The great temptation for Christians is to think that church is all about an experience—the service, music, and preaching—whose purpose is to do something for me; boost me up for the week; help me have a better marriage; teach me strategies on how to do this or that better. This turns the role of the church into something that is all about me. If you think about it, this concept is quite pagan, actually.

So what is the church about then? In trying to answer this question, it’s helpful to look at the example of the New Testament. This is very broad, but there are two primary characteristics that we find that the early believers lived out:

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I was at a meeting with the elders of the church the other night. As one of the elders made a presentation I slowly scanned the room. Looking at the faces of the people, I noticed I was smiling because I would recall specific conversations I’ve had with them, memories flooding my mind.

And then it hit me: I’m part of this church. Not just in a technical sense—being employed on the pastoral team—but I have really become part of the church. I am part of the narrative. I know most of the leaders. I feel comfortable enough to put my arm around them and joke around with them. I’m really part of the family.

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Exponential is a conference dedicated to evangelism and church planting. I attended this past October.

Here are my top takeaways from the conference.

1. The shift in the definition of church

We’ve all heard for a good while now that church is not the building, but the people. But though we say that, we really have a church-centric view of Christianity; it’s all about the events that happen at church.

Jeff Vanderstelt said something quite profound in a panel discussion, though:

“We have wrongly defined the church as an event we attend rather than a family we belong to.”

In the church community he belongs to, they define church on a much more local level:  that is, a family group.

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This past spring I had the opportunity to teach a preaching class for the undergrad religion department at Andrews University. As I saw different students delivering their sermons, I wrote down lessons that I wanted to review with them later.

The following are the biggest lessons I shared with those students. By the way, you may not be a pastor, but these lessons apply equally to anyone doing a public presentation.

1. Be Ruthlessly Clear With Your Main Idea

I’ve written several different posts related to preaching. Here are three of them: first, second, and third, and one of the themes I constantly circle back to is that of clarity in a message. This post about TED talks mentions clarity as one of the 7 Steps To Delivering a Mind Blowing Ted Talk.

From that article: “Can listeners repeat your big idea word for word? If they can, they’ll become your advocates. If they can’t, your big idea will be in one ear, out the other.

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We’re running a contest and the winner gets a $50 Amazon gift card. Ready to hear more?

(We announced this on our church Facebook page a few weeks back, but we’d like to extend it by a few more days by showing it here.)

Beginning this fall we’ll be launching a new initiative to impact our local community with love and to meet their needs in practical ways, and we need your help in finding a name for this initiative.

Once a month we’ll be sending dozens of students and locals from our campus community into local neighborhoods to do things like an extreme home makeover for someone in need, supporting the local public schools with free haircuts for the kids and also free backpacks with school supplies, free medical clinics, and more.

The name needs to have GO in it. Make sense?

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A few weeks back I had the opportunity to speak at the seminary chapel here at Andrews University. After I finished, and after I had greeted some people and was on my way out, a seminary student asked me this question: “How would you describe your preaching style?

I was a little surprised by the question. I wasn’t quite sure what was behind the question, and because I didn’t want to give a simplistic answer, I asked her to write me an email so we could get together and converse further. (By the way she gave me permission to share part of this email and our interaction).

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Let’s be clear.

The best method to preach is without notes. Everyone knows that. But if you must use notes, I believe there are some ways which are better than others. Let me say something else here at the beginning. Is this really the best method out there? The best method is the one that works really well for you.

To begin with, let’s review some of the more popular ways that people preach with notes:

1. A full manuscript

With this method, the preacher fully writes out everything he/she will say. The manuscript might be in a binder or a loose stack of paper. I’ve found that it’s extremely hard to preach well with a manuscript in front of you. The biggest temptations for preachers I’ve coached is to read from the manuscript instead of occasionally taking a peek to see what’s coming next.

I will say that Pastor Dwight Nelson, my senior pastor, uses a manuscript extremely well. Out of anyone I’ve seen that uses a manuscript, he’s the best.  He uses a lot of quotations in each message, so this is an effective method for him. He’s not attached to the manuscript and internalizes the message really well. But I would discourage this method for 99% of speakers out there. The vast majority just cannot do it well because they’re tempted to stay behind the pulpit or to read the manuscript.

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If you’re single please don’t miss out on this wonderful dating ministry.

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Things have been moving towards minimalism and “natural” for some time. You can also insert authentic, real, or genuine in place of natural as well.

Some gum companies are proud to offer “real sugar” instead of artificial sweeteners.

Chocolate has also been in the game–and that with some heavy hitting backers.

Mayonnaise used to be a little shy of its cholesterol inducing properties, but now it’s back and boasting. Check out the commercial of “real” here.

And then I ran into this fascinating article which takes this trend to its logical extreme.

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How powerful can actual conversation be?

In the fall of 2012 a group of students from Andrews University began going to Chicago with a sign that read Free Intelligent Conversation and one goal: to engage people and communities through conversation. The movement has been growing and now they’re launching a tour where they’ll visit 10 cities across the U.S.

Check out the promo video here:

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