Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Create Innovative *Next Steps*

Tony Morgan more from this author »

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We all want to end our messages with application, but sometimes the next steps we offer are difficult for others to take.
We can’t underestimate the importance of guiding people into a deeper relationship with Christ.
At the same time, I’m a little concerned that the words “next steps” seem to be more and more generic with less and less meaning. Similar to the 250-word mission statement and the random core values hidden on the back of a webpage, strategies and systems can become irrelevant and even distracting when they are used halfheartedly.
Shouldn’t “next steps” be more than a few action points tacked on to the end of a sermon? Should they be more helpful than a fill-in-the-blank? Maybe it’s time for us to rethink the next steps we are offering.
When developing next steps:
1. Engage with people before planning next steps for their lives. 
Too many churches try to force feed their next steps. Without listening and engaging, how can you know where someone is trying to go? What has tripped them up in the past? What are their specific goals?
Failure is destined to happen if everyone is not aligned.
2. Make it easy to get started.
Nothing is more frustrating than wanting to take a next step while not understanding how. In the business world, this concept is called providing low barriers to entry.
If you are challenging someone to take a next step, make sure the right tools are available.
3. Give a clear call to action. 
Next steps should be worthwhile. Why ask someone to do something that is not going to have a major impact on his or her life?
Challenge people to take steps that will provide remarkable results.
4. Share success stories.
If someone sees how a particular next step benefitted another person, then they are more likely to participate. There is nothing like providing examples that say, “I tried this next step and here is what happened in my life.”
Too many times we challenge people to volunteer time, give money and develop spiritual habits without taking time to show that success is possible.
5. Decide on “next steps.”
Next steps should constantly be evolving. People don’t “graduate” in their spiritual walk. They don’t earn a diploma or finally arrive.
Great churches constantly evaluate innovative ways to encourage spiritual growth.
How do you offer next steps in your ministry to help people gain traction in their faith journeys?

Tony Morgan is the Chief Strategic Officer and founder of He’s a consultant, leadership coach and writer who helps churches get unstuck and have a bigger impact. More important, he has a passion for people. He’s all about helping people meet Jesus and take steps in their faith.
For 14 years, Tony served on the senior leadership teams at West Ridge Church(Dallas, GA), NewSpring Church (Anderson, SC) and Granger Community Church (Granger, IN). With Tim Stevens, Tony has co-authored Simply Strategic StuffSimply Strategic Volunteers and Simply Strategic Growth – each of which offers valuable, practical solutions for different aspects of church ministry. His book, Killing Cockroaches (B&H Publishing) challenges leaders to focus on the priorities in life and ministry. His most recent books on leadership and ministry strategy are available on Kindle.
Tony has also written several articles on staffing, technology, strategic planning and leadership published by organizations like Outreach Magazine, Catalyst and Tony and his wife, Emily, live near Atlanta, Georgia with their four children — Kayla, Jacob, Abby and Brooke.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Does Your Preaching Take in the Wide View?

Peter Mead more from this author »

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In order to preach good news and not turn it into burdensome law, first we look up, then we look out.
If we are not careful we can easily misfire when it comes to applying Bible texts. One cause of dangerous misfiring comes from too narrow a view of the text. The result is application that functions as a legalistic burden – appealing to the flesh, but not consistent with the gospel.

In Narratives, Look Up.  

In Bible stories we can easily focus on the human characters and determine to copy or not copy them. The moral of this story is . . . oops. This is a recipe for burdensome preaching. It is not a recipe for gospel preaching. It is not really good news that the Bible is full of examples for us to copy or not copy in our own strength. We need to always look up. The characters are not just humans in action, they are humans living in response to God and His Word. Their response is instructive, but we don’t live as their copycats, we live as people responding to God and His Word too. In preaching narratives, be sure to use a wider view and include the divine dimension.

In Epistles, Look Out.  

In epistles we can easily focus on the commands and determine to obey them. The lesson for today is . . . oops. This is a recipe for burdensome preaching.  It is not a recipe for gospel preaching. It is not really good news that the Bible is full of imperatives for us to harvest and apply in our own strength. We need always to look out. The imperatives and commands are not just stand alone instructions for holy living, they are imperatives and commands coming in the context of a whole letter that was written to be heard in one shot. The recipients would have felt the force of the instruction in light of the gospel content. Ephesians 4 is to applied in light of Ephesians 1-3, otherwise it becomes just another burden for our weary souls. In preaching epistles, be sure to use a wider view and include the divine doctrinal dimension.
Last night I was at a prayer meeting where we sang “There’s a Wideness in God’s Mercy” . . . an old hymn with a few great verses:
There’s a wideness in God’s mercy like the wideness of the sea; there’s a kindness in His justice which is more than liberty.
For the love of God is broader than the measures of man’s mind; and the heart of the Eternal is most wonderfully kind.
But we make His love too narrow by false limits of our own; and we magnify His strictness with a zeal He will not own.
If our love were but more simple we should take Him at His word; and our lives would be illumined by the presence of our Lord.
So to avoid imposing a “strictness” God would not own, we must preach good news and not turn it into burdensome law. Here are a few thoughts to keep stirring our thoughts:
1. In narratives like the gospels, observe the growth in faith among characters as the stories unfold. The same is true in other narrative sections of the Bible. We are not given much concerning most characters, but what we are given enables us to get a sense of their trajectory towards God in faith or away in rebellion. Tracing that broader story can help to make sense of a particular pericope (individual story).
2. Be careful to identify the link between doctrine and application. It is often more of a “this is what a life looks like that is gripped by that truth ”rather than “so you must now do this!” Is the application an implication? Is it a natural outworking? Is it an appropriate response? These are all very different than a self-moved obligation.
3. Turning response into responsibility is to turn gospel into legalistic burden. Many really struggle with this, but it is so important. A captured heart that is stirred will flow out in far greater commitment, sacrifice, integrity, holiness, etc., than a person pressured to obey by the apparently self-moved determination of their own will. If the heart is not stirred, then the motivation will still be about love, but a misplaced love that is a weaker motivator. That is, if it isn’t love for Christ that stirs a person, then maybe they will obey commands out of love for self in respect to conformity to community expectations – a love-driven action, but not in response to the greatest love of all.

Peter Mead
Peter Mead is involved in church leadership at an independent Bible church in the UK. He serves as director of Cor Deo—an innovative mentored ministry training program—and has a wider ministry preaching and training preachers. He also blogs often at

Thursday, April 18, 2013

5 Ways Pastors Spiritually Benefit From Preaching Expository Sermons

Many pastors have written and spoken concerning the ways expository preaching benefits your congregation, but few talk about how it benefits the soul of you, the preacher.
I say this as one who sometimes loses sight of the blessings of expository preaching because of the exhaustion of week-in, week-out teaching ministry. Pastors can succumb to the mindset of Grandma on Thanksgiving Day, who eats a cold plate because she was so busy cooking for everyone else. It fills the stomach, but lacks the celebration and joy.
The celebration and joy of preaching God’s word will return to you when you remember the blessings that God has in store for preachers who give themselves wholly to the task of expository preaching. What are those blessings? Here is a list of five.

1. You will maintain your integrity as a preacher

We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God’s word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God (2 Corinthians 4:2)
Based on Paul’s logic in this verse, someone who does tamper with God’s word is not able to commend himself to anyone’s conscience in the sight of God. Someone who uses the Bible to say something that it doesn’t mean – whether from good motives or ill, accidentally or on purpose – makes a breach in his integrity.
If the structure of your sermon is aligned with the structure of the passage, and if you derive your sub-points from the author’s sub-points, then it is difficult to tamper with the message of the passage. You dramatically increase your odds of getting at the author’s intended meaning if you follow his logic.

2. You will grow in passion for Jesus

And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself…“Did our hearts not burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?” (Luke 24:27, 32)
When you commit to expository preaching, eventually you will hit an obscure or difficult passage. Some pastors get frustrated by trying to derive a sermon from such texts.
But seasoned expository preachers know better. They have wrestled with such passages and have come away seeing the gospel and the work of Christ in a new light. These new insights will fan the flame of your passion for Jesus.
The clincher here – and with the next two benefits below – is the all part, as in Moses and all the Prophets. Only when you commit to preach the entire Bible, tough passages and all, will you get this joy of a fresh look at Jesus’s person and work.

3. You will be innocent of the condemnation incurred by those who reject your preaching

Therefore I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all, for I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God (Acts 20:27-28)
You will be held to account for your ministry, and you will even be judged with more strictness than others (James 3:1). One way to ensure that you will be found faithful on that day is by preaching through all of Scripture. That doesn’t mean you have to pull a MacArthur and go through the whole New Testament verse by verse. You can go Dever style and preach book by book, too.
The point is that you are not leaving out anything in your preaching, whether in terms of content or theology. You will be innocent of anyone’s blood if you preach all the Scriptures, no matter how offensive, irrelevant, or uninteresting it might seem.
Are you shrinking from declaring the whole counsel of God? You know you are supposed to as a preacher, but for some reason – perhaps you cater to your listeners’ felt needs, you don’t feel qualified to teach difficult passages, or you are trying to be tolerant – you are consciously minimizing your use of the Bible. Realize that your hands are red. You are not innocent. Wash the blood off at the foot of the cross, and go preach straight through Galatians.

4. You will experience Jesus’s eternal presence

…teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age (Matthew 28:20)
Again, that pesky word all. In order to teach all that Jesus commanded, you have to preach all of God’s word, since the whole thing is the word of Christ (Colossians 3:16). Only expository preaching specifically intends to do this, by preaching through entire passages and entire books.
The benefit to expositors comes in the second half of the verse: “I am with you always.” Jesus’s eternal presence goes with those who teach all of his commands. That’s not to say Jesus’s presence leaves those who preach topical sermons, since he certainly enters the heart of those who believe in him (Ephesians 3:17).
But there is a sense where those who preach the whole counsel of God especially experience Jesus’s presence, even when they suffer for not editing out the offensive parts. Paul wrote, “But the Lordstood by me and strengthened me [‘I am with you always’], so that through me the message might befully proclaimed [‘all I have commanded’] and all the Gentiles might hear it” (2 Timothy 4:17)
Now, theoretically, someone could preach all Jesus commanded without preaching straight through passages and books of the Bible. But even my four year-old daughter knows that hopscotch is easiest when you toe each square sequentially.

5. You will persevere in salvation

Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers (1 Timothy 4:16)
I have to be honest, I am frightened by the thought that I might be an instrument by which God saves others, without actually being saved myself. How tragic would that be? How do I make sure that I don’t find my assurance of salvation in my call to ministry, but simply in the gospel of Jesus? I preach through passages of the Bible and try to apply them to myself, not just my hearers.
Some might contend that there are many pastors separate their self-watch and teaching-watch. They keep a close watch on their teaching, but not their life, and therefore fall headlong into sin and eventually ditch the faith.
I say they stopped watching their teaching first. They stopped preaching to themselves and thus stopped watching their life. Notice that Paul does not say, “persist in these,” as if keeping a close watch on yourself and the teaching could be divorced. He says, “persist in this,” because they are two components of one activity.
What does expository preaching have to do with this? When you closely tie your preaching style to the Scriptures you put yourself in a position for the word to work on you as you do your work in the word. This will open your eyes to areas of your life – not just your congregation – that need to change, and will strengthen you in fighting the good fight of faith.

Why wouldn’t you commit to expository preaching?

The question remains: what do you, the preacher, gain by preaching topically or textually? I can think of some practical benefits: less time consumed by sermon prep, appealing to a broader audience, and being relieved of having to show why what you’re teaching is relevant.
But the ways your soul benefits from expository preaching far outweigh temporary conveniences.
It takes more work, but God will reward you with eternal rewards. So commit to expository preaching, not only because it honors God’s word, and not only because it feeds your flock nutritious meals for their soul, but because it feeds your soul, too.
(Image credit)

Monday, April 15, 2013

Don't Sell the Gospel!

John Piper more from this author »

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Peddlers are driven by greed for money and fear of pain. But let us preach Christ as the all-satisfying treasure and God-satisfying obedience.
Two things show if someone is selling the Gospel, and two things should be preached in order to avoid it: Only in Christ is there satisfaction and only in Christ is there justification.

What Are The Signs Of A Gospel-Peddler?

  1. Craves earthly pleasure
  2. Dreads earthly pain

What Does A Gospel-Peddler Preach?

  1. Human prosperity is the gift of salvation. This appeals to the desire for earthly pleasure and replaces God’s worth with money.
  2. Human obedience is the price of justification. This appeals to the desire for earthly achievement and replaces God’s grace with morality.

Paul Did Not Peddle The Gospel.

Paul renounced the pursuit of money as the goal of ministry and so received fewer physical pleasures. And he renounced the pursuit of morality as the way to be justified and so received more physical persecution.
He preached Christ and let the chips fall where they would, whether he received money or beatings.
We, too, should not be in the ministry in order to make money or avoid trouble. Regardless of the consequence, let us preach Jesus as the only satisfying treasure and the only sufficient obedience.

What Should We Preach?

1. All the money in the world cannot replace Jesus as our treasure.
Remember Lot’s Wife.
vs. 31-32: On that day, let the one who is on the housetop, with his goods in the house, not come down to take them away, and likewise let the one who is in the field not turn back. Remember Lot's wife.
Do not try to hold onto this world when there is a choice between Christ and things.
Remember the Rich Young Ruler.
Luke 18:18-23
v. 22: When Jesus heard this, he said to him, “One thing you still lack. Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.”
Jesus tells him he lacks one thing and then tells him to do three things: sell, give and follow.
The one thing he lacks is Christ himself. Christ is all he should hold onto. And when he takes hold of the one thing he lacks, the three things he must do will follow. When he opens his hand to grab hold of Jesus, his earthly riches will fall out of his clutches and land on the poor. Then he will be a follower of Christ.
2. All the obedience in the world cannot replace Jesus as our righteousness.
Remember the Obedient Servant.
Luke 17:7-10
v. 10: So you also, when you have done all that you were commanded, say, "We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty.’”
When we have done everything we are supposed to, we should still acknowledge that it won’t suffice. We are still unworthy.
Remember the Obedient Pharisee.
Luke 18:9-14
v. 11: The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: "God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers or even like this tax collector."
The Pharisee acknowledges that his obedience is from God. But it still doesn’t justify him. No amount of obedience in us, then—even God-worked obedience—is sufficient to save us.
We need Jesus above all for satisfaction and justification.
Our own money, even if it filled the earth, would not satisfy us. Our own obedience, even if it were perfect and God-given, would not justify us. Therefore we have every motivation to say with Paul, “We are not peddlers of God’s Word.”
Peddlers are driven by greed for money and fear of pain. But let us preach Christ as the all-satisfying treasure and God-satisfying obedience.

John Piper
John Piper is the Pastor for Preaching at Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, Minnesota. He grew up in Greenville, South Carolina, and studied at Wheaton College, where he first sensed God's call to enter the ministry. He went on to earn degrees from Fuller Theological Seminary and the University of Munich. For six years he taught Biblical Studies at Bethel College in St. Paul, Minnesota, and in 1980 accepted the call to serve as pastor at Bethlehem. John is the author of more than 30 books, and more than 25 years of his preaching and teaching is available free at John and his wife, Noel, have four sons, one daughter, and an increasing number of grandchildren.

Tuesday, April 09, 2013

Three Possibilities Preaching the Psalms

Peter Mead more from this author »

Date Published:

Instead of simply quoting a Psalm once in a while, when's the last time it was the featured text in your message?
As I am reading through the Bible I am currently in the Psalms — what a great book! Sadly, for some, Psalms seems to be preached only as filler material in the summer holidays. There is so much potential for preaching in the book of Psalms. Let me offer three possibilities opened up by preaching from this book:

1. You Can Introduce New Treasure To People. 

People tend to be familiar with some Psalms. Probably 23. Perhaps 24, 1, 110, 121, 127, 51, 8, 73, 37, 27. But what about Psalm 36? Or 33? There is a whole host of Psalms that tend to get ignored in the annual audition for three filler sermons. And don’t just stick to the filler sermon approach. Why not preach Psalm 34 at the start of a series on 1Peter? It certainly was in the mind of the apostle as he wrote his epistle. Why not preach Psalm 118 in connection with Easter? It might add a new set of thoughts to the Easter considerations, since Jesus would very likely have sung that with his disciples at the Last Supper.

2. You Can Connect With A Different Group Of People. 

It may be a stereotype, but some have suggested that engineers enjoy epistles. They like the truth statements, logical flow, direct discourse. So if that is the case, who might appreciate the Psalms? Artists? Sure, and there are more of them than we tend to realize in every congregation. How about the suffering? Certainly. Psalms connects with different people at different times in the complexities of each personal biography.

3. You Can Offer A More Vulnerable Sermon.  

When David wrestles with spiritual realities, why not be more open that we do too? Personal sin struggles, doubting God’s goodness, tendency to trust in ourselves, feelings of extreme fatigue, etc. We don’t preach to preach ourselves, but we ourselves do preach. The Psalms open up the possibility of greater vulnerability in the preacher and hopefully stir vulnerability in the congregation. The Psalm writers didn’t treat God as delicate or fragile; they blasted their prayers at Him. Perhaps we can stir greater prayer in churches that tend to pray religiously, and Psalms would be a worthwhile workshop for that kind of goal.

Peter Mead
Peter Mead is involved in church leadership at an independent Bible church in the UK. He serves as director of Cor Deo—an innovative mentored ministry training program—and has a wider ministry preaching and training preachers. He also blogs often at

Saturday, April 06, 2013

Looking back—Between Two Worlds: An Interview with John R. W. Stott

Stott: I believe that to preach or to expound the scripture is to open up the inspired text with such faithfulness and sensitivity that God’s voice is heard and His people obey Him. I gave that definition at the Congress on Biblical Exposition and I stand by it, but let me expand a moment.

My definition deliberately includes several implications concerning the scripture. First, it is a uniquely inspired text. Second, the scripture must be opened up. It comes to us partially closed, with problems which must be opened up.

Beyond this, we must expound it with faithfulness and sensitivity. Faithfulness relates to the scripture itself. Sensitivity relates to the modern world. The preacher must give careful attention to both.

Read it all.