Article copyright by Bob Rogers
Just because a person is in the pew doesn’t mean he or she will listen. How do you keep them from tuning out? Here are five ways:
1. Be creative. “It’s a sin to make the word of God boring.” So said one of my seminary professors. I agree. If the congregation knows that every sermon will have the traditional “three points and a poem,” they may tune you out simply because you are predictable. Why not try a different approach from time to time? If the passage is primarily a story, consider telling the story dramatically. If the text seems to have two main points or five main points, why not preach a sermon with that many points? If the passage is poetry, consider using music or other art to illustrate the text. Jim Burnett gives more advice on how to be creative in your preaching here.
2. Speak their language. Sometimes people tune us out because we aren’t speaking to their mindset. Failing to do so is like speaking in English to a French audience. Many women tire of constant illustrations from sports, and the well-educated and young people especially tune out statements that come across as judgmental or condescending. The best way to speak the mindset of your congregation is to know your people. Spending time with them, listening to their stories and opinions, and learning about their hobbies and interests, can make all the difference in the pastor’s preaching. The preacher does not have to agree with them; in fact, sometimes he will need to challenge their thinking, but if he knows them and has earned their trust, he can speak in a way that they will listen. Along these lines, the staff of Facts and Trends have compiled a useful article on how to engage nine different kinds of people with the Bible in this article.
3. Make messages on stewardship positive. One of the most challenging topics for ministers to discuss is stewardship. I have found it useful to do a stewardship emphasis by giving short talks on principles of giving early in the service, and then preach the main sermon on a different subject. This touches on stewardship, yet takes away the excuse that “all the church does is talk about money.” It is also important to keep the subject positive, praising and thanking those who give, and talking about the great ministry of the church that people want to support with their offerings. Todd McMichen has some helpful hints on stewardship messages here.
4. Learn how to defend the faith. Many preachers and teachers recognize the need for apologetics (defending the faith), but often feel inadequate doing it. When you prepare a sermon, stop and think what objections people may have. How might a non-believer or person from a different faith background disagree? Write down the questions of your imaginary skeptic. Then seek to give a reasonable answer to the objections of that imaginary person. A great resource is The Apologetics Study Bible, which has notes right in the text to answer objections of skeptics and explain responses to non-Christian interpretations of scripture. This article by Andy McLean should help, as well.
5. Preach with passion. Passionate preaching is not about using a loud voice; in fact, it may be a low voice. Passionate preaching is from heart-felt conviction. When the congregation can feel that you are deeply convinced of what you are saying, they will be impacted by the Spirit of God. This comes from being personally moved by God by the scripture, and bathing the matter in prayer. That is why there is no substitute for much study and soul-searching prayer in preparation for the sermon.
Copyright by Bob Rogers
“Entering the house, they saw the child with Mary His mother, and falling on their knees, they worshiped Him. Then they opened their treasures and presented Him with gifts: gold, frankincense, and myrrh.” Matthew 2:11, HCSB
My sister, Nancy Rogers, is the best gift-giver I know. I have always noticed how thoughtful she is in selecting gifts for others. So I called her up and asked for her advice, and here is what she told me:
Nancy said, “I think about what that person would enjoy. It depends on who the person is. If they have similar tastes to me, or a woman my age, then I ask myself if I would like that. Then, I ask, would it appeal to that person, not to me. So I ask myself, how would they react when they open this gift? Like a person who loves cats, I might think they would like a cat figurine, but then I think about how this person does not collect items and so even though they like cats, they don’t collect figurines. So I give it some time and thought. I learn about the person. The gift may not be that expensive, but it doesn’t matter; what matters is that I was thinking about his or her interests, because you can’t buy affection.”
What about giving money and gift cards?
What about giving money and gift cards? Nancy said, “I think giving cash and gift cards can be just fine. I have a goddaughter who lives on a tight budget. For her, money is very helpful to do something for herself. So I gave her $50 for her birthday. She wrote me a note and said she went and got her hair done, and nails done, something she would not have spent on her tight budget. If I had given her a pair of earrings that cost the same amount of money, it would mean less to her. If had given money to my boss who makes more money than me, it would not have meant as much to him. If my friend listens to music all of the time and likes to get music on his iPod from iTunes, and I give him an iTunes gift card. But doing so, I’m saying that I’m thinking about him because he will download music with it.
“When it comes to gift giving, the magic thing is not the dollar value. It’s showing the other person that you care about them and value them by thinking about what they would like. It’s about the receiver, the care and thought. One year when I had no money, I baked cookies and put them in plastic bags and put handwritten notes with the cookies, and it went over fine, because I tried to personalize it. A lot of times, a card you make yourself or a blank card that you write a note in, means even more.”
Special advice for men giving to women
Does she have any advice for men buying for their girlfriend or wife? “When a man is buying for a woman, I have two pieces of advice. Number one, ask the best friend and listen to what she says. The best friend knows! Tell her the budget range, and she will give you the best suggestion, hands down. Number two, when in doubt, give her jewelry! Women will buy inexpensive costume jewelry for themselves, but a lot of women won’t buy nice jewelry for themselves. But you need to know the style and taste your woman has in jewelry. Does she wear silver or gold? Are her ears pierced? You may even want to take the best friend with you to help you pick it out. If you buy expensive gold earrings for a woman who wears silver jewelry and does not have pierced ears, you have shown that you do not care enough about her to learn what she likes, even though you spent a lot of money.
The extra benefit of gift-giving
“What you will discover when you start putting time and thought into your gift-giving, is that gift-giving will become more enjoyable for you. You will look forward to seeing how the other person reacts and how they know that you showed that you care by selecting something just for them. After all, giving gifts is an expression of our love, and if we love someone, we will put some thought into what we give them.”
If you see a video ad below this post, please be aware that I have no control over these ads, and I do not necessarily endorse the product.
Copyright 2012 by Bob Rogers
A lady didn’t have time to purchase gifts for her circle of friends, so she rushed to the store and bought a box of pretty Christmas cards, and mailed them without even reading the message inside. When she finally had time to relax on New Year’s, she picked up one of the unused cards and to her horror she read the message she had sent: “This Christmas card is just to say, a little gift is on the way!”
In all of our rushing around this Christmas season, let’s not forget the little gift, the baby Jesus, whom God sent to become the big gift for our eternal life. And let’s ask ourselves what gifts we are giving this Christmas. May I suggest a few?
The gift of time. Spend time doing things that matter– with your family, in worship, and in personal reflection.
The gift of love. Look people in the eye, give them a hug, truly listen to what they are saying. Show them they are important to you.
The gift of the gospel. Share the real meaning of Christmas with your Christmas decorations, using a nativity scene, a lighted cross, and so on. Ask a friend or co-worker, “What does Christmas mean to you?” and after they answer, tell them what it means to you.
The gift of money. Yes, money, but not like you may think. After all, it’s not your birthday or my birthday, it’s Jesus’ birthday. So why not spend at least as much money in honor of Jesus as we do on our own family members? Share generously with the missions offering to spread the gospel to those who have never heard. Share generously with people in need. And don’t forget your tithes to your own church, to continue the ministries that focus on the real reason for the season.
The gift of song. Christmas is a time for singing and rejoicing! Surround yourself with Christmas carols, and share it with everybody you meet. Go Christmas caroling in your neighborhood and share fresh-baked cookies with an invitation to our Christmas Eve service. This is one time of the year when the whole world likes to hear songs about Jesus, so spread the joy! Like the wise men who gave gold, frankincense and myrrh, what gifts can you and I bring Jesus?
Like many men, I am not a very good gift-giver. I wait until the last minute and run out to Wal-Mart. Or I get a gift that I think she wants, instead of what she really wants. When I was a young husband, I got my wife an iron for her birthday. It’s due to God’s grace and my wife’s patience that we’re still married. Some men reading this just asked, “What’s so bad about giving her an iron?” So for you guys who don’t know any better, here is a list of the Top Ten Things NOT to give your mother on Mother’s Day:
10. A plaque from Kroger that says “World’s Greatest Mom.”
9. A “God Loves Mothers” ballpoint pen that they give out at church on Mother’s Day.
8. A membership at the YMCA.
7. A toaster.
6. A mop and a broom.
5. Exercise equipment.
4. A new shotgun.
3. Ammunition for the new shotgun.
2. Taking her to a wrestling match.
1. An Extra Large white T-shirt from Wal-Mart that says “World’s Greatest Mom.”
Okay if these gifts are so bad, what are the Top Ten GOOD gifts for Mother’s Day?
Here are the Top Ten GOOD Gifts for Mother’s Day:
9. A new Bible
8. A gift certificate for a manicure and pedicure.
7. Take her out to eat.
6. If you can’t see her on Mother’s Day, call her and talk to her a long time and let her know you love her.
5. Take her on a surprise trip to see her mother.
4. A handmade gift from her children.
3. Dress the kids, take them to get their picture, and then frame the photo and give it to Mom.
2. Have Dad and all the children go to church with Mom and sit with her in church.
1. Clean the house, have Dad and the kids cook at home, and let Mom relax with all the family there.
Copyright 2012 by Bob Rogers
At first glance, it seems that nothing is recorded between Jesus’ day of confrontation on Tuesday, and Jesus’ celebration of the Passover on Thursday night. If so, it would mean that on the most important week of His life, Jesus took a day off! Jesus knew the importance of getting rest. In Mark 6:31, Jesus says, “Come with Me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.” Do you have a regular time when you turn off the TV, cell phone and computer, and just spend time resting, praying, reading God’s Word, and listening to God?
While it is possible that Jesus rested on Wednesday, a closer look at the text indicates that a couple of things did happen that day. Mark 14:1 says it was “two days” before the Passover. Passover would begin at sundown on Thursday night, so this means the events in Mark 14:1-11 were between sundown Tuesday and sundown Wednesday. Perhaps these things took place on Tuesday night, and Jesus really did do nothing on Wednesday. Or perhaps the events took place on Wednesday. Either way, what happened next foreshadowed the ominous death of Christ on the cross. Mark 14:1-2 says that the Jewish religious leaders were looking for a way to arrest and kill Jesus, and then verses 10-11 say that one of Jesus’ disciples, Judas Iscariot, went to the religious leaders and agreed to betray Jesus. What happened in between shows that Jesus knew exactly what was coming, and that it was all in God’s purpose.
Mark 14:3-9 tells the touching story of how a woman (often thought to be Mary Magdalene), anointed Jesus with an expensive perfume. To show how expensive it was, it was worth 300 denarii, and Mark 6:37 said that just 200 denarii would be enough to feed 5,000 people. Some of the people there expressed indignation that the perfume was “wasted,” but Jesus said to leave her alone. It was after this that Judas went to betray Jesus. But Jesus knew exactly what was coming. That’s why Jesus said, “She has anointed My body in advance for burial.”
This should remind us that nothing spent on Jesus is ever wasted. We can never give to Jesus more than He has given to us. Isaac Watts said it well in his hymn, “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross”:
Were the whole realm of nature mine,
That were a present far too small;
Love so amazing, so divine,
Demands my soul, my life, my all.