Hello wonderful friends! Here’s a seminar that I gave in San Jose, CA about the truths and myths of dating & relationships within both the church-culture & pop-culture. Stream below or download directly here.
Some things I talk about are: “The time I overheard a couple have their final knock-down drag-out fight, my absolutely favorite type of scene in the movies, what everyone really wants in the hospital, dating theology from Taylor Swift, when God looks at you through the ceiling, and Christianity according to a cologne sample.”
I also did a follow-up Q&A which you can stream below or download here.
So I’m speaking to my youth group this Wednesday (I’m 16 and this is the first time speaking at church) and I was just wondering if maybe you had any tips?
My friend, that is awesome. Woo!! Let’s first be grateful to God for this amazing opportunity that you’ve been given. You and I never earned the right to preach or teach, but were given this honor by the Creator of everything so that others might know Him, be loved by Him, and love Him in return. Please start there, in a place of humility, recognizing we are absolutely unworthy to teach others with our squishy tiny 3 lb. brains and our half-inch vocal cords, to other squishy fallen human beings from a wild variety of diverse back-stories — except by the grace of God.
I mean that’s really crazy, when you think about it. I’ve never gotten over that.
I don’t want to give you a formula or checklist because then you might be tempted to follow that instead of Jesus. So here just a few things to pray about and consider. You’re not obligated to any of these nor to memorize them, so simply reflect and go forth, my friend.
1) Love your people. This is obvious, but so very often I forget to love the people who are right in front of me. Sometimes I’m so quick to check off my awesome agenda of great sermon points, that I forget these are real hurting broken struggling people who care less about my intelligence and more about their maker. Every word and sentence and theme must be fashioned out of love for your people. Let your group know that this is a big deal for you and that you’re available outside of preaching time. If they know you care about them, they’ll remember that more than the message.
2) You be you. My initial problem in preaching was imitation. When I first started, I listened to a lot of James MacDonald, who is a fiery aggressive preacher with a booming voice and roughly twenty points in every sermon. I even took on some of his tone and inflections. Soon I learned, I wasn’t good at preaching like this. My strengths were not a booming voice and twenty-point messages. If you’re not naturally funny, you don’t have to try. If you’re loud, use that to your advantage. Be comfortable with how God has made you. Part of trusting God is trusting how He made you to be you in the world. Let yourself out to play.
There are things we hear in the pulpit that sound uber-deeply complex, but like a time travel movie, the more we think about it, the more likely our heads will explode from sheer absurdity. Here are some incomplete half-truths we hear in church that need more nuance. Let’s be thoughtful.
John 4. Lake Yale Retreat 2012. Part 1 of 4. Our infinite thirst; the infinite God. “When my dad nearly killed a dude with a samurai sword, your three options when a gun is pulled on your head, the crying kid at VBS, and when a pug explodes from overeating.” 7-2-12
Isaiah 53. Lake Yale Retreat 2012. Part 2 of 4. Freedom from ourselves. “The hopes and dreams of our brother Kyle, having your name in the ‘Acknowledgements’ of a book, ordering the steak with a side of lobster, the threats we yell out the car window, and biblical lessons from The Avengers.” 7-3-12
Mark 2, 10, John 8. Lake Yale Retreat 2012. Part 3 of 4. Why do we follow God? “When the preacher tells you not to be like that filthy pagan loser Bill, if Jesus and the Pharisees had a freestyle battle, if my future-wife gained 250 lbs, the Laotians questioning Jesus stilling the storm, and Before-Jesus/After-Jesus.” 7-4-12
Acts 2:42-47. Lake Yale Retreat 2012. Part 4 of 4. Honesty and compassion. “How the church is a bunch of jagged deformed rocks, why calling out hypocrites is hypocrisy, trying not to flinch when someone unloads a crazy confession, and brotherhood in the ghetto versus the church.” 7-4-12
Philippians 3. Taking hold of God’s Call. “The gracious God who will jackslap you upside your head, why I feel sorry for good-looking people, trading in your bike for a Dodge Viper, and our lives a billion years from now.” 4-6-12
At church on Sunday, I preached on why we should forgive. After service, we wrote the names of those we wanted to forgive, wrote down the debt we thought they owed us, and put those notes in a wooden cigar box. We poured lighter fluid on it and burned it out back.
As a wise man once said, “Unforgiveness is like drinking poison and hoping it kills the other guy.”
“A lot of times when we think about sin, we think sin is when we do those things that God prohibits. … There’s also another way to sin. It’s the sin of omission. And that’s when God says, ‘I want you to do this’ and we don’t do it … When God goes, ‘Not only are these things prohibited, but here’s where I’ve called you to walk.’ “
“What many of us need to repent of is a cold, pragmatic heart that loves ministry and barely loves the King of Glory. … When I read the Bible, all I see in there is men who are tormented … There’s this angst and pain in men of God where their glory, their excitement, their fervor is not in the acts that God has allowed them to do, but in God Himself. … There’s this angst, this awe, this weird holy pain where it appears they want to scream, cry, and laugh all at the same time.
But that seems foreign to me. And what I mean is, I just don’t hear much about God being taught this way anymore. It seems like everything’s built on pragmatism. A plus B equals C. If you want C, do A, do B, you’ll get C. Here’s what “we do.” It’s going well there, let me do what they do. … I’m not saying planning is wrong. But where is that man whose heart is aflame for God, that God is enough?”
Like a soldier’s manual in the heat of battle, Speaking To Teenagers is a resource for both the newly graduated seminarian and the burnt out veteran. It might have better been called Speaking Well since it delivers such practical wisdom for preachers who were taught all exegesis and no communication. While overly pragmatic in spots, this will help to unlock much of the preacher’s block.
Doug Fields, pastor of Saddleback Church, and Duffy Robbins, a professor of youth ministry, dive into the daunting topic of communicating to the youth. Though they write as one voice, it can be easy to tell who is speaking: Doug offers the relational tips and Duffy is more systematic, detailed, and doctrinal. Using a method called S.T.I.C.K., their methodology pulls from both traditional and contemporary teaching, pulling the best of both worlds. Mostly this works and at times it does not.
“Unless you attend a church led by of one of the celebrated preachers of our day, you most likely have faced a similar situation. Either at a conference or on the internet, you have heard exceptional preaching, but each Sunday you’re back in your simple little home church that hardly anybody beyond your town knows about, with its ‘nobody’ of a pastor who will probably never preach to thousands.
What if your gospel-preaching pastor is not as good as one of the great orators of our day? Is it time to sell the house, pack up the family, and change churches? No, I don’t think so. But what should you do?”
“Even if you’ve been coming for years or grew up in the church or whatever else, I have this fear that some of you, or possibly many, many of you — are going to hell. It keeps me up at night. … Do you understand the reality of what I said? I’m talking about hell. Have you heard that word so many times that you’ve just grown numb to it? Eternal punishment. So what in the world am I doing up here then? And again, I sure hope you don’t see this as, ‘Oh Francis is up there judging the congregation saying he’s saved’ — I’m not saying that. I’m saying I’m willing to bet some of you would leave this room and say it about yourself, that you are lukewarm — meaning you’ll be spit out of the mouth of God and cast into the fires of hell. That’s all I’m saying, is what you would say about yourself. And it blows me away that some of you won’t do anything.”
“So if God is ultimately about God, if God is after the praise of His glorious grace, then God is ferociously about your joy in Him.
So then, the Law of God is good. The commands of God are good. When He says, “This is marriage,” He’s not trying to take from you, but rather give to you. We’ve got to get out of our mind as Christians that we’re in this kind of moral cage, but at least we’ve got heaven. Because that’s not reality.
The teachings of God on sex, money, family and all of those things are not God robbing from you, but rather Him leading you into ever-increasing joy. Why? For the praise of His glorious grace. And the apex of God’s plan to bring glory to His name is in the coming of Jesus Christ. The pinnacle of God’s glory is seen as God puts on flesh and blood and saves sinners.”
From one of my favorite preachers, Dr. James MacDonald.
Note to pastors: Ministry is downright, flat-out, straight up hard. It’s not at all glamorous and glitzy like the megachurch rockstars have you believe. You might aspire to be the next best author or have the next hit website, and while that’s fine, those are not the biblical models of sacrifice amidst persecution. Aspire to be the pastor who stays with his people for forty years, persevering week in and week out under the crucible of ministering to one home. God might call you to leave when it’s time, but He doesn’t call you to quit when it’s tough. Press on.
We need more love-building-up here on these blogs. Speaking boldly is wonderful, but boldness by itself is just mean. With internet it’s easy to flex, I know: which is more reason to watch the tongue, not less. So much of our rebuke and conviction is done with a motive of macho-doctrine credibility and flesh-fed ego. God’s church must be in the business of restoring. Many of my friends don’t go to church because of our “boldness.” We’re obviously not here to impress them, but dang, Jesus was bold and loving too.
Phil 2:1-18. The lies we buy. 2 of 4. “The most opportunistic generation for selfishness, having Chick-Fil-A withdrawal, and a dance floor where everybody’s doing the robot by themselves.” Dec. 20, 2011
Romans 8. Absolute love and authority. 3 of 4.”The bizarre world of X-Factor, the creepy girl who idolized me, in the passenger seat of life, and what it’s like to be the worst preacher in the history of preaching.” Dec. 20, 2011
1 Kings 2:1-4. Joy and pain with God. 4 of 4. “The wonderfully weird life of David, the secret sinful lives of our Bible heroes, the Starfox barrel roll, how sin makes you stupid, and the abusive love of parents.” Dec. 21, 2011
A four minute sermon illustration about how a saturation with the Word of God creates a second nature reflex of godliness.
This is about my pastor and mentor Reverend Paul Kim, who I became so close with that I eventually began to think like him and act like him. In the same way, intimacy with Jesus and the Word creates a Christ-likeness as a natural reflex in cooperation with the Spirit.
From the Catalyst Conference in Atlanta FL. With audio clips of Francis Chan and Mark Driscoll, plus highlights of Lecrae, David Platt, Jon Acuff, and Andy Stanley. Plus the LoveLife Conference with Mark Driscoll.
Just got out of Catalyst 2011. There were 13,000 people worshiping at the Gwinnett Center in Atlanta!
It was an incredible event with a timely theme: Be Present. Particularly in our most distracted generation ever, this was needed.
I was most convicted by Francis Chan and David Platt, who are always amazing. Mark Driscoll preached an encouraging message about “fear not” and Andy Stanley gave the goods on practical leadership, his speciality.
I’ll be updating the podcast soon including a clip from Francis Chan preaching at Catalyst. I’ll also share thoughts on the megachurches I’ve visited during my break.
If you’ve been to a Bible-preaching church long enough, you’ll know: the Gospel is offensive. It’s not the message everyone is looking for, but is the truth that everyone needs. And it stings. No one likes being told they’re depraved, no one likes hearing about a high authority, no one likes to see a bloody God on a dirty cross. Most people are comfortable with the religion of relaxation or the religion of no religion which masquerades as reason. No one likes the exposing power of a blood-drenched crucifixion.
So preachers, of course, feel the need to give the Gospel a beauty treatment. A make-over. Water it down, sugarcoat it, new wrapping, and people will listen. You know the drill: we’ll do wild gymnastics to make the Gospel look as pretty as possible. Even the best preachers dress up the cross without meaning to. You can intellectualize it to death – Jesus destroyed cosmic evil! – you can play the emotional angle – someone died for you! – and you can romanticize it – he gives you a new start! Or simply because we are simple, we leave out some of the elements. It can be difficult to paint the complete portrait of Jesus’ mission, even when we sit down to really consider all its implications.
So then we always need a healthy reminder of what Paul said here, that pastors would only preach Christ and him crucified. And preach him resurrected. The church must know the offensive — and freeing — truth.
Here are four ways we can lose the Gospel. By no means is this comprehensive, but really just an ongoing conversation. The following is the bare minimum.