Church Planting, Leadership, Pastors, Sermon Illustrations, Uncategorized

Why Women are Invited to Serve in Leadership at One Church

Shhh Women

One Church invites women to serve in church leadership, including serving on the church board and preaching sermons.

This is not liberal.

It is normal.

I’m not a radical feminist. The truth is, I don’t crusade for issues of the day, and I don’t make political statements publicly. Enough churches do that. It’s just that I’m a member of mainstream society on this issue.
Here is a link to a sermon I gave entitled “God’s Daughters.”The church I pastor, One Church, is a mainstream, nondenominational church that highly values the Bible. However, we value the whole Bible, not just the two verses that seem to prohibit women from leading or speaking in public. We are also interested in what the other verses say about the role of women.

Half of the churches in 2013 America, however, do not allow women to serve in any position of “authority” over men. Don’t believe me? As an interesting test, visit the websites of churches in your area. If the website lists members of the “Elder Board” (the governing board of the church) look at their names. Notice that the names are all male names. Why is this?

It’s not an accident.

Some churches attempt to hide their theology that women cannot serve in church leadership. The pastor of a large church in my area claims to be passionate about opposing injustices toward women. Yet, he holds to this same theology that women cannot have “authority” over men. For example, the “Elder Board” of his church consists of only males. Intelligent people have no problem seeing through the veil.

My wife is a schoolteacher who was raised in a pastor’s home and possesses great knowledge of the Bible. She is perfectly capable of preaching sermons. My sister is a lawyer. She could argue a case in front of the Supreme Court, but she can’t preach in half of the churches in America. In 2013, this is just odd.

Margaret Thatcher, a staunch conservative, served as Prime Minister of Great Britain in the 1980s and was a close friend of Ronald Reagan. Both Sarah Palin and Hillary Clinton have had massive influences in politics.

Allowing women to serve in leadership is not liberal.

It is normal.

The theology of Complementarianism is an oddity in 21st century America. People who hold to the view that women have no place in church leadership form a small Christian subculture that has already been left behind by mainstream American society.

Some people might think that a male pastor who supports women in church leadership has given up his “man card.” Here’s my answer to that. My wife and I may have a daughter someday.

I want my daughter to have all of the opportunities that life can afford her. I want her to know that she fulfill her dreams and that there is nothing off limits to her because she happened to be born a certain gender.

In other words, I’m man enough to stick up for my daughter.

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Church Planting, Leadership, Pastors, Preaching

TXT: Controversial Messages of the Bible

In October, One Church is beginning a new sermon series entitled TXT: Controversial Messages of the Bible. We’ll explore four of the most provocative messages in the Bible:

Week 1 | How was the Bible was Written and Formed?

Week 2 | Does the Bible Condone Violence (ex. the Canaanite Genocide)?

Week 3 | What does the Bible teach about Slavery and Sexuality?

Week 4 | Did Jesus Really Claim to be the Son of God?

One Church is committed to be a church where questions and doubts are welcome. We’re not afraid to address the most difficult subjects for American churches. It is a guarantee that some people will leave the church, but addressing difficult subjects will bring more people who appreciate the church’s approach.

On week three, I will address the topic of Christians and homosexuality. This will require sensitivity and a calm, reasonable tone.

Click for more info about the sermon series here. You can also watch or listen to sermons anytime at onechurch.com.

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Church Planting, Pastors, Uncategorized

Church Planting Tips- Continually Improve Your Preaching

I think one of the biggest reasons that church plants fail is inadequate preaching.

The truth is, there is no excuse for being a subpar preacher. There are just too many resources out there on how to improve your sermons and delivery. And there are too many great preachers out there to learn from.

Need more motivation? The people in your church who have been believers for awhile know this too. They’ve heard great preachers. They know what’s possible, and they know when you’re not improving. Notice that I said, “improving,” not “perfection.” Even if our sermons don’t stack up to Andy Stanley’s, Rob Bell’s, etc., we can at least learn from them and get better.

Plus, pastors pay a price for less than adequate preaching. If you preach well, everything in your church will improve. The attendance will improve. Giving will improve. Volunteering will improve. Momentum will improve, and your task as a leader and vision caster will become easier. Continually improving as a preacher makes everything else in pastoral ministry a little easier.

I’m passionate about continually becoming a better preacher, so I’ve compiled a pretty good list of resources. Here is a list of blog posts over the last couple of years about improving your preaching, including a post entitled, “Preach like Mitch Hedberg.” You know you wanna read it:

https://ryangear.com/2011/10/11/the-emotional-movements-of-an-engaging-sermon/

https://ryangear.com/2011/01/03/tony-morgans-10-keys-to-better-sermon-series-planning/

https://ryangear.com/2010/12/26/adam-hamilton-sermons-3-things/

https://ryangear.com/2010/12/07/sermon-writers-block/

https://ryangear.com/2010/11/08/preaching-and-leadership-websites/

https://ryangear.com/2010/09/16/poets-prophets-preachers/

https://ryangear.com/2010/09/17/help-for-pre-sermon-jitters/

https://ryangear.com/2010/09/13/sermon-delivery-tips-ii-repost/

https://ryangear.com/2010/02/28/sermon-delivery-tips/

https://ryangear.com/2010/09/08/preaching-sermons-people-remember/

https://ryangear.com/2010/09/01/preach-like-steve-jobs/

https://ryangear.com/2010/02/28/sermon-writing-tips/

https://ryangear.com/2010/03/03/narrative-sermons/

https://ryangear.com/2011/12/27/preach-like-mitch-hedberg/

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Pastors, Preaching, Uncategorized

Preach like Mitch Hedberg

Preach like Mitch Hedberg? Yes… except for the getting high part. Don’t use illegal drugs before you preach, even if you know that third sermon point makes no sense.

Mitch Hedberg is a great example of how it doesn’t take much time out of your sermon to be funny and how even hilarious comedians plan their jokes ahead of time.

You can build comic relief into your sermon without making the sermon too long. Mitch Hedberg could make people laugh with one sentence. He also planned his jokes well, and I believe that anyone can be funny with some planning. Even pro comedians work hard at being funny before they ever hit the stage.

People Need to Laugh

Recently, a pastor somberly told me that he doesn’t like it when pastors use humor in their sermons because a sermon is too sacred to be funny.

I laughed hard. Then, I realized he was serious. Ironically, he was hilarious without knowing it. I thought to myself, “Good luck finding one person in your congregation who agrees with you, but you’re a natural deadpan comedian.”

You could make an argument that the greatest need your congregation has on Sunday mornings is to laugh. A substantial percentage of any congregation listening to your sermon has been beaten down by life during the past week. Even those who have great lives are probably at least worn down by the time Sunday rolls around.

Of course, the congregation needs to experience God on a Sunday morning, and I believe that people want to experience God when they enter the worship space. I also think they assume that will include helping them get back to what life is all about.

Like nothing else, humor has a way of cutting through all of the muddy emotions that build up throughout a week and revealing “the real us” underneath. After laughing, we feel more like ourselves. We’re more in touch with life. It’s cartharsis. Then, we’re more open to challenge, to change, to experiencing God.

Humor is Easy if Planned Well

Humor is too easy to not use it (if you plan it in advance). Humor is everywhere. It just takes some time and forethought to plan to use it in your sermon correctly. You can tell a funny story about something that happened that week or use self-deprecating humor, irony, comparsion, observational comedy about the absurd, an unexpected turn of a phrase, a funny photo or video, etc. Humor is all about surprise and irony. Avoid using canned humor (ex. email forwards) if possible. Instead, develop your ability to see the humor in your own daily experience and to communicate it.

Humor Makes Your Sermon More Effective

Humor also makes your sermon more emotionally effective. Laughing helps the congregation to relax between the serious points of the sermon and be ready for the next point. Imagine watching a movie that has no comic relief (the last Indian Jones movie, for example). It is unbearably draining. You want your money back… and we can’t afford for people to take their $1 back out of the offering plate (just kidding, big givers)!

A laugh gives the congregation a break from digesting heavy material. So, using humor approprately in the beginning, middle, and end of your sermon gives the congregation a chance to relax, and it also opens them to the next point you will make.

Joy is a fruit of the Spirit

Beyond that, here is the most important reason to use humor in your sermon: Joy is a fruit of the Spirit, right? I’m willing to state that joy includes some laughter now and then. If joy is the norm of following Jesus, then sermons should include at least a little bit of laughter.

In fact, if you don’t consider yourself a “funny” person, I have to ask you a question. Do you have joy? If you don’t experience joy on a daily basis, then a deeper problem has been revealed. Joy includes seeing the humor in life and joking every once in awhile.

So, if you don’t think you can be funny, or at least be funny without adding lots of time to your sermon, check out Mitch Hedberg, the contemporary king of one-liners. Without further ado, ladies and gentleman, I present to you, Mitch Hedberg…

A waffle is like a pancake with a syrup trap.

A lollipop is a cross between hard candy and garbage.

An escalator can never break: it can only become stairs. You should never see an “Escalator Temporarily Out Of Order” sign, just “Escalator Temporarily Stairs.” Sorry for the convenience.

Dogs are forever in the push up postion.

Every book is a children’s book if the kid can read!

Every time I go and shave, I assume there’s someone else on the planet shaving. So I say, ‘I’m gonna go shave, too.’

Fettucini alfredo is macaroni and cheese for adults.

I bought a seven-dollar pen because I always lose pens and I got sick of not caring.

I don’t have a girlfriend. But I do know a woman who’d be mad at me for saying that.

I had a stick of CareFree gum, but it didn’t work. I felt pretty good while I was blowing that bubble, but as soon as the gum lost its flavor, I was back to pondering my mortality.

I haven’t slept for ten days, because that would be too long.

I like Kit-Kats, unless I’m with four or more people.

I like refried beans. That’s why I wanna try fried beans, because maybe they’re just as good and we’re just wasting time. You don’t have to fry them again after all.

I like to hold the microphone cord like this, I pinch it together, then I let it go, then you hear a whole bunch of jokes at once.

I love blackjack. But I’m not addicted to gambling. I’m addicted to sitting in a semi circle.

I once saw a forklift lift a crate of forks. And it was way to literal for me.

I think foosball is a combination of soccer and shish kabobs.

I used to be a hot-tar roofer. Yeah, I remember that… day.

I want to get a vending machine, with fun-sized candy bars, and the glass in front is a magnifying glass. You’ll be mad, but it will be too late.

Read more: http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/authors/m/mitch_hedberg_2.html#ixzz1hOB8k4Q5

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Pastors, Preaching

The Emotional Movements of an Engaging Narrative Sermon

(You can click on the image to enlarge it.)

This post is obviously for people who preach or teach.

How do the various parts of your sermon affect people emotionally?

How does the congregation you serve feel at the end of your sermon? Are they motivated to follow Jesus more closely? Are they uplifted, given hope? Do they feel like coming back next week? Do they head straight for a bar to make themselves feel better?

Every sermon produces an emotional reaction in those who experience it.

Are you aware of how each part of your sermon affects the congregation- when they feel a sense of heaviness, when they feel uplifted, when they feel angry, tired, impatient, embarrassed, apprehensive, expectant, relieved, excited, joyful?

Are you intentional about what emotion each element of your sermon produces?

Narrative sermons engage the emotions on purpose. This is not emotional manipulation. It is simply the result of involving the congregation in a drama, and experiencing emotions is a continual and normal aspect of human life. The congregation you serve experiences emotions while you preach, regardless of whether you are intentional about it or not. 

A narrative sermon moves forward like the plot of a movie, novel, or any story. In other words, it employs the elements of drama. In doing so, it engages both the intellect and emotions of those who experience the sermon.

My bias is that I believe sermons should end “up”, as an uplifting experience. I believe this because the Gospel is good news, and therefore, results in joy. A great sermon also eplores and feels the deep pain and suffering that is part of the human experience, but God’s redemptive purpose in creation ultimately has a happy ending. I believe that every sermon should send the congregation out with that expectant joy and hope.

This past Sunday, I succeeded at this movement in the 8:00 and 9:30 services but not at 11:00. At 11:00, I left off the comic relief at the end, so the sermon ended more down than it should have. I could feel it, and it was painful to me. I know that the congregation felt it too.

Next time, I’ll be more intentional about guaging the emotions that my sermon is producing in the congregation as I preach it and make corrections to make sure that I end “up.”.

For more on narrative sermons, check out my blog post https://ryangear.com/2010/03/03/narrative-sermons/.

Also see https://ryangear.com/2010/09/08/preaching-sermons-people-remember/.

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My Sermons, Sermons and Sermon Series Ideas

The Making of the “Great Fish”

http://vimeo.com/28963537

This is the “Great Fish”, minus eyes added later.

The “Great Fish” graced the platform during my teaching, “Are Bible Stories like Noah and the Ark and Jonah and the Fish Really True?” It was the first week of a sermon series entitled iDoubt: Questions about Faith.

Read more about iDoubt here.

In July, I asked the congregation, “If you could ask God one question, what would it be?” 115 people in the congregation submitted a question about faith, and the four most common questions became the four sermon titles in September 2011.

By the way, the September 11 title was, “Why Does God Allow Suffering?”, a fitting question on the tenth anniversary of 9/11.

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Preaching, Uncategorized

Critiquing my Own Preaching Style

Some people view critique and feedback negatively. Others think that if someone critiques their own performance, they’re insecure or a novice.

I’ve been preaching since I was 16 years old. My first sermon was in November of 1993, almost 18 years ago. That first year, from 16 to 17 years old, I preached 52 times.

I still critique my sermons, because I have a driving commitment to continually improve my speaking. I listened to a sermon I gave a couple of weeks ago from Acts 2 entitled “Spirit and Mission.” 

I critique my own preaching every time I speak, but this time was awkward for me. I thought that I had made improvements in the following areas, but I made more mistakes in these areas than I wanted to:

  • Eliminate extraneous sounds like “um”, uh”, “you know”, “right?”
  • Speak in full clear sentences, not in choppy repetitive phrases. Speak in full thoughts. Don’t be choppy or cavalier.
  • Relax and vary voice inflection more. Ironically, I think that if I relax, my voice pitch will naturally become more interesting.
  • Hold a Bible occasionally, so that the congregation can “see” an open Bible and be reminded of the importance of the Bible. Don’t rely on Scripture printed only on paper or on the projection screen.

I’m going to be working on improving these areas in my next sermon.

Putting insecurity aside, what do you need to improve in your job performance?

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