Preaching Tips for Pastors, part 1

My pastor friends will say to me as I write on preaching, “Physician, heal thyself!” I don’t even want to know what my enemies might say! But I want to provide some thoughts on this work in which I have been engaged for the past several decades.

Preaching is an incredibly daunting, challenging and difficult task. It takes skill and effort and practice. But it also is incredibly rewarding– not to mention that we pastors believe God has called and compelled us to preach.

Here are three basic and fundamental thoughts on preaching every preacher should understand.

1. You are the preacher God called. If God called you to preach, he called you to preach. He didn’t call you to become someone else who will then preach for you. He has called you to preach. While you can and should learn from other preachers, you must never try to be another preacher. God made you to be you. Be the best version of you, but be you. Continue reading

7 Reasons Our Church Does VBS

I love Vacation Bible School! I love the opportunity and joy and energy that comes with it. We have a large VBS at FBC O’Fallon, IL. (This was our second year in a row to exceed 1,400 children and workers enrolled.) It takes a lot of work and effort and commitment on our part. It is taxing on our building and our volunteers and our staff. But we believe it is worth it. Here are just a few of the benefits of VBS.

1. Children hear the gospel. I love that we can tell boys and girls the message of the gospel. Many come who have never heard a clear presentation of the truth that Jesus is the Son of God who lived a sinless life, died the death we deserve and rose from the grave to conquer sin, death and hell. 34 children professed faith in Jesus Christ in VBS this year. My wife led a little girl to the Lord who was as sincere and serious as any adult we have ever seen.

2. Children learn the bible. What a joy to teach, sing and memorize the bible! Children who know little of the bible can learn so much in a week of VBS. I loved hearing my own grandchildren quoting and singing bible verses. This will benefit them for the rest of their lives. And a shout out to Lifeway for some super work in providing curriculum that emphasizes the teaching of God’s word. Learning more about the bible is an integral part of the VBS experience. I love that Bible is the middle name of VBS. Continue reading

The Thankful One

I’ve been thinking this week about the story of the ten lepers who were healed by Jesus. (Luke 17) You may remember that story. Although ten men were healed, only one returned to give thanks. Just one!

It is sort of shocking that only one man gave thanks. Why not the others? What happened to them? Did they forget? Did they feel Jesus owed them something? Were they distracted by other things?

While the bible doesn’t tell us why those ten didn’t return to give thanks, it certainly reminds us of the importance of a thankful spirit. Note verses like these: “Give thanks in everything; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thes. 5:18) “…giving thanks always for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Eph. 5:20)

Maybe the math of this story is also instructive. Only one in ten gave thanks. Is that the way it is today? Only about 10%? If so, are you in the majority or the minority on the subject of thankfulness? Are you part of the crowd who forgets to be thankful? Or, will you be the thankful one?

Let me list three ways for you to buck the odds and be the thankful one. Continue reading

Connect with Guests

I moved several times as a boy and, I’ve got to say, it wasn’t much fun. Each time I had to overcome old fears, break down unseen barriers and make new friends. I never liked that feeling of being an outsider. I haven’t forgotten how that felt to my tender young soul. But it taught me some lessons that have been valuable to me in helping to connect with guests at church.

Visiting a church can be awkward for a first time guest. They don’t know the people, the customs or the expectations. They can feel nervous, intimidated or ignored. They might not even yet know the message of the gospel. But having people at church who purposely connect with them can make a real and lasting difference.

Here are some tips to help church members learn to connect with guests who visit your church.

1. Talk to people you don’t know. Church member, this is the Continue reading

The Preaching Privilege

The ringing of my phone jarred me awake at 2:55 on Sunday morning. 2:55! Vaguely conscious, I mumbled some sort of greeting. It must have sounded like I’d smoked profusely for a lifetime.

Someone on the other line said something about being with a security company and that an alarm was going off at our church building. “Church? What’s a church?” Slowly, the fog in my brain began to lift and I asked a few questions. Apparently, the wind had caused an unlocked door at our church building to set off an alarm. No motion detectors were activated so it seemed all was well. After some additional words the phone call ended. It was nearly 3 a.m.

Since becoming a pastor decades ago, Saturday night sleep has always been fitful. Continue reading

How to Have a Lousy Marriage in Seven Easy Steps

Married or planning to marry? Want to make that marriage as unhappy, bitter and painful as possible? Well, you’ve come to the right place. Here are seven easy steps to having a lousy marriage.

1. Make your marriage all about you. This is Lousy Marriage 101. Don’t consider your spouse. Make it all about you, you, you. Forget their interests, needs or love language. Better to not think of them at all. Keep the focus of the marriage all about what you want, what you like and what you need. Is that so hard? Continue reading

Keep Learning

Robert Fulghum famously titled a book, “All I Really Needed to Know I Learned in Kindergarten.” It is a great title, but a lousy philosophy of life. There is much to be learned after kindergarten- algebra, geology and how to cook a good steak, to name a few.

The best leaders are life long learners. They don’t stop learning after school ends. They don’t believe they possess they sum of all knowledge or that what they currently know is sufficient. They ask questions, seek information and try new things.

Christian leaders especially need to continue to learn. Our calling cries out for continuing education- formal and informal. We would do well to keep studying, thinking and searching. There is much for us yet to learn about God’s word, his plans and the ministry he calls us to.

Perhaps, like me, you finished kindergarten long ago. But here are five reasons ministry leaders need to continue to learn as long as God gives us life and breath. Continue reading