Should Pastors do Altar Calls?

There’s no need to ask em, by the time I’m done preaching, every head is bowed and every eye is closed.
@FailingPastor

 

 

I have never done an altar call.

I have no problem with other people doing altar calls. I’m not one of those guys who feels a need to mercilessly mock people who do evangelism differently than I do. Do what you need to do before the Lord with a pure conscience.

I have seen altar calls done very poorly, but also quite nicely.

One of the worst I saw was at a junior high camp chapel service. Summer heat had raised the temperature of the chapel to approximately 174 degrees. The junior highers were hot, restless, and choking on sweaty sock stench.

The evangelist concluded his message with an altar call that went something like this:

“If any of you would like to receive the Lord Jesus Christ as your Savior tonight, you can go outside where it’s cooler and meet with some counselors. They have cookies and juice available as well, so you can take your time and really talk things over.”

The Holy Spirit fell on this group of kids. There was no rushing mighty wind (except the normal rushing mighty wind associated with junior high boys) or tongues of flame, but so sue me if 90% of that group of kids didn’t run out the doors to get saved.

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The Terror of Being a Christian Who Is Asked to Recommend a Book, Movie, Musician, Etc.

“I don’t agree with everything the author says”

is Christianese for

“Knowing you, you’ll find something wrong with this book. Don’t burn me at the stake when you do.”
@FailingPastor

 

 

I’m a reader. I read so much people even know I’m a reader. I’m not one of those readers who wanders around telling everyone how much they read. I’m reading.

I’m also a pastor, which means everyone is trying to prove to me how spiritual they are.

When you combine those things, it results in many people giving me “Christian” books to read, but then they get nervous because what if pastor doesn’t like my book? Then I won’t be spiritual.

Therefore, every book a Christian has given me to read has been prefaced with, “I don’t agree with everything the author says.”

Continue reading “The Terror of Being a Christian Who Is Asked to Recommend a Book, Movie, Musician, Etc.”

If It Weren’t For Criticisms of My Sermons, My Sermons Would Be Terrible

If you agree with your pastor 100% of the time, you’re in a cult.
@FailingPastor

 

There is nothing more discouraging to a pastor than spending all week preparing a sermon, getting it together, feeling good about it, and bursting at the seams to deliver it. The juices flow, dreams flash in the mind of conversions and changed lives with weeping and dancing with joy.

Then, three minutes after the “amen” of the closing prayer, Tim, long-time member of the church, walks up and says, “Um, the word you based your sermon on? Yeah, that’s a different Greek word than all the other words those other verses use. Your point doesn’t really carry over.”

If I were a balloon, this would be the time when all the air would blow out of me; I’d make that weird deflating balloon noise, and spin around in the air and then fall flat on the floor. I never checked the Greek. I try to play it off cool, “Oh, well the idea is kind of the same, but yeah, OK, I’ll check on that.”

I go home and check. Yup, Tim was right. I was wrong. My point isn’t actually the point of the rest of those verses. My whole sermon, nay, my whole last week is shot. I blew it. How could I miss that detail? It’s not like Tim isn’t checking everything on his phone the entire time I’m preaching. I know better.

Tim’s are annoying. Tim’s are also amazingly helpful. Tim’s typically share their information well, they try not to be jerks, they know you and you know them. Tim is trying to help. Yet no matter how well Tim helps, how gracious he may be, the deflation is real. Being corrected like that is no fun.

But over the years of dealing with the Tim’s of the church, along with the ones who argue and are wrong and the ones who argue and are right, sometimes done with grace, other times down with disrespectful anger or glee, the pastor grows.

Even when people are completely wrong in their arguments, even when their complaint is perhaps the stupidest thing ever, the pastor can still learn. I listen to the complaints and the fault-finding. Right or wrong they make me think. They make me prepare better for next time. They help me analyze a point or an angle on a subject I never considered before.

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Sometimes Sermon Criticisms Are Actually Compliments

Criticism from “certain people” is often the best way for the pastor to know his sermon was spot on.
@FailingPastor

 

 

For the most part, I get zero feedback from people about my sermons. Therefore, I have to do a little digging to figure out how “well I did.”

Typically the same people will tell you “good sermon” every week. This means very little. I look for the person who asks a question about something I said. To me, that’s a compliment. I got them thinking.

Then there are the criticisms. It’s easier for people to criticize than to praise. If I mispronounce a word or give the wrong reference, you would think I’d just dropped a hydrogen bomb on a village of innocent women and children.

Then there are those who will walk past quickly, not making eye contact and then will write an email on Tuesday. They always wait until Tuesday. They lull you into calm. “I didn’t hear anything bad on Sunday or Monday, guess I did ok! I must be in the clear!”

Nope, Tuesday morning has an email waiting for me. The email begins with:

“On Sunday you said. . .” something that I sort of said but not entirely. By the time Tuesday comes their emotions have stretched what I said into something ridiculous. They will then copy and paste 327 verses pointing out how “what you said Sunday” is not right.

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The Most Helpful Commentaries are the ones that Are Helpful

“Well, I feel better now.”

–When the verse you don’t understand is skipped by your favorite commentary.
@FailingPastor

 

 

I have a love/hate relationship with commentaries. Many are a complete waste of time. I have my favorite commentaries I regularly use. But after regular use, I pick up on their weak spots, their slightly off doctrine, and their weird theories.

In preparing my sermons, I will read about seven commentaries on the passages I’m dealing with. I get seven takes. It’s amazing how often these takes are completely different. In my sermons I frequently say, “You can look this up in seven commentaries and get seven different interpretations. Here’s an eighth.”

After spending years coming up with three messages a week, I pretty much know what the commentaries are going to say. I have also developed my own take on most parts of the Bible now. I really am not dependent on commentaries. I just browse them for interesting ideas, or insights into Greek and Hebrew and stuff like that.

And, if all seven commentaries agree and I don’t, I will rethink my take on where I’m coming from. I can still be wrong. But here’s the thing: so can they!

Over reliance on commentaries is worrisome. Especially after a good ten years of preaching. You should really know your Bible enough to develop a sermon without quoting commentaries through the whole thing.

There are passages I don’t know what to do with. Take head coverings for instance. No really. Please, take them.

I have no idea what to do with Paul’s thing on head coverings for women. Seven commentaries will give seven theories.

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The Best Way to Get Sermon Ideas: Live Your Faith

THEM: Good sermon. How much time did you take to prepare it?

ME: About 15 years.
@FailingPastor

 

 

I’ve preached about 2,500 times in my pastoral career. That’s not a ton in comparison to some, but it’s still a lot. Never once have I gone online to borrow a sermon. I will admit to copying and or using some good points I’ve heard, or taking an idea from a book or sermon and making it my own, but I’ve never point for point preached someone else’s sermon.

I put work into my sermons. I make them my own. They have my flavor and personality on them when I get done. I have to take in a lot of information in order to get this many sermons to come out. I read the Bible a lot, for it has a remarkable ability to give a guy sermon ideas.

Many sermon ideas percolate in my head for a long time. I have theories and ideas I loosely hold and then keep reading my Bible until I can test them. Are there other verses that go along with this idea? If so, I pile them together over time and go with it.

When I sit down to make a sermon I don’t invent it out of nothing. I have a reserve of things I’ve been thinking about and verses memorized, read, and written down for further consideration. I put my time in.

I once heard John MacArthur say that a pastor should spend 40-hours a week preparing his sermon. I find that insane. Is he typing his notes with his feet or something? How can it possibly take that long? I can only assume he reads many theology books or translates from the Greek or something.

I really don’t find that amount of time to be necessary. And, of course, his sermons are better than mine, so you should probably listen to his advice more than mine. Consider the source, folks.

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Many of the Problems in the Church are a Result of Know-It-All Pastors

I’ve preached several messages that made me glad no one listens to me.
@FailingPastor

 

 

Any pastor who is doing his job will learn more about the Bible. The more biblical knowledge a person gets the more that person will change their beliefs. If your beliefs are not changing then you must not be taking in any new information. If you are not taking in any new information about the Bible you are either 1) not reading it or 2) you already know all of it.

The best way to learn the Bible is to try teaching it. Through years of preaching the Word I am continually confronted with new information, or more context, or more links between verses, ideas, and themes in the Bible, that adjust what I previously believed.

I used to keep recordings of my sermons. I don’t any more. This is for two reasons:

1) The tapes and cd’s were taking up too much room.
2) I couldn’t stand listening to myself teach things I no longer believed and furthermore, I didn’t want anyone who heard me now to hear what I used to say!

Those who have stuck with me over the years and paid attention know how much my doctrine has shifted. But most don’t stick around that long. People choose churches based on whether or not they are told what they already believe. Churches who teach what you already believe are known as “churches with good doctrine.”

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