From the Editor:

Criminal Illustrations

First-person Narrative at Easter
Why the Increase in Unbelief?

Easter, Forgiveness, Hope
Deception, Temptation
Heaven, Judgments

Link of the Week

Preacher’s Bookshelf


And Finally…

“We live and die; Christ died and lived!” (John Stott)

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    Vol. 8, No. 13 March 31, 2009    
Michael Duduit

Oops. I think I’m a criminal.

I just read a news story about a Wisconsin pastor who was fined for having a church member shoot an arrow across the platform as part of a sermon illustration. Apparently one attendee protested; and when he refused to be silent, he was removed from the church. At that point, he called police to report the “crime”; and things moved into the justice system, where the member “was cited for using a missile indoors and the pastor was cited for aiding and abetting. Both were fined $109.” (You can read the whole story here.)

Now I’m concerned because I did the same thing. A few years ago I was preaching in a college chapel on the West Coast and had a trained archer stand in the center aisle and shoot an arrow into a target on stage. (I was standing a few feet away from the target, which–in retrospect–seems pretty dumb on my part.) The target was covered with paper so you couldn’t see the rings, but later in the message I tore off the paper and you could see the arrow right in the bull’s-eye. It was pretty cool.

Now I’m worried that I may be a fugitive from justice. What do you suppose the statute of limitations is for sermon illustrations?

Michael Duduit, Editor

Follow me on Twitter: http://twitter.com/MichaelDuduit

On this week’s Preaching Podcast: This week’s podcast features an interview with Mark Galli, who talks about his new book on the attributes of God and why that issue is important to preaching.


In an article for PreachingTodaySermons, Torrey Robinson suggests using first-person narrative sermons around Easter and Christmas as a way to increase listener attention. He writes: “A first-person sermon starts with either a character or a text. A Scripture passage may suggest an individual, or your interest in a character may lead you to a text. This year I started with a character. I have long been fascinated by Cleopas, one of the two disciples who encountered Jesus on the road to Emmaus. The story raised questions in my mind: Who was he? Where was Emmaus located? How could Cleopas and his companion spend several hours walking with Jesus without recognizing him? These questions drew me to Luke 24:13–35.

“After selecting a text and character, it’s time for further study. A survey of several key passages where the character is mentioned may reveal some helpful information about that person. You may consult a Bible handbook, Bible Dictionary, Bible commentary or even books of historical fiction to learn more about your character.

“In your study of the text, the main objective is to understand what the passage is talking about, its main idea. In Luke 24:13-35, I found the central idea on the other side of a forest of questions. What kept Cleopas and his companion from recognizing Jesus when he first caught up with them on the road? Since Cleopas and his companion had expected Jesus to redeem Israel, what was Cleopas’ understanding of redemption? Why did Jesus disappear when they finally recognized him? What is significant about their recognizing Jesus in the breaking of the bread?

“Determining the central thought of a biblical text is often the hardest work in sermon preparation. Narrative passages can make this work especially challenging because seldom does the narrator state his idea directly. However difficult it may be, it is absolutely essential to determine the focus of the passage. To tell a story without understanding it is just blowing fog. After some study, I was able to clearly state Luke’s idea: Cleopas came to see that the suffering and death that he thought had disqualified Jesus as Messiah in fact uniquely qualified Jesus to be the Messiah.

“Once you’ve grasped what the biblical writer is saying, you are ready to identify your purpose. Why are you preaching this sermon? With a clear purpose in mind, a sermon will have the unmistakable ring of relevance. I wanted my sermon to do three things: First, I wanted non-Christians to see that Jesus suffered on the cross for their sin. Second, I wanted the congregation to feel the hope of God. Third, I desired for my listeners to have a burning heart experience with Jesus.” (Click here to read the full article.)


Responding to a recent survey showing that 15 percent of Americans express no religious connections, James Emery White deals with several key questions in his latest Serious Times commentary: “First, what is happening? In what I consider an overlooked book, Without God, Without Creed: The Origins of Unbelief in America, James Turner argues that unbelief is not something that has happened ‘to’ religion. Instead, he argues that religion has caused unbelief. ‘In trying to adapt their religious beliefs to socioeconomic change, to new moral challenges, to novel problems of knowledge, to the tightening standards of science, the defenders of God slowly strangled Him’ (p. xii). Specifically, many who believed decided ‘to deal with modernity by embracing it–to defuse modern threats to the traditional bases of belief by bringing God into line with modernity’ (p. 266). In so doing, they forgot that ‘God’s purposes were not supposed to be man’s…They forgot, in short, that their God was–as any God had to be to command belief over the long term–radically other than man…unbelief emerged because church leaders too often forgot the transcendence essential to any worthwhile God. They committed religion functionally to making the world better in human terms and intellectually to modes of knowing God fitted only for understanding this world’ (p. 267). Mark Silk, director of the Greenberg Center for the Study of Religion in Public Life at Trinity College, seems to be in agreement with Turner’s thesis, noting that there is a ‘considerable softening of the edges in doctrine, politics and social values’ contributing to the rise of the ‘nones.’

“Second, what does this mean? It is not that unbelief is driving out belief, Turner adds, but that unbelief has become more readily available as an answer to the question, ‘What about God?’ (p. 262). Unbelief is becoming mainstreamed, as evidenced by Barack Obama’s recognition of people without faith, the first president to do so, in his inaugural address.

“Finally, what can be done? The most direct answer is that we must see America as a mission field. As an Episcopalian priest from South Carolina recently offered, ‘A couple came in to my office once with a yellow pad of their teenage son’s questions. One of them was: “What is that guy doing hanging up there on the plus sign?”‘

“Sociologist Peter Berger once quipped, ‘If India is the most religious country on our planet, and Sweden is the least religious, America is a land of Indians ruled by Swedes.’ What we must now realize is that we are increasingly simply a land of Swedes.” (www.serioustimes.com)


Would you like to invest a week and come away with your year’s preaching plan? Preaching magazine and Anderson University jointly are sponsoring the first Preaching Boot Camp, May 18-22, 2009, on the campus in Anderson, South Carolina. The focus of this year’s camp is on planning a preaching schedule, and the keynote speaker is Stephen Rummage, preaching pastor at Hickory Grove Baptist Church in Charlotte and author of the book Planning Your Preaching (Kregel). Other speakers will include Mike Glenn, Michael Duduit, Ryan Neal and more. Built into the schedule is time for participants to work on their own preaching plan for 2009-2010. To learn more, visit www.preachingbootcamp.com.


In a message on “A Personal Jesus,” Steve Brown says, “After the resurrection, Jesus is concerned about Peter. Jesus knew Peter. He knew how devastated Peter was. He loved Peter. And He wanted Peter to know it, so He singled Peter out. When Peter heard the words, he must have rejoiced in his forgiveness.

“The three women came to the tomb to find it empty. They meet an angel–a messenger from Jesus. In my mind’s eye, I can see the resurrected Christ, leaving the tomb and giving instructions to the angel: ‘I’ve got to go but tell the women to tell the disciples that I’ll meet them in Galilee and then we’ll have a party.’ Jesus starts to leave but then turns back to the angel and says, ‘Oh, and make sure that you tell Peter I’ll meet him too. If you don’t specifically mention beloved Peter, he won’t show.’

“There is an apocryphal story about Peter who was in Rome during the persecution. As Peter fled, he met Jesus who asked, ‘Where are you going?’ Peter looked back in shame and said, ‘I’m returning to Rome and I will die as you died.’ With that, Peter returned to Rome and was crucified upside down–because he wasn’t worthy to die as Jesus did.

“Death is scary for all of us. … None of us are going to get out of this alive. The statistic is one out of one. That is scary. It wakes us up in the middle of the night in a deep sweat.

“Jesus still does for us what He did for Peter. That is what Easter is all about. ‘Go tell Peter–and Jack, Donna, Beth, Darryl, Maria and Steve–that I’ll meet them and we’ll have dinner together at Home.’ Jesus says, ‘Everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die’ (John 11:26). Jesus has promised. Jesus has risen.” (Key Life magazine, Spring 2009)


After falling prey to a phony business scheme, a school teacher lost her life savings. When she went to the Better Business Bureau to report the scheme, they asked her, “Why on earth didn’t you come to us first? Didn’t you know about the Better Business Bureau?” The teacher replied, “Oh yes. I’ve always known about you. But I didn’t come because I was afraid you’d tell me not to do it.”

David Jeremiah writes, “Deception can be one of the most difficult things to avoid in life because we are often so blinded by desire that we don’t see the possibility of having the wool pulled over our eyes. This is why Jesus said in His Word, ‘Take heed that no one deceive you’ (Matt. 24:4). He knew that our desire for His return would be so great that we might be vulnerable to deception by false teachers and bad doctrine. As Christians, we must carefully judge the opportunities we are offered and seek only the will of the Father so that we are not deceived or enticed by the followers of evil.” (Turning Point Daily Devotional, 3-25-09)

From the March-April issue of Preaching …

In the March-April issue we announced The Power of Multisensory Preaching and Teaching (Zondervan) as our Preaching Book of the Year. The book is by Rick Blackwood, a Miami pastor. We write: “The genesis of the book was his own experiences as a preaching pastor who recognized that the use of communicative tools that engaged more than the ear caused a significant enhancement in his own congregation’s listening and learning. From that simple beginning, he carried his concern into significant research and experimentation as part of his Ed.D. study at Southern Baptist Seminary.

“Both observation and extensive research led Blackwood to what he calls the multisensory effect: ‘The more senses the teacher stirs in the audience, the higher the levels of audience attention, comprehension, and retention.’ That was translated into a simple formula:

“Verbal clarity + Visual aids + Interaction = Maximum Learning

“The author draws on neurological research which indicates that modern communications technologies have significantly shaped the ways we can hear, comprehend and retain information. ‘Many people in our congregation, especially the younger people, have brains that are neurologically rewired and neurologically dependent on multisensory teaching,’ Blackwood asserts. Thus, if we want to reach not only the auditory learners but also the visual and interactive learners, we must learn to effectively use multisensory communication techniques.”

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: Our annual survey of the year’s best books for preachers, plus an interview with James Emery White, articles on preaching in tough financial times and “Preaching in HD,” sermons by Stuart Briscoe, John Huffman, Mike Glenn and much more. Order your subscription today!

Jarrod Jones has written an excellent book for men on dealing with the temptation toward lust and pornography. It will be a helpful book for those struggling in this area, and Jarrod even offers a downloadable copy free on his Web site. If you’d like to download a copy of 13 Ways to Ruin Your Life or refer it to men in your church, click here.

“Easter says you can put truth in a grave, but it won’t stay there.” (Clarence W. Hall)

In Shaping the Claim (Fortress), pastor Marvin McMickle–a frequent contributor to this publication–talks about developing the “sermonic claim” (what others might call the central idea, proposition, or Big Idea) and moving from the biblical text to that key concept. McMickle offers helpful insights for preachers drawn from years of experience as a pastor and teacher of preachers.


A crisis faced by many pastors is when they reach a point of burnout. Wayne Cordeiro experienced that in his own ministry, and in Leading on Empty (Bethany House) he shares how to recharge and refocus in pastoral ministry. This is a valuable resource for pastors who often neglect their own spiritual, physical and emotional health while they are in the process of serving others. Don’t wait until you’re burned out to read it.



Another useful resource for ministers is Ruth Tucker’s Leadership Reconsidered: Becoming a Person of Influence Leadership Reconsidered: Becoming a Person of Influence (Baker). She argues that we have been misled by much of the leadership training and books offered in recent years, saying that they reflect Western cultural concepts rather than a biblical model of leadership as legacy.

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


A postal worker was sorting through the regular mail when she discovered a letter addressed as follows:

GOD, c/o Heaven.

The enclosed letter told about a little old lady who had never asked for anything in her life. She was desperately in need of $100 and was wondering if God could send her the money.

The young lady was deeply touched and passed the hat among her fellow postal workers. She managed to collect $75, and she sent it off to the elderly lady.

A few weeks later another letter arrived addressed in the same way to God, so the young lady opened it. The letter read, “Thank you for the money, God, I deeply appreciate it. However, I received only $75. One of those jerks at the post office must have stolen the rest!”



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…

5. All reports are in; life is now officially 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. Funny, I don’t remember being absent minded…

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

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

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

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

15. It’s not hard to meet expenses. They’re everywhere.

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

17. 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.

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

It took a cheesy title to win the big prize.

The 2009-2014 World Outlook for 60-milligram Containers of Fromage Frais by Philip M. Parker won the Diagram Prize, awarded last week by The Bookseller, a UK publication. The annual prize–decided by a public vote–goes to the oddest book title of the past year.

The book is a 188-page study of the global retail market for fromage frais, a dairy product similar to sour cream. A copy sells for a not-so-cheesy $795.

This year’s runner-up was Baboon Metaphysics, according to a March 27 AP story. Other finalists were The Large Sieve and Its Applications and Techniques for Corrosion Monitoring.

Previous winners include Bombproof Your Horse, Living with Crazy Buttocks, and People Who Don’t Know They’re Dead: How They Attach Themselves to Unsuspecting Bystanders and What to Do About It.

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