Archives For Preaching

Stadium Lights

Sunday night I, like many of you, watched Peyton Manning (Quarterback of the Denver Broncos) set an all-time record for most touchdowns in NFL history. As I celebrated his achievement and performance, I reflected on what makes Peyton so special and what we, as pastors, can learn from him.

    1. Passion: Peyton Manning’s passion for the game of football is evident. He loves to play and though he may look serious (with his game face on), he’s having a blast on the field. We, as leaders in the Church, should have passion as well.
      Danger: When being a pastor becomes your identity and you are, as Craig Groeschel once said, “A full-time pastor and a part-time disciple.”
    2. Commitment: Who knows the countless hours Peyton Manning has spent studying film, practicing with his offensive line and receivers, working out and strengthening his arm and body? Peyton is committed to the game of football. He doesn’t do anything halfway. He’s all-in. If you pastor a congregation, you should be committed to that church and to the Great Commission and the Great Commandment.
      Danger: When you don’t have a life outside the church. You need to be an engaged and committed husband and father. You need to have hobbies. You need to learn to laugh. Don’t take yourself too seriously (read this).
    3. Driven: Any fan of the game can see that Peyton is a driven athlete. He’s extremely competitive and can’t stand to lose. For Peyton, his goal every year is a Super Bowl championship. It’s Super Bowl champs or bust. We, as pastors, need to be driven by the mission of the Church, specifically the Great Commission. We should always be looking to reach more people with the gospel.
      Danger: When we make attendance, budgets and baptism numbers the end all, be all. We have to see people as precious in God’s sight and not targets. Build relationships with people. Don’t use them to increase your metrics. Also be on the alert of becoming or enabling a work-a-holic atmosphere. Keep manageable office hours and don’t neglect your family.
    4. Excellence: Peyton Manning is the poster-child for excellence in the NFL. He holds too many records to list. He excels at everything he does. As leaders, we need to lead with excellence (that’s what my next book is about). We need to show we care about our calling, our career and our churches. Lead courageously. Lead well.
      Danger: When we confuse excellence with perfection. There is no such thing as a perfect church.
    5. Didn’t quit: Peyton injured his neck and could have retired from the game and would have been a first ballot Hall of Famer. He didn’t need to ever play again and he could have gone on to other things, but instead he had multiple neck surgeries, went through extensive physical therapy and rehab and worked hard to get back to the game he so desperately loves. He didn’t give up when most would have, like when his team, the Indianapolis Colts, released him and doubted his ability to play at an elite level post-surgery. Too many pastors quit right before a major breakthrough in their ministry. As I have stated in both of my books, I’m a big believer in longterm ministry. I think you need to plant roots in a community and give your life to something significant.
      Danger: When you don’t know when to step down. Too many pastors don’t have a plan for a successful succession. Dr. Gene Getz modeled this for me years ago and has been a hero of mine for a long time. I also encourage you to check out my friend William Vanderbloemen’s new book Next: Pastoral Succession That Works.
    6. High Standards: Peyton expects greatness from himself and his team. For two decades of ministry leadership, I have expected a lot from myself and from others (my staff and volunteers). I don’t think it’s wrong to ask for commitment and excellence from your team.
      Danger: We must be people of grace. We must have grace for ourselves when we fail. We must have grace for others when they let us down.
    7. Character: Peyton Manning is known for being a class-act. He’s a good person on the field and off. He’s not involved in scandals, suspensions or problems with the law (like many other athletes.) As leaders, we need to be men and women of character.
      Danger: When the public self and the private self don’t line up. If you’re an amazing preacher at church, but a horrible husband and father and/or addict at home – you need to repent and seek help. Go to counseling and confide in another pastor that you trust. Pastors need friends they can be real with.

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord… – Colossians 3:23 (NIV)

What lessons do you think you can learn from an athlete like Peyton Manning?

 

 

Imagine book

I’m taking a break to write my next book this month. Today’s blog post is a guest post from Tom Harper. Tom is president of Networld Media Group, a publisher of online trade journals and events for the banking, retail, restaurant and church leadership markets (including the mega-blog www.ChurchCentral.com). He is the author of Leading from the Lions’ Den: Leadership Principles from Every Book of the Bible (B&H). Here’s his post:

How do people like Bob Dylan cultivate their creative genius? They do it in part through dry spells.

“The act of being stumped is an essential part of the creative process,” says Lehrer, author of Imagine: How Creativity Works. “Before we can find the answer—before we probably even know the question—we must be immersed in disappointment, convinced that a solution is beyond our reach.”

After ascending to the pinnacle of his music career, Dylan withdrew to a remote cabin to escape the pressures of writing and performing. An emotional block had descended into his brain, and he decided to quit altogether.

But sitting in that cabin, he found breakthrough.

“Before Bob Dylan could reinvent himself, writing the best music of his career, he needed to believe that he had nothing left to say.” While Lehrer’s conclusion certainly doesn’t inspire creativity in itself, there are much easier ways we can stimulate our own breakthroughs.

Relax to Awaken Insight

The rest of us non-rock stars can’t rely on hopelessness to produce our work. That’s why I love Lehrer’s advice on how to buzz our brains with positive, creative waves.

Researchers have discovered that alpha waves in the brain result from a relaxed state. (Maybe this better explains Dylan’s breakthrough.) When our minds are at ease, we’re more likely to direct our attention inward, connecting with the brain’s right hemisphere, which churns out new associations between unrelated ideas.

But when we focus on a problem by analyzing its details and force ourselves to reason our way to a solution in left-brain fashion, we actually prevent the right-brained alpha-powered connections that lead to insights.

Ever had a great idea in the shower? The relaxed feeling stimulates alpha waves, even when we’re tired. Many people feel creative in a coffee shop because the relaxed ambience makes waves in their right hemispheres.

Go Blue to Awaken Insight

Another way to alpha-charge the brain is with color.

According to researchers, people associate red with danger, which makes them more alert and aware. If you’ve got a red environment, you’ll be better at activities that require accuracy and attention to detail, because the brain will be more alert.

Blue, on the other hand, generates much more creative output. The color automatically triggers associations with the sky and ocean.  “We think about expansive horizons and diffuse light, sandy beaches and lazy summers days; alpha waves instantly increase,” says Lehrer.

So when you daydream, pay attention to your insights, and let your imagination roam. You just might be able to convince your boss you’re working while you’re staring out the window.

Go to the Kitchen to Awaken Insight

When Steve Jobs ran Pixar, he forced people to have random conversations.

He did this by locating the kitchen and bathrooms in the middle of the building, creating chance encounters in the hallway and around the coffee pot.

“Office conversations are so powerful that simply increasing their quantity can dramatically increase creative production,” says Lehrer. “People have more new ideas when they talk with more people.”

Pixar’s producers would mingle with its animators, and what started as small talk often blossomed into an exchange of ideas and breakthroughs that ultimately led Pixar to its award-winning Toy Story franchise.

Got a problem that needs a creative solution? Forget brainstorming with a group. Take in the sky, go to the kitchen, linger in the shower.

And let the waves flow over you.

 

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I’ve been a Campus Pastor before and I’m preparing to be a Campus Pastor again. You may think I’m thinking, “I’ve got this.” Nope. I pray and think all the time about the learning curve that I’m about to embark upon. I have a brand new church’s DNA to learn, embrace and share. I have a new vision and values to learn, embrace and champion.

I’ve always said that multisite churches come in all shapes and sizes. One size doesn’t fit all. I heard someone describe multisite to someone the other day as “You watch a teaching pastor on a video screen.” Yes, that’s true for half of all multisite churches. The other half have live teaching.

Some multisite churches take a cookie-cutter approach. You can’t tell one campus from another. They are modeled after the original campus and all look and feel alike. Some multisite churches have freedom at their campuses to have a different feel and vibe. Some campuses have totally different names (like North Point, Browns Bridge, Buckhead Church, etc.).

Some churches take a regional approach. Some churches plant in urban settings. Some churches launch in rural settings. Some churches are in multiple states, some just cover one large region. Again, multisite comes in all shapes and sizes. 

Sometimes the Campus Pastor is very visible on a Sunday and during the service (I was on stage 3 times a week at my last church: Welcome, Response, Closing/Benediction). At Transformation Church, the Campus Pastor does the Closing or Benediction at the end and is seen just once. So how do you lead a campus and cast vision and implement change with just being seen one time a week on stage (that’s a discussion for another blog post)?

When I was last a Campus Pastor, I wrote about what I did each week. You can read about it HERE. I expect most, if not all, of those things to be the same with my new position. It’s mainly the system, vision, DNA, values and culture that is the biggest challenge to learn and embody. So, pray for me as start this new role in a month.

How do you see multisite churches as different from others? What has your experience been?

TC_Staff_2013

Where to begin? For the past year, I’ve been speaking, writing, consulting and serving as the Editor of Christian Media Magazine. But as many of you know, my heart is in the local church. In a way that can only be described as a God-thing, God brought me and Pastor Derwin Gray together to talk. I found out they had been praying for a Campus Pastor for their Rock Hill campus and you know I had previously served as a Campus Pastor at a multisite church. I, too, had been praying for a Campus Pastor position. God got us connected and the rest is history.

What you may not know is that Transformation Church is located in my home state of South Carolina, where I grew up and spent the first 24 years of my life. The church is located near the South Carolina/North Carolina line and is considered a suburb of Charlotte, NC. If you looked at a map of where my family and I are moving to, you would see it’s right in the middle of both my wife’s and my families. My wife has sisters in North Carolina. My entire family is in South Carolina and my wife’s parents live in Georgia. This is truly a homecoming and we praise God!

Now let me tell you about why I’m pumped to be a part of the team at Transformation Church. You may not know it, but I’m very picky and waited on God to lead us to the right fit. Here’s the scoop on TC from their website:

Derwin L. Gray is the founding and lead Pastor of Transformation Church, a multi-ethnic, multi-generational, mission-shaped community with two campuses in South Carolina (Indian Land and Rock Hill), both just south of Charlotte, North Carolina. Transformation Church (TC) was recognized as the 2nd fastest-growing church by percentage in America for 2010 by Outreach magazine. In 2011 and 2012, TC was again recognized again as one of the top 100 fastest-growing churches in America.

TheGrayFam

You may be thinking, “I’ve heard of Derwin Gray.” Maybe you’ve seen the Evangelism Linebacker video? Derwin played in the NFL, where he met Christ. Derwin is also a best-selling author, speaker and champion for diversity and multi-ethnic ministry (which is what his next book is about). If you want to hear some more of his heart and story, listen to THIS message he preached a month ago for Rick Warren at Saddleback.

Greg and Thomas

 

Why am I passionate about this opportunity? Because it’s a chance to be a part of a God-movement and serve a multi-ethnic church that values diversity. My best friend (Thomas Rose – seen above) for 21 years is black and we have done a lot over the years to try to break down racial walls. When I worshiped at Transformation Church recently, I was moved to tears at both campuses to see the mix of people and races worshiping together. It truly was something to see and I praise God that I will see this regularly soon. I also pray I will never take it for granted as this is not the norm. 90% of churches in America are segregated on Sunday morning. Let’s do something about that! I wrote about this years ago HERE.

To see what the music is like at Transformation Church, watch THIS. To see an amazing day of baptisms and see what God is up to, watch THIS.

What’s next? First, I praise God for how He orchestrated this whole thing. It truly was a God-thing and a story that I’ll share in the future. Also pray for my family and me as we move, sell our house, find a new home, my kids change schools and I start my new role as Campus Pastor at the TC Rock Hill Campus. Pray that God would have His hand on my ministry and we would see many changed lives and much fruit. Pray for my kids as they move and make new friends. Now that you heard what God is doing in the Carolinas through Transformation Church, please pray for Pastor Derwin and the amazing staff that I will be joining. Pray we make much of Jesus. It’s all for His glory and His renown.

I’ll be blogging more in the future about my beginning a new role and settling in. God bless you guys and gals. I thank God!

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Romans 12 (NIV)

A Living Sacrifice

12 Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

Humble Service in the Body of Christ

For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you. For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.

Love in Action

Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. 10 Be devoted to one another in love.Honor one another above yourselves. 11 Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor,serving the Lord. 12 Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. 13 Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.

14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. 16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.

17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. 18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. 19 Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. 20 On the contrary:

“If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”

21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

I wrote about The Digital Age last week and gave you a glimpse into one of their rehearsals. Today, I want to share with you the lyric video to their song “Break Every Chain.” May you worship with this today and possibly explore using the video in your own worship setting in the future. Have a great day!

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I was looking back on a blog I wrote over 7 years ago and I saw something I felt God speak to me during a time of powerful worship:

“When pride walks in, I walk out.”

I remember God speaking in His still, small voice like He has so many times over the years. I remember my on-going struggle with pride and that those words stung, but resonated. God help me to walk in humility. God help us to walk in humility.

“True humility is not thinking less of yourself; it is thinking of yourself less.” ― C.S. LewisMere Christianity

When was the last time you felt God speaking to your heart? What did He say? Are you striving to walk in humility?

Jesus Laughing

Last night I was doing my regular Thursday night thing – watching the comedy shows back to back on NBC (like I have for years). I was reflecting on how good and healthy it was to laugh and unwind. Then I was reminded of some of the best leadership advice someone ever gave me:

Don’t take yourself too seriously.

Great advice and a good reminder for all of us leaders who struggle with pride and trying to always know the right thing to do. I used to always have a picture of Jesus laughing hanging on my office wall (seen above). Want to smile? Google “Jesus laughing” and look at the images here.

When is the last time you laughed so hard that you started to cry? I try to have fun moments with my family and friends where we laugh regularly. I hope you do, too. Have you noticed how good it feels to laugh hard? It’s therapeutic.

The Chronicle of Higher Education posted an article two weeks ago entitled “The Science of Laughter.” In it, they tell us:

“A positive emotional state is a benefit in helping us deal with the stresses and strains of being human. Second, having a good sense of humor helps us to rally social support around us when times are tough. Having people in your corner during tough times is very good for you. There’s clear research around that. Third, and most intriguing to me, is that making jokes about the challenges in life can fundamentally change the way we think about those challenges.”

In my travels, consulting, coaching and networking, I meet with a lot of leaders – a ton of pastors. I had coffee with a pastor yesterday and am having lunch with another pastor today. I’m constantly trying to encourage and be encouraged by other leaders.

I don’t know who I’m talking to, but I want to free you up to take a load off and laugh. Learn some jokes and try sharing them with others. I know some churches and businesses that ask you to tell a joke in their interview process. This is a test to see if you have a sense of humor and if you can be “normal.”

If you can’t laugh (and laugh at yourself), you need to do an ego check. Too many leaders are too serious and no fun to be around. Just look at the morale of their team. It’s sad to see.

So, if I can encourage you and give you one thing to work on this Summer – it’s to laugh more and have fun with your team. They’ll thank you and you just might last longer in this tough calling we call “leadership.”

Overview-Cover

Eric Bryant has a new project that just released called A Fruitful Life: Becoming Who You Were Created To Be.

Eric serves at Gateway Church in Austin, and previously he served at Mosaic in Los Angeles. His previous book is called Not Like Me: A Field Guide for Influencing a Diverse World (also known as Peppermint-Filled Pinatas).

Here’s more on the project from Eric:

We have the capacity for unlimited influence!

According to Jesus, no matter where we come from or what we’ve done or what limitations we may think we have, we actually can become live a transformed life and transform the lives of others. He promises that we can have a level of spiritual influence far beyond what we might imagine. We can bear fruit 30, 60, and even 100 times more than what was sown.

In the parable of the soils, Jesus explained that if we can avoid being like the first three soils, we could have a life that is described as fruitful. In other words, if we can learn to be receptive (hear God’s voice), tenacious (not give up on what we know we should do), and intentional (avoid distractions), we will be who we’ve always wanted to be.

Derived from Jesus’ parable of the soils, A Fruitful Life will help you with the following:

  • Discover your calling.
  • Make decisions using a grid for hearing God’s voice
  • Overcome the most painful moments of life.
  • Make progress in areas where you are most tempted.
  • Experience renewal and bring change to others.

 

Applying the Scriptures to our life and developing the skills derived from the parable of the soils really is life-changing.

I have seen God do remarkable things in my life, in the lives of others who went through this material in small groups, and in the lives of those who experienced the material in the context of a retreat or sermon series.

When we are spiritually receptive, tenacious, intentional, and proactive, we are in the right place for God to work in our lives and through our lives.

I think this message is more important now than ever. As a society we’ve moved from hunting to farming to working in factories into what is now called the Information Age. Seth Godin refers to this period as the time for artists to emerge.

I would like to think of this as the Age of Influence. Technology has given us the opportunity to influence people from across the planet the instant we post something online. The world is smaller and our opportunities are larger.

For a free download of the overview, go to A Fruitful Life: Becoming Who You Were Created To Be.

Be sure to go to the last chapter in the overview to discover how to sign up for a chance to win the entire series.

Check out this video with Eric sharing more on A Fruitful Life:

Dr. Eric Michael Bryant serves with Gateway Church in Austin as the team leader for Central and South Austin and as part of the teaching team. Known for their mottos: “no perfect people allowed” and “come as you are, but don’t stay that way.”

Eric coaches church planters and campus pastors, teaches on Post Christian Ministry, and leads a cohort for a Doctorate of Ministry in Missional Effectiveness through Bethel Seminary where he earned his Doctorate of Ministry in Entrepreneurial Leadership. More on these opportunities can be found here.

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I’ve been processing through lots of emotions over the last 9 months since being laid off. I’ve met with several friends, pastors, counselors, etc. I’ve been going through all the stages of grief, hurt, pain and anger.

In meeting with my counselor last week, he said that God allowed this to happen and I needed to try to discern what He’s up to in my life. What is He wanting to change in me? Well, yesterday I had coffee with a new church planter in my city and he had been through a similar painful experience years ago. He said that my love for ministry needed to die so that my love for God could take front and center.

His words immediately resonated with my spirit. I have a great love of ministry and pastoring, but sometimes that overshadows my daily love of God and time with Him. I can spend more time helping others (pastoring), than feeding my soul and spending quality time with Christ.

I remember attending a Catalyst OneDay two years ago and hearing Craig Groeschel say, “We have too many full-time pastors and part-time disciples.” Gulp! That hit me right between the eyes. I don’t know who I’m talking to, but maybe some of you need to die to the ministry and fall in love with God all over again. Pray for me as I journey on.