March 27, 2012

Change Is What Matters

Ministry can be really busy. It's really easy to get caught up in the everyday, often mundane, details. That's why it's so important to pull away every once in awhile & looking at what is actually being produced by all that work by you & the people you serve with every week.

Are lives being changed? Are people discovering their gifting? Are they discovering ways they can leverage those gifts to advance God's Kingdom & the name of Jesus? Life change is what it's all about. Here's a recent story of how God, His Word, & His people impacted one young lady's life.

March 16, 2012

Preach Better Sermons Takeaways

Yesterday a fairly new ministry, Preaching Rocket, hosted it's first online conference. If you missed it, you missed out on preaching gold. Some of the most gifted communicators in ministry as well as a giant in the food service industry & one of the world's most successful comedians shared their insights about communication, preparation, & continuing to grow as a communicator. Here are a few of the big takeaways from my notes.

1) "Cook" Your Messages In A Crock Pot, Not A Microwave.
This idea was woven into some of the interviews that Jeff Henderson conducted. Jeff wasn't actually one of the guest presenters, but Jeff is an incredible communicator & teacher in his own right. His point is that your message is likely to be better the longer you let it ruminate in your heart & mind. If you're scrambling on Saturday night to get your message together, you may be able to bring some good information, but it probably has not had time to work its way through you.

2) Your Message Needs A Bottom Line.
Can you sum up your entire 30 to 45 minute message in a sentence? It sounds like an impossible task, but if you'll work on developing that one thing you want people to walk away with & then build everything else around it, your message stands a better chance of sticking & impacting the way people live their lives.

3) If You're Nervous About Your Sermon, You're Not Ready To Impact People.
Andy Stanley & Charles Stanley both brought this out in their interviews. When you take the platform worried about your performance or how you're going to look at the end of it, you are not really concerned about speaking truth & grace into the lives of the people in the audience. On top of that when you're worried about your performance, it's probably a sign that you're not really that well-prepared anyway.

4) You Can Only Preach As Well As You Pray.
That's straight from Dr. Charles Stanley. I don't think it needs any lame explanation from me. All I'll say is I heard as much about Dr. Stanley's prayer room during his interview as I did about preaching tips & tactics. It spoke volumes about him as a preacher.

5) Don't Leave Out The God Factor In Your Preaching.
It's very easy for preachers who have been preaching for a long time to simply rely on their exegetical & communication skills when preparing their messages. Louie Giglio talked about how easy that is & how easy it is to prepare an incredibly eloquent, persuasive message that is completely devoid of the power of God. Our messages don't change people; God does. If we're not begging Him to invade our words & leverage them for His glory, then we're leaving out a huge part of the preparation process.

6) Don't Leave Out The Fact That Jesus Was Not Just Fully God But Also Fully Man.
This came from Jeff Foxworthy of all people. When asked how he thought the 21st century church could reach men more effectively, he gave what was a very theologically deep answer. He said it's easy to paint Jesus as fully God when He's on the cross, but when you bring up the fact that He was fully man & really hammer that idea home, you realize "there's nothing sissy about Jesus." The problem is that most men see Christian masculinity as some soft, sissy thing, but when they realize that Christian manhood reflects the kind of man that Jesus was, it becomes much more appealing.

7) Preach With The End In Mind
Almost everyone communicated this concept in one way or another. Whether you do this or not can be seen in whether or not you give your audience something to do with the message. Do you have 1 or 2 action steps? Vanable Moody reminded us that the Word of God is a sword & a sword has 1 point. What is your 1 point? What is the 1 thing you want people to do with God's Word?

I could rattle off a lot of other takeaways, but since 7 is the number of completion, we'll stop there. Go check out Preaching Rocket's site & see if the resources they offer could be something that really benefits you in your preparation each week.

March 9, 2012

Growing As A Communicator-Part 3

This week I've been sharing some of the lessons I've learned over the years that have helped me grow as a communicator. I'm by no means an "expert", but I know I've grown in a lot of ways in the last 17 years when I first began teaching & preaching. Of all the lessons I could pass on to any communicator, no matter what field or what level of experience, I would pass on this one.

5) Learn From Others
Newsflash: You are not the best communicator in the world.I don't care how many people love your messages or how many pats on the back you get when you speak, there are communicators out there in all sorts of fields that you & I can learn from. Listen to as many different communicators as you can from all sorts of areas of expertise. Listen to people from your particular field, whether their style is similar to yours or not. Personally, I listen to several messages every week from different pastors. Some of these pastors have similar backgrounds & styles as I do, but some do not. Some have speaking styles that are more conversational & casual while others are much more scholarly in their approach. If you find a book or article from someone about how they communicate, read it. If you have the chance to hear from well respected communicators, take advantage of it, & take A LOT of notes.

Fortunately, just such an opportunity is coming up next week. On Thursday, March 15th the folks at Preaching Rocket are hosting a FREE online conference where you can learn from some incredible communicators. If you're in ministry, this is a must. Communicators like Charles Stanley, Andy Stanley, Dan Cathy of Chick-fil-A, & Jeff Foxworthy will talk about everything from developing content to engaging your audience. Don't miss the Preach Better Sermons Conference.

March 7, 2012

Growing As A Communicator-Part 2

Continuing with this week's topic of growing as communicators, here are a couple of other tips:

3) Internalize Your Message
I totally ripped this phrase off from Andy Stanley. It kind of has a double meaning. From a purely practical side, if you're speaking to a group of people about some topic, you don't need to be chained to your notes. If your message isn't important enough for you to learn, internalize, & deliver, then why should your audience? However, when you can deliver a message that's been internalized, the passion comes through. On a deeper level, internalizing the message means it becomes a part of who you are. That's where the passion comes through. You've spent enough time with the message that it has infected you & changed you. Internalize your message & your message will reach a new level of impact with your audience.

4) Prioritize Your Preparation
This is a little different from Planning Ahead. This has more to do with your regular, weekly preparation. As a pastor, I speak every week. At the same time, I'm also working on messages that will be delivered in the weeks ahead. If I'm not careful, things can get a little muddy., especially as I'm wrapping up one series & preparing to start a new one. That means my week to week preparation has to take a place of high priority in my schedule. Pastors, never apologize for your message prep. It is your highest priority as you equip the people you lead; make sure that's reflected in your prep. Also, don't apologize for the preparation process that works best for you. Just as your preaching is unique, your preparation to preach will be unique. When you prioritize your weekly prep & plan ahead for your bigger teaching plan, you'll be better prepared to handle the inevitable things that pop up in ministry that from time to time can consume a lot of your attention. Plan ahead & prioritize your preparation.

Friday I'll share one other big tip for growing as a communicator.

March 5, 2012

Growing As A Communicator

Everyone has to communicate, & most of us have to communicate verbally. Whether you are a stay at home mom, a pastor, a business owner, or a salesperson in the retail world, communication is a big part of what you do. However, it's also something that terrifies a lot of people, especially the idea of some sort of public communication. This week I want to share a few things that I've learned & that help me to be a better communicator & a communicator that is constantly looking to improve.

1) Know Your Message
This sounds like a no-brainer, but it's shocking how many times I've had to listen to someone speak who obviously spent no time actually figuring out what they wanted to say. Recently I sat & listened to someone speak for almost 45 minutes & at the end a bunch of random information had been thrown at me & the audience, but there was no cohesive message. Know what you want to say. Don't talk until you do. Whether you're about to have a discussion with one of your kids or give a presentation at work, you have to know your message. One good rule of thumb I try to abide by is this: Can I distill my message into one memorable statement? If I can do that & then support it & reiterate it throughout a message, there's a better chance that it will be remembered & acted upon.

2) Plan Ahead
This isn't always possible, but most of the time it is. As a pastor who speaks pretty much every week, I know that people expect me to have something to say to them, & hopefully it's something worth paying attention to. Again this seems obvious, but if you wait until the last minute, you may not have anything to say or you may not find a way to say it so that it's actually absorbed. If you have a role where you're communicating to a group regularly, plan it out ahead of time. In my role as a pastor, I go into a year with an entire year planned out. For example, right now I know what my plan is for my Christmas teaching series. For those who say that this doesn't allow you room for spontaneity or the Spirit's leading, the reverse is actually true. Planning ahead actually gives you more freedom to adjust on the fly. If you're living week to week as a communicator, you literally do not have time to think about the bigger picture of your communication. Typically I try to stay anywhere from 2 weeks to 4 weeks ahead in actual completed sermons, & I plan a rough teaching plan for an entire year. It gives me a plan to follow, but it also gives me room for flexibility when the plan may need to be altered.

Throughout the week I'll share some other things I've picked up & lessons I've learned the hard way over my years in ministry & as a communicator. Feel free to share any insights you may have or tips you have that have helped you grow as a communicator.

March 1, 2012

How To Remove The Pain From Message Prep

Preaching Rocket is a new organization committed to helping pastors grow as communicators of the most important message in the world. After talking to hundreds of preachers, they’ve found most preachers love preaching, but the grind of preparation can often become a pain. Here are three things they’ve seen.

1. Great Preaching Comes From A Great Preparation System. Perry Noble doesn’t prepare in a vacuum. He has a team at NewSpring Church that helps him prepare. Perry will talk about how this works at the FREE online event on March 15th.

2. A Preparation Day Is Better Than Feeling Like You Have To Prepare All The Time. Andy Stanley sets aside every Wednesday to prepare messages, and his team helps him keep this time guarded. While Andy is gifted, his commitment to preparation helps make his messages memorable. Andy will talk about the structure of his preparation day on the Preach Better Sermons online event.

3. Developing A Sermon Planning System Takes The Pain Out Of Preparation. There are things you can do on a daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly and annual basis that will dramatically improve your preparation time and help you deliver better messages. Helping you put something like this into place will be a part of the free online event.

Make a commitment to be a better preacher. Sign up for the free online conference. Here are the details.
  • Date: March 15, 2012
  • Time: 1pm – 4pm EST
  • Speakers: Andy Stanley, Perry Noble, Louie Giglio, Dr. Charles Stanley, Vanable Moody, Jeff Foxworthy. The event is being hosted by Jeff Henderson.
  • Registration: Free sign up at