Thursday, July 24, 2014

10,000-hours-preachingIt takes 10,000 hours of deliberate practice to become an expert at something, according Malcolm Gladwell in his book, Outliers. That’s not very good news for preachers. To reach that number, you would have to preach a one-hour sermon every week for over 190 years, if you only counted the time spent preaching your Sunday morning sermon. But there are many more ways than preaching alone that can help you grow in your expertise as a preacher. Before I suggest some of those ways, I want to defend the priority of seeking to become an expert preacher. Someone might rebut, “There’s a lot more to pastoral ministry than preaching, you know.” Yes, I know. Pastors are not just prophets, they’re priests and kings, too. That’s why this blog is devoted to help people become better all-around pastors, not just preachers. But there is no getting around 1 Timothy 4:13-15:

13 Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching. 14 Do not neglect the gift you have, which was given you by prophecy when the council of elders laid their hands on you. 15 Practice these things, immerse yourself in them, so that all may see your progress.

Verse 14 probably doesn’t describe your experience, but if you’re a pastor vv. 13 and 15 do. Paul calls
Timothy to immerse himself in the task of preaching. Do you know what the Greek word is for “immerse”? It’seimi, which means, “to be.” Be in them, Timothy. Never let the things of preaching be absent from you, Timothy. The call to preach is a call to a new atmosphere. Now you’re a fish, and the things of preaching are water. When you dive in, everyone who listens to you will notice that you are getting better. That’s a good thing. So what else can you do besides preaching on Sunday morning that is total immersion in the craft of preaching? Here are seven suggestions.

7 Shortcuts to hitting your 10,000 hours

1. Practice your sermon before you preach it. Maybe you already do this, but if not, it is a great way to work out kinks in your sermon that you didn’t know were there.
2. Add some time to your weekly sermon preparation. Thom Rainer has noted that almost half of all preachers study 12 or less hours on their sermon each week. Could you add another half-day to your sermon prep, not merely for the sake of growing as a preacher, but also to push your individual sermons to the next level?
3. Listening to other gifted preachers. I have found this to be extremely helpful, and I’ve shared what I’ve learned from other preachers here at the blog. The Gospel Coalition is a great place to go, having thousands of sermons and lectures from hundreds of pastors and professors.
4. Sermon feedback. Assessing how well you are doing is a necessary aspect of deliberate practice. There are various ways to get feedback on your preaching. You could watch or listen to each of your sermons to evaluate them. If you don’t trust yourself, you can enlist the feedback of others, perhaps from a trusted elder, or by starting a sermon feedback meeting.
5. Leading Bible studies. Although it is not strictly preaching or teaching, this is a way of helping people understand what the Bible says. Plus leading Bible studies is like doing reconnaissance. It helps you get into the heads of people who don’t think about the Bible all day, every day, making you more effective at application.
6. Reading books on preaching. If you haven’t read much on preaching, I’d start with ChapelPiper,SpurgeonMurray, and Helm if I were you. Then go slow through Broadus. If you’ve already read them, consider RobinsonStottAkin et. al.Greidanus, or Perkins. Reading books on rhetoric and communication will help you, too.
7. Blogging. There are numerous benefits to blogging for pastors. In terms of developing as a preacher, it gives you extra opportunities to address a problem Christians face and then solve it with a gospel-based solution (basically what you do in each sermon). It also helps you grow in as a communicator, and develop your “voice.” Just ask yourself a few questions before you make this plunge.

Now let’s do some math to see how these activities might add up to 10,000 hours. If you…

1. Preach a 30 minute Sunday morning sermon 40 times per year, and practice it for 45 minutes before you preach it (50 hours per year total)…
2. Spend 16 hours preparing each of those 40 sermons (640 hours per year total)…
3. Listen to one sermon from another preacher every week (39 hours per year total)…
4. Watch/listen to each of your 40 sermons, as well as participate in a feedback meeting 40 times a year (60 hours per year total)…
5. Lead a one-hour small group Bible study two times per month (24 hours per year total)…
6. Read books on preaching for 20 minutes, five days a week (83 hours per year total)…
7. Spend 2 hours a week writing a blog (104 hours per year total)…

…you will spend exactly 1,000 hours per year immersed in the task of preaching, thus hitting your 10,000 hours in just ten years – a much better alternative to 190. And I want you to know that I didn’t work backwards from 10,000 to figure out how to get you there in 10 years. I went the opposite direction, and the numbers coincidentally sovereignly came out that round. I tried to think what could be a reasonable target for each of the categories I laid out, probably even aiming low on how long and how frequently you preach. I hope the result of this exercise is that you feel like becoming at least an above average preacher is within your grasp, if you work at it. But allow me to encourage you that I believe that even becoming an expert preacher is within your grasp. Why do I believe this? Because between colleagues I’ve gotten to know in my own ministry experience and opportunities to coach pastors on their sermons, I’ve seen too many really good, but not famous preachers – guys who are on their way to becoming experts. Don’t think being well known is the sign reaching expertise in this field. The clue that you are exceptionally honing your gifts is simply that the people in your church can see your progress, not necessarily that TGC is asking to put your sermons on their resource page.

Some takeaways

1. Practice doing the actual preaching is the best practice. If you do everything except teaching and preaching, you’ll learn a lot about preaching, but you won’t really learn how to do it. But if you’re at a point on your ministry trajectory where you don’t have many (or any) opportunities to teach or preach, learning about preaching is better than nothing.
2. Associate pastors who don’t get many (or any) Sunday morning opportunities don’t have an excuse for waiting to grow as a preacher. There are plenty of other ways to hone your skills as you await your call to perhaps be the regular preacher at a church.
3. There is a difference between acting like an expert preacher, and having a humble attitude as you grow in your expertise as a preacher. Keep that distinction at the forefront of your mind as you pursue growth in this area. (Not that I struggle with that.)
4. Also, being qualified as a preacher and being an expert preacher are two different things. According to 1 Timothy 3, you only need to be “able” to teach to be qualified for it. But if you love money, you’re disqualified, no matter how good you are at it.
5. No one ever “arrives” as a preacher. Because culture constantly changes, you need to keep evolving in your communication skills, in order to reach the people of the day. Because each generation faces its own winds of false doctrine, you have to stay on your toes as a theologian. Because you are on this side of heaven, you have not attained perfect holiness, so you need to keep growing in your qualifications to preach in the first place.

(Image credit)

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

I've heard too many stories of how pornography has ruined lives and ministries.  So, the following article offers nine reasons why men should stay away from porn.  For clergy, this is an issue of honesty, integrity, and holiness.  If we cannot maintain a sufficient level of purity in our thought lives, we will be rendered casualties in the spiritual warfare that is very much a part of our Christian discipleship, including our service to our Lord.  ed.

stay away from pornPornography has little to do with sex and everything to do with fantasy. And if not confronted, this addiction to fantasy can become a consuming fire threatening all quality of life.
So before you go looking again for that woman on the screen, here are nine reasons to consider against it.
1. Porn makes you unhappy and bored.
Research says that those who regularly indulge themselves in pornography are more likely to have higher levels of anxiety and depression and lower levels of self-esteem than those who don’t. The brain is to blame for this.  
Apparently, as one artificially stimulates the pleasure center of their brain with porn, it perpetually weakens in its ability to respond to natural kinds of pleasure. Before we know it, real life has to compete with the unnatural and artificial levels of chemical excitement that porn offers. Real life—and our marriage—often lose this competition.
Pamela Paul, the author of Pornified, puts it this way: “Pornography leaves men desensitized to both outrage and to excitement, leading to an overall diminishment of feeling and eventually to dis- satisfaction with the emotional tugs of everyday life . . . Eventually they are left with a confusing mix of supersized expectations and numbed emotions . . . and become imbued with indifference. The real world often gets really boring.”
Sex with our wives proves to be quite a different story. The natural chemicals and pleasure real sex creates doesn’t inflate our expectations or numb our emotions. According to studies performed by the Institute for the Study of Labor, real sex actually makes us happier. The same studies also show that married people have more sex than those who are not married, and even experience far higher levels of satisfaction in life.
2. Porn neuters you.
Some people believe that pornography can add excitement to their sex life. However, studies prove just the opposite. Porn actually produces less intimacy between partners, less romantic excitement, and less satisfaction in real sexual experiences.
Dr. Mary Anne Layden writes in The Social Cost of Pornography, “I have also seen in my clinical experience that pornography damages the sexual performance of the viewers. Pornography viewers tend to have problems with premature ejaculation and erectile dysfunction. Having spent so much time in unnatural sexual experiences with paper, celluloid and cyberspace, they seem to find it difficult to have sex with a real human being.”                       
Because of pornography, men have trouble getting turned on by their wives who happen to not be cybersex slaves. As a result, they don’t enjoy real sex nearly as much as they used to. This is because porn makes us less satisfied with our partner’s affection, physical appearance, and sexual performance.
On the contrary, when porn isn’t a part of marriage, real sex proves to only get better with time. Sociologist Mandi Norwood discovered this socially unenforced reality after interviewing several hundred women. She found that married women are satisfied in the bedroom because of years of practice, less inhibitions, and the time to learn their partner.
3. Porn is not manly.
Though conquering that woman on the screen in your mind may make you feel like a man, there’s nothing manly about it.
Real sex involves you. All of your fears. All of your insecurities. All of your capacity to give. It also involves another very real person. All her needs. All of her baggage. All of her propensity to judge you and hurt your dignity.
Porn requires no work, no sacrifice, and no maturity. Real sex in marriage requires you to risk, to be vulnerable, to give yourself fully to another person. This kind of intimacy is not for boys. It’s for men only.
4. Porn doesn’t make friends.
Studies show that men who use porn commonly become isolated from others, highly introverted, narcissistic, dissociative, and distractible. In other words, it doesn’t exactly make you a likeable person.
Neurochemistry teaches that the more that you bond with fantasies on your computer screen, the harder it is to actually bond with real people. This is because the strongest bonding substance in our lives is oxytocin—the hormone released during orgasm. As this powerful bonding substance becomes consistently associated with porn, it becomes easier for us to feel connected in fantasy than it is in reality.
Porn kills human connection. And human connection is what relationship lives and dies by.
5. Porn is a professional liability.
Pornography is the master of preoccupation. According to recent polls, 18 percent of men who view porn regularly admit to be distracted by it even when not online, and 30 percent acknowledge that their work performance suffers because of this distraction.
In striking contrast, research also proves that across the board, men who have a healthy sex life make more money than those who don’t.
You decide what’s better.
6. Porn hurts your significant other.
It’s easy to think that your porn habit is private, and doesn’t affect anyone but you. Yet as we’ve already seen, porn inevitably kills a man’s ability to emotionally connect and consistently monopolizes his desires.
Whether your wife knows you are using pornography or not, your actions have already hurt her.                       
Rabbi Arush puts it this way: “A woman is not just a body, but a vibrant soul that thrives on intimacy, attention, communication, consideration, respect, and the love of two souls binding together. A husband that focuses on his own physical gratification doesn’t provide his wife with any of the emotional and spiritual gratification that is the basis of her vitality.”
7. Porn will turn you into “that guy.” (Tweet This!)
You know “that guy.” Most crowds have at least one. He’s the one who cares about no one but himself. He sees you and all others as commodities to be used, not people to be cared for. No matter how much you can’t stand “that guy,” as long as you continue to dabble in porn, you run the risk of becoming him.
Gail Dines puts it bluntly in her book Pornland. “In the story of porn, men are soulless, unfeeling, amoral life-support systems... who are entitled to use women in any way they want. These men demonstrate zero empathy, respect, or love for the women they have sex with.”
No one wants to be “that guy.” What’s more, no one wants to be with “that guy” who only sees women as consumable objects and cares for no one but himself.
8. Porn will never actually do it for you. (Tweet This!)
“Just as Twinkies are artificially enhanced,” says the nonprofit team Fight the New Drug, “and modified food that really aren’t good for you, pornography is an artificially enhanced and modified sexual experience that isn’t good for you either, and your body knows it.”
Lust, in its nature, is never satisfied. It only wants more.
9. Porn will kill your relationship.
In the eight reasons above, we’ve looked to science, social studies, and history to witness the effects that pornography has on those who entertain it. We’ve seen that it kills everything long- term love is built on: human connection, trust, and self-sacrifice. It’s no wonder, then, that at least 56 percent of divorce cases today involve one party who compulsively visits pornographic websites.
Your marriage may survive your habit for a period of time. However, if you continue to choose fantasy over reality, it will inevitably destroy your ability to love your wife.
As modern men, we certainly have plenty of unnatural things to navigate to keep our marriages healthy and alive. However, my hope is that—with a vision of a marriage that is worth fighting for—we’re more determined than ever to do just that.

Tyler Ward recently released "Marriage Rebranded: Modern Misconceptions & the Unnatural Art of Loving Another Person" where he explores more modern myths about marriage, tells awkward stories, and offers unorthodox best practices that are sure to help anyone write a better marital narrative for themselves. Order it now.  Or watch the book trailer here.

Don’t Receive an Offering Without First Doing This AND This AND This!

A while back, I attended another church as a first-time guest.  When it came time for the offering, the minister got up, announced the offering, prayed a quick prayer, and the plates were passed.  I was sitting in the back row, and had no plans to give money, but the guy in the pew in front of me had other plans.  He had a wad of cash he wanted to give.  However, he had nothing to put it in so he could receive credit for it.  So, he made the dash to the pew rack behind him, grabbed a very small envelope, and then hurriedly tried to fill-out the envelope.  Before he could finish stuffing the cash into the envelope, the plates were already past him.  The ushers had to wait for him to finish.
This is a true story, and this should never happen in your church during the offering.  You should never receive an offering without doing these three things first:
  • Give People Time to Prepare Their Offering
Those who bring their offerings on Sunday and still use checks or cash will probably need time to get it ready.  A simple way to give them time is to say: “In just a few moments we’re going to continue in worship by receiving an offering.  If you haven’t prepared your gift already, we want to encourage you to do so now.”
  • Thank People Who Already Gave
I’m not talking about people who gave at an earlier service; I’m talking about people who gave by digital giving or automatic bill pay.  Thank those who are consistently generous by saying:  “As you’re preparing your gift, I want to thank those who’ve already given online via the website or mobile phone and those who’ve already given by automatic bill pay or debit.  Thank you so much for your faithfulness and generosity.”
In addition to creating more time and thanking those who’ve given digitally, you have informed the rest of the congregation that there are more options for giving than just cash or check.  Why is this important?  The higher the percentage of digital giving, the healthier your finances will be at your church.  Make digital your default!
There’s one more thing to do:
  • Share With Them a Scripture, Story, or Stat
This is an opportunity to share with people the importance of giving.  It explains the “why” behind the “what”.  Every week you should share a Scripture that relates to giving or generosity, a story that inspires generosity, or a stat from your church or something else that moves people to give.
Source: The Rocket Company

Friday, July 18, 2014

10 Questions to Diagnose the Evangelistic Health of Your Church


Look at these ten questions to get some hints of the evangelistic health of your own church.. Image Info:
Look at these ten questions to get some hints of the evangelistic health of your own church.

Any good physician will make certain your physical exam includes at least three components. First, the doctor will want you to have thorough lab work. Second, all exams include a comprehensive look at your physical body. Third, the physician will ask you a series of questions that would lead him or her to know more about your overall physical and emotional health.

In my work with churches across America, I often ask a series of questions that help me assist the church to become more evangelistically focused. Recently, I took time to write down the questions I ask most often. Look at these 10 questions to get at least some hints of the evangelistic health of your own church.

1. Are members more concerned about the lost than their own preferences and comfort? Listen to how church members talk to understand what their true priorities are.
2. Is the church led to pray for lost persons? Most churches are pretty good about praying for those who have physical needs. But do they pray for those who have the greatest spiritual need, a relationship with Jesus Christ?
3. Are the members of the church open to reaching people who don't look or act like them? The Gospel breaks all racial, ethnic and language barriers. Do the members seek to reach others? Do they rejoice when these people become a part of the church?
4. Do conflicts and critics zap the evangelistic energy of the church? An evangelistic church is a united church. A divided church is rarely evangelistic.
5. Do small groups and Sunday school classes seek to reach lost persons within their groups? Sunday school was once one of the most effective evangelistic tools in the church. Are the groups in your church evangelistic?
6. Is the leadership of the church evangelistic? The congregation will follow and emulate the priorities of the church leadership.
7. Do the sermons regularly communicate the Gospel? They may not be evangelistic sermons in the classic sense, but all sermons should point people to Jesus.
8. Are there ministries in the church that encourage members to be involved in evangelistic outreach and lifestyle? You may be surprised to find how many members become evangelistic with a modest amount of training and equipping.
9. Have programs become ends in themselves rather than means to reach people? Perhaps a total ministry and program audit is in order.
10. Is there any process of accountability for members to be more evangelistic? That which is rewarded and expected becomes the priority of the congregation.
After their imprisonment for sharing the Gospel with others, Peter and John appeared before the Sanhedrin who demanded their silence. Listen to how the two Apostles, with their lives on the line, responded to their accusers: “But Peter and John answered them, ‘Whether it's right in the sight of God for us to listen to you rather than to God, you decide; for we are unable to stop speaking about what we have seen and heard’ ” (Acts 4:19-20, HCSB).
I pray more and more of our church members have the heart and attitude exemplified by Peter and John. May we be so motivated to share the Gospel that we are unable to stop speaking about what we have seen and heard.
How would you assess the evangelistic health of your church? What questions would you ask for a good diagnosis?