Tag Archives: preaching

This Was My Pulpit

IMG_7183It’s been said that some of the best sermons aren’t delivered in church behind a pulpit but, rather, in everyday life situations. I tend to agree.

I have nothing but respect for the spiritual responsibility of preaching the sacred Gospel. Men and women of faith have been the mouthpiece of God for generations. This is in obedience to the Scriptures that command us to preach the Word. Pastors, Elders, evangelists and missionaries will continue to declare the truth of the Bible from pulpits around the world until Christ returns.

However, this week I was not the preacher in the pulpit; I was the preacher in disaster relief. I was privileged to be able to serve with a team of volunteers who ministered to the people of Houston, Texas in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey.

I did not preach with words. I preached with a hammer and crowbar. I was responsible for removing rotting wood from the floors of a home that was occupied by two elderly ladies. The work was hot, smelly, time-consuming and strenuous. I had several hours to myself so while I worked, I prayed, worshipped and contemplated.

The inspiration came to me that the floor was my pulpit for the week. I was living out in real time the words that I speak on Sunday. I speak the Gospel on Sunday; this week, I got to live out the Gospel. The preaching was pretty good, too.

Admittedly, I am not the best preacher in the world but I struggle even more with my construction skills. But it’s hard to mess up demolishing a floor. Though monotonous and painful, I offered this service to God – to an audience of One.

True ministry is not glamorous. It’s not easy and it’s not always fun. But true ministry serves the purpose of glorifying God and bringing hope to people.

I don’t plan to quit my day job. But it feels good to put some works to my faith.

None of us are interested in listening to a preacher who doesn’t live what he preaches. That thought puts me in a quandary. How can I talk others into doing something I do not do?

IMG_7172You may be wondering what the second picture is. I fell through the floor. While carrying a heavy box, the rotten floor gave way. Thankfully I wasn’t hurt. And my buddies had a good laugh at my expense. So, this kind of preaching can be dangerous but still humorous.

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Cafeteria Preachers

cafeteria-preachersWho can forget the school cafeteria? Bland food, hairnet ladies – and those plastic trays! If your high school cafeteria experience was like mine, it wasn’t a matter of gourmet recipes and discriminating palates – it was a matter of being hungry enough to eat whatever they plopped on the tray. As I recall, there wasn’t a lot of choice of menu items. Eat the goulash or don’t.

I am sorry to make the comparison, but there may be a few churches and pastors who have modeled their ministry after the school cafeteria. Whatever do I mean?

We are aware of some preachers whose mantra could be, “I don’t care what you want or need, this is what I’m preaching!” Of course, effective preachers take their cues from the Holy Spirit. They preach the Word of God in an uncompromising way, regardless of the opinions of others. But there is something to be said about being in touch with the people to whom we preach and with whom we worship. A renewed sense of compassion, connection and care would do us preachers some good. While we must preach what God directs us to preach, there is nothing wrong with being aware of the needs of the people and presenting God’s Word as the solution.

I am not a fan of a watered down Gospel. We have witnessed great damage in our churches and culture as a result of “feel good preaching.” But pastors who are more determined to preach their sermons than they are to minister to their people are missing the point of preaching.

Spiritual hash is not very appetizing. Non-imaginative and stuffy spiritual pontification has never changed a life. Modern-day preachers must learn the art and discipline of exegeting a passage and expositing that truth into the practical lives of everyday people. Our job is to present the Bible in clear and meaningful ways so that the hearers of the Word can become doers of the Word. I believe that it is the responsibility of the preacher to offer the Bible in a relevant and purposeful way. It is the work of the Holy Spirit to open the minds of the hearers, but we are the spokespersons for God. This is a heavy responsibility.

We shudder to think that a person in need could attend a worship service and find no solution to their problem. While the Gospel is always the answer, some searchers may find some spiritual direction helpful. God help us to never turn away a hungry seeker.

My simple advice to preachers would be: Know to whom you preach. Understand their struggles. Be in touch with their personal lives. Study the Bible. Pray for the preacher and the listeners. Allow the Holy Spirit to guide you to passages that address the needs of the people. And preach passionately and compassionately what God lays on your hearts. I believe you will see lives changed.

I don’t want to be a cafeteria preacher that plops unappetizing spiritual food on the trays of people’s lives; I want to serve Gospel gourmet meals that satisfy the longings in people’s hearts.


Can I Talk You Out of Ministry?

design[32]When I meet with young folks who think they feel a call by God to do ministry, I’m sometimes not very successful at hiding my skepticism. I’ve had a hundred of these conversations. In my experience, many who think that they are being asked to enter full-time ministry, aren’t. Please understand, all Christians are called to ministry. Regardless of your role in life, God expects you to do great things for Him. But only a few are asked to be vocational ministers. We have seen those who mistake feelings of guilt or regret as a call. Others are experiencing a religious awakening and their fervor can feel like a pull into ministry. Still others think the ministry sounds glamorous and they relish the idea of leading a great church (and preaching to thousands!). The problem is, I’ve seen many of these guys who have gotten into ministry and it did not turn out the way that they had anticipated. A few weeks or months later, they experienced a change of heart and were no longer in ministry.

Here is a harsh reality: If I can talk you out of ministry, either you aren’t called or something else would have talked you out of it later. Either way, you wouldn’t have lasted. So I’m going to try to talk you out of ministry before you get started. Is that cruel? If it comes across that way, I apologize. And not being called into ministry doesn’t make you less of a Christian. It’s about knowing who you are in Christ.

When you are genuinely called by God to do ministry, no one should be able to dissuade you. When I was young wannabe preacher, I approached my then Overseer several times requesting that he place me in a church to pastor. I recall the passion in my voice as I nearly begged this man for a place to minister. I located an abandoned church that our denomination owned. It was boarded up and padlocked and had been for years. I felt like this was my chance. The good Bishop promptly disagreed and said, “if you want to pastor a church, start one.” For years, I was frustrated at this man because he didn’t see anything in me that was redeemable. Now I understand more about his approach and response. He was trying to talk me out of going into ministry – but he couldn’t. He only strengthened my resolve. I did start a church and I have been in ministry ever since. His words discouraged me but they eventually helped to reaffirm my calling.

If you think God is calling you into vocational ministry, you won’t be able to ignore it and you won’t get over it. “For God’s gifts and his call are irrevocable.” (Romans 11:29)
You won’t be able to find fulfillment in anything else. You will be miserable until you are doing what God asked you to do. If you think you are called, here is what I want to say to you: start doing the things that reveal your ministry heart. Start serving others. Start being an example for others to follow. Work behind the scenes. Clean the church restrooms. Visit a widow. Cut the neighbor’s grass. Tithe 10% and give an additional 10% of your earnings. Pray through the night. Never miss a church service. Forgive someone who hurt you. Teach a children’s Sunday School class. These activities aren’t proof that you are called, they simple will be an opportunity for you to explore what real ministry is. If, in time, you are called by God to preach – you and everyone else will know it. Don’t expect others to pave the way for you.

If you can do anything other than preach and maintain your submissive relationship with God, I suggest you do it. I don’t say this because ministry is hard work – it is an honor and a joy. I say this because if you can walk with Christ without being a preacher, you’re not called to be a preacher!


5 Ways Pastors Frustrate Church Members

5 Ways Pastors Frustrate Church Members

My last post, “5 Ways to Discourage Your Pastor” generated a good amount of interest. In keeping with that theme and in an effort to look at the other side of the issue, we are publishing this quick look at things pastors do that church members dislike. This is not a comprehensive list. It is not an attack on pastors. In fact, this list comes from my personal experience. The goal is to encourage both pastors and church members in ways that they can be more supportive of one another. The goal is unity in the church.

Here we go:

Don’t prepare for message. Pastors who “wing it” aren’t fooling anyone. Modern worshipers are savvy. They know when we have not given 100% in preparing for the message. It doesn’t matter if you’ve been preaching for 25 years; the church, and more importantly, the Lord deserves your very best. Pray, study, get ready! Preaching is a huge responsibility and it should be approached with utmost sincerity and preparation.

Preaching to those not in attendance. It is tempting to pour out frustration while preaching and many times it can be directed toward people who are not in the worship service. Here’s the thing: if the topic you are addressing only addresses the people who are not there, those who ARE there may regret their decision! Don’t preach your frustrations and do preach to those who are there.

Doing everything themselves. Some pastors are control freaks, some are insecure and some simply have not learned how to delegate. But many church members get frustrated when they see their pastor be the “jack-of-all-trades” at church. God has gifted every member of the body to contribute something of significance. Let’s let them.

Being unapproachable.
While it is not practical or even safe for all pastors to be available to members before and after worship services, no one likes to see a pastor whisked away after service like a celebrity. Pastors, make yourself available on some level. Remember that we are shepherds and we should know the sheep.

Make big changes, then leave. Name changes, vision/direction changes, building projects, incurring debt, hiring or firing staff…all of these big issues should be followed with an increased tenure on the part of the pastor. Don’t make someone else pay the price for your decisions. If possible, stick around and see the thing through.

To our former church members: I am sorry for the times I failed, and thank you for your patience.
To pastors: Do yourself and your church members a favor and assess this list. If no adjustments are needed, that’s awesome! If you need to tweak a few things, let me encourage you to do so.

By the way, this is round one. Another list of 5 is coming soon!

God bless you!

Photo by Jenny Kaczorowski


Good Communication Goes Beyond the Stage

Good communication goes beyond the stage

 

Preaching and communicating are not necessarily the same thing.

This is not a post about preaching. This is a post about how some people are great preachers but not great communicators. There may be a difference.

I know and have heard some dynamic preachers. They can hold an audience in the palm of their hand. They evoke passions and emotions with their sermons. But too many of them are terrible communicators. What in the world do I mean?

Simply because a preacher can engage an audience does not mean that he or she is good at communication. The difference may be understood by categorizing communication into two groups: Group communication and individual communication.

Good preachers know the Bible.

They know how to utilize inflection and tone in their voice.

They use effective body language.

They are authoritative.

They are convincing.

But a guy or gal can be great at these things yet suffer from poor communication skills.

Good communicators look you in the eye and you know they are listening.

Good communicators return phone calls.

They answer emails.

They respond to others.

They remember what they told you and what you told them.

It is very difficult to be a good communicator unless you actually care.

I am not saying that good communication is more important than preaching. It is not. I am saying that preachers need to be reminded that good communication goes beyond the pulpit.

In my opinion, in order for a preacher to be effective, he or she must also be good at communicating with individuals. If he or she is not, they will need to make sure that someone close to them is good at this kind of communication and keeps them connected to the people around them. Otherwise, they lose credibility when their individual communication falls through the cracks. Their preaching will suffer because their smaller-scale communication is weak.

If you are a preacher, work on improving your preaching – it is a vitally important calling. But also work on your one-on-one communication. Pay attention to people. Respond accordingly. I think you will find that your preaching also improves.


The Great Equalizer in Preaching

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You’re pouring your heart out. You preach like a man possessed (in a good way). You wax eloquent. And then it happens; you make eye contact with the one person in the crowd that can truly humble you – your spouse.

You can fake it with others, but not with her.

Possibly the most difficult part about being a preacher of the Gospel is that at least one of the listeners knows everything there is to know about you.  I think God plans it that way. The great equalizer for many preachers is that their spouse knows better.

It is easy; very easy to impress some crowds. Say the right things in the right way with your best preacher voice and you can wow the crowds. But when someone siting there knows the intimate secrets of who you really are, that is another story.

Preach about faith; she knows your doubts. Preach about prayer; she knows your prayer life. Preach about integrity; and she may smirk (inside).

I think God plans it that way. To keep you humble…to stay real…God reminds you that, no matter what you say, one other person there besides you and Him knows your bathroom habits.

I think the toughest part of being a preacher is that my wife sits there, amening me, nodding her head and being supportive, but knowing full well all my flaws. And still she graciously receives the Word. Quite humbling, I must say!  And good for us preacher-types, lest our arrogance get the best of us. Without these humbling realities, our heads would probably explode with pride. The way it is, it’s sometimes difficult to hold your head up while preaching when she’s in the crowd.

I’m thankful for grace from God and from my wife.

By the way, any preacher who won’t admit to this is either a liar or more spiritual than I am (which isn’t always saying much).


380 sermons down, 2 left

I am in transition. As I write this post, I am supposed to be helping my wife pack for our move to Minnesota. I am leaving my post in Florida as a local church pastor, where I have served for seven years and eight months. We have two Sundays left before we leave.

I have recently made the switch from preaching with printed notes to preaching with an iPad. The picture you see are my sermon notes from day one to last Sunday at Cross Community Church. Approximately 380 sermons. Most of them were preached three times because we have three Sunday Worship Gatherings. When I got home from church on Sundays, I would put the outline on the stack and get to work on the following week’s message.

Unless someone contacts me very soon, these babies are going into the recycling bin. I can’t imagine anyone wanting them now, but they represent a lot of hard work and prayer. Blood, sweat and tears. I think they were all Biblically based. I hope they were all relevant to the worshippers. I pray they made a difference. I trust I was faithful to God’s call on my life to preach His Gospel.  They reflect my heart for the special people in this church family.

Famous preachers have their sermons published. Wannabe famous preachers publish their own. Mine will be recycled – literally.

A turning of the page, or a tap on the iPad.