Authenticity has been watchword among Christians for a couple of decades, so much so that it’s virtually been added to the catalog of Christian virtues alongside love, joy, peace, and patience.

Man hand writing I Love Me on visual screen. Love, family, internet concept.

But it is not a virtue. I do not seek to be authentic, not in the sense that we usually think of it. I’m interested in a deeper, more powerful experience. I hunger for holiness.

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Christian leaders often lament the rate at which young people are leaving the church, but few seem to have noticed that many of those who do stay have accepted a non-orthodox version of the Christian message.

Man Holding Sign That Says BlessedIn other words, many Christian teens aren’t really Christians. It’s time to face that, and do something about it.

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Yesterday a gunman entered a community college classroom in Oregon, shot and killed the teacher, then told students to stand up, one by one, and state their religion.

To those who said Christian, he replied “Good, because you’re a Christian, you’re going to see God in just about one second.” He killed 10 people.1

Killer With GunAs a minister, as a Christian, as a citizen of the United States, I’m appalled by this senseless act of violence, by the Charleston shooting, by the 262 other mass shootings in our country this year, and by the culture that supports it.

It’s time for change.

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My earliest preaching mentors taught me that every sermon needed four things: a compelling introduction, a body that included two or three points of biblical exegesis, illustrations to make it memorable, and a conclusion that helped people apply the truth to their lives.

Boy were they wrong.

Group of people watching boring movie in cinema

Three points and a poem may have worked at one time; not anymore. Listening habits have changed, listener attitudes have changed, and the environment of the preaching event has changed.

Today, every sermon must do these seven things to capture attention and motivate life change.

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Every important action you will ever take is based on one of only two human motivations: fear and aspiration.

That’s according to marketing guru Seth Godin, who might as well be talking about the Christian gospel. Over the years Evangelicals have yo-yoed between positive and negative motivations as the basis for our message.

Old Holy Bible

The old gospel, the one ante-millennials cut their teeth on, was based on fear—the fear of hell.

The new gospel, the one we began using sometime in the 1990s, appeals to an aspiration—personal well-being or success.

Is one better or worse?

Actually, both are wrong. It’s time to return to the other gospel, the one Jesus preached.

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As a pastor for most of the last 30 years, I had one burning question: Am I doing this right? The reason pastors wonder about that is that (a) there are many different ways to do church these days, and (b) there are so many people telling us we’re doing it wrong.

The word "PASTOR" written in vintage metal letterpress type in a wooden drawer with dividers.

Given that leadership theory is now the dominant way of evaluating pastoral effectiveness, it’s fitting to apply the advice of  Warren Bennis, the grandfather of modern leadership theory, to pastoral ministry.

Thirty-five years ago, Bennis said, “Managers are people who do things right and leaders are people who do the right thing.”

Rather than asking “Am I doing this right?” a better question for pastors is “Am I doing the right things?”

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Lifestyle evangelism, aka friendship evangelism, is a strategy for making converts by living an attractive life among non-Christians so they will be drawn to the gospel and want to know more about Jesus.

Photo Courtesy of Hugo Chisholm

This strategy has been popular since the 1990s, and most Evangelicals would probably say that they share their faith primarily by building relationships with nonbelievers.

Of course, lifestyle evangelism works only if your lifestyle is distinctively Christian. Otherwise, it’s just networking.

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