Planning for a Year of Preaching

Here is an article I wrote for he FiveTwo Network on how I plan my sermon series:0617yearpreach

One of the difficult tasks a preacher has is to decide what should be the focus of a Sunday sermon. Traditionally this difficult decision is narrowed down through lectionary preaching, a predetermined cycle of assigned texts appointed for each Sunday of the year from which a Pastor can chose to preach.

However, I prefer to preach through sermon series, where the truth learned one week is built upon in the succeeding weeks. In order to accomplish this, I ask myself three driving questions, consider the balance needed through the year, and then make a concrete but flexible plan.

THREE DRIVING QUESTIONS

As I begin my planning, here are some of the big questions I ask:

  1. What has God been teaching me? One thing I’ve learned over recent years is that what God does for me He wants to do through me for others (2 Cor. 1:3-4). This goes for every follower of Jesus. If Jesus disciples you in some area of life, He desires that you disciple others in what you’ve learned. This is no different for a preacher. When we ask this question in preparing to preach, it can produce the most powerful sermons and series because we’re preaching a truth and grace that we’ve experienced and therefore one that is more easily touched, felt and seen through us.
  2. What do our people need? This question is all about applying the liberating truth of the Gospel. As pastors we need to know well the people God has placed under our care. We need to know the lies they are believing, promulgated through the media and pop culture – lies that subtly change how they view themselves and God. We need to know of our peoples’ brokenness, struggles, relationships, heartache, and doubts and then mine the word of God for the raw grace and truth that realign their worldview, heal their souls, reestablish their identity as God’s children, and empower them to live for Him.If your church is larger, poll the congregation regarding where they are confused about the faith, where they are struggling, or what they’ve always wanted to know. Ask these questions in the classes, boards, small groups, or missional communities you participate in. Ask leaders in your congregation these same questions concerning those under their care.
  3. Where do we need to go? This question is all about mission and vision. For me, mission and vision are always about Gospel-motivated and Spirit-empowered multiplication of disciples, discipleship groups, leaders, and churches. This theme should be touched upon at least monthly so that we never lose focus of the reason we exist, yet also be addressed more thoroughly in a yearly series…Read the rest of the article here

When God Feels Far Away…

I talk to many people who feel like God is far away.  A question I try to ask is, “Who moved?”

Paul says in Acts 17:27 that God, our Father, is not far from any of us and that his desire is that we reach out to him and find Him.  In James 4:8, James says, “Come close to God, and God will come close to you. Wash your hands, you sinners; purify your hearts, for your loyalty is divided between God and the world.”

Paul and James are saying that whenever there is distance between us and God it is not God who has moved away but we have.   We end up wanting the world rather than God.  We end up prioritizing our pleasure, comfort, plans, and business and in doing so we drift away from him.  We come to him when we need him, but then we walk away when things are good.  Our relationship with God is just that, a relationship.  It needs to be worked on. It needs regular attention or we grow distant and our relationship breaks down.  If I only talked or spent time with my parents or my wife when I needed something our relationship would suffer and, in reality,there wouldn’t even be much of a relationship there.  Then when we come to him we are full of doubts because we’ve forgotten who He is,  We’ve forgotten his character and love.  We’ve forgotten how good he is and how he works all things for our good. God wants so much more for us.

God is the good Father from the story of the Prodigal Son.  We all have run away at some point.  We all have wanted the world.  We all have just wanted to run with our inheritance and live however we’d like outside of our Father’s house and rules.  Yet God is not far from us and He desires that we reach out to Him and come home.  We cause the distance.  We walk away. Yet God is the perfect Father who always wants his little boys and girls to come home.  He is just waiting for us to return so that we can have a full relationship with Him again. In fact, the story of the prodigal son is imperfect compared to the real story of us and God. In the real story, the Father sent His good Son, Jesus, to pay our debt, to share His inheritance so we could replace the one we lost, and to bring us home, back in the family, back to the loving arms of the Father.  When we come home, the Father runs to us, wraps His arms around us, calls us His children once more, and treats us as if we never left.

God isn’t far from you. He is near.  He’s right there.  Perhaps He’s even allowed you to see the distance you’ve walked away in life so you’d run home to Him.  He loves you so much he gave his Son, knowing that he’d suffer and die while rescuing you.  If He’s done that, he certainly won’t write you off.  He’ll certainly be with you as you return to him.  He’ll certainly run to you, embrace you, and treat you as if you had never left.

Picture found here

Discipleship and Dialogical Preaching

Here’s an article I wrote for the Five Two Network on the new way I’ve been preaching using questions and dialogue to help disciple our people:
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I love preaching. I love talking about Jesus. I love digging up the truths of a certain text and laying it before the people, so that they might marvel at God and his goodness. I love holding the congregation’s attention, and drawing them into the Law and Gospel through a well-crafted message.

However, since we started a worship gathering for our church plant nearly a year and a half ago, my preaching has changed. I preach dialogically now because I believe it’s the best way for a sermon to contribute to the church’s task of making disciples.

While not a new concept, many haven’t heard of dialogical preaching before. Those who are familiar with the term probably have one of a half-dozen preaching techniques or supplements, used within or outside of the sermon time, that often claim the title, “dialogical.” So let me explain to you what I mean when I talk about this preaching method. I’m talking about asking a series of powerful questions interspersed throughout the message and allowing the congregation to answer them, and even ask their own questions, if they arise, during the sermon time.

The Process of Dialogical Preaching

My sermons are now incredibly simple. They consist of asking five questions* about the text or texts of the day to discover the central truths that will foster repentance, faith, and transformation in the hearer’s life.

These are the five questions:

Read More here…

The Big Story

Check out this great overview of the Story of God?

What do you like about it?

What elements could you use in sharing the story with someone else?

Serving in a Snow Storm

snow-shovel-100208-02

Jesus is a servant.  The way that he serves shows his love for us.  Jesus said his very mission was to serve us and demonstrate God’s love by saying:

“For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Jesus is the good king who came to serve, who showed his love by serving us to the point of death on a cross (phil 2:6-11). It’s through Jesus service that the lie of Satan (the lie that said God doesn’t love us) is dispelled when we see that God loves us and will do anything to provide for us the very best of life and life to the full in his kingdom.

If Jesus is the Good King who came to serve, and if you are baptized into his name, you are his servants sent into the world to display the truth of God’s love through your actions–to show the world that God loves them through YOUR actions.  So how can you sere in the snow storm?

  1. Check up on the elderly and the infirm.  See if they need anything and then provide what they need.  Offer to drive to get their groceries or medicine if needed. The roads might be driveable but many won’t want to take a chance or might be to unstable to walk in the snow or ice.
  2. Shovel, snow blow, or plow your neighbor’s walk or drive way…even if they could do it themselves.
  3. Make a large pot of soup and bring some containers for the neighbors around you.
  4. Share some of the milk, eggs, and bread you started hoarding the moment you heard we were going to get snow. (Sorry, couldn’t resist).
  5. If you’ve got a good vehicle and confidence in your driving, offer to pick up a coworker or take them home if the roads are bad.

Finally, Ask the Spirit who you can serve and what you can do for them.  Use this as an opportunity to build relationships with neighbors you haven’t seen all winter or haven’t met yet.

Picture found here

Dads, You are heroes. It’s time to step up!

Dads,  You are heroes.  It’s time to step up!  

We started weekly worship gatherings in a new church about a year ago.  For three years we’ve been reaching out to people in neighborhoods, bars, and parks. We’ve heard countless stories of brokenness. It usually starts with, “My Dad never…” Most people, especially the men we’ve met, who are far from Jesus and the church, have serious daddy issues. We hear of how most these young men never had their dad’s marry/or remain married to their moms. Their dad was never there growing up. Their dad never said, “I love you” or “I’m proud of you.” Their dads never taught them what it was like to be a man.   A growing number of people we’ve met never knew their dads at all.

If you’re a dad, you are a hero. Your kid, even if he’s 55 and you’re 72, still yearns for your presence, your approval, your love. You are either going to give them those things and prove to him that you’re the hero he always thought you were. Or you’re going to show him you’re more like a villain…and more likely he’ll think it’s because of him, that he’s not worthy of a hero’s love.

There’s some good news: It is never too late to step up and make things right.

Here’s even better news: Jesus can redeem the lost and broken years. With the help of his power, by faith in him, and the leading and directing of his Spirit we can change. God’s Spirit can transform our hearts and lead us to repent to our children in the ways we’ve wronged them. His Spirit can help us become the men and dads were are called to be. God can transform our children’s hearts to forgive us as well.

Here’s the best news: Jesus is a perfect father on our behalf who always did what was best for his children, who was always nearby, who always showed unconditional love and approval. He was the perfect father in your stead to your children. He was looking out for you children even when you weren’t. He did everything necessary to be with his children, to protect them from danger and provide for them a future.  Through faith in Jesus, His perfect record is your’s before the father in heaven.  You are guiltless for all the ways you’ve wronged your children and for every good thing you did not do for them.  You have a Father in heaven who loved you children in your stead, and, just as sweet, you have a Father in heaven who loves you.

Let’s live in that love, men!

 

Video found here

Starting “Church Starting” churches

Here’s a great article from Carol Davis on why some churches start new churches and why most never reproduce”

‘I have a question I’ve been wanting to ask you for four years,’ I said to Charles Brock, author of the
Practice and Principles of Indigenous Church Planting, when I met him in the Philippines a few years
ago. ‘You plant churches rapidly, they produce leadership from within, they are not dependent on
outside funding and they reproduce.’

‘I know others plant churches in these same areas. It takes years, the churches stay dependent on
outside resourcing, they import leadership, they say, because poverty has destroyed the psyche of
the people and they are not leadership quality. These churches do not reproduce.’

“I want to know why you can do it and they can’t.”

Read more of Carol Davis’ article here.

Jesus’ promise to be with us always is tied to us going on his mission!

One of my favorite bible verses is Matthew 28:20 where Jesus is about to ascend into heaven and says, “Be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”  I remember this verse was used all the time to remind us that Jesus is omnipresent, he’s everywhere which means we’re never alone.  You’re going through hard time?  Jesus is with you.  You’re lonely and having a hard time make friends, keeping friends?  Jesus is with you!  Having a hard time finding a boyfriend, girlfriend, husband, or wife.  Jesus is with you.  Facing an impossible challenge?  Jesus is with you!  You’re not alone. He’s there to be with you, comfort you, and help you through whatever is standing in the way of your happiness, health, or safety. Yet is that the right way to view what Jesus is saying?

A number of years ago I was reading the context of this verse again, Matthew 28:16-20.  For some reason I saw what I never saw before.

Jesus came and told his disciples, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. 19 Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. 20 Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you.

His very next words are:

And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.

Jesus’ promise to be with us always is tied to us going on his mission!  He’s saying, “I’ve defeated sin and death through my death and resurrection on your behalf.  I’ve created you, my church, to bring my salvation to all people.  Go and make disciples, everywhere in the world, by baptizing them and teaching them to obey everything I’ve told you.  Oh,  Don’t be afraid, go in confidence that I’m now in charge and have all power and I’m going with you.  I’m never going to abandon you while you.  I’m on this mission with you until it’s completed at the end of the age.”

Now don’t hear what I’m not saying.  I’m not saying that Jesus is only with us if we’re “on mission” seeking the lost and making disciples.  There’s other verses in the bible that talk about God being near to all people and actively present in the lives of those who look to him.  However, this specific promise in Matthew 28:20 is given in context of mission.

We’ve started a new church in the last couple years, and are coming to the 1st year anniversary of our corporate weekly worship in September.  Since God has called me back to faith, I’ve had a passion to see all people come to the God who has loved me and saved me.  Yet in the last couple years, as we’ve given ourselves wholeheartedly to, and have reoriented our lives around, God’s mission, we’ve seen God everywhere.

Every day, I wake up or leave my house and it’s like I’m going on a crazy, epic, adventure.  I say to God, “How are you going to show up today?  What are you going to do to me, for me, through me for the sake of your kingdom?”  What’s amazing is that we are seeing God everywhere as we go with his mission in mind.  His fingerprints are evident all over the lives of the people we’re running into.  It’s almost like we can see his hands bringing our little missionary band into encounters and relationship with the unbelieving, doubting, and hurting at just the right time.  Why is this?  Because he has all authority and he’s with us always in a special way when we’re seeking to see others know Him and grow up to be His disciples.

Some Christians live their lives thinking that God has privileged them, that the world and our culture should be fit to bless them and so they engage in the culture wars to make this a “Christian” or “Moral” nation.  Some even wrongly believe that God simple wants to bless his people by removing their difficulties and pain and by blessings them with all sorts of good health, a beautiful spouse, a great career, etc.

One day the world will be perfect.  Jesus will come down and save his people, his church.  He’ll give us perfect health and perfect bodies as he takes away all sickness, pain, and death.  He will give pleasure, comfort, security, and peace.  He will give us the riches of his Father’s kingdom as we live with our Creator and Redeemer face-to-face.  We’ll have everything we’ve truly ever desired and dreamed of because we’ll have him.  We’ll have the best life that we could ever dream of because we’ll have him.  Yet that’s not what we have now.

It’s almost as if our land has been captured by an enemy power.  The true king has come out of exile.  He’s liberated our town.  We’ve seen him again face-to-face. He’s going to fight for us and His victory will be our victory.  Yet he can’t stay. His mission doesn’t end with us.  There’s others to be liberated but he invites us to take up arms and follow him.  He invites us to join his mission.  Those who stay in the village might see him from time-to-time when he returns between skirmishes or if the people are in danger again.  Yet those who join him in battle get to see him every day.  The get to see Him work and fight for them.  They get to witness his awesome power as he fights for them and his passionate love and he sets captives free.  This is the calling of the church, his people.

The World doesn’t exist for the Church.  It will one day.  Yet for now, the Church exists for the World.  We exist for the mission.  When we’re on mission we’ll see Jesus in ways we have never dreamed as we walk beside him and see him work in and through our lives for the sake of bringing the world back to him.

 

If you like this post you might also like It’s Dangerous Business

Pictures found here, here, and here

Keller on The Gospel, Moralism, and Irreligion

Check out this short video from Tim Keller on three ways to view the world.  The Christian message is often rejected because it is either viewed as moralism or is presented as such.  The Gospel is really the only thing that frees us and gives us hope.

Free Church Graphics

I ran into a pretty great site called, Church Creatives.  They have some great resources and tutorials on graphics and video side of the church.  Here is their list of free church graphics:

See more….

 

picture found here

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