In 1932, the University of Southern California started stenciling “Property of USC” on athletic t-shirts for the purpose of preventing theft. Their anti-theft strategy backfired when the stenciled attire became more popular than the original unstenciled t-shirts. USC turned this problem into a profit by producing and selling “Property of USC” shirts to students. Today, … Continued
In his classic book, Lectures To My Students, Charles Spurgeon wrote, “Scarcely one man in a dozen in the pulpit talks like a man.” This is a problem all too common today. Some preachers feel inclined to take certain routes in their sermon preparation, leaving them to be very unnatural in their delivery, as if … Continued
What is it like to read your Bible and pray on the International Space Station (ISS)? Implied in the question is the notion that Bible reading and prayer are somehow enhanced given the vantage point. There certainly is an acute awareness and appreciation of God’s creative and providential work given the literal “worldview,” and … Continued
Discipleship programs. Discipleship pastors. Discipleship pressure. So much talk about discipleship in the church today. And rightly so. Following Jesus means obeying the Great Commission, with its command to make disciples of all the nations. But what does that mean? And how do we do it? In a few other posts I’ve answered what it … Continued
Jesus gave the Great Commission to his church almost 2,000 years ago. He clearly instructed us to make disciples in every people group, to baptize them, and to teach them to obey everything he has commanded. After all these years, more than half of the world’s people groups remain unreached, representing more than one-third of … Continued
The church should never stray far from its historical faith. Still, between sermon prep, home visits, weddings, and other commitments, the average pastor often struggles to find time to read church history. Following are three reasons pastors should do so—for the good of their churches and their own souls.
It has been estimated that the average human being utters between 10,000 and 20,000 words per day. Consider that fact in light of Solomon’s words in Proverbs 10:19: “When words are many, transgression is not lacking, but whoever restrains his lips is prudent.” If the average person speaks between 10,000 and 20,000 words each day, then we are looking at 10,000 to 20,000 opportunities to sin.
Moving back to the states for missionaries can be jarring. Reverse culture shock is real. Everything feels new, from HOA rules to driving etiquette to homeschool regulation. But the one thing we could wish would be familiar, even easy—with a measure of comfort in a homey sort of way—is attending church. Unfortunately, that’s not always the case.
In my own experience I’ve recently returned from the Middle East to find the American church to be almost an entirely distinct species. It might be the culture shock talking, but sometimes it seems that we have about as much in common with the people next to us in the pew as penguins do with robins. And I’m guessing that I’m not the only missionary to feel this way.
No one denies that a preaching class and some coaching can help anyone become better. What we question is the possibility that someone with no natural giftedness and ability can be taught well enough that he can become really good.
On the first day of the semester, or the first time I hear a student preach, I have no way of knowing if he has what it takes or is willing to do what he must to be the preacher he needs to be, but I can usually tell by the second sermon if he does, because that is when he has to act on what I told him after his first sermon.
What makes the difference?
Few weeks go by without someone reminding pastors that 85 percent to 90 percent of churches are plateaued or declining. This means at least four out of five pastors lead churches in need of revitalization. The work is difficult. For every story of a declining church that turned around and began to reach its community, there are hundreds of stories of pastors working hard but seeing few visible results. If this is your situation, consider these encouragements to continue laboring in a situation where the fruit is not visible.