Sermon Extras: Rich Young Ruler – our hearts

In Luke 18:18-30 we have the story a rich ruler who came to Jesus asking what he must do to deserve eternal life. The story brings up a number of issues. One is whether we wish to relate to God from a set of rules/ list (which, we learn in the story, is not what Jesus longs for from us) or from the heart. Jesus has an uncanny way to reveal what is really going on in us and cut through our pretenses.

The story also drives home the issue of our hearts and what essentially stands in the way of sincere faith and true relationship with God. For this particular ruler, it was his money and possessions that hindered him, but I believe it’s different for each of us. And where this issue and the first issue (on rules and lists) come together is: I believe one of big reasons we’d rather have a set of rules or a list of things to keep is it’s easier than really connecting with God from our hearts. In some ways, I wonder, as I look back on my life, if there haven’t been lots of times I made myself feel better about my connection with God because I was keeping the external rules, while secretly letting my heart be for something else. Jesus sees beyond the games we might play.

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Ask Anything #5: Sinful pastors

Jason – It is really great that you would open up an be so vulnerable to allow people to ask anything that is on their mind. What do you feel are one or two examples of “sins” that a pastor could commit(all pastors are human after all)that would qualify a permanent dismissal from church leadership? Since pastors are in fact human, should there be any reason why the church would not just forgive and forget. Without mentioning names of course, could you provide some current examples?

An interesting question that I’m not sure I can answer unilaterally for all but I’ll take a shot at examining the issues. It is true pastors are human and sin. Obviously for any leaders, they influence others, and therefore their behavior impacts others. Now in our culture, we tend to “celebritize” our leaders and in many cases give too much credit or prominence to our pastors. In my career, I’ve fallen for the trap of trying to look like I have it all together and live up to the hype that people expect a pastor to live up to. This trap can lead to “image management” and ultimately deceit (because you don’t want to admit you’re not what people expect or want you to be). And God really taught me that lesson early on in my ministry in some very painful ways. I am grateful however for that, as it’s helped move me personally more towards being authentic, admitting struggles, getting men around me to be real with and not falling for the hype. This is why I will often introduce myself as “one of the pastors” – I don’t want the role of “lead pastor or senior pastor” to place an unrealistic expectation – we are in this all, together! I say all this because I think it’s important for anyone in leadership to examine these issues and do their best to fight the “image” that people want to place on you, because none of us can live up to it.

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Ask Anything #4: Why?

Q: Hey Jason, one question for you….. why?

A; Hey Anonymous, one answer for you….. why not?

Ephesians 3:20-21 –  Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.

1 Corinthians 2:9 –  “No eye has seen,   no ear has heard, no mind has conceived   what God has prepared for those who love him”

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Ask Anything #3: Where do you get your hair cut?

On facebook I was asked this question about where I get my hair cut, so I’ll answer. I find it an interesting question since the amount of hair I have to be cut is getting less and less. But nevertheless…

When I first arrived at GCR, Pastor Steve told me about a great place that is reasonably priced, but a decent drive. I went and have not gone anywhere else since. It’s the “Great Clips” in Blaine. Christy is who I go to, she typically has a wait and you can not schedule your appointments ahead of time. She is really great and I’ve been impressed every time! Although, I’m hesitant to tell you all this, because if you go, I may have wait longer to get my haircut (and the wait already is very long!). Another benefit of this particular Great Clips is that it’s conveniently located right next to a superior coffee experience (Caribou Coffee). So when I do have to wait, I typically go to Caribou, enjoy a mocha, work on a sermon and enjoy!

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Ask Anything #2 – Preaching without Notes

Here’s another question I was asked:

Jason,

You blogged a few weeks ago about not using your notes as much when you preach. I was wondering from your standpoint, how is that going?

Answer:

Well, Allow me to clarify – I am currently preaching with little notes. I started this experiment about 2 weeks after Easter, was affirmed and prayerfully felt it was the right direction to keep pursuing. I tried it by using the back screen with some “rough notes” on it but that didn’t work real well and required an extra volunteer back there (so I stopped doing that). I then tried just memorizing the whole thing, while having my notes up there when I needed them, but I didn’t feel as free. Today, I’ve now gone to: studying like crazy during the week, thinking over the passage, typing up a rough outline and thoughts, stories, ideas, then finalizing that work and ultimately (on Friday or Saturday) typing up a half sheet or so with some rough thoughts on it which I have up there with me on Sundays, but it’s typically just a word here or there, incomplete sentence etc. on one or two half sheets of paper. And so I just talk based loosely on the outline I’ve prepared.

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Ask Anything #1 – Church Governance Process

Here’s a question I received…

Our government has the membership elect elder nominating committees who put forward a slate of elder-qualified members, who are then elected by the membership to serve as elders. So basicially, our elders are elected by our members. What other forms of church government are common in evangelical churches? What are the strenths and weaknesses of each?

Not sure I’ll go into all the strengths and weaknesses, but the Biblical model we see is actually the elders choose elders. I see how this could be challenging, since you don’t want to get far off track, but that assumes that people are not following the Bible, which I’d personally hate to assume about elders in a church. This model has some benefits, first of all, it’s not eldeR it’s eldeRS — I think a group of Godly men can be very helpful in this process. I also think in an “election” model we have to guard ourselves against two common pitfalls I’ve seen in churches: 1. popularity – the most well-known (not the most biblically qualified can get chosen 2. democracy – elders are “elected” to “represent” a view point in the congregation or as I heard in one church I worked, “to hold the pastors’ feet to the fire” —

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Behind the Curtain – ask anything

So we’re in this series both on Sundays and during the week here on the blog on the topic of “church life”. And Google analytics tells me that about 200 of you every week log in here to read our ramblings and comments. So, what do you want to know? I want to open myself up here and let you, the blog readers ask away. What did you always want to know about church life? what did you always want to know about church leadership and the behind the scenes? what do you want to know about the pastor or the life of a pastor? Feel free to get creative. It could be serious or it could be goofy – it doesn’t matter. But as we end this series on church life I wanted to do a blog or two hitting the issues you always wanted to know or maybe you want to know now. I’ll do my best to answer each question. I’m not sure whether I’ll post this as a video blog or a written one – but we’ll figure that out.

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Preaching at Grace Church pt.4 -creative process

So, how do we think through and develop the creative elements in the services?

Well first of all, I need to say upfront that Chris Thomson is our “pastor of creative arts” and does an amazing job in this process, so I will not take credit for most of the amazing stuff we are blessed with in this area! But let me at least give you the behind the scenes picture of how we get there.

First of all is the sermon/ message/ theme development and I would say that is primarily on my shoulders (but please take note of pt.3 of this blog series for more info on what goes into that). But any speakers other than myself are typically assigned by me and they are typically asked to fit in with whatever series we’re doing. So whoever is speaking on a particular week comes up with a 5-6 sentence paragraph stating what they feel God has put on their heart to share. When I’m speaking, I typically try to get the message into a key sentence or “take away”.

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Preaching at Grace Church pt.3 – planning the messages

Ok, let’s talk about what we talk about. (this is part 3 of 4 on the topic of our weekend services and particularly the communication of God’s Word).

In this post I want to examine how we plan what we’ll talk about and how we come up with the particular themes and books of the Bible we teach.

The big thing on the planning side is that we look at the church communication as 52 weeks as opposed to one week at a time. So we’re thinking in sections of weeks and we’re thinking about the whole year not just this season. So for example, we know that Easter and the weeks following Easter tend to be a great time to connect with newer people, non-Christians and family members. So we tend to plan a topical series that connects with some felt needs in our world. We also promote this series big time in hopes that’s lots of Grace people will invite friends and family for this series. The same is mostly true for the first series in September. We tend to use the fall (Oct-Nov) and winter (Jan-Mar) as times to go deeper for the Christ-follower, typically preaching through a book of the Bible or a section of Scripture. The summer is also a time where we like to take on a more “study-like” topic to connect with people. August often involves some kind of vision/ direction of the church type series and sometimes vision is shared on the weeks leading up to Easter. The point is we try to think in 52 week sections hoping to build a “balanced diet” spiritually speaking for the church. Every week, however, I would say our goal is to preach to believers in Jesus in a way that is always intelligible for unbelievers/ unchurched folks. The primary audience though is believers in Christ and calling us to life in the way of Christ.

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Preaching at Grace Church pt.2 – style and form

Ok, let’s talk about style and form in preaching. 

There are a number of different types of preaching, allow me to briefly define them and tell you where I land. I am grateful for Mark Driscoll’s book: “Vintage Church” (a worthwhile read by the way) for his summaries on the types. What appears here are my summaries with some insight from Driscoll.

Expository Sermons – these are sermons that go verse by verse through a book of the Bible. While the Bible doesn’t command or even really illustrate this style it is a great style for the following reasons: it ensures that the preacher doesn’t just preach his “pets”. Meaning, by going through a book of the Bible we cover the whole counsel of God, even the challenging parts of Scripture. It also makes it easier to follow and prepare since we’re not going all over the Bible the participant knows what we’re doing next week and can read ahead.

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