Five Things Preachers Would Like You to Know

February 10, 2014

preaching_cartoon_1*The following information is based on years of conversations with preachers; years of being a preacher; and a more focused dialogue I had with a select few preachers. It is not a scientific study, nor does it represent all preachers. 

Don’t you like when a disclaimer starts things off! It was necessary, however. Each preacher’s experience–while sharing many similarities–is also unique. Just like each church is unique. So, I am not pretending to speak for all preachers in this post. The five bullet points I share do, though, speak for many (including myself).

  1. Preaching is our calling. For most of us, preaching is not just a job. A job is usually something you can take or leave. It is necessary, of course, but not necessarily life-defining. Preaching is life-defining. It is not just what we do; it is who we are. Preaching knows no nine-to-five mentality. It is not something we can leave at the office. It is what we feel compelled by God to do. Ask your preacher about this. He will tell you.
  2. Our goal is to “preach Christ and him crucified” (1 Corinthians 2:2). This is a part of our call. We must be faithful to Jesus; to preach him; to have a cross-centered message. It is not primarily about preaching church. It is first and foremost about preaching Christ. He is our main agenda. For some preachers this, unfortunately, has brought them into conflict with their churches–when other agendas developed within those churches. As preachers, we realize that ultimately it will be Christ who will hold us accountable for what we preach (James 3:1). So, our aim is to lift him up in order for all to be drawn unto him.
  3. We love the church. Most preachers of my acquaintance would do everything in their power not to bring harm or disunity to the church. It is the precious bride and body of Christ. Our desire is to see the church flourish and grow; to see it be relevant to its community; to witness spiritual lethargy turned into spiritual energy; to be a part of changing lives; of renewal; of revival. This is one reason why we do what we do.  Few things matter more to a preacher than the health of his church.
  4. We often feel insecure. Preachers feel vulnerable quite frequently. It seems to come with the territory. Whether it is connected to our own personal weaknesses; our own perceived feeble efforts in the huge responsibility of proclaiming the gospel; or the atmosphere and attitude within our congregations; preaching does not usually come with lots of job security. Most preachers agree that it is better than it used to be, but still insecurity lingers.
  5. We just want to be accepted as family. It may come as a surprise to non-preachers, but many preachers (and families) find it difficult to make friends. One preaching brother told me that one of his college professors (who had been a preacher) expressly told his class not to make friends where they preached! Even though I do not agree with that reasoning, I understand it. The best thing you can do for your preacher is make him feel at home. Get to know him. Spend time outside of the church building with him and his family. Trust me on this one.

God places an extremely high value on preaching and preachers:

“Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” How then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!” (Romans 10:13-15)

Value your preacher. Let him know you appreciate his efforts to preach “Christ and him crucified.”

 

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We Are All in it Together

September 20, 2012

From the archives:

 

To say that the Corinthian church had problems would be more than a slight understatement. Even though they were God’s church, they weren’t acting much like it. They allowed personalities, noncritical issues, and jealousies to divide them. They forgot the wonderful and imperative principle of unity. They were splintered and hurting. They needed a strong dose of spiritual medicine and the Apostle Paul provided it.

In 12:12-26 he reminds them of a crucial and basic truth. It is all about unity. In essence his message to them was “We are all in this together.” We still are:

  • Everyone is Extremely Important. By using the human body to analogize, Paul demonstrates the essentiality of every member. The weak, the feeble, the struggling are just as significant and necessary as the strong and vibrant. The church cannot function in the fullest sense without any of them. Every single person is needed in God’s church. We don’t dare think otherwise. Instead of allowing our weaker parts to fall away, we should be fighting for their souls.
  • We are Not in Competition. Our eyes do not compete with our ears. They each have their place and function and both contribute vitally to the well being of the body. Shouldn’t it be this way in the church as well? Our ministry efforts should support one another. Each of us should be in the glorious business of encouraging one another. Why should anyone ever feel threatened by the good work of others? Rather we should be rejoicing and giving God all of the glory and praise for the fruitful labor of those in Christ’s body.
  • God Put Us Here. Just where he wanted us to be (vs. 18)! Who are we to question his wisdom? It is an arrogant act to bind where God has not bound and draw lines of fellowship and acceptance that have never existed. To mistreat or turn away from our brothers and sisters because of jealousies or pettiness (or any reason) is totally out of place in God’s church.
  • We Need Each Other. No one should ever be so presumptuous as to think or say otherwise. In this context Paul emphasizes that even the weakest  among us is “indispensable.” Yes, some among us will struggle and stumble, but God wants us to allow them space to grow and encourage that process within them. We will not make heaven alone. We need each other and we need to express it. Let’s love and encourage our brothers and sisters all along our journey together to heaven!
  • Let Division Never Be! This was Paul’s foundational message to Corinth. Division on every level is damaging. Are personalities, jealousies, pride, prejudice, and issues really worth the hurt and pain of division? The wounds and scars of division run deep and call for long recovery. It ought not ever be in God’s house. We are all one in Christ Jesus.

Christ paid the ultimate price for this unity. We do not have the right or authority to tamper with it. “For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body” is how Paul states it in this text. We are all in it together. What a marvelous blessing. Let’s demonstrate it!


Endeavor to Keep the Unity!

February 22, 2011

Such was Paul’s divine mandate to the Ephesians (4:1-6). But the original source of this idea is even above Paul’s head. Remember Christ’s unity prayer in John 17:20-23? Unity is a precious biblical commodity. Division discredits the Christian message and disqualifies Christians as credible messengers of Christ. A unified people are a strong people. A unified church is a mighty force for God. Little wonder why Paul repeatedly emphasized it (see 1 Corinthians 1:10).

The Psalmist had it right, “How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in unity” (133:1)

Some points to consider about unity:

  • Unity Takes Effort.  This is why Paul instructs us to “make every effort” or to “endeavor.” Developing and maintaining unity among even people who have much in common often takes an intentional effort. To do it- our hearts must be filled with humility, gentleness, patience and love (4:2) and our focus must be upon what holds us together (In the text Paul’s provides” seven ones” around which we should unite).
  • There is Unity in Diversity. Actually it can’t be found any other way. Beyond the “seven ones” of the Ephesian text there was great diversity in New Testament churches. Even as Paul instructed the Corinthians to “speak the same thing” he allowed for differences on certain matters. Jewish Christians and Greek Christians came to Christ’s with vastly divergent backgrounds and expectations. In the book of Romans Paul teaches them how to find unity in this diversity.  It wasn’t easy. It takes a certain amount of  accepting each other just as we are. Remember unity takes effort- especially in diversity, but it is well worth it. We have an old saying about unity in Churches of Christ which states it well: “In matters of faith, unity; in matters of opinion, liberty; in all things, love.”
  • Unity is My Responsibility. I must do my part to maintain it. Never should I assume I have the right to tamper with it. God has clearly mandated that no division should exist within Christ’s body (1 Corinthians 12:25).  It is in fact unity created by his Spirit and he absolutely “hates” it when this unity is threatened (Read Proverbs 6:16-19). If this unity is disturbed I am to make every effort- “in the bond of peace”- to restore it.
  • Unity Reflects Heaven. How can we be a credible witness for the unity of the Godhead and their mission to unify us to them through the blood of Jesus (Ephesians 2:14-18) if we are a divided people? Division, divisive attitudes, factions, fear, splits, continuousness, polarization do not reflect heaven. Seeking unity through peace, patience, grace, humility and the wisdom of God does.

There is nothing quite as beautiful and satisfying to the Father than to see his children working, worshipping, and living together united. By the way, there is nothing quite as threatening to Satan either.

So take up this “endeavor” and make every effort to promote unity and peace in and out of God’s church. Let’s all strive to be one as Christ and the Father are one.


“Blessed Are the Peacemakers”

February 17, 2011

So says the Prince of Peace (See Matthew 5:9). He knows whereof he speaks- having himself brought peace and reconciliation to the Creator and the creation through his blood (Ephesians 2:14-18). Now he seeks a people of peace. Disciples who will share it, honor it and promote it. Who will let this “peace that passes understanding” (Philippians 4:7) reign and overflow to others. Peacemakers are blessed. “They shall be called sons of God,” Jesus says.

This peace stems from the very person of God (1 Thessalonians 4:23). Strife, divisiveness, arguments, dissention, turmoil, factions, grudges, confusion, etc. have no place where he reigns. (God “hates” such- Proverbs 6:19). Nor should any of these define God’s people.

Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification. – Romans 14:19

This is what peacemakers do and their ministry is just as urgently needed now- in and out of the church- as ever.

Peacemakers:

  • Seek Solutions.  Like spiritual ambassadors always seeking out a way to let peace rule. Problems always exist. Peacemakers seek to peacefully solve them.
  • Promote Harmony.  This is at the heart of peacemaking. Like Scripture teaches, “Finally all of you, live in harmony with one another, be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble” (1 Peter 3:8).
  • Generate Goodwill.  The atmosphere created and encouraged by peacemakers is a joy. That is why it is a “beatitude.” It is spiritually healthy and conducive for growth and goodwill.

God blesses all who seek and promote his peace. All who do are lights shining a dark world. All who do are invaluable to God’s kingdom. All who do are sons and daughters of the King!

If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. – Romans 12:18

With this blessed attitude we can’t go wrong.  Praise God for the peacemakers!


Trying to Find Jesus

August 5, 2010

Just who is Jesus anyway?

In his book, Fearless, Max Lucado tells about a Brazilian taxi driver who had a miniature statue of Jesus on his dash. When the driver thought he needed a favor he would rub the statue and ask. Max called it a “make-a-wish” Jesus. Jesus as a genie!

I can think of some others:

  • Let’s Make a Deal Jesus– Jesus as Santa. If I am good then I will get what I want.
  • The American Dream Jesus– Jesus as the guarantee of good health and prosperity. The health and wealth Jesus.
  • Validate Me Jesus– Or the justify-me Jesus. Jesus used as a reference to validate my life choices and justify my behavior regardless of what it might be.
  • Disney Jesus– Or my-Sunday-morning-fix-Jesus making sure my worship experience and spiritual life is always full of magic and fireworks.
  • Discount Jesus– Ask for much, but only willing to offer just so much in return.
  • Jesus is Just Alright With Me (thanks Doobie Brothers!)- I will take just Jesus but not his church or discipleship expectations.  

Will the real Jesus please stand up! How can we find the authentic Jesus among all of this?

Here is a good place to start- Jesus in his own words. 

  • “I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty.”- John 6:35 & 48
  •  “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”- John 8:12 & 9:5
  •  “I tell you the truth, I am the gate for the sheep.”- John 10:7
  • “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. The hired hand is not the shepherd who owns the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it. The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. “I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me….”- John 10: 11-14
  • “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies.”- John 11:25
  • “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”- John 14:6
  • “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.”- John 15:1-5

Over the next few weeks at Gateway we will examine these “I am” statements and try to find Jesus through them.


Corny Preacher Jokes

April 15, 2010

 

Break out the can of corn and check out the preacher jokes below. They just come along with the territory and add to the adventures in preaching. It is always good to laugh at ourselves.

Maybe you have a few to add to them!

Hot Air

My preacher friend put sanitary hot air hand dryers in the rest rooms at his church and after two weeks took them out. I asked him why and he confessed that they worked fine but when he went in there he saw a sign that read,

“For a sample of this week’s sermon, push the button.”

The Lost Preacher

 A young preacher was contacted by the local funeral director to hold a grave-side service at a small cemetery for someone with no family or friends. The preacher started early but got himself lost, making several wrong turns along the way. 

He arrived a half-an-hour late. The hearse was nowhere in sight and the workman were eating lunch. The preacher went to the graveside and saw the vault already in place. Taking out his Bible he conducted the service. As he was returning to his car, he overheard one of the workmen say; “Do you think we should tell him it’s a septic tank?”

Goat for Dinner

A young couple invited their elderly preacher for Sunday dinner. While they were in the kitchen preparing the meal, the minister asked their son what they were having.

“Goat,” the little boy replied.”Goat?” replied the startled man of the cloth, “Are you sure about that?” “Yep,” said the youngster. “I heard Dad say to Mom, ‘Today is just as good as any to have the old goat for dinner.'”

Money for the Preacher

After the church service a little boy told the preacher, “When I grow up, I’m going to give you some money.””Well, thank you,” the preacher replied, “but why?” “Because my daddy says you’re one of the poorest preachers we’ve ever had.”

You Might Be a Preacher If: 

  • You’d rather negotiate with terrorists than the church treasurer. 
  • A church picnic is no picnic. 
  • You’ve ever wanted to fire the church and form a congregation search committee.
  • You’ve been tempted to take up an offering at a family reunion. 
  • You’ve ever wanted to give the sound tech some feedback of your own. 
  • You’ve ever wanted to lay hands on a deacon, and you weren’t thinking of praying for him. 
  • You often feel like you’re herding mules rather than shepherding sheep.
  • Your sermons have a happy ending; everyone’s happy when it ends!
  • It’s your job to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.

Effective Prayer

A preacher’s young daughter noticed that her father always bowed his head and closed his eyes for a few seconds before he went to the pulpit to preach. When she asks him why he did that, he explained,”I’m asking God to help me preach a good sermon. His daughter thought about it for a minute and said, “Well daddy, Why doesn’t he do it?”


“The Jesus Response”

February 16, 2010

Sermon planning time for me- and I invite you to participate with me by sharing your wisdom and insights.

I am working on a sermon series for later in the spring entitled “The Jesus Response.” The idea behind it is to examine how Jesus responded to his culture and what we can learn and apply from that.

My foundational claim is that his culture and our culture are very similar- pluralism abounded then and does now. The question “What is truth?” alone can describe postmodern thought.

So we start there and closely examine how Jesus engaged and impacted this kind of culture- and through this discern how we might as well. So far here are some of my thoughts:

  • Jesus ministry was grass-roots. He primarily moved and worked among the common folk- the poor and oppressed. His message of relief from that poverty and oppression resonated strongly and gained followers. Maybe this is where we need to go as well- back into the byways and highways- where the needs are. Nothing new about this idea- but are we really doing it?
  • Jesus was the definition of authentic. This is a postmodern buzz word but key to Jesus impact. They recognized he was different- not like the scribes and Pharisee’s in his teaching. They recognized his realness. We must reclaim this kind of authenticity.
  • He presented a counter-ethic that empowered the powerless. Last will be first- lose life to save it- go the extra mile- turn the other cheek, etc. This kind of power through surrender and service scandalized those who possessed power.  Are not more and more feeling powerless now?
  • He refused to get off-message. His detractors could not steer him into debate or away from his mission. He did not waste time engaging their trite theological discussions. He came to seek and save the lost. Often we spend much time focusing on things that sound spiritual and religious but in fact make no difference to the hurting and lost.
  • He chose truth over tradition and people over institutions- similar to previous point but nuanced a little differently. Christ was not about propping up institutional traditions- he was about changing lives through truth. This kind of approach clearly injects Christ into contemporary dialogue in effective ways.

Okay- if you waded thru that- any suggestions  and input  would be appreciated.