Early Fall tends to be an optimum time for shepherds to speak to the flock about the journey ahead over the next twelve months or so.
Preaching should, of course, always be rich in biblical theology, applied to the lives of church attendees. But pastors are shepherds of a flock, and flocks move through seasons, and the shepherd’s responsibility is not only to feed, nourish, and protect, but also to lead the flock in the right direction in the appropriate seasons.
Since preaching is the primary means of shaping the spiritual life of a congregation, one of the responsibilities of the pastor is to shape the life that the body as a whole takes on. The New Testament epistles, themselves, are excellent examples of discourses intended to be read to churches that included a lot of vision about how the church could be a witness to Christ in the world.
I’ve written an article with 4 principles for vision series’ and 4 tips for maximizing the vision sermon series opportunity.
Sermon Ideas Based on the Lectionary
Note: The notes in the Reflectionary each week are based on Lectionary texts ten days out (so, the next Sunday, not the coming Sunday). If you need to see notes for this Sunday’s texts, visit last week’s Reflectionary.
For September 4, 2022
Year C – Thirteenth Sunday After Pentecost
First Reading and Psalm
WORKING TITLE: Yes, People Can Change for the Better in God’s Hands
The invitation is always open to allow God to shape us into something better than we could ever have been on our own. Are there ways in which you’ve been resisting the shaping and influencing work of God in your life? Yield to what he wants to do and he’ll make a beautiful masterpiece out of your life.
Psalm 139:1-6, 13-18
WORKING TITLE: The Deep Joy of Being Fully Known by God
God has planted deep within our hearts the desire to be fully known, and God himself meets that need by fully knowing us. This – being fully known – is what real intimacy is all about. It’s okay that you don’t know everything about God yet. Keep seeking and discovering because that’s what the journey of life is all about – an ever-deepening intimacy with the One who formed you and knows you.
Alternate First Reading and Psalm
WORKING TITLE: Choosing the Path of Life Over the Path of Death
Every day, we have both the freedom and the power to make choices that contribute to living, thriving, and flourishing instead of choices that lead to death, destruction, and decay. Look at the choices you’ve been making lately and evaluate whether they are sending you along the path toward flourishing or the path toward destructiveness. Realize you are free to make better choices and start making wiser decisions today in light of God’s revealed Word.
Working Title: Walking in the Godly Way
Every day, we get to choose to grow toward our most mature, blessed, and happy selves by living according to God’s Word. Spend time this week meditating contemplatively on scripture. Soak it in. Read it, learn it, and apply its wisdom as you make choices each and every day that set you on a pathway toward growth in holiness and love.
Working Title: We Are Called to More Than the Minimum
Everything about how we treat people changes once we’ve made a decision to follow Jesus. How can you go beyond the basic minimum expectations of following Jesus to go the extra mile and extend a new sense of freedom, of belonging, and of refreshing to those around you?
WORKING TITLE: Be a Peace Maker, Not a Peace Keeper
Truly following Jesus will require committing ourselves to an ethic and way of life that is bound to divide us from our surrounding culture, but the end result of seeing the rule of God’s kingdom extended around us is always worth it. Are there ways in which you’ve held onto the old and selfish ways of thinking instead of letting go to completely follow the example and teachings of Jesus? Consider the cost of totally committing your life to him and then take the next step of surrender.
Creative Sermon Series Ideas from MinistryPass
My favorite resource for sermon series and message ideas, complete series graphics, and video bumpers (but NOT full notes) to get you started is MinistryPass! Each week, I’ll feature a series I would recommend checking out for the upcoming season of the church year. This week:
From the Description:
This two-week series can be used together or as two independent messages. Both messages are meant to help the congregation move forward together in vision or on a mission to raise funds for the church.
A Conference for Church Communications Leaders
October 18-19, 2022 (Charlotte, NC)
The Church Communicator Conference is specially designed for the accidental church communicator, the one that wears many hats and may have stumbled upon this role without a plan. Lead pastors and executive pastors will also benefit from this conference as it will introduce principles and concepts that will assist with creating a unified communication strategy that aligns with the vision and mission of the church.
Exiles in Babylon: Theology in the Raw Conference
March 23-25, 2022 (Boise, ID)
To be a Christian is to be an exile. The Bible has a name for the country we’ve been exiled to: Babylon. As exiles living in Babylon, we need to think biblically, Christianly, indeed exilically—not partisanly—through cultural and political issues. This year, our topics include: The Future of the Church, Disability and the Church, Multiethnic Perspectives of American Christianity, a conversational debate on the Problem of Evil, and a pre-conference symposium on Women in Leadership!
Books, Links, and Resources for Pastors and Church Leaders
- I’ve recently refreshed my online bookstore with a lot of my favorite titles in categories like pastoral leadership, preaching, leadership, self-development, reference and commentaries, social justice, and even a section on deconstruction. I’ve also added some fresh touches to my page of resources for pastors and church leaders.
- Stephanie Hodges has put together a pretty thorough and well-researched article about how long a sermon should be. She somehow avoids taking sides and offers tips for those who want to preach shorter sermons as well as those who want to preach longer sermons.
- Jesse T. Jackson has a good article over at Church Leaders with highlights from the final message Rick and Kay Warren preached at Saddleback Church. I can’t begin to tell you how much they and Saddleback have shaped my own life and I’m incredibly grateful!
- LifeWay Research released data about how the average pastor’s salary hasn’t changed in the last five years and the overall pastor’s pay package has actually decreased during that time.
- Speaking of Rick Warren, he encourages leaders over at Pastors(.)com about finding the strength to endure. And I can say that way too many pastors are struggling with this right now.
- Scot McKnight tackles a tough subject in his newsletter in a reflection on Katelyn Beaty’s book, Celebrities for Jesus: How Personas, Platforms, and Profits Are Hurting the Church. McKnight gives twelve observations about megachurch pastors that serve as good warnings for leaders today.
- Jenni Catron writes a great piece for leaders about how planning is a proactive posture and how worry is a reactive posture. She shares three tips about how to plan more and worry less.
- Holley Gerth, whose writings always tend to bring a lot of comfort and encouragement, shares eight ways to love those who are battling with mental illness. It’s adapted from Holley’s More Than Small Talk podcast, which is a good one to listen to.
- Ron Edmondson has a quick-to-read post offering 10 ways to create an unhealthy culture around you as a leader. Yes, it’s reverse psychology.
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About the Cover Art: Wesley, Frank, 1923-2002. Were You There? (Left panel), from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN.