Friday, October 3, 2014

All Around the Web - October 3, 2014

Pastoralized - Top 10 Sermon Introduction Mistakes
1. Not having an introduction. Everything in life has an introduction. Buildings have lobbies and homes have foyers. Movies have initial scenes that acquaint us with the characters and plot. Books have forwards, prefaces, and an introductory chapter. Songs have four or eight measures of music before the lyrics kick in. When you propose to your girlfriend, you get down on your knee. Sermons are no different. Have an introduction of some sort.

2. Not hinting at how the sermon is going to impact their lives. I’ve heard many sermon introductions in which the point of the text was made crystal clear, but the pastor never acknowledged the people he was speaking to. (I may have preached a couple sermons like that myself.) If our introductions don’t clearly show our people how the Bible is going to help them love God, follow Jesus, and be led by the Spirit, we haven’t given them a reason to listen to us. Let’s not introduce our sermons as if God’s word is only profitable for teaching. Let’s give our people a preview of how it rebukes, corrects, and trains in righteous, too, right from the start.

3. Using two illustrations. Doubling up your illustrations is confusing. Either you will illustrate two different points, which makes your audience wonder which one is the main one; or you will illustrate the same point two different ways, which will make them wonder how they are supposed to think and feel about the topic your passage addresses. Pick the best one, and file the other one away for another sermon.

4. Setting up the passage you are going to preach on with another passage or verse. Like using two illustrations, this confuses people. Which passage is he preaching on? If you have a juicy cross-reference, save it for the body of your sermon.

5. Dumping in too much context. I’ve seen this mistake made most often when a team of preachers are sharing the load for a sermon series, but lead/senior pastors are culprits, too. The preacher rightly feels the burden of setting up the context of the book, author, and recipients, but dumps in everything he read in his commentaries into the intro of his sermon. Too much bogs down the flow of your sermon. Provide the context necessary to simply introduce your passage, and then save the rest for when it is relevant to a point you are making in the body of your sermon.

6. Going too long. The net effect of numbers 3-5 is that you end up with an introduction that is 20% of your sermon. When the intro goes too long, people check out or get antsy for you to move on. Also, you may be already forcing yourself to shorten your last point, which may result in an anti-climactic finish. Better to err on the shorter side for your intro.

7. Using a happily-ever-after illustration. One of your main goals in your introduction is make your congregation aware of a spiritual problem. Since happily-ever-after illustrations convey the idea that everything is okay, they don’t work very well for raising needs. Instead, opt for an illustration that is rich in conflict, and then demonstrate how that conflict is analogous to something they experience, whether they realize it or not. Happily-ever-after illustrations are, however, great for conclusions.

8. Neglecting to warm up your church. I was actually against this for a long time, until I read Preaching by Calvin Miller. Just like a spoonful of small talk helps the small group discussion go down, so also a brief word, pastor to congregation, prepares your church relationally to hear what God has given you to say. It’s especially true for millennials, but basically true for all people, that when they see the real you first, you gain credibility and they open themselves up to listen.

9. Failing to address the spiritual issue at hand in the passage. It is very easy to raise an emotional or pragmatic need in your introduction. It is more difficult – and less common – for a preacher to drill deeper into the sinful and idolatrous responses to the emotional and pragmatic problem we face in life. It’s the difference between inspirational speaking and biblical preaching.

10. Waiting until the body to point your people to the text. I’m a stickler on getting to your passage in the intro, and not waiting until the body of the sermon. The reason for this is that I don’t want to accidentally communicate that our agenda drives how we go to the Bible. Instead, I want to convey that the Bible raises the issues, and we are simply following where it leads. Going to the passage earlier helps get that across.

Thom Rainer - Ten Traits of Pastors Who Have Healthy Long-term Tenure
  1. They pray daily for their church members and staff. Many of the pastors kept the church membership roll in front of them and prayed through the entire congregation and staff every year.
  2. They view their family as their first line of ministry. They did not see a dichotomy between church and family. To the contrary, they saw their family as the first priority of ministry in the church. I will elaborate on this matter in my post this Saturday, where I will share ways Satan seeks to destroy the families of pastors.
  3. They connect with and love people in their community. Pastors are more likely to stay at a church longer if they love the community in which they are located. That love must be deliberate and intentional.
  4. They choose their battles carefully and wisely. Not every issue is worth a fight. Long-term pastors are not cowardly; they are just highly selective and wise.
  5. They welcome structures that make them accountable. Certainly, they don’t seek structures that hinder their leadership. But a leader who avoids accountability is headed down a path of destruction.
  6. They spend time developing staff. These pastors view their staff, whether fulltime paid, part-time, or volunteer, as one of their highest priorities for development and mentorship.
  7. They expect conflict and criticism. They are a reality in any family or congregation. But these leaders are not surprised or frustrated by conflict and criticism. They realize, if it is handled well, it can be healthy for the church.
  8. They connect with other pastors and ministries in the community. They realize that their congregations cannot minister to and reach the community alone. Other churches and pastors thus become partners in ministry rather than competitors.
  9. They affirm both theology and practical ministry. Their foundation is the Word of God. They have a robust theology. But they don’t neglect such practical issues as attendance trends, outreach ministries, financial health, and parking lot capacity.
  10. They ask long-term questions. They are constantly seeking to lead the church beyond their own tenure. They avoid short-term solutions with long-term negative consequences.

Pastors Today - 9 Preaching Principles to Follow for Special Occasions
  1. Biblical exposition is always appropriate. Indeed, it should be the norm and not the exception. God’s Word has a word for any occasion and every situation. It is truth, and people need truth, even if they may not want it. Preachers may often discover that the scheduled text for exposition holds legitimate application for the special occasion at hand.
  2. Biblical exposition of a short text or familiar passage is a wise course of action. Most likely, you will be the only person with a Bible. This even includes occasions like a graduation ceremony at a Christian school. The audience is not going to have before them a Bible by which they can follow your explanation of the text. Therefore, a short text, one with one to three verses, or a popular text (e.g., “The Good Samaritan”) is a smart way to go. Give them something they can hear, digest and take home.
  3. Brevity in your preaching is normally expected, and the wise decision in most of these situations is to meet this expectation. It will almost never get you in trouble, and it will foster goodwill and enhance the odds for a return invitation. Fifteen to twenty minutes is about the right length for your sermon, though we recognize on some occasions you can preach much longer, even an hour, with no one becoming upset. Of course, we (and they) are counting on your being interesting and engaging. Remember that it is a sin to make the Bible boring!
  4. The power of a good story or powerful illustration will never be more important. As noted earlier, illustrations are windows into the house of your message which allow your audience to see what is in there. As we all know, this part of your message is the one that they are most likely to remember. Therefore, make this illustration a key component of your address on these special occasions.
  5. Principled exposition that is reflected in the life of Jesus or a biblical character is usually a fine strategy to consider. Leadership principles drawn from the life of Jesus, Paul, David, or the Proverbs, for example, can be very effective. Sometimes exploring negative or anti-examples will powerfully make the point. Think about the squandered privileges of Cain, Jephthah, Saul, or Judas. Work hard to strike a balance in your message so that it is appropriate to the occasion but also lifts up the Lord Jesus. You may find this task is sometimes quite challenging, but it may also be spiritually fruitful as people see the significance of Jesus both for now and eternity.
  6. We should always be focused on the application of our message when we preach, but this is especially crucial when speaking at special occasions. Lost people need to see the power of biblical truth and its relevance to everyday life.
  7. The use of humor, if appropriate to the occasion, can be extremely valuable in pressing your message upon your hearers. Of course, you have to use humor well. Most persons have a sense of humor unique to their personality. Therefore, just be you, and allow yourself to be humorous in a way that fits who you are.
  8. Never betray the trust of those who have invited you to speak. Follow their instructions as to the time and the address. Going beyond the specified time is rude and irresponsible. It is probably sinful. Not honoring the particular instructions and expectations concerning your message is dishonest and arrogant. Their expectations may require you to turn down some invitations because you are asked to compromise your convictions or expected to be silent when you know you must speak. Integrity demands honesty and transparency, even if it means saying “no” to a lucrative speaking opportunity and a generous honorarium. Do the right thing in the right way, and God will honor you.
  9. Finally, always speak of Jesus and His gospel. You will need to be sensitive to the context and creative in your presentation. Nevertheless, you are a gospel herald, and so herald the gospel.

Church Tech - The Ministry of Online Giving
I absolutely love the topic of online giving. I think God created us all to be givers, and I am glad to see so many churches embracing online giving. As society transitions to using more and more electronic transactions, it will become easier and more natural for church members to give, enabling churches to better accomplish their missions. Because of this, I love to talk about, think about and innovate around the giving experience. I am honored to be able to share my thoughts, experiences and advice with you.

I believe background and experiences are important to fully understand someone’s perspective. For example, it is comforting to read Paul’s words: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Phil. 4:13). However, the true meaning of this verse is not realized until you read through the book of Acts and the events that occurred in Paul’s life for the 25 years prior to Paul writing his letter to the church in Philippi.

Church Mag - Death in the Digital Age [Infographic]
What’s going to happen to your Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or any other social media account once you die?

With the social media market consisting mostly of those under the ‘dying of old age’ age, there hasn’t been anything seriously done about the matter. But as everyone gets older and older, this is a bridge that we need to cross sooner rather than later.

The infographic below survey’s ‘death in a digital age’ and highlights some really interesting stats:
  • There are over 30 million Facebook accounts belonging to deceased users.
  • 43% would like their social media profiles closed.
  • 20% are unsure.
  • 36% would like to remain online, but are split between leaving comments on or off.
  • Dropbox has no specific policy for accounts of the deceased. After 90-days of inactivity, the data will be erased.

If you don't think this is cool, I'm not sure we could ever be friends.

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