Sometime around 1999 Heritage Christian asked dad to speak on "Keeping the Spirit . . . During a Long Tenure" at their annual evangelism workshop. I am certain they wanted him to talk about how to stay at a church a long time and keep your energy. He had been at Woodlawn/Roebuck Parkway roughly 35 years at the time. But true to form dad went off-page and talked about teaching and reaching lost people. The material on the cycle of a church is excellent but the whole thing is solid gold and helpful. I think you'll be encouraged and challenged if you take the time to listen.
Tomorrow a friend, hero and mentor of mine will be buried and I am speaking a few hours away from where the funeral will occur so I will not be able to attend. Jim Davis was a good man and a dear friend. His faith was monumental and his love for souls for all people was extreme. He wanted God’s church to grow. When I was hired to preach at Hamilton I was much too young for that role (25) but he encouraged me. I remember my first conversation with him after the elders (he was one) hired me. “We will be a 1,000 member church in 2 years.” Frankly that both scared and concerned me. Scared me because I felt he was thinking I could do that, and I didn’t (and still don’t) have church growth totally figured out. Concerned me that it might be more about numbers than I wanted. BUT what I learned is, IT WAS about numbers - numbers of souls. JIM loved souls. He was evangelistic in every good way. Let me share a neat story. He got to the building every week 30 minutes before the services to meet with a little group who prayed about souls that day. BUT more he would get there even 30 minutes earlier every week and he would start calling people. He would call people who were missing services. He was loving and gentle in it. He’d say something like “we miss you, we have a place for you, you still have time to come today, is there anything I can do to help you?” Funny thing is some of those folks had been away from the church for years and year and he still called them every week. What a great lover of souls.
But there is more on my heart in honoring this good man. He was an attorney, the chairman of one of our colleges boards, an elder, but most every Saturday you’d see this big man decked out in his finest white t-shirt and overalls going from house to house cutting yards of widows and just anyone. He didn’t want any applause for this. He was just a servant. I loved when someone would be in town and I’d be out with them and we’d see Jim. I’d challenge them to guess what that man does - no one ever guessed that he was one of the most influential attorneys in the county.
He lived his life big and loved to laugh about good stuff and bring joy into the lives of others. He gave generously and big!
He was an outstanding football player at Alabama and a lifelong fan. I told some Alabama/Auburn jokes early on at Hamilton and offended one guy who took The Game more seriously than he should have. The guy stopped coming to church. Jim, told me and as an elder told me I needed to go see the guy. I’m glad I did. He shepherded me well.
Jim loved to start fires. I know that could come across wrong but there’s not a better way to say it. If something needed to be burnt he was your guy. Time for Maywood to start, he’d show up and lead the work day - but only if he was going to get a chance to burn something. There were roughly 30 congregations in Marion County. Most of them had begun generations before when transportation was difficult, travel was hard and these communities were thriving. He thought they needed some mergers. He thought many of those small churches could make more of an impact if they were merged and could do more. So, he’s smile his big smile and say “it’s nothing a few fires couldn’t handle.” Just to be sure - no building were burnt in the 30 years I’ve known Jim, but he was available :).
He did not like to see people mistreated. He loved to tell about being an assistant (read junior) District Attorney in Fayette County. The DA invited him to have breakfast one of his first days there. As they talked the DA emphasized the names of some of the lowlifes who were abusing their wife or kids. The next day that guy would be in the hospital. Jim said the guy told him “there are some justices that are better served in ways other than the courts.” The DA knew some of the bubba’s sitting around him would hear those names and let the “gentleman” know that he better not beat his wife up anymore.
As an elder, if the other elders ever got far afield from shepherding and souls Jim would say, you know we need to be talking about souls and call them back. He was gentle but forceful.
I could go on and on. This big, loving, strong, faithful, loved, godly man will be missed. I express my sympathy to his wife, Dale and my thanks to God for bringing such people into my life.
I love Gospel Meetings. I know not everyone does but they made such an impact on my heart growing up. I remember Eddie Cloer, Mid McKnight, V.P. Black, Charles Coil, Jerry Humphries, Grover Ship, Jimmy Allen and others preaching in the old Woodlawn building. They were powerhouses. I remember evangelistic door-knocking campaigns before each meeting and souls being reached. It has been roughly 35 years since I first remember seeing someone roll their eyes and proclaim that Gospel Meetings were passe.
I hold plenty and love preaching them and am still learning how to do that effectively. There are still MANY churches who have them in fact in our unscientific but significant poll only 33% of our churches no longer have Meetings or their equivalents. And when done with purpose and preparation the meetings I have been a part of the last few years seem to be heralding a dramatic and significant comeback. PURPOSELESS meetings just to check off the list so they can say they had a meeting this year should end. About six months ago I spent a morning with one of the five men who preach more meetings today than any other preacher in the south and he with a degree of destress proclaimed he was in the process of canceling any such meeting. They won’t be effective, are a drain, make people believe the REAL Gospel Meetings don’t work, and leave the church more discouraged than encouraged. Meetings without focus and meetings that do not purposefully reach out to lost people with love and an inviting spirit should be relabeled.
All of that said there are probably fewer churches having an annual Gospel Meeting than at any time in the last 100-150 years. It is NOT a sin to NOT have a Gospel Meeting but I want to share with you three unintended and maybe unconsidered consequences of NOT having a Gospel Meeting. And perhaps why you should consider having one next year:
- Churches don’t know each other: Once upon a time when every church had an annual meeting there was sort of this unspoken quid pro quo of, we expect your to support our meeting so we had better support yours. In fact, sometimes it was even spoken. In many areas (and still in some) churches would dismiss their services on a Sunday evening or have them early so everyone could go support or be a part of the meeting of the church up the road or in a nearby town. As a result, there are relatively few times when congregations interact. Interestingly because of Christian Camps, Bible Bowl, and events like CYC, EYC, Lads to Leaders, our KIDS are now better at this than the adults are. The unexpected result is that it becomes very easy when you don’t know someone or a congregation to become suspicious or isolated. An outlier to this is that we sometimes become so inwardly focused we forget our mission is NOT to build OUR Kingdom (i.e. congregation) but the LORD’S Kingdom and congregations end up in competition for members rather than reaching lost people.
- We do not hear the voice of multiple preachers/styles and are less effective: We begin to believe that our preacher's style is the only one that works or, in extreme cases, faithful. God uses earthen vessels (2 Corinthians 4:7), containers (2 Timothy 2:2) and they look and sound different and that is a good plan (because it’s God’s plan). Bob’s style may reach someone’s heart that Jim’s can’t. As a result, we also do not often have the senior voices that we had in the past. Voices that were respected because of their respect for and ability in the Word.
- Churches made the mistake of not replacing them with another evangelistic effort: Again, it’s OK to not have a Gospel Meeting but it is not OK to stop spreading the Gospel. It appears a significant number of churches gave up on meetings but didn’t replace them with anything purposefully evangelistic. Yes, it may be true for your congregation that meetings were not effective but even if they were a poor attempt to reach out they were an outreach. Every local church needs to gear directed efforts toward reaching their community and region. The unintended result is simple here. There is less outreach and that is unacceptable. We strive to be purposeful with events directed to the heart of reaching our area as their primary emphasis.
I pray this might be a springboard for some churches to get back in the outreach business whether through Gospel Meetings or some other Gospel effort. May God bless you.
Six years, 16 conferences, 8 states and over 1,000 participants ago BETTER was just a simple dream. The dream was born out of this question: “How Can I Preach BETTER?”
Driving up I-65 near Nashville, Rusty Pettus and Barry Throneberry called and asked: “who delivers the invitation better than any body else in our brotherhood?” That question, coupled with my own feelings of inadequacy chased me. How can I get better? If I was going to get better where would I go? I’d attended lectureships and learned a lot but little about THIS. I’d gone to seminars by other presenters about presenting but they were not in a setting in any way similar to mine. And, I wrote this: “You preach! But I bet you wish you could be better. Better - Better? How many Sunday nights have you just sat and wished you were better? How often on Friday afternoon have you wished you could be better? You know you’ll never be the best preacher in the brotherhood, but you sure wish you could be better. You attend lectureships, seminars, you read books and listen to others yet, it seems, no one ever says - Here is how you do it! How many times have you heard that other guy and wondered, how’d he do that? Well, we did too. The BETTER conference is a seminar limited to 150 preachers who want to be better at the skill of preaching. This is not a seminar to discuss positions on issues. Better! has a singular focus - to provide the tools and information to help you better present the Gospel...to preach better.”
And then this pledge: “I am a preacher. I am nothing but a preacher. I am thankful to be a preacher. I preach for God not for man, but I preach to men and I want to be the best preacher I can be. I want to be BETTER.”
Jeff jumped in and this all took off to a whole new level. We started sending out invites to “the guys” and we have been amazed at how many of our best have been willing to be a part of this good event. We want to bring in the best presenters we can and to format the program in a strongly engaging and highly equipping manner.
So, are you in? We don't want this to be 1,000 guys getting together to talk about programs and ministry - we want it to be about preaching better and we are purposely keeping it small. We have room for 50 more at BETTER: ALABAMA. It is not too late for you to sign up. The cost is $25, that includes a free book, all meals, and lodging. This is not a money making event in any way. If you have any questions or we can make it easier for you to come contact us and we will do what we can.
BETTER: ALABAMA, September 18-19, Florence, AL, 1pm Monday till noon Tuesday. Register HERE: https://www.universe.com/betteralabama
BETTER: SOUTHWEST, October 23-24, Madill, OK, 1pm Monday, till noon Tuesday. Register HERE: https://www.universe.com/southwest
Help us spread the word so we can help you spread the Word.
BETTER: ALABAMA SCHEDULE
1-2 Intro's and Becoming BETTER (Jeff and Dale)
2-2:45Keith Parker: Preaching for Response
3-3:45Ralph Gilmore: Sermon structures: beyond three points and a poem
4-4:45 Lonnie Jones: Secrets from storytellers: how to use narrative
5-6 Dinner (Provided on-site)
6-6:45 Jeff Jenkins What Do I preach? Planning your Preaching
7-7:45 Gary Bradley, Encouragement to Preachers
8-8:45 Overhearing the Guys - a guided discussion between the speakers (Dan, Gary, Ralph, Lonnie, Jeff)
8-8:45 Chuck Monan: Spiritual disciplines for preaching (reading, personal development)
8:45-9:30 Dan Winkler: Five biggest sermon mistakes
9:30-10 Dale Jenkins: PowerPoints that don't suck for nontechies; prezi's and alternatives
10-10:45 David Shannon: Introducing a Sermon
11:-11:45 Bill Watkins: Reading a Crowd - How to Connect With Your Audience
Close - Being Better THIS Sunday! Jeff and Dale: Ten Things.
Last week in 4youR Monday our weekly email to encourage those in ministry on the day most guys want most to quit (subscribe by sending an email to TJI@TheJenkinsInstitute.com) I mentioned a conversation between dad and me after I had agreed to officiate in my first wedding ceremony and felt compelled to “require” premarital counseling for the couple. I was clueless and dad was prepared. In addition to some advice on some other things like dealing with divorced people who ask you to perform their wedding and some guidelines on being pre-prepared for the ceremony itself he gave me what I now call The Five Areas of Concern (or Adjustment) in Marriage.
If two people are on the same page on these five issues or can work toward being balanced in handling potentially alarming differences with them then they can have, not only a solid marriage, but a happy one. No two people will always see eye to eye on everything. If they did as one preacher says “one of them would not be necessary.”
1. Commitment: One person being committed in a relationship can prolong it and maybe even forbear the other but it will not be a happy one if both are not committed to marriage. We are not committed to “high school butterflies and goosebumps,” those those may be fun. We are committed to the very concept of honoring the vow of marriage. Extremely difficult days will dawn in every marriage, it is in those days that the reservoir of commitment keeps us together. And the golden years are worth the darker hued ones.
2. Communication: It is hard to understand ourself much less another, so we must strive to listen and speak in ways and tones that communicate. Ephesians 5:29 would be a great verse for any couple of memorize together. Learn the volume of correct communication. Learn to check out what you though you heard. Learn to not over-react or to react too quickly.
3. Cost: One study said that 60% of all fights in marriage are over money. I am surprised it is that low. When her money and his money become one, how we learned to work, save, spent, etc all provide excellent petrie dishes for studying temperament.
4. Cousins: A little bit of a stretch here to stay with the “c’s” but here we speak of family. While we are to “leave mother and father” we will carry a little of them with us. Learn to strive to not build your future relations on “not being” like or differences with parents. This will get old. Probably about the time grandchildren come along.
5. Christ: The center of everything. We list if last in our study because it is at this juncture we go into a MORE important discussion of the soul and salvation. If prayer, Bible reading and Christ are at the center of both of your lives there is such a small chance you will not succeed that is is difficult to measure.
I’ve driven by three Krispy Kreme Doughnut stores the last week at different times of day and I’ve noticed something. But before I go forward with this missive I need to give full disclosure here: I’m a Krispy Kreme fan, well, FANATIC. You don't want to know this or read this next line but it is the one and only “food” I know of that I could do this with. I could eat a dozen Krispy Kreme original hot doughnuts (I’ve done that) - be sick from them and then eat another dozen (I’ve not done that) - see I told you.
But I’ve noticed something. Lately when I’ve driven by the Hot Now sign, that beacon of hope in a world of despair, that light that draws me in like a moth, isn’t on. So, last night I stopped in (not to get some doughnuts) to ask. What is up? I mean you have the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. You have utopia in a box. You have money in the bank! How in the world would you not use that? Why would the light not be on all the time? The line would be out the door and around the block!
I didn’t ask the pimple-faced young boy behind the counter, I didn’t figure it was his decision. And he seemed like a nice kid, who would probably wonder why some old guy was bugging him about something like that. So I just ordered some doughnuts (none of your business how many) and left.
They got nothin’! Church. We have the very “power of God to salvation,” “the good news,” “the name by which men may be saved,” that which will “turn the world upside down,” the hope of mankind, that which angels desired to see - WHY would we not have the light on all the time? Why do we waste way too much time debating peripheral matters taking our focus off the Good News? Why do we spend our energies on congregational infightings instead of uniting at the foot of the cross? Why do we harbor past hurts instead of moving forward with forgiveness?
So, let’s get out there into our community, our place of work, our school, our little league ball parks, our places of commerce, our part of the world and turn the light on! “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:14). Be like the Lord who “went around doing good” (Acts 10:38). Shine brightly in your spirit and your influence (Philippians 2:15 HCSB). The light of an invite? The light of making your place attractive? The light of seeing opportunities and grabbing them?
“For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing” (2 Corinthians 2:15).
“Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God” (2 Corinthians 5:20).
“We cannot be quiet. We must tell people about what we have seen and heard” (Acts 4:20b ERV).
“And he said to them, ‘Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation’” (Mark 16:15).
“fully carry out the ministry God has given you” (2 Timothy 4:5)
If you did not read PART 1 be sure to pick it up HERE.
Before we launch forward remember that this is not all inclusive (in fact, I'd like your additions at the end) and that these are only my observations and I do not claim to be an expert.
5 - your capacity to not use matters of confidence in your public teaching: People are going to come to you with their “issues” and there will be times you will be tempted to minister to them from the pulpit but if people become aware that you are taking matters spoken in confidence to the pulpit you will lose your effectiveness. Don’t!
6 - your decision to not talk bad about others: First off, gossip is a sin. But in addition to that it will come back to haunt you. Something you say about another will make it’s way back to them. You’ll fall into a habit that is a bad one. Decide now you aren’t going to spend your ministry regretting things you have said negatively about others. Love all.
7 - your commitment to preach the Word: Our brethren want, need, appreciate and respect the Word. If you lean heavily into the Word of God you will both please Him and open the door to your messages being effective. It is also important to remember that it is the Word that quickens. It is where own personal faith comes from (Romans 10:17). If you are lacking passion in your ministry is it either because of personal sin, lack of love and involvement in the lives of others or lack of allowing the Word of God to confront your own soul.
8 - how much time you give Bible studies: By that I mean your own private study. Work hard, prepare, read, study! If you don’t study you may be successful for a period of time but without study there is no way you will have longevity. But if you want to be truly effective it is more than just your own Bible studies but also the Bible studies you do with others. Study the Bible with those who you can who are lost - the Word will not return empty - stir the waters, it solves a multitude of problems.
9 - your attention to your own spiritual life - if you take your focus off your own spiritual health you will stress out, strangle, struggle, smother and sink! Personal spiritual growth will help you handle the impossible schedule and the difficult brethren.
“ fully carry out the ministry God has given you” (2 Timothy 4:5)
Your opportunity to stay in ministry and be effective is in direct proportion to several significant attitudes and actions. I am sure this list is not exhaustive but does reflect what I have observed. Please feel free to comment below.
1 - your ability to move forward after a hurt: This is not a maybe or a possibility but a fact, if you are in ministry you will be hurt. There will be people who will gossip about you, who will want you to be fired, who will question your motives, who will accuse you falsely, who will be out to get you. So, the better question is, how quickly can you move on from a hurt. If you can’t, if you harbor it, feed it, focus on it, you will struggle to stay in ministry. Move on.
2 - your willingness to let the elders be the elders: The best ministerial advice I’ve gotten from my wife is that simple adage. She will repeat it to me often and she is correct. I should encourage them, give input as wanted, help them grow and seek to help them be the spiritual men and leaders God demands them to be - BUT I must always remember my role is to preach and minister and their’s is to shepherd and govern. They know things about the history of the church and the members that you do not. They were probably there before you got there and will be there to pick up the pieces should you foul things up. Let them be the elders.
3 - your readiness to work with people with whom you disagree: Because we deal with heady matters like truth and heaven and hell, with unchangeable things like truth and God’s Word it can become easy for you to live in “fight mode.” There are going to be people with whom you disagree. Sometimes it will be big issues sometimes smaller. Unless it is a matter of clear doctrine (and please don’t make every molehill a mountain you would die on) strive to work with those with whom you disagree. For the sake of the Kingdom. If you do not learn how to do this you will spend your life moving and moving and moving and will rarely affect anyone. Learn to see the bigger picture and to work well with those with whom you can - if at all possible. Let me add here that you have to learn to relent, to back off, the lose sometimes if you are going to win with the people you work with.
4 - your disposition in working with people who you do not like over personality issues: While this one is a tad different but if we are honest we will admit there are people it is just hard for us to like. Often what seems to happen is when a preacher doesn’t like someone they try to make it a doctrinal matter. I don't think it is on purpose but it does seem to happen. If you find someone you don't like - It may be their approach to things, it may be their volume, it may be their taste. Again, just as with the one above learn to be bigger than your personal tastes.
We'll continue this list later this week but for now what would you add?
A few days ago we posted a bit titled “Mistakes Churches Make In Hiring” and it went TJI viral. So I’m following that up with this on the other side of the matter.
Most preachers I know do MUCH right. They are godly, humble, humans striving to be the best they can be and help others go to heaven. So aside from the obvious…pray, be the person you need to be, preach and continue to study there are mistakes ministers make in accepting and in the first few months after accepting a new roll that will harm their potential effectiveness.
They didn’t get stuff in writing: If an eldership refuses to do things in writing it is a HUGE red flag. If they ask if you are questioning their integrity assure them of the truth - that you are human and sometimes you forget things and need it in case you forget. And further it may be needed for future elderships should a turnover occur. If you don’t get things in writing and then they fall apart and you believe you have been wronged - that does happen sometimes - you have no proof of any sort.
They bought a house to quickly: I’m fairly sure I’m on an one man mission with this one. This should be number one but I don’t want to appear too obvious on my mission. Unless you have a truckload of money and a backup truck just as filled to the first truck DO NOT rush into a house. Ever since preachers got wise to the “we’ll provide you a house” so you won’t have to pay a house payment (thereby killing any equity and helping buy the church more real-estate), preachers have been buying houses. But often we rush into it. DON’T buy till you have lived there a year or longer. This gives you the freedom to not rush, to learn the congregation and get a feel for if it’s a good fit and to learn the area and figure out what neighborhood you’d want to be in.
They used the “churches” email address: Yes, I know you are excited about the work and think you will be there the rest of your life - wasn’t that what you thought at the last place too? You want your email address to identify where you are - great but who does the address actually belong to? You? Not if the church bought the domain or name. There are always some who might be reading your email through the backdoor - it happens - I know. Not that we are sharing national security secrets or anything we should be ashamed of - but some matters of counsel are confidential. And ultimately when you leave you don’t want to have to remember to change your email with everyone - hey, you might forget and miss an issue of Ministers & Mocha.
They oversold themselves - made promises they couldn’t keep: Be careful about writing checks your mouth, your energy, or your abilities can’t cash! Do not sell what you are not, If you make huge claims of all you are going to do 1. It seems to make your work more about you than God and 2. what if you arrive and find matters that block anything you attempt to do? Be who you are. Express dreams for what you think might be able to be done. Show some excitement but don’t assure them, as one guy did a few years ago, “this church is gonna fly, just watch.” We did, the guy crashed and burned after 18 months.
They undersold themselves - agreed to an amount they could not live on: You might believe this is the simple converse of the previous mistake and while you do not need undersell your God-given abilities and honed skills this is more about 1 Timothy 5:8. You have a fiduciary responsibility to take care of your family. Don’t be greedy but DO be honest. If the church is offering a compensation you cannot live on BUT could do better AND you are interested in the work be honest and clear about your needs and why they are what they are.
They focused on only one segment of the church: This tends to happen naturally. When we are younger we tend to focus on, “cater” to, flock with the younger folks and as we grow older we do the same with the older people. Here is my suggestion from personal experience. When you are younger you don’t have to try with the younger people and vice-versa. And if you just float down-stream you will not make as much of an impact. Reach out to the older people - teach the class they attend. Go to youth events, eat a slice of pizza with them.
They didn’t learn from the previous experience: When a preacher is “released” I like to ask, ‘What did you learn from this experience in a positive way that will help you to be a better preacher in your next ministry?” The grief really isn’t worth it if you didn’t let God use it to make you better! But it’s not just when you’ve been “allowed to resign” that this is important. I have a permanent file titled “When I Move.” In it I keep good ideas from watching other people move with or start with grace and goodness. I keep mistakes I made in the move and how I would/will do it differently next time. Remember, write it down, cause you won’t remember!
They stopped growing: It would be hard to find a worse mistake for any Christian than for him or her to stop growing. How much more true this is for those of us in ministry. Challenge yourself. What happens with most of us is the preach and something at some point works - so we keep doing that thing. That isn’t bad but as time changes we must improve, learn more about how people listen, respond, are influenced. If what we were doing in the ’50’s worked and it does not now (not the message) it should not be shocking.
They didn’t have a mentor to bounce stuff off of: EVERY person needs mentors. One of the prime mistakes ministers make is not having interested outsiders who know them and love them but who do not in any way profit personally from their decisions who can speak wisdom into their situations. Who know them well enough and who they trust enough to advise them and to see what they may not.
In the interview listened to doctrinal stands on issues rather than how the elders/leaders handled issues and how the elders dealt with each other and with him as a preacher: Yes, issues matter, but there is a real reason to be at least as interested in how the elders interact with each other as where they are on specific issues. Can they debate and be friends? Do they treat each other and those who see things differently than they do with respect? Do they listen or do they think they are smarter than everyone around them?
They didn’t try out enough! There are several advantages to interviewing a good bit. You learn from each experience and practice interviews your interview skills.
They did not follow up: In the sister post to this one (http://www.thejenkinsinstitute.com/blog/2017/4/mistakes-churches-make-in-hiring) we talked at length to leaders about communicating with candidates. Here’s a brave thought. Try to convince elderships who DO NOT offer you a job to do a brief interview with you helping you understand how you could have interviewed better. You can’t do this bitterly but if you really want to be better you will try to find out HOW to be. Here’s the question: I want to be the best I can be, please help me by letting me know What can I improve on in my interviewing?
Of course these are, for the most part, just my opinions. Your list may be completely different. So feel free to add to and/or make suggestions below.
Oh, and by the way, I am sure there are mistakes in the article. I don't like it when those exist. But because 1. I am human and make them, 2. We don't have a professional proofer on staff (If you'd like that role and don't mind a pay of zero feel FREE to apply) and 3. because I am always in a rush to "ship," we will continue to make mistakes.
I have the highest respect, love and admiration for those who serve the Lord and His People in the significant role as an elder/shepherd/overseer. My dad and granddad and my father-in-law and his dad all have served in that role. Some of my dearest friends are elders and some of my most significant mentors. So know that none of this is written with an ounce of disrespectBut sometimes elders make mistakes when it come to hiring ministers (I figure they know it and would admit to these innocent errors). Perhaps this will be of some help so some overwhelmed shepherd out there.
They don’t make a mistake of not praying about it. Or of wanting the best man they can get but is my top ten list of things I’ve seen through the years that derail a good hiring process:
They did not treat the previous preacher right: Like it or not, preachers talk and even if they didn’t word gets around and if you develop a reputation of not treating preachers right it will become increasingly difficult to get good guys to want to deal with you. And you ought to understand it - would you move your wife and/or kids to a place where you and they were going to be mistreated by brethren. How do we “treat a preacher right?” It’s actually pretty simple. As an elder you are a parent so you’ll get this. Treat him how you would want your son, your daughter’s husband, the father of your grandchildren treated. If you would not recommend him work with you figure out how to correct that.
They did not cast a large enough net: OK, as the “creator and prime care-taker” of The Scoop Blog I am both baffled and amazed when I hear about an opening for a minister and then am told, but they don’t want it on the blog. Really? So you want the best man you can get, you have prayed that God would help you but you really don’t want to put the info where that best guy who you are asking God to hook you up with is? i want as many resumes, choices, etc as I can get. What is it - you don’t want to take the time? to work that hard? Are you serious about the role you accepted?
They did not make an offer when they found the right guy: Processes are good and helpful. And sharing/communicating that process is great. In fact the MORE you communicate openly and honestly throughout the whole process the better. BUT, when you find your guy - HIRE him. Let the other guys know you did it but HIRE the guy. If he is the first guy you talk with and all the elders are in agreement HIRE the guy. If he’s not the right guy - wait - communicate and wait! But make the hire when you find the guy.
They were not willing to do a little more: This is not home finance 101 and I know you have a budget but if you find the guy you want to hire but are a little away from what he needs to support his family figure out how to pay a little more. Don’t let a small percentage keep you from getting the guy you want. And don’t expect him to take less for the honor of being your preacher. If you don’t think you can do it with the present contribution go to the church and explain, “here is the guy we think can bless us and be a good fit but we need to increase our giving a little to make this happen…”
They did not GO after the guy they knew they wanted: This is a slight twist on #3. If there is a guy you would like to have as your preacher at least contact him and let him know about the opening and try to get him. You never know. I remember dad saying, “You can hire any preacher on a Monday, you just have to find the right Monday.” So you’ll never know unless you ask.
They set “hard core” rules that excluded the potentially RIGHT guy: I’m not talking theology here but anytime I get a “new listing” of a church looking for a minister and it has a bunch of “the guy must be’s…” I see trouble. The best preacher for you might be 27 but will never contact you if you say we are looking for a man between ages 30-45. Or the best guy may not have a degree from a Christian college or be married or have school ages children. It’s fine to say you’d prefer … but when you put it in concrete you shut a lot of doors that could lead to “your best next preacher.”
They hired reactionary: It is my experience after doing this for over 20 years that some churches hire in reaction to their previous preacher. And it is understandable but should be avoided. It’s understandable - throughout the previous preacher’s ministry all they heard were the complaints from those dissatisfied with him - you rarely hear from the folks who loves him. So, if the guy was great at visiting and not as great of a student the next hire will inevitably be more bookish. If the guy was older and moved slower the new guy will be younger and excitable. The problem with that is it does not consider the previous guys strengths or what the church LOVED about how he did what he did.
They sold more than they are: Listen, you don’t want a guy and wouldn’t hire a guy who lied on his resume, who made it look like he was something he is not. Why would you lead him to believe there is no problem when there is one? It’s OK to be the best version of you as you can be - in other words to put your best foot forward but don’t be dishonest to him. If you are it will sour the relationship pretty early.
They thought one guys could do it all: Don’t hire a preacher to “do your Christianing” for you! Folks if the last 50 guys couldn’t “grow your church to 1,000” the next guy probably can’t either.
They did not check enough references: And if they did check them at all they did not ask the right questions. Find out as much as you can about a guy you plan on bringing to preach God's Word to His People.
Let me close similar to how I began this post: I am thankful for elders and for their hearts and great responsibility and how every elder I have ever met wants the best for the Kingdom. Pray for these men and strive to encourage them, not compare them to any difficult one you have ever dealt with and to respect the burden they carry that you will contribute to that only with joy.
When we are in town, Tuesday morning is one of my favorite times in the week. It started a couple of years ago when one of our Senior men lost his wife.
A couple of us were talking about what we could do to help him keep himself busy so as not to be alone all the time.
We decided to take him to visit some of our shut-ins on Tuesday morning and then take him out to lunch.
After a week or two we invited a few other men to join us. Now, every Tuesday, anywhere from 10-16 of us meet at 9:00 A.M. We sit around a table and chat for a while, we spend some time in prayer, then we go out to make our visits.
Our ladies have become involved by making cookies for us to take to the people we visit. We visit shut-ins, people in hospitals, members who are struggling with their faith, and people who have been guests at our services.
We meet back at a selected place for lunch each week, and we talk about our visits. Invariably, each week someone comments that this work brings us more encouragement and joy than those we visit.
It is a blessing to me as a preacher, not only to make the visits but to be able to spend time with the men who are a part of this group as well. Hopefully, you can see why this is such a special time.
I have heard some preachers say, “I don’t ‘do’ visitation, or I don’t enjoy making visits!” One of my favorite preachers, as well as one of my favorite people, is brother George Bailey. I asked him on one occasion what he believed was the most important work a preacher did outside of standing in the pulpit preaching? He said, very quickly, and without much thought, “Visiting!”
If you visit regularly, you already know all of this. If you do not visit regularly, I would like to encourage you to begin this week making visits, for the following reasons.
(1) God commands us to visit. (James 1:26-27)
(2) Because we have a ministry to fulfill. (2 Timothy 4:3)
(3) We should be an example to others. How can we encourage our members to visit if we do not? (Insert all the “One Another” passages here)
(4) Your life will be blessed. Every time I visit, my goal is to encourage others, but I am always greatly encouraged. Sure, there are the occasional complaints, but the overwhelming response is positive.
(5) Many people are lonely. Many people in our communities may go for days without seeing anyone else. When we visit, with a smile on our face, and a kind word, we bless the lives of those who see us.
(6) It will strengthen your preaching. The more we are around our people, the more we can identify with what is going on in their life.
(7) It will help you build a lasting ministry. Many of our sermons preached from the pulpit will be forgotten, but the sermons we preach with our life will always be remembered!
Preachers, let’s get out among our people this week and make some visits. It will do our heart, and the Kingdom a lot of good. I can't wait for Tuesday morning to get here!!
Maybe Sunday was another tough day for you as a preacher. Maybe you are struggling with your preparation for this coming Sunday. Maybe there is the even bigger issue of the part of your heart that doesn’t know if you can do it again.
God’s preacher Jonah wasn’t happy with his assignment to proclaim the Word of the Lord to those wicked Ninevites. He was so unhappy about it, he rebelled against God’s command by going the opposite direction from where God wanted him to be.
Those of us who preach are often ultra-critical of Jonah. We talk about how he deserved to be swallowed up by that great whale. How in the world could he not want the people of Nineveh to be saved? How in the world could he not want to proclaim God’s saving message to everyone?
Before we jump on Jonah too much we need to look in our own mirror. Is it possible that we are more like Jonah than we would want to admit? My guess is that there are some preachers who are reading these words who have a deep understanding of what Jonah was thinking. There are probably some of you reading this who feel you would rather be swallowed by a whale than preach to those terrible sinners this Sunday?
There’s that nagging feeling that we are not prepared for the task before us.
There’s that feeling that we could do better somewhere else.
There’s the professor who will remind us AGAIN where we made grammatical mistakes.
There’s the retired preacher who will remind us AGAIN how he would have preached that sermon.
There’s the elder who thinks we need to come down harder on people who aren’t living right.
There’s the elder who thinks we shouldn’t come across so hard when we are preaching.
There’s the new Christian who thinks we are way too deep in our preaching for people to understand.
There’s the older Christian who thinks we are way too shallow in our preaching for those who need to grow more.
There’s the younger folk who believe we need to be more relevant, more compassionate, and more grace oriented in our preaching.
There’s the older folk who believe we need to be more Biblical, more pointed, and more doctrinal in our preaching.
There are the families who think we need to spend more time talking about marriage, parenting, and family relations.
There are the people who think we need to use more stories, more jokes and preach more narrative sermons.
There are the people who think we need to use more Scripture, less humor, and be more logical in our preaching.
There are some who think the sermon is too long.
There are others who think the sermon isn’t long enough.
There’s that disagreement you had with your wife that has caused you to feel unworthy of telling others how to live.
There’s the lack of sleep due to small children who are sick or just don’t want to sleep.
There’s that trouble your teen got into and now you wonder if you’re still qualified.
There’s that elder's meeting you sat through that has caused you to wonder how long you’ll be able to keep this job.
OH, BROTHER, I THINK WE NEED A SLOW BOAT TO TARSHISH! So, what do we do? We preach, we proclaim God’s Message. And why?
We have a mandate from our Master to Preach the Word regardless of what is going on around us. (2 Timothy 4:1-3)
We have a message that is life-changing. (Acts 26:20)
The power to save men’s souls is not in us, it is in the Good News. (Romans 1:15-17)
Preaching is not about us, it’s about the cross of our Savior. (Galatians 6:14)
When we preach, God is pleased. (1 Thessalonians 2:4)
When we preach, those who hear learn about the immeasurable wealth of Christ. (Ephesians 3:8)
When we preach, those who hear receive something that gives them solid ground to stand on in a world that is always changing. (1 Corinthians 15:1)
God has mandated that through the preaching of the Gospel, the world will be saved. (1 Corinthians 1:21)
It won’t always be easy. There will be times we will feel unprepared, unworthy, and unqualified. There will be times we will feel that our audience is unworthy. What do we do during these times? We preach and allow the Lord to work in the hearts and lives of those who listen. We preach and allow the Lord to work on our own heart. We preach and allow the Lord to make sure that His Word does not return void. We preach and allow the Lord to give the increase. We Preach and allow the Lord to…We Preach! Now preacher, get out of the belly of that whale and go preach! And may God be with you as you go!!
My friend Yancey lived a rich and faithful life that from our side of eternity feels like it was cut short. At age 17 he joined the Alabama National Guard. He fulfilled two deployments to Iraq during “Operation Enduring Freedom.”
In 2003 from the outskirts of Mosul, Yancey wrote his wife, Terrie. He talked about how sweet the people were and about making friends with them. He talked about his own spiritual growth in that foreign land. With no road maps or way of knowing which direction enemy troops might be he talked of how he decided how to go. He wrote, “I say a prayer, ask God for direction, pick a direction and go.”
Isn’t that what we have to do at times in our lives? We may not have physical bombs placed in our path or snipers along the way we are in a spiritual war. What do we do - we read the Word, seek input from others, learn from past experiences BUT often you’ll just need to “say a prayer, ask God for direction, pick a direction and go.”
There is much we can know about what is expected of our lives in Christ but there is even more about living the Christian life that is not in the concrete. In times like that “say a prayer, ask God for direction, pick a direction and go.”
There are so many things beyond our control - our children’s decisions, national security, the stock market - about those things “say a prayer, ask God for direction, pick a direction and go.”
I challenge you to act - pick a direction - and GO. Go live for boldly and courageously for Christ. Go tell a friend of the Good News of Salvation. Go encourage another. Go do what you were made to do - we are “created in Christ Jesus to love and good works.”
Say a prayer, ask God for direction, pick a direction and go.
May God bless you.
Confession time: I love shopping on-line. It’s amazing to me how I can find most anything and it be to me in a couple of days. I love the simplicity of it and the ability to get things done quickly even while I’m doing other things. I love that I don't have to drive to multiple places and wander around a store hoping someone asks if they can help me find something and then after showing it to me stalking me :).
So when I got a message a year or so ago asking if I wanted to help support an organization through my purchases I was really excited. You just simply tell them which you want to support and they will send a portion of each purchase to the one you select. And in the last year they have given $37,903,623.82 to these organizations! WOW! That is crazy good. Who wouldn’t want to be a part if it?
Well as your friend Lee Corso says; “No so fast my friend!” There is a dropdown menu where you can see how much of that nearly 38 million dollars you have helped generate to your designated charity, and mine reveals (drumroll, please) $1.21. Really? Wow.
I shared this information with the big boss of “my charity” and he said “I really don’t want people using that because they may think they are doing something to help and NOT GIVE otherwise.” Good point. See, if I give even $100 a year to a work I believe in and then determine I want to give this way I may be tempted to think that will cover my giving - when in reality it makes it MUCH less. It’s actually an illusion of doing something good that keeps you from doing real good.
I think I first heard of this years and years ago. There was a member at Woodlawn when I was growing up who once a year give dad a check for the church for $1000 - yes, that is a lot of money but in the 70’s it was A LOT of money (from DollarTimes.com - $1,000.00 in 1970 had the same buying power as $6,273.87 in 2016). It was fanfare. I mean $1000. I remember dad being grateful but saying something to the effect of “he likes to make a big show of it and not put it in the plate but hand it to me. When in reality we have people give $40 or $60 a week faithfully in the plate who are giving double or triple that faithfully and not saying a word.”
It’s seen in more than just our giving though. It’s the person who substitutes either cooperate worship for service or service for cooperate worship. It’s the individual who does ONE PROGRAM a year but the rest of the year does nothing in God’s Work. She believes she’s a servant of the Lord when in reality she is just a servant of a program she likes. It’s the same as Martha and Mary - Martha was doing good - but she had convinced herself that by doing that she was doing the best and she wasn’t.
Where in your life are you shorting the best by just doing the good?
A few months ago Melanie and I had a rare Friday night at home. So we did some channel surfing ran across a marathon of a show I hardly ever see but really enjoy, Undercover Boss. You probably know the show but for some who might not the CEO or owner dons a disguise and shows up at various franchise locations as a new employee in training. He or she will take in and see how the company is doing at the grass roots. The big boss doing menial jobs, cooking burgers, working the assembly line, stocking the shelves, working the cash registers. In the process s/he learns of weaknesses, hears of better ways of doing things, sometimes finds bad hires, but mostly a super successful and hyper-rich person connects with common people. And, my favorite moment is when the big boss calls the folks they’ve met in under some guise and reveals who they really are and what they’ve been up to and then the guy/gal who has the power to make something happen in this person’s life - does. Your child is going to get that surgery, I’m going to buy you a house, your family is going to go on a vacation, I’m going to give you that big break. When it’s over, let me just confess, I’m a mess! My heart is touched and the tears flow freely.
Our God is like that! He’s the “undercover God.” He put on a disguise (took on the form of a man) and came a dwelt (John 1:14, “took up residence,” LEB. “made his home among us,” NLT. “tabernacled among us,” TLV). And the Father sang His praises (Matthew 3:17) and the Spirit breathed this beauty, “For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15). The most wealthy, exalted ONE came to our local shop not just to observe but to partner (1 Corinthians 3:9). “…though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor…” (2 Corinthians 8:9).
But that’s not all. He didn’t just head back to heaven to sit and tittle His celestial thumbs. He still shows up. He’s still undercover. You may have encounter Him today. In that hungry beggar, that hurting neighbor, that wondering struggler, that confused classmate, the worried co-worker.
At least that’s what He said. “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers,[a] you did it to me.’ Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’ Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life” (Matthew 25:31-46).
But my favorite moment hasn’t come yet. It’s when he willcall His folks in and reveal Himself and then the one who has the power to make it happen - will. Your tears will all be wiped away, your pain will cease, your child is going to be whole, I’m going to give you a Place like none other - in fact just move in with Me. Just thinking about it, I’m a mess! My heart is touched and the tears flow freely.
It's Thanksgiving! Today we want to list some of the reasons we are thankful for preachers we know and have known. Our list is not exhaustive but just a few of our favorite reasons we love those men with "beautiful feet." These are true of most preachers we know. No preacher is perfect...and different ones embody different traits to higher degrees.
1. Preachers are humble
2. Preachers are self-less
3. Preachers love the church
4. Preachers are students of the scriptures
5. Preachers are still growing
6. Preachers have hearts that are on fire for Jesus
7. Preachers are kind to people who don't know Christ
8. Preachers don't enjoy brotherhood squabbles
9. Preachers love their family and try take time for them
10. Preachers want to have good relationships with their elders
11. Preachers want to be good stewards
12. Preachers are good to older people
13. Preachers are good to children
14. Preachers love their work
15. Preachers are gracious when being complimented
16. Preachers have tender hearts
17. Preachers take on the hurts of others
18. Preachers make time to listen to others even when they are busy
19. Preachers are ready for ever good work
20. Preachers are sacrificial
21. Preachers care more about people than things
22. Preachers bring us back to the most important things
23. Preachers try to involve everyone in the work of the Lord
24. Preachers pray for and with others
25. Preachers passionately stand for right even when it is not popular
26. Preachers are forgiving
27. Preachers rejoice in good in others lives
28. Preachers point us to the word of God for answers in our lives
29. Preachers persevere
30. Preachers want to be better
Hope you have a stress-less and blessed Thanksgiving. We love you.
On this Wednesday in November pushing toward Thanksgiving we've been thinking of some of the men in our lives who have blessed us. God has allowed us the honor of being around some truly great preachers. Some are “headliners” - others are known only by a few. What a joy to be influenced by men like our Dad, Gus Nichols, James Fowler, George Bailey, Luther Williams, W.B. West, Hugo McCord, Jim Bill McInteer, Jackie Fox, Bill Smith, Hardeman Nichols, Glenn Posey, Dabney Phillips, Jay Lockhart, Wendell Winkler, Howard Norton, Marlin Connelly, Willard Collins, Gary Bradley, Cecil May … there are so many others; this is just a few who came to mind as we wrote this. This is our list. No doubt, you could make your own list of preachers who have influenced you, and we would encourage you to do just that. And if you are fortunate and they are still around, take a moment this Thanksgiving and let them know the impact they have had on your life
We ought to make something of this blessing rather than just enjoy the privilege of being influenced by them. Simply through observing, here are some of the tremendous shared traits of these men that anyone who wants to influence others should emulate. We could elaborate on each of these, but we'd like for you to think about them yourself. Feel free to add to our list things you have observed in the comment section.
1. They are humble. They do not know they are great preachers.
2. They work hard at what they do.
3. They are aware of their own flaws.
4. They have a great sense of humor.
5. They do not belittle the bride of Christ.
6. They do not make a big issue out of little issues.
7. They are loyal to brothers and sisters in Christ.
8. They are passionate in their approach.
9. They are deeply spiritual individuals.
10. They care about all people; rich or poor, known or unknown.
11. They make time for and encourage younger preacher.
12. They are men of The Book and they preach the Truth in love.
13. They don't just preach, they minister.
14. They are aware of the audience who is listening as they preach the Word.
15. They believe that preaching is one of the most important works any man can do. They believe in the power of preaching.
16. They have a servant-heart. They are not too big to pick up trash or set out chairs, or to get their hands dirty doing manual labor.
17. They pay attention to children.
18. They pay attention to older people.
19. They are the same guys one-on-one as they are in front of an audience.
20. They are men who have a tremendous prayer life.
-by Jeff and Dale
This is not a political article at least when I started writing it about a year ago it was not designed to be.
Laws matter because they affect culture and because they chip away at some people’s faith. When God gave the children of Israel the “Law of Moses” there were civil laws, ceremonial laws, and spiritual laws. In a sense they were all spiritual laws for they were from God. Deuteronomy 6:24 says “And the LORD commanded us to do all these statutes, to fear the LORD our God, for our good always, that he might preserve us alive, as we are this day” (ESV, “for our survival” NASV, “that we might always prosper and be kept alive” NIV). They needed laws and rules to both keep them alive (i.e. Deuteronomy 23:10-13) and to make them more like God (i.e. Leviticus 19:18). The law was to help them handle civil disputes and to help them be better people too. So the law affected their whole culture. For instance, the purpose of not marrying foreigners was not because God loved Israel more, but to keep a group of people prepared to receive His Son (That sentence could be better developed but see Ruth 1:15-17 as a proselytized Moabitess ends up in the line of Christ).
What does all of this have to do with us? When civil laws are morally based culture is better but when that which is morally wrong becomes civilly acceptable more people will practice it and culture becomes less habitable. Why? There are people who will follow the laws of the land who would will not follow the law of God. Let me show you what I mean:
- California adopted no-fault divorce with the Family Law Act of 1969, which became effective January 1, 1970 and by the early 1980’s most states (today all but New York) followed suit. In the 20 years that followed the national divorce rate nearly tripled. No-fault divorce gutted marriage of its legal power to bind husband and wife, allowing one spouse to dissolve a marriage for any reason, or for no reason at all. People who would have stuck it out (for any reason or no reason) now divorced because the stigma of divorce was taken away. So more leave their husband or wife - cause it is easier - but easier is NOT always God’s plan. And 100’s of studies have shown culture in general degrades as respect for marriage decreases: Crime rates increase, poverty increases, child abuse increases.
So as the law has changed on homosexual marriages more will both identify and participate in homosexual activity. As the laws about marijuana fall the use of and abuse of marijuana will increase. That may seem simplistic, but behind the stat is that as long as it was/is illegal there are people who will not use it and affect their quality of life because of that very fact - it’s against the law.
Laws. Civil/moral laws affect the livability of our community and nation - somebody says “What does it matter? This world is not my home…” First that’s a song not a scripture. The reference is Hebrews 13:14 and it actually says “For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come” (permanent city AMPC, abiding city ASV). Why does it matter to us? Because we want a culture where the Gospel will have free course (2 Thessalonians 3:1). And because we are to “pray for rulers and for all who have authority so that we can have quiet and peaceful lives full of worship and respect for God” (1 Timothy 2:2). The laws of our land do matter. Who makes those laws does matter. The beliefs of our leaders is important. God is in control regardless but don’t think it doesn't matter who is elected.
Dale Note: So, I made a trip to Africa a while back with Jeff and Steve Bailey to preach, teach, speak on a lectureship and conduct BETTER conferences there. The most important person in my life, my Melanie, fell sick (for the first time in our 34 years of married life) and I rushed back home. Twenty-eight hours on a plane without any services to distract. The last leg of the trip was from Chicago to Nashville. I sat in seat 12D waiting for the flight to take off - exhausted. And I spotted a guy who looked an awfully lot like my freshman year Public Speaking 101 teacher. Through red eyes as he got closer I was more convinced but still had to ask: “Steve, err, Brother Johnson, Dale Jenkins I don't expect you'll remember me but I was in your freshman speech class back in 1980.” I got to say an extended, heartfelt “thank you” and he was gracious to pretend he knew me and followed our work. He had just retired and he and his lovely wife were returning from visiting a missionary who was having some health challenges. At 32,000 feet I had a “spark of consciousness.” Why not ask a guy who has taught speech to over 2,000 preachers and teachers what he would have to say to preachers from his experience. So, with thanks to Steve, here you go:
One of the most frustrating experiences in listening to a sermon was when a preacher would quote scripture, make a point with it and the repeat the point several times. In one sermon I counted the same statement repeated 7 times. I was so frustrated that I quit listening and read my Bible. Repetition is an effective way for people to learn, but is not effective when used almost exclusively.
You can improve your content by using an illustration; quoting poetry; using statistics; giving a brief example or putting the scripture on PowerPoint and underlining the significant parts. Variety in the content creates more interest and holds the audience’s attention. It also improves comprehension and retention. As you go through your daily activities always be alert for material than be used to enliven and improve the content of your lessons.
Another problem encountered occasionally in listening to a sermon is one that is poorly organized. The importance of organization is that it helps comprehension and retention. A poorly organized sermon can leave an audience wondering what was the point of the sermon and how the content fit within that subject.
One area of organization than can be problematic is the clarity and structure of main points. The 3 to 5 main points in a sermon stand out. The audience should not be forced guess about them. Phrase them carefully and, if possible, in a consistent manner. You should also number them consistently for the audience, and put them on PowerPoint. More could be said on this subject, but that deserves separate consideration.
A third observation about preaching concerns introduction and conclusion of sermons. Sometimes it seems to me that preachers just prepare the body of the sermon and leave the intro and conclusion for impromptu development when the sermon begins and ends. While this can be effective sometimes, the intro and conclusion are much too important to not plan some of what will be said.
The introduction must gain the attention of the audience, direct that attention to the specific topic of the sermon and convince the audience that they should listen to the remainder of the sermon. All this should take no more than 15% of the total time of the sermon. A simple way to do all three of these functions is to us an illustration to begin the sermon. A good story will gain and hold attention while developing interest in the subject.
The conclusion should be shorter than the intro (no more than 10% of total time). With sermons in particular the conclusion should summarize the subject without wandering. A sermon that takes too long to end is like an airplane circling the airport but waiting to land. The passengers become impatient and listeners also become impatient. Make the point and end the sermon.
My experience over the years indicates that most preachers in the Churches of Christ are good speakers and generally present their lessons effectively. Sometimes, however, some additional work is needed. These are just three areas that sometimes could use some more work.
He died in 1969. I was 7 years old. My only real memory of him is of one morning getting in his old work truck and him taking me to Krispy Kreme and picking up some doughnuts. I would have probably been 6 years old.
I’m sure that he was not a perfect man (they don’t exist in clay form) and I know him through stories of his life. He died nearly 50 years ago but the stories of his life are powerful. I wish I knew more about him. Jeff and I found his grave marker and our great-granddads too about a year ago when we were speaking in Huntsville - that's when I took the picture above.
Here’s what I know.
We called him pawpaw, just as my sons called my dad and my grandchildren now call me. He owned a company that had such an impeccable reputation that all these years after he died still bears his name though it passed out of our family when he died.
He was generous: He was a hard worker and eventually it paid off but early on he and MawMaw didn’t have much. When he made money he would put it in a cookie jar on top of the refrigerator and they would pay bills from there. On day a poor man came by during the depression and he had no food for his wife and kids to eat. So he took the money for their power bill out of the cookie jar and gave it to the man. Their power was cut off for a couple of days but that family ate.
On Saturday’s he would get up early and go wake up some young Christian. They would go to the local grocery store and he would instruct the boys in the store it fill it up. They would fill the bed of his truck with bags of food. He’d pay for it and then head to the poorest section of town. He’d blow his horn and people would come out and he would invite them to take what they needed until it was gone.
Several years ago I heard my Uncle Dan tell one of the stories that most affected his life and helped him decide to be one of the great missionaries of our time. Dan was about 10 or 11 years old and his dad said: “I want to teach you how to keep books. So he gave him a notepad and took him along to collect money for Jenkins Insulation. They would insulate a house for about $50 in those days. So Dan would write out how much was owed, how much collected and how much remained. One Saturday they collected $384. That was a LOT of money in those days for a small family owned and run business. It was the most money Dan had ever seen. Sunday a missionary came through to the old West Huntsville church. Thechurch said we can’t help you. But pawpaw wanted to help. He took his wallet and pulled out $384 - it was all he had - it was the money they would buy more insulation with to do more houses and to live on. Uncle Dan said: “He virtually bankrupted the business, shut down the business down till they could collect more and buy more supplies.” That was the kind of belief he had in mission work and the impact it made on Uncle Dan was powerful.
In the mid-to-late 1940’s West Huntsville invited the great evangelist Marshall Keeble to hold a tent meeting with them. Pawpaw invited him to come and have supper with him. When Brother Keeble got there he wouldn’t go in the house. Racial tensions were hard in that part of Alabama and he said, “I’ll just go around and you hand me the food out he back door.” Pawpaw refused insisting he come in and eat. Brother Keeble explained that he did not want to do anything that would upset the neighbors or possibly hurt the meeting and he would just eat under the carport. When pawpaw saw Brother Keeble would not relent he instructed his sons (Dad and Dan) to take the table and put it under the carport and they all ate outside that night. Uncle Dan said he did not remember Brother Keeble being there - a black man - just a man and he remembered moving the table and getting to eat outside. It’s not surprising that dad and Dan didn’t have any racism in them. That both preached for churches that were highly racially diverse, that dad pushed for Maywood Christian Camp to allow anyone to come regardless of race when other camps lagged behind and that because one “Christian” school would not let black children attend dad started a separate Christian school and personally paid for first three black students who enrolled to attend.
When pawpaw would go to the Post Office to check the mail where would be out of work men having to beg during post depression years. Pawpaw would discreetly reach in his pocket and then shake the man’s hand slyly handing him a silver dollar.
When he died he had it written that all debts owed him or his business were forgiven. In those days the government regulations called for 4 inches of insulation in a house. Just enough to cover the 2x4’s in the rafters. Most companies would leave it where you could just see the tops of the rafters. Our granddad wanted more 5 inches installed. It’s not surprising the reputation of his company for integrity.
I’m proud of him and of these stories I’ve heard and of the legacy he left - but when I think about it - he is not really much different than many people I’ve known across the years…they are called…Christians.