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
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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.

 

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
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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

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
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  • 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
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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.

The Church’s Foundation

Whenever we want to understand a topic or term, such as church, we should begin at the passage of primary reference. It helps to ask: Where did the word first appear, and in what context was it used? Surprisingly, the first mention in the New Testament of the word church wasn’t from the pen of the apostle Paul. Peter didn’t coin the term—nor did any of the other apostles. It was Jesus.

Church
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“I will build My church,” Jesus promised (Matthew 16:18). Let’s examine the implications of those five, monosyllable words in this “primary reference.”

The Secret of Ministering to People

Some churches today have adopted a professional mind-set entirely. Like the consumer culture they live in, far too many pay the pastors to do the work of the ministry for them, while they sit back, passively watch, and offer comments now and then. Where is that in the Bible?

The Secret of Ministering to People
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A pastor who allows this approach to occur has fallen for what I call “The Superman Syndrome.” I’m not talking about pulling on a pair of blue tights and a red cape and putting a fancy “S” on his chest—though I heard of a pastor who did exactly that on Easter Sunday (I wish I were kidding). I’m talking about an attitude that says: “I am self-sufficient,” “I need no one else,” or “I will not show weakness or admit any inadequacy.” These words betray the presence of the Superman Syndrome—that particular peril for pastors who go it alone and become “the star of the show.”

Any pastor sets himself up for letting people down when he poses as Superman.

Pastoral Traps: People-Pleasing

The way God chooses to lead His ministry is often difficult to get our arms around. Finding direction in the corporate world comes somewhat easier. There’s a clearly stated bottom line, shareholders to report to, and defined markets that guide company decisions.

Ministry matters are rarely that obvious and never that objective. We serve a Head we cannot see, and we listen to a voice we cannot literally hear. Often we feel as if we’re being asked to follow a plan we do not understand. And of course, during the process of discovering God’s leading, we experience enormous changes. These are changes we must embrace in the power of the Spirit if we are to obey our Lord’s lead. Though we are accountable to the churches we serve, ultimately, each one of us, as a pastor, answers to God. Without that sort of single-minded devotion to the Lord, we run the risk of becoming people-pleasers or worse, slaves of other’s expectations. Pastors who become pawns as they focus on pleasing people are pathetic wimps.

Honestly, there have been times in my life when I stumbled onto that slippery slide. I look back on those occasions with great regret. Nothing good ever comes from a ministry devoted to pleasing people! Rather than being a warrior for the King, it is easy to become an insecure coward, relying on human opinions and longing for human approval. By His grace, you and I don’t have to go there anymore.

Our responsibility is to deliver what God’s people need, not what they want. As we do, that truth should hit us with the same authority as it does the folks to whom we communicate. May God deliver every honest pastor, every truth-seeking church leader, and every Christian from the bondage of pleasing people.

“Obviously, I’m not trying to win the approval of people, but of God. If pleasing people were my goal, I would not be Christ’s servant” (Galatians 1:10).

—Chuck

Pastoral Traps: Greed

Pastors can easily fall into the trap of money-grubbing. Or in simpler terms, we can be greedy.

This is true if money winds up in the pastor’s pocket that was earmarked for some other realm of ministry. This is true if the minister is asked about his financial policy with regard to ministry money, and he responds with a “that’s-none-of-your-business” type of reaction. Dependable shepherds are not motivated by what Peter referred to as “sordid gain” (1 Peter 5:2, NASB). The old King James Version bluntly calls it “filthy lucre.” That’s an archaic expression, but it says it straight. “Not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind.”

My counsel to all in ministry is to keep your hands out of the money. Period.

Pastoral Traps: Exclusivism

A major trap pastors can fall into is exclusivism. That’s the attitude that says, “I alone am right.” It’s the “us-four-and-no-more-and-I’m-not-sure-about-you-three” kind of attitude. An exclusive spirit occurs when a pastor allows (or even promotes) a clannish, cultic kind of following around him.

Paranoia often accompanies an exclusive spirit: “Other ministries don’t do it as well as I do”—or some similar statement. Watch out for that kind of attitude. Guard yourself from too many first-person pronouns. It is nothing more than pride.