Top Posts for the Month of November

book

If you missed them, here are the top posts for the month of November:

  1. What do Stay-at-Home Mom’s Do All Day?
  2. Accountability
  3. What do you do With Kids in a Missional Community?
  4. Why Doesn’t Revolution Have a Women’s Ministry
  5. Martyrs Read Joel Osteen Tweets!
  6. How to do Crossfit on Your Own
  7. Make Church Memorable
  8. Planning a Preaching Calendar
  9. Interacting with the Opposite Sex as a Pastor
  10. How the Church Should Respond to Homosexuality (and other Sins)

Mark Driscoll on Sermon Prep, Preaching and More

Watched this great interview with Mark Driscoll today on the topics of preaching and sermon prep. If you preach, this is a great interview to watch. Lots of wisdom.

The Sins of a Pastor || Your Bible is for More than Sermon Prep

book

Pastors, like any person sin. While this may be surprising for some people as they put their pastors and their wife on a pedestal, it is true. Because of the nature of being a pastor and the life they live, their sins are often not obvious and ones that no one will ever know about. In fact, some of the most hurtful and dangerous sins are ones that a church and elders can unknowingly encourage. These sins are not in any particular order, just the order I wrote them in. This is the first part in a series of blogs on The Sins of a Pastor. 

The first one is Your bible is for more than sermon prep. 

Most pastors spend the majority of their week in their Bible working on a sermon. There is a debate among pastors as to whether that should count as their devotions or if they should separate their devotions from sermon prep.

For me, my devotions are tied into my sermon prep. Right now, I am preaching through John. As I work on each sermon, I spend the first part of my week simply mediating on the passage I’ll be preaching from. This allows the text to become personal and work on my heart so my sermon becomes an overflow of what God is doing in me.

Because of planning ahead, I also use my devotional time to research future sermon topics and let different books of the Bible speak to me. For example, a few years ago I was going to do a series on Habakkuk but on vacation really felt like I needed to read through 1 & 2 Peter everyday while we were away. I had no idea why, just a sense that I needed to dive into these books. Through those readings, we changed our sermon calendar and I ended up preaching through those books.

Often though, pastors will use the reasoning that so much of their job and life is spent in the Bible. “I spend so much time on my sermon that I don’t need to spend time alone with Jesus.” I’ve never had a pastor tell me this, but it runs through many pastor’s heads. What happens then is they preach from a dry heart, from a place that is not meeting with Jesus. They spend so much time discipling other people that they aren’t feeding themselves. They don’t read books outside the Bible that challenge their thinking or bring conviction to their life.

As long as sermons are helpful, no one will notice this sin. Pastors can fly under the radar for years on this and their elders, wife and church will have a hard time knowing. Over time, it will become obvious that a pastor is working from past time with God, meaning, they are running off the fumes of years past. Because pastors often move from churches and job to job, people aren’t able to notice that he is preaching old sermons or using the same stories.

How do you know if this is happening? Here are a few ways:

  • If a pastor has no new illustrations of God’s grace in his life
  • The pastor does not talk about being pushed out of his comfort zone.
  • He has no conversations with unchurched neighbors.
  • He is not praying big prayers for the Holy Spirit to move.
  • His heart does not break for his people and those who do not know Jesus.

Come back tomorrow and we’ll talk about the second sin of pastors, the sin of being untouchable.

[Image]

Top Posts of December 2012

In case you missed them in all the rush of the holidays, here are the top 10 posts for the last month of 2012:

  1. Accountability
  2. My 12 Favorite Books of 2012
  3. 15 Ways to Improve Your Marriage
  4. My Top 12 Albums of 2012
  5. Sex Doesn’t Equal Intimacy
  6. Is Love a Choice or a Feeling (And Why it Matters)
  7. What “Be Still” Means
  8. Happy Birthday to my Beautiful Wife
  9. My Journey of Losing Weight
  10. Planning a Preaching Calendar

How to Plan a Preaching Calendar

Ironically, how we plan our preaching calendar at Revolution is one of the most common questions I get from other pastors. In fact, in the last 2 weeks I’ve been asked about it almost a dozen times that I thought I would share how we decide what we preach on and how far out we plan and why we do it this way.

First off, plan ahead. I am stunned by how little planning goes into some churches. You would think that pastors don’t care what is happening in their churches. Naturally, I am a planner, so this is easier for me and actually more comforting when it is done. For example, the other day I talked to a pastor that said, “It’s Thursday and all I have is a title.” That’s like saying, “All I need is a chip and a chair.” We need better odds than that when it comes to preaching. Now, before you get on my case, God does speak at the end of the week, God does change what we are to see while we are walking up to the stage. It has happened to me and it is exciting and scary all at the same time, but this cannot be our normal practice.

At Revolution, we have decided that the best way for us to reach our mission and target is to preach through books of the Bible. This does not mean we are against topical (that’s a bad discussion in my opinion), we just like doing it this way.

We split series up into two categories:  attractional and missional. Attractional will feel more topical, felt needs, but are based on a book of the Bible. Some examples:  Pure Sex (Song of Solomon), 30 Days to Live (which was topical, see we aren’t against it), The Sermon on the Mount, Ultimate Fighter (2 Timothy), The Blessed Life (Philippians), The Perfect Kid, Give me Faith (James), The Vow, . The other category is missional which tends to be more formation, doctrine, theology. Some examples: BecomingJonah, Reveal (Hebrews), The Story of God (overview of the Old Testament), Uprising (a vision series), Manifest (Titus), Light & Shadows (Jude), Fearless (Joshua) and Weird (1 & 2 Peter).

We also try to alternate between Old and New Testament books of the Bible. What we are trying to do is to make sure we are giving our church a healthy balance not only of books of the Bible, but also styles and feel.

What about length?

We haven’t bought into doing a 3 – 6 week series only. Hebrews took 18 weeks, Nehemiah took 22 weeks, and Peter took 23 weeks. The length of the series is not that big of a deal as long as the speaker is up for it. Long series are draining. We try to stay away from doing long series back to back as that is draining on me, our team and our church. Also, if you do a very serious book that is heavy on the theology like Hebrews or Jude, do something lighter right after it.

How far out do we plan?

We look about 12 months ahead when it comes to thinking through topics. This is where so many pastors do themselves a disservice. By knowing this far in advance what I’m going to be preaching, I can be on the lookout for articles, quotes, current events, etc. I’ll often be reading a book and a quote will jump out to me that will work in a sermon 10 months from now. It also helps any creative ideas we have for musicians to think through songs or to write songs, to be able to make videos, build things on stage or props. None of that can happen if a pastor has a great idea on Wednesday or Thursday that they want to implement on Sunday.

Are we flexible?

Yes. Just because we are planning something does not mean it is written in stone and unchangeable. In 2012, we planned to preach through the whole book of Romans. Last summer on vacation, I felt like I needed to dive into 1 & 2 Peter during my quiet times. Because of that, we shelved our Romans series for another time. This turned out to be a great idea as we are moving in 2012 and being in the middle of a long book series while moving would have been difficult and taken away some flexibility for us.

For our creative process, we look 6 – 8 weeks out as we think through atmosphere, visuals, video clips, dramas, cover songs. As we get closer, Paul takes us through a process of honing in on what we will use and how it will flow.

How long would this take? Not very long. In fact, if you sat down right now and made a list of topics you would like to teach on in the next 6 – 12 months you would be well on your way.

When I started preaching through books of the Bible, I picked James to start out with because it was my favorite book of the Bible. Not very spiritual, I know, but it worked and I started to get used to it.

The point is, plan ahead. Way too much is at stake to go week to week.

Now I’ve told you how we do it, how do you plan your series? How do you decide what to preach on?

Summer Preaching Break

For the last 5 weeks I’ve been on my summer preaching break. This year it was longer than it was in the past, which won’t always be my normal rhythm, but was really helpful this year. The last 4 years at Revolution have been incredible, but have also been really fast. This year I felt like it was important to take longer off from preaching than I had in the past. One of the reasons was that with Mike on our team, we have the capability of making video sermons, which we used in the month of June.

I’ve gotten questions about a preaching break and what I do on it. There are a few goals. Rest, recharging, re-envisioning for the future of Revolution, giving Revolution a break from hearing from me, giving other communicators a chance to preach.

During the last month, we took a family vacation. During this time, my phone is off, I’m off facebook, twitter, blogging, no email. Katie and the kids get all of my attention. I read novels, no leadership books or anything to do with upcoming sermons. The reason this is important for a pastor and his family is that being a pastor can be all encompassing if you aren’t careful. Being a pastor is a job that doesn’t end, you don’t punch a clock or leave your work at work. It is hard to separate being Josh and being a pastor.

I took some time to get away, focus on my spiritual life, recharging my relationship with Jesus, focusing and dreaming about the future of Revolution. Beginning to map out more clearly planting our first church, what that will take, the journey that is ahead for our church as we move. This kind of planning is hard to do with the normal rhythm of writing a sermon and preaching. This time is also when I look ahead and get a feel for what I’ll be preaching on in 2013.

During this month, I’ve also spent some extended time with the other leaders of Revolution looking forward to what is ahead for our church. Evaluating what is working right now and what needs to be improved to help us take the next step. We’ve been working through more MC leader assessments, preparing to launch more missional communities in the fall. This is a great time for work on Revolution instead of working in Revolution, huge difference. A preaching break allows me to do things like long range planning and thinking that is difficult to do in the normal rhythm of preaching every week. I can pull back and get a better look at what Revolution is like.

Right now, Mike is preaching a series on Jonah & David. He’s preached many times at Revolution, but this is the first time he’s done an entire series on his own. This is great for his development since in the past he’s preached in series I’ve planned and topics I’ve assigned. He had to think through what the series would be on, what would be covered, everything. This is huge for his development as a communicator. It is also lets our church get a break from hearing me and hear from another voice. It also gives me a chance to simply attend Revolution, talk to people and not have to think about preaching. It is good for my soul to listen to good preaching and let God work on areas of my life that need work.

A preaching break is also important for fighting idols for a pastor. I love preaching, it is one of the favorite parts of my job. But it can easily become an idol. It is easy for me to believe the lie that Jesus loves me more when I preach. I can find my identity in my sermons and what people say about them. It is easy to believe that if I’m not at Revolution for a week, it will fall apart (this is a lie a lot of pastors believe about their church). Taking a break from preaching helps me to fight these idols and lies.

This year was a huge evidence of God’s grace when it came to the timing of my preaching break. In the second week, we got the call about Nehemiah and so I was able to have the flexibility in my schedule when he joined our family that I don’t normally have. All in God’s timing and plan.

I’m grateful the elders of Revolution see the benefit of this. And I’m excited about my break but excited for it coming to an end and for what is ahead as we kick off a brand new series on July 14 called Fearless. See you Saturday.

Why I Preach Like I Do Part 3

I’ve been talking this week about how we preach at Revolution. You can read part 1 and part 2 in this series if you missed them.

One of the things that many pastors fail to do when it comes to their preaching is to plan well. I have talked to many pastors on a Tuesday or Wednesday, even Thursday and they have no idea what they are preaching on this weekend. I remember meeting with one church planter who told me, “I told my wife this morning, I have to think about what I’m preaching on for the next 2 weeks because Josh is going to ask me today.”

I remember a mentor telling me that “someone pays the price for the sermon. Either the church pays the price for having to listen to a pastor who is poorly prepared and unsure of what they are saying, or, the pastor pays the price by being prayed up and prepared for the preaching the sermon.”

As a pastor, one of your main roles is preaching. It is one of the best ways you lead your church. In many ways, it is one of the engines of your church. Notice I said one of, not the engine. You need to place a higher priority on preaching, give more time to it.

For me, I think in terms of the calendar year. Each church is different, but our church has a definite lull from thanksgiving until January. We have a lot of singles and couples without kids so attendance drops over the holidays. Each summer, I think through the coming calendar year. I ask for ideas from our church about topics or books of the Bible they’d like to hear, see if there is a commonality. See what our leaders think. Try to get a handle on what I feel like God is calling us to on my own.

This past summer on my preaching break I felt like I needed to spend the time reading through 1 & 2 Peter each day. Not sure why at the time, but decided to do it. At the time, we were planning to spend all of 2012 in the book of Romans. We had a ton of stuff for it. After one week I told Katie that we would start 2012 in Peter. I can honestly say that after 2 weeks into these rich books, it is exactly where our church needs to be.

Now, what about planning. By planning 6 months in advance, I’m able to write a study guide. Mike is able to work through devotional questions and family devotional questions. I’m able to read something in a leadership book that has nothing to do with Peter and find a great quote. This doesn’t happen without planning. Study guides and devotionals take weeks and months to put together.

You also need to have a good file system for quotes, notes, articles, blogs, etc. I use evernote because I can easily sync stuff with google add-ons. Michael Hyatt has a ton of stuff on evernote, which is a treasure trove of information for leaders.

Bottom line, as a pastor, you need to plan your preaching. Your church deserves it. Don’t fly by the seat of your pants. Do the work, pray up, listen to the Holy Spirit and plan ahead.

Top Posts of November

To help you stay up to date on things, here are the top posts from the last month:

  1. The Role of Men in Family
  2. 15 Ways to Improve Your Marriage
  3. Water from a Deep Well: Christian Spirituality from Early Martyrs to Modern Missionaries
  4. Planning a Preaching Calendar
  5. Great by Choice: Uncertainty, Chaos, and Luck – Why Some Thrive Despite Them All
  6. Is Love a Choice or a Feeling (And why it Matters)
  7. Love Your Wife
  8. Planning Christmas
  9. Interacting with the Opposite Sex as a Pastor
  10. This is our City

Top Posts of October 2011

In case you missed them, here are the top posts for October, 2011:

  1. Barefoot Church
  2. What Attracts People to Church
  3. The Role of Men in the Family
  4. Planning a Preaching Calendar
  5. Q: What Would you Tell a Wife Whose Husband is Addicted to Porn?
  6. Discipling Video
  7. How to Know You are Being Divisive (And Sinning)
  8. 15 Ways to Improve Your Marriage
  9. Is Love a Choice or a Feeling (And Why it Matters)
  10. Music Monday: Gungor’s Brother Moon

Top Posts of September 2011

In case you missed them, here are the top posts for the last month:

  1. What is the 30 Day Sex Challenge?
  2. Uprising Kicks off in 2 Days
  3. 15 Ways to Improve Your Marriage
  4. What I’ve Learned in 3 Years at Revolution
  5. 2011 NFL Picks
  6. Interacting with the Opposite Sex as a Pastor
  7. Modesty of the Heart
  8. Leadership & Netflix
  9. Planning a Preaching Calendar
  10. Don Draper Pitches the Facebook Timeline