3 People Every Pastor Needs

Pastoral ministry can be lonely work for a number of reasons. 

Some pastors don’t know how to have meaningful relationships. Others live under the crushing weight of a misplaced Messiah complex that keeps them from connecting with others. Often times church planters, or pastors in new churches are simply isolated and don’t truly know anyone.  

Pastors preach the importance of community, but often fail to participate in it. The reality is, every pastor, just like ever other person, needs the right people in their life, in order to pursue health and endure for the long haul. While every pastor would benefit from a deep well of diverse relationships, here are three I believe to be critical… 

6 Ways To Refill Your Tank After Easter (Or Any Other Big Day)

Another Easter has come and gone. If you work in ministry like I do, then you’re likely still feeling the effects of last weekend. At Redemption, we invested 120 hours of prayer, sent out 600 hand-written invites, held a church-wide prayer meeting, shot daily video devotionals, remembered Good Friday and celebrated Easter Sunday with record attendance. 

As a result, I’m tired, our staff is tired, and our teams are tired. Our hearts are full, but our tanks are empty. 

You may not be in ministry full time, but we all have certain days or seasons in which we have to invest far more energy than normal. Maybe you’re planning a wedding, a party, a graduation, or other event. There is often an immense letdown after whatever it is that you’ve invested so much in. 

How we steward these seasons is critical. If you ignore the fatigue, try to push through, or run on fumes, you will do great damage to your body, mind, emotions and soul. You have to replenish. Here are six ways to refill your tank after Easter (or any other big day)… 

No More SADSACK Christianity

Hey Christian, are you happy? 

Not sure? Happy people are content, satisfied and marked by joy. So, I wonder if you’re happy?

I know life can be difficult. I know this fallen world is a heavy place to live. I know we all experience trouble, trial, and tragedy. But, despite these realities, are you happy? Christians should be the happiest people on on the planet, even when, especially when, life is hard. 

Sadly, the Church is filled with too many sadsack Christians. Many of us are walking around as if our God is still dead. Too often we project that God is not good, that He is not satisfying, that He is not in control of everything that takes place in this world.

This is a problem.

One Quick Way To Become A Heretic

One of my favorite characteristics of the Bible is that it contains tension. 

Tension tends to make us uncomfortable, but it’s not always bad. For instance, tension is what draws sound from stringed instruments. It is the proper tension on the strings that makes a guitar produce sound. If you release the tension, you relinquish the sound. 

The same thing is true of the Bible. At times the Bible seems to assert two contradictory or competing truths. A large sum of the false teaching in the Church is the byproduct of declaring one part of God’s Word and downplaying another. Most heretics herald just enough truth to be harmful. We want to be able to comfortably conceive of everything God has constructed. But, the reality is, there’s tension. If we release the tension, we reject its message.

The Missing Mark Of Leadership

Leadership resources are legion in our culture, and for good reason - leadership is vital. We all need to be led and we all lead. Books, blogs, conferences, and podcasts are filled with practical instruction on the defining marks of effective leadership. Things like courage, competency, care, communication, and creativity are all essential to leadership. 

Sadly, I rarely read, or hear anything about what I would argue, is the most important and attractive mark of effective leadership:

Sweat Your Sermon Intro

The first pastor who really taught me about preaching once told me, “If you open strong, close strong, and hit your transitions, your sermon will take care of itself.” While it’s a bit more complicated than that, he was largely correct. Many sermons fall apart before they even start, crash and burn because of an inability to “land the plane”, or lack clarity due to confusion in transition.

 

While I hope to write on each of these sermon elements, I want to start with the importance of a strong sermon introduction. So what makes for an effective sermon illustration? In a sentence:

Prevailing Under Pressure To Compromise

This should come as no shock to you, but it’s increasingly difficult to be a Bible-believing Christian in our culture. There is constant pressure to compromise our faith. More and more Christians are being labeled as “bigots” for even voicing convictions contrary to the cultural norm.

 

Gone are the days when our culture held to at least some standard of Biblical morality. Gone are the days when when your faith may not lead to conflict. Gone are the days when being a Bible-believing Christian was socially acceptable. 

This pressure leaves us with two options: We can compromise our faith, or we can contend for it. Jude 3 calls all Christians to... 

How To Have A Confrontational Conversation

I don’t love confrontational conversations. When I have one coming down the chute it occupies a huge sum of mind-share. I worry about it going poorly. I worry about being misunderstood. I worry about my heart being unclear. I worry about hurting the person.  

In short, I’m not a fan of conflict. I actually don’t know any sane person who is. Regardless of my discomfort, conflict remains a part of relationship in a fallen world. If you’re going to relate with someone, a time will come when you have to confront them about something. It may be something they said or did that hurt you. It may be a blind spot in their lives that is a problem. The context will change, but the inevitability of conflict will not. 

Confronting someone is not easy and should not be taken lightly. It can easily go south if not taken seriously and prepared for properly. One redeeming factor in my discomfort with confrontation is that I’ve developed a process for confrontation that I've found helpful. If you have one of these uncomfortable but important conversations in your future, here’s how I have a confrontational conversation:

Five Realities Ruining Your Prayer Life

I don't know a single Christian who doesn't desire a deeper prayer life.

Each month I teach a discipleship class at Redemption and naturally, prayer is a central topic. Halfway through the class we have a time for table discussion about areas in which individuals desire to grow. I have yet to teach one class in which the vast majority of people did not express a desire for a deeper prayer life. 

Prayer is arguably the most important practice in the Christian life, yet often the most neglected. How do you explain that? Why do we desire to pray more, but struggle to do so? 

There is no one answer. There are a great number of realities that are ruining our prayer lives. Here are five:

3 Pastoral Priorities...

Pastors always have plenty to do.

There is always another meeting to attend, sermon to write, class to teach, decision to make, counsel to give, etc.  If we are not careful, our calendars can quickly fill to the point of being unrealistic. This is one reason so many pastors burn out. 

What most pastors are not honest about, or maybe even in touch with, is what truly drives our over-busyness. Too many pastors don’t trust the God we preach. We betray our disbelief when we try to be saviors instead of the stewards God has called us to be. In his book The Contemplative PastorEugene H. Peterson cuts to the heart of this over-busyness problem:

The word  'busy' is the symptom not of commitment but of betrayal. It is not devotion but defection. The adjective 'busy' set as a modifier to 'pastor' should sound to our ears like 'adulterous' to characterize a wife or 'embezzling' to describe a banker. It is an outrageous scandal, a blasphemous affront.” (P.27)

Having a fruitful life and full schedule is a good thing. We should work hard and spend ourselves making Jesus known. But busy to the point of burnout is a problem. It’s a problem for the pastor and it’s a problem for the church.

Busyness becomes a problem when what we CAN do crowds out what we MUST do. We can do all kinds of things, but there are at least three things that must be prioritized in the pastor’s life…

5 Prayer Requests For Those Listening To Preaching

Preachers aren’t the only people who need to pray prior to the preaching of God’s word. Every Christian should spend time in prayer before sitting under a sermon. If your pastor is a faithful Bible teacher then each week you have the opportunity to hear God speak in a heart-altering, life-changing manner. This should be taken seriously and prepared for properly. 

If you want the most out of the next sermon you listen to, here are five prayer requests for those listening to preaching:

5 Prayer Requests For Preachers

Prayer is the most effective and often neglected tool in the preparation of a sermon. It should go without saying (though sadly it cannot), that the preparation of a sermon requires meditating on the text, reading commentary, studying cultural background, and the hard work of illustrating and applying God’s word in a way that’s helpful. 

However, no amount of study will make up for a lack of supplication. Ingenuity won’t cover up the obvious absence of intercession for the church body. Rhetorical power is a sorry substitute for prayer-soaked proclamation. 

The preacher preps the sermon, but prayer preps the preacher. 

People should have a sense that their preacher has been much with God and prayer is an indispensable means of doing just that. But what should we as preachers be praying for? Here are 5 prayer requests for preachers:

Is Your Gospel Too Small?

There is no greater need in our world than more clear, more faithful, and more fervent proclamation of the one true gospel of Christ. We need to tell everyone about Jesus and what He has done. We should do this over coffee and meals. We should do this through books and blogs. We should do this through sermons and songs. 

We should use any and every means at our disposal to help more people know Jesus. 

Yet, in all our efforts to live in light of the one true gospel and share it with the world around us, we must guard against two tendencies to shrink the gospel…

Your gospel is too small if…

11 Issues Impacting Your Preaching

When I first started preaching, I had one and only one thought on Sunday mornings: 

"Don't forget what you want to say."

I walked around like I was carrying a cup of coffee that was just a little too full, afraid if someone bumped me, my sermon may spill out of my mind and onto the floor. I'm more relaxed now, yet still aware of how difficult preaching well truly is.

There are so many ways a sermon can go wrong. I know God's Word never returns void and I'm thankful that the caliber of God's work isn't determined by the quality of my preaching. Personally, I just never want that to be an excuse for phoning in a crappy sermon. 

The longer I preach, the more aware I am of just how many issues impact my preaching. I can study, pray, and prepare hard and still crash and burn on Sunday - I know because I've done it. Preparation is paramount, but there are other factors in play. 

Here are 11 issues that impact the preacher in no particular order...

Five Signs of Godly Sorrow

Big Idea: Repentance requires godly sorrow.

To listen to the entire message, click here.

The Apostle Paul was clear in 2 Corinthians 7: 10 that godly sorrow produces repentance. This means that where there is no sorrow, repentance is suspect. But where does this godly sorrow come from? What does it look like? And how can we pursue it?

The best way to understand godly sorrow is to see it in action. In Luke 7:36-50 we find one of the clearest examples in all of Scripture.

3 Keys to Facing My Sin

This is adapted from my latest sermon entitled: “A Change of Mind: Three Keys to Facing My Sin." You can listen to the full sermon audio here.

Most people would rather do anything other than face their sin.

The problem is, facing sin is the first step to repenting of it. The puritan Thomas Watson wrote, "Before a man can come to Christ, He must first come to himself...Sin must first be seen before it can be wept for."

In 2 Samuel 12, the prophet Nathan confronts the concealed sin of King David. David was guilty of a body of sin that would make the most hardened of sinners blush. There is much in the example of David that should not be replicated, but there is one thing that should - he finally faced his sin when Nathan called him on it. After nine months of hiding his sin, David finally admits in v.12,

"I have sinned against the LORD."

In this simple sentence we learn so much about repentance, specifically three keys to facing our sin...

7 Ways To Refresh Your Preaching.

It's Saturday night, which means you're slumped over your sermon notes when it finally sets in. 

No, you're not hiding any sin, or walking through suffering. You're not spiritually dry, or nearing burnout. You simply can't remember the last time you had a Sunday off from preaching. As a result, you feel like you're saying the same thing the same way week after week.

Your illustrations are tired. Your jokes are dry. Your applications are about as helpful as a swimsuit in a snowstorm. Your preaching has gone stale.

But you know what? It happens. It happens to every faithful herald who fills a pulpit week in and week out. Each Sunday as I drive home from church I experience the collision of two emotions simultaneously: 

Your illustrations are tired. Your jokes are dry. Your applications are about as helpful as a swimsuit in a snowstorm. Your preaching has gone stale.

But you know what? It happens. It happens to every faithful herald who fills a pulpit week in and week out. Each Sunday as I drive home from church I experience the collision of two emotions simultaneously: 

The satisfaction that I’ve preached another sermon and the stress of having to do it all over again the next week.

3 Essential Marks Of Genuine Repentance...

Big Idea: Repentance is a change in me the world can see. 

To hear the entire message, click here.

We’ve all experienced times of confusion - times when we thought we understood something we in reality did not. The problem with confusion is that it has consequences. Some confusion, in fact, can have life-long, fatal, even eternal consequences. Repentance is one of those issues.

From beginning to end, the Bible heralds genuine repentance as foundational to both salvation and spiritual growth. The truth is, there is no salvation or spiritual growth apart from repentance.

But even though it’s one of the most talked-about issues in our faith, repentance is also one of the most misunderstood. As a result, much of what we deem repentance may not be. So, we need to be crystal clear about what it is and what it isn’t.

Here’s the question: