Every now and then, someone comes into our lives and makes us think afresh about something important. They connect the dots in such a way that displays a masterpiece that is full of beauty, consistency, and power. Here’s a question for us to ponder: what if the gospel is better and bigger than we have believed?
When God has you, every part of you, hold on tight. He’s going to take you for a ride. Eric Metaxas, in his biography of Dietrich Bonhoeffer entitled, Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy shows us what God can and will do through a person who surrenders his/her will at the feet of the cross. If you have not read this book, I plead with you to do so.
Based on the title of this book, You & Your Thoughts, I expected some kind of positive thinking self-help kind of theme. That, however, was not the focus of this book. From the beginning of the book, Dr. Earl Radmacher makes the case for the reader to have his mind renewed. He addresses various cultural influences that emphasize someone’s feelings over logic and reason. His experience has been, “The Word of God, you see, has had a cleansing effect upon my innermost thought life since I became a Christian.” It is from this experience that Radmacher wants all Christ followers to discover this path to transformation.
In the realm of theological study, the Holy Spirit does not get near enough attention. This makes Dr. Radmacher’s book, What to Expect from the Holy Spirit all the more important. For many Christians, a study of the Holy Spirit may seem intimidating, but it does not need to be. For those who are not from a charismatic background, the Holy Spirit gets even less attention.
In a thoughtful and concise way, Radmacher leads the reader through the work and role of the Holy Spirit as He relates to the rest of the Trinity and us. One of my favorite quotes comes where we are learning about submission from the Holy Spirit, “If God the Holy Spirit could take that position of submission, how much easier it should be for me, not having His credentials, to imitate that pattern of submission.”
N.D. Wilson presents a masterpiece of reflections on this unique place we call home. If you can imagine poetry, theology, philosophy, musings, stories, quantum physics, good and evil, and everything in between rolled into one book then that is what you have with Notes From The Tilt-A-Whirl.
This book opened up my mind on a what it looks like to really reflect on God’s spoken world, as Wilson puts it. Wilson is provocative in his description of the reason the world exists. No doubt the atheist would have much to argue with him about.
Andy Stanley and Lane Jones present a unique and practical way of looking at preaching. The book starts out with a parable illustrating the points that Stanley will later go into more depth on. The story is of a struggling pastor trying to keep his congregation’s attention. Ray, the pastor, realizes he needs to change something when his wife tells him his messages are “fine”. This is where we are introduced to Pete Harlan. Pete is an owner of a professional Baseball team and had helped Ray in the past with learning how to run his church in an organized and productive way. Pete tells Ray of a man named Willy Graham who is the best preacher Pete has ever heard. Ray flies on Pete’s private jet to Atlanta where he meets Willy.
As it turns out Will is a truck driver and claims that everything he learned about preaching came from driving truck. Ray doesn’t quite know what to think about his new mentor Will but as their time goes by Ray learns a lot from Will and returns to his church to implement what he had learned. Will gave Ray seven phrases to help him with his new method of preparation and delivery. The seven phrases are: Determine Your Goal, Pick a Point, Create a Map, Internalize the Message, Engage Your Audience, Find Your Voice, and Find Some Traction.
Stanley goes into more depth on each of those seven phrases in the remainder of the book. Chapter 11 is an in depth look at “Determine Your Goal.” Stanley says that we must figure out what our goal is before we create our approach to communicating the message. In other words, he says that before we start putting together our thoughts, we need to know what it is we are trying to communicate. Stanley says that any preacher’s goal should be life change. He says that when someone does this, their preparation is not complete until they can answer two questions: So what? And Now what?
The next two chapters Stanley talks about the one point message and how to shape your message around that one point. He says that it is easier for someone to remember one thing that is repeated throughout a message than multiple things that are touched on every now and again throughout a message. Stanley has three things that make up the process of developing the one point message, those are, dig until you find it, build everything around it, and make it stick. Then Stanley addresses the route that you should take to get to your destination. Stanley uses an approach that he calls, me-we-God-you-we. The idea here is to get them acquainted with yourself and maybe address some of your questions from the text then moves to a general idea that yourself and the congregation shares in some questions. Then you should bring out what God has to say about the questions or concerns you have raised then go back to yourself and then the general “we” of what it could look like if we all took a hold of what we have learned and applied it to our lives.
Stanley continues addressing the seven ideas in chapter 14 where he talks about internalizing the message. Stanley memorizes his messages and he makes a good case on why memorizing or internalizing your message makes your delivery much better. He says that if you know it like you would know a personal story of your own, you can tell it like a story and less like a point by point outline.
Chapter 15 addresses the idea that a preacher must engage his audience. Stanley talks about the importance of engaging the audience before you jump into the body of your sermon. Stanley says that there are rare instances where information is enough but for the most part, you need to engage the congregation by creating a need or asking a question that creates a level of curiosity. This idea is not only relevant in the introduction but also throughout the whole message. Stanley says that we must remain engaging so that the message that we are telling will create life change in people. Stanley offers three things of advice, navigate them through the Scriptures, take a few risks, and try some new things.
The next two chapters are all about figuring out what works for you and what to do if you get stuck. Stanley says that we are all different and we need to be who we are. But this does not mean that we are to make the excuse of “it’s just my style” when we have a clear flaw. Stanley also says that if and when we get stuck, we should pray and remember the method that we have just learned, me-we-God-you-we and get back to work. He gives five questions we can ask ourselves when we get stuck: What do they need to know? Why do they need to know it? What do they need to do? And how can I help them remember?
Communicating for a Change was a great book and I really learned a lot from it. This book has stretched me with my preparation of my sermons and I am looking forward to continuing to master these new ways of preparation and delivery.
If you would like to purchase this book, an Amazon link is below. If you purchase it through the link I’ll get a small percentage. Kind of like leaving me a tip without having to do anything other than buy a book that will help you communicate better.