4 “Non-Sin” Sermon Practices

images-7This perspective on preaching is meant to help a few pastors out there breathe a sigh of relief when it comes to effective preaching. Given the amount of attention given and training dedicated to some of these and other preaching methodologies, you would think it was a sin to not practice them. Call it a little mild push-back… here are 4 “Non-Sin” Sermon Practices:

1) Preaching with notes. It’s hard not to sound whiney & pathetic on this one. Here it goes… having 20+ uninterrupted office hours per week, a book allowance, team of researchers, graphic designers, teaching screen, green room & amazing worship team to help prepare, memorize and position you to deliver a 20-30 minute message with solid, relevant content are all very good things! The reality is most pastors, especially marketplace, bi-vocational and small church leaders, don’t have resources like these at their disposal on a weekly basis.

If this is you, stop comparing yourself to those who do (and stop resenting them while you’re at it). Develop a great team of talented volunteers. Use some notes and don’t feel inadequate about it. Don’t preach to your notes, either. Prepare well. There is no excuse not to… none. Know the audience you are trying to reach, connect with them in intentional ways and be true to God’s Word.

2) Not using “buzz” words. I remember about 10 years ago the word “paradigm” was the word of the day. Preachers and speakers seemed to fall all over themselves looking for ways to use it without appearing to try. Today, words and phrases like, “community,” “journey” and “track with me” are favorites as we sit down to preach at a cafe table, sipping coffee so as to be “real, relaxed and relevant.”

Don’t try so hard. People can usually see right through this. Avoid using and abusing terminology simply to sound folksy, professional, country, gospel, hipster, gangster, intellectual or any other way other than you… sharing Jesus with real people.

3) Not showing a video. “Check this out…” we say, as the lights fade and a touching, inspiring, hilarious or otherwise gut-wrenching movie clip or you-tube video seamlessly rolls. (I actually used the phrase, “Roll that beautiful bean footage…” one time. Sad, I know.) While people learn more visually than ever, and videos can help drive some points home, it really is okay if people don’t see a video during every sermon.

4) Getting emotional! The spiritualized “Ted Talk” style of preaching became the “norm,” maybe even the unspoken benchmark for preaching the Gospel to the 21st century audience about ten years ago. I get it… frothing at the mouth and yelling at people for an hour has long since proven less than effective.

Still, if the fate of lost souls, the hope of heaven, and the amazing grace of Jesus isn’t enough to move us a little emotionally, how can we expect others to be moved to any kind of action? (I know, Jonathan Edwards didn’t need emotional hype…) While stopping well short of winning an Oscar for Best Dramatic Performance, we shouldn’t be afraid to display some genuine emotion in the course of a message. 

Bonus material: Don’t get me started on anyone over 30 wearing, let alone preaching in “skinny” anything. 

Preaching has become more of an “art” than ever. This is a good thing. By all means, glean from the latest and most ancient sermon prep training and instruction. After all, the greatest story ever told is worth the effort. At the end of the day, being true to Jesus and His Gospel should be among our top preaching priorities as we seek to warn the lost (and the found) and awaken hope in this age of uncertainty.

What are your thoughts and suggestions when it comes to effective preaching?

31 Tips for 2016 – #12

Unknown-1Here is Tip #12 for Ministry Leaders in 2016…

Be you. This tip is especially for those just getting started in their leadership journey.

My dad’s preaching style has always been didactic, the teacher, and that’s the style I knew was for me. My father-in-law has always been more the evangelist. Hard-driving sermons that plead people to the altar. After a few years under his ministry, I found my style moving more in this direction. Then came leaders like Bill Hybels, then Andy Stanley, then… you get the picture. With each style of speaker and leader I would find myself more than gleaning from the substance of their message, I was “borrowing” a little from their style.  While there is much to be learned from the message and methods of leaders like these, you simply aren’t called to be them. 

Find your voice. Develop your own style. Yes, by all means, listen and learn from some of the best. However, be who God has made you to be. Sure, we should always keep our audience in mind… how they learn, the language they speak. But never let any of this keep you from being, leading and speaking just like you. Why?

Authenticity. My son has been big on this as he has found himself now also in a long line of Christian leaders in his own right. He has taught me (among many things) that his generation can smell a “poser” from a mile away. Hint: If you can remember when Star Wars came out the first time, skinny jeans are not for you… anywhere, anytime. Just don’t. What resonates with people on a deeper level is being genuine about who you and whose you are in Christ, and leading from that simple place of security in Him.

Be you. Not sure who that is yet? Take the time to pray about it. Get alone and get away to discover it. Ask others who will have the guts to hold you accountable and tell you when you trying too hard to be anything or anyone else other than who God made you to be.

The Lord and this world doesn’t need another Francis Chan or Steven Furtick. It needs you.


4 Essentials of Sermon Prep

imgres-6Whether you are a seasoned veteran of the pulpit or are sweating your first sermon series, solid sermon preparation doesn’t simply happen. I am still surprised by the temptation in the busyness of church leadership, and by my ability to procrastinate one of the most important and sacred responsibilities. Okay, not so surprised by the latter… you get the point.

Here are 4 Essentials of Sermon Preparation that help keep pastors purposed about preaching…

“Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.” – Paul

(2 Timothy 2:15, NIV)

Purposed Time. Plan your optimal time of day. This is when your brain is most active and your spirit most open to what God wants to say through you.

Purposed Place. Plan your optimal environment. This is where you are at your creative best. Hint: Get out of the office!

Purposed People. Partner with your optimal team. This is who you can partner with to communicate the message best.

Purposed Prayer.  Prepare with your optimal source. This is what it takes to add the essential intangible that is the Holy Spirit’s presence.

Peak Thinking: “People have an idea that the preacher is an actor on a stage and they are the critics, blaming or praising him. What they don’t know is that they are the actors on the stage; he (the preacher) is merely the prompter standing in the wings, reminding them of their lost lines.” ― Søren Kierkegaard

Peak Pause: How much preparation time do you spend on each sermon or teaching session? 1-3 hours ____  4-6 ____  7-10 hours ____ 11+ hours ____

What is your best source of inspiration when it comes to preaching/teaching preparation?

Share your thoughts in the Reply section below.

How can we partner in a leadership retreat, PEAK Pastors conference or ongoing coaching relationship. Email me at tompelt1@gmail.com or find more information at www.tompelt.com. I look forward to hearing from you!

Excerpt from PEAK Pastors – Preaching

What Pastors Think While Preaching

images-2Ever wonder what your pastor thinks while preaching? Keeping in mind that your pastors are just people, here’s a lighter look at what might be going through their minds.

Top 10 things pastors think while preaching…

1) I hope I pronounce, “Jaareoregim,” right.

2) Wonder what they fought about on the way here?

3) Wow. Thought that was a killer line. (crickets)

4) He’s asleep already? 

5) I’m pretending not to hear that phone ringing… again.

6) Okay, that made no sense! Where was I?

7) Hey, they’re new. (Last Sunday was so much better... shoot!

8) I knew I should have gone before I got up here.

9) I hope the tech team can edit that out.

10) Even I’m bored! How do I land this plane?

Those are a few of the less-than-spiritual thoughts I’ve had over the years! How about you? What goes through your mind while speaking? If you aren’t a preacher, what are you thinking while your pastor is speaking?  Share your thoughts in the Reply section below…

4 Reasons to Blog Your Sermons

What if your sermons were blog posts? Would they be shareable? How many “favorites” would you get and, from whom? How would your sermons improve if you had to put them in blog form?

As you prepare your next message, teaching series or speech, here are 4 Reasons to Blog Your Sermons…

1) It forces you to economize. Blogs aren’t novels. Who has the time? The attention span of our audiences (secular or sacred) haven’t exactly increased over the years!

“Our average attention span is now 8 seconds – 1 second less than a goldfish. According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, at the U.S. National Library of Medicine, the average attention span of a human being has dropped from 12 seconds in 2000 to 8 seconds in 2013. This is one second less than the attention span of a goldfish. That’s right, goldfish have an attention span of 9 seconds – 1 second more than you and I.” (http://www.b2bmarketinginsider.com/)

2) It reminds you of your audience. Great bloggers know who they are trying to reach. They are in touch with their needs and desires. They can relate with their problems and are focussed on providing real-world solutions. The Word of God is nothing if not able to transform lives through Christ Jesus in the real world and in the real time of our audience.

3) It focuses you on the point. Every once in a while (Okay… that’s probably an understatement) I get this look from my wife while preaching that says, “Stop circling and land the plane.” Blog readers like their content simple and to the point. Make it. Illustrate it. Apply it to real life. Enough said.

4) It helps you make it personal. The best bloggers know that making a personal connection with their readers is vital. No one likes to feel like a number. How have you experienced what you are preaching or teaching? And, not just the successes. Sharing the story of our failures connects in a way that 3 or 4 of the most poignant points ever could.

Check out the Beatitudes. Matthew 5:1-12 is an excellent example of all the above!

How do you connect God’s Word to your audience? Share your thoughts below in the Reply section…

Bounceback – 5 Suggestions for Doing Better Next Time

images-8We’ve all been there. Whether it was leadership training, a sermon or teaching session, you leave the platform knowing you “struck out.” At some point most of your audience were hoping you would stop circling and just land the plane, as it were. You feel defeated, depressed and like you let everyone down. The question is, how do you bounce back?

We’ve all been there. Whether it was leadership training, a sermon or teaching session, you leave the platform knowing you “struck out.” At some point most of your audience were hoping you would stop circling and just land the plane, as it were. You feel defeated, depressed and like you let everyone down. The question is, how do you bounce back?

Here are 5 suggestions for doing better next time…

1) Own it. “Excuses, excuses.” I’m full of them! “I didn’t have enough prep time this week.” “There wasn’t a good vibe in the room.” “The audience just didn’t get it.” The hard truth is that 99.9% of the time I was the one responsible for the message falling flat. Bouncing back begins with simply owning the fact that we didn’t prepare well… didn’t study our content, didn’t practice our delivery, didn’t consider our audience, didn’t pray sufficiently, weren’t disciplined enough to be rested up and ready. Don’t dodge it. Own it and you are well on your way to bouncing back.

2) Review it. Yes, it’s painful. However, listening or watching your own message will help you hear and see yourself better. This includes that illustration that didn’t connect, the point that wasn’t relevant, that phrase that didn’t “pay” or that question you failed to ask, let alone answer. Take the time to put yourself in your audience’ shoes and review your message. Take some notes along the way and ask, “What does it sound like to the audience?”

3) Get a “second opinion” (and third…). More times than not someone else can hear and see what we cannot. From your spouse, a member of your lead team, to someone right in the heart of your target group, have others listen and ask them to specifically critique how relevant your content was and how well you delivered it. The more specific and “brutally honest” the better. If they can’t tell you what the point was, it is doubtful your greater audience could.

4) Get over it. It probably wasn’t as bad as you think. How many times have all of us thought we “bombed” and then someone comes up and says, “Thank you. That’s just what I needed to hear!” Keep it in perspective. Besides, your best message probably wasn’t as awesome as you thought, either.

5) Rehearse it. Now that you have some perspective and are clear on specific ways to improve, practice it. Remember, “Practice doesn’t make perfect.” Don’t just ingrain poor habits. Rather, practice better communication skills and then communicate your next message with a grounded sense of confidence in what you are saying and how you are saying it.

One more thought… study more. Often we over-compensate for a lack of content with points that drift or stories without one, an increase of pace or, worse, in volume. Remember, nothing replaces quality and quantity time spent in the Word of God and in prayer. Last-minute “Saturday night specials” will not invite a moving of the Holy Spirit for your sermon, teaching or training. There are no shortcuts. Do the work.

None of us can hit a “home run” every time. However, put these 5 practices in play and you can and will do better next time!

What are some of the ways you purpose to improve your communication skills? Leave a suggestion in the Reply section below!

4 Tips for a Memorable Message


How can your next sermon (lesson, “talk,” or speech for that matter) be one people won’t soon forget? Practice these 4 Tips for a more memorable message…

Tip 1 – Did you ask a good question? The question is, “What’s a good question?” The answer? The one everyone is really asking. Like Jesus did time and again, leverage the art of inquiry to engage hearts and minds.

Tip 2 – Relate a better story. Don’t just tell it, relate it. Try it out on a smaller group and make sure it connects with the target audience or greater culture you are communicating with. Just because you are moved by it, doesn’t guarantee your audience will.

Tip 3 – Ground it in the Word. God’s Word is what the Body of Christ truly wants and the lost truly need. Don’t let the Truth of Scripture get lost in illustrations while trying too hard to make your message “stick.” God’s Word doesn’t illustrate your point, it is the point.

Tip 4 – Mix in some “shortening.” By the time you are wondering if your message is too long, it was. Remove a point. Don’t say it again. (Insert my wife’s look that says, “Quit circling and land the plane, Tom…”

Tip 5 – Be yourself. Resist the temptation to copy anyone else’s style or method (The too-cool stool and coffee mug, the standing flatscreen, the too short “Ted Talk,” the too long marathoner, pounding pulpiteer, preacher-voice, brow-wiper, weeper, or comedian, etc). You don’t need to impress anyone with anything other than their need for the Savior. Authenticity is believability. If a method is natural for you, then be you and focus on the message.

Bonus Tip – Pray for it. Did you seek God’s power to remove you and put Jesus center stage? Ask God for a good connection with your audience. Gather a group who will pray with you and for you before, during and after you preach.

Don’t settle for sharing just another message. Remember, one day it will be your last.

3 Reasons You Should Say It Anyway


Do you feel like God has given you something to say, but everyone is already saying it? Are relevant and urgent issues already being addressed by the experts in your field? Or, do you feel like your message simply get’s lost in the white noise of the web? Consider 3 reasons why you should say it anyway…

1 – You have a God-given circle. Your followers may not number in the thousands, let alone millions. You may get less than record-breaking “likes” to your posts and you have never been “re-tweeted.” Still, you have a group of people who have come to know and trust your voice. You have done life with many of these people and you have an influence on them that the greatest names in the business simply cannot have. Especially for the small/medium sized ministry leaders, never underestimate the impact your encouragement or instruction has on the unique circle God has given to you. Besides, most of those with trusted voices and larger audiences started with a very small following. Jesus comes to mind, here. Needless to say I strongly recommend you both “Like” and follow Him closely.

2 – You have a God-given perspective. While there are always some common points of interest, each person brings their own voice from their own experience to any conversation. Your voice may just add a missing ingredient to the mix. No, you may not have a Phd in the given subject, but your input is no more or less valid than any casual blogger or learned professional. Say it clearly, creatively and concisely.

3 – You need the practice. That is, you need the discipline in your life that researching and communicating on relevant subjects on a consistent basis brings. Doing so is a healthy life habit that is far more beneficial to you and your circle of influence than spending another hour on Netflix or Facebook. Communicate about things you are passionate about and you will never run out of material!

Finally, humbly take the gift and grow! One of the greatest benefits of today’s many internet platforms is the ability to bring amazing leaders right to your doorstep. From instruction to inspiration, research to reviews, video conferences, webinars and so much more, some of the most gifted voices in just about any field are putting there message out to the masses. Even more, many of these resources are given away free, simply for signing up to receive their e-news or daily tweets. Check out my Follow the Leaders page and click on any of the images for instant access to some great leaders and resources. Determine to learn from not only what these experts are saying, but how they are saying it. Then, add your own voice. Perhaps you might even respond to a discussion thread when the opportunity is given? Regardless, do some homework and then engage in the important issues. Your voice adds great value!

Go ahead, say it anyway.


Ready to Speak

Have you been asked to speak at a conference, convention, retreat, rally or revival? Especially for the small to medium sized church pastor who may not have the benefit of an Executive team or assistant, here are 5 steps to help you get ready for your next speaking event…

Step 1 – Prayer. Saturate the upcoming opportunity with prayer. Pray personally and with your spouse/family for wisdom and boldness to share in both truth and love. Gather a group of people who will join you in prayer not only as you prepare, but throughout the event itself. Ask your church to be praying as well. This will not only multiply the prayer power going up, but will give all a real sense of partnership with you.

Step 2 – Arrangements. Be sure to cover the details concerning travel, hotel, compensation, etc. Do this prior to your event and share them with your spouse and lead team. You might create a simple document that shares your needs, speaking fees, etc, prior to accepting the invitation. This isn’t about getting the “white glove treatment.” It is about the value of your investment personally, as a family and in the event and people it serves. Even more, the message you share will be of eternal significance. You simply want to be at your best. One more thought here… get adequate rest during the event. Balance well your desire to be accessible with your need to stay refreshed for speaking.

Step 3 – Study. Begin by studying your audience. Know who you will be speaking to and take that into account. While you always want to be yourself, knowing your audience may help you speak in a more relevant way to them, their challenges and goals. Then, prepare or review your messages well in advance. Don’t be afraid to use a message or teaching series you have used before. Besides, the Holy Spirit will almost certainly give you some fresh material in the moment, just to keep you humble and on your toes.

images-6Step 4 – Passion. This isn’t just any event. Whether speaking to a handful of people or to the masses, every audience is full of VIP’s in God’s eyes. Share the message God has laid on your heart with an unapologetic passion. The Apostle Paul reminds us, “Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.” (Romans 12:11, NIV)

Step 5 – Follow-up and follow-through. Plan in advance to communicate with your host post-event. Take the time to share a verbal or written review of the event and the organization. Your insights may prove vital as fresh eyes see what those on the inside cannot. Pray for and encourage them as their church or organization moves forward and offer your services to them for the future. Communicate the value of their assessment as well. Ask for any constructive criticism they might give you and then ask for an endorsement of your ministry as a speaker and leader. Again, putting this in writing will be helpful. I have attached a simple guide for these things that you can adapt.

Let me know what you might add to help others get ready for their next event. Email me at tompelt1@gmail.com or simply reply below. I look forward to hearing from you!


Millennial Advice

images-4I recently asked a member of the millennial generation to give me some honest feedback and advice on speaking. Specifically, on a recent message I had preached. Not just any millennial, this is my favorite millennial… my son, Andrew. While he doesn’t pretend to speak for all in his generation, he does bring with him a perspective gathered from his diverse background (from the Bluegrass of Kentucky to the eclectic universe of So Cal) and experience (student, guitarist, academic advisor, worship leader, student ministries pastor, foreign missions and world travel)…

Here were his top three critiques and action points…

1 – Cut down on (or just cut out) alliterations. In other words, don’t use wordplay and/or other “gimmicky” sounding techniques. Trust the audience and the Holy Spirit to connect on and remember what only they know they need to.

2 – Ask questions. Don’t just dispense insight. Use the power of questions to prompt people to dig deeper for themselves, question the obvious and apply truth for living in the real world. Don’t assume or “add” to the text (Scripture or other sources) what isn’t there. Do follow Jesus’ example and ask better questions.

3 – Less is more. Not in depth, mind you… in length. There is nothing wrong with speaking over 20-30 minutes. However, you better make sure your content is valuable and speaking practically into the lives of your target audience. Especially when it comes to young people, they simply don’t and won’t have time to waste on anything else.

Admittedly, part of me said, “Ouch!” The rest of me is grateful to have someone speak into my life so that I can be better at sharing the most important information ever communicated to humanity, the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Communicating well is a class that is always in session. Thanks, Andrew, for schooling me with a fresh perspective on the art of speaking.