Category Archives: Sermon Preparation

Being a guest speaker can be tough

Being a guest speaker can be tougher than being a pastor.  Before you take issue with what I just said, please hear me out.

The reason why I say that is because when one is invited somewhere to speak and you do not know much about the church congregation or their struggles, it can be very difficult to know exactly what to preach that will meet the needs of the congregation.

It can also be tough because sometimes there can be a lot of travel involved. Last weekend, I drove over 300 miles roundtrip from home to preach at a church in Iowa.  We left on Friday afternoon and went to my in-laws and then we left for church Sunday morning around 8:15 am and did not get back to my in-laws until almost 9:00 pm that night.  Thankfully Monday was the Labor Day holiday.

I am not in any way trying to minimize a permanent pastoral role, but just wanting people to understand that life can be a bit challenging for those of us who can only gain speaking engagements outside of our local congregations. I appreciate the opportunities that I have. They tend to ebb and flow and are not consistent.  Since I cannot seem to land a pastorate, this is the route I must take for now.


Bible and a Bear and a few other things…

On Sunday, I had the opportunity to provide pulpit supply at Grace Baptist Church in Cameron, WI which is about a 2 hour drive from the Twin Cities.  The pastor was out of town and needed someone to fill in while he was away.  This was a unique Sunday because Cameron was celebrating Camerama days and there was a parade scheduled for noon on Sunday.  Grace Baptist Church had been working on a float for the parade that day.  Since the parade was to start at noon, the pastor asked me to come speak at their 9:30 am worship service and they would not have Sunday School.

This was a unique experience because I was able to go to another place that I have never been before.  Hwy 8 is a two lane road that runs from I-35 into Wisconsin passing through towns like Chisago City, Lindstrom, Taylors Falls, etc.  The drive is a bit hilly in spots and there are a lot of speed limit changes once you are in WI.

I arrived a bit early and was able to meet John and Karen Thomas and their son Daniel, who were getting things ready for the service.  Once the service started and we sang several hymns, had prayer and took up the offering, it was time for me to preach.  I preached from 1 Peter 1:13-21 with the theme of Living a Holy Life before God.  I spoke for about 30 mins. and then the service was dismissed.  They had a potluck lunch at the church.  Normally, I would attend, but since they had a parade to get ready for and I was so close to home, I politely declined and thanked them for the opportunity to minister there and headed back to the Twin Cities to be with my family for lunch.

Just outside of Cameron, I had an interesting experience.  While I was listening to my pastor (Matt Morrell) preach to the congregation at Fourth Baptist Church (via WCTS AM 1030).  I was on Hwy 8 just before Barron and I noticed a police SUV on my side of the Hwy.  I slowed down because I noticed the traffic on the other side stopped, but there was no direction being provided by the officer on the scene.  I was unsure what was going on.  I saw the officer come back to his vehicle and retrieve a shotgun.  He then proceeded to shoot in front of his vehicle.  This was a bit scary because I did not know what prompted him to shoot or what was he shooting at.  I thought it was a routine traffic stop but I could not see a car.  He fired one shot, then placed his gun back in his vehicle.  Still no direction from him, but I saw the other traffic moving on the opposite side of the Hwy.  I slowly inched by, not knowing what was on the other side of the police SUV.  When I reached the front bumper, I saw the cause for the commotion, there was a large (now dead) black bear on the side of the road.  Not sure of the circumstances, but when I saw the shotgun and the shot being fired… now it all made sense.  As I passed the scene, I was thankful that no one was hurt and that my son was not with me.  He would have been a bit scared of the situation and he would have been asking a million questions about it also.

I made it home around  1 PM and enjoyed lunch with my family and recounted the story above to them.  You never know what you will encounter when you travel!

Next on the docket:  July 11th,  I will be speaking at the First Baptist Church of International Falls, MN for all services (Sunday School, AM and afternoon services).  I have already begun my preparations for this speaking engagement.  The afternoon service sermon is already completed.  I am finishing the Sunday School lesson and AM Sermon.  I am enjoying my experiment with preaching from one book – 1 Peter.  My only regret was that I had not done this sooner.  Most of the time when I was providing pulpit supply or preaching, I usually fretted about what to preach.  I will not recount my previous post on the subject, but the experiment is going well!  I am looking forward to being back at FBC International Falls.  We had a wonderful time there when we were with them over Easter.  Instead of driving up on Saturday (a  6 hour – 300 mile journey), we are going to split the journey up.  We will leave Friday and head for the Duluth area to spend time with one of our dear friends who lives in the area.  We will be there Friday and Saturday, hoping to enjoy a nice dinner at Black Woods Restaurant and maybe an ice cream or shake at the Portland Malt Shoppe.   Sunday we will have an early departure from Duluth (around 6 AM) in order to arrive at FBC in time for the Sunday School Hour.

I am still looking, praying and searching for potential full-time ministry opportunities.  I have several websites that I check daily, weekly and honestly for those of us who are not either trained in music or youth ministry, there is not much out there for full-time vocational ministry.  It is somewhat discouraging, but I remind myself often, that God is in control and that He is sovereign!  If you know of any opportunities, please feel free to leave a comment and let me know.  Many of the good opportunities are never posted, but rather are word-of-mouth referrals.

Thanks for reading and commenting!

A dilemma for those who preach

Here is a situation that I face often and never really a good solution for it.

Sometimes I have been called upon to fill a pulpit for a pastor who is on vacation or an emergency requires him to be gone.  The biggest challenge that I face (and others who find themselves in similar situations) is how to know what to preach to a church where you have never been and you do not know much about the church or the community.  Sometimes there would be enough time to write a sermon, other times, the notice was last-minute.

What I have usually done was either preach a sermon that I had recently written, or preach something that I knew fairly well.   I have never had the opportunity to preach a series because most of my preaching engagements are usually single invitations for one service or two, never an extended period of time (like a Bible Conference, etc.)

It has always bothered me to some extent because I always seemed to struggle not knowing what God would have me preach to a particular group of people.  Pastors who preach week in and week out and if they use expository preaching do not have this problem because they are usually working through a book of the Bible and they go from pericope to pericope within the book itself.

In the last several months I have had the opportunity to preach in several churches.   I believe that the Lord has blessed the ministry of the Word in those contexts.  I have two more opportunities in the next few weeks.

I have prayed about this and have decided to attempt something in my next few preaching engagements.  Instead of agonizing over what to preach, I am going to work through a book of the Bible (in this case the book of 1 Peter) and preach through the book verse by verse in my different engagements (unless I find myself preaching on a special Sunday, or if the Pastor is currently going through the book, or if I am ever asked to preach on a specific topic or from a specific passage ((never happens to me)).   If I am ever invited to candidate somewhere, I will re-think this approach.

I think that this will alleviate the pressure that I face with each occasion trying to discern what to preach.  I look forward to working through the book of 1 Peter and who knows how long it will take me.  I will report back if this method is a success or a colossal mistake on my part.

As always, comments and suggestions are welcome…

It’s Here

It is like Christmas in February! After many years of patiently waiting for the right opportunity, I have been able to purchase the Logos Bible Software Scholar’s Library Silver Edition

This is an unbelievable tool that hopefully will save me a lot of time in lesson and sermon preparation.  I have to learn how to use this powerful tool first.

I will post on it later because I am getting ready to leave for the evening.