6 Questions That Will Help Your Next Sermon Reach Everyone

This is about removing assumptions in our preaching and sermon content, so ironically, we need to begin with a few assumptions.

When you preach, I assume your hope is to reach every person in your audience, connect them all to a new way of thinking, and lead them all to apply a new way of living. That’s the basic idea preaching, right? Provide true information that compels helpful application.

If we hope to lead everyone in the room to the truth of our message, we must start by connecting everyone in the room to us and our message. That’s not a simple task.

For instance, if you only had an audience of one, developing a message that will accomplish your connecting goal would be relatively simple. To grasp where one person is in their faith, understanding of God, and engagement in a Christian worldview is likely. Not necessarily easy, but certainly possible.

With an audience of 10, the task gets more complicated — potentially 10 times more complicated in fact. A larger audience brings a larger diversity of backgrounds, understandings, willingness to believe, and willingness to apply ideas or new truths.

Grow the audience to 100, or 1,000, or 10,000, and the task gets exponentially more complex.

In the face of this complexity, there is one preaching mistake I see more than any other:

Too many sermons are crafted around unshared faith assumptions.

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How to Make Your Next Sermon Pressure Free

Are you communicating this weekend?

Maybe preaching at your church? Speaking in a student ministry? Or even training or casting vision to volunteers.

I am, and it got me to thinking…

No matter the environment, the audience, or the type of message, communicating in any spiritual context brings a unique pressure. It’s a pressure that only communicators in the church can fully understand.

When I worked in the marketplace, I communicated quite a bit. I made sales calls, staged product demonstrations, presented data and strategy analysis, and even occasionally spoke to larger audiences about our business, our competencies, and our industry.

None of these moments compare to what happens in ministry, though. There is such a unique weight in any ministry communication. The pressure comes from many places:

  • God: Let’s just start where everything in us as pastors and teachers should start. It doesn’t take more than a cursory reading of James (among other Biblical books) to feel the weight of our position. And we should feel the weight. If we don’t, we apparently aren’t taking our position as seriously as God does. When we stand in front of people to encourage, admonish, or anything in between, we represent more than just our opinion. That’s pressure.

“Not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly.” James 3:1

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6 Ways to Craft an Ineffective Sermon

You have never tried to make your message irrelevant, boring, or incomprehensible.

At least I hope not!

But you find yourself preaching while questioning your effectiveness. You walk up to deliver a sermon lacking confident in your content. You question your ability. Your capacity. Even your calling. You feel your church more tolerates the message than engages in the content.

Of course, this isn’t the case EVERY time you preach, but more times than you’d like to admit.

Option 1:

The easy solution is to become hyper-spiritual. Say you are “trusting” God and the Holy Spirit to speak in spite of you. Not to be irreverent, though. We know at the heart of preaching, spiritual intervention is necessary. But we all know the difference between “I’m ready to go and trusting God to do what only he can do,” and “I’m not close to ready, so God perform a miracle.”

Option 2:

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25’ish Books I Hope to Read in 2015


What books are you planning to read in 2015?

It seems like a daunting task to create a list of books, conferences, and other learning opportunities, but as we begin the year together, it seems having a plan is the best (and only way) to ensure we take growth steps.

One thing: Before you look at my list, I’d love to know what YOU are planning to read. Even better, what have you read that is a MUST READ that I’m missing on my list?

Also, in case you’re wondering, here were my favorite books from 2014!

Here are the books I’m planning to read in 2015.

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Do Deep Messages Impress Your Seminary, but Confuse Your Church?

Why do we tend to over-complicate everything?

It’s not just you. I do it, too. In fact, I do it constantly.

Nowhere more than when I am writing a message. As a communicator and preacher, there’s something in me (and I bet I’m not alone) that intuitively believes a message is only good if it’s deep, layered, and rich. If we were baking a cake, that would be true. But this is a message. The reality is a deep, layered, and rich sermon might impress an audience or a seminary professor, but it typically doesn’t leave a lasting impression. Worse, it’s not memorable or easily applicable.

I have trouble seeing this in my own messages at times, but as is often the case, what’s difficult to see in the mirror is clear through a window. Recently I was helping a friend write a message. He had a GREAT idea. Very personal. Very helpful. And it was beautifully simple. But there was something in us both that wanted to complicate the content. We wanted to cover every angle and answer every issue.

Luckily, before he and his message hit the stage, we both remembered this basic preaching truth: Simple is better, because simple is digestible and applicable. Again, if you are trying to impress a crowd, go deep, layered, and rich. But, if you want people to understand and apply the truth you spent hours and hours studying and preparing, throw out the cake and work toward simplicity.

Here are a few steps I take when searching for message simplicity:

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This Might Be The Most Important Preaching Principle I’ve Learned

This might be the most important preaching principle I’ve learned.

Before I tell you the lesson, though, let me walk you through my process of discovery:

When I first began preaching, I took an entire manuscript on stage. It was a pastoral security blanket – except not pink and fuzzy. I tried not to read it directly, and in most cases, I was successful. But in my mind, it was good to know it was there… just in case I needed to snuggle.

Unfortunately, as I watched my messages the next day (it’s awkward, but you should do this if you don’t already!), I felt my preaching was lacking an important ingredient – CONNECTION. I was communicating all the content. I didn’t miss any stories, illustrations, points, or verses. But as I watched myself, I realized something significant:

Great content without great connection is poor communication.

And that was my problem. I communicated clear content without any relational connection, and it wasn’t working.

As I diagnosed my lack of connection, the problem became apparent:

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The Rules of Tension in Your Message

There is a lot to say about creating and leveraging tension in a message. It has been one of the most fascinating discoveries for me as a communicator. In an earlier post, I discussed the differences between a felt and unfelt tension. In this post, I want to discuss a few critical questions I like to use as a tension filter while developing message content. For me, every message must provide an answer or solution to one of these questions.

1. What is the question this message answers?

Every message (I understand there may be some exceptions) should provide an answer that leads to a point of application. And every answer is built upon a question. If you can identify the question at the center of your solution, you have found your tension. Now, build up that tension in the beginning of your message so you can present the answer to an audience who is ready to hear the solution.

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Why Is Nobody Paying Attention?

I feel very blessed – no, extremely blessed – to be a part of North Point Ministries where I consistently meet with and get feedback from guys like Andy Stanely and Lane Jones. Of course, there is a lot of pressure knowing every time you preach, Andy and Lane are going to listen and critique you. But that is nothing compared to the pressure I feel knowing that an audience of unchurched people who might be giving God and the church one more chance is listening, as well. That’s pressure – and it’s healthy. Every preacher should feel that healthy pressure. It makes me work hard and take my role as communicator very seriously.

One thing I’ve learned from Andy and Lane is the power of tension in a message. Maybe it’s better to say I’ve learned the necessity of including tension in a message. Too often preachers believe that people will listen and follow because they are talking. That is equivalent to believing people will watch your television program just because you put it on TV or your video simply because you posted it on YouTube. But just because you’re talking doesn’t mean people are listening. Just watch a teenager.

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