Killing Sermon Cockroaches

Sam Rainer

March 2, 2009


Tony Morgan (NewSpring Church Chief Strategic Officer) has given us a great new collection of leadership insights in his new book Killing Cockroaches. It took me forever to read it – not because of his writing style, but rather because of the page flip animation of scurrying cockroaches in the bottom corner of the book. It’s spellbinding.

Once the mesmerizing effects wore off, I found myself underlining and circling several portions of the book. The book is a collection of short insights on how to kill cockroaches, figuratively of course. But it is heavy enough to squash even the largest of Palmetto bugs. What are these cockroaches that pester leaders? They are little fires that consume daily activities, the crisis-of-the-moment-stuff that gets you off focus.

I’ll summarize one section about sermon preparation that struck me:

Prepare your messages weeks in advance. You’ll be amazed at what the Spirit will reveal in a month compared to a week. You’d also be amazed at what your team can create to support your message with more time to brainstorm and execute.

Speak the Truth. The story is intriguing, but the message is dangerous. People want to be challenged. Deep down, we all crave Truth.

Keep it simple. Teach on just one subject or text a week. Be deep, not wide. Have no more than a couple/three takeaways. The less you teach, the more your audience will retain.

Sweat the outline and not the manuscript. When you sweat the outline, you pay more attention to focusing the content, providing supporting illustrations and creating good flow. Speaking from an outline better positions you to engage your audience.

Tell stories. Jesus taught this way. And people will tune you out unless you engage their emotions. Take time to rehearse your stories. How you deliver a story is just as important as the story itself.

Invite others into the process. It’s amazing what a team can contribute by way of additional biblical content, illustrations, stories, art elements, visuals, etc. when a sermon is prepared with the input of a team.

There are tons of pithy leadership snippets in the book (and Tony courageously inserted a hideous picture of his 80s band Burning Heart – coupled with the cockroach page flip animation, it’s worth the price of the book). So give it a read to reveal a few of the bugs in your ministry.

5 comments on “Killing Sermon Cockroaches”

  1. Aaron says:

    Great points, particularly about working from an outline rather than a manuscript. I find it so frustrating to see pastors up on stage, usually sittinng on a stool, and simply reading out loud.

    It totally kills the ability to engage with the congregation in any meaningful way, and destroys their retention.

  2. E.Cudney says:

    Wondering if I could get permission to use your dead cockroach picture (not for profit),or find the origin to get permission?

  3. Sam Rainer says:

    E.Cudney – I’m not sure where I got it, so use it if you like.

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