I had a great meeting with John our other teaching Pastor, and we finalized our preaching calendar for the first 1/2 of 2007. It’s great feeling to know where you’re going. I usually work ahead, but I was challenged to put together a calendar and I’m do glad I did.
I’ve been praying and thinking about this for the last couple of months, so it’s nice to see it all on paper. I see a nice mix of topical and exposition. I’m looking forward to our January series that will cover a couple of minor prophets (Does anyone else have a problem with that title: minor prophets?). If you get a book in the Bible, you’re major leagues in my book!
We’re ending our Spotlight series on Sunday. Studying Colossians has been great. If nothing else, I know that I’ve grown in the process. A few messages really struck some chords: Lie detector, unwrapped, and iFamily in particular. You can get all of those messages on the podcast or here.
Next Sunday we start a new series: Retro Christmas. I’ll share all the details on that next week. But I will say that this is the first Christmas series I’ve ever been excited to teach. I usually hate holiday-type series. I’ve never studied more for 3 Christmas messages than I am now.
This link from the Catalyst blog really got me thinking today about how we as Pastors should teach. The number of movies with morally uplifting content have become the more popular films over the last seven years and are increasing in popularity with each passing year.
What does this tell me? It tells me that people need hope. People need to be uplifted. People need reality, but to know that there’s a solution to the problem. I hear too many messages (and unfortunately taught too many) that just make people feel like crap. There’s something to that whole “Speak the truth in love” idea…
We continued our Spotlight series this morning and evening and I used 4 Bibles as a prop to talk about my own spiritual journey. I brought the 4 Bibles that I have used over the last 13 years.
The KJV Hebrew-Greek Study Bible - My brother gave me this right after I prayed to ask Jesus into my life. I hadn’t opened it in years but I found a flyer that had some course selections for the Bible College I ended up attending and later running.
NKJV personal Study Bible - The Bible I used all throughout Bible College. It had so many notes it was crazy. I learned so much with that Bible in my hand. The first time I ever spoke in front of people was with that Bible.
NKJV John McArthur Edition (The Calvinists cheer!) – I got this Bible as a gift when I graduated from Bible College and used it when I started teaching. I taught from that Bible from 1997 – 2003. So many notes, circled words, cross references, highlights, and underlines – totally insane.
My NKJV slim line - This one has no commentary, just some cross references. It’s smaller, so I don’t feel like I’m carrying around a dictionary. But I’ve been using this since 2004. I had a brief bout with an NLT, but it didn’t quite cut it.
Anyway, I could have spent the entire message chronicling my journey just from those Bibles. While they were marked up, I found that they had really marked me. This has been quite a ride. I can’t wait to tell Mia all about it someday…
(Attention: long post ahead) My buddy Chuck Land asked me to put together a blow-by-blow explanation of how we put together a series at Calvary Fellowship. I’ve never actually wrote this down, so this might be more helpful to me than anyone else…
#1 – I start with questions - What scripture text do I feel led to teach? What does the church need to hear? What are we going through right now as a church? These are all questions I ask myself in deciding what to teach.
#2 – I find the text - For Colossians, I looked at my past year’s worth of teaching and saw that I had taught Ruth, Numbers, Ecclesiastes, and a marriage series (mostly out of Genesis). There was nothing in the New Testament and I wanted to teach about Jesus specifically. So Colossians seemed like a natural book to teach. So I decided to start digging in.
#3 – I start prepping - About a 6 weeks before I’m going to start a series, I start reading the Biblical text over and over. My hope is to have large portions of it memorized before I ever preach one word of it. (Confession: I’m not a very good public reader, so I really need to have the passage almost memorized for me to sound literate).
#4 – I find the one point - Every book of the Bible is built around 1 point. Philippians is about joy. Acts is about the extraordinary work of the Holy Spirit in and through ordinary people. Ruth is about redemption. Colossians is about Jesus being preeminent.
Every book, every chapter, every paragraph has it. It takes work to find it and then turn it into a memorable phrase that will bridge the entire series of teachings together. For Colossians, I had the image of a Spotlight. And if I can put Jesus in the spotlight, then the rest of my life comes into focus. That’s why Paul’s desire in Col. 1 & 2 is to show Christ’s preeminence over creation, the law, feasts, the Sabbath, angels etc… Then in Col. 3 & 4, Paul talks about how Jesus being in the Spotlight puts the practical areas of live into focus: work, family, attitudes, lust, greed, and selfishness. Colossians has 1 point. Once we find it, we build on it. Andy Stanley’s stuff has helped me so much in this area (although, the fact that he says if you teach through the Bible you’re lazy rubs me the wrong way – I have much to say, but I’ll rant about that later).
#5 – I start studying - I read some commentaries and Jewish sources that can give me an understanding of what was happening around this time. I don’t listen to other Pastors’ teachings on what I’m teaching. I listen to a lot of teachers, but I won’t listen to them teaching Colossians while I’m teaching it. Some might argue that mp3′s are audio commentaries. To a point, that’s true. But I’m not reading for illustrations. I’m reading to understand the text and the language nuances that are found therein. Most guys listen to mp3′s for illustrations and jokes. I think that’s lame because it’s not really study. It’s copying and God created me to communicate in my own style, not as an echo of someone else.
#6 – I let the text work me - As I study the text, I start interacting with it for a while before I preach it. This way, when I teach I am explaining what the text has done in my life, not what Joe shmoe had to say about this verse. conversely, I think guys who just quote books are just as bad as the guys who steal other guys’ messages. Like it or not, you are the message. “No, Jesus is!” Jesus is who we preach, but you are the communicator. If you don’t think the communicator matters, ask yourself why every church that preaches Jesus doesn’t have exactly the same amount of people? There’s several reasons, but one of them is people’s ability to relate to the communicator.
#7 – I start writing the messages - Once I’ve outlined the book into sizable chunks (I know in advance how long the series is going to be), I start writing messages. I’m not a creative team kind of guy. I write my message alone, because if I don’t, it’s not message anymore. I don’t think teams are bad or anything wrong, it’s just not me. I believe preaching is sharing your life through the Scriptures. It’s telling your story of walking with God. Every week, I am telling my story of how I encounter God each day.
#8 – I work ahead - I generally have the next 2-3 weeks done in advance. This give me time to allow the message to keep working me and by the time I get back to it the day before I teach it, I usually have some new things to add to the outline.
#9 – I memorize – I walk up with my notes printed in a book fold format, so I can keep my notes in my Bible. They are pretty much word for word, but I rarely look at them. Writing helps me memorize. Then I color code my notes in case I have to look (Orange = funny story – Green = illustration that isn’t funny – Yellow = Scripture passage).
- This takes time. This process is about 15-20 hours a week. I could do it in less time if I didn’t read so much. The series I did on Stewardship recently was one that took me 1/2 the amount of time because I wasn’t reading a ton for the series.
- Creativity is huge for me. But it cannot come at the expense of the text. It must illustrate the text or raise the felt need that the text will address.
- My staff know about the series 6 weeks before it starts. This way our video and graphics people can start working their magic to give the series an image. Plus, I usually start obsessing over what I’m learning at the office and can’t shut up about it. So they know something’s brewing.
I’m know I probably forgot something. So if you have any questions (and you’ve actually read this far), ask away…