Ministry Today – Serving and empowering church leaders Thu, 24 Jul 2014 13:48:27 -0400 Joomla! - Open Source Content Management en-gb When Preaching, First Break Then Build

I have a friend who is really into rebuilding old cars. It is an art form to take a rusted out car from the scrap heap or auction lot and restore it to better than new condition.

He once told me that when you rebuild a car, you don't just add the parts that are missing. That wouldn't work. Why? It's because many of the existing parts are beyond repair. Rust, corrosion, and years of damage have left them unusable.

The car must be broken down piece by piece, cleaned, restored, and reassembled with new parts for a proper restoration.

I think that is a lot like preaching. Preaching could be described as the act of breaking down existing world views and then rebuilding them biblically. You break it, then build it. Do you ever do this when preaching?

For example, I were preaching about marriage, I would start by breaking down how most people view marriage.

I would talk about how the idea of marriage is eroding in our culture. I would talk about the rise in unhappy marriages and divorce, because our way isn't working. I might tell a funny story or two about how my flawed perspective caused problems in my own marriage.

After breaking the average worldview down and highlighting its problems, I would say something like, "But there is still hope for us. This is not what God created marriage to be. There is a better way."

Then I would point to the passage of scripture I was preaching and rebuild a biblical understanding of how God defines marriage, why it matters, and why His way is better than our ways.

Break then build.

By the way, this isn't a ground-breaking new concept. Paul wrote about this in Romans 12:2: "Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect." (ESV)

In order to not conform to the pattern of the world, Paul says that we have our minds renewed (or restored). This is what good preaching does, because this is what the Bible does. God's Word challenges, sharpens, and restores our understanding of the world from God's perspective.

Before a person's actions are transformed, their mind must be transformed.

When people begin to think the way Jesus thinks, they will begin to do what Jesus does.

People rarely behave their way into right belief. A change in action always starts with a change of mind.

So, when you preach, break down how most people think. Point out the problems in our thinking. Most of the time it is as simple bringing up the common way of living and asking, "So, how's that working for you?"

Then allow scripture to do what it does best—renew people's minds. Plainly show why what the Bible says is so much better.

Break then build.

This may sound like a simple concept, but the practice is more difficult than the principle.

It is easy for me to tell you that you need to break down a car before you rebuild it, but actually knowing how to restore a car is a lot harder.

This simple principle of preaching takes a lifetime to master.

Go break something, and let God use His word and your sermon to rebuild it better than ever.

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

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]]> (Brandon Hilgemann) Preaching Thu, 24 Jul 2014 16:00:00 -0400
Apostolic Keys for Activation and Implementation from Nehemiah

The book of Nehemiah is an outstanding book that depicts going from a compelling vision to its activation and implementation. Nehemiah was a type of a master builder apostle (1 Corinthians 3:10-14) who knew how to utilize teams, motivate the masses, and bring commitment through conviction. His leadership ability resulted in the rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem, and--important for us--his methods can be replicated.

The following are some of the key apostolic principles he used:

1. He assessed the true conditions of his people and nation (Neh. 1:1-3). Many people are delusional or in denial regarding the true state of their nation, church and community. Leadership involves bringing self awareness to those under their care and influence. Without knowing the truth, there can never be a path to true freedom (John 8:32-46).

2. He was moved inwardly and received a compelling vision to meet the need (Neh. 1:4). All leadership is driven and motivated by vision. All true vision must emanate from the heart and have passion. Vision merely articulated via strategy on paper is never enough. Spirit-inspired passion is the engine that drives heaven-sent vision.

3. He prayed his vision through before he attempted to implement it (1:4-11). Godly leadership is a partnership with the divine, since we are living both on the Earth and in heavenly places (Eph. 2:4-6). Like Nehemiah, today's leaders must pray their vision through in the Spirit before attempting to implement it in the natural.

Without consistent seasons of individual and corporate prayer, vision will fail because the spiritual warfare and natural circumstances of this world will offer too much resistance without giving God opportunity to speak and move.

4. He gathered all the human resources he needed based on his relationships (1:11--he was cup bearer to the king). Successful leaders pull on all their relationships to gather the supplies and connections needed to implement their vision. Everyone has a constellation of relationships, and within that circle is usually the provision for the vision. Instead of always looking on the outside for your answers, most of the time the people and resources you need to fulfill your vision are already in your midst.

5. He succinctly articulated his compelling vision in a few sentences (2:17-18). All vision and mission should be collapsed down to brief mottoes, acronyms or statements that succinctly describe the vision and motivate the people. Vision and/or mission statements that are too long or convoluted make it difficult for the average person to wrap their brain around it. God told Habakkuk to write the vision down and make it plain so that the messenger could run with it (Hab. 2:2).

Hence, every person in an organization or congregation should be able to convey the vision of the house. Consequently, when people do not have the vision or know the vision, they are scattered and aimless (Prov. 29:18).

6. He refused to be distracted by opposition (2:19-20; 6:2-4). Every leader and organization will have to contend with competing voices and loyalties that demand focus and attention. One of the great keys to the vision is to be able to stay focused and keep the main thing the main thing, and keep first things first. If Satan cannot destroy you, he will try to distract you with good or appealing things that can lure you away from God's best plan for your life. (Satan doesn't come in a red suit and pitchfork but appears as an angel of light according to 2 Cor. 11:14.)

7. He utilized a team of volunteers committed to the cause (3:1-32). No growing organization can survive if it depends merely upon a few people. Every successful vision requires a team of committed people to fulfill the dream

For example, the two model churches of the New Testament (in Jerusalem and Antioch) both had a great team of leaders and layers of other leaders who worked together.

8. He instilled courage during times of testing (4:8-12, 14). There will always be opposition, high stress, drama, unforeseen events and crises that oppose godly vision. Leaders have to remain calm, speak peace, have courage and continue to function with high capacity during times of stress, duress and testing.

If you want a church or organization without stress or spiritual warfare, then ask God to take you home to heaven right now. (That's the only place where there is no more crying, sorrow or pain).

9. He set up systems of communication to unite all for battle (4:13, 16-22). The people were not only committed to their vision but were committed to protecting and advancing their vision. To fulfill vision, every person on the team must be trained for battle and be mobilized instantly when an attack comes that threatens the vision. Every church especially needs intercessors in place that can be contacted instantly, and all leaders need to be able to mobilize for strategy with little notice.

10. The people were all bound together with a written covenant (9:38; 13:1-31). People need to be bound together by a written covenant that lays out everything expected. Whatever people don't sign on to, they will not be accountable to.

Generally, people don't do what you expect; they do what you inspect. Nehemiah had to follow up on the covenant by inspecting and enforcing the application of the covenant in chapter 13.

Leaders are not primarily called to be your friends; they are called to push you, hold you accountable and to challenge your complacency if you are not growing.

11. The leaders were all committed to living in the place of their mission (11:1-2). Nehemiah made all the leaders live within the walls of Jerusalem even though it was dangerous. Leaders are called to live in the community they are ministering to, so they have the same care and concern for the wellbeing of the people they live among. Nehemiah celebrated all those who lived in the community and sent a tithe of the people to live there.

I have been living in proximity to the community and city I was called to serve since 1980, even though many of my friends have larger houses with much property outside our city region. I believe Nehemiah demonstrates that our goal should not be comfort but conforming to the will of God in our lives.

12. He was a great fund raiser for the house of God (13:10-12). Without provision, the vision is only a dream and will never be a reality. All successful leaders have to be successful fund raisers! The apostle Paul only wrote one chapter devoted to love (1 Cor. 13) but wrote two whole chapters devoted to raising funds for his ministry (2 Cor. 8 and 9).

Furthermore, I believe every church should have enough income from tithes and offerings so that the lead pastor does not have to work outside the church. This way their time is not divided, and they are not too tired to serve the congregation.

Finally, there is much more in this incredible book that God gave us to teach the principles of organization, teamwork and city building. Nehemiah illustrates that preaching the word isn't enough for community transformation.

If that were the case, then all he needed was to let Ezra, the biblical scribe, do his thing, and it would have happened automatically. No, we need to have a partnership between the marketplace and full-time church leaders for city building.

Joseph Mattera is overseeing bishop of Resurrection Church, Christ Covenant Coalition, in Brooklyn, N.Y. 

]]> (Joseph Mattera ) Vision Thu, 24 Jul 2014 12:30:00 -0400
10 Ways to Measure Your Success Making Disciples

I've often heard people say you can't measure discipleship. I don't know if that's true.

It is true that you can't necessarily put a number or percentage on discipleship growth, but you can tell—over time—if it has happened or is happening.

Here are 10 indications a church is making disciples:

1. Those who have been in the church the longest complain the least. – "Do everything without complaining or arguing" (Philip. 2:14).

2. The leaders of the church are most likely to give up "their" seats, park farther from the building, or do whatever is necessary to help the body. – "The greatest among you must be a servant" (Matt. 23:11).

3. The church celebrates most when those far from faith come to faith. "In the same way, there is more joy in heaven over one lost sinner who repents and returns to God than over ninety-nine others who are righteous and haven't strayed away" (Luke 15:7).

4. Members care that others' needs are met more than their own. "Don't look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too" (Philip. 2:4).

5. The church is willing to make sacrifices to attract the lost. – "And so my judgment is that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God" (Acts 15:19).

6. There is joy even during suffering. – "Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds" (James 1:2).

7. The teaching is a balance of truth and grace. – "Jesus came full of grace and truth" (John 1:17).

8. The financial needs of the church are funded, with people willingly sacrificing. No one begs for money. – "Each person should do as he has decided in his heart–not reluctantly or out of necessity, for God loves a cheerful giver" (2 Cor. 9:7).

9. There are no petty disputes and grudges among the people of the church. – "Therefore encourage one another and build each other up" (1 Thess. 5:11).

10. The church takes care of each other well. – "There was not a needy person among them, for as many as were owners of lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold" (Acts 4:34).

Let's keep this going. These are a few that come to my mind; there are others. Prayer. Forgiveness. I'd love to post again — maybe "21 Indications a Church Is Making Disciples." Add one of your own in the comments. (And, give your Bible reference.) I may choose yours for my next post.

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

]]> (Ron Edmondson) Discipleship Wed, 23 Jul 2014 19:00:00 -0400
Do You Have the Right Stuff to Lead God's Army?

A consultant once asked me what I mean when I say that certain positions can only be filled by a "leader." Without thinking, I said I expect a leader to do the following:

1. Own it. Good or bad, success or failure, if it happened on their watch, real leaders own it. Everyone gladly accepts the honor and rewards of success, but when things go south, non-leaders make excuses and pass the buck. Real leaders own the mistakes and failures of the whole team. No passing the buck. No blame shifting. In other words, leaders take RESPONSIBILITY.

2. Do it. Leaders don't wait to be told what to do and how to do it. They just get it done. I am OK with leaders doing something wrong. I am not OK with leaders doing nothing. Doing nothing is not leadership. In other words, leaders take INITIATIVE.

3. Upgrade it. Great leaders know when to call an audible. Non-leaders keep running the same play, even when it stopped working three years ago. Leaders figure out how to upgrade and make it better. In other words, leaders embrace INNOVATION.

4. Do it now. The past is gone. The future is not yet. The only reality we have is to work with is the present. Non-leaders live in the past or the future, always talking about the good ole days or only talking about future vision. Real leaders act now. They don't wait. In other words, leaders live with a sense of URGENCY.

Whether you have an impressive title or not, here are four questions whose answers reveal if you are a leader:

  • When things go wrong, do you take responsibility or pass the blame?
  • When action is required, do you take initiative or wait for someone else to lead?
  • When standards are not met, do you embrace innovation or maintain the status quo?
  • When opportunity knocks, do you lead with urgency or passivity?

Steve and Deborah Murrell went to the Philippines in 1984 for a one-month summer mission trip that never ended. They are the founding pastors of Victory Manila, one church that meets in 14 locations in metro Manila and has planted churches in 60 Philippine cities and 20 nations. Currently, Victory has more than 6,000 discipleship groups that meet in coffee shops, offices, dormitories and homes in metro Manila. Steve is co-founder and president of Every Nation Churches and Ministries, a family of churches focused on church planting, campus ministry and world missions.

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]]> (Steve Murrell) Ministry Leadership Wed, 23 Jul 2014 15:50:00 -0400
Are You Serving Slop From the Pulpit?

I was talking to a fellow preacher the other day about the difficulties and challenges of preaching sermons that both touch the people as well as sits under the smile of God. We talked about the inclination today to resort to tactics and tricks to manufacture a connection to the congregation that is neither real nor helpful.

Preaching Under the Frown of God

I heard a preacher the other day that obviously did not put in the hard work of thinking theologically about the lives that his people were living. In addition, the strong scriptural foundation was missing as well. That preacher preached a sermon that did not touch the people.

Then, while noticing his floundering he simply started whooping. The people start shouting, yes, but were they equipped to handle any real engagement with the world or did it help in their struggle within it? This kind of preaching is useless.

When people in the congregation have a difficult week, do they have the message that God intended for them to help them through their struggle? They don't when we don't do our diligent work as preachers.

When Grandma dies, did we deny them the spiritual nourishment from the pulpit that God could have used to aid them through that struggle because of our sloth in preparation? Even though the people may shout through weak attempts to placate the congregation, God frowns on those efforts.

Are Your Sermons Insulting God?

You may get speaking engagements. You may get the call to pastor the church. But, eventually it will catch up with you. Yelling, whooping, and "celebrating" at the end of a weak sermon is like sprinkling sugar over some dung and serving it to your spouse on your 50th wedding anniversary. It is worse than inappropriate; it is insulting to the people and your God.

Preaching is hard work, and God is there to help us at every step of the way. Certainly you will not always hit a "home run," but don't serve the people warmed-over slop, tack a whoop at the end, and then relish in the misguided approbations of humanity. The people may shout, but your aren't fooling God, and you aren't helping your people when you serve slop in the pulpit.

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 Wed, 23 Jul 2014 13:00:00 -0400