Mastering the “So What” of Preaching

Preaching should always answer the question- so what?  When we were starting New Season Church we had the opportunity to visit various churches before we began regular Sunday morning worship.  One church we visited was the McLean Bible Church and Pastor Lon Solomon was preaching.  I do not remember a whole lot from the message that evening (sorry Lon!), but I do remember Pastor Lon stopping in the middle of his message after he got done expounding on the scripture to ask the question (actually the congregation asked the question at his prompt as they must have done many times in the past) “So what?”

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So what?  Who cares?  What difference does this make?  These are all questions that strike at the heart of making our preaching applicable to person’s lives.  In my preaching, I have sought to be mindful of that question so that in light of God’s holy word proclaimed there was some nugget of applicability to listeners. Whether I was talking about the 1st century food groups of food Jesus ate, the difference between the Hittites, Jebusites and Termites, what it means to forgive seventy times seventy or anything else, I always tried to answer the question “So what?”

I believe the Bible is always relevant and applicable to people’s lives.  Unfortunately, we preachers, myself included, sometimes make it irrelevant because we forget to ask “So what?”

So, in the end I hope that question “So what?” might haunt you as it haunts me every time I ask for the Holy Spirit’s guidance in crafting and delivering a message.

How to Bless Your Community this Christmas Eve

Christmas Eve is a great time to bless your community as you celebrate the anticipation and arrival of the Christ child.  One way to do that is through a servant evangelism event called “It Stinks to Work on Christmas Eve.”

iStock_000013630346XSmallThe basic gist of it is that persons from your church bring baked goods to Christmas Eve Service and these gifts are delivered to people who work on Christmas Eve- hospital workers, convenience store clerks, fire and rescue, police departments, nursing homes and anyone else who is working. The goods are delivered with a small note that says “we know it stinks to work on Christmas Eve so we hope this small treats brings you some holiday cheer this Christmas Eve.”

Below are some of the logistics to make it happen at your church.

  • 4-6 weeks before Christmas Eve begin to publicize the outreach within the church. This is especially important for the first year you do the outreach because persons are just not sure what it is all about. Run the announcement in your worship program, make announcements, highlight it in your weekly html email, and print it in your monthly newsletter. Ask folks to sign up to bring items or just count on the fact that people will bring items and just deliver what you get. Also ask persons to sign up to deliver. Sometimes people both bake and deliver and they also sometimes do one but not the other.
  • During this same period if you want to expand the outreach and involve others in the community you can solicit local businesses for baked goods as well- bakeries, supermarkets, Target, Wal-Mart, etc.
  • Beforehand, it will be necessary to make a list of places to deliver: rescue squads, police stations, fire houses, convenience stores, nursing homes, hospitals, bars and any other place you can think of where one might be working on Christmas Eve. You will want to make some kind of label designating each location (a piece of paper that can be taped on the bake good so it is easily removable before delivery).
  • On Christmas Eve set up and staff with one person an “It Stinks to Work on Christmas Eve” table where baked goods can be delivered. The person would throw the location labels on the each baked good as they come in or during the Christmas Eve worship.
  • During Christmas Eve announce that if anybody wants to participate (even if they didn’t sign up) they can pick up an item and deliver it. Just stop by the “It Stinks to Work on Christmas Eve” table. Have the same or a different person at the table after the service to hand out the items and give directions to places if need be, though most people will be familiar with the locations.
  • You won’t have any trouble getting items delivered. Parents appreciate delivering the items with children and children and adults are reminded that just as God gave us salvation in the Christ child so these small goodies are given in love.

It really is not a hard outreach. It is fun and can be accomplished with little difficulty.

In the interest of full disclosure I shamelessly stole the idea for the furtherance of the Kingdom from Steve Sjogren’s book “Irresistible Evangelism.”

How to Get More Likes for Your Church’s Facebook Page

If your church has a Facebook Page then one way to increase your engagement with persons and get more “likes” is to include a Facebook Like Box on your website.

facebook-custom-like-box-3What is a Facebook Like Box?  A Facebook Like Box is a small box usually placed in the upper right hand corner of a website that visitors to the website can click on to “like” that organization’s Facebook page.  Simply by clicking the Facebook Like Box on the website the “like” registers on the organization’s Facebook page and the visitor to the website never has to go to Facebook and thus never leaves the organization’s website.

The Facebook Like Box can be set up in a few different formats according to your preference for color, size and layout.  You can also direct it to show the Facebook friends of your visitor who have already liked the organization’s page.  If none of their friends have liked the page it will just show the profile pictures of others who have liked your Facebook page.

There are at least three clear advantages to using the Facebook Like Box Widget.

  1. Persons do not have to leave your page to like your Facebook page.  Why give Facebook more visitors (they have enough already) and why tempt your website visitor to be allured away to Facebook quickly forgetting your site.
  2. By including the Facebook Like Box Widget on your site you will enhance your credibility through social proof.  Persons will perhaps see they have friends who have liked your page and they will be more apt to like your page.
  3. You will increase the number of likes for your Facebook page thereby increasing the level of engagement with members and potential guests at your church.

To learn more about the Facebook Like Box Widget or to download it for your WordPress site then go here.

Christmas Eve: A Great Time to Introduce Your Next Series

Christmas Eve is not that far away! Hopefully you have been making plans already to celebrate the anticipation of the Savior’s birth. Most churches will have a great attendance on Christmas Eve and many of those in attendance will not be regular attendees at your church. This represents a great opportunity to invite them to your next message series in the new year.

iStock_000002590551XSmallI first came across this idea after reading Adam Hamilton’s Leading Beyond the Walls. Hamilton referred to these strategic invitations as “fishing expeditions.” I have conducted a fishing expedition like this by utilizing two methods.

  • First, I would create message invitation postcards that would go in each worship program for the evening.
  • Second, I would seek to have a video created that briefly introduced the series.

Usually right after the Christmas Eve message I would announce the new message series briefly and call persons’ attention to the postcards in their worship program asking them to consider inviting a friend, relative, co-worker or neighbor to church. We would then show the video intro to the series following which I would offer an invitation to everybody to attend even mentioning that the new year was a great time to start new things so why not consider coming to church for this special message series.

Why blog about this now? Because if you are going to do postcards and a video now is the time to start otherwise it will not get done. When Christmas Eve comes creeping around other priorities such as ordering candles or recruiting greeters or readers will take precedence.

What are some other ways you have seen persons invited to come back after Christmas Eve?

What in the World is a Missional Church?

From time to time in the life of the church certain buzzwords make the rounds. One of those buzzwords to make the rounds is the term “missional.” There are many calls for the church to reclaim its missional identity. There are calls for the church to live as a missional people. There is missional this, and missional that. But what exactly does it mean to be missional?

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I have been working my way through Will Mancini’s book Church Unique (which I highly recommend though it is thick and not easy speed reading) and there is one part of the book where he is describing popular perspectives of the church from 1960-2010. He estimates that the years from 2000-2010 to be the “Missional Church Reorientation” stage. This stage takes place as the post-Christian era dawns and is accelerating fast. In terms of what it means Mancini writes,

Essentially it is a way of thinking that challenges the church to re-form and reforge its self-understanding (theologically, spiritually, and socially) so that it can relearn how to live and proclaim the gospel in the world. Perhaps the best motto of the reorientation is the imperative to “be the church.” Church is not something you do or a place you go to, but who you are.

Notice that being missional is not something new but something recovered from the past when presumably the church was missional in nature. Notice too it is not about “doing” something, it is not problem solving, but being missional is about “being.”

Mancini continues that the idea of the missional church and the church’s identity as missional finds its origin in the nature of God or in the classical doctrine of the missio dei as,

God the Father sending the Son, and God the Father and the Son sending the Spirit [is] expanded to include yet another ‘movement’: Father, Son and Holy Spirit sending the church in the world. Therefore the church’s new identity is a reclarification of its “sentness.” Sending is not something you do, but being sent is something you are.

Wow- all this is weighty stuff. If you boil it all down what it all really says is we need to get the hell out of the church. Created in the image of God, the body of Christ is sent out into the world. That is who we are. It is when we reclaim this understanding of “being” and “identity” that we then change how we are the church.

What does the term missional church mean to you?

Resource Round Up

Here are some resources from around the web that you might find useful in helping your church become a vital congregation.

Definition of resourceChristmas is Prime Time for Church Invitations– 91% of Americans will celebrate Christmas this year according to Lifeway Research. 47% of persons plan to celebrate Christmas by attending a church worship service. 67% of Americans say a personal invitation to attend a church service by a friend would be a local church’s most effective way to reach out and get them to attend. Christmas is coming- is your church ready?

7 Servant Evangelism Ideas for Black Friday Shopping Crowds– from Chris Walker at EvangelismCoach.Org. Servant Evangelism serves people by meeting a small practical need in their lives with the ultimate end being to share Christ’s love. Get outside the four walls of the church this Black Friday and make use of these ideas for serving your community.

Five Reasons People Aren’t Volunteering at Your ChurchTony Morgan, who literally wrote the book on volunteers in the church with Tim Stevens shares five ways churches might be having difficulty getting and keeping volunteers. I know the churches I have served have been guilty of some of these volunteer recruitment no-no’s.

Three Business Books I Recommend to All Pastors– by Thom Rainer. It is no secret that issues of leadership transcend disciplines. While the church must superimpose a theological lens based in scripture on leadership in the business world, the church can learn leadership practices and principles from the business world. Thom Rainer shares the top three business books he recommends.

 

3 Lessons from the Red Sox for the Church

I have been a lifelong fan of the Boston Red Sox and am fortunate to have witnessed the Red Sox win three world series in my life time. In winning the World Series this year the Red Sox went from being last in their division the previous year to winning it all. It seems to me that what happened this season for the Red Sox can be instructive for the church (and for any organization). This is particularly true when it comes to leadership lessons. Here are three leadership lessons I see from the Red Sox for the church.

iStock_000009508329XSmall1.  Everything rises and falls on leadership and an organization will never move further than their leader’s capacity to lead (the law of the lid). Some will recognize two of the 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership from John Maxwell here.

Last year the Red Sox were managed by Bobby Valentine. What played out publicly between Valentine and his players and coaches amounted to poor leadership on Valentine’s part. Valentine “publicly” questioned players’ resolve. At times, Valentine demonstrated a perceived arrogance that proved to be a detriment to his team and his relationship with players and upper management.

This year, enter John Farrell. By all public accounts, Farrell (former Red Sox pitching coach and Blue Jays manager) was an encourager and united the team around a common vision. He was able to seemingly balance the need to win with any particular player’s need for confidence. He did so masterfully.

One key difference from this year to last year was leadership in the manager’s position.

2.  The second lesson the church might receive from the World Series champs is that it is important to get the right people on the bus and the right people in the right seat on the bus so the bust can move forward to its destination. The idea of getting the right people on the bus and in the right seat was popularized in Jim Collins’ best selling business book “Good to Great.” As much as John Farrell deserves credit for the Red Sox turn around so does General Manager Ben Cherington.

In 2012, Cherington shipped some valuable high priced players to Los Angeles and this freed up a bunch of payroll for the General Manager to acquire some less spectacular players. Though not as well known as their counterparts who were shipped off to Los Angeles, these new players played with grit and determination and came through in clutch ways. Thus, the front office of the Red Sox was able to get the wrong people off the bus, and get the right people on the bus.

The Red Sox organization was then able to get the right people in the right seats. Whether it was Stephen Drew at short stop or Koji Uehara becoming the closer by way of necessity, by the end of the season it was clear that not only were the right people on the bus, they were in the right seats as well.

3.  A final lesson from the Red Sox this year was humility. While humility is hard to come by among professional athletes of this caliber it seemed like individual Red Sox players demonstrated true humility. In post game interviews they credited teammates, noted that different persons stepped up at different times for key victories, and that it all was a team effort. Many times they accepted criticism individually and deflected praise collectively to their fellow players.

Everything rises and falls on leadership. It is important to get the right people on the bus and in the right seats. And, it is always important to maintain a balanced view of oneself. These are the lessons for the church from the World Champion Boston Red Sox.