Tuesday, September 29, 2009

The Anatomy of a Sermon Part 1

I've had many people ask as time goes on, how do you write a sermon? How do you know which passages to preach? How do you put series together? Where do you get the ideas, illustrations, stories? What is the process of study and preparation? In my next few blog entries, I'm going to attempt to answer these questions and walk my readers through the process. Understand that I cannot put everything here because it would take eons. However, I will attempt to give everyone an idea of how I do it.

One thing you must understand, every preacher is different. Every preacher has his own personality, style, way of teaching, creative ideas, and rapport. But one thing that every good preacher will attest to, every good preacher will agree on, is that it all starts and ends with the Living Word of God. The Bible is where every message must start and finish. It's the only book that will change hearts an lives completely because it is the Holy Word of God. These words are life. These are words that preach. These are words that will change eternal destinations.

Every sermon I preach usually starts with an idea. The idea usually comes out of something I've read or studied or heard. During most weeks, I'll read, study, listen, and pray for many hours. During these times come some of my best ideas for preaching, series, etc. God brings the His Word to me. Through this, there's always a verse or passage that comes to the surface and is the backbone for the message. Sometimes, I think preachers work backwards. They come up with an idea or thought and then try to find some scripture for it. I find myself with the scripture first and the thoughts and ideas coming out of that verse or passage.

At this point, some direction comes together for the sermon. What is God saying? What is He wanting the people in this church to know? What is He teaching me and I can in turn teach others? These are the times where the main idea or theme, or maybe even the title come together. Then, it's time to hit my deep study mode.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

The Morning After

A picture is worth a thousand words, right?! Is anyone tired?!?!?! We are! It was a good night and according to Madalyn, a great party. The girls were really well-behaved (minus the small group that stayed up till 2:30AM horsing around, but they did no harm). This morning as you walked into our living room it looked like everyone just slept where they fell. Too funny. I should have shot a video or something. All in all it was a good party. Now it's time to clean, nap (hopefully) and get ready for church tomorrow. All I really need to do now...quit yawning!

Held Up In My Bedroom

Try to picture this if you would. Note the time on this post. I'm here in my bedroom at the house. I've got my laptop here on my bed. I'm checking e-mail and looking over sermon notes. I've been run from my house because there are 8 girls who have invaded the living room. Maddy is having her first slumber party (for her 8th birthday). It's gone pretty well. We couldn't invite everyone unfortunately, (she had 15 on her list) so we did the best we could to help her build some relationships on our watch. Overall, the girls have been good and we've done some fun things and made some memories for Maddy. A little while ago I heard Maddy say to a friend, "Is this the best birthday party that you've ever been to?" It warmed Amy's heart and mine to hear that. I'm glad we got to do this for her and meet some of her school friends. I'm just trying to be a good dad, even though I'm held up here in the bedroom. I've got stories and good sermon illustrations out the wazoo from tonight's shindig and I'll be keeping them handy for the future. If you remember these days, smile and think back. If your in them, enjoy them. I hear that they are here and gone in a flash. We have to cherish these moments, even when there are slumber parties involved. Well, I figure 2 more "first slumber parties" to go and I'll be done. I'll talk about the final one in about 6 years, at Izzy's 8th birthday.

I love being a dad. I love my girls. Thank God for the gift of life!

Monday, September 21, 2009

The Video from Sunday

Many of you have talked to me, called, or e-mailed asking how you can see that video that I showed on Sunday as a part of my message. I found it on You Tube this afternoon so I thought that I would share. Feel free to share it with everyone you know. E-mail your friends and family. Maybe God will use this to speak to their hearts.


Friday, September 18, 2009

Faithful Volunteer Wife

My wife is at the Lock-in with the elementary kids tonight. She is staying all night as a sponsor. Amy is the most wonderful volunteer that I know. I may be just slightly biased, but she serves her tail off. I was figuring up the other day and I think that she's involved in 10 different ministries, and about 4 of them are in a leadership capacity. Now some would say, "That's just a part of being the pastor's wife." But let me remind those people, she doesn't get paid. When I was hired by the church, they hired me, not my wife. Amy serves not because she ought to. She doesn't serve for accolades. She doesn't serve so other people can see her. Amy serves because she loves Jesus and wants to see lost people brought to the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ, just like she was some 16 years ago. If she can make someone comfortable with our children's ministry so they can sit in a service or group time and focus (and not worry about their kids) and be drawn to Christ, then she does it. I'm sorry. Maybe I'm bragging. But I am so proud of her and love her heart for the Lord so much. (I wonder if we had a church full of people with this attitude, what would happen?)

I love my wife attitude about serving others. She has her days of frustration or burnout, but you'd never know it. Her heart is so right. Though there are others like her in our church, I know that God always has room for one more. He wants us to help Him in His work. People who serve and get their hands dirty make a difference in the Kingdom of God.

As we start this new series "Living a Life on Loan", my prayer is that every person in our church would become aware of their life's purpose, repent of apathy, and let God use them in a powerful way for the Kingdom. I will keep praying for these things. I'm excited to see what God will do with a person who realizes that their life is on loan from Him.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

What is a Christian Church?

I got asked this question this week and probed about who we are and what we're about. Here is a reply I want to post from "What Kind of Church Is This?", a response to some questions that we had about 2 years ago. Feel free to comment.

What kind of church is this?
1. A Christian church Our message is that “Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God.” We require no other creed. He alone is Lord and Savior.
2. A church of Christ The church belongs to Him. We have no authority to change the teachings, rewrite the rules, alter membership requirements, or usurp His place. The church is not a democracy.
3. A church seeking unity Like the Campbells and Stone, members of this church seek to be one in Christ with all others He calls His own.
4. A church seeking to restore As much as possible, we imitate the New Testament precedents. That is why our baptism is by immersion, our Communion is every Lord’s Day, our leaders are called elders, our preaching is about Christ, and our prayers are in Christ’s name. Even our church name is rooted in the earliest days, when disciples were called Christians and their congregations were often addressed as “churches of Christ.”
5. An apostolic church The church, Ephesians 2:20 states, is “built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone.” Whatever we know about Christ and the church we learned from Jesus’ closest companions, the apostles.
6. A thinking church In the same Ephesian letter, Paul prays that God will give a “Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. . . .” Christian faith demands the best our minds can give, so we are a studying church, seeking to apply biblical truth intelligently.
7. A feeling church Ours is not a dryly intellectual approach to God, however. We rejoice and praise and pray and love and serve from the heart. We are unashamed of the gospel and not embarrassed to let our excitement be seen.
8. A sharing church We share our faith and love with as many as we can reach and our possessions as persons who know that everything we have belongs to God to be used for His purposes.
9. A free church We have no bishops or superintendents or national headquarters to determine local church policies. We elect our own leaders, call and support our own ministers, and decide where our mission money will go. We are not isolationists, though. Our congregations freely associate with one another to accomplish tasks too big for one church alone.
10. A growing church We want to grow, because we are under Christ’s commission to disciple the world. We haven’t completed the task yet, so Christian churches and churches of Christ are renewing our commitment to go unto the ends of the earth, preaching and baptizing and teaching, until the whole world knows the one Lord of all.
To view “What We Believe”, the belief statements for our church, go to http://www.oakwoodchristianchurch.org/

Tuesday, September 1, 2009


You've heard it before and I have too over many years of ministry. One of the most frequent reasons that people say they don't attend church is because it's boring or not relevant. Are you kidding me? I can see churches that struggle with relevance because of the changes it requires for reaching & teaching people. But boring? I think that there's probably only one place to find boring churches. Boring, Oregon. Yes, with google's help you can see that there's actually 25 Boring churches there.

Anyway, I think that churches ought to be the least boring places on earth. We serve a risen Savior who changes lives & eternal destinations. How can that be boring?

If we were going to try to make church boring, these may be some good ideas (from Tony Morgan):

10 Easy Ways to Make Church Services Boring
10. Forget relevant topics and life application. That's overrated. People are really only interested in hearing what you think, not why it matters to them.
9. Use lots of big words that no one uses in normal, everyday life. 16th century King James is always nice.
8. Use the same song every week. And try the chorus, yes, just one more time.
7. Talk more about the past and less about the future. Nothing like living in the past gets your spirit moving!
6. Encourage elementary school children to sit through your services. The love lively 45-minute sermons. It's good for them. Builds character.
5. Make more announcements.
4. Use the same order of service. Every week. No exceptions. Ever.
3. No television, movie clips, or videos. It's just a phase. People don't really need visual stimulation. They prefer talking heads.
2. Straight scriptures, no stories. Jesus didn't teach that way, but you're obviously a better teacher than Jesus.
1. Don't worry about when you finish. I'm sure no one has plans after the service.

Okay, so you get the point.

As a church staff, we sit down and plan services, sometimes weeks out. We ask ourselves: What can we do to make our services more memorable & impactful? What obstacles can we remove that seem to hinder our attendees from worship or listening to the message? Church should never be boring. Or do some Christians believe that we should invite unchurched people, people who do not have a relationship with Jesus Christ, and expect them to show up and put up with something that they perceive as boring and not relevant to their lives? You can call it selfish, but we were all selfish too before Christ came into our hearts. Perhaps some of us still struggle with that. Let me say, the church is not here to entertain anyone. We are here to resonate biblical truth to the lost & broken world. But do our methods actually help us reach our intended recipients? Relevant teaching and services are key to this. We strive for excellence in these areas for our Sunday morning worship services. Times change...but do our churches? Church...boring? My God won't allow it.