Tag Archives: ministry

Asking People to Do the Hard Things

One of the most important jobs of Christian leaders is to ask people to do the hard things they don’t want to do. We ask people to take the narrow, uphill road when it is easier to go down. We ask them to die to self when it is easier to live for self. We ask them to give, serve and sacrifice though none of those things come easily.

Following Jesus is not about taking the easy road. It is about doing the right thing even though that is often the more difficult thing. If we are asking people to follow Jesus, we are asking them to take the harder path.

There is a reason we ask people to do the hard things. Not only do we ask them to do it because it is right. But we also know it is in their best interest to do so. Continue reading

10 Suggestions for Young Preachers

Here are 10 suggestions I have for all young preachers. Some I learned from others (they are the good ones) and some I learned on my own or from the school of hard knocks.

1. Prioritize your devotional life. You ignore this one at your peril. You can get by for a while, I’m afraid, just on some ability and talent. But in the long run, preaching comes out of who you are and your own walk with Jesus. Read the Bible for yourself and not just for preaching. Spend time with Jesus in prayer, worship and his word. God wants you and not just your preaching.

2. Read the Bible through every year. Read for breadth and for depth. Get to know the Bible well. Study the details of a text for your sermon but don’t neglect to get to know the overall message of God’s word. Over time, reading the Bible annually allows you to see major themes, understand the relationship of the Old and New Testaments and know the Bible story in a way that nothing else can provide. It will provide clarity to your understanding, richness to your theological insights and familiarity with truth.

3. Watch some video of yourself preaching. It can be brutal to watch replays of your messages. We see quirky gestures, bobbled words and botched stories. But we must, if we are to improve, be honest about our sermons. Preaching is about communicating the truth. Are we failing to communicate well by distracting hand waves,  repeated usage of crutch words or never making eye contact with our audience? Learn to evaluate yourself rather than depending on spouse, friends or critics.

4. Preach out of love for God and people. Please remind yourself to preach for God’s pleasure rather than man’s. Remember to love those people in the congregation even though they are imperfect people just like the preacher. Beware angry preaching or reactionary preaching or depressed preaching. Be sure love is the motivation to do what you do. Love lost people, saved people, sweet people, sour people, people who love you back and those who don’t. Love God above all else.

5. Start your sermon preparation on Monday. Saturday night is a bad time to start the sermon and Sunday morning is even worse. Where possible, do at least a little sermon thinking on Monday and each day. Turning in my sermon notes by Thursday noon has been so good for me. Planning sermon texts and titles in advance is especially wise. (Though God can interrupt if he wants.)

6. Pray and get others to pray. Preaching matters so we should pray like it does. Ask God for direction in your planning. Ask him for clarity in your preparation. Ask for his power in your delivery. Prayer partners are wonderful. Ask some people to pray for you every day and especially before you preach.

7. Be the best version of you. Don’t be Billy Graham or any other preacher. Be you. Be the best version of you, but be you. God called you to preach your sermon. Learn from other preachers, of course, but be cautious about imitating them. Never plagiarize sermons. God wants this sermon to come out of your heart, mind and soul. God knows your weaknesses and abilities so be the best “you” you can be.

8. Learn to connect. Learn how to connect with people while preaching. Make eye contact rather than always looking down or over their heads. Tell some stories that grab their attention. Jesus told lots of stories. Connect with them before and after the message. Look them in the eye, shake their hand and laugh at their jokes. Listen to each but connect with as many as you can in those few moments before and after the sermon.

9. Preach with faith. God is big so preach like he is. He can do great things through you. That reality is more about God than about you. Believe he can use you. Believe he can use the sermon to changes lives. Trust him with everything and ask your hearers to trust him with everything.

10. Be passionate about preaching. Preaching is a God chosen method. Preaching isn’t your idea, but God’s. So bring some passion and some energy to this important task. Show some enthusiasm in your voice, mannerisms and words. Have more passion for preaching the eternal word of God than for hobbies, activities or politics. Preaching matters deeply so be passionate about doing it and, if God has called you to do it, pour yourself into it.

Preaching is a high and holy calling. Learn, study and improve. Preach with compassion, boldness and humility. But preach God’s word knowing that the One who called you did that for a reason. So preach it, preacher!

 

Random Thoughts on Preaching

Here are some of my random thoughts on preaching from my 34 years as a senior pastor.

1. Boring preaching is criminal. The most important and amazing message in history and you are going to make it sound boring? Jail time.

2. It is hard for preaching to be boring if the preacher is excited about the text.

3. The preacher’s devotional life affects his preaching. Maybe you can get away with it for a while, but neglect time alone with God and preaching will suffer in the long run.

4. You can’t separate who you are from the task of preaching.

5. Preachers who read a lot Continue reading

Preaching Tips for Pastors, part 2

What is your sermon about?

Years ago, while serving as a youth pastor, I got the opportunity to preach at my church on a Sunday morning. The day before the big event, I saw one of the teenagers in our church and he asked me what I was preaching on the next day. Five minutes later I was still talking to the poor student in an ill-fated attempt to explain the upcoming sermon!

I didn’t know much about preaching (should I use present tense instead of past tense here?), but I suddenly realized that I needed Continue reading

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 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