Archives For Leadership

3 Ways to Keep Your Listener’s Attention as You Preach

Preaching is tougher than ever these days. For one thing, we can’t assume that people come to our churches with a basic understanding of the Bible like they may have in the past.

But it’s also tougher because of all the media we interact with on a daily basis—from television to email to social media. It seems like someone is always trying to sell us something or convince us about a new idea.

Just open your email, and you’ll likely see a full selection of pitches asking you to buy anything from lunch to a new fishing pole to a vacation. Turn on the television, and the pitching from commercials continues.

Because of this, when unchurched people hear you preach, they assume you’re trying to sell them something. They believe you’re trying to sell them on religion.

That’s not your purpose, but your listeners often don’t know that.

Every week you’re preaching to people who are more skeptical than ever before.

You used to be able to turn up the volume when you had a weak point and keep people’s interest that way. But you can’t do that…

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4 Steps to Achieving Your 2019 Goals

You’ll never find the ideal time to take the next step toward your goals.

So do it now. Those three words could change your ministry. The Bible says, “If you wait for perfect conditions, you will never get anything done” (Ecclesiastes 11:4 TLB).

You can’t wait until your life settles down to reach for that elusive goal. You can’t wait until everyone else is on board to do what you know the Lord has called you to do.

The time is now.

Your ministry must thrive under imperfect conditions or it will never thrive. So get started today with these four steps.

1. Clarify your goals.

God gave you an amazing ability to choose what’s important in your life. Many ministry leaders never stop to think through and identify what’s really important to them. You can’t do what’s important in your life until you clarify what it is.

Take a half day, if possible, and pray about two specific things: What do I value? What do I want to change?

Yes, you should think about your ministry goals, but don’t stop there either. I also usually think through:

How God Gives You His Vision for Your Church

You hear ministry leaders talk all the time about what a church needs to grow. Some say it’s preaching. Some say you need a great location. Others suggest you need a vibrant ministry to children or youth.

All of those aspects are important for a healthy, growing church. But I don’t think they are what’s most important.

You start with leadership. Everything rises and falls on leadership. I see churches in great locations that struggle because of bad leadership. I see churches with great preaching struggle because of poor leadership. Leadership matters.

And leadership rests on vision.

Charisma doesn’t make a great leader. Vision does. In fact, communicating vision is your number one job as a leader. As a pastor, you need to continually clarify the vision of your church. It gets harder and harder (but more and more important) as you grow.

But where do you get vision that will propel your church forward in the new year?

You have to get vision from the Holy Spirit. God’s vision never wears out. His vision will never fail. His vision is better and grander than anything we can think…

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9 Ways to Spot a Great Book for Your Ministry Library

Churches don’t grow without growing leaders.

If we don’t take in truth, we can’t give it out. Over the years at Saddleback, I’ve developed a habit of reading myself out of a rut. When I’m struggling to figure out what’s next or to break past a growth barrier, I’ve leaned into reading before taking my next big step. Few habits will help you in ministry as much as a regular diet of reading.

Every profession has its tools. You can’t be a doctor without a stethoscope. You can’t be a carpenter without a hammer and a saw. The minister’s tools are his books. We’re in the feeding, leading, and communicating business. Reading helps us do that more effectively.

With the new year just a few days away, it’s a good time to start a new reading habit.

But what kind of books should a Christian leader read?

Good ones.

I agree with James Bryce, who is credited with saying, “Life is too short to spend it reading inferior books.”

Here are nine ways you can find a jewel amid all the books out there.

1. Start with the author.

This…

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5 Tools to Help People Grow Spiritually

All living things grow. It’s evidence of life. If a child doesn’t grow to physical maturity, that’s a tragedy.

And if people in our congregations don’t grow spiritually, that’s a tragedy, too.

Many churches focus on getting people in the doors and maybe making a salvation decision. But that’s only a small part of our responsibility.

Jesus gives us another example. During his ministry, he started by urging people to “come and see.” And they did! People began to follow him. But then Jesus slowly turned up the heat. He began adding qualifiers, statements that start with “You’re my disciple if”:

  • You love one another (John 13:35)
  • You abide in his Word (John 8:31)
  • You deny yourself (Matthew 16:24)
  • You make Jesus your prime allegiance (Luke 14:26)

Eventually, Jesus took it a step further and said that a person had to “come and die” (Luke 14:27) to be a disciple.

But Jesus didn’t start with “come and die.” He moved people slowly from “come and see” to “come and die.”

That’s what discipleship is all about. And I learned early in my ministry at Saddleback that I couldn’t grow the church….

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5 Ways to Break Through a Growth Barrier This Christmas

A few weeks back we talked about some of the reasons churches plateau. I know it’s a popular topic because so many pastors tell me their churches are stuck at a certain number of members or attenders.

Here’s the good news: Christmas is a great time to get unstuck.

People who wouldn’t come some other time of the year show up at Christmas. And we have a great opportunity to tell them about Jesus and to encourage them to come back to church. You can use Christmas services to help your members sense that they are a part of something big and exciting. It can be tough to keep people motivated consistently over the long haul, but we can get them fired up for a specific day.

A “Big Day” can help people feel like they’re on a winning team.

And a “Big Day” like Christmas can help break through growth barriers (whether it’s 200, 300, 400, or 1,000).

At Saddleback, we refer to it as pyramiding growth. You push past a barrier on a “Big Day,” then the numbers might drop a little bit the…

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Four Ways Every Youth Pastor Can Bring Out the Best in Students

The first job I ever had in a church was as a youth pastor. When I took the position, I knew nothing about youth ministry. Honestly, I was as green as they come.

I’ll never forget the church’s pastor, W.C. Bryant, pulling me into his office after he hired me. We couldn’t have looked more different. He was in a three-piece suit. I was in jeans and a t-shirt. But W.C. looked me right in the eyes and said, “Rick, if I didn’t trust you, I wouldn’t hire you. If I didn’t trust you, you wouldn’t be on this staff. The very fact that you’re here means that I do trust you. So go for it. Do whatever it takes to reach kids for Christ.”

And that’s what I did. After he showed that kind of trust for me, I went all out engaging our community’s youth with the Gospel. We reached hundreds of teenagers for Christ. That experience profoundly changed the course of my future ministry. I learned lessons that would eventually help me found and lead Saddleback Church. I’ve taught…

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Four Ways Your Church Can Care for the Poor

I’ve always found it significant that Jesus mentions the poor in his very first sermon: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, for he has anointed me to bring Good News to the poor” (Luke 4:18 NLT).

We must care about the poor because Jesus did. We don’t have a choice. So how can we help the people in our churches minister to the poor? Here are a few ideas I have; perhaps you have more:

1. Treat the poor with dignity.

We’re not smarter, we’re not more talented, and we’re not more valuable than people who are poor. The Bible says, “Rich and poor have this in common: The Lord is the Maker of them all” (Proverbs 22:2 NIV). I like to say that our self-worth isn’t based on our net worth.

2. Offer the poor opportunities.

The Bible says, “When we have the opportunity to help anyone, we should do it” (Galatians 6:10 NCV). As I’ve talked to people in various ministries, they all say that the best way to help the poor isn’t to give them a bunch of money. It’s to give them opportunities.

Maybe people…

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Tips to Improve Your Sermon Preparation

One of the ways I prepare for sermons is by constantly collecting content—things like news stories or statistics that might make a good illustration, anecdotes and quotes, and Bible verses based on a common theme.

I usually start collecting this stuff months or even years before I ever write the sermon. This kind of collecting is one of the most underrated habits of great preachers. We can learn from them by always being on the lookout for things that will help us develop future sermons.

I’ll give you an example of what I mean. A few years ago, I preached a sermon series on Psalm 23. It turned out to be a great evangelistic series. In fact, 446 people gave their lives to Christ during the seven-week series. But here’s the thing: I started collecting material on Psalm 23 back when I was in college! And so when it came time to preach this series, I had a huge file of information to draw on. I’d been thinking about the topics in Psalm 23 for years, so I don’t believe it was accidental that God used the series…

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How to Mobilize Our Churches to Finish the Task

For the past 2,000 years, Christians have been praying for the fulfillment of the Great Commission.

And we’re still not there yet. But it’s within sight. We’re closer than ever before.

More than 2 billion people have never even heard the message of Jesus, so it’s time to take a radical stand and say, “This has to be completed in our generation.”

Nothing matters more than getting the Good News to people who haven’t heard it.

It’s why you’re still on this planet. It’s why every person in your church is still around. There are only two things you can’t do in heaven: You can’t witness to other people, and you can’t sin.

Nothing matters more than getting the Good News to everyone—and finishing our task. History depends upon it. The spiritual destinies of people depend upon it.

The church’s birth in Acts 2 gives us a great model for how we’ll reach the remaining unreached people groups on the earth. Within the story of these early Christians, we get the biblical foundation for mobilization.

1. We must depend upon the Holy Spirit.

If we don’t begin, continue, and end with…

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10 Reasons Churches Plateau

Every church goes through plateaus—times when your church simply doesn’t grow. It’s natural and normal, and they’re part of our story at Saddleback.

Our plateaus have looked different at times, but they’ve been there. In fact, a decade ago we were in the midst of one such five-year plateau. But then God did what only he can do. Today we’re going through a renewed period of growth.

In nearly 50 years of ministry, I’ve talked with thousands of pastors going through their own periods of plateau. I’ve studied the issue extensively. Here’s what I’ve learned.

1. Plateaus are natural.

Don’t get freaked out by them. Plateaus are just a state of little or no change. Everything stops growing at some point. It happens all of the time in nature. It shouldn’t surprise us when it happens in our churches. It will happen in our churches. You can count on it.

2. God created every organism to have a maximum limit on its growth.

Even redwood trees, which grow to 400 feet tall and live for 2,000 years, have a growth cap. Your church does, too. You can’t use it as an excuse, though….

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4 Things That Matter Most in Holiday Giving Campaigns

You’ll hear one word more than any other during the holiday season.

I’d like to say that word is Jesus or Gospel or even gratefulness. But it’s not.

The most popular word, by far, is gift. Everyone wants to talk about gifts they’re giving or gifts they’re getting. It’s not just a national obsession. It’s a global one. We spend at least a month—and these days, likely two months—in a mad dash to find the right gifts.

Many people think that the idea of giving gifts at Christmas began with the wise men bringing their presents to the Baby Jesus. It does begin in the Bible, but it isn’t the wise men who gave the first Christmas gift.

It was God himself.

The most famous verse in the Bible says it like this: “God loved the people of this world so much that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who has faith in him will have eternal life and never really die” (John 3:16 CEV).

Jesus was the original Christmas gift. God loved us so much that he gave.

That’s why it’s natural to encourage people to give to ministry…

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