Fresh Stories I’ve Bookmarked This Week

My Daughter's Pretty Feet
My Daughter’s Pretty Feet

You can’t lead and pour into others if you aren’t taking in a steady diet of life-building content yourself. Here are some stories I’ve bookmarked lately, some on marriage, others on leadership, and a few on communications and design. Read what you like.

If you’ve read or written something lately that we need to see, post a link below.

Metrics: Balancing Stats and Stories

Line ChartChurch metrics. That’s not a very pretty phrase. In fact, for many, it seems cold. If church becomes a numbers game, then people become “just a number,” and when people are just a number, we’ve failed to emulate the ministry of Jesus. But if we fail to count anybody, we allow people to slip through the cracks and therefore fail to emulate the ministry of Jesus.

So how do you count people in a way that makes each person count? You balance the stats and the stories. In other words, who was there on Sunday is even more important than how many were there. I’m leading a breakout session during Exponential (it will be in their podcast some time soon) on “The Metrics of the Craveable Church.” I didn’t pick the title, or the topic for that matter. But what I’m emphasizing is that how many people showed up is not nearly as important as how many people moved. How many people gave their lives to Jesus, submitted to baptism, joined a small group, and got involved in a ministry for the first time?

We’re planting a church and when I travel, people often ask me how it’s going. Usually they’re asking “how many are you running?” I usually know the answer because we’ve counted people, since people count. But I try not to give them numbers. Instead, I try to tell a story. A young man stepped up to give his life to Jesus and he’s different now. A couple was spiritually disconnected and they’re worshipping side-by-side now. An alcoholic feels accepted without judgment.

The statistics we take help us measure what we’re doing right and wrong, whether we’re moving people forward spiritually, and whether we’re effective. But it is the stories that tell us whether we’re actually doing the right things, whether we are speaking the truth in love, and whether we are really there for people.

I like stats, spreadsheets, and line charts, but they don’t melt my heart. Stories do. What’s yours?

Get Personal to Preach More Powerfully

Me and My Father-in-law at My First Church
Me and My Father-in-law at My First Church, Scottsville Road Baptist in Bowling Green, Kentucky

When I was in Bible college, I was taught the same basic sermon preparation methods that thousands of other preachers have learned. It’s a linear outline that usually begins with a major proposition, continues with several major points, each supported with explanatory illustrations and then a conclusion that summarizes the truths presented. There’s nothing wrong with that approach, but my tendency too often is to rely on what I know.

This past Sunday, my wife sat and listened to the message, so I asked her how it went and she offered plenty of encouragement along with a question about why I had chosen a particular illustration that was a little trite and impersonal rather than a life experience we had endured that illustrated the point much more personally. Ultimately, it was easier for me to stay away from the deep, personal story that would have better connected with the audience and play it safe with something more light-hearted. Hence, I missed a great opportunity.

The message was about waiting on God’s “yes” to a prayer while He grows us. I could have shared about our long battle with infertility during which we experienced two miscarriages (one ectopic) and drove four hours round-trip to Tulsa about 40 times seeing a specialist. We endured some rather rough times, but we grew spiritually and God eventually gave us the desire of our hearts. Had I shared this story, my audience would have felt the truth I was explaining, and some might have even personally identified with the experience. Our conversation served as a powerful reminder to me of the value of getting personal with the audience.

If you want to preach more powerfully…

  • Get personal – unveil your life and let the crowd into your heart and your experiences.
  • Be specific – it’s easier to give a broad challenge, but more beneficial to ask for a particular response.
  • Tell stories – people like them more than quotes, statistics, and abstract analogies any day.

It’s tough to get personal, but worth it as it moves people into greater intimacy with Jesus.

Baby Sam Takes Over the World

Some stories are timeless, like this one, written by one Ella Grace, my eight-year-old daughter. Enjoy.

Once there was a baby named Sam and he had the smelliest diaper in the world. He had decided to that if he distracted his family he could make a run for the White House.

So one day he crawled into the living room while carrying a pooperang! He threw it at them and made a run for the stairs. He ran down the stairs and out the front door. But when he got outside there was a huge dog right in front of him! He reached into his pocket and pulled out another pooperang. He threw it at the dog and the dog was knocked out!

Then he went down the street. But he ran into the town super hero named Robo Baby. Robo Baby was half machine, half baby and he was going for his daily walk doing good deeds. They both gave a nasty look to each other and went on their way. Robo baby wasn’t a very good super hero most of the time. He didn’t care much about baby Sam because he was very hard to defeat.

When Sam reached the White House there were five guards at the front door. He tied them up and threw them out of town. Then he opened the heavy front door. He ran up two flights of stairs to the President’s Office. He captured the President and flushed him down the toilet. Within two weeks he had taken over the country!

I love the ending, but I’m not quite sure if Sam is the villain… or the real hero of the story.