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.

Breaking the Chains of Addiction

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I spoke on addiction today at Revolution Church. If you missed it, you can listen to it here.

As a way to help men and women stuck in what seems a losing battle against addiction, temptation, negative emotions and be able to move forward by choosing the hard right over the easy wrong, here is a list of resources we put together to help.

My good friend Brian Howard also has a blog about 4 ways to protect your house from porn, which I would highly recommend if that is a struggle for you or your kids.

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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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Frank on “It’s okay, it’s not your fault” and other lies our culture tells us.

There doesn’t seem to be an end to the list of things that our culture says are “okay” and that the person in question is not responsible for, such as:

  • being really out of shape
  • getting lousy grades
  • being addicted to drugs, alcohol, or porn
  • not being able to find a job
  • living with your Mom until you’re 50 years old

Tim Chester on How the growth of a church changes the church.

  • We have to accept that the preacher may not be our pastor.
  • We have to work harder at welcoming new people.
  • We have to embrace the face that there’s a greater diversity among us.
  • We have to accept things won’t ‘just happen’ with organization.
  • We have to be more willing to volunteer because initially we may not be working with people we know.
  • We have to communicate better because we can’t rely on word of mouth.

Burk Parsons on Real love wins.

“One of the more loving and merciful things Jesus did was preach on hell. He preached on hell more than He preached on heaven, and He did so in order to point the lost to Himself as the way, the truth, and the life apart from condemnation and eternal punishment in hell—which He created. Although most preachers have not denied the doctrine of hell outright, they might as well have, since it is entirely absent from their sermons . . .”

Scott Williams on Pastors need to keep calm and practice what they preach.

Pastors often preach about rest, worship and time off, while their team members can’t remember the last time they had a day off, attended a worship service or had a couple free weekends with family. Pastors often preach about not comparing ourselves to one another, while obsessing, comparing and ranking themselves to pastors down the street, around the corner and from around the country.

Thom Rainer on 11 of the most common mistakes churches make.

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Is Christianity Hard or Easy?

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The ordinary idea which we all have is that…we have a natural self with various desires and interests…and we know something called “morality” or “decent behavior” has a claim on the self…. We are all hoping that when all the demands of morality and society have been met, the poor natural self will still have some chance, some time, to get on with its own life and do what it likes. In fact, we are very like an honest man paying his taxes. He pays them, but he does hope that there will be enough left over for him to live on. The Christian way is different—both harder and easier. Christ says, “Give me ALL. I don’t want just this much of your time and this much of your money and this much of your work—so that your natural self can have the rest. I want you. Not your things. I have come not to torture your natural self…I will give you a new self instead. Hand over the whole natural self—ALL the desires, not just the ones you think wicked but the ones you think innocent—the whole outfit. I will give you a new self instead. The almost impossibly hard thing is to hand over your whole self to Christ. But it is far easier than what we are all trying to do instead. For what we are trying to do is remain what we call “ourselves”—our personal happiness centered on money or pleasure or ambition—and hoping, despite this, to behave honestly and chastely and humbly. And that is exactly what Christ warned us you cannot do. If I am a grass field—all the cutting will keep the grass less but won’t produce wheat. If I want wheat…I must be plowed up and re-sown. -C.S. Lewis, Quoted in The Reason for God

Monday Morning Mind Dump…

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  • This weekend was one of those as a pastor that you despise and love at the same time
  • It was brutal preaching yesterday
  • On Friday, I found out that good friends of ours, people we used to live in the same neighborhood as, he became a Christian in our MC, baptized in our church that she has stage 4 pancreatic cancer and it has spread to her liver and lymph nodes
  • It was a punch in the gut on Friday when Katie and I found out
  • Sitting with them at the hospital was one of those holy moments you don’t forget as you could just sense the Holy Spirit there
  • It was raw, tense, hopeful and yet realistic
  • Brutal
  • There are no words that can describe that
  • You can read more about their situation here
  • Be praying for them and their family
  • I was able to pray with their MC leaders today
  • Love the leaders God has placed in our church and their desire to shepherd and care for the family of God
  • All weekend then I felt unsure about my sermon, where it was going but I didn’t have any better ideas than what I had already written
  • Until…
  • 11pm Saturday night
  • I ended up staying up til 2am rewriting my sermon and then got up at 6am to keep my morning routine to pray over my notes, listen to the worship set and focus my heart
  • By the time I got up to preach I was beyond spent
  • God definitely carried me through
  • The connection during my sermon was incredible
  • I talked about how a follower of Jesus should handle adversity and walk through pain and suffering
  • Timely as I planned on preaching this passage in John over 18 months ago
  • If you missed it, you can listen to it here
  • Next week, we’ll look at how God turns pain and tragedy into joy
  • Speaking of pain and adversity, how about my Steelers
  • Holy cow we are horrible
  • Unreal
  • I mentioned today a book that has been helpful to me on the topic of pain, suffering and adversity is Tim Keller’s Walking with God in Pain and Suffering 
  • It has definitely been a long season for me and our family and I’m looking forward to my monthly retreat day tomorrow
  • Always helpful to get away with my bible and Jesus, listen to worship music and walk around the woods praying and refilling my soul
  • Speaking of working ahead, we landed on our preaching calendar for 2014
  • We’re going to go through Habakkuk, do a series on the life of Samson and walk through 1 Corinthians
  • Should be fun to cover suffering, heaven, hell, adultery, divorce, homosexuality, speaking in tongues, healing, getting drunk at church and a whole host of other topics
  • So cool to meet so many guests at Revolution today
  • I’m blown away by how many new people keep coming to our church and are getting plugged in
  • Awesome to hear how Rev Up and Planet Rev are growing
  • So excited for the leaders we have in those areas
  • Huge prayer need for our church: praying up new MC leaders

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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  1. Tim Challies on A safe place for our kids shameful questions.
  2. A pastor looks at dads.
  3. Barnabas Piper on Why Christian leaders (like Mark Driscoll & John MacArthur) fighting is discouraging.
  4. 5 reasons people aren’t volunteering at your church.
  5. Michael Jensen on Is chastity possible?
  6. How to keep your home safe with the internet. Great insights for protecting your kids.
  7. Carey Nieuwhof on Is the pastor celebrity culture a positive or negative thing. Interesting thoughts on this subject.
  8. Sam Rainer on Why pastors neglect managing.
  9. Tim Keller on Why a covenant marriage matters. Marriage is a covenant, not a contract which our culture holds to.
  10. Thom Rainer on How pastors can develop thicker skin.

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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  1. Rebecca Watson on 6 ways to get more done. These are helpful ideas to be more productive.
  2. What churches can learn from Chick Fil-A.
  3. Thom Rainer on Millenials reject Christians fighting. I’m a pastor and I’m tired of Christians fighting, which makes me wonder how sick our culture is of it.
  4. 5 ways a pastor can handle people leaving their church.
  5. Will Mancini on How to reach 20-something’s. Great profile of what makes Austin Stone so strong.
  6. How Andy Stanley and Tim Keller preach to Non-Believers. Great profile of two great communicators.
  7. Brian Howard on How to find a great youth pastor. This is so true.
  8. An open letter to Mark Driscoll. This whole thing is sad that he would lie on social media to push his book forward.
  9. How to be leaders of meaning in an age of information overload.

Monday Morning Mind Dump…

mind dump

  • Yesterday was a bittersweet day at Revolution Church
  • We announced that Jared Carter will be leaving our staff team to explore planting his own church
  • While this the nature of being a church that wants to plant churches, it is still sad when it happens
  • I’m excited though to see how God moves in his life
  • It was hard yesterday to because I woke up and completely scrapped my sermon
  • Definitely went a direction I did not expect but it was totally God on that
  • I have gotten so many texts, tweets and messages since yesterday about how the Holy Spirit was working during the service
  • Love when that happens
  • AJ did a killer job leading worship while Paul was away
  • Love the new worship leaders being developed and can’t wait to see Jeremy lead soon
  • If you missed yesterday, you can listen to it here
  • It was incredible to as this was our 7th week of having over 200 adults
  • Blown away by the way God continues to grow our church
  • One thing I mentioned in my sermon that I’ve gotten a lot of questions about is the catechism we use with our kids that I talked about
  • It’s called New City Catechism and you can get it free here
  • Pretty excited for this week as I have a week of downtime with Katie and the kids
  • While we’d hoped to have Judah home by this time, we are definitely seeing God’s hand in delaying it
  • Really looking forward to doing a lot of nothing and relaxing over fall break
  • You do NOT want to miss Revolution Church next week
  • We have a special guest preacher that is going to rock
  • Seriously, you don’t want to miss it
  • Looking forward to reading a bunch of novels this week and things not associated with upcoming sermons
  • Hoping to crack open this new biography about Spurgeon though
  • Yesterday, my latest post on the resurgence went up about the things I’ve learned about leadership, your energy as a leader, family and other things since planting Revolution Church
  • I’d love for you to check it out
  • Not even sure what to say about my Steelers outside of, maybe we can get Jadeveon Clowney
  • We are on our way to having a shot at the #1 pick next year
  • While I’m out this week, I have a bunch of posts and things scheduled to go but I will be dark on social media
  • Really looking forward to unplugging

Food, Weight, The Gospel and Stop Being the Victim

If you are addicted to food, overweight or struggling with an eating disorder the good news is that you are not alone. While it may feel that way, in fact, if you attend church it can feel incredibly lonely. You wonder how many other people struggle with it. It has become the sin that we don’t talk about. Make not mistake, it is a sin because we hope to find wholeness, completeness, fulfillment and happiness in food, eating too much, eating too little or working out.

Who Temptations Hurt

We often think of ourselves as the victims when wrestling with temptations. We rationalize why we do what we do. I don’t trust people because my dad broke promises to me. I don’t take charge in my life because my mother always dominated my life so I’ve just learned to sit back and wait for it to be taken care of. I buy things so that I’ll feel like I belong with my neighbor or good friend. I eat like I do because it makes me feel better after a long day.

Our addictions and temptations often start as someone else’s fault. This is why it is so easy for us to live with the addictions and think, “This is just who I am. I can’t do anything about it.” I’m just the guy who gets angry. I’m just the girl who can’t keep her mouth shut. I just need to have the newest gadget.

You may believe that you are overweight because of something your parents did, how they raised you, or what someone said to you in high school. We play this record over and over in our heads. We use those words as reasons to keep us from dealing with what lies underneath.

When we sin, we hurt. We feel guilty, we feel distance from friends and family, but ultimately, we feel distance from God. Our scope when it comes to sin and temptation is almost exclusively bent towards us.

Do You Really Hate Sin?

One of the problems in our culture is that most of us don’t have a biblical view of sin. We talk about sin as guilty pleasures or vices. Many in our culture believe sin is something made up by Christians to make us feel guilty. Many of us approach sin as if it’s something we can live with, something that is true of everyone. So what’s the big deal?

While sin is true of everyone (Romans 3:23), we are told in Scripture that sin is death (Romans 6:23; Ephesians 2:1) and sin is committing adultery against God (James 4:4).

When you sin, do you have that view? When you gossip, are stingy, look at porn, or eat too much, do you think, I am cheating on God?

Scripture teaches this because when we sin, we are living outside the way God designed life to be lived. We are choosing our way over God. In that moment, we believe that sin will be more gratifying and more fulfilling than God.

When it comes to food, eating too much or seeing food as a crutch, the church is silent on whether this is a sin. This allows many to continue living without a worry. It is also why we don’t see food as a spiritual issue – only a health issue.

Lies we Believe 

Tim Keller said, “Every time we sin, we believe a lie.” In that moment of sin, we believe that it will be more gratifying, more enjoyable, more fulfilling than the life Jesus has promised us. When Jesus came to earth, he promised (John 10:10) that He came to give life – life to the fullest. This life is beyond what we can dream or imagine. A life many of us only hope is true. When we sin, we believe this life is not possible for us and that we can find life on our own.

If we’re honest, sin, in the moment we commit it, feels fulfilling. If it didn’t, we wouldn’t do it. When you eat, it feels good, it brings you comfort, and it is a friend in your loneliness. This is why many of us eat like we do. Then something happens after we eat. You know the feeling. The guilt and shame that quickly follow is a different story.

The lie many believe is that they can’t persevere. Often we give into temptation before it even comes. We are defeated people, broken down by life, hopeless to withstand any temptation or trial. We simply acquiesce that we will always be overweight. We shrug our shoulders and eat another scoop of ice cream. I’ll always be the overweight girl that is excluded. I’ll always be the last picked for the game.

Another lie we often believe is that our sin or temptation is not our fault. Maybe you are like me and blame your weight on your upbringing and how your parents didn’t teach you good eating habits. Maybe it is God’s fault that you can’t have the metabolism of a 14-year-old now that you are 35. I don’t know why God created people who could eat Taco Bell 4 times a day and lose a pound in the process when I feel like I gain a pound every time I smell McDonald’s. We rationalize that we aren’t the most sinful person we know. In fact, if you made a list of the 10 most sinful people you know, my guess is that you wouldn’t be on it.

This gets at the fundamental question that gets debated in our culture, “Are people basically good or bad?” According to Scripture, we are sinful and broken. We sin out of our desires. You might be thinking, “I sin because of what happened to me.” On the surface, this may be true, but underneath it is another level that maybe you sin out of protection, to not let people see your brokenness, or have to deal with the brokenness and hurt in your life.

God and our Bodies

When I was at my heaviest, I had a conversation with my brother-in-law that proved to be a life altering conversation. We were at Starbucks and he asked me, “How can you challenge people in sermons to have self-control when you don’t have any in the area of food?”

The reality of being overweight in the Christian community is that until you have a heart attack or some other health issue, no one will say anything to you. It isn’t seen as a sin, so what’s the point of saying anything? If you choose to be overweight, it’s your choice.

Back to Temptation

We’ve all had that conversation with someone we love who has been hurt by our addictions. We utter these hopeful words that often feel empty, “This is the last time.”

Why do they feel empty?

These words are brimming with the opportunity of freedom. But they are empty because they are overused. Men addicted to porn swear to their wives they will never do it again. They will get accountability and this time it will be different. After a mother screams at her children, she tells them she won’t do it again. On the verge of bankruptcy, we tell our loved ones that this is the last time we will spend more than we make. We will stop buying things. We will stop drinking. Stop gambling. Stop gossiping. Stop eating too much.

This is the year that I’ll lose weight. How many times have you uttered those fateful words? How many Januarys have you said or written down, “This is the year I will get healthy?”

The personal issue my brother-in-law pointed out is that pastors are unhealthy and many of them are overweight. Ouch. A 2001 Pulpit and Pew study of 2,500 clergy found that 76% were overweight or obese compared to 61% of the general population at the time of the study. For many, it has to do with a lack of controlling their schedules when it comes to their sleep and exercise habits along with making poor choices at their lunch meetings or laziness.

I think the larger issue for people who say they believe in God is that we compartmentalize the gospel to the point that it is strong enough to save us for eternity, but not transform our eating habits or body image issues.

It’s not just pastors who are overweight. The problem has moved into the pews. A 2006 Purdue study found that fundamental Christians are by far the heaviest of all religious groups led by the Baptists with a 30% obesity rate compared with Jews at 1%, and Buddhists and Hindus at 0.7%. This study prompted the lead researcher, Ken Ferraro, to say, “America is becoming a nation of gluttony and obesity and churches are a feeding ground for this problem.”

Similarly, a 2011 Northwestern University study tracking 3,433 men and women for 18 years found that young adults who attend church or a Bible study once a week are 50% more likely to be obese. The Pawtucket Heart Health Program found that people who attended church were more likely than non-church members to be 20 percent overweight and have higher cholesterol and blood pressure numbers.

There are a few reasons for this reality. One reason is that churches don’t talk about food as an addiction, the need for exercise, or body image issues. It can be awkward. I didn’t realize this until I lost all my weight. I remember standing on stage talking about this, weighing in at 170 pounds, and looking out at my church. I saw some people who were overweight; some were very obviously overweight, while others just slightly. Whenever you bring up weight, body image issues or food as an addiction, immediately everyone thinks you are talking about them. While you are speaking to them, it is beyond each individual, and leaders must see it as a larger issue as well. It isn’t that we as pastors want to shame anyone in our church or any leader wants to bring guilt on someone who works for them. But we know they will feel so much better about themselves and their life if they can gain the freedom that Jesus offers in this area. We want them to experience the life Jesus promised. Too often, we interpret the life described in John 10:10 is simply about heaven. This life, an abundant life, is also about the pace we keep, what we put into our bodies and how we think about our bodies.

A second reason this isn’t talked about has to do with the leaders of churches in America. You can’t preach about something you don’t believe or don’t live out. You can’t talk about believing in the life Jesus promises when it comes to weight and body image issues while eating the way we do at the church potluck. You can’t challenge your church to have self-control in areas you struggle to have self-control in.

The last reason this isn’t discussed in churches and why pastors and those who sit in our churches every week are unhealthier than the culture around them is we don’t believe that Jesus is better than food, work, and our pace in life. Since we don’t believe it there is no sense in living it. For many who attend church, the gospel is simply how one gets to heaven and how we spend eternity. Yet, the gospel, the truth of Jesus, is so much bigger and impacts the here and now of our lives. Until this changes, we won’t see how the gospel can free us from food as an idol or an addiction. In short, we won’t be able to see the glory of how God created us in his image and why this is an amazing truth.

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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  1. Why pastors should be in a study group.
  2. Jen Wilkin on Parents, do you think before you post something online about your kids. Great points for parents to think about.
  3. How to leave a church well. Such a good post. Most people leave churches quietly, but some leave with as much noise and destruction as they can muster.
  4. More honest church postcards. Good for a laugh.
  5. Tim Keller on Handling the question of the bible having contradictions.
  6. Check out the latest worship song from Soma. Such a great song.

How to start a Mumford & Sons Band.