When I was 16 years old, I had my first opportunity to preach in a church service. I was nervous as could be. I could feel my heart pounding in my chest.
For some strange reason, my youth pastor felt it was worthwhile to put me in front of an auditorium full of people and be the main speaker for Youth Sunday. The rest, as they say, is history.
Equipping our students to become preachers of the Word not only impacts their future in ministry, but also can be a great encouragement to their peers, the youth group and the church as a whole. Most of Jesus’ disciples were teenagers. He believed they could do the work of ministry, and so should we.
How do we go about equipping our students to do this facet of the work of ministry?
Recently I had the opportunity to lead a breakout session at Lifeway’s Kids Ministry Conference 2012 titled "The Non-Confrontationalist’s Guide to Confrontation."
There are three reasons why you want to lean into conflict, the first two of which I already have spoken:
Now, I will address reason No. 3.
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.
Those of us who counsel pastors and teach future preachers sometimes caution them to “study the Bible for itself, just to receive the Word into your heart, not to prepare sermons.”
We might as well tell Sherlock Holmes to enjoy crime scenes for the beauty of the occasion and to stop looking for criminals; or tell Albert Pujols not to worry about actually striking at the baseball crossing the plate but to relax and take in the inspiration of the moment; or tell Joan Rivers to give up on plastic surgery.
Some things you do because this is who you are.
When a pastor reads a great insight in the Scriptural text, does anyone think for one minute that he is going to file that away in a personal-edification file, never to be shared with others in sermons?
Every year I get a complete physical from my doctor. It’s a thorough check-up from head to toe. I usually have the same initial thoughts about this invasive, needle-sticking, blood-sucking, finger-poking experience. First, I’m too busy for this. I just don’t have time. Second, This is not going to be fun! Third, I don’t want to know what I might learn! But the end result is always the same: I’m glad I did it, and it always leads to continued or better health.
Your church is similar to this experience. No one really wants to do a thorough and honest evaluation, but you are wise to do so. It leads to better church health and robust performance!