Tag Archives: rocky peak

A Little Handbook for Preachers: Ten Practical Ways to a Better Sermon by Sunday

Preaching books are a dime a dozen. Its really hard to find a preaching book that either says something unique or says something important in a unique way. So I don’t have much confidence in preaching books – especially books that give you X number of ways to be a better preacher or books that promise to make you a better preacher. Such books are often filled with superficial pieces of advice or don’t really work. So when I saw Mary Hulst’s 841288book: A Little Handbook for Preachers: Ten Practical Ways to a Better Sermon by Sunday I couldn’t help but be super skeptical. Nevertheless, I picked it up, thinking, what the heck, if I get one helpful idea from this book it will be worth reading it. In all honesty – I didn’t get one helpful idea from this book – I got so much more. In fact, as I’ve said before on my twitter account, this is officially one of my new favorite books about preaching.

Why am I so enamored with this book? It probably has to do with the fact that its not like your typical 10 Ways to do X or 7 Simple Steps to Y or 4.8 Habits of people Who Z. This book is filled with substance, it is at the same time theologically informed and practical. You know its not like your typical X number of ways to do Q kind of preaching books when the author says the best way to make your preaching better is to make it biblical! So many of the “simple ways” books are so consumeristic and seeker-pleasing, but this book begins by saying the most compelling thing our preaching can do is to be Biblical! What a surprise!

The second thing Hulst says we can do to make our preaching better is to stop telling people what do to – and to start telling them what God has already done, i.e. make your preaching full of grace. Don’t say stuff like:

  • If your relationship with God really is important to you, you will make a commitment to talk to him every day.
  • If you want to take discipleship to the next level, you will join a service team.
  • Isn’t it time you start investing your money into eternity?

Instead your preaching ought to change from “this is what you need to do” to “this is what we get to do” language. Our callings are a grace given to us, “so preach grace. Preach it often and preach it well, and watch how God gets to work.” (65)

One of the most helpful practical chapter is her chapter on “Compelling Preaching.” In this chapter she addresses the preachers problems of having too much information and lacking a well defined (oral) structure in our sermon. She suggests (reminding me of Andy Stanley) that we should be able to articulate our entire sermon in one sentence. Or as I like to say – the main idea of your sermon should be tweetable. To do that we need to get clear on what the bid idea of our sermon is. Once we do that the points in the sermon should illimuate the one big idea. She suggest that “to give our sermons clarity we need to do that hard work of picking one idea and letting the rest, for now, stay in our study.” Easier said than done! Nevertheless this is crucial to good preaching.

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Here’s a sermon I preached right after reading this book. You can hear it here or on iTunes (Soma Sunday Nights)

There is plenty of other great things which I could say about this book, but I don’t want to rob you of the opportunity of discovering these things on your own. So I will just stop here….Let me just say one more thing.

I rarely tell people – you need to go out and buy this book. However, this is one of those books that I feel like all preachers need to buy. I haven’t really found a preaching book that is so practical and at the same time so theologically informed. Because it is theological and practical, A Little Handbook for Preachers is my new go to book for handing to new preachers.

Note: I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an impartial review.
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A Leadership Night with Alan Fadling

Yesterday night Rocky Peak had its end of the year Life Group leader gathering. It was a night filled with worship, testimonies as to what God had done in Life Group, and some encouraging words on “rest” from Alan Fadling.

In case you don’t know him Alan Fadling is author of An Unhurried Life: Following Jesus’ Rhythms of Work and Rest, which was honored with an “Award of Merit” by Christianity Today under the category “Spirituality.” The book has been getting rave reviews by some heavy hitting authors/pastors. I (who am not a heavy hitting author/pastor) liked it a whole lot as well! Also, on a more personal note, many many years ago Alan was the College Pastor at Rocky Peak! How crazy is that!

Anyway here are some highlights of what he talked about last night:

  • As leaders we often lead on empty… What if leadership was leading from overflow? What if it is just sharing what is overflowing from me? That doesn’t happen when you live life in a hurry.
  • Hurry is a disordered soul.
  • We want God to answer quickly, we want him to do things fast… but God has a bias towards relationship, and he knows that sometimes when he gives us what we want when we want it we are quick to run off.
  • Work is certainly a gift from God, but so is rest.
  • I am not what I do… that is not my identity. My identity is “beloved of God.” That identity is true of me whether I am at work or at rest.
  • In the Bible rest comes first, work flows out of that.
  • One thing that you need to understand is how much Jesus treasures your friendship.
  • The more I thank, the more I remember how graced my life is.

There were many more highlights from last night, but those are just a few. If you are interested in what he has to say, I recomend that you pick up his book An Unhurried Life: Following Jesus’ Rhythms of Work and Rest. Whether you are a pastor, college ministry leader, or don’t do “ministry” at all, there is much to draw from this book.

Back to Africa – I am Going to Liberia!

Mangrove trees, political refugees, diamonds, civil wars, American colonialization, and yes even surfers.

Those are just a few things that might come to mind when you think about the West African country of Liberia. But the fact that has drawn most attention is the violence experienced during the late 90’s and early 2000’s that led to the death of between 250,000 and 520,000 people. This is where I am going later on this week – but I am getting ahead of myself.

My last year has been packed with changes – I graduated from Fuller Seminary, began working at Eternity Bible College, I helped to start a parachurch organization called Training Leaders International (we provide theological and ministerial training for underresourced pastors in Latin America), I presented my first academic paper at a theology conference, and I began working as the College Ministry Director at The Church at Rocky Peak. And even more important than all of those things – I got married to my beautiful and godly wife, Amelia! So as you see most of my ministry efforts here have been focused on equipping the church – and now the Lord is giving me another opportunity to help equip the church but this time its on a completely different continent: I am going to Liberia!

Liberia Map

Early Thursday morning I will be heading out to Liberia with a team from Rocky Peak – we will be doing two things while we are over there

  1. We will be making prescription glasses for people suffering the effects of the past civil war. The last civil war completely wrecked the country – it wrecked the country economically and it destroyed its infrastructure, in fact 95% of all healthcare facilities were destroyed. Because people are poor and there are very few medical facilities there is a big need for medical attention – the provision of prescription eyeglasses helps that issue.
  2. Global Ministries Pastor Brian Morehead and I will be training pastors and leaders who are part of a church planting network. Now I am not church planter, but I desperately care about leadership development, multiplication, theology, and missions. We will be leading some seminars covering those four areas. Also I will be bringing over theological resources for the pastors.

If you know me, you know that I see my call as the call to equip the church for the sake of mission. I am an equipper at heart – that is why I have gravitated towards so many teaching roles. The Lord has blessed me with many opportunities to do that.

To equip the church for the sake of mission.

As I go out to Liberia to share the gospel, provide for much needed physical needs, and equip pastors and leaders please be praying for me and the team. Please pray for these things:

  • That the Liberians would be receptive to the gospel.
  • That God’s Kingdom would come in power in Liberia.
  • That our team would follow the leading of the Holy Spirit
  • That Jesus’ name would be exalted because of what we are doing.
  • That the work we do would result in the multiplication of leaders and churches.
  • That the leaders and pastors would be receptive to what we have to say.
  • That the team would be culturally and contextually sensitive.
  • That the team would be safe as we travel.

Our team leaves 3/13 and we come back on 3/24 so please be praying for us! Also, please consider prayerfully how you can partner with me in the promoting the Gospel and bringing God’s kingdom to bear in a place that has been devastated by war and violence. That might be through prayer or it might be through financial partnership. If you would like to take part in what God is doing through this trip you can contribute by going to the Rocky Peak Global Ministries Website. (Just click the link.)

May God’s name be glorified, may his Kingdom be expanded.
-Chris Woznicki

For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD as the waters cover the sea. – Habbakuk 2:14

Simple Smallgroups: Three Simple Patterns

Simple Small Groups: Three Simple Patterns

So recently I started to read this new book by a small groups pastor out in Kentucky. He started out as a skeptic about small groups but now he has fully bought into them. Naturally I wanted to see what he thought was so great about them so I ordered the book on Amazon (it was only $3!) and I started to read it. What I realized while reading is that most small group books say the same thing over and over and over and over…. However that doesn’t mean that these books aren’t good. It just means that everyone is coming to realize the same things about small groups. So I wanted to take the next couple of weeks and share what I have learned from Bill Search’s book Simple Small Groups. Over the next few weeks I will be pointing out some stuff that I thought was important in this book. So lucky you! You get to reap the benefits of me reading this book! You get all the good stuff without any of the hard work!
Bill’s book revolves around 3 C’s. Personally I don’t like the C’s but I think he is on to something good. The 3 C’s are: Connect, Change, Cultivate. He says that all good small groups will have these three elements or patterns. So lets go ahead and take a quick look at each of these patterns and draw out how we can be thinking about our own Lifegroups in terms of these three patterns.

Connecting
We all know that connecting is an important part of smallgroups. Connection is how community happens. For a Lifegroup to develop meaningful community connection must happen. Usually members of Lifegroups start out as casual acquaintances. Luckily at Soma we don’t have to worry about creating acquaintances, that naturally happens through our Sunday night meetings and our hangouts after Soma. (I’m thinking the intern house…) Eventually those acquaintances become friends. Once this happens we see the group move from “hanging out in smallgroup” to “hanging out outside of smallgroup.” Not everyone makes it to this stage, but that’s okay! Finally some groups move from being a group of friends to being a family. Not every group makes this shift, but that’s okay! Intimacy is not required for groups to experience meaningful connection.

Changing
Bill says that changing is “the spiritual and relational renovation that transforms us into the likeness of Christ.” Changing is not merely learning, not is it simply behavior modification. Its becoming more Christ-like through the Spirit’s work using scripture, the preached word of God, prayer, spiritual disciplines and community. Basically for Bill its about our growth.

Cultivating
This is probably the “C” that I like the least. It sounds so strange to me and it doesn’t seem to communicate what he wants it to communicate. Anyway Cultivating “is the missional lifestyle.” Its wholistic, its not simply evangelism or simply service. Its living out your faith outwardly, with your whole being. He says that “When a group is cultivating they are developing an outward focus that engages their hearts into action.” This is an important pattern, and its possibly one of the most difficult patterns to do well. However as “cultivating” becomes important to us each follower realizes that they have been called to make an impact for the kingdom in the world around them. As they realize their call they will begin to step out in faith and use the gifts that God has given them.

The 3 C’s at Soma
So hopefully by now some of these patterns are beginning to resonate with you. You might be thinking to yourself… “yeah I wish our group did that more or did that better.” Or maybe you are thinking “yeah we are pretty balanced with all three of these.” Both of those places are good places to be at.
Also you might be thinking: “these sound very familiar.” Well they should sound VERY familiar, after all these three are super similar to our vision for Lifegroups at Soma. In case you forgot our vision for Lifegroups is:
1-We come to encounter Christ
2-We desire to connect with and minister to one another as the Spirit Leads us
3-We desire to be missional and expand God’s Kingdom
Yes, these are our three C’s! A long time ago Dairek and I preached a series on our vision for smallgroup and we shaped it around three C’s as well:
1-Communion with Christ
2-Community
3-Comissioned with the gospel
So the point is that we already had these patterns! That is why this book is so useful; it helps us examine where we are at with them and how we can grow in them. So for the rest of these “articles” you can translate for yourself: Change=Encounter Christ, Connect=Community, Culitvate=Missional. So lets take a super quick look at Soma’s three patterns.

We Come to Encounter Christ
This is the heartbeat of our groups. Without Jesus in the middle our groups are nothing but self-help groups. We are no better than AA or the Rotary club. We encounter Christ in our worship, in our communion times, in our discussion of the sermon, in our prayer times for eachother. Christ is the focus of all we do and he should permeate all of our actions in group. As Lifegroup leaders we must constantly remind our group that we are here to encounter Christ and grown in him through our encounters.
On a side note, encountering Christ is not something we do as individuals. We also encounter Christ through others. As we see Jesus change the lives of others we see how good Jesus is and we are transformed as well! So encountering Christ is not something that we do “together as individuals” we do it as a group!

We Desire to Connect With and Minister to one Another as the Spirit Leads Us
The Holy Spirit is the agent through which community is built up. (1 Cor 12:12-25). Ephesians 2:21-22 says that the community of believers is joined together and rises to become a temple of the Lord. Paul tells us that we are being built together as God’s dwelling place by his Spirit. Thus the Spirit is interested in us growing in unity. So building community is more than just facilitating hang out times or creating meaningful memories. As leaders we build community by giving the Holy Spirit space to create community. This means that we create space for the members of our Lifegroup to minister to one another as the Spirit guides us. This might mean leaving time open form encouragement and prayer, or it might mean creating space to pray for God to heal someone in the group.

We Desire to be Missional and Expand God’s Kingdom
This is probably the most unnatural to us in our Lifegroups, but its one of the most key components of biblical Christianity. God calls us all to be on mission, but as I have said before in sermons: our most effective witness is not what we say as individuals but how we live as communities. We desire that our communities (Lifegroups) be places where the love of Christ is lived out for eachother and for others. Christ’s love is so attractive to unbelievers! But we need to create opportunities for non-believers to see Christ’s love in our community! Also we need to be proactive about inviting non-Christians in to our communities. I know its hard! But as we see God begin to bring people to himself something happens in us. Our faith grows and our excitement for the kingdom to expand increases!

Wrapping things up
Okay so we have talked A LOT about a bunch of different things. Keep these three patterns in mind as we move forward in the next few weeks. Next time we will take a look at what Biblical Lifegroups look like. Have a great week!