Who Gets To Set The Pastor’s Agenda?

I decided that while I was with you I would forget everything except Jesus Christ, the one who was crucified.

Have you ever had one of those days when your mind just raced from one thing to another, and you slowly drowned in the different (and likely difficult) issues consuming your life? Maybe you’ve experienced sleeplessness when your mind becomes full of the day’s cares.

What do you think Jesus would say to you if you told him about your stress and your anxiety? What would he tell you to do?

Living a life centered on Jesus means I choose to invite Him into my stress.

Especially on the days I’m overwhelmed, I must find the time and make the effort to shift my focus from my own issues and toward His agenda for my life.

Whichever “important” things have grabbed my attention, they pale in comparison to what Jesus says is important. If I can share his focus, I’ll find my life far less stressful and far more purposeful.

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Read and Contemplate 1 Corinthians 2:1-5.

And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.

Paul was addressing a church full of people who had their own agendas and were unable to get along. His solution for their dysfunction was to focus on Christ.

There are days when my life resembles that church. I feel pulled in so many different directions by that I can’t even get along with myself. I’m dysfunctional. I need to focus on Christ.

When I live by my own agenda, I reveal that I find my own wisdom sufficient to get through the day. Paul said true faith is resting in the power of God rather than the wisdom of men.

It is scary to center your life around Jesus’ agenda. It feels like the really important things might not get done. But if I pursue Christ’s agenda and rest in

God’s power, I can be certain that whatever does not get done, was not really important.

Today: Before you get too busy, ask yourself what Jesus would want you to do with your day. Center yourself on that goal, and let God take care of the rest.

My Favorite Todoist and Google Drive Hack

I’ve tried every imaginable todo list app and Todoist stands head and shoulder above all. Some of the reasons I prefer Todoist are as follows:

  • I can quickly entetodoistr tasks with due dates and repetition by simply using text (example: “update the church prayer letter every Tuesday at 8:30am”)
  • Todoist can double as a reminder app. The above task will notify me on my phone and my Macbook right at 8:30 every Tuesday.
  • Todoist allows multiple levels of subtasks which is great for larger projects.
  • I can create several different categories  and sort tasks using hashtags.
  • If I don’t finish a task on the due date, I have the opportunity to either move it the next day or reschedule for a future date.
  • I get a “karma” score for completing tasks, and can use that score to set productivity goals for myself. I’m currently on a 26 day streak of hitting my productivity goal. My all time record is 28, so I may break it! This isn’t really all that helpful, but it is fun and motivating.

It’s the repeating tasks that are so important for me, because much of my week is spent doing the same types of tasks I did the week before.

Every week, I send out several group emails to different teams. Todoist reminds me every day which group is getting an email.

My sermon preparation process is tightly scheduled. Every day I am working on one or more sermons, which are labelled as “Now, Next, Future or Distant.” Todoist reminds me which sermon to work on and what part of the process is due (example: “Categories (God, Jesus, Doctrine, etc.) for FUTURE sermon every Wednesday”).

I have writing projects I need to keep working on, so on several days I am reminded to work on this blog, the “Invested Study” or the gratitude journal. The second two of these projects are due in several months, but I need to take a bite every day in order to complete them on time. Todoist keeps me taking one step at a time.

The chrome app makes quick Todoist item entry easy. I click once and type in my todo with due date and time. I now have a reminder on my phone which ensures I don’t drop important tasks or contacts that come up during the day.

Although I don’t utilize this feature, Todoist also enables users to share tasks and projects with one another.

A few months ago, I tweaked my Todoist set-up with a new hack. It is one of the greatest productivity leaps forward I’ve ever taken and has cemented Todoist as indispensable for me.

Much of my work every day is done on Google Drive. I use sheets for my email lists (I know I could use other apps, but sheets works for what I need) and for the administrative and financial tracking I do every week. I create my sermon presentations on Google Presentations. Most of my sermon prep is done in a few Google Doc templates I’ve created for that purpose. As a team, we create our weekly publications and presentations in a shared Google Drive folder. The discipleship resources I produce every week are created in shared Google Docs.

Every google document (sheets, presentations, docs, forms, etc.) has its own unique URL. This web address is used by those who collaborate on the document as well as for making the document public. I use those URLs to enhance my Todoist experience.

Every time I enter a task into Todoist, I include a link to the document on which I’ll be working. Here’s what some of those todo items look like:

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The brilliance of Todoist is that those URLs serve as links. I simply click on the address and the document I need to work on opens in my browser. Of course this can be used with more than just Google Drive. I have some todo items that link to MailChimp, some to Canva and some to online Bible study resources.

By my calculations, this productivity hack saves me about 5 seconds every time I use it (the time I would spend opening Google Drive, finding the doc and opening the doc). I use this hack 5-7 times each day meaning I’m saving about 30 seconds a day. This doesn’t feel significant until you realize that I’m saving about 3 minutes every week which adds up to more than 2 hours a year…

Well, I guess that’s not really all that impressive when you do the math.

But it’s fun. And I never have to remember where a file is stored. And sometimes productivity for productivity’s sake is worthwhile simply because it brings a little joy into your day.

Anyway, even if you don’t use Todoist, you can probably use a similar process on your todo app. Give it a try.

Other People Have Great Ideas Too!

Proverbs 11:14 explains there is victory in a multitude of advisers. Because I want to be a better preacher, I am always seeking advice from a multitude of advisers. My counselors are not just other preachers I know, but many preachers I don’t know. I even seek advice from those who are not preachers, because they have great ideas for me also. Here are three pieces of preaching advice I’ve recently stumbled upon.

HOW TO PREACH WITHOUT NOTES.

Preaching without notes isn’t for everyone. The great benefit is more eye-contact which leads to a stronger connection with your congregation. The great danger is losing your train of thought, wandering off track and/or accidentally repeating yourself. I preach mostly without notes. I try to stay away from them, but they are up there with me just in case.

This blog was originally posted by the Rev. Dan Turis ’12, pastor of Colonial Church of Bayside in New York, on his site: http://danturis.com/. You can also follow him on Twitter @dturis.

5 WAYS TO MAKE SERMON STUDY MORE PRODUCTIVE

The time spent in prayer and study for messages is probably a pastor’s greatest challenge. There are just so many pastoral responsibilities that arise during a given week that time for sermon preparation must be guarded…and maximized. Here are five tips to help to you make your study time more productive for your congregation.

Paul Chappell is the pastor of Lancaster Baptist Church in Lancaster, California, and also serves as the president of West Coast Baptist College. Follow him on Twitter @PaulChappell.

MASTER THE ART OF STORY TELLING…

We can learn about the art of preaching from those who specialize in similar fields. Inspirational speakers, story tellers, writers and even comedians can teach us important lessons about communication.

People relate easily (and emotionally) to stories, and they remember them. Stories make facts more digestible and, in telling them, you, as a speaker, appear more human, more approachable and more audience friendly. The best speakers reach into their bag of stories and bring their presentations to life.

Emma Ledden is the author of The Presentation Book. She shares great advice for presenters and those who create presentation slides. Follow her @EmmaLedden

4 Simple Steps To Create A Preaching Calendar

File under: “What do pastors do with their time?”

Assembling An Annual Preaching Calendar.


Assumption One:
The Holy Spirit is active in my life and work in ways I can’t understand or identify.
Assumption Two: If my whole life is bathed in prayer, then my work will be bathed in prayer, as will this process.
Assumption Three: When striving to be faithful and obedient, I must first do everything I know to be right, and then what I believe to be wise, and finally what appears to be expedient. A preaching calendar is an expedient way to be wise about doing what is right.
Assumption Four: This type of thing, like virtually all ministry is not done alone. I think of myself as a clarifier more than a creator. I seek to hear many voices before beginning, and seek much refinement before ending.
Assumption Five: All this is flexible.

Step One: Ask four important questions

  • How do we understand discipleship? Can we identify clear discipleship elements we should address?
  • Who are we? How do we teach our people (from the Bible) about their identity as the church?
  • Where are we as a body? What truths do our people need?
  • Where am I? What is God saying to me right now? Why shouldn’t I share it?
At the end of step one, I should have a long brainstormed list of potential topics, book studies, theological issues, virtues, etc. which may be developed into preaching series.

Step Two: Identify key dates in the calendar around which teaching series may be built:

  • Easter
  • Mother’s Day/Father’s Day
  • National Holidays (if you must)
  • Thanksgiving
  • Christmas
  • Labor Day (this signals the end of the summer, which in many places means people come back to church the next week. It’s a big mistake to start a series right before or on Labor Day.)
At the end of step two, I may have tentatively plugged some of the brainstormed series into the calendar. While I may yet move them, I now have an idea of what other series may be helpful to effectively disciple the people of our church for the coming year.

Step Three: Consider means by which you can create a balanced year of teaching

As a general rule, I like to do Old Testament studies in the fall because they naturally lead up to Christmas. I like to do the Gospels after the new year because they lead into Easter. The rest of the year is a good time to look at the epistles, poetry, etc.

Step Four: Find the best places for the “Special Days” which need to be included

In many churches, the “special days” are things like baptism, communion, missions reports, etc. Baptism and communion particularly are days we try to set aside to really focus on the celebration. Sometimes these days fall naturally into a series we are doing, and sometimes they need to be placed as a stand-alone between series.

Conclusion:

Obviously, there’s more to it, but this is just a rough outline, and all this is just the opening activity. The next step is really where the hard work starts as I break down each series, determining the key teaching points and biblical truths which will form the main ideas for each week’s sermon. But that’s another post for another time.