Tag Archives: Preaching

Tact and Preaching: The Double Edged Sword

I was having a conversation with my wife about three years ago regarding some of the thoughts and words that I was planning on using for a weekend sermon. I have been “accused” of being too direct, too passionate and to brash in the way that I communicate what I read in the Bible. I am still not sure how to take these comments even after having heard them several times over the last few years.

I want to share some of the thoughts that come to my mind when I hear these kinds of comments.

  1. How can I be too passionate about being a Christian?
  2. What bible are you reading when the brashness of the text does not strike you? (i.e., Romans 9:3, where Paul suggests that if it were possible, he would go to hell so that his countrymen might come to know salvation in Jesus. I don’t know how to make that sound nice!)
  3. Why do people keep praying to know God’s will when the Bible IS God’s will, and they’re not doing that yet?
  4. Why do some people get mad at me (who has read the bible) and argue about what it says when they have no basis for what they are saying, thinking, doing or wanting? It is pretty easy to know who has and who hasn’t been reading their Bible.

It’s things like this and a few others that just drive me nuts. My wife said that I just sounded angry. Well, to a certain extent I am.

Being a Christian is not a popularity contest.

I am angry about a church that claims to be obedient, but is not. I am angry about a person who claims to be a disciple of Jesus, and has never made one. I am mad about pastors that preach from the word, but for whatever reason, fail to preach the word itself. I know that this does not apply to everybody directly. This is definitely a generalization, but its true enough that most of us would have to agree to some degree. What scares me about this whole situation in the church is that there is not enough (in my opinion) concern about the direction of the church.

We are far too concerned with what the world thinks about us, rather than what God has commanded for us to do. Being a Christian is not a popularity contest. It is about conviction. As a member of the church, I find it concerning that the church wants to hold hands with the world and agree. The direction of influence must begin in the church and move out from there, and not the other way around.

Sure, we can go to conferences and get the pep talks and hear from the celebrity pastor or speaker, but what am I, the executive pastor of a growing, city church supposed to do? Many times I leave with a second wind in my sails, but with no clear sense of direction of what to do next.

The truth is not always palatable, especially when it calls us to holiness and difficult choices regarding how we live.

Is the truth supposed to be palatable, easy, comfortable or sensible? I just do not see that as I read the bible.

The truth is not always palatable, especially when it calls us to holiness and difficult choices regarding how we live. The truth is not easy, particularly when it challenges the assumptions that we hold onto so dearly. The truth is not comfortable because it forces us to change those parts of our lives that we may love, but are not in line with God’s plan or will. The truth is not sensible! My goodness, if the Gospel made sense everybody would be jumping on board. But, that is exactly what Paul said. The Gospel is foolishness. It is foolishness to who? To those who are perishing.

The balm of the Gospel is what brings healing through transformation. For some of us, that means we will have to endure some difficulties. We will have to address those areas of our lives that are not conforming to the image of Jesus. I want to see less tact and more truth. Less compromise and more conviction. Less concern for the world’s feelings and more consideration for the heart of God. Until then, we will tip-toe around the issues and continue to see the erosion of the churches influence with our neighbors.

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Sermon | “The One Worshiped Sets the Rules”

I preached this sermon on June 3, 2012 at the church where I serve. It was during the evening service with only about twenty or so of our congregation. They are such a wonderful group of people. I have shared the outline to this sermon already, but since I had the audio, I wanted to share that as well.

Growing Pains, Pt. 1 | “Fellowship”

What is Fellowship?

Fellowship is more than just being in the same room as someone else or even saying “hello” to those that are around us. Fellowship is found not in the halls that we meet nor in the restaurants that have great atmosphere. Fellowship is the sharing of lives. It is coming to a place where those that at one time were strangers to us have now become family. When those people that before we would have seen only once in a while, now for some reason we find yourself thinking about and wanting to be around them more and more. Fellowship is the process where two or more people’s lives becomes a part of our own life.

I do not mean that another person is being nosy or trying to run or ruin our life. But, when another person becomes a loved one, so that you hurt because they hurt, that is fellowship. It is not an easy road to travel, the one called fellowship. It is a slow and sometimes hurtful journey to bring people in that close. It is not easy, but there is something about being able to share with someone, about having that outside influence and strength. Will we be able to have fellowship with everyone in the church? The truth is no, that is not possible, but what are we doing to reach out and invite in those that we can?

Why Is Fellowship Important?

Growth only happens in an environment where trust exists. If we do not trust those that are around us will we be able to grow and feel safe? One of the most difficult things about growing in faith is being able to share our genuine concerns and know that they will not become the talk of the town, or worse the church. We cannot worship in an environment where we feel that we are being singled out. Trust is built by being trustworthy. Love is known by being loving. Fellowship comes when we are neighbors to strangers and family to friends. This may seem like a difficult way of doing it but that is what Jesus did for us. The apostle Paul writes it this way, “While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8; NKJV).

A large part of what makes fellowship what it ought to be comes from the way that we react to the people and circumstances that are around us. Do we want fellowship to exist? Then let us be the first to exhibit the fruit of the Spirit. These are the tools that we are to use to create an environment that will produce fellowship. To answer the question a little more direct, “Why is fellowship important?” we need to understand that it is in the context of fellowship that we love one another and that people will know that we are Christ’s disciples (John 13:35; NKJV).

How Do We Sustain Fellowship?

Here is where the rubber meets the road so to speak. How do we go about sustaining fellowship within a body? The word that comes to mind is sincerity. If true and lasting fellowship is going to exist there has to be sincerity among those that are acting and doing within the body. If what you do is half-hearted or selfish, fellowship will not grow and it will die quickly if these things come into the body of Christ.

Fellowship will happen when we decide that we are really going to care about those that come to our church, whether visitor or member, and we will love them with the love of God.

Book Review | Teaching Through The Art Of Storytelling

Summary

Teaching Through The Art Of Storytelling by Jon Huckins was not at all what I expected. It was better! I have read many books and articles on preaching and communication, but this book provided something that was both refreshing and thought-provoking–it provided a biblical rationale for storytelling.

Growing up Baptist with the stereotypical “three points and a poem” paradigm of preaching, this book provides a solid understanding of the place of storytelling as a vital and invaluable tool in a communicators repertoire. Does that mean that I will be switching to teaching in this way as the only technique I will utilize? No. But, I have reconsidered my tendency to give my listeners “just the facts” about the biblical text.

My Thoughts

There were three ideas that caused me to pause and think. They were

  1. The historical context of Jesus own upbringing
  2. The teaching style of Jesus himself and,
  3. The application of this method of teaching given our modern context.

I will touch on each of these points and the impressions that Huckins book left.

1. The Historical Context of Jesus Own Upbringing

It is so easy to forget that Jesus was a kid and that he went to school like the rest of us. Now the context of that education was very different because of the 1st century’s cultural realities. But, this does not change the fact that there were teachers, schools and methods and principles of instruction, commonly called pedagogy. What Huckins points out is that Jesus would have been familiar with these practices and that he would have, more than likely, used these methods with his own disciples.

It is so easy at times to forget that Jesus was a human being. A special human being, there is no denying this, but he was a human being nonetheless. And, just because we do not have a complete account if his upbringing, there is no reason to think that Jesus’ educational experiences were that much different from that of his contemporaries. That being said we turn to the second idea that Huckins describes and extols.

2. The teaching style of Jesus himself

The first question that we have to answer is, “What was Jesus teaching style?” What do the Gospels tell us about how Jesus taught and shaped the understanding of his disciples? If we can, at the very least, approach how Jesus went about the process of teaching we to can learn, glean and practice these same principles in our own teaching.

Huckins points out that the majority of what Jesus did was to tell stories or parables. This was not an uncommon practice for rabbis to make up stories that would help their pupils to grasp the concepts and ideas that they were learning. By focusing on one or maybe two key ideas in each story made it easier to address and understand the point being made. Jesus would have been following the educational norms of the day by doing the same. While for some this might make them uncomfortable to think of Jesus using fictional stories, it really is not outside the realm of possibility or probability. Culturally it wold have made sense for Jesus to use a method that the people were accustomed to. Jesus primary concern was the teaching, preaching and spreading of truth.

3. The application of this method of teaching given our modern context.

As I see it there are two issues. They are related because they represent the two extremes. The first extreme is to try and be too creative for the sake of being compelling. The second, is that we are afraid of telling a story or multiple stories because we do not want people to find Truth through a fictional (i.e., false) story.

In response to the first extreme we have to be careful about the reason we tell the story. Does the story actually convey or capture the truth that you are trying to communicate? The way that Huckins’ talks about the story, the purpose is to tell the truth. What this means is that the truth IS being told in the story. It is obvious in that sense. The story causes the hearer to think, but direction and ultimate conclusion can be understood when the full story is revealed.

The second extreme is not better than the first. Out of fear of “deceiving” or “misleading” others we shy away from a helpful tool. If you enjoy reading a good book or watching a new movie or television sitcom is evidence that stories are a part of our experience. To not tap into the imaginations of those who listen to us teach the life changing truths of the Bible would be foolish.

Conclusion

This was a very good book. I enjoyed reading the history of the use of storytelling during the first century. If you are interested in improving your storytelling ability this is a wonderful introduction.