Two False Assumptions to Leave Behind When You Preach

Public Preaching
photo credit: pand0ra23

I realize that we pastors are going way beyond motivational speaking in our sermons. We are sharing the gospel and leading people to the cross. But we are still speakers and communicators nonetheless, and our effectiveness and influence depend on our understanding something about the nature of speaking.

Seth Godin, a marketing guru with much to teach the church, wrote about speaking and had this to say:

Speaking in public: two errors that lead to fear…

1. You believe that you are being actively judged

2. You believe that the subject of the talk is you

When you stand up to give a speech, there’s a temptation to believe that the audience is actually interested in you.

This just isn’t true. (Or if it is, it doesn’t benefit you to think that it is).

You are not being judged, the value of what you are bringing to the audience is being judged.

And he goes on to say:

The members of the audience are interested in themselves. The audience wants to know what they can use, what they can learn, or at the very least, how they can be entertained.

Source: Seth Godin

“Preaching is not about you, so stop focusing on being the star… focus on the power of the gospel.”


This is truth. Seth is wise. Obviously, we are called to do more than simply please an audience. We are heralds of truth. But understanding what people are expecting or searching for when they sit down to listen to us certainly helps us communicate truth in a way that taps into the audience’s interest.

I agree with Seth. Preaching isn’t about you, so stop focusing on being the star, the celebrity, the eloquent master communicator out to impress your hearers. Instead, focus on the power of the gospel content to change lives now and for eternity.

The next time you preach, just before speaking, pray something like this:

God, help me to glorify You, honor Your truth, and speak with the confidence that what I have to say matters. And help me to love these people enough to give them what I know they need – Your Word.

What I’m Teaching at Exponential West 2013

Exponential WestI just received final word about the sessions I’ll be teaching at Exponential West at Saddleback Church in a few weeks. It’s not too late to join me!


Session 1: Going Social to Plant Churches
Planting churches requires us to be relational, which means getting offline. But what if real relationships could be initiated and stimulated using social media? We’ll talk about how to take a new church from ground zero to a strong launch and beyond using Facebook, Twitter and other social media platforms.
Time: Tuesday 2:30-3:30pm
LocationModular Buildings//Room 308

Session 2: Leading a Church Plant On a Small Budget 
Possibly the No. 1 question new church planters ask is, How can I raise enough money to do this right? While money helps ministry get off the ground, it’s also possible to learn the art of church “hacking”. Join church planter Brandon Cox for discusson on how to pull together a movement on a minimal budget.
Time: Wednesday 8:45-9:45am
LocationModular Buildings//Room 310

Session 4: Leadership Structures for New Church’s First Year
Somewhere between the planter and spouse doing it all themselves and a fully robust staff is a healthy mix of staff and volunteers that works. We’ll talk through the kind of leadership structure that makes sense in a church that’s aggressively making disciples in its first year or so of ministry.
Time: Wednesday 4:30-5:30pm
LocationModular Buildings//Room 405-407

Session 5: Leadership Conversations hosted by New Thing
Avoiding “Flame Out”
Time: Thursday 8:45-9:45am

The Three Key Components of a Solid Sermon

Me. Preaching.There are certain elements that must be included in every single sermon that we ever preach. They are non-negotiable. To put it another way, every sermon you preach has three key components…

The God Component

The “God component” is what sets preaching apart from other kinds of public speaking. We are God’s spokespeople. We preach His word, not ours. And as we consider the role of God in the sermon, we have to ask some pretty pertinent questions:

  • Have I recognized that God is the ultimate authority on the meaning of His word?
  • Have I consulted with the Author of the word in prayer?
  • Have I trusted the results of my preaching to the Spirit who moves among his people?
  • Have I made Jesus the central character of the sermon?

The Communicator Component

The component has to do with me, the preacher. I need to ask certain important questions about my own role in the preaching experience:

  • Have I live and embodied the word in my life? That is to say, have I been the incarnation of the message I hope to convey on Sunday morning?
  • Can I honestly say I’ve spent adequate time in preparation, so that my mind, heart, and soul are all immersed in the text and it’s meaning?
  • Am I humbled by the weight of the responsibility of being God’s spokesperson to people whose lives and eternities hang in the balance?
  • Have I been the same person at home and in my private life and in my various relationships that I plan on being in the pulpit when I am teaching on Sunday?
  • Am I prayed up?
  • Am I fired up?


The Audience Component

The final component has to do with the people to whom I am preaching. My audience matters.

It sounds good, and makes a great soapbox issue to proclaim that preaching ought to be God-centered not man-centered. The fact is, Jesus himself would not be welcomed or accepted by some today in the world of preaching because he wouldn’t be considered scriptural enough. Jesus preached to the needs and the hearts of human beings with problems.

We have had plenty of arguments around the subject of whether or not we should preach to the felt needs of society. The problem with these arguments is often there is a failure to understand that felt needs are real needs that are felt. And Jesus spoke to those needs.

My audience matters so much to the heart of God, that He sent His only son Jesus to die on the cross for their redemption. I need to consider their needs if I hope to please the Author of the word. His intention for his message is that it convinces, converts, and changes the lives of its hearers.

I need to be asking questions about my audience as I am preparing the message:

  • Have I spent time with people, getting to know their hurts, habits, and hang-ups? Do I know what it is like to be human, to err, and to have messed up before a holy God?
  • Every text has not only a primary principle, but an implication for the everyday lives of human beings. Have I dug into the text deep enough, not only to discover what it says about God, but also it’s practical implications for the lives of people?
  • Have I prepared not only an explanation of the meaning of the text, but also at least one, if not several calls to action?
  • Am I willing and ready to ask people to change their lives entirely on the basis of what I am going to say? And will I do this with the authority that God has granted to me, and the humility that is calling should create in me?


Road Trip! Who’s With Us?

In 20 days or so, we’ll be pulling out of Laguna Hills, California in our Penske truck and heading to northwest Arkansas to start planting Grace Hills Church. I love road trips!! I especially love road trips when I meet interesting people along the way, and that’s why I’d love to see you along the way.

There are some amazing churches and church leaders scattered along this 1,560 mile journey and if you’re one of them, I would love to meet you, hear your story, and pray with you for your ministry. We won’t have long to spend at any one stop but if you are located close to our route, I’d love to have a great cup of gourmet truck stop coffee with you. We’re leaving July 5 and need to reach our new home early on July 8.

Check the map below and see if we can connect!

View Larger Map

So if you can connect, email me, hit me up on Twitter or Facebook, or use this old-fashioned contact form.

More Meetings to Come

I will also be planning a trip around the state of Arkansas during the week of July 11 – 15 to cast the vision of a church planting movement to Pastors and leaders, so I’d love to meet with my fellow Arkansans then. I’ll be in Florida in August and plenty of other places in the interim as well. I’d love to hear from you!

6 Ways to Abuse Your Freedom of Speech and 6 Ways to Respect It

I believe in free speech. I’m glad it’s the very first thing we added to the United States Constitution. I’m all for the freedom of the press, and I think blogging, social media, and even email (as a mass distribution weapon) are all great ways to exercise this freedom. These new technologies level the playing field and allow the huddled masses to become citizen journalists. This is all good.

The only problem with freedom is our tendency to abuse it. I manage communications and correspondence for a large organization, one that literally has contacts in every single nation in the world. Every single day, I review what is being said to and about our organization and its leadership across multiple platforms and channels, and having done this every day for quite some time now, I’ve reached a solid conclusion about the availability of communication tools today…

The faster, easier, and cheaper it becomes to communicate, the more readily we will abuse our freedom of speech, having felt empowered by tools we may not understand.

Let me give you some examples that I see every single day…

  • Spreading rumors through mass-distribution lists via email without checking sources by the mere click of a mouse.
  • Attacking someone’s tweet with another tweet by typing less than 140 characters and hitting the ‘tweet’ button.
  • Posting a picture without someone’s permission on a public Facebook profile or page.
  • Taking potshots at leaders on message boards when I have no expertise to substantiate my opinions.
  • Firing off an email response to confront a co-worker about a difference of opinion.
  • Writing a blog post exposing someone’s error and ranting about it without giving them a chance to explain.

This problem grew with the advent of email, and with the birth of blogging, some took it upon themselves to publicly police the world and their areas of interest. Often the very people being attacked didn’t have access to the tools to “blog back.” But now we do, and the problem hasn’t gotten any better.

This kind of quick-fire approach to spouting our opinions has created a culture of criticism. And while criticism ought to have its proper place, if we aren’t careful we will come to define ourselves by all the things we are against, don’t like, and rant about.

So rather than abusing our freedom of speech, I propose we respect it. And here are some tips for doing so…

  1. Listen, and then listen again, before reacting.
  2. Think before speaking.
  3. Show empathy by putting yourself in the shoes of the one you are about to criticize.
  4. See past what you disagree with to the heart and the history of the human being on the other side.
  5. Never confront personal issues by email or social networking… ever! You need verbal and visible communication too.
  6. Light some candles. Don’t just curse the darkness.

See something that gets you fired up? Do something positive about it before going on a rant against it. Speech is free. And it’s also cheap and easy these days. Therefore, it’s easier than ever to abuse and harder than ever to respect. But if we’re willing to respect it, we might just be able to change the world with it.

What Language Do You Preach In?

PreachingI preach in English, because it’s all I know. I took Spanish in college, but sat next to my wife and stayed distracted the whole semester – wound up with a C. But I’m not really getting at language in the sense of nationalities or tribal traditions. What I want to know is, do you speak human?

One of my least favorite kinds of sermons to listen to is those that are preached in a preacher’s language. I refer to them as being “preacherly.” Here’s the problem. Nobody talks like that. You don’t scream your order at the waitress in a restaurant. You don’t say “I submit to you that it’s hot outside today.”

I like good oratory, but sometimes it gets in the way. It keeps people from hearing. If you became a missionary to South America, you’d learn Spanish or Portugese. If you went to Russia, you’d learn Russian. So why, when preaching to an American culture (or whatever your culture is) do we not speak in the language of American culture?

Being “preacherly” won’t impress anybody but other preachers, and speaking “ministerially” won’t convince the naysayers. But sitting down to teach them, in everyday language, like Jesus did, might just be a great way of communicating biblical truth. Watch your language.

Creative Commons License photo credit: snappybex

A Cool Idea for Message Presentations

At our church, we use PowerPoint at the moment, but we’re looking into a few other great church/worship presentation platforms. No matter what you use, I thought this was a really cool idea. What went through my head was a Pastor jotting his notes down during the week, then literally allowing his notes to be shared with the entire congregation in this fashion… pretty cool idea.

Can’t view it? Check it out on SlideShare.