We’re in the home stretch in our series on writing your sermons and Bible studies using digital tools like Bible study software or online Bible sites. This episode covers tips and trips for actually writing the sermon outline or manuscript. How can digital BIble study tools help in forming your notes and outline?
Some of this can be done on an iPad. The new iPad Pro plus the Microsoft Word iPad app makes it easier than ever. See below.
We talked about using Digital study tools to do word studies. Specifically we looked at Accordance Bible Software, Logos Bible Software and Bible Reader from Olive Tree.
We focused on studying the Bible in English using the tools built into Bible software that help users find the Greek or Hebrew words behind our English translations. Good language study tools focused on Greek and Hebrew tagging using Strong’s numbers helps users get at the Biblical meaning of each word and words in context. Regardless of which software you use, start with a text that includes Strong’s tagging. Usually they will let you right-click or double-click or even triple-click the word you want to study.
Start this process by searching for a word and read it in context in the different places it’s used in the Bible. Then use your software’s built-in word study tools. For example both Accordance and Logos show you how the author uses words with graphs and charts that show how many times a word gets used in each book of the Bible or how many times the original word gets translated one way versus another.
The next step, after searching the word, is to look up the word in Greek or Hebrew Lexicons. Most Bible software tools include some in base packages. Users can buy more advanced tools.
Finally, if you still need some help, look up the word in an English Bible dictionary. Start with exegetical dictionaries like the Holman Treasury of Key Words or the AMG Complete Word Study Dictionary of the Greek or Hebrew.
Our Favorite Things
This week in “Our Favorite Things” we got some interesting recommendations. First, Antoine recommended the 29 Watt Apple USB-C charger to charge your iPad Pro. It charges the iPad in about an hour, but costs $49. It also requires a USB-C to Lightning cable which adds $35. He still loves the speed of the charging and wished Apple included this charger with the iPad Pro.
Rick recommended a similar device, the PowerCore+ 26800 & PowerPort+ 1 charger. It includes QuickCharge technology and with 2.4amp USB ports. It’s got 3 ports and can even charge the MacBook or other USB-C devices that need a lot of power. The 26,800mAh battery handles almost anything you can throw at it.
I showed off a new feature in the latest Developer Preview version of Windows 10. Microsoft has what they call the fast ring and slow ring for beta testers of their operating system. The fast ring version added a new feature that shows up in the system tray. The icon for this feature looks like a pen with a drawn line. Tap or click on it and a new pen-focused menu pops up with a few options as follows:
Sketchpad – a white board
Screen sketch – the ability to do a screenshot that opens into an editor with pen/pencil drawing on the screen shot
Recently used – a few of the most recently opened Windows 10 Universal apps
Suggested – pen/stylus focused apps from the Windows store
Connect your pen – a link to the Settings where you can connect your Bluetooth Surface Pen or other stylus
In the “Least Favorite Things” folder, I talked about Vufine. This was originally a Kickstarter project that I mistakenly backed. They call it an HD wearable display that fastens to your glasses and shows a tiny screen inside the little device that sits just off the front of your glasses. It comes with a cheap, flimsy pair of plastic glasses if you don’t wear glasses regularly.
The problem is the Vufine is to tiny it’s nearly useless for anything. Some use it connected to a GoPro to see what the GoPro sees. But using at an actual display is nearly impossible since text is so small.
We started a series in this week’s Theotek Podcast on doing digital sermon prep. Our team will take you through our steps of sermon prep using Bible software and digital tools.
In this first step we focused on choosing a passage. Software packages come with tools to help you figure out what verses to include in your passage, or as the scholars call it, pericope. Then we look at other aspects of sermon prep. Watch the video below or listen to the audio version at the end of this post.
We didn’t have any recommendations in Our Favorite Things this week.
Looking for a good sermon illustration your next sermon idea? We talk about our process and then recommend some sources for explaining, proving and showing what application of our messages looks like.
In the old days our preaching professors taught us how to manage a sermon illustration database. We had file cabinets or notebooks or file folders with clippings from the paper or photo copies of books we read. Then people started putting these on their computers with software like the program sold by the original makers of QuickVerse Bible Software. Bible Illustrator linked some databases of illustrations to the Bible text from QuickVerse and made them searchable via keyword. Others put them in the old Cards application that came pre-installed with Windows 3.1. A lot of people put them in a word processor or text file. Then the Bible software companies started to include sermon illustration databases in their programs. We showed some books like this available in Accordance Bible Software. Logos and WORDsearch and most of the other big names in Bible software offer these collections.
Unfortunately, most of the sermon illustration books or databases available online, in Bible software or even in book form totally stink. They’re stories from the 1800s or incredibly generic. How many times do we find one that doesn’t fit, but it’s close and it’s really good.
Listen below or watch the YouTube video of our podcast above and learn how we find fresh content from our own experiences, from a Google search or pictures and video files that make that sermon illustration come to life.
What is the new Apple iPad Pro like for studying the Bible, preaching or teaching? Rick Mansfield (@thislamp and thislamp.com) got one this week and we asked him a lot of questions about using it. Watch or listen below to hear his thoughts.
Just a summary of Rick’s conclusions. First, he likes the side-by-side feature so that he can hold his Accordance Bible app next to Microsoft Word. This will help with both Bible study and preaching. The Keynote app and Word can sit on-screen at the same time. He uses the notes feature in Keynote, but after the podcast was over he tested and found out that you can run a Keynote presentation mirrored to an Apple TV and open Word in side-by-side mode.
Second, he tested out the iPad keyboard and looks forward to getting one to use. He didn’t like the Logitech keyboard case as much because it seems harder to remove from the iPad Pro.
We talked about the Pencil, which is hard to come by until December. Wes tested it out at his local Apple Store and found that it was a great experience. They’ve done a good job of making it work well and feel more like writing on paper than older styli.
At the end of the podcast I shared some first impressions of using the Apple TV 4th generation. It’s a nice media device and the remote is both good and bad. Siri works great and AirPlay still works as well as before.
Ever thought about doing a little iPad sermon prep?
A lot of preachers carry around an iPad or some other tablet these days for checking email, surfing the web, playing games, streaming video or taking notes. Many of us also use them for simple Bible study on the go. However, can a preacher study and prepare an entire sermon or Bible study using no other device than an iPad? In other words, from start to finish, ignore their laptop or desktop computer and commit entirely to iPad sermon prep?
If you’ve ever been tempted to retire the laptop and get out of the office, this is for you. Let’s look at the following:
Tools needed to use an iPad or other tablet for reading, studying and preaching the Word of God
Apps that will help the preacher study, organize and then write their sermon/Bible study
Tips for doing all of this well
So grab your iPad and read on…
Accessories Needed for iPad Sermon Preparation
First, grab a Bluetooth keyboard if you’re serious about iPad sermon preparation. Some people may want to use their iPad’s software keyboard, but typing on a screen doesn’t work as well as typing on a physical keyboard. Connect your keyboard to the iPad using Bluetooth. It’s simpler and easier than trying to connect one using USB. Also, the battery on my iPad doesn’t run out that fast and I never turn Bluetooth off.
You can choose from three styles of keyboards.
Keyboard case integrated with your iPad case.
Full-size case that the user carries along with their iPad.
Small, foldable or roll up keyboard.
Each comes with strengths and weaknesses. According to Gear For Gaming, the case approach gives us an all-in-one package to carry around. However, the user’s still holding the keyboard when they’re not using the case. We’ve got a recommendation that fixes this problem.
Using a full-size keyboard gives the user a better typing experience. We’ve got two recommendations that feel great while typing and let the user hook up to three different devices. That lets you type on a tablet and a phone and then put it on the desk at home and use the same keyboard with your desktop. We’ll explain how this works later.
Taking along a full-sized keyboard means less convenience and portability. It’s too many things to carry. A laptop with a keyboard attached might work better. Still, read on because we’ve got a couple of suggestions that are still very portable.
The final option is smaller than a full-sized keyboard. These are small foldable keyboards that often fit in your pocket. They are hard to type on quickly.
First, look for a Bluetooth keyboard and second decide which of three styles you think you’d prefer. The best keyboard cases come from Logitech because they’re thin and light. They usually feel great while typing.
Logitech just released the Logitech Blok case. It looks a lot like Microsoft Surface Pro 3 with its kickstand back. The keyboard fits on the tablet along with the snug and thin case. When it’s time to type open it up and even detach it so the screen’s not too close. This also means you can remove it while using your iPad as a tablet only.
People who prefer a full-sized keyboard should look at the Apple Bluetooth Keyboard ($69) and get a carrying case for it or get one that will hold both the iPad and the keyboard.
Logitech also makes a great nearly full-sized keyboard. It’s the Logitech Easy-Swtich Bluetooth Keyboard, model K811 for $100. It connects to 3 devices. It has a selector switch for Android, iOS and Windows. However, it also connects to an Apple computer and comes with an Apple keyboard configuration with the COMMAND and OPTION keys and shortcuts for iPad.
A third keyboard option also fits the “full-sized” mold. The Microsoft Universal Mobile Bluetooth keyboard is my favorite of the bunch because it’s small and less expensive than the three of the above options at only $79.95. It comes with its only carrying box and unfolds when we’re ready to type on it. It also connects to multiple devices at once.
Since I hate the tiny fold up keyboards and the roll up keyboards, I don’t have a recommendation. You can find these usually for $20-$50 at Amazon or your local office/electronics store.
My friend Antoine Wright of Mobile Ministry Magazine and a co-host of Theotek Podcast would scream at these suggestions. He’d wonder why not forget the keyboard and just use a stylus. Draw and write notes. And I agree with him.
A few great options let you do fine-tipped drawing and handwriting. The larger tipped stylus that most people use are terrible. I hate them and never use one. But these feel more like writing with a real pen.
Get a good Bible study app. That’s obvious, but remember that not all Bible apps do the same task. I always prefer full Bible study apps over the simple Bible readers. The best Bible apps on the iPad don’t necessarily do the best job of supporting advanced Bible study.
Each of these coms with strengths and weaknesses. The best option usually depends on what the preacher uses on the computer. Logos users should use the Logos apps. Olive Tree users should get their app. You get the idea. However, try downloading all of these. Each offers a free version and you may get some good content. That’s especially true if your desktop application doesn’t offer a good iPad app, like Bibleworks or PC Study Bible.
In addition to Bible study apps, look for a good word processing app and maybe a presentation app. Do you use Microsoft Office on a computer? Then give their iPad apps a try. To get the full experience the user will need an Office 365 subscription. Office 365 costs between $60 and $100 per year or less if you shop around.
Apple makes Pages and Google offers Google Docs. Each comes with strengths and weaknesses, so try them out and see what you like.
Some people prefer one of the many note taking or mind mapping apps for taking notes on an iPad while studying their Bible app. Also, do forget that some of the above Bible apps have great notes features that you can write in instead of using a separate app.
Here’s a list of great note taking apps.
Evernote – ubiquitous note taking and syncing app.
iA Writer – be sure to get the cheaper of the two. The $20 version doesn’t add enough to make it worth twice the price. It handles mark down, something my friend Wes Allen, a fellow Theotek co-host, will love.
Don’t forget hand writing or digital inking as a writing tool. There’s a bunch of great apps that let the user write. Here’s a list of my favorites.
Tips for Using an iPad while Preaching or Teaching the Message
Once you have a good keyboard and/or stylus, your preferred Bible study app, a good word processing too, handwriting app, or mind-mapping tool, here are some tips for effectively doing Bible study and writing on the iPad.
Learn to multitask. Apple gives iPad users two ways to switch between apps. Use double tap or the swiping gestures to go back and forth between apps. In iOS 9 on iPad Air and iPad Air 2 users can dock a second app by swiping in from the right side of the screen.
Write in the Bible app’s notes feature if you want side-by-side user environment. I mentioned this above. This might not be the best way to write your preaching notes so when finished copy and paste the notes to a word processor for formatting.
Copy and Paste Bible text or quotes from the app to the word processor. To preach or teach from an iPad get in the habit of copying the text of the Bible into the word processor so there’s no need to deal with turning pages in a physical Bible.
Use Mind Mapping apps for a different approach to sermon or Bible study notes. Mind Mapping refers to using visual organization of ideas. Get an awesome stylus to draw a circle on the screen of your inking app. Then write your Big Idea in the center. If you don’t know what a “Big Idea” is, then stop what you’re doing and read Biblical Preaching by Haddon Robinson. If you still don’t understand, then get The Big Idea of Biblical Preaching by Keith Wilhite and Scott Gibson. If you still don’t understand then go back to your seminary or Bible college and ask for your tuition money back.
Sources for Illustrations. There’s a wealth of great content online for teaching and preaching, from online Bible study sites to news sites that offer useful illustrations. Use Wayne McDill’s tool for finding illustrations from 12 Essential Skills for Great Preaching. Avoid the canned sermon illustrations books and sites that become out of date soon after they’re published. Also, look at PreachingToday.com for som great up-to-date illustration material.
Remember visuals. People learn better when we combine at least senses in the teaching or preaching experience. So look for ways to include the sense of sight, smell, touch and even taste while teaching or preaching. Take note of them when you think about your sermon’s Big Idea and concepts. In ascending order of effectiveness from the least effective to the most effective senses for memory are hearing, seeing, touching, tasting and smelling. If someone hears you preach and sees an image, they will remember what you say longer. Add one of the other three and they may never forget it.
Use a presentation tool. The iPad offers a great collection of presentation tools from Keynote and PowerPoint to Prezi or Haiku Deck. Go here to see a great list of alternatives to Keynote and PowerPoint.
It’s very tempting to stop wasting paper in favor of digital notes displayed on an Apple iPad or some other tablet, like a Nexus 9 Android tablet or the new Microsoft Surface 3 or Surface Pro 3. I’ll show you how to preach from an iPad or other tablet. This includes the setup of a simple and easy workflow for writing notes and then automatically transferring notes to the tablet to use for preaching or teaching from an iPad or other tablet.
This will work differently depending on what software and hardware you use. However, I’m going to show you the simplest way to do this almost no matter what kind of hardware you use. It requires Microsoft Word and syncing notes via OneDrive built into Microsoft Word.
Setting Things Up
Shop around for an Office 365 personal subscription for around $50-$60. For families, go for the more expensive Office 365 Home, which you can find for around $70-$90 instead of the full $100/year price. These are all annual subscription costs. You may already have it if you bought a new Windows PC in the last year or so. Also, many people buy a computer with the Personal version but don’t need it so they sell them on eBay for under $50. I’ve seen them as low as $26-$30.
If you don’t mind walking on the wild side, try the Office 2016 Technical Preview, which is pretty stable and free until they finally release the full version. It is a technical preview, which means you should avoid if you hate occasional crashes.
The Office 365 subscription lets you install the Office mobile apps on an iPad, iPhone, or Android device. Install OneDrive on the computer and the mobile device. Sign into the Office 365 subscription on both the computer and the mobile device. Copy over all your old sermons and Bible studies to a folder in the OneDrive folder to start syncing them across all your machines and devices. For more details about OneDrive syncing see the Microsoft helps site.
To summarize the steps…
Buy and sign up for an Office 365 subscription using one of the links above
Install Office 365 on the computer or install the Office 2016 Technical Preview.
Install the Office apps for your mobile device.
Install OneDrive on the computer and on the mobile devices (not necessary, but helpful for looking for documents outside of Word)
Copy files from your computer to the OneDrive folder created during the OneDrive for computer installation process (some newer Windows machines come with it integrated into Windows 8.1).
Follow steps below for setting up a useful sermon/Bible study template.
Creating Preaching Notes
With apologies to Dr. Haddon Robinson, my preaching professor at Gordon Conwell, I use notes when I preach to remember what I want to say. He thinks all preachers should preach from memory, but I don’t do that. However, I do not use a full manuscript in the pulpit. That way I can look down, read a short phrase or one word to jog my memory and look at the audience as I preach.
I study in Bible software and record research findings in the notes feature of my favorite Bible study software. However, when it comes to finally putting together the sermon, I use Microsoft Word. It works on both Mac and PC and now comes with versions that run on iPad and most Android tablets. For those of you with great eyes, it will even run on a phone, like an iPhone or Samsung Galaxy Android phone.
Here’s a few tips for making your preaching notes easier to use once you get them on the iPad.
Create a template with styles and keyboard shortcuts
Use the template each time you create sermon/Bible study notes document
In your template reduce the margins to half an inch to maximize screen space since you won’t print this file
Use color to draw attention to major points, sub-points, Bible passages and quotations
Use bullet points and phrases instead of long sentences so you’re not reading notes but using them to jog your memory
Use blank space to show new sections – a new section can come after two or three blank lines or make the headings with space above by default
Now write your sermon. Preachers who preach from a full manuscript should highlight key ideas in the manuscript to quickly and easily draw attention to them. For example, make quotes red and bold or major movements or points of the sermon green (see my screenshot above of a recent Bible study document). Put Bible text in your notes and make it red or some other color.
Once you’ve created the notes, be sure to save them in the OneDrive folder on the hard drive or in the One Drive section of Word 2013 or 2016. This way they will show up in Word for iPad or Word for Android. OneDrive handles the sync process.
Make sure that the OneDrive syncing client installed on the computer is running. It gets shut down mysteriously on my Mac so I have to often start it manually. Once it’s running, right-click on the Menubar icon in Mac or the System tray icon in Windows and open the preferences and check the one that tells OneDrive to open each tim you log onto your Windows or Mac computer. The computer has to connect to Wi-Fi for the syncing to take place. After saving the file, give it a minute to sync before shutting down the computer.
Opening on the iPad or Tablet
It’s time to fire up Word on the iPad or the tablet. If you’re suing and iPad, open the app and look in the Recent files section along the right. If you didn’t already, sign into the same account you signed into in OneDrive and Word on the computer. Give the app a minute after connecting to Wi-Fi or LTE (wireless cellular data service). The document should show up in Recent section.
If the file doesn’t show up in the Recent section, then open it manually from OneDrive. Tap on the Open icon on the left edge. Then tap on OneDrive and drill down to the folder where you stored the document on the computer. It will download the file from OneDrive regardless of which place you open it from. You’re ready to go on to the next section.
For people using Android, it works the same way. Owners of a Windows tablet, like the Microsoft Surface 3 or Surface Pro 3 can just open the full version of Word. Make sure it’s signed into the same account used on the desktop or laptop. The Surface 3 or Surface Pro 3 benefits preachers wanting to preach from a tablet, because they can write the notes on the tablet and then later open them in Word on the tablet. They don’t need to worry about the syncing process. Just open the file when you’re ready to preach.
Preaching from a Tablet 101
Here’s a couple of tips for those who preach from an iPad or other tablet. If you’re like me and have bad eyes, turn the tablet to widescreen mode. Open the document as described above and make sure to set zoom in so that the document fills the screen. To do this, tap on the View Ribbon tab at the top of the screen. Then tap on Page Width to automatically resize the text so it fills the screen. For those who don’t have a problem seeing tiny text, go ahead and use it in portrait mode, but still use this trick to make the page fill the screen.
While preaching, swipe through the notes with a finger as you’re preaching instead of turning pages of written notes.
Alternatives to Word and Office 365
Many people will tell you that there’s a cheaper solution available. In fact there’s a number of cheaper solutions. I prefer to use Word, but you don’t have to. Here’s a list of other options that cost less or in many cases nothing.
Mac users can rely on Apple’s Pages which comes preinstalled on all Macs and is free on iPads. This won’t work on Windows or Android.
Google Docs is available free on all systems. Load notes in an Evernote note to preach from it.
Preach from Bible software notes. Olive Tree seems to work best for this, but most of them will do.
Any text editor that opens basic text files. Write in Notepad or WordPad on Windows. Use Notepad or Text Editor on Mac or get an app from the app store.
My friend Antoine Wright from Mobile Ministry Magazine and our Theotek Podcast uses images instead of written text and draws them on his iPad using the Paper app By Fifty-three. See the notes he took from one of my sermons recently.
Which Tablet Should I Buy?
That’s a really hard question, but you can’t go wrong buying an Apple iPad. iOS Bible apps usually work better and come with more features that Android Bible apps with the same name. That’s true for Logos, Olive Tree, WORDsearch, PocketBible and Accordance. In the case of Accordance, there’s no Android version.
Get as much iPad as you can afford. The basic iPad Air 2 model costs $500 and comes with 16GB of storage and no LTE. Add $129 for LTE and add $100 for each step up in storage. So a 64GB iPad Air 2 costs $600 or $729 with LTE. The 128GB iPad Air 2 costs $700 or $829 with LTE. Alternatively get the iPad mini 3. It’s only $400 for a 16GB Wi-Fi only mode. Add the same amounts for LTE and the steps up on storage. To save some money consider shopping around for an older iPad Air or iPad mini 2 or get a used iPad on eBay or Craigslist. Shop in the refurbished store on Apple.com to get an iPad with a full warranty for less.
The best bang for the buck with an iPad is the 64GB models with Wi-Fi only. Most people who own a smart phone can use their smart phone as a Wi-Fi hotspot to get online when away from the home or office. Also, Wi-Fi’s become nearly ubiquitous in most cities in America.
Preachers who need a new laptop and don’t mind a slightly smaller screen should take a close look at the Microsoft Surface Pro 3. It’s expensive, but don’t compare the $800+ price to an $500 iPad or a $300 Android tablet. Compare the price to a high-end ultra-portable computer plus an iPad. The new MacBook, a MacBook Air or a Dell XPS 13 compare nicely to the Surface Pro 3 in terms of power and quality. The Surface Pro 3’s actually a lot faster than the new MacBook. Those machines range in price from $800 for an 11-inch MacBook Air to $1,600 for the new MacBook.
Even if you grab a cheap $300 Android tablet, that’s still at least $1,000 and you’ve got a slightly under powered computer and a budget laptop instead of a high-end computer that’s also a tablet with the Surface Pro 3, which replaces both a tablet and a notebook computer in one and handles preaching from digital notes, writing the sermon and using any Bible software without any problems. It also lets users install other great software like Adobe Photoshop or some games.
The new Surface 3 just released this Spring uses a slower Intel Atom processor and measures at only 10 inches instead of 12 inches like the Surface Pro 3. It’s slower, but still does a great job replacing a low-end notebook and a tablet. The quality compares to a $600-$800 Windows laptop and an inexpensive Android tablet that usually costs about $300. You’re saving a lot of money and only need one device to do most of what those two can do.
However, if you still don’t want an iPad, already have a great Windows or Mac desktop and/or laptop, and just want a decent Android tablet, then get a Nexus 9 (read my review). It’s the best Android tablet money can buy and costs $400. Otherwise look at a Samsung Galaxy Tab S ($400) or Samsung Galaxy Note 10 (under $300 street) or Note 12 (under $600). The Note tablets come with a great pen stylus, like the Surface 3 and Surface Pro 3 uses. The Note 12 also comes with a keyboard making it an option as a 2-in-1 tablet and laptop replacement. You can take notes in meetings on it or do mind-mapping, a great way to plan out sermons visually like my friend Antoine mentioned above. Then hook up the keyboard for typing.
David Letter will end his tenure as the host of the Late Show with David Letterman this week. It will bring an end to an era for man of us who were fans of David Letterman back in his early days on NBC when he followed Johnny Carson and brought a young and hip brand of snarky comedy to late night television.
The Letterman Era Ends
TV entertainment talking heads debated the reasons Letterman chose to step down.
He’s getting older and its time.
Late night comedy shifted and he got left behind.
Jimmy Fallon and Jimmy Kimmel grab bigger audiences with a younger and more hip brand of comedy
I loved David Letterman as a teenager. I stayed up way past my bedtime and watched Dave share the top ten list from the home office in whatever medium-sized town in the midwest. Stupid Human Tricks and the funny phone calls from mom made me laugh and I enjoyed them.
I agree with many of the pundits, however, who said that Letterman’s stand-up got tired because younger and more energetic comedians grabbed that young audience still awake at 11:30 p.m., 10:30 central. For the last few years, I quit watching Dave because he seemed to “phone it in.” Since the heart attack that sidelined him years ago, it seems like David didn’t have the heart to give it his all.
Meanwhile Jimmy Kimmel engaged his audience via social media and seldom just stood there telling jokes. He did skits and showed video clips during the opening “monologue” segment. The term monologue is no longer applicable because Kimmel involved his audience at home and a cast of support staff who produced bits on a level Letterman and company never did.
Then Jimmy Fallon took over for another aging late night host who also didn’t keep up. Jay Leno got retired and Fallon took over and took this kind of interactive and team approach to the “monologue” to another level. His YouTube clips drove an even bigger audience and he started to win the time slot.
Like David Letterman, Jay Leno and old-fashioned preaching, there’s a shift in the way communicators talk to people.
Wait. TRADITIONAL PREACHING!? Where did that come from?
End of Traditional Preaching
Let me be clear what I don’t mean by traditional preaching. I’m not addressing Biblical preaching. If the recent Pew Research Center study shows, Biblical Christianity is not struggling like nominal Christianity.
If you haven’t read about it, the Pew Research Center recently produced misleading headlines from gleeful secularists that claimed the numbers showed that Christianity was dying. Upon close examination the numbers say that the mainline denominations are the key reason American Christianity is lagging.
Unbiblical denominations seem to take the Bible as a nice collection of morality stories that offer suggestions for life, but not modern-day applicable norms meant for mature Christianity. Is marriage between a man and a woman? The Bible doesn’t really mean it. Is Jesus the only way like he says? That’s not what he would say today. A modern Jesus would appeal to the masses with a progressive view of family, soteriology and the role of church.
The Pew Research says that people who were calling themselves Christians, like these unbiblical denominations call themselves Christian, no longer do. They are more honest with us or themselves and no longer claim allegiance to the church or our Christ. Their belief finally matches their lifestyle – non-Christian!
Biblical preaching calls for people to get serious about their faith and obey the Jesus as he taught 2,000 years ago, not some diluted version of Jesus. Biblical preaching is thriving while traditional preaching isn’t.
Let me define traditional preaching. A man standing in front of a congregation wearing a suit and tie and speaking to a group of people holding a Bible in their hands passively ingesting the “bread” as they’re “fed.” That’s what I mean by traditional preaching. And it’s dead!
I don’t mean traditional preaching is dead, as in “not being done”. I mean dead, as in “lifeless and boring”. The oft-used quip by my preacher friends says, “I don’t remember what I preached last week. Why should anyone else?” We laugh so we won’t cry. That kind of preaching needs to die, as in go away since it’s already dead as in lifeless and boring.
Let’s kill dead traditional preaching! How can we? I’ll talk about that tomorrow, but for a preview, watch Jimmy Fallon’s next Tonight Show.
Mike Elgan, the news director for Twit.tv wrote an article about the lessons he’s learned about leadership while serving as the anchor of This Week In Tech’s daily tech news podcast. I read the article and decided that his lessons apply to pastors too. Here’s what a tech podcaster can teach pastors about leadership in the local church.
I recommend that you read Mike’s article over at Baseline, a business site that focuses on technology and its use in business. He shares his six lessons about leadership. Let me start by quoting them below and then we’ll talk about how his lessons as the news director at Twit can apply to leadership in the local church.
Let people own their own ideas and information.
Never stop evolving.
Start with the best partner you can.
Serve the customers you want, not just the ones you’ve got.
That’s an interesting list and already most pastors can probably already see how they apply to our role as leaders in the church.
Embrace Rejection in Leadership
Pastors face a lot of rejection. Lots of people will reject a pastor including…
People we talk to about the Gospel – they’ll reject Jesus’ gift of grace.
Disciples reject taking the next step in their growth – change is hard and changing my sinful habits is the hardest kind of change imaginable. Some of the best church members don’t want to grow in their discipleship because it means they need to stop sinning in one way or it means they need to start taking risks to follow Jesus and our leadership.
Churches will reject potential pastors – you’re not educated enough, smart enough, old, young, skinny, or attractive enough. You’re not married to the right kind of spouse. The experience you have doesn’t match what they want. You get the idea.
Visitors reject us – someone visits one Sunday or many Sundays, but then they leave. You preach too long or your music’s not right. The seats are too firm or the temperature’s too cold/hot.
Members reject us – I won’t do that job or I won’t come back because of what you or someone else said/did.
It’s easy to become gun-shy and avoid rejection by avoiding the risk. We close in and quit trying as hard. You can never avoid all rejection risk, but you can reduce it. As a result, we stop growing and so do the people in our churches.
Let People Own Their Stuff
Another way to say this is, “Give credit where credit is due.” However, it’s more than that. I can take credit for things and often deserve it. However, as my Church Grown prof said in Seminary, “You get what you praise!” Sometimes I should give away the praise because giving it to another person means they will feel encouraged and keep giving. Others will see the praise they got and subconsciously or consciously want it and follow their good example.
In other circumstances, we owe other people credit. I remember hearing about a pastor who preached a series of sermons. The congregation loved it and it was a hit. However, one person felt like they’d heard or read it somewhere. After a Google search, the person found that most of the content wasn’t original. The ideas, the stories and even the themes came from someone else. The pastor didn’t get fired over it, but he lost some respect.
Give credit. Most people don’t mind a pastor borrowing ideas to present a good message, but they do mind dishonesty. A simple statement like, “I read a book and it inspired me. I want to share what James MacDonald said in this book, so the next four weeks we’re going to look at how he handled marriage in that book.”
Don’t do this every week, but it’s okay to borrow occasionally. If you’re doing it more than once out of every six or seven sermons or Bible studies, then you’re probably being lazy.
Never Stop Evolving
Early in my ministry I read a lot more than I do today. Let me correct that. I read more books than I do now. Today, I find more helpful stuff online in short stints. However, I still read a lot … every day!
Don’t quit growing and changing. We’re not talking about changing ethical standards or moral beliefs. Keep the fundamentals fundamental. But evolve in how you present, lead, relate and reach out. Grow more knowledgable, stronger, more humble and more confident.
The best way I know of to do this is with other people. I try to surround myself with smart, talented, creative people. This includes people in ministry and outside. I can learn from a tech journalist and a ministry mentor.
Speaking of mentors, do you have one? Good ones are hard to find. Find one. They’re worth so much, if they will love and invest in your life.
Partner with Great People
This one’s out-of-order compared to the list from Mike Elgan. It continues the previous lesson in leadership. People help you grow and putting talented, godly, creative, humble and energetic people around you will help you grow. If you praise them, they will join you in your efforts.
A great book about working with people comes from John Maxwell, leadership guru and former pastor. Be a People Person talks about how to work with, get the most out of and inspire people. Grab a copy and read it, mark it up, find someone to talk with about it, and learn what he’s saying. It’s a great book on partnering with great people.
I’m not good at his and need to learn this lesson myself. My checklists usually stay in my email inbox, the Reminders app on my iPhone, iPad or Mac, or just in my mind. I’ve not done a good job of organizing them into one daily checklist. I need to.
Mike Elgan says he learned this lesson when he took lessons on how to fly. Pilots live by checklists. They do a preflight checklist that they have to methodically follow or someone could die.
So, here’s a few areas I need to start making such lists.
Sermon prep – there’s a list of tasks a good preacher should do for every message and I often forget them, like praying before I start or testing my message for faith-building language instead making people feel guilty until they obey.
Ministry planning – too many times I’ve showed up at a meeting about a particular project with only a mental checklist. Recently I made a checklist for such a meeting and it was one of the most productive I’ve led in a months.
Family time – bring the checklist home and set goals for spending the right time with family doing the right things.
Serve the Customers You Want, Not Just the Ones You Have
We don’t serve customers, but we do serve people. The concept’s the same even if the terms don’t match.
How do we “serve the customers” that we want in ministry? If you do all of your teaching at a surface, overly simple level, then your people will remain simplistic and never grow. Instead dig deep and take them along for the ride. Show people the meaning of the text and why you believe it means that. Then show them how they can find that same meaning without you. Empower people to do hermeneutics even if they don’t know what that is.
Expect things of people. Don’t assume the worst of church people. Assume they will give you the best, and then expect it of them. People will surprise us.
You get the idea. Imagine the kind of church members you wish you had, and then start treating the ones you have like they are those kinds of people. They will surprise you and become stronger, more committed, more knowledgeable and more faithful. And you might find some that already were, but never could prove it because no one expected it of them.
Bible study’s going online, not entirely, but increasingly so. So here’s the first three of my six best online Bible study websites that you can use on your new $200-$300 Chromebook that won’t run locally installed Bible software. They will also work great on the many of the new Windows notebooks or tablets that only come with 32GB of 64GB SSDs, like the HP Stream 13 I recently reviewed. With limited storage these computers can’t handle huge libraries from the complex Bible study programs like Logos, WORDsearch, Accordance or PC Study Bible to name some of the most popular.
A couple of the more popular programs that run locally also come in online versions. So check out this list and maybe you can leave your complex and bloated Bible study software off that new Windows tablet or super-cheap notebook with only 32GB of storage. And you could do some study on a Chromebook, which doesn’t let users install advanced Bible study programs.
We list these sites in no particular order.
The first of our online Bible study websites is BibleStudyTools.com. What makes this a viable option for intermediate level Bible study software? Users can search the Bible, read it, track daily Bible reading plans and share scripture via copy/paste or links to post to popular social media outlets. Almost every online Bible can do those things. Here’s what this site offers in addition to the basics.
Bible Study Tools adds some public domain tools like …
The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia
Old and New Testament Greek Lexicons
Classic sermons from past scholars and preachers
The first of our list of online Bible study sites includes a number of modern and public domain Bible translations. There’s also some limited original language study.
The site will collect user notes and highlights for those who sign up for a free account. The Bible student can mark up their Bibles and save their study findings for future reference.
While the site doesn’t offer as many modern reference tools, a user with simple needs can get a lot done. Read a text, highlight it and write observations in a note attached to a verse. Then open the interlinear Bibles based on the KJV and NASB to do some original language study. Search the text for some cross references related to the topics in the passage. This gives any Bible student a good start in understanding their passage.
The Interlinear Hebrew text comes from Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia from United Bible Societies. The Greek text comes from Center For Computer Analysis of Texts, University of Pennsylvania based on Nestle Aland 26.
After these early steps, open some commentaries, dictionaries or the ISBE and learn more about the passage and what others said years ago. Record those findings in the notes. Then find the passage’s Big Idea and come up with an outline using an online word processor like Google Docs or Office 365’s version of Word online.
If I had to compare the site to a piece of Bible software, I’d say it can do almost as much as e-Sword with a few modern translations added to it.
The next of these six best online Bible study websites comes from Online Parallel Bible Project in the form of BibleHub.com. The interface looks a little cluttered, but it’s still a useful site with plenty of resources.
Enter a Bible reference in the top search box and the site opens the verse in all the translations and commentaries available in the left column. Along the right column we find some helpful tools like the context of the passage, cross references and Treasury of Scripture Knowledge.
Across the top of the site there’s a toolbar that helps people navigate to specific passages in any of the supported translations. The site includes a large collection of modern and public domain translations. The toolbar also includes some public domain commentaries. Access them through drop down lists.
The toolbar buttons put many of the tools a click away. We get a parallel Bible button, cross references and a context button that shows the single verse within the pericope. In addition there’s links to a few specific commentaries and more.
Like the other sites, Bible Hub lets me share to Facebook, Twitter and Google+. It includes some nice pictures, maps and outlines.
Logos Bible Software users will want to go first to Biblia.com. They also offer a pair of sister sites – library.logos.com and Faithlife Bible online. So why three sites? Library runs better on mobile browsers, like an Android smart phone or iPhone. Faithlife adds the company’s online study Bible focused social network and using the Faithlife Study Bible. The more pure online Bible site is Biblia.
None of the three Faithlife sites do as much as our first two in this list, but they make a Logos Bible Software user’s library available online and as a group they offer a great selection of tools and features. The makers promise some more advanced tools “coming soon.” I’d be happy if they just integrated all of the features into one site.
When a user signs into the Logos account, they can get access to their reading plans from the left-hand column. That column includes four tabs with the following features:
Library list used to open books
Search tool that the user can use to search one book or other books in their library
Notes tab shows notes on a particular verse or book passage from the Faithflife.com community, but not a Logos Bile Software user’s notes added inside the computer or mobile apps
The main part of the Biblia screen includes two window pane. The user can open books in either side. For example, open a Bible in the center column and a commentary on the right. The two will sync up to the same verse when a user turns the feature on using instructions explained below.
Use a mouse wheel or swipe on a laptop trackpad to scroll through the Bible from Genesis 1:1 all the way to the end of Revelations 22.
Click on the book’s cover in the upper left corner of the window pane to show settings. The user can do the following:
Change the font size
Sync the two panes
Open the book’s table of contents
Change the reading view from column, stretched across both pans or full-screen reading view
Toggle the community notes from other Faithlife users (but not personal notes from the computer or mobile apps_
The sharing tool will let you post to Twitter or Facebook, get a link to the verse on Biblia.com to post online or email, and an embed code to post to a website.
The library.logos.com presents the same basic tools as Biblia, with a few minor changes, in a mobile browser view. Surprisingly, this site, though optimized for mobile browsers, actually does a little more than Biblia.
Click on the three dots at the right end of the top toolbar. This give the user access to some of the great tools that makes Logos Bible Software great on a computer. Those include:
Access to favorites
Text comparison tool which shows a passage in multiple translations
Passage Guide, which finds the verse in all the books in your library
Bible Word Study tool, which lets a user enter a word and find that topic or idea on all the books in the library
The Faithlife Study Bible online site presents the Faithlife Study Bible in online for and looks a little like the Faithlife Study Bible app on Android or iOS. We don’t get the Passage Guide, Text Comparison or the Bible Word Study tools from library.logos.com. See it below.
I wish Faithlife would take all of these sites and streamline them into one great online Bible study site. It would make it the best of the six online Bible study sites in our roundup.
Check back for part two of this roundup of the 6 best online Bible study sites.