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Relevant Messages Require Transparency

Recently, I’ve been “reinventing” myself and re-evaluating my methods after 22 years of pastoring the same church. I come from a deep heritage of Pentecostal preachers, where fiery, Holy Ghost, sweat-filled sermons are the cure-all. Don’t get me wrong, the Bible makes it clear in Romans 10:14, “How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher?” (NASB). But is the gospel really communicated only through me? And does effective communication rely only on my preparation and my delivery?

Not long ago, I was challenged on this by a very successful pastor who attended one of our services. He told me, “You muscle everything! Everything that has to be communicated, you communicate by yourself, in the pulpit, with no support.” He said that at his church, the messages are communicated by everyone from staff to parking lot attendants and by multiple vehicles such as T-shirts (on the parking attendants), video screens and banners. His insights really opened my eyes, and I immediately began reallocating funds to staff these areas of support.

Since then, I’ve discovered some key principles for effective communication, which center less on me and more on the people I’m teaching. Here’s what I’ve learned about driving home a relevant message: 

Communicating a relevant message requires me knowing and caring about my audience.I think back to Ezekiel and his charge from God to communicate His Word to the exiles at Tel Aviv. Scripture says he went to them “in the heat of my spirit” (Ezek. 3:14, NKJV). In other words, Ezekielthought he had all the answers. But once he arrived there, he “sat among them for seven days—deeply distressed” (v. 15, NIV). He began to get a heart for those to whom God had sent Him. Have you studied your audience? Are you acquainted with their needs, hurts and passions? To be relevant to people, we must care about them. This is the key to relevancy. 

Communicating a relevant message requires me thinking about everyone who’s listening.I had the honor of speaking at Ed Young Jr.’s C3 Conference this year, where Ed talked about the “three chairs” we as pastors must keep in mind. The first chair, he said, is occupied by the visitor who has no knowledge of the gospel. The second chair is occupied by the new believer. The third chair seats the seasoned Christian. We must prepare our messages in such a way that we keep all three chairs in the front of our minds. 

Communicating a relevant message requires transparency.Recently, I stood in the pulpit with tears running down my face and spoke honestly of our family’s struggle with our oldest son’s drug addiction. Afterward, thousands of teenagers responded to the altar call and accepted Jesus as their Savior. And we heard from many parents who, feeling like failures because of their children’s lifestyle decisions, were freed of guilt. It was one of the most transparent days of my life. I gave my congregation insight into my real pain. “Getting real” allows us to become touchable and makes our faith more authentic. 

No one living in our culture today would argue that this is a different day. People are bombarded with information. But when it comes down to it, communicating a relevant message reflects our heart for God and for people. May we always have a heart that thinks first about those we’re teaching and allow that to shape how we communicate an eternity-altering story.


Ron Carpenter is senior pastor at Redemption World Outreach Center in Greenville, S.C. Connect at RonCarpenter.com. read more

How to Recover From Life’s Worst Disasters

It would be impossible, in just one message, to go into all the reasons for suffering and for why God allows tragedy. Instead I want to focus on five ways that we should respond to tragedy.

I Need to Release My Grief

When you go through a tragedy, which is inevitably going to happen, the first thing you need to do is release your grief. Why? Because tragedy always creates strong emotions.

Did you feel any emotions this week?  We don’t always know what to do with our feelings.  If you don’t deal with them, but instead stuff them deep, your recovery from a crisis always takes far longer than it should. See some people are stuffers. read more

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Whys, Lies and the Mysteries of God

Why?

It is the single word ground into the bloody soil of every battlefield in the world.

It is buried in the rubble of every civilization, state and neighborhood that has been devastated by a natural disaster.

It lies in the ashes of the burned-up dreams of a family that just lost everything.

It can be heard in the quiet, nighttime sobbing of a little girl whose mother just succumbed to cancer. read more

Church, Let Your Light Shine Consistently

Consider this quote:

“The greatest single cause of atheism in the world today is Christians who acknowledge Jesus with their lips, and walk out the door and deny Him by their lifestyle. That is what an unbelieving world simply finds unbelievable.”

In making this statement, I believe author and former Franciscan priest Brennan Manning hit the nail squarely on the head.

Whether by commission or omission, the church has allowed godlessness to permeate our society. We have allowed our “nation under God” to bury the Presence of God under a mountain of misinterpreted laws and legal catchphrases. read more

Display Your Passion for God Daily

When you read the Scriptures, passion for God oozes out. Moses sought God every day. Job followed Him through the most devastating circumstances. Esther relied on Him at the risk of her own life. David chased after God, and his passion bleeds through the Psalms. The prophets craved hearing the voice of the Almighty, and the apostles joyfully followed Him to the grave.

These men and women were great leaders, yet modern influencers often overlook this trait. Too many build up their heads without minding their hearts. They read books on better business practices and attend marketing conferences, but spiritual development is often ignored. According to our research, only 11 percent of Christian leaders say “passion for God” is the leadership trait that best describes them. And yet, my experiences with Christian leaders who are most successful today tell me that spiritual ardor is integral, rather than accessory, to leading well. read more

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Discover Some Quiet Time in Your Post-Easter Recovery

Easter is often the most difficult week of the year for pastors.

Not only do we have the stress of our congregation, but weird things seem to happen during that week. Family stress goes up, financial stresses skyrocket … and our time schedule is rigid because of the many activities. And then it is over.

Are you ready for a rest? It might be easy to go through the routine—do the post mortem on Easter week and then focus on what is next without taking time to let your body and soul catch up.

Instead, this week, let’s take control of the calendar and focus on silence. Silence is the spiritual discipline most often avoided in today’s society. We “need” noise to propel us forward. If we aren’t listening to news, watching a TV show or letting music calm us, we talk to ourselves … or anyone else who will listen. read more

Leaders Must Cultivate a Rich Inner Life

A decade ago I went through the darkest time of my adult life that threatened my marriage and my leadership. It was a classic case of leader burnout. For me, it was an eclipse of the sun.

The problem was that I lost touch with my own core connection on the inside. My deep love for my God and my wife became compromised. I became an angry, dark soul at home. I made bad choices and barely held serious depression at bay. In public, I hid my loneliness and torment. At home I didn’t. read more

Daniel Kolenda: Stop Being Fearful of God's Will for Your Life

As a little boy raised in the church, I was often confused by the words of certain songs. For instance, whenever the song “Bringing in the Sheaves” was sung, I thought we were singing about bringing in the “sheeps.” I always wondered where we would get these “sheeps” and why we wanted to bring them in anyway. Spiritual themes, whether spoken or sung, can easily confuse the simple mind of a child; and while I learned quite early that “sheeps” is not even a word, the topic of God’s will continued to be a point of confusion for a long time. 

I remember another song we used to sing, usually after a missionary had told depressing stories about the hardships and toils of the mission field: “Jesus, use me / Oh, Lord, don’t refuse me / Surely there’s a work that I must do / And even though it’s humble, help my will to crumble / Though the cost be great, I’ll work for You.”

As wonderful as those words are in and of themselves, there was something about the combination of the lyrics, the music and the context that made me afraid of God’s will for my life. I thought He must have something simply dreadful for me to do. I just knew He was going to send me deep into the jungle where I would live in a mud hut, survive on a diet of grubs and wind up being eaten by cannibals.  read more

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Billy Graham: Prayer for the New Year

This prayer from Billy Graham, written for "The Saturday Evening Post" in 2008, is just as relevant this year. Get in agreement with the beloved evangelist.

Our Father and our God, as we stand at the beginning of this new year we confess our need of Your presence and Your guidance as we face the future.

We each have our hopes and expectations for the year that is ahead of us—but You alone know what it holds for us, and only You can give us the strength and the wisdom we will need to meet its challenges. So help us to humbly put our hands into Your hand, and to trust You and to seek Your will for our lives during this coming year. read more

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Thinking Exponentially Won't Put God in a Box

Do we really believe all things are possible with God? 

A few years ago Rick Warren and I were talking about faith, and he told me that faith in ministry includes setting goals so incredibly bold that you’re bound to fail unless God moves in a miraculous way. That conversation has radically transformed my faith—and my dependence—on God.

The truth is, Jesus continually pushes us to a place where we have to choose for or against Him. When we step forward in faith, will we choose to remain independent of Jesus or will we choose to be totally dependent on Him?

For instance, Jesus tells the rich young man to give away everything he has so he can follow Jesus as a disciple. The young man’s choice is not about the wealth. Rather, he must decide if Jesus is who He says He is and if Jesus will come through on His promises. read more

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