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“BETTER” – TEXAS STYLE

You preach!  You may preach a lot. However if you are like me, you wish you could be better.  We all want to preach better, because we want to do our best for the Lord.  How many Sunday nights have we just sat and wished we were better?  How often on Friday afternoon have we wished we could be better? We know we’ll never be the best preacher in the brotherhood, but we sure wish we could be better.  We attend lectureships, seminars, we read books and listen to others yet, it seems, no one ever says – “Here is how you do it!”  How many times have we listened to some other guy and wondered, how’d he learn to do that?  Well, we did too. The “better” conference is a two day seminar for 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.  It focuses solely on the CRAFT of preaching.  We have invited guys who are some of the very best at the craft of preaching to talk about what they do exceptionally well.

The dates for “Better:- Texas Style are September 9-10, 2013. We will begin at 1:00 on Monday and conclude at Noon on Tuesday. The location is the Lewisville church building in Lewisville, TX. Speakers who are already confirmed include; Jay Lockhart, Stafford North, Howard Norton, Harold G. Taylor, Charles Hodge, Denny Petrillo, Chuck Monan, Dale Jenkins. We are thrilled about this group of speakers.

The cost is $59.00. This cost offsets only a portion of the seminar. We hope you will join us. We hope your congregation will help make it possible for you to attend. If you want to attend but can not pay the registration amount please let me know. We  have a few people who will help make scholarships possible. This registration fee does not include housing. We will provide a list of area hotels if you are interested.

We hope you will make your plans to attend this seminar. We hope we will all be “BETTER” for it. You can register through Eventbrite. Here is the link. http://better13texas.eventbrite.com/

 

If you have any questions please feel free to contact me at any time.

I Promise…

  • No one will be more critical of my preaching than I am myself
  • I will lose sleep over Sunday’s message…and next Sunday’s too
  • I will not try to hurt you
  • That if you hear me long enough you will disagree with me on something
  • That I don’t mind your coming to me about whatever that thing is
  • That if you hear me long enough I will offend you – it won’t be on purpose
  • That if you hear me long enough you will think I am preaching to you – I probably am – at least if you want to grow that is what you should believe and then evaluate any changes needed
  • I will be prepared
  • I will not be as prepared as I wish I was
  • That I will try to bring my best every time I stand before people with the inspired Word of God
  • This will not be the best sermon on any text or topic you will ever hear
  • You will think of things you wish I had said, see things in the text that I missed
  • I will take risks – sometimes these will “work”, other times I will regret the risk
  • That I will preach someone else’s sermon occasionally – I’ll hear one that makes me think of our needs and want you to hear it
  • That I will fail
  • That I will fail again
  • That my ego will get in the way in some way
  • That I will repent of that and try again but will fail again
  • That life will get in the way because I am not an isolationist
  • That I will get better – but will remain human
  • That you will get tired of “how to” sermons because I believe in application with all my heart
  • That even in this writing some will misunderstand what I’m trying to say and question my motives
  • That I will love you even when I may not want to

I promise…have you thought through your promises?

Five Suggestions for Working With Difficult People

Just about every preacher deals with them. You know who they are in your life. They are those cantankerous, time-consuming, whining, lazy, difficult people. It could be the church member who seems to monopolize your time because something is always wrong. Maybe it’s a retired preacher who sits in your audience each week and tells you what you should have said, or what you misquoted in your sermon, or how he would have preached it.

Maybe it’s a co-worker who refuses to carry his part of the load. You know, the guy who does as little as possible, just enough to get by. Or it might be an elder. The one who is always on your back, watching you like a hawk, secretly undermining and criticizing everything you do.

What’s a preacher to do? What if your life and ministry is overflowing with people like this?  Allow me to share a few suggestions.

Preach the Word. I’m not trying to overstate the obvious here. At times when we are dealing with difficult people we may be tempted to lash out at those who have hurt us. We may be tempted to spend an overabundance of time on some issue or struggle that we are dealing with.

This is not the time to become a “hobby rider.”  It is a time to focus on our study of and our proclamation of the Word of God. (2 Timothy 4:2) One reason that preaching through books of the Bible is valuable is because it keeps us focused on the word and we cover issues as the show up in the text.

Fulfill your ministry. Paul encouraged Timothy to fulfill his ministry. (2 Timothy 4:5) This would involve staying busy in serving others. One of the very best ways to handle difficult people is by serving them, doing good deeds for them, ministering to them.

As we remain busy in the Lord’s work we will have less time to dwell on the problems caused by working with difficult people. When we are busy helping others we have little time being concerned about those who difficult.

Turn problem people over to the Lord & remember who will be your judge, and theirs. When we are dealing with difficult people we need to spend a great deal of time in prayer for and about those who are difficult. We will do our best when we turn our attitude about difficult people over to the Lord.

When we realize that there are some people that we cannot change on our own it will be easier for us to turn them over to the Lord. Some people have been difficult for much of their life and they refuse to change. The best that we can do in these situations is to follow the example of Jesus. (1 Peter 2:23)

Learn from criticism. If we are not careful we will develop an attitude that says there is nothing I can learn from anybody. How can you distinguish between constructive criticism and bad criticism?

One way is to seek to consider the critic. Some people hardly ever speak to you unless it is critical. They are constantly criticizing. Be careful about putting stock in this critic. Typically if someone writes a letter, email, etc. and refuses to sign it the criticism isn’t valid.

Some people balance constructive criticism with positive affirmation. It is wise to listen to the criticism offered by someone like this. In addition if someone is a trusted friend who is speaking truth in love it would be wise to listen.

The wise man said, “Faithful are the wounds of a friend, But *deceitful are the kisses of an enemy.” (Proverbs 27:6)

Lean on those who encourage you. The truth is in ministry we will all be associated with difficult people. We can’t escape it. A couple of things to remember here: (1) Jesus spent time with difficult people. (2) Sometimes we might just be difficult for others!

It is a fact of ministry. However we don’t have to spend an excessive amount of time with difficult people. It is important that we find people that we enjoy. Find people with common interests, those who are in a similar life-stage. Find people who are positive, who build you up. Surround yourself with people who will help make ministry a joy and not a burden.

Dear Father, thank you for the many different types of people that You allow to cross the path of our life. Help us, dear God to be patient with and to learn how to deal with difficult people. Help us to learn to follow in the steps of Jesus. In His precious name we pray, amen.

You’re fired! Now what?*

So you’ve been “given the opportunity to resign”, “released”, “let go”, “been given three months to find somewhere knew”, “fired.”  Call it what you want it adds up to about the same thing – pain, anger, confusion, suspicion.

 

Sometimes we bring it on ourselves but most often when preachers are fired it is not because of a sin in his life but over some other issue, i.e. Power play by a fragment of the congregation, he made the wrong person angry, he burnt out because of overtaxing himself emotionally, he was used up because he carried too many burdens and heartbreaks of others or put on him by mean people, etc.

 

Can we say a few things to you as fellows minister? This is not the end…you will live to touch lives again.

 

10 important thoughts for you…

 

1. Don’t lie or be a part of a lie:  If they fire you don’t say you decided to leave. If they give you the option to resign – take it. In the long run you will be glad you did.  If someone comes to you and asks (and they will) you will be tempted to tell everything you know. Sometimes the best answer is to just say: “I think it’d be best for you to ask the elders about it.”

 

2. Avoid bitterness at all costs (Ephesians 4:31): Bitterness takes root (Hebrews 12:15) and looks especially bad on those who are to bring the tidings of the Good News.  It can creep in so easily (Ephesians 4:27). Some of your friends will feed it. Pray hard about this. Talk to God about your emotions that you are struggling with. And if you need to, give me a call.

 

3. Don’t let your good be spoken evil of (Romans 14:16):  In your frustration or anger measure your words carefully. It would be so easy to say something that would give you the upper hand, make you look like the one “in the right”, get in another jab. But if you are not careful any good you have done will be undone.   Leave in a way that 10-20 years from now when they are planning a homecoming they will invite you back. Leave in a such a way that they will regret what they did to a person who is so Christlike (1 Peter 4:13). And even if they don’t – God will know how you behaved.

 

4. You’ve been wronged – but don’t let it defeat you. “Do not be overcome by evil, but  overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:21).  If you don’t watch it you can sink into depression, become despondent or even lazy.  Do not be overcome by this.  The scorched earth policy is a military strategy which involves destroying any resource that is valuable to the enemy while retreating from an area. When a preacher leaves a congregation for any reason other than his unforced resignation, he is tempted to practice the scorched earth policy. He might want to preach vindictive sermons that undermine the credibility of the eldership. He might want to rally his most supportive members and pit them against any members who might think that his leaving is justified, either through face-to-face conversations or social media . He might want to deflect the attention away from himself and put it on any deficiency in the congregation—as if to say, “Well, you think I’m not that good, but look at that over there. Why don’t you do something about that!” All of these are the actions of a spiritually immature person. Spitefulness, vindictiveness, and bitterness are not fruits of the Spirit. The scorched earth policy is not a biblical process for leaving a congregation. Even as a military strategy, it was banned in the 1977 Geneva Conventions. You are not the first person this has happened to and  ministry is not the only field this happens in.

 

5. Everything will look like an issue:  Be careful in looking for justice or justification that you don’t make something an issue that is not or that you don’t accuse the church of being full of false teaching or false brethren to make yourself look better. You’ll be tempted but that tempting is not from God so don’t go there.

 

6. When this happens everyone I talk to wants to know why this happened: They may give you a reason when you are “released” – it may or may not be the real reason. You may ask why and they may be give an answer.  It may or may not be the real answer. The real reason may have nothing to do with you. The real reason may be ungodly. The real reason may be that your preaching or your presence ruffled the wrong feathers.  And you may not want to know the real reason.

 

7. Family: This may be the hardest thing. Take care of your family. First of all protect them.  Unless it does involve them assure them that this is not the result of anything they have done. You might be amazed at the things children can concoct in their minds that may produce huge guilt.  If it does involve them – DON’T tell them!  Don’t say things that will plant that root of bitterness in them. Once when we moved my wife explained it to our kids this way: “Your dad’s been traded…”  That made sense to them.

 

8. Get busy: If they gave your three months don’t wait two to get serious about looking. Look as if this is the last paycheck you’ll get.  Use every resource at your disposal.

 

9. Learn: This is HUGE!  What can you learn from this experience? Not in a bitter way bit in a personal growth way. You probably don’t want to hear this right now but you may need to: If you were fired, there was probably something in the leaders’ reasoning that is true about your work. Maybe you DO need to use a better preaching style. Maybe you DO need to minister better. Maybe your family DOES need to do some things better in the church. Obviously, you do not think that any of those issues are so bad that you need to be fired, but there is probably a grain of truth somewhere in there. After all, I John 1 tells us that if we say we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves.  God may be using this to prepare you for something bigger for His Cause, but if you don’t learn anything from the experience you may not be equipped for what is next.

 

10. Just be careful. A good friend said it this way: “Don’t allow a short term emotion to affect a long term decision.”

 

I’m sure many of you will have comments on this. Please know we are not wanting to hurt but to help. We ask that you keep that same attitude in your comments.  Thanks to my dear friend James Hayes for help with this post.

“Top 10 Things Preachers Love About Preaching (at least the preachers we contacted for this article)!”

“The expectations of a preacher are endless. Some members expect them to be omniscient, omnipresent and omnipotent.But different preachers are wired differently.” That’s the way Thom Ranier began his article dealing with then things preachers don’t like about preaching.

So, with apologies to Thom for sort of taking his title I decided to write from a different approach. What do preachers really love about preaching? What aspects do they enjoy the most?

Some preachers may really enjoy and be fulfilled by counseling while another dreads even the thought of it. So I did a little informal and very unscientific survey of a rather large number of preachers. We contacted a wide range of preachers (ages, length of time preaching, many different regions).

I asked them a simple question. “What do you like most about preaching?” It was an opened-ended question, and they were asked to give their top ten list. Some gave ten; others gave less than ten. They were all extremely helpful and insightful.

After a general reading with numerous answers here are the top ten things preachers like most about preaching with a comment from at least one preacher on each (they are in reverse order, you know David Letterman style)! Oh, and by the way, you may have your own list and we would love to see what you would add?

10. Flexibility of Schedule. “Preaching gives me the opportunity to spend more time in study in view of serving full-time. Whether it is study for sermons and lessons or personal study. I have more time to do these things than if I had a “regular” job. Ministry brings different challenges and opportunities. Days are different.”

9. That aha moment when somebody gets it. “That moment in the sermon when you utter the phrase you wanted, in the way you wanted, and by the reaction on at least one face, you KNOW “they got”—clearly understood the point you were trying to make. I love hearing a member say, ‘I really needed to hear that today.’ I love to see folks turning pages and giving feedback that shows that they are ‘into’ what you are saying.”

8.  Growing closer to God. “I am thankful that my ‘job’ is to go deeper in the Word. It also strengthens me in the fact that I realize more and more as I study, and as I am called on to minister to a broken family, or asked to preach a difficult sermon, it is a reminder that I cannot do this along, that I need God in my life. I love preaching because it makes me want to be better. Knowing God’s Word deepens my own personal relationship with God.”

7. How it affects my family. “The opportunity for my wife and children to hear and see my love for God and His Word. Giving your family a unique and joyous view of the bride of Christ and the work you do.”

6. Proclaiming God’s Word. “You get to tell the greatest of all stories and share the richest of all treasures; all summed up in the name JESUS! It is tough to describe the rush I get by getting to preach God’s Word. I love standing in front of people and preaching.”

5. The fellowship of brethren. “Associating with some of the most incredible people in the world. I love the fellowship of brethren, those whose lives are also focused on living for God and serving Him. The blessing of being workers together with God.”

4. Helping people through difficult times. “Preachers get to share sacred moments in the lives of Christians – weddings, births, funerals, etc. Preachers are able to bring God’s comfort to souls who are hurting because of sickness and death, heartaches and disappointments, family problems, etc. I love the opportunities I’m given to help people in their great times of need. I enjoy being looked to for help and guidance. I love helping people.”

3. Association with other preachers. “I love the camaraderie of other gospel preachers. We may be the most automatic fraternity in the world. I love the opportunity I have as a preacher to associate with some of God’s most outstanding servants—my fellow preachers. The feeling of belonging to a fellowship of greatness.”

2. The study of God’s Word. “Preaching allows you the blessing of immersing yourself in the greatest book on earth. The chance to plunge deeply into biblical study. I get to dig deeper in Scripture than most. I love being able to commit my time to studying. When I learn something totally unexpected from my study.

1. Transformed lives. “There is nothing more important in this life than for someone to hear and obey the Gospel. We are able to witness the transformation that takes place in the lives of lost and broken people. Being engaged in God’s eternal plan. The privilege to provide hope. Preaching gives me the opportunity to make eternal differences.”

What would you add to this list?

Dear Father in Heaven, thank You for Your glorious Gospel. Thank You dear God for those who are involved in sharing that Good News with others. In the Name of Jesus we pray, Amen.

 

 

Why so angry?

All time movie quote? Jack Nicholson in Batman to the lovely Kim Basinger: “Why so sad?” I want to twist that a tad and ask my preacher friends: “Why so angry?”

 

Last night I was talking to a young man and mentioned a preaching friend and he said: “The last time I heard him he just seemed angry.”  Why is it that so many preachers seem so angry?

 

Well, actually: Plenty of reasons. There’s the past. That time you got released unexpectedly and, you felt, unjustly – and that emotion was never deal with.  There’s that person. You know them, they always critique every word with a sledgehammer.  And that other person, when you hear them coming you cringe, experience has taught you they are unhappy, upset or want action on something or toward someone.  There’s that issue. It won’t go away, you thought you nailed it before but like a bad villain it refuses to stay dead and now whenever it comes up you just go into defense mode. There’s that false teacher who is winsome in his teaching of untruth and it makes your blood boil. And there’s that jerk that takes stuff out of context and it leading a mob to get you ousted.  And then there’s that group’s elder. He is out to get you and you just know it.  All you want to do it teach and preach God’s truths and help others go to heaven but it seems he is the voice for anyone who doesn’t like what you say or do.  There’s that thing that chases you: the past, your own guilt, family, money…

 

And so over time you go to the pulpit and instead of the joy of the Lord, the grace of our Lord Jesus and the communion of the Holy Spirit – you’re just mad. And you preach mad. And, like it or not, whether you realize it or not, everyone else does.

 

Been there done that – remember the day I preached love with wrath.  Part of the sermon on loving each other included an angry rant toward those who weren’t practicing it.  It only I’d had a mirror.

 

Now, I’m not saying we are all “happy happy joy joy.” We must be angry at the sin that pulls souls from God and harms His little defenseless ones – but might I remind you we are “GOSPEL preachers” and you know without me dissecting it what that word means.

 

So you are mad. And with right to be. But anger does not beautify the Good News.

 

Maybe that’s why there are so many passages in the letters to a young preacher warning against getting embroiled in foolish questions , endless genealogies with cause disputes (1 Timothy 1:4), profane fables (4:7), idle gossiping (5:13) and for the glorious gospel (1:11), praying without disputing (2:8), peaceable living (2:2), being slow to anger and not quarrelsome (3:3), living in love, faith, wholesome words, godliness and purity.  God knew there would be plenty of distractions to pull us to being mean, negative, angry men who make His faith look more like a chore than a joy so He encouraged us.

 

Check out the tone of your preaching. Will it win a soul of Jesus or just make people think you are mad at them?

Books, Books, & More Books

One of the most significant mentors in my life has been brother Winford Claiborne. During our years at Freed Hardeman it was a great privilege to sit in a number of his classes. One of the most important classes he taught was a class dealing with Contemporary Concerns. It was a required course for all Bible majors.

What stands out in my mind about brother Claiborne’s classes was the number of books he cited in his lectures. I had never heard anyone, nor have I to this day, learned of anyone who read more and who knew more about books than brother Claiborne. He held us spell bound. He also instilled in many of us a greater desire to read more.

My personal relationship with brother Claiborne was more than just a professor/student relationship. He became a confident, an advisor, and a very dear trusted friend. He and his beloved late wife Molly had us in their home on several occasions. He did the pre-marriage counseling for Laura and me. He has spent time in our home a number of times through the years.

One of my most vivid memories is the first time brother and sister Claiborne spent a week with us while he was preaching in our local Gospel meeting. He brought a suitcase full of books. He had a stack of books beside the chair he occupied that week.

He explained to me his method for reading. He did not read one book at a time. He read several books at once. He would read a chapter or a few pages from one book, then do the same in another, and another. He encouraged me to give it a try. For the past thirty years now that has been my habit. I will forever be in debt to my teacher, mentor, and much loved friend, Winford Claiborne.

Books are one of the great tools that preachers possess. If we want to be well-rounded, at our best, and provide balance in our preaching we need to read. I want to share with you a couple of new books that would be worth your time.

The Epic of God CoverMy “adopted” son MIchael Whitworth has written a study guide to the Book of Genesis. This outstanding book, “The Epic of God,” is one of the finest books on Genesis you will ever read. It is well written, easy to read, insightful, and helpful. It will thrill you to use this guide as you study the Great book of Beginnings.

Through the company he established, “Start2Finish,” Michael is involved in a campaign to let others learn about his writing. He is giving away a free copy of each book he writes for one person who enters the drawing. You can learn more about it here: http://michaelwhitworth.com/start2finishbooks/books4life/.

 

Another excellent new book that I would like to tell you about has been published by my friend Andy Warren. Andy has preached for the Lake Dallas congregation for ten years, however he and his wife are moving to work with the Children’s Home in Paragould.

The Love God Way CoverAndy’s book is “The Love God W.A.Y.” It is a very encouraging book that would be a blessing to every Christian. If you would like to purchase a copy, please, use one of these methods:

You can go through Andy’s website, which is the preferred way to order:

http://www.lovegodway.com

or if you prefer, use:

http://www.amazon.com/Love-God-W-Y-Everything/dp/1481168487/

Or if you want it on Kindle:

http://www.amazon.com/The-Love-God-W-A-Y-ebook/dp/B00B517KOW

 

 

“The Bible Contains the Mind of God”

Our Dad was not a man who talked too much. He preached for a living, but he seemed to always choose his words carefully. He specifically was not real big on trivial talk. When he did say something it always seemed appropriate, beneficial, and worthwhile.

Our good friend Daniel Courington, who worked with Dad during the last years of Dad’s life tweeted this note to us today: “Last words ever written by Brother Jerry in the Roebuck Reminder: ‘…for the Bible contains the mind of God.’”

Reading those words was a wonderful blessing to my life today. It reminded me of how meaningful Dad’s words always were. It reminded me that I need to be more serious about my preaching/teaching. It reminded me of the awesomeness of what those of us who preach are privileged to do. It reminded me of the wonderful gift that has been given to us to proclaim the unsearchable riches of Christ.

Brothers, as we stand before the people that God has entrusted to us this Sunday we need to remember why it is so important for us to preach the Bible. It does contain the mind of God.

Preaching is God’s chosen method of letting people everywhere in the world know His mind. (1 Corinthians 1:18-21) Please consider this as you preach. When we preach we are being used by God to help reveal His mind.

Not because God pours it miraculously into our brains, but because we are equipped through our study of the Bible to help people have an understanding of the mind of God to the degree that He has revealed it. (Nehemiah 8:8)

Because of this it is infinitely more important that we preach the Word of God, the Bible (2 Timothy 4:1-4) than it is for us to give a commentary on the news, to spend too much time in other literary sources, or to perform a stand-up routine.

We need to reveal the Mind of God as it pertains to our daily lives. Thank God He has not left us alone in this world. He has given us help for every aspect of our life and a roadmap that will not lead us down a wrong path.

We need to reveal the Mind of God concerning our families. The world, our government, and the entertainment society has definite ideas about the family. They have made their ideas clear. The only way our families can be truly happy and fulfilled is when we follow the mind of God.

Only in the Bible can we learn the best tools for how we should treat our mates, how we should raise our children, and how we should love one another in our families.

We need to reveal the Mind of God about the church. There have been thousands of books written and seminars conducted to tell us how we need to “do” church. These are all fine if they are inline with God’s Word.

In the Bible we learn from the mind of God how He wants us to worship, how He wants the church to evangelize, how He wants the church to be organized, and how He wants us to treat one another. How badly we need to learn the mind of God as we relate to one another in the life of the church.

We need to reveal the MInd of God about our fellow man. The Word of God tells us how God feels about the people around us. (John 3:16; Romans 5:8) One of our great responsibilities as preachers is to teach and show those who listen to us how we are to be kind, loving, caring, & forgiving to those around us.

As we stand before the church Sunday we should not be proud, we should not be arrogant, we should get out of the way as much as possible. Some might say it is arrogant to claim to speak the mind of God.

My thought would be that it is much more arrogant to stand for God and speak our own mind. Wouldn’t we much rather speak the Word of God than our own words? We really do have a treasure and we should feel humbled that God has chosen to reveal His mind through jars of clay. (2 Corinthians 4:7)

May God bless you brother, and be with you as you preach His Word. May we have hearts like the prophet Micaiah who said long ago, ““As the LORD lives, what the LORD says to me, that I shall speak.” (1 Kings 22:14)

Dear Father in Heaven, please be with those of us who endeavor to preach Your Word to always remember that the Bible contains Your MInd. Help us therefore, to proclaim Your Word, the Bible to those who come to hear. Dear God, we thank You that You have revealed Your mind to us through the Bible. May we always be committed to preaching and teaching the Bible so that those who hear us will know Your mind. In the Name of Jesus we pray, Amen.