The Civil Wars are changing my preaching

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I love listening to music, I’m pretty sure I can’t think without some kind of music in the background. So much so I’ve even begun to preach with full blown music tracks underneath while I preach. One of the albums I’ve been listening to for months is the latest project from The Civil Wars. I initially followed the groups beginnings having previously interviewed Joy Williams during her solo Christian music days, however, my interest in the group quickly progressed to something much deeper. I think I could safely categorise myself as a fan.

The duo are on a hiatus and depending on which journalist or blog site you read the reasons are varied. One thing is for sure this album has captured the beauty, the pain, tension and heart break of human relationships. Their current self titled album is probably the most emotionally charged and tense album I’ve ever listened too, and apart from something stunning being released in the next few weeks this album will be my favourite of the year.

Great Art is born from Great tension

Many of the songs on the album are intentionally vague blending fact and fiction which leaves the listener wondering whether the duo are speaking of their musical relationship, their marriages (not to each other) or something else. Recently in an interview JP (other half of the duo) spoke of his desire to leave their songs ‘vague enough, so that everyone can see themselves in it.

I was taught how to preach by some amazing men and women. One of the things they all taught me to do was to make it crazily clear on what I am speaking about but also how you want people to respond and live out what you are teaching. I know for me, what I have done too often though is in my endeavour to be clear is ended up preaching what I now refer to as ‘Friend’s Semons.’ These are sermons just like the 90’s sitcom friends that would start with laughs, have some tension/chaos/disagreement, then resolve it and after 30 minutes wrap everything up nicely. If you’ve ever preached multiple times chances are you may have done this too. Rather than embracing the tensions of the text, the pains of life or even seemed contradictions we try to quickly navigate them with well intended (and maybe even completely true) statements and verses quickly attempting to move to the next thing. I know sometimes I’ve made messages so specific and so free of tension and struggle that I end up alienating countless numbers of people that Jesus is wanting to speak to.

I’m learning more every week that it’s OK to not have all the answers to all of life’s questions and the theological hurdles that may arise because if it.

Sermons, just like all great art whether it be music, dance, painting, acting etc is meant to among other things, generate great conversations. I’m being more intentional than ever to not ‘land’ my sermons with a “one size fits all” solution, but more desiring to help point people to begin a conversation with Jesus and his people to wrestle the tension of how we are to live out the good news even in the midst of what can sometimes be chaos and contradiction.

That doesn’t mean I don’t give steps, principles or insights on how we are to live, but rather I’m committed to let God be at work in his people by his spirit and not think that their obedience to him is based solely on whether or not I preach the right 6 steps.

So let’s talk about it…
I pray I can be more like Jesus in this…

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If you could choose one…

Have you ever played the game Desert Island? It’s often played on long car drives or some kind of getting to know you activity. Basically, the idea of the game is you are trapped on a desert island, through some strange forfeit, but you get to choose several things to bring with you. So It could be a person, a CD, book, TV program etc.

I was thinking along these lines, If their was only one sermon you could ever listen, what would that be?

For me, it’d have to be a sermon I’ve heard 3 times preached live and watched and listened to several dozen more times by Judah Smith Lead Pastor of The City Church. Everytime I listen to listen to this message I find myself falling more in love with Jesus, desiring to get God’s perspective on my life more, a hunger and a passion for lost people and to grow in my call and grace as a leader and preacher in my church.  I’ve shared it with you here:

What about for you? If you could only ever chose one sermon, what would you choose? And why?

Your Life Matters

11 Leadership Lessons

20130221-115244.jpgLast night I had a leadership training night with some of my youth leadership team. We were very lucky to be able to have Phill Brake senior minister of Compass Church share with our team.

He along with his associate Michael Salisbury shared some fantastic insights from their 15+ years of friendship and ministry together. Last night they shared about things they wish someone had told them at the start of their leadership journey. Here is just a few of the dot point notes I took from last night I found very helpful:

Don’t discount the role you can play in a young persons life.Have Fun!

You’ve gotta enjoy the ministry your doing.

Know what are your drainers & replenishes.

Be true to yourself

You reproduce after who you really are, not who you present to be.

Be servant hearted… But remember, God will do what he wanted, either with us or despite us.

You choose your attitude! You can choose how you are going respond to.

The grass is not always greener on the other side…

Believe Big, even if the last time ‘failed’. The size of your God, will determine the size of what you believe God can do!

Be accountable. Find out Godly mentors, for different areas. You’ll need to go find them.

I fast & I pray, I listen & obey.

I’m so thankful to Phill’s friendship and ministry over the years. I hope these quick 11 points help grow you in your life and leadership.

Your Life Matters.

2 Favorite Words

As your fairly aware right now I’m currently tracking through the book of Ephesians with the teens and twenties of my church. I was told this week that a number of church including Mars Hill and Discovery Church are doing, or about to do something very similar. It’s exciting to hear this, as I love the book of Ephesians  and would encourage every Christian regularly to read and meditate on, its brilliant.

I want to tell you what my two favorite words are in the bible. They come after these few verses in Ephesians 2:1-3 “And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.”

What are my favorite two words in the bible?

BUT GOD

Ephesians 2:4-5 reveals “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us,  even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved.”

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This tells me that even if your at the lowest point in yourself, feel broken, trapped and locked up in your sin and feel as though their is no way out for you, no hope for you, the bible has some amazingly good news for you… BUT GOD!

I know you can feel like sometimes your sin is so great that it cannot be forgiven. That that choice you made cannot be undone. The decision to do or act on the temptation can make you feel like you are done for and that your now stuck in a hopeless pit of sin and self destruction. I want to remind you… BUT GOD! There is a BUT GOD moment for you than can come to pass in your life.

You are never too far gone! You’ve never “done to much”! You are loved, grace, love, forgiveness and mercy are available for you… But the only answer is found in him. Not in your good deeds, your attendance, your acts of mercy. These are all good things, but the answer isn’t within yourself or what you can do. The answer to your sinfulness and mine is found in no other… BUT GOD!

BUT GOT

You the Preacher

This past week I’ve had the pleasure of speaking on a youth camp for Sale Baptist Church.
During the week I was encouraged and also stirred in my own personal faith as I spoke with teenagers and their young adult leaders all desiring to live a life in pursuit of the person of Jesus.

In one of the conversations I had, a teenager asked me about the best advice I have received and would also share to people who have a desire to preach. Here is some of the things I shared with him:
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• Find your own voice and work on your craft

• Preach the person and work of Christ as both means and motive

• Preach the text not you own personal insight for living

• Keep Christ central in the preaching

• The text must transform us, before God lets us preach it

• Give them Jesus (a challenging question: If the sermon were to be true would Christ have to be crucified?)

• Preach the full council of God’s word, not just your emphasis

• Preach to both the head and heart

• Use the sermon to preach to the morally bad and the religious moralist

• When preaching from the Old Testament remember in doing so bridge it to the gospel.

• Interpret the text with a Missional hermeneutic

• Preach the story of God in the context surrounding it

• Enjoy yourself, and allow God to work through you

Many of the points have been things either Mike Gunn or Dr Allan Meyer have taught me both directly and indirectly.

I pray for you that in your preaching that you would make much of Jesus.

18 months out

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6 Months ago I made one of the biggest decisions of my life. My decision was responding to a compulsion, a drawing, some would even say ‘a Calling’ to return to pastoring and leading in a local church.

Pastoring is not unfamiliar territory for me, although the better part of the past 2 years I spent working at LightFM I’d previously worked in Pastoral roles at Careforce Church (soon to be Discovery) and also in planting Activate Church

In my 2 years out of the eyes of many, there are some things I learned and reflected on that I have Covenanted with God and myself to ensure I do (or in some cases don’t do) for the people I know have the privilege of Pastoring.

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1) Be more in love with Jesus than the work of ministry.

2) Don’t forget the needs of your wife and family! They need you too 🙂

3) Don’t disparage your predecessor (publicly or privately.)

4) Don’t make changes too quick – And when you do give the change time to change!

5) Don’t project your perceived problems of your previous church onto your new one.

6) Don’t expect or even dare compare your new congregation to a previous one.

7) Spend more quality time with people. They won’t give a rip about how ‘hot’ your preaching is if they can’t genuinely see you care about them.

8) Enjoy yourself… If Jesus enjoyed himself then surely so can you!

9) Be Yourself, not some poor imitation of your favourite conference speaker!

10) Take Advice – you will never know everything about everything!

11) Don’t bore people with long winded talks that are more about you wanting to share a story, your latest revelation or insight rather than you being of benefit to serving, inspire and encourage others.

12) Don’t worry about or even think on what kind of legacy you’ll leave on people. Rather be more concerned with loving people & helping them live for & love Jesus more. Aka get your eyes onto loving people more than how you want people to love you! This is about Jesus, not you.

So that’s what I’m asking God’s strength & grace to help me live out. What about for you in your life? Regardless of your career, faith belief or personality what are some things you’ve learnt in life that you’ve started to live out? Comment and share your wisdom!