Meditation on Sermon Writing

God’s Word is amazing. Have you ever just sat back and absorbed it? Just opened it up and read? Just a sentence. Just two. And just… just reveled?

Has the weight of the Law ever just pressed down on you? It’s so simple. It seems so easy. And then you look at that Law, and that single statement begins a pushing down on your chest, because you see how very, very heavy it is. You see how far you have fallen from what God demands. You see how good, how very good his command is, and how good this world would be if we just did it, but I can’t do it, no I can’t, I have failed, and so it is my fault, so much my fault.

And the Law, oh, it is so good, and I am not. And as that sentence grows in my heart, I see it in so many ways. It blossoms there, this flower of such beauty that I weep that I cannot even touch its petals, I cannot even pretend to care for a bloom of such excellence, that my black thumb slays not the Law but myself. (more…)

One-Minute Worship and the Teenager

Sometimes teenagers can be really stupid. I think you may know this. And yet, sometimes, God grants those teenagers some wisdom.

Today, for teen Bible study, I told the teens we were going to watch an entire church service. I asked them to look for:

1. Something that was right.
2. Something that was wrong.
3. Something they wanted to try.
4. Something they never wanted to see at our congregation.

And with that introduction, we watched this video:

Now, before anyone freaks out, the pastor did that as a joke. If you want more commentary on the video itself, check out the commentary from this excellent Bread for Beggars post.

So, what do you think the teens said? (more…)

Stand firm.

You may have noticed if you’re reading here regularly: I’ve had… a hard time of it lately. To the point where last week at this time I was ready to call it quits on this congregation. I wasn’t convinced I shouldn’t be a pastor; I was simply convinced that this was not the place for me any longer. Everything was broken. I was done.

And in that dried-up, vacant state, I visited my pastor.

(As a side note – yes, I have a pastor. Our church body arranges for one local pastor to not only pastor his congregation, but also take care of spiritual needs of the other pastors under his care. This is not hierarchical at all, at least where I’m at. My pastor feels more like a wise big brother.)

My pastor listened to me as I outlined my problems. He probed with questions. He considered. And what he said helped a good deal.

He affirmed my feeling: What I am experiencing burdens the soul and makes cheerful service difficult. Current events weigh on the congregation heavier than many other congregations, simply because of our small size.

And then he told me what I needed to hear: Stand firm. (more…)

Pastors Aren’t Finished Products.

When did that happen?!

So, this past week we walked around the neighborhood and handed out invitations to a neighborhood cookout my congregation is hosting. Free food, free bounce house, free games and prizes, free raffle for big items, free music – you know, lots of free stuff so that we get the chance to show the neighborhood that our congregation is not only alive, but welcoming. (Plus, the raffle lets us get names and addresses to go follow up with. Bonus!)

We usually walk in pairs – one person on one side of the street, one on the other – and simply hand out fliers, usually by sticking them in doors. I happen to walk with two of the teens. They didn’t particularly enjoy talking to people. One in particular was rather shy.

So… I took every house where it looked like people would actually answer the door. I did all the talking. I sort of shrugged and told her I’d take care of it for her if she wanted me to.

Wait a second… when did that happen?! I’m scared of people! I hate talking to people in uncontrolled situations like that! And doing cold calls? Talking to people about church without any kind of previous contact? Without it being a hospital call or something like that? Now I’m not only comfortable, but chuckling that someone wouldn’t want to? Now I’m simply shrugging and saying that talking to people is no big deal? How – how – when – how?! (more…)

“Remember who you are…”


No, this isn’t a post about the Lion King. Sorry, we’re not going to talk about Simba. (Though the movie is epic in scope and just a lot of fun, for the most part.)

This is about reminding a pastor who he is… and being reminded myself.

Yesterday I got to take part in the installation of a brother in the ministry into his new congregation. It is traditional in our circles that any pastor who is there may lay hand on the pastor and speak a word of encouragement or advice, ending with a proper Bible verse. I got to do it, too!

This was a first for me. Frankly, as I stood in a lineup of… nine? Ten? pastors, I was very nervous. I wasn’t the youngest one there — two other pastors involved in the ceremony were in my graduating seminary class, in fact. Yet, I was being entrusted to speak a word of blessing on a brother in the ministry. I was entrusted to speak God’s Word to one of his representatives.


I put my hand on his head and told him, “Newlin, there’s a lot of new things in your life. It’s a new city. It’s a new church. It’s a new home. But don’t forget who you are. Don’t forget who it is that you serve in this congregation. They are New. And you are New. From 2 Corinthians: ‘If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has gone; the new has come!”

I was not the most eloquent. I wasn’t even the briefest! I was not the only one to really concentrate on Gospel. Yet… I think God spoke. No, scratch that. His Word was applied directly and well. I know God spoke.

And that’s… that’s a wow. That God would use me, not only to speak to my congregation, but also a brother in the ministry?

Yeah. Our God’s pretty nifty.

It’s the Pastor’s Job.

Lies we tell ourselves about the church:

It’s the pastor’s job.


You have a pastor. You have a man who’s staying here. We said way back at the beginning of this series that now isn’t the time to get busy. Now is the time to get into God’s Word. And it’s true! Now isn’t the time to “get busy.” But we need to be aware of falling for the opposite lie: Since it’s not time to get busy, it must be time to relax! Time to sit back and let the pastor take care of everything! And here we have the exact opposite lie from “We need to get busy.” This lie says, “It’s the pastor’s job.” What is the pastor’s job? What’s the pastor supposed to do? (more…)