From the Editor:

Called to Lead

10 Reasons You’re Probably Going to Fail
Is Your Church a Purple Cow?

Resilience, Overcoming Challenges
Emmanuel – God with Us
Christmas Gifts, Credit

Link of the Week

Preacher’s Bookshelf


And Finally…

“All men desire peace, but very few desire those things that make for peace.”
(Thomas à Kempis

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    Vol. 7, No. 42 December 1, 2008    
Michael Duduit

I was reading a 2001 sermon by Will Willimon–then at Duke Divinity School–and came across his observations on leadership in the midst of a sermon on God’s call of the prophet Jeremiah. As one who studies leaders, it’s good to be reminded leadership ultimately is rooted in the call of God, as Will observes:

It is odd of God to pick Jeremiah. Jeremiah knows as much. He lodges a basic objection: ‘I can’t talk good.’ In saying that he is not good at public speaking, Jeremiah is not acting humbly. He really isn’t any good at any of the skills listed on a job description for a prophet.

“To Jeremiah’s objections, God promises to give him all he needs to do the job right. Perhaps God believes in Jeremiah more than the boy believes in himself. Maybe an all-knowing God sees something in Jeremiah, some potential awaiting development, that Jeremiah can’t see. From this vignette I derive three Principles for Biblical Leadership:

“1. Leadership begins in the mind of God, as gracious inclusion of humanity into the plan and purposes of God. The roots of biblical leadership are essentially theological rather than anthropological. God’s choice tells us more about the quality of God than the positive qualities of the people who are called to lead.

“2. Speaking of the people who are called to lead, they are almost universally, laughably, the wrong people. That is, it is almost as if God goes out of God’s way to pick those who, at least on the face of it, have no virtues or qualities that suggest they would be good leaders. Perhaps God likes a challenge. Maybe God, being a Creator who makes something out of nothing, considers vocation a continuing aspect of creation. Any God who could make an introverted kid like Jeremiah into a really quite wonderfully prophetic leader must be some God.

“3. The qualities of ‘good leadership’ are more gracious gifts of God to be gratefully received rather than skills, techniques or knowledge to be savvily developed. When the chips are down, all biblical leaders have for credentials is faith in the promise, ‘Go. I will be with you’ (1:1).

“I know. It goes quite against our grain to conceive of leadership in this way, as the choice and work of God, rather than something that we do. We enjoy thinking of our lives as something we decide, a project we have chosen, a path we have conceived on our own. Specifically biblical leadership begins, not in our ambition to rule, or in realistic assessment of our talents, but rather in summons. As Jesus put this in Gospel Leadership 101: ‘You did not choose Me, but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last…’ (John 15:16a).”

Michael Duduit, Editor

Preaching podcast: Listen to my visit with Mike Glenn, which originally ran the week of Oct. 24, 2007. You can find it at www.preaching.com.


In a recent blog posting, Tony Morgan talks about reasons why leaders fail:

It’s not your passion. If it doesn’t make your heart beat fast or cause your mind to race when you’re trying to sleep, you’re probably doing the wrong thing.

You don’t have a plan. You need a vision, and you need to identify specific steps to make that vision become reality. That includes a financial plan. (I happen to believe you need direction from God on this.)

You’re waiting for it to be perfect. Test-drive it. Beta-test that new idea. You’ll fall into the trap of inaction if you think it has to be absolutely right from day one.

You’re not willing to work hard. Everything worth pursuing in my life has involved discipline and perseverance.

It’ll outgrow you. Keep learning. Keep growing. But more importantly, build a team of people including leaders who can be who you’re not.

You’ve had success in the past. I’ve watched organizations hang on to a good idea for too long. Time passes. Momentum fades. It’s risky to let go of the past and jump on the next wave.

You’re unwilling to stop doing something else. Complexity is easy. Simplicity takes discipline. You can’t build a healthy marriage if you’re unwilling to give up dating other women. Who/what do you need to stop dating?

You won’t build a team of friends. Anyone can hire from a resume. You need to find people you want to share life with. In the long run, great relationships will get you out of bed in the morning.

You won’t have the tough conversations. When breakdown happens (and it always does), someone needs to put on their big-boy pants and initiate the difficult conversation that leads to relational healing.

You’re afraid of failure. When fear consumes you, it will cause you to do stupid things. You’ll let negativity distract you. You’ll embrace the known and grow comfortable with mediocrity. The more often you fail, though, the more often you’ll find success.


As long as we are looking at blog entries, here’s one from Mark Batterson:

“One of my favorite marketing books is Purple Cow by Seth Godin. The book revolves around this metaphor: If you’ve seen one brown cow you’ve seen them all. But a purple cow, now that would catch your attention. One statement in the book has profound implications: ‘If you aren’t remarkable you’re invisible.’

“Every church needs to paint itself purple. I’m not talking about gimmicks. I’m not talking about being different for difference’s sake. I’m talking about making such a remarkable difference in our communities that we are unignorable.

“So how do we paint ourselves purple? For starters, dare to be different. You might offend some Pharisees, but that isn’t who you’re trying to reach. Secondly, disrupt the routine. I think it starts with your personal routine. Change of pace + change of place = change of perspective. You need to get out of your routine so you can have some purple thoughts.

“As a leader, you need to cause confusion. Jesus didn’t do orientations. He did disorientations. You need to find new ways of saying old things (see the parables). You need to find new wineskins. You need to sing a new song. Neurological studies have found familiarity stimulates the left-brain. Novelty stimulates the right-brain. We need some Spirit-inspired, right-brained ideas that capture the imagination of the church and the world.”



Florida in April? Sounds good, doesn’t it? What will make it even better is investing three days that can change your ministry forever.

Make your plans now to join us for the 20th Annual National Conference on Preaching, April 20-22, 2009, in Tampa, Florida. The conference theme is “Preaching to Change Lives,” and your ministry will be strengthened through the addresses, powerful sermons and practical workshops at NCP 2009. You’ll enjoy a great line-up of speakers, including:

John Ortberg
Stuart Briscoe
Jack Graham
Robert Smith
Dave Stone
Ed Stetzer
Steve Brown
Ralph Douglas West
Tommy Green
Steve Sjogren
Timothy Warren

and many more. Register now to take advantage of the early-bird discount registration rate. To learn more or to register today, click here.



Thomas Edison’s laboratory virtually was destroyed by fire in December 1914. Although the damage exceeded $2 million, the buildings only were insured for $238,000 because they were made of concrete and thought to be fireproof. Much of Edison’s life’s work went up in spectacular flames that December night.

At the height of the fire, Edison’s 24-year-old son, Charles, frantically searched for his father among the smoke and debris. He finally found him, calmly watching the scene, his face glowing in the reflection, his white hair blowing in the wind.

“My heart ached for him,” said Charles. “He was 67–no longer a young man–and everything was going up in flames. When he saw me, he shouted, “Charles, where’s your mother?” When I told him I didn’t know, he said, “Find her. Bring her here. She never will see anything like this as long as she lives.”

The next morning, Edison looked at the ruins and said, “There is great value in disaster. All our mistakes are burned up. Thank God we can start anew.” Three weeks after the fire, Edison delivered his first phonograph. (The Sower’s Seeds)


Max Lucado tells about his neighbor who was trying to teach his 6-year-old son how to shoot a basketball. They were out in the backyard. The father shot a couple of times, saying, “Do it just like that, son; it’s real easy.” The little boy tried very hard but he couldn’t get the ball 10 feet into the air. The little fellow got more and more frustrated. Finally, after hearing his father talk about how easy it was for the 10th time, the boy said, “It’s easy for you up there. You don’t know how hard it is from down here.”
You and I never can say that about God. When Jesus became man and lived among us, He walked where we walk; He suffered what we suffer; He was tempted as we are tempted. He was Emmanuel, which means, “God is with us.” (Bill Bouknight, Collected Sermons)

From the January – February issue of Preaching …

In an article on contextual preaching, Ed Stetzer writes: “The apostle Paul began where the people he was speaking to were. For the Jews, the starting point was their ancient history rooted in Old Testament Scripture. On the other hand, Paul connected with the Greeks at their point of relevance. He presented Christ in both cases. For us, we may start in a different place, but the context of the message needs to be Christ and the fullness of Scripture. The key is where the communication begins. Scripture sets the agenda and shape of the message, but every message needs the question, ‘Why is this important to me/us?’ If there is no point of connection, the message is simply meaningless facts rather than life-changing truth.

“When we begin at the point of relevance, it does not in any way nullify the importance of rightly dividing the Word of God. We think a common mistake many seeker-driven churches made early on was trying to communicate relevant messages that had little or no biblical content. It seemed the sermons were basically explanations of common-sense wisdom or perhaps biblical principals, but the Bible did not set the shape or agenda of the message.

“We must always remember that ‘consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ’ (Rom. 10:17) and ‘the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart’ (Heb. 4:12). The Bible is not simply a tool for scriptural footnoting or common-sense wisdom.”

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 November-December issue of Preaching: A series on missional preaching, including an article by Ed Stetzer and interviews with Stetzer and Dan Kimball, plus Al Mohler on Preaching & Theology, Ben Awbrey on Preaching with Unction and much more. Order your subscription today!

Here’s an early Christmas gift: If your budget is a bit too tight to spend money on a complete Microsoft Office suite of programs (which includes things like Word, Excel, Powerpoint, etc.), there is an alternative. OpenOffice.org is a complete suite of similar programs available for free download to your computer. It includes software for word processing, calculations, presentations, databases and so on–pretty much anything you’d get from the big guys.

Vision isn’t enough unless combined with venture. It’s not enough to stare up the steps unless we also step up the stairs.” (Vance Havner)

Among the new preaching books recently released is He Is Not Silent (Moody) by R. Albert Mohler Jr. Known primarily for his biblically based cultural analysis, Mohler shifts his attention to the pulpit to argue that biblical exposition is the only approach to effective preaching in a postmodern era. His formula: Read. Explain. Repeat. (Preaching magazine readers will enjoy an excerpt from this book in the January-February issue.)


One will find quite a different perspective on preaching in Speaking Truth in a Pluralistic Culture (Abingdon) by Samuel Wells. The book primarily is composed of sermons preached at Duke University, where Wells serves as Dean of the Chapel.

On a different note altogether, a little book I recently picked up in the local bookstore would be helpful to pastors in their role as leaders of the church. The Five Most Important Questions You Will Ever Ask About Your Organization (Jossey-Bass) is not written specifically for churches, but it does focus on not-for-profit organizations, and church leaders will find much of relevance for them. You’ll be helped by insights from Peter Drucker, Jim Collins and a host of top leadership thinkers.

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


After spending most of a day shopping with her grandson, purchasing gift after gift, the final stop on her checklist was to take the boy to see Santa in the mall’s center court area.

At the end of their visit, Santa gave the tyke a small gift. When he said nothing, grandma prodded him, “What do you say to Santa?”

“Charge it,” the boy replied.  (from Sermon Fodder)



‘Twas the night before Christmas
when all through the house
I searched for the tools
to hand to my spouse.

Instructions were studied
and we were inspired,
in hopes we could manage
“Some Assembly Required.”

The children were quiet (not asleep) in their beds,
while Dad and I faced the evening with dread:
a kitchen, two bikes, Barbie’s townhouse to boot!
And now, thanks to Grandpa, a train with a toot!

We opened the boxes,
my heart skipped a beat–
let no parts be missing
or parts incomplete!

Too late for last-minute returns or replacement;
if we can’t get it right, it goes straight to the basement!
When what to my worrying eyes should appear
but 50 sheets of directions, concise, but not clear;

With each part numbered and every slot named,
so if we failed, only we could be blamed.
More rapid than eagles the parts then fell out,
all over the carpet they were scattered about.

“Now bolt it! Now twist it! Attach it right there!
Slide on the seats, and staple the stair!
Hammer the shelves, and nail to the stand.”
“Honey,” said hubby, “you just glued my hand.”

And then in a twinkling, I knew for a fact
that all the toy dealers had indeed made a pact
to keep parents busy all Christmas Eve night
with “assembly required” till morning’s first light.

We spoke not a word, but kept bent at our work,
’til our eyes, they went blurry; our fingers all hurt.
The coffee went cold; and the night, it wore thin
before we attached the last rod and last pin.

Then laying the tools away in the chest,
we fell into bed for a well-deserved rest.
But I said to my husband just before I passed out,
“This will be the best Christmas, without any doubt.

“Tomorrow we’ll cheer, let the holiday ring,
and not run to the store for one single thing!
We did it! We did it! The toys are all set
for the perfect, most magical Christmas, I bet!”

Then off to dreamland and sweet repose
I gratefully went, though I suppose
there’s something to say for those self-deluded-
I’d forgotten that BATTERIES are never included!

And you thought turkey was only for Thanksgiving dinner.

A shopper clubbed an alleged carjacker with a frozen turkey as he tried to steal a woman’s car in a grocery store parking lot, according to a Nov. 24 AP story.

Police say 30-year-old Fred Louis Ervin stole money from a gas station before running across the street to a Harris Teeter store just south of Raleigh, North Carolina. Police say he began beating Irene Bailey while stealing her car.

Other shoppers came to her rescue, including one who hit Ervin with the turkey. Despite serious head injuries, Ervin got away in Bailey’s car and hit several other cars as he fled. Police arrested him a short time later.

He faces several charges including assault inflicting serious injury. Ervin was hospitalized Monday in good condition.

No reports as to what he ate on Thanksgiving.

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