Tuesday, May 17, 2022

Sermon Recap for May 8 and 15


Good Morning!

Here are the sermons from the last two weeks. Well, there’s an audio player that has all the sermons…and then direct videos to the sermons.

Tuesday, April 26, 2022

What’s in a sermon? Part 8: Delivery A

 April 25 2022

What’s in a sermon? Part 8: Delivery A

Delivery. It’s how the sermon goes from your ideas to the congregation. I will mostly address audible delivery, because that is the world I operate in. ASL and other forms of communication like it are not my language group and just as I would be hesitant to tell you how to preach in Chinese, since I don’t speak the language, I will be hesitant to tell you how to preach in ASL since I don’t speak the language. 

That being said, there are commonalities across language groups but you’ll want to translate concepts and terms.

The first thing about Delivery of a sermon is this: you need to be fully present in the moment. There are plenty of things that need doing during a church service where a sermon is being delivered, but you need to be doing as few of them as possible. That may mean that you need to train some more sound people or figure out how to “set it and forget!” with your sound board. 

That also means that you need to solve your technical issues before the sermon and be ready to abandon the tech stuff if you it does not work at point of need. If you are constantly fretting over the technology or are also having to make any sound adjustments, lighting changes, you will split your attention and your message will suffer. Get other people involved. If there are not enough other people to do those items, you might consider that your congregation is small enough not to need those bells and whistles.

Next, when considering Delivery, is planning ahead for visibility and clarity. This is what the platform at a church is for—it is NOT a stage—so that people can see you better and thus aid in processing the sermon you are presenting. You are not ‘elevated’ for your own sake but for the sake of the congregation. Make those decisions ahead of time: where are you going to preach from? Are you going to use a microphone? What kind? Your traditions may dictate these rather than allow you wide open freedom, but you want to look at them just the same.

Then, as you Deliver the sermon, be ready to minimize distractions. How you dress is only important if you are distracting in your choices; you need to know your folks to get that clear in your context. Every sermon is not the time to defend your tuxedo or your flip-flops. Further, what do you rattle around with? Keys in your pocket? Get a KeySmart so they don’t rattle. If you are using a microphone, have your cell phone…elsewhere. Seriously. It may or may not buzz and cause chaos. And if you keep your Bible and sermon notes on it…get a different device.

Seriously, on that note: if you are note-dependent, have a dead battery plan or a failing device plan for your notes. Your iPad is a piece of technology. It will fail at some point…watch it install an iOS update during Sunday School and lock you out.

Ultimately, the first part of Delivery guidance on a sermon is to minimize any distractions that are within your control. You don’t need to worry about babies—although having childcare for young ages can be a blessing to parents, it’s another matter—but you do need to worry about you.

Next sermon talk will be about actually getting the sermon out of your mouth! 

Monday, April 25, 2022

Sermon Recap for April 24

Here is what you’ll find: there is an audio player with the sermon audios built-in to it, just click to find the one you want. You’ll also find the embedded YouTube videos of each sermon.

If you’d like, you can subscribe to the audio feed here: http://feeds.feedburner.com/DougHibbardPodcast

Audible Link is coming soon! Search "Doug Hibbard" to see if it's there yet

Spotify is here: https://doughibbard.libsyn.com/spotify

The video is linked on my personal YouTube Page here: https://www.youtube.com/user/dheagle93

Sermons are stockpiled here: http://www.doughibbard.com/search/label/Sermons

Friday, April 22, 2022

Habit or Goal Part 2

 April 22 2022

Habit or Goal Part 2

Building on the previous post about whether or not you want to build a habit or accomplish a goal, that also can change as you progress through something. For example, your weight loss/health journey may start with the cardiologist saying “drop 30 pounds, big guy, or you’re in trouble.” (Or perhaps the pre-op nurse doing an EKG, as a *purely* hypothetical possibility.)

You need to hit the goal, but then transition your choices to developing a healthier lifestyle.

Or perhaps your goal was to become mostly famous as a blogger, build that into a writing career and have loads of influence. You may discover that the path is fraught with peril and that you have to go down roads lacking integrity to get to the fame and fortune. Or that someone else has filled the niche and there just isn’t space for you to be rich and famous, too. 

Either way, it may be time to rethink the goal and ask if there is a habit that you want in place of being a famous blogger. Maybe you want to substitute sleeping, reading, or using your writing time to encourage and strengthen whoever may read it rather than trying to be famous from it. 

You can keep pursuing the fame and fortune as a goal or you can make a different habit. I am actually not really intending to advocate for one or the other here but just noting that some may find the habit a better thing in the long run than accomplishing the goal.

Maybe your goal is to save a great historic treasure, like a building or a long-standing high-school tradition or event. Or should you encourage people to have a habit of remembering well the past and honoring it by engaging in meaningful events now? Or by holding on to some of the older physical reminders and honorably removing the rest so that there is a focal point? 

Ask yourself: is the goal to retain a building or to encourage the habit of remembering? 

The overall point I want to make is that sometimes we can lose ourselves in chasing goals. We can become so goal-driven, task-oriented that we miss the fact that there are people involved in the world around our goals.

There are other people in your life, and they matter. Are you using them to accomplish your goals? Should you use people? Or are they benefiting from you growing in healthy habits? Are they encouraged or embittered by your pursuit?

There is also a key person in this: you. What are you becoming in pursuit of your goals? Consider the affect on your energy, your enthusiasm, the other aspects of your life in pursuit of your goals and decide if it is a price you really want to be paying.

And especially for the Christian: are you growing in your walk with Jesus as a result of your behaviors? Or are you increasingly alone and chasing something that will be a feather in your own cap?

Either way, it is something to consider: do you want the goal or do you need a life change? Some goals are good: getting CPR-certified is a goal, having a habit of performing CPR on random dummies isn’t necessary. Other habits are better: a degree is good and (sometimes) necessary, but lifelong learning is a better habit than a 4.0 GPA.

Don’t give in to the pressure that you have to do only one or other.

Thursday, April 21, 2022

A goal or a habit?

 April 21 2022

A goal or a habit?

We had this discussion at home today, and it feels worth sharing here—though with a few details obscured for your own sakes :)

Oftentimes, we start on a pathway because we have a goal to achieve. An example would a weight-loss journey or a degree-based learning journey. You know what you want: to weigh X number of pounds or to complete Y diploma/certificate/degree. Those markers become the answer to whether or not your work is going well or going poorly. If it’s weight loss: did I lose a pound or not? Education: did I make an A or not?

After all, as the management mantra goes: you can only manage what you can measure, so you have to measurable deliverables or it’s no good. Right?

Well, right, some of the time.

After all, there is a time to need to make specific weight-loss drops. There are definitely moments that you need to be finishing a training course for your life goals. Or in other areas: you need to make X amount of money to pay off the car or you are starting a business and you need it to be profitable before you get evicted. 

Goals are not bad things is what you need to hear me saying, and evaluating decisions against your goals is also not a bad thing. I am choosing, today, to not make a quick donut run because I have actually lost a pound and a donut run will undo that. Further, I have specific education requirements to complete so that I can finish my degree—just like the last two degrees!

However, in the long run, these goal-oriented processes should produce something different from simple completion of the goals. They should produce life changes that look like habits. 

For example, many of you may know people who attained a level of education and then just…quit learning. All of their thought patterns and learning base, even in their field of preference, just stops with the year of their graduation. (Which, practically-speaking, means it stopped wherever their professors stopped. And if it’s a school that engendered a ‘you’re done learning’ mindset, then those professors probably stopped learning a generation before.)

Or someone who lost a truckload of weight before the high school reunion but then packed it back on the next year. Maybe you pushed hard to complete your first creative project like a painting or a sewing idea.

The question now is this: do you want to have done it that one time, or is this something you want to continue? Did completing your PhD make you someone who wrote one thing one time, or do you convert it into a lifelong habit of writing and learning?

Do you say “I lost my weight” or do you become someone with healthier habits?

If it is all about the goal, then the habits will always wrap themselves around the goal. Weight loss is a great goal, but you can lose weight in unhealthy manners—personally and socially. I’m a Baptist, after all, and we like to eat together. I could refuse to eat anything but nut grub trail mix for a month and drop weight fast, but who would I be living my life around to do that? Not many Baptists. So when I get down to my goal weight, I toss the trail mix and get back to deep-fried and covered with gravy…and the cycle continues.

Instead, I need the habit of eating healthier and, if deep-fried feeds the soul today, maybe going ahead with it. Because living a long-term healthy habit life is better than being 10 pounds lighter next week.

Same with learning: I will finish this degree. But if the long-term effect is not that I now research, study, learn, and share on an ongoing basis, it’s a dead-end.

You would do well to consider your goals and whether or not they help you develop better lifetime habits. Maybe reconsider how you are evaluating your progress: did I stick with healthy choices this week even though the scale didn’t move? Am I making space to be creative even if I didn’t make a retail painting?

Am I blogging every day to make the writing habit start up again or did I stress about a lack of followers and so I gave up?

Wednesday, April 20, 2022

Sermon Length Thoughts

 April 20 2022

Sermon Length Thoughts

Douglas Adams once wrote that “Time is an illusion, lunchtime doubly so.” While Adams was famously not talking about sermons, given his disinterest in Christianity, he makes a good point that figures into our discussion about sermons.

Here in the US, church services are most commonly happening on Sunday mornings. They do occasionally happen at other points in the week, but our main point of engagement is in that space.

In some churches, outside constraints such as a TV broadcast or a rental agreement will force the service to fit a definite time slot. In other places, internal constraints like a second service or a standing event immediately after the service will force a schedule on the plan. Of course, in both of those, there is still a conversation that must be had about start times or allocation of the time available.

Many of us, though, labor under no such constraints. We can preach as long as we’d like to—20 minutes, 40 minutes, and so forth. Thus the question arises: “How long should a sermon be?”

Answering that question requires us to hit a couple of additional thoughts. First, remember that you as the preacher are typically far more interested in the background material, theological truths, and historical settings than most of the congregation. The same is true of some of the underlying controversies connected to your passage. Guess who cares about the Documentary Hypothesis? Fewer people than you think.

Second, remember that (in most churches) for every minute you preach, someone is trying to keep up with small children. Maybe it’s the parent in the pew. Maybe it’s the nursery worker. But somebody’s wrestling with kids while you preach. At the very least, it will be helpful for them if you are consistent with your sermon time.

Now, to the point of the length of the sermon: if you look at the Bible (a great place for sermon information!), you do not find transcripts of sermons that took hours to preach. You find references to Paul and Ezra speaking for hours on end, but Peter’s sermon at Pentecost did not take that long. Neither did Paul’s at Mars Hill.

So we should be cautious about assigning prescriptive value to what were, honestly, special events. Paul was, after all, a traveling preacher, and hearing from him was an extra. If I could get Danny Hays to come preach and teach on the Old Testament, I’d plan for it to be several hours longer than me preaching out of the OT, because it’s different.

How long, then? How long hinges on some factors: first, your own physical stamina. You should not be nigh unto death at the end of every sermon. And your stamina also applies to how long you are able to speak plainly and coherently. Do not assume the sermon is the only ministry you need to do—you don’t need to be so wiped out that you stumble quickly away from the invitation/response time and collapse on the couch. At least not regularly…being asthmatic, I’ve had my days. 

Second, consider the ability of your congregation to track your sermon. That’s a function of their attention span, physical situation, and the location of the sermon. Is there always a train blasting through at the conclusion of your sermon? SHORTEN YOUR SERMON, because you can’t change the railroad schedule. You may long for the days when people could listen for hours on end, like the Puritans claim they did, but answer me this: if those multi-hour sermons were effective, why didn’t that practice stick? If your congregation cannot listen for an hour and truly gather the point—don’t preach that long. Yes, there are always those folks who will say “Preacher, keep on!” Some of them mean it. Some are being nice.

Traditions of the church also weigh on that capacity for the congregation: some ethnic groups are more willing to stay, listen, and participate than others. You won’t re-adjust clock-driven white folks by preaching longer than they can listen every week, though. You’ll train them to tune you out. And your congregation may have legitimate outside concerns: if you’re preaching in farm country, there are 7-day-a-week seasons even for Christian farmers. They are going to carve out as much as they can on Sunday, but that water has got to get turned off, checked, or moved when it has to be done.

Third, consider your ability to be interesting. I know, the Gospel is always interesting. That’s true. God is always exciting.

Preachers are not God.

So maybe you can be engaging for 30 minutes or 40 minutes. But are you really? Most people are done with a speech at about 30 minutes. 40 pushes it.

“But they go to 3-hour sporting events!” Ever been to a 3-hour football game or baseball game? Do you sit still the whole time and listen to one person talk? No. The action happens, things change, and you eat nachos.

Mix up the sermon with changing preachers, timeouts for music, add nachos and then talk about having a 3-hour sermon.

What I am saying is this: you should preach as long as you believe the Lord has given you words to say. But you should make sure it is the Lord and not yourself. That’s what your preparation time is for: study and prayer, to ask the Lord to guide you and to help you trim it up and make the point.

How long should a sermon be? Long enough to make the point. Short enough that folks want to hear another one. Let that be your consideration.

After all, lunchtime is coming after your sermon...

Tuesday, April 19, 2022

What’s in a Sermon? Part 7: Presentation

April 19th 2022

What’s in a Sermon? Part 7: Presentation

At this point, you’ve developed a sermon using the four points that we’ve looked at so far and answering the questions involved with them:

Context: “How does this passage fit in the big picture of God’s glory?”

Overview: “What is going on in this specific passage of Scripture?”

Reflection: “What is the main point of this passage of Scripture?”

Expectations: “What do we do about it?”

In other words, you’ve developed your sermon CORE and, whew, good timing because the Sunday School hour is almost over and it’s time to preach! Well, hopefully you’ve had the opportunity to get a little farther ahead than this, because you are not done.

A sermon, after all, is not just a written document. It is a delivered message—usually audibly delivered, but I have some friends in the Deaf Community who would point out that “audible” (or “spoken”) may be incomplete concepts for us. My sermons are always spoken, even if they aren’t audible. Not the case for a couple of good pastors I know, whose sermons are “signed” into existence.

That being said, an outline on a page may be the final record of your sermon, but it has to get off the page and to the congregation for it to reach its goal. You are going to take your CORE outline and look at it for presentation purposes.

First of all, look at the introduction you intend to use. It does not need to be crazy-flashy, but it should not be dull, either. I personally tend to lead with ‘turn in your Bibles to…(passage)” and then provide some basic directions to that passage. From there, I will detour to some form of attention-getting point, like highlighting a question or a modern situation that I think this sermon helps address. Or, at least once recently, I’ll draw a sword from behind organ and start talking about the historical idea of swords and power.

Second, you should examine how your sermon is going to transition into your church’s response time. I’m proceeding on the assumption that you want people to respond, even if your tradition calls simply for a reflection time or a verbal response like a Scripture reading. Those points in the service are often fairly standardized, so how do you move from your sermon into them?

Third, you need to look into the transitions between each of your points. You can preach a sermon and just go from one to the next with “and next, this point…” And it is helpful to your orderly-thinking congregation for you to be clear when you hit your points. But there may be better ways to smooth over those interchanges. You are looking for the transitions in your sermon to feel more like a traffic circle than a left turn at a 4-way stop.

(I know, most of us aren’t traffic circle fans yet, but someday I hear we will like them!)

You want to plan through these for a couple of reasons:

First, to make sure your connection points are valid. Pay attention to what kind of stories you are telling, what angles you are approaching from. Why? Because you don’t want to fall back on the same story every time. And you want to be certain that you are not constantly jabbing in the same direction. (Oh, and try to leave your kids out of it. Preachers: you cannot complain that your kids are forced into fishbowl lives as preacher-kids when you keep throwing them in the water.)

Second, you want to make sure your connection points hold up. I have never gotten blowback from folks over preaching a truth. But I have gotten in trouble over an illustration that wasn’t on-point and definitely over some that people thought I was making fun of them in!

Remember, when the content is done, the sermon is not. You take the CORE outline and then polish it for presentation. That will ebb and flow from week-to-week, and this is where your personality comes through most strongly. 

Sermon Recap for May 8 and 15

  Good Morning! Here are the sermons from the last two weeks. Well, there’s an audio player that has all the sermons…and then direct videos ...