Archives for : STAYING FOCUSED

Pearl Catchers



While attending Oasis Church for several years in North Little Rock (Pastor Todd West) we would always be handed a worship packet as we entered the service. In that packet they included a pen and a sermon notes card. This is a practical help that is wise for all churches to follow. Whenever we approach the Word of God there are at least two very important questions we need to ask: 1. What is God saying to us? 2. What does He want us to do about it? Preaching is vitally important and this tool can help us to implement God’s challenges.

These sermon notes cards still provide instruction and inspiration when they are revisited. There is a proverb that says, “If I hear it, I forget it! If I see it, I remember it! But if I do it, it transforms me.” Take them and organize them in a way that you can easily reference them when looking at that passage again. Wayne Cordeiro puts it this way, “If it is just in your head it is information. If it is in your heart it is inspiration. When it bleeds out of you it is incarnation!” How will that take place if we cannot even remember what God spoke so clearly to us about?

While preaching a series on Kingdom Living, Matthew 13 became a focal point of study. In verses 45-46 it says, “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls. When he found one priceless pearl, he went and sold everything he had, and bought it.” But in Matthew 7:6 we are told not to “cast your pearls before swine.” Could we be guilty of this when great pearls are being offered in a sermon, lesson, or even our private devotions and we do not take the time to write down what God is saying to us? How important are His pearls to us?

The Air Force Academy did a study on memory from different teaching techniques and discovered that, “We forget 95% of what we only hear in 72 hours!” Auditory learning is where we tell people to “sit still while we instill.” Making a card available to take notes enables people to write down whatever pearls God is giving them during the sermon. Rick Warren has said, “The shortest pencil is always longer that the longest memory.” Challenge yourself and others as they hear the teachings of His word to, “Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.” (Deut. 6:9).

There are multiple learning styles for different people including auditory (hear it), visual (see it), oral (say it), and kinesthetic (do it). Everyone usually has a mix of these but there is normally a dominant style of learning. If your primary learning style is auditory then you love church and always look forward to a good sermon. If you learn better visually then you look forward to the PowerPoint, white board, or some kind of written material. But if you are an oral learner you crave a small group where you can talk about what God is saying and doing in your life.

This is the genius behind encouraging people to write down the pearls God is giving them. Here are a few benefits of providing sermon notes. A special thank you to Rick Warren for some of this content.

First, it increases attention. Your mind will not wander as much because you are listening closer. As you jot down the “pearls” it helps to untangle your thoughts. Sermon notes cards can be seen as “pearl catchers!”

Second, it increases your retention. The more learning styles you incorporate the better chance you have of remembering what God is saying and the more likely you are to follow through on what He is speaking to you about.

Third, it increases your participation. What an encouragement it is to a preacher or teacher to see someone totally engaged with the message. Focused not only on listening but also following through on God’s challenges.

Fourth, it can be reviewed for years to come. You now have notes on that passage of scripture that you can revisit anytime you desire. It is a joy to pull out your sermon notes and to have the Holy Spirit remind you again.

Fifth, it tells God you are interested in His pearls. You have taken another step of commitment to not only be a hearer of the word but a doer also. It is a step of spiritual maturity that recognizes belief and behavior go together.

This is the wisdom of coordinating a church campaign that focuses everyone on one particular study and utilizes all of these learning styles simultaneously.

Hearing is the least effective way to retain something and how can you grow if you cannot remember what was said? Think of the challenge given in James 1:25, “But the one who looks intently into the perfect law of freedom and perseveres in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but one who does good works – this person will be blessed in what he does.” God’s challenge to all of us is to “look intently” (study), “persevere” (build habits), “not forgetful” (memorize), and “what he does” (application). We are not blessed by reading and hearing the word of God only, but rather by doing it.

Healthy churches teach their people to take sermon notes and help them to be more attentive to what God is saying and asking them to do. Every sermon and lesson comes down to not only the knowledge of the truth but also the application of that truth into our lives!



     So, how do we keep our churches focused and not allow them to get off track?  One of the first conflicts in the early church that could have easily side-tracked them from keeping the mission of God as their primary focus is found in Acts 6. How would the early church take care of  those who were needing to be biblically cared for?  What principles can we glean from this passage that will enable our church to stay on track? At a recent Church Planting Leadership Fellowship in Nashville, TN Darrin Patrick offered these five observations from Acts 6:

     #1.  The early church distinguished the difference between growth and health! (v. 1)  The church had a problem and instead of sweeping it under the rug or ignoring it they dealt with it and faced it.  All too often, churches know there is an issue and refuse to deal with it biblically.  That does not mean scolding everyone from the pulpit because of a vocal minority.  It means following Matthew 18 and going to the individual or individuals and coming up with a way to resolve the conflict.  A good rule of thumb for handling conflict is to always deal with it on the lowest level possible.  Don’t use a bomb to handle a situation where a BB gun would do!

     #2.  The early church empowered the laity to do the work of the ministry! (v. 2)  They immediately began organizing the people according to their giftedness.  They realized that God had given gifts “differing according to the grace that is given to us.”  They realized the worth and importance of everyone’s gifts and that they needed a team effort.  Someone has said that committees are those who tell everybody else what they should be doing while teams are busy doing the work.  1 Pet 4:10 says, “As every man hath received the gift, even so minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.”  Every one is needed and has a responsibility to fulfill their role in the work of the Lord.  In a recent survey when church members said they didn’t participate more because no one had ever approached them individually and asked!

     #3.  The early church made care a priority! (v. 3)  The focus must be on serving.  The idea herheirs making a lot of dust as we run to take care of the needs of others.  In the minds of many, biblical care has been regulated to serving physical needs. However, the heart of this passage is getting two different ethnicities talking to each other.  Biblical care is making sure we are all living as Christ and are caring for one another in our spiritual walks.  Are we forgiving one another?  Are we fellowshipping with one another?  Are we all standing on level (equal) ground at the foot of the cross? I Corinthians 2:25 says, “That there should be no schism in the body; but that the members should have the same care one for another.”

     #4.  The early church gave their leaders space to be with God! (v. 4)  Pastors must make sure they properly handle the preaching and teaching of the word of God.  The reason the early church decided to involve others was so the apostles could have enough margin and time in their lives to allow them to devote themselves to prayer and study.  It seems that some live by the motto, “Lord, you keep the minister humble, and we will keep him busy!”  The biblical perspective is that the work of the ministry is everyone’s responsibility and everyone needs to pull their weight.  (Ephesians 4:11-12)  Many leaders are running on empty and are in danger of physical and spiritual burnout.  Ecclesiastes 4:9 says, “Two are better than one; because they have a good reward for their labour.”

     #5.  The early church had a huge impact on their culture! (v. 7)  When everyone was involved in serving one another then “the word of God increased; and the number of the disciples multiplied.”  Jesus said this in John 13:35, “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another!”   Paul told the church in Galatia that “by love serve one another.”  The church today has become more interested in entitlement and their rights as members rather than enlistment into service by caring for one another and reaching out to those who do not know Christ.. Every church should have the core value that no one leads who does not first serve! (Mark 10:45).

     Healthy churches will focus on staying on track by following these 5 steps found in Acts 6!