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Preaching Style Reflects Relational Style

Leading Means Teaching

Holiness, Holy Spirit
Plans, Providence
Improvement, Pessimism
Gullibility, Cleverness

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“He who no longer reads should get out of the ministry.”

  (John Wesley)

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    Vol. 6, No. 33 September 25, 2007    

Michael Duduit

Last week I had the delightful task of speaking for the Campbellsville University Pastors School alongside my friend Robert Smith, who teaches preaching at Beeson Divinity School. Robert, who was on the program of the International Congress on Preaching in Cambridge this spring, is one of the featured preachers at the 2008 National Conference on Preaching, which will be held April 7-9 in suburban Washington, DC. He’s also one of the finest preachers I know.

Robert is just one of the remarkable team of preachers and teachers who will be part of NCP 2008 – including Chuck Colson, James MacDonald, Barry Black, James Emery White, William Willimon, and many more. The theme of the conference is “Preaching and the Public Square: Where Do Pulpit and Culture Meet?” We’ll be exploring some key questions about how preaching can engage contemporary culture in many ways – from politics to the arts and entertainment. With a meeting in the nation’s capital in the midst of an election year, it promises to be a provocative and practical preaching event, including great worship services and valuable preaching workshops.

Mark your calendar now for next April 7-9. And if you register before October 31, you’ll save $125 off the regular price. Click here to learn more or to register, or go to

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.

If you’ve never attended one of our one-day preaching conferences, think about joining us for one of nine events planned this fall. (See below for more information.) The Philadelphia and Southern California events are just two weeks away, so register now! Just visit for more information.

This week on the Preaching podcast:
An interview with Max Lucado (Click Here)
An interview with John Ortberg (available on Sept 26)


In his book Change Your Church for Good: The Art of Sacred Cow Tipping (Thomas Nelson), pastor Brad Powell observes, “Style is reflected by how we relate to people . . . relationally or authoritatively. In the post-World War II years, we lived in an authoritarian culture. Partially because of the significant military influence, people were used to a vertical structure of authority in almost every arena of life. . . .

“This vertical or authoritarian approach to life was carried into the church. Pastors tended to preach at people rather than talk to them. The message usually told them what to do but never addressed why it was important to do it. The church had a top-down structure. This style is obvious in the design of many church buildings.

“When I was originally called to the church I now pastor, I inherited a building designed for an authoritative style of relating to people. The auditorium was designed to preach at people. It was narrow and long with a significant space between the people and the pastor. The platform was high so the pastor could stand above the people. When the pastor mounted the platform and stood behind the large cross-shaped pulpit, he immediately had authority. The pastor also sat on the platform looking out at the people until it was time to speak. This clearly set him apart and gave the appearance of authority. All of this made cultural sense in that day. It was a relevant style.

“However, our world is very different. We live in a more relational or horizontal world. So when I had the privilege of participating in the design of our new auditorium, I envisioned a different kind of space. I wanted to communicate with people rather than speak at them, and we designed the auditorium to be wide and shallow. Though a large auditorium, I can see every eyeball in the place. We also lowered the platform to a more reasonable height. Though it’s raised in order to provide site lines, it isn’t designed to impress. And, of course, I would never sit on the platform during the part of the service I wasn’t involved in. This would create an unneeded distraction and wrongly communicate I was the center of attention.

“This doesn’t mean that I’m better than those who led in the past. It’s a simple issue of style. It’s vitally important that we communicate in a style that is relevant to the culture that we’re living in. . . . The real issue is effectively communicating God’s truth.”  (Click here to learn more about the book Change Your Church for Good.)


In this month’s edition of his Leadership Newsletter, Stan Toler writes: “In my book, Minute Motivators for Teachers, I made this observation: ‘A gardener doesn’t raise a crop of roses. He cultivates the flowers one bloom at a time.’ Leadership isn’t just about charts and meetings and business plans. It is also about influence. Effective teaching is a giant step toward effective leading.

1. Teach sincerely
People are not only affected by your skills, they are influenced by the way you live. The greatest lessons you will ever teach will come from your own experience. Your transparency will be a greater source of inspiration than your facts or theories.

2. Teach purposefully
Vibrant teaching focuses on building productivity and responsibility. It observes weaknesses and teaches strengthening. It recognizes possibilities and offers plans. It estimates damages and offers reconstruction.

3. Teach methodically
Methods must fit the occasion and lessons must be aimed at the learning level of your students. And don’t forget, steady doses are better than overdoses.

4. Teach sacrificially
Every leader is given a moment — a window of opportunity that may never open again to influence a life. You may have to subtract time or energy in order to add the resources for someone’s development.

5. Teach sympathetically
The best teaching comes from the heart. Your students not only need your experience, they also need your attention. Teach them by not only respecting who they are, but also by what they will become.

Author and classic motivator, Norman Vincent Peale, once said, We should be in the business of building people up. There are too many people in the demolition business. I agree. Teach and build one bloom at a time.”  (Click here to learn more about Stan’s newsletter)


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


Greg Heisler, author of the book, Spirit-Led Preaching (Broadman & Holman), draws this apt analogy about the relationship between the preacher’s holiness and his or her effectiveness in preaching: “On a recent stop at the gas station, a sign by the pump caught my eye. I had read the sign many times before and had become quite adept at ignoring it. The sign read: ‘Warning! To avoid risk, only pump gas into preapproved containers.’ I know the sign was basically telling me that not everything is fit for holding gas. Gas is explosive and flammable, and it should be stored in the proper container. A proper container is one that is designed to hold or transport gas.

When it comes to the Holy Spirit and preaching, I believe God puts a similar warning sign on the container that transports the Word and the Spirit: ‘Warning! To avoid risk, only preach from pure and holy containers that are approved by God.’ Spirit-led preaching views the preacher as the vessel or container that transports the Word and the Spirit to the congregation and then delivers what’s inside.

Could someone charge you with transporting the Spirit in ‘an unapproved container’?”

(Submitted by Steve D. Eutsler, Professor, Minister, and Author. Springfield, MO. Click here to learn more about the book Spirit-Led Preaching.)


In the Sept 17 edition of his Monday Moment newsletter, Michael Halleen writes: “We cannot arrange our lives perfectly.  Our best laid plans often go astray.  I used to have a cartoon from The Wall Street Journal in my file (I used to have a file!) showing two thieves coming out of a bank, loot in hand, heading toward their getaway car.  It, however, was sitting on blocks, having been stripped by local hoodlums while the thieves were robbing the bank.

The Old Testament character Joseph experienced several such setbacks.  He was sold into slavery by his jealous brothers.  He worked hard and became head of his master’s household, only to be falsely accused and thrown into jail.  Joseph’s unique abilities then brought him to the attention of the king who made him administrator of the national food bank.  When his brothers showed up, wanting food in a time of famine (their lives had been imperfect too), Joseph chose the high road and provided them the help they needed.  The evil they had intended – and the hard circumstances he had endured as a result- had somehow been used by God for good.

There are surprises throughout our lives that we cannot possibly foresee- flukes and pitfalls, blue skies and earthquakes, flowers and tidal waves.  My email today may contain an encouraging thought from a friend or a destructive virus from a stranger.  We do well to take Joseph’s path, to look for the highest purpose open to us in whatever circumstance we meet.  To do so is to practice the presence of God.  God does not put the banana peel on the sidewalk or cause the accident resulting from our stepping on it.  Rather, God goes with us each day into every encounter to enable us to meet any circumstance with grace and good will.”  (Write to to subscribe to Monday Moment.)

From the September-October issue of Preaching . . .

Preaching magazine subscribers know that we’ve recently added a special section to each issue called “In Ministry,” featuring three brief articles on important, non preaching-related topics. In the current issue, one of those articles is by John Burke, who discusses five pitfalls common to churches as they seek to raise money in a campaign. The first pitfall: we can do it all ourselves.

“In any growing church there is always more to do than time allows. Yet, when it comes to one of the most important undertakings, leadership says, ‘We can do that ourselves.’ Someone has to own the campaign, giving management and oversight to a multitude of details. Be assured: some one will own responsibility for the campaign. Typically, that falls to a pastor or staff member. What often follows is reduced ministry and a lack of funding. First, ministers may find themselves blamed for not fulfilling ministry expectations. Second, churches tend to raise well below their giving potential.”

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!


Seth Godin may be one of the most influential people you’ve never heard of. If you aren’t in business, marketing or a web-related career, you may not know about Seth, who started as a columnist for Fast Company magazine and today is one of the people that smart businesses listen to for advice on marketing and using the internet. If you’d like to keep up with what the young business leaders in your church are reading, visit Seth’s blog at


Pastor Joe shocked the congregation when he announced his resignation from the church and a planned move to another church.

After the service a very distraught Mrs. Smith came to the pastor with tears in her eyes, “Oh, Pastor Joe, we are going to miss you so much. We don’t want you to leave!”

The kindhearted pastor patted her hand and said, “Now, now, Sue, it’s going to be OK. The pastor who takes my place might be even better than me.”

“Yeah, sure”, she said skeptically. “That’s what Pastor Mike said when he left!”


Church leaders struggle to lead churches through a constantly-changing environment. In Thriving Churches in the Twenty-First Century (Kregel), authors Gary L. McIntosh and R. Daniel Reeves talk about ten interacting systems that help make up a healthy church body – such as the pastor’s spiritual life, team ministry, lifestyle evangelism and more.


11 Innovations in the Local Church (Regal) is packed with ideas for new ways to do church in the 21st century. Authors Elmer Towns, Ed Stetzer and Warren Bird analyze various church models (such as Recovery Churches, Multi-Site Churches, Ancient-Future Churches, and Decision-Journey Churches) and help us understand how they work, why they work, and what we can learn from each. (By the way, our Preaching Podcast interview with Ed Stetzer will be available at as of October 10. It’s a fun one!)


Since we seem to be on a church growth roll here, let’s add one additional title: Overcoming Barriers to Growth (Bethany House), by Michael Fletcher. Fletcher is a North Carolina pastor who draws on his own experience as well as that of other churches to share counsel on issues like: how the role of pastors and leadership teams change at each growth stage; how to move past natural stalling points in church growth; ways to jumpstart a ministry, and more. This is a useful resource for pastors and church leaders who seek to move churches to new growth levels.

(Click on the title to learn more or order from


A fisherman from the city was out fishing on a lake in a small boat. He noticed another man in a small boat open his tackle box and take out a mirror. Being curious the man rowed over and asked, “What is the mirror for?”

“That’s my secret way to catch fish,” said the other man. “Shine the mirror on the top of the water. The fish notice the spot of sun on the water above and they swim to the surface. Then I just reach down and net them and pull them into the boat.”

“Wow! Does that really work?”

“You bet it does.”

“Would you be interested in selling that mirror? I’ll give you $30 for it.”

“Well, okay.”

After the money was transferred, the city fisherman asked, “By the way, how many fish have you caught this week?”

“You’re the sixth,” he said. (from Cybersalt Digest)

“Tolerance is the virtue of people who don’t believe in anything anymore.” (G.K. Chesterton)


A first grade school teacher in Virginia presented each child in her classroom the first half of a well-known proverb and asked them to come up with the remainder of the proverb. Here are their answers:

1.  Don’t change horses… until they stop running.
2.  Strike while the…bug is close.
3.  It’s always darkest before…Daylight Saving Time.
4.  Never underestimate the power of…termites.
5.  You can lead a horse to water but…how?
6.  Don’t bite the hand that…looks dirty.
7.  No news is…impossible.
8.  A miss is as good as a…Mr.
9.  You can’t teach an old dog new…math.
10. If you lie down with dogs, you’ll…stink in the morning.
11. Love all, trust…me.
12. The pen is mightier than the…pigs.
13. An idle mind is…the best way to relax.
14. Where there’s smoke there’s…pollution.
15. Happy is the bride who…gets all the presents.
16. A penny saved is…not much.
17. Two’s company, three’s…the Musketeers.
18. Don’t put off till tomorrow what…you put on to go to bed.
19. Laugh and the whole world laughs with you, cry and…you have to blow your nose.
20. There are none so blind as…Stevie Wonder.
21. Children should be seen and not…spanked or grounded.
22. If at first you don’t succeed…get new batteries.
23. You get out of something only what you…see in the picture on the box.
24. When the blind lead the blind…get out of the way.


It’s not unusual for people to get angry at God, but it’s a bit out of the ordinary to attempt to take the Almighty to court.

That’s what Ernie Chambers, a state senator in Nebraska, is attempting to do, however. According to a Sept. 17 AP story, Chambers is upset about another lawsuit he considers frivolous, so he’s seeking to demonstrate that anyone can file a lawsuit against anyone else.

According to the news report, “Chambers says in his lawsuit that God has made terrorist threats against the senator and his constituents, inspired fear and caused ‘widespread death, destruction and terrorization of millions upon millions of the Earth’s inhabitants.’ The Omaha senator, who skips morning prayers during the legislative session and often criticizes Christians, also says God has caused ‘fearsome floods … horrendous hurricanes, terrifying tornadoes.’”

The local politician – who is seeking a permanent injunction against God — argues that He can be sued in Nebraska’s Douglas County because, since He is omnipresent, He exists there.

News reports do not identify at which local church legal papers were served to the Defendant.

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