Preachers, Mood Matters

green blueIn preaching, your mood matters. Not whether or not you’re grumpy that morning, but whether or not your mood reflects the text.

You can say “Jesus is the most precious and valuable thing you could ever hope for,” while communicating, “Jesus is pretty cool, but . . . meh.”

The way you say something can actually be a barrier from a person truly hearing the message you should be conveying.

The Mood of a Text

I’ve heard preachers who sounded angry and frustrated when preaching a text that wasn’t portraying the same mood. As one of my profs said, “You shouldn’t preach Psalm 23 as a rebuke.” Why? Because the purpose is to comfort, soothe, put at rest.

If preaching is when the content and intent of a passage becomes your content and intent, then that includes tone and mood. That’s why one of the questions I ask myself in sermon prep is, “What is the mood or tone of the text?” Is the author anxious? Confused? Encouraged? Passionate? Worshipful?

Then I try to ask God to help me have the same heart toward my people that the author had toward his, or that God has. Hopefully, God has dealt with me through the text, and He helps me not just say what He is saying, but portray what He is saying by how I say it.

What I’m Not Saying

I’m not saying you have to be an outgoing, life of the party person in order to be a preacher. You can have dry wit or be an introvert and be a preacher (I’m an introvert). But, introverted or extroverted, you’re missing something if you don’t portray (at least in your own way) the mood of the text.

A Challenge

Has God’s Word truly impacted you in your study? Is it truly powerful? Then don’t you think you should convey that in how you say it? Shouldn’t there be a burden in your preaching like Martin Lloyd Jones talked about? Is it truly the Word of the Almighty God of all existence that you’re proclaiming? Preachers, we’ve got to beg God to get His Word deep down inside of us! In our bones. And then we’ve got to deliver–not because people are changed because of our performance, but because if someone doesn’t communicate God’s Word, then people can’t be changed. So preach. And get the word deep down inside of you–even to the point of having the mood of the text.

Like an Organ on Ice

20100315PHT70670_original“I can still be a Christian without being committed to one local church.” Sure you can, in the same way an organ can stay alive on ice.

The church is called the body of Christ, and individual Christians are like parts of a body (1 Corinthians 12; Ephesians 4). Different parts have different purposes and gifts. Each body part needs all the other body parts in order to function well. The health and functionality of an individual body part depends on (1) whether or not its connected to the body and (2) the health of the other parts.

I suppose you can still be a Christian and not be faithful to one local church. But you most certainly cannot be as healthy as you could be, nor can you function the way God intends. 

Here’s an attempt at a practical application:

The Holy Spirit gives gifts to people so the body can be built up (1 Cor 12). If you’re a Christian, He’s gifted you in some kind of way–teaching, mercy, hospitality, discernment, whatever. This fact necessarily assumes you’re going to be around other Christians on a consistent basis (the same Christians) in order to actually use the gift.

How can you use your gift if you’re not around the same Christians on a consistent basis? It takes time to build relationships of trust in order to let someone come into your life and be comfortable with them. If you’re constantly changing churches, don’t go to church at all, or don’t go enough to build any kind of legitimate relationships, how can you use the gift the Spirit has given you? You can’t. At least not well. The result? You suffer from not benefiting from the gifts of others and the body suffers by not benefiting from your gift.

Not to mention other benefits of being committed to one group of people: accountability, purpose, friendship.

Being uncommitted to a local church doesn’t mean you’re not saved. But it does mean you’re not healthy or functioning the way you could be–like an organ on ice.

Will You Ride the Bull?

Thanks to Dr. Robert Plummer for this analogy.

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el18_bullriding_S1_001_blogMost of the time when you start studying a passage of Scripture to teach or preach, you think it’s going a certain place or making a certain point. But then after a while you realize the text is going a different place you thought it would. This is a crucial moment in preparation. This is when you decide whether or not you want to try to make the text say what you want it to say, or whether or not you’re going to go wherever it takes you.

At that moment, you have to decide if you’re going to ride the bull.

The bull is powerful and will take you places. It’s scary, but thrilling at the same time. In this kind of Bible preparation, you’re not leading the study as much as you’re trying to hang on for dear life!

You could decide you don’t want to ride the bull. But that’s really boring and doesn’t do the text justice. In fact, that’s a huge problem! But consider what you’re missing out on if you don’t stay with the text as it takes you where you should go. Adventure. Truth. Power.

The next time you and I both come to the point of decision where we realize a text is going somewhere different than we expected, we’ve got to decide: will we ride the bull?

Not a Seminarian ≠ Unsaved

ImageOne small adjustment I’ve had to make coming fresh out of seminary (well, still being in seminary actually) is to not necessarily be alarmed when church members don’t articulate their faith with the same theological clarity everyone in seminary does. 

In talking with my fellow church members at Central, I quickly found out that most Christians don’t know phrases like “penal substitutionary atonement” or “plenary verbal inspiration.”

For example, a friend and I might strike up a conversation about our faith or what God has been doing in our lives lately. The person I’m talking to might never use the phrase “the gospel” in describing the time they first came to Christ. They might say, “found God” or “got right” or even “got saved.”

I paused for a few days to consider whether I should wonder about the validity of their conversions in light of the lack of theological terminology. I’ve decided against it, at least based solely on those simple conversations. The reason is that just because someone doesn’t know all the terms doesn’t mean they don’t agree with them. It just means they’ve never heard of them before. A faithful church member’s ignorance of terms doesn’t mean they’re not a Christian. It just means they’re not a seminarian. And that’s OK.

Don’t get me wrong. I’ve been going to church as a Christian long enough to know there is such a thing as false conversions and false assurance. But just because someone can’t articulate their faith in the same way I’ve been exposed to doesn’t mean they’re not really a Christian.

It’s good to be patient, get to know people, give new friends the benefit of the doubt, build trust. Then, speak and teach at appropriate times.

Like Arrows in Your Quiver

1771893902_2f6883341dImagine you’re a warrior about to go into battle. It’s time for the final inventory of gear before heading out. Traditional Native American war paint, check. Appropriate attire, check. Bow, check. Quiver (the thing that holds the arrows), check. When it comes time to add the arrows to your quiver, you pause and decide it would just be unnecessary added weight. “Nope, arrows are staying.”

Um, yeah, bad idea.

It doesn’t take a medicine man to figure out you’ll soon be receiving the scalping instead of giving it, my friend.

What Arrows Are Like

Why would we think it’s a dumb idea to go into physical war without arrows but a good idea to go into spiritual warfare without arming ourself with God’s Word?

When it comes to spiritual warfare, God’s Word is compared to a sword (Eph 6:17). It’s the only offensive piece of equipment a Christian has. Sure, we can hunker down and extinguish flaming darts with our shield of faith, but the only thing that causes Satan to leave us alone is, you guessed it, the sword–God’s Word.

I like to think of God’s Word as a similar offensive weapon–arrows. Each verse is an arrow, and the way you put the arrows into the quiver is by memorizing them–storing them for later. When temptation or trial comes, the Holy Spirit takes the arrow out of your quiver and into the bow. Now the only thing you’ve got to do is fire the arrow by meditating on the Scripture the Spirit just brought to mind.

Our Role

Yes, it’s the Spirit who helps you use the arrows, but if you and I aren’t disciplined enough to get God’s Word into our minds by memorizing it, the Spirit is left grasping for air in an empty quiver.

Do you want to run into battle with no ammo? Will the spiritual forces just not leave you alone? The way to fight back is with God’s Word. And the way God will help you fight is by reminding you of the Scripture you’ve already memorized.

Get ready. Put some arrows of His Word in your mind. Living a Christian life without doing so is like running to battle with an empty quiver. Satan might not be able to destroy you, but he won’t leave you alone either.

3 Reasons I’m Blogging Again

Reason 1: I miss it

Life changes. And so do blogs. I’ve been blogging at different places for several years now–when blogs weren’t cool, and then were really cool, and now when they’re only cool for certain reasons. I haven’t blogged for about 6 months, and I miss it.

Blogging taught me to formulate thoughts before I ever spoke in front of people. Now I speak regularly and attribute any kind of comfort I have to, you guessed it, blogging.

I want to continue becoming a better writer and communicator. Blogging will help me do that.

Reason 2: my church

I also want to stay in touch with my church family more than just once a week. Central, many posts will be written with you in mind. Comment, text me, call me. Let’s keep growing in Christ together. Maybe this will be a helpful medium for us to do that.

Reason 3: other pastors

It’s impossible for me to turn thoughts about pastoring, church, and preaching off, so many posts will be about that. Church revitalization is hard work, and I’ve only been doing it for 6 months! I realize most church members won’t care about this side of things, and that’s OK (not sure I would either!). Others of you who are pastors and ministry leaders hopefully will. Help me by sharing your thoughts about the same topics. I’m a rookie, so I need your help!

For what its worth, this is the new blog. Thanks for joining the conversation.