Quick Tip: Creative Inspiration

October 4, 2016

 What do you do with mail like the catalog above?

I think a lot of pastors toss it right away.  They assume that there is nothing that fits with their current context, their style, or their budget.

But why not use this type of material to fuel your creativity?

As you can see, this particular catalog focuses heavily on Christmas.  I don't know about you, but one of the greatest challenges that I face on a yearly basis is how to repackage the wonderful advent story in a fresh way.

I like to look at publications like this for ideas. 

For instance, I noticed that they are selling a sermon package called The Gifts of Christmas for somewhere between $59.95 to $89.00 depending upon the package you choose. You can have it all - sermons, slides, bumpers, planning guides, graphics, etc.

Personally, I don't care to preach a packaged sermon series.  Now, please don't misunderstand; I am not finding fault with those who do. I assume that most who do use the prepacked sermons do the required work to "make it their own."  But the few times that I have preached messages that were pre-prepared, I did not feel comfortable.  If we were to do a church-wide campaign, I would rework the suggested sermons.

While I don't care to preach these packages , I am open to creative ideas!  

Without knowing much about this particular sermon package set, I did see the 4 Gifts, and I assume the passages of Scripture that they're based on.

Gift 1 - Hope (Romans 15:12)
Gift 2 - Love (John 3:16)
Gift 3 - Joy (Luke 2:10)
Gift 4 - Peace (Isaiah 9:6)

With that information alone, I could go to work creating a memorable Christmas sermon series all for the incredibly low price of $0.00!  Of course, I would NOT use their graphics. I might not even use their series title, but I will gladly use the creative inspiration!*

I might call the series: Gifts from Jesus, or Gifts from God, or Christmas Gifts that Everyone Needs, or Gifts that Would Not Be Returned, or Gifts Everyone Will Love.

I might even change the Scripture passages and order that they are preached. 

Do you get the idea?  

Just be open to the creativity that is around you.  

It even arrives in your mailbox for free!!  

In case you've already thrown away the catalog and need some creative inspiration, here are some of the ways that I've approached the Christmas story over the years:

Don't Miss Christmas - we looked at some of the characters that missed Christmas (Innkeeper, Herod, the Religious Leaders)  I got this idea from a chapter in a John MacArthur book.  Inspiration from one chapter was developed into a full series.

Angel Errands - We followed the angels as they delivered the messages to Mary, Joseph, and the Shepherds 

Christmas Carols - Incorporating the Beloved Carols with the Scripture (our people really seemed to enjoy these).  This can be a series that you pull out more than once since there are plenty of songs to choose from!

Journey to Bethlehem - In the first message I answered the question - Why Bethlehem?  In the following messages we traveled with the various characters to Bethlehem (wise men, shepherds, Mary & Joseph)

Lessons from Luke Chapter 2 - We simply stayed in this chapter for the entire Christmas series

Do you see how a little creativity can go such a long way?  You have the same glorious story, but in different packages!


*I actually preached a series similar to this back in 2010 that I called Gifts from Our Shepherd.  It was based on Psalm 23 (the gifts of peace, rest, guidance, courage, care, and life).  This series began before Christmas and ended after.

I keep a whole shelf of Christmas books, devotionals, stories behind the carols, etc., for inspiration and illustration purposes.

You'll find several of these messages and series on our iTunes page.  Just scroll by dates to see the Christmas series. Most recordings begin with music, so you'll have to fast forward.

Want to use some of my Christmas series ideas in your church?  Help yourself!  More information on this can be found here

5 Ways Your Cell Phone Can Help Your Ministry

October 3, 2016

If you're like most pastors, you're BUSY!  And I assume if you're reading this blog, you probably don't have a lot of paid help.  That's OK.  That just means that you need to be smart and efficient in the use of your tools and time.

And since you don't have a lot of time, I'll keep this post short and to the point.

Here are 5 ways your cell phone can help you in your ministry efficiency:

1. It can help you contact your members

Take the time to enter your congregations contact information into your address book.  You'll be so glad you did, when you are out and about and you need to call, text, email, or visit someone.  This is especially helpful when responding to emergencies.

I know it takes quite a bit of time up front, but it will save you in the long run.

2. It can help you remember what you read

Using a Scanner app is such a wonderful way to file away that great quote, insight, or devotional you just read.  Just scan the page, save it to Evernote, email it to yourself, or send it to whatever storage system you usually use.  This will save you so much time and frustration when you're preparing a sermon, and trying to remember where you read that great story!

3. It can serve as your digital brain

This is where Evernote comes in.  I don't have time to go into all the wonderful ways you can use Evernote for ministry (certainly a post for the future), but suffice it to say this is one of the best tools that I've ever used!  Check it out. I think you'll be glad you did.

4. It can remind you of stuff

With Reminders, To Do Lists, Productivity apps and the like, you can set reminders and forget about the item.  When the time comes, you'll get an alarm. This frees up your brain to concentrate on other matters.

I use an app called Capito.  Whenever I think of something while out of the office, it simply emails my note to me.

5. It can make you look professional

OK, I'm not talking about the phone itself.  I'm talking about the ability to make professional looking graphics to use on your personal or social media feeds.

There are lots to explore, but I use an app called VintageDesign.  In a matter of minutes I can make an image that looks like it was done professionally.  It is quick, easy, and quite intuitive - and a whole lot cheaper than a designer!

Of course, any designers reading this might disagree with my assessment of how professional it looks! 

Here is a sample image that I made and used recently:

I hope this list will inspire you to use that cell phone for something other than an alarm clock and an email device.

Do you have other ways that your cellphone makes you a productivity superstar?  If so, share them with me in the comments section below. I'd love to hear from you!

Note: I use Apple products, but I'm sure that there are similar apps for Android devices.  Plus, some apps are available on both. 

You might also be interested in my article called

7 Ways to Redeem Your Cell Phone

September 30, 2016

Recently, I saw a statistic that said Americans now spend 4.7 hours a day using their cell phones!  That's roughly a third of the day using that little mobile device!*

What are we doing with all this time?  

Most people that I see on cell phones are not actually talking to someone.  I assume they're texting, facebooking, tweeting, snapchatting, and the like.  Do people actually write term papers and sermons on their phones now?  I know it's possible, but I doubt most are doing such important work.

The Scripture is clear when it comes to our time:
See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil. Eph. 5:15 nkjv

How do we redeem or buy back all this time we're flitting away on our cell phones?

While we could take drastic measures (throw it in the lake, run over it with car, flush it down the toilet), well, you get the picture.  I think there is a better way.

Here are 7 ways to Redeem Your Cellphone:

1. Download YouVersion and begin a Bible Reading Plan

You probably already have this app on your phone, anyway.  Spend a few minutes checking out the great plans that they have available.  They range from a few days to all year.  This is such a better use of time than taking another selfie.

2. Download some Bible Devotional Apps 

Right now I have devotionals from Charles Spurgeon, FB Meyer, Our Daily Bread and many more on my phone.

3. Download some Bible Commentaries or Bible Study Software

Logos, WordSearch, E Sword, Matthew Henry, and others.  When waiting in line to pick up the kids from school you can get some serious study done for your sermon.

4. Use a Scripture Memory Program

I currently use the free version of Scripture Typer, but I'm sure there are other options out there.

5. Put your Prayer List on Your Phone

You can use a fancy prayer list app like Prayer Notebook or just put it in Evernote or even your notes app.

6. Text an encouraging word or Scripture to a friend

This is a quick way to lift someone up.  It only takes a moment, but it can have an eternal impact.

7. Use all that time on Facebook, Twitter, and the like as Prayer Prompts

Why not use social media as a giant prayer list? As you scroll through the feeds pray for your friends.  Believe me, you'll never run out of things to pray about when using social media sites.

I hope this list will inspire you to redeem the time and use this wonderful tool of technology to glorify God.

Do you have more ideas as to how to redeem the time while online?  Share them in the comments section below.  I'd love to hear from you.


Note: while some apps are specific to either Apple or Android devices, I think you'll find plenty of options if you spend just a little of that 4.7 hours investigating! 

Next time I plan on sharing some ways to use your cellphone to make you more productive and efficient in your ministry.

*Statistic mentioned in a Sunday School Student Book by LifeWay

Your Ministry Is Important!

September 2, 2016

In the day to day grind of ministry it is easy to forget what we're all about.  If we are not careful we can become so consumed with administration, visitation, sermon preparation, making phone calls, sending emails, and the like, that we miss the BIG picture!

Sometimes we need to push pause, step back, take a breath, and remember some important truths. 

We exist for the Glory of God.  
We pastor for the Glory of God.  
We minister for the Glory of God.  

It's all about Him!  It's all for Him!

Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.  1 Corinthians 10:31

If anyone speaks, let him speak as the oracles of God.  If anyone ministers, let him do it as with the ability which God supplies, that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belong the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen.  1 Peter 4:11

If we're not careful ministry can suck the very life out of us.  It can blind us to our purpose.  It can even steal our identity!  We can forget that while we are pastors, we are also persons.  

No wonder so many are burning out of the ministry.

We forget just how important our ministry really is.  We get so overwhelmed with the challenges and problems of ministry that we are underwhelmed by the glorious calling upon our lives.  We forget that God has called us and tasked us to help shepherd His people.

Remember how excited you were at your first ministry assignment?  

Perhaps it was teaching a Sunday School class, working with the Youth Group, maybe just cleaning the bathrooms - it didn't matter what you were doing, as long as you were serving Jesus.  

But what about now?  Are you still excited?  Are you still joyful?  Are you still laboring out of a heart of love?

If not, it's time to stop, fall on your knees, and make a fresh surrender of your life.  To thank the Lord that He has placed you in ministry.  To thank Him that He has entrusted you with the care of precious souls.  To thank Him that you get to do what you dreamed about doing so many years ago - you get to minister!

So make sure you always remember that Your Ministry Is Important!  

It has eternity written all over it.

A Prayer For Our Journey

September 1, 2016

An opening prayer as we launch this blog for the Glory of God

Dear Lord,

I refuse henceforth to compete with any of Thy servants.  They have congregations larger than mine.  So be it.  I rejoice in their success.  They have greater gifts.  Very well.  That is not in their power nor in mine.  I am humbly grateful for their greater gifts and my smaller ones.  I only pray that I may use to Thy glory such modest gifts as I possess.  I will not compare myself with any, nor try to build up my self-esteem by noting where I may excel one or another in Thy holy work.

I herewith make a blanket disavowal of all intrinsic worth.  I am but an unprofitable servant.  I gladly go to the foot of the class and own myself as the least of Thy people.  If I err in self judgment and actually underestimate myself I do not want to know it.

I purpose to pray for others and to rejoice in their prosperity as if it were my own.  And indeed it is my own if it is Thine own, for what is Thine is mine, and while one plants and another waters it is Thou alone that giveth the increase.*


*A W Tozer (Ron Eggert), Tozer on Christian Leadership: A 366-Day Devotional (Camp Hill, PA: Christian Publications, Inc., 2001), October 31 devotion.
template design by Studio Mommy (© copyright 2015)