God invites us not only to rest from our work, but also to work from our rest. That is, perhaps, nowhere more crucial than in preaching. The question is how do we preach from a place of Sabbath rest, i.e. how do we carry over the riches of Sabbath (to stop, rest, delight, and contemplate God for a 24-hour period) into our work of preaching. The following are a few points to consider: Say No to Perfectionism. Sabbath is first and foremost a day of “stopping” – even with our to-do lists unfinished. We embrace our limits. And we trust God. Sermons are never finished. Regardless of our preparation, when we step up to preach, we do so in faith. I have never preached a perfect sermon. Even my best sermons remain incomplete. God reserves perfection for Himself. While I believe we need to prepare well, it never exempts us from the hard work. Read more.
The first inner life issue addressed in The Emotionally Healthy Leader is our need to face our shadow. Why? It is one of our greatest challenges. Our shadow undermines our ability to serve others and undermines the best of who we are. This is nowhere more true than in our preaching. The following are ten signs your shadow is negatively impacting your preaching: You are overly concerned with people’s approval and affirmation after you preach. You exaggerate, spin, or tell half-truths from the pulpit for impact or to get laughs. You preach about things you don’t live. You spend an excessive amount of time focusing on being clever, smart, and finding great illustrations rather than taking time to allow the biblical text to transform you. You use the pulpit to inappropriately manipulate a particular response, failing to do the hard work of developing your speaking gifts. You use the pulpit to indirectly address conflicts. Read more.
We make plans and decisions every day as leaders. Three great dangers, however, often torpedo our best intentions and efforts: We Define Success Too Narrowly In churches, we tend to define success by such things as attendance, finances (giving, meeting or exceeding budget, etc.), decisions for Christ, baptisms, numbers participating in small groups or other ministry programs, etc. If we work for a non-profit or in the marketplace, we might measure increased market share, program expansion, or numbers of people served. When the numbers are up, we’re successful; when the numbers are down, we’re not. Numbers can be valid as a measure of fruitfulness for God, but using numbers to define success is not without its dangers. The problem is when the portion of our time and energy devoted to thinking about external issues far exceeds the amount of time and energy we devote to internal measures of transformation such as the depth of. Read more.
This past Tuesday I spoke at the Greater Toronto Prayer Breakfast to over 400 leaders serving in a wide variety of influential positions – politics, First Responders, church, para-church and nonprofit, marketplace, media and entertainment, etc. After a moving time of prayer for Canada, I shared about Emotionally Healthy Spirituality (EHS). While I was initially concerned how EHS might not apply directly to this broad an audience, I was taken aback from the wonderful response. I shared simply and freely for about thirty minutes. Here is an audio of the talk. I thought you might enjoy it or want to pass it on. Toronto Prayer Breakfast mp3 PS- As you know, our Emotionally Healthy Leadership Conference (April 22-23) is filled. However, we are excited that we will be able to Live Stream the entire two days for free. You may want to consider setting up a TV and taking. Read more.
A key to good leadership, and good preaching, is reading broadly. I continue to read a few of these books very slowly over time (e.g. The Interior Castle and The Writing Life). Others I have read in a couple of days (e.g. Making Friends Among the Taliban). Enjoy! Interior Castle – St. Teresa of Avila Making Friends Among the Taliban – Jonathan P. Larson The Little Way of Ruthie Leming – Rod Dreher Fill These Hearts – Christopher West Resilient Ministry: What Pastors Tell Us About Surviving and Thriving – Bob Burns 24/6 – Matthew Sleeth The Writing Life – Annie Dilliard Dead Man Walking – Sister Helen Prejean Delighting in the Trinity – Michael Reeves I Thought It Was Just Me (but it isn’t)…” – Brene Brown Grieving a Suicide – Al Hsu
Imagine a church service where there were two sermons: a 20 minute “Sermon of Silence” followed by a 20 minute “Sermon of Words.” A new friend from Melbourne, Australia visited me this past week. She teaches field education in a seminary, using Emotionally Healthy Spirituality as one of her texts. She shared the work of South Yarra Community Baptist Church, along with their ministry called Laughing Bird Liturgical Resources. (Don’t you love that name!) Without the silence, the Scriptures can’t penetrate our lives. Without Scripture, silence is empty. While I am not quite ready for 2 sermons each week at New Life, there is something here from God for us in our frenetic, multi-tasking, always-plugged-in world.