Below is a summary of four of the most important things to remember when preparing a sermon.
- Be Biblical – It should go without saying that your message should be solidly based on Scripture. Unfortunately, in this day and age it does need to be said. I cannot tell you how many sermons I have heard that are based on opinion, culture, or entertainment, with only scant mention of Scripture. If the Bible is not the foundation of your preaching, you are not preaching, you’re just giving a speech.
- Be Intentional – I’m sure you’ve heard the old joke about the preacher who “went everywhere preaching the Gospel.” The reference is to preachers who cannot stay on point and go chasing rabbits throughout their message. There should be one main purpose to every sermon you preach, even if there are several points to the message that help you to convey that purpose. Read through the teachings of Jesus and you will discover, without fail, He always had one purpose and He never wavered from it – not even once!
- Be Relational – You must move from the text to the lives of your hearers. Scriptural preaching without application is only taking your audience to the halfway point. You must explain to your listeners how the text applies to their everyday lives and then challenge them to make that application. We want to take people from knowing the truth, to living the truth.
- Be Brief – While I’m sure to get some disagreement from this statement, in most situations you should not preach for more than 30 minutes. If you cannot get your message across in that amount of time, you might want to rewrite your sermon, or split it into a short series. While we might not have the full text of Jesus’ sermons, we know that what we do have are very brief, to the point sermons which honor the time of those He was speaking to.
Obviously this is not an exhaustive list, but it should help you to better plan your sermons and can be used as a grid through which you test your messages to see if they fit this pattern. I can guarantee you that if you actually apply these four “be’s” to your sermons you will see a dramatic increase in the response of your listeners.
I’d love to hear your comments below!
Barry L. Davis spent two decades as a Senior Pastor and started the ministry of The Pastor’s Helper in 1997. The Pastor’s Helper strives to provide tools and resources to help pastors succeed in their ministry calling. His latest book is God-Driven Leadership: A Call to Seeing, Believing, and Living in Accordance with Scriptural Principles.
By Thom S. Rainer
It happens too frequently.
It can be the lead pastor or any church staff member.
And too many churches do not handle such tragedy well.
But many churches do. Allow me to share some of the best responses I have heard from churches that have gone through this tragic time.
- Terminate with compassion. Almost without exception, the pastor is terminated. But termination does not have to be without compassion. The pastor’s family will need financial provisions; thus many churches provide compassionate severances. And though pastors have full responsibility for their sins, they are hurting as well. Tough love and compassionate love are in order here.
- Don’t forget the pastor’s family. They have felt the greatest amount of betrayal. They are humiliated and hurt. This person they likely held in high esteem has fallen hard. The family needs compassion, love, attention, and counseling. Many church members do not know what to say, so they say nothing. I know one church member who sent the spouse and the children a simple handwritten note: “I have not forgotten you. I am here for you. I am praying for you.” It made all the difference in the world.
- Be forthright with the congregation. The rumors are often worse than reality. You don’t have to give the sordid details. But the church needs to know the pastor was terminated because of moral failure. Speak to the congregation succinctly, honestly, and compassionately.
- Provide resources for reconciliation. God’s ideal plan is for the couple to stay together—to make it through this terrible ordeal. The church can be an instrument of that process back to reconciliation. The church can provide the resources so that the couple can get strong Christian counseling. The process should also be one that seeks restoration for the pastor. That restoration may not mean that pastors are restored to their former office; it does mean the path should include a way to be restored to the congregation.
- Don’t forget the pain of the congregation. Many of them feel betrayed. Most of them feel hurt. Find ways to minister to the members for the next several months as they deal with this issue.
- Begin a ministry of prayer for this situation. I have been so encouraged to see some churches actually deal with this issue through a specific prayer ministry. One church offered a prayer and reconciliation time after every service. It only lasted a few minutes, and attendance was totally voluntary. But the responses were incredible, both in numbers attending and in the way people were impacted. The church began this ministry with a stated goal of continuing it for three months. It made a huge difference in the healing impact on the church.
When the pastor has an affair, it is a tragedy of huge proportions. But the church can respond biblically, redemptively, and compassionately.
It the midst of this awful situation, the church has the opportunity truly to be the body of Christ.
This article was originally published at ThomRainer.com on February 6, 2017. Thom S. Rainer serves as president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources. Among his greatest joys are his family: his wife Nellie Jo; three sons, Sam, Art, and Jess; and seven grandchildren. Dr. Rainer can be found on Twitter @ThomRainer and at facebook.com/Thom.S.Rainer.
by Joe McKeever
Here’s the situation. You, the pastoral candidate, are sitting in a room with a committee of anywhere from 6 to 20 people. They have spent the evening tossing questions, real and theoretical, at you. You are drained and everyone is ready for the evening to end.
But not yet. Finally, the chair says, “And pastor, is there anything you would like to ask us?”
You bring out your list.
Now, if everyone has been sitting for an hour or more, you might want to suggest a stand-up break before you start. That signals them that this is important too, just as critical as what went before, and that they should not be expecting to (ahem) get out early. (After all, there is no guarantee you will ever have another visit with these folks. Even if nothing comes from this interview, your questions could help them learn how pastors see this process.)
In most cases, this is a briefer period than their interview with you, usually no more than 30 minutes. Make the questions clear and ask for clarifications on responses you do not understand. Always remember that open-ended questions, those that allow for thoughtful responses, are always best.
Your questions for the PSC will fall into two categories: Those to be asked of the chairman/leadership in private and those laid before the entire committee.
What questions would you ask the chairman in private? Answer: Things that might be considered embarrassing or presumptuous or of a private nature. If the church has come through a split or if they fired the previous pastor, this is better dealt with in a one-on-one with the chair than in the entire group. By asking it to the entire committee, you run the risk of opening an old wound or reviving a previous division. Ask it in private.
If the pastor candidate has something in his life that might be considered a deal-breaker (“I’m divorced” or “One of my children is gay” or “Our son is in prison”), these are better shared in private. Then, when he/she thinks it’s appropriate, the chair can inform the full committee.
I suggest everyone keep notes. The minister in particular should scribble quick notes on what is said and transcribe them into longer, fuller reports on returning to his room. No one should trust their memory on these matters. So much is said, much serious and some in jest, some implied and some explicit, which will be forgotten within hours. Write it down.
Possible questions the minister will want to put before the pastor search committee include….
1) What are the 3 most important things you want from your pastor?
Get ready for their answers to be all over the map. Most committees have not talked this out, and their expectations are as scattered as the congregation’s are. Nevertheless, jot down their answers. Then, consider pointing out to them the wide variety of their answers and how this is typical of congregations and they should never forget this. Then, make whatever point you wish about this, if any.
2) What is your church’s position on (fill in the blank; some issue important to you personally)?
This could be a question on doctrine, a denominational controversy, some issue in their community, divorced deacons, divorce itself, homosexuality, entrenched leadership (i.e., treasurer or deacon chairman who has held the same position for 30 years), the pastor knowing how much people are contributing and who is tithing, and such. You could go anywhere with this question, but should limit it to one or two issues of great weight to you.
3) Does your church provide (blank) for the minister and his family?
This might be a housing allowance or health care, expenses for the wife to accompany the pastor to the annual denominational conference, a pastorium (manse), etc. In most cases, this will have already been made clear to you.
4) Which translation of the Bible does your church use?
You’re looking for stumps in this field you may be asked to plow. If you are KJV only and the people are using many modern translations–or if the opposite is the case–you need to know this going in. What you do with the information is up to you.
5) Has the church ever given a pastor a sabbatical (a few weeks off to rest or study or travel or visit other churches)?
Over a ministry of a half-century, I received this twice and the benefits continue to this day. I recommend it strongly, both for the church (in many cases, they will get a new pastor for their investment) and for the minister, who needs the break. The church should continue all salary and benefits and cover expenses for ministers who fill in during the preacher’s absence. A visionary congregation will do this. Churches that do not do this have usually never been asked to do so or shown the reasons for the practice.
6) How does your church expect the pastor to dress, both for Sunday services and during the week?
When I began pastoring in the early 1960s, ministers wore suits and ties 6 days a week. These days, in most of the churches where I preach, almost no one is wearing a tie. A new pastor needs to know the expectations of the members.
7) Has your church ever had to discipline a member? If so, I’d like to hear about it. If not, why not?
This is a big deal with many ministers and not so much with others. In either case, you would like to know the answer to this question.
8) How is your church different from the others in your city?
You would like to hear that they know precisely the role the Holy Spirit has called them for and that they are filling it. How they answer this question will say volumes about themselves.
9) Is your church open to change? Can you give me an instance one way or the other?
10) What would be my biggest challenge as your pastor?
11) How are decisions made around here?
This is a loaded question. Few things will affect your ministry more than knowing how this church does its work and makes crucial decisions. Pay close attention to responses. If possible, after someone answers it, ask, “Does everyone agree with that?” and wait for responses.
You need to know what you are walking into.
12) What in particular made you interested in me as a candidate? What is your biggest concern about me?
This concerns their expectations and will reveal how much or how little they know you.
13) Is the pastor free to make mistakes? Or are the expectations through the roof?
In college football, if the new coach follows a fellow who had not won a game in five years, the expectations are low and he is free to try different things. If, however, he is following Nick Saban at Alabama, the expectations are sky high and almost no allowance for failure is given. They expect to go undefeated and win the national championship every yerar. In the same way, a new pastor will want to know if he has time and be given the latitude to try things, some of which will not work out.
14) Does your church work with others in the community? Give me an instance or two.
A negative answer to this is not a deal-breaker but will reveal how much work the new pastor has if he is to lead the members to become team members with others of the Lord’s family. When the Lord said we would be known by our love, He was not referring only to the members of our particular flock. No church can win a city alone.
15) How are newcomers assimilated into your church family?
16) Would you describe your church as more “risk taking” (daring) or “care taking” (cautious)?
17) A question about “fit.” What kind of pastor do you tell friends your church needs?
This is a great question. The answers you receive will tell you what expectations you are up against.
18) What challenges is this congregation facing at the moment? In the next 5 to 10 years?
You’re trying to uncover hidden agendas. Until now, the snow job the committee has done on you (I say with the greatest of admiration–lol) would have made the chamber of commerce proud. But now, you will find that a huge plant in the city has announced plans to move to Mexico and many church members will find themselves unemployed. Or, you may learn that the Air Force Base near the church is closing next year. Or, that the church is located on a toxic land field and needs to relocate. (These are actual things we have heard in such situations.)
19)What is the best thing this church has done in the last five years?
You should get several answers to this. After the first enthusiastic response, say, “Anyone else?” And wait for it.
The answers will reveal the heart of these people and may tell you volumes about what makes the congregation tick.
20) Finally, consider making your last question some version of this: “What question did you expect from me tonight that I did not ask?”
This is a variation of a technique used by Bill Cosby and Art Linkletter in their (old) television work with children. At some point during the program, they would sidle up to the kids and say, “Hey, what did your mother tell you not to say on television?” The answers were often hilarious.
You certainly will not want to ask all those questions, but just the few that seem more appropriate. I suggest taking your complete list of questions into the meeting with you, and through the evening, mark off those that are answered earlier while circling the ones you definitely intend to ask when given the opportunity.
Never forget that asking questions is an art.
When you ask something, phrase it succinctly and shut up. Do not continue talking and offer alternatives and explanations and end up answering it yourself. The ability to ask a good question is a wonderful talent to possess.
God bless you. I hope things work out for you.
Used with permission by Joe McKeever. Joe is a Pastor, Preacher, Author, Professor, Cartoonist, Jesus Lover, Friend.
We have had more requests to make past sermon series available from our Subscription Series than any other resource. It has taken us awhile to get it all together, but the following Sermons are now available for Immediate Download at:
SERMON SERIES — GETTING BACK TO THE BIBLE
Sermon #1 — The Bible is a Tool for You to Use
Sermon #2 — The Bible is a Gift from God to You
Sermon #3 — The Bible Will Change Your Life
SERMON SERIES — CHURCH AS GOD INTENDED
Sermon #1 — The Design of the Church
Sermon #2 — The Structure of the Church
Sermon #3 — The Arithmetic of the Church
Sermon #4 — The Membership of the Church
SERMON SERIES — A BRAND NEW YOU
Sermon #1 — Renewed by the Spirit
Sermon #2 — Renewed by our Vision
Sermon #3 — Renewed by our Thinking
SERMON SERIES — A LIFE THAT LASTS FOREVER
Sermon #1 — The Source of Eternal Life
Sermon #2 — The Possession of Eternal Life
Sermon #3 — The Fullness of Eternal Life
Sermon #4 — The Power of Eternal Life
SERMON SERIES — ABUNDANTLY MORE
Sermon #1 — God is Able
Sermon #2 — The Power at Work
Sermon #3 — For God’s Glory
Sermon #4 — Throughout All Generations
SERMON SERIES — BIBLE 3:16s
Sermon #1 — John 3:16
Sermon #2 — Ephesians 3:16
Sermon #3 — Colossians 3:16
Sermon #4 — 1 Timothy 3:16
Sermon #5 — 1 John 3:16
SERMON SERIES — DISCOVERING MY IDENTITY IN CHRIST
Sermon #1 — I Am Secure
Sermon #2 — I Am Free from Condemnation
Sermon #3 — I Am God’s Temple
Sermon #4 — I Am God’s Anointed
Sermon #5 — I Am a Citizen of Heaven
SERMON SERIES — FINDING GOD IN THE PSALMS
Sermon #1 — God Brings Us Joy
Sermon #2 — God Shepherds Us
Sermon #3 — God Counsels Us
Sermon #4 — God Leads Us
SERMON SERIES — FOUR LETTER WORDS
Sermon #1 — Lost
Sermon #2 — Obey
Sermon #3 — Holy
Sermon #4 — Hell
Sermon #5 — Fear
SERMON SERIES — GATHERING THE HARVEST
Sermon #1 — Dedicated to Compassion
Sermon #2 — Developed by Right Thinking
Sermon #3 — Driven by a Bold Spirit
SERMON SERIES — GOD IS FAITHFUL
Sermon #1 — Faithful in Caring for Us
Sermon #2 — Faithful in Our Trials
Sermon #3 — Faithful in Our Temptations
Sermon #4 — Faithful to His Promises
SERMON SERIES — HELPFUL TRUTHS FROM HEBREWS
Sermon #1 — The Need for Blood
Sermon #2 — The Need for Faith
Sermon #3 — The Need for Holiness
Sermon #4 — The Need for Discipline
SERMON SERIES — HOW DID THEY DO IT? (Book of Acts)
Sermon #1 — They Lived in Expectancy
Sermon #2 — They Focused on Fellowship
Sermon #3 — They Cultivated Courage
Sermon #4 — They Emphasized Outreach
SERMON SERIES — IT’S ALL ABOUT JESUS
Sermon #1 — Jesus: Our Example
Sermon #2 — Jesus: Our Power
Sermon #3 — Jesus: Our Ransom
Sermon #4 — Jesus: Our Coming One
SERMON SERIES — LIGHT IT UP
Sermon #1 — Receive It
Sermon #2 — Live It
Sermon #3 — Share It
SERMON SERIES — LIVING LIKE JESUS
Sermon #1 — What Do We Need to Change to Live Like Jesus?
Sermon #2 — With Jesus in the Desert
Sermon #3 — With Jesus in the Community
Sermon #4 — With Jesus, Touching the Untouchable
Sermon #5 — We Can Do It!
SERMON SERIES — LIVING THE FAITH-LIFE (Book of James)
Sermon #1 — Faith Under Pressure
Sermon #2 — Faith In Action
Sermon #3 — Faith Under Control
Sermon #4 — Faith that Submits
Sermon #5 — Faith that Prays
SERMON SERIES — MODERN FAMILY
Sermon #1 — A Family with Purpose
Sermon #2 — A Family in Peace
Sermon #3 — A Family in Process
Sermon #4 — A Family in Recovery
SERMON SERIES — RIGHTEOUS ROAD SIGNS
Sermon #1 — U-Turn
Sermon #2 — Yield
Sermon #3 — Curve Ahead
SERMON SERIES — SOLID ANSWERS TO SEARCHING QUESTIONS
Sermon #1 — Why Does God Allow Suffering?
Sermon #2 — How Do I Know I Can Trust the Bible?
Sermon #3 — Is It Wrong to Live a Homosexual Lifestyle?
Sermon #4 — What Am I Supposed to Do When Life Knocks Me Down?
SERMON SERIES — STARTING OVER
Sermon #1 — I’m Going to Set My Priorities
Sermon #2 — I’m Going to Follow Jesus
Sermon #3 — I’m Going to Discover My Purpose
Sermon #4 — I’m Going to Focus on Relationships
SERMON SERIES — TAKE OFF YOUR MASK
Sermon #1 — Dealing With Conflict
Sermon #2 — Controlling the Chaos
Sermon #3 — Bringing Light to Darkness
Sermon #4 — Valuing What Matters
SERMON SERIES — THE DEMANDS OF DISCIPLESHIP
Sermon #1 — A Cross
Sermon #2 — A Towel
Sermon #3 — A Yoke
Sermon #4 — A Mission
SERMON SERIES — THE MINISTRY OF THE HOLY SPIRIT
Sermon #1 — The Spirit’s Testimony
Sermon #2 — The Spirit’s Power
Sermon #3 — The Spirit’s Work
Sermon #4 — The Spirit’s Filling
SERMON SERIES — THE POWER OF ONE
Sermon #1 — The Power of One Person
Sermon #2 — The Power of One Prayer
Sermon #3 — The Power of One Invitation
Sermon #4 — The Power of One Vision
SERMON SERIES — WHAT I NEED NOW
Sermon #1 — A God Who Loves Me
Sermon #2 — A God Who Transforms Me
Sermon #3 — A God Who Assures Me
SERMON SERIES — WHAT JESUS SAYS ABOUT YOU
Sermon #1 — You are the Salt of the Earth
Sermon #2 — You are the Light of the World
Sermon #3 — You are Not Alarmed
Sermon #4 — You are Blessed by the Father
SERMON SERIES — WHAT KIND OF CHURCH IS THIS?
Sermon #1 — A Church that Includes You
Sermon #2 — A Church that Instructs You
Sermon #3 — A Church that Involves You
Sermon #4 — A Church that Invests in You
SERMON SERIES — WORDS FROM THE WISE
Sermon #1 — Noah: One Person Can Make a Difference
Sermon #2 — Joseph: Don’t Give Up on Your Dream
Sermon #3 — Nehemiah: Big Problems Can Be Solved
Sermon #4 — Esther: God Has Placed You Where He Needs You
Sermon #5 — Hannah: Your Child’s Future is in Your Hands
SERMON SERIES — CHRISTMAS 101: BACK TO THE BASICS
Sermon #1 — Why Jesus Came
Sermon #2 — Who Jesus Is
Sermon #3 — What Jesus Offers
SERMON SERIES — THE GIFTS OF CHRISTMAS
Sermon #1 — The Gift of Strength
Sermon #2 — The Gift of Joy
Sermon #3 — The Gift of Christmas
Sermon #4 — The Gift of Hope
SERMON SERIES — THE SONGS OF CHRISTMAS
Sermon #1 — O Come, O Come Emmanuel
Sermon #2 — Joy to the World
Sermon #3 — Go Tell It on the Mountain
Sermon #4 — Mary, Did You Know?
A New You for the New Year
Easter – Facts and Acts
How Does Easter Impact My Life?
What M.O.M. Stands For
Leaving A Legacy (Mother’s Day)
How to be the Perfect Woman (Mother’s Day)
How to Be a Godly Father
God’s Kind of Father
A God Who Develops Me (Father’s Day)
Abounding in Thanksgiving
Who Deserves Our Thanks?
By Joe McKeever
“Sow your seed in the morning, and do not be idle in the evening, for you do not know whether morning or evening sowing will succeed, or whether both of them alike will be good” (Ecclesiastes 11:6).
Was it worth it?
You do not know which will succeed. If both will. Or neither.
Disciples of Jesus Christ must never try to calculate the cost/benefit of some act of ministry.
Our assignment is to obey. To be faithful.
We have no idea how God will use something we do, whether He will, or to what extent He will. We do the act and leave the matter with Him as we move on to our next assignment.
Every pastor will identify with the following scenario….
Let’s say a family member of someone in your church is facing critical surgery in another city. You get up at 3 am and drive the distance, and meet with the family just before the patient is wheeled into surgery. You sit with the family and do whatever you can (prayer, conversation, witness, sharing Scripture–or none of these things, depending on the circumstances, on the prompting of the Spirit, etc). Then, you drive home. You have devoted most of the day to this one act of ministry.
Invariably, someone will ask the critical question.
“Was it worth it?”
Perhaps it was your spouse who asked. Or a staff member. Or just as likely, your own accusing heart raised the issue.
You answer, “God knows.” As indeed He does. And no one else, for the moment at least.
And He’s not telling.
What follows is my story. You’ll have your own variation of it….
For all my adult years, I’ve been a sketch artist. I draw people wherever I go. When I preach in churches, the host will usually encourage the people to come early and/or stay late so I can draw them. A typical drawing takes two minutes or less, and I can go three hours without a break. Once in a while, I will drive long distances to draw only and not to preach. Several times a year, I draw at wedding receptions. (The first weekend in January, I’ll be in East Texas sketching at the wedding reception of the daughter of a preacher friend.)
This weekend I’ll be at a local church here in the Jackson, MS area. After preaching in the two morning worship services, I’ll be sketching people and speaking at a luncheon banquet. Then, the following weekend, I will be sketching nonstop at a mega-church’s Christmas presentations (before and after each of the five events), from Friday night until late Sunday night. The following week, I will do three Christmas banquets for pastors and spouses in Louisiana. I’ll arrive early to sketch couples, draw right on through the dinner, get up and do my talk, and go right back to drawing. It’s an exhausting evening.
But I love it.
What am I accomplishing with all this drawing and sketching?
Honestly, I don’t know.
A family member used to observe me dragging home late at night after a full evening of driving, sketching, and speaking. Voiced or not, the question was always there: “So, why do you do this if it makes you so tired?”
I was too tired to answer. (smiley-face here)
But I can think of some reasons: I love doing drawing people, it seems to bless people, they pay me (often, not always), and when I stand to speak, the people I’ve sketched listen well. There’s something about the personal time we’ve had at the table while I drew them that seems to bond us enough for them to want to hear what I have to share.
I do high school programs on “lessons in self-esteem from drawing 100,000 people.” I’ll sketch the kids before and after the program (teenagers love this), then draw the principal and coach during the session and deliver my 12 minute presentation. Often, a few classes want me to come by and sketch them or give a talk to the art students on cartooning. Finally, after several hours, the host pastor has to take me by the hand and lead me out of the building and toward a restaurant for nourishment, I am so drained.
And what did we accomplish?
There is no way to know. And here’s the thing: I don’t need to know.
I do it because God has gifted me with this love for people, a talent for sketching them, and a delight in using the gift. I walk up to strangers sometimes. “May I draw you?” (A woman with a floppy hat and earrings down to her shoulders, or a man wearing a cowboy hat and a handlebar mustache are just begging to be drawn!)
Friends think I use the sketching for a ministry of evangelism, that I’m winning a lot of people to Christ by drawing them. I’m not doing much of that as they think or I’d like. It’s hard to talk and sketch at the same time. And, when we have a line of people waiting, there’s little time for meaningful conversation.
So, what is accomplished? I have no idea. Perhaps it’s nothing more than to add a smile to someone’s day. A little joy. Or, to build a memory into their lives, when they find the sketch years from now. And was that worth it? Again, I do not know.
I do not need to know.
But I will keep on doing this as long as the invitations keep coming in, the fingers keep working, and the eyes and brain don’t give out. The occasional bout with arthritis is a problem, but thankfully it’s rare and light.
None of us know
We preachers could ask the same questions about the sermons we preach and the ministry we give. What was accomplished? Was it worth the many hours of study and prayer and work? The many miles driven? God knows.
And we’re good with that. Scripture commands: “Do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance.” (Colossians 3:23-24)
Whether we render a solo in church, serve a meal at the nursing home, preach a sermon in the jail, or sketch a few people in the mall, we do this “unto the Lord,” and leave the results with Him.
My friend Bertha bakes loaves of banana bread which she gives away throughout the year. Jim, a deacon and a friend of 25 years, gives away chewing gum, thousands of pieces a year (the sugarless kind, he is quick to point out). Stephanie takes her violin into nursing homes and hospital rooms and plays for people.
And when people ask, “Was it worth it?” or “Why did you do that?” we might just smile, but what we are thinking is something like “Ask the Lord who told me to do it. It was for Him.”
“When the Son of Man comes,” Jesus said, “will He find faith on earth?” (Luke 18:8)
Those who serve Him in ways large and small without knowing what He will do with their efforts know the answer.
Used with permission by Joe McKeever. Joe is a Pastor, Preacher, Author, Professor, Cartoonist, Jesus Lover, Friend.
Eighteen months ago, I reported on a Twitter poll that asked why churches aren’t evangelistic. Since that time, I have followed up by asking the same question of church leaders in both evangelistic and non-evangelistic churches.
I could cite you a plethora of statistics that demonstrate the evangelistic apathy of most of our churches in North America. But I really don’t think you need much convincing.
Instead, based on my conversations, I will share with you those key reasons why we aren’t evangelistic. Here are ten of them:
- They don’t really believe people need Jesus. Unless church members and leaders really believe in the lostness of humanity without Christ, they will not be evangelistic. John 14:6 is a clear biblical statement on the exclusivity of Christ for salvation. Too many leaders and members only give lip service to it.
- Evangelism is spiritual warfare. In the most carnal sense, life is easier without being evangelistic. Spiritual warfare is tough. Sometimes it seems to be easier to go AWOL from the battle than to fight in the trenches.
- It’s hard work. From time to time someone will ask me, “What is the easiest way to get our church to do evangelism?” The answer is “none of the above.” Too many churches have become self-serving country clubs rather than obedient and sacrificial vessels of God.
- Evangelism requires intentionality. God did not say, “Share the gospel as you stay where you are.” He said, “Go” (Matthew 28:19). When you “go,” you have to know where you are going. That requires intentionality.
- Effective evangelism often requires we pray for the opportunities. Consider this challenge. Begin each day with a prayer that God will bring people in your path (or help you to see them) where you can be a gospel witness in word and deed. I have been amazed (though I shouldn’t be) how God has answered that prayer in my own life.
- Too many people have too many excuses. One church member told me the entire county where he lives was fully churched. In fact, he said there are too many churches. There are, he said, no gospel opportunities. I then showed him demographics that showed his county was 62% unchurched. His response? “I don’t believe that.”
- Too many churches are too busy to do evangelism. If your church has so many activities, meetings, and programs that your members never have time to develop relationships and share the gospel, your church is too busy. Some times Satan’s most powerful tool is to get us doing good things to the neglect of the best thing.
- Church leaders are not evangelistic. If the pastor, staff, elders, deacons, and teachers are not evangelistic, it is unlikely the church will be evangelistic. The church members will follow that disobedient example.
- Many church leaders and members don’t know their field or ministry area. Jesus said, “the harvest is abundant, but the workers are few” (Matthew 9:37). So where is the harvest field? Too many churches neglect their community because they are really ignorant of who is there and what their needs are.
- Evangelism is counter-cultural. If you want to be a people pleaser, don’t be evangelistic. Culture hates the gospel that says there is only one way of salvation. But if you want to be a God-pleaser, share the gospel. You may die doing it, but what an honor to pay such a price!
So what are most of our churches in North America communicating to the world with our self-centeredness and lack of evangelistic fervor? It’s simple.
We are telling the world to go to hell.
May God convict us of our evangelistic apathy.
This article was originally published at ThomRainer.com on September 5, 2016. Thom S. Rainer serves as president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources. Among his greatest joys are his family: his wife Nellie Jo; three sons, Sam, Art, and Jess; and seven grandchildren. Dr. Rainer can be found on Twitter @ThomRainer and at facebook.com/Thom.S.Rainer.
They are the two most common causes of forced termination of pastors.
- Weak leadership skills.
- Poor relational skills.
Much has been written in the past decade on leadership skills. The body of literature on the topic is massive and growing. I certainly have little to add in a brief blog post.
It is for that reason I focus specifically on the relational skills of great church leaders. Admittedly, my approach is both anecdotal and subjective. But I have been in the ministry of working with church leaders for thirty years. I think my cursory overview would be supported by more thorough research.
Most pastors and church leaders have never received formal training in relational skills. Perhaps these seven observations of outstanding leaders will prove helpful to many of you.
- They have a vibrant prayer life. The more we are in conversation with God, the more we realize His mercy and grace. That realization leads to a greater humility, which is a key attribute of those with great relational skills.
- They ask about others. Listen to people with whom you have regular conversations. How many of them focus the conversation on you and others? A key sign of relational health is a desire to direct the conversation to concern and questions about others.
- They rarely speak about themselves. This trait is the corollary to the previous characteristic. Have you ever known someone who seems always to talk about himself or herself? They are usually boring or irritating. They are definitely self-absorbed.
- They are intentional about relationships. They don’t wait for others to take the initiative. They are so focused on others that they naturally seek to develop relationships.
- They have a healthy sense of humor. This trait is natural because the leaders are not thinking obsessively about themselves. Indeed, they are prone to laugh at themselves and their own perceived inadequacies.
- They are not usually defensive. Pastors and other church leaders deal with critics regularly. Sometimes a defense is right and necessary. Most of the time, the leaders with great relational skills will not take the criticism too personally.
- They constantly seek input. Their egos are not so tender that they are unwilling to receive constructive criticism. To the contrary, many of these leaders seek such input on a regular basis.
I speculate that over one-half of forced terminations have at their foundation poor leadership and/or relational skills of the leader. I hope this brief checklist will help you look in the mirror with greater clarity.
Let me hear from you about the issue of relational skills of church leaders.
This article was originally published at ThomRainer.com on May 16, 2016. Thom S. Rainer serves as president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources. Among his greatest joys are his family: his wife Nellie Jo; three sons, Sam, Art, and Jess; and seven grandchildren. Dr. Rainer can be found on Twitter @ThomRainer and at facebook.com/Thom.S.Rainer.