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Core Convictions

I want to read a scripture and then open in prayer. We’ll start. The scripture is a famous one relating to preaching: 2 Timothy, chapter four verses one through two. “In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge: preach the word. Be prepared in season and out of season. Correct, rebuke and encourage with great patience and careful instruction.”

Well this is one of many verses that talk about preaching in the scriptures. I love working at preaching, because of all the many different things that we do as pastors this is one of the things that is the most explicitly, repeatedly and emphatically impressed upon us in scripture. There are a lot of good things we do: planning services, the order of worship, developing small groups, figuring out discipleship strategies. All of those things are great and they’re good, and they’re important.

But take for instance the issue of small groups. I think pretty much everybody I know that’s working hard in ministry today wants to encourage small groups, but there’s nothing comparable in the New Testament that explicitly says preach the word, “develop small group”. They’re a means to an end of fellowship and community, discipleship and missional evangelism, all of those things which are wonderful and important, so don’t misunderstand. I’m just saying when you actually read scripture and say, “What are we called to do as pastors and leaders in the church?” this is something that is undeniably, emphatically, explicitly and repeatedly impressed upon us. It’s not just this verse.

In fact, I did something simple last night. I just went on Bible Gateway and did a search for “preach” and “preaching”. I found just shy of 100 passages, 79 in the New Testament alone. Jesus in the gospel of Matthew, just starting out in Matthew chapter four, as we get through the birth accounts it says, “and Jesus began to preach”. Then in Matthew 11, “he went from there to preach”. Then in Matthew 11 Jesus is describing his ministry and he says, “the poor have the gospel preached to them”, or in Matthew 12, “The men of Nineveh did repent at the preaching of Jonah”, and he’s using that to convict the people in his day who were failing to repent at his preaching.

In Mark and Luke, in the first chapter of the gospel of Mark, “preaching” appears four times. He preached and said, “I must go to other towns to preach there also.” He appointed the 12, sent them to preach. They went and preached everywhere. It’s all through Acts, all through the epistles. Paul and Barnabas and Peter are preaching. Then Paul in his epistles is asking people to pray for him so that when he preaches he’ll preach boldly. Then when he writes to Timothy and Titus he tells them to preach.

It’s almost like it’s one of those things where it becomes so commonplace that you don’t see it unless you’re looking for it. As many things that are biblical, it’s also practical. Every study I have some examples in your notes. Thom Rainer did a study, which really fits the theme of this group. They studied churches that went through a plateau or a decline and then recovered and began to grow, church renewal. When they did they found in every case one of if not the predominate factors was the preaching of the senior pastor that brought that renewal about, not just that he was a good preacher but that he was preaching in a way that was shaping the renewal. Then Rainer in his book, “Breakout Churches” is what he called that study, he said that this did not surprise him because they had done another study about church planting and found that the same thing was true, that the majority of people coming, being won to Christ and being a part of a new church plant identified the preaching as the most significant thing that brought them to it.

There was just a recent study that I saw, I don’t know who did it. It was in Christianity Today. It asked why people choose a church, but it was a little bit more specific than that. It was asking people who had a church background, moved to a new community, why they chose a church. I think that’s important because I think this could be different for people that are just far from God and out there in the culture. It said people who had a church background, moved to a new community, the number one thing, which I felt was kind of encouraging, 89% of them said it was the beliefs of the church was why they came to it, but the second, 87% was the preaching of the senior pastor in the worship service. Worship, other aspects, children’s ministry even, which I know is super important for young families, all of those things were less in the overall.

Mark Dever in his book “The 9 Marks of a Healthy Church”, I’ll end with this, he says “of the nine marks of a healthy church the first mark is expositional preaching. It’s not only the first mark, it’s far and away the most important of them all, because if you get this right all the others should follow.” Now, I understand the logic of what he’s saying. I think there’s many a slip in how that actually works out with real people, but I think his idea is if you’re doing solid, powerful, authentic, heartfelt, applicable, expositional preaching then whatever else you’re lacking will be surfaced whether it’s worship or evangelism. I think those of us who have been in ministry for a while realize that you can have all of that and it still doesn’t necessarily mean once you do that sermon on evangelism everybody is going to become an effective evangelist.

I understand the logic of what he’s saying. He goes on to say, “This is the crucial mark. If you want to read only one chapter in this book, you’ve picked the right one. That’s the importance of biblical preaching.” The question for us is how can pastors who are seeking renewal or church planters who are establishing churches best preach life changing sermons that can speak to both believers and non believers so that we can build the church for the glory of God.

I’ve put my main points kind of like a sermon into points. Here’s the first one. Lay a foundation of core convictions for gospel centered preaching. I love this quote by John Stott, I believe it and it shaped my own life in ministry. He says, “In a world that no longer wants to listen, how can we be persuaded to go on preaching and learn to do so effectively? The essential secret is not mastering certain techniques, but being mastered by certain core convictions.”

If you have the conviction, true conviction: I must preach the word in the sense that my preaching must expose what’s in scripture, then even if you don’t know the techniques you’ll find a way to make that happen. If you have the conviction that in your preaching you need to preach in such a way that people understand clearly the implications of what you’re saying for their lives, then better than some technique of illustration that conviction will drive you to find a way to communicate that. If you believe that preaching is a God ordained means of grace that can change people’s hearts, that it’s emphatically given to you in scripture, that this is what you’re to do, that it’s important that you do it in the way that … Well, I don’t have the verse up there that talks about with patience and endurance and in season and out of season. Then even if you don’t feel that you’ve got a tool belt with all the techniques, you will still have that end in mind that will drive you to find your way to those results.

If that’s the case then some of you have already mentioned this, but what would be some of the core convictions that someone preaching for renewal and development of their church, wanting to see preaching as being not just a thing you do but one of the primary ways you shape, guide, lead and change peoples lives, what would be some of the core convictions that you might need? Authentic preaching is kind of a test of faith because you can’t just think that you can accomplish it by the words that you’ve written or the words that you’re saying. There has to be this heart deep dependence on the Holy Spirit to work.

I mean, on our best days the reality is we’re going to have a congregation, I know I’ve said this a lot if you’ve had my classes, you’ve got however many people you’ve got that represents real families, real crisis, real lost people. Sure, God is sovereign but he’s working through human instrumentality. On our best we’re like the boy with the loaves and fishes. What I bring, how is it going to feed these hearts? How is it going to fix that brokenhearted person that’s about to walk out of their marriage or give up on their future, or come to Christ? We can’t do that. The greatest preachers historically who wrote about this, when you think about people like Charles Spurgeon, they always talked about dependence on the Holy Spirit.

You’re like Elijah who builds the altar and pours the water on it. Then you step back and depend. Unless God lights the fire, nothing powerful. That’s one core conviction. For me, in my church the way I apply that is I try to think about it all through the preparation. You’re going to see later on when I give you kind of a trajectory for sermon preparation where it begins. Also, every Saturday night we have Saturday night service, Sunday morning, I’m in the front row worshiping before I preach. Part of what I’m doing is not only worshiping, but in that worship depending on the Holy Spirit. Everybody can have their own different personal disciplines for reminding you to go there, but it’s crucial. That’s one: dependence on the Holy Spirit.

What would be another core conviction, which if you are mastered by it, it will help you be a better preacher? Loving others. Have any of you ever read the book by Jack Miller called Outgrowing the Ingrown Church? There’s a place where he talks about preaching by faith. Back in those days he used to actually sit on the platform in a chair during the worship. I don’t think many of us do that anymore. He would look out at the people and think about God’s love for them.

What else? Faith in the word of God. I believe that there are many voices, and there is a lot of ineffective preaching, but there are some voices that tell us preaching isn’t effective. It’s more important to get one on one with people and all of that. I’m all for all of that, but I believe we should go into the pulpit every opportunity to minister the word of God with great faith. Jesus and Paul and Peter and others, they preached to large groups of people and lives were changed and the Holy Spirit worked and decisions were made.

I just read this story of a famous evangelist. There was a whole chain of the revival that took place in Korea in the 1900s, it went back to this missionary who was influenced by this other missionary who in a sermon was called to the mission field and responded in prayer at the invitation of a sermon. Out of that came this string of people that led to this humongous revival in the 1900s in Korea.

I think there are a lot of different things we could talk about that would be good. I think another one, you said humility or humbleness, I think another one that goes with that and we’re going to talk about a little bit later on is hard work. Sometimes people think, “Well, I if have a gift for speaking I ought to be able to just do it pretty easily”, but Paul talks about laboring. I think to preach well, certainly in today’s culture, the other side of that humility is a willingness to work hard at it.

Well, lay a foundation. I want to focus. If you look in your notes there’s a verse from Colossians, Colossians chapter one, verse 28. “We proclaim him, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone perfect in Christ.” I want to talk about a core conviction for a little while, which is the core conviction that in our preaching we proclaim him. Whether we’re admonishing or teaching with all wisdom, it’s still him that we’re proclaiming in some sense. The result or the goal is that we may present everyone perfect in Christ.

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Leadership Development Contract Part 2

In this session we’re going to be taking a look at leadership development contracts. Specifically, our focus is on how to design a learning contract. Now, the steps to designing a learning contract are based on developing your answers to the earlier questions that were used in this module to describe the basic components of a learning contract. We’ll be surveying six steps that you can see on this personal contract worksheet, which we’ll be looking at in detail later.

Let’s begin with question number one. Who. Who are you going to learn with and be accountable to? This is the question regarding your mentor or your coach, however you might define it. This is the first step. Now, it’s actually not listed in one of the columns, but it involves answering this very important question. Ideally this will be a leader in your local church, someone whom you believe reflects the specific competencies you are seeking to develop. Now, this could be a pastor, an elder, a lay leader.

Now, although it’s not necessary, you may want to consider someone outside of your church with special expertise in the area or areas that you are developing. Please don’t think that because you’re planning to be a pastor, if you are, that you must have a pastor to be your mentor or coach. Sometimes the so-called “most successful” pastors are the worst mentors and coaches. Sometimes they rarely listen to you well, often very quick to tell you what to do. They’re not good listeners. They’re often not good coaches. So know that often times a Godly lay leader can be a much more effective mentor or coach than even an ordained pastor.

Step two. What competencies are you going to develop or learn? Here we’re talking about the character, ministry, and knowledge competencies, or here we’re going to call those competencies that you list on the learning contract your competency goals. This is where you need to draw from the results of your 360 Leadership Profile Assessment that I’m assuming you’ve already taken before watching this video. Now, from your assessment results, select two competencies which you think need further development for the specific season of life and the phase of ministry that you are in now.

Choose one character competency, as you can see on this list. Character competency, here is an example of a report where the respondents: two disagreed that this person was disciplined, one was neutral. So it was just three thinking there was a concern there and three thinking there wasn’t. That would be an example of one. You list one character competency goal from the Leadership Profile Assessment, as I just shared with you, and then list one ministry competency goal from the Leadership Profile Assessment, too. Here would be Ministry Competency Assessment in the area of prayer that three of the four people thought that this was a weak area that needed to be strengthened.

Number three, how to design your learning contract in terms of, how are you going to learn it? This is in reference to resources and adult learning objectives. Now it’s time to break down each competency goal, the character goal and ministry goal, that you set earlier into that first column into specific learning objectives. Now, it could just be one or two with each goal, one or two objectives with each goal, but you break down very specific objectives for each of the goals. You would list your objectives for the character competency goal here as well as the objectives for the ministry competency goal. Notice the asterisk include holistic objectives here if you can, including understanding, affections to cultivate, skills to develop.

Now, notice number three here is to then compile a list of resources that will help you in these areas. This could be a vast array of resources, including people, including groups, support groups, seminars, books, online courses. You have a host of resources that are out there to choose from to strengthen you in this particular area. Finally, you draw from the adult learning principles and methods we covered earlier and list processes or exercises that you believe would have the greatest impact on you in these areas seeking to accomplish these objectives to fulfill the goal, the competency goals. Now, be sure to include active, creative participation experiences through which you learn or relearn key concepts or develop renewed affections and sharpen skills.

Step four, when are you going to learn? This is in reference to a clearly defined timeline and deadline. Here is where you list specific deadlines for all your character competency objectives and specific deadlines for all your ministry competency objectives. This contract is to be for six weeks, including six meetings of 60 to 90 minutes with your mentor or coach, and also during that week giving reports at the cohort meetings during the last weeks of this course.

Here you notice in this column of “when are you going to learn?”, you list the specific deadlines for all your character competency objectives, and then you list your specific deadlines for all your ministry competency objectives.

Step five, how will you know that you learned it? This is in reference to credible evaluated evidence that you will gather to actually show that you have accomplished these objectives to fulfill these goals. You list the types of evidence that will be used to demonstrate that each objective has been met. Notice under this fourth column now, list the types of evidence that will be used to demonstrate that and list how the evidence will be validated and by whom. We’re seeking to remove as much subjectivity from the process as possible and be able to have specific, measurable, achievable objectives that you can verify, and not just you, but specifically your coach or your mentor.

Finally, step six would be what. What will you focus on next? The focus here is on evaluation and lifelong learning. Now, as a part of your assignment for the last week, you will be submitting a summary where you will list the positive results of completing this learning contract, as you can notice in the last column here. You will list ways that this learning contract experience could be improved. For a really practical ending of this process, you will be listing practical ways that you are planning to be a lifelong learner including next steps.

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Leadership Development Contract Part 1

In this session we’re going to be taking a look at Leadership Development Contracts.

So far we’ve taken a look at the Leadership Profile that contains the common leadership marks or competencies normally shared by spiritually mature, effective church leaders.

We’ve also learned about the Leader Assessment component in the Leadership Development Model. Here we learned how not only to do a self-assessment, based on the competencies in the Leader Profile, but also gather the assessments of others so that we can have a more objective and realistic understanding of very specific ways we can develop as a church leader. We referred to this as the 360 Assessment.

Now we come to the third component in the Leadership Development Model called Learning Methods.

Here we are confronted with a very common and very serious problem.

Once a leader understands all the basic Leadership Profile competencies that are needed to be a spiritually mature, effective church leader–and the leader has been effectively assessed in light of that model showing specific competencies that need to be developed, the question then arises:

“How do leaders then go from where they are to where they need to be regarding character, ministry, and knowledge competencies?”

One of the most effective, proven ways to help leaders develop the competencies they most need to develop is through what is called a “Personal Learning Contract.”

What is a Personal Learning Contract?

A personal learning contract is a self-designed plan to help a leader develop competencies necessary to be a mature, effective leader.

It’s been called a self-designed vehicle to move you from where you are now to where you want to be. It’s a guide to help you monitor and direct your learning.

A personal learning contract identifies the answers to Five Key Questions:

1. WHO you are going to learn with and be accountable to? (Mentor/Coach)

2. WHAT competencies are you going to develop? (Character, Ministry, Knowledge Goals) 3. HOW you are going to learn it? (Resources and Adult Learning Method Objectives)

4. WHEN you are going to learn it? (Clearly Defined Timeline with Deadline)

5. HOW you will know that you learned it? (Collected Credible Evaluated Evidence)

And a final question, WHAT will you focus on next? (Evaluation and Lifelong Learning)

There are three primary benefits to using personal learning contracts. The first one is:

1. Leaders Learn

When leaders use learning contracts they learn material more deeply and permanently. One reason why is because they learn it through resources and methods of their own choosing – instead of merely listening to it being taught in a classroom.

As you’ve heard me say in this course before, “The purpose of teaching is to make learning possible.” It is a false premise to believe that if teaching is taking place then learning must be taking place. Educational studies have shown that the tradition lecture model, where students are primarily passive scribes taking notes, is just not an effective way to learn.

But when the same criteria in educational studies is applied to students using personal learning contracts, the findings are normally significantly different. Students normally learn. Why? Because proven Adult Learning Principles and Methods are required in learning contracts.

And one of the primary reasons they truly learn is because they are developing in a specific area where they are aware they need to be developed and they are motivated to be developed in that area.

You’ve also heard me say several times in education, “One size does not fit all.” By this I mean that standardized class curriculum is usually just not very effective because all learners are not starting at the same place.

Every learner has unique strengths and weaknesses. And one of the foundational leadership development principles we saw earlier in this course described the need for the leader to supplement standardized formal instruction with more individualized non-formal instruction.

The use of personal learning contracts, more so than any other type of instructional method, create the conditions for individualized learning.

A second benefit to using personal learning contracts is that…

2. Leaders Learn How to Learn

This way of learning shifts the primary responsibility for learning from the teacher to the student. Learning contracts lead students to become more self-directing and more responsible for their own learning.

And in doing this it’s often like a conversion experience. Students stop being passive and always complaining about their lack of development as leaders, blame shifting. They begin to take personal responsibility for their own development as a leader in a renewed way. It’s like an awakening.

Church leaders often need to have this kind of conversion experience when they stop blaming their school or church or ministry organization for their lack of development as a leader. And they start recognizing that the only reason they’re not truly learning is because they are failing to lead themselves well.

A third benefit to using personal learning contracts is that…

3. Leaders Learn How to Learn for the Rest of Their Lives

As time passes, the unique educational needs of pastors and churches change inevitably.

But many church leaders, especially in the developing world, have no access to education today. And the church leaders who do have access and who can afford education, can usually only afford a brief time of education during the beginning of their ministries.

There is no other vocation or profession, except for pastoral ministry, has such an unparalleled lack of quality control and lifelong, continuing education for its practitioners.

This is why one of the most important things a church leader can learn is how to become a lifelong learner.

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