You Aren’t Gospel Centered

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There’s been a resurgence in the last few years around the gospel. This is a good thing. We are starting to have a larger view of the gospel, seeing the gospel as more than just how one is made right with God, how one is changed and how one goes to heaven. We are seeing the gospel for Christians as well and how the power of the gospel changes us into who God has called us to be.

This is positive.

It has also created a new thing to complain about.

Now, preachers are gospel centered preachers. If you want to sell a book, throw the word gospel into it. Parenting, preaching, church planting, maybe even write a book called the gospel. 

Now, bloggers complain about writers and preachers who aren’t gospel centered. Maybe, if you are a pastor, you’ve had someone tell you, “I’m leaving your church because you aren’t gospel centered.”

When I’ve heard this personally, what this often means is, “You don’t preach the gospel the way I think the gospel should be preached.” In other words, “I think the gospel has specific components and need to be said in a certain order (ie. the Romans road) and if you don’t say them in that order, you haven’t preached the gospel.

This has also become code for deeper preaching and not having to move forward and do anything with a sermon someone gives.

So, if you are a pastor and get someone who comes up to you after a sermon or sends you an email telling you that you aren’t gospel centered, even though someone started following Jesus in that same sermon, what do you do?

  1. Ask them what it means to be gospel centered. Most of the people who will make this complaint have a prophet lens. For them, gospel centered is the gospel they heard when they got saved, how Tim Keller or John Piper tells the gospel message or something else, but something very specific. One of the best ways to learn from them and help them understand your perspective is to ask them what they think is gospel centered. Sadly, most people who make this complaint cannot actually articulate it. I had one guy complain about this for almost a year and he could never tell me what it meant to be gospel centered, only that our church wasn’t it. Finally, he said we were to sensitive to seekers, so that made us not gospel centered. At that point, you can actually have a conversation, when terms are defined.
  2. Lovingly tell them the gospel from your perspective. As you move forward, explain to them what the gospel is from your perspective. All over the New Testament, there is evidence of Peter and Paul communicating the gospel differently depending upon their audience. This is important for a pastor to keep in mind. So, what John Piper says at a Passion conference may have a different goal and audience than your church in New England or rural Nebraska.
  3. Understand the fears that come from someone with this complaint. Most of the complaints around this, and I can say this since the camp I’m a part of, the Reformed camp is the one blogging and complaining about this issue. It comes from fear. As we watch our country become more and more liberal, people are fearful that the church is going the same way, and many are. This is a legitimate concern, not fear. Scripture is clear that we are not to be afraid. This is a great shepherding moment for you as a pastor. Many leaders miss this opportunity in an effort to be right or win the argument.

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“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.

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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If you haven’t signed up to receive my latest blog post every morning in your inbox, you can do so here. I’d love to help you move forward in your life and leadership.

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.

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.

If you liked this blog post, be sure to sign up to receive my latest blog post every morning in your inbox, (simply click here). I’d love to help you move forward in your life and leadership.

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Not in Vain

Today, I am still on my summer preaching break. I decided this year I would share some of the messages that have challenged my heart the most in the past year.

Last year at the Leadership Summit, Andy Stanley gave an incredible talk called Not in Vain. I knew I wanted to share the message with Revolution as some point and today was that day. If you missed it or want to hear it again, you can watch it below. I hope it challenges you the way it did me.

Links for Your Weekend Reading

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Patrick Lencioni on The healthiest organizations win.

A healthy organization is one that maintains a cohesive leadership team, establishes clarity about what it stands for, communicates that clarity repetitively, and puts in place processes and systems to reinforce that clarity over time.

 How one church is using orderliness to attract millenials.

Jen Wilkin on Daughters and dating and how to intimidate their suitors.

Here’s the problem with shotgun jokes and applications posted on the fridge: to anyone paying attention, they announce that you fully expect your daughter to have poor judgment. Be assured that your daughter is paying attention. And don’t be shocked if she meets your expectation. You might want to worry less about terrorizing or retro-fitting prospective suitors and worry more about preparing your daughter to choose wisely. And that means building a wall. Instead of intimidating all your daughter’s potential suitors, raise a daughter who intimidates them just fine on her own.

The #1 lie parents believe about social media.

The #1 lie parents believe about social media is that that they have to be as tech savvy as their kids. Why is that a lie? Because you will NEVER be as tech savvy as your kids.

Thom Rainer on 10 tips to becoming a more productive pastor.

Pastors are thus expected to “run the race” constantly. But how can a pastor keep the pace in this marathon of ministry without burning out? How can a pastor remain productive with such demands? Allow me to offer ten tips to becoming a more productive pastor.

6 Tips to getting a better night sleep.

OK GO new song (Always blown away by the creativity of this band and this is incredible)

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.

N.T. Wright on Gay Marriage

This is so good:

You can read the transcript of the interview here.

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.