I spent Tuesday at the Pine Valley United Methodist Church in Wilmington, NC, leading a workshop I have designed called Sermons That Pop & Series That Stick. About 60 pastors and lay speakers attended.
The group was engaged, complimentary, and, happily for me, in a buying mood — the picked up every available copy of all the Abingdon books with the exception of Crash Test Dummies — which they got for free, simply for signing up.
But what did they learn in this workshop that is admittedly heavy on information and light on interaction? There was no, “now have conversation around your tables about what you’re feeling right now.” Nope. Instead, in these workshops I offer up what has worked at Good Shepherd, where I’ve failed, what’s been accomplished, and how I need to keep growing. Folks are free to ask questions any time (and we opened a couple of cans of worms yesterday), but the format is more didactic than therapeutic.
Here’s some of what I am able to share ….
A sermon series is much more than a series of sermons. Sermon series instead have the ability to galvanize a congregation to make a radical impact on the community and the world.
The best sermon series combine cultural phrases with biblical books or motifs. For example, “Crash Test Dummies” (Judges), “Solutionists” (Nehemiah), “The Path Of Most Resistance” (selected), and “Love Handles” (also from selected passages).
Upcoming series ideas include “Eye Rollers” (Matthew 5), “A King’s Ransom” (Mark 9-16), and “Movers & Shakers” (various passages unless I change my mind.)
For individual sermons, I share …
Don’t walk people through a sermon outline; take them on a sermon journey.
If you want to be interesING when you talk about the bible, you first have to be interestED in the bible itself. That includes a moment each Sunday where the “joy of discovery” seeps out of you and into the congregation … where they get to see that you LOVE excavating the Scripture and celebrating its power.
The sermon journey lands at ONE POINT, the kind of memorably phrased, biblically faithful truth that can make an 11 year old girl write it on a sheet of paper and place it on top of her mom’s cell phone at night: “WHERE you start the day determines HOW you finish it.”
The one point in a one point sermon can be either
- Declarative: “What you tolerate today will dominate you tomorrow.”
- Imperative: “Surrender your impulses so you don’t surrender to them.”
- Inquisitive: “Who has to clean up after you?”
When delivering a message, engage with people, not paper. Almost ANYONE can preach without notes — the only person who will ever know if and when you lose your place is YOU!
Don’t ever preach without praying over both preparation and delivery.
I am grateful for the growing number of opportunities I am receiving these days to share this information.
And I’m especially grateful that my own Western North Carolina Conference is having me teach an elongated and intensified version this workshop to a group of emerging pastors eager to grow their skills. That “cohort” (eight month course) is called Simplify The Message; Multiply The Impact and you can find more about it here.