What laypeople need to know–and seldom do–about speaking in “big church”

By laypeople, I mean non-preachers.

By speaking in church, I mean before large groups of the Lord’s people.

Many non-clergy are outstanding on their feet in front of large groups. Schoolteachers come to mind.  But the typical church member, even one who teaches a Sunday School class, is out of his element when suddenly asked to deliver a talk in front of the whole church.

Marlene said to me, “I’m sorry I took the entire service, Pastor. But the Lord was leading me.” Translation: She really got into her talk and couldn’t control it.  As a young pastor, I had invited church members to share testimonies in the morning worship service, something along the lines of 5-7 minutes.  (Later, I learned to interview the individual and retain hold of the microphone the entire time!)

Since Marlene had not prepared adequately, once she got going, she couldn’t find a convenient stopping place. She kept on for a full 40 minutes.

Personally, I would not blame my failure to prepare on the Lord.

I see it happen all the time.  It’s almost embarrassing.

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The effective pastor: Be the host.

(This is the first of a series of article on “The Effective Pastor.” )

This morning as I had breakfast in the hotel dining room, a tall blonde lady entered the room and called out, “Good morning, everyone.”

I figured she had to be the manager.

She was.

Terri told me later–as I sketched her–she had been on the job just two weeks. “Before, I managed a hotel in Opelika,” a few miles down the interstate.  I complimented her on the way she greeted people. And I told her something.

I work with pastors. And I have to remind some that they are the manager of this enterprise. They are the chief greeter. The mood-setter.  The actual worship leader.

They are the host.

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Eight things I like about the church…and five I hate.

One: I like the idea of church. A regular gathering of the redeemed to worship, remember, nurture one another, hammer out questions, and hold one another accountable.  After all, “it is not good for man to be alone.” We were made needing one another, and do not function well in isolation.

Show me a Christian who can please God better alone than with other believers and I’ll show you a one-of-a-kind, something never before seen on planet Earth.  The Lord thought you and I would be needing each other, so placed us in a church fellowship when He saved us.

Two: I like the people in the church.  Two things can be said of the people who make up almost any congregation on earth:  They are a cross-section of humanity, of the very type found in a grocery store or in a schoolyard, and they contain a special group–the cream of the crop–of the best people on the planet.  Jesus said a sure sign that we are His is our love for one another, i.e., fellow Christians.

Show me a Christian who does not like church people and I’ll show you someone backslidden, out of fellowship with Christ.  This is a no-brainer, as sure as the sun rises in the east.

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If I were reading the Bible for the first time

If I were just beginning to read the Bible, I would expect it to be difficult.  After all, if the God of the universe puts His thoughts into a book, it makes sense for some of it to be beyond us.

If I were reading the Bible for the first time, I’d get a modern more readable translation.  How to do that? Go to Lifeway Christian Stores and spend an hour checking out all the versions.

If I were reading the Bible for the first time, I’d enlist a great friend or two to take my occasional phone call so I could say, “What does this mean?”

And, if I were reading the Bible for the first time, I would do this:

–Move to the New Testament first.  This means ignoring (for the moment) the first two-thirds of the Bible.

–I would begin reading at Matthew chapter one and read large portions each day.

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Why we make so much of Jesus

Jesus Christ was the First. The Most. The Best. The Last. The Everything.

Scripture ransacks the human language looking for superlatives enough to give mankind some kind of idea who this Person was who was born of a virgin, lived without sin, taught us of Heaven, and died in our place.  His resurrection and ascension forever secured His place in the history and thought and conversation of this small planet.

Earth has never seen another like Him.  He is unique.

Christianity and the Christian life are all about Jesus.

Regardless of what they tell you, the Christian faith is not about love.

It’s not about morals and doing good.

The Christian faith is not about helping one another and be ye kind and see you in church.

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The cross was no after-thought from God

“No one is taking my life from me; I lay it down of my own accord.”  (John 10:18)

“Now is the judgement of this world; now is the ruler of this world cast out.”  (John 12:31)

It was the moment Jesus had come for.

He was headed to the cross.

For Jesus, going to the cross was not Plan B.

God did not shake His head in disgust at mankind’s messing up His pretty plans and decide He would have to take drastic action.  “This is not how I had planned it, but those pesky humans leave me no other choice!”

Didn’t happen.

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Scraps and observations from my clutter

The wonderful Ruth Bell Graham compiled an entire book from the notes and scraps she accumulated from her desks, table tops, old files, etc.  “Legacy of a Pack Rat” is well worth the few bucks you will pay to purchase the book used. I recommend it highly.

Now, to my clutter.

Before tossing it in the trash–the clutter on this table demands I either file it, begin strip-mining operations on it, or discard it, and the latter wins the vote–I thought someone might appreciate these.  Use if you are able.

HENRY KISSINGER once said of U. S. diplomat Richard Holbrook, “If Richard calls you and asks you for something, just say yes. If you say no, you’ll eventually get to yes, but the journey will be very painful.”

That reminds us of the foolishness of resisting the Holy Spirit. “It is hard to kick against the goads,” as the Lord told Saul of Tarsus.

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The nominating speech: When someone puts you up for elected office

“A certain slave girl possessed with a spirit….followed Paul and cried out, saying, ‘These men are servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to us the way of salvation.’ And this she did for many days.” (Acts 16:16-18)

When you decide to let your name be put up for an elected office–keep in mind, I write for pastors primarily–choose carefully your recommender.

The person giving the nominating speech can make you or break you.

It wasn’t so much that what the demon-possessed girl of Philippi said about Paul and Silas was wrong.  It’s only that she was crazy, pardon the expression.

She was not qualified to be recommending anyone.

Her recommendation was the worst thing imaginable.  People who knew her scoffed at the recommendation she gave these preachers.  I can hear them laughing. “If she thinks they are hot stuff, we’d better be careful. They’re probably as looney tunes as she is.”

Some recommendations are to be eschewed.  (After 14 years of blogging, this is the first occasion I’ve used “eschewed.”  It’s about time!)

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Riding in cars with preachers

“Faithful are the wounds of a friend, but deceitful are the kisses of an enemy” (Proverbs 27:6).

Preachers log a lot of miles on their cars.

Most preachers tend to drive aggressively.

I’m a preacher. My little Camry, one year old this month, shows over 37,000 miles.

I work hard at driving well, but sometimes I wish someone riding with me would point out something I’m doing wrong or a bad habit I’ve fallen into, if they spot such.

Recently, on three occasions recently I found myself riding with pastors as we drove to their churches.

In each case, I did unto them as I want someone to do unto me. That is, I helped the pastor with his driving.  (smiley-face goes here)

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The Ultimate Game-Changer: Why the resurrection of Jesus scares some people

“For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus” (I Thessalonians 4:14).

If Jesus really did rise from the dead as Scripture claims and Christians hold, then nothing is the same and everything has changed forever.

The reason Christians are positively giddy about the Easter Event–the resurrection of Jesus–is that in walking out of that tomb and leaving it forever empty,  He broke the stranglehold in which death had held humanity.

We are free.  We are free forever. We are free to live forever.

It doesn’t get any better than this.

Everything stands or falls on whether Jesus rose from the dead that first Easter Sunday morning.

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