Good Communication—Tell Me a Story

I am a glutton for illustrations. I have boxes of illustrations that I save and keep on file (and occasionally, lose). They are priceless to my preaching. A good illustration is worth every minute it takes from your sermon.

Good Communication—Tell Me a Story
(Photo by Photodune)

I didn’t always think so. I used to think an illustration was a waste of time. I no longer believe that.

Good Communication—Be Interesting

Some of us who are evangelicals seem to think that because we’re teaching the Bible we can bore people with it. And that there’s something wrong with the audience if they go to sleep on us. I know a great Hebrew term for that line of thinking: Hogwash!

Good Communication—Be Interesting
(Photo by Photodune)

A good communicator is interesting. Look at how Solomon put it:

The Preacher sought to find delightful words and to write words of truth correctly (Ecclesiastes 12:10).

Did you notice, “delightful words”? The preacher sought to find that which would bring emotional delight. How about that! I take that to mean he’s looking for clarity as well as an interesting, even captivating use of terms.

I heard a true story that theologian Carl F. H. Henry told as he spoke to a group of radio broadcasters.

Good Communication—Be Well-Prepared

If sweat were blood, my study would be red. So would yours. As pastors, part of what helps us become good communicators is paying the personal price for being well-prepared. That takes hard work.

Good Communication—Be Well-Prepared

“The Preacher,” Solomon tells us, “also taught the people knowledge”—and this occurred by “pondering, searching out, and arranging” his thoughts (Ecclesiastes 12:9). These verbs are in the intensive stem in the Hebrew. In other words, in becoming well-prepared, you have to sacrifice. The cost is high! Both in time . . . and in tools.

Get Good Tools

Buy books that help you understand the Word of God. Some of my best books are what I call my “blood” books. When I was in seminary, I used to donate a pint of blood and in return receive twenty bucks.

  • I bought the Old Testament series by Kyle and Delitzsch with blood money.
  • I bought Kittel’s Theological Dictionary of the New Testament with blood money.

They were supposed to take my blood only every six weeks, but I’d occasionally go in after five weeks. One time I pushed it to four weeks! Cynthia told me, “I think you’re kind of pressing it on this thing with your library.” And she was right.

But hey, where else can you have 100 scholars at your fingertips when you’re stuck away in Fargo . . . or Frisco! Get and use good tools.

Be Willing to Dig In

You’ll have to deal severely with the temptation to dance around a passage rather than to dig in deeply—especially when time is of the essence. Here are three suggestions:

  1. Start early. We both know that Saturday night panic doesn’t yield quality stuff on Sunday. “A mist in the pulpit puts a fog in the pew” is another way of saying it!
  2. Write stuff down. I would encourage you to write down more of your ideas. Don’t rely on your memory. Write down those fleeting thoughts that come to you in the middle of the night. Many times I have gotten up to write something I didn’t want to lose. Those times that I didn’t do that, almost without exception, I forgot them by the next morning. I must go through half a yellow tablet of paper per sermon writing things down. I have discovered that it is in the writing of my thoughts that my ideas take shape and narrow into understandable terms. It is in the “pondering, searching out, and arranging” of thoughts that the preacher is well-prepared.
  3. Use Notes. Please . . . don’t feel bad about taking your notes and outline into the pulpit! (They never told you that at seminary, did they?  Me either.) What could be more frustrating than being well-prepared to communicate only to forget half of it after the choir sings? The best expositors I’ve heard use notes.

Changing lives is God’s job. We rely on Him for that—unquestionably.

But being well-prepared . . . that’s our responsibility.

 

Good Communication—The First Step

I don’t mind being called a preacher. One of my lifetime goals has been to be a good preacher. That takes hard work. You know that. Good communication is never automatic.

Good Communication—The First Step
(Photo by Photodune)

Sometimes you may think you’re coming through clearly only to be surprised when a member of the congregation, or even your wife, without your asking, shares with you that your message didn’t come through. We’ve all been there!

I want to write in the next few blogs about helping your message come through. Today, let’s take the first step.

Goal for the New Year: Preach the Word!

I thought we should start off the New Year right by reminding ourselves of an essential role we have as pastor-teachers.

new-years-day
(Photo Courtesy of Pixabay.com)

Take some time right now and watch this message I delivered to those about to enter ministry. My challenge to them is the challenge that you and I will face every week this year: to preach the Word.

—Chuck

Give Your Presence This Year

Do you feel the tightening squeeze this time of year brings?

cookies
(Photo Courtesy of Pixabay.com)

On top of an already demanding schedule of preaching, teaching, counseling, and calling, you have had to add Christmas parties and programs, a creative Christmas series that you’ve never preached before—and still another eloquent sermon is coming up for the Christmas Eve service.

Such a schedule has a tendency to turn us into Scrooge-like characters, doesn’t it? (We secretly think: Humbug!) Work, work, work . . . nothing and no one will get in our way.

May I assume the role of one of old Scrooge’s ghosts for you? Let me escort you to your home. Peer into the window. Look closely. Is your chair empty at the dinner table?

Okay, that was a cheap shot.

We in ministry don’t like to talk about it, but too many of us sanctify workaholism. And the holidays can be the busiest time! We can allow ourselves to be so involved in “the Lord’s work” that our family is neglected. And I do mean “we.”

This may sound like heresy, but we have to learn to adopt the attitude: “I’m more committed to my home than I am to my ministry.” Try saying that out loud. I doubt any pastor’s final words will be—and I know mine won’t be—”I should have put more time into studying supralapsarianism for that sermon on election.” No way! But I will regret not spending more time loving and laughing with my wife, children, and grandchildren.

Are you feeling adequately guilty yet? Me too. So let me suggest some positive things for us to consider. Here are six rewards that represent huge dividends for yourself, your family, and even your ministry if you make your home your priority. You will enjoy:

  • the sustained cultivation of a great character
  • the continued relief a clear conscience brings
  • the increasing personal delight of knowing God intimately
  • the rare privilege of becoming a mentor
  • the priceless treasure of leaving an unforgettable legacy
  • the crowning reward of finishing strong

It took three ghosts and a sleepless night to convince old Ebenezer Scrooge that work without regard for others amounts to foolishness—and a wasted life.

I have a pastor-friend whose wife often tells him, “I don’t want your presents as much as your presence.” Let’s give ourselves to our families this week, okay?

—Chuck

Make the Time for Solitude

We pastors love being with people . . . but not all the time. Let’s be honest: people (especially talkative people) can be draining.

Alone with God
(Photo courtesy of Unsplash)

In times of solitude with God, however, the only person who needs anything is you.

  • You bring your needs to God’s inexhaustible supply.
  • There He sifts the essentials of life from the chaff.
  • There He trains your mind on what’s important.
  • The result? You’re left with a healthy perspective of who you are and what He’s called you to do.

The gospel of Mark tells us:

Before daybreak the next morning, Jesus got up and went out to an isolated place to pray (Mark 1:35).

Why so early? Was Jesus a morning person? Not necessarily. Early morning was probably the only time He could be alone. He arose early even though the previous day had been non-stop.

Even as a busy man, Jesus found a way to balance the demands on His time with His need for solitude with the Father.

That requires creativity.

Principles All Churches Should Examine and Apply—Part Two

Last week, I shared with you the first two of three principles all churches should examine and apply. Here they are again, in summary:

Field
(Photo Courtesy of Pixabay.com)
  • Clear, biblical thinking must override secular planning and a corporate mentality. Think spiritually!
  • Studied, accurate decisions must originate from God’s Word, not human opinions. Stay biblical!

As promised, here’s the third principle and imperative.

Principles All Churches Should Examine and Apply—Part One

I have discovered three principles and three imperatives I believe all churches should examine and apply. The first principle is this: clear, biblical thinking must override secular planning and a corporate mentality. And the imperative? Think spiritually!

Steeple
(Photo Courtesy of Pixabay.com)

However well-organized our churches become, we must give priority to biblical rather than to secular thinking. In the first-century church, there were no secular organizational structures or church politics. There was no guru of authority or “chairman” of anything. There were no power grabs from control freaks. There were no personal maneuverings, infightings, financial squabbles, or turf protection. Instead, it was a place where a spiritual emphasis took precedence over the world’s way of doing things.

Here’s what this looks like when it’s applied.

When I Fell in Love with Thanksgiving

My love affair with Thanksgiving takes me all the way back to my boyhood days. I had just turned 10 years of age and was in fifth grade at Southmayd Elementary School in East Houston.

Thanksgiving
(Image from Unsplash)

As I recall, I was still going barefoot to school—and I combed my hair, maybe three times a week. Girls didn’t matter a lot to me when I was 10! It was on a Wednesday, the day before our Thanksgiving holidays began.

The year was 1944. Our nation was at war across the Atlantic into Europe as well as in the Pacific and far beyond.

Times were simple back then but they were also rugged. Everything was rationed. Framed stars hung proudly in neighborhood windows—and sometimes they were quietly changed to crosses.

Everyone I knew was patriotic to the core. Without television, we relied on “newsreels” that were shown at the movies, bold newspaper headlines, and LIFE magazine, which carried photos and moving stories of courage in battle and deaths at sea. Signs were posted inside most stores and on street corners, all of them with the same four words: