• How to make your sermons stickier

    I have been listening to Chip and Dan Heath’s audio book Made to Stick: why some Ideas Survive and Others Die. It has been a fantastic experience. The Heath brothers say that most ideas don’t hang around or stick because the person delivering the ideas hasn’t thought about how to make them stick. As someone who wants his own preaching to improve all the time this got me thinking about how I can make my sermons “stickier”

    According to the Heath brothers sticky ideas have 6 attributes:

    1. Sticky ideas are simple. This doesn’t mean that you can’t go deep. A good idea may be profound but it is simply communicated so that everyone can understand it. To make our ideas or sermons sticky the question we have to ask is “What is the core of the message that I am trying to deliver?” Once we have that we ruthlessly cut out the chaff so that people get the idea and only the idea.

    2. Sticky ideas have an unexpected twist to them. We are wired to pay more attention to things that are out of the ordinary and so sticky ideas will make us do a mental double take. How can I make this Sunday’s sermon have an unexpected twist in it? Can I say old truths in a new which will make people sit up and take notice?

    3. Sticky ideas are concrete. Something becomes concrete when it can be described or detected by the human senses. A V-8 engine is concrete; “high-performance” is abstract. Concrete ideas are easy to remember. Experiments have shown that people remember concrete over abstract nouns: “bicycle” over “justice” or “personality.”

    4. Sticky ideas are credible. They are not easily dismissed as being stupid. This is hard for preachers because our message is foolishness to a perishing world (1 Corinthians 1:18). But is there a way we can preach that shows how relevant and true the gospel is?

    5. Sticky ideas are emotional. That means that sticky ideas convey or cause an emotion to be felt. How do we do this with our preaching?

    6. Sticky ideas have a story component to them. That is there is within a sticky idea a mini narrative or the idea is wrapped in a story. Stories communicate more than hard facts or intellectual ideas in most cases.

    How can we use these six principles to make your sermons “stickier”?

  • The one word that will revolutionize your life.

    We are all looking for little things that make big differences in our lives. Whether that little thing is a new gadget, app or whatever we want to buy it and use it. But I have got a word, yes a word, that will revolutionize your life.

    That word is……

    (drum roll please)


    Yes, that’s right, the word “no” will revolutionize your life.

    One of the biggest issues I see in people today is their inability or unwillingness to say NO. We either take on too much and therefore we cant do the things we need to do with excellence or we take on things that aren’t going to get us to our goals in life.

    What would happen if you said no to everything you could not with excellence?

    What would happen if you said no to things that you don’t have to do that steal time away from your loved ones?

    What would happen if you only said yes to those things you could put in an awesome effort for?

    The great business writer Jim Collins says that all leaders need to have a stop doing list. This is a list of things that you are going to stop doing so you can focus on the things you should be doing.

    If you were going to write a stop doing list what would be on it?

    What good things do you need to say no to so that you can give your full energy to great things?

    We all need to use the word “no” more.

    If we do it will change our lives for the better.


  • 10 things for leaders to do from Jim Collins

    I love reading Jim Collins’ books. If you have never read one of his books you need to sell your shirt and got and buy one if not all the books he has written and read them! Last week I listened to a great talk that Jim Collins gave at the Catalyst Conference. It was basically a summary of his awesome book Great by Choice. At the end of the talk he gave ten practical things for the people at the conference to do. Here they are:

    1.  Do the Good to Great diagnostic on jimcollins.com on yourself and get your staff team to do it on your church/ ministry/ organisation.

    2. Work out what your key leadership positions are and devise a plan on how to fill them with great people in the next year.

    3.  Build a personal board of directors/mentors. Mentoring is so crucial for upcoming leaders. We need to build a group of people who are taking time to mentor us.

    4. Get your personal hedgehog straight. A hedgehog is something you can be passionate about, be great at and make the most impact with.

    5. Set a 20 mile march and stick to it. A 2o mile march is a pattern of growth that is sustainable that you and your organization are going to stick to. For example you might want to grow your youth group by 20 percent each year every year. In the beginning this may not look like much but if the your youth group grew by 20 percent every year for ten years how many people would be at your youth group? You do the maths.

    6. Fire 6 new bullets before the end of the year. Firing bullets is Collins’ way of trying something new that is low risk high reward. So you want to write a blog. Write a blog post a week for 3 months and see what happens, if it takes off then put some real time into it  but if it doesn’t take off ditch it. Or another example, you want to start a training program for young people at your church. Start it with a few people and put a little bit of time in it and if it takes off now devote a lot of time to it. What we usually do is the opposite we have a great idea and we put all out weight behind it and even if we are 50 percent successful that means we fail 50 percent of the time.

    7. Turn off electronic gadgets for two days every two weeks. This means that we will be able to do work that doesn’t rely on our computer. E.g. Sermon prep and reading.

    8. Create a stop doing list. Every leader needs to stop dong some things to be effective at what they should be doing. What are you going to stop doing to be more effective at the things you should be doing?

    9.  Double your reach to people half my age. Think about how you are going to reach and mentor people half your age.

    10. Set a Big Hairy Audacious Goal that makes you really useful. Don’t set a goal that is small and don’t set a goal that is self centered. set one that is huge and will impact others.


    Which one of these do you find the most inspiring?

    Which one of these do you find the most challenging?

  • Ed Young Jr, Calvinists and truth

    The twittersphere has blown up because of a video of Ed Young Jr attacking Calvinists. If you havent seen the video you can view it  here about a quarter down the page.

    Pastor Young’s rant leaves me asking a lot of questions:

    Why does he think Calvinist are cool? I thought Pastor young’s church would be a ‘cool’ church and by saying this I mean no disrespect. I don’t care whether churches or not are cool but I thought Pastor Young’s church would be like Hillsong which is the ‘cool’ church in Sydney. I also think most Calvinist leaders (John Piper, Mark Dever, Matt Chandler, Albert Mohler) are not cool. This once again is no disrespect to them, I love these men and have been helped by their ministries but I wouldn’t call them cool.

    Why did he choose to rant on this issue? Has he lost a bunch of early college age kids to a Calvinistic church nearby?

    Who does he talk to in the Calvinist community? In the very small dealings I have had with American Christianity it seems like there are cliques like the Gospel Coalition/ T4G Clique, the Willow Clique, The Emergent Clique etc. So it would seem odd that Pastor Young has had the kind of conversations with Calvinist leaders that he claims he has had.

    But questions aside we need to realise that there is is some truth in what he was saying.

    1. We Reformed guys are sometimes angry young and dudes who are super critical of everything. This negative, angry spirit is sin and we do need to work at being more loving and humble all the while holding onto the truth and lovingly pointing error out.
    2. Sometimes Reformed churches  are not evangelistic. The gospel should motivate us to tell people about Jesus especially when we believe God is sovereign over salvation.
    3. Some young Calvinists do emphasize election to the detriment of all other theology and therefore are Hyper-Calvinist and not truly Calvinist. On this point Red Iain Murray’s great book Spurgeon Vs Hyper-Calvinism. True reformed theology holds election and human responsibility in tension. Just like Jesus did. Some young Calvinists have just read one blog or chapter on election and then this becomes the piece of theology which dominates everything else.

    But there were some huge issues with Pastor Young’s rant.

    1. It was a rant. This is not how people should be rebuked.
    2. He said he and reformed guys are preaching a different gospels. If that is true what Gospel is he preaching?
    3. He seemed to equate Calvinists with those in the social gospel movement. This is baseless. Calvinists attack the social gospel movement as a derivation from the gospel. He probably should read What is the Mission of the Church? by Kevin DeYoung and Greg Gilbert.
    4. It showed an insecurity which I found troubling. He mentioned a number of times young people going to reformed churches. I am assuming that people from his church are leaving and going to reformed churches. Young’s church would have to number in the tens of thousands and if this number is accurate why is he caring about a few people from his college ministries going down the road to the local Reformed church? Is it because he finds his identity in his church and when people leave it his identity comes into question?

    There will be a lot more responses to Pastor Young’s rant. But please let’s keep it gracious and loving.


  • Are you a “breakout” leader?

    I have been reading Thom Rainer’s book Breakout Churches and it has been a great read. In the book Thom takes inspiration from Jim Collins‘ book Good to Great and tries to work out why some churches go from declining attendance and low to no baptisms to spikes in attendance and high numbers of baptisms.

    In Good to great, Collins found that all Good to Great companies had a Level 5 Leader Thom and his team found that the breakout churches had an Acts 6/7 leader. He also found that there were different levels of leadership present in the leaders of churches. He called each of these levels Acts and then a number because he found the levels of leadership in the book of Acts. Here is how Thom defines the different levels of leadership that he and his team found in pastors:

    Acts 1: The Acts 1 leaders has a particular call to ministry. They don’t see ministry as a job or a paycheck but they are called by God to ministry.

    Acts 2: The Acts 2 leader is the contributing leader. He is a leader who spends a great amount of his time in sermon preparation and prayer. The Breakout leaders spent 20 hours a week in sermon prep and prayer whereas other leaders spent as little as 5 hours per week on these tasks. The key to this kind of leadership is discipline.

    Acts 3: The Acts 3 leader is the outwardly focused leader. This leader makes sure his church is focused on reaching the community.

    Acts 4: Acts 4 is the passionate leader. These leaders have a passion for their job, the gospel and their people that is evident for all to see.

    Acts 5: The Acts 5 leaders is a bold leader. This leader will take steps to realize the vision that God has for the church he leads.

    Acts 6/7: The Acts 6/7 leader is a the leader that think beyond his life. He is looking to set up his church for the next generation and the one after that and the one after that.

    Rainer and his team saw that the breakout leaders were leaders who encompassed everything from Acts 1- Acts 6/7. But he found that only 1 percent of all the leaders that they surveyed showed all the traits.

    Rainer’s book shows that leadership is crucial for the growth of your church. The questions is what kind of leader are you?

    Are you a called, disciplined, outward focused, passionate, bold leader that is seeking for your church to cast it’s influence decades into the future?


  • You don’t want to be a dead pastor at 55, do you?

    I have always considered myself quite fit and healthy. That was until a few weeks ago when I went to the doctor. He did a pretty routine checkup and then said to me words I will never for get. He said:

    “Hans, if you keep eating like you are and not exercising you will be morbidly obese by the time you are 55! You don’t want to be a dead pastor at 55 do you?”

    Well, to say the least, these words  shocked me into action. I now go to the gym three times a week and have started out on a diet. I have already seen results and my energy has increased dramatically.

    Pastors have a lot on their plate. We have sermons to write, leaders to train, people to visit, our families to tend to and so many other things to do. Our schedule means that taking care of ourselves is put way down our priority list. So a lot of us eat badly because bad food is quick and we don’t exercise because we don’t have the time.

    This kind of living poses two theological problems:

    1.  Stewardship: God Has given us two things that are extremely precious. Firstly time and secondly our bodies. How we use our bodies affects how we use our time. If we eat well and are fit we will use our time more effectively because we will have more energy. So whether or not we exercise or eat well becomes a stewardship issue. Are we stewarding the resources of time and our physical bodies that God has given us well?

    2. Character: Character is doing the right thing at the right time no matter what it costs and no matter what we feel like. If we are not exercising or eating well it says something about us as individuals. It says that we are lazy when it comes to the important but not urgent things in life. This is theological because it is God who calls leaders to have great character (1 Timothy 3).

    What changes do you have to make in these areas?

    • Have you ever thought about planning out what you will eat for a week and sticking to it? So much of the time we eat junk because it is convenient.
    • Have you put times in your diary where you are going to drop everything and exercise? If you have do you keep them?
    • Have you got someone holding you accountable to your eating and exercising?

    Brothers and sisters, God has given us one body and one life. Let’s steward these resources well.

  • Keeping your Word

    “Is this done?” I was asked by a member of Resolved. The problem was that it wasn’t done and today was the day I said I would have it done. What was I going to do? I thought of so many rationalizations for why I haven’t got this thing done:

    • I had less sleep now that Kate and I have a small baby. (Not really true)
    • I have been too busy writing the sermon for this weekend or in other meetings that have come up. (Kind of true but still no excuse)
    • She hadn’t reminded me that I had to get it done. (But we hadn’t agreed that she would remind me either)

    I looked her in the eye and told her the truth “No, I haven’t done it. I am sorry.” Her words were kind and gracious. She and I agreed on the date I needed to have it done by. But there was still an issue. When I told her I didn’t have it done, for a split second, I saw in her eyes that I had let her down. I had disappointed her. I told her I would do something and I didn’t do what I said I would do.

    I didnt keep my word.

    I lacked integrity.

    Integrity is the key to leadership. In their famous book The Leadership Challenge, Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner surveyed 1000’s of people around the world and found people wanted integrity in their leaders more than anything else.

    Get that, your people want you to do what you say you will do more than they want you to be dynamic leader or a visionary leader.

    But not only do your people want you to have integrity God values you keeping your word more than almost anything else.

    Ecclesiastes 4:4 says:

    When you vow a vow to God. do not delay in paying it for he has no pleasure in fools. Pay what you vow. 

    Did you see what God calls a person who doesn’t keep his word or his vow? That’s right a FOOL.

    Wow that hurts! But it is true, a fool is rash with their words and doesn’t  think about how to use them. A fool makes promises and doesn’t keep them.

    So do you keep your word?

    Do you have integrity?

    Keeping your word or integrity is the key to you being a biblical leader.

    Keeping your word or integrity is the first step in you becoming the best leader you can be.

    “According to Scripture, virtually everything that truly qualifies a person for leadership is directly related to character. It’s not about style, status, personal charisma, clout, or worldly measurements of success. Integrity is the main issue that makes the difference between a good leader and a bad one.”  ~ John MacArthur 

    How do you think you can have more integrity?

  • Is your church successful?

    “Thus, when we plan our church life and judge its successes, let us not be guided by management technique or modern theories of presentation and influence. The basic principles of church life and practice are laid down in the Bible and are exemplified in the lives of biblical saints. Is the church weak and despised by society at the moment? Well, that is sad; but on another level, who cares? We are not meant to be respectable, to have political influence, to be an organisation that those outside admire for our slickness and savvy. We are meant to be those who preach Christ to the world around us both in our words and deeds. I find it worrying when evangelical success comes to be measured in the categories of worldly success, for precisely this reason: we are not meant to be successful by worldly standards; we are meant to be faithful by biblical standards; and the example of Christ indicates that these two things are, at the end of the day, implacably opposed to each other.”

    Carl Trueman, Reformation: Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow, 55

    What do you think?


  • If you don’t Praise Others do you Functionally Deny the Gospel?

    I have started reading Sam Crabtree’s book Practicing Affirmation. So far it is a great book. But the foreword floored me. Not many forewords have floored me. But not many are written by John Piper either. In the foreword Piper quotes the following passage from C.S Lewis’ Reflections on the Psalms:

    “The world rings with praise — lovers praising their mistresses, readers praising their favorite poet, walkers praising the countryside, players praising their favorite game — praise of weather, wines, dishes, actors, motors, horses, colleges, countries, historical personages, children, flowers, mountains, rare stamps, rare beetles, even sometimes politicians or scholars.  I had not noticed how the humblest, and at the same time most balanced and capacious minds, praised most, while the cranks, misfits, and malcontents praised least.  The good critics found something to praise in many imperfect works; the bad ones continually narrowed the list of books we might be allowed to read.  the healthy and unaffected man, even if luxuriously brought up and widely experienced in good cookery, could praise a very modest meal:  the dyspeptic and the snob found fault with all.  Except where intolerably adverse circumstances interfere, praise almost seems to be inner health made audible.”

    Did you hear what he says. It is only those who are humble, balanced and capacious that are liberal with their praise of others. It is those who are arrogant, snobby and full of themselves who do not praise others.

    Piper goes on to comment about the central idea in the book:

    “Sam says, “The best affirmation is rooted not only in the character of God, but in the Gospel.” Which means that every glimmer of good in the life of God’s children is blood bought. Jesus died to make it possible. What does it say about us if he died to bring it about, and we don’t consider it worth praising? That is, to say it again, I need this book.”

    To put some skin on it. When we see something that someone else does and it is good and we do not encourage them we are saying something profound about God and his good gifts. We are saying they are not praise worthy.  And we know that all good gifts of God that we can see in others are there only because of the gospel. So there is a sense in which our failure to praise the good in others is a functional denial of the gospel.

    But the sentence that floored me the most was this one:

    When our mouths are empty of praise for others, it is probably because our hearts are full of love for self.

    When I am only full of negativity toward others, when I give no praise, no compliment, only put downs and negativity I do it because I am full of myself and arrogant.


    I need to repent a lot! My lack of praise of others shows how much I don’t praise my father in heaven and it also shows how full of myself I am.

    Do you agree that if you don’t praise others you functionally deny the gospel?

    What do you need to change to see and comment on the evidences of God’s grace in the people around you?

    Who do you need to praise today because you can see evidences of God’s grace in their lives?



  • The danger of being bored with the Gospel

    “If your heart does not leap at God’s grace in Christ, what you need is more grace. Nothing else can save you from your own deadness. Therefore, fear your own hardness of heart more than anything else. Beware of rigidity, ingratitude, a demanding spirit. Beware of an unmelted heart that is never satisfied. Beware of a mind that looks for excuses not to believe. Beware of the impulse that always finds a reason to delay response. Beware of thinking how the sermon applies to someone else. God watches how you hear his Word.”

    Raymond C. Ortland, Jr., Isaiah: God Saves Sinners, pg 83

    Has your heart grown cold or hard to the Gospel?

    Are you bored with the Gospel?

    How do we make sure we are not bored with the Gospel?

    How do we make sure our hearts are continually refreshed by the Gospel?