Six Things I’ve Changed About The Way I Preach

Six Things I’ve Changed About The Way I Preach

The last couple of years have been an interesting time for us all. Many churches closed in-person gatherings and just as many leaders had to learn the awkward art of preaching to the cold face of a machine.

(YouTubers, we’re learning from you!)

There was much to learn all round but for me the most valuable lesson was found in the opportunity to take some time and space to truly reflect.

In that time, I made some substantial yet subtle changes to the way I communicate as a preacher.

Here are six things I’ve changed about the way I preach.

1. Choosing the right topic (even if it sounds boring)

I’ve spent less time thinking about how to attract interest (although that’s still helpful to do) and more time thinking about what people specifically need in the season.

E.g. I preached on living a quiet life recently (lol who wants that…and yet it turns out everyone does deep down).

2. Letting the word speak for itself

I’ve felt less need to dart about to pull intricate (and sometimes disjointed) thoughts together. Instead I’ve let the actual scripture speak more from the context it was written – often in greater chunks.

3. Resisting the urge to add more

One of a preacher’s greatest fears is running out of things to say but this has literally never happened and never will happen lol.

We must be content knowing that each preach accomplishes something specific. We don’t have to nail everything in a single 30 minute slot. Go deep and narrow instead of wide and shallow.

4. Adding more ministry and less wow

How awesome I feel is rarely an indicator of how God is touching a human heart. More space to breathe and let the Holy spirit minister is worth a thousand of my wonderful quips (although they are very wonderful).

5. Searching for obedience instead of response

Being obedient to delivering the word God has for the people is what matters. How people respond doesn’t.

Focus on faith over affirmation. Online was an amazing reset in that there is zero response. And let’s face it we were all getting tired of the chat.

6. Feeling ok about what the Bible actually says

Much of God’s word is deeply contrary to the culture we live in today. It’s challenging and in its very nature deeply offensive to many.

Let’s preach it anyways.

We’ve done recent series on big topics like hell, judgment and even sex. We need more than just grace messages and Christian success culture.

Interested in developing and discovering your voice as a preacher or communicator? Find out more about preaching workshops here.

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Stop Trying To Include Everyone

Stop Trying To Include Everyone

One of the interesting things that happens in today’s age is that many people have enough cultural knowledge of Christianity to think they know what Jesus actually taught.

And frequently that leads to a common opinion about what Christians should do and how they should treat others. Even from other Christians.

Here’s some examples:

Christianity should always be inclusive

God is love so he wouldn’t tell people how they should live

You need to be more accepting like Jesus was

Unless of course that’s not what Jesus actually taught...

One of my favourite Bible stories is this one time where Jesus is preaching as he often did. He said something challenging and pretty much most of the people there got up and left. (Read John 6:60-69).

Let’s look at what Jesus didn’t do.

1. Change his message.
2. Call them up the next day.
3. Chase them down and apologise.

Nah he legit turns to the guys who are still there and says this:

Are you going to leave too?

We Can Always Keep An Open Door

Of course we should always keep an open door so people who are genuinely seeking can experience Jesus.

But remember that the focus of Jesus was going deep with a few (not going shallow with many).

So stop trying to please everyone and start discipling those who are there.

In business, don’t worry about getting more clients – instead start serving the ones you have.

In life, don’t itch for more influence when you could be utilising the light you already have.

Spending too much time trying to include or reach those who don’t necessarily want to be in the picture often means we miss out on the very thing we’re supposed to be doing.

And that is our actual purpose – discipleship.

Blanket Inclusivity Is Overrated

Because although everyone is welcome but not everyone wants to be there.

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How To Lead Worship Better - Digital Rabbi

How To Lead Worship Better

Practice the Presence of God

It’s not like God goes anywhere. He’s always present. And yet we don’t always experience his presence.

We must practice and learn the art of entering into the presence of God.

Otherwise how can we lead others there?

Teach People How

As a worship leader, there is (or should be) a reason why you’ve been given the responsibility of leading people.

We are never to be irritated or frustrated that people don’t engage in worship. Instead we should teach them how. That’s why you’re there of course.

Be strategic about using moments throughout a worship service to invite and teach people how they can connect with God.

It needs to be done swiftly and succinctly though rather than long verbal essays.

Read The Room

Context is everything. Leading a small group with an acoustic guitar is different to an epic youth conference.

No need to force anything into being. Gently lead people towards Jesus in the context you are in.

Some of the most powerful moments can be experienced if we can simply fix our eyes on Jesus. Use and embrace the atmosphere you have.

Get Rid Of Distractions

You fumbling over the words is a distraction. You playing the wrong chords is a distraction. You looking grumpy is a distraction. Changing the key of a song in the soundcheck is going to create some potential distractions. And so on.

Leadership begins with preparation. Most of worship leading is actually rather unglamorous. So do the BTS (Behind The Scenes) well.

Embrace The Awkwardness

Don’t feel like you have to rush straight into the next thing. And don’t feel so tied to the schedule that you begin to worship it (instead of God lol).

If you feel the Holy Spirit doing something, go with it. Even if it’s a bit awkward.

Pause. Wait. Listen. Stop.

God is found in the gaps.

Actually Worship

Get lost in the moment. Lose yourself in the presence of God. Cast your cares onto him. Don’t simply try to be authentic. Actually love Jesus.

Grow Your Skill

Playing guitar is hard. Singing and playing guitar is even harder. Singing and playing guitar and leading people into worship is still even harder.

If you’re not good enough to do the base layers without thinking (like when you drive a car), your mind is distracted by technicalities and you will struggle to focus on what the Holy Spirit is doing.

Discipline yourself to get better.

Empower The Team

Imagine what could happen when every person on team aligns their heart, soul, mind and strength to worship Jesus.

Everybody involved is leading worship, not just those leading songs or visible at the front. God loves unity and alignment. Working hard to encourage the gift of others is the work no one sees but has a huge impact on the future.

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How To Deal With Criticism - Digital Rabbi

How To Deal With Criticism

1. Take it on board for proper processing later

Don’t assume you’re not in the wrong. Don’t make the mistake of not properly listening.

And in the moment, definitely don’t make the other person feel like they need to repeat it.

2. Consider the practical things you can change

What can you do to learn from this critique? How can you grow as a person?

Make this less about your response to an attack and more about an opportunity to grow.

3. Thank the deliverer of feedback

No one likes to be criticised but we should be grateful for those who are willing to enter the awkwardness it can bring. Assume the best of intentions (even if they’re not there).

4. Weigh the critique

Not all critique is fair, good or right. Once we’ve gleaned for the good and practical, we can now consider whether it comes from a helpful place.

Make a mental note for future.

5. Get another perspective

Don’t go and moan to a friend who will always back your perspective. Instead ask a good friend if this was fair and what you could do to use this as a learning opportunity.

6. Make an apology

If you have genuinely made a mistake then own it. And if there’s something you an do better then admit it.

Note that even if most of the criticism is wrong, you can still acknowledge the bit that is fair.

7. Don't over-apologise though

You can bring a spirit of humility without agreeing to things that are untrue. People will always sense insincerity too so be sure not to over-apologise.

8. Make practical action steps

This is a learning opportunity so treat as one. Make changes and then make space for getting future feedback to check your progression.

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Eight Leadership Mistakes To Avoid - Digital Rabbi

Eight Leadership Mistakes To Avoid

1. Running Too Hard

It’s important that leaders don’t move too fast. Moving fast gets things done (good) but often at the expense of people (bad).

In other words, not everyone is able to keep up with the pace and so there is a natural drop out.

2. Being Invulnerable

This is a team game and leaders naturally carry a lot of weight. But if a leader can’t be honest about how they’re handling life then they are set up badly for the future.

You don’t have to be vulnerable with everyone (obviously) and there needs to be a maturity in how we guard our hearts. But it’s important that there are key people on the team who we can share the emotional load of the journey.

3. Being 'Too' Successful

The Bible says that a person is tested by being praised. Success is often a double-edged sword for a leader and it’s only natural to slightly relax and rest upon the laurels of the accomplishments of old.

But failure to deal with the seeds of pride will inevitably cut short future success. Don’t let success define you, instead give both the failure and the successes of life over to God.

4. Getting Cynical

The more experience you have, the more you start to see the patterns. Leadership always involves a lot of disappointment – it’s part of the job.

But so is dealing with it. If we project our past disappointment onto our future relationships then we end up in a place called cynicism.

5. Comparing Ourselves

Interestingly enough, both thinking of ourselves as better than others is pride and thinking of ourselves as less than others is also pride.

Either way, we are attaching our significance to what we do as opposed to who God is. Comparison stops us from running in our lane but it also kills innovation because we’re always copying someone else.

6. Breaking The Sabbath

It’s funny how taking a day of rest can be such a chore to a leader. But God literally places the Sabbath as the fourth commandment – ahead of not murdering people, stealing stuff or committing adultery.

When we break the Sabbath, it’s because we don’t respect our limitations. Which in turn means we show little regard for the boundaries of others.

7. Neglecting Friendship

Friendship takes time which is why many leaders don’t prioritise it. But when the job stops, who’s still with you?

Friendship is one of the great joys of life – people who want to be around you for you being you, not for the influence, favour or opportunities that you can open up for them.

8. Entitlement

Entitlement starts in the little things and ends in the big things. A leader starts to become entitled when they start to feel resentful about how much they do for others.

It’s the product of creating an image of a super leader – start to actually believe we are superior.

Are You Making Any Of These Mistakes?

The first step to change is awareness. Send this post to someone who cares about you and start a conversation.

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Six Reasons To Be In Church This Sunday

It stops me from being a spectator. Or worse a critic.

It costs me something. That’s what true worship is.

I become accountable to others. Transformation happens in the context of community not isolation.

I can encourage others. My presence will be a blessing.

I experience the presence of God. And it’s different than on my own.

But most importantly, it is an act of obedience. Share this with someone to encourage them to get back to the house of God this weekend.

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