient middle eastern culture understand the Kingdom of God. We too should leverage our contemporary culture’s interested in film, television, and art to communicate the message of the Bible. Films are modern day parables. Facebook is a contemporary…

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The average attention span of an adult is about five minutes. The average weekly sermon is 30-40 minutes.

This can be a problem.

If you’re a pastor, you might notice individuals nodding off or reaching for their phones during your messages. What can you do to help your congregation stay engaged? What methods work best to curb waning attention spans?

It’s known that some audience members learn better when visuals are used during a presentation. Others thrive off of auditory or tactile illustrations. While you can’t always be sure which style works best with each specific individual, you can keep their attention by constantly changing up your approach. Utilizing multiple methods and illustrations during talks will keep your audience engaged for longer periods of time. Psychologist Dan Willingham of the University of Virginia argues that mixing up presentation methods is scientifically proven to boost attention spans.

Here are a few ways you can mix up your messages and keep your congregation’s attention. Each sermon should have at least two (or more) of these techniques:

1. A Well Told Story.

Nothing beats a well told story. Notice I didn’t say story, but well told story. Do you bring life to your stories…

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SO2Almost instantaneously, sermon series have taken the preaching world by storm. Visit a handful of church websites and you’re bound to find a majority promoting their hot, new sermon series.

Despite the popularity of sermon series, many ministers still view them with suspicious glances. Are sermon series really that important?

Over the years, I’ve found sermon series to be an indispensable tool for both spiritual and numerical growth in the church. If you’re not utilizing sermon series, you could be missing out on an incredible way to teach others about the Bible.

Here are four reasons why:

Reason #1: Sermon Series Function as Mental Reminders for Your Church

Last year, I preached through series called, “I Work Out.” Because my messages explored spiritual disciplines like prayer and Bible study, I flooded our congregation with images of bodybuilders and exercise equipment. The whole point behind subjecting my group to biceps and back muscles was so I could create in their minds a mental, relatable reminder of my messages. Essentially, a sermon series is the creation of a metaphor by which your audience can relate to, group together, and recall your messages.

Psychologists tell us that the key to moving…

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