Are you losing people when you preach? Do people check out during your sermons?
After listening to thousands of sermons and preaching quite a few myself, I have learned eight different ways that pastors lose people in their sermons.
1. Sloppy transitions. You just told a great story. It was funny and thought-provoking. But as soon as the story ended, you suddenly switched direction and started talking about something else.
Wait, what? Slow down. How did we get from that funny thing your kid did to some old guy in the Old Testament?
Where is the connection?
I am one of those people who believes the best about other people.
In my career as a junior guy working his way up and as a CEO, I have met all sorts of leaders in the marketplace and, now, in the church world. I have noticed over the years that both leaders and managers in Christian settings (like churches or ministries) are engaged with much less cynicism by their junior people at the beginning of a relationship because there is this perception that a common set of spiritual rules are shared and believed.
1. In all the world there are only three Christians who love change; none of them are in your church.
2. When you speak before an unfamiliar group, be careful what you say because you never know who is listening to you. You’ll start to tell a story about some guy in your former church, and his mama is sitting right in front of you.
3. There will never be a time in your life when you know all the Bible and have your questions all answered; if you cannot serve Him with some gaps in your knowledge and preach without knowing everything, you’re going to have a hard time.
When we planted Grace Church in a local movie theater two years ago, we assumed that one day we would have a more permanent location. Meeting in a theater is not without challenges, and we assumed we’d eventually have a place for offices and more permanent meeting space, etc.
We also had plans (which are currently in process) of sending out a planter and were excited about planting a new church. We think it is essential to plant and to do it early so that multiplication is part of the life of our church.
Why winning the battle for teens requires timeless elements
In the last few years, I’ve heard folks in ministry say the battle between good and evil is greater than ever. Many say it’s because we are close to the Lord’s return.
Sadly, however, it’s my observation that few truly understand or wholeheartedly believe this. If they did, they would do more to fight back!
Christians can complain about how bad things are getting in our society, but what are we doing to oppose the forces of Satan, who does whatever it takes to “steal, kill and destroy”? When it comes to our youth in particular, what are we doing to rescue them? The truth is, many believers think they’re doing all they can to reach the lost—especially teens—when in fact they’re simply doing the same things they were doing years ago.
We each have a faith and a calling, and mine stems from a covenant I made with God that if He showed me He was real, I’d do whatever He asked—anytime, anywhere, anything.
He kept His end of the deal. And since my life-changing encounter with God, I’ve vowed to keep mine. Because of this, I now view life as if I were part of the spiritual equivalent to SEAL Team 6. Every day I live with the excitement of my next mission. When I consider the commitment and sacrifice of those real soldiers, I get pumped up knowing that this is my calling—to push myself harder, go further and do more!
By the power of the Holy Spirit, I stand for Jesus in my life, the media and Hollywood. For me, that includes relishing the opportunity to push the limits and go beyond the norm of what I think can be done. In my personal ministry, I often share that a part of my morning prayer is, “Lord, can I punch Satan in the face today and then run?”
I share all of this to dare you to do more, to smash the box of your normal thinking that you are doing all you can.
Back in the “old school” days, those who carried the torch of the gospel all had a similar zeal to do more—evangelists such as Sam Jones, Billy Sunday, D.L. Moody, Billy Graham. They understood what it meant to give everything for the sake of making Christ known. My philosophy, like theirs, is quite simple: The best way to impact this world for God’s glory is to make more Christians.
There is no greater field for a harvest than today’s youth. But equally as important as their conversion is the continual reminder of the knowledge of God’s Word and direction of their path through prayer.
There is no greater satisfaction in this life than the peace that comes with the presence of God’s Spirit. And there is no greater way to acquire this than through God’s Word and prayer, God’s Word and prayer, God’s Word and prayer—developing a lifestyle based on these life-giving elements. Missions work is awesome, but young believers must be continually reminded that it’s only by the Spirit of God leading them that they can know and do His will. They must know that their personal and ongoing relationship with Christ must be their primary focus, surpassing anything else.
In America, the spirit of darkness continues to deceive our Christian youth. Why is that? I’d argue that it’s partly because we have them doing all kinds of other things without the rock-solid foundation of being in His Word every day and spending time with Him in prayer.
Did that just rub you the wrong way and offend you? Pray about it! Whoever you are, wherever you are in your ministry, I beg you to do more.
Take a chance and do more. Create a cool gospel track that turns teens’ heads. Develop an innovative way to minister, or intentionally go after types and groups such as skaters. (A great resource for this is the Livin’ It skate videos.) Get a handful of tickets to a relevant Christian music festival or an Acquire the Fire event. Then go to the mall, skate park or local kid hangout spot and give away these seeds of hope that, God willing, will take root and grow and bless the Lord.
Please know that I make these suggestions because they work. Even if you think these kids won’t relate to you, these tools you pass on to them will. I’ve seen it with my own eyes, and you can make a difference. It’s time to get “old school” and do more!
Stephen Baldwin is an actor, director, producer, author, talk radio host and motivational speaker. He periodically speaks to youth conferences around the country.