#663 - THE BENEFITS OF NOT PREACHING

Due to someone else preaching this Sunday, a cancelled service next Sunday, and the week after that me being out of town to officiate a wedding, I am not going to be preaching for the next 3 weeks. 

Though I absolutely love to preach, four days into the week, I'm already starting to see the benefits of getting a preaching break. Here are a few:

  1. I can focus my thinking and work on other aspects of pastoral ministry. During any given week my thoughts and energies are on my upcoming message for at least 30 hours. I am so grateful that this week I am going to be able to spend many of those 30 hours thinking through and working on our leadership development process - another very key element of growing a healthy church! If I didn't take a preaching break, where would I have found the time to put this much intentional thought into such a critical piece of the pastoral leadership pie!
  2. I can give others who are gifted and called to preach the opportunity to do so. Though it may seem obvious, it must be stated: If I don't ever take a break, when will others get the opportunity to take a turn?! I love that taking a preaching break doesn't only give me rest, but it also frees up the platform for others to step up and into what God has called them to do!
  3. I can experience a Sunday from the vantage point of someone who attends. This Sunday I look forward to sitting in our service to experience and enjoy it without the thought of preaching on my mind. I look forward to singing without worrying about preaching. I look forward to interacting with the others who attend. I look forward to receiving from the preaching. It's gonna' be great!

I praise God for the blessing of serving alongside other gifted communicators of God's Word! Not every pastor has the luxury of feeling comfortable with other people in their church preaching on a Sunday, but that's not me! I. AM. BLESSED!

#660 - A PRAYER PREACHERS SHOULD PRAY

Heavenly Father, please give those of us who have the honor and privilege of preaching your Word insight beyond our intellect, anointing beyond our ability, and power beyond our preparation. A move of YOUR Spirit is what we long for!

A few thoughts on why you should pray this prayer...

Pray for insight beyond your intellect because interpretation of the Scriptures is a spiritual endeavor. Our intellect is physical, therefore it is limited. Insight from above can transcend what our intellect can't comprehend. 

Pray for anointing beyond your ability because like intellect, ability is physical, therefore it is also limited. Anointing on the other hand, can cause ears to be opened that otherwise wouldn't be. Anointing can cause walls to be broken that otherwise couldn't be. Anointing can cause miracles to take place that otherwise shouldn't be!

Pray for power beyond your preparation because no matter how thorough you are in your preparation, preaching void of the power of the Holy Spirit is merely a speech. Both believers and unbelievers alike don't need another well put together talk, they need a powerful one!

#653 - AN UNEXPECTED ASPECT OF SPIRITUAL MATURITY

Tonight as we were in our prayer meeting, it hit me. As I was praying, an element of spiritual maturity dawned on me, and I had never thought about it in this way before.

It wasn't Bible knowledge. It wasn't church attendance. It wasn't evangelism. It wasn't giving. It wasn't serving. 

ONE OF THE GREATEST INDICATORS OF SPIRITUAL MATURITY IS CHILDLIKE FAITH.

This hit me while I was praying because I realized that I do not pray as audaciously as I should because, over the years, in some ways, I have lost my childlike faith in God. 

Why do I believe in Him for salvation, but I do not call out to Him for healing? Why do I trust in Him for forgiveness, but I do not petition Him for revival? Why am I sure that I am justified, yet I am unsure of whether or not He can still perform miracles? Why am I confident that He will return, yet I am hesitant to ask Him to do the supernatural in my midst.

It almost seems as if, over the years, as I've grown in my ability to explain God, I've lost my ability to believe God. What a tragedy!

Here are three ways that I know my faith has shrunk that I hope to reverse and I pray you'll avoid!

MY PRAYERS WOULD BE BEST DESCRIBED AS ACCURATE RATHER THAN AUDACIOUS.

One indicator of this might be if you always feel the need to say in your prayers, "If it's your will..."  Only you know whether or not that is a necessary statement in your prayers or if you are using it as a way to guard your ego if the prayer is not answered. Audacious prayers requires childlike faith.

MY PREACHING WOULD BE BEST DESCRIBED AS PRACTICAL RATHER THAN PROPHETIC. 

Did God call me to preach just so that people would have a few "to-do's" to try during the week? I don't think so. God called me to preach so that His truth would be proclaimed. He called me to preach so that darkness would be exchanged for light; so that death would be exchanged for life! Prophetic preaching requires childlike faith.

MY LEADERSHIP WOULD BE BEST DESCRIBED AS CALCULATED RATHER THAN COURAGEOUS.

The local church doesn't need another calculated leader. That might be what a business looking to turn a profit needs. But, the body of Christ needs a courageous leader who will boldly follow the leading of the Holy Spirit regardless of the cost. Courageous leadership requires childlike faith. 

Now don't get me wrong. There is nothing inherently wrong with accurate prayers, practical preaching, and calculated leadership. It is when these things come at the expense of childlike faith where I believe one's spiritual maturity must come into question. Enough is enough.

Would you join me in maturing our ability to believe God like a child?

"For an answer Jesus called over a child, whom he stood in the middle of the room, and said, “I’m telling you, once and for all, that unless you return to square one and start over like children, you’re not even going to get a look at the kingdom, let alone get in. Whoever becomes simple and elemental again, like this child, will rank high in God’s kingdom." Matthew 18:2-4 (MSG)

#649 - WHY PREPARING SERMONS EARLY IS WISE

Today I finished 90% of my sermon for this Sunday. Not only have I thought through the message from start to finish, I have already created my Keynote slides as well.

Though I hate to admit it, I am never done with this much of my message by Thursday. But I need to be.

With the majority of the message done with 2 full days to go before I have to preach it, my mind is freed up from thinking about what I am going to say to how I am going to say it. 

Though I am confident that God has been faithful to use the messages that I have finished preparing just hours before they are preached, I also know He is honored by me not waiting till the last minute to finish them. God is honored by me stewarding my time more wisely. God is honored by me being more diligent in my study.

The big idea is this:

THE MORE I HONOR GOD IN MY PREPARATION, THE MORE LIKELY GOD IS TO BE HONORED IN MY PREACHING

#645 - THE PRIVILEGE OF PREACHING

That people would get up early on a Sunday morning. Get themselves ready. Get their kids ready. Drive to the church. Walk to the church. Take public transportation to the church.

PREACHING IS A PRIVILEGE.

That many volunteers would get up early on a Sunday morning. Set up classrooms. Set up lights. Set up environments so guests would feel welcome. Play instruments. Sing songs. All so that hearts could be prepared to receive the Word of God.

PREACHING IS A PRIVILEGE.

That people would open their hearts to what God would have to say through me. That people would open their ears and their minds to consider the words that are coming out of my mouth. That people would pay attention. That people would allow themselves to be influenced by my voice.

PREACHING IS A PRIVILEGE.

That God would call me. That God would equip me. That God would fill me with His Spirit. That God would gift me. That God would use me in spite of my brokenness. That God would place words in my mouth that would impact people for their good and His glory. 

PREACHING IS A PRIVILEGE.

I am undeserving. I am ill-equipped. I am in over my head. May the Holy Spirit always keep me sober-minded enough to know that....

BECAUSE PREACHING IS A PRIVILEGE, PREACHING IS NOT MY RIGHT.

I am not entitled to do it. I am not entitled to anyone listening to me do it. I am not entitled to anyone responding to me do it.

PREACHING IS A PRIVILEGE.

And as long as God grants me this privilege, I will humble carry out the task to the best of my ability. 

#644 - THE TEMPTATION A PREACHER MUST NOT FALL INTO

You can't preach what you want the text to say.
You can't preach what the people want the text to say.
You can't preach what you think the text says.
You can't preach what others have said the text says.

You must preach what the text actually says.

No matter how difficult.
No matter what the cost.
No matter how inconvenient.
No matter how seemingly irrelevant.
No matter how hard it makes your study.

GOD DID NOT CALL YOU TO EASY PREACHING. HE CALLED YOU TO RIGHT HANDLING.

Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth. 2 TIMOTHY 2:15

#609 - A PRAYER BEFORE EASTER SUNDAY 2018

Heavenly Father...

As I endeavor to preach, tomorrow, about the implications and impact of your past resurrection on our present and future lives, I desperately need your help. I am so convinced that regardless of how accurately, enthusiastically, or compellingly I preach the text, without the power of your Holy Spirit, my words are impotent to change a heart of stone. Lord, grace my words and grace our service with a pouring out of your Holy Spirit that will soften the hearts, open the eyes, unlock the ears, and renew the minds of everyone in attendance. 

But I also ask that your Holy Spirit would fall on me even now as I make my final preparations for tomorrow's message. Though I am desperate for your Holy Spirit to work powerfully tomorrow to do supernatural things with my natural words, I also need the Holy Spirit now to guide me as I prepare my natural words. Help me to say only that which will lead towards your will being accomplished in the lives of those who hear the message. Help me to decipher what should be said to our congregation on this Easter Sunday for your glory. 

Holy Spirit, fall tomorrow as I preach, but also, fall now as I prepare.  

I need you Lord.

In Jesus name,

Amen. 

#602 - THE NIGHT BEFORE SEXOLOGY PART 3

Tomorrow morning, I will preach the most controversial and counter-cultural message I have every preached in my life. I will be preaching a message entitled, When the Church and the LGBTQ Community Collide.

In an effort to clear my mind and prepare my heart, here are a few of the emotions I'm feeling and a few of God's promises over my life that I hope will be a source of comfort.  

FEARFUL YET HOPEFUL

Fearful that I will be misunderstood, but hopeful that those who are seeking God will find Him. (1 Chronicles 28:9)

ANXIOUS YET CALM

Anxious to preach the message and get it over with, but calm knowing that in God's time, He makes all things beautiful. (Ecclesiastes 3:11)

CONCERNED YET CONFIDENT

Concerned about whether or not the message will be well received, but confident that God's Word will not return void. (Isaiah 55:11)

POWERLESS YET POWERFUL

Powerless to change a hardened heart, but powerful knowing that in my weakness that God's strength is made perfect. (2 Corinthians 2:19)

EMPTY BUT EXPECTANT

Empty of energy (it's 3am!), but expectant that God is going to do exceedingly and abundantly above what I can hope or imagine! (Ephesians 3:20)

Heavenly Father,
I praise you for your strength. I praise you for your power. I praise you for your goodness. I praise you for your grace. I praise you for your wisdom. I praise you for your love. Be to me and be for me who you have always been. You have always been enough. I love you, and I, once again, entrust my life into your strong, loving, and faithful hands. In Jesus name, Amen. 

 

#540 - SUNDAY AFTERNOON ENCOURAGEMENT

You prepared like it's the last message you'd ever preach. You prayed like it's the last message you'd ever preach. You preached like it's the last message you'd ever preach. 

Now, all you can do is rest. 

Don't overly concern yourself with the impact. Don't insecurely fish for the feedback. Don't mistakenly overestimate or underestimate your effectiveness.

Your work is through. You did all that you could do. Your only job now is to trust God to do all that He can do. 

And He can do marvelous things!

#530 - I MUST WRESTLE WITH THESE THINGS

Because you don't affirm me, you don't love me. Because you disagree with me strongly, you can't care for me deeply. Because you're not condoning how I'm behaving, you're not committed to who I'm becoming.

Are these statements true?

My convictions are who I am. If you don't love my convictions, you don't love me. They're inseparable. To reject what I believe is to reject me. 

Really?

If you don't accept my choices, you don't accept me. And to not accept me is to exclude me. And to exclude me is to not dignify me. That is inhumane. 

Is it?

These are statements, feelings, and positions that many people have. For real. I need to think critically about them. Not to, is to be insensitive and invalidating.

#483 - PREACHING EVALUATION WEEKEND

This Saturday, I have the privilege of gathering with the guys on the preaching team of theMOVEMENT to discuss how we can become better communicators of God's Word. The following post is just a "brain dump" of the things I'd like to accomplish on that day.

  1. Want to have a "learning moment" around preaching/teaching.
  2. Want every communicator to walk away with their current strength.
  3. Want every communicator to walk away with their current growth area.
  4. Want to discuss 2017 Preaching Calendar.
  5. Want to divide teaching for first 3 months of 2017.

Potential Schedule:

  1. 8:00-8:30 | Breakfast/Agenda/Learning Moment
  2. 8:30-9:30 | Watch/Evaluate Christopher's Message
  3. 9:30-10:30 | Watch/Evaluate Glen's Message
  4. 10:30-11:30 | Watch/Evaluate Spencer's Message
  5. 11:30-12:00 | Lunch Break
  6. 12:00-1:00 | Watch/Evaluate AJ's Message
  7. 1:00-2:30 | Discuss/Divide first 3 months of preaching for 2017  

#480 - 200+ SERMONS PREACHED. 10 LESSONS LEARNED.

My preaching experience includes 100+ sermons in my 2.5 years of being a pastor to high school students/young adults in Fremont and another 100+ sermons in my first 3 years of being the Lead Pastor of theMOVEMENT Church in Oakland.

Many pastors have preached many more messages than I have, but in an effort to become a more effective communicator (and maybe help a few other preachers who may come across this post), I thought it would be beneficial to reflect on some of the lessons I have learned over the last 5+ years of preaching the good news!

  1. Good News > Great Advice. Though I want my messages to be helpful, I am more concerned with my messages being powerful. With that in mind, for me, if a message doesn't conclude with extolling the finished work of Jesus Christ as the true source of power for all life change, I have not preached...I have, merely, given a talk. (Romans 1:16)    
     
  2. Find energy in text. Bring energy to text. My best energies in my message should not be given towards jokes, illustrations or personal anecdotes. Instead, in my study, I must find where there is energy, movement, and momentum in the text of Scripture and then I need to bring my energy, creativity, and enthusiasm to that text of Scripture. The source of life is not in my stories, the source of life is in the Word! (Psalm 119:25)
     
  3. No burden. No bueno. The more in tune I am with the consequences of not obeying/applying/understanding what I am about to preach, the more ready I am to preach. The more my heart is broken for the people who need to hear the message I am about to bring, the more ready I am to bring it. If I am not aware of the sense of urgency to my message there will be no sense of urgency in my message. No burden. No bueno.
     
  4. Build tension. Earn attention. The greatest books and movies I've ever read and watched build a tremendous amount of tension and suspense in the beginning causing me to "lean in" to find out how the problem is going to be resolved. In preaching, the better I can craft a tension-building question (a problem that the audience wants the answer to), the more engaged the listener will be. Don't assume interest. Build tension. Earn attention.    
     
  5. Be affected. Be effective. When I have already been affected by the truth of the text that I am going to preach, I find myself being more effective in preaching it. When I have already inhaled the truths from God's Word that I am going to proclaim, I find it so much easier to exhale them. Truths that have not been first received by me will not be easily accepted by others. Your audience knows if you've been where you're trying to take them! Therefore, go there first! Smoke what you're selling! Be affected. Be effective. (Titus 2:7)
     
  6. Your weakness. God's strength. I connect best with the audience through stories of how I have failed, not how I have succeeded. Vulnerability and transparency with my sin and my shortcomings creates an authenticity in communication like nothing else. One of the greatest gifts a preacher can give to their listeners is the comfort that, though they are the preacher, they are working out their own salvation with fear and trembling just like their audience is! Lean into your struggle. Your weakness. God's strength. (2 Corinthians 12:9-10)  
     
  7. Absent Spirit. Impotent Word. My words have absolutely no power to transform a life. None at all. Only the Holy Spirit of God can convict a heart. Only the Holy Spirit of God can cause change. Only the Holy Spirit of God can bring salvation. Know your role. We prepare. The Holy Spirit brings the power. We talk. The Holy Spirit transforms. We communicate. The Holy Spirit convicts. Plead for God to do what only God can do. Absent Spirit. Impotent Word. (John 16:7-15)
     
  8. Teach Less. Teach More. If I have taught everything in a particular text, but I have conveyed nothing, I have failed. With that in mind, I find communicating one big idea from the text to be more effective than communicating every single point of the text. If there are multiple points in a text, I don't try to preach it all in one sermon, I try to preach it all in one series of sermons. Most times, when less is taught, more can be understood (and applied!). Teach less. Teach more.     
     
  9. Let it out. Let it go. I will drive myself crazy if, after I preach, I worry too much about how "good" I did or how "effective" I was. I will become too self-absorbed if I find myself unhealthily looking for affirmation or approval from my listeners. With that in mind, my mantra when I finish a sermon is, "Because I let it out, I can let it go." All I can do is be obedient to what God was leading me to say. If I did that, I can rest easy. The results are up to Him. Let it out. Let it go. (Isaiah 55:11)
     
  10. Son first. Preacher second. My identity is not in what I say about God. My identity is in what God has already said about me! I am a prodigal who has already been received before I am a preacher who longs to be accepted. I don't preach for God's approval, I preach from God's approval. If I am preaching to "become somebody," I am not going to help anybody! Son first. Preacher second. Don't get it twisted. (Ephesians 1:3-5)

I'd love to hear about the preaching lessons you've picked up along the way! Feel free to share them in the comments below!   

#444 - THOUGHTS ON PREACHING - PART 1

Thursdays are the days I spend the majority of my day preparing for the message I am going to preach on Sunday. In addition to studying the text, preparing my Keynote slides, and doing a lot of praying (a LOT of praying!), there are several questions that I force myself to answer before I conclude my preparation for the day.

Over the next several days I want to share with you the questions I ask myself. Here are the questions I ask myself to help me set up my INTRODUCTION:

  1. What is a compelling question that I can frame the message with that both unbelievers and believers would be interested in the answer to? [This gives the audience a "reason" to listen.]
  2. What is a personal story I can share of how I have recently dealt with the issue this message addresses? [This connects the audience with me and my humanity.]
  3.  What are several general ways that the audience has dealt with or is dealing with the issue that is being addressed? [This further connects the audience with the message.]
  4. What is at stake if myself and the audience do not understand the answer to the question being posed? [This adds "gravity" and "weight" to the message.]

I spend a significant time on how I "set-up" my message because I am convinced that it's not enough to just "teach the Bible" on Sundays. I must show those I am ministering to how what I am about to teach has implications and applications for their life that truly matter.

I liken the introduction to a message to how I feel about the first few pages of a book. If a book doesn't get my attention in the first few pages, I'll most likely put the book down and never get to "the rest" of what the book has to offer! Similarly, if I can't get the audience to care about what I'm going to say in the first 5 minutes, it will be very difficult to keep them engaged for the next 35!