On Preaching “To the Men”

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I want you to imagine something with me. Pretend that I have a son and a daughter. They’re very different people, but they’re both amazing. And they both need to hear something important.

son and daughter (550x367)

So every year I sit down with them for a family chat. I know they’ve heard this before, but it’s a big deal. So I emphasize the need to listen, and then I plow right in.

Son, men are important. They matter. They have an important role to play in church, family, and society because God has called them to be godly leaders in the world. So you need to find men who will encourage you toward greater godliness. You have a tremendous responsibility.

And honey, you need to pray for your brother because of the challenges he faces.

I’m sure you see the contrast. You may agree with everything that I said, but you’re still wondering: Why would I take time out to emphasize that my son is important and that God has called him to godliness without saying anything similar to my daughter? What kind of father would do something like that year after year?

I don’t know. But I see it in churches all the time. And it needs to stop.

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Accidental Worship Heresies

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mistake (200x300)aYou know that moment when the words leave your mouth and there’s nothing you can do to get them back? You’re not alone.

In a post over at The Village Church, Michael Bleeker shares what happened when he asked worship leaders to tweet stories of their “accidental worship heresies,” things they’ve either said or sang in a worship service that didn’t exactly come out the way they intended. And it’s an impressive list.

Among my personal favorites:

  • Misquoted Col. 3:16 as, “psalms, hymns and spiritual thongs” while officiating one of my best friend’s wedding. (I don’t even want to think about what a “spiritual thong” would be.)
  • “I thy great father and thou my true son,” during Be Thou My Vision. (For some reason, I don’t think the church has ever officially declared it a heresy to claim to be God’s father.)
  • “I’d rather have silver than Jesus or gold.” (Now that’s just silly. Who would rather have silver than gold?) [Read more…]

4 Reasons You Preach on Poverty at Your Own Risk

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Some topics intimidate preachers. And that’s actually a good thing. When preachers realize they’re handling a difficult issue, they know to be careful, aware of the hazards on every side. The problem comes when someone launches confidently into a sermon without realizing the complexities of their topic. That’s like boldly flying your spaceship into an asteroid field, blissfully unaware that your odds of survival are only 3,720 to 1.

poverty poor homeless wealth money economics

In the last few weeks, I’ve heard several people do this with sermons on poverty. It’s as though we think poverty is a relatively simple topic, something that you can handle in a single, 30-minute sermon. Just offer some thoughts on the importance of hard work, make sure you point out that we’re supposed to be nice to poor people, and you’re good to go. After a clever introduction, several amusing anecdotes, and some interesting asides, you should be able to handle the issue of poverty in the twenty minutes you have left.

At that point, you’re not just flying through an asteroid field, but you’re doing it at the fastest possible speed. Don’t be surprised when you get crushed into oblivion.

Here are four reasons that preachers should include poverty on their list of topics to handle with extreme caution. I’m not suggesting that we avoid the topic, quite the opposite. I think we should preach on poverty regularly. After all, God has a lot to say about the subject. But it’s far from a simple topic.

This is the beginning of my most recent post over at Christianity.com. Please head over there to read the rest.

Use Your Analogies Wisely

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stuffed animal toy analogy metaphor preachingAnalogies are tricky. Used properly when preaching, they illuminate. But they can also mislead. That’s because every analogy has the ability to say more than we want. If my daughter says that I’m a bear, she may only mean that I’m big and cuddly. But someone could hear that analogy and conclude that I sleep a lot during the winter, mark my territory by leaving big claw marks on nearby trees, or eat hikers when I get bored. If she’s not careful about how she’s using the analogy, people could walk away with all kinds of weird ideas.

Every analogy is an opportunity for both insight and confusion.

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If You Can’t Explain Something Simply, Maybe It’s Not Simple

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Simplicity is often the handmaid of clarity. I spend much of my time encouraging students toward greater clarity in writing. And that usually means shortening sentences, eliminating paragraphs, and sometimes slashing entire sections. In communication, less is usually more.

But sometimes I think we forget that in this relationship simplicity is the servant, not the master. When we make simplicity a goal in itself, it becomes the enemy of clarity.

Einstein’s Dictum

We’ve all experienced it: the belabored “explanation” that confuses more than it clarifies. I remember my high school chemistry teacher explaining a concept. It was something I’d actually learned about in a math class the year before, and thought I had a pretty good handle on it. But by the time he was done, I was thoroughly confused. That’s right, his explanation was so bad it actually caused me to un-learn something.

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