Ministry Leadership Tue, 16 Sep 2014 21:29:32 -0400 Joomla! - Open Source Content Management en-gb Without This, You Can’t Preach a Great Sermon

Can you preach a good sermon without love?

I was at a gathering of pastors, and the gust speaker said, "You can preach a good sermon without loving your people, but you will never preach a great sermon without loving them."

I immediately wrote the phrase down and chewed on it for a while.

Can pastors really preach well without love? The more I thought about it, the more I realized it is true.

There are plenty of pastors who preach good sermons without love for the people they are preaching to. They preach well, because, although they don't love people, they love preaching.

Their people even say afterwards, "That was a good sermon." Because by all accounts it was.

The timing and delivery were good. The illustrations were well rehearsed. The pastor was likable. The interpretation of scripture was solid. But "good" is all their preaching will ever be.

There is just something missing. Something that cannot be measured, but it can be felt. Love.

On the other hand, there are other pastors who preach the same level of sermon (even less polished), but have a genuine love for the people they are preaching to.

Their love is obvious. It flows through them. You hear it in their voice. You feel it in their stories. You see it in their body language.

The way they preach cannot be taught, but it is easy to see.

A genuine love for people transforms an otherwise good sermon into a great one.

Why? Because when you love your people, you know your people. Your application points will hit your people exactly where they are. You speak on a different level because you have taken the time to understand and care about what your people need to hear.

It is like how the way I speak to my wife, my son, and my daughter is different from the way I speak to a stranger.

I speak to my family differently, because I know what they need to hear. I speak to my family differently, because I know how they need me to communicate so that they will understand. To a stranger, I will be polite and communicate as best I can, but it will never be on the same level.

There are many good preachers who can turn a phrase and tell great stories. They are engaging, energetic, and interesting. But without love they will never reach their full potential.

Love alone will not make you a good preacher. You still need to put in the work. You still need to learn to communicate effectively. But, without love, you will never be a great preacher.

I think Paul said it best ...

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. (1 Corinthians 13:1-2, ESV).

Love your people. Really love them.

Your preaching may be "good" without love, but it will never be great.

Brandon Hilgemann has been on a nine-year journey to become the best preacher he can possibly be. During this time, he has worked in churches of all sizes, from a church plant to some of the largest and fastest growing churches in the United States. Brandon blogs his thoughts and ideas from his journey at

For the original article, visit

]]> (Brandon Hilgemann) Preaching Mon, 15 Sep 2014 19:00:00 -0400
Are You Using God as a Crutch?

I was spiritually raised in a very strict segment of Christianity. There were great things I learned at that church.

But, the emphasis that was placed on pleasing God actually created an unhealthy fear of displeasing God. You may ask, "What's unhealthy about that?" Nothing, unless you carry it to the extremes I did.

You see, I wanted to never displease God to the degree that I often became paralyzed when it came to making decisions. I would labor in prayer over even the smallest decisions. For example, if I wasn't sure God had given me His blessing to go to the store, I didn't go. You get the picture? I was dependent on God speaking to me over every tiny thing. If there was a problem or issue needing to be solved, my solution was to pray and let God fix it.

After several years, I was asked to pastor a church. My formula for church growth grew out of my background. I thought all you should do was to pray and God would grow the church. So pray we did! We held all night prayer meetings, early-morning prayer meetings, and long seasons of fasting and prayer, not to mention my habit of three hours of personal prayer every day.

We prayed and had great services but, after several years of this, I realized our church was not growing. We had not had a net gain in attendance in six years. As I began to consider the lack of growth to our congregation, I became puzzled. Surely we had called on God long enough and loud enough for Him to hear us. Why were we experiencing these undersized results? I remember saying to God, "Lord, there is something wrong with either you or me ... and I think it must be me!"

What was my problem? I had an incorrect understanding of the sovereignty of God as opposed to the responsibility of man. God had become my crutch. I wouldn't use my own legs of intelligence, experience, or talent and instead relied on the Crutch (God) to do the work for me. I know believers who use God as a crutch so they won't have to do something they need to do in the natural realm. Isn't that what unbelievers accuse us of repeatedly, using God as a crutch?

Scripture makes it clear that because God has made an uncompromising decision to respect the free will He gave to humans, a partnership is required. Paul articulated this well in exclaiming: "I can do all things...Through Christ that gives me strength" (Philippians 4:13).

Paul had a part to play and God had a part to play. God strengthened what Paul did and amplified his aptitude. Paul used what he had and relied on God for the rest. So, is it God or Paul? The answer is yes! It is God and Paul together as a team.

Consider this verse: "But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them—yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me" (1 Corinthians 15 10 NIV).

What was Paul's part of the equation? He received the grace of God. We must put ourselves in a position to receive that grace. This verse also said that he labored more than all the others. Hard work made a difference. And what was God's part in this? He gave the grace that was needed to accomplish His purposes through Paul.

Was it Paul or God ... again, the answer is yes! It was Paul and God together. Paul labored but not just Paul all by himself, in his own strength. The grace of God was with Paul. Without us, God often won't; and without Him, we often can't.

Since my eyes became opened to this operative nature of the kingdom, I have met many who are off balance one way or another. Many believers are incessantly waiting for God to do what He is waiting for them to do. Others are so self-confident they never rely or wait on God. Both are wrong. The proper concept is the farming model.

Perhaps you've heard the story of the preacher who came to visit a farmer. As they both walked around looking at the crops, the preacher began to point out God's goodness saying, "I can't believe how God has blessed your tomatoes and look how God blessed your squash. And I can't believe what he did for your butter beans." The farmer had had enough and said, "Listen preacher, you should have seen the shape this field was in when God had it without me!"

Whether we have been saved for years or just becoming part of the faith, all can grow in the way they cooperate with God. When we are stuck on something or can't seem to break through, work through these important steps:

1. Have we done everything the Word says? We should work through the situation by searching the Bible for what God has said or promised to us. Then check to be sure we have acted by faith on these divine directives. I once asked leadership guru John Maxwell how he knew whether God approved of what He was doing. He told me, "I believe God gives me seed thoughts and I act on them." Think about how seeds are just the beginning of a living thing. These thoughts need to be planted, worked, and watered to produce. We need to make sure we have fulfilled our end of the partnership by exercising God's Word in and through the situation or challenge.

2. Are there any natural laws that we are neglecting? My wife and I were eating lunch with a young lady years ago that shocked us. After eating dinner, she ordered a banana split. It was a huge banana split and before she ate it, she said she had to pray again. We were surprised because we had already prayed for the meal, thanking God for the food we were about to eat. Yet, she bowed her head to pray these words "Lord, thank you for this banana split and I curse all the calories in it in Jesus' name." Somehow our dear sister felt that she could use the spiritual principle of being able to curse things to override the natural laws her indulgence would bring. God will not magically override His natural laws to soothe our consciences or placate our sin.

3. Are we experiencing a period of "God confinement"? For example, in 2 Corinthians 12, the Apostle Paul encountered a restriction that was orchestrated by God. He received a thorn in the flesh that was a messenger of Satan to buffet him. There was nothing that Paul could do that enabled him to get out of the situation. He just had to submit and endure it. When God confines us, He wants to teach us something necessary to learn before His grace is applied to fulfill the need. Again, reach back to No. 1 and No. 2 above and be sure you tend these principles carefully so when the confinement ends you will be ready to move forward.

4. Are we being influenced by fear or slothfulness? In Matthew 25:14-30, Jesus shares the parable of the talents. In this parable, the one who did not produce was motivated by fear and laziness. At times in our lives we are also hindered by the fear of something or the resistance toward laboring hard. We must ask ourselves whether we are being influenced by either of these sins. There are many fears: fear of the unknown, fear of failure, fear of success, fear of repeating the past, and so on. Any of these can cripple us from mobility toward our goals.

Know that the Lord always keeps His part of the partnership. It's up to us to keep up our end of the bargain and not use Him as a crutch instead of dealing with the four steps above. Notice in the Parable of the Talents that the master did not leave instructions with the servants as to what to do about the talents. They were to use the ingenuity and creativity God had already placed inside of them, and decide on their own in what direction they should move. Let's go and do likewise!

Kyle Searcy serves as senior pastor of Fresh Anointing House of Worship in Montgomery, Ala., and Norcross, Ga.

]]> (Kyle Searcy) Personal Character Mon, 15 Sep 2014 13:00:00 -0400
For Powerful Preaching, Listen to the Spirit

I have learned over the years that sermon preparation involves as much, if not more, perspiration than inspiration. It requires hard work to dig the message out of the text.

About a year before the event, I began to sense a prompting from the Holy Spirit to preach from the book of Haggai for my 2011 General Council sermon.

To be totally transparent, the only time I had every delved into Haggai was on the fly as part of a Wednesday night series on the Minor Prophets. As far as I was concerned, Haggai truly was minor. At the time the prompting first came, I could not even tell you what the book of Haggai was about or the issues addressed in his prophecy.

But the Spirit kept nudging, "Spend some time in Haggai. Preach from Haggai at General Council."

So I began to read Haggai, but I resisted. The more I read Haggai, the more I balked. For one thing, I felt it was too long a text to preach at a General Council. By the time I finished reading the text to the audience, half my time would be shot.

Then, there were parts of Haggai that were the Mount Everest of biblical interpretation. How can the issues of consecrated meat and dead bodies talked about in Haggai's third message (2:10-14) even relate to a contemporary audience? I would shoot another 10 to 15 minutes just trying to explain that passage. And worse, I did not at the time understand the text myself. What would I do with Haggai's four sermons that talk about Zerubbabel being a signet ring (2:20-23)? Who was Zerubbabel, and what was a signet ring? How would that apply?

So I shelved the idea of preaching from Haggai. However, the Spirit would not let me drop it. The notion kept coming to me, "Preach from Haggai. Keep looking. You have not yet seen what you need to see."

I got my hands on every commentary and sermon I could find on Haggai. I knew there were some good parts, like 1:4, "Is it a time for you yourselves to be living in your paneled houses, while this house remains a ruin?" That will preach to anyone prompted to put self-interests above God's interests. And then there was 2:9, "'The glory of this present house will be greater than the glory of the former house,' says the Lord Almighty." I like that. I do believe these latter days of the Assemblies of God will be even greater than the beginning days.

Slowly the book began to open up to me. I discovered why the Spirit wanted me to preach from Haggai. He wanted four issues dealt with from Haggai's four prophecies: delay, discouragement, defilement and destiny. (You can access the Haggai sermon here).

I wish I could give you a three-step, or a five-step, or a multi-step teaching on how to listen to the Spirit. I do not expect that my way of listening to the Spirit will necessarily be the way the Spirit speaks to your heart. It is important that you find the cadence by which you march to the Spirit's drumbeat.

  • Study in His Word is essential. The Spirit speaks through His Word.
  • Prayer is vital. You cannot do without it.
  • Study is absolutely necessary.
  • Take time to stew — to let the process of Bible reading, prayer and study gestate in your mind and heart.
  • Listen to the still, small voice; pay attention to impressions. Instincts can be Spirit-generated and not just whimsical notions.

The sermon exists as a delivery mechanism to impact the hearer. I encourage you to have the kind of message that responds to the statement made to Peter by Cornelius, "Now we are all here in the presence of God to listen to everything the Lord has commanded you to tell us" (Acts 10:33).

If we, in our preaching, can respond as did Peter, then we will also see the same kind of impact. Powerless preaching will produce vapid and ineffective saints; preaching that comes with the Spirit's direction and anointing results in changed lives. You preach to people who are gathered together in God's presence to hear what He has commanded you to say.

George O. Wood is the general superintendent for the Assemblies of God. For the original article, visit


]]> (George O. Wood) Preaching Fri, 12 Sep 2014 19:00:00 -0400
The Keys to Becoming an Empowered Leader

On more occasions than I can count, I have heard positive comments about my empowering approach to running a church. I've had more than a few of our recent hires come to me and say something like, "Robert, this is the most empowering place I've ever worked. Thank you for creating an environment where we're free to use our gifts to the fullest."

I'm always both blessed and humbled by these comments. But I'm mostly just grateful. I appreciate hearing that I'm viewed as a leader who empowers those around me. And that is certainly something I have learned to value over the years. But to be honest, I think in the early years I just stumbled into being an empowering leader because, in my naiveté, it didn't occur to me to approach things any other way.

In other words, allowing others to grow and flourish and shine seemed to come naturally to me. It wasn't my natural instinct to feel threatened by the gifts or successes of the people working under my leadership.

When I've been asked about this aspect of my leadership style in the past, I've never been able to give a solid, spiritual, biblical explanation as to why I tend to approach things this way. And since I haven't been able to offer an explanation, it has been difficult for me to help other leaders to whom this empowering approach doesn't come as naturally.

All that changed recently when, after more than 30 years in ministry and intensive Bible study, I saw something in the Word I'd never noticed before. It was something that reveals both the key to being an empowering leader and the reason I had managed to stumble into it.

Not surprisingly, the truth was hiding in plain sight in John's account of the final hours of the most empowering leader to ever walk the face of the Earth. Now, I have read the 13th chapter of John with its description of the Last Supper countless times. I have been there at the table with Peter, James, John, Judas and the rest so many times that I'm always a little surprised not to see my face in da Vinci's famous painting.

I suspect you're as familiar with that scene as I am. If so, you know that Jesus began that extraordinary evening by washing the disciples' feet. What I had never noticed until just recently is the Bible's commentary about what prompted that act of service and humility. Right there in the opening verses of the chapter is an insight into Jesus' frame of mind and state of heart:

"Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands, and that He had come from God and was going to God, rose from supper and laid aside His garments, took a towel and girded Himself. After that, He poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples' feet, and to wipe them with the towel with which He was girded" (John 13:3–5, emphasis added).

Why had I never noticed the first part of verse 3 before? Here is the explanation for the stunning fact that the King of Glory, the Incarnate Word who existed before time itself, bowed down before mere men and washed the filth from their feet. Here was the solution to the mind-blowing mystery of how the Creator could serve the creation.

Jesus could serve and delegate authority with confidence because He knew three things:

1) Jesus knew where power comes from. Note that John 13:3 says Jesus knew "that the Father had given all things into His hands." In the typical wealthy household of Jesus' day, the designated foot washer was the lowest-ranking servant. When you saw the servant whose job it was to wash feet, you could be confident you were looking at the guy who aspired to getting promoted to shoveling out the barn.

Only people who are secure in who they are and in what they have are fully free to choose the role of the servant. Only people who know beyond all doubt that they have God's approval can cast aside the bondage of seeking people's approval. Only those who are at peace knowing that it is God who has given them what they have and that no mortal can take it away from them are fully free to give away what they have.

This truth reveals the reason a leader will tenaciously cling to authority, influence and position. It's because in his heart of hearts he's not sure that "God has given all things into his hands." He's operating from the deception that he obtained his authority through his own hard work, striving and cleverness. And since he thinks he attained it by his own strength, he assumes he must hang onto it the same way.

Another leader may operate from a deep root of insecurity. He may secretly believe that someone more gifted, more charismatic, or more educated may come along at any moment and take what is his. He secretly believes that at any moment the affection and esteem of others, the prestige he enjoys, and the influence he wields may be siphoned away by another. So he maintains a white-knuckle grip on what he has. He dares not allow anyone he leads to fly too high or shine too brightly.

This house of fear and insecurity is built upon a false foundation. The key to being an empowering leader is simply knowing where power comes from:

"For exaltation [promotion] comes neither from the east nor from the west nor from the south. But God is the Judge: He puts down one, and exalts another" (Psalm 75:6–7).

When some of John the Baptist's disciples started getting alarmed about Jesus' growing fame and following, John shut them down quickly, asserting the fact that "a man can receive nothing unless it has been given to him from heaven" (John 3:27).

John knew where power comes from. He recognized that whatever we have is on loan from God and that whatever we are given is to be held with an open hand before Him.

This revelation helped me understand why empowering others has seemed to come a little more naturally for me than for others. It is because I learned early on in my Christian walk to hold what God has given me with an open hand. I learned it first with money. Later I learned it extended to everything else in my life—including my positon and authority.

Don't get me wrong. There are countless aspects of the Christian life and spiritual leadership that took God years to get through my thick skull. But this one thing was a miraculous work God did in my heart very early in my Christian walk. And that work was deep, comprehensive and profound. Now that I think about it, it makes sense. Once God has led you to give away numerous cars, a house, and, on more than one occasion, your entire life savings—and in each case you've seen God unfailingly restore and bless you abundantly in response—trusting Him as you give away your ministry comes much easier.

This stems from and fosters an abundance mentality. It's the quiet confidence that God has plenty, and that if He asks you to give away what you have, He is faithful and just to restore you. You know there's much more where that came from.

The opposite is a scarcity mentality. It is the false belief that any resource—money, love, esteem, influence or opportunity—is limited. This paradigm also assumes that power comes from a place other than God—from ourselves, from random chance, from a system, or from denominational headquarters. If in your heart you believe these things, you will not hold what you've been given with an open hand.

Sadly, many pastors and leaders are operating with a scarcity mind-set. They can't bring themselves to openly share authority, credit or rewards, because they aren't convinced there is plenty to go around. In other words, they don't know where power comes from.

On more than one occasion I've been surprised to observe a pastor who will readily and confidently teach the principle of sowing and reaping when it comes to finances—that is, God is faithful to bless you with more when you give with a right heart—and yet that same pastor is too fearful to give power and authority away because he doesn't trust God to bless him with more.

2) Jesus knew where He came from. Jesus served His followers and gave them authority because He knew "the Father had given all things into His hands." But as John 13:3 says, that's not all He knew. Look at that verse again: "Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands, and that He had come from God and was going to God."

Jesus knew that He had come from God. You're probably, thinking, "Well, of course Jesus came from God. He was His only begotten Son." Yes, but you and I come from God too if we have been born again. We were lost and dead in our sins, but in Christ we have been born of God.

"Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves Him who begot also loves Him who is begotten of Him" (1 John 5:1).

I know where I came from. Knowing this makes all the difference in the world for me as a leader. Remembering how lost, wretched, clueless and self-destructive I was without Christ—and how forgiven, whole, accepted and empowered I am in Christ—helps me stay in thankful dependence upon Him. And it gives me the confidence to serve others, because only He could redeem a mess like me.

As leaders, it's vital that we know where we came from. It guards our footsteps from stumbling through pride, and it prevents us from presuming that we can do anything under our own power.

3) Jesus knew where He was going. Jesus stripped to the waist and bowed down before his followers to serve them like a slave because He knew He "was going to God." In other words, He had a clear, compelling vision of His future and the rewards that He would enjoy there.

If a clear and compelling vision of future joy was necessary for the Son of God to fulfill His mission as a leader, how much more vital is it for you and me? We have to know where we're going and that where we're going is good. 

Adapted from The Blessed Church: The Simple Secrets to Growing the Church You Love by Robert Morris by permission of WaterBrook Press, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

Robert Morris is the founding senior pastor of Gateway Church, a multi-campus church in Dallas-Fort Worth. He is the author of nearly a dozen books, including the best-selling The Blessed Life and The God I Never Knew.

]]> (Robert Morris) Pastoring Fri, 12 Sep 2014 13:00:00 -0400
Pastor, What Does Your Quiet Time Look Like?

The quiet time has been called many things in the history of the Christian church. It is known as the "morning watch," "personal devotions," "appointment with God" or "personal devotional time." It really doesn't matter what you call it, as long as you have it regularly.

"Have it regularly?" you ask. Yes.

"Even if I read the Bible often in preparation for the work of ministry?" Yes.

I have assumed that any person who is committed to personal Bible study also has a regular quiet time. Unfortunately, some people do Bible study just for the intellectual stimulation it brings them. That is not enough.

A regular quiet time provides a daily time of personal fellowship with God through the Word and prayer. It is a time we deliberately set aside in which to meet with Him. The objective is that we might grow in our personal relationship with God so that we can know Him, love Him and become more like Him. It is about something so much more than mere intellectual stimulation.

So, why should quiet time be a priority? Two major reasons given in Scripture are because we need fellowship with God and because it is our privilege. Let's unpack both:

Reason  No. 1: Because We Need Fellowship

The first reason we should have a quiet time is that we need fellowship with God. Because we are Christians, now rightly related to the eternal God of heaven and earth, we must have regular fellowship with Him in which we get to know Him and love Him more intimately.

Why is daily fellowship with God so important? Here are five reasons:

1) We were created to have fellowship with God. God created people in His own image for the purpose of fellowship. We are the only creatures in all creation that have the capacity to have fellowship with the Creator. Adam had that fellowship perfectly in the garden of Eden before the Fall (see Gen. 2-3).

2) Jesus Christ died on the cross so that fellowship could be restored. When Adam sinned, his fellowship with God was broken. And all of us sinners who have followed in Adam's footsteps cannot by nature have fellowship with a pure and holy God. But God considered that relationship important enough to send His Son to this world to die for our sins so that we might again have the privilege of a personal relationship with Him. And God has called us Christians to have fellowship with Him (1 Cor. 1:9; 1 John 1:3-4).

3) The regular quiet time Jesus took during His ministry was a source of His strength. Personal fellowship with the Father in heaven was the top priority of Jesus' life (Mark 1:35; Luke 5:16; 22:39-44). He was never too busy for it; in fact, when His ministry was the busiest, that's when He made certain He kept in daily touch with the Father (John 5:30).

4) Every great man or woman of God throughout history has spent much time alone with God. Anyone who has ever been used mightily by the Lord was a person of the Word and prayer. Regular quiet time was the one thing they had in common. The common denominator among Moses, David, Daniel, Paul, John Calvin, John Wesley, Charles Finney, Dwight L. Moody, Charles Spurgeon, Billy Graham and all of the other great saints of history is that they all spent much time with God in personal fellowship. Their writings and ministries clearly show this.

Martin Luther, the father of the Reformation, once said, "I have so much to do today that I must spend at least three hours in prayer." The busier he was, the more time he needed with God. If you are too busy to have a quiet time, then you're too busy!

5) We cannot be healthy, growing Christians without daily fellowship with the Lord. Having a quiet time is not just a nice suggestion; it is a vital necessity for the child of God. It is absolutely essential for Christian growth and maturity.

Have you ever gone without food for a day? If you kept it up, you would get weak and sick. The same is true in your spiritual life, for the Bible is the necessary food for your soul. If you go without reading it very long, you will get spiritually weak and sick. Yet many Christians get by with one "meal" per week in church on Sundays. You would not survive long on one or two physical meals per week, so how can you in your spiritual life?

Job considered the Word of God more necessary than his daily food (Job 23:12). Jesus, quoting the Old Testament, declared that people need to live by every word coming from the mouth of God (Matt. 4:4; see Deut. 8:3). Peter called the Scriptures nourishing milk (1 Pet. 2:2), and the writer to the Hebrews thought of the Word as solid food (Heb. 5:14).

From the above observations, you can conclude that if you are not having a regular quiet time:

  • You will never be used greatly by God.
  • You will remain a weak and sickly Christian all your life.
  • You are missing out on the privilege for which you were created.
  • You are rejecting what Jesus made possible by dying.
  • You will never experience the same power and refreshment Jesus did.

"But I don't have the time!" is an excuse we hear so often. Every person in the world—including pastors—has exactly the same amount of time each week: 168 hours. We know that pastors don't have time for everything; you must make time for things that really count. It's not a matter of time but a matter of priorities.

The key to making time for quiet time is your commitment to Christ and the kingdom of God. Jesus stated, "Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well" (Matt. 6:33, NIV). Put God first in your life and you will have more time. Don't let anything rob you of that time of fellowship with the Lord. Preserve it at all costs. If Jesus is first in your life, you ought to give Him the first part of every day. Your quiet time should be the absolute priority of your life.

Reason No. 2: It Is Our Privilege

We should have a quiet time each day because it is a tremendous privilege to have been granted a personal interview and time of fellowship with the Creator of the universe.

The quiet time allows us four great privileges:

1) We give devotion to God. The first privilege of the quiet time is to give, not to get. David said, "Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name; worship the Lord in the splendor of his holiness" (Ps. 29:2). Another psalmist urged, "Come, let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the Lord our Maker" (Ps. 95:6).

In recent years, two wrong emphases have been permeating the American church. The first is the overemphasis on getting: What will I get out of church, out of Sunday school, out of doing what God says?

It is the result of our culture's great emphasis on entertainment, in which the people being entertained must be satisfied. When carried over into spiritual matters, it becomes self-centered religion and is definitely not biblical. That's why so much is being said today about following Jesus but little is said about the tremenduos cost of discipleship. As church leaders, we try to offer rewards to entice Christians to come to church when they ought to be coming because they love their Savior.

The other error is the overemphasis on working for God and neglecting the worship of God. Satan, the god of this world, has sold us a bill of goods in getting us to substitute work for worship. Most of us are so much on the go, even in doing fine Christian things, that we don't know the real meaning of worship. Jesus said, "Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only" (Matt. 4:10; see Deut. 6:13). Worship comes before service.

We are to give daily devotion to God because God deserves our devotion. When John saw the multitudes of heaven singing praises to God, he heard them say, "You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power" (Rev. 4:11; see 5:12). Because God is our Creator and Redeemer, He deserves to be worshipped and praised. We should go to our quiet times each day out of love for God, not out of a sense of duty: "God, I've come to worship You because You deserve to be worshipped and adored!"

We are also to give daily devotion to God because He desires devotion from us. Jesus told the woman at the well, "Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks" (John 4:23). God seeks our worship.

How long has it been since you took time alone with God just to tell Him that you love Him?

2) We get direction from God. The second privilege of the quiet time is for us to get direction from God for daily living. This was David's attitude in life: "Show me your ways, Lord, teach me your paths. Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long" (Ps. 25:4-5; see also Ps. 40:8; 73:24; 143:10; Is. 42:16). A quiet time is a great opportunity to receive counsel from the Lord.

In this fast-paced age of hurry, we need a time when we can slow down, collect our thoughts, evaluate what is happening around us and get direction from the One who knows the end from the beginning.

On a number of occasions, Jesus invited His disciples to "come apart" with Him for a while (e.g., Mark 6:31, KJV), that they might recuperate physically and spiritually. Vance Havner has said, "If you don't 'come apart' periodically, you will literally come apart!"

When we get direction from God in our quiet times, He causes us to consider our ways. We take the time to assess our lives. That's what David did: "Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting" (Ps. 139:23-24, NIV; see also Prov. 4:26; 14:12).

Are you keeping on track for the Lord? Are you growing daily in your spiritual life? Have you allowed some sins to pile up in your life? Take these and similar questions and try to look at your life from God's point of view. This will help you keep God's perspective on things, because over and over you can get so caught up in the necessary details of life that you lose the overall picture.

The quiet time is also a time to commit our day to the Lord. Solomon urged, "Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight" (Prov. 3:5-6; see also Ps. 37:5). Ask God to show you His will for the day; commit your schedule to Him, and ask Him to guide you in your upcoming activities. You might even ask Him to help you budget your time so you can get more done (Ps. 90:12). Ask Him to help you sort out the necessary from the unnecessary (1 Cor. 10:23).

3) We gain delight in God. The third privilege of quiet time is to enjoy God and simply to bask in His presence. David told God, "You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence" (Ps. 16:11). The secret of real joy is knowing God personally (Ps. 34:8; 37:4; 42:1-2; 63:1; 73:25; Phil. 3:10). Many Christians are miserable and lead unhappy lives because they never spend time in God's presence.

Do you really know Christ, or do you merely know about Him? To know Him intimately was the apostle Paul's number one priority in life (Phil. 3:7-10).

To get to know someone intimately and enjoy him personally, you must:

  • Spend quality time with him.
  • Communicate meaningfully with him.
  • Observe him in a variety of situations.

These same criteria apply in getting to know and enjoy God too.

Remember that it is hard to have a love affair in a crowd; you need to get alone with that one person. This is why the Bible speaks of our relationship with God through Christ as a love relationship. In fact, it is called a marriage: Christ is the Bridegroom, and we in the church are His bride.

When I first met Kay, my wife, and God knit our hearts together in love, more than anything else I wanted to spend time alone with her. We spent time with each other, we communicated, and we observed one another in a variety of situations. That is the way your relationship ought to be with God.

Are you anxious to get alone and share intimately with Jesus? If not, you should be. Make your goal for the quiet time not just to learn about Jesus, but actually to meet with Him. Expect to meet Him each morning, for He's there waiting to meet with you.

Sometimes we get so busy working for God or with our own affairs that we forget just to love Him. The best way to get to know the Lord is to spend time alone with Him, sharing your thoughts with Him in prayer and reading over and over again the love letter He has written you.

4) We grow more like God. The fourth privilege of quiet time is the opportunity to grow in our spiritual lives, becoming more and more like Jesus Christ. When God created the human race, He "created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them" (Gen. 1:27). His purpose for man was that he might become like God "in [His] likeness" (Gen. 1:26). But man chose to become like the devil instead (Gen. 3). So in the act of redemption, God went back to His original purpose. He wanted His people again to be like Him, like Jesus Christ: "For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters" (Rom. 8:29).

How do we become like Jesus Christ? First, we are made holy like God through His Word. In His high priestly prayer, Jesus asked the Father to "sanctify [all believers] by the truth; your word is truth" (John 17:17). Our growth in sanctification comes through the time we spend in the Scriptures, getting to know God intimately.

Second, daily growth comes as the Word builds us up: "All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work" (2 Tim. 3:16-17). As we are taught in the ways of God, rebuked when we go astray, corrected to go back to the right path and trained in righteous living, we grow in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.

Third, we grow as our minds are transformed from thinking the world's way to thinking God's thoughts after Him. Paul wrote, "Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will" (Rom. 12:2). Again, this comes only through Scripture, God's revelation of His perfect will for us.

Finally, we become like Jesus as we spend time contemplating Him. Paul wrote, "We all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord's glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit" (2 Cor. 3:18).

This change is gradual; as we keep on contemplating Jesus Christ in His Word, we grow to be more and more like Him. It is not a five-second glimpse of Jesus that changes us but a constant contemplation of Him over time.

The more you are with a person, the more you become like Him. This is why quiet time is an essential part of the minister's life—and, indeed, every life. 

Rick Warren is founding pastor of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif., one of America's largest and most influential churches, and author of the New York Times best-seller The Purpose Driven Life. His book The Purpose Driven Church was named one of the 100 Christian books that changed the 20th century. He is also founder of, a global Internet community for pastors. This article was excerpted from Rick Warren's Bible Study Methods: 12 Ways You Unlock God's Word by Rick Warren Copyright © 2012. Used by permission of Zondervan.

]]> (Rick Warren) Personal Character Wed, 10 Sep 2014 13:00:00 -0400
Rick Warren: 5 Reasons We Fail

Failure doesn't have to be final. In fact, I believe God wants to put our failures to work for us.

Everybody experiences defeats in life. Everybody has failures. The book of Proverbs has a lot of insight into what causes failure. Five different things that cause failure in our life, according to the book of Proverbs:

1. We fail when we don't plan ahead. It's like the old saying, "If you fail to plan, you're planning to fail." Prov. 27:12 says, "A sensible man watches for problems ahead and prepares to meet them. But the simple-minded man never looks and suffers the consequences." Are you simple minded? Some of us have a tendency to be impulsive. Yet the sensible man plans ahead. The impulsive person never looks ahead and suffers the consequences.

Prov. 16:9 says, "We ought to make our plans counting on God to direct us." One of the reasons we fail is we just don't plan. Was it raining when Noah built the ark? No. It didn't rain for 120 years. That's what I call long-range planning. For 120 years he worked on that ark. Jesus told the story about a man who built a building and before he got it finished he had to give up because he hadn't planned ahead. We fail because we don't plan.

2. We fail when we think we've arrived. Prov. 18:18, "Pride leads to destruction and arrogance to downfall." When we think we've got it all together, watch out. You're never going to get anywhere if you think you're already there.

Pride causes us to fail. One of the symptoms of pride is we don't think we need any advice. "I've got it all together. I don't need anybody. Me and Jesus, we've got a good thing going. I don't need anybody to tell me what it's all about."

3. We fail when we are afraid to take risks. Prov. 25:29 tells us that the "Fear of man is a dangerous trap but to trust in God means safety." The moment you start to worry about what other people think, you're doomed. It's a trap.

The greatest failure is the failure to try. When I die I want, four words written on my tombstone: "At least he tried." For the glory of God. You've got to take risks. That's what brings abundance. That's what brings success in life. Don't be afraid to go out on a limb; that's where the fruit is. We're afraid to take risks, and we fail.

4. We fail because we give up too soon. The trouble with many people is that during trying times, they just stop trying. Failure is the path of least persistence. How many ball games have been won in the last seconds? Keep on keeping on. Never give up.

Prov. 15:19 says, "A lazy fellow has trouble all through life." If at first you don't succeed, you're normal. Try again. Many times success is right around the corner. You are never a failure until you quit.

5. We fail when we don't listen to God. The number one reason we fail is that we don't listen to God. Prov. 14:12 says, "There is a way that seems right to man, but in the end it leads to death." God's Word is filled with guidelines and principles to make our life all that God wants it to be. But most of the time we want to listen to our feelings, "I feel that this is the right thing to do—even if God's Word says it differently."

The fact is, God's Word is usually the opposite of our natural inclinations. God says the way to get is to give, the way to be honored is to be humbled, the way to greatness is to be a servant. When we don't listen to God, we're in trouble. Lack of prayer causes a lot of failure.

Regardless of the cause, we all fail. What matters most is what you do when you fail. God is more interested in your future than He is in your past. The Bible shows us a way to get a fresh start, and I'll write more about that in part two.

Rick Warren is the founding pastor of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif., one of America's largest and most influential churches. Rick is author of the New York Times bestseller The Purpose Driven Life. His book, The Purpose Driven Church, was named one of the 100 Christian books that changed the 20th century. He is also founder of, a global Internet community for pastors.

For the original article, visit

]]> (Rick Warren) Vision Mon, 08 Sep 2014 19:00:00 -0400
Are Social Issues Taboo For Pastors?

A pastor of a New York City megachurch has, on more than one occasion, publicly related his stance on several issues including same-sex marriage: This pastor essentially said that Jesus only dealt with the root issues of the heart and not merely the symptoms of sin—thus, Jesus never took a stand on the moral issues of His day; hence we should not make general statements regarding important moral issues of society but rather deal with these controversial issues in personal dialogue.

I want to make a few observations regarding his statements:

From a practical perspective—many pastors with large ministries who rent in liberal cities such as NYC are very careful what they say about same-sex marriage and other moral issues because they can easily be thrown out of spaces they are renting—thus, in their mind, they have to be more cautious than ministries that own their buildings. However, this caution should never become a doctrinal issue for the church but merely a method and/or strategy for one particular church or pastor (whether they are right or wrong to take this posture).

Regarding the issue at hand—do you really think Jesus (if He were here physically ministering today instead of 2,000 years ago) would not take a position on social issues such as slavery (as evangelical Christian William Wilberforce did and eradicated the slave trade in the British Empire in the 19th century, or like Charles Finney who was an avowed abolitionist in the 19th century who ardently preached against slavery during the "Second Great Awakening")? Do you think Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was wrong to use his pulpit to fight racism and help launch the civil-rights movement in the 1950s?

What about today? Would Jesus not preach against the sex-slave trade or the abuse of children today? What about the Holocaust of the 1940s? Was Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrong for speaking out against Hitler for exterminating the Jews and forcing fascism on the nation? Would the early church apostles have fought abortion if they were in ministry today?

It is easy to know the answer to this, since the oldest extra-biblical document we have on record is the "Didache," which is a short treatise giving the early church guidelines for faith and practice. In this document that many scholars date as early as before 70 A.D. (or as late as the middle of the second century), the church took a stand against abortion and infanticide (yes, the church historically has been publicly vocal against abortion for over 2,000 years since the Roman Empire practiced abortion and infanticide).

Furthermore, the early church preached against slavery and even released slaves in the presence of the bishops during worship services during the second and third centuries. Even John the Baptist was put in jail because he preached against all the evil things King Herod was doing (Luke 3:18,19). Hence, John was beheaded for politically incorrect preaching and prophetically calling out his earthly ruler.

In the Greco-Roman culture of Jesus' time, all forms of sexual expression outside the norms of Scripture were rampant. However, Jesus' primary purpose was to the lost sheep of the house of Israel (Matt. 10:5-6). His main concern was not with the majority culture of Rome but to reveal Himself as Messiah to the Jews, which is why He did not have to deal directly with all issues related to human sexuality (since it was not a big issue for the Jews of His day). However, Paul the apostle did so numerous times, since he was called to minister to the Gentiles.

In my opinion, if you are silent as a pastor and never take a position, your silence on such a major issue as same-sex marriage could be interpreted by many that you condone it. Some may even accuse the (silent) pastor of deceiving same-sex partners who, after climbing the ladder of church affiliation are then told (in a private conversation) that they do not qualify because of their sexuality and or same-sex marriage. (One prominent pastor I know almost had a major lawsuit on his hands a few years ago because he was silent regarding same-sex marriage and two of his (same-sex) leaders announced they were getting married to each other.

Because most pastors are silent and erroneously separate the gospel from the kingdom and culture, we have left society to be framed without a biblical template. Whatever area the church does not influence will come back to try to destroy us; there is no neutrality in this world.  

Joseph Mattera is overseeing bishop of Resurrection Church, Christ Covenant Coalition, in Brooklyn, New York.

]]> (Joseph Mattera) Culture Mon, 08 Sep 2014 16:00:00 -0400
How to Build a Leadership Dream Team

Recently at our Global Congress of worldwide ministry leaders, we held a panel discussion featuring six missions and ministry veterans representing well over 200 years of combined experience. I marveled as they freely shared their expertise and wisdom with the current up-and-coming generation of leaders in attendance.

But I was also struck by the longevity of their commitment. It's rare today to not only assemble but to retain a dream team. Most statistics say that 60 to 80 percent of those who enter ministry will not still be in it 10 years later, and only a fraction will stay in it as a lifetime career.

Brad Lomenick sat down with my friend Senior Pastor Craig Groeschel to discuss the similarly unprecedented length of ministry tenure of the LifeChurch core leadership team.

I echo many of Craig's leadership insights and cannot stress enough how critically important it is to surround yourself with leaders you can trust and who are team players.

"The leaders who work most effectively, it seems to me, never say 'I.' And that's not because they have trained themselves not to say 'I.' They don't think 'I.' They think 'we'; they think 'team.' They understand their job to be to make the team function. They accept responsibility and don't sidestep it, but 'we' gets the credit. This is what creates trust, what enables you to get the task done." —Peter F. Drucker

In Patrick Lencioni's organizational leadership book, The Advantage: Why Organizational Health Trumps Everything Else in Business, he talks about the importance of assembling and maintaining a cohesive leadership team. And by "cohesive," he's not talking about stacking the team with yes-men and clones. Paradoxically, cohesive looks more like hiring people who are diverse, smart, experienced and skilled in fields or ways that are very different than you are.

"Any organization that really wants to maximize its success must come to embody two basic qualities: It must be smart, and it must be healthy" (The Advantage, page 16).

When God places intelligent, experienced people on your team, there's a good chance someone else is going to notice. And invite him or her to leave your team and join another. One of the biggest leadership challenges today is retaining these power players. I have to agree with Craig that effective leadership looks a lot less like controlling and a lot more like delegating. If you don't let those who are called and qualified to lead, they'll go somewhere else to fill that need.

 "Control leads to compliance; autonomy leads to engagement." ― Daniel H. Pink, Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us

We agree yet again that when we unleash our people to experiment with their creativity, amazing things happen. Some of the most incredible and effective tools and programs were birthed in our OneHope Innovation lab. Have others seen these successes and tried to hire away our creatives and developers? Yes, they are constantly being recruited. But, as LifeChurch has done with someone like a Bobby Gruenwald, who builds and sells tech companies, we are simply empowering our people to create what God puts on their hearts.

"Human beings have an innate inner drive to be autonomous, self-determined, and connected to one another. And when that drive is liberated, people achieve more and live richer lives." ― Daniel H. PinkDrive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us

Confident, secure leaders let others do things and get the credit for it—it's the smart thing to do. It's saying "I believe in these people; they're better than me at certain things, and if they're not I didn't select the right people. If I don't trust them they're not the right people; if they don't have the freedom to go do what they need to do, then something's not right."

To build a great organization, start with the right people.

Leaders looking to attract and retain great ministry teams in the 21st century would do well to fuse biblical leadership advice from current leaders with past leaders, like Peter Drucker, who said, "No institution can possibly survive if it needs geniuses or supermen to manage it. It must be organized in such a way as to be able to get along under a leadership composed of average human beings."

It gives me so much freedom to realize that it's not by any greatness of my own doing that we have a "dream team" here at OneHope. It is by prayerful consideration and wisdom in selecting the right people who are trustworthy, giving them the freedom to create what God has laid on their hearts, and allowing them the space to lead and take credit for the things that they have done. We have only to cultivate a spirit of unity displayed in harmony as we work together, rather than spend our time trying to demand uniformity.

"Just as I try to please everyone in everything I do, not seeking my own advantage, but that of many, that they may be saved" (1 Cor. 10:33, ESV).

Rob Hoskins is the president of OneHope, an international ministry that shares Scripture with children and youth in more than 125 countries. For the original article, visit

]]> (Rob Hoskins/OneHope) Ministry Leadership Mon, 08 Sep 2014 12:57:58 -0400
7 Ways to Make Yourself Invaluable to the Team

Everyone wants to be indispensable when it comes to their job. Here are seven ways to do that:

Be a chief encourager. Be one who helps people feel better about themselves and their contribution to the team.

Support the vision and direction. Be honest about it, but be a verbal proponent of the overall objectives of the team and where things are going. Be a known team player.

Respect others. In the way you treat and respond to everyone on the team.

Give more than required. That doesn't mean you have to work more hours. It might. But it might mean you work smarter than everyone else. Plan your day better. Be better at setting goals and objectives. Hold yourself accountable.

Be an information hub. Be well read and share what you learn. Information is king. Be the king of it. Without being obnoxious—of course.

Celebrate other people's success. Send notes of encouragement. Brag on someone else. Tell others what you admire about them. Without being creepy—of course.

Be a good listener. Everyone loves the person they can go to and know they won't just be heard; they will be listened to. A good person to bounce ideas off of is invaluable to the team. Then keep every confidence.

What other ways do you know of to make oneself valuable to a team?

Ron Edmondson is the senior pastor at Immanuel Baptist Church in Lexington, Kentucky. For the original article, visit

]]> (Ron Edmondson) Ministry Leadership Thu, 04 Sep 2014 19:00:00 -0400
Is Your Church Efficiently Spreading the Gospel?

I want you to take a moment to reflect on how you and your staff spend your time. Think of this as taking inventory—something we as churches don't normally have to do. Consider this taking inventory of your time.

  • What takes up most of your week?
  • What conversations dominate your staff meetings?
  • What tasks overwhelm your time?
  • What to-dos are on your list?

Inventory is easier for a company that creates and sells something. They invest time and money into a product, and the amount that product earns determines whether or not their investment was worth it. They go back, evaluate the process, and figure out ways to shave down the investment and increase the return.

But taking inventory of our time—figuring out our where our effort and energy goes—is just as important.

So I'm going to take you through several steps today—you can either do them on your own or with your staff. But I hope, by the end, you'll have a better idea of what you should do more of, what you should do less of, and what you can scrap altogether.

Grab a large sheet of paper, or a whiteboard, and several different colored markers. Don't worry about being neat, think of this as a brainstorm.

Let's get started.

  1. What is your goal as a church? Define it as succinctly as you're able because this is the measuring stick we're going to use to evaluate your efficiency.
  2. Make a list of all recurring tasks and meetings. Write down everything you can think of—don't skip an item, no matter how small it is.
  3. Organize those tasks into categories. The categories might be administrative, marketing, service planning, service executing, relational, etc.
  4. Next to each item, write how long it takes you or the member of your staff responsible. How much time does it take someone to make the bulletins? How many hours a week are spent on social-media content creation? How many hours do you spend physically setting up the sanctuary for services? This list goes on...

Now comes the evaluation. Remember, the goal here isn't to do away with tradition, but rather, to make sure we're being good stewards of our time and money, using each to work toward the realization of our main goal.

So now, with a different color marker, here's the next step:

  1. Go through your list and circle all items that don't directly serve your overall goal.
  2. Now, with a different color marker, circle the items that take more time than you think are necessary.
  3. Now, in a separate space, brainstorm a list of new ideas, new projects and new events that would directly serve to accomplish the goal you set out in step one.

It's easy to get so used to spending our time and our energy and our money in certain ways that we forget there was ever a different way to do it. We avoid trying new ideas. And when we look at our weeks, months and years as a whole, we realize we've spent a lot of our time working on things that really didn't matter, that didn't serve to accomplish our goals at all.

It's also how we get stale.

The rest of this inventory is up to you.

As a staff, take a look at the tasks you're completing that have nothing to do with your goal. It may feel uncomfortable, and you may ruffle a few feathers, but what would happen if you streamlined those tasks, or did away with them altogether?

It would most likely free up your time and your resources for something with a greater, more far-reaching impact.

We have been given a finite amount of time and money and people, and it's up to us to use them well, stewarding them in the best way to make the maximum impact for the Kingdom of God.

With more than a dozen years of local-church ministry, Justin Lathrop has spent the last several years starting businesses and ministries that partner with pastors and churches to advance the Kingdom. He is the founder of (now Vanderbloemen Search), Oaks School of Leadership and, all while staying involved in the local church.

For the original article, visit

]]> (Justin Lathrop) Administration Wed, 03 Sep 2014 13:00:00 -0400
6 Reasons Not to Quit the Ministry

You are frustrated. Or hurting. Or just don't know if you can take it any more.

You may be in a difficult relationship. You may be in a job you hate. You may be the pastor of a church, and things just aren't going the way you had planned.

And you are thinking about quitting.

Understanding the Seasons

Hear me well. There is indeed a time to move on, a time to quit. We often stay too long in that job, too long in that pastorate, or too long in that dating relationship. The writer of Ecclesiastes was right: God has ordained seasons for planting and seasons for uprooting.

But I am concerned that many of us are quitting too soon. The frustrations of today mask the possibilities of tomorrow. Maybe you're supposed to quit. Or maybe not.

When are we supposed to stay? When do we say for certain we are not giving in to the pressures and the pains of today? I have no magical formula or quick-fix solutions. But may I suggest that we all consider these issues before we quit?

Six Occasions When We Should Not Quit

Of course, most of the people who read this blog are local-church related. Pastors. Church staff. Lay leaders. And those people get frustrated and hurt too often. But I believe my applications have a wider audience.

So, here are six occasions when we should not quit:

1. When we have no clarity from God. Of course, I am not prepared to tell you how you should discern the will of God. But you certainly should be seeking His will.

2. When you haven't expressed gratitude and joy to God for where you are now. I know. Your present situation stinks. Why should you be joyful and thankful for anything about it? But do you really believe God is working all things for good? Can you see some areas where you can express joy and gratitude today?

3. When it's just about a few critics. Don't let the small minority be your impetus to leave. You can be assured that your next place will have critics as well. Love your critics. Pray for your critics. And focus on the positive people where you are.

4. When it's a season of discouragement or difficulty. All places we live, work, serve and do ministry have seasons of discouragement. All relationships have their more difficult moments. Try to discern if your present reality is just a season, where the tough times will later transition to victories and joy.

5. When the job is not done. Of course, you have to define what "job" means in your context. But you will know. And you will know if you are leaving at a comma instead of a period.

6. When a commitment has been made. Again, you have to define "commitment" and honor promises you have made.

Though this post has not been specifically about marriage, it certainly could apply. That is a commitment until death. Let me close by sharing with you a video about commitment in the midst of a very challenging situation. It's a story about Ian and Larissa Murphy.

It's a story about love and commitment and not quitting.

Their book, published by B&H Publishing, was released on Aug. 28 (8.28). The name of the book is Eight Twenty Eight. The video is over nine minutes long, but it's worth your time.

After viewing it, you may decide it's not time to quit.

Thom S. Rainer is the president of LifeWay Christian Resources. For the original article, visit

]]> (Thom S. Rainer ) Adversity Tue, 02 Sep 2014 19:00:00 -0400
4 Creative Ways to Craft a Sermon

One of my seminary professors gave me a few approaches to generate sermon ideas:

1. The first approach would be to take the author of the biblical passage or one of the characters in the passage and simply imaginatively sit across from her and him and ask different questions. Allow the conversation to proceed like any conversation. Ideas can stem from such an imaginative approach.

2. Another sermon idea-generation method would be to take an issue and look at the text in light of that issue. Think about what your particular text has to say to someone who has just lost a job, if that is their issue. On the opposite extreme, what does it say to someone who has just found a job? Does your text encourage? Does it challenge? Does it do both?

How does the issue change how you look at the text? What questions does your issue raise in the text? There is a lot of preaching in those questions.

3. Another method is to take a saying, cliche', or say a song from the church and "riff" on that in conversation with a scripture. For example, let's take "God is good all the time, all the time, God is good." Now look at that text in light of the Book of Job. What does that saying mean in light of the scripture? Is the saying confirmed? Is it denied?

What does the saying mean in light of John the Baptist getting his head chopped off? What does that saying mean in reference to that? Is the saying true? Is it untrue? Work it out in your sermon.

4. One can also take a sermonic walk to get ideas. When I got up one morning recently, I saw the shining light of the morning sun. Telling me both that I was getting up late (I should be getting up too early to see the sun so clearly) and that I have made it through another day.

One could look at the assurance and the challenge in that one symbol of the sun. Can that give us any sermonic possibilities? What about the door you opened to go to start your day? The door you opened to confront the day? Does contemplation of these things in light of scriptures help you to create a message?

Finally, it is always helpful to take a walk through the Scripture. What do you see when you are walking in the biblical story? What do you smell?

I told one preacher that he was not ready to preach on the demoniacs until he smelled the unwashed bodies. You ain't ready to preach it until you feel the fear of human beings that are acting like animals coming after you.

Could that happen to me? Could it happen to you? All of these questions can help you generate sermon ideas.

Now, don't get me wrong, all of these approaches will give you both fruitful avenues as well as dead ends. You must complete a full exegesis of the passage before preaching, but at the least, they will help you to get the creative juices flowing.

If you can think of any other ideas, please comment below so that I can compile them into another article.

Sherman Haywood Cox II is the director of Soul Preaching. He holds an M.Div with an emphasis in homiletics and an M.S. in computer science. Visit Sherman at

For the original article, visit

]]> (Sherman Haywood Cox II) Preaching Fri, 29 Aug 2014 19:00:00 -0400