There are many events happening in the world around us and we would be remiss if we did not address them from the pulpit. Some are good, some are bad. The question is, how do we address them in a way that undergirds what we do in our preaching?
As I write this we are going through one of the most tumultuous Presidential election cycles in memory. With less than a month to go until we vote, people’s minds and the news are occupied with the likelihood of one or other of the candidates getting into office. On a local level, last week there was a horrendous traffic accident taking the lives of five promising high school kids. Our entire state is grieving. If I we to go into the pulpit and not mention any of these things people would be thinking, if not saying, that the sermon was detached from everyday life and the impact would be blunted. On the other hand, if I simply preached using these as main points people would think that I was simply giving a secular speech. There is a fine line to walk here.
First, do not ignore the events around you. Whether it is a natural disaster such as a hurricane, a tragic accident or a nationwide occurrence such as an election, these are on people’s minds. Jesus used current events as illustrations. ‘ 2 Jesus answered, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way? 3 I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish. 4 Or those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them—do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem? 5 I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.” ‘ Luke 13:2-5 (NIV) Using current events keeps your sermon fresh in people’s minds and makes it relevant to their lives.
Second, use current events as illustrations, not the main point of your sermon. The events should always serve a specific purpose in the sermon. If they don’t, don’t use them or find another way to use them. Maybe it would be better to mention them in the pastoral prayer rather than in the sermon.
Third, don’t go into more detail than needed to make your point. Your congregation probably has enough knowledge of the events to know what you are talking about without too much detail on your part.
These few simple rules should help you as you make your sermons timely, pointed and relevant. Have some more thoughts? Please leave a comment!
A movie a few years ago added a new word to our lexicon, or at least a new meaning for that word. “SQUIRREL!” When I hear that word, pronounced in a certain way, an image from the movie “Up” is immediately invoked. It is shorthand for a person who is easily distracted from the task at hand. It is easy to be easily distracted in today’s world. We live in a visually driven culture and are surrounded by images and videos on our phones, tablets, pc’s, laptops and TV’s. The old adage about, “Have you ever entered a room and forgot why you were there?” applies to the pastor entering the wilds of the internet. I have had many times when I have gone on the internet to find a particular piece of information and noticed a half hour later that I had visited 20 different sites and forgot why I was on in the first place. How do you avoid this?
First, when working on a project write down what you need to find. Be as specific as possible. For example, “public domain picture of a squirrel”, “illustration about tithing” or “Greek meaning of word for ‘grace'”.
Second, accomplish everything you can possibly do without going online. Doing this will give you a headstart in your work. Even if you only manage to put down an outline you will find this helps progress enormously.
Third, set a time limit for yourself. This will serve to keep you focused and goal driven. If need be, set an alarm with a countdown timer. there are many variations of these you can get for free at Google Play or the Apple Store for phones.
Fourth, find a quiet space where people can still see you. This will keep you accountable, but still in a place where you can work. You can also ask your spouse or a ministry partner to check on you occasionally.
Being in a high pressure position like bivocational ministry means that you have to use your time wisely. Distractions can be a killer. So keep your eye on the <SQUIRREL!!!!>
“I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”
There is a lot of talk about how to use social media these days, but not much on how NOT use social media. Sometimes it can be just as important to know what not to do as well as what you should be doing. I happened across an interesting blog post by Peter Mead over at http://biblicalpreaching.net/, and want to pass it along to you. The purpose of this is not to just get you to nod in agreement or shake your head in disagreement; the purpose is to get you to actively think about what you are doing and how people perceive it. Remember, it is not our intention that matters so much as how people perceive what we do. And what we as pastors do reflects on the Body of Christ. Click the link below to read the article, and enjoy!
3 Weird Things To Avoid Doing on Social Media
[cryout-pullquote align=”left|center|right” textalign=”left|center|right” width=”30%”]”…the best sermons put ‘God’ or ‘Jesus’ right into the application points. When you stand to preach, you’re not just giving a moralistic pep talk. You want to change lives, and the power for changed lives comes only from God.”[/cryout-pullquote] In exploring various web resources I occasionally discover something I think is worth passing along. The goal and mission of Bivopastor.Net is to bring those resources to your attention.
I received an email this morning pointing me to an article by Rev. Rick Warren concerning sermon construction. Bivocational pastors know that the biggest job they have in terms of time spent is preaching from the pulpit. The typical sermon takes several hours at least to formulate and research, so we want to be sure that those sermons are truly fitted to be instruments God can use to change lives. As Rev. Warren states in his article, “…the best sermons put ‘God’ or ‘Jesus’ right into the application points. When you stand to preach, you’re not just giving a moralistic pep talk. You want to change lives, and the power for changed lives comes only from God.”
Regardless of whether you use liturgical resources, preach topically or exegetically, write full manuscript, outline or expanded outline, this article provides some points for you to think about as you prepare your messages.
Follow this link to read this Rev. Rick Warren’s article on creating strong sermon points. Leave a comment below with your thoughts after you read the article!
Working a job outside of the church has many benefits, but probably one of the most under-rated is the potential for developing illustrations for sermons and devotionals. Rich real-life applications can be drawn from almost any job, and these touch people in a way that illustrations from a book or from the internet simply do not. Carry a small notebook or a computer tablet to jot down notes for things you might use later. If you can, develop a file of illustrations and stories with subject categories so you can find them easily. Some guidelines may be in order, though.
First, look for stories and illustrations that touch as many people and circumstances as possible. When you are preaching, writing or delivering a devotional to the men;s breakfast you don;t know who might be in the audience or what circumstances they may have in their own lives. John Wesley would hone his sermons to be understandable to the lowest common denominator, and we would be wise to do the same. Unless you are delivering an illustration to a particular audience, such as the time I delivered a devotion to a group of ministers, you should appeal to the widest audience possible.
Second, be careful to generalize your story to save embarrassment to other people unless you have obtained their permission beforehand. One of the most frequent areas I have found to be at fault here is the story is about your own family. Being transparent is admirable, but if you tell a story about your spouse in an unflattering or embarrassing manner you may end up sleeping on the couch! Children are perhaps even more susceptible to feeling humiliated by a story than your spouse. This is one area I find myself having to be conscious of when I speak (and I often fail!).
Third, be aware that drawing your stories from real life may open you up to other challenges. Some of these might even be serious enough to warrant legal assistance. If you tell a story involving your workplace improperly it may cause your employer to consider workplace discipline up to and including termination. If you are talking about your work, be sure to avoid anything that could put your employer in a bad light or be a violation of workplace confidentiality.
With all of that said, you can feel blessed as a bivocational pastor in knowing you have expanded opportunities for developing real life, touching and impactful illustrations.