leadership

A Theology Of Leadership: Nurture and Protect for Flourishing. @gtomlin Graham Tomlin #LC14 HTB Leadership Conference

Tomlin_0

The Christian church was born into an era of emperors. You ascended the imperial throne because of seniority, heredity or military glory. Then you could do whatever you liked until unseated by a coup.

 

Before 1949 in Germany Fuhrer just meant Leader. Since the war it doesn’t get used. It’s tainted. Similarly such leaders tainted it for the church.

 

Also for OT – God was king, kings were something to be wary of.

 

For NT – Jesus is only Lord. (Acts 17:7, Rom 10:9, Col 1:18) – HE is the Leader. The head of the church. Supreme.

 

We hear ‘Lead Like Jesus’ – but if that means he’s just an example of a good leadership tip source, that won’t do. He’s no leadership guru, he’s the Lord.

 

BUT God is working for the flourishing of creation. (Eph 1:10)

 

Richard Bauckham ‘God’s secret purpose at work in the whole creation took visible shape in Jesus Christ.’

 

God’s care for creation is exercised indirectly; he chooses a part for the good of all. He chooses us. It’s always mediated. Gen 2:15 ‘work it and take care of it’

 

Work it (enable its potential) nurture

Take Care of it (protect)

 

All mediated:

God’s care for creation – through humanity

For society – through govt

For people – through the church

For church – through it leaders (presbuteros, episkopos, deacons)

 

How does this kind of CHRISTIAN leadership work then?

 

Leadership is BORROWED and never OWNED.

There is one true leader, owner and Lord. (Rom 13 – God establishes it, every single authority so there’s no such thing as a leader – only God’s allowance.) Human authority is derived, not absolute. Never worship a leader!

This is a radical Christian insight. The power doesn’t come from the people.

God is King. We don’t own the leadership. Never forget it.

This extends to those we lead – they are HIS, not yours. Forget that and you’re in trouble.

 

Leadership is a means of DIVINE BLESSING

God wants to bless people through your leadership, so flourishing occurs. This call on us is to be those who work and care. Nurture and protect. Colin Gunton ‘that it may come to be that which it was created to be, that which praises its maker by becoming perfect in its own way.’ Guard from threats, internal and external and also help them realize their potential.

 

 

Leadership requires HUMILITY

HBR listed qualities of leadership; but missed this off the list. It’s seldom spoken of in leadership theory, but if we look at leadership as a stewardship, then we must look for humility. St John Crystostom wrote on leadership in the C3rd, basically saying why he doesn’t want to lead.

The first thing a preacher must do is ‘purify his sould entirely of ambition for the office… train himself to despise praise.’

Cf James ‘Who is wise among you?’ Jm 3:13 – look how you show it.

Look out for the limelight!

 

Leadership creates space to FLOURISH – remade in the image of Christ

The gardener doesn’t make anything grow, just creates space for it to happen.

Protect the plant (can be hard to oppose a negative influence)

Be imaginative.

 

God wants people to flourish and become like Jesus. Good leadership is joining in with that.

 

 

So…

 

Who are you called to lead

How can you nurture and protect them?

Which of these two things do they need most now?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

GRIEVING and the Battle for HOPE – #LC14 Rick & Kay Warren at HTB Leadership Conference, Royal Albert Hall

rick-and-kay-warren

NOTES FROM INTERVIEW AT HTB LEADERSHIP CONFERENCE 2014

NG – How do you cope when your world is rocked- as it was when Matthew died?

RW – I wish we could be as unified in evangelism as we are in grief. Because there was an outpouring from the Body of Christ. Why can’t we be as unified about the mission?

KW – I will grieve for my son every day until I see him again. But we have to go through it together. This could tear us apart, though divorce is never an option for us.

RW – So we decided to grieve differently, together. Because the stats are against you staying together when you’ve lost a child. So, whatever you’re feeling is okay. Enter into a deeper level of grief.

Easiest death? Godly old people, ready to go
Then death of spouse, death of child, you’re not meant to outlive your children
Then suicide
Some rejoiced and laughed that their son had killed himself. What do you do?
And they are public figures, so they used social media to journal their journey because it would be public anyway.

Kay: I realised I am not alone, there are people grieving every night alone. Why be alone?
People want you to move on, to get over it.
I am not the same person now. Don’t tell me to move on. Unless you’ve held your child’s ashes, don’t give me your opinion.
Take the words ‘at least…’ out, when you’re trying to bring comfort.
‘at least you can marry again’
at least you can have more children’
Because that’s minimising it.

A generation ago people wore black for a year. Now, we can’t see it so easy. But people all around us have ungrieved mourning and bright clothes on.
grief is good.

RW: We want to STUFF grief. Especially men. But it will come out. There is no growth without loss, you’re going to lose a lot. We live on a broken planet. Or you get stuck. You can’t go around it you have to go through it.
Tears are not a sign of weakness but of love.
Matthew said at 17, ‘I know I’m going to go to heaven, why can’t I go now?’ He was incredibly courageous to live with pain.
Jesus wept.

KW: Unexpected learning? How much depressed believers have to teach us. many feel ashamed because the message they get is ‘pray more, confess sin’. Some of them are the most courageous people just to put one foot in front of another. Some people LIVE in the valley, they never walk out of it like the rest of us. We can learn form them what to do when the darkness doesn’t lift. When it doesn’t ever feel good, walking with God anyway.

RW: 1/3 of the psalms are laments. ‘Life sucks, but where else can I go?’ I observed my life and observed the 6 stages of grief.
1) Shock – purely human emotion. Keep waiting for Matthew to walk through the door.
2) Sorrow – it’s a godly emotion, you can
3) Struggle – why?? see it in Job, in Abraham, Jacob – wrestling is a contact sport and that’s fine. But you’re NOT going to get an explanation. It’s like an ant trying to understand the internet. Explanations never comfort. You need the comfort of the Holy Spirit
4) Surrender – I’d rather walk with God and not have all the answers. ‘thy will be done’
5) Sanctification – Rom 8:28 anyone can bring good out of good. Only God can bring good out of bad.
6) Service – 2 Cor 1. The thing that was hardest in your life is the very thing God wants to use as your message. Our greatest ministry does not come out of my strengths but my weakness.

How do you forgive?
When there has been someone else involved. (Someone sold him a gun illegally)

KW – That sits in my soul. But forgiveness is good for me. There are also the Drs and psychologists who let him down badly too and abandoned him in the hospital. How could he do that?
But then I thought of OUR failures. The ‘I wish I had… said… done…’ I was at a banquet i knew that psychiatrist would be there, wanted to cancel, but inside I was so mad, angry. Then I recall Corrie Ten Boom recognising a guard from the death camp. God said ‘You as my child do not have the liberty of not forgiving this man.’
So as she drove, she said ‘God I don’t want to forgive him, but I will – and if I see him I will shake his hand.’

RW – 3 reasons to forgive
1) I have been forgiven by God
2) Resentment makes you better. It only hurts you, not them anyway.
3) I’m going to need forgiveness in the future. If you refuse to forgive you burn your bridge to heaven.

It’s about the battle for hope, he was due to preach about HOPE. Everything on his schedule was about hope. Then he got bronchitis, and the message that was due to preach on the day Matthew died was ‘What to do on the worst day of your life’ – and then it was.
From the day you pray the most dangerous prayer; USE ME, satan puts a target on your back. He’s out to steal your hope.

KW – We had a box full of promises from all his life, and they seemed to have all come to nothing. So I had to say to God ‘please show me how to rebuild hope.’ Now my son was not on this earth. 1 Cor 15;43 These bodies are buried in brokenness but will be raised in glory.’ Now I stand over my sons grave and know his body was buried in weakness but will be raised in strength. Ezek 36:37 ‘All that was destroyed will be rebuilt.’
Eric Little: ‘Circumstances may appear to wreck our lives, but God is not helpless among the ruins.’
Matthew is now running through heaven, restored, and one day his body will rejoin his spirit. God rebuilds ruins. So I am in the process of rebuilding hope.

RW. Anyone who struggles with mental illness needs to know. Your chemistry is not your character. You’re not in sin, Matthew always knew who was in pain in any room. Everything in this world is broken because of sin. There’s no perfect people. So why is it if my heart or liver doesn’t work properly and i have to take a pill for it I have no shame over that, but if I take a pill for my mind’s struggles should I be ashamed? We all have broken brains and broken sexuality. We hold treasure in jars of clay.
What happens if you drop a jar of clay?

We need to remove the stigmas. Of all places the church should be saying to struggling people not just they’re welcome here, but they’re wanted.

Yes God can heal mental illness, but sometimes that has to wait till heaven.

If I could hear Matthew now he’d say ‘You were so wrong, because heaven is so much cooler than you ever described it.’

There are 7000 promises in the Bible, and God has all of eternity, not just my lifetime, to fulfil them!

Rick Warren leaders meeting, HTB leaders meeting #LC14

I was privileged to be invited with a small group of leaders to lunch with Pastor Rick Warren – afterwards there was an ‘Any Questions.’ Here are my notes on his responses. I couldn’t think of any questions so I gave him a hug instead :) 

Rick Warren Rick-Warren-2

We can no longer lead with proclamation, we need to lead with activity ; in the public square. It’s important not to get alienated or partisan.

The local church has to reclaim health care as part of its job. Christians took care of the sick & dying
Why should we help those with mental illness?
Jesus did it – health of spirit, mind and body.
Practically, when the church gets called in to people’s troubles, we better be ready and trained to represent him.

Where do you go for help?
Small groups
Everybody has to be in one:
Meet in temple courts (large worship)
And
House to house
Saddleback has more people in small groups than Sundays.

The Pastor has to model this. Go through life together, I was there when they needed me, and vice versa. And when Matthew committed suicide, they were there in 30 minutes. To show up, and shut up
Not to bring words, but a hug.

Small is better in small groups
4 is better than 6
6 is better than 8
10 is too many.

People join a group for content
And stay for relationship

Don’t try to recruit for relationship.

How do we encourage honesty?
You create greater relationship by walking in humility; not denying your strengths but being honest about your weaknesses.

I used to think I could never say ‘Follow me as I follow Christ’
But now I realise there are no perfect models. So not pretending to be confident, admitting your fears, when people say ‘who do you think you are?’ Wrong question! ‘Who do you think God is’? We are scared, but God wants us to do it
The world is looking for today, in the UK
Is an authoritative message
In a humble personality.
The combination is irresistible

Q: how do we help young people not leave church?

– headline he saw ‘If you love Pope Francis you’ll love Jesus’ The methods change, the message doesn’t
Figure out the keys to the heart- felt needs.
Rick was a worship leader first
I’m inner city LA he wanted to reach the gangs – their key? ‘Who’s strongest?’

So they set up a weightlifting gym
Then there would be bible study
Then they had ‘who is strongest’ competition

Most churches just say ‘take it or leave it’ and they leave it.

Gallup asked the whole world ‘what’s the number 1 need in life?’ A Good Job.
Half the world is unemployed
Whoever helps find jobs and creates jobs gets the hearts.

How do we get more of the church to open their homes to the new people?

Pulpit – the rudder of the church. But you have to say it 7 ways before they get it.

Who you want to reach – put up front. When people walk into your church, the first thing they ask is not a spiritual but a sociological but one. ‘who looks like me?’

Match your greeters to who you want to reach.

Michael Frost at New Thing Gathering #exponential – Aslan on the move!

Michael Frost at New Thing Gathering #exponential

sentralized-michael-frost

 

Only one Australian has ever won the Nobel prize for literature; Patrick White
A brutal, critical hater of the church
in his biography he wrote about how he was with his gay partner of 40 years when he went out on the farm to feed his dogs,

He fell on his backside, covered in mud and dogfood he heard a voice say ‘who the hell do you think you are?’

He thought God was speaking to him.

So he went to church next week with his partner

He went to the Anglican Church and sat at the back, where the Rector was telling people off for entering the jelly bean counting contest and being gamblers.
‘I realised whatever faith I had needed to be a private matter’

And too many churches are putting people like that off or telling them off
Rather than being with them.
Being their friends I
And saying ‘that God who was taking to you, he’s my friend and he wants to be yours too.’

Canada – Another couple of Christians decided to pray for their neighbours every Tuesday night
They moved in and prayed

One night theres a knock at the door
A Muslim knocked on the door
‘Tonight Jesus came and said in a dream go and ask Nigel what I want you to do to help Single mums’

Thailand
A friend was sitting in a cafe
A Buddhist monk approached him
‘I had a vision of Jesus Christ he told me to be here and Paul would tell me what to do.’
He led him to Christ
And He has in turn led 12 other Buddhist monks who follow Jesus.

God is at work
Something is up
God is working beyond the church because we are not sending people out and equipping them
So he says ‘I shall reign wherever I choose even if my people won’t be there’

We need people willing to nice out of the Christian bubble to where he’s already working, in the pubs and among the poor

We Christians have nothing to fear!
Why ?
God is on the move
Cf Aslan on the move.
It’s happening in the nations now, the thaw is happening now!
We are being set free from the frozen place.
God is about raising up an army.
God is winning!
There’s pain and suffering
But those days are numbered
And all heaven is breaking loose !
Get involved!

Don’t escape from reality or look to blame and scapegoat for the problems in the world
It comes from a heart of fear

Churches shouldn’t be fearful places
We should be the most engaged
And involved

Jesus was our scapegoat
We don’t need to blame anyone for your problems
You’re set free
Sent into the world
Not called into an escape pod

God is directing history to its true end
It’s our honour to be part of it.

#exponential Rethinking WITNESS. Danielle Strickland. Lifting The Veil.

#exponential Rethinking WITNESS.

1003 danielle main.ashx

Acts 3:1

One day Peter and John were going up to the temple at the time of prayer – at three in the afternoon. Now a man who was lame from birth was being carried to the temple gate called Beautiful, where he was put every day to beg from those going into the temple courts. When he saw Peter and John about to enter, he asked them for money. Peter looked straight at him, as did John. Then Peter said, ‘Look at us!’ So the man gave them his attention, expecting to get something from them.

Then Peter said, ‘Silver or gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.’ Taking him by the right hand, he helped him up, and instantly the man’s feet and ankles became strong. He jumped to his feet and began to walk. Then he went with them into the temple courts, walking and jumping, and praising God. When all the people saw him walking and praising God, 10 they recognised him as the same man who used to sit begging at the temple gate called Beautiful, and they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him.

 

She was on a plane going to Zambia, and feeling bored. Then 5 women got on with burkhas on, and one sat next to her.

And she said ‘Hello!’ to her. But she didn’t know what to say to her, so like a mad person she asked her, ‘What do you think of Bin Laden?’

 

Then she said ‘I’m with him.’

WHAT??!! You mean he’s on the plane too?!

‘I mean, I’m not against him.’

Why? What have you got against us?

You’re infidels. I just graduated from an Islamic fundamentalist school.

‘Oh wow, we have so much in common! I love evangelism too.’

‘I specialize in converting Christians to Islam.’

OK – give me your pitch

And she was reading to try to remember everything she knew about Islam and then the Holy Spirit said ‘Tell her about Jesus.’

And so she gave her testimony of how much Jesus had done for her since he showed up in her life at 7.

And then the lady said, ‘Would you like to see my face?’

And she showed her face and it was beautiful and smiling and joyful.

Then she said, ‘was I what you were expecting?’

And she wasn’t. That’s not what an Islamic fundamentalist looks like.

 

We have to change the way we see

See who Jesus is

See who people are

 

At the gate beautiful Jesus saw a man nobody else saw as beautiful. The disciples learn how to see people. He lifts the burkhas.

The Roman soldier

The prostitute

The leper

If only we could SEE PEOPLE.

 

People aren’t PROJECTS. Notches on the belt. Could we love people – even if they never converted? Could you share life anyway?

 

What have we done to make coming to Jesus a transaction?

Who are we with our stereotypes?

 

In Hebrews it says when Moses was born his parents saw he was no ordinary child. They saw something.

 

Catherine Booth of the SA used to tuck her kids in at night and say ‘You were born to change the world.’

Lord help us see beyond. How he loves people for who they are now, not just for who they could be. If we could, it would change everything.

Alan Hirsch at #Exponential on Discipleship

We can’t say when a person becomes a Christian. Not even at what point the apostles crossed the line.

We are to make disciples
He makes Christians

What is discipleship?

1. Becoming more and more like Jesus
2. Letting more of Jesus abide in me

It’s a response to Jesus being my Lord and Savioiur

We believe in Jesus’ death, resurrection and return

But what about the focus on incarnation – if we are to go as the Father sent the Son.

What about his teachings?
His life?

That stuff is the LORD part
It’s not just the Saviour piece -as sin management

We are eternally destined to be confirmed to his image.

Bonhoeffer – ‘Christianity without discipleship is always Christianity without Christ.’

CS Lewis
… the Church exists for nothing else but to draw men into Christ, to make them little Christs. If they are not doing that, all the cathedrals, clergy, missions, sermons, even the Bible itself, are simply a waste of time. God became Man for no other purpose. It is even doubtful, you know, whether the whole universe was created for any other purpose.

Ready – Aim – Preach!

(continuing my series of thoughts on this most vital area for ministry…) 

In 1948 Harold Laswell described the ‘Magic Bullet’ theory of communication. Communication = a process whereby a source transmits a message through some channel to a receiver. It’s called the magic bullet theory because the sender shoots the message out of his brain into someone else’s. The listener is passive in the experience.

Others modified the theory and included the idea of ‘Feedback.’ (How the listeners respond will have an effect on the sender). It seems really simple, and lots of us can think that’s what communication is. Cause & effect.

I preach a message from the Bible, the most powerful text in the world, someone hears it and, ‘Bingo!’ (or maybe no more bingo, if you’re preaching that gambling is wrong).

Message sent (cause) —– Received (effect). I deliver it, you get it.

But anyone who’s ever done it knows there’s a lot more to it than that isn’t there? ‘There’s many a slip ‘twixt ear and lip.’ When you look out at people scratching, shifting, checking the time and yawning; the magic bullet isn’t doing its job. Maybe the gun’s misfiring, or the bullets are blanks?

Or perhaps its because you never took AIM?

Imagine walking through the woods and suddenly you hear the crack of a rifle, you hit the deck as branches snap around you. What the heck?!

Eventually you see there’s a hunter (at least he’d call himself one) wandering around firing indiscriminately until finally, mercifully, he runs out of bullets: You ask him what on earth he’s doing.

“Well, I know there are deer out here in these woods somewhere, I figured if I shoot out enough bullets in as many directions as poss, eventually I’ll hit one.”

Image

Ever heard preaching like that?  It makes you want to run for cover.

Probably my favourite recent Christian book on preaching would be Communicating for a change, by Andy Stanley.

He starts off the book with a parable of a truck driver who helps a preacher get better;

Lesson 1? Ask where you want to go. Preaching is like a journey; you go somewhere and end up somewhere. ‘The question is do you end up where you wanted to – or just drive round willy-nilly?’

If you don’t have a destination – you’re just driving round! He suggests you DECIDE in advance where you’re headed. In driving and in preaching a clear destination is VITAL.

If I just go on about various things I’m thinking or learning – it can be interesting (parts of it, to me at least).

I heard a Pastor once talk about ‘Preaching the notices.’ Don’t take him literally! What he meant was there’s a way for your sermons to drive the whole church forward – highlighting a value the church needs to have magnified or clarified (eg servanthood) or the vision of the church and a call to get moving or sustain momentum together…taking everyone on the journey with you where they discover truth together.

So, when you get up to speak – can you tell me the destination? Have you got clarity on that?

Ready to Aim? If not – you’re Fired!

Blah Blah Blah Preaching

boringchurchmrbean

I once heard Andy Stanley say, “Our approach to preaching should be shaped by our GOAL in preaching.”

What’s your goal with this Sunday’s sermon? Why are you doing this? What do you want to accomplish? Someone can say, ‘This is my goal’ but did you ever come out and wonder – what was that ABOUT?

It was Stanley again who said that instead of DETERMINING our goal, many of us INHERITED a goal. (from our church, pastors, preachers, theological college etc). I’ve gone through all of these goals during my time as a speaker;

a) Teach the BIBLE to people

Here, the Bible comes before people; you’re so focused on digging into the content the listeners are secondary, listening in on your musings. Success in this scenario is, ‘I got through it, I covered the material, and nobody died before we finished.’

Some home group leaders are like that. I was, when I led one. If the notes were two pages long I hated not finishing and would cut off a meaningful pastoral conversation because we still had to fill in the blanks on John 3:16 (For God so loved the _______). Teaching the Bible like this requires no real wrestling with the text itself, little creativity, no application, no visuals so it’s remembered. You just have to know a little more information about the Bible than the people and line by line tell them what you found out, till your slot is over and we sing a hymn.

People do this with varying levels of success. I remember being told about a young preacher who was asked for feedback by the old church warden, he said ‘There were only three things wrong with that sermon. You read it. You read it in a boring voice. It wasn’t worth reading.’

b) Teach PEOPLE the Bible

This is a little more audience focused, you want them to really know the Bible, so its not as dry, you get some personality involved, 4 things that rhyme, even better if they rhyme in Greek and start with the same letter, maybe throw in an application at the end.

People like me who take copious notes love this kind of preaching! We go away with more of our Bible coloured in saying, ‘I’ve learned something deeeeep today, I bet the apostle Paul didn’t even know he meant that when he wrote it!’

One of the first churches I was a member of had a leader who was a master at this; we’d do six weeks on one verse in Romans. I remember him telling us about when Paul referred to barbarians it was because to the Jews that’s what all the other languages sounded like to them ‘Bar, Bar, Bar…’ I loved that fact. Wrote it down. Remembered it for 25 years so far. One day it might win me a pub quiz. But it’s unlikely to solve any of the problems of the world or even answer the questions of a hurting individual. You’re not meant to be Stephen Fry on QI.

It’s good to help people know the Bible of course – but Jesus had most problems from the people who’d memorised most of it, so maybe knowing more is not the BEST goal. It’s not the Bible you know that matters, it’s the Bible you apply.

James 1 says there’s a way to handle the Bible so it really works inside of a person. But there’s a way too of  just listening to more information when we haven’t a goal to change or apply it is blatant self deception. It can be as much use as someone saying ‘Blah, Blah, Blah.’

“Do not merely listen to the word and so deceive yourself – DO what it says.”

What does it SAY?

What should we DO? Don’t just parse the verbs. VERB the passage. Put it into action.

Anyone who chats through a Bible study, takes a page full of notes, gasps at the insights and knowledge, but does nothing about it in their life except, ‘That’s interesting, shall we discuss it a little further?’ is like a person who looks at themselves in the mirror and sees a huge bogey on their chin and goes ‘Arrrggghhh!!’ – then just gets on the bus and goes on with their day regardless.

You get no credit for looking in the mirror and knowing you’re a mess. What will you do? This is the difference between Greek and Hebrew thinking apparently. In the West we think we know because we know, but the Hebrew mindset says you show what you know by what you do.

James doesn’t say you’ll be blessed by what you KNOW. You can memorise 12 great principles of anointed marriage and still be instant messaging behind her back to that young girl in the office. It’s the same with money, parenting, or business. The blessing doesn’t come because I know. Or don’t.

It’s what I do. Or don’t.

There is no blessing in knowledge. The more we know about what God says and the less we do about it, the deeper our self deception.

And I know it’s all grace, but I can’t help tremble a little at the copious amount of words that I have written in my notebooks at those conferences and those churches, together with all the things I have taught as if I have known, but not done, will condemn me on that day when Jesus comes back.

20 years ago, George Bebawi told me, ‘Any knowledge that doesn’t help us love God or love people more, is useless.’

I’m up for the kind of knowing that gets us doing, but I love the way the King James puts this verse: ‘Knowledge puffeth up…’ LOVE is more important than knowledge. Thats’ a great goal for preaching, for us all to be loving more than knowing what agape means.

Together With People DO The Bible

There’s a lady in our church called Mavis. She has learning disabilities, and she is one of the most spiritually mature people I ever met. She always wants to love people. What she knows, is love. When the offering plate comes round, whatever she has in her purse goes in.What she knows, is generosity. She loves the people who help her, what she knows, is gratitude. She loves the worship. I’ve never heard her complain. I’ve often had a word of prophecy right from God through her when needed it. Often it sounds like a big smacking kiss on my cheek.

I want to grow more like her. I want Ivy to be more like Mavis. Because then we’ll all be more like Jesus.

Atomic Preaching #Bgbg2

I’m going to do a few blog posts around the vital area of preaching, which I think may incidentally help anyone who has to communicate in front of groups.

If I’m going to read anything, I’ll usually read something about leadership, or communicating, or Jack Reacher (but I’ve read all of those now so until Lee Child cranks out another I’ll read another book on preaching).

Communicating almost every week to large groups of people for years means I’ve grown and developed since I first recall standing up at the age of 14 in school.

I found myself in front of the class and electing to do a speech rather then present an essay. I wasn’t scared, I was excited. I loved the opportunity,  and half way through remember I felt something in that moment of ‘this is what I was made for,’ so – I joined the Police instead – until God put me on track with what he wanted me to do with my life and it ended up involving an awful lot of preaching and teaching.

That first speech was where I described to the class in graphic detail my research on ‘What Would Happen If A Nuclear Bomb Hit Manchester.’

Image

Guess what – I had everyone’s attention! In those days everyone believed the Russians were ready to press the red button and we’d all end up obliterated or irradiated any day, so we listened to jazz funk at the school disco and tried to forget it. But the question was always there.

Image

The first thing this first public speaking experience taught me was that you should aim at addressing the questions people are actually asking, rather than just imparting something you think is interesting.

A lot of preachers never get that. And if you haven’t got an aim – you should be fired.

Man, I’ve heard some boring sermons.

I came to faith partly as a result of hearing one great evangelistic sermon, by Eric Delve, but later when I first started regularly attending church I figured sermons were just something you just had to get through 95% of the time, perhaps because purgatory had been abolished.

One of the pulpit regulars was apparently a member of ‘The College of Preachers’, and he used to tell us so, but what he said each week was a disjointed collection of random thoughts of a faintly spiritual nature. Like listening to someone reading from various months off a Patience Strong calendar.

I thought that was preaching was, so I didn’t want to be a preacher.

I don’t know how he did it really, it must have been a very deep spirituality because I found it hard to read the Bible and not find that it had a point, it seemed very pointed to me, so I thought I couldn’t preach.

Sometimes preachers can have everything but a POINT!

Do you listen to your own talks?

Do you get regular feedback 1) from a cheerleader 2) from someone honest.

Did you have a point? Never mind three. Never mind three beginning with P.

Just a point.

Did you know what the sermon was meant to do?

If you didn’t, nobody else will guess.

We have to look at this because the church needs many more, better communicators. Why?

Because God has chosen the foolishness (I know it feels like it sometimes!) of preaching to move the gospel through culture. 

So preaching still matters. The reason so many churches have downgraded preaching is because so many people are doing a terrible job of it. And I know God can use it anyway, and looks at the heart and all that – but surely our strategy should not be that he works despite us?

Pick an aim – and press the button!