Safe Preaching.

I’ve been preaching now for 24 years. If you asked anyone in my senior class if I would be a preacher, not one person would have said yes. As usual, I was an unlikely choice. That’s how God does it. He picks unlikely people to preach the word and reach the world. My first sermon was on Easter Sunday, 1993. It scared me to death to preach. My pastor, Elijah Mitchell, called me one evening to tell me I would preach Easter Sunday. I remember pastor giving me instructions:

  • I was to encourage and not rebuke the people. If I rebuked the people, he would sit me down.
  • I was to preach for 15-20 minutes or so that was the target.

I preached from Col 3:1-3. I still have the manuscript. I think the message lasted only 15-20 minutes. I read it. After, I remember one of the deacons saying, “We needed about 20 more minutes. It’s been a long time since that first sermon. I always like to joke around by saying, “the people did not deserve that first sermon.” Yet seriously, how does one learn to preach? What makes a message fresh? What’s the difference maker in preaching?

I’ve studied preaching for a while. I like to read a preaching book every year or at least review the basic preaching books throughout the year. I also like to listen to preaching. I listen to Charles Stanley, Louie Giglio, and Skip Heitzig. Preaching is worth the effort in learning at any and all angles. As I’ve listened to preaching, I’ve come to the conclusion that some preaching is too safe. What is safe preaching?

  1.  Safe preaching lectures the Bible as facts rather than an engaging experience with the  word of God.
  2.  Safe preaching uses too many notes thus killing the preaching experience.
  3.  Safe preaching avoids controversial topics.
  4.  Safe preaching relies more on study than prayer.
  5.  Safe preaching leaves people thinking “my toes got stepped on” while not seeing life  change.
  6.  Safe preaching doesn’t not ask people to do anything, especially to be saved, baptized,  or move into places of spiritual growth.
  7.  Safe preaching seeks to please people more than God.

I’m sure the list can go on and on. I do believe there is a thing called safe preaching. How can a preacher avoid safe preaching?

Pray more than usual for the preaching experience.
Preaching will always seem powerless when prayer is only minimal. Of course the preacher is prayerful as he prepares. If you want to play it safe, that works. If you want to see more, pray more. How? Get at least one prayer hour with a few others to pour out hearts over the lost, for the preaching, and worship at your church. Second, pray specifically for the message you will preach. Pray for the experience. Pray for the people as you don’t ultimately know their needs. Your prayer will open you for the Spirit to move in ways in your message that ministers to an unrelated need in a hurting person’s soul. Recruit a praying platoon at your church. Ask them to pray “during the message.” My simple prayer throughout the week and on Sunday morning is, “Lord, I can’t do what only You can do. Save souls and change lives.” What’s your prayer for preaching and teaching the word? Are you playing it too safe? Do you pray for the ending of your message?

Write a sermon brief or manuscript, but then leave your notes at home.
Many have written on sermon notes in preaching books. Many great preachers use notes, so I’m not against them. I started using a few more this year, but mainly I use no notes. Preaching and teaching without notes means a few things:

  • Are you studied enough to be full of the word that you could preach 80% of it without notes? Preaching without notes does not mean I “wing it.” Preaching without notes means you have to study more, not less.
  • Preaching without notes means you need to write more during week. I use Evernote, which has a voice dictation option. Some parts of the message need to be spoken out on paper rather than written.
  • When you preach without notes, you really are not preaching without notes. Dr. Al Patterson once was asked “do you use notes when you preach?” He replied, “Yes I do. I use the Bible.” Dr. Haddon Robinson said the same thing when I was at Gordon-Conwell. Preaching without notes was mandatory at Gordon.
  • When you are studied full, prayed up hot, then the preaching can be an experience in the word rather than a class lecture. Not all preaching with notes is this way, but if you use notes, use them sparingly. Look people in the eyes.

Don’t play it safe. Trust God’s word. Ditch the notes after you study hard. Or use only what you have to have as notes. It makes a difference. Let the Spirit do something fresh through you.

Throw your heart on the table in life and in preaching.
People want to know the preacher is a real person. When preaching, throw your heart up on the pulpit some. Don’t talk about yourself all the time, but don’t ignore your stuff either. When you are real about your sin struggles, your sin problems, your life challenges, people respect it. You don’t have to put all of your mess out. I’m not saying that, but it helps to be real in a natural way. It may surprise people at some point, but it changes your church culture from “sanctuary for saints” to “hospital for sinners.” Don’t play it safe by acting like you have it all together by never talking about your own struggles. You don’t diminish holiness by being honest. You actually pursue it. Take a risk. Throw your heart on the table.

How Dr. Ronnie Floyd revitalized FBC Ruidoso







It’s late. I can’t sleep. So I’m up reading. Writing. Reflecting.

I’ve meant to write on how Dr. Ronnie Floyd has impacted my view and execution of ministry. Here it goes.

Dr. Ronnie Floyd serves as Senior Pastor of Cross Church. He recently served as President of the Southern Baptist Convention for two years. His tenure as SBC President was nothing short of amazing. Under his leadership, the SBC dedicated Tuesday nights of the convention to 3 hours of prayer for revival. It was nothing like anything I had ever seen before outside of a Life Action Revival. It was powerful. The prayer focus was not just at the convention. It was the praying that led up to the SBC each year. Awesome stuff. And the results were incredible as well.

I had led churches to pray before, but it was not easy. Unfortunately, churches fight against real prayer movements. Yet as the SBC was led to pray, I came home eager to lead our church to pray. And that we did. We started praying in meetings and praying anywhere. We prayed for 30 days up to Resurrection Sunday. It was then that amazing things happened.

  • We started seeing a flood of baptisms. Consecutive Sundays we baptized. Stunning.
  • We baptized 18 in 2015. We more than doubled our baptisms with 41 this year.
  • We started reaching a variety of people, not just one demographic.
  • We saw our attendance rise.
  • We experienced the Holy Spirit in our services in ways that were supernatural.

The stories are plenty. The homeless man we baptized on Resurrection Sunday. The tattoo artist who got saved and baptized with his girlfriend, and then proposed to her in church the same day. It’s nothing short of revival in our church.

We now have a 12 noon prayer meeting on Wednesdays where there is weeping and sobbing for the souls of the lost. We are praying for El Paso, Las Cruces, Alamogordo, Ruidoso, Capitan, Cloudcroft, Albuquerque, Santa Fe, even Phoenix and Tucson. We are asking God to send revival to the nation through the desert Southwest. From the dry stream beds of the Southwest, “God flood this nation with rivers of living water bringing revival to the church and awakening to the nation.”

Dr. Ronnie Floyd – I’ve meant to say thank you for focusing on what is important. Prayer. Prayer leads to conviction and repentance. Repentance births fresh faith. Faith births courage. Courage moves to evangelism. Evangelism, when prayer driven, produces disciple making.

Thanks for bringing freshness back to our churches. I know it’s the Lord, but God uses conduits. Again, thanks and God bless you Dr. Ronnie Floyd.

How Satan works.

How does Satan work?

Something I state fairly often is “I don’t know the technical interaction of how Satan, Demons, the sinful nature of man, fallen creation, free will and evil; I’m not sure how they work.” What I can say without a doubt is they do work. There is evil. Satan is a fallen angel who is condemned already to hell forever. He knows where he is going. So what does he want to do? How does he work? What’s his purpose? I’ve learned there are four things the enemy wants to do.

1. Satan the Separator – Judas Iscariot was able to be a part of The Twelve. He had he same power the other eleven had. He went out on the same mission trips the others did. He at some point chose to follow Jesus. He experienced Jesus healing, feeding 5000, teaching, and living out the gospel. Yet, at some point in time, Satan put it in Judas mind, his heart to live a life separated from God and the other eleven.

Scripture says, “Now by the time of supper, the Devil has already put it into the heart of Judas, Simon Iscariot’s son, to betray Him [Jesus] ~ John 13:2

We can be so close to the things of God and God Himself, yet we can live a compartmentalized life. We can all be Judas. Satan wants to separate us. Satan hates the people of God. Satan is evil because he chose to be and he cannot be changed now. It’s too late for him. So Satan’s one purpose is to work against God. Satan can’t touch God, so he often goes for the next best thing: God’s people.

Jesus prayed His desired purpose for unity because He knows the church is strongest when it’s together. Jesus said, “May they all be one, as You, Father, are in Me and I am in You. May they also be one is Us so the world may believe You sent Me” ~ John 17:21.

Satan is a separator. He wants to separate the people of God. If you see separation in the church where you live and serve, you can know Satan is behind it. He wants to separate your friends, family and faith family. If Satan can separate, he is well on his way to messing up our families, our churches.

Do you see God wants unity and Satan wants separation? The next time you have relational separation happening, remember Satan is behind it (Matt 16:23). And remember it may not just be you who are viewing the situation from the outside angle. Satan will use anyone to bring division in his people. I’ve learned to be careful at every angle. God deserves it.

2. Satan the Isolator – Peter the Son of Jonah became the mouthpiece of the church in Acts 1-12. He was a fisherman before Jesus called him to join up. Peter, never scared to jump up with a bold proclamation, said, ” …. I will lay my life down for You” (John 13:37). We all know Peter ended up denying Jesus around the fire barrel and left weeping and broken (Mark 14:72). Peter left disappointed and demoralized. That’s what happens when Satan isolates a Christian. He wants to isolate because he works in isolation. He will talk a person out of church, of out fellowship, away from accountability in community, away, away, away, from everything God, etc.

The next time you find yourself isolated? Remember who wants you there. It’s not God (Psalm 133)

3. Satan the Demoralizer – Judas. Peter. Both got demoralized after Satan worked in their lives. Once separated, then isolated, Satan works on our emotions. Our souls. He gets us alone and makes us forget God, forget Jesus work on the cross, he makes us have mental conversations that are time wasters and hate breeders. He gets us alone and make it rain. Judas committed suicide. Peter left weeping. Jesus knew Peter was hurting to the extent that He gave news of the resurrection specifically to Peter (Mark 16:5). Satan can depress us. He desires to suck the spiritual life from us like a new vacuum on a dusty floor. But Jesus, he restored Peter to the ministry as Peter repented and made himself available to God again (John 21).

The next time you feel demoralized, look back to see how Satan is working. Get your identity from the cross of Jesus Christ. Claim Gal 2:20 as you run forward for God.

4. Satan the Decimator – Peter knew this better than anyone.  He experienced the works of Satan, the influence of evil and the restoration and healing of God. Peter blew it, lived with it, came back from it and learned from it. He knew what Satan did to Judas. Satan decimated Judas life. Satan doesn’t just want to sideline or sidetrack God’s people . He want to take us out. That is scary, but it’s true. Peter said in his letter, “Be serious! Be alert! Your adversary the Devil  is prowling around like a roaring lion, looking for anyone he can devour” (1 Pet 5:8). He wants to take believers out of action. He wants to get us unprotected, separated, demoralized so he can decimate us in isolation.

Does seeing Satan’s activity as a decimator put urgency in you to walk close to Jesus?

What can we do to protect ourselves, our families and our church families?

  • Stay in the word and live from it; take a Bible everywhere you go – Matt 4:1-11
  • Pray at all times, especially with a few other passionate praying people – Acts 4:31;         1 Thess 5:17; Col 4:2
  • Remain humble no matter what – 1 Peter 5:6-7 

I heard a great quote somewhere. It this, “Obedience brings the presence of God; humility keeps the presence of God.”