Don’t Hold it In

But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint.Isaiah 40:31

This is what I woke up to. This is what I needed.

I rolled out of bed, Opened up my social media messages and saw one message that said,

In my time of prayer this verse keep coming to me for you. Isaiah 40:31. May God fill you with His peace today.

No details or explanation. Just the faithfulness to make the effort and deliver the simple yet impactful message to start my day.

This kind human doesn’t know the craziness my week has been nor what awaits my packed schedule for today. This person doesn’t know the call I had yesterday and now I’m planning an unexpected funeral for someone who’d died far beyond his time. Because this is a church attender, there’s probably the idea that “Pastor Dave has a sermon to prep for.”

But non of that matters when the Holy Spirit prompts you to reach out to someone. When you have a message of encouragement, you don’t check to see condition of someone’s life before delivering it. When God gives you a word of encouragement, don’t hold it in. 

God is faithful; His timing is perfect. But on the flip-side, I’m not always faithful and my timing sometimes is “off.”

There are times God has prompted my heart to reach out and say something in a store, a coffee shop, or to send a simple message to someone over text or social media. And because of those thoughts of awkwardness, fear, or doubt, the message either gets delayed or not even delivered.

Don’t hold it in.

When the Holy Spirit gives us a word of encouragement, it’s just that: encouragement. It’s there to build up the individual. It is there to give reminder of the presence of God. Perhaps it will be the boast within their heart (like it was mine this morning) that, regardless of what I face, I will have “new strength” and “…run and not grow weary…walk and not faint.”

Has God prompted your heart to reach out to someone? Don’t delay. Don’t hold it in. Be the voice of God and the reminder of His presence to someone’s life. Find someone to encourage today.

(BTW: Thank you to the individual who breathed life into me this morning. You’re a rock star to me!!!)

 

Thanks for letting me ramble…

Monday Kfirst Kickstart: “Trust the Process” #WisdomSeries #BeAProverb

Today I want to give you a place to start your week. It’s Monday and in the wake of a great weekend and a workweek ahead, sometimes you just need a “kickstart” to get focused.  So grab some coffee let’s start a great week together.

 

 

 

 

 

Sunday, we continued our series at Kfirst. Every July and August, we have a summer series and this year we turned our focus onto Proverbs.

This amazing and often misunderstood book was used hundreds of years ago to prepare people for a wise life in service to their king. Today, we glean from it to help us live wise lives in service to Jesus our King. 

Other thoughts from Sunday:

  • Read our Proverbs reading plan by clicking HERE.
  • Tomorrow’s wisdom is grown from today’s surrender.
  • Grace doesn’t just lead to a moment of change but leaves a trail of change.
  • God doesn’t abandon us to be victimized by life but uses it to grow us.
  • Discipline is choosing between what you want now and what you want most.
  • I can have the pain of correction today or I can live with the pain of regret tomorrow.
  • God’s grace is not just for salvation, but for every struggle we face.
  • Father, I offer my eyes, my ears, my mouth, my hands, and my heart to you, so that I can walk in wisdom in whatever opportunities you might offer me today.

Love you all. Have an amazing week.

BTW: Here’s a new song for you.

Pastor to Pastor: Getting and Gathering Sermon Ideas

Prepping for sermons…well, I love prepping (said in the voice of Stanley from “The Office” from the pretzel day episode).

I love preaching. Declaring the love of Christ to people is such an amazing privilege that I do not take lightly. It’s why I go full-tilt on my preaching preparation. My wife will tell you, my mind NEVER turns off of preaching prep. It’s good in the sense of having my radar up constantly to get and gather material. The negative, I struggle with turning it off as to enjoy myself. Thus, the reason why I needed to develop tactics and tools to help me in my message and sermon series prep.

Over the past couple years, I’ve been contacted about my practical approach to this, specifically, how I accumulate (get and gather) ideas and information.  Usually, the end of those conversations end with a request for a blog with the list of them.

I’ve found out that many ministers regulate research and ideas to office time.  Or, some will get ideas and don’t know how to organize them.  I want to make this as simple and practical as possible. I don’t consider myself a “specialist” on the subject, as it’s taken me years to work out what fits me and my personality type. Most of these tactics and tools require very little to no investment and they fit the type of person I am.  

But the key: These tactics and tools work for me. And that’s what you’ve got to discover for you. This is not an exhaustive list as you may uncover other ways/tactics. If you have something to add to the list…PLEASE SHARE!

First: Where I get ideas: 

  • Time in the Word
    • It’s incredibly difficult to hear a word for your congregation if you’re not in the Word yourself. It’s also important to note that if the Word isn’t challenging you, it’s probably not going to challenge your church community. Personal time in your bible can produce ideas, messages, and series but it shouldn’t be the goal. The goal is always a greater revelation of Christ and His Kingdom.
  •  Prayer
    • I know the scripture in James 1:19 is in the context of anger, but there is some beautiful wisdom for us as preachers. We should be “slow to speak and quick to listen.” We ought to be very quick to position our minds and heart to quiet ourselves and listen for the Spirit of the Lord to speak to our hearts. Which leads to my next thought…
  • Books
    • You’re heard it said, “leaders are readers.” I think it’s true.  But I have to admit, it’s not natural for me at all. I’m slow at it. I don’t comprehend at rates others do so it takes me time to take in what the author is saying. But it’s out of positioning myself with a variety of authors and subjects that the Lord has stirred ideas and thoughts. 
  • Running/walking
    • If you have time to pray, you’ve got time to walk. I start working well before the office hours begin. Sometime in the afternoon, I like to take a break from studies and counseling to go for a run. The exercise helps both clearing out the mind as well as providing necessary exercise for the body. I listen to podcasts of preachers for part of my run. I spend another part just praying over people. It may sound like multitasking, but it’s what works for me. 
    • NOTE: Pastors, your congregation needs you to get exercise, eat right, and be healthy. “Burning out for Jesus” doesn’t burn with Holy Spirit fire to give God glory, it burns with pride and makes people look at you. I’m not promoting a size or shape but promoting healthy habits that lead to a healthy life (see my post “Slave to the Scale“). 
  • Podcasts
    • I LOVE getting my creativity stretched by other preachers. Each preacher stretches me with both content and delivery. And the more I can get outside of my little Kfirst sphere and my denominational comfort zone, the more I can glean from the Kingdom of God and be a better man and preacher for it. 
  • Social media/websites/blogs
    • From a church/pastoral blog to Instagram accounts, I follow a variety of people, groups, and churches. We serve a creative God who, through His church, has amazing creativity. Don’t be afraid to see not just what others are doing but how they’re shaping the Message. Check out their approaches. See their promotional strategy.  Remember: We are not in competition with others. WE ARE ON THE SAME TEAM AND PART A HIS KINGDOM. We are in a Kingdom of collaboration. Look at others. What you want, get permission to use. Let people in the Kingdom be iron sharpening iron
    • For example, a graphic artist wrote a blog about God leading us from Point A to Point B. I felt the Holy Spirit lead me to write down the idea.  A few years later, the Lord started stirring me toward a series on how God led Israel from captivity (Point A to the Promised Land (Point B).
      A2B Slide
      Series A2B

      The series was called “A2B.” One blog title turned into a series of messages and people encountered Christ because of it.  I thought he should know about it as well as to encourage him.

  • Living life (fun, vacation, struggles, etc.)
    • I don’t enjoy time with my family to get something to share, but my engagement in life naturally gives opportunity to connect the spiritual to the practical. So many times, Jesus said, “The Kingdom of God is like…” He connected the Kingdom to things in the culture that people were familiar with. These metaphors or illustrations helped bridge the gap between mystery and understanding. Enjoy life. Engage with your families in life. Serve in your community. And the more you live, the more stories you’ll develop. You’ll no longer be depending upon some book of “101 Great Sermon Illustrations.” Why? You’re developing them right now. People want to connect to the human being on the stage. And the best way, I believe is for them to hear about how you are still working, growing, and yes, sometimes struggling.  
    • NOTE: Never share a family story without permission. I don’t share about my wife or the children unless they give me permission. 

Second: How do I gather and develop ideas?

My whiteboard – $20 (for the hardware)

 

 

 

I literally found a piece of plexiglass in a closet in a church. Paint the side facing the wall and add a couple decorative bolts and you’ve got a whiteboard. As I’m thinking, I sketch out thoughts. I’ll write out scriptures in one color and work out ideas with other colors. It helps me look at the main thought/point and work out of it while being able to go back and reference it.

My schedule – $0

My calendar has a weekly flow to it (even if I’m not preaching on Sunday).  From planned time to study to taking a break from books to go for a run to pray over the message, I do my best to keep a schedule.  Monday mornings at the coffeehouse is about getting my mind off of the previous Sunday and fixed upon the next message. Tuesday and Wednesday mornings are about crafting the message. Saturday morning is about prayer and focus.

Something I’ve built into my schedule is “future” message time.

 

 

 

 

On Monday afternoons, I spend time in prayer over the preaching calendar. It’s at this time I spend time seeking and listening to God regarding the upcoming 4-6 months of the preaching calendar. That leads me to…

My “future series” calendar – $30 chalkboard from Hobby Lobby; $6 for the chalk markers

 

 

 

This might be the most expensive piece in my office. I use the colored tape to mark out how the series flow (start and stop). It helps give me an overview as to how the year looks. Some of the pieces have the names of the series. Some are blank. Usually, I have locked in the direction of the next 3-4 series as it helps me in my prep.

My Google File – Free (for 15GB)

 

 

 

 

Having a filing system at my fingertips is huge. From laptop, iPad, or iPhone, any idea or thought can go right into the appropriate file. I always add a hashtag onto the name of the current series as it keeps the file at the top (as seen in the pic as #Playlist).  The next series is always in this located on this screen as it’s there for easy access (for some reason, the next series “Pivot Point” was cut off of the graphic). Obviously, with the filename “Future Series and Messages,” it shows the catchall location for any ideas that come from prayer and research.

My Journal – $3-5

 

 

 

 

Sometimes you’ve got to close the computer and physically write things down. I can’t carry my Whiteboard in my backpack, so this is my way to sketch thoughts and connecting thoughts. Sometimes I’ll draw out an idea of graphics. Other times, I’ll write the heart of the message/series and, than underneath it, try out some titles.

My Wall – $5.99 per large sheet of foam-board (creates roughly 12 sermon plates)

 

 

 

The “wall” reminds me of the series we have covered with our congregation. Part of it helps me steward what we’ve studied as a congregation. The very practical side: We want to steward the graphics of the past series as to make sure we don’t have the same look and feel of other series. I remember something I heard on Food Network: People eat with their eyes first. I’ve taken that to proclaiming the Word. Graphics are not primary as  Jesus is primary. But a name and graphic can trigger interest as well as remind someone of the Word that was proclaimed.  

My “Preaching” Bible – $2.99 for the package of red pens 

 

 

 

 

This may seem small, but it’s a big deal to me. Since pastoring at Kfirst, I started with a fresh bible and started underlining my main preaching texts and dating them in red. It helps me be a steward of the Word in regards to what I’m bringing to our congregation. As ideas and creativity come to me, I like to get into the Word and see if and when I as a pastor have visited that passage and when that happened.

This may see like much, but over the past 7 years of being the Lead Pastor, it’s the practical way that I approach the getting, gathering, and the developing of messages and series information/creativity. The success of this blog is that you will discover, perhaps, a new way to help steward this amazing privilege that we preachers have in delivering the Gospel of Jesus Christ. 

I love you all.  I’m praying that our creative God will give you creativity beyond what you could ask for or imagine. 

 

Thanks for letting me ramble…

Series Preaching: 5 Reasons I choose to preach in series.

I recognize that this blog won’t apply to a lot of people.  But I have a tremendous heart for pastors.  Also, I know that everyone has their preference in preaching styles whether you are the one delivering the message or you are the listener. I’m not writing to proclaim that my style and/or approach is the best.  But over the past few months, this topic has been asked of me over coffee, text, and social media.  So I thought I’d put out a simple blog together that would share my heart to the approach that I’ve taken with proclaiming the Good News.

Why do I preach in series…because it…  

1. …prevents the “Buffet Effect.” People walk away from the table saying, “I don’t know what I ate but it was good.”  Just my opinion, but I feel this is a travesty to preaching.  We gorge our congregations on so much information with hour+ long sermons.  We give people SO MUCH info that they don’t know what to do with it.  At thanksgiving, the massive meal makes me want to go take a nap.  I’m afraid our long-winded sermons have the same effect.  Old-school peeps walk away feeling great because we just “had church.”  In reality, we are giving so much information that it becomes difficult to digest.  Nobody wants to move after Thanksgiving.  Preaching should move us to response. My preaching philosophy: give smaller portions as to make sure the word is received, understood, digested, and able to facilitate growth.

2. …helps identify the “veins” that run through scripture.  I love the word.  It is a part of my daily life.  I’m always astounded to see the variety of topics and thoughts carried throughout the entire narrative of scripture.  It’s the method of “series” that can open the eyes of an individual to not just hear about it on Sunday but disciple him/her to read their scripture in the same way.

For example, I’m very passionate about the table practice of Jesus.  To read about those welcomed at His table will transform you and your approach to people. It’s my hope that after preaching about “The Table” (which I’ve done twice), that every time people would see the word “table” in scripture, they’d reflect upon what is being done/accomplished at the table they’re reading about.  2 Samuel 9, David’s heart was to honor his friend Jonathan by reaching out to Mephibosheth.  Where did David place him at?  The king’s table like on of the king’s sons. The table is a place of restoration, kindness, and hope.  Just like the table of Jesus.

3. …brings singularity of focus. This is very similar to #1 but with a bit of a difference.  It helps us long-winded pastors to break the message down to a palatable size.  The additional thing I’d add to it is it helps you take the time to really dive into the nitty-gritty of what the Lord has laid on your heart.  Before “series preaching,” I’d walk away from message bummed I didn’t spend more time on Point #2 or Point #5.  Instead of preaching 4 point messages, I can preach a 4 message series and really bring to focus the things that the Holy Spirit has laid on my heart.

4. …is a chance to make the Word practical. It’s not that I couldn’t do that before.  It’s just that I had so much info that the practics got lost in all the information.  If our people don’t know how to live it, then we are missing the mark.  Series open up the congregation to “come and see” as well as “go and do.”  Series give me the chance to really talk about how what is being talked about “in here” looks “out there.”

5. …it opens up the door for discipleship. So many churches struggle with discipleship.  Perhaps one of the biggest reasons is because pastors think that discipleship is accomplished by an hour+ long sermon.  Think of the variety of generations of people who come out to a service from a multiplicity of backgrounds, with varied spiritual depths.  It’s a challenge enough to speak to everybody, let alone think that we can completely disciples everyone in the room.  I won’t say that levels of discipleship don’t happen.  But your Sunday AM (or Saturday PM), can’t be your sole discipleship time.  Series can really be a plus to your discipleship communities (small groups, one-on-one discipleship, etc) by giving them a focal point to go deeper.  If the series is on evangelism, your discipleship communities can take the message/series to a deeper place through conversation, community study, and coffee (which I think is always a necessary part of discipleship).

Again, it’s not about twisting your arm to do what fits me.  This is my answer to the question that’s ben asked and it’s the method that has worked for me as a pastor.  It’s what I enjoy.  BUT…I remember what Rick Warren tweeted out about 5 years ago:

Anyone that us unwilling to break their series to deal with a church issue is a slave to their method.

We are servants of Christ and not a method.  We proclaim Him and His Kingdom and not our empire.

In whatever method you use, proclaim Jesus with passion and conviction and watch Him change lives.

Thanks for letting me ramble…