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 Forgive Your Father

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As I mentioned in a recent sermon, one of the hardest things for us as we see God as father is how we feel about our earthly father. That relationship impacts so much of how we see ourselves, the world around us and God. It impacts how we feel about ourselves and how we let others treat us.

As you take steps this week to let go of any hurt done by your earthly father and forgive him, here are a couple of things to keep in mind:

One, remember your sin. It is easy to simply look at the brokenness of someone else and overlook our brokenness. As you forgive someone, you begin to come face to face with some of the things in your own heart. If you skip over these things or not deal with them, you will find yourself having a hard time understanding God’s forgiveness. Remember, God’s grace was extended to you and your sin, my sin, the sin of your father put Jesus on the cross.

Two, forgiveness does not mean you pretend something didn’t happen. Forgive and forget is a nice phrase, but I’m not sure it is realistic or biblical. We always remember something. It is part of our story, our life. We don’t simply pretend that hurt, broken promises, or even abuse happened. As you forgive and move forward, don’t pretend something didn’t happen as that will keep you from health and wholeness.

Third, forgiveness does not mean you have a relationship with someone. You can forgive someone and keep them at a distance, which you may need to do depending on the situation for your safety.

Last, God forgave you and this is the basis for letting go of anything. Why did God forgive you? He loved you and this forgiveness is what we are to extend to those who hurt us, including our father.

It may be hard to believe, but forgiving those who hurt you the most is not only something a follower of Jesus is called to, it is also the only way to living the life that God calls you to live. Many people walk around with hurt, that turns into bitterness because of something they won’t let go of. And that is not the life that God has called us to live.

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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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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Made Right with God

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All of us want to be happy. We all want to know that we meet the standard that is set. What happens though, when you feel like you don’t measure up?

If you are a follower of Jesus, you know that the grace of God saves you. There is nothing you can do to earn it. Yet, once you begin following Jesus, so much of your time is spent earning more of God’s love and favor.

The truth is, you can’t do anything to get any more of God’s love and approval and grace than He has already given you. 

But what if, you want to be made right with God? What happens when you discover you are broken and you can’t fix yourself? How are you made right with God? How do you stay right with God? Do you do something? Work harder? Be better? Clean yourself up?

Sunday, as we continue our series Changewe’re going to look at Galatians 2:15 – 21 and what is a paradox of Christianity: you are forgiven by grace, you are sustained in your relationship with God through His grace and you do not nothing to attain this grace. It is freely given to you.

About this passage, Martin Luther said this:

This is the truth of the gospel. It is also the principal article of all Christian doctrine, wherein the knowledge of all godliness consisteth. Most necessary it is, therefore, that we should know this article well, teach it unto others, and beat it into their heads continually.’ In other places he refers to it as the ‘chief’, the ‘chiefest’ and ‘the most principal and special article of Christian doctrine’, for it is this doctrine ‘which maketh true Christians indeed’. He adds: ‘if the article of justification be once lost, then is all true Christian doctrine lost.’

This is by far, one of the most crucial passages in the entire book of Galatians, and a truth, if we miss, we will miss out on the life God calls us to live. 

If you or someone you know has a hard time believing that God can forgive them, that they don’t have to earn God’s love or that will continue to forgive them and work in their life, this is a great week to bring them to Revolution.

Remember, we meet at 10am on Sunday mornings at 8300 E Speedway Blvd.

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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.

Make me Approve of You

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I preached on the need and desire for approval that we all have. Granted, we all feel it to different degrees. In my sermon, I mentioned how my desire to win, to be right, to have power and control always outweighs my desire for approval. It is still there though.

This blog post may feel more like a confession that I’m letting you in on. Hopefully this will be an encouragement to you or you’ll see yourself in it.

For me, I was convicted how out of my desire for power and control, I can very easily make my relationships about my approval of someone else.

I can be good at putting incredibly high standards on people, making them feel guilty so they will ultimately do what I want.

This is how I control things. In the end, it is also how I can easily help people sin by gaining my approval.

It is interesting when we talk about the idols of the heart or the sin in people’s lives, we focus on the person sinning. We should. They are responsible. In doing this, it is easy to let the people off who cause the sinning. Granted, someone seeking my approval is not my fault and they stand before God on that. I stand before God on how I cause someone to sin or stumble.

That is on me.

As I think about legalism, the gospel, the idols of my heart and hopefully as you think about those things, my hope with this blog post is to get you to realize in your quest for approval, control, comfort or power, you cause others to worship their idol by your actions. In your quest for comfort, you might help someone seek even more control so things don’t fall through the cracks because you are so laidback and letting whatever happens happen. In your quest for approval, you cause others to seek power because you are willing to be a doormat to their sin and ego.

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How Many Times a Year Should a Pastor Preach

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The other day a church planter I coach asked me. “How many times a year should I preach?”

The answer to this question depends on the person, church, philosophy and what the person can handle. While most churches have one person who preaches the majority of the time (ie. 40-48 times a year), some churches have a team where people preach an equal amount of split in some fashion.

When we started Revolution Church, I preached 98 times in the first 2 years. This was partly because we didn’t have anyone else to preach, my desire to get better as a preacher, but also I felt the need to help set the tone of what our church would be like. This was tiring.

Now, the elders have set a goal for me to preach at least 40 times a year. This allows me to preach the most (which is important for the church, which I’ll talk about in a minute) and still develop other communicators. As I get older, I could see this number going down so others can be preaching and developing their gift.

I think it is important for a church to know the person who communicates regularly. This creates a normalcy to church, people know what to expect and they feel connected to a communicator.

The other question a pastor has to ask is how he will break his weeks up.

I’ve learned, my limit for preaching in a row is 10 weeks. Other guys it might be 8 or 13. Around week 10 I start to get incredibly run down mentally and spiritually and feel like my tank is low. I shoot to make sure I have a week off from preaching at least every 10 weeks. Some times I’m able to make that happen and other times because of the season of our church, I can’t.

One question a lot of young planters wrestle with is: when to take a break. 

Each year, before I put together my preaching calendar of topics, I pull out the school calendar (district in my area and the university of Arizona) and see when the breaks are. We run on a year round school system here so we get 6 weeks of summer instead of 3 months. This means we have random breaks in October and March when Tucson seems to shut down. These breaks are great times to have another person preach. The sunday after thanksgiving and the 4th of July, the Sunday of Memorial Day and Labor Day and the last Sunday of the year and the first Sunday of the year are great weeks to take off from preaching and have someone else do it (that’s 6 right there).

I also shoot for a 3 week break from preaching at some point in the summer. The benefits to this are enormous for you personally and your church. This is when I plan the next year of sermons, work ahead, work on my own soul and take a vacation with my family.

But what do you do on a week off?

For many pastors or people in their church, the idea of the pastor having a week off from preaching sounds like he is taking a week off from everything. This is an opportunity for you as a pastor to work ahead on sermons, think through a series coming up, meet with leaders to plan ahead or evaluate a ministry, go to a conference, take an extended spiritual retreat to be with Jesus.

If you aren’t proactive, you will waste these weeks off.

So, why do pastor’s preach too much and burnout?

For some, it is a pride issue. They don’t want to give up control of the pulpit. They think if they aren’t at church, it will cease to exist and fall apart. This gets to the heart of who is building your church, you or Jesus.

For some pastor’s, they truly don’t have anyone else who can handle it. This is a tough spot to be in. You can use a video sermon from a pastor of a large church like Craig Groeschel or Andy Stanley (we do that once a year simply to expose our church to some great speakers and authors that I think would benefit them).

The bottom line is, you get to choose this as a pastor. The choice you make though has an enormous affect on your health and the health of your church.

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Dear Worship Leader

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Dear Worship Leader,

Because I speak every week and have done so for the last 10+ years, I’ve seen a lot of worship leaders. From camps, conferences, church services, student and college ministry, it takes all kinds. Most of them are great. Some of them, not so much. Most of them have great hearts with a desire to lead a group of people into the presence of Jesus to worship, others, not so much. I thought I’d share some thoughts as a person who preaches and worships in church on a weekly basis, sort of my viewpoint of you and some requests.

  1. It’s not about you. I know worship leaders would never say it is about them or preachers either. But sometimes, it seems like it is more about you than Jesus. We are not there to watch you worship. We are not there to see how amazing you are or how incredible your voice is or that killer drum or guitar solo you just nailed. If that’s all people talk about at the end, it failed.
  2. Talk normally. So many worship leaders when they talk between songs sound like they are trying to seductively get me out of my clothes. If your voice sounds like Barry White normally, then great. If not, talk normally. Don’t breath heavy, make weird pauses. I leaned over to Katie at one worship service recently and told her I felt like the worship leader was hitting on us. It shouldn’t feel that way.
  3. Everything you say, pray and the songs you sing teach me about God. When you pray, think through it. When you talk about asking for more of the presence of the Holy Spirit, is that possible? Or do we need to be more aware of the presence of the Holy Spirit? Make sure you know what the Father, Son and Spirit do. When you make it up on the fly, you make theological errors that we in the seats listen to and believe. After all, you’re on stage. As for lyrics, make sure they are theologically correct. Also, what does it mean to sing to the heart of Jesus? When you tell us to sing this straight to Jesus I wonder who we’ve been singing to this whole time. A lot of what is said on the latest Hillsong and Passion album sound awesome in an arena, but when there are 25 people in a church planet, we don’t want to shout to God.
  4. Pray normally. When you pray, do you say God or Jesus over and over. Dear God, we love you God. Thank you God. God, your presence is so amazing God. Oh God. If that’s how you pray, great. If not, pray normally. The way you pray teaches the rest of us to pray and if it doesn’t sound normal, it communicates a normal person can’t pray. Also, when you pray, I learn theology about God.
  5. Don’t repreach the sermon. There is nothing worse than preaching a sermon, one that I as the preacher has thought about for anywhere from 1 week to 8 months just to have a worship leader come up after me and on the fly repreach it in 5 minutes and make me wonder, “Why did we just sit here?” Or, when you repreach it incorrectly? I remember speaking at another church and the worship leader came up and tried to make my point, but missed it. Showing he wasn’t really listening.
  6. Your dress reflects your heart. This is for men and women. If your dress is distracting, revealing or over the top, no one is paying attention to Jesus. They are looking at you. What you wear, how low cut it is, how shirt your skirt is, how tight your shirt is, all reflects your heart.
  7. Don’t make us stand forever. I know people stand forever at a concert, but once you start getting to 15, 20, 25 minutes of straight standing people start checking out because it hurts. Knees, back, necks, they all start to ache.
  8. When you sing high, men stop singing. If you are a worship leader, you probably have an incredible range. That’s awesome. You can probably sing all the songs exactly as they are recorded on the CD. That’s awesome. The problem is few other people can, especially men. When you sing too high, men stop singing and check out.
  9. Explain what we are doing. Why are we standing? Why are we reading this prayer? If you want me to do something, tell me and explain it. Don’t assume I want to do the thing you want me to do. You’ve spent all week thinking about it, working on it and I just heard about it.
  10. Sing songs each week. I love new songs and if you lead worship, you get tired of songs quickly. The reason? By the time you teach a song to a church, you’ve listened to it 100 times. The problem is, most people do not listen to worship music throughout the week. They don’t know the songs. So, if you teach a song and the following week don’t sing it again, we forget it.

I love worship leaders. I love that at Revolution, almost half the service is music. I want you to be great. If you don’t serve with a pastor that wants you to be as great as possible, go find a new pastor to work with. The people who show up each week show up wanting to meet Jesus and you are a big part of that. You help us encounter Jesus in a personal, emotional and logical way. I want you to be great and I don’t want anything to stand in the way of you being the worship leader God called you to be.

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Links I Like

Links I Like is a collection of blogs, articles and books I’ve come across recently and thought they were worth sharing. Click here for past Links I Like.

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The friendless pastor.

It’s ironic that pastors, who talk the most about the need for community, experience it the least. Our days and nights are filled with calls, meetings, and interactions with people. But despite lots of people contact, we have few trusted peers. We have too many relationships and too few friends. Isolated leaders are a danger to themselves and their churches.

Joel Garfinkle on What great leaders do.

What does a leader look like? Think of two leaders, famous or not, whom you admire and respect. What do they do that is so different? What traits do they have that help them excel at a high level? Leadership is not a great mystery. Great leaders have specific traits in common.

Are pastors kids prodigals?

The survey’s results say no. Barna found that PKs leave the church, experience periods of doubt, and abandon their Christian faith at a rate pretty equivalent to our peers.

Trevin Wax on Why pastors should preach the “why” before the “what.”

Plans are good. Programs are good. But the why behind the plan and the why behind the program is even better.

Brian Howard on Why we can’t be friends.

Most of us like to talk about ourselves. But unless you are in a counselor’s office at least half of any given conversation should be asking questions about the other person’s interests and desires. There is little that is more relationally life giving than having a person take a deep interest in you. Offer this blessing to those you are in relationship with. In a real friendship you are not only receiving but you are giving.

Brian Dodd on What churches can do to ensure guests come back after Easter.

 Churches do a great job of putting significant effort into their Sunday worship services.  I would like to challenge all churches to put an equal amount of effort into your children’s classes and programming.  The reason is because children can deliver “the win” of a 75% return rate.

 

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Links I Like

Links I Like is a collection of blogs, articles and books I’ve come across recently and thought they were worth sharing. Click here for past Links I Like.

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Are visits to heaven real?

It is quite true that heaven is a place of perfect bliss—devoid of all sorrow and sin, full of exultation and enjoyment—a place where grace and peace reign totally unchallenged. Heaven is where every true treasure and every eternal reward is laid up for the redeemed. Anyone whose destiny is heaven will certainly experience more joy and honor there than the fallen mind is capable of comprehending—infinitely more than any fallen creature deserves. But if you actually saw heaven and lived to tell about it, those things are not what would capture your heart and imagination.

Yancey Arrington on What to do when you’re in a preaching funk.

It seemed every time I stepped down from the pulpit my heart was full of frustration because, in my estimation, my sermons felt chunky, cluttered, or confused. There was an aimlessness about them. Everything kept coming off flat. They weren’t, for lack of a better term, ‘clicking’ in the hearts of the congregation (or for me for that matter). I would have people speak encouraging things to me after services but they were of the generic, southern politeness, garden-variety remarks that you would get no matter what because people are kind. And even if those messages were good, I didn’t feel that way. And if you don’t think your sermons are good, it doesn’t matter what others tell us. And for quite a season, that’s exactly how I felt. It was a Sahara of preaching because I felt desolate in the pulpit. It seemed no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t shake it. I still look back on that season and shudder. I hated it and wouldn’t wish it on any preacher.

Carolyn McCulley on How women easily confuse what they do with who they are.

Any change in what we do can easily trigger a crisis of identity — what is the story we are now to tell others about ourselves? While I think this is true for men, I think it is different, and perhaps more pronounced, for women because our productivity choices are scrutinized more often than those of men. That’s why the most divisive terms may be the dreaded “working mothers” versus “stay at home mothers.” If it were a simple description of the location of female productivity, that would be one thing. But these phrases are loaded with guilt and judgment.

Kevin DeYoung on Celebrity Pastors.

The term “celebrity pastor” is decidedly pejorative. I don’t know anyone who would be happy to own the phrase. That doesn’t mean we can’t use it. But it means we should not attach it to pastors in a knee jerk way. A Christian with some combination of influence, social media followers, books, a large church, and speaking engagements may be a public Christian or a well known individual, but let’s not use “celebrity pastor” unless we mean to say he relishes the spotlight, has schemed his way into the spotlight, and carries himself as being above mere mortals. Does this fit some popular preachers? Probably. Does it fit all of them? By no means.

Mark Dance on Should pastors be excited about everything?

Pastors sometimes feel pressure to show equal excitement about all of the ministries in our church, lest we show a hint of favoritism.  Well meaning members and staff lobby for their ministry’s rightful place in the promotional rotation, budget and church calendar.  Some of them even pressure the pastor to give a shout-out from the pulpit.

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