Prayer and Preaching

Pastor
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You have to love Paul’s humility. Here was a man in his sixties who has been preaching for years asking for prayers for a clearer delivery. Read his words carefully:

Devote yourselves to prayer, keeping alert in it with an attitude of thanksgiving; praying at the same time for us as well, that God will open up to us a door for the word, so that we may speak forth the mystery of Christ, for which I have also been imprisoned; that I may make it clear in the way I ought to speak. (Colossians 4:2–4)

There was no pretense with Paul.

Three Ministry Essentials

Man
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In every ministry, there are at least three essentials that produce an atmosphere of joyous cooperation. They are . . . objectives, people, and places.

First, whatever God plans, He pursues. That has to do with the ministry essential of objectives. There’s nothing wrong with having a clearly defined mission statement that gives direction and purpose to the vision of a ministry.

In fact, there’s everything right about it as long as it is the Lord who provides the direction. God’s plan unfolds in ways that confound human wisdom and sometimes defy common sense.

Powerful Preaching

Preacher
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As one responsible for communicating biblical truth, I want to share four principles. Pay close attention; read slowly, thoughtfully and carefully as I apply this to your ministry of proclaiming God’s Word.

First, always stay on the subject—Christ. For Paul it was always about Christ. Paul spoke of the “God who made the world and all things in it” to the followers of the “unknown god” of Athens, and everything for Paul pointed to Christ (Acts 17:10–34).

Preaching that which doesn’t exalt Christ is empty preaching. Paul wrote to the Corinthian believers, “For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified” (1 Corinthians 2:2).

For Paul, to live was Christ and to die was gain. Clearly, his subject in preaching was Christ.

Second, always speak the truth. Do not hold back. Do not fear. Do not be overly impressed with those who have come to the class or who sit in the church where you serve. It makes no difference how much they’re worth or how little they contribute. Speak the truth.

Third, always start where your audience is. Paul hooked those men in Athens with his first sentence. You can, too, if you spend some time thinking about it. Know your audience well enough to build a bridge quickly.

Serving Good Sermons

Mouse
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Dr. Bruce Waltke tells the story of his wife’s days in home economics in college. They did a test on two white mice, feeding them two completely different diets.

They fed the first mouse . . .

  • Whole milk
  • Wheat bread
  • Oatmeal
  • Carrots
  • Fruit juices

They fed the second mouse . . .

  • Coffee
  • Doughnuts
  • White bread
  • Jelly
  • Candy
  • Potato chips
  • Coke for supper

Can you guess the results?

Be Who You Are

Do what you love
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I had the privilege of being mentored by a man who is now gone. I became one of the first interns on the staff with Ray Stedman at Peninsula Bible Church.

And I saw in Ray something I had not seen modeled in many pastors . . . an authentic life.

Ray was just who he was. I saw it work. I saw a man who was not defensive, who could laugh at himself, who had fun in life and yet was as good a thinker on his feet in question/answer sessions as I’d ever seen.

I saw a man who could love the homosexual and at the same time do an excellent biblical presentation on the sin of homosexuality. I saw a man who had a room in his life for a wayward child. I saw a man who hardly traveled alone, no matter where he went, and always had someone younger with him.

One of the secrets of building character in the lives of others is taking time for those younger than you. Those who are longing for the qualities and the character that have made you who you are. Ray did this for me.

The Apostle Paul wrote to Timothy:

Doing Too Much . . . Smiling Too Little

Smiling Man
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The Christian worker is a strange breed. He or she often wants it to look as if the work is terribly hard. In fact, the more difficult and strained the look, the better.

Christian workers are notorious for what I call the “tired blood” look, better known as the outdated “missionary image.” Or, better stated, the exhausted, overburdened “religious image.”

They usually carry an old, worn-out Bible and walk with a slump, listing to port. They seldom smile—sort of a “please pity me” image. Makes me want to gag!

It’s About Character

Character
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Our culture is overly impressed with the externals. You must look good on TV to win the political race. It’s the image you need to polish. Spin it just right.

But we all know—and all have seen—that a leader without character is a tragedy getting ready to happen.

As pastors, we know about the importance of character, of course. But knowing it isn’t our assignment. Your congregation requires your character. Your role is filled because character is present, or it decreases if it is absent.

It’s the same with me. The church where I serve as senior pastor has a respect for me and appreciates my efforts (all my weaknesses not withstanding).

But this respect hangs on the fact that I’m committed to modeling character, and I’m not going to let it slip away in the stuff of leadership.

I remember the day my dad drove home and the front windshield of our car was broken. He had blood running down his face and I thought, He’s been mugged!

Remember Your Marching Orders

Soldier
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Christians have a lot more in common with soldiers than we might think. Soldiers don’t serve to protect themselves but to guard the interests of their homeland.

There is simply no room for ego or grandstanding among soldiers during the heat of battle. What matters is obeying the leader’s commands. I can’t help but think of Paul’s words to his young protégé, Timothy:

Suffer hardship with me, as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No soldier in active service entangles himself in the affairs of everyday life, so that he may please the one who enlisted him as a soldier. (2 Timothy 2:3–4 NASB)

Of course, there’s also an intangible longing that keeps a soldier going: the desire to go home. The soldier isn’t just a military man or woman . . . but a . . . 

Sing New Songs . . . with Old Truths

Amazing Grace
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Without wanting to be misunderstood, let me say unashamedly that I love the grand old hymns. Throughout my Christian life, I have treasured their historic statements of the church’s faith, having committed many of them to memory.

They have been my dearest companions in dark hours of loneliness and discouragement and my greatest encouragers in times of celebration and adoration.

And while I’m the first to admit that while there’s nothing holy about a hymnal per se, hymns remain an important part of our Christian heritage. Why?

The Ministry of Marriage

Marriage
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Marriage is one of God’s greatest tools for ministry. For example, consider the impact of Priscilla and Aquila’s marriage. Somewhere in the streets of Corinth, they stumbled across a man down on his luck.

Paul was . . .

  • Weary
  • Homeless
  • Alone
  • Fresh off a demoralizing trip in Athens
  • He needed a place to stay

They cleared out a room. Not for one night, not for one week, but until Paul was called to move on.

Then an up-and-coming young evangelist breezed into town. After his eloquent sermon, Priscilla and Aquila invited him over for dinner.

Acts 18:24–25 states that Apollos was gifted and passionate. Though he was accurate in his teaching, he was incomplete in his theology. This couple corrected his doctrine without quelling his desire.

Priscilla and Aquila simply opened up a room for Paul and a seat at the table for Apollos. Through their hospitality and instruction, they impacted two of the greatest early church leaders.

What about us? Who could we impact that may in turn impact the world?