From the Editor:

Can You Hear Me Now?

Preaching with an Invitational Edge
Church of Oprah

Priorities, Belief
Recruitment, Impact

Link of the Week

Preacher’s Bookshelf


And Finally…

“If you simply address the God-shaped blank that people think they’ve got, the God that you end up with is the God shaped by the blank.”

(N.T. Wright)

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    Vol. 7, No. 19 May 13, 2008    
Michael Duduit

One of the presidential candidates is in big trouble because news commentators find it hard to believe he could have sat in a church for 20 years and not heard what the pastor was talking about.

Obviously these news people have no experience as preachers. Anyone who has pastored a church for any length of time has no problem believing there are people who sit in those pews for 20 years or more and never hear a thing.

In fact, the thing that keeps us going is the realization there are some out there who are actually listening!

Michael Duduit, Editor

This week’s featured podcast is with Adam Hamilton, pastor of the fast-growing Church of the Resurrection in Kansas City. Go to our podcast page to hear this or one of several dozen other podcast interviews.

Last call for this special subscription offer available to Preaching Now readers: two years of Preaching magazine for just $24.95. That’s less than half the regular cost! Act now!


In the Winter 2008 issue of Leadership Journal, Leighton Ford notes, “Every sermon should have the gospel at its core and an invitational edge. This is not to say every sermon should aim at not-yet-believers. Most sermons will be heard by people who already have some knowledge of Jesus, but every sermon needs a spirit that invites people to follow Jesus.

“How could George Buttrick have known one Advent Sunday morning at Madison Avenue Presbyterian in New York that a struggling young novelist would be present, or that a single question (‘Are you going home for Christmas?’) would be the spiritual pivot point for Frederick Buechner?

“More recently, Efrem Smith, who pastors Sanctuary Covenant, a 3-year-old church aiming to be a multi-ethnic, holistic and Christ-centered community serving urban North Minneapolis, captured the core and the edge of gospel preaching.

“One Sunday he preached that the gospel speaks to our lives now, as well as our eternal lives:
‘How many kids have to die, while we go home still talking about churchy stuff? How many homicides have to happen before we stop playing church and become the kingdom of God in the streets? Kids are dying, and we are in church.’

“As he invites people to be prayed for, many come forward for healing, for a reconciled relationship with God, for passion and purpose in their life.

“The gospel is the core, with an invitational edge. So we preach the gospel never knowing what listeners have been drawn by the Holy Spirit. We also preach knowing those who are already Christ-followers need to be constantly re-evangelized, reminded that our faith journeys continue as they began – by grace – and the way we preach in the pulpit may be a model for disciples to know how to talk about their faith in the marketplace. (Click here to read the full article.)


In his Serious Times Web site, James Emery White (a Preaching contributing editor) talks about the latest wave of Oprah influence: as America’s spiritual guide. 

“Much of her guidance is deeply Christian and highly commendable, pulling from her Baptist upbringing. In her book, The Gospel According to Oprah, Marcia Nelson outlines some of the commendable aspects of Oprah’s spirituality, including the themes of forgiveness and generosity, self-examination, gratitude and community. 

“But there’s more to her spirituality than a few broad, generic Christian themes. It increasingly reflects currents of thought embodied by such authors as Deepak Chopra, Marianne Williamson, and most recently, Eckhart Tolle (pronounced ‘toe-lee’), whose latest book, A New Earth, has seen nearly 5 million shipped with the Oprah seal on the front thanks to a series of 10 ‘live’ Monday night Web seminars, which began on March 3 featuring Tolle and Winfrey on Oprah’s website. So popular were the webcasts the first night brought down the server when more than 500,000 people tried to log on. Now, nearly 2 million have downloaded or streamed the first class. So what are people learning? 

“As Tolle writes in the foreword to his book, Stillness Speaks, his thinking ‘can be seen as a revival for the present age of the oldest form of recorded spiritual teaching: the sutras of ancient India.’

“Translation? Hinduism. Or as he packages it, an eclectic gathering of gleanings from Hinduism, Buddhism and watered-down Christianity. Result? A fresh presentation of what is commonly called the New Age Movement, which tends to have four basic ideas: 

“The first is that ‘all is one, and one is all,’ which means, of course, ‘God is all, and all is God,’ which also means, ‘ “I am God.’ In his book, The Power of Now, Eckhart Tolle says he doesn’t like to use the word ‘God,’ or to talk about finding God, because it implies an entity other than you, or me.

“The second major belief is that because most people don’t realize they are god, they need to be enlightened. This enlightenment can flow from many sources, including ‘spirit-channeling.’ Marianne Williamson, a frequent guest of Oprah’s, had garnered her first bestseller – A Return to Love – by popularizing A Course in Miracles, which the author claimed was dictated by a spirit voice, which she says was Jesus, but not Jesus of Nazareth.

“The third major belief is everything is relative. What Tolle advocates, and what you will find advocated by many of Oprah’s recent guests, is the truth is simply within you. Tolle says, ‘The Truth is inseparable from who you are…you are the truth.’ In fact, he distorts Jesus’ famous statement, ‘I am the way, the truth and the life,’ by claiming what Jesus meant was that He was His own truth, just like we can be our own truth.

“A fourth major belief, in one form or another, is reincarnation. Toward the end of A New Earth, Tolle writes, ‘When the lion tears apart the body of the zebra, the consciousness that incarnated into the zebra-form detaches itself from the dissolving form and for a brief moment awakens to its essential immortal nature as consciousness, then immediately falls back into sleep and reincarnates into another form.’

“Of course, there is nothing new about new age thinking. It dates back further than Hinduism. Indeed, it can be found in the opening chapters of Genesis, for it was the heart of Satan’s temptation of Adam and Eve (Gen. 3:1-5).” (Click here to read the full commentary.)


Join us October 20-21 for Preaching West, a two-day preaching conference in Newport Beach, California. The theme is “Preaching Biblical Truth in a Changing Culture,” and speakers will include: Dan Kimball, Pastor, Vintage Faith Church in Santa Cruz, Calif. and author of They Like Jesus but Not the Church; James L. Wilson, Professor of Leadership at Golden Gate Baptist Seminary and author of Future Church; John A. Huffman, Senior Pastor of St. Andrews Presbyterian Church in Newport Beach, Calif.; Michael Duduit, Editor of Preaching magazine; and John Webb, Professor of Communication and Ministry at Hope International University. Click here to learn more.


Advice to Graduates by Mary Schmich (not Kurt Vonnegut):

Wear sunscreen. If I could offer you only one tip for the future, sunscreen would be it. The long-term benefits of sunscreen have been proved by scientists, whereas the rest of my advice has no basis more reliable than my own meandering experience. I will dispense this advice now.

Enjoy the power and beauty of your youth. Oh, never mind. You will not understand the power and beauty of your youth until they’ve faded, but trust me, in 20 years, you’ll look back at photos of yourself and recall in a way you can’t grasp now how much possibility lay before you and how fabulous you really looked. You are not as fat as you imagine.

Don’t worry about the future. Or worry, but know that worrying is as effective as trying to solve an algebra equation by chewing bubble gum. The real troubles in your life are apt to be things that never crossed your worried mind, the kind that blindside you at 4pm on some idle Tuesday.

Do one thing every day that scares you.


Don’t be reckless with other people’s hearts. Don’t put up with people who are reckless with yours.


Don’t waste your time on jealousy. Sometimes you’re ahead, sometimes you’re behind. The race is long and, in the end, it’s only with yourself.

Remember compliments you receive. Forget the insults. If you succeed in doing this, tell me how.

Keep your old love letters. Throw away your old bank statements.


Don’t feel guilty if you don’t know what you want to do with your life. The most interesting people I know didn’t know at 22 what they wanted to do with their lives. Some of the most interesting 40-year-olds I know still don’t.

Get plenty of calcium.

Be kind to your knees. You’ll miss them when they’re gone.

Enjoy your body. Use it every way you can. Don’t be afraid of it or of what other people think of it. It’s the greatest instrument you’ll ever own.

Dance, even if you have nowhere to do it but your living room.

Read the directions, even if you don’t follow them.

Do not read beauty magazines. They will only make you feel ugly.

Get to know your parents. You never know when they’ll be gone for good. Be nice to your siblings. They’re your best link to your past and the people most likely to stick with you in the future.

Understand that friends come and go, but with a precious few you should hold on. Work hard to bridge the gaps in geography and lifestyle, because the older you get, the more you need the people who knew you when you were young.

Accept certain inalienable truths: Prices will rise. Politicians will philander. You, too, will get old, and when you do, you’ll fantasize that when you were young, prices were reasonable, politicians were noble, and children respected their elders.

Respect your elders.

Don’t expect anyone else to support you. Maybe you have a trust fund. Maybe you’ll have a wealthy spouse, but you never know when either one might run out.

Be careful whose advice you buy, but be patient with those who supply it. Advice is a form of nostalgia. Dispensing it is a way of fishing the past from the disposal, wiping it off, painting over the ugly parts, and recycling it for more than it’s worth. But trust me on the sunscreen.  (From MikeysFunnies.com)


James Michener, in his book The Source, tells the story of a man named Urbaal, who was a farmer living about 2200 B.C. He worships two gods: one, a god of death; the other, a goddess of fertility. One day, the temple priests tell Urbaal to bring his young son to the temple for sacrifice – if he wants good crops. Urbaal obeys, and on the appointed day drags his wife and boy to the scene of the boy’s “religious execution” by fire to the god of death.

After the sacrifice of Urbaal’s boy along with several others, the priests announce one of the fathers will spend next week in the temple, with a new temple prostitute. Urbaal’s wife is stunned as she notices a desire written more intensely across his face than she had ever seen, and she is overwhelmed to see him eagerly lunge forward when his name is called. The ceremony over, she walks out of the temple with her head swimming, concluding that, “If he had different gods, he would have been a different man.”

What you believe determines where you go, what you do, how you spend your time. What you believe determines how you respond to hard times, temptation, and pressures around you. What you believe determines where you will spend eternity, and how quickly you get there. Really, what you believe determines who you are. (Pat Cook, SermonCentral newsletter.)

From the May-June issue of Preaching …

In a sermon on the Kingdom of God by Wayne Brouwer, he illustrates: Our youngest daughter was born in Nigeria while I was teaching at the Reformed Theological College in Mkar. Because the Nigerian government does not automatically grant citizenship to all who are born on its soil, Kaitlyn was truly a person without a country in her earliest days. Until I could process her existence with the United States consulate in Kaduna she had no official identity, no traveling permissions, and no rights in society outside of our home. We took a picture of her at five days old, sleeping in my hands, and this became the photograph used on her passport for the first 10 years of her life.

The snapshot may have become outdated quickly as she grew through the stages of childhood, but the passport to which it was affixed declared she belonged to the United States of America. She had rights. She had privileges. She had protection under the law. When the time came for us to leave Nigeria and travel through three continents to get back to North America, that little passport opened doors and prepared the way for her. She had never lived in the States, but she was known by name and America kept watch over her.

So it is and more with the kingdom of heaven, according to Jesus. It becomes the badge of identification for us, as well as the symbol of our protection and care. When we choose other pearls, or dig around for treasures in our own backyards, we get from them what we are looking for-things we can possess. When the great prize of the hidden treasure comes our way, or we stumble onto the pearl of great price, we realize our little hordes are insufficient. It is not enough to own a piece of fading substance; we need to be owned by something which transcends our time. We need God to lay hold of us.

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 May-June issue of Preaching: It’s one of the issues our members most want us to address and yet we often avoid: sexuality. In this issue we have articles on “Preaching and Marital Intimacy,” “Preaching on Homosexuality,” and much more. Plus you’ll enjoy an interview with creative communicator Ron Martoia, articles by Robert Smith and D.A. Carson, great sermons, and much more. Order your subscription today!

Ed Stetzer of LifeWay Research interviews Tim Keller, New York pastor and best-selling author (see Preacher’s Bookshelf below), in this interesting podcast at the LifeWay site.

“It’s what you learn after you know it all that counts.” (John Wooden)

Tim Keller’s new book The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism (Dutton) builds an intellectual foundation for God in the 21st century. This is destined to be an enormously influential book, and church leaders will want to be familiar with it.



What’s the Shape of Narrative Preaching? (Chalice) is an interesting collection of essays gathered in honor of Eugene Lowry. The contributors include Ron Allen, Fred Craddock, David Buttrick, Tom Long, Frank Thomas and many more. Students of preaching will find interesting insights, though you quickly will recognize most of the contributors are drawn from the mainline churches.


Where Is God When We Suffer?

Pastors regularly minister to those experiencing grief. A helpful new resource to share with them is When Your Family’s Lost a Loved One (Tyndale House) by David & Nancy Guthrie. The Guthries speak to the issue out of their own experience of losing two infant children, and they also host the GriefShare video series used in many support groups around the US. You’ll want to have copies of this book available to share with hurting families.

(Click on the title to learn more or order from Amazon.)


Coach Shug Jordan at Auburn University asked his former Linebacker Mike Kollin, who was then playing for the Miami Dolphins, if he would help his alma mater do some recruiting.

Mike said, “Sure, coach. What kind of player are you looking for?” The coach said, “Well Mike, you know there’s that fellow, you knock him down, he just stays down?” Mike said, “We don’t want him, do we, coach?”

“No, that’s right. Then there’s that fellow, you knock him down and he gets up, you knock him down again and he stays down.” Mike said, “We don’t want him either do we coach?”

Coach said, “No, but Mike, there’s a fellow, you knock him down, he gets up. Knock him down, he gets up. Knock him down, he gets up. Knock him down, he gets up.”

Mike said, “That’s the guy we want isn’t it, coach?” The coach answered, “No, Mike, we don’t want him either. I want you to find the guy who’s knocking everybody down. That’s the guy we want.”


~ Jumping on the bandwagon
~ Wading through paperwork
~ Running around in circles
~ Pushing your luck
~ Spinning your wheels
~ Adding fuel to the fire
~ Beating your head against the wall
~ Climbing the walls
~ Beating your own drum
~ Dragging your heels
~ Jumping to conclusions
~ Grasping at straws
~ Fishing for compliments
~ Throwing your weight around
~ Passing the buck

Police were able to sniff out the person who stole the candy bars.

It was the odor of chocolate on the suspect’s breath that gave away a 15-year-old boy accused of shoplifting candy bars in Bremerton, Wash., according to a May 6 AP story. An officer responding to the shoplifting report caught up with the suspect on a bicycle.

First he denied taking candy bars, but the officer could smell an odor of chocolate and called witnesses who identified the boy. He later confessed.

It’s a good thing he didn’t rob a garlic shop. The witnesses may have been a bit less cooperative.

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