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From the Editor:

Preparing your soul for a life of preaching

Trust the Story

“The Secret” Is Self-Centeredness

Integrity, Honesty
Giving, Generosity
Prayer, Priorities

Link of the Week

Preacher’s Bookshelf


And Finally…

“The thoughts we choose to think are the tools we use to paint the canvas of our lives.”

(Louise Hay)

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From the
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Beware Tuneless Preaching

Preaching in a Changing Culture: An Interview With N.T. Wright

Faith Among the Tears

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    Vol. 6, No. 26 July 25, 2007    

Michael Duduit

In the Spring 2007 issue of Leadership Journal, Pastor John Ortberg tells a story that preachers will understand all too well: “A good friend from the Pentecostal tradition, in which people will often stand up and speak very authoritatively to the congregation, told me a glorious story. According to my friend, a man once stood up and declared, “Thus saith the Lord: Even as I was with Abraham when he led the children of Israel through the wilderness, so I will be with you.” Then he sat down.

His wife nudged him and whispered something. He quickly stood back up and said, “Thus saith the Lord: I was mistaken. It was Moses.”

That story captures the mystery of preaching, illustrating both the Word part and the flesh part: “Thus saith the Lord, I was mistaken.”

The very words of God coming through human instruments, which would be you and me. What an odd combination that is!

How do we prepare our souls for this task? We are very fallible people and yet we are to speak for God. Our preparation is not just getting our spiritual life “amped up” for a weekend service. It is much more a way of life: “What kind of person am I becoming so that preaching is the outflow of a certain kind of life, and it comes out of me in a way that God wants it to come out?”

This means not preparing your soul for a week of preaching, but how to prepare your soul for a life of preaching.” (Click here to read the full article)

Michael Duduit, Editor

Click here to visit “I Was Just Thinking” (Michael’s blog) for insights and observations about faith and culture issues. Recent topics: What is a Christian Worldview?; Finishing Harry Potter.


“Jesus rarely explained his stories, in fact only once in scripture are we told specifically why Jesus told a story”

Storytelling expert Steven James says that one of the keys to effective stories is to trust them to do their work, without trying to explain or analyze them for the listeners. He writes: “In nearly every book on public speaking and preaching I’ve read I see the same advice: ‘Tell ‘em what you’re gonna say. Say it. Then tell ‘em what you said.’

That might be a good way to teach someone how to bake a casserole, but it sure stinks when it comes to telling a good story. Maybe that’s why Jesus never did it. Not once. Instead, he spoke in metaphor, story, and imagery that appealed to curiosity and imagination. He didn’t preach 3-point sermons, he preached 1-point sermons – and most of the time he didn’t even tell people what that point was!

Jesus rarely explained his stories, in fact only once in scripture are we told specifically why Jesus told a story (Luke 18:1), and only a couple of his story explanations appear. Jesus trusted his stories to do their work in the hearts of the people listening. This leads us to one of the great paradoxes of education: the more you explain a story the less impact it has. Think about it. Haven’t you heard someone use a great illustration and then spend the next 30 minutes draining all of the impact out of it? We end up diminishing rather than expanding the impact of a story by explaining to people what we think it is supposed to mean.

I’m not asking you to leave your listeners constantly confused, just trust them more to connect the dots. Jesus trusted his story to do its work in the lives of his listeners. He almost always wrapped truth up in mystery. We can do the same.”

(Click here to read the full article on Steven’s website.)


“What ‘The Secret’ reveals is that so
many people are so desperately unhappy that they will snatch up anything offering hope-or simply offering quick
and easy wealth.”

In a recent article about the book The Secret, pastor Mel Lawrenz writes: The Secret, you see, is all about the self-it’s for the self, obsessed with the self. Newsweek offers this critique: “On an ethical level, The Secret appears deplorable. It concerns itself almost entirely with a narrow range of middle-class concerns-houses, cars, and vacations, followed by health and relationships, with the rest of humanity a very distant sixth.”

Professor Robert Thompson of Syracuse University says: “The Secret promises this heaven on Earth in one fell swoop by simply desiring something, by simply wanting it. It’s amazing how we really are a nation of, at best, great optimists, at worst, real suckers.”

What The Secret reveals is that so many people are so desperately unhappy that they will snatch up anything offering hope-or simply offering quick and easy wealth. My question is, who will be there to pick up the pieces when they discover that they bought into a lie? And who will help the people who believe that they brought every misfortune on themselves because they sent negative thoughts and feelings out into the universe like a human radio transmitter?

How different from the message of Jesus: The first will be last, and the last will be first. Lose your life, and you will find it.

(Click here to read the full article.)



Before Tom Lehman had the chance to prove himself on the PGA Tour, he had to enter the 1990 qualifying school (Q-school, as the pros call it) for the PGA Tour. During the high-pressure, all-or-nothing event, Lehman called a penalty stroke on himself. A stiff breeze caused Lehman’s ball to move slightly after he addressed it, and the rules are clear: if the ball moves, you are penalized one stroke. The result? Lehman missed qualifying for the cut for the tour by-you guessed it-a single stroke.

If the most important thing in Lehman’s life was qualifying for the tour, if his values were based on success rather than faithfulness, he might not have called the penalty stroke. But his faith in Christ, coupled with the importance of living on the basis of real values, called him to honesty. His honesty resulted in waiting another year to qualify.

“If a breach of the rules had occurred and I didn’t call it on myself, I couldn’t look at myself in the mirror,” explained Lehman. “You’re only as good as your word. And your world wouldn’t be worth much if you can’t even be honest with yourself.”

Lehman’s loss at the Q-school sent him in 1991 to what’s now known as the Nationwide Tour, where he set a tour record with seven tournament wins in a single season. The confidence he gained while waiting for his dream led to his subsequent PGA Tour victories. But that isn’t what made his decision best. It was the fact that it reflected his values and resulted in faithfulness.
(from Rick Ezell’s One Minute Uplift newsletter;


Richard J. Mouw, president of Fuller Seminary, wrote in his recent article in Theology, News & Notes: “The story is told of a missionary who, after a lifetime spent serving an island community, was called back to his home country. His dear friend, a local chief, gave him a plant as a parting gift, for which he crossed the island and back on foot. The missionary was moved and perplexed: the same plant grew nearby — why travel so far? The chief replied, ‘The journey is part of the gift.’”

Sometimes it’s not so much what we give, as it is how far we’re willing to go to give it. (from Steve Eutsler, Springfield, MO)

From the July-August issue of Preaching . . .

In an article by Dave Ferguson on “The Power of the Big Idea,” Dave writes: “We have bombarded our people with too many competing little ideas, and the result is a church with more information and less clarity than perhaps ever before. But the church is not alone in its predicament. Businesses also get distracted with lots of little ideas and forget the Big Idea. Many marketplace leaders are relearning the importance of the Big Idea in regard to advertising. It was a multimillion?dollar sock?puppet ad during Super Bowl XXXIV that epitomized the absurdity of the advertising during the dot?com bubble. This same era brought us commercials with cowboys herding cats, singing chimps, and a talking duck- all great entertainment, but they didn’t convey a thing about the brands they represented.

Brand consultants Bill Schley and Carl Nichols Jr., in their book, Why Johnny Can’t Brand: Rediscovering the Lost Art of the Big Idea, tell us this type of advertising is not effective branding. Schley and Nichols exhort companies to redefine their products in terms of a single, mesmerizing Dominant Selling Idea. They go on to explain that somewhere along the way,”Johnny” forgot the basics of revealing the Big Idea in an easy, everyday way that cements a brand as top dog in the hearts and minds of consumers without resorting to puffery and shallow glitz. What are businesses learning? That “more” results in less clarity. (And less money!)

Don’t misunderstand – this is not a rant against entertainment or churches that are entertaining. This is a rant against churches (and businesses) that don’t discipline themselves to create experiences that convey and challenge people with one Big Idea at a time. Why? Because the lack of clarity that we give our people impedes the church’s ability to accomplish the mission of Jesus. “More” results in less clarity.”


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 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!


James L. Wilson writes and speaks widely about the future of the church. His website includes lots of articles and resources of interest to pastors, including this article on Retooling Your Preaching for the 21st Century:


A stranger entered the church in the middle of the sermon and seated himself in the back pew. After a while he began to fidget. Leaning over to a white-haired man at his side, evidently an old member of the congregation, he whispered: “How long has he been preaching?”

“Thirty or forty years, I think,” the old man answered.

“I’ll stay then,” decided the stranger, “He must be nearly done.” (Steve Shepherd)

  Helping families is a major priority for pastors, and Jerry Drace’s new book 44 Ways to Strengthen Your Marriage (Pelican Publishing) will be a helpful resource, both in generating insights for sermons and as a tool to recommend to couples in your church. The book grows out of Drace’s excellent “Hope for the Home” seminars.

  If you are interested in learning more about the conversations about preaching taking place in homiletical circles, then John McClure’s book Preaching Words: 144 Key Terms in Homiletics (Westminster John Knox) will be of interest. When you hear terms like “Deconstruction” or “Narrative Preaching” or “New Homiletic,” McClure offers a handy guide to what is being discussed, along with some useful footnotes which will lead you to more information.

  Change Your Church for Good: The Art of Sacred Cow Tipping (Thomas Nelson) by Brad Powell is a practical guide to taking a stagnant church and bringing new life and growth. Powell experienced it in his own church and offers helpful insights to fellow church leaders who hunger for new life to come to their own congregations.

(Click on the title to learn more or order from


Listen to Michael‘s podcast interview with Dallas Seminary preaching professor Timothy Warren as they discuss topical exposition, multi-site churches and more.


Albert Mohler writes about the theology of preaching in his article, “Why Do We Preach?” Read Article


In his article, “Preaching Like Billy Graham (Or Maybe Not)” Don Aycock talks about finding your own voice as a preacher.
Read Article



Six-year-old Bobby and his dad were headed to McDonald’s when they passed a car accident. The family had a practice of saying a prayer for those who might be hurt whenever they saw an accident, so dad said to my son, “We should pray.”

>From the back seat Bobby began to pray fervently: “Please, God, don’t let those cars block the entrance to McDonald’s.”  (from Clean Laughs)

“Opportunity’s favorite disguise is trouble” (Frank Tyger)


I only know the names of two angels, Hark and Harold.  — Gregory, 5
Everybody’s got it all wrong. Angels don’t wear halos anymore. I forget why, but scientists are working on it. — Olive, 9
It’s not easy to become an angel! First, you die. Then you go to heaven, then there’s still the flight training to go through. And then you got to agree to wear those angel clothes. — Matthew, 9

Angels work for God and watch over kids when God has to go do something else. — Mitchell, 7
My guardian angel helps me with math, but he’s not much good for science. — Henry, 8

Angels don’t eat, but they drink milk from Holy Cows! — Jack, 6

Angels talk all the way while they’re flying you up to heaven. The main subject is where you went wrong before you go dead.  — Daniel, 9

When an angel gets mad, he takes a deep breath and counts to ten. And when he lets out his breath, somewhere there’s a tornado. — Reagan, 10

Angels have a lot to do and they keep very busy. If you lose a tooth, an angel comes in through your window and leaves money under your pillow. Then when it gets cold, angels go south for the winter.  — Sara, 6

Angels live in cloud houses made by God and His son, who’s a very good carpenter. — Jared , 8

All angels are girls because they gotta wear dresses and boys didn’t go for it. — Antonio, 9

My angel is my grandma who died last year. She got a big head start on helping me while she was still down here on earth.  — Katelynn, 9

Some of the angels are in charge of helping heal sick animals and pets. And if they can’t make the animals better, they help the child get over it.  — Vicki, 8

What I don’t get about angels is why, when someone is in love, they shoot arrows at them.  — Sarah, 7  (from TIPS newsletter;

He really should get a hobby.

A volunteer firefighter near Glasgow, KY, has been arrested after reports that he was making fake 911 calls because he was bored.

The 18-year old man called in his false alarms from old cell phones that no longer worked except for emergency 911 calls.

A police spokesman said the firefighter “allegedly made false reports of fires and wrecks with injuries because he wanted to go on fire runs,” according to a July 17 AP story.

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