6 Questions Every Communicator Must Ask Before They Preach

communication

 

We live in an age where there is more information available to us than ever before. When I was a kid I did my research papers using encyclopedias, studied using a concordance. If you are under the age of 30 and are reading this you have no idea what I am talking about. Here is where our world has change for the better and for the worse, we no longer need those study methods because we have the internet. The problem with the internet is that even though you can get lots of good information you can also allow your thoughts and ideas to be diluted and even confused by the diversity of thoughts and ideas available online. One of the ways I try to overcome this is by passing thoughts and information through a series of questions. If you are a bible story-teller for kids church, a youth pastor or on an adult preaching team these questions will apply.

5 Questions every communicator must ask before they preach

1. Could I preach this message in a synagogue or in a Mormon Tabernacle? If so it’s not the gospel. –
2. Am I being faithful to the text? Am I allowing the text to speak or am I trying to get the text to say what I want it to say?
3. Do I have any practical application?
4. Does my application leave people with a sense that “if I do this then….” or does my application leave people with a sense “That if I do this and trust Jesus then….”
5. What’s my motivation? Will at the end of the message will I have been thought of as a brilliant communicator or will I point those in attendance (myself included) to their daily need for a brilliant savior.
6. Will the end result of this message be the worship and glorification of Christ?

Dear Pastor: Stay Where You Are.

The power of staying where you are in a transient world.

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The blog post is part of a two others. My friends Kenny Connely and Carey Nieuwhof both wrote blog posts today around this idea. I wrote about the importance of staying, Kenny is talking how to leave well and Carey is addressing when you should stay and when you should leave. This is a conversation that needs to be had because of the ramifications it has on the local church. I hope you find each of our posts helpful, encouraging and challenging.

We live in a transient culture. The US Census Bureau found in 2007 the average person moves 11.7 times in their lifetime. Growing up in the home of a Bio-Vocational Pastor I moved a bit more than that, leaving your home and your network of friends to start over is not easy it takes courage. I have now lived in the same town and worked at the same church for 19 years and I can tell you staying takes as much courage as moving.

One of the things I missed by moving so often as a kid was seeing people get older. I always saw everyone in one stage of life. We moved every 3-5 years I saw people in snapshots of their lives. I didn’t attend my first funeral until I was 19 years old. I was never around long enough to either see people suffer or know them well enough to know they were suffering. When you have walked through life long enough with friends to both teach them in kids church, watch them get married and then dedicate their babies the relationships are deep. The beauty and the pain of deep relationships is that the further deep the relationship goes the more painful and bittersweet the sorrows of life become. Some would say why invite pain and sorrow into your life? But it’s not that way. Pain and sorrow need no invitation they visit each life those and those who know you see. I have found that more than any conference I have attended or speaking invitation I have accepted what has changed my life most is holding the hand and praying for a dear friend in the last moments of their life. To care for people deeply enough, to allow them in, to walk through life with them and to watch them as Paul says “Be swallowed by everlasting life” is an honor and a privilege. Two weeks ago I held the hand of a dear saint the night before she passed. I told her the beauty of the Christian hope is we never have to say goodbye only see you later. She gave me a hug and told me to keep taking care of the church. I hugged her goodbye, and she looked at me and said: “See you later.” What they don’t tell you in Seminary, in books, and on blogs, it’s moments like that when you see the grace of God in the face of old friends you realize the pain of the courage to stay is worth it.

Young Leader: Gospel

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Gospel: What you believe about Jesus and His Church will decide who you become

As a young leader what you believe about Jesus and the church will ultimately decide your success in life and ministry. All of the Young Leader posts I have done find their basis in the work that Jesus has done for us. As a leader how you see God and align your life to his word personally is everything…well almost everything. You need to understand and have a personal relationship with Christ but that personal relationship finds it fulfillment in community. Community without a personal relationship is as unfulfilling as a personal relationship without community, both are lacking without the other.

The problem with many young leaders is in lacking experience they tend to fall into two extremes. They either over-estimate their abilities and push on without seeing the need for God’s help or they pull back because they are insecure about the experience they lack. What I love about the Gospel is it produces a much need humility that we all need. To have a proper view of Jesus you have to see beyond your own weakness and strengths. The is no greater tool at the disposal of a leader than humility. 

Augustine of Hippo said that, for those who would learn God’s ways, humility is the first thing, the second thing and the third thing.

Martin Luther, when asked to name the three greatest virtues replied, “First, humility; second, humility and third, humility.” .

C.S. Lewis describes humility in his Screwtape Letters as not as having a low opinion of one’s talents and character but rather as self-forgetfulness. This entails a radical honesty with ourselves about ourselves that begins to free us from the denials, pretences, and false images with which we deceive ourselves.

Only when we see Christ for who he is and us for who we are can we truly understand the gospel. And when we see Christ for who he is we see the love that he has for the church it must consume and compel us to love, serve and act with the same attitude that we see Christ demonstrated to us in Philippians 2. When all is said and done young leader what you believe about Jesus and what you believe about the church will decide how you will minister it determines the way you serve. You don’t have to be fluent in Greek and Hebrew but you do need to settle what you believe about Christ and His church.

How do you do this?

1. Preach the gospel to yourself. You need Jesus every day just as much as the people you are reaching.
2. Model to those you lead the same attitude of service Jesus modeled to his disciples. Nothing should be below you.
3. You should be more concerned about who you are following than how many are following you.
4. You should have a passion not just to move people to a personal relationship with Jesus but into a life-giving community of believers
5. Ask yourself who is the community that models their faith in your life.
6. Continually ask yourself if you have ever been more passionate about Jesus than you are today.

Young Leader: Ego

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Ego: The Church does not need brilliant personalities but faithful servants of Jesus

Genuine authority knows, however, that all immediacy is disastrous, particularly in matters of authority. Genuine authority knows that it can only exist in the service of the one who alone has authority. Genuine authority knows that it is bound in the strictest sense by the words of Jesus, “you have one teacher, and you are all brothers” (Matt. 23: 8). The community of faith does not need brilliant personalities but faithful servants of Jesus and of one another. It does not lack the former, but the latter. The community of faith will place its confidence only in the simple servant of the word of Jesus, because it knows that it will then be guided not by human wisdom and human conceit, but by the word of the good shepherd.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Keeping our egos in check is so important because it is counter-cultural to everything we see and hear. We live in a day where self-promotion is rampant. The church sadly is no different. What worries me is kids who are digital natives are growing up and they don’t remember what it was like before the age of the minor Christian celebrity. You have ministers who start a blog and buy followers on twitter before long they are wearing swag and hitting the conference circuit speaking about things they have heard and seen others do but have never done themselves.

Young Leader: Experience

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Experience: Lack of experience is actually a good thing.

One of the things that young leaders have to wrestle with is a lack of experience. It can be very easy as a young leader to push through a lack of experience and lead from a place of insecure confidence. Which sounds like a contradiction of terms but nothing could be further from the truth. I have seen many young leaders make many mistakes because they lack experience and rather than leaning into Christ they act as if they have led for years. The problem occurs when young leaders experience a bit of success and attribute it to the wrong things. It, in turn, produces a skewed view of leadership. They think that their success has more to do with them than it really does. This is where arrogant insecure leaders are born.

The reason many leaders in church ministry are so insecure is because they never learn the lesson their lack of experience was meant to teach them. They build their own kingdom based on what they have done and then spend their life protecting it from anyone destroying what they built. What insecure, selfish, egocentric leaders never learn is that lacking experience is a blessing and if leveraged properly will create a lifelong dependence on Christ alone. As leaders “We are” as Aristotle says “What we repeatedly do”. If you are a young leader repeatedly place your present, your past and your future in the hands of Christ so that he can form you and shape you into what he has for you.

If you are a young leader the best thing you can do is leverage your lack of experience and build into yourself a life long dependence on Christ.

Here are some practical ways to leverage your inexperience:

1. Listen (I blogged about that here)
2. Seek to build up those around you
3. Be about team
4. Give away the credit and take all the blame
5. Remind yourself daily that if you lose everything you still get Jesus
6. Read
7. Continually ask yourself am I building God’s Kingdom or my résumé