“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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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.

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.

Monday Morning Mind Dump…

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  • The first day back from vacation can be brutal.
  • I’m rested, excited about being back, but blown away by how much can stack up while you’re gone.
  • It was definitely different being at church yesterday without Paul. First time in over 5 years.
  • At the same time, it felt good as so many people commented about how church felt the same. That’s a good thing.
  • Mike did a great job preaching his first sermon.
  • If you missed it, you can listen to it here.
  • Love seeing new communicators preach in our church and seeing their gifts develop.
  • On vacation I read one of the best books I’ve ever read on team building and hiring: It’s Not the How or the What but the Who: Succeed by Surrounding Yourself with the Best
  • So much wisdom in this book.
  • So far, my summer reading list has proven to be filled with great books.
  • Definitely came at a good time for me as we are hiring 2 new staff members at Revolution Church: A kids pastor and a pastor to lead worship and oversee missional communities.
  • I’m excited because tomorrow I’m going to be part of a google hangout you can watch on worrying, stress and church planting.
  • All the fun starts at 2pm EST.
  • You can watch here.
  • Getting closer and closer to finishing the first draft of my book.
  • Hard to believe.
  • I’ve been loving the world cup.
  • So many great games and great goals.
  • Stunned at how the US is hanging in their group.
  • This is a short one, cause I’ve got lots going on.
  • Til next time…

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 us to be.

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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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.

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.

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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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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