The Golden Standard

“Why has the U.S. Constitution stood the test of time?”

That was the question our high school history teacher laid before us. Most of us guessed it was the ingenuity of the writers, and that their fore-thought laid the foundation.

But that wasn’t the answer she was looking for.

The Constitution still stands hundreds of years later for the same reason God’s Word maintains relevance thousands of years later. Both focused on principles rather than particulars.

Our context is bound to change. If you would’ve asked one of the writers of the Constitution about automobiles, they’d look at you with a funny face. They hadn’t yet invented the word, much less the thing itself.

While everything around us is constantly evolving, one thing remains constant, steady, and unchanging. God. (Malachi 3:6)

God is as relevant today as He was when He formed Adam out of the dust, when He led His people out of slavery and into the Promised Land, and when He came to bear the burden of sin that we could never withstand ourselves.

God is timeless. Not only that, He’s the standard.

Have you ever thought about why sin is bad?

I’ve heard many definitions of sin. Missing the mark, disobeying God, etc. Those are close, but not fully accurate.

God is good. Therefore, anything contrary to who He is would be wrong. What we consider right and wrong is really just answering the question, “Is that who God is?”

If God is the standard and God is timeless, why would we teach about anything else?

The Heart of the Matter

Our last series here on Leader Pipeline discussed how to prepare a lesson or a message. One of the recurring ideas I came across as I met with our pastors was the importance of having one central theme behind everything you share.

This is nothing new for Kidmin people, of course! In fact, if there’s one thing we’re good at it’s boiling down a big message into something small and bite-sized. After all, we have to make sure we are age-appropriate in what and how we present things. If you give kids a list of things to “take away” from your message, that list will be left at the door on their way out. Instead, we give them one ponder point and build everything around it.

Someone recently asked me a simple but loaded question. “In your opinion, what do you think is the biggest problem in children’s ministry?”

I didn’t even have to think about the answer. It’s our ponder points.

In the name of being age-appropriate, we have chosen to give our kids an action plan every time they leave our ministries.

“I will be kind to others!”

“I will choose to tell the truth!”

Those are both great things, and I want my kids to exhibit those as much as the next guy. But I don’t want to get hung up on the fruit. If our goal is to know Jesus our fruit will follow.

JOHN 15:5“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.”

If our goal is right behavior we’ll end up with nothing but empty hearts.

JOHN 15:6“If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned.”

Trying to be holy by changing our actions is like trying to grow redder apples by painting them rather than nourishing the tree itself.

Trying to be holy by changing our actions is like trying to grow redder apples by painting them. You’re not actually doing anything to the quality of the apples. They may look better but their taste will remain poor. However, if you invest your time in nourishing the tree itself the quality of the apples will follow.

Does this mean that spiritual fruit doesn’t matter? Of course not! (See Matthew 7:16-18)

We ought to communicate core truths instead of complimentary truths.

Pro Tips for Teaching

 

Here are some teaching tips from ministry leaders across the country.

JAMES MACDONALD // Senior Pastor, Harvest Bible Chapel

Write down your thoughts on the specific passage line by line, leaving space in between for future notes and additions.

CHUCK SWINDOLL // Senior Pastor, Stonebriar Community Church

Memorize your opening statement!

On the introduction and conclusion of a sermon: “It’s like taking off and landing a plane. You have a real good takeoff – the flight may be a little rugged – and a real good landing: it was a good flight. A message is like that.” – Chuck Swindoll

JIM GILBRETH // Associate Pastor, The Grove Community Church

Write out the passage you’ll be sharing by hand, leaving space in between lines for notes.

“Never over-speak on the passage. Know more than you speak. Simplify your message down to the essential points. Application is paramount!” – Jim Gilbreth

PHIL MABERRY // High School Pastor, The Grove Community Church

Never teach longer than seven minutes without changing the flow in some way. For example, transitioning from teaching the context of a passage to sharing a personal story that relates to the truth you’re highlighting. (An idea that originally came from Josh Griffin, a fellow youth pastor)

Every lesson should have what is called a sermonic idea, which is a simple, one-sentence summary of what you want your kids to know as they leave your small group. Everything in your lesson should point to that single statement.

DANIEL BISHOP // Lead Pastor, The Grove Community Church

Write down your message word for word. You may not use it during your lesson/sermon, but it helps you form your thoughts in a way that’s easier to remember.

Daniel tries to practice every sermon at least five full times before he actually delivers the message.

TREVOR CHRISTMAS // Young Adults Pastor, The Grove Community Church

As he prepares his sermons, he draws a line down the middle of a blank sheet of paper. On one side, he writes all the questions he has while reading and researching the passage. On the other side, he writes all of his observations.

As you’re preparing any form of spiritual teaching ask yourself: is it biblical, true, clear, and relevant?

MATT FURBY // Men’s Pastor, The Grove Community Church

Matt uses what is called a storytelling map. He cuts index cards into smaller pieces and writes down every thought, passage, or personal experience that he might consider sharing in that specific sermon. He lays them all on the floor and re-arranges them in a way that he thinks will flow the best. He’ll even use it to figure out what he’ll keep in his sermon outline and what he’ll remove. (NOTE: This can also be done with sticky notes or other small pieces of paper.)

Matt views each sermon as a journey. There is a starting point where you identify the problem, and the sermon is a search for a resolution. You’re moving from a dilemma to a practical conclusion.

Every speech or sermon has two elements: science and art. Science refers to the facts, or in this case, the passage. Art alludes to the presentation of those facts. It’s important to remember that both are critical, especially in a church setting. It doesn’t matter how strong your supporting argument is if your people are too bored too listen. On the other side of the spectrum, it doesn’t matter how engaging and creative your presentation is if it doesn’t hold Biblical Truth, for that is what changes lives.

ANDY STANLEY // Senior Pastor, North Point Community Church

Every sermon Andy ever prepares follows his structure of: me, we, God, you, and we.

KERRY WARREN // Children’s Pastor, The Grove Community Church

“I like to spend some time with the passage. When I prep for teaching I like to review the material a little bit everyday as opposed to waiting until the last minute. God brings illustrations and examples over time to mind for me. … Props are handy too, especially with kids.”

JEREMY O’NEILL // Kids Pastor, Church @ The Springs

In educator parlance, use an anticipatory set to grab kids’ attention. An anticipatory set is an attention-getting statement, gesture or activity that piques the curiosity of your audience and begs a question. For example, a politician might use a staggering statistic to introduce a felt need that needs to be addressed.

There are two approaches you can take for lesson prep: a top down or inside out approach. A top down approach means you start with your conclusion and essentially work backwards in developing the rest of your lesson. An inside out approach starts with the body of your message, then the introduction and conclusion.

Use index cards as a quick reference for the day of.

Use sticky notes to write each of the main points in the passage you’re sharing. It will be helpful to move them around as needed during the planning process to carefully craft your message in a manner that flows well.

Personal is practical. Share stories to help the message become more relatable for your audience. Continually ask yourself the question, “So what does this mean for you and me?”