“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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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.

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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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.

Create a WOW Factor

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One of the best ways to turn a first time guest into a second time guest is to create a wow factor.

One of the best ways to create a wow factor is to give a guest something unexpected. 

When someone shows up at a church, they have some expectations. They expect their kids to be safe and secure. They expect their kids to have fun. They expect to be bored in the service at some point. They expect to look at their watch. They expect to not really feel anything. They expect something to be unclear to them. They also expect you to ask for something.

There are more, but you get the idea.

People show up every week with a list of expectations, and it isn’t always positive or expecting God to speak to them.

To give them a wow factor, to catch them off guard, meet their expectations, exceed their expectations and give them something unexpected.

Here are a few ideas:

  1. Give them a gift. At the end of the service we point out gift bags we have for first time guests. These are on a table that is not manned by anyone. This is on purpose. It is a few feet from our welcome area, that has volunteers at it. This is so, someone can take a gift and leave without having to talk to anyone if they choose. If they want to talk to someone, someone is close enough for that to happen. A gift is important because people at a church expect you to ask for something from them. Giving them something instead catches them off guard and is unexpected. It is intriguing and interesting.
  2. Say thanks for coming. Most pastors assume going to church was the only option people have a Sunday. The fact is, they have tons of options for what they can do on a Sunday morning. So, say thanks for coming. Tell a guest you were glad they came and say thanks. It’s a big deal if a guest comes on a Sunday morning, act like it.
  3. Send them a gift. If someone fills out a card at Revolution, we send them a handwritten note with a Starbucks gift card in it. This is another unexpected “thank you.” I get a comment almost every week from a guest who thinks this is a cool. Again, something unexpected makes you intrigued.
  4. Tell them how long it will last and stick to it. I picked this up from Andy Stanley’s book Deep and Wide: Creating Churches Unchurched People Love to Attend. One of the main questions people have about church is how long it will last. So, tell them at the beginning and stick to it. In the welcome, we say something like, “For the next 75 minutes we’ll be looking at…”
  5. Make them feel something. Yes, the Holy Spirit makes people feel things and moves in their hearts and we have no control over that. What you do have control over is if you try to stop that (tons of churches do this without thinking) and how you will help people deal with the feelings they feel in the service. Think through how you will make someone feel something in the service. How will you help them process the Spirit moving in their heart since they might not know it is happening, only that something is happening.
  6. Help them take a next step. Why is this on the list of unexpected things? Churches are not very good at helping people take their next step. Whether that is in a sermon or into serving or community. Pastors preach, give no application and say, “The Holy Spirit will do that work.” That’s lazy. Be clear about it. Preach and in it say, “Because of the truth of this text, here’s a clear next step.” Talk about the next steps to get connected and make it obvious.

People don’t attend and come back to churches because they are like Disneyland or a rock concert. They don’t stick at churches for those reasons. They stick because of a simple wow factor, that caught them unexpectedly. Some of the unexpected things, a church has no control over. Some of them, they do. The churches that grow are the ones that

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10 Books Every Christian Leader Should Read

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Summer is just around the corner, which means longer days, summer vacations and hopefully if you are a leader, more reading. I’m a big reader and think that if you are a leader, you should be too.

I often get asked about leadership books that pastors should read. If you haven’t read these books, I highly recommend them. Let’s just say, these are 10 books every Christian leader should read:

The Next Generation Leader: 5 Essentials for Those Who Will Shape the Future by Andy Stanley

To this day, this is still one of my favorite leadership books and one of the shortest.

Spiritual Leadership: Moving People on to God’s Agenda by Henry Blackaby

The chapter on decision making in this book is the best I’ve ever read when it comes to figuring out God’s will and how to make wise choices. This was one of the first leadership books I’ve ever read and has been marked up and written in, more than any other leadership book I have.

Courageous Leadership by Bill Hybels

Hybels is one of those leaders that you should read everything he writes on the subject of leadership. It is always insightful and helpful. This book is 30 years of leadership experience put into one book.

The Catalyst Leader: 8 Essentials for Becoming a Change Maker by Brad Lomenick

Lomenick leads the catalyst conferences and this book is a great one for younger leaders as they figure out what is next for them, understanding when to step up and lead and when to follow. Tons of great insights for leaders of all ages and experience, but incredibly helpful for young leaders.

Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap…And Others Don’t by Jim Collins

Like Andy Stanley’s book, this is still one of my favorite leadership books. His chapter on level 5 leadership has been life changing for me as I think about how to lead with humility and will to move my church forward and lead in a way that puts the health of Revolution first.

What’s Best Next: How the Gospel Transforms the Way You Get Things Done by Matt Perman

I just read this book and it is one of the best books on productivity. If you believe Christians should be productive, you will find the first 65 pages boring, but once you get to chapter 11 this book rises above every other book on productivity that I have ever read.

Hacking Leadership: The 11 Gaps Every Business Needs to Close and the Secrets to Closing Them Quickly by Mike Myatt

I read this book this year and was blown away by all the insight in this book. If you are a leader, this is a book you need to read and then follow Mike’s blog. His writings are incredibly insightful.

People-Pleasing Pastors: Avoiding the Pitfalls of Approval-Motivated Leadership by Charles Stone

Approval is something that everyone struggles with to one degree or another. Pastors are no strangers to it and can often fall into the trap of making decisions based off of what others think of them. This book helps a leader (and someone who isn’t a leader) see how they gravitate towards approval in living their life and how to find freedom from it.

Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die by Dan & Chip Heath

If you preach or are a communicator, this is a book you need to read through. I go back to this book on a regular basis to think through how to make my sermons more clear. Incredibly helpful.

The Power of Full Engagement: Managing Energy, Not Time, is the Key to High Performance and Personal Renewal by Jim Loehr & Tony Schwartz

So many people in our culture struggle with burnout and not managing their time well. This book points out that it is more important to manage your energy than your time. That point was incredibly helpful. It’s summer time and you are probably tired, and if that is you, this is a book worth picking up so you can head into the fall with more energy and perform at a higher level.

And a bonus one…

The Advantage: Why Organizational Health Trumps Everything Else In Business by Patrick Lencioni

You should read everything that Lencioni publishes. This book essentially is everything he has ever written all in one book. So, read it. So, so good.

What’s your favorite leadership book that every Christian leader should read?

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Links for Your Weekend Reading

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5 things that won’t make your church start growing.

The trap most leaders fall into is believing that a change in form will be an adequate substitute for a change in substance.

Dan Dumas on 7 reasons you should buy “On Preaching” by H.B. Charles.

H.B. believes in preaching. You’ll put down this book not only informed about preaching but excited about it.

The 12 stages of burnout.

When we push our creativity and productivity to its limits, we can easily find ourselves teetering on brink of burnout. And there’s a fine line between being in the zone and falling down the slippery slope of mental, emotional and physical exhaustion. 

How to stop working 7 days a week.

In those moments, remind yourself that what feels like an emergency to them might not actually be an emergency.  Their marriage didn’t get terrible overnight, it’s been sliding for years. Ask one more question, and you might discover that X has been in the hospital for a week and will be there for another week.

How to enter a room like a boss.

In reality, there are many things we all do, unintentionally, when we enter a room or gathering of new people that equates to walking into a room with our fly open. In other words, we’re killing our best chances at success with our own bad habits, mistakes, or simply ignorance. The stakes here are high.

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Links I Like

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God is not your boss.

Instead of viewing God as our BOSS, we should view Him as our FATHER.  That’s a different take on authority, isn’t it? God is our perfect, loving, heavenly father.  A father who loves us because we are his children, not because of our performance.  It is a relationship rooted in love, not in transaction.  It is a relationship that’s eternal, not temporary.

The 4 keys to faithful preaching.

 Faithful preaching accurately interprets the text of Scripture. This means that the author’s intended meaning for the passage is understood and proclaimed. Additionally, faithfulness to the passage means that the tone of the sermon is consistent with the passage (i.e. a sermon on a threatening passage doesn’t feel lighthearted) and the confidence of the sermon is in line with the clarity of the passage (i.e. dogmatic where the text is clear).

Michael Horton on The Jesus wife fragment is a hoax.

10 tips for writers.

All that to say, making a living at writing is not impossible, but it is not typical. If you feel the nudge to write, and if you HAVE to make a living at it, you may be setting yourself up for disappointment.

 

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Rethinking Preaching

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Getting to hear Tim Keller, Matt Chandler, James Meeks and Andy Stanley speak about preaching was like a preacher’s heaven. So good. Here are some notes from each talk:

Tim Keller

  • How to persuade unbelievers in a sermon: Learn how to persuade with people’s own beliefs, Use people’s beliefs against them, You have to solve heart problems with the gospel, You have to demonstrate to the non-Christian that you know what it is like to not believe, to doubt, and Speak to non-Christians directly. Talk about what they are thinking in that moment. By doing this, you communicate that you know they are there and that their doubts matter.
  • Postmodern people want to know how the gospel fits.
  • If you preach to the heart every week, the non-Christians will hear the gospel every week.

Matt Chandler preached from Luke 15 to show what happens when preaching happens.

  • When the gospel is clearly preached, the most heinous sinners are drawn in.
  • Gospel preaching deconstructs and then reconstructs at the same time.
  • Jesus isn’t just after the prodigals, he is after the self-righteous hypocrite as well.
  • Don’t live vicariously through someone else or books. Don’t have other people hanging out with lost people’s stories.
  • Trust the bible.
  • If you move from biblical doctrine, you’ll have nothing to save people to because you won’t have anything to save them from.

James Meeks

  • Whatever you want people to know or do, you must preach that.
  • Preach the announcements.

Andy Stanley

  • Your approach to preaching is everything.
  • Your approach is more important than content.
  • If you take the wrong approach in preaching, it won’t matter if you have good content.
  • If you don’t care what people do with what you say, you don’t care about people.
  • Jesus didn’t come to make a point.
  • Preachers aren’t to make a point or be right, they are to win people.
  • The foundation of our faith is not the bible but an event.
  • The problem when you say “The bible says” is what else the bible says.
  • You take the bible seriously because you take Jesus seriously and Jesus took the Old Testament seriously.

Then they had a panel discussion and here are some tidbits from that:

  • Churches that create an environment for outsiders are positive. Churches that don’t are negative. Churches that go negatively quickly are inside focused.
  • People aren’t a truth quest; they are on a happiness quest. Preaching needs to start there, embrace the tension people have and then move them to the gospel.
  • If the gospel doesn’t hit on the redemption of all things, it is hard for people to move forward and see the point of things.
  • We need to care about eternal suffering, but also all suffering.
  • A preacher needs to be the most sanctified version of himself, not someone else.
  • A preacher needs to have fun. If you don’t have fun, otherwise people won’t have fun.
  • When you preach, give non-Christians an out and tell them, “you don’t have to do this.”
  • If you give non-Christians an out in a sermon, they lean in.
  • A good critical question for a preacher to ask after a sermon is, “Was the sermon fair in its viewpoint of non-Christians?”
  • A preacher should be prepared.
  • Don’t take yourself too seriously.
  • Don’t forget that the work of preaching is supernatural.
  • Don’t have faith in your sermon, have faith in the Holy Spirit.