Vol. 6, No. 21
June 5, 2007  

Interested in writing for Preaching?

Preaching magazine has launched a special section called InMinistry, which will include brief articles about topics other than preaching and worship leadership.

For example, the first InMinistry section in the July-August issue contains articles on common mistakes in church construction projects, ways to build a stronger chidlren’s ministry, and opportunities for mission involvement.

If you would be interested in writing a future article for this special section, please send a query letter to Preaching editor Michael Duduit and include the following: the subject of your proposed article; a brief outline and/or discussion of what the article will include; some rationale for why this will be of value to pastors and church leaders. Be sure to also include your name, church, your role at the church, and contact information (mailing address, email address, and phone). Send your query to editor@preaching.com and include in the subject line: “InMinistry Query.”

We are also always glad to receive outstanding sermons to include in future issues of Preaching On-Line, which is our primary publishing outlet for sermons. If you’d like to submit a sermon manuscript for consideration, send it to editor@preaching.com and attach the sermon as a Word (preferred) or WordPerfect document. Please only send completed manuscripts, not outlines or notes. Be sure to also include your name, church, your role at the church, and contact information (mailing address, email address, and phone). As you send your sermon, be sure to include in the subject line: “Sermon Submission.” And don’t send an empty email with an attachment only; include a note about who you are and what you are sending. (That tells us the attachment is legitimate and not a nasty virus.)

Michael Duduit, Editor

Click here to visit “I Was Just Thinking” (Michael’s blog) for insights and observations about faith and culture issues.

Link preaching to small groups to enhance retention

Pastor Larry Osborne of North Coast Church in Vista, CA, believes that listeners better remember the sermon content now that his church has linked its small group discussions to the topic of the past week’s message. In a recent article for the SermonCentral.com newsletter, he writes: “The first thing I noticed was that once we started connecting our small group questions to the sermon, people were noticeably more attentive. I wish I could take credit for improved material, delivery or style. But I hadn’t changed. What had changed was the congregation’s awareness that they were going to discuss the message later in their small group. As a result, they were much more attentive.

And to my surprise, I discovered that attentiveness is contagious. When everyone else in the room is dialed in, it seems to send a subtle, perhaps subliminal, message that this is important stuff — don’t miss it. So most people work a little harder to hang in even during the slow (should I saying boring?) parts of the message.

The most obvious sign of the congregation’s increased attentiveness was a marked increase in note taking. That alone had a significant impact upon the memorableness of my sermons. Educational theorists have long pointed out that we forget most of what we hear unless we also interact with the material visually, verbally or physically. In short, taking notes dramatically increases recall. And tying small groups to the sermon dramatically increases note taking.” (Click here to read the full article.)

Bible reading down

A recent Barna survey shows that only 41 percent said they read the Bible outside of church worship services in a typical week. Last year, Bible readership rose to its highest level since the 1980s with 47 percent. Increases in Bible reading began after engagement in the activity hit a 20-year low in 1995 with only 31 percent. The Barna study was reported in the May 22 ChristianPost.com.

The ChristianPost article asserts that the drop in Bible reading over the past year reflects a trend of religious illiteracy that was bluntly described by Stephen Prothero in Religious Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know – And Doesn’t. The Boston University professor said Americans know little to nothing about religion, and while an overwhelming majority of the nation’s population claim they are Christian, only half of the adults can name one of the four gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) and most Americans do not know the first book in the Bible (Genesis).

“Most Americans do not have strong and clear beliefs, largely because they do not possess a coherent biblical worldview,” stated (David) Kinnaman (the study director). “That is, they lack a consistent and holistic understanding of their faith. Millions of Americans say they are personally committed to Jesus Christ, but they believe he sinned while on earth. Many believers claim to trust what the Bible teaches, but they reject the notion of a real spiritual adversary or they feel that faith-sharing activities are optional. Millions feel personally committed to God, but they are renegotiating the definition of that deity.”

The Barna study found 83 percent of Americans identified as Christians. But only 49 percent of them described themselves as absolutely committed to Christianity. (Click here to read the full story.)

ILLUSTRATION: Death and Dying

During an impassioned sermon on death and facing judgment, the visiting evangelist said forcefully, “every member of this church is going to die and face judgment.”  Early on in the sermon he noticed a gentleman smiling on the front row.

The minister kept pushing his theme, “Every member of this church is going to die.”  The guy smiled even more while everyone else in the congregation had a very somber look.  In an effort to get through to the guy, the preacher repeated it several more times forcefully, “EACH MEMBER OF THIS CHURCH IS GOING TO DIE.”

Each time the phrase was repeated, the man smiled more.  This really got the preacher wound up and he preached even harder.  The man still smiled.  The preacher finally walked down off the platform to stand just in front of the smiling man and shouted, “I SAID EACH MEMBER OF THIS CHURCH IS GOING TO DIE.”

At the end of the service the man was smiling from ear to ear. While everyone else was looking pretty grim from the prospect of entering eternity, the man seemed quite happy.  After the service the preacher jumped down off the platform and worked through the crowd to find the man.  Pulling him aside, the preacher said, “I don’t get it. Every time I said, ‘Every member of this church is going to die,’ you were laughing.  I want to know why you did that?” 

The man looked the preacher square in the eye and said confidently, “I’m not a member of this church.”  (from James Merritt)


A nurse took the tired, anxious serviceman to the bedside. “Your son is here,” she said to the old man.

She had to repeat the words several times before the patient’s eyes opened. Heavily sedated because of the pain of his heart attack, he dimly saw the young uniformed Marine standing outside the oxygen tent. He reached out his hand. The Marine wrapped his toughened fingers around the old man’s limp ones, squeezing a message of love and encouragement. The nurse brought a chair so that the Marine could sit beside the bed. All through the night, the young Marine sat there in the poorly lighted ward, holding the old man’s hand and offering him words of love and strength.

Occasionally, the nurse suggested that the Marine move away and rest awhile. He refused. Whenever the nurse came into the ward, the Marine was oblivious of her and of the night noises of the hospital – the clanking of the oxygen tank, the laughter of the night staff members exchanging greetings, the cries and moans of the other patients. Now and then, she heard him say a few gentle words. The dying man said nothing, only held tightly to his son all through the night.

Along towards dawn, the old man died. The Marine released the now lifeless hand he had been holding and went to tell the nurse. While she did what she had to do, he waited. Finally, she returned. She started to offer words of sympathy, but the Marine interrupted her.

“Who was that man?” he asked.

The nurse was startled. “He was your father,” she answered.

“No, he wasn’t,” the Marine replied. “I never saw him before in my life.”

“Then why didn’t you say something when I left you with him?”

“I knew right away there had been a mistake, but I also knew he needed his son, and his son just wasn’t here. When I realized that he was too sick to tell whether or not I was his son, knowing how much he needed me, I stayed.”  (from Cybersalt Digest)



In an interview with pastor and author Dave Ferguson, he talks about the collaborative process his team uses in developing sermons: “A lot of churches have teaching teams like baseball; ours is more like basketball. The teaching teams that are more like baseball teams have a teaching rotation; this guy is up this week, this guy’s up the next week, lefty is up on the third week. You have your four man rotation and you start all over again. Each of them goes up and does their own thing and they are on their own.

On a basketball team, everybody plays every game. Only one guy takes the shot, but everybody gets to touch the ball. Our teaching team is a collaborative effort that works much more like a basketball team. Every week we work together — actually we work about nine weeks in advance, starting three weeks in advance on the actual manuscript. We all work together to actually create that manuscript. We call it the 105 fastest minutes of your week. . . .

The first five minutes is what we call focus. Here is the big idea that we are working on, that we are going to have to do a sermon on in three weeks. Then we have what we called the Desired Outcomes. We go around, everyone is responsible for bringing something that will relay what is the desired outcomes that we want to have. You have to rethink very simply in terms of head, hearts and hands. How are we going to get people to think differently, how do we want them to feel, what do we want them to actually do differently?

Then we start brainstorming. What are the possibilities? Anything goes. We use big white sheets and put everything up on the board. This usually lasts about 45 minutes. We have enough stuff for at least a whole series. One of the things you discover with a collaborative process is there is never a time when you don’t have enough content. . . . Then the next thirty minutes is how do we put it into some kind of structure. Depending on what the topic is, how do we most effectively communicate that?

About ten minutes we spend in consensus vote — is everyone really sold on this? Will we all really buy into this? Once everyone is on board with that, then the last five minutes we divvy it up, we divide up the message. . . . So around the room each of us takes a section and they all agree to write that part of the message. They all have a week to write their part of the message, they email it in, and Tim edits the whole thing into a manuscript. That is what we call our 1.0. We actually have our 1.0 done at least two weeks in advance before we have to deliver it. That gives everybody a chance to go out and let it marinate, to live with it for awhile. Then we can make it more our own throughout that creative process.”


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 begin your subscription!

Also in the July-August issue of Preaching: An article on preaching in the aftermath of the Virginia Tech shooting tragedy, plus “Preaching the Big Idea,” Interviews with N.T. Wright and Dave Ferguson, the first in a series on “Preaching and Trinitarian Worship” by Michael Quicke, plus sermons by Stuart Briscoe, R. Albert Mohler, and much more. Order your subscription today


Have you ever tried to call a company for information — to arrange a flight, book a hotel room, register a complaint — only to get caught up in the Voice Mail Maze that bounces you from recording to recording, with nary a live person’s voice ever heard? Then you’re a candidate for the Gethuman 500 Database, a website that lists lots of companies — from AAA to Wisconsin Electric — with the secret to reaching a real live human being when you call their number. For example, when you call American Express you can punch 0 at each prompt, ignoring the messages. On the other hand, to reach a human at AT&T Universal Card, you don’t punch anything – just ignore the messages and hang on.

You’ll find this helpful site at



Old Sam Johnson goes to his doctor complaining of aches and pains all over his body. After a thorough examination, the doctor gives him a clean bill of health.

”Sam, you’re in excellent shape for an 85 year old man. But I’m not a magician — I can’t make you any younger,” says the doctor.

”Who asked you to make me younger?” says Sam. “You just make sure I get older!”

“Deep summer is when laziness finds respectability.”  (Sam Keen)

Mark your calendar:

The 19th annual National Conference on Preaching is April 7-9, 2008 in suburban Washington, DC. Theme is “Preaching and the Public Square: Where Do Pulpit and Culture Meet.” More coming soon!


Illustration: Life, heaven.

St. Peter is very busy in Heaven, so he leaves a sign by the Pearly Gates: “For Service Ring Bell.” Away he goes; he barely gets started when BING! the bell rings. He rushes back to the gates, but no one’s there.

St. Peter goes back to work when suddenly BING! the bell rings again. He rushes back to the gates, but no one’s there. A little annoyed, St. Peter goes back to work.

Suddenly, BING! the bell rings again. St. Peter goes back; again, no one’s there. “Okay, that’s it,” St. Peter says. “I’m going to hide and watch to see what’s going on.” So St. Peter hides, and a moment later, a little old man walks up and rings the bell.

St. Peter jumps out and yells, “Aha! Are you the guy who keeps ringing the bell?”

“Yes, that’s me,” the little old man says.

“Well, why do you keep ringing the bell and going away?” St. Peter asks.

“They keep resuscitating me.”

“A vacation is having nothing to do and all day to do it in.”  (Robert Orben)

Top 10 Signs Your Presidential Candidate is Under-Qualified

10. He promises to improve foreign relations with Hawaii.

9. He runs a series of attack ads against Martin Sheen’s character on “The West Wing.”

8. His #1 choice for a position on his cabinet is “That Bob Vila guy.”

7. His outstanding record as Governor of Rhode Island is nullified by the fact that no one really cares.

6. He got his degree in Political Economics by bribing Sally Struthers with a chocolate donut.

5. When anybody mentions Washington, he asks, “The state or the DC thingie?”

4. At the debates, he answers every question with a snarled, “You wanna wrestle?!”

3. He vows to put an end to the war in Pokemon and free the Pikachu refugees once and for all.

2. He says the Pledge of Allegiance as quickly as possible, then shouts, “I win!”

1. On the very first question of the debate, he attempts to use a lifeline.

(from the Humorama newsletter)

And finally . . .

They spent $4 million on the wedding — and still neglected to pay the preacher.
Actress Elizabeth Hurley and millionaire businessman Arun Mayar have yet to pay the vicar who conducted their £2 million wedding, according to news reports.

Reverend John Partington is still waiting for the newlyweds to cough up the £800 ($1600) fee for the lavish ceremony which took place in March.

The couple — who tied the knot at Sudeley Castle in Winchcombe, Gloucestershire — are said to have infuriated local residents for not handing over the money. The Daily Mail quotes Morris Davies, 69, a retired postman who has lived in the town all of his life: “She is a celebrity. I am sure that they think they don’t have to fork out for anything.”

Apparently a lot of the locals are not very happy about her Hurley’s failure to pay the the vicar. “It does herself no favors shunning the locals,” Davies said. “John has kept very hush hush about it but the rest of the village have been chatting about the sheer cheek of it all.”  (from the British Delights newsletter)


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