“Well, I feel better now.”
–When the verse you don’t understand is skipped by your favorite commentary.
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.
Continue reading “The Most Helpful Commentaries are the ones that Are Helpful”
THEM: Good sermon. How much time did you take to prepare it?
ME: About 15 years.
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.
Continue reading “The Best Way to Get Sermon Ideas: Live Your Faith”
I’ve preached several messages that made me glad no one listens to me.
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.”
Continue reading “Many of the Problems in the Church are a Result of Know-It-All Pastors”
THEM: Pastors should voice more political opinions.
ME: OK. Most Republicans and Democrats are going to hell. You should tell them the Gospel.
We’ve had some contentious elections in our country lately. People are wound a little tight.
During the last big “most important election of our lives” season, a lady in church told me she was thinking she wouldn’t come back to church if she had to be around people who disagreed with her political views. She then told me that it was my job to tell them how to vote. Yup, it was my fault they were following their parent’s traditional political line.
She did skip church for a few weeks, but when her guys won the election she came back. Several months later she told me how much she loved our church and how she would, and I quote, “never think of leaving it.”
I stay out of politics. The only time politics enter my sermon is when I mention how I stay out of politics, or when the Bible passage at hand tells us to respect government authority, or when an issue that is in the Bible passage I’m dealing with has a modern political angle everyone is fired up about that has to be addressed.
I don’t tell people how to vote. I don’t tell people to vote even. I make no mention of civic duty, nor do I pledge the flag in church or anything. I’m all for the separation of church and state and do my part to keep it real.
Continue reading “Pastors and Politics”
I would be more ecumenical if other churches weren’t all filled with heretic scum.
If every person in every church were led by the Spirit then yeah, I’d be all for ecumenical fellowship. But that’s not who goes to church. Lots of people go to church and lots of them don’t have the Spirit, even fewer are led by Him.
Thus we need to test the spirits. We need to watch out for wolves in sheep’s clothing. We need to exercise church discipline. There are all sorts of ramifications for being in a fallen world with fallen people in it.
Happy thoughts about unity and fellowship do not override the reality of jerks and heretics in the church. Letting happy thoughts smooth over the differences in faith-practice and doctrinal substance doesn’t cut it for me.
I know, I’m the jerk and it’s guys like me that keep the church divided. Could be, then again, maybe your heresy has something to do with that division too. Hard to say, aint it?
I’ve been asked multiple times by other churches and “Christian organizations” if our church would get together for some ecumenical event. In all honesty, at the bottom of these requests there are two things these people want:
1) They want my church to hand out free advertising for them, and
2) They want our money.
Continue reading “Church Unity is Overrated”
Pastors need to teach that when life gets hard, faith overcomes.
This is best taught by taking a new church every four years.
Pastors need to teach that love is patient enduring service.
This is best taught by taking a new church every four years.
The average stay at a church for a senior pastor is about four years. Youth pastors last about three.
This constant leaving makes churches doubt pastors. Small churches feel like they are stepping stones to larger churches. No one takes the pastor seriously because they all know he’ll leave when greener pastures show up.
This constant leaving makes pastors impatient and covetous. If their church doesn’t meet their ideals, they leave. They are only truly invested if the church does what they want it to do.
Pastor turnover also undermines any teaching on reaping and sowing, patient endurance, perseverance, longsuffering, love, or any such topics. God will never leave you nor forsake you, but your pastor? He’ll be gone in about four years. Nice.
Practice what you preach, right?
Pastors have been dropping congregations so quickly Christians assume this is what pastors should do. Many people look at me weird when I tell them how long I’ve been at my church. “Can’t find another job, eh?”
I even have a family member who repeatedly says it’s not right for pastors to stay at one church their whole career. This is primarily because they had a bad experience with a pastor who was at their church, and still is, for a long time. If he would have left they could have stayed. So now all pastors should leave after a couple years.
Continue reading “How Long Should Pastors Stay at Their Church?”
All you healthy people that don’t use sugar: your homemade Christmas cookies are not as good as you think they are.
There is a segment of Christianity that is obsessed with diet. I’m not saying they are synonymous with the homeschoolers, but there is massive overlap. They are under the impression that we are justified by food alone. Sola Cibus. (I don’t know, I just looked up “What is the Latin word for food?” And cibus came up as the answer.)
Romans 14 and 15 tells us to please our neighbor and do things that edify them. Don’t force your weird scruples on people if it causes problems. I feel that diet evangelists need a refresher course on this passage.
At every casual gathering of Christians there is food. The lady who has to bring her health food along with recipes and detailed reasons why her treats are better than anything else anyone else brought are in violation of brotherly love. They just are.
Furthermore, your food sucks.
No one likes it.
There’s a reason why people like salt and sugar: because food with salt and sugar tastes better. Throw in some butter too, maybe just lard.
Continue reading “Hey Christians: No One Cares About Your Diet”