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.
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…
Leaders are learners, and one great way to learn is through listening to podcasts. Podcasts give us the ability to listen to leaders speak on topics in just about any area of life. Whether you want to learn more on running, history, cooking, business, music or church ministry, there is probably a podcast just for you. When you are driving in the car, heading out for a run, or even just doing errands around the house, listening to a podcast, on a topic you want to explore, is a great way to use the time. I try to listen as often as I can, typically consuming several hours worth of podcasts every single week.
As a pastor, here are some of my current favorites…
There really is no such thing as a “self made man.” Nearly all of us have had different people influence and pour into our lives. Denzel Washington is quoted as saying, “Show me a successful individual and I’ll show you someone who had real positive influences in his or her life. I don’t care what you do for a living—if you do it well I’m sure there was someone cheering you on or showing the way. A mentor.” To go anywhere significant in life requires some guidance along the way. In fact, here are five types of mentoring we all need in order to grow to be our best:
Upward Mentoring – Upward mentoring is what most people think of when they picture mentoring. An upward mentor is someone you look up to. Many times they are older, been around the block a time or two, and they are able to mentor you because they have been there and done that before. This could be a boss, a parent, a pastor or a good older friend. Upward mentors have learned some lessons in life and want to pass them off to others who are coming after them.
I was always a pretty good student. I wasn’t the best student, but by the grace of God I did manage to graduate from both college and seminary with honors. When tests would come around I would have to study a lot to do well, but for the most part I did in fact do well. I didn’t study like some students though. Many students would head to a study group, Starbucks or a library to hunker down. I would usually go one of two places, outside if the weather permitted or into a room where I was completely alone. I did this for the privacy, but the privacy wasn’t because I needed quiet, it was so I could talk to myself. I’d find a spot where no one was around, and I would repeat and recite aloud my class notes over and over again until I had them memorized down cold. One summer, when I was taking an intensive Hebrew class, I would spend hours a day walking up and down the backroads around the seminary I attended, flipping through Hebrew vocabulary and grammar cards. I probably looked like the town crazy person walking down the street talking to myself, but those many hours alone practicing allowed me to do very well in my intensive summer language classes.
There is tremendous power in going somewhere private to study, rehearse, or practice in solitude. Susan Cain, in her book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, describes a study conducted on violinists. Researchers broke the violinists into three groups: world class career violinists that solo on the international stage, great players that may play in an orchestra or professionally in some capacity, and those that were okay but ultimately would most likely end up teachers rather than actual performers.
Every pastor who wants to see their church grow is intentional about developing leaders. These pastors grow and develop their leaders through a variety of means, and meeting regularly is typically one of those ways. These meetings can be called a lot of things, my church calls them Partner-In-Leadership (PIL) meetings, but the common factor is that the time in the meetings is spent on developing leaders through casting vision, teaching skills, praying together, sharing stories of what God has done in the church, and more. Who should a pastor invite to these leadership meetings, though? I believe there are at least four groups of people who should be invited.
First, positional leaders should be invited. This is the people your church that lead various ministries, whether that be men’s or women’s ministry, ushers, greeters, children’s, youth or other ministries. This also includes the staff, board members and perhaps even their spouses. Anyone who has a position of leadership in the church should be invited.
You probably know someone who has done it. The person who rides the coattails of someone else through life. Maybe they have a great boss that carries their entire department and allows some underachievers to coast along noticed. Perhaps it is a gifted pastor who God uses to grow a church, and because the church as a whole is growing the department of the staff leader by default grows along with it. Sometimes this gets noticed and corrected, often it can overlooked.
Obviously, people skating by is not how it is supposed to be. In the book of Acts, which is in the Bible, we read where the early church begin to grow rapidly. The church was growing so quickly in fact that some of the basic things the church was supposed to be doing, like feeding widows, started to fall through the cracks. Realizing that something needed to be done, the apostles called a meeting and decided that they needed to find some new help to take care of the things that had begun to slip. In Acts 6:3 we read how they found their new help, “Now look around among yourselves, brothers, and select seven men who are well respected and are full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom. We will put them in charge of this business.”