3 Must-Do’s of a Strong Sermon Opening

sermon prep Nov 24, 2015

How you begin your sermon is vital. It can mean the difference between your listeners checking out or deciding to pay close attention. The things you say at the beginning of a sermon are what your listeners subconsciously use to build a framework for your whole message. If your thoughts are murky and unclear, you’re laying an unstable foundation.

 The first 90 seconds of your sermon are some of the most powerful seconds you have. Don’t waste them. Your listeners decide within these first 90 seconds whether they will keep listening to you or not. This is particularly true if they don’t know you. But even if they do know you and like you as a preacher, every Sunday is a new opportunity to engage them or lose them. And both engagement and disengagement happen faster than you think.

Here are 3 Must-Do’s of a Strong Sermon Opening

1. Start high. When you step onto the stage to present the Word of God you should be thrilled! You should revel in the...

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Tell Your Church What They Are

church leadership Sep 01, 2015

I recently met with a pastor who leads a thriving church in my area. He planted the church in 2003 and it has grown from three families to 2,500 people in attendance today. He spent an hour sharing a lot of fantastic insights about casting vision, setting direction, and bringing people along on mission to reach the community. I want to share with you one of the most valuable things he told me: Tell your church what they are.

Tell Your Church What They Are

Tell your church what they are and eventually they’ll become that. These words rang inside my head as he explained that his job as a pastor is to set the expectation high and let his church know he believes that’s who they are. Eventually, they will become that.

Great leaders set high expectations and truly believe their church is capable of meeting them. This principle is the same in school teaching. If a teacher expects a lot out of a student, the student will likely rise to the occasion and deliver. If the...

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Two Ways Blogging Can Enhance Your Ministry

church leadership Aug 04, 2015

Anyone who preaches typically has a lot to say. You have more to say than you have time to communicate on Sunday morning. This is why so many preachers preach too long. But what you have to say is important. And, believe it or not, there’s a lot of people, beginning with those in your local church, who want to know what you have to say about a lot of things. You’re a spiritual leader in their lives and your thoughts, experiences, and opinions matter to them.

This is why you should blog. This is why I blog.

In my last post I shared my journey of blogging for one year. This post will explore two ways blogging can enhance your ministry. Then, I want to give you some simple steps to get started setting up your blog and writing your first post.

1. Blogging increases your influence and kingdom impact.

There are people who would read your blog because you wrote it. There are others who currently don’t know you who would find you, appreciate your...

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Celebrating Preaching Donkey’s 1st Birthday Today!

One year ago today I published the first post ever on Preaching Donkey.com! Happy Birthday, Preaching Donkey! When I started this blog I had finally found a niche I was interested enough to stick with. There were plenty of resources on preaching available, but none that I could tell that focused entirely on communicating as preachers. I had plenty of ideas on the topic from experience, trial, and error. I wanted to share my thoughts on what works and what doesn’t when it comes to preaching.

After a few weeks of figuring out how to start a blog, Preaching Donkey was born. Next week I want to show you how to start a blog of your own. I think every preacher who has a message to communicate should blog with some consistency. In the next post I’ll show you how to get started.

I had no idea what this project would turn into in one year’s time. So for today, I want to share the progress with you. You are why Preaching Donkey has lasted a year....

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16 Things You Can do this Week to Get Unstuck in Your Sermon Prep

sermon prep Jun 16, 2015

Do you ever get stuck in a sermon prep rut? I do. Sometimes the sermon comes together like a beautifully crafted work of art. But other times I struggle to make progress in my study. It’s hard to break out of sermon prep stuck-ness. I’ve learned a few things that help me overcome these stuck times, and I want to share them with you. Here’s 16 things you can do this week to get unstuck in your sermon prep:

1. Put away your study materials and pray for ten minutes about nothing but your sermon. Preaching is supernatural work and prayer reemphasizes in your own heart that you are utterly dependent on God to empower you to preach effectively.

2. Read the text five times slowly. It’s amazing how quickly we tend to move away from the text to study materials and sermon formulation. Put away everything else and just read the text multiples times letting it speak to you.

3. Open the voice memo app on your smart phone, hit record and start preaching what you...

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4 Must Do’s of Using Illustrations

sermon prep Jun 09, 2015

As a preacher you want to make your ideas come alive. When you labor preparing a message and perfectly craft your points you’re not thinking, I’m sure this will be altogether unremarkable, but I’ll give it a try. No, you’re thinking, How can I make them see this and feel it and be changed by it?

We all want this because what good is it if you make a great point, but no one feels it? If no one does anything with it? An effective illustration is the secret sauce that makes your listeners grab onto your ideas on an emotional level. I wrote about the importance of connecting with your listener’s emotionally in this article. A good illustration will reach out and grab your listeners and pull them into your content. It will make them care.

But how do you use illustrations? There are plenty of resources on where to find illustrations, but I want to talk about how to use them. You can have a killer...

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Five Things I Learned From Gary Thomas About Preaching

sermon development Jun 02, 2015

Recently my church hosted the Sacred Marriage Conference with Gary Thomas, bestselling author of Sacred MarriageSacred Search and others. My wife and I gleaned some helpful insights from Gary’s teaching over the weekend, and it was nice to meet him personally.

During the conference I listened to about five hours of his speaking. It struck me toward the end of the weekend that I enjoyed his teaching so much that I wasn’t getting tired of him. This is a rare quality in a speaker and one that we can learn from as preachers. He had some approaches and techniques that set him apart as a communicator.  I observed five things that we can glean from his approach that will make us better preachers. Some of these are standard best-practices of public speaking, but his execution of them was excellent.

Five Things I Learned From Gary Thomas About Preaching

1. He jumped right into his content. He didn’t begin his talks with...

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The Notes I Have With Me While I Preach

sermon prep Apr 21, 2015

In my last post I responded to a question from a reader regarding how I outline my sermons. This week I want to answer the second part of his question about and what I use for notes while I preach. Here is the original question:

Good morning Lane,

First off want to thank you for all of the work put into the blog and podcasts. I’ve personally found a lot of the content very helpful. I preach on close to a monthly basis and am a volunteer youth leader, so I teach youth on a monthly basis as well. I was interested in learning more about your method of outlining your sermon. I’ve been following a manuscript method because that’s how I’ve learned, however I find I never really stay on it and have a difficult time finding my place afterward. So my question is, what do you find to be the most useful outlining method? What do you take into the pulpit with you? Also, do you have an example of your outline you preach from? Thanks!

What do I take in...

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My 4 Step Method for Outlining Sermons

sermon prep Apr 07, 2015

Recently I received a question from a reader regarding how I outline my sermons and what I use for notes while I preach. I want to share his question and my answer with you. He wrote:

Good morning Lane,

First off want to thank you for all of the work put into the blog and podcasts. I’ve personally found a lot of the content very helpful. I preach on close to a monthly basis and am a volunteer youth leader, so I teach youth on a monthly basis as well. I was interested in learning more about your method of outlining your sermon. I’ve been following a manuscript method because that’s how I’ve learned, however I find I never really stay on it and have a difficult time finding my place afterward. So my question is, what do you find to be the most useful outlining method? What do you take into the pulpit with you? Also, do you have an example of your outline you preach from? Thanks!

I appreciate this question because I am always curious when I watch...

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If Christ Didn’t Rise, Preaching is a Waste of Time

easter sermon prep Mar 31, 2015

This Sunday is one of the biggest days of the year for churches. More people will attend church this weekend than any other time except maybe Christmas. Those of us preparing sermons for this Sunday know the pressure that Easter brings. Lots of people will be there who usually do not come. It will be a packed house, and we feel it.

But let’s not lose site of the main thing. When it comes to the things we preachers do… proclaiming the word of God, inviting people to follow Christ, communicating life-changing truths… If Jesus didn’t rise from the dead, none of it matters. But if he did rise, it’s all that matters.

The Apostle Paul said it this way:

…if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. …your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. …If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied. 1 Corinthians 15:14-19 (ESV)

If Christ...

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