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From the Editor:

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When Sunday’s
Almost Here


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And Finally…

“Godliness is not the consequence of your capacity to imitate God, but the consequence of His capacity to reproduce himself in you.”

 –Major Ian Thomas

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Preaching in a Changing Culture: An Interview With N.T. Wright

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    Vol. 6, No. 29 August 21, 2007    

Michael Duduit

For weeks now, our office voicemail has been “out of order.” If you try to call my office when I’m not sitting at my desk, the phone will ring and ring until you get tired of listening. (We can’t even offer you the chance to go on hold and listen to elevator music!)

Worse yet, at the time the system crashed, there were apparently a couple of messages waiting for me. I know this because every time I look at my phone, I encounter these mocking words: “Messages & Calls.” They are there, I know they’re there, but I can’t get to them. And when a new voicemail system is finally installed, those existing messages will disappear into the ether, never to be heard from again.

I’m sure that whoever left those lurking messages has long since preached my funeral for being so ungracious as to ignore their call. And there’s nothing I can do about it.

That’s the way it is in life, isn’t it? There are some things that, no matter how hard you try, you can’t do. I can’t flap my arms and fly to the moon (though I have tried on occasion). I can’t outrun a thoroughbred. And I can’t do enough to deserve heaven.

How thankful I am, then, that God loved me enough to send His Son to do for me what I can never do myself. And I’m also thankful that He didn’t depend on voicemail to let me know about that good news!

Michael Duduit, Editor

Click here to visit “I Was Just Thinking” (Michael’s blog) for insights and observations about faith and culture issues.

Mark your calendar now for April 7-9, 2008, to attend the 19th annual National Conference on Preaching in Washington, DC. An amazing faculty of speakers and workshop leaders will be present, including Chuck Colson, James MacDonald, William Willimon, James Emery White, Barry Black and many more. To learn more go to


In a newly revised edition of his text The Practice of Preaching (Abingdon), Paul Scott Wilson reminds us of the need to prepare sermons suited for oral presentation, not as written essays. He notes, “Simpler speech is one of the things that distinguishes spoken from written communication, but the distinction is richer than that. . . . Once we conceive of preaching as an oral event, we begin to shift our ways of thinking. Instead of composing with the eye for the page, we begin to compose with the ear for oral delivery and aural reception. . . .

“The differences are similar to those between a highly oral culture and a highly literate one. We can get a sense of this by looking at the Bible. The biblical world was predominantly oral. Whereas biblical records obviously come from skilled writers, the writer’s world was specialized, not the norm for most people. Even those ancient writers were saturated with oral ways of thought. . . .

“Preaching is oral; our sermons are heard aurally; and our rhetoric must reflect our medium. Write for the ear, not for the eye . . .” (Click here to learn more about the book The Practice of Preaching)


In his “Biblical Preaching” blog, Peter Mead recently included counsel for pastors when they are not quite ready and Sunday is approaching: “While some preachers may be so structured that every preparation is perfect, most of us are not able to create such a vacuum to live in. To misquote Tony Campolo, ‘it’s Friday, but Sunday is coming!’  For preachers this may not be a cry of hope, but of concern.  What are those final stages of preparation that often get short-changed?  Our Lord understands and is gracious to us when life hits.  However, it would be helpful for us to be aware of these things and adjust our preparation so these things are not always cut-short or omitted altogether:

1. Conclusions matter – As someone has said, you can recover from a bad introduction, but not from a bad conclusion.  That final few moments of the sermon are critical, but often get very little preparation in a tight schedule.  Without preparation the conclusion will be forming during preaching, which often means an over-extended sermon with multiple failed landings (an experience no passenger enjoys!)

2. Cut the fat – Usually the sermon manuscript on Friday will be longer than it should be by Sunday.  While first-time preachers worry about filling the time, experienced preachers should worry about removing the fat in the sermon.  As Dave Stone put it recently, there’s a huge difference between taking on a big-burger challenge and eating at a fine restaurant.  People don’t enjoy forcing down two pounds of ground beef.  They would much prefer a well-prepared 7 ounce steak that they can handle.  So before you preach the sermon, cut the fat, give people a carefully prepared portion.

3. Check the balance – It is important to review the balance of the sermon to make sure the weight is distributed appropriately.  You probably don’t want four illustrations in one point of the message, and none in the other points.  Make sure there is appropriate intensity and passion, but also moments of relief or listeners won’t be able to stay with you.  Be careful to allow an idea (or sub-idea) to develop fully – give the necessary time to explain, support and/or apply the idea in each point.  Before preaching the message, make sure it is balanced.  Don’t preach a Popeye sermon: really strong in the forearms, but lacking everywhere else.”

(Click here to visit Peter’s site)


Fall 2007 will bring a great schedule of one-day preaching conferences to cities across the US, featuring two different seminars.

Our popular seminar “Preaching Truth in a Whatever World” deals with strategies for effective biblical preaching in a postmodern culture. It will be offered in the following cities:

Los Angeles (Oct 11)
New Orleans (Oct 30)

This fall we are also launching a brand new seminar, “Growing a Biblical Sermon.” Developed in response to many requests, the conference will offer a solid guide to developing biblical sermons. The conference will be held in:

Philadelphia (Oct 9)
Nashville (Oct. 25)
Birmingham (Nov 1)
Columbus, Ohio (Nov 8)
Oakland, CA (Dec 10)

Each conference features Dr. Michael Duduit, editor of Preaching magazine, plus a guest speaker. Cost is $95 for the first participant from a church, and $50 for each additional person; the cost includes lunch and a notebook packed with helpful resources. For more information or to register, visit


In the 1980s, Tom Peters, having traveled around the world interviewing heads of large corporations, put together a two-day presentation with 700 slides on the subject of leadership excellence. He was to present it to the directors of PepsiCo, which was headed by a man named Andy Pearson. But Peters knew Andy wouldn’t sit through a long presentation. Mulling this over, Peters sat in his office overlooking San Francisco Bay, closed his eyes, leaned forward, and jotted down eight things on a pad of paper.

Those eight principles became the basis for the book he coauthored that changed the landscape of corporate life in America. The title of the book was In Search of Excellence. To this day, the word “excellence” is a buzzword in the daily life of successful businesses. Everyone wants to work with excellence.

David Jeremiah observes, “Colossians 3:23 is the only maxim we need on the subject. If we realize everything we do — selling a product, cutting the grass, baking a cake, preparing a sermon — is to be done for Christ, we’ll do it heartily as unto the Lord, and we’ll do it with excellence. Who are you working for?” (Turning Point Daily Devotional, 8-3-07)



In a recent issue of his Ministry Toolbox newsletter, Rick Warren talks about facing problems: “Trust God to know what’s best and don’t doubt. Cooperate with him. Say, “God, I’m not going to doubt what you’re doing here. I don’t know why it’s happening but I know you’ve allowed it and I don’t want to short-circuit what you’re doing.”

Wallace Johnson was the founder of Holiday Inn, and a dynamic Christian. When he was 40 years old, his boss fired him from his saw mill job. It came as a devastating shock. This was during the Great Depression. He and his wife needed the income from his job, small though it was. Wallace felt that the world had caved in on him.

His wife worried. She asked him, “What are you going to do?” But Wallace had been thinking, and he answered by saying, “I’m going to mortgage our home and go into the building business.

His first venture was the construction of two small buildings. Within five years, Wallace Johnson was a multi-millionaire. In an interview, he said, “Today, if I could locate the man who fired me I would sincerely thank him for what he did. At the time it happened, I didn’t understand why I was fired. Later I saw that it was God’s unerring and wondrous plan to get me into the ways of his choosing.”

The greatest thing that ever happened to him was to get fired.

Who knows what God might do through your problems and disappointments! If you’ve got problems, be happy. Don’t think of your problems as intruders. Welcome them as friends. God’s purpose is much bigger than those problems. Don’t doubt.” (Click here to read the full article.)

From the September-October issue of Preaching . . .

In a sermon on “The Landmine of Pride,” Charles Stanley begins: “Years ago while I was on a business trip, I found myself talking with a leader of a large Christian organization. We were together for a short period of time, and after a few minutes, he smiled and said, “Charles, we’re at the top of our game. No one is doing what we have done. We’re the leader, and I don’t think anyone can catch us.” Immediately my heart sank — not because I wanted to be number one, but because I could sense God saying, ‘Don’t ever let that idea cross your mind.’

At that moment, it felt as though the Lord had sent an arrow straight into my heart. I knew exactly what He was saying to me. Pride brings destruction, and it does not belong in the life of a believer. At least, not the kind of pride that lifts self up and fails to glorify and honor God. Perhaps this man did not recognize what he had said. Or it may have been that God wanted to send a word of caution to me. Regardless, pride can and does explode God’s plan for our lives.”


Every issue of Preaching contains insightful articles on preaching, plus great model sermons and practical resources. If you’re not a current subscriber to Preaching magazine, click here (or call, toll free, 1-800-527-5226) to go begin your subscription!

Also in the September-October issue of Preaching: Sermons by Max Lucado and Charles Stanley, a feature on “Preaching and the House Church Movement,” Michael Quicke’s continuing series on “Preaching and Trinitarian Worship,” and much more. Order your subscription today!


It’s that time of year, when parents send their sons and daughters off to college. Given the increasingly militant secularism that dominates today’s universities, the transition raises more than a few concerns. Indeed, one of the most critical things a student can do to maintain his or her spiritual commitments is to quickly become involved with other Christians on and near their campus. Now there’s a web site to help students find such support:

As described on the site, “Why do so many kids enter college and lose the fervor they once had for Christ? The college campus can be a spiritual greenhouse or a graveyard. Sometimes you just need someone to help you find an environment where you can continue to grow spiritually. LINCZone wants to help you (or your students if you are a youth minister) make a successful spiritual transition. We will help connect you with a community of faith on your campus.” This is a site to which pastors, youth ministers and parents can direct their students and encourage their involvement in faith communities while away at school.


A crumbling old church building needed remodeling, so, during his sermon, the preacher made an impassioned appeal looking directly at the richest man in town. At the end of the sermon, the rich man stood up and announced, “Pastor, I will contribute $1,000.”

Just then, plaster fell from the ceiling and struck the rich man on the shoulder. He promptly stood back up and shouted, “Pastor, I will increase my donation to $5,000.”

Before he could sit back down, plaster fell on him again, and again he virtually screamed, “Pastor, I will double my last pledge.”He sat down, and a larger chunk of plaster fell on his head.

He stood up once more and hollered, “Pastor, I will give $20,000!”

This prompted a deacon to shout, “Hit him again, Lord! Hit him again!”


In his new book A Western Jesus (B&H Publishing), veteran pastor Mike Minter explains “how our western culture, led by a western jesus, has negatively influenced how we view Scripture. Minter believes that “we have diluted, watered down, and compromised Jesus in our western culture to the point that he is hardly recognizable.” While asserting that not all western thinking is wrong, he does argue that our cultural presuppositions have so conditioned our thinking that “we are not the salt and light we are called to be.”


In the midst of all our sermon study, how much time do we focus on studying about Jesus? In the book Surprised by Jesus (IVP), Tim Stafford points us to the gospels to take a look at the “deceptively familiar” Jesus who emerges from those pages. He observes, “We feel we know Jesus because he’s part of the landscape of our culture. Some of what we know, however, is based more on sentiment than on gospel truth.” Stafford helps us gain new insight into the Jesus who does puzzling things and makes life-changing demands of us.


As many of your students head to distant colleges and universities, a nice gift to send along would be the One Minute Bible for Students (Holman). It offers 366 daily one-minute readings to carry them through major portions of the Bible through the year. Each entry includes suggested texts for those who want to read more, along with a variety of additional resources.


(Click on the title to learn more or order from


A Rabbi, a Hindu and a lawyer were driving late at night in the country when their car expired. They set out to find help, and came to a farmhouse. When they knocked at the door, the farmer explained that he had only two beds, and one of the three had to sleep in the barn with the animals. The three quickly agreed.

The Rabbi said he would sleep in the barn and let the other two have the beds. Ten minutes after the Rabbi left, there was a knock on the bedroom door. The Rabbi entered exclaiming, “I can’t sleep in the barn; there is a pig in there. It’s against my religion to sleep in the same room with a pig!”

The Hindu said he would sleep in the barn, as he had no religious problem with pigs. However, about five minutes later, the Hindu burst through the bedroom door saying, “There’s a cow in the barn! I can’t sleep in the same room as a cow! It’s against my religion!”The lawyer, anxious to get to sleep, said he’d go to the barn, as he had no problem sleeping with animals.

In two minutes, the bedroom door burst open and the pig and the cow entered . . .

“I couldn’t wait for success, so I went ahead without it.”  (Jonathan Winters)


The youth group has raised almost $500 for drug abuse.

“Correction: The following typo appeared in our last bulletin: ‘Lunch will be gin at 12:15.’ Please correct to read ’12 noon.’ “

Any church member over the age of 18 is invited to participate in this lay ministry program. It requires a minimal amount of training and time. The orientation will include six weekly classes of about 200 hours each Tuesday night.

The Seniors group will have a picnic Saturday. Each person is asked to bring a friend, a vegetable, or dessert in a covered dish. Meat and drinks will be furnished.

The last day of Vacation Bible School will include a field trip to the state game farm. We could use some additional volunteers to help preparing the lunch of sandwiches, potato chips, cheese, crack, and cool aid that morning.

Remember the youth department rummage sale for Summer Camp. We have a Gents three-speed bicycle, also two ladies for sale, in good running order.  (from Good, Clean Funnies List)

Making a joyful noise just got more expensive.

According to an August 16 Reuters story, a Dutch priest has been fined 5,000 euros ($6,750) for ringing his church bells too loudly in the morning. He began ringing the bells at just after seven in the morning soon after arriving in Tilburg about six months ago. This prompted dozens of complaints from residents and the council in the southern town decided the priest was breaking the law.

“The priest can ring his bells whenever he likes but he has to keep within noise regulations. People don’t appreciate it,” a spokesman for the town council said, who noted that the priest risks further fines if he continues.

“We are still trying to find ways to make him stop,” the spokesman said.

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