“Preach Better Sermons” Replay

Last March, Preaching Rocket conducted a free online event called Preach Better Sermons. Speakers included Andy Stanley, Jeff Foxworthy, Louie Giglio, Perry Noble, Jud Wilhite, Vanable Moody, Dr. Charles Stanley, and Dan Cathy. It was a great event. Afterward, I wrote 5 Takeaways from Preach Better Sermons.

Preaching Rocket is replaying the 3-hour online event on Wednesday, December 5, 2012 beginning at 12:00 noon EST. Click here for more information!. It’s free!

After talking to hundreds of pastors, the folks behind Preaching Rocket discovered that while preachers love preaching, preparation is often the real challenge. Preach Better Sermons is an attempt to go behind the scenes with some of today’s best communicators to find out how they bring great content week after week.

The communicators will unpack seven preaching principles

  1. Start with the Scripture.
  2. Keep it simple.
  3. Make it portable.
  4. Show it, don’t just say it.
  5. Find common ground.
  6. Finish early in the week.
  7. Preach with the end in mind.

Click here to register for Preach Better Sermons!

Preaching Rocket also offers …

a 12-month coaching program to help you become a better preacher. Over the course of 12 months, we’ll coach you on some of the most important and practical issues related to preaching.

I’ve been in the Preaching Rocket preaching program since it began last spring; in fact, I was one of the first 100 charter members. I love it, so far. It fits well with Andy Stanley’s one-point preaching approach (see my posts: One-Point Preaching and 5 Years of One-Point Preaching).

Preaching Rocket isn’t cheap, so it helps to have a strong “continuing education fund.” But it is an investment in my preaching!

5 Takeaways from Preach Better Sermons

Last month, I mentioned the free online preaching conference, Peach Better Sermons. I watched most of the 3.5-hour event last Thursday (The Christian Post wrote an article about the event).

It was a great event. The speakers included Perry Noble, Jud Wilhite, Vanable Moody, Andy Stanley, Dr. Charles Stanley, Louie Giglio, Jeff Foxworthy, and Dan Cathy. While there was a lot of great content, I came away with a few tremendous takeaways.

1. Define clear next steps.
This concept wasn’t new, but I like the language. I generally think of it as application. Nancy Duarte calls it a call to action. Jud Wilhite talked about having one, sometimes two, clear next steps.

2. You need to have a target audience in mind.
I’m very familiar with Andy Stanley and his approach (see One-Point Preaching, by far the most popular post on this blog). Stanley talked about having a particular target audience in mind as you prepare your sermon.

3. Create tension in the first five minutes of the sermon.
Stanley addresses this in his book, Communicating for a Change, but after hearing him talk about the importance of tension, this is an area I want to ramp up. The basic idea is, if you don’t raise a question people want answered in the first few minutes, you’ll spend the rest of the message answering a question no one is asking.

4. Pray.
I enjoyed hearing Dr. Charles Stanley. His most impacting statement (and one of the most tweeted quotes from the event) was, “A man can preach no better than he prays” (it applies to women as well).

5. Let God do a work in you through the text.
It’s easy to approach the Bible as a source for sermons rather than as God’s Word. Louie Giglio used a funnel as an illustration of how God’s Word pours into us and works on us so that a meaningful, focused message comes out. I posted on Twitter, “After listening to @louiegiglio … I’m going to pray and study w/ a funnel by my side!” It’s a great reminder that I must be transformed by the message that I hope will transform others.

I enjoyed Preach Better Sermons. It was a kick-off event for Preaching Rocket, a new, innovative 12-month coaching network for preachers.

Preach Better Sermons

I just signed up for an online event that will take place on Thursday, March 15 at 1:00 p.m. EST. It’s a FREE online preaching event With Andy Stanley, Perry Noble, Louie Giglio, Dr. Charles Stanley, Jeff Foxworthy, Jud Wilhite, and Vanable Moody. Learn more and sign up at preachbettersermons.com.

The event will focus on helping communicators prepare and deliver messages that matter. The speakers will unpack seven preaching principles, including …

  1. Start with the Scripture.
  2. Keep it simple.
  3. Make it portable.
  4. Show it, don’t just say it.
  5. Find common ground.
  6. Finish early in the week.
  7. Preach with the end in mind.

I’m looking forward to it!

“Change the World”

As I wrote here and here, Mike Slaughter (chief dreamer and lead pastor of Ginghamsburg Church) was the guest speaker at the Bishop’s Clergy Retreat in Lancaster, PA, a couple of weeks ago. Mike’s topic was the same as his recent book, Change the World: Recovering the Message and Mission of Jesus.

I enjoyed reading the book in the days leading up to the retreat. Here are some of my highlights …

Many people in our churches today profess faith in God, but they embody the values of the dominant culture. (16)

To Jesus, the church was an active verb and not a passive noun. His followers practiced mission evangelism. They understood that the mission was not to get the world into the church but to get the church into the world. (17)

Those of us in the church have been guilty of creating a gospel that is self-serving and other-judging. We spend our resources and energies on building structures and creating programs for ourselves, and then call it mission! (22)

On the early church …

It was driven by a passionate belief that a revolutionary leader had come to establish a countercultural kingdom on earth. The early followers of this movement believed that the way of this Messiah-King was not just one alternative way among many but God’s true way. For these first Christians the kingdom of God was not a disembodied heaven after death but a ‘coming’ new way of living on earth. They were committed to being Christ’s body of transformation for a hurting, needy world. (51)

Disciple making is the business of the church! It is easy to forget our commission and to substitute church building for disciple building. (55)

At the retreat, Mike kept reminding us, “Movements are made in a lifetime, not in a moment.” In the book, he says …

… change is incremental and exponential. Fruitfulness is the consequence of obedient persistence in the same direction for the duration of a lifetime. (93)

Mike discusses the ongoing struggle between “mortar” (buildings) and “mission” (ministry). At one point, he writes …

But in light of the gospel mandate that directs the church to meet the urgent needs of the least and the lost, escalating utility costs, and the global economic crisis, churches must find creative ways to minimize brick and maximize mission. (96).

When I interviewed Mike and a couple staff members for my dissertation research in 2007, “Minimize brick, maximize ministry” was a common phrase I heard. And that was a few months before the economic collapse!

Architecture and space are irrelevant to Christian community and calling (96) … Buildings are not sacred—people are sacred! We need to let go of buildings and invest in the world God loves and for whom Jesus died. (97).

The leader of the missional church is committed to make sure that ministry and mission are not sacrificed on the altar of mortar. (104)

The last chapter is about courage. Mike writes …

At the heart of every decision we make about the future and purpose of the church is a choice between courage and compliance. (111)

Faith is not the absence of fear. Faith is feeling the fear and then acting on the promises and purposes of God anyway. (114)

God never intended for people to sit around and wait for heaven. Jesus calls us from our complacency and places of comfort to go into all the world and make disciples. (118)

Leaders, of course, play a key role in keeping churches on task. Mike gives this advice to missional leaders …

Ultimately, you must be a confident and courageous leader who says and does the hard things to ensure the success of the mission. (122)

The book concludes with this thought …

You and I are called to be part of a world-changing, Spirit-empowered ‘hell can’t prevail’ community of action. The outcome will not be determined by the size of your congregation or the abundance of your resources—only your willingness to leave the safety of your life raft and the compliance of those who choose to remain on it. (124)

Good stuff!

Family Time at the Bishop’s Retreat

One of the nice things about going to the Bishop’s Retreat each January is that it’s an opportunity to go as a family. This was the fourth retreat that Joleen and I have attended. Amazingly, this was also 4.5 year-old Ethan’s fourth retreat and almost-3 year-old Sarah’s third retreat!

The retreat begins on Monday and concludes Wednesday at noon. We usually make the three-hour drive on Sunday afternoon so that we get settled in before the retreat begins on Monday. Even though it’s more of a “working retreat,” we still have some quality time together when we’re not in session (there are fours sessions over the three days). When we’re in session, the kids play in childcare. This year was the best that they’ve handled being dropped off among “strangers”!

The kids also enjoy the meals, including the desserts after lunch and dinner. Yesterday, while eating pistachios (which have healthy fats), I was explaining the difference between good and bad fats. I said we try to limit how much fat we eat, especially the bad fats. Ethan said, “You mean like the ones at the Bishop’s Retreat?”

The fountain at the DoubleTree Resort has always been a kids’ favorite, but this year, the kids’ pool was added to their lists of favorites!

Bishop’s Retreat: Mike Slaughter on Growing a Missional Movement

As I wrote last night, we are the Bishop’s Retreat in Lancaster, PA. Mike Slaughter has been our guest speaker in three sessions (last night, this morning, and this evening).

I’ll do more in depth reflection later, but in the meantime, a few thoughts. This morning, Mike talked about a strategy for growing a missional movement. Mike said, “Movements are not made in a moment.” Ginghamsburg Church is a testimony to that. Mike went their in 1979 and has been the pastor for 33 years. It’s a good reminder to be patient and persistent!

Mike said pastors have to continually nurture the vision. He challenged pastors have a time and a place to nurture vision. In discussing his weekly routine, Mike noted that he spends a good deal of his time in his home office where he spends time with God, works on sermons, reads, writes, and nurtures vision!

Mike says pastors must have a robust devotional life, and study both the Word and the culture.

This evening, at the conclusion of Mike’s teaching, retreat leaders asked us to write a personal commitment on an index card to be placed on the altar table, something that had impacted us.

It was a challenge to distill three sessions into a statement on a card, but I wrote, “I renew my commitment to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. I want to focus on getting the church into the world more than getting the world into the church.”

I will need to make some other commitments in response to this week’s teaching, but will need more time to process it!

Bishop’s Retreat: Mike Slaughter on the Great Requirement

We are at the Bishop’s Clergy Retreat in Lancaster, PA. This year’s speaker is pastor of Ginghamsburg Church and author, Rev. Mike Slaughter.

I’ve been looking forward to this week ever since we learned at last year’s retreat that Mike would be with us for this retreat. I’ve long been impacted by Mike. In fact, the highlight of my D.Min. dissertation project was interviewing Mike at Ginghamsburg Church back in 2007.

The topic this week is also the title of his 2009 book, Change the World: Recovering the Message and Mission of Jesus. I have been reading the book in the last few days (I have one chapter to go, which I hope to squeeze in soon). The book is impacting me and will definitely have implications for my life and ministry!

In our first session this evening, Mike talked about the Great Requirement (in later sessions, he’ll talk about the Great Commandment and the Great Commission). The Great Commandment comes from Micah 6.8 …

He has told you, human one, what is good and what the LORD requires from you: to do justice, embrace faithful love, and walk humbly with your God. (CEB)

Mike uses the phrases from the NIV …

  • Act justly
  • Love mercy
  • Walk humbly with your God.

Mike noted that there are 2,000 references to social justice in the Bible. It was inspiring to hear how Ginghamsburg lives out the Great Requirement, particularly their work in Darfur.

One other thing I’ll mention before turning in for the night. Mike talked about four worldviews in the world today …

  • Secular (do life as if there is no God)
  • Soft-secular (believe in God but trust their possessions to give them security)
  • Post-secular (the present is the only thing that matters; it’s true if it works for me)
  • Christian (Truth will prevail; it may cost me my life; it’s not about me; it’s about God’s purpose)

Mike pointed out that one of the challenges in the church today is that many Christians, particularly in The United Methodist Church, are soft-secular in their worldview. They have invited Jesus into their worldview but haven’t allowed Jesus to transform them into his worldview.

Well, we’re just getting started. And, while I’ll try to post some snippets over the next couple of days, I will write more in depth later this week after we return home and have had a chance to process the retreat (and the book).

Sesame Street

A couple of weeks ago, we took the kids to see the Sesame Street show at the War Memorial Arena in Johnstown, PA. We attended the morning show (there were two shows later in the day), which was lightly attended (same as the Thomas & Friends and Barney shows we had attended before).

It was a nice day out. Here are a few photos from the event …

6 Next Steps After the 2011 Leadership Summit

Yesterday, I wrote 6 Takeaways from the 2011 Leadership Summit. Now I want to look ahead so that we can make the most of what we’ve experienced!

We’ve attended enough seminars over the years to know that once you return from an event, no matter how great, it’s easy to put the notebook on the shelf or hide the notes in a file somewhere. In other words, unless you take some next steps, it doesn’t do much good!

So, here are some things I want to do after the Summit …

Watch Bill Hybels upcoming webcast.
The Willow Creek Association makes it easy to follow up on the Summit. On August 24, Bill Hybels will review the Summit in a one-hour webcast: What Messed with My Head.

Check out online digital resources.
At the Summit, we registered for next year’s Summit and received a code for access to online digital resources.

Read more and listen to more audio/video resources.
At the Summit, we purchased the Summit Resource Bundle Bag which includes downloadable mp3s of all the Summit speakers, a DVD collection of 10-minute video segments on leadership, and three (speaker’s) books of our choice (we chose Humilitas by John Dickson, Onward by Howard Schultz, and Move by Greg Hawkins and Cally Parkinson). It’ll be a while till I get to these books, but I’ll especially enjoy reviewing the talks as I travel.

Watch “Waiting for Superman.”
Specifically related to the takeaways I wrote about yesterday, I want to watch Waiting for Superman, the documentary on Michelle Rhee.

Read Jeremiah.
I also want to read through Jeremiah again (I’m currently halfway through Isaiah, so Jeremiah’s on deck). I particularly want to think about success as it relates to the call and ministry of Jeremiah.

Pray for Divine Mandate.
I want to lead Centre Grove to pray for divine mandate. This couldn’t come at a better time as we make final preparations for our Matthew 28 consultation weekend coming up in less than six weeks.

What are your next steps at becoming a better leader?

6 Takeaways from the 2011 Leadership Summit

Last Thursday, Joleen and I attended the Willow Creek Association Global Leadership Summit. We expected it to be a great event, but it exceeded our expectations. I knew it would be leadership intense, but I was blown away by how spiritually intense it was, especially Friday morning’s focus on “tough assignments.”

Presenters at the Leadership Summit come from both the church and the business communities, often alternating between each. The event took place at Willow Creek, near Chicago, but was beamed to 185 sites across North America (we were in Wexford, PA), and eventually to many other sites around the globe. It’s estimated that 165,000 people will have participated in this year’s Summit!

There was a lot to chew on. For now, here are 6 takeaways from the 2011 Leadership Summit …

Leaders must be learners.
Okay, this wasn’t new or life changing, but it was a good reminder. I love Bill Hybels’ statement: “Leaders need to be insatiable, incurable learners.” Hybels added later, “Leaders rarely learn anything new without having their bell rung.” Based on some of the reaction via Twitter, many people had their bell rung in the opening session of the Summit!

Pray for divine mandate.
Perhaps the single biggest takeaway for me was Rev. Dr. Brenda Salter McNeil’s challenge to pray for divine mandate. She suggested that we pray, “God, break our hearts for what breaks yours!” noting that it’s also the most dangerous prayer. It’s about getting our marching orders from God.

Dig ditches.
Steven Furtick spoke on 2 Kings 3.9-20 where Elisha tells the people to dig ditches and wait for rain. He challenged leaders to be active and to trust God for rain. Furtick said, “Only God can send the rain!” but we must be active (i.e., dig ditches).

Develop humility.
John Dickson talked about humility from his book Humilitas. But more than that, we saw an example of great humility in “Mama Maggie.” Mama Maggie Gobran, a Nobel Peace Prize nominee this year, has been serving the poorest of the poor in Cairo, Egypt for 20 years. In her talk, and in her response to being cheered and welcomed by thousands of people to the Willow Creek stage, she simply showed tremendous humility. It was very powerful!

Redefine success.
In his second presentation, Bill Hybels redefined leadership success. His talk focused on the prophet Jeremiah. Talking about tough assignments from God, Hybels said, “Jeremiah is not the picture of a successful leader.” And yet, Jeremiah was faithful to God’s call. This will take some more reflection, but it was pretty powerful to hear Bill Hybels, arguably one of the most “successful” pastors in recent decades, redefine success!

Stir the pot.
I’ve written about leaders being pot-stirrers before, but we heard from a great pot-stirrer at the Summit. Michelle Rhee, who now leads a grassroots effort called StudentsFirst, served for three years as Chancellor of the Washington, D.C. Public Schools. During her brief time there (which ended when the mayor who selected her lost his next election), students’ scores and graduation rates rose dramatically. Her experience in D.C. was recently told through a documentary, Waiting for Superman. After being interviewed by Jim Mellado at the Leadership Summit, I want to see the documentary.

Rhee demonstrated great courage in leading the D.C. school district. If I remember correctly, one of her first actions was to close 23 schools (15% of the schools) and to fire a number of principals (two-thirds, I believe). She took a lot of heat for that, as the documentary details. Her office and her home were picketed by angry citizens. She was yelled at by angry mobs during public meetings. When asked how she handled it, she made a great statement: “I would much rather deal with anger than apathy.” What a courageous leader!

In my next post, I’ll share come next steps I want to take after having attended the Summit.