Archives For Church Related

Preparing for Tough Topics

September 27, 2010 — 5 Comments

I’ll be sharing a message about Christians and alcohol this week.  I’m wanting to get some feedback from our CornerStoners. Well, maybe that isn’t the best term for our attenders ;-)

I’ll be sharing not only what the Bible says about drinking alcohol, but also we’ll be talking about real world consequences in our culture today. I just want to get an idea of where you stand on the issue.  Take the following poll and let me know what you think.

[polldaddy poll=3832648]

Outlines and Mindmaps

September 2, 2010 — 1 Comment

My brain is a scary place. So this may be a post that you skip over unless you are interested in how I process and organize information. As a pastor, each week I have the responsibility to clearly present a message based on God’s Word. It means that I spend time studying each week, making sure that I am prepared to stand up and preach. I typically write out my sermon each week in Apple Pages. But when I write using a word processor, I am forced to write in a very linear process. When I need to reorganize my thoughts, I have to go through a painstaking process to cut and paste to make everything flow together.

Outlines help somewhat, but they still cannot be quickly changed. That’s where mind maps can help. Wikipedia defines a mind map as “a diagram used to represent words, ideas, tasks, or other items linked to and arranged around a central key word or idea. Mind maps are used to generate, visualize, structure, and classify ideas, and as an aid to studying and organizing information, solving problems, making decisions, and writing.” I watched a video tutorial on mind maps over at and I decided to give it another try.

I downloaded the free version of XMind for the Mac and I started organizing my thoughts. I created nodes for Bible verses, for illustrations, and for my central idea. I started adding in points and thoughts, and very quickly a sermon was formed. I was able to reorganize my ideas very quickly by dragging and dropping. You can collapse and expand your different points to keep everything on the screen. And finally, when you are done, you can export the map out as a text file to use for preaching. You can see a partial map from the sermon last week above this post.

Overall, I’m impressed with XMind. The program worked great and it really helped me to organize my thoughts. For an engineer, this program really matched my analytical and logical skills and allowed me to be creative at the same time.  The process is much better than simply writing a sermon out on paper. You can very quickly see how the message will flow from point to point. I’ve been using Evernote to store many of my sermon ideas, but I want to start incorporating XMind into my weekly work flow. I might even upgrade to the pro version to get some more export options. Just don’t forget that the most important tool in sermon preparation is your Bible. You must do the hard work of studying Scripture if you teach each week. Nothing can replace prayer and Bible study if you want to powerfully present God’s Word each week.

Let me know how you organize your sermons, and if you want to find out more about using a tool like this, check out the video below from that got me interested in trying this out.

Monday Afternoon Thoughts

August 30, 2010 — 1 Comment

I had a great weekend, but it’s one of those Mondays where I have a million things to do and not nearly enough time this week to get them done. Here’s a quick rundown on my world.

  • Another good weekend at Cornerstone.  We started a new series at Cornerstone based on a survey we sent out where we asked people to rank different tough topics they wanted to talk about.  The top 5 topics picked were: Christians and Alcohol, How do I know God’s will, Are we living in end times, Bible Translations, and Discipleship and Evangelism. I was really surprised by some of these, but we will definitely have fun approaching each one from a Biblical perspective. We might even add in an extra week to cover some of the other topics that were written in.
  • We kicked off the series with tackling the issue of Bible translations. I think this one surprised me the most, but judging from the conversations after the message, it really is an important issue to tackle. People are confused with the sheer number of different translations, and our area is full of King James Only churches who are less than gracious to anyone using a more modern translation. I don’t mind when churches stand by the King James version because they prefer it, but when they turn it into a matter of sin, I take exception.
  • During the first service, I looked up at the clock and realized that I had less than 5 minutes to wrap things up. Although we are pretty flexible on time, we can’t go way over because of starting the 2nd service.  The problem was that I was only half way through my notes. :-)  So I told everyone to check out my blog this week and I would share the info and resources that I skipped. BUT, I have changed my mind. After seeing how much interest there really is in this topic, I am going to tackle part 2 next week. Let’s just say that this week was your introduction.
  • The sermon audio and video will be up in a few hours, so check out our sermon page to catch part 1. The online message is from our 11am service so it’s a little more organized since I knew I couldn’t get through all of it.
  • After the second service, we were able to head over to Hillsville and catch Decemberadio in concert. They had an afternoon concert at the Carroll County Fair. I was pretty disappointed in the turnout for the concert, but the band did awesome as always. We’ve gotten to know them over the past few years and I would love to host them again for a local concert.
  • And we wrapped up Sunday evening with a great night of youth meetings. It was our first official youth meeting this year where we really started teaching. Our Sr. High group is taking an in-depth look at the process of inspiration, preservation, and translation of the Bible that I covered on Sunday morning. We had a great time together, and I learned that when someone asks what a word means, you better be careful and check out urban dictionary first :-)
  • Overall it was a great weekend. I felt like I got hit by a truck when everything was said and done, but that was just the typical Sunday Holy Hangover. God is good.

Now for this week, I have several website projects to wrap up, another sermon to prepare for, and we are thinking about taking off for a few days as a family. We’re watching Hurricane Earl to see how it will affect our travel plans. Pray that it turns northward very soon.

Fall Kickoff

August 23, 2010 — Leave a comment

It’s been crazy for a few weeks, but I am excited as we enter the fall. I love the start of college football season. All throughout the summer, teams are preparing and getting ready. Game plans are drawn, players prepare, leaders are selected, and the excitement builds until the kickoff. At that moment, the players move from the sideline to full participants in the action.

In the life of our church, summer can be a little slow. People are enjoying the beautiful weather outside and traveling, and every week there are numerous families on vacation. But once school starts back, it’s game time. I’m excited about several new things kicking off this fall at Cornerstone.

  • We’re starting a new LifeGroup semester this fall. We have several new leaders and groups which will provide a great opportunity for all the new attenders to get plugged in and join the game.
  • Our youth ministry takes a little bit of a break from our large meetings during the summer so we can focus on smaller groups. But now that school has started back, we are ready to go full speed ahead. We kicked off our new youth year with a cookout Sunday at the church with over 50 teens. Our Jr. High group has definitely got some energy this year. I’m tired of seeing churches set low expectations for their teens, and I believe that we will so this group of students accomplish incredible things for Christ in their school this year. We are going to challenge them to get serious about learning from God’s Word and obeying Christ.
  • Our next sermon series is going to be a lot of fun, but it will definitely cause some people to be a little uncomfortable. We’re taking votes now for a series called You Asked For It and it will be focused on tackling tough topics from a Biblical perspective. And it starts next week.
  • And finally, September 6th is circled on my calendar. The Hokies will be kicking off in a top ten match-up against Boise State to start the season. I’m hoping it will be an awesome year for Frank Beamer and Virginia Tech. GO HOKIES!!

We’ve been wanting to tackle some tough topics at Cornerstone, and you can help us pick them out. Over the next few weeks, we are asking our church to vote for the sermons they want us to tackle. We will be taking each topic that you pick and sharing what the Bible has to say about it. Click on the picture below to take the survey. Thanks for helping us out. We’ll also be adding this to our church website over the next few days.

Resources for Church Stuff

August 11, 2010 — 1 Comment

We have quite a few people from the community and from other churches come through our facility at Cornerstone. We have renovated an old downtown store and created an inviting environment for church. People always seem to be interested in where we found all of our “stuff.”  Stuff like the signage, furniture, and equipment we use.  I just wanted to share a few quick links that may help some of the church planters out there. It’s touch creating a great environment without spending large amounts of money. Hopefully some of the links may help.

  • Signs and Sign HoldersDisplays2Go (Look through their specials and closeouts)
  • Café FurnitureIKEA (Shipping is extremely high, so visit a store to see everything)
  • Curtains, Pipe and DrapeGeorgia Expo (Curtains and drapes can really help control sound in a small space)
  • Metal CD Cases for our Sermon SeriesEffectuality (We bundle audio CD’s from our sermon series to give out)
  • Audio and Lighting EquipmentNorthern Sound & Light (The absolute cheapest place to buy sound equipment)
  • Musical EquipmentSweetwater (Great to work with)
  • Cables and Adapters - CablesToGo (Their rapidrun cables are awesome to pull through tight spaces)
  • CoffeeLand of a Thousand Hills (Drink Coffee, Do Good)
  • WhiteboardsWhiteyboard (Cheap and Effective)
  • Cheap TV CartsTyke Supply (It’s tough finding a good quality tv stand – these work great)
  • BannersAhbanner (If you are comfortable creating your own graphics, this is a cheap place to order from)

If you use a little creativity, you’ll be surprised by what you can accomplish on a limited budget. We were able to get some furniture from a local store that closed. Picking great paint colors will make a huge difference. Don’t be afraid to be bold.

If you’re a pastor, then you have inevitably been asked “what do you do all week?”  Besides all the meetings, counseling, coaching, visiting and administrative stuff, we still must spend time preparing for a message each week.  And in today’s society, everyone expects the message to be inspiring, motivating, funny, and challenging.  I wanted to share a little about my planning and preparation process. I don’t know if it will help anyone, but this is how I get ready for Sunday each week. For me, this process typically takes 10 to 20 hours each week, depending on how much research I’ve done in advance.

And before we begin, the most important thing for any pastor is to stay in God’s Word. If you want to share a fresh message from God each week, you must hear from God and have the courage to share whatever God tells you.

Picking a topic

I like to preach in series. When you plan for 4 to 6 weeks at a time, it keeps you from trying to say too much each week.  I typically get ideas for sermon series from books I’m reading, from Bible passages that speak to me, and from messages and series that other churches have done.  At Cornerstone, we typically rotate between topical series and book series. We like to mix things up to keep sermons from becoming too predictable and boring. Once the series are picked, they are shared with the elders and with the worship team. Currently, we have outlined our series through the first of next year, which is about 5 to 6 months out.


This is where it all begins. I start by reading Bible passages that communicate the principle or truth that we want to convey. I’ll read through several versions and start highlighting key words and phrases. I rely heavily on Evernote to collect and organize my research notes. For key words, I’ll do word studies so that I can understand the context and meaning of the original text. After this is done, it’s time to read through different commentaries to gain insight about each passage. I’ll also read other books that may help me understand concepts or gain additional insight.


This is the point where the message starts taking shape. I’ll read back through my research notes and start organizing my key thoughts. From this, I will determine the main points of the sermon and start forming them into a logical progression. My brain is really wired to keep things in logical order.   I have to understand how all the points and thoughts tie together. If not, I feel like I just ramble. Once the main points are written out, I try to write my opening, closing, and transition statements. These will set the tone of the message and determine what I really want to focus on.

Adding Creative Elements

By this time, I pretty much know the direction and tone of the message. I like to start adding in personal illustrations and ideas that others have shared with me. I prefer illustrations from the real world instead of illustrations from books or guys that lived hundreds of years ago. By sharing stories from my life, I feel that I am able to let people know that I am not a super preacher man. I’m a real person, with struggles and successes, and I try to give people a glimpse into my life. I’m also talking with the worship team thinking through the flow of the entire service. If we can use a video to help communicate the truth, then we will add it in. But I don’t want to use a video just because it is funny or creative. The first week of any new series is tough, because we’re finishing up all the sermon graphics used on the screens, in the bulletin, and on the web.


My biggest problem each week is that I end up with too much information. So the last thing I do is go back through the progression and organization of the sermon and cut out anything that takes people’s focus away from Christ. This is tough, because it may mean taking out something that I really felt strongly about in the beginning of the process. It also helps focus the message on the main point I want to share each week.

Preach It!!

The last step is to boldly proclaim the message that God has given you. And it may even change while you are preaching. If you are prepared, the Holy Spirit can and will change your message on occasion to bring out information that you may have left out. It’s an awesome feeling to see God’s Word transform lives. And for the pastors out there reading this, don’t take lightly your responsibility to proclaim and preach the Gospel. Be bold, be courageous, and be obedient!

Managing Money

July 14, 2010 — Leave a comment

Nobody likes to admit that they are greedy and materialistic, yet that is one of our biggest problems in our society today.  We buy stuff that we don’t need with money we don’t have. And then we expect someone to bail us out when we get into financial trouble. We are in the middle of a series called In God We Trust at Cornerstone. We’re taking a hard look at how we can really honor God with our possessions and our finances. To help show how easy it is to manage money in a way that honors God, I recruited some high powered help. Check out this video from my little man.

As a father, I’m incredibly proud of all my children, but seeing them learn from an early age about honoring God and saving money is awesome! I even want to share a little story about Drew, the six year old star of the above video.  About six months ago, while he was eating a snack in the cafe before the service started, he asked me about one of the offering boxes. I told him what it was and he went on to talk about something else. About 5 minutes later, I glanced over and saw him sneaking over to the box. He made sure no one was looking and he slipped some money out of his pocket and put it into the box.  I asked him about it later that day and he just said he felt he needed to give some of his “extra” money back to God. He had already tithed out of his allowance, but he wanted to give more!

If you want to teach your younger kids about handling money, one excellent resource is Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace Jr. For your high school and college kids, I highly recommend Joe Sangl’s book What Everyone Should Know About Money Before They Enter THE REAL WORLD. Let’s teach our families the true meaning of Proverbs 3:9 and let them learn the joy of giving.

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