“I Want Deep Preaching”

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Here are some things that if you preach on a regular basis, you will hear at least once in your life:

  1. I love that you preach deep.
  2. I left my last church because the preaching wasn’t deep enough.
  3. I’m so glad you preach the bible at this church.
  4. I don’t like your preaching because it is too topical.
  5. I’m leaving your church because you aren’t deep enough (maybe someone said this to you yesterday).

Deep preaching is a moving target, for the simple reason: Deep preaching takes on different meanings for different people.

Usually it is a churched person that wants deep preaching and what they often mean is, “I want preaching that makes me think.” Or, “I want preaching that fills me up.” Often, the person asking for deeper preaching is actually an immature Christian who doesn’t want to read their bible for themselves. Not always true, but I’ve found that to be common thread.

I was told by someone recently, “You preach too topically for me.”

If you’ve ever said that or thought that about a pastor, here’s something to keep in mind: every preacher preaches topical messages.

Topical preaching is simply preaching on a topic. A good preacher, looks at a text, studies it, prays over, discerns what they think the author is saying, what their church needs to hear from this text and then preaches on it. Now, some preachers will simply decide on a topic and go looking for a passage that says what they want it to say. That isn’t good preaching and that isn’t always what topical preaching is, though for the people who have a disdain for topical preaching, this is what they are talking about.

“Deep preaching”  to me is when the preacher is lazy. If a pastor isn’t careful, in an effort to be deep, his sermons will simply be an information mind dump. They stand up and preach a seminary lecture or quote a bunch of commentaries or dead guys.

That isn’t preaching.

I remember doing a preaching lab with some younger preachers and one of the preachers gave no application in his sermon. When I asked him about it he said that he wanted to preach a deep sermon and that “the Holy Spirit will apply what he just preached.” While I fully believe the Holy Spirit brings the conviction and change through a sermon, this is simply being lazy. If that is your view of preaching, why are you preaching? Why not just read a text and then sit down and “let the Holy Spirit do his work?” Or better yet, we don’t even need a preacher, just have people read a passage silently and then listen to the Holy Spirit.

That would be ludicrous.

Romans 10:14 tells us we need preaching. We need preachers who will do the hard work of studying, praying, confessing their sin and applying the text to their congregation.

Which means, you will preach on a passage and not preach everything in the passage. 

This is okay, but hard for younger preachers to handle.

You feel like you are failing or not being biblical. That isn’t the case. There are times when you get to a text and something jumps out for your church, but if you were to preach that passage in a year, you might emphasize a different part of the text. Are both right and biblical? As long as you say what the author said, yes.

It also means you edit your sermon. You spend more time on an idea than another. Every preacher does this, even though the Christians looking for “Deep preaching” don’t think it happens. If it didn’t, every pastor would simply preach on one verse every week or one word just so they preached the whole text.

Editing is one thing that separates a good sermon from a great sermon.

It is getting to what is most important in the text for your church to hear in that sermon.

We don’t need more “deep preaching” in our churches. We need more preachers who will do the hard work during the week so that when they preach, they are laser focused on the heart, so that we see the transformation we long for in our churches and in our society.

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Links for Your Weekend Reading

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Thom Rainer on 11 mistakes I made as an author.

6 questions every leaders should ask.

Andy Stanley shares six questions every leader should ask and Michael Lukaszewski shares some application on them.

Time Magazine lists 9 terrible habits you need to stop doing immediately.

What makes Malcolm Gladwell so interesting.

 If you believe that Gladwell’s success is primarily driven by his writing, I think you’ve overlooked the most important factor. What makes him most interesting is not the narratives themselves, but rather the ideas behind them.

I am Ryland – the story of a male-identifying little girl who didn’t transition.

It grieves me to think of what Ryland’s parents may be robbing her of by choosing a gender for her at such a young age.  I hope that, if/when she decides that she is a woman, that they will support her in this.  That they won’t force her into their agenda to save face. I am writing this to offer another perspective.  Because I believe in freedom.  I believe that people should be free to have interests that don’t fit the social norm.  That children should be allowed to be children.  With all of their silly, fantastical play.  They should be allowed to believe that they are a dog, a Superhero, a Mommy, or a rock.

What is Holding Your Church Back

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I’m not sure where I read it, but Nelson Searcy said, “Your church is not realizing as much of its potential as it could.” This can be off putting depending on your view of the church and your view of leadership. If pastors and church members are honest, most churches are not realizing their potential. They are not doing all that God is calling them to, they are not as healthy as they could be and they are not seeing the growth in people that they could.

Often, it isn’t intentional, they are just allowing church to happen to them. They are working in the church.

In his book Seven Practices of Effective Ministry, Andy Stanley says one of the most important things for a pastor to do is work on the church. This is different than working in the church.

Work on it means that to maintain your relevance, your sanity, and your effectiveness, you must carve out time in your schedule to step back and evaluate what you are doing and how you are doing it.

Many churches do this on Monday when they look back on the weekend and evaluate things based off what is the win for them. How they evaluate it will vary. Some questions I ask myself are:

  • What did God do that we can celebrate?
  • Was it Christ centered?
  • Was everything clear? Would someone without a church background know what we were doing at all times?
  • Was it relevant to everyone who came?
  • Did we help people take their next step? Was that next step obvious?
  • Did everyone who was on stage, taught, led and volunteered, did they bring their best?

This is helpful and something that should be done weekly.

One area that many pastors fail to work on their church is the bigger picture. This is why a summer preaching break is so helpful. The summer is the ideal time for this as you get ready to head into the fall ministry season, hit the holidays and then roll into the new year. The summer is a reset time in many ways.

Here are some questions to ask for your organization:

  • Are we doing anything that does not help us accomplish our vision?
  • What size are we right now? If we doubled in the next year, what would we stop doing? What will we start doing when we reach twice our size?
  • What things are keeping us from growing?
  • What systems need to be changed or fixed to maintain health as we grow?
  • How can the preaching calendar help us take the next step as a church?
  • Do we need to replace any leaders as we grow because we have reached their lids? What can do to help expand their leadership lids?

Working on the church is not just about evaluating the organization and ministry of the church. Pastors and leaders also need to spend some time looking at their own hearts, leadership abilities and lives.

Here are some personal questions to ask:

  • How is my energy level? How do I recharge before the fall season?
  • What do I need to put into place so that I don’t burnout in the next year?
  • What areas do I need to grow as a leader so that I can help lead the church in this next season (each year I focus on an area of my job that I want to grow in and read or get coaching in that area)?
  • Is God calling our church to anything new in the coming year?
  • Am I wasting my energy or time in any area of my life?
  • Am I keeping appropriate boundaries with social media?
  • Where do my deepest frustrations come from? What can I do immediately about them?
  • What is the single most important thing to do or decide to do right now to achieve my life vision and the vision for our church?
  • How am I failing to give my best time and energy to my family? What changes do I need to make immediately about this?

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How to Know Your Vision is Clear

If you are a leader, you might wonder if your vision as a church is clear. How do you know if you are accomplishing it? Often, leaders can be so hard charging they never stop to ask the question of whether they are hitting their target. Or, they are so complacent that they don’t care.

Here’s a simple way to know if your vision is clear: Are people coming to your church and leaving your church because of it. 

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Is anyone attending your church because of your vision?

You will know this is true by talking to new people at your church. What drew them to your church? What excites them the most about your church? Why did they get plugged into a missional community, small group or serving team?

Listen to the stories people tell about your church, what they say when they baptized.

Are you seeing new people attend? New people stick?

If what people say is not part of your vision, you either have the wrong vision or it is not very clear.

Has anyone left your church because of your vision?

This will sound unloving and I understand.

As a pastor, you want as many people as possible to attend your church. I want everyone in Tucson to come to Revolution Church, love it and stay. I want them to be on board with our vision, our target and what we feel like God has called us to.

Everyone won’t though.

As much as that hurts, it is okay.

Every city needs lots of churches to reach all of the people in it.

Recently, I talked with two families that left our church and as I talked with them about the reasons why one of them articulated, “We just don’t agree with the vision.” When I asked him to clarify. He told me, “Revolution focuses too much on people who don’t know Jesus.”

He’s right. That is our vision.

If no one has left your church in the past year because they don’t agree with the vision of your church, it is either not clear, not bold enough or you aren’t actually doing your vision.

People don’t leave passive churches because of the vision.

People don’t leave visionless churches because of the vision.

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Monday Morning Mind Dump… [Late Edition]

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  • It’s been a couple of weeks since I’ve posted my mind dump.
  • A lot has happened in that time.
  • Hence, the late edition.
  • We spent one week on vacation in San Diego and last week Katie and I were in Florida for the Acts 29 pastor’s retreat.
  • While it was nice traveling, it was nice coming home.
  • There are a ton of things happening for me right now: finishing up the rough draft of my book (which is due August 1), hiring 2 staff members at Revolution, planning our fall sermon series (Multiply on 1 Timothy and Waiting on God on Habakkuk), working behind the scenes to improve our systems of MC’s and elders as Revolution continues to grow.
  • All good and fun things.
  • I was reminded today why every pastor needs a coach after I talked with mine.
  • Having someone who can help you crystalize what you are thinking, give you pushback to improve something is so helpful for a pastor.
  • Doing the wedding of a couple in our MC this Friday.
  • Always love being a part of weddings.
  • The only problem with weddings in Tucson is everyone gets married an hour away from me on the NW side of the city.
  • The timing of the Acts 29 retreat could not have been more helpful for me.
  • This summer is all about how do we continue to grow as a church and stay healthy (or get healthier in certain areas) to shepherd and care for everyone God sends us.
  • Honestly, this is the most excited I have ever been about Revolution.
  • It is also causing me to dive deeper and deeper into prayer which is a good thing.
  • In some ways I feel like I did when we planted the church almost 6 years ago.

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Why You Need a Summer Break

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I’m my summer preaching break and as always, it has been incredibly helpful. If you are a pastor, this is something you need to put into your yearly rhythm.

If you’ve followed my blog for any length of time, you know that personal health and leadership health is incredibly important to me. It seems every month I hear about another pastor burning out or running out of steam because they didn’t take care of themselves. If you burnout, you have no one to blame but yourself.

Over the last 3 weeks, I have played longer with my kids, walked on the beach and picked up seashells, took long walks with Katie, took some naps, watched the world cup, worked ahead on sermons, read some great books and spent time with friends.

Who benefits from a summer break. Literally everyone. The pastor taking it does as he is able to recharge physically and spiritually. His family does as they get some much needed down time. What many people fail to realize is that ministry can become an all encompassing endeavor. The church benefits as well from having a pastor come back more passionate and energized than when he left and they benefit from hearing sermons from other voices. It is a win-win for everyone.

Most pastors want to take a summer break, but don’t know how. If that’s you, here are some ideas on how to make your summer break successful:

  • Plan ahead. We think resting should just happen, but it doesn’t. This is especially true for your summer break. If you are taking vacation, you need to plan ahead so you can disconnect from social media, email and your job. Work out the details so everything is covered and you are not needed.
  • Disconnect early and connect early. My recommendation during your break is that you disconnect from email, social media, blogging, etc. For me, I can find myself getting angry at posts or distracted and that keeps me from recharging or doing what I should be doing on my break. Put an auto responder on your email a few days before you actually leave so you can begin disconnecting and then turn it back on a few days before you come back so you can ease in.
  • Leave town. You don’t need to be gone for your whole preaching break, but the more the better. This helps you to truly disconnect and recharge. This doesn’t have to be expensive as you can drive and visit friends or family or stay somewhere cheap. This is why planning ahead is such a benefit.
  • Don’t feel guilty. It’s summer, so don’t feel bad. Everyone is taking vacation, time off and slowing down. People go to the beach, lake, mountains, the park. Once summer hits, our mindset changes and our schedules change. This is why it is the ideal time for a pastor to take several weeks in a row from regular church activities.
  • Be purposeful. This isn’t simply about time off. Take a sabbatical for that. This is to recharge and have time off, but also to work ahead, evaluate the ministry and do things you need to do but often neglect because of the time ministry takes. By planning ahead purposefully, you make sure you accomplish what you need to. This summer I spent a lot of time talking to pastors of churches who have broken the 500 mark trying to discern what I need to know as we approach that in our next season of ministry, the kinds of leaders we need on board to break through that barrier.

In the end, a preaching break is really about the longevity of ministry for a pastor and his church. This keeps it fresh and moving in the direction God wants him to. Don’t minimize how important this is. The ones who do, end up burning out or losing passion very quickly.

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Links for Your Weekend Reading

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Don’t preach simply, preach richly.

Thom Rainer on An autopsy of a burned out pastor.

The pastor would not say “no” to requests for time. Being a short-term people pleaser became a longer-term problem.

Chuck Lawless on 10 Questions for a spiritual check-up.

It’s hard to believe that almost ½ of 2014 is now gone. Rather than worry about days past, though, let’s focus on preparing for the rest of the year. Use this list as a spiritual checkup to evaluate your walk, and then let us know how we might pray for you.

Denny Burk on Should you allow your kids to go to a sleepover?

The day of sleepovers has passed. There are simply too many risks involved. Parents, therefore, should be wary of allowing their children to participate in what for many of us was a very common part of our growing-up years.

My blog will be moving in a few weeks and I don’t want you to miss anything. Simply click here to subscribe via email so that I can serve you better and continue to help you grow to become who God created you to be.

Top Post of June

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In case you missed them, here are the top 10 posts for the last month:

  1. Pick a Church
  2. The One Thing Destroying Your Marriage That You Don’t Realize
  3. N.T. Wright on Gay Marriage
  4. Pastors Can Make the Worst Friends
  5. God Will Let You Have Your Sin
  6. Why Calvinism Matters
  7. What to do When You’re Too Tired to Work
  8. How Motherhood Begins, Continues, And…
  9. 11 Ways to Know You’ve Settled for a Mediocre Marriage
  10. 10 Books Every Christian Leader Should Read

The Loneliness of a Pastor on a Holiday

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I’ll admit right from the start. This is an awkward post to write (and no, I don’t need an invite for a cookout this weekend). But with the 4th of July coming up, I thought it might be helpful for pastors, for a pastor’s wife, and for church members to understand what a holiday like this is often like for a pastor.

Many pastors and their families do nothing with anyone on a holiday weekend.

This is something that is hard for someone who is not a pastor to understand.

A pastor knows so many people, and because of this, people in their church think the pastor and his wife have a ton of friends. This is rarely the case. Because they know so many people, everyone in their church assumes the pastor and his family is always doing something with someone. So, when a picnic or pool party rolls around in the summer time, no one thinks to invite the pastor and his family because “they probably already have plans.”

I remember how hard this was when we first planted Revolution. I remember when this became obvious. We were talking to someone about a summer holiday, I can’t remember which one and they were surprised we had no plans. And they said, “But you guys know everybody. I thought you’d have 15 invitations.”

Now, if you are an introvert, you may not care. Chances are high though, if you don’t care, your spouse does.

In the past few years, this has changed for our family by doing a few things:

  1. Invite people over. At first we started inviting people to our house on the holiday weekends. If no one invites you to their house, throw a party and invite people over. Have a great time. Besides you’re the pastor, they’ll want to come over. This is also a great opportunity to model hospitality if your church isn’t very good at this.
  2. Build community the rest of the year. We often wait to build community for when we need it. That leaves us lonely and hurting. You have to build community for the time that you need community, if you wait til you need it, it will be too late. Pour into relationships at other times, be a good friend to others. Many pastors struggle with being a good friend and shutting off work and just being a person.
  3. Teach people what it is like to be a leader. Most people have no idea what it is like to be a pastor or be a pastor’s wife or be part of a pastor’s family. Teach them. Talk about it. Recommend books on it or share blogs (like this one). It isn’t that your church doesn’t care, they just don’t know.
  4. Be someone people want to invite over. The reality is, some people don’t hang out with their pastor or his wife because they aren’t fun to be with. It isn’t that they are being mean, it is just that you aren’t any fun to be with. You might be a grumpy pastor, or a bitter pastor’s wife. Fight against that. Be a friend people want to have. Learn how to talk about other topics besides church or God. Have some hobbies you can do with others.

I hope that helps you as a pastor or if you aren’t a pastor, to know how your pastor might feel this weekend. Have a great holiday!

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How to Find the Right Boss

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The church I lead is hiring 2 new staff members right now and while I’ve learned a ton about hiring (a post coming soon), I have also learned a lot about how to pick a boss. Often, when someone talks about finding a job or a career, we simply look at the company, the perks, the pay, location and the values and mission of the church or organization and decide on that. Yet, studies show people leave jobs more because of their boss than anything else. In fact, people will take less money to stay with a boss they love. One of the questions I ask each person we interview is this: Tell me about your ideal lead pastor. What can he do to help you succeed? What things can he do to hamper your growth? These questions tell me a few things: do they know what they are looking for in a boss? Do they know themselves well enough to know what they need to succeed?

I believe, one of the reasons we don’t succeed or move forward in life is because we aren’t sure what that looks like.

If I was telling someone looking for a job who would not be the boss, but would have a boss I would tell you a few things:

  1. Know who you are. This means that you need to understand your gifts, talents, personality, strengths, and weaknesses. This may seem like an obvious thing, but many are unsure of how they are wired. If you aren’t sure how you are wired, you won’t know how will you fit with a boss or a culture. Do you like teamwork, working alone? Do you want a strict office or more laid back policies? Each church has a different culture based on its leaders, city and history and you need to understand this. I was on staff at a good church in Wisconsin and it was a terrible cultural fit. They wanted high extroverts who wanted a casual business dress with regular office hours. Doing student ministry at the time, this was not a good fit for me. Others would have loved it.
  2. Know what you need to succeed. This follows closely with the first one, but know what environment and kind of boss you need to succeed. Do you want a micro manager who one who is hands off? How much say do you want in the vision and culture of the church? What things are non-negotiable things for you and what are more open handed issues and beliefs? These questions will help you determine if someone or a church is a good fit. Otherwise, you will choose on location, style and pay and those are not always the best reasons to choose a job.
  3. Find someone worth following. If you are not the CEO, Lead Pastor or lead whatever, one of your main concerns is finding a leader you want to follow. That leader will decide so much about your career, livelihood, excitement, passion and happiness in your life that finding the wrong can be devastating. It adds stress, disappointment, hurt, possibly abuse and pain. I can’t emphasize enough that you need to spend time figuring out the kind of leader you want to follow, if the person you are interviewing with or working for right now is the leader you want to follow and make a choice. I think more leaders who not be the lead pastor need to spend more time thinking about the kind of person they are working for or following instead of judging a job based on salary and perks.

In the end, finding the right boss can be just as important as finding the right job. When you find the right boss, I would encourage you to think hard before you go looking for a new one. They aren’t easy to find, as anyone who has worked for the wrong boss can attest.

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