Tip 5. Relevant Preaching (Shutting The Back Door in Your Church, Blog Series)

In this blog series, I’ve identified 9 tips to help keep people from leaving your church (i.e., shutting the back door). I believe all 9 are important. In this post, I’ll address tip number five:

TIP 5. Relevant preaching.

Preaching is part art, part science.

Every preacher has a style (the art) and an approach (the science). Discovering your style takes time – especially if you listen to specific preachers consistently. It becomes easier to mimic the cadence and style of your favorite communicator than to discover and own your style. Maybe we should address this at some point.

But approach is different. Approach is science. Approach is that intentional side of preaching where you pre-determine what you hope to accomplish in and through your sermon. Often, your approach determines your outcome. In fact, the results you see today are a direct result of your approach.

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How Andy Stanley’s Surprise Visit Taught Me Something Important

Have you ever been frustrated that you were frustrated?

Sometimes our frustration is understandable. Sometimes only we can understand our frustration.

But then there are those times when we are frustrated, but we know we shouldn’t be frustrated…which makes us more frustrated! This pretty much describes my experience when my boss, Andy Stanley, recently paid Watermarke Church (the campus location where I lead) a surprise visit.

Just a little background. It’s not normal for Andy to be at Watermarke. We still meet in a school, so our ability to export and broadcast messages to our other church locations is limited. When Andy preaches, everyone needs to hear him, so preaching from Watermarke is not optimal at the moment. But on this particular Sunday, Andy was not preaching, so with his off-Sunday, he decided to pay us a visit – an unannounced visit.

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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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Video Preaching Can’t Work In Every Church, Right?

How much time per day do you look at a screen?

I know you don’t track your screen time, but if you had to guess? I would say between the laptop I’m starring at now, the TV, my iPad, Candy Crush, and my iPhone … 28 hours a day. Maybe more. You and I spend A LOT of time in front of screens. Our actual life is moving more and more towards digital life. For better or worse, the next generation is experiencing almost everything through digital media. Just go to a concert and watch how many people experience the show through their phone as they record. Life through a screen is becoming the norm. As I type this, my son is “liking” photos on Instragram, my other son is playing XBOX, and one daughter is watching Netflix. Please don’t tell their mom!

It’s safe to say, in culture, the digital ship has sailed. Which is why, when pastors and church leaders dismiss video preaching, I’m perplexed. Continue reading…

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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Stop Preaching Every Week!

I love talking “shop” with other pastors, and lately, I’ve had the pleasure to interact with many. Preaching seems to always surface as a topic of conversation. Every pastor feels the pressure to preach great messages – not just true, but engaging and helpful content presented in an engaging way.

The most common question I’ve received in the past month or so revolves around the number of times in a calendar year a typical Senior Pastor should preach. The questions do not always start there, but that question tends to be the core issue. The last time this issue was presented to me by another pastor, it sounded something like this: “I know you preach without notes. How can I do that when I’m preaching 51 weeks a year?”

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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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