“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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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

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.

N.T. Wright on Gay Marriage

This is so good:

You can read the transcript of the interview here.

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I Know What Will Fix my Marriage, But…

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If you’re married and have encountered a challenge in marriage, welcome to marriage.

The funny thing about the challenges we run into in relationship is that we often know the way out of them. We know the things that could fix it. We know the things we do to try our spouse nuts or hurt them. In fact, if someone were to ask you how to fix your marriage or make it more healthy, chances are good you could come up with a plan.

Yet.

Chances are very low that you would put that plan into action.

So you stay stuck.

Stuck in a marriage that isn’t happy. A marriage that isn’t affectionate. A marriage that doesn’t have an enjoyable sex life, if it has a sex life at all. A marriage that has little laughter or conversation.

It’s just there. Kind of like roommates sharing stuff. With some kids thrown in.

What do you do if you are in that place? Here are 5 ways to move forward and fix your marriage:

  1. Stop blaming your spouse. I know, your marriage would be better if your spouse changed. Where you are in your marriage is not all on your spouse. Both of you are to blame for where you are, no one bears 100% of the blame. What is your part of it? What did you to so that you would get to this place? Admit that to yourself, confess that to your spouse and ask for forgiveness.
  2. Admit you are here. Many couples don’t want to admit the season they are in. They want to pretend like everything is okay, they want to boast on Facebook about how much they love their spouse when they really want to kick them through a wall. Stop pretending, especially with your spouse. If you are unhappy, you both know it. Talk about it, give words to it.
  3. Decide you’ll last. Too many couples go into marriage with divorce as an option. Don’t. Decide you will last whatever comes your way. It will be hard, you will face things you didn’t think were possible when you took your vows, but you can get through it. It is amazing what happens when you take the exit door away from a situation.
  4. Create a plan and put some accountability to it. As you look at your marriage, get some advice. What is the thing that is harming your marriage? Is it accountability, schedule and pace, communication, intimacy? What is that one thing if you could change would take your marriage to a new level? Now, find a book or a couple that is doing that well and spend time with them, ask them what they know. Ask for their help. Create a plan out of the place you are in and share it with someone, create some accountability. When I committed to have a weekly date night with Katie and that I would plan it, I said it in a sermon. That put some teeth to the commitment.
  5. Believe the best in your spouse. This will probably be the hardest thing to do if you are hurt or angry at your spouse. You will believe any change they make is simply show, window dressing, trying to butter you up for something. It might be. Do your best to believe the best in your spouse and ask them to believe the best in you. I’m not promising you won’t get hurt in this relationship, you will at some point as it happens in every marriage. But believe the best in them. People have a way of becoming the people we believe them to be.

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.

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Pastors Can Make the Worst Friends

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Most pastors are nice people, they just don’t make good friends.

That may seem harsh to say, but as a pastor, I think it is true.

Hear me out.

Pastoral ministry is an all encompassing job. It is highly relational, emotional, mental and spiritual. It can be draining physically and overwhelming. It isn’t harder than other jobs, it is just different.

Because you can get a call at any moment with something that needs attention, many pastors burnout and struggle to have boundaries so they can rest and recharge.

Pastors spend so much time counseling people, helping people work through issues or sitting in meetings that when they meet someone, they often see them as a project instead of a person. They see them as someone who will need something, someone who will need advice or need to be fixed instead of a person to simply spend time with.

For most pastors, church is something they are always thinking about. The next capital campaign, new ministry year, next sermon series, next issue, hiring a new person. It never stops. They spend all their time with people talking about church. They sit with their wife on date night and talk about church. It is not just a job, it is their life. It is who they are and this becomes unhealthy.

Then, they meet someone new and they can’t stop talking about church. They can’t shut it off.

What do you do then? How can you become a better friend if you are a pastor? Here are 5 ideas:

  1. Have friends who don’t attend church (or your church). This is crucial. If you don’t have any friends who don’t attend church, that’s a great clue that you aren’t good at friendships. Churched people will tolerate a pastor who don’t stop talking about church or is a poor friend because they want to be close to a pastor. An unchurched person won’t take that.
  2. Have a no church talk zone. There should be a time of day, a day each week where you stop talking about church stuff. Stop thinking about, stop checking your email. Don’t talk about it at least once a week. For many pastors this will be so hard to do, but incredibly healthy.
  3. Take a day off. If you aren’t taking your day off as a pastor, you are sinning. I’m blown away by how many pastors are killing themselves working 6 or 7 days a week. Stop it. Rest, recharge, take some down time.
  4. Get in a small group. I’m blown away by how many pastors are not in a small group or missional community at their church. They’ll often say that the elders are their small group. This line of thinking attempts to make a pastor untouchable and that’s a sin. In a small group, people see who you are, you can’t hide any longer. You start to see how people see you and if you are any good at community. This might feel like it goes against #1 but it doesn’t because many pastors don’t have friends in their church. Now, you need to be careful here. You don’t just share everything with someone in your church, you must show discretion on the information and with the person. There have been times Katie and I have shared everything about a situation with our MC, and sometimes not. Each situation is different, but you should be in community with some people in your church who are not in leadership.
  5. Get a hobby. I was talking with some pastors the other day I am coaching out of burnout and I asked them, “What do you do for fun? What recharges you? What is fun?” Blank stares. Many pastors do not have a hobby. Things like fixing a car, working with wood, hiking, playing sports, knitting or cooking. Nothing. If that’s you, sit down and answer that question, what do I find fun? If you don’t have a hobby, you won’t have anything that lets off steam, anything that is fun, anything to do with others.

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What to do When You’re Too Tired to Work

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There is a moment that every pastor knows well, but many Christians might find surprising.

It is Sunday morning and you will preach or lead worship in less than hour. You feel into your pocket and feel your keys and think, “What if I left right now?”

The same thing happens to men and women at work everyday. It isn’t that you are unprepared or don’t love your job, it is just that you don’t feel like you have anything left to give.

For pastors, they are prepped, ready to preach, they are just running on fumes and don’t have the stamina for what lays ahead.

I recently talked with a student pastor who told me, “I’m just not sure I have anything left to give. I love my church and my students, but I’m beat.”

If it hasn’t happened to you yet as a pastor, that only means you are new to ministry.

When it does, here are 6 things to get out of this funk, but also to protect yourself from it:

  1. Get a good night sleep. The stats on how poorly Americans sleep and how many sleeping pills they take are staggering. It seems like no one gets a good night sleep anymore. Get to bed early on a Saturday night and strive to get into bed by 10pm every night. Yes, it is hard to get a good night sleep when you have kids, but you can try. Don’t drink caffeine late in the day. For me, I stop drinking caffeine at 2pm. It keeps me up. Same with sugar from chocolate or ice cream. Your body may not react like mine, but if it does, cut back.
  2. Eat better. Most pastors do not eat well and are paying the price for it in ministry. They fill up on fast food, energy drinks, carbs and then lack the motivation and energy. On Sunday morning, eat tons of protein. By the time I preach, I have consumed over 50g of protein. If I don’t, I will be too tired to do anything else the rest of the day.
  3. Let go of hurts. One of the main reasons pastors burn out is not the physical strain of working, but the emotional side of ministry. Walking with people through their hurts, counseling, being stabbed in the back by a friend, church discipline situations. All of these stack up and unless a pastor lets go of them, they will pile up and he will eventually explode. You must have a system for how you give those things up to God and let him carry those burdens.
  4. Have some friends. Pastors seem to be bad at friendships. We don’t know what to talk about if we aren’t talking about church. We struggle to have hobbies outside of church and our only friends go to our church. Get some friends that are other pastors, people in your neighborhood who don’t expect you to be perfect. There are times that I have dinner with someone from church and tell them, “When you come over, we aren’t talking about church or ministry. If you can’t do that, we can’t hang out tonight.” If you aren’t careful, ministry can become all encompassing and take over your life. You have to turn it off and let your day end at some point.
  5. Preach less. Decide how many weeks in a row you can preach without feeling too tired and preach that. For me, I get crispy after 10 weeks in a row. You may be able to go longer and that’s great. For longevity, I strive to never preach more than 10 weeks in a row. I take 3-4 weeks off in a row each summer to rest.
  6. Have a recovery plan. Sunday after preaching, you might take a nap, have dinner with friend, workout, do yoga, take a hike, read a novel or play with your kids. Whatever will fill you back up after preaching, do that. Preaching is hard work, it is a war for the souls of people. It will take everything out of you.

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Vague Pastors

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Last week, Carl Lentz, the pastor of Hillsong NYC made his rounds on CNN and Huffington Post. The interviews were fascinating to watch and see what God is doing through Lentz and Hillsong.

In those interviews, gay marriage came up as it always does if you are a pastor.

His answers were an attempt at a non-answer. He said in a sermon, “Some churches want us to give blanket answers on huge issues. Well, my Bible says, be attentive to individual needs. So I’m not gonna make polarizing political statements about certain things in our Christian community right now. No matter who says what, we won’t be pressured into giving blanket statements to individual needs. Never.”

He has also said he won’t “Preach on homosexuality.” But that is misleading.

When you don’t preach on something, you are preaching on that thing. You are just saying what you think won’t be as controversial or the thing that won’t lose you your following.

He says that “Hillsong has a stance on love, but has conversations on everything else.” On the surface, this sounds nice.

But he is falling into the trap so many pastors and leaders fall into: being vague.

The problem is this, homosexuality is talked about in the bible. Not as much as some Christians make it out to be. It is listed with other things for example in 1 Corinthians. The amount of sermons and blog posts on gay marriage dwarfs the amount of sermons and blog posts on adultery, stealing, greed (except at Christmas time), getting drunk, revilers, or swindlers.

Let’s take another example from 1 Corinthians 6. It talks about our bodies being the temple of the Holy Spirit and  yet, there are a lot of Christians who are unhealthy and destroying their bodies because of what they eat and drink. Every time there is a potluck at a church, there is a good chance we just sinned according to 1 Corinthians 6. Not always, but most of the time.

There is a clear problem when a pastor is vague and it is this: The problem with not preaching on things in the Bible is that Christians and non-Christians then don’t know what is in the Bible. They don’t know what they believe about something. They don’t know what God thinks about something. A Christian can’t have a conversation with a non-Christian about an issue if they aren’t taught. In the same way, a non-Christian can’t be confronted by truth if they don’t hear it.

This is one reason I think it is important to preach through books of the Bible. It keeps pastors from preaching on their soap box issues (and only talking about their soapbox issues), but it also allows pastors to not skip things. When you say, “I won’t preach on _____” you’ve just said I will skip passages in the Bible when I get to them because I don’t want to talk about them.

That is a low view of the Bible. God inspired those words for a reason.

What do you think? Should a pastor say they won’t speak on a certain topic? Is that ever an appropriate step?

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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 May 2014

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

  1. 10 Books Every Christian Leader Should Read
  2. Why Missional Communities Should Take a Summer Break
  3. The One Thing Destroying Your Marriage That You Don’t Realize
  4. Why You Aren’t a Leader
  5. 11 Ways to Know You’ve Settled for a Mediocre Marriage
  6. When a Staff Member or Volunteer says, “I’m Done”
  7. Pick a Church
  8. 10 Lessons for the Church from Pixar
  9. Remove Barriers to What is Most Important
  10. 7 Reasons You Aren’t Communicating with your Spouse

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.

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