James Emory White is founding pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, NC — one of the fastest-growing churches in the nation. Using Willow Creek Community Church as a model, White’s pastoral initiatives also draw on his experience drawn as Preaching-Worship Consultant for the Southern Baptist Sunday School Board. White will be one of the speakers at the tenth annual National Conference on Preaching, May 11-13 in Charlotte.
Preaching: As we begin, perhaps you can share a bit about your church and its background: when you started, the goals you had going in, and some of the methodology you have used.
White: Mecklenburg is a seeker-targeted church that was started in the Fall of 1992 for the express purpose of being not simply a new church but a church that would focus on reaching unchurched people. By seeker-targeted I obviously mean that the entry points of the church are designed for unchurched people. In some way, shape or form we can tap into when they are in a search mode or we try to help them become active seekers. Because not everyone who is unchurched is a seeker.
After five years, by God’s grace, we have about 80 percent of our total church growth having come from an unchurched background. So we have maintained that focus. Obviously, it is a normal church in every other sense of the word but our entry points have been from day one exclusively designed for seekers, for the unchurched.
We’re in Charlotte, a fast-growing area. Obviously, we are in the heart of the Bible belt, but like cities such as Atlanta, it has become inundated with transfer growth from all over the country. The challenge is huge in terms of the melting pot atmosphere — all different walks of life, all different cultures, all different backgrounds and nationalities. So it has been a fun ride and it has been a very challenging one to try to speak to that context and try to stay focused on that particular audience in terms of front door issues, while at the same time keeping focused at our mid-week service to feed and to care for and to challenge the believer. When you wear both hats as a communicator each and every week, you stay focused or you get very confused very quickly and you start making mistakes all over the place!
Preaching: What is your attendance now?
White: About 1500 after five years. We are at three weekend services now. We meet in a high school. We have services Saturday night and we do two on Sunday. All three are identical and a mid-week service — we just have one — is on Wednesday night. Our Saturday night service has been very, very successful. I think the first time we offered it, we had 150-200 people; it just really meets a need. They come in at 5:30 and they are out by 6:30 and start to go out and have their night. That’s really how it works. Great for young families and those with kids.
Preaching: Can you tell a difference in the personality of the different services?
White: Interesting that you ask that. Yeah, you can; you really can. Saturday night is the smallest of the group. But they are also the most relaxed. I mean they are just kind of, they will often laugh the hardest and be into it the most. There is something about it that is even more laid back than on Sunday, even though our services are identical. There is a little more energy perhaps with our Sunday morning services because they are a larger crowd. But I think we all really like our Saturday night folks.
It changes every week. You just have a group of people that likes Saturday night. There is a certain constituency for that but the truth is that you’re just saying, “O.K., every weekend here are three opportunities.” Choose which ever one is most convenient and our people have absolutely no loyalty to a particular one. Every weekend, people say, you know, “Brenda, which one is good this week? Let’s do Saturday because we want to hit the lake Sunday.” It is purely a matter of convenience. So if we kill one of them we would literally lose a lot of attenders because of the lack of convenience.
Preaching: What else are you trying to do on the weekend? Are you trying to do anything else on the weekend besides the worship experience itself?
White: The seeker experience. And I’m not picking at you, it is just that I fight a lot of fights over that one in terms of understanding the model.
We have a simultaneous children’s program that runs with all three of those services, fourth and fifth grade. There is a baptismal service which we will have three or four times a year on Sunday afternoon; we rent out a YMCA. We do nothing on the weekends. Throughout the week is when we have our middle school and high school ministries. We rent facilities. The student ministry meets on Tuesday nights. They have a full band, the whole bit. Our small groups meet throughout the week at all different times and places. So all the other ministries of the church happen other times.
I don’t know if that will even change once we have our own facilities. We’ve got our land but we don’t have our buildings. That will be few years, but I don’t know if that’ll change.
Preaching: When you use the term “seeker service,” is it fair to say that you are describing an evangelistic tool rather than a worship style?
White: It is an evangelistic methodology. People come and they attend the weekend service and they just say, “This isn’t worship. Well, what a wild thing this is.” You’re just seeing our evangelistic strategy; you’re seeing how we have crafted the front door for a specific purpose. In that service you’re not seeing the church. This is a full-blown New Testament, Acts 2 animal. You are just seeing the way we open the front door. That’s it.
Some people equate “seeker targeted” and “seeker sensitive.” And those are two different models. Saddleback and Willow Creek are two different models. Then people confuse contemporary — just a merely contemporary church with seeker sensitive. What is even worse is when they start using the term seeker-driven, which is theological heresy. Nobody is seeker driven. You and I and everyone else could sit there and say, “Oh, my goodness.” Nobody wants to go there. But that is the phrase that is often attached to this. I’m off of that horse.
Preaching: Would it be fair to say that Willow Creek has really been more of the model that you have been trying to follow.
White: I think it would be fair to say that before Mecklenburg, when I was back at the Sunday School Board as a leadership consultant for preaching and worship, my plan was to study the most effective communicators, the most effective models around the world. To plan Mecklenburg, I stole from everyone without blushing. I studied every effective model I could. So if somebody says, “I see some Willow Creek at Mecklenburg,” well I hope so, it’s the most effective church in North America in the last two decades. “I see some Saddleback.” Well, I sure hope so, it’s the fastest growing Southern Baptist church. If I can’t learn from them, then there’s something wrong. You’ll see a lot of other things, too.
I think that the creativity of Mecklenburg is how we’ve put it all together. As a result we see a lot of distinctives and things that look fresh and new and different. I would say that I have been most inspired by Willow Creek. And certainly if you visit Mecklenburg, you’ll say this looks and feels an awful lot like Willow Creek and I don’t even try to hide that. We have differences in our church structure. We are probably much more like Saddleback in terms of our church structure. We don’t have elders. There are many other differences that are probably are not important to go into here. But I would say we have probably more affinity with Willow Creek than almost any other church. And there’s are a lot of close relational ties between us and Willow Creek.
Preaching: You mentioned that when you worked for the Sunday School Board, part of your job was observing and studying the great churches across America. That’s a wonderful opportunity! Who are the people who have impressed you as the most effective communicators of the gospel in this culture?
White: Bill Hybels (Willow Creek Community Church) is very good. Bob Russell at Southeast Christian (Louisville, KY) I think is an effective communicator. Rick Warren (Saddleback Community Church) is a very effective communicator to the people he talks to. I confess that the way you have raised your question has me drawing up a very short list because it is one thing to be a good preacher. It is a second thing to be a good communicator. Preaching and communication are two different things. I think the list gets even shorter when you say a good communicator of the gospel to contemporary America.
If you had said who are good communicators of Christian truth to the evangelical world or the Christian culture, I could come up with a fairly extensive list. When you phrase it “communicating the gospel to our modern culture.” I think that list gets very, very short because, quite frankly there are very few communicators where that’s even their primary agenda. There are actually very few communicators out there who are specializing in and truly are speaking to unchurched people on a week-in, week-out basis. I do, I know Bill does, I know Rick does.
Then there are some people who I think are just flat-out, drop-dead killer communicators. I think of the Tony Campolos of the world. There are very few people who are actually engaging the culture. Many are critiquing it, many are speaking at it, but not many are truly connecting with it and dialoguing with it.
I wish there were more so that I could steal everything that they do. Every time I even smell someone that seems to be communicating well, I try to get their stuff, and I really find very few communicators who I think that are truly doing that.
Preaching: Are there some preachers who you listen to who encourage and inspire you?
White: Bob Russell I think is good, a pretty good guy for that. I probably should have not put him into the former category, but in this category. There are a lot of resources that I use. The things that I use from a audio perspective, things like John Maxwell’s tapes, I enjoy very, very much. I enjoy very gifted communicators that are often in the market place. But the people who touch my soul are probably more authors than they are speakers, everybody from Philip Yancey to Larry Crabb. In fact, I want to meet Larry Crabb one day so I can tell him how much he has agitated my soul over the years.
Preaching: You mentioned Maxwell’s tapes. What are some of the other resources you turn to for trying to developing the kind of communication you aim for?
White: I love academia and have devoted much of my life to it, but there are very few things within academia that really helped me communicate. And even things that are trying to speak to the interplay between Christ and culture are often almost missing the boat in terms of actually connecting and addressing or dialoguing with the culture. They are very good at critiquing the culture but not necessarily in helping to build bridges of communication. You need to be reading Time and Newsweek, People magazine, as difficult though it may be to wade through sometimes. The newspapers. I insist on seeing the latest films. The latest, the top books, fiction and non-fiction. The latest CD’s. For example, in the last six months, my speaking has touched on everything from John Grisham’s latest book to the movie Titanic to songs of Alanis Morrissette to Monica Lewinsky.
These things are where people are at and to me they are bridges into their soul. And so I pull heavily from popular culture. Then I use the more cerebral issues related to Christ and culture, including my theological training to form the foundation upon which I stand in using those tools. Because if you don’t have that as your base in bracing and using those tools, then those tools can become the tail that wags the dog and you can fall into all kinds of trouble.
Preaching: Separating the seeker service from the worship experience — which is your mid-week service — as you stand in front of the audience of the seeker service, what are you trying to accomplish?
White: Several things. And certain messages are trying to do different things. But I would say there are probably a half dozen things that I am always trying to do that continually pop up. One is really contend for the truth in Christianity. Now, I can do that through contending for its relevance; it is practical help for life, its reasonableness. I can do that in all kinds of ways. One of the biggest things I do is just to explain Christianity. I think that’s the best approach; I think it is often the best evangelism. Let me just explain this to you. Let me take a few weeks and just talk about grace, what is that? So, a lot of it is explanation, a lot of it is contending for its truth. A lot of it is trying to show its relevance, its practical help for their lives. Then you can say, “This will work for your marriage because it is true.” It is not true because it works; it works because it is true.
The biggest thing I am doing is presenting the Christian faith to a secular mind in a way that they can grasp it and evaluate it and consider it for their lives. Much of that is in removing the barriers. If they can see someone who looks relatively normal on Sundays, if they can hear language that they can relate to, if I can use cultural bridges that help them understand it, and if I can use topics that are relevant to their lives no matter where they are at in spiritual quest. Then I am just continually able to present this for their life. And that is really what I am doing. Clearing up misconceptions, all these kinds of things.
To give you an idea of how drastic it can be: we have just come off of twelve weeks going through the Sermon on the Mount, verse by verse. Explaining essentially the heart of the teaching of Jesus. Everything from teaching on divorce to money — all kinds of things — and now we are in a series on comparing Christianity to world religions. We’ve got everybody bringing their Muslim friends and their Hindu friends as we walk through these things and just explain the distinctives of Christianity. When we get out of this we are going to spend four weeks on a different issue: guilt. We are going to spend four weeks on just guilt. Good guilt verses bad guilt. Then we are going to come out of that with a real horizontal series, probably something on family or parenting. Then come back at it with something else. So we are just continually coming at people with different ways trying to present this.
Preaching: Do you stay in a series format most of the time?
White: I do. Always in a series. There are several reasons. First, it is very hard to do a topic in one session with integrity, at least to the people I address. They would pick up on a real superficiality if I said, O.K. here is how to have a good marriage in a one-day talk. You know, they are going to say, “Maybe your marriage, buddy!” There is no way you can treat that with integrity. So those are the series that are six or seven weeks. You build creditability that way and you can really address it with legitimacy. You are going to have a series on marriage. OK, one week: Here’s how to have a fair fight. Here’s how to lay a spiritual foundation. Here’s one whole talk on gender differences. Here is the thing on communication. People are sitting there and saying, “Now, this I can use. This I can grab on to.”
One criticism of seeker targeted churches is it is all topical messages. Actually, it is more strategic than that. You have occasional messages on topics like marriage and family and parenting relationships. Then you will also have series that might be nothing but a section of scripture. We’ve done a whole series on the Ten Commandments. We’ve done a whole series on the Sermon on the Mount. Sometimes it is a theological series. We did five whole weeks on the problem of evil and suffering called, “When God doesn’t make sense.” So you do strike on theological issues and ethical issues. Sometimes you’ll do nothing but a doctrine studies on the character of God. So, it is more of a variety.
Even when you do these topical studies, it’s more of a biblical theology. It may be pulling together a lot of verses instead of walking through one particular chapter of the Bible, although it can be one particular chapter. But it is doing it with great theological and biblical integrity.
The best biblical theologies pull together the wide range of verses and passages and scriptures. The best way to interpret scripture is through scripture itself. Sometimes if you take just one small passage on a subject you can actually almost do more harm than if you pull together everything that the Bible has to say to get a well-rounded view. So I think if you are a good topical speaker you are doing good biblical theology.
Preaching: Is there a typical series length for you?
White: For a month. In other words if there are four weeks in the month, I’ll do a four week series. If there are five weeks in a month, I’ll do a five week series. That is typical for me. A couple reasons. One, short attention spans. Two, most topics you can get in and out of if you do your homework at that level.
Three, it keeps variety going every month. There is a new topic and you can switch gears. There are some topics that could use ten weeks. But, people are dying by the eighth week. You know, “Can we please move on!”
We can be promoting a new series at the beginning of each month in newsletters and things like that. There is a whole list of reasons.
We choose our longer series carefully and always try to say, “Can this really sustain this many weeks?” And often they will prove to become our most poplar series. But we choose them really well. The longest we’ve done is the Sermon on the Mount, the next to longest was the Ten Commandments, which is probably the most popular series we’ve ever done.
Preaching: How far do you plan your series? How do you decide what series to do when?
White: I think there are some things we have tripped on to that I know really serve me well. First, I take an annual study break in the summer and I actually leave the state and go to a place.
Preaching: How long?
White: About six weeks. It wasn’t that in the early days, but when you plant a church you can kind of go into that. But now it is right at six weeks. And I just go and I plow up ground for another year of teaching and leadership. Read books, map out stuff. I come back from a study break with the whole next year mapped out. Now, in reality it is only good for about eight or nine months. Then the focus I have starts getting fuzzy and I almost have to take it month by month for what we are going to do. But I pray about that, I strategize about that. I take everything I know about the church and culture and life and what we’ve done in the past and come up with these series. It really seems to click.
I take that to a creative development team of about eight or nine people that represent a lot of our program and ministries. Drama, music, multi-media, people who are just involved in producing our weekend services. I will lay these out and we will begin to pull together the services. We usually work as much as two to three, about three months in advance. So it goes through that process, which helps me enormously because when you pull in your creative team they start thinking about video, drama and music ideas about a topic and I have not even begun actually to write out the message. I’ve done some research in reading, books. But it helps me enormously to sit around with seven or eight folks. That’s the song you think of, or that’s what you think of with guilt.
So there is a study break and throughout the year I have files on all these series. I’m collecting things as I read books. In my mind I know that I am doing these series. It is like a magnet pulling all of this stuff in. Then as it gets closer it goes through the whole creative team developing process, so every week I’m going through a three hour meeting talking about these things. I tell you, it is so healthy to go through all those different levels.
When I actually have my writing day, which is the Tuesday before I speak, I pull all the stuff together and I actually write the message and I am just about to pop. You know it is wonderful — it has been thought out, it has been prayed for, prepared. I’ve been reflecting on it. I’ve got all this stuff. The privilege of this is that I’m the kind of person that finds working in advance like that is not difficult. For me, a panic attack would be doing a Saturday night special. I couldn’t do that. If I did not know what I was going to be speaking on in three or four weeks, I would have an anxiety attack.
Preaching: How long is a typical a sermon for you?
White: About thirty minutes. Short end 25, long end 33 or 34, but it is right in that thirty minutes. Very tight. I work from a manuscript. But I work off the manuscript enough until I go up there where it is just an outline. But I don’t deviate from that. There’s a discipline that I have on what that manuscript length is going to be.
Preaching: You had a book out last year entitled Re-thinking the Church. Tell me in what key ways you have re-thought the church.
White: Let me answer first in the context of what we do on the weekends, then we can shift it to the worship context. There are really two different things that we do. If I were to sit down with some pastors and talk about communication, I would say that the most liberating thing I can imagine is the freedom to be authentic and to be yourself. To be able to talk normally to people, to be able to be natural. To not have to be something that is contrived. I think that the most effective thing about what I do at Mecklenburg, by God’s grace, is the fact that I’m able to be up there and talk the way I normally am. I’m a fairly passionate person and that comes out in my speaking. But it is not a contrived thing.
The way I dress, the way I communicate, even the vocabulary I use will alert the listener to just who I am. That resonates with folks. There is a sense where the people that I communicate to, maybe that’s what grabs them the most. They would walk out the door if it wasn’t that way. You are going to hear it. You may not like it, and you may not agree with it, but you know you are getting his heart. It is also has been very a liberating thing because I know what it is like to be packaged and boxed up and try to talk in other ways.
I just talk to people the way you talk to them every other time. I think that connects. What I would say too about communication is that what happens prior to you getting up to speak is decisive. The first thirty to thirty-five minutes of our service is totally devoted to moving the ball down the field for the message to score. The creative development team uses that first thirty to thirty-five minutes of saying how can we introduce this topic and prepare people for the topic. How do we preare people for what the Bible says about this and move them to a point of receptivity? When I am speaking at Mecklenburg, it is so fun to be able to get up after what they do.
After 30 to 35 minutes, we have done songs that just blow people away. Maybe even the occasional use of a song that we know that is going to be a huge bridge-builder. They see a drama and they are laughing or they are in tears over it, the multi-media just arrests them and sneaks past the defenses of their heart and all of the sudden by the time I get up there they are saying, “O.K., tell me, I’m ready. This is unbelievable!” This is not original with me I think Bill Hybels has often talked about this.
You know, when you start on the two-yard line, anybody can just kind of fall over and score! That’s how I feel, because of what the context does to the communication event. Many times I think we divorce the communication event from its context and that goes against everything we know about communication. When I speak, I’m part of a context. It’s part of an event. What happens before is decisive.
Preaching: Using the metaphor you suggest, it’s the concept of a preacher as fullback — driving the ball over the last few feet after the service has carried to that point.
White: You know, it really is an ensemble deal for us. I play a role and we all have the truth of scripture on that topic as central. But, it is an ensemble performance of which I play the role of communicator. We actually have a couple of other communicators who are a part of the service prior to me, doing announcements or scripture, communicators of drama, communicators of song. The whole thing is communication. I just have the verbal spoken part. There is just a power when you are working with a team of communicators to get across what you are trying to say.
Preaching: What is the single greatest obstacle to making that link?
White: The minds of the people. The minds and the hearts of the people that you are speaking to. I think the greatest challenge that I have in talking to religious people as seekers is getting past the barriers they have thrown up to keep Christ at a distance. I need to be conscious of those and make sure that what we say and how we say it — whether it is through music, media, song, drama, spoken word — is doing that effectively and with integrity without watering down the gospel. I have been doing this too long not to know that no matter how, even on your best days there will be some people that you will not be able to pull that off with.
I think that is the greatest obstacle is knowing how to build that bridge effectively and address those barriers and remove them so that they can consider the gospel. You really have to know their heart and their mind. This goes beyond being a student of the latest pop Christian therapy book on the mind of the unchurched. You’ve really got to know the unchurched in a relational understanding way. You have to be not of the world, but you really need to be in it. A lot of Christian communicators are uncomfortable around unchurched people. Quite frankly, I sometimes am more comfortable around unchurched people than I am churched!
Preaching: If you could be seminary president for a day, what would you do to address these issues?
White: I would make sure that the courses on preaching were maybe less on homiletics and more on the dynamics of being an effective communicator. The second thing that I would want to add is helping people know how to lead. There’s a leadership crisis in the church today. You can go through seminary and never be taught how to lead. And yet that is the number one thing that you’re going to do when you get out of here, at least as a senior pastor or any minister in a church you are going to lead at some point. I would also help people know how to blend the communication and leadership. Because that’s something that is not talked about too much. In fact, I did a little thing in a book (Hand-book of Contemporary Preaching) for you on the language of leadership and it was a little bit difficult for me at that stage. A lot of leadership skills are tied to communication, and the blending of those two is actually decisive. Leadership, how do you lead? That’s why everybody is flocking to these church leadership conferences that are put on by churches and major pastors — because they didn’t get it in seminary.
The third thing is the spiritual formation which is a hot topic right now at seminaries. When I poke around with people and I say, “What do you mean by spiritual formation?” I mean within ten minutes they are right back to Hebrew and Greek words in terms of even how they understand that. You know it comes with deepening your theology of God or something like that. No, no, no, you are doing that fairly well. What about actual spiritual formation? Really helping someone enter seminary or exit seminary mentored in being in the Christ-life — to where they are actually mentored in growing and developing and on a course of life where there will be more loving, more joyful, more gentle, more patient, less prideful.
I’ve had to search for that. I’ve had to search for mentors, search for experiences. I never was taught about the spiritual disciplines. I know some seminaries are assuming a lot of that is in place. Well, at least make sure that as part of training to be a pastor of people that the pastor at least knows how to pastor himself and to engage in a life of spiritual disciplines and spiritual growth. And you just shouldn’t assume that is there.
I think it is interesting. I think the average layperson assumes that if you go off to seminary for three years you’re going off for three years to really reach a higher level of spirituality to be able to come back and to lead us to that level. And I think that many people enter seminary hoping that’s going to happen, too. That is not what is happening. Many seminaries are becoming graduate schools, not really preparing people for ministry. Helping people enter the Christ-life and the dynamics of how ministry wages war on your spiritual life — that’s never talked about. But there is probably no more spiritually vulnerable role than a pastor because you can confuse doing things for God with a relationship with God. I went that route.
And if I could add a fourth thing it would be to try to expose people to those who are really doing ministry. The irony is that you have the vast majority of seminary professors preparing people to be pastors, and they have never pastored. You have seminary presidents that have never pastored. I don’t mean that you can’t count interims as student pastors. I mean that are really out there doing it. They haven’t but they are heading up the institution to prepare people to do it.
Preaching: What haven’t I asked you that you are just dying to talk about?
White: I would like there to be less criticism of the seeker model. There has been a lot of criticism of certain types of churches and certain styles of speaking as if there is somehow a compromise of the gospel, watering down of the truth and an abandonment of the gospel in order to get warm bodies in the door. Seeker targeted churches are probably taken the most to task for having somehow compromised because of the style. I think that many times because of the style they are critiqued as somehow compromising the truth and watering it down and not being biblical or not even being involved in exposition. Not from first hand knowledge, not from first hand visitation, not from anything other than just supposition. And I read a lot of people who just seem to take shots at other communicators or styles — if you don’t do biblical exposition a certain way you are not walking with God or being faithful. If you speak topically it automatically means you’re not being biblical and on and on it goes. If you are seeker-targeted you must not have a theological bone in your body.
I would like to see that stop. I don’t fit into that mold. My Ph.D. is in theology. We use a lot of scripture and I take biblical exposition very seriously and at our mid-week services we go verse by verse through whole books of the bible. That is our major style for mid-week worship. I just wish we would foster an atmosphere where we welcome a lot of different styles and a lot of different approaches. Obviously let’s maintain a biblical base, and be biblical and be sound theologically but not try to put every communicator in a particular mode.
Quite frankly there may be people that don’t minister to me that are obviously ministering to other people. Well, “Yeah God!” Leave it at that. I just see a lot of shots being taken. Let’s just let all of us communicate in our own ways as God leads and try to remain bibical and theologically sound. And before we say that a particular style or context automatically prevents that, you better make sure you know what you are talking about. I read books on supposedly what the content is like in certain innovative churches and I say if that’s what is going on I’d be denouncing it, too. But we’re not doing that. Bill’s not doing that. Rick’s not doing that. So, who exactly is doing that?
Preaching: One of the theological critiques that is pressed against this model is the idea that there is none that seek after God. That God is the seeker, and the view that there are people who are seeking God is faulty. How do you respond to that?
White: I am not a Calvinist. I’m not. I don’t understand why Calvin wrote the Institutes at age 27 to try to figure out why there were some people that responded and some did not. I’ve studied Calvin. I’ve studied Jonathan Edwards. I’m not immune or numb to the brilliance of his mind. But he is a man. I like his systematic, I like a lot of his insights. But I’m not convinced of the theological reductionism that leads you to that point. I believe that it is in Christ that we are elect. He is the primary elect one. Predestination is for believers to be saved through Christ.
I don’t understand election and predestination in that way. I do believe, as Augustine said, “Our hearts are restless until they finally rest in Thee.” I believe as Pascal said, there is a God-shaped void in every human being that they seek desperately to fill. Actually, even if you are a Calvinist I think that you could still embrace people being a seeker-culture. Because even though they may not in and of themselves be able to come to God, dependent on being touched by His Spirit, I still don’t know why they couldn’t be in a search mode — just filling it wrongly. I don’t agree with the critique that people don’t seek. I think they are seeking desperately.

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About The Author

Michael Duduit is the founding publisher and editor of Preaching magazine. He is also the founding Dean of the new College of Christian Studies and Professor of Christian Ministry at Anderson University in Anderson, South Carolina. Michael is author and editor of several books, including the Handbook of Contemporary Preaching (Broadman & Holman Press), Joy in Ministry (Baker Books), Preaching With Power (Baker) and Communicate With Power (Baker). From 1996 until 2000 he served as editor of the Abingdon Preaching Annual series. His email newsletter, PreachingNow, is read each week by more than 40,000 pastors and church leaders in the U.S. and around the world. He is founder and director of the National Conference on Preaching and the International Congress on Preaching, which has been held in 1997 at Westminster Chapel in London, 2002 at the University of Edinburgh, Scotland, and 2007at Cambridge. He has been a pastor and associate pastor, has served a number of churches as interim pastor, and speaks regularly for churches, colleges and conferences.

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