Posts Tagged ‘preaching’

This week was the fourth week in our advent series, Let Heaven and Nature Sing and in it we explored the story of the classic hymn We Three Kings and the story of the coming of the Magi from Matthew 2.

So I’ve been having a problem recently. I’ve been hearing church leaders making comments that prove, to me at least, that they do not truly believe the teachings of Scripture. I find that not just frustrating but baffling. I often make the comment (I think I’ve even made it here) that if I didn’t believe the teachings of Scripture, I wouldn’t be a preacher. I’d go into the world of motivational speaking, because the paychecks are a lot larger. Lately, though I have been having struggles with that line of thinking, and not for the reasons you might think.

I think the underlying tone on my comment is that there is something wrong with motivational speaking. In reading my comments, it almost sounds like I’m some kind of martyr, sacrificing the wealth of motivational speaking for a higher call. I hate that. For the record, I love motivational speakers. I watch them. I listen to them. I study them and I want to communicate the way they do. They help and encourage a lot of people, which is pretty much exactly what I want to do.

Then another thought occurred to me. I happen to know more than a few motivational speakers share my faith, they just get to reach a much larger audience, an audience that is by-and-large outside the church. How much different is that that what we are commanded to do as Christians. You know taking the message of Christ to the ends of the earth. Making the most of every opportunity. Using WHATEVER gifts you have received to serve others. Those are all things God told us to do. What if that is precisely what we’re called to do?

Think about it. The principles of Christ are beyond a doubt the most beneficial teachings that could be taught. I mean we serve the most motivational person who has ever lived. People have been sacrificing their very lives to His cause for millennia and finding truth and meaning beyond anything this world has to offer. What would be so wrong with taking that to a wider audience?

Now I can almost hear the resistance. Well you’ll sugar coat it and weaken it. What if we don’t? Well some people won’t receive it. How is that different from now? Some people won’t bring you in because they know you’re a Christian. Yes, but some people will. What if we were to just take those principles to the world and let the chips fall where they may? Maybe instead of thinking I would be a motivational speaker if I didn’t believe the Scriptures, I should be thinking, I should be a motivational speaker because I believe the Scriptures, specifically, because I believe the Gospel is still the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes.

It’s something to ponder.

P.S. No I am not thinking of leaving pastoral ministry or my itinerant ministry, just examining my heart and contemplating something different.

A project that has been on my mind for years, and it’s time. I call it The Imaginative Church. The idea is pretty simple. I want to see the church embrace their imagination to find new ways to communicate the unchanging truth of God’s Word. I already have worked up a lot of this material in various forms, but I am finally going to curate it into a compendium of (hopefully) useful information. Stay tuned, and in the mean time, which cover do you like better?


or B.

Share your vote in the comments.

Nearly every week I am blessed with an awesome opportunity to be creative. There are a lot of other people who get what I get to do every week too, and quite a few of them don’t see what they do as creative. I respectfully submit those people are wrong. I’ve seen people bring such amazing perspective to their work week in and week out and yet they don’t believe they are creative. What is this activity? Preaching the Word of God.

Maybe it’s because they have a skewed perspective of what creativity is. A lot of people can see creativity only in the realm of art, yet preaching and especially preparing to preach is an art. Others would shy away from calling our work creative because they fear that people will think the are straying from the unchanging Word of God if they consider their work creative. Nothing could be further from the truth. Some also don’t want to say they’re creative for fear that their work will be seen as frivolous and some worry that if they see their work as creative, they will attract attention away from the Creator. I think this perspective is skewed as well.

Here’s how it happens for me. I pray seeking God for the idea, the text, etc. When I am led to something I study and I pray some more. God gives me all I need, and then I seek Him for the way to help the people He has given me to take the message He has given deep into their hearts. I don’t want to do this just so people are entertained. I desire life change and I think God does as well. I bring all the creativity (which God gave me) I can muster to the task at hand and through the Work of the Spirit, I try to bring my people the best message I can. I don’t mess with the message itself. God’s Word is perfect. I just do my best to bring the best presentation I can to what God has given. Preaching is the most creative thing I do all week. God and my congregation deserve no less.

God made you creative. Use it to His glory!

I did my new Christmas presentation yesterday at the Foundry in Wallingford, PA. There were a few technical difficulties but this is how it went. It was a great day. Thanks to Chris Pierdimenico for recording it. I’d love if you’d check it out and tell me what you think…

I was chatting with a friend the other day. She is about to preach her first message at church. While preaching is a new thing for her, she is a gifted teacher who has been teaching in the church for years. I have to admit I was taken aback a little when she asked me, “What is the difference between preaching and teaching?” I wasn’t taken aback because the question was weird. I was taken aback because after all these years of preaching and teaching, I really didn’t have an answer.

I always saw them as synonymous. My pastor is an awesome teacher and most of my favorite preachers are the ones from whom I learn a lot. The Bible seems to link them together. For example, in Ephesians 4, in the passage about the five fold gifts pastor and teacher seem to be linked. James also seems to link teaching with ministry leadership when he writes, “Not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly.” So to some degree maybe they are one in the same and yet there are some differences.

The first thing I thought of in my chat with my friend is that teaching seems to desire interaction. When I go to teach in a workshop, class or seminar, I don’t want to lecture for an hour. I want to ask questions and I want to get answers. While I still have an end point to get to, a truth to be shared, I want to help people arrive there through dialogue and discussion. In preaching it’s different. Preaching, at least to me, is a monologue. The questions are rhetorical, something to be thought through rather than discussed. I’ve prayed, I have a message, I have worked hard to make it clear and concise and it is to be delivered without interruption. It’s less about discussion and more about “Thus sayeth the Lord.” I’ve experienced times where someone has tried to turn a sermon into a discussion, into a conversation, and it fell apart quickly. So perhaps that is the difference.

But then I had another thought, and this one is admittedly flawed. Teaching feels like it is more about information, while preaching is about inspiration. Now again, I know this is flawed. Some of the best teaching inspires and some of the best preaching gives great information, but I have also sat under teaching that had very little information and preaching that had very little inspiration. Both were highly disappointing. At its core, for me at least, when I teach, I want you to learn something and when I preach, I want you to do something. If my teaching makes you go beyond learning and do something, great! If, in my preaching, you learn something new, also great!

Ultimately though up to this point in this post, I have taken a human approach to it. What I HOPE happens based on MY efforts. The reality is, that is a really small part of it. The largest part is what the Holy Spirit does in the hearts and minds of the congregation. It’s truly Him that inspires both the learning and the doing. My job is faithfulness, to pray and the really listen and then to deliver what I have been given. After that, it’s all up to Him and to God be the glory!

At the end of the day, we never know what is going to touch hearts and minds. We never know what word or phrase, or action or creation is going to resonate. Our best bet is to trust Him, listen, create and deliver, whatever the format.

It’s funny. When I’m preaching, it’s almost as if it’s me on display and somehow that feels wrong. What I’d like people to know is that in a sense, I’m just the worshipper facing in the wrong direction. The message and it’s preparation are my act of worship. I hope it touches heart, I hope it changes lives, etc. and often it feels like it doesn’t. As a matter of fact there have been many times where I’ve felt like turning around, facing in the same direction as everyone else and talking to the wall. When I feel this way, I know I’m out of order. I worship for an audience of One. It’s not my persuasive  words that changes hearts, it’s His Spirit. I offer my best to Him and He works on the receptive hearts. If the hearts are not responsive, the best I can do is pray for them and give my best to God.

It’s the same with all of our acts of worship. When I paint in a service, it’s really easy to let my inner critic take over and tell me it’s not good enough. That’s not my issue either. I’m called to give my best with what I have in the time I have. It’s an act of worship for an audience of the One who knows whether or not I’ve given my best. Whether the people like it is not my primary concern and its ability to touch hearts is not dependent on my ability or the beauty of my work. It’s dependent on the Spirit’s work on receptive hearts.

It’s the same with the music, and everything else we do in worship and life. It’s not about virtuoso talent, it’s about offering our best to an audience of One. The rest is up to Him.

Give God Your Best. Trust Him with the Rest

Kent Rice is a good friend of mine whom I am blessed to know. He’s the youth pastor at Hempfield Church of the Brethren in Lancaster County, PA. He’s also an actor,though he would probably balk at that characterization. For this message, he portrays an old Pennsylvania Dutchman named  Henry Schaeffer. He uses this character to give a beautiful interpretation of Romans 8:38 and 39. Check it out.

How could you use  your gift to tell abetter story?

Here Kent is as Paul.

This message is based on Jonah chapter 4. Jonah ran from God, got turned around by a storm and a giant fish, and then finally went and did what God told him to do. When Jonah did what God told him too do, he saw great success. The whole city repented. You’d think Jonah would be happy… Challenge: Imperfections Challenge: Imperfections

Sometimes our imperfections let His light shine through. After all the Apostle Paul wrote, “9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” 2 Corinthians 12:9,10 Maybe instead of fretting over our imperfections (not our sins, those need repentance) we should ask God to use them to His glory and do things in our lives that are so big everyone who looks at them know they are too good to have been done by someone as imperfect as you or me.