Friday, January 25, 2008

Andy Stanley's 3 keys for Sermoneering

Years ago, Andy Stanley spoke at the C3 conference at Fellowship Church and while I did not attend, I did order the CD's and these three rules for delivering messages have changed the way that we think about sermoneering. I looked for it on the internet, and could not find the outline, so I thought I would post these three key questions we must ask before making any presentation.

1. Is the context appealing
Much has been said recently about contexualization and the need for us to understand that not every program or presentation is universally accepted or for that manner effective. If we are to be missional in our approach, we have to ask ourselves the context question. Is the context in which we plan to speak aiding or detracting for the listener's ability to receive the message. Everything from strange sounds and odors to dirty floors and burned out light bulbs can all detract from our message getting across. Our dress, the use of multimedia all come into play. Is the context appealing for my listener. It too must be mentioned that the context may change as the listener changes. It is also important to note that context does not mean good or bad. The context of Chuck-E-Cheese is a great context for a 5 year old's birthday party and a hospital is a great context for a sick person but neither are great environments for the other. Before we go to speak, we must ask ourselves if the context is appealing.

2. Is the presentation engaging
The first book on preaching taught that attention is something you pay. We need as communicators to understand that it costs our listeners (and readers) time and effort, and if we begin the habit of wasting their time they will begin the habit of going elsewhere. Every message of Christ was engaging, it grabbed the attention of the listeners and left them wanting more, not realizing where the time went. It is a sin to take the most interesting book in history and proceed to bore people with it, but unfortunately we often do. To fight this we must tell stories and interact with the crowd as often as possible. We live in a narrative society and stories engage.

3. Is the content helpful

Andy says in his talk that comedians are engaging, but they are not helpful. Comedians have trained themselves to ride the wave of the crowd and know when it is time to go deeper and when to move on. And although very engaging, comedy is not helpful. Our task as communicators of God's word is to engage the crowd in a conversation that will in the end help them to take spiritual steps. We must always look at it from the critic's phrase "so what's your point!" A great environment and engaging delivery are only as good as the content is helpful.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

The Parable of Rich and Rob

Rich and Rob were homeless. One day while looking through the dumpster behind the 7-Eleven, they discovered an unused lottery ticket. They agreed to split the winnings if there were any and began to scratch away with their dirty fingernails. In fact the prize they won was unlike any they had even dreamed of. “You have won a dream trip for two on the Royal Caribbean Navigator of the seas.” It included details of all the ports of call such as the Cayman Islands, Key West, and Cozumel. But this was no ordinary cruise, they both also would receive a Visa Onyx, a no credit limit card that would allow them to buy any and everything they could ever dream of. The only stipulation was that they had to board with nothing and at the end of the trip leave with only the shirts on their backs. The men were overjoyed and they quickly made their way to the claims office and then to the port to board the ship.

The ship was unlike anything that either of them had ever seen or ever would see, but for two weeks they were no longer homeless, they were kings. Rich and Rob went straight to the shopping deck and purchased new clothes, toiletries, and cologne. The Visa Onyx worked like a charm and they quickly became comfortable in the latest fashion. Then they were off to their cabins for a shower and dinner. Over dinner they laughed over their good fortune and talked about their plans for the two weeks. They read carefully again the rules, and the ports of call. They made plans to not tie one another down, but would undoubtedly meet along the way, and then again at the end to help each other leave with their best “shirt on their back” as the rules stated.

After dinner Rob headed off to one of the many clubs on board ship before hitting the casino. I know it seems foolish for him to gamble as he already had all the money he could need and was not able to take it with him, but this was a once in a lifetime event and soon he got caught up in the excitement and attention that comes with being a high roller. It was easy to forget his life back on the streets and assume this new persona. He was in no unmistakable terms, the life of every party.

Rich on the other hand left dinner very differently. The fact that he only had two weeks to “live” as one would call it gnawed at him to the point that he could not enjoy the thought and get lost in it as Rob seemed to have done. Then as if he had convinced himself to begin his journey he was off. Rather than going to the clubs, Rich went to the all the little shops and stores on board ship buying jewelry and taking it back to his cabin. He seemed to become obsessed with the gold and silver chains and every time that Rich and Rob would pass on board, Rob would be holding an umbrella drink with ladies on each arm, and Rich would be carrying gold chains. Rob became concerned for his friend and would invite him to join the party, but Rich looked on like a man possessed. Rob too had thought of the idea of sleeping on a bed of cash, or diving into a pile of gold like Scrooge McDuck, but thee purpose of money was to buy happiness and he was not going to confuse the two.

Day after day passed and Rob had developed quite the tan. He had gotten his teeth whitened and massages. He spent most days by the pool or on the beaches, and most nights he would stay late in the clubs. Rich on the other had would spend entire days in port going from store to store, carrying as many gold necklaces as he could back to his cabin. Rob was concerned for Rich, but was not about to was a moment on intervention. Why should he give up his vacation if his friend wanted to waste his. One night near the end of the trip as he was going to Club Fever he stopped by Rich’s room to see if his old friend would join him. But Rich seemed stressed and it was fairly evident that Rich had not been out much as there was room service trays for several meals sitting by the door. Rich made some excuse about having something he must do, and Rob knew that Rich really wanted to stay in his room running gold chains through his fingers. For he had seen that Rich’s fingers were raw and bloodied.

The next morning, if you can call it morning it was closer to noon Rob got up and made his way towards the sun deck and perhaps a massage as this had become his routine. While passing the shops it was a bit funny that there was no jewelry to be seen. His friend had virtually stowed it all in his cabin. It was funny to him as he thought of the foolishness of Rob, but it became disturbing as he then caught a glimpse of Rich going from passenger to passenger and offering them money for their personal jewelry. Amazing, simply amazing Rob thought.

The day finally came for them to arrive and Rob although a bit depressed knew that he had gotten everything possible out of that little lottery ticket. He had given it all the gusto, as they say and had no regrets. No regrets except for Rich, who seemed to have wasted his whole trip staying in his cabin with gold necklaces. He went to the closet to pick out the dubious shirt for his back and decided on a Tommy Bahama Shirt that he bought in Kingsport. It seemed a good little reminder of his time on board, although it looked a little out of place with his worn out jeans and dirt tennis shoes. He made a stop by the cabana for one more umbrella drink and waited for the last call to exit the ship.

The horn sounded and men in whites directed him to exit and so his trip came to an end. Standing on the dock he noticed a great commotion on board the ship. People were straining to see what was taking place but Rob knew that it was undoubtedly Rich being dragged from his cave of gold and tossed back on the streets. But, the sounds were not that of anger and fighting, they were gasps of astonishment as person after person saw what Rob was yet not able to see. Then as Rich turned the corner and made his way down the gang plank, he saw it and his heart sunk. Perspective came rushing over him and all of Rich’s odd behavior now made perfect sense. And not just perfect, so perfect that he was quickly ashamed of how stupid he had been for there walking down the plank was Rich in the most gaudy and opulent coat of mail made of pure gold necklaces interwoven together and studded with diamonds. His fingers bloodied with the hours of labor, but his face aglow, Rich walked off the ship with only the shirt on his back.

Rich had read the instructions, he had learned an invaluable truth and it changed everything. Jesus said in Matthew 6:19 & 20 19“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; 20but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven” We are all on similar journeys to Rich and Rob’s. One day we will all be escorted from this life into the next. How will you spend your remaining days? Will you be Rob or will you be Rich?

Wednesday, January 23, 2008


One of the most valuable things in our church is the power of "WE." I think most churches have experienced the frustration of finding small group Bible Study material that is not only scriptural and helpful, but relevant to the DNA of that particular church. Most material out in church world is denominationally driven or written for a specific church and then marketed to the masses. As with most mass produced items, much is lost in flavor and nutrient. "WE" have been writing our own Adult Bible Studies for several years and today we will be taking another step in the development process. A team of our Bible Fellowship Leaders will begin meeting each week to collaborate on the discussions. Our goal is to create discussions that will give us opportunity for iron to sharpen iron and to teach our people to go to God's Word to for relevant answers to today's biggest questions.

Monday, January 21, 2008

The Space Trilogy

For all you Narnia lovers out there, May 16th is coming. When the last movie came out I downloaded a PDF of the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and read it with my kids. It was a spoiler I know, but it helped them to enjoy the symbolism and really taught them a lot about art and I plan on doing it again with Prince Caspian. But for those of you who want more, C.S. Lewis has also written a space trilogy. A little sci-fi, and a whole lot of the spiritual symbolism that we have come to love and expect. I am in the second book called Perelandria now and it really is opening my eyes to some deep thoughts to how our enemy attacks us.