Preacher Notes: BIVO Sermon Prep

After reading this post on NAMB’s SEND Network blog, I thought I would offer an explanation of my sermon prep habits for fellow BIVO workers.

When I was a seminary student, I longed for the day when I would be a full-time pastor and have the ability to block off hours of my schedule to devote to sermon study. However, God would have other plans. What I did not know is that He would lead me to a bi-vocational (BIVO) lifestyle and ministry.

Over the course of eight years of working as a middle school science teacher, missionary, and church planter, I have had to figure out how to balance the demands of family, work, and ministry while ensuing that I have time to prepare my sermon each week. While I don’t spend 20 hours working on a sermon, I do dedicate myself to study and preparation. What follows is a synopsis of what I attempt to practice, knowing that each week is different and demands on my time can change.

Monday, Tuesday, & Wednesday: reading the text in my quiet time

Early in the week, I take time to read the text and meditate upon it. I mostly preach expositional sermons rather than topical sermons, so I approach the text asking, “What does it mean?” and “How does it apply to me?” During this period, I will make observations about the text, ask questions, and even propose a basic outline.

Thursday: outline & overview
By Thursday, I feel familiar with the text and begin to use commentaries to answer any questions I have asked during my reading thus far. I have Thursday evenings blocked off to read commentaries, extract quotes/illustrations, finalize my outline, and possibly begin typing my notes.

Friday & Saturday: family & friends
I normally don’t complete any sermon study on Friday & Saturday beyond reading the text (and maybe a section of a commentary) during my quiet times as Friday nights are typically reserved for outings with friends and Saturdays are “family days.”

Sunday: final prep & preach
During the week, I do all of my initial sermon study in a notebook. I love taking the time to write using pen & paper. On Sunday morning, I will wake up around 5:30 and finalize typing my notes and sermon slides before my family wakes up. I feel this helps me review the text before beginning the business that is “Sunday morning set-up.” As we are a small church, I help set-up most weeks and play drums in the worship band, so this early morning session is my last chance to review.

When it comes time to preach, I use my Cambridge Wide-Margin ESV, and my notes have been transferred to iBooks on my iPad. I love using a physical Bible, and my iPad allows me to easily flip between pages without having to worry about anything falling from my music stand.

Final Thoughts:
Much of what I learned about preaching came from my mentor, Bro. Al Jackson of Lakeview Baptist in Auburn, AL. He is a great preacher and teacher, and having the opportunity to learn from him has impacted me greatly. The book he used in class was Wayne McDill’s 12 Essential Skills for Great Preaching.

If you are BIVO and want to know more about how to prepare sermons while balancing the secular and the sacred, I recommend you reach out to Hugh Halter. I recently received some coaching from him, and he has some great advice to offer in this area.


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Students’ Achievement

Last year, a group of my students won a competition hosted by the Intrepid Museum. As a result, the experiment designed by those students will be launched to space in July for a 6-week stay aboard the International Space Station. Since this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, we are attempting to raise funds so we can go to the rocket launch. More information can be found by visiting .

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Books for Church Planters

Earlier today, I came across this post on recommended books for church planters. Since I am a church planter, I thought I would offer my own recommendations here. Following are my top three recommendations and one honorable mention.

Hugh Halter, BIVO: A Modern Day Guide for Bi-vocational Saints

Most of the literature for church planters centers on equipping planters who are focused on their work in a full-time capacity. As someone who is a bi-vocational planter, this book was extremely encouraging and helpful as it gave great validation to my method of planting. Furthermore, understanding the costs associated with planting in the urban landscape and the need for more new plants, I would recommend this book to anyone considering planting, especially in the urban context.

Lance Ford and Brad Brisco, The Missional Quest

Ford and Brisco offer a different take on church planting and evangelism, encouraging their readers to truly love their neighbors and focus on planting in a “movement mindset” rather than a “maintenance mindset.” This book will help equip any reader to better focus on contextualizing their methods to the needs of the community, thus hopefully resulting in a sustainable plant.

Eric Metaxas, Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy

In seminary, I was told by a professor, “Pick a dead guy. Read his stuff. Learn from him.” A few years ago, I came across this book, and since then, I have enjoyed studying Bonhoeffer’s works. He was by no means a perfect theologian, and some debate whether or not he could be considered an “evangelical,” but his life story, that is, his desire to make disciples who make disciples, his love for Christ, and his personal sacrifice can be a great encouragement to church planters struggling in the battlefield of daily ministry.

HONORABLE MENTION: Eugene Kranz, Failure is Not an Option

I love learning about the history of spaceflight, and along the way, I have read almost every astronaut biography that has been written. Several years ago, I read this work by a former NASA Flight Director and was amazed at his story of hard work and dedication. Church planting is a difficult task, and Kranz’s story of the rewards and challenges of one’s life work can provide some much-needed encouragement.

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A Weekend of Duck Hunting


My View from the Duck Blind

I just returned from a weekend of duck hunting in Mississippi. Instead of rambling, I wanted to give 10 reasons why I love duck hunting:

  1. Duck Hunting provides me with a great opportunity to enjoy creation. (see the picture above)
  2. Duck Hunting allows me to spend quality time with my father and friends.
  3. Duck Hunting allows me to connect with my rural roots.
  4. Duck Hunting inspires me to learn about the biology of waterfowl, their identification, and habitat management.
  5. Duck Hunting gives me a reason to sit quietly and relax outdoors.
  6. Duck Hunting is a great opportunity to get out of the city.
  7. Duck Hunting allows me to remember and practice proper gun safety techniques.
  8. Duck Hunting is a great excuse to wear camo.
  9. Duck Hunting is FUN.
  10. Duck Hunting is something I can pass along to my children, giving them the opportunity to make similar memories as I have.


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A radical change

Today I am getting rid of my smart phone. I could expound greatly upon numerous reasons, but I will instead quickly summarize. First, I long for holiness and to humbly be an example for others. For years, I’ve joked with my mentor, Bro. Al Jackson about his not having a cell phone or a computer. I am beginning to understand his choices more and more each day.

Men have come to me confessing how their smart phones have become an instrument for sin, especially the lust of the eyes. Jesus said, “If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell.” (Matthew 5:29 ESV) In order to be an example to the men over whom God has called me to be an overseer, and to prevent an opportunity for myself to sin, I am trashing my iPhone, that device that is so attached to me that it has become a “member.”

Furthermore, I want to be a good father. My smartphone, that is being constantly available via text or email, combined with a desire to update social networks, has taken time away from my children. I want them to see their dad as a partner in playtime, a caring husband, and a servant to others, not someone attached to his phone.

Don’t get me wrong, I love technology. I love my Apple laptop, iPad, and Apple TV. I think technology does great things for our lives. However, I have to decide what is more important – technology or holiness; technology or family

Seems like an easy call to me.

Of course, people have raised objections. Here’s some common things I’ve heard and my responses.

“What will you do for GPS when your drive?” I’m going to buy a GPS unit for my car.

“What if people need to immediately get in touch with you?”
If it’s that urgent, they’ll know how to find me.

“Won’t you miss social media, email, and texting others?”
I still have a computer and an iPad, so I’m not completely cut off. Plus, the postal service still delivers mail each day; consider writing me a letter.

“Your choice is too drastic to me. I could never do that.”
I used to say the same thing to Bro. Al. This is my choice, not yours.

In conclusion, I ask that you pray for me…that God would continue to mold me into the husband, father, and pastor He has called me to be. May my life honor Him always.

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Sophia’s First Sketch

On Sunday, I took Sophia to NYCC. She had an amazing time seeing people dressed up as her favorite heroes (she got to give Batman a fist-bump), getting convention swag (she received Mickey Mouse and Hello Kitty posters), and spending time with her dad. The best part of the day for her was getting a personalized Superman sketch from artist Cliff Chiang. When he gave her the sketch, she was beaming! I’ll never forget the smile on her face. Thanks to Cliff for doing the sketch even though he was packing up for the day.


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NYCC Panel

Thanks to everyone who attended my NYCC Panel on Comics and Education. And, thanks to Diamond Bookshelf for sponsoring the panel!

Click HERE for a link to a .pdf copy of my presentation for those who are interested.

Click HERE to be taken to Andy Runton’s “Owly” website with educator resources.


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Comics and the Common Core

It’s that time of year again – back to school. With the beginning of the 2013-2014 school year, there is an increased emphasis on being aligned to the Common Core Curriculum. As an educator who enjoys using comics in the classroom, I’m pleased to share a resource that has been produced by Diamond Comics.

From Diamond’s press release:

“To help educators and librarians select materials to fit into their Common Core Standards curricula, Diamond Book Distributors have created the Diamond Graphic Novel Common Core List. Arranged by grade level, the Diamond Graphic Novel Common Core List offers 97 graphic novels from our publishers that will fit into a Common Core curriculum, along with resources including Library Classifications, Subject Headings, and Core Standards which apply to each book.”

The list and related resources can be found HERE (

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Serving Church Plants and Church Planters

For the last five years, I have lived and worked in New York City as a church planter. During this time, I have had the opportunity to meet many men whom feel called to church planting and are seeking the advice of current planters. While I by no means feel that I am an expert in church planting, I do feel that my experience has given me some insight which may be passed along to hopeful planters.

Recently, several potential planters have crossed my path who have raised some concerns in regards to their preparation for church planting. These men are clearly called and seminary-trained, but they lack something – secular work experience and secular vocational training.

You might be wondering why this is a problem. Well, in my experience, I have seen it extremely beneficial for church planters to be prepared to work in a bi-vocational setting in order to support their families and the work of the church. Raising support is a possibility, but what happens if the support runs out? Men need to be prepared to persevere, not retreat.  J.D. Payne, my former church planting professor at SBTS, wrote an article on ethical guidelines for church planters in which he included the following statement:

Guideline # 6: Since our calling to this ministry, people, and location is from God and not based on money, we will not end our church planting ministry in this area simply if our financial support ends, but rather will make appropriate plans for the future of our personal finances.

And, we do not only need to consider the need for support, but reproducing church planters and church plants. To really impact the culture with the gospel, we need thousands of churches to be planted. This will be more easily accomplished if we seek to prepare and send out men with the ability to support themselves. Once again, Payne writes,

Guideline #2:  Since the world consists of four billion unbelievers, with two billion who have never heard the gospel, our strategy will involve the use of highly reproducible church planting methods.

So, I ask, “Are we doing our best to serve church plants and church planters in our methods of preparation?” In asking this, I am not negating the need for biblical education. I am very thankful for my time at SBTS and have been immensely blessed by my training. Rather, I want to examine the way we approach undergraduate men who express a call to  ministry. Should we push men to get degrees in biblical studies, religion, and other “pre-seminary degrees”? Or, should we press them to study business, engineering, science, and technology, in order that they gain real-world skills which will enable them to enter a context, find a job, and begin the work of a planter immediately, without having to worry about raising support first?


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30 for 30 #17: Kilwa

While visiting Africa during the summer of 2007, Les and I had the opportunity to travel south along the coast to the rural area of Kilwa. Once a bustling trading port complete with palaces, forts, and ornate mosques, it is now simply a very rural area with a few small towns and villages.

After traveling several hours over very rough roads, we arrived at this coastal area. Then, my heart almost stopped due to the amazing beauty of the creation around me. The area is BEAUTIFUL. There are marshes and mangrove forests. There are beaches and coral reefs. The place was simply amazing.

We had a great time there. Our hosts took  us to see the local villages. We ate a few meals in the town streets at night, buying food from street vendors. We toured the ruins of palaces and mosques, built during Kilwa’s time as an important trading port. We spent time swimming and snorkeling, captivated by the wonder of creation. We walked along beaches, examining the coastline and collecting cone shells and urchin tests.

We spent two nights staying at the Mjaka Guesthouse where we rented a concrete one-room hut. The conditions could not even be considered “1-star” at best. However, staying there for two nights allowed us to save enough money to stay one night at a local resort with a pool, buffet meals, beach access, a nice bed, and air conditioning.

I’ll never forget the beach there. It was the most gorgeous place I have ever visited. The reefs were pristine – full of life and color. Our last morning there, Les and I woke early enough to watch the sun rise over the water and enjoy our last few moments in paradise. When life gets tough, I think of Kilwa. It will always be my “happy place,” and God-willing, I hope to return one day.

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