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Servants of the Towel

  • Posted on: 20 September 2016
  • By: Randy Wollf

Jesus did the unthinkable… again.

It was just another meal until he started taking off his outer clothing. The disciples didn’t know what to think. He had surprised them before, but this was different.

With utter amazement, the disciples watched Jesus take a water basin and wrap a towel around his waist. No, he couldn’t possibly… but he did. He began to wash the disciple’s feet.

Jesus—a rabbi and teacher—did what no self-respecting leader would do: he did the work of a servant.

Two questions come to mind as I think about Jesus’s actions. The first one is: why did he do it?

In John 13:14-15, Jesus clearly states his purpose for washing the disciple’s feet. “Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.”

A Speaker's Ultimate Goal

  • Posted on: 15 September 2016
  • By: Keith Reed

The ability to access information has never been so easy. Most of us have the ability to find facts, opinions, and theories about virtually any topic within minutes, if not seconds. And yet, most churches schedule their times of worship around a centralized teaching time—a moment when a speaker delivers a message from God’s Word.

With so much emphasis placed on the teaching time, it’s imperative that teachers understand their primary objective and that it fits the expectations of the teaching time. When you’re given the opportunity to teach, do you think about your communication goal? What would you like to see happen in the lives of the people who are listening?

Some communicators feel that their primary objective is to teach the Bible to people. If you’ve told yourself that you want to help people gain a better understanding of the Bible, there’s a good chance you’ve made this objective your goal. Practically speaking, most of your preparation time is spent studying the text so that you can explain each verse to the people you’ll be speaking to. You measure success on whether or not you've covered the material.

Other teachers place a greater emphasis on the audience: they want to teach people the Bible. This approach requires creativity because your job is to ensure that people understand the content and will be able to remember it. If you invest time into developing alliterations and illustrations, you likely subscribe to this teaching goal.

In Andy Stanley’s book called Communicating for a Change* (a book that radically shaped my approach to preaching), he argues that the first two methods are concerned with information transfer. The goal of each method is to help people understand and remember the teachings of the Bible. The challenge with this goal is that Bible knowledge is not the same as spiritual maturity. Your faithful treatment of the text and creative delivery style might help people recall what’s in the Bible, but if it doesn’t change their heart, what difference does it make? 

Stanley’s approach is to teach people how to live a life that reflects the values, principles, and truths of the Bible. In other words, his goal is for people to make a change in their lives instead of just thinking about something. Covering every part of the text is not most important. The most important part for him is focusing his entire message on a single point that has an immediate and measurable application.

7 Phrases That Make Church Visitors Groan

  • Posted on: 17 August 2016
  • By: Keith Reed

Church visitors should be treated like gold. But sadly, they sometimes feel excluded by the very people who are trying to make them feel included. How does this happen?

I believe it’s mostly due to communication errors. Most people simply don’t realize that what they’re saying is inappropriate or even offensive. They likely have good intentions, but they fail to think about how their comments might make others feel (a friend of mine helps his church staff avoid this error by reminding them to “think like a visitor”).

Like it or not, church members will continue to unknowingly offend visitors. No leader can (or should) control what others say to a visitor, but what leaders can do is make better word choices when they get the chance to speak in front of the congregation. What is said by the person holding the microphone will not only put visitors at ease, it will also model the type of language that others in the church will hopefully adopt. 

Here are seven phrases that you should think twice about before using.

1. "If you're visiting with us today, we're so glad that you're here."

A classic line that worship leaders and emcees often use as a greeting to welcome guests. On the surface, there’s nothing “wrong” with this statement. But this statement carries subtle messages that aren’t helpful. 

    • This identifies visitors as a separate group which might make them feel like the one person at the dinner table who isn’t a blood relative. Most visitors don’t want extra attention; they’d rather be treated like everyone else. 
    • Unless there's an added message or course of action, these words of “gladness” are just words. Depending on how visitors experience the rest of the worship gathering (does anyone introduce themselves to them?), this statement might later be interpreted as empty words and reinforce a presupposition that a visitor may have of the church or of the Christian faith.  

I suggest that you use inclusive language when you address visitors. You can speak to them directly, but make the transition from “them” to “us.” Here’s an example: “Thanks for being here today. Whether you’re a newcomer or have been part of our church family for decades, we’re thankful that we can worship God in this place together.”  

2. "Make sure to invite your non-Christian friends.”