Leadership through Preaching

Now I rejoice in what was suffered for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions, for the sake of his body, which is the church. I have become its servant by the commission God gave me to present to you the word of God in its fullness (Colossians 1:24-25) Reggie McNeal, a church analyst and futurist who’s built a lucrative career throwing firebombs at evangelical churches, says the act of preaching is irrelevant and outmoded. What modern churches need instead is testimony, individual believers sharing with one another how they’ve figured out the Christian lifestyle. According to McNeal, the didactic […]

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Authentic Worship

 Worship is the primary action of the church—the first and highest pursuit of every local congregation. “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light,” 1 Peter 2:9 says and establishes the relative value of the many activities modern churches think necessary in order to be successful. Before all our Bible study classes, benevolence outreaches, leadership seminars, fund-raisers, age-graded programming, mission trips, golf retreats, class meetings, committee meetings, scrap-booking and coupon-clipping groups, Republican party meet-the-candidate luncheons, senior adult trips, testimonies, men’s breakfasts, women’s brunches, […]

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Harry Potter

With the release of the last film in the Harry Potter series, “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2,” Americans have once again focused on the extraordinary impact of author JK Rowling on modern culture. Like its cousins “The Lord of the Rings” and “The Chronicles of Narnia,” the Harry Potter series describes a fantasy world where good and evil contest each other in the form of characters and forces outside the experience of anything in our own world. But the resemblance between the three most notable children’s authors of the last century is only superficial. The reality is that a world of difference exists between them. The Oxford […]

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Church Identity

I wrote earlier in the week about the need for ministers to discover their own identities. The same principle holds true for churches. In fact, both ministers and their churches walk down the path of self-discovery together. In the opening chapters of Revelation, the exalted Jesus speaks to individual congregations in a way that resonates with the preacher’s journey toward his personal identity. He does so in a series of letters dictated through the Apostle John to seven distinct congregations. While the seven are obviously connected through their common relationship with the Lord, it’s their differences that so clearly emerge through the course of the correspondence. Each one is unique […]

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FInding Your Self

We’ve all known them, those ministers who come across so preacher-like, who so obviously assume the role of preacher that we’re immediately put off.  They’re always dressed like they think a preacher ought to dress; they speak with a smooth, spiritual-sounding voice, like they think a preacher out to talk; they come across as unctuous as a funeral director only nowhere near as fun; they project a kind of superficial concern for other people that they know—and person who’s the object of their attention knows!—isn’t real. It’s all a role. I’ve met those people and have to confess that I immediately disliked them. Then my twenty-one-year-old son met a pastor […]

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Worship Works Out

Occasionally, worship services proceed like they’re supposed to. The order of service is followed to the letter. The music is engaging and mistake-free. The sermon is interesting. The congregation is dutifully attentive for the duration. Ministers, especially, are pleased when services come off without a hitch.  It rarely works out that way.  Any minister will tell you that making worship services worshipful is an on-going struggle. People being people, you just cannot predict, nor control, what goes on in the congregation. I’m often a nervous wreck trying to keep my train of thought in the middle of the distractions, disturbances, noises and interruptions that make up a local congregation engaged […]

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God's Sovereignty in Preaching

It was one of those Sundays where nothing went right.  Attendance was way off, with many people apparently away for the weekend. The hymns were slow and the choruses just dragged along like a funeral service. Everyone acted like they were depressed. From where I was in front of the congregation, nobody seemed to want to be there.  And the preaching? Well, that was the worst part of all. Even though I had prepared thoroughly and felt ready to preach, things just didn’t work out. The introduction fell flat. The main points of the message that had seemed so luminous in my study turned out to be tawdry and irrelevant […]

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Convergence Worship

In the last book he wrote before his untimely death in 2007, “The Younger Evangelicals,” Christian scholar Robert Webber explores the surprising developments in many American churches. For those interested in what’s going on in the contemporary church scene – as well as those congregations that want to be more effective in ministering to their communities – Webber’s book not only is an eye-opener, it’s nearly indispensable. Webber’s basic theme is to explain the rapidly evolving nature of congregational life, and he pokes holes in many of our most cherished traditions in the process. Church leadership, for example – one of the most visible changes in modern churches is the […]

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Weeping Preachers

Like most preachers, I don’t often get emotional during worship services.Many in my congregation do, to be sure. Just recently, as I preached, I watched a dear friend sitting near the front weep for almost the entire service. I know her background and understood exactly why she was so emotional. But her situation – as much as I care about her – didn’t create the same response in me. I’ve seen men walk down the aisle at the conclusion of a service, overcome with emotion and fall on their knees before the altar to pray. I feel deeply for them and have sometimes knelt with them in prayer. But even […]

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