Three Books to Read about Preaching

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Most people who go to church only thing about preaching on Sunday, but preachers think about preaching all week long. I have the privilege of explaining God’s Word every week to an eager congregation. Here are three books that have had the biggest impact on my preaching.

1. He Is Not Silent by R. Albert Mohler

41fz3IoB3fL._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_Albert Mohler argues that preaching God’s Word is a central, irreducible, and non-negotiable part of authentic worship.  The kind of preaching he has in mind is expository preaching. He defines expository preaching as “reading the text and explaining it – reproving, rebuking, exhorting, and patiently teaching directly from the text of Scripture” (p. 52). This book has been foundational in my approach to preaching.  It would help anyone who wants to make the most of their ministry.

2. Biblical Preaching by Haddin W. Robinson

41G7zdZdvqL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_Haddon Robbin makes a case for expository preaching and then explains in step-by-step detail how to produce an expository sermon. The thing that I like best about the approach described here is the flexibility. Messages that are based on the text of Scripture need to conform to the contours of each passage preached. This book is great for the preacher who wants to sharpen his skills or the church member who wants to get the most of the messages he or she hears.

3. Planning Your Preaching by Stephen Nelson Rummage

51kUpd7ZGpL._SY346_Preaching is a privilege, but it’s also a great responsibility. Preaching expository sermons week after week can benefit from careful planning. In this book, Stephen Rummage explains how a preacher can plan his preaching up to a year in advance. I don’t usually plan that far ahead, but  I have used his approach to plan out my preaching calendar for almost a decade. It works! Preachers who want to make the most of their time and resources would do well to use the techniques described in this book.

As always, you can find these books at your online retailer or bookstore. If you decide to pick up one of these books as a last-minute Christmas gift for your preacher, make sure you don’t include a note that says, “Your preaching stinks. I hope this helps you get better.”

Three Lessons I’ve Learned from Putting on This Year’s Living Christmas Tree

79194436_2826686150717048_7076236130881896448_oThe church that I serve has been putting on a Living Christmas Tree program for 35 years. Even though some people feel like Christmas pageants and church-sponsored light shows are thing of the past, our program is still very vital. We have tweaked and changed it over the years for sure, but it still draws a large crowd in our community and gives us the chance to present the real Christ-centered meaning of Christmas.

This year’s Living Christmas Tree program wasn’t without its challenges, but it taught me three valuable lessons. The first lesson is that Christmas provides a great opportunity for the church to reach out to the community. People seem more open to new ideas and new opportunities during the holidays. It may just be sentimentality or loneliness, but it’s a door that’s open for the gospel.

The second lesson is that personal invitations are powerful. We purchase advertising and put up signs telling people about our program, but it’s the personal invitations that make a difference. I met many people this year who came because they were invited by friend, family member, or an acquaintance.

The third lesson is the power of collaboration and teamwork. It takes a lot of people to pull off a program like the Living Christmas Tree – from those who sign in the tree to those who help park cars – everyone is important. When people serve together, they grow together and develop a closer bond, which a great benefit to the health of our church.

In the end, the Living Christmas Tree is just a tool to help us share the gospel of Jesus Christ with our local community. It may not last forever in this form, but it’s still effective and I’m thankful for it.

Three Books to Read on Revivals and Spiritual Awakening

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I’ve met a lot of believers who are eager for revival and spiritual awakening to come to our nation or their community, but few who know what it takes to experience such things. Revival and spiritual awakening are a gift that only God can give, you and I can prepare ourselves to receive that gift. Here are three books you should read about the mighty movements of God.

1. Miracle in the Mountains by Lonnie and Belinda Riley

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Lonnie Riley and his wife, Belinda, left a pastorate in a well-established church in Mississipi for an opportunity to serve God in Lynch, KY – with no official position and no salary. This book is about all the ways God took care of the Rileys and how He brought spiritual awakening to the town of Lynch and the surrounding area. Check out what God is doing today through the network of ministries that have grown up through their faith at www.meridzo.org.

2. Fresh Encounter by Henry Blackaby and Richard Blackaby

51e8Fyf2twL._SX328_BO1,204,203,200_Henry and Richard Blackaby are most well know for their Experiencing God study. In this book, the Blackabys explore the factors involved in having a face-to-face encounter with God. They discuss the difference between revival and spiritual awakening then outline the seven phases of revival through Bible study and examples from history. This book would be great for those who want to teach and lead others to have a life-changing encounter with God.

3. Firefall by Malcolm McDow and Alvin Reid

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In this book, McDow and Reid describe the revivals that have shaped the world from the first awakenings in the Old Testament to the movements of the twenty-first century. Even though this book focuses on the history of revivals and spiritual awakenings, it’s aim is contemporary. When I read this book, it makes me think more and pray harder bout what it would take to experience one more mighty move of God in my generation.

You can find these books at your favorite retailers. Feel free to share this post and share these books with the people who are eager for revival and spiritual awakening in our neighborhoods and our nation.

Three Books to Read about Personal Evangelism

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Personal evangelism is sharing one’s faith in Jesus Christ, God’s Son. D.T. Niles described it more vividly as “One beggar telling another beggar where to find bread.”  As exciting as evangelism is, most believers find it challenging and intimidating. Here are three books to read about personal evangelism.

1. Everyday Evangelism by Matt Queen

81a75EKsx2LMatt Queen wants to create a culture of evangelism in churches across North America. He writes as a Southern Baptist to other Southern Baptists, but his simple strategy can be applied to any church that wants to improve her evangelistic efforts. Queen explores a number of common questions and challenges before recommending a hands-on strategy for personal evangelism. This book is great for church leaders who are looking for straightforward way to motivate others to share their faith.

2. Turning Everyday Conversations into Gospel Conversations by Jimmy Scroggins and Steve Wright

81u0LR0h7DLOne of the most difficult parts of personalism evangelism is making the transition from talking about everyday things to talking about spiritual things. Scroggins and Wright use the concept of “brokenness” to move unbelievers into a conversation about the gospel and our need to recover God’s original design for our lives. This book is will be a help to anyone who is afraid of personal evangelism

3. Evangelism Is… by Dave Earley and David Wheeler

51pSyEc0VVL._SX335_BO1,204,203,200_This book is a devotional book about sharing one’s faith. In it, Earley and Wheeler approach evangelism from 40 different angles – from motivations to methods. This book is thoughtful, thorough, and practical. It is great for readers who are willing to reexamine their thoughts about personal evangelism in order to become a more faithful witness. Every chapter is full of ideas on how to share Jesus with passion and confidence.

As always, you can find these books at your online retailer or bookstore. Feel free to share this post and these books with anyone that you know who wants to improve their personal evangelism.

The Value of a Multigenerational Church

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Family reunions are multigenerational by design. Grandmas and grandpas get together with their children, grandchildren, nephews, nieces, cousins, and in-laws to love on one another and reconnect. As often as they happens, they are times to pass family values on from one generation to another.

The Bible affirms the value of the young and the old when it states, “The glory of young men is their strength, And the honor of old men is their gray hair” (Proverbs 20:29, NASB).  The Bible also assumes that the younger and older generations will come together in the ministry of the church. Titus chapter 2 includes instructions for older men and women who are worshipping and serving along side their younger counterparts. Older believers are to set a good example while looking for ways to encourage the next generation to follow in their footsteps (Titus 2:2-4a). Younger believers are to be teachable and responsive as they live out their faith (Titus 2:4b-8)

A multigenerational church is a healthy church. It’s not easy to bring the younger and the older together into one big family of faith. Every generation has its own concerns, preferences, and expectations in life and life in the church. It’s not easy, but it’s good and healthy. It’s good to see grandparents and their grandchildren worshipping together for the sake of the gospel. It’s healthy for young adults to learn from senior adults and vice versa in the ongoing ministry of the church.

 

Seven Ways to Prepare for Worship This Weekend

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I have the privilege worshiping with my church family every Sunday at Unity Baptist Church in Ashland, Kentucky. I may be a pastor, but I’m a worshipper at heart. My primary responsibility in life is to glorify God and worship Him in spirit and truth (John 4:24).

Worship is one of the spiritual activities (a.k.a spiritual disciplines) that gives focus and provides growth spiritual for those who want to live as Christians. I enjoy worshipping God on my own, but I also enjoy worshipping God with my church family as part of our formal church gatherings.

I rediscovered a fantastic book recently on the spiritual disciplines: Richard Foster’s Celebration of Discipline. In it, Foster outlines the path to spiritual growth through thirteen different spiritual disciplines. Personal and public worship are one of those activities. I was so encouraged by his seven ways to prepare for worship (he calls them “Steps  into Worship”) that I wanted to share them with you here.

1. Learn to practice the presence of God daily (1 Thess. 5:17). Public worship is really just an extension of private worship. Try to cultivate a sense of appreciation and awe throughout the week. When you get to church on Sunday you will eager to share your worship with others.

2. Have many different experiences in worship. Foster suggests worshipping with others in smaller settings throughout the week in addition to worshipping on your own. These sessions can provide the encouragement and accountably you need to express your praise to God.

3. Find ways to really prepare for the gathered experience of worship. Sundays can be busy days. Sometimes we are grateful just to make it to our pew on time. You can improve your experience in the worship service, however, by getting adequate rest the night before or by reviewing the songs or Scripture passages that will be used in the service that day.

4. Have a willingness to be gathered in the power of the Lord. Foster suggests that the language of gathered fellowship (worship) is not “I,” but “we.” We should be more concerned with God’s presence and work in the church as a whole than if our own individual needs have been met.

5. Cultivate holy dependency. The danger of “preparing” for worship is that we think that worship depends on us. God is the one who took the initiative in revealing Himself and His Word to us. Our worship is really just a response to Him and His gracious work.

6. Absorb distractions with gratitude. Distractions are unavoidable in public worship. Foster suggests thanking God for the life and energy of a little children who may be making noice rather than being annoyed by them.

7. Learn to offer a sacrifice of worship. Worship is rarely convenient. It takes time, energy, and other resources to praise God like He deserves. It takes commitment to gather with God’s people every week to worship God. When we learn to see these “difficulties” as a sacrifice in themselves, we will be more inclined to overcome them.

In the end, we are all worshippers at heart. We can either worship the One True and Living God revealed to us in the Scriptures, or we can worship something or someone less than God. If you are drawn to worship God, then I hope this helps you prepare well for worship with your church family this weekend.

 

My Experience in a Discipleship Group

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I made a startling discovery earlier this year. I did some research on the baptism, membership, and attendance trends in the church I serve as pastor and I realized that as a church, we have lost 500 people in the last 10 years! We have welcomed an entire sanctuary full of people (our sanctuary seats about 500) into our membership through baptism and transfer of letter, but our Morning Worship and Sunday School attendance have stayed about the same. Even though some of those people have passed away, moved out of the area, or stepping into places of ministry, you would think that we would be able to retain at least some of our newest members.

One of the reasons we have not retained our members, new and well-established, is because we have not done a good enough job collectively of discipling them. We have allowed baptism and new membership to become the finish line of faith instead of the starting line. We have welcomed people of all ages into our church and given them a variety of ministry opportunities without a clear plan for spiritual development.

This discovery led me to a new type of ministry that isn’t new at all. When Jesus Christ was on earth, he ministered to thousands of people yet focused the majority of his time on 12 ordinary men. Jesus narrowed his focus even further by investing in Peter, James, and John more than the rest of this disciples. Jesus made disciples in small groups. The Apostle Paul followed Christ’s example by teaching and training a select group of men out of the hundreds, maybe thousands, that he had contact with. Timothy, Titus, and Luke are familiar names to us today because Paul worked so closely with them during his time on earth.

The new type of ministry that I discovered is a Discipleship Group. A Discipleship Group is an intentionally small group (3 to 6 people) that meets for spiritual development and replication. Unlike Sunday School classes, these groups are gender-specific and closed to outsiders to facilitate deep relationships, open communication, and accountability. After twelve months, group members are prayerfully challenged to turn around and start their own group for the next year.

I have been involved in 2 exploratory Discipleship Groups in the last 2 years and experienced great benefits. As a believer, I have been prompted to spend regular time in Bible study and prayer, to invest in meaning relationships with other believers, and to live out the gospel daily. As a pastor, I have seen men in our church hear from God through His Word and look for ways to share it with others. I have only been involved with these particular kinds of Discipleship Groups for a short time, but I can see and anticipate the benefit they would bring to the church that I serve and the greater Kingdom of God – especially those who join in the next 10 years.

What experience do you have with small group discipleship, if any?