Creating Your Perfect Preaching Space

3 Reasons“Let’s get rid of the pulpit,” were some of my first words when starting my first senior pastor role in 2009.

I was preparing to preach every week, which was different than what I had done in the past. I knew I quickly had to find what was comfortable for me. Sunday comes with amazing regularity, so finding a setup that allowed for me to preach the Word of God unhindered was of first importance. I had been preaching for nearly 15 years by that point, but most of the time I preached without a pulpit. When I arrived at a venue to guest preach I would have them remove the pulpit; I would just stand with Bible in hand to speak.

The weekly regime of preaching was going to require more notes than I  preached with prior to that point. I had to have space to lay out my notes, Bible, clock, and iPad (for control of my slides). I also wanted a space that I could call my own. So I decided to make the stage feel more like a comfortable coffee shop than a lecture hall or old church (hence the high-top table and chair). I have spent many hours in a coffee shops, and I wanted the stage to feel as comfortable as I was in those places. I wanted to invite others to join me for a proverbial warm beverage and heartfelt conversation. With those things in mind, I decided that I would preach with a table and chair ongoing.

Though I have people question this from time-to-time, I have had many people tell me how comfortable they feel with my preaching. I’ve had people say, “It was like we were in my kitchen…” or “… it was like we were just having coffee…”. While the work in their lives can only be attributed to the Holy Spirit, the setting is an important environment for God to work without hindrance.

Here are the main reasons I preach with a table:

First, it conveys authenticity. I want people to know that I am just like them, striving to sit with God’s Word and apply it to my life. This can be done with a pulpit (my favorite preachers use pulpits) but I believe that for me, it is best if I have a place to sit with my Bible open in front of me. I also want it to feel like they could grab a chair and sit down with me, and nothing would change. We are just real people seeking out a real God.

Second, it conveys approachability. I also use a table to clearly demonstrate an attitude of “Come join me in life as we find God’s will and voice on how to live.” I want people to be able to come meet with me, talk to me in the grocery store, or counsel in my office. For my life, the image of approachability can be greatly supported by preaching without a pulpit but having a “pull up a chair and stay awhile” look.

Finally, it conveys humility. I have had some people tell me I lose power and authority when I sit at the table. I disagree. If I have to show power and authority by body language or not sitting, then I have not correctly understood how Jesus showed power and authority. I believe a table can convey a humility that is necessary—to God and toward others. We are here to serve, not be King (that position is already taken).

There is a lot of thought which has gone into where my table is placed, what kind of table I use, the height and look of the chairs. I also practice (and sometimes mark in my notes) when I stand and sit in the sermon. Choosing to preach with a table and chair was not a “one-time decision and call it good” but it is a constant awareness of how to use this personal preaching space for the greatest effort.

If you preach or teach in any way or at any frequency, I recommend that you find the setup that is best for you. Think through what you are trying to convey, what your pulpit or table says about you and how you will best use it ongoing.

I welcome your feedback on this on Twitter or Facebook. Let’s interact!

Five or Less Sentence Email Replies

five or less

Email has a way of controlling our lives.

Think about it, we can get in the rut of doing nothing but responding to hours of emails every day. As fast as I return one email, two to three (literally) come in to replace it before I push “send”.

A few years ago I came across a website calling for a disciplined way of dealing with email. I took the challenge. The idea was simple: keep email replies to five sentences or less. Short replies are the way to keep up with the onslaught of emails we receive in a day. While some emails require many more than five sentences, the majority can be kept short-and-sweet to save time for both the sender and the receiver.

I realize that sometimes short can seem impersonal and not pastoral. I try to be sensitive if the reply calls for a more personal (and longer) dialog. However, I know that if I stay in my email all day I will neglect my primary calling to be with people and to study my Bible well.

Here are some reasons I know short replies are the best for most of my emails:

1. Short emails allow me to give people the “Bottom line” quickly. Most of the time people just need a quick piece of advice or an approval of some kind. To keep momentum moving, I get to the bottom line and allow all of us to keep moving forward.

2. Short emails don’t feel overwhelming to read or write. When I see over 200 emails in my inbox (which often happens in a week), I know that I can sit and knock them out in an hour or so.

3. Short emails help me get to “Inbox Zero” quickly. It is my goal to get a cleaned out inbox everyday. That doesn’t mean that every email was replied to, but it was filed correctly (I have a “24 Hour Response” and a “25-72 Hour Response” folder that I use primarily). I strive to reply to emails I can handle in 2 minutes with five sentences or less, never filing them for a later reply.

4. Short emails keep me out of my inbox. I want to be out working on things proactively, not just responding to things reactively. I believe my church needs that from me. If I keep the emails short, I spend less time in my inbox and more time leading, shepherding and preparing to preach.

To uphold these ideas, I had to free myself of a few mental roadblocks. When I finally accepted the idea that “Five or less” was going to be my new email reply norm I accepted:

  • My reply doesn’t have to match the length of their original email. Sometimes I receive very long emails. I used to feel like my reply had to match the length of their original email. I don’t feel that way anymore. That was probably a people-pleasing expectation I put on myself. I’ve never had someone say, “Your reply was way shorter than my original email.” As long as they get what they were looking for, they are happy.
  • I can’t feel that short is harsh or mean. I make sure to say, “I am not trying to be terse, but efficient..” in my auto signature for “Five or Less” replies. I had to release the personal pressure to be fluffy and long for the sake of avoiding being sharp. I can be kind and quick at the same time (it is a good discipline and challenge). I was typing thousands of words of fluff just to say something I needed to say in a few sentences; this needed to stop.

So here is what my email signature looks like for “Five or Less”:

Screen Shot 2015-06-22 at 9.57.15 AM
Simple and to the point. I need to keep moving and not let the urgent replace the important things in my daily life. If you want to create a signature like this, you are welcome to link to this post or use http://five.sentenc.es.

So here’s to getting out of our inboxes and getting on with life!

NOTE: If you received an email with this link in it, please know I do care for you, and I am grateful for your understanding of the values described within this post. Thank you!

The Building Blocks of a Biblical Life

06.24.15 For All Its Worth


Finding the heart of God requires dedication to study the Bible. Let’s face it, sometimes, the Bible is difficult to understand. If we diligently observe, interpret, and apply the Scriptures, we can experience transformation that goes beyond just gaining information. In this message I address the three necessary building blocks for studying the Bible. This is the third part in a 3 part series.

View other sermons in this series:

PART ONE: 5 Mistakes We Make When Reading the Bible

PART TWO: How to Develop a Heart After God


My Semon Outline (Microsoft Word): 03, For all It’s Worth Outline 06.21.15


My Slides
:

How to Develop a Heart After God

06.24.15 For All Its Worth


The Bible is not just an ancient book, but it is a relevant guide for discerning life choices. How do we allow God’s Word to affect our minds and emotions? This week, we will identify practical ways to discern our feelings and decisions. In this message we look at the life of David and how he developed as a man after God’s own heart. This is the second part in a three-part series.

View Other Sermons in this Series: 

PART ONE: 5 Mistakes We Make When Reading the Bible

PART THREE: The Building Blocks of a Biblical Life 


My Sermon Outline (Microsoft Word): 02, For all It’s Worth Outline 06.14.15


My Slides
:

How to Ask Questions Well!

We live in a world where we are in a perpetual state of reaction. We react to our circumstances whether it’s in our job, our marriage, or even a friendship. But the simple truth is we need to react less and think more.

Our words matter, even more then that our questions matter. Have you ever noticed that when you ask a question of someone often times you can get a defensive response. Check out this video and learn how to ask questions well!

Anger at God is a Dead End Street

This Way Out

In last week’s podcast, we began our conversation about what to do with God doesn’t act the way we would like Him to act. In our first part of looking at Jonah chapter 4, we realized that perspective makes all the difference in the world. When we lose sight of the fact that God is sovereign and ruling the world without worry, our fear and anxiety rises.

In this week’s podcast, we will finish the message on Jonah chapter 4 and have a deeper understanding that anger at God really is a dead-end street. I will give you practical ways to make sure you keep your perspective in check when dealing with circumstances that seem like to much to bear.

Let’s continue our study on Jonah chapter 4.

What You May Be Missing In your Prayer Life

Do you know about the guy named Asaph in the Old Testament who truly shared with God what was on his mind?

Asaph was a temple worship leader. He must have had a great voice in addition to his good lineage because he was elected to the lead-singer position. He did his job well and was influential. Some of the songs he wrote were used during the revival under King Hezekiah (2 Chronicles 29:30). And get this—what you and I would call the “choir” today was called the “Asaphites” back then.

In the eyes of the other God-believing people, Asaph was a role model because of His dedication to God. Yet, there was even a moment for the spiritual-giant when he doubted the worth of his faith and the merit of his actions.

In Psalm 73 he was asking questions like, Why do I try so hard to stay pure, to not be prideful, to not covet, to watch my language…all for what! 

The first time I read this psalm I was waiting for it to say, …and Asaph was struck dead because he offended God by what he said.

But Asaph wasn’t just blunt for the point of getting something off of his chest. He went to God honestly, with real concerns. I love the way that he starts his prayer. He doesn’t run into the throne room with guns blazin’ but states what he knows: “Surely God is good to Israel, to those who are pure in heart”true honesty with God starts with facts about God.

But true honesty with God always gets to the facts about what’s going on in our lives as well. Asaph goes on and says, “But as for me, my feet had almost slipped.” He says, Look, I’m not perfect at all. I’m a jealous wreck. I envy other guys even though they are wicked and prideful.

Finally, true honesty must acknowledge to God where we are at how we need to change. For the next several verses Asaph lays out his case. He tries to understand why the wicked can get away with all the sinful things they do, yet still have prosperity and good health. Asaph was not out to get revenge or blame God. He held his thoughts openly, with the hope that God would snatch his jealousy and replace it with something far greater. Asaph was honest, absolutely honest to God.

I hope you will allow your prayer life to be laced with honesty before God for the sake of transformation. Remember, He is an all-knowing God, so nothing you tell Him will surprise Him.

5 Mistakes We Make When Reading the Bible

06.24.15 For All Its Worth


The Bible is not an ancient, irrelevant letter. It is a guide for living in our modern world with passion, focus, and purpose. We will gain a greater understanding of why the Bible is of great importance and how we can apply it to our daily life in the most meaningful way. In this message I talk about five mistakes we make when approaching the Holy Scriptures and applying them to our life. This is the first part in a three-part series.

Listen to the other messages in this series:

PART TWO: How to Develop a Heart After God

PART THREE: The Building Blocks of a Biblical Life

My Sermon Outline (Microsoft Word): 01, For all It’s Worth Outline 06.07.15 v2
My Slides: 

 

The Mercy of God is Relentless

06.04.15 Why staying mad at God will get you

Let’s be honest, life hurts.

There are times where God doesn’t seem to act the way we want Him to act (which shouldn’t surprise us, but it still does). So what do we do? We get frustrated, pull away from God and pout like a toddler who didn’t get his way. All the while we think the compassion of God will cause Him to give in to what we want.

In this week’s podcast, we are talking about the mercy of God through the eyes of a disgruntled prophet named Jonah. I talk about what it means to be mad at God for going with a plan different than our and how we can adjust our perspective.

Perspective truly makes all the difference in the world; we must to be willing to abandon what we believe is right to a God, who does all things right.

Join me as we look at Jonah chapter 4.

Where is God in My Fear and Pain?

A story of a storm in my life:

We all have those moments in life that we will never forget. You know the ones: where you can seem to recount every detail no matter how far it was in the past.

One of those events for me was during my junior year of high school.

It was a warm spring day in Littleton, Colorado. I was a student at Arapahoe High School, sitting in a class as I watched our vice principal keep nervously walk past the door.

It became a game to me—counting how many times he passed. Five, six, seven… running his hands through his hair. Eight, nine, ten… He looked more worried than he usually did. I tracked his fly-bys with little tick marks on my notebook paper.

thirteen.
Fourteen.
Fourteen.
he stopped.

It was as if he finally found the words he was searching to find. Suddenly, he burst into our classroom. I remember his statements exactly:

“There’s been a shooting at Columbine High School,” he said.

He had tears and terror in his eyes.

Columbine was four miles from where I was sitting. The kids at Columbine were all our neighbors, kids we played with on our community sports teams, kids we went to elementary school with. Our schools had a huge, good-hearted soccer rivalry. Nearly everyone in my class knew someone at Columbine.

All around me in class kids started crying. My school immediately went into lockdown mode where no one could get in or out of the building. Our principal came on the loudspeaker and gave more details. Soon we all retreated downstairs and all the students filed into the cafeteria where teachers were setting up a row of TV monitors. Outside, I could see a long line of parents’ cars beginning to rush to our school.

That day was one of the fear-filled days of my life. Not to mention the hours, weeks and months of sorting out thoughts and facts that were still to be discovered.

The one thing that I have learned about life is that we are inevitably going to encounter storms – hard times that toss us to-and-fro and seemed insurmountable. In Mark 4:35 we can read about a real storm that Jesus and the disciples faced one night on the sea of Galilee…

You may be going through a hard time right now, but why are you so afraid? God will never leave you or forsake you. He promised! God always keeps His promises.

Does it sometimes seem like God is hiding or that our prayers don’t go any farther than the ceiling? It does for me too, but that is where faith is required.

It has been said many times before: facts drive faith, not feelings. The facts are found in the pages of Gods Word. Let’s build our faith on these facts and not flimsy feelings-of-the-moment; with Christ in our boat and His Word as our sure planks, we will be able to make it through the turbulent trials of life.