Are Christians commanded to Tithe?

By Gladys Perez-NejudneComments Off

by Robert Randle

One of the most widely participatory faith practices among Christians is “tithing,” and yet, it might be one of the least understood. There is certainly nearly unanimous agreement that this ordinance was commanded by God to the ancient Israelites and believers are taught that it is a requirement for us today; but what do the Scriptures say on this matter? A common reasoning is found in the Old Testament book of Malachi 3: 8, which states, “Will a man rob God? Yet you have robbed Me! But you say, ‘How have we robbed Thee?’ In tithes and offerings. This pronouncement had to do with the decline and neglect of the temple services and offerings by the post exilic Jews who had returned to Palestine after a long period of foreign captivity.

There are at least two passages in the gospels of the New Testament book of Matthew, 5: 17-20, where verse 20 is used more convincingly to administer the ‘tithe’ among Christians because Jesus told His disciples, “”For I say unto you, that unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you shall not enter the kingdom of heaven.” Also in Matthew 23: 1-3, 23, Jesus wasn’t so much as teaching about tithing or even giving, but rather He was teaching against hypocrisy. If Jesus gave any favorable impression with the principle of tithing or giving, it is to be one borne of true faith and sacrifice as evidenced in Mark 12: 41-43, where He said, “Truly I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all the contributors to the treasury.” In practical matters because of the social, cultural, and market economy in which we live today, it would be almost an impossibility to exceed the scribes and Pharisees in their tithing practices anyway. So let’s see how the practice of taking up an offering really got started among the First Century believers.

Acts 11: 1, 27-30
“Now the apostles and the brethren who were throughout Judea heard that the Gentiles also had received the word of God. Now at this time some prophets came down from Jerusalem to Antioch. And one of them named Agabus stood up and began to indicate by the Spirit that there certainly would be a great famine all over the world [land]. And this took place in the reign of Claudius. And in the proportion that any of the disciples had means, each of them determined to send a contribution for the relief of the brethren living in Jerusalem. And this they did, sending it in charge of Barnabas and Saul to the elders (Cp. 12: 25).”

The following New Testament Scriptures [Paul’s letters] deal with this event over a period of several years which forms the historical background and theological basis for this practice today (Cp. Gal 2: 10??; I Corinthians 16: 1-4; II Corinthians 1: 15-16; 8: 1 – 9: 15). Even in Acts 15: 13-14, 19-20, 28-29; 21: 18, 25, the Mother Church in Jerusalem decreed that the Gentile believers observe certain essentials of the faith and at no time was tithing mentioned.

The one thing that must be mentioned is the collection for the saints [in Judea] was never a command but voluntary (II Corinthians 8: 7-8; 10) and the only requirement then as well as today is found in II Corinthians 8: 12; 9: 7-8, which reads, “For if the readiness [of mind] is present, it is acceptable according to what a man has, not according to what he does not have. Let each one do just as he has purposed in his heart [so let him give]; not grudgingly or under compulsion; for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, that always having all sufficiency in everything; you may have abundance for every good deed.

So, what does the New Testament teach regarding supporting the Gospel or those who minister in the Word of God?

I Corinthians 9: 7-15a, 17a-18
Who ever goes to war at his own expense? Who plants a vineyard and does not eat of its fruit? Or who tends a flock and does not drink the milk of the flock? Do I say these things as a mere man? Or does not the Law say the same also? For it is written in the Law of Moses, “You shall not muzzle the ox while it treads out the grain (Cp. Deuteronomy 25: 4).” Is it oxen that God is concerned about? Or does He say it altogether for our sakes? For our sakes no doubt, this is written, that he who plows should plow in hope, and he who threshes in hope should be partaker of his hope. If we have sown spiritual things for you, is it a great thing if we reap your material things? If others are partakers of this right over you, are we not even more? Nevertheless we have not used this right, but endure all things lest we hinder the gospel of Christ. Do you not know that those who minister the holy things eat of the things of the temple, and those who serve at the altar partake of the offerings of the altar? Even so the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should live from the gospel. But I have used none of these things, nor have I written these things that it should be done so for me. For if I do this willingly, I have a reward; What is my reward then? That when I preach the gospel, I may present the gospel of Christ without charge, that I may not abuse my authority in the gospel.

II Corinthians 11: 7-9
Did I commit sin humbling myself that you might be exalted, because I preached the gospel of God to you free of charge? I robbed other churches, taking wages from them to minister to you. And when I was present with you, and in need, I was a burden to no one; for what I lacked the brethren who came from Macedonia supplied. And in everything I kept myself from being burdensome to you, and so I will keep myself.

NOTE: This is a far cry from those members of the clergy and Church leadership today who use the Scriptures to psychologically coerce the believers into ‘tithing’ or put a “guilt trip” and fear of condemnation on the flock if they do not participate in this offering. Are they like those in Micah 3: 11a, which reads, Her priests teach for pay and her prophets’ divine for money?

There is one other reference in the New Testament on this matter of financial support, and that pertains to the office of a “special” class of Elder, as in I Timothy 5: 17-18, which says: Let the Elders who rule well be counted worthy of double honor [just what is this?], especially those who labor in the word and doctrine. For the Scripture says, “You shall not muzzle an ox while it treads out the grain Cp. Deuteronomy 25: 4,” and, “The laborer is worthy of his wages.”

NOTE: Curiously, that last part which was added on is found in Luke 10: 7b, which reads: For the laborer is worthy of his wages. A similar account, though not as literally, word for word as Luke account is found in Matthew 10: 10b, which says, For a worker is worthy of his food. So, just as those who preach the gospel of God have the right to be supported, the Elder who among his other responsibilities (Cp. I Timothy 3: 1-7; Titus 1: 5-9), both proclaims the Gospel and teaches [instructs in doctrine] is to receive the material things they need just as the Apostles, other ministers, evangelists, and missionaries who spread the “Good News.”

Original article here.

Preaching

The Three Types of Expository Preaching You Could Use

By DrBillComments Off

Hey Preachers and Teachers!

There are three types of Expository sermons:  Book Exposition, Biographical Exposition, Topical Exposition.

I know that there are various definitions of ‘expository preaching’, so just to clarify, when I say ‘exposition’ I am referring to a verse-by-verse study of a particular passage of Scripture. You work your way through a single passage of the Bible; you don’t jump around all over the place; you teach the Word of God where it stands, letting the text before you form your major points and even form the structure of your sermon. That is expository preaching.  Having said that, even with that definition, there are three different ways you can do this style of preaching.

Let’s look at each of these:

  • Book Exposition

This is the one which most people are familiar with. You take a book of the Bible and work through it from the first verse to the final. In some cases, you may take key passages which communicate the main message of the book. This is sometimes helpful for larger books when you don’t have time in your church calendar schedule to work through every single verse. For example, years ago I worked through the Book of Joshua. The book has 24 chapters, but I took a 9-week expositional walk-through of the book by hitting the 9 Key Faith Themes from Joshua. It was called “Living on the Edge of Faith” and was very good. You can get that series, by the way, at my HighPowerResources.com site.

So that is Book Exposition; well-known and well-loved.

  • Biographical Exposition

This is a bit more tricky and requires some advance prep work before you get into the series, because you have to find all the relevant places in the Scripture where the person is referred.  It could be all over the Old and New Testament, so you will want to find your key themes first, then prep your major points, as your create the Series.  For example, think of how Daniel is referenced in various places in both the OT and the NT. Then, once that prep work is ready you can do an exposition of that person’s life by taking each of the key passages about him or her, and doing a complete exposition on each passage.

  • Topical Exposition

Does that sound like a contradiction to you? How can it be both topical and expository? Well it can, but you have to be careful on how you handle it. Sometimes this third version is called “textual topical” just to emphasize that in expository topical preaching the Text is still primary. You see, in much topical preaching, the teacher simply pulls out a concordance, and locates all key passages where that topic is used and then in the course of one sermon, takes you on a hunt throughout the Bible. While that is always a lot of fun, it is not expository topical preaching; that is just plain ‘topical’.  In ‘expository topical preaching’ you stay with one passage, which is focused on a key topic. For example, think of Paul’s argument about the power of Sin in Romans 7. That would make a good passage for an exposition of the topic of Sin.

Topical Exposition has its own dangers, so we will address those in a future blog. For now, give some thought to each of the three types of Expository Preaching, and give them a try if you’d like.

Yours for great preaching!

Dr. Bill Miller

www.SermonBase.com

www.HighPowerResources.com

 

General, Preaching, Sermon Preparation

Power of Positive Preacher Part 3

By Gladys Perez-NejudneComments Off

Power of Positive Preacher Part 3
 
by Thomas Garrity
 
What it means to be a preacher or preach: Of uncertain affinity; to herald (as a public crier), especially divine truth (the gospel): – preach (-er), proclaim, publish.
 
2Ti 3:16 “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: 2Ti 3:17 That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.”
 
Finally we get to the preacher. Just about the rest of this scripture is in concern with the preacher. He is to instruct for righteousness becoming perfect in God and furnished (equip) for duty or work.God has called certain men in becoming the messenger for him self.This doctrine is not mans and even Jesus said that is was not His doctrine it was the lords: John 7:16 “Jesus answered them, and said, My doctrine is not mine, but his that sent me(GODS).” Even like Jesus!
 
God uses man kind to deliver His message.How many times have you sat through a church service and felt as if the preacher was speaking directly at you? The truth is that GOD was trying to reproof and correct you for instruction in righteousness. He was communicating directly to you.Yet people will say they felt as if the pastor was judging them. This is not Truth, preachers are simply messengers of GOD.
 
Preachers have GREAT responsibility in being a messenger for GOD. With no surprise, people look back at the preacher after their own conviction to judge the pastor rather then looking to God for an explanation of the conviction they just received. That is just like the mail man handing you your mail and because their is a bill he handed you, that you have been fighting a company on you then turn on the mail man and sick your dog on him. This is wrong. We must remember a preacher is called from GOD. There are times as expressed in the earlier lesson about false teachers that we must be aware of, yet the most important way is to seek the Lord in study thyself, prayer and fasting. If you combat in any other way you will make things worse for your self and others. Seek ye first the kingdom of GOD and His righteousness and all these other thing will come.
 
To conclude: The Power of a positive preacher 2Ti 4:2 “Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all long suffering and doctrine.”Isa 61:1 “The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me; because the LORD hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound” (specific duties given by GOD not man). 2Ti 3:16 “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:” 2Ti 3:17 “That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.”
 
If we would simple trust God by obeying His word, His inspiration and become doers not hears only, weather a preacher or teacher we will be part of The power of the positive preacher. Which is GOD.

Preaching

Necessary Freedom

By Gladys Perez-NejudneComments Off

by Phillip Ross

Paul said that “necessity” (1 Corinthians 9:16) was laid upon him. He was talking about preaching the gospel, and the gist of his words suggest that he preached not out of desire, but out of necessity. It was necessary for him to preach the gospel. He could not do otherwise. What is necessary is required. What is necessary is not optional.

“Woe to me,” he said, “if I do not preach the gospel!” (1 Corinthians 9:16). To not preach would put him under God’s woe, God’s curse. For Paul not to preach would be an act of disobedience, and act of unfaithfulness, and would open him to God’s chastisement.

To love God is to live in obedience to His Word. “Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him” (John 14:21). “And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments” (1 John 2:3). “Whoever keeps his commandments abides in him, and he in them” (1 John 3:24). “And this is love, that we walk according to his commandments” (2 John 1:6).

1 Corinthians 9:16 tells us that Paul understood that God had commanded him to preach, and he could not do otherwise. This raised the question that Paul answered in verse 17. Was he acting freely or out of necessity? Was he acting out of his own free will? Or was he being constrained by God’s will? His answer was, “For if I do this of my own will, I have a reward, but not of my own will, I am still entrusted with a stewardship” (v. 17).

He was talking about his call to preach the gospel. He was saying that if his preaching issued from his own will, he would receive a reward. The Greek word literally means wages. Jesus said, “the fields are white for harvest. Already the one who reaps is receiving wages (misthos) and gathering fruit for eternal life” (John 4:35-36). Paul was saying that if he was preaching out of his own desire, out of his own willingness to obey God’s call, then he would receive a just reward. And that is good. He would be rewarded for his obedience.

However, if Paul did not preach out of his own will — but wait a minute! What does that mean? How can someone do something if they don’t will to do it?

There are two possible meanings here. One, that Paul was preaching unwillingly, as in begrudgingly. We all know that obedience can be done begrudgingly. We can do something even if we really don’t want to do it. We can do something when our hearts are not in it. It’s a attitude thing. Is that what Paul meant? I don’t think so because Paul doesn’t have a begrudging attitude. That’s not what we find in Paul’s preaching or anywhere in his writings.

The second possible meaning is that Paul was preaching, not out of his own will, but out of God’s will, or in response to God’s will. Note that Paul doesn’t understand these two wills to be in opposition, but in harmony. And what is more, he seems to be saying that it is not his own will that is taking the lead in his cooperation with God, but that it is God’s will that is in the lead and his own will that is following. It was not that God was helping him to preach (though surely He was), but rather that he — Paul — was engaged in service to the will of God, in the cooperation of his will with God’s will.

It wasn’t so much that God was helping him, but that he was helping God. God’s will was in the superior position. God was leading. God was dominant. Paul was subservient. He was following, but he wasn’t following begrudgingly. He was following in willing obedience, gladly following. If you ask me to do something, and I do it willingly, whose will is accomplished? Yours. My will would be involved through my compliance, but doing the thing was not my idea. It was your idea. I would be doing your will. And I would not be doing it of my own accord, but in response to your request.

Paul understood himself to be a steward, a manager of someone else’s property. He had a stewardship entrusted to him. He had an obligation to properly care for and to properly invest the gospel, which was not his own but God’s. He was preaching out of obligation, out of duty — yes! But that does not mean that he was doing it unwillingly or begrudgingly. Rather, it was for Paul a source of great joy, though it caused him much trouble, much difficulty and pain.

It was a labor of love. It was hard work, and he would be rewarded for his labor. But that was not why he did it. He didn’t preach so that he would receive a personal reward. He preached because he was compelled to preach. He was obligated to preach, called to preach. He could do no other. It was his duty to invest his Master’s talent, his Master’s possessions, to increase his Master’s holdings. Though he would be rewarded for his efforts, he was not motivated by his own reward, but by the obligation of his stewardship of the gospel. He put aside his former concerns and took the concerns of his Master to be his own. He put aside his own priorities and took up God’s priorities.

General, Preaching, Proposition

How to Prepare a Sermon: Part 2, Textual vs. Topical

By DrBillComments Off

A sermon should be text-based. By that, I mean that you would be teaching the Bible. That is the philosophy of ministry, and church tradition from which I come.  People don’t come to hear me, they come to learn from God’s Word.  Other churches may have other feelings, but this is mine.bible

I am of the firm belief that almost every sermon should be clearly centered around a certain text of the Scripture. Now I do not object when other supplemental texts are brought in to enhance the message, but I believe that the primary reason why people come to church is to hear a message from God. And there is no other clearer way to demonstrate that a message is from God than by using a good-sized chunk of Scripture in your message.

I am very aware that there are some very famous preachers out there who use a lot of little verses to support what they have said on a certain topic.  And I do that occasionally also.  But for the sake of congregational health, I believe you want to do what you can to deliver portions of God’s Word to the people when you preach.  Here’s why:

1.  People read less Bible during the week than you think they do.

Most people in ministry enjoy reading the Bible and spend time every day in the Word.  For many of the people out there in the seats, that is not the case. Their weekdays are often filled with rushing off to work, first thing in the morning, and then coming home to busy activities with the kids and family, before falling into bed exhausted to do it again.  This is not to excuse people who do not regularly read the Word. It is just reality, and I believe that it is good for preachers to be aware of reality.  So when they come to church, I like to give them the Word.

2.  People need to understand the Word in context.

When you teach from a portion of Scripture, you are better able to explain the context.  Context includes historical, cultural, linguistic, and Biblical context. If you speak to a lot of different texts in your message, it is very difficult to provide that much explanation for each of the many verses you pursue.

3.  If the sermon is more text-based, then there is likely to be less of my thoughts, and more of God’s thoughts.

Frankly I don’t have a lot of faith in the high-quality impact of my thoughts. But I have a lot of faith in God’s capacity to speak to the depths of the human heart.  ”For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.”  (Hebrews 4:12) So I like to give them a nice portion of God’s Word in my messages.

4.  It is easier to prepare a text-based sermon, than a topically-based sermon.

If you believe in expository preaching, then you know that your sermon outline should simply reflect the outline of the passage. This makes preparation much easier than trying to develop your own set of mains and subs.  Let the Bible speak for itself, with its particular emphasis. The end result is that your message will be more powerful.

5.  A text-based sermon delivers sustaining power long past the sermon.

If I preach on a topic, they may forget the message.  But if I preach on a passage, then the next time they read that passage, portions of my message will come back to them. It could be the application of that message, for example. But as they read God’s Word, their understanding of His Word will increase, because they have already had someone teach them the contextual, historical, linguistic aspects of that passage of God’s Word.

This is on on-going topic, and while I lean towards the textually-based sermon, I have done both textual and topical.  But if I had to choose in terms of sustaining impact and power, I would choose the textually-based message every time.

For powerful preaching,

Dr. Bill Miller

SermonBase.com

HighPowerResources.com

General, Preaching, Sermon Preparation

Three Mistakes Made by Good Preachers

By DrBillComments Off

sermonbase logo

Top Three Mistakes Made by Good Preachers

(Yes, even good preachers make these mistakes!)

(and how SermonBase Message Planning Software can help.)

If you´ve already got the preaching skills…

There are 3 more things you need to do to power up your preaching.

Avoid these 3 common mistakes made by even good preachers.

These are common mistakes which happen, not because they are poor teachers or bad communicators. These mistakes happen because…

WHY? They don´t have the right system or tools to get the job done well.

What is a system? A System is the means to make genius routine. It helps you to keep doing it right, again and again, so that you are consistenly putting out great messages because you are doing the same right things every single week.

First Mistake — Poor Planning

Poor planning means you have very little real strategic planning for your messages & series.

Questions to ask:

  • How are all the Series tied in together with each other?
  • How far in advance do you plan?
  • How do you know that the topical selection for all Series, and all Messages within those Series is balanced and exciting?
  • Have you linked your Messages in with the music, drama, & video teams, and planned it far enough in advance for them to find content?

THE SERMONBASE  SOLUTION — LONG-RANGE PLANNING

SermonBase® helps you to plan out your sermons months in advance, and your Series a year or more in advance.

SERMONBASE Elements:

  • ´Strategic Planning´ section for each Series
  • ´Year-at-a-glance Calendar View´, so you can see exactly where your Sermons & Series are heading for the entire year or more.
  • ´Drama/Video Report´ helps you to coordinate planning with your creative planning teams


Second Mistake — Fuzzy Thinking

Fuzzy Thinking means not really knowing what kind of LifeChange is desired.

Questions to ask yourself:

  • What am I trying to achieve?
  • What is my Intellectual Goal?
  • What is my Emotional Goal?
  • What is my desired Action Response?

Also, do you have an integrated goal for the entire Series and for each of the Sermon in that Series?  SermonBase® will help you to figure all of this out.

THE SERMONBASE SOLUTION — FOCUSED TEACHING

SermonBase® helps you to ask the question (and answer), “What am I trying to achieve in terms of intellectual understanding, emotional impact, and actual life change?”  SermonBase® will help you to ask that question every single week as you put your messages together.

SermonBase elements:

  • Message Goals
  • Clear listing of Topics, Scriptures, and Series Goals
  • Balanced Introduction & Conclusion guides

Third Mistake — Disorganized Records

Content is Key!

If you can’t find that great material when you need it, then it doesn’t matter how good you can speak.  Where is that great illustration?  or joke?  or article on your subject?

Good organization can lead to a good Message.

And after it’s over, “Where did I put that that great Message?” For example, did you file that message about Patience under the Topic of ‘patience’, or under the Scripture of Galatians 5:22 (the fruit of the Spirit of ‘patience’), or did you file it with the series you did on ‘loving relationships’, or under the Title of ‘Developing Patience’?  ”Where is it??” That great Message is gone, if you can’t find it again.  It was a one-hit wonder, never to be used again — unless you are using SermonBase®!

The SermonBase Solution:  Organized Archives

SERMONBASE elements:

  • Search for Messages by Title, Topic, Scripture, Speaker, Date
  • Access all related files in one location:
  • In SermonBase®, you have access to every one of the files related to your Message.

Word Documents, PowerPoint files, graphics, articles, jokes, illustrations, etc.

Power up your preaching!

Now, each one of these three mistakes listed above – which even good teachers can make – is solved by SermonBase®!  SermonBase provides you with a set of power tools to manage your sermon library more effectively.

How do I know?

Because I´ve been preaching for 25 years, and I created SermonBase® to help me be a well-planned, focused, and organized teacher that can quickly locate my best teaching and put it to use in new and creative ways.

But don´t just take my word for it, check out the Testimonials from pastors using SermonBase & download a free Demo today. You have nothing to lose, and a whole lot to gain.

The Sermons is too important to not plan and execute it well!

A lifetime of work all in one place – it´s a beautiful thing!

Try the free Demo of SermonBase right now!

Preaching, Sermon Preparation, Software

Church growth: It’s all about the pastor

By Gladys Perez-NejudneComments Off

by David Murrow

Common story: First ________Church gets a new minister – Pastor Joe. He’s not a very good communicator. People start leaving. Within two years attendance has dropped by half. Giving is down by a third. First Church descends into a malaise. Eventually Pastor Joe is fired and the search for his replacement begins.

A year later First Church hires a new minister – Pastor Daniel. He’s a great communicator. The church immediately starts growing. Happy days are here again. People love Pastor Daniel.

Why did this happen to First Church? Nothing else changed. The building remained the same. The worship times remained the same. The ministry programs remained the same. The key staff remained the same. The only thing that changed was the pastor. Yet First Church’s attendance and giving rose and fell in direct response to the quality of the preacher.

Can I be brutally honest? When it comes to church attendance, nothing matters as much as the ability of the pastor to deliver good sermons. If a pastor is good at his job the church grows. If he’s bad at his job the church shrinks.

Sounds unspiritual – but it’s true. It shouldn’t be this way – but it is. Each week is a referendum on the pastor’s ability to deliver an inspiring sermon.

Admit it – you’ve gotten into the car with your spouse and begun critiquing the sermon before you’re out of the church parking lot. Or you’ve been asked, “How was church?” What do you talk about? The sermon. Let’s be real: Protestants judge the quality of a worship service largely by the power of the sermon to move them. Nothing else comes close.

This is why the right minister can cause a church to sink or soar. I liken it to a football team: an NFL squad has 53 men, but the team’s fortunes rise and fall on the talents of one man – the quarterback. If he can deliver lots of touchdowns, the team wins. If he can’t, the team loses. Granted, the signal-caller must have good players around him, but as the Denver Broncos are seeing this year, a great QB means everything.

The same is true with church attendance. When it comes to numbers, nothing matters as much as the ability of the pastor to deliver engaging sermons. Preaching is everything.

It pains me to write these words. In an ideal world, what SHOULD matter is prayer, the presence of the Spirit, the love of the people for one another and the church’s ministry in the community. In that ideal world a church should be able to take out one preacher and install another without a hiccup.

And while we’re at it, why does the size of a church even matter? Jesus would choose a church of 12 sold-out disciples over a church of 12,000 passive pew-sitters any day.

We can argue these points until Christ returns, but this blog post is about attendance. Numbers. And when it comes to putting men in pews, nothing matters more than pastoral quality. Every other consideration pales in comparison.

This wasn’t always the case.

In medieval times there was only one church in a given area, or parish. If your parish priest offered boring homilies, you were stuck.

After the Reformation, sermons became the centerpiece of Protestant worship, as they are today. Some preachers were interesting, and others were boring. But until the 1950s, that didn’t matter much. Christians were mostly loyal to their denominations. If you were born a Methodist you attended the Methodist church in your area. If pastor was a lousy preacher you endured it. You never even thought of going to another church because you were Methodist and that was that.

Fast forward to today. Parishioners are no longer loyal to their denominations. Here’s my story: I was born and baptized Lutheran. As a young man I attended an Assemblies of God Sunday school. I came to know Christ in a Free Methodist Church. In college I joined a Baptist church, where I was married. I moved to Alaska and became a Presbyterian, and ten years ago I joined a non-denominational megachurch, which I still attend today (although I returned to a small Lutheran church this summer and loved it).

This kind of religious switching would have been unusual a century ago, but today it’s common. People move to new cities. They have automobiles that will take them to a church (and a pastor) they connect with. People are less loyal to institutions.

Because parishioners now have access to better preaching (live or through the media) they are less willing to put up with boring, rambling, irrelevant preaching. This has led modern congregants to evaluate their churches based on the sermon. They stay or go based on whether they “are being fed.” If the messages consistently lag, they seek out another church that offers them more.

Many of you are seeing red by this point. “Today’s churchgoers are so shallow. They treat God’s holy church like a product to be consumed!” you may be thinking. And you’re right.

But this is the reality in today’s world. People come to church expecting to receive something from God. If they don’t, they move on. Can we blame them? People came to Jesus – and they always received.

Although we may condemn them as consumers, today’s parishioners choose a church with great care. The decision to leave a church is often a difficult one, fraught with emotion, doubt and uncertainty.

I have a friend in Texas (let’s call him Roger) whose church planted “daughter church” in a nearby town. Roger and his family agreed to move to the daughter church to help it get started.

This “church plant” started with much enthusiasm but quickly began to sputter. Attendance dropped by 75% as the fledgling congregation struggled with its music and preaching.

Roger attended faithfully. He volunteered. He prayed. But the poor sermons exacted a toll on his walk with God. “Honestly, I wanted to be a good soldier and stick it out, but I finally had to be honest with myself – I was dying spiritually,” Roger said. “The worship was lifeless. The sermons just weren’t reaching me. In nine months I didn’t hear anything from the pulpit I hadn’t heard a thousand times.”

Roger eventually made the painful decision to abandon the church plant and return to the mother church. “I felt like a traitor,” he said. “But I’m regularly hearing from God again back in my home church. I know I’m being selfish, but I go to church to meet with God. If that’s not happening what’s the sense in going?”

Here are some questions for you to grapple with:

What do you think Roger should have done? Was his decision to abandon the church plant selfish, or is it more important to do the things that help us grow spiritually?
Why do we go to church? For our own benefit? For God’s benefit? For the benefit of others?
Should a believer persevere in a congregation that does not meet his needs “because it’s not about him?” If so, for how long? Weeks? Months? Years? Decades?
Should Christians be “self feeders” or should they expect to be fed Sunday morning?
Should churchgoers expect to hear something new at church, or should they be content to hear familiar truths they’ve long known?
Should believers “tough it out” in a church with lifeless preaching?
Churchgoers give up a lot of time to come to church. Should they expect a return-on-investment for their time?
Is it right for churchgoers to change congregations based on the quality of the preaching?
Should a church live or die on the preaching ability of its senior pastor?
If a Christian decides to leave a church, what’s the best way to go about it? Should he simply disappear? Or should he write a letter to the pastor explaining his reasons for resigning?

About The Author

David Murrow

David Murrow is the director of Church for Men, an organization that helps congregations reach more men and boys. In his day job, David works as a television producer and writer. He’s the author of four books. He lives in Alaska with his wife, three children, three grandchildren and a dachshund named Pepper.

General, Preaching

Sermon Symmetry

By DrBillComments Off

Symmetry is a description of how you write your Main Points.  ”Symmetry” means “balanced proportions”.  If your sermon displays symmetry, it’s main points will be balanced and proportionate.  That is, each main point will seem to have an equal and valuable relationship with all of the other main points.  No main point will dominate, either in terms of importance, impact, or the amount of time you spend on it.butterfly

The three main benefits of sermon symmetry are:

1.  Understandable

Main Points with symmetry, make your sermon easy to follow and understand.

2.  Memorable

It is easy to remember a sermon with has symmetry flow.  I’m writing this blog from memory, based on the sermon symmetry I heard last night.

3.  Beautiful

Main Points with symmetry, are a thing of beauty.  (Note how the three points of this blog also display symmetry.)

Sermon Example:  Take a look at this sermon which I just listened to last night from Dr. John Crocker at Crossroads Church in Albert Lea, MN:

He was speaking on 2 Peter 1:1-12.  His mains were:

  1. Establish Your Identity  (2 Peter 1:1-4)
  2. Exercise Your Responsibility  (2 Peter 1:5-8)
  3. Erase Your Uncertainty  (2 Peter 1:9-12)

This sermon contains symmetry.  Each main is a command verb (Establish, Exercise, Erase). Each main begins with the letter “E”.  Each main is focused on You.  Each key word at the end has a symmetry as well, with each one ending with a “-ty” ending.

This is not just word play.  This gives a sermon memorable power and greater impact in people’s lives.

Yours for better preaching,

Dr. Bill

SermonBase.com

HighPowerResources.com

Preaching, Sermon Tips, Sermons

When You Hear the Dreaded Phrase: Your Sermons Don’t Feed Me

By Gladys Perez-NejudneComments Off

by Luke Geraty

Systematic Theology. Exegesis. Church History. Contextualization.

Liturgy. Pneumatology. Hebrew and Greek. Pastoral counseling.

These are all subjects that most pastors are either familiar with or have taken seminary courses on.

Transitioning from seminary to pastoral ministry is pretty crazy. You go from writing huge papers on how postmodernism challenges the epistemological assumptions of one’s praxis to writing sermons for diverse groups of people that range from being forced to attend to those who have been followers of Jesus for longer than you have been living.

Try crafting a sermon for that type of audience versus your seminary classmates!

After some time, you’ll hit your stride and some experience will help you exegete your audience in a helpful way. You’ll start writing sermons that are Christ exalting and applicable, and people will be really encouraged and challenged by your ministry.

And then you’ll talk to someone who tells you that your preaching doesn’t do anything for them.

Your first instinct will be to either punch them in the face, laugh nervously, cry or quit.

If you are wise, you’ll remember James 1:19 and will do your best to listen, be slow to respond and slow to anger. Of course, the vision of choking that person out may be tempting, so it needs to be constrained by the teachings of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount.

Over the years, I’ve heard this statement a couple of times and I’ve talked to a lot of other pastors who have also heard this or similar statements.

Here are three observations I have about people who say these things:

1. You need to understand how to properly evaluate whether or not your sermons are “feeding the sheep.” 

I fear that some pastors are more concerned with keeping their congregations happy than with keeping their congregations fed. But most of the pastors that I know are very concerned with being faithful in what they teach/preach.

Yet there’s something very peculiar about how devastating one person’s criticism can be! We will actually take that one person’s opinion and elevate it above and beyond the dozens or even hundreds of other people who think differently.

After encountering the “you-don’t-feed-me” person, you may even find yourself canceling sermon plans you’ve had and jumping to the conclusion that you need to preach totally differently than what you’ve been doing. After all, someone told you that you aren’t feeding them!

It isn’t necessarily wrong to consider making changes, but your concerns should primarily be in regards to how God feels about the matter. Are you talking about the “whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:27)? Are you faithfully preaching the word (2 Tim. 4:2)? Is your preaching focused on exalting Christ, clarifying the gospel and helping form the spiritual lives of those you serve? Questions like these are far more important.

So, should you do a series that addresses marriage and serves the majority of your congregation, or do a series on the “deeper” things of God like the “revelation of God’s seven spirits and how this all proves both the pretribulational rapture and young earth creationism.”

While the former may not meet everyone’s alleged needs (though it’ll meet most), the latter is a complete waste of your time. Yes, I did just say that a sermon on the seven spirits of God proving the pretribulational rapture and young earth creationism is vastly inferior in comparison to doing a sermon on what God has to say about marriage.

2. What people often want you to “feed” them is simply a way for them to reinforce their stereotypes and bad theology. 

I’m not kidding about this one. As I already alluded, those who talk about not being fed will generally give you ideas of what would feed them.

In my experience, these suggestions are generally not related to primary doctrinal subjects (e.g., Christology, the gospel, missions) or the “main and the plain.” Most of the time, these requests for “depth” are on things so speculative that you won’t find any theologians throughout the history of the church who have addressed them!

Of course, the kind of person that says “your sermons don’t feed me” has zero time for church history, and believes that the reason why no one has talked about their favorite subject is simply because no one in the history of the church has been either smart enough or spiritual enough to know those things.

Oh, and by the way, you are obviously not smart enough or spiritual enough to know about it either, which is why they are informing you that you haven’t “fed” them.

Pay close attention here.

What these people often want is for you to reinforce what they already believe, no matter how disconnected from life or how unbiblical their beliefs are.

I had a person once tell me that they wanted me to do sermons on why Christians using Christmas trees was sinful idol worship!!! The fact that they were mishandling Scripture to “prove” this novel position didn’t matter to them at all. But when I couldn’t agree with their horrific eisogesis of Jeremiah 10:2-4, they left our church with no discussion and response to the questions I had.

After all, I wasn’t into “depth.”

3. The person who says they get nothing from a sermon is likely a prideful person. 

Pride is almost always the sine qua non of this statement. In other words, without pride, people rarely say that they aren’t getting anything out of a sermon.

I say almost and rarely because I will acknowledge that there are some preachers out there that could stand to be better teachers and spend more time in preparation or be aware of the needs of their congregation. But by and large, the statement that someone isn’t getting anything from your sermons is a sign of pride.

If you are publicly reading portions of Scripture à la 1 Tim. 4:13 and preaching Christ à la Rom. 16:25, there’s something for people to be encouraged by and learn from.

In my experience, 99.9 percent of the time, this statement is being made by someone who is unteachable.

So you need to be aware of the fact that all of the discussion and attempts to evaluate your teaching and ministry are almost always a waste of time simply because the person assumes they know more than you and are more spiritual than you. So it’s fruitless.

Except for when it isn’t, ha ha!

Preaching
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