My health was precarious. At 32, the doctor was summoning me to her office for diabetes tests. I never exercised. My diet was poor. Actually, poor is an understatement. On average, I drank sixty ounces of Mountain Dew per day and ate Taco Bell at least two or three times a week. Abysmal might be a more apt description. My diet led me into head-to-head combat with kidney stones. The kidney stones won with a knockout, and I would prefer to never fight a rematch.
Determined to shed some weight and get in better shape, I started running. Well, my first attempt was probably more like a fifty-yard shuffle than it was a run. I am pretty sure I made it about one block and about passed out. I was out of breath. My sides were on fire. I just turned around and walked home, defeated.
A lot of work goes into preaching. Most pastors spend between 10 and 18 hours a week working on their sermons, with many spending more than 20 or even 30 hours. With all that work going into preparing a sermon, it can be a bit disheartening to know that most people forget most of what they hear within days, if not hours.
Recently I was challenged to think more critically about my preaching, specifically when it comes to application. Often when we preach, the application of that preaching is for use in the church, or in our private Christian lives. It may be how to serve in ministry, how to pray, read our Bibles, or live out any other number of Christian disciplines. There is certainly nothing wrong with sermons that teach us how do any of this, as they are a part of Christian life and growing in these areas is drastically needed. We need to preach sermons that cover these topics. However, effective preaching, preaching that sticks with people, should cover far more ground.
On a muggy night in September of 1751, a six story tenement in Edinburgh, Scotland, collapsed. What should have shocked many, shocked no one, as this was just one building among many made of rickety old boards. The likelihood of a building failing in Edinburgh was about as likely as rain on a cloudy day. Yet, people lived in them as there was no space for new neighborhoods to be built. The Nor’ Loch bordered the city to the north. The lake had been made for defense, which it kindly provided, but it was neglected and was now only stocked with sewage. When the people managed to dodge falling buildings and sewage filled waters, it was the fires, disease, and crime that caught them off guard. Edinburgh was a ghetto, and it needed help.
However, help would not come. Scotland hadn’t held royal court since 1603. Help from their federal government was about as likely as suddenly finding cell service when your car has broken down on a deserted mountain highway. People would also not get any assistance from their local city government. The city which had limited resources, was also led by a buffoonary of men. They often held their meetings in taverns, acting more like drunken frat boys than officials running a city. The possibility of the citizens of Edinburgh receiving help from anyone in government seemed bleak.
Many people love to share their experiences. They leave a review on Yelp sharing whether they would recommend a restaurant, or not, and why. They read a good book, and then go to work the next day and recommend it to a half dozen people. They post on Facebook about the latest home remedy they just tried and now swear by. They may overhear that someone needs a dentist and they are quick to recommend theirs in a heartbeat. Millions of people share their experiences, and reviews of those experiences, every day.
Although reviews come quickly for restaurants, vacation destinations, and good deals on getting a used car, when it comes to sharing about the most important recommendation we can ever give, our faith, many remain conspicuously quiet. If we found the perfect restaurant, that served the most delicious food, and was unbelievably cheap, we would recommend it to every person we knew. In fact, we would probably go into work the next day and literally rave about the spectacular service and fantastic Banoffee Pie. However, for those who believe and follow Christ, who have received the free gift of eternal life, who have literally had their life changed, and who have experienced something far greater than getting great meal at a great price, we rarely share about our experience.
There are not many seminars in New England geared towards helping pastors and church leaders grow their churches. This June, however, there is one conference designed to do just that. The New England Pastors Initiative is hosting it’s second annual conference, featuring guest speaker Dick Hardy. Dick is the founder of The Hardy Group (thehardygroup.org), an organization devoted to helping pastors navigate church growth challenges and remove obstacles to that growth.
This one day local conference, on Tuesday, June 13th, is designed to help pastors and church leaders create fresh momentum and energy in their ministries, promote and market their churches better within their communities, and so much more! In order to make the conference as accessible as possible, the cost is only $30, which includes a catered lunch.
If you are a pastor or church leader in New England you do not want to miss out on this special day! To register, or find out more information, simply go to nepastorsinitiative.org.
Every pastor I know wants to make an impact. They want their churches to grow and to make a difference in their communities. Many pastors, however, attempt to make an impact the wrong way.
Too many pastors go for the quick kill. They are looking for the one big event that will reach their community and bring hundreds, if not thousands, of people to their church. They start a new ministry hoping that it will immediately touch a felt need around them and reach a throng of new people. They are looking for a silver bullet, one that kills quickly all in one shot.
Words have immeasurable power. Yehuda Berg is quoted as saying, “Words have energy and power with the ability to help, to heal, to hinder, to hurt, to harm, to humiliate, and to humble.” The Bible says that “death and life are in the power of tongue.” Our words have the ability build up and also to tear down, to divide and to heal. Some words are more powerful than others. There are eleven words in particular that have the ability mend a relationship strained by our own mistakes. Those eleven words are…
Pastors today face all sorts of challenges. They face the emotional strain of walking with people through the most difficult moments in their lives. They face the challenge of leading volunteers, who often have vastly different opinions on how things should be done. Pastors struggle with the tension of being trained in pastoral ministry, but being expected to operate the church with the savvy of a CEO. And of course, there is managing the multiple expectations of parishioners. No doubt, pastoral ministry comes with its unique set of difficulties and frustrations.
George Barna identified the top stressors pastors face several years ago, and I don’t believe the list has changed much at all. Here is what he discovered:
- Thirty percent of all pastors said the lack of commitment from the laity was their number one stressor in ministry. The number one challenge that pastors say they face is the feeling that they are expected to do it all on their own. Regarding the ministry at the church, they often hear verbally or through innuendo, “that’s what we pay you to do.”