Does What I Do REALLY Matter?

Photo by Dino Reichmuth on Unsplash

This is guest post by fellow Tribe Writer, Kandi Johnson. She is a writer, blogger, published author, and a certified health coach. Her blog celebrates life by offering people hope and inspiration from God’s perspective. Please check it out and sign up for her email list at kandijohnson.com. She also has a 5-star rated book at Amazon.com called Healing Anorexia: Learning Acceptance by Embracing God’s Love.


Do you question if what you do REALLY matters?  Who it matters to?  Is there a REASON that you not only exist but that there is something directing the paths of your days, hours, minutes?  I often question this myself.  As one who has served in many aspects of ministry leadership, I feel the weight of “making my life count”, and yet often find myself wandering aimlessly through days, and without notice, seasons and years pass by too quickly.

Recently, I had the awesome responsibility of writing the obituary for my mother, who passed away at the age of 92.  My mother spent her entire life as a Pastor’s wife, as well as holding numerous church leadership positions.  How would I sum up the life of such an amazing person who meant everything to you, as well as impacted the lives of so many around her, in 300 words?  As I considered her life (in chronological order), I realized that it was best to sum up her life based upon her favorite scripture, then expand from there.  At the top of the page, I penned Proverbs 3:5,6  which said “Trust in the Lord with all your heart.  Lean not to thy own understanding, but in all thy ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your paths.”  As I considered this wisdom, I was able to grasp the true meaning of what her life meant, because she LIVED this scripture – she TRUSTED, ACKNOWLEDGED and allowed God to DIRECT her life.

TRUST

Are you trusting in God?  Do you trust that He will not only provide the basics for you but also give you the desires of your heart?  Do you realize that Trust is rooted in Faith and is displayed by an optimistic outlook on life?  In Jeremiah 17:7 (NIV), scripture tells us that “Blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord…”  When we view our lives with a negative outlook, we are not trusting in God.

ACKNOWLEDGE

Do you acknowledge God each day? “Do you give God credit where credit is due, or do you say you were “lucky” or “the stars were in alignment”?  Acknowledging God is also known as having a grateful heart and giving thanks to God.  Psalm 100:4,5 (NIV) says “Enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise; give thanks to Him and praise His name.  For the Lord is good and His love endures forever; His faithfulness continues through all generations.”   When we greet each day with a thankful heart and go through each moment with a heart of appreciation, we not only have a more peaceful day, but we grasp a glimpse of our purpose in life, often in the eyes of others.

Do you give Him credit where credit is due, or do you say you were “lucky”Click To Tweet

DIRECT

Do you allow God to direct your life, or do you want to hang on to the wheel?  Psalm 25:4 (NIV) says “Show me your ways, Lord, teach me your paths.  Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long.”  Instead of walking through each day in a fog, choose to make the most of each day by allowing God to guide you to His path – no matter what your tasks or day looks like.  Give your best because EVERYTHING you do is for Him.

As the scripture says in Proverbs – “In ALL your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your paths”.  When He is directing your path (which He IS when you acknowledge Him), you will find yourself looking back on your day and realizing that you did have meaningful encounters that you hadn’t planned, and your life, for that day, fulfilled His purpose.

Kandi Johnson, The Vibrant Author
www.kandijohnson.com

6 Simple Keys to Presenting Powerful Sermons

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This is a guest post by fellow Tribe Writer, Rachel Larkin. Rachel lives in New Zealand with her husband and their three young adult sons. She is the author of Simple Prayer: The Guide for Ordinary People Seeking the ExtraordinaryShe writes about growing in faith and developing your potential on her website rachellarkin.com. She is also a practicing Chartered Accountant, a homeschooler for 14 years, and craves chocolate constantly.

To find out more on seeing God turn up in your daily life, Rachel has a free eBook available for download – The Untold Story: 7 Steps to Seeing God in the Midst of your Real Messy Life. Make sure to check it out!


All preachers, teachers, and speakers want an audience that is interested in what they have to say. We desire to engage the listeners with our message. After listening to decades of sermons in my life and preaching for the past couple of years I have discovered 6 simple keys to presenting powerful sermons, messages that will resonate with people and inspire personal transformation.

Keep it Simple

The sermons that are remembered are the simple ones. Unless you are speaking to a theology class, cut out all the long technical jargon and keep your language simple.

Resist the temptation to go off on tangents. Make sure each point is related to your theme, each illustration is appropriate and is illustrating the point.

This doesn’t mean that you can’t tackle the complicated topics – just break the topic down to its core. You might only focus on one or two aspects of the topic. That’s okay, there is always another time to cover the other sides. Don’t feel that you must cover everything in one message.

Be Vulnerable

People love to hear personal stories. Sprinkle some of your own experiences that relate to your topic into your message. Be vulnerable and open up your life. Let your audience know that you are also on the same journey as they are. No one has ‘arrived’ at perfection, we are all still growing and learning.

One Takeaway Point

A Sunday morning thirty-minute message only needs one takeaway point. This is an overall theme that is woven throughout. It flavours through every illustration, Bible verse and structure of the message. Emphasise this takeaway point at the end by including a call to action – what does the listener need to do, think, or believe now?

A Sunday morning thirty-minute message only needs one takeaway point.Click To Tweet

Make Good Use of Technology

When I was a young girl sitting in church, there was no technology and we were taught to sit for long periods of time listening to the sermon. Today we have access to amazing technology that if used well can enhance and inspire our listeners. Technology takes advantage of our listeners senses.

Include a short video clip, image or sound bite that helps to reinforce your point. But keep it simple. Don’t fill your PowerPoint slides with lots of words – white space is good. Our pastor delivered the most memorable sermon when he wore a Roman soldiers uniform with all the armor and weaponry – it bought Ephesians chapter 6 alive!

Preach the Word

“The sermon which does not lead to Christ, or of which Jesus Christ is not the top and the bottom, is a sort of sermon that will make the devils in hell laugh, but make the angels of God weep.”- Charles Spurgeon

Ensure that Christ and the Word is central. For Him to be glorified in our preaching, He needs to feature in our sermons.

Pray for your Listeners

The most important key to a powerful and engaging sermon is prayer. Soak your sermon preparation time in prayer. Pray before you start thinking of ideas. Pray as you research. Pray when you organise your structure. Pray as your type up your notes. Pray as you practice.

Pray not just for yourself but primarily for your listeners. Pray that the right people attend – people who need to hear the message that is on your heart. Pray that they will understand and hear God’s voice speaking to them personally. Pray for the soil of their hearts.

Now over to you – what do think makes a sermon powerful and engaging? Share your discoveries in the comments below.

 

Churches For The “Unchurched”

This is a guest post by fellow Tribe Writer, Melissa Joan Walker. Melissa is a teacher and writer. Her focus is the pursuit of spirituality and the search for God. You can read her work at melissajoanwalker.com. Get her free Ebook “20 Simple Ways to Connect with God (Even When You Don’t Believe)” by signing up for her email list. 


My friends and I are a liberal, unchurched bunch. But more and more of us are opting for church. Why? The usual reasons: We are looking for spiritual connection. We are looking for a spiritual home for our kids. We are looking for comfort in the painful world. We are looking for meaningful connection to our own inner life, and to something bigger than ourselves, to God, or, for those who aren’t sure, for a connection to SOMETHING.

What kinds of churches are we looking for?

Surprisingly, for a bunch of people who fancy themselves “independent” and “free-thinkers”, we are going pretty classical. Formal churches, rather than the new church movement is where most of my friends have landed.

The church I go to is Episcopalian. High Episcopalian, which means we have a lot of pomp and circumstance at our services. The dean goes up the middle aisle with the bible, holding it aloft. There’s incense. We are constantly kneeling and getting back up. I don’t know why.

It reminds me of one New Year’s Eve service I attended in Mexico. I don’t speak Spanish. I didn’t understand what was happening. The church was full of abuelas and teenagers dressed for a night out and babies.

The priest walked around the cathedral holding a baby aloft very seriously, a procession following him, and a solemn little girl in a pew a few rows ahead of us stared at us over her grandmother’s shoulder and made the sign of the cross. We couldn’t figure out if she thought she was the pope or that we were Satan.

And yet it was magical.

It was holy. The Spirit was present. I felt the mystery of the Lord, the mystery of creation, and, surprisingly, I felt my own place. I felt more sure of my own place in the midst of it all, in my confusion. I felt at home.

The Episcopalian church we go to now couldn’t be more different from the middle of the road Presbyterian congregation where I grew up. My parents dropped us off for church (that’s a sign about how important church really is), and it didn’t get much more controversial than the Golden Rule.

And to my childhood purist sensibilities, it was the most unchallenging version of the Golden Rule, too. Just love your neighbor, you know, by which we mean, just gossip behind closed doors and then drop off a casserole on important occasions.

But I looked for more righteous, less hypocritical congregations and found them wanting, too. After all, as the Buddhists say, I entered the temple to leave the world, and I found the world. Humans are humans everywhere, it turns out.

So, I left church. For a long time. It’s not hard to do. There are so many awesome things to do on a Sunday morning besides church.

TV called my name. Dating. College. Reading. Cleaning the house, and reading the newspaper. And you know brunch is on Sunday mornings, there’s a lot of good brunch to be eaten.

But then I got married. And before we got married, we started going to a church again. My husband grew up Unitarian Universalist so we started there. I liked the openness of the faith. I liked that there wasn’t a singular dogma but instead a set of principles at the core of the church.

But when our church changed pastors, the message was lost on me. Our Sunday attendance petered out.

When my son was born, we tried again. I want my son’s life to be easier than mine has been. I want him to have a rock solid faith to fall back on when life is too much for him. I want him to have what I couldn’t find in those churches.

So, now, some of my friends and I have settled into congregations, and most of us are at churches that are highly ritualized. Catholic. Jewish. Or, Episcopalian, like us.

God will let me know what I need to know, when I need to know it, and not before. @mjoanwalkerClick To Tweet

I like the mystery of the services. The ritual puts me in the right posture to hear God working in my life. Getting up and kneeling down over and over again, following along with the others, reminds me that, truly, I am on a “need to know” basis with God.

God will let me know what I need to know, when I need to know it, and not before.

I don’t need to know why we are standing or kneeling. I can just follow along in faith.

I am a part of the congregation. I don’t have to understand everything to be a person in good standing before God. God knows what’s going on, and that’s enough.

Behind Your Pastor’s Smile

This is a guest post by fellow Tribe Writer, Alicia T. Rust. Alicia is a writer and an educator and she writes to shine light on the day-to-day struggles of mental health battles. You can read her work at lifesodaily.com. Be sure to sign up for her email list for updates.


Wedding day…baptism…hospitalization…death in the family…emotional or spiritual crisis.  Whom do you contact?  Most likely, your pastor.  A pastor’s life includes emotional events of other people’s lives. They are invariably expected to be on call.

In addition, they attend meetings, write sermons, lead services, support and oversee the running of the church, and show leadership in all they do through their expected higher standard of behavior. The perpetual work of helping others can be emotionally and physically depleting.  Due to such a schedule, ministers generally neglect regular exercise, personal devotions, and relaxation; taking time for oneself is tethered to guilt.

Numerous people feel burn-out within their careers, and pastors are no different.  Inevitably, depression can set in.  Today, an increased number of pastors are on antidepressants. Thom Rainer mentions that most are “reticent to say anything about their depression lest they be viewed as … unable to help others.” They are not protected from the stigma of mental illness. Part of this stigma includes believing that those with mental illness have little value. Yet, having a mental illness doesn’t automatically mean one cannot be high-functioning.

In order to turn coping into healing, begin with seeking help. Not only can counseling and medication be beneficial, but self-care is of utmost importance. Taking a day of rest makes sense, yet most pastors don’t allow themselves to do so.  Their ministry swallows them up. They choose to serve others 24/7 to their own detriment, and their congregants are unaware of the effect they may be having on their pastor’s health.  They take their spiritual guides for granted…calling upon them only when needed.

Furthermore, pastors often feel isolated even when surrounded by people because these relationships are generally not reciprocal. A sense of social isolation can lead to depression, anxiety, and emotional exhaustion. A study by researchers from Duke University, Azusa Pacific University and the University of New Mexico found that clergy who are supported in their times of need and are shown appreciation are more likely to be satisfied in their ministry and have a higher quality of life. I find it astonishing that we needed a research study for us to realize this. Is it not common sense? Showing appreciation allows a person to feel significant and loved.

Have you ever had a friend in direct sales who is constantly pushing products on you? It’s a turn off. We start feeling as though we’re no longer being valued as a friend but for what we can provide for their sales.  So, quit endlessly taking from your pastor, and begin to give back.

Make every day Pastor Appreciation Day. Here are a few suggestions…

  • Take your pastor to lunch!
  • Write a letter explaining how God has used him/her in your life.
  • Offer your services (bring a meal, mow the lawn, assist with odd jobs)
  • Support your church financially
  • Remember your pastor on his/her birthday, Christmas, and other holidays
  • Offer event tickets or gift cards
  • Add to his/her personal library
  • Serve in the church
  • Sit up front during a service! (I’m sure a seat is available!)
  • After a service, comment on something specific from the sermon; don’t just say it was “great.”
  • Honor your pastor with an appreciation party!
  • Encourage a day of rest, a sabbatical, or a vacation.

Religiously showing appreciation (ᵔᴥᵔ) (rather than solely during our own poignant life circumstances) lets your pastor feel valued and strengthens relationships. Become fluent in appreciation by practicing it often.

1 Timothy 5:17 (NIV)

“The elders who direct the affairs of the church well are worthy of double honor, especially those whose work is preaching and teaching.”