Our Reading Group

One of my joys each month is to meet with a group of close friends to discuss a book we have all agreed to read. The pick always relates to a different foreign country, and more often than not it’s been written by a non-Christian. Who leads the discussion is passed around in the group, and the conversation always ends with an extended time of prayer for that given country.

The book for February was I Am Malala (Little, Brown and Company). Malala Yousafzai is the young Pakistani girl who stood up for education and was eventually shot in the head by the Taliban. With the help of British surgeons, she miraculously survived her ordeal.

Malala is the youngest person ever nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize, and she was one of four runners-up for Time magazine’s “Person of the Year” award. All ten persons in our group felt this was one of the best books we have read since we began getting together some four years ago.

The book we have chosen for March is A Long Way Gone by Ishmael Beah (Sarah Crichton Books). The country is Sierra Leone. At the age of 12, Ishmael fled attacking rebels and eventually wandered a land rendered unrecognizable by violence. At heart a gentle boy, he found that he was capable of truly terrible acts.

At the age of 16, he was removed from fighting by UNICEF. And, through the help of the staff at his rehabilitation center, he learned how to forgive himself, to regain his humanity, and, finally, to heal.

Because of busy schedules, I know that ministers sometimes end up only reading Christian books. For the sake of better understanding my world, I have fought against this tendency. But without the discipline of this reading group, I don’t think I would be keeping up with my intentions.

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Please click here to visit David Mains’ Sermon-Coach.com website.

You will also find a variety of resources for pastors and congregations at the Mainstay Ministries website. Please click here.

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What Do You Think?

I preach this weekend at a church in Pennsylvania where I’ve spoken several times before. I’m comfortable in that regard because my ministry has always been well-received there.

What’s different this time is that I’m addressing a serious problem they have. It’s one that characterizes tens of thousands of churches across the country. They are good Christian people, but they’re all getting up in years, and the congregation has next to no Millennials (people born between 1980 and 2000). The sad truth is unless they can figure out how to soon attract this younger generation, it’s just a matter of time before the church will die.

What I’m suggesting by way of response could seem radical to them. Fortunately, in preparation for my visit, I’ve run my sermon thoughts past three different small groups, and they have all received what I plan to say as being extremely helpful. So I have a sense that what I’ll be preaching will be received well. That’s in spite of the fact that I know for them to follow my advice will be a big stretch.

Any number of times I have recommended talking through new sermon material with friends or a small group to get a feel for their response and suggestions. That’s in contrast to keeping everything to yourself until the actual preaching date.

When you preach next, will you have received any input from friends or associates before officially delivering your sermon in front of the whole congregation? If not, why not?

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Please click here to visit David Mains’ Sermon-Coach.com website.

You will also find a variety of resources for pastors and congregations at the Mainstay Ministries website. Please click here.

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Less Than Amazing

The other day I was reading The Amplified New Testament. (Does anyone use that 1958 version anymore?) Anyway, I was trying to catch the flavor of the various responses of those who heard Jesus preach.

Some were “astonished and overwhelmed with wonder.” That’s because His teaching was characterized as “fresh”and “with authority and ability and weight and power.”

Again, His hearers were “marveling and greatly amazed,” or they were “astonished beyond means,” “marveling” and even “stunned.”

I like those descriptions. My preaching has never elicited responses like these. My assumption is that yours probably hasn’t either.

In the New International Version, the word that’s used most often to describe the response of Christ’s hearers is“amazement.” Here’s Matthew 7:28-29:

 When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching, because he taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law.

I’ve been trying to think if there are any preachers I’ve heard lately who left me “stunned” or feeling I had heard someone speaking “with authority and ability and weight and power.”

I’ve actually come up with two names. And I’m making it a point to figure out why they are this way. I can learn from them. Maybe you can go through the same exercise and come up with a name or two of preachers who have something to teach you!

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Please click here to visit David Mains’ Sermon-Coach.com website.

You will also find a variety of resources for pastors and congregations at the Mainstay Ministries website. Please click here.

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More About the Millennials

The Millennials in your church are those people between the ages of 13 and 34. To be included, they were born between the years 1980 and 2000. Maybe you recall all the fuss that was made over the Baby Boomers (those born between 1946 and ’64). There were 75.9 million Boomers. Would you believe there are 77.9 million Millennials?

Millennials are on track to becoming America’s most educated generation. They are also the most tech-savvy. Then Millennials desire close relationships, and they just may be the ones to bring the family back together. But they are looking less and less to religion as being important in their lives.

For the church in America to lose the Millennials in the numbers predicted would be catastrophic. It would leave the U.S. looking much like Europe in terms of church involvement.

If I were still pastoring, I would invite a group of my older Millennials to help me either prepare my sermons or to evaluate them after they were preached. If I didn’t have any Millennials in the church, I would ask the board to allow me to hire some on a several-hour-a-week basis to fill that role. This shouldn’t be that hard, because many in their 20’s are looking for work. The church could certainly afford to pay a couple of them $12 an hour to act as unskilled consultants.

I’m quite serious about this. I have already read a number of books about this age group. I also meet every week with five Millennials to discuss this specific problem. I am attempting to rethink how churches need to adjust to keep this age group interested.

For the sake of the future we need to begin thinking NOW about how to reach this Millennial generation.

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Please click here to visit David Mains’ Sermon-Coach.com website.

You will also find a variety of resources for pastors and congregations at the Mainstay Ministries website. Please click here.

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