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From the Editor:

Egocentric or God-centric Spiritual Life?

Know the Sermon’s Purpose

Studying Leadership

Sanctity of Life
Offering, Giving

Link of the Week

Preacher’s Bookshelf


And Finally…

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(Robert Murray M’Cheyne)

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    Vol. 7, No. 10 March 4 , 2008    

Michael Duduit

Speaking at last week’s National Pastors Convention in San Diego, John Ortberg related a conversation with Dallas Willard in which John posed the question: How do I determine how my spiritual life is doing?

Willard responded by saying you should ask yourself two questions:

Am I growing more or less irritated these days?

Am I growing more or less discouraged these days?

If your answer to those questions is “more,” it may be that you have allowed your own ego to become the driving force in your sense of personal and ministry identity. Instead, our lives and ministries should be centered on a vision of God. As Willard observes, “Our life is not an object of deep concern” when we have abandoned ourselves to a vision of the Kingdom of God.

(Click here to learn more about the book The Great Omission by Dallas Willard.)

Michael Duduit, Editor

A sponsor has enabled us to offer special scholarships to full-time students who wish to attend this year’s National Conference on Preaching in Washington. To apply go to


In his classic book Biblical Preaching (Baker), Haddon Robinson reminds us of the critical need to know a sermon’s purpose before it is preached: “No matter how brilliant or biblical a sermon is, without a definite purpose it is not worth preaching. We have no adequate idea of why we are speaking. Imagine asking a hockey coach, ‘What is the purpose of your hockey team?’ He had better know the answer. All kinds of activities take place on the ice – skating, stick handling, checking, passing – but the purpose of a hockey team must be to outscore the opponent. A team that does not keep that firmly in mind plays only for exercise.

“Why preach this sermon? We do an assortment of things when we face our congregation. We explain, illustrate, exhort, exegete, and gesture, to list a few. We are to be pitied if we fail to understand this particular sermon should change lives in some specific way … The purpose behind each individual sermon is to secure some moral action. We need to know what that action is.”  (Click here to learn more about the book Biblical Preaching.)


In his book When Leadership and Discipleship Collide (Zondervan), Bill Hybels writes: “It has been my strong bias for the last thirty-plus years that Christian leaders must take full advantage of the accumulated teachings of every leadership generation that has gone before them. What we work for in ministry leadership is the single most important endeavor on planet Earth – the building of the kingdom of God. The potential of this kingdom is greater than any other, and the stakes involved in realizing it are higher. When we get it right, and especially when we don’t, we impact people’s eternities. It seems plain to me, then, that Christian leaders above all others would strive to be the most devoted, most faithful, most astute learners of leadership’s laws …

“Read everything you can read about the laws of leadership. Go wherever leadership is taught. Get near leaders who are more advanced than you are. Keep growing. Keep challenging yourself. Keep getting better!” (Click here to learn more about the book When Leadership and Discipleship Collide.)


Plan now to join us for the 19th annual National Conference on Preaching, which will be held April 7-9 in suburban Washington, DC. “Preaching and the Public Square: Where Do Pulpit and Culture Meet?” is the provocative theme of the three-day event. You’ll hear speakers and panelists explore how preaching can and should engage cultural issues in the 21st century. You’ll get great ideas from a selection of practical preaching workshops.

At NCP 2008, you’ll enjoy insights and inspiration from some of America’s finest preachers and teachers, including:

Chuck Colson

Rick Warren James MacDonald

Barry Black

William Willimon A.R. Bernard

Mark Batterson

James Emery White Robert Smith Jr.

J. Alfred Smith

Timothy Warren Greg Thornbury

and many more. To learn more or to register, visit the NCP website at or call (toll free) 1-800-527-5226.


William Willimon, in his book What’s Right with the Church (Harper & Row), tells about leading a Sunday school class that was studying the temptation of Jesus in the wilderness. After careful study and explanation of each of the three temptations, Dr. Willimon asked, “How are we tempted today?” A young salesman was the first to speak. “Temptation is when your boss calls you in, as mine did yesterday, and says, ‘I’m going to give you a real opportunity. I’m going to give you a bigger sales territory. We believe you are going places, young man.’
“But I don’t want a bigger sales territory,” the young salesman told his boss. “I’m already away from home four nights a week. It wouldn’t be fair to my wife and daughter.”
“Look,” his boss replied, “we’re asking you to do this for your wife and daughter. Don’t you want to be a good father? It takes money to support a family these days. Sure, your little girl doesn’t take much money now, but think of the future. Think of her future. I’m only asking you to do this for them,” the boss said.
The young man told the class, “Now, that’s temptation.”
Jesus overcame His first temptation by putting his complete trust in God. That’s a good example for us. We’re so concerned about “having it all.” The wise person trusts God will provide all he or she needs. (William Willimon, adapted by King Duncan, (Click here to learn more about the book What’s Right with the Church.)


Chuck Colson says: “As I write in my new book, The Faith, Christians did not leap into politics five minutes after Roe v. Wade was decided. Christian doctrine on the sanctity of life, coupled with the Church’s involvement in politics, began 2,000 years ago. For instance, the Didache, a first-century manual of Christian discipleship, teaches: ‘In accordance with the precept of the teaching, “you shall not kill,” you shall not put a child to death by abortion or kill it once it is born.’

“Church father Justin Martyr put it equally bluntly: ‘We have been taught that it is wicked to expose even newly born children’ to die in the elements, for ‘we would then be murderers.’ And in the Church’s first political appeal in the second century, Christian apologist Athenagoras wrote this to Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius: ‘We say women who use drugs to bring on an abortion commit murder.’ Medical advances confirm what ancient Christians took as a matter of faith–that the essential identity of every human life remains the same from conception to natural death.

“Whether we believe this and accept responsibility for the unborn child depends on our view of humanity. Do we believe humans were created in God’s image? Or do we believe, as the secularist does, that humans are just one more example of evolution’s chance handiwork, no different in kind than lice and lungfish?”  (Breakpoint commentary, 2-7-08)

From the March-April issue of Preaching …

In a sermon by Chuck Swindoll he observes, “Thanks to blockbuster movies, thrill rides, and Madison Avenue ad campaigns, we have come to expect that if life isn’t ‘sensational,’ something must be wrong. We must be skinny and beautiful, pursue a career that’s continually challenging and rewarding, become rich and famous, and enjoy a family life that’s dynamic and fulfilling. If we’re not careful, we can apply those expectations to our spiritual journey and fail to see the hand of God in the ordinary events of life. Even more tragic, we might fail to recognize His gentle teaching in the midst of life’s most painful trials.”

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 March-April issue of Preaching: Insightful articles on preaching and culture – including Mike Milton’s article, “Biblical Preaching in a Pluralistic Culture,” plus our annual survey of the past year’s best books for preachers (including our Preaching Book of the Year and our Top Ten list), sermons by Chuck Swindoll and Stuart Briscoe, and much more. Order your subscription today!

The second installment of The Chronicles of Narnia film series comes out May 16, and some churches are already anticipating teaching and outreach activities coordinated with the film’s release. To learn more about Prince Caspian visit

“Our ministry must be emphathetic, or it will never affect these thoughtless times; and to this end our hearts must be habitually fervent, and our whole nature must be fired with an all-consuming passion for the glory of God and the good of men.”

(Charles Spurgeon)


In The Incredible Shrinking Church(B&H Publishing), Frank Page draws on his own pastoral experience to talk about how declining, or plateaued, churches can be turned around to become dynamic growing congregations. The current president of the Southern Baptist Convention, Page offers practical insights from a pastor who has been there and done it.



A City Upon a Hill (Harper One) by Larry Witham is a fascinating history of preaching in America. Subtitled How Sermons Changed the Course of America, the book demonstrates just that – that preaching has helped shape the development of the nation’s life and identity. It’s a delightful read and packed with interesting stories that will be enjoyed by anyone who loves preaching.



Where Is God When We Suffer?

As the number of Bible translations proliferates, a little solid advice can be helpful. Gordon Fee and Mark Strauss provide exactly that in their book How to Choose a Translation for All Its Worth(Zondervan). This is a great resource for understanding the differences between Bible versions.

(Click on the title to learn more or order from Amazon.)





A minister in a little church had been having trouble with the collections.

One Sunday he announced, “Now, before we pass the collection plate, I would like to request that the person who stole the chickens from Brother Martin’s henhouse please refrain from giving any money to the Lord. The Lord doesn’t want money from a thief!”

The collection plate was passed around, and for the first time in months everybody gave.


Haven’t been skiing yet this winter? Here are some activities that will give you that feeling of going to a ski resort:

10. Visit your local butcher and pay $10 to sit in his walk-in freezer for half an hour. Afterwards, burn two $50 dollar bills to warm up.

9. Go to the nearest hockey rink and walk across the ice 20 times in your ski boots carrying two pairs of skis, accessory bag and poles. Pretend you are looking for your car.

8. For ski boot simulation at home, put a pebble in your street shoes and tighten a C-clamp around your toes.

7. Buy a pair of gloves and immediately throw one away.

6. Go to McDonald’s and insist on paying $6.50 for a hamburger. Be sure to wait in the longest line.

5. Clip a lift ticket to the zipper of your jacket and ride a motorcycle fast enough to make the ticket lacerate your face.

4. Drive slowly for five hours – anywhere – as long as it’s in bad weather and you’re following an 18-wheeler.

3. Fill a blender with ice, hit the pulse button and let the spray blast your face. You’d almost believe you’re skiing in front of a snowmaker!

2. Dress up in as many clothes as you can and then proceed to take them off because you have to go to the bathroom.

1. Repeat all of the above every Saturday. 

British industry magazine The Bookseller has announced this year’s shortlist for the oddest book title of the year, according to a Feb. 22 story from the AFP news agency.

Visitors to the magazine’s website,, can make their choice from titles unearthed by publishers, bookstore workers and librarians from around the world. Among the nominees for The Diagram Prize:

I Was Tortured by the Pygmy Love Queen by Jasper McCutcheon;

How to Write a How to Write Book by Brian Paddock;

Are Women Human? And Other International Dialogues by Catharine A. MacKinnon;

Cheese Problems Solved by P.L.H McSweeney;

People who Mattered in Southend and Beyond: From King Canute to Doctor Feelgood by Dee Gordon.

Last year’s winner was The Stray Shopping Carts of Eastern North America: A Guide to Field Identification, by Julian Montague.

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