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3 Things to Do Before You Preach

Proclaiming the good news of the Gospel each week is one of the most important things you do as a pastor, but preparing a powerful, life-changing sermon 40-50 times a year can be really challenging. We’ve compiled a list of three practices that we think will go a long way to making your sermon prep more productive. Before you ever open your mouth – and before you ever put pen to paper – try these three things.

Read Before You Write

It’s tempting to have an epiphany when driving down the road, watching a tv show, mowing the grass, etc. and then try to reverse engineer a sermon around that. You may pull out your moleskin and scribble your three points out, then spend the next several days searching your Bible for verses to bolster them.

Assuming you’re listening to God’s Spirit, and you’re already fairly familiar with scripture, epiphanies aren’t necessarily a bad thing, but we recommend that you read and re-read your key passage(s) – and dig into commentaries and other study resources – before you ever write a word of your sermon. Let your words be informed by diligent prayer and research. Even if you end up back at the three points from your original flash of inspiration, your sermon will be richer for having done the hard work of listening deeply.

Preach To Yourself First

We all have a tendency to be better at finding specks in others’ eyes than we are at noticing the 2x4s in our own. It’s easy to read the warnings and admonitions in scripture and think about how they apply to all those other people, but harder to look inside ourselves and see where we fall short.

Before I get up to share a biblical text with an audience, I try to always think about my sermon as though it were being preached just to me. I don’t want to go out and decry all the people who are being pharisaical without first examining ways in which I’m a pharisee. This isn’t only important for our own spiritual growth and maturity, but it will help you communicate your message to your congregation in a way that’s truly relatable.

Set Up The Drive Home

Your sermon is less about what’s proclaimed in your church building, and more about what’s processed outside of your walls, inside the hearts of your listeners. In other words, choose words that get your folks thinking and, more importantly, talking. Present your material in such a way that friends and family will want to keep talking about the message when they get in the car to drive home.

What do you do before you preach?
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Church Marketing Mistakes

 

FlashbackFriday

Did I really say “Throwback Thursday”? Well I meant to say “Flashback Friday”. Ha! Let’s give it a shot for a while. Each Friday, I will pull an article from our archives that is inspiring, encouraging, applicable, or just downright interesting. This week I found an article from Angela Bainter on common marketing mistakes churches are making. It’s a great article with some super practical tips! I hope you enjoy it.

Check out Top Mistakes You’re Making in Marketing Your Church Events

 

 

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Leading with Authenticity, Not Perfection

oneWhen I was in my early thirties, my husband and I pastored a church. We had been serving in supporting roles for several years and inherited the leadership when our senior pastors moved into the next phase of their ministry. Many members of our congregation were twice my age and most of our our team members had a strong desire to serve the Lord but needed training and time to adjust to our way of doing things. Many expressed interest in teaching, preaching and joining the worship team, but the church’s most pressing needs were less visible tasks. I worked very hard to make up for the slack by filling in the gaps through my own efforts.

I resigned from my day job to attend to congregational needs and an administrative office that was a mountain of paperwork and bills. The church needed regular cleaning, and while my own home lay neglected, I scrubbed the floors and toilets. We began to struggle to put food on the table, but there was a waiting list of people who wanted to come over for dinner and talk about their ministerial needs. I didn’t know how to ask for help, and I thought that by trying to do everything I was leading by example. I kept working and doing and scrubbing, desperately hoping that my work would speak as a message and inspire others to join me. It didn’t.

I became frustrated, but fear of wounding people with the truth caused me to continue my solitary pursuit of perfection. While certain members of our team scrambled for recognition and positions of authority, I held my tongue and tried to be the perfect pastor’s wife. I have since learned, and am learning, that it is impossible to lead if I am not real. I’m learning to follow a few principles that help me serve and lead in a way that works for me.

Speaking honestly and promoting openness.

The thing that is great about speaking your mind is that it opens us up to God’s light. When we speak, we expose situations and we expose ourselves. Speaking openly about anything will cause good and evil to rise to the surface. If we are humble enough to accept that part of God’s correction may also come to us, He may also allow it to come through us. And yeah, I’m going to mess up. But if I don’t voice my opinion, it is much more difficult to weed through and separate my personal frustrations from situations that I truly do need to speak into.

Yes, think before you speak, but speak!

Being vulnerable and leading (or just living) from the heart.

I’m not talking about being an emotional basketcase, but let’s be real. Let’s be honest, transparent and human. A person who is strong enough to keep their heart open will make a leader that is able to win the hearts of others. With vulnerability also comes humility, as it is difficult to pretend we are perfect when we adopt such a transparent posture.

I truly believe that if we do not listen to our instincts when we are trying to serve God, that we may be blocking out the voice of His Spirit trying to guide and lead us. Fear of our flaws taking over will also inhibit us from moving into what He wants to lead us to do.

Embracing uniqueness and placing value on strengths.

Much of the burden that I carried came from trying to be what I thought I should be. I didn’t recognize myself in the role of a pastor or pastor’s wife so I tried very hard to become something that I wasn’t. A leader who is not comfortable in their skin will not be able to recognize the true call and giftings of those around them. It was very hard for me to rely upon the strengths of those around me when I wasn’t even drawing from my own.

Embracing uniqueness doesn’t stop with ourselves! When we are comfortable in our own skin, we can then begin to see the unique strengths of others.

Pursuing excellence and accepting imperfection.

“Perfectionism is just fear in really good shoes.” – Elizabeth Gilbert

I would add that if this quote is true, then pride is the hosiery. Great things happen when we step out and try new things. Perfectionism will cause others to be afraid to even try, as it is born out of our own fears of not measuring up.

Creativity and innovation begin to flow when we stop looking into our past experiences for an ideal to attain, which takes us on a path towards excellence. Excellence and perfection are entirely different beasts!

Seeing the big picture and letting go of the little things.

Part of letting go of perfectionism involves retaining the general vision as a leader, without feeling the need to micromanage. Let your people do things differently than you – they may surprise you by doing certain things better than you would have, and certainly will perform better if you give them the space to do so!

Remind yourself that those working with you are more important than the task at hand, and see the task as a way of training and growing them into efficient workers and leaders. This puts value back in its rightful place. The task you are working on may be irrelevant next week or year. What matters most is people.

Moving beyond failures and remaining teachable.

It is impossible that you will always do everything right. You will never succeed at every undertaking. Accept your failures and allow yourself to learn from them. Don’t let your narrative cover up mistakes in a way that prevents you and others from learning from them! Embracing failure will lead to a greater humility, and Christlikeness, in your life and leadership capacities.

Only God knows the end from the beginning and nobody likes spoilers! Just obey God, leave room for adventure and let the journey be a part of creating the backdrop of your final destination. What looks like a failure today could very well be your key to success. Persevere. Let go and leave room for God and others to add nuance to the final outcome of a project. You will learn more and the final income of  a dream that has been tried, tested and influenced from many directions, will certainly have more capacity to inspire and endure.

When all else fails, forgive.

My husband and I have a motto: “Forgiveness is more important than self improvement.” I think on this a lot, and I realize more and more that it is even the key to improvement. If my story is an implosion of chaos and heartbreak, I forgive those that have hurt me, and I forgive myself. Life isn’t over, and there is always another story, another project and another chance. God isn’t waiting until I am perfect before He decides to use me. Only through walking this constant forgiveness towards myself and others will I be able to rinse, wash and repeat these steps again, forgetting perfection once again, practicing authenticity and aiming for excellence.

Who knows, maybe eventually I’ll get it right.

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Let Your Light Shine And Volunteer

Sunday after Sunday, the church doors swing open, the coffee table is set up, and the lights are dimmed for worship. A table of brochures and sign up sheets is set up at the back of the sanctuary for anyone wanting to serve in the church. Growing up in church, I sometimes have felt reluctant to write down my name and email address on the next blank line of a church ministry form. Am I good enough? I’ll just sit in my cushy, connector-pew seat and enjoy the show.

A show? Ok, I really don’t view church as a show. I believe I’m not alone, though, when it comes to my sentiment about getting involved in church. It is easy to look at the worship leaders, smiling greeters, and cheerful ushers like they walk around in the shiny white robes of Christ while my heart is wearing the dingy brown burlap of a sinner. Am I worthy to even be here among these other congregants?

One thing I have to keep in mind is that I need to stop comparing! I don’t have to have that perfect personality or stereotypical church volunteer persona. People appreciate honesty and not being fake. Jesus, our ultimate example of how to be, was real with people! He called others out for their sins, He spoke out about loving members of society that were rejected or hated, and He even flipped over tables when He was righteously angry. He showed His tender mercy at times and His sense of justice at other times. We are all created to be unique and just as Jesus has many facets, each person reflects different qualities of God.

The truth is, God would not have come to Earth as the God-man if there wasn’t a need for Him. Humanity is stained at birth and cannot live the life God intended without Christ being a part of its world. Every heart has a hole that needs to be filled and a longing that needs to be satisfied. The wonderful miracle that happens when you decide to serve God and He fills that void is awesome.

Even though you will not be perfect in all that you do, when you become a follower of Christ, God sees a shining light that you either choose to share or to hide from your neighbors. Matthew 5:15 says “No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house” (NLT). You might feel like a piece of rubbish rather than a beautifully carved masterpiece of God, but realize that God lights the fire. Let Him worry about what material you are made of and let Him refine you. Whether you are a meticulously woven wick or a simple broken branch, God can transform you into His shining fire. Don’t feel intimidated any longer – come as you are and let your light shine!

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#TBT – Josh Burns on Social Media Volunteers

THROWBACK

Image from Lighstock.com

Here at the Church Media Blog, we have some pretty cool content. Have you seen it all? There is definitely a lot to see! So how do you know where to begin? Well that’s where Throwback Thursday, #TBT comes in. I will be curating some of the top content on the Church Media Blog that has generated the most buzz and excitement over the years and re-sharing those articles with you. Whether they are helpful hints, inspiring thoughts, or just interesting topics, I’ll bring these back to you for your reading enjoyment.

This week, I want to share with you a post from about 2 years ago that really sparked some ideas in my mind about managing multiple social media accounts. Check out this article from Josh Burns on utilizing volunteers to help spread God’s Word through Social Media.

 

Josh Burns on Social Media Volunteers

 

 

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