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Sunday, January 30, 2011

Words are Weighty

A few years ago, when I was serving as the Lead Pastor of a local church, I experienced a strange compulsion. This compulsion surfaced just after the celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day, which you and I celebrated a few weeks back. Along with many admirers of King, I have a deep appreciation for the power and profundity of his Dream Speech. Influenced by his words, I wrote out a dream for the local church I was leading at the time and called it Our Dream Church.

King, great preacher that he was, knew that words have the power to convey a compelling vision that dives deep into the human soul and stays lodged there. Carefully crafted, prayerfully wrought words have the potential to change hearts, develop communities, and transform the world. This is why we preach the Gospel.

I shared the Our Dream Church speech below in a sermon to my local church several years ago. God, I believe, used these plain old ordinary words to tear down and rebuild our values so that they aligned more with the kingdom of God than the kingdom of the world. In time, this dream became a reality in the life of our church.

While you may not resonate with Our Dream Church, I implore you to invite God to give you His dream for the church you serve and/or the life you live. I pray that as you head into a new year of life and ministry, God’s dream would crystallize in your heart. I pray also that you would have the audacity to put His dream to words and share it with your congregation, family, and friends, no matter how ridiculously far from reality those words may seem.

Words have power. Words shape lives. Words change communities. Words transform the world. This is why so many of us dare to share God’s dream through the words of a Sunday sermon. Here are some of the words God used to shape me and the church I once led:

Our Dream Church
…We have a dream of a church that sees a human being not based upon the level of that person’s income or education but based upon their value in the eyes of God,
…A church that is unashamedly committed to Christ and because of that commitment is radically dedicated to loving all kinds of people with all kinds of issues in all kinds of ways,
…A church that is not consumed by petty deliberations about the color of the sanctuary carpet because she is too consumed by the mission of love Christ has called us to live,
…A church that sees overwhelming needs in our community and world and instead of turning away in fear and defeat runs right toward the needs by feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, housing the homeless, and caring for the sick, the addicted, and the depressed,
…A church that helps seekers become servants of Christ, a church that is led not by perfect people but by people perfectly submitted to the Holy Spirit and guided by the Holy Book,
…We have a dream of a church that is not content to simply share a pew together but who are open to share life together, a church full of people who refuse to hold grudges because they’re too quick to forgive, who refuse to gossip because they’re too busy extending grace, who refuse to judge because they’re too busy loving,
…A church where people can worship by clapping their hands, stomping their feet, and raising their hands or being still, bowing their heads, and closing their mouths, a church that sees true religious devotion not as mere ritual but as love for the orphan and the widow, the successful and the struggling, the friend and the enemy,
…A church who measures the level of their success not by how many people show up on Sunday but by how many people are living out Christ’s mission on Monday,
…We have a dream of a church that refuses to put limits on what God can do because she has the fearless, reckless audacity to believe that God has the power to do absolutely anything!

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Greetings friends! I want to let you know about a new resource that the Wesleyan Denomination asked me to develop and direct. It's called and it is designed to encourage, equip, and empower pastors to proclaim Christ in a way that is faithful and effective. Every week, the site will feature a sermon from one of our Wesleyan pastors, along with a one-page outline of the sermon. There will also be a conversation in which I explore with the featured preacher how the sermon was developed and delivered. I will be writing articles every month on topics focused on preaching. If you want to check out the promotional video which explains more about this free resource for pastors, click on the following link which will take you right to the video:

Let me know what you think of the site.


Monday, January 10, 2011

Holy and Unholy Homiletic Habits

Last week nearly 2000 leaders within the Wesleyan Denomination gathered for the, rightly named, Gathering in Jacksonville, FL. I had several profound encounters with God throughout the 3 day event. I enjoyed some helpful seminars as well. One of the seminars was entitled, Holiness Preaching in the 21st Century. I appreciated the insightful comments from the panelists. However, when I got the chance to ask a question of the panel, I didn't receive an extensive and satisfactory response. Most of the Q and A focused on holiness in the preacher and in the sermon content. So, as a teacher of preaching I wanted to explore with the group the importance of developing a holy process of sermon development. The question I asked the panel was, "What are some holy and unholy homiletic habits when it comes to developing the sermon?" One of the panelists addressed my question with a helpful insight, but I was hoping for more discussion than my question received.

So, I thought we could tackle the question here. What do you think? When it comes to developing the sermon, what are some unholy homiletic habits other than the obvious plagiarism and laziness? More importantly, what are some holy habits the preacher can and should practice in the sermon preparation process?

Looking forward to your comments,