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From the Editor:

Strategic Changes

Visitors are Gifts of God

Crafting a Good Sermon

Goals, Purpose
Stress, Information

Link of the Week

Preacher’s Bookshelf


And Finally…

“Nothing happens unless first a dream.”

(Carl Sandberg)

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    Vol. 7, No. 8 February 19, 2008    

Michael Duduit

The word of the day for presidential candidates seems to be “change.” I’ll soon be experiencing some change, as well.

This summer, I’ll become the founding Dean of a new Graduate School of Christian Ministry at Anderson University in Anderson, SC. In addition to teaching, I’ll have the privilege of working with a great team in developing a program for equipping church leaders for effective service in the 21st century. It is a wonderful and strategic opportunity for which I am deeply grateful.

Best of all, we don’t have to stop meeting like this. Even after donning this new hat, I will continue to serve as Executive Editor of Preaching magazine, will continue to produce this newsletter, and still will guide the National Conference on Preaching. I’ll be busy, but I’ll be busy doing the things I love best. Who could ask for more?

In the meantime, I’ll ask you for two things: First, if you have ideas about what a great pastoral training program should look like, send me your suggestions; second, please keep my family in your prayers as we prepare for a big move and an exciting adventure.  (Click here to read a story on the appointment.)

Michael Duduit, Editor

Don’t wait! Register now for the National Conference on Preaching, April 7-9 in suburban Washington, DC. Register by March 1 and save $55! Learn more and register at


Nelson Searcy founded The Journey Church of the City in New York shortly after September 11th, 2001. Since then, it has grown to more than 1,000 members. In a recent article for Church Central, Searcy says churches should view visitors as gifts from God.

“God isn’t sending a single person through our doors haphazardly, so we have a responsibility to treat each guest in a way that will make him want to come back again and again,” he told Church Central.

Searcy also advises churches to prepare for guests by thinking through the experience they will have upon arriving at your church. When it comes to guests, he says the biggest mistake churches make is failing to plan to properly welcome and follow up with them.

Searcy’s new book, Fusion: Turning First-Time Guests into Fully Engaged Members of Your Church (Regal), delineates a complete system that any church can use to help move each new attender along the continuum to becoming a fully-engaged member and a fully-developing follower of Christ. (Click here to learn more about the book Fusion.)

Then the process of welcoming guests begins all over again as new church members are educated in welcoming. This is an important aspect of discipleship and evangelism, according to Searcy, who says preachers would do well to prepare sermons on how to be a welcoming church.

“By spending a little time preaching on the importance of biblical hospitality, you can ensure that your people exude a warm and welcoming spirit when your guests arrive,” Searcy says.

He also suggests church leaders encourage their members to invite unchurched friends by preaching on the importance of reaching out. “Remind your people that their friends will be more open to coming to church on Easter Sunday than at any other time of the year,” Searcy says.  (Click here to read the full article.)


In an article on “How to Craft a Good Sermon” for the SermonCentral newsletter, Kent Anderson writes: “I would suggest four elements that ought to be present in one form or another whenever we preach. While people are individual and unique, the basic needs of human beings are universal. Preachers can help their people if they pay attention to a few basic elements…

Tell a Story: Every text in Scripture has a story because it is always written in the context of real people and real situations. Preachers need to help their listeners connect with the humanity in the Bible in order to see the relevance of what God wants to say. Good preaching, then, places the sermon in the context of real human experience. It tells the stories of actual people in real time so contemporary listeners can locate their own life in the context of the sermon.

Make an Argument: The Bible is also about ideas. Good preachers will teach the listener the truths that can help them live in accordance with God’s will. God challenges people with an alternative approach to understanding and living life. People will grow in their faith if they are led to understand the propositions of God’s word. Preachers need to work to help listeners appreciate the reasons for their faith.

Solve a Mystery: Preaching needs to respond to the deep-seated questions people have for God. We can’t accept that just because listeners understand what we are saying that they are prepared to give their lives. While we might not always like the things we hear, preachers need to help their listeners struggle with the mysteries.

Paint a Picture: Sermons ought to offer listeners a compelling vision of the future. Preachers need to show listeners how their encounter with God’s word can change their lives forever. What will it actually look like in our lives because we have heard from God and responded to him in faith? Can we motivate listeners to respond faithfully to the things we have heard from God?” (Click here to read the full article.)


Plan now to join us for the 19th annual National Conference on Preaching, which will be held April 7-9 in suburban Washington, DC. “Preaching and the Public Square: Where Do Pulpit and Culture Meet?” is the provocative theme of the three-day event. You’ll hear speakers and panelists explore how preaching can and should engage cultural issues in the 21st century. You’ll get great ideas from a selection of practical preaching workshops. At NCP 2008, you’ll enjoy insights and inspiration from some of America’s finest preachers and teachers, including:

Chuck Colson

Rick Warren James MacDonald

Barry Black

William Willimon A.R. Bernard

Mark Batterson

James Emery White Robert Smith Jr.

J. Alfred Smith

Timothy Warren Greg Thornbury

and many more. To learn more or to register, visit the NCP website at or call (toll free) 1-866-460-0950. Register before March 1 to save $55 off the regular registration fee!


In the Spring 2007 issue of Kindred Spirit, Chuck Swindoll writes, “A friend of mine is one of those crazy runners. You know the type – fifteen miles a day, marathons, pilgrimages to his favorite running routes all over the country, an obsession with breaking personal records, or in fanatical running lingo, his ‘PRs’ …

“But don’t you want to know why anyone would want to do this to his body? I asked my friend recently what he likes about running. ‘The finish line,’ he said. And there you have it. He runs because he has the finish line in sight. It motivates him to keep putting one blistered foot in front of the other. I guess we can all understand that to some degree. If we can remember our purpose, we can be motivated to improve our practice.”


With today’s constant media barrage of bad news, people feel bad enough already and don’t want anything that makes them feel worse, says anthropologist-turned-brand-strategist Cheryl Swanson. With all the info coming at us 24/7, “We are processing information at 400 times the rate of our Renaissance ancestors.” This is a new human task that we haven’t had time to adapt to yet – physically or mentally. That’s why we’re getting tech-related health problems, like carpal tunnel, and maybe even mental and neurological problems like attention-deficit disorder. Naturally our attention is fraying – we are whipsawed by stimuli!

“Moreover, with that 400 times more information did not come 400 more hours in a day. So, we steal that time from sleep, both deliberately (by working late into the night) and not (by being too wound up to drift off). Hence another big trend: The burgeoning sleep industry, with new pills, pillows, and in the big hotels, even “sleep concierges” all trying to help us get the ZZZs we need.

“Another byproduct of trying to pack too much into the day is the erosion of dinnertime. This, of course, is nothing new. In the ’60s, dinner was (supposedly) 45 minutes long. By the ’90s, it had shrunk to 15 minutes.” As Swanson’s investigators traveled the country, dropping in on real families, they found the sit-down dinner had evaporated almost entirely. “It is now basically five minutes,” says Swanson. “And it’s not even sitting down.”

Families (or chunks of them) eat standing up around the kitchen counter. When parents are not available, kids prepare themselves “latchkey dinners.”  (Advertising Age 11/13/07; via Church Leaders Intelligence Report)

From the March-April issue of Preaching …

The next issue of Preaching includes the announcement of our annual Book of the Year: “At a time when so much of the conversation on preaching deals with presentation, Robert Smith has reminded us that effective teaching must also take the theological task seriously. He makes his case so well that his book, Doctrine that Dances (B&H Publishing), is our Preaching Book of the Year.

Drawing on a broad knowledge of the homiletical tradition and his own experience in the African-American church, Smith guides us through the “sermonic dance steps for doctrinal preaching.” In addition to his outstanding discussion of the doctrinal preaching task, Smith offers two sample sermons to demonstrate how doctrine can truly dance in the pulpit.

Robert Smith is one of the finest preachers of our age, and in Doctrine that Dances he displays much of the exegetical insight and homiletical passion that make him so effective. Smith demonstrates the urgency of doctrinal preaching for today and offers practical counsel that will help such preaching dance rather than drag.”  (Click here to read the full review.)

(Click here to learn more about the book Doctrine that Dances.)


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 March-April issue of Preaching: Insightful articles on preaching and culture – including Mike Milton’s article, “Biblical Preaching in a Pluralistic Culture,” plus our annual survey of the past year’s best books for preachers (including our Preaching Book of the Year and our Top Ten list), sermons by Chuck Swindoll and Stuart Briscoe, and much more. Order your subscription today!

Because new readers constantly are joining us, from time to time I like to remind you of the Christian Classics Ethereal Library, 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 in your list of favorites!

“Give me one hundred preachers who fear nothing but sin and desire nothing but God, and I care not whether they be clergymen or laymen, they alone will shake the gates of Hell and set up the kingdom of Heaven on Earth.” (John Wesley)


James MacDonald is an effective biblical preacher (and a relatively recent addition to our Preaching Board of Contributing Editors). I’ve recently been enjoying his book Ancient Wisdom (B&H Books), which includes the entire text of the book of Proverbs accompanied by some excellent devotional material. In addition to its devotional value, this little book is packed with great preaching ideas, including lots of contemporary examples of practical application of Proverbs.



Another of our Contributing Editors, Calvin Miller, has written The Path of Celtic Prayer (InterVarsity Press). Miller seeks to offer “some aspects of Celtic spiritual practices as a springboard that might enable your prayer life to reach new heights.” Miller includes six principles of prayer that he has found meaningful in his own life. Pastors and church leaders will find encouragement and insight in this book.




Where Is God When We Suffer?

It is all too easy for those of us in ministry to focus on the challenges and problems of our work. In The Joy of Ministry (Westminster John Knox), Thomas W. Currie III reminds us of the privilege of our calling and the joy that is to be found in serving the church of Jesus Christ. He notes: “To undertake ministry is to participate in the love of Christ for this world, which is what the church does by preaching, teaching, and offering pastoral care for Jesus’ sake.”

(Click on the title to learn more or order from



The two teenagers were arrested. The police sergeant told them they were entitled to a phone call. Some time later a man entered the station and asked for them by name.

The sergeant said, “I suppose you’re the lawyer?”

“Nope,” the chap replied. “I’m just here to deliver their pizza.”


1. I started out with nothing, and I still have most of it.

2. My wild oats have turned into prunes and All Bran.

3. I finally got my head together; now my body is falling apart.

4. Funny, I don’t remember being absent minded…

4. Funny, I don’t remember being absent minded…

5. All reports are in – life actually is unfair.

6. If all is not lost, where is it?

7. It is easier to get older than it is to get wiser.

8. Some days you’re the dog; some days you’re the hydrant.

9. I wish the buck stopped here; I sure could use a few.

10. It’s hard to make a comeback when you haven’t been anywhere.

11. The only time the world beats a path to your door is when you’re in the bathroom.

12. If God wanted me to touch my toes, he would have put them on my knees.

13. When I’m finally holding all the cards, why does everyone decide to play chess?

14. It’s not hard to meet expenses…they’re everywhere.

15. The only difference between a rut and a grave is the depth.

16. These days, I spend a lot of time thinking about the hereafter. I go somewhere to get something and then wonder what I’m here after.

17. Funny, I don’t remember being … absent minded … (from TIPS newsletter)

This is not what most people think of when you say “white wedding.”

But it’s the royal treatment received by three Columbus, Ohio, couples when they got married at a White Castle restaurant, according to a Feb. 14 AP story.

The ceremony at the popular hamburger spot involved a flower girl who threw salt and pepper packets instead of rice. The cake resembled a White Castle tray holding three “slyder” burgers, fries, and a drink – all made of cake and frosting.

The nuptials were broadcast live on a local radio station, which paid for the flowers and other arrangements.

Like they say: You get what you pay for.

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