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From the Editor:

Prospective Pastors Quiz

Can Felt Needs Distract

Flavoring Sermons


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Preacher’s Bookshelf


And Finally…

 “The devil will let a preacher prepare a sermon if it will keep him from preparing himself.”

  (Vance Havner)

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    Vol. 6, No. 32 September 18, 2007    

Michael Duduit

In the July 23/30 issue of US News which contained their “America’s Best Hospitals” feature, there was an article about what to expect (and to do) if you go in for surgery. The article includes lots of interesting advice, such as, “If you can arrange it, making your surgery the first one of the day on a Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday has merit. The surgeon might be fresher not coming right off the weekend, and early-morning cases are less likely to get bumped by emergencies.” Yes, I’ve always thought avoiding a surgeon with a hangover was the preferable approach.

Speaking of surgeons, the authors counsel you to choose one carefully, particularly in determining how many of the procedures the doctor has done previously. For example, for bypass surgery you’d prefer to have a surgeon who performed at least 100 of them in the past year. (Even better: a doctor that helps me avoid bypass surgery altogether!)

Maybe churches need to come up with a similar list as they quiz prospective pastors.

For example:

~ How many hospital visits did you make last year, and what percentage of those survived?

~ How many people fell asleep during your sermons in the past year?

~ Have any of your members left your congregation to form house churches, and if so how many of those were members of your immediate family?

~ How many users logged on to your online services in the past six months? How many of those immediately clicked over to eBay?

Got any suggestions for additional questions? Pass them along!

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: Be fruitful and multiply. Six years later.

Mark your calendar now for April 7-9, 2008, to attend the 19th annual National Conference on Preaching in Washington, DC. An amazing faculty of speakers and workshop leaders will be present, including Chuck Colson, James MacDonald, William Willimon, James Emery White, Barry Black and many more. To learn more go to


In a recent interview for the PreachingTodaySermons newsletter, Duane Litfin discusses the danger of preaching that focuses only on felt needs: “Felt needs can distract us because of the misdirection of our society, the pop culture, the advertising. People think they need all sorts of things they don’t need, and they are distracted from the things they do need. It’s almost a mistake to be asking, What are the felt needs of my audience? and use those as my take-off point. As an expositor, I work the other way around. I come to the text, and I ask, What is this passage saying? What is the truth here? Why does God want us to know this? What is the need in our lives this passage is speaking to? That is the need I’m going to try to raise in my introduction.

I don’t start with my audience. I’m big into preaching to needs, but I don’t begin with my audience and ask, What are their needs? I start with the passage and say, This is the answer. Now what question might someone pose to me where I would say, “Let’s turn to this passage and look what God has to say?” In other words, you let the passage determine what the need is. Then that’s the need you raise in your introduction and deal with.

That comes out of a confidence in the profitability of all Scripture. All the graphe, all the writings, are profitable for doctrine, correction, reproof, instruction in righteousness. God wants to grow us into the people he wants us to be through the graphe, through the writings, through the Scripture. It is God breathed, profitable for us. Now the question is, Here’s a passage. How is this profitable? What needs to be reproved, corrected, and instructed? How do we need to grow in our walk with the Lord? How is this passage helping us do that? What is it speaking to? Why does God want me to know this? When I’ve answered that question at a deep level, I’ll know what to do in my introduction.”  (Click here to read the full article)


In a recent article for his Ministry Toolbox newsletter, Rick Warren talked about ideas for adding interest to sermons to increase their impact: “There are many different “special features” you can insert into your message to add just a little bit more and capture the attention of the people. I have learned you can preach much longer when you use features interlaced in your messages. These features can include:

Testimonies: When I get up to teach, people look at me as the paid salesman, the paid professional, but when we have a testimony, they are the satisfied customers. Personal testimony is still the most powerful form of persuasion, and it’s why advertisers still use it.

• Skits or dramas: Just make sure the skit theme connects with your message. There are a lot of good resources out there to find scripts. (For more on using drama in your services, click here).

Interviews: You can interview people live, by telephone, or on video to connect with your messages. A “man on the street” interview on video can be a good addition to your message as well.

Film clips: Movies are so much a part of today’s culture that they make terrific illustrations. Why? Because they represent a common language of the unchurched visiting your services each weekend. There is a site on the Internet ( that even categorizes the films by different character qualities that they portray.

Intersperse songs between your points: At Saddleback we call this “the point and play” service. We’ve had an incredible response when we do this. We typically use this feature on Christmas and Easter. It breaks the service into modules, while maintaining high interest. Sometimes we perform songs by a soloist or a choir, and other times we sing congregational songs. Putting a song at the end of each point often adds an emotional, powerful punch that allows people to express what they feel as a result of what they’ve heard.

Tag-team preaching: Sometimes we will actually have pastors share points. Another associate pastor and I will take turns during points of the message. I’ve done messages with my wife on marriage where she would do a point and I would do a point. I’ve brought in guest speakers and alternated points with them. Just having a different voice can shake things up just a little bit. It’s also very helpful when you have multiple services to do!”
(Click here to read the full article)


Fall 2007 will bring a great schedule of one-day preaching conferences to cities across the US, featuring two different seminars.

Our popular seminar “Preaching Truth in a Whatever World” deals with strategies for effective biblical preaching in a postmodern culture. It will be offered in the following cities:

Los Angeles (Oct 11)
New Orleans (Oct 30)
Quincy, IL (Nov 6)

This fall we are also launching a brand new seminar, “Growing a Biblical Sermon.” Developed in response to many requests, the conference will offer a solid guide to developing biblical sermons. The conference will be held in:

Philadelphia (Oct 9)
Nashville (Oct. 25)
Tampa (Oct 29)
Birmingham (Nov 1)
Columbus, Ohio (Nov 8)
Oakland, CA (Dec 10)

Each conference features Dr. Michael Duduit, editor of Preaching magazine, plus a guest speaker. Cost is $95 for the first participant from a church, and $50 for each additional person; the cost includes lunch and a notebook packed with helpful resources. For more information or to register, visit


A recent issue of the Friday Evenings newsletter notes that someone once said, “Falling down doesn’t make you a failure, but failing to get up does.” Thomas Edison was a man who saw many of his experiments fail, but he continued doing them anyway. He knew that it was better to get up than to give up. He was committed to excellence. In his search for a filament for incandescent light bulbs, he experimented with hundreds of fibers and metals. In 1879 he discovered a method for making an inexpensive filament that would handle the stress of electric current. Today we call his discovery “carbonized cotton fiber.” Thread! But the filament was so fragile that it easily broke in an open-air environment. Almost by accident, he tried inserting the filament within an oxygen-free tube. To his surprise, the filament glowed! It didn’t burn long, but it burned. Eventually he and his helpers discovered that the secret was in creating a vacuum within the glass bulb. And using a tungsten filament.
In the life of the Christian, we face many trips, tumbles, errors, and failures. The “voice” that visits us in those moments is not the voice of the Father, but of the adversary. He doesn’t say, “Nice try.” He shouts, “Failure!” He asserts, “You can’t live this Christian life.” Or, “You were better off before you started on this ill-fated journey.” Or, “Stay down. You won’t be missed.” Or, “You deserve better than this.”
It’s the Other Voice that you want to hear. That Voice says “Let me help you with that.” “I have been there before, and I know you can make it.” “My strength is sufficient for you.” “I will never leave you or forsake you.” “Together we can become strong.” Or, “Take my hand.”
God wants to honor us for our achievements, not punish us for our falls. He is committed to be our companion, our counselor, our advisor, our helper, our friend. (To subscribe to Friday Evenings, write Tom Barnard at


One day the great Italian Renaissance artist Michelangelo happened to overhear a group of people admiring his Pietà, a statue of Christ on His mother’s knees after His death on the cross. One man attributed the work to another sculptor, much to the chagrin of Michelangelo, who took particular pride in the Pietà. Returning to the sculpture after dark that evening, Michelangelo carved his name on it so that no similar mistake would occur in the future.

Sometimes it’s hard not to want the recognition and admiration of those around us. Whether our gift is preaching or teaching, writing or singing, evangelism or leading, we must keep a Godly perspective and motivation in everything we do. During His earthly ministry, Jesus certainly knew how to keep himself from becoming entangled in the praises of men; He gave all the credit to His Father, for He knew His reward was waiting on the other side of the cross.

If we fall into the trap of working or performing for the rewards of men, we are bound to miss out on our rewards in heaven. Is it worth losing eternal praise from God himself to have but a moment of earthly glory? (Turning Point Daily Devotional, 6-25-07)

From the September-October issue of Preaching . . .

In a sermon called “A Tale of Two Kings,” Scott Wenig begins, “One of the greatest historians of the past century was a man by the name of Samuel Elliot Morrison.  During the course of his life, Morrison taught at Harvard, Yale and a number of other prestigious institutions.  At the end of his illustrious career, a retirement party was thrown for him and at that party someone asked him if he could sum up what his study of history had taught him about life.

Morrison thought for a moment, and then said that history showed him that life was very much like a game of poker.  Certain nations are dealt good hands in terms of people, land and resources but they play the game poorly by squandering what they’re given and they end up losing the game.  Other nations are dealt very little in terms of people, land and resources but they play their hand well and as a result they end up winning the game.  Morrison concluded that history shows us that it’s not the hand you’re dealt but how you play the hand you’ve got that determines whether or not you win or lose at the game of life.

As I’ve thought about it, it seems that Morrison’s analysis is true not just of nations and countries but also of people.  Some people have been dealt a tremendous hand in life: they’re attractive, intelligent, capable, come from good families and have great health.  Others have been dealt a bad hand in life; they’ve suffered some tremendous handicaps and setbacks.  Their spouse walked out or family members have died; they’ve suffered from poor health or some kind of disability or they were physically or sexually abused.

And yet the issue for most people in life doesn’t really seem to be “the hand they’ve been dealt” nearly as much as it seems to be “how they play the hand they’ve been dealt.”

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 September-October issue of Preaching: Sermons by Max Lucado and Charles Stanley, a feature on “Preaching and the House Church Movement,” Michael Quicke’s continuing series on “Preaching and Trinitarian Worship,” and much more. Order your subscription today!


One of the favorite new features of the updated is the podcast section. Each week, Preaching editor Michael Duduit interviews an outstanding preacher. For the past week our current podcast has featured Charles Stanley; on Wednesday of this week our podcast interview with Max Lucado will be added. Next Wednesday (9/26) you’ll hear John Ortberg. To listen to these and past podcasts, visit


It was the first day of school. As the principal made his rounds, he heard a terrible commotion coming from one of the classrooms. He rushed in and spotted one boy, taller than the others, who seemed to be making the most noise. He seized the lad, dragged him to the hall, and told him to wait there until he was excused. Returning to the classroom, the principal restored order and lectured the class for half an hour about the importance of good behavior. Now,” he said,” are there any questions?

“One girl stood up timidly and asked, “Please sir, may we have our teacher back?”

“Where exactly is your teacher?”

“He’s in the hall, sir.”


This week (starting tomorrow) our Preaching podcast features Max Lucado, whose new book 3:16 (Thomas Nelson) is a powerful look at the most memorized verse of the Bible. The book grew out of a sermon series on the favorite verse.


The November-December issue of Preaching will feature an exclusive interview with Eugene Peterson. Peterson’s most recent book, The Jesus Way (Eerdmans), is a blend of biblical exposition and cultural analysis to explore how Jesus is the Way compared to the distorted directions the modern American church has too often followed.


The Majesty of God in the Old Testament (Baker) by Walter C. Kaiser is a powerful challenge to faithful preaching of Old Testament texts. Kaiser offers insights for preaching and outstanding models.



(Click on the title to learn more or order from


A mother looked out a window and saw Johnny playing church with their three kittens. He had them lined up and was preaching to them. The mother turned around to do some work, but soon she heard meowing and scratching on the door.

She went to the window and saw Johnny baptizing the kittens. She opened the window and said, “Johnny, stop that! You’ll drown those kittens.”

Johnny looked at her and said with much conviction in his voice: “They should have thought of that before they joined my church.”  (from Mikey’s Funnies)


“Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt.” (Abraham Lincoln


1. The later you stay up, the earlier your child will wake up the next morning.

2. For a child to become clean, something else must become dirty.

3. Toys multiply to fill any space available.

4. The longer it takes you to make a meal, the less your child will like it.

5. Yours is always the only child who doesn’t behave.

6. If the shoe fits…it’s expensive.

7. The surest way to get something done is to tell a child not to do it.

8. The gooier the food, the more likely it is to end up on the carpet.

9. Backing the car out of the driveway causes your child to have to go to the bathroom.

Too much TV can be a dangerous thing.

Just ask Michael Hobbs of Waco, KY, who says he learned to rob homes by watching the TV show “It Takes a Thief” on the Discovery Channel, according to a Sept. 16 AP story. The show highlights two ex-cons who demonstrate how vulnerable homes are to thieves.

Unfortunately for Hobbs, he apparently neglected to watch the show “Cops.” As a result, he pled guilty last week to five counts of burglary.

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