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The Role of Preaching In Church Planting

Stephen F. Olford PreachingThere various viewpoints on the best church planting model. Some launch fast and large to attract the masses. Others launch slowly and intentionally with more of a one-on-one disciple-making mentality. There are probably cautions with any approach to planting, and one of the cautions I would raise is simply don’t neglect the power of preaching, even in a brand new church plant.

When we began the work of planting Grace Hills, I was reading everything I could and consulting every church planting leader I could reach about the best strategies for beginning a new church from scratch. I learned plenty about starting small groups, structuring our new church’s systems for leadership and communication, and gathering a launch team to carry out the ministry and mission of the church. What I didn’t hear much about was the role of preaching.

There is an eternal principle to be remembered when planting a new church: “Since God in his wisdom saw to it that the world would never know him through human wisdom, he has used our foolish preaching to save those who believe.” 1 Corinthians 1:21 NLT

The word preaching is literally the telling of the good news, and doesn’t necessarily refer to proclaiming the gospel from a pulpit by someone in full-time vocational ministry. This kind of preaching happens anytime anyone shares the gospel with someone else. But the word preaching has always been identified in church history as also referring to the proclamation by a herald of the gospel. And the proclamation of the gospel is something God blesses. Preaching is a practice that changes the lives of hearers.

As a church planter plans his initial timeline, calendar, and launch strategy, it’s important to consider where proclamation fits into the picture. Contrary to some conventional wisdom, I would argue that in many cases, public preaching needs to happen early on in the life of a new church. My rationale?

  • Public preaching is a practice God has promised to bless and has rewarded with changed lives for two thousand years.
  • Public preaching isn’t necessarily the most important means of casting a vision (via leaders in conversation works even better), it is still huge for setting the direction of the body.
  • Public preaching brings the body together around a unified theme from Scripture.
  • Public preaching counsels, consoles, and encourages the masses.
  • Public preaching allows an expressive outlet for the gifted communicator.
  • Public preaching provides a special time for response, whether that looks like a traditional altar call or not.
  • Public preaching gives an opportunity for a passionate leader to motivate people and rally them to the cause of Christ.
  • Public preaching provides an atmosphere into which followers of Jesus can bring people who are far from God into the hearing of God’s truth.

Don’t misunderstand. We still want to establish that “bringing people to the preacher” is not evangelism, but it can be part of evangelism. We want to equip disciples to make disciples, for sure. But bringing people into the point of community to hear a public proclamation of God’s truth is at least one prong in our discipleship approach that shouldn’t be entirely neglected.

Does this mean that there should be a pulpit up front with people seated in rows facing the Pastor? Not necessarily. In fact, that isn’t the picture of preaching we see in Jesus’ life. He taught from boats and sitting on grassy knolls. The apostles preached standing in the colonnades of the Temple. Paul visited the synagogues and engaged the crowd during times of public conversation.

Preaching will probably look different in the early life of a new church, but don’t neglect it. Don’t underestimate its intrinsic power for drawing people into a relationship with the Creator.

8 Ways to Hook Your Congregation Into Your Message

HookThe biblical text should be the grand centerpiece of every sermon. But we often take what should be the centerpiece, and move it to the front of what we have to say. In most cases, reading the text should come first in importance, but not first in the order of a message. Whether you’re looking back at Plato or Jesus, virtually every culture has had great communicators who realized the power of attention-grabbing hooks.

1. Start with a deep, human need instead of jumping right into the exegesis and historical-grammatical analysis of the text. When you move from the need to the text, people have the context of its meaning for their lives.

2. Launch with a relevant story. We remember stories that are vibrant, funny, and powerful. And stories connect my heart to the text before my head grabs hold of it.

3. Tell a joke. That is, if you’re funny. I know a fellow Pastor who served a very discouraged congregation, but after years of opening with humor, they experience joy together every week.

4. Use an object lesson. You may not be able to match Ed Young’s capability to drive a tank on stage to illustrate spiritual warfare, but you can hand out puzzle pieces to represent how we all “fit” in God’s family or hold up your shoes as an illustration of an essential need many people live without.

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5. Begin with someone’s testimony. This is also great for the middle of the message, but having someone address your topic from their life’s experience shows the congregation that there are others who struggle and others who overcome. Your words have increased credibility when someone “normal” has already proven the practical possibility of achieving what you’re about to preach.

6. Share the results of some word-on-the-street interviews. You can find these clips, or film them yourself as a chance to connect with your community. If you’re going to preach an apologetic message, interview people about their religious viewpoints.

7. Show a related video clip. Some great storytellers and artists have invested their talent into framing concepts in motion pictures. Take advantage of their work for the purpose of setting up your message in an artistic way.

8. Talk to the crowd. This, of course, depends on your setting, but with text messaging and Twitter, we can talk with our audience in real time as never before, fielding questions and allowing the crowd to speak to itself as we teach.

Our options for opening a message are almost limitless, but what we don’t have to do is jump right into the text. It’s still the most important thing we will share all day, but it doesn’t have to come first.

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Go, Disturb Your City

Disturb Your CityTwo thousand years ago, the good news of Jesus Christ had a tendency to upset entire social structures, flipping society upside down and leveling the playing field so that people from any position in life could have a restored relationship with God because of what Jesus Christ accomplished by His death on the cross. Throughout the New Testament, we read repeatedly of cities that were “disturbed” by the presence of the gospel (Acts 17:6).

This coming Sunday, I’m going to begin challenging those who are gathering as Grace Hills Church to disturb Bentonville, Rogers, and northwest Arkansas. That means we’re going to get intentional about infiltrating the culture around us, serving the city, loving the city, and changing the face of the city by the power of the life-changing message of Jesus Christ.

I’ll post the notes later, but I simply wanted to ask you – have you disturbed your city?


By the way, have you "liked" Grace Hills Church on Facebook yet?


Every Pastor Should Read ‘Note to Self’

Note to Self by Joe Thorn“Preaching it” is easier than living it. This creates significant problems when our speaking talent outweighs our personal character. Therefore, it is imperative that we, as shepherds, shepherd ourselves – that we hear the Word, do the Word, and preach to ourselves first. That’s why I love Joe Thorn’s book Note to Self: The Discipline of Preaching to Yourself (Re: Lit Books).

We often buy books to help us prepare sermons. You should buy this book to help prepare yourself. The book is divided into three sections, all revolving around the gospel. The first section leads our hearts to assume a posture of praise. The second teaches us how the gospel impacts our relationships with other people. The third reminds us of the impact the gospel should have on self. Here’s a line we need to hear concerning our wives…

You should seek to be the brightest representation of Jesus she sees, as you represent Christ as Savior and servant to her. That would look like seeking her out when you get home from work, instead of seeking solace for yourself. It means affirming her calling and gifts, listening to her, speaking words of encouragement to her, and at all times working for her good. Jesus loves you this way, and in like manner you are called to love your wife.

The gospel is not simply a salvation message intended for people who are lost and apart from Christ. The gospel is the central core of all that we are in Christ and all that we do for Christ. Believers need to be fed from the message of the gospel, and this book drives it home in the hearts of those of us who are most at risk for taking the gospel for granted – preachers.

Grab A Copy

Easter Means Healing Now, Hope Forever

Let me focus in for a moment on Simon Peter, one of the key disciples surrounding Jesus. You may know the story by heart in which Peter asserted that He would never dessert the Lord Jesus, to which Jesus replied, “Before the cock crows, you will have denied me three times.” Sure enough, Peter forsook his allegiance to the Lord Jesus and denied Him, even cursing, to distance Himself from the cross.

For Peter, the story didn’t end there. There was a time of restoration and healing. Two elements would dominate Peter’s life for the rest of his existence. First, healing now. Second, hope forever!

Let’s listen to the heart of one man who was radically changed by the first Easter… one man who would never be the same again…

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