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Beyond Our Limits

Leadership Lessons

Innovations Churches Should Embrace

Value, Child of God
Successful Marriage

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Preacher’s Bookshelf


And Finally…

“O Lord, make me as holy as a forgiven sinner can be.”

(Robert Murray McCheyne)

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    Vol. 6, No. 31 September 11, 2007    

Michael Duduit

The Sunday after Sept. 11, 2001, pastor Craig Barnes (then at National Presbyterian Church in Washington, DC) shared these comments: “Sooner or later every individual ends up in the emergency room. Something happens that you were not planning on, something that permanently alters the plans you had. Maybe a loved one dies, a deadly disease is discovered, or a cherished relationship unravels. When that happens, you realize you will not leave the emergency room the same person you were when you entered. That is exactly where our nation is today. Wounded with a broken heart and certain only that things have changed.

“As we leave the emergency room and make decisions about how we get on with life, let us remember that the nation is strong. It is strong enough to survive this atrocity. Actually, it is strong enough to do more than survive. It can become a different, better nation than we were on Monday. But that all depends on the choices we make in the days ahead.

“The French Philosopher Paul Ricoeur has written about the creative possibility of “limit experiences.” A limit experience is an experience that is beyond the limits of normal life. It’s the one you spent most of life avoiding, dreading, defending yourself against, like death and separation. Beyond the limits of those things, we think there’s nothing but emptiness, loss, and anomie. But as Dr. Ricouer reminds us, there is more. There is also God, whose creative love knows no limits.

“Watching enormous skyscrapers crumble into dust is beyond the limits of comprehension. It doesn’t matter how many times we watch the video, it’s still beyond comprehension. As is seeing a gaping wound in the side of the Pentagon. And imagining how men can be so evil as to crash full airplanes into these buildings. And understanding how thousands could so easily die on our own well-protected soil. It’s all beyond our limits.

“Be clear. None of that was the will of God. It was not a judgment against us, retribution for our sins, or God teaching us a lesson. Rather the will of God is always that evil be redeemed and not given the last word. That is why God can always be found at work beyond the limits of evil’s destructive powers, waiting to bring us back to new life.

“The greatest catastrophe of history happened not on Tuesday, but two thousand years ago when we crucified the Son of God. That was the ultimate experience beyond humanity’s limit. But it was then that history was given the possibility of resurrection. When Jesus Christ defeated death, He did so that we may experience something beyond our limits – to rise with Him into a new life. After every cross, the resurrection remains a possibility. The stone that covers the tomb is rolled back, but it is up to us to emerge as a new nation. It all depends on the choices we make.” 

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 recent article for Rick Warren’s Ministry Toolbox newsletter, Senate Chaplain Barry Black wrote: “During my lifetime, I learned far more about leadership from faithful people working behind the scenes than from those who were more prominent. Here are a few of the lessons I learned.

Expect events to shape destinies. One of my earliest leadership lessons was that events, more than ability, often catapult people into positions of prominence. Shakespeare captured this notion when he said, “Be not afraid of greatness. Some men are born great, others achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them.” Without the Civil War, we may have never known the wonderful greatness of many notable Americans. Without World War II, names like Patton, Marshall, and MacArthur might be historical footnotes. Without Rosa Parks’ refusal to give up her seat on that bus, we probably wouldn’t have a national holiday honoring Dr. King. Events often provide the critical variables for effective leadership.

Expect leaders to have different talents. I learned early that leaders come in many forms with many styles and abilities. Some are quiet, and others almost bombastic. Some are eloquent while others express themselves with difficulty. The five presidents mentioned at the beginning of this chapter had their individual strengths and weaknesses. Nonetheless, each made a substantive difference. Most successful leaders, however, have one thing in common: they mobilize people to achieve shared objectives.

Don’t run from the possibility of failure. I learned that most effective leaders are willing to fail. They seem to sense that it is better to attempt something great and fail than to not try at all. Time and again, I’ve seen strong leaders who possessed the courage to fall and get up repeatedly.

Be humbly hospitable. Luther Palmer was the headmaster at the boarding high school that I attended. He was the exact opposite of the stereotypically remote, distant principal. Instead, he invited students home for dinner and got to know them one-on-one. He kept an eye on students who aspired to the Gospel ministry, and set up instructional periods with key preachers who visited our school. Though a busy administrator, he took the time to teach a class called “Facing Life,” which was a requirement for all students. In this way, he came to know most of us in a very personal way.”

(Adapted from Black’s biography From the Hood to the Hill. To read the full article, click here. To learn more about the book, click here.)


The Summer 2007 issue of Willow magazine (published by the Willow Creek Association) included a feature on “15 Innovations the Church Should Embrace NOW!” Among the items listed:

Podcasting – circuit riding at the speed of light. In addition to your weekly messages, how about spicing it up with special editions? Try doing interviews with church neighbors, the mayor, volunteers, staff intros., etc. If it’s worth preaching it’s worth podcasting. Any church of any size can exponentially increase its impact via MP3 technology.

Blogging – digital discipleship. Don’t blog for an audience, blog for you. The more you write about what’s on your head and heart, the more people will respond. Blogging increases your bandwidth and allows you to digitally disciple just about anybody, anywhere, anytime.

Viral Video – get contagious quickly. Use YouTube to spread the love. There’s even a first-time visitor orientation. Use it creatively for things like behind-the-scenes sermon prep, church staff meetings, or videos created by the congregation. There’s a reason why this is one of the top visual communication sites on the Web.

Web Site – your church portal. Guests can watch a Webcast, read your history, and get as much information on your church as they want. And they can do it from the comfortable confines of their computer. Most people will visit your Web site long before they visit a service. Your Web site is your first impression. FREE BONUS TIP: Ruthlessly eliminate lame Web sites (you know who you are!)

E-Mail – word of mouse. Churches should avoid spam at all costs, but an e-letter is an easy and affordable way to keep the church connected. An e-mail is a simple way to keep a ministry team on the same page or evite a friend to church. Think of it as word of mouse. Many pastors preach to more people via e-mail than they do via voice. It’s a form of e-vangelism.”

(To read the full article, including the other 10 innovations, click here.)


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)
Quincy, IL (Nov 6)

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)
Tampa (Oct 29)
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


Fred Craddock was a seminary professor. Once, while he was lecturing at Yale University, he told of going back one summer to Gatlinburg, TN, to take a short vacation with his wife. One night they found a quiet little restaurant where they looked forward to a private meal-just the two of them.

While they were waiting for their meal they noticed a distinguished looking white-haired man moving from table to table, visiting guests. Craddock whispered to his wife, “I hope he doesn’t come over here.” He didn’t want the man to intrude on their privacy.

But the man did come by his table. “Where you folks from?” he asked amicably.

“Oklahoma,” Fred answered reluctantly.

“Splendid state, I hear, although I’ve never been there. What do you do for a living?”

” I teach homiletics at the graduate seminary of Phillips University.”

“Oh, so you teach preachers, do you? Well, I’ve got a story I want to tell you.” And with that he pulled up a chair and sat down at the table with Craddock and his wife. Fred groaned inwardly, thinking, “Oh, no, here comes another preacher story.”

The man stuck out his hand. “I’m Ben Hooper. I was born not far from here across the mountains. My mother wasn’t married when I was born so I had a hard time. When I started school my classmates had a name for me, and it wasn’t a very nice name. I used to go off by myself at recess and during lunchtime because the taunts of my playmates cut so deeply.

“What was worse was going downtown on Saturday afternoon and feeling every eye burning a hole through you. They were all wondering just who my real father was.

“When I was about 12 years old a new preacher came to our church. I would always go in late and slip out early. But one day the preacher said the benediction so fast I got caught and had to walk out with the crowd. I could feel every eye in church on me. Just about the time I got to the door I felt a big hand on my shoulder. I looked up and the preacher was looking right at me.

“’Who are you, son? Whose boy are you?’

“I felt the old weight come down on me. It was like a big, black cloud. Even the preacher was putting me down.

“But as he looked down at me, studying my face, he began to smile a big smile of recognition.

‘Wait a minute,’ he said, ‘I know who you are. I see the family resemblance. You are a son of God.’

“With that he slapped me across the rump and said, ‘Boy, you’ve got a great inheritance. Go and claim it.’”

The old man looked across the table at the professor and said, “That was the most important single sentence ever said to me.” With that he smiled, shook the hand of Craddock and his wife, and moved on to another table to greet old friends.
Suddenly, Fred Craddock remembered. On two occasions the people of Tennessee had elected an illegitimate son to be their governor. His name was Ben Hooper. (from Power for Living by Jamie Buckingham)

From the September-October issue of Preaching . . .

In his sermon on “Forgiveness,” Max Lucado observes, “The grace?given give grace. Forgiven people forgive people. The mercy?marinated drip mercy. “God is kind to you so you will change your hearts and lives” (Rom. 2:4 NCV).

“We are not like the unchanged wife. Before her conversion to Christ, she endlessly nagged, picked on, and berated her husband. When she became a Christian, nothing changed. She kept nagging. Finally he told her, “I don’t mind that you were born again. I just wish you hadn’t been born again as yourself”

“One questions if the wife was born again to start with. Apple trees bear apples, wheat stalks produce wheat, and forgiven people forgive people. Grace is the natural outgrowth of grace.”

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!


Here’s a link we remind readers of almost every year: the Christian Classics Ethereal Library is a remarkable site that offers a rich treasury of Christian writing: theological materials, devotional and inspirational, sermons, historic Christian documents and much more. You won’t find the latest books here; this is a library of classic writings that have stood the test of time. This one should be bookmarked!


Proper attire is required in the cafeteria at the University of Maine. To enforce that rule, the management posted this notice:

“Shoes are required to eat in this cafeteria.”

Next to it, a student added, “Socks can eat wherever they want.”


Preaching the Cross (Crossway) is a call to expository preaching that is centered on the cross of Christ. The book contains essays on preaching by Mark Dever, J. Ligon Duncan III, R. Albert Mohler, R.C. Sproul, John Piper, C.J. Mahaney, and John MacArthur. Readers will find encouragement and insights on faithful biblical preaching.


Pastors and church leaders face times of vocational transition, and the new book Moving On – Moving Forward (Zondervan) offers counsel to those facing potential or actual ministry transition. In addition to discussing the spiritual, emotional and family issues, authors Michael Anthony and Mick Boersma also deal with practical topics such as dealing with search committees, writing a resignation letter, and so on. This will be a useful book to a pastor facing career change.


Biblical preachers are always looking for resources that will add additional insight to our study of scripture. Bible Backgrounds by Merle D. Strege (of Anderson University) offers brief explanatory notes on every book of the Bible. It is full of helpful insights and illustrations.


(Click on the title to learn more or order from


A couple was celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary. Over the years they had raised a brood of 10 children and were blessed with 22 grandchildren.

When asked the secret for staying together all that time, the wife replied, “Many years ago we made a promise to each other: the first one to pack up and leave has to take all the kids.”

“Never try to teach a pig to sing. It wastes your time, and it annoys the pig.”
(Paul Dickson)


Actually taken from classified ads in newspapers:

    * Free Yorkshire Terrier. 8 Years Old. Hateful little dog.

    * Free Puppies: 1/2 Cocker Spaniel 1/2 Sneaky neighbor’s dog

    * Free Puppies…Part German Shepherd, Part Stupid Dog

    * German Shepherd 85 lbs. Neutered. Speaks German. Free.

    * FOUND: Dirty White Dog, Looks Like a Rat… Been Out Awhile, Better Be Reward.

    * Amana Washer $100. Owned by clean bachelor who seldom washed.

    * Snow Blower For Sale. Used only on snowy days

    * 2 Wire Mesh Butchering Gloves: 1 5-finger, 1 3-finger, Pair: $15

    * Nordic Track $300  Hardly Used. Call Chubbie.

    * Shakespeare’s Pizza. Free chopsticks.

    * Hummels – Largest Selection Ever – “IF IT’S IN STOCK, WE HAVE IT!”

    * Georgia Peaches, California Grown.  89 cents lb.

    * Nice Parachute, Never Opened. Used Once, Slightly Stained.

    * FREE: Farm Kittens. Ready to Eat.

    * American Flag, 60 Stars. Pole Included. $100

    * Tired of working for only $9.75 an hour? We offer profit sharing and flexible hours. Starting pay: $7-$9 per hour.

    * Our sofa seats the whole mob and it’s made of 100% Italian leather.

    * Joining nudist colony! Must sell washer & dryer, $300.

    * Alzheimer’s Center Prepares for an Affair to Remember

    * Open House. Body Shapers Toning Salon – Free Coffee & Donuts

    * FOR SALE BY OWNER. Complete set of Encyclopedia Britannica. 45 volumes. Excellent condition. $1,000.00 or best offer. No longer needed. Got married last weekend. Wife knows everything.

  (from The Daily Dilly)

When someone robs you, you call the police. Except, perhaps, when what they stole was marijuana you had planned to sell.

According to a Sept. 7 AP story, a 19-year-old Felton, CA man telephoned police after armed thieves stole his quarter-pound stash of pot. He told police that two men, one armed with a handgun, robbed him at gunpoint as he sat in his car last Tuesday night.

“It was unique to have people who were dealing drugs calling us when they’ve been ripped off,” police spokesman Zach Friend said.

After police arrived, the dealer eventually admitted he had arranged to sell the marijuana to the men who stole it from him, investigators said. However, the man was not arrested despite his admission.

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