Saturday, January 25, 2014

Mark Batterson: How to Eliminate Boring Sermons

Mark Batterson more from this author »

Date Published:

A hint: It has nothing to do with delivery or style. It has everything to do with the most important kind of content.
There is a world of difference between preaching a sermon and living a sermon. No amount of study can compensate for deficiencies in your life. You can “study it” but if you aren’t “living it” it’ll ring hollow. 
The opposite is true as well. Jesus’ teaching was authoritative because it was backed up by his life. You can’t back up your sermons with a seminary degree. You’ve got to back it up with your life. My advice? Don’t just get a sermon. Get a life. Then you’ll get a sermon!
Let me be blunt: if your life is boring your sermons will be, too.
If you have no life outside of church—no hobbies, no friends, no interests, no goals—your illustrations will feel canned, your applications will feel theoretical instead of practical, and your sermons will be lifeless instead of life-giving.
The greatest sermons are not fashioned in the study. They are fleshed out in the laboratory of everyday life. Now please don’t misinterpret what I’m saying.  You need to study to show yourself approved and rightly divide the word. So keep studying! In fact, study more. But you can’t just study the word. You need to live it. The most powerful sermons are well-studied and well-lived.
At the end of the day, God won’t say, “Well studied, good and faithful servant.” He won’t say, “Well thought” or “Well said” either. There is only one commendation: “Well done.”
Now let’s be brutally honest: Most Christians are educated way beyond the level of their obedience already! We don’t need to know more, we need to do more. That’s why I think sermons should focus on application more than interpretation. Theological doesn’t mean theoretical. In fact, as you get a life, your messages will be less theoretical and more experiential. You won’t just preach your sermons. You’ll incarnate them! 

Mark Batterson
Mark Batterson serves as lead pastor of National Community Church in Washington, DC. One church with multiple locations, the vision of NCC is to meet in movie theaters at metro stops throughout the DC area. NCC also owns and operates the largest coffeehouse on Capitol Hill. Focused on reaching emerging generations, 73% of NCCers are single twenty-somethings. And 70% of NCCers were unchurched or dechurched before attending. Mark is the author of In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day and blogs @ He lives on Capitol Hill with his wife, Lora, and their three children.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Miles McPherson: The "End" of Your Preaching
Miles McPherson: The "End" of Your Preaching
A consultant once asked our leadership team what the desired “end” of each Sunday service should be. I shouted, “Evangelism.” She said, “Wrong!”
I am always asked why I park my car in backward, and the answer is simple. I know that at some point I will be leaving, so I begin with the “end” in mind.

What’s the desired “end” of your 

A consultant once asked our leadership team what the desired “end” of each Sunday service should be.

I shouted, “Evangelism.”

She said, “Wrong!”

Another person said, “Teaching.”

She said, “Wrong!”

Worship? Fellowship? Ministry? Service?

“Wrong! Wrong! Wrong! Wrong!”

She paused and said, “To bring people into an ‘experience’ with God.”

People do not need information as much as an “experience” with a Person. The gospel is not only a list of propositional truths, but a Person, and in the end, preaching must lead to an “experience” with that Person.

Therefore, let me share with you a simple three-step process that might help your preaching achieve that “end.” 

First, you must pray that you “experience” God in your sermon preparation.

While writing a novel, I was once told that authors write nonfiction, but fictional characters come alive and write their own story.

If you do not have a powerful God-experience in your sermon preparation, it is likely that your congregation won’t experience Him in your sermon delivery.

And my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God. (1 Cor. 2:4-5)

We must wait while we prepare, pray while we study, listen while we write and cry out for His message.

Just as fictional characters move the pen as you write, God must move your heart as you prepare.


Saturday, January 11, 2014

Don't Wait Until You Die to Examine Your Preaching

R. Larry Moyer more from this author »

EvanTell, Inc.

Date Published: 1/11/2014

R. Larry Moyer has five questions we should ask ourselves right now about our preaching.
Death gives perspective to life. Preachers know that. Chances are you have preached that from your pulpit. But here is another one of those areas where it is important to use a mirror not simply a microphone. That is, having told others how to live, it is important that we have lived that way ourselves. Therefore I suggest there are six questions every pastor ought to ask himself now.
These six questions cannot be asked too soon, but tragically they can be asked too late. I originally thought to title this "Five Questions Every Pastor Ought to Ask Himself Before He Dies," but that can clearly be the point where it is tragically too late, at a time of too many missed opportunities to minister to others. The time to ask them of ourselves is now, not later.

Are you an example or simply an exhorter with your people in evangelism?
That question does not merely come from the heart of an evangelist. More importantly it comes from the heart of God. Paul the apostle said to his son in the faith, Timothy, a pastor teacher, “Do the work of an evangelist” (2 Tim. 4:5). Peter likewise says, be “examples to the flock” (1 Peter 5:3). Christians who have surrendered their lives to be His disciples should be “fishers of men” (Matt. 4:19). We ought to be examples for them to follow. 
The urgency for us to ask ourselves that question rises as you look at statistics. In one survey of an evangelical denomination, 96 percent of the church leadership said they believed their churches would grow faster if they were involved in evangelism themselves. But 89 percent of the same leadership said they did not give any time on a weekly basis to evangelizing the lost. The time to make a change is now. Otherwise we leave behind us people who did what we did—talked about the lost not to them. The problem is obvious. When we talk about the lost the lost stay lost. When we talk to the lost, it’s then that many meet the Savior. 
Have you purposed before God that you will finish well?
The reason is simple and sober. Most of the people who fell in the Bible fell in the last half of their lives, not in the first half. David, Samson, Solomon, just to mention a few. The beginning of their lives was a much better example than the end. It was toward the end when they got tripped up. In traveling as an evangelist and working with hundreds of church leaders every year, I have noticed the same. 
Those who began well don’t always finish well. If you do not purpose that before God now, chances are Satan will slip up on your blind side, and the end of your life will be more of a disappointment to others than a testimony. But purposing that before God may allow you to end as Paul did, saying “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (2 Tim. 4:7).

If you died today, would your spouse know where to find everything he or she needs to settle your estate?
Dr. Charles Ryrie shook me in seminary. Not physically, but emotionally and spiritually. I had already come to respect him highly. I guess that is what made his admonition so impactful. He said something you don’t always hear said to pastors and future church leaders. As we started class one day he asked, “If you died today, would your wife know what to do? Would she know where all the papers are and how to settle all the details of your will and estate? If you don’t, get that all in place tonight or don’t tell her that you love her!” 
It was the words, “Don’t tell her that you love her” that shook me. After all, doesn’t 1 John 3:18 say, “My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth“? At that point I was not married, but as soon as I got married I started putting everything my wife would need in one organized file with everything noted carefully. She may need the help of a financial advisor, but she knows where everything is that she needs to talk through with him. I got what Dr. Ryrie was saying—If I loved her as I do, I needed to relieve the pressure not add to it in the event of my unexpected death. Whoever handles the financial matters, the other spouse needs to know what to do with the details of the estate.
When you depart, will the work you’ve led fold or flourish?
Unfortunately many pastors lead churches that will most likely die shortly after they do. The reason is, as the church grew it became built around a man, not a mission. If the church is built around a mission the work continues, grows and even flourishes long after his departure. I know of one pastor who was begged by concerned people at the church to answer that question, “What will happen when God is through with you?” 
His answer was, “God will take care of that.” The problem? It ignores Paul’s admonition in II Timothy 2:2. There Paul said, “And the things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit them to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.” Paul’s ministry flourished without him because he had those prepared to step in his place. If as a pastor your work has been built around a mission, it will be seen in the way the work flourishes, not in the memorial service that is held for it as it folds.
What do you want people to carve on your tombstone?
By that I mean, what do you want your legacy to be? The question is not original to me. It’s one my mentor, Dr. Haddon Robinson, proposed to a group of us many years ago. He then said, “Decide now and then live your life backwards from there.” I pondered that for months and decided I wanted it to be “Here lies a man of grace who loved sinners.” 
That has affected everything I do. What will yours be? If we take the admonition of Psalm 90:12 seriously—to number our days—that is a most appropriate question to ask. I am convinced Paul the apostle did just that.  For that reason he could say, “I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me”  (Philippians 3:12). Whatever he decided he wanted as his epitaph, he pressed on so that he could be everything God wanted him to be according to his divine calling in Christ. 
There are undoubtedly more questions you might want to ask yourself as a pastor before you die. But I assure you these five will help you finish your life experiencing reward, not regret. After all, doesn’t Paul’s admonition in I Corinthians 4:2 apply to these areas—moreover isn't it required in stewards that one be found faithful? What is even more exciting is the impact of their lives and ministries continue. There will be no regrets, neither on the behalf of the people to whom they ministered and the ones who led them in ministry. 

R. Larry Moyer
Dr. R. Larry Moyer is a veteran evangelist and a frequent speaker in evangelistic outreaches, training seminars, churches and universities around the world. Born with an inherited speech defect, Larry vowed to God as a teenager that if He would allow him to gain control of his speech he would always use his voice to declare the gospel. In 1973, Larry founded EvanTell, where he now serves as President and CEO. He has written several books on evangelism and frequently contributes articles to ministry publications.

Tuesday, January 07, 2014

Have you thought about how you are going to grow as a preacher this year? What do you need work on improving? What bad habits do you need to not do so much?
And what are you going to do to make those improvements happen?

John Broadus, a 19th century homiletics professor and seminary president, is considered to be the father of modern day expository preaching. In his book, On the Preparation and Delivery of Sermons, Broadus offers five ways to improve as a preacher (p. xv). Despite who long ago he wrote, each of these avenues is still highly effective today. He says, “Besides treatises on preaching, the chief sources of instruction in homiletics are as follows:”

1. “The preaching that we hear, when heard with fraternal sympathy and prayerful desire for spiritual benefit, and yet with critical attention.”

Let’s break that down.

Fraternal sympathy means to listen to people whose church you would want to attend if you lived in that area. Listen to people who you identify with in philosophy of ministry and theology. This doesn’t only go for well-known pastors. Listen to your friends in ministry, too.

Prayerful desire for spiritual benefit means you don’t only listen for the sake of improving your preaching, but also for the sake of your soul. Do you pray before you listen to a sermon on you iPhone? (I can’t say that I often do.) If you don’t spiritually benefit from the pastors you listen to, it’s not likely your people will spiritually benefit from what you apply from then in your own pulpit.

With critical attention means you listen for the pastor’s strengths and weaknesses, and consider what you should apply – and not apply – from his homiletical habits. I’ve tried my hand at this in my posts on how to preach like well-known pastors without sounding like them.

2. “Published sermons, the value of which is readily acknowledged.”

Reading sermons is a good compliment to listening to sermons, since it allows you to linger over the content of the sermon. There is a difference, however, between reading sermons and reading books that were originally sermons. When a book is published from a series of sermons, it is edited to be suitable to the reading public. These books will not help you grow in your preaching as much sermons published straight from the sermon manuscript.

3. “Biographies of preachers, which to one having a general knowledge of homiletics, are often surpassingly instructive.”

The common ground we pastors share with many of the impactful Christians of the past enables us to glean much from their biographies. They remind us that the whole life you live affects the flavor of your preaching, not merely the ingredient of your homiletical skill.

4. “The criticism of instructors or judicious hearers upon our own preaching.”

The key here is “instructors or judicious hearers.” That means don’t take to heart the daggers of complainers or those who only offer destructive criticism. Also, don’t ask for feedback from people from whom you expect only positive remarks. “Faithful are the wounds of a friend” (Prov. 27:6).
Ask an elder, another pastor, or someone else who knows good preaching to listen closely to a sermon, take some notes, and share their thoughts over hot coffee or a cold beer.

At the church where I serve, the pastors gather every Wednesday to provide feedback on the how the Sunday morning sermon went, and to preview the next Sunday’s sermon. Perhaps you could start something like that at your church.

(If you don’t have anyone nearby who you think can offer you solid homiletical feedback, maybe sermon coaching is something you would benefit from.)

5. “Careful observation of our faults, as developed in actual practice, with resolute and patient effort to correct them.”

Although every preacher has blind spots, which is why we need feedback on our sermons, at the end of the day we are our own best (and worst) critic. I can usually list several things I wish I had done better after any sermon I preach. We need to be patient with ourselves, knowing that developing takes time. But we should not let that be an excuse not to persist toward improvement every week.

Pick two or three

Trying out all five of these at the same time would be a bit overwhelming. It would probably take up too much time from other priorities (like preparing actual sermons). Which two or three do you think would help you the most? Give them a try. And may 2014 be a year where “all may see your progress” (1 Tim. 4:15).

(Image credit)

Thursday, January 02, 2014

3 Things People Hate to Tell You About Your Preaching

R. Larry Moyer more from this author »

EvanTell, Inc.

Not everyone will tell you how they feel about your preaching. Larry Moyer offers three popular frustrations about preaching that people often keep to themselves.
After the dinner, the speaker and master of ceremonies were standing in the lobby greeting the people who had attended. A six-year-old boy ran up to the speaker and said, “Your speech stunk.” Embarrassed, the master of ceremonies asked the boy to run along. But the boy ran right up to the speaker again and said, “We’ve heard all your jokes before; they’re not even funny.”
Embarrassed, the master of ceremonies again asked the boy to run along. But he ran right up to the speaker again and said, “I bet you they never invite you back.” Just then the boy’s mother, who was standing a short distance away, saw what was happening. She ran up to the speaker and quickly said, “Please forgive my son. I have no idea what he said to you. But he is only six years old, and he is just at the age where he repeats what everyone else says.”
Not everyone will tell you how they feel about your preaching, even though it could be most helpful if they did. However, they often express how they feel to their mates or closest friends. Undoubtedly, they’d have several good things to say, but they might also express a few frustrations. Listen and learn from those frustrations, and you’ll be a better preacher.

“You Talk Too Long.”

They are the kind of couple any pastor would crave to have in his church. An extremely godly couple, they volunteer throughout the church, serve on church committees and go on short-term mission trips. As we interacted across the table, she said to me, “I love our pastor. His messages help me. I just wish he didn’t talk so long. I just can’t handle fifty-minute messages.”
Few people can. A person’s attention span is normally thirty minutes. The amount one retains after thirty minutes is vastly different than the amount retained before thirty minutes. It doesn’t matter how good a communicator is; go beyond thirty minutes and people start looking at their watches, thinking about their calendar for the next week, or reflecting on the events of last week. 
Besides, how would you prefer to have people leave? Saying, “I wish he would have spoken longer” or saying, “I wish he would have stopped sooner.” If they wished you had spoken longer, they will probably come back to hear you again. That’s exactly what you want them to do—come back again and again and again. Thirty-minute messages will ensure this a lot more than fifty-minute messages will. I often remind preachers that God has called them to preach on eternity; he has not called them to preach for eternity.

“You Talk Too Much About Yourself.”

One person said of a noted speaker, “I enjoy listening to him, but too many of his stories are about himself, his wife and his children. Eventually, I get tired of hearing about them.”
A certain amount of information about your family can be helpful, especially when you show struggles you’ve had as a family. Audiences need to know that your family isn’t perfect either. Transparency helps, but too much of it comes across as self-centered. Instead of asking me to come into your world, it’s important you step into mine. 
When you purposefully and anonymously share conversations about people who don’t live behind the same walls you do, two things strike me: one is that you are “other-centered,” not self-centered. A second is that you enjoy people, even those who are not part of your immediate family. You come across as a speaker who cares. So if I want to ask you a question about a struggle I’m going through, you appear to have the interest and time to talk. You’ve struck me as an “other” centered person.

“Your Messages Are Too Dry.”

A pastor called a woman who had not been to church for some time and asked, “Where have you been?” She replied, “Well, you know how it is. The kids have been sick, and then it’s just rained, rained, rained, rained.” He said to her, “Why don’t you come to church? It’s always dry there.” She said, “Yes, in fact that is another reason I have not been coming. It’s just so dry there.”
When people come to church, they need to be refreshed. The last week has been difficult. They want to know how to get through the next week. Dry messages don’t help them; ones that invigorate them do. Three things help to liven up a message:
Illustrations. People love stories. True-to-life ones that happen on the sidewalk, in the café, in the workplace and in the home capture my attention. Stories taken from newspapers, magazines, TV shows and the movie theatre enliven me and get my attention. I’m not talking about stories for stories’ sake, but stories for the sake of biblical illustration. Illustrate what you’re speaking on from the Scripture with something so real, I feel like I was there and saw it taking place. This is why speakers who are interesting to listen to don’t just study the Bible; they also glance at the newspaper.
Humor. Some of the illustrations need to contain humor. I travel across the country, and people constantly tell me about the speakers they enjoy. When I delve into why they enjoy them, they often remark, “He has a great sense of humor. He makes me laugh.” People want to laugh and need something to laugh about. This doesn’t mean you need to be a stand-up comic; God has called you to be a communicator, not a clown. 
But part of effective communication is the use of humor. Because people enjoy humor so much, it’s an essential part of growing churches by conversion. Thom Rainer, in his book Surprising Insights from the Unchurched and Proven Ways to Reach Them, comments, “‘I tell you,’ an opinionated pastor told us, ‘You find a church that’s reaching people, you’ll find a church that laughs together.’”
Passion. If what you are saying doesn’t excite you, it is not apt to excite me. It’s more apt to put me to sleep. By the same token, I’ve never heard of a sermon given out of excitement that people called “dry.” Again, don’t misunderstand: people are not expecting you to be a “life of the party” person. But they must know that what you’re speaking about has grabbed hold of you, and you are passionate that it needs to grab hold of them. You are so passionate about what you’re saying, I get the idea you can’t wait to say it.
Now put yourself in the shoes of those who listen to you every Sunday. Consider again these three items: “You talk too long. You talk too much about yourself. Your messages are too dry.” If these characterize you, those who respect you may not want to share these three things for fear of hurting your feelings. Work on changing these three things, and you will see the results firsthand. Those who come will be eager to come back. You might even hear them say, “I don’t like it when we’re gone on vacation. I miss hearing you.”

R. Larry Moyer
Dr. R. Larry Moyer is a veteran evangelist and a frequent speaker in evangelistic outreaches, training seminars, churches and universities around the world. Born with an inherited speech defect, Larry vowed to God as a teenager that if He would allow him to gain control of his speech he would always use his voice to declare the gospel. In 1973, Larry founded EvanTell, where he now serves as President and CEO. He has written several books on evangelism and frequently contributes articles to ministry publications.