From the Editor:

Pulpits and Politics


Every Sermon Needs an Idea
Sermons: Live or Video?


The Aroma of Christ, Sacrifices


Link of the Week

Preacher’s Bookshelf


And Finally…

"Fame is a vapor, popularity an accident, riches take wing, and only character endures."

(Horace Greeley)

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    Vol. 7, No. 14 April 1, 2008    

Michael Duduit

During the past few weeks, media reports have been filled with provocative excerpts from sermons by Jeremiah Wright, who was Barack Obama’s pastor for the past two decades. The intense public focus on the work of a preacher is a reminder that the theme of this year’s National Conference on Preaching is as timely as can be.

That theme is "Preaching and the Public Square," and there seems to be increasing interest in exploring how the church – specifically preaching – should engage the culture today. There is a long history of preachers addressing political and social issues in American life, though many in the mass media seem to think this is a relatively recent trend.

While our primary task as preachers is to communicate biblical truth, sometimes in the process of doing that pastors have a responsibility to speak to moral issues that affect the community. The Bible is where we learn about salvation, but it’s also where we are told to help our brother, to be concerned for the widow and orphan, to help families, to be an advocate for biblical morality. So there is a public dimension to our faith, and it is perfectly appropriate to speak to that in preaching – in fact, I would say we have an obligation to speak to ways in which the Bible addresses those kinds of public square issues.

In the midst of an active election season, however, it’s important for pastors to protect the integrity of the pulpit. Never let the pulpit become a partisan political tool. It’s one thing to have a political leader or public official speak on public issues that would be of concern to the church and community; it’s an altogether different thing to let a candidate use the pulpit for campaigning as if your church was nothing more than a billboard or a TV spot.

Michael Duduit, Editor

There’s no issue of Preaching Now next week while our staff is at the conference in Washington, DC. There’s still time to join us – just visit for information! Are you a seminary or college student? A sponsor has enabled us to offer scholarships to full-time students. To apply go to

Be sure to check this week’s Preaching podcast – an interview with David Olson about some important new research that will be of value to church leaders. To listen or download go to


In his book Getting into Character (Brazos), Stephen Chapin Garner reminds us that "whether it is a narrative, a first-person narrative, a deductive sermon or an inductive sermon, to be truly effective every message must convey a biblical concept or a homiletical idea. The biblical writers were not just telling stories. Biblical authors were not merely beat reporters looking to relate the facts to impartial observers. These ancient writers were intent on making points and communicating principles of faith.

"As preachers, our job is virtually the same. We take a biblical passage, we try to distill the message the author was trying to convey, and then we try to relate that idea or teaching to a particular congregation gathered in a specific place and moment in time … Before pen is put to paper, or a single letter is typed on a keyboard, a preacher must be clear about what a biblical text is trying to say." (Click here to learn more about the book Getting Into Character.)


Those (like me) who wonder about the long-term potential of video venues for churches will be interested in this observation by Frank Luntz in his book Words that Work (Hyperion): "It is an interesting phenomenon to watch television audiences at live studio tapings in Hollywood or New York. Those older than fifty inevitably will watch the actual performance, even if the actors are somewhat far away and partially obscured by television cameras or lighting.

"Those younger than forty will watch the performance through the television monitors, even when the monitors are high above them and the actors nearby. Why? Because for younger audiences, it’s what comes through the television itself, not the performance, that defines the meaning of live. This can be seen at sporting events, as well. Younger fans watch the action on the ‘jumbotron’ monitor rather than focusing on the game itself." (Click here to order the book Words that Work.)

Pastors in churches where image magnification is used have noticed the same phenomenon: People who are only a few rows from the platform often will turn to watch the preacher’s image on the large screen rather than the live speaker right in front of them. I’m not sure of all the implications of such a reality, but it’s one to be considered as we think about preaching and technology in the years ahead.


You’ve been thinking about it for weeks, and now it’s almost here! So act 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 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.


The great composer, Franz Joseph Haydn, though weakened by age and confined to a wheelchair, was present one evening at the Vienna Music Hall where his piece, "The Creation," was being performed. As the piece progressed, the audience became so overwhelmed with emotion that when the passage "And there was light!" was reached, they arose and burst into applause. Struggling to stand, Haydn motioned for silence, pointed toward heaven and said, "No, no, not from me, but from thence comes all!"

David Jeremiah writes: "We were created to praise God. It should be our aim every day to glorify Him through our thoughts, actions, and words, amounting to a life that is ultimately not about us but all about Christ. Haydn understood this well and carried it out wonderfully during his life. He knew the reason he was able to create such masterpieces was that God had blessed him with a gift. He spent his life using that gift to bring glory to the Lord.

"Scripture tells us we are to ‘Give unto the Lord the glory due to His name’ (Psalm 29:2). Whatever we do, let us do it to honor and glorify Christ Jesus the Lord." (Turning Point Daily Devotional, 2-18-08)


In an article at Mike Milton’s website "The Call," he shares this insight: "When my father died I was barely six years old. After the funeral, Aunt Eva took me and we went through his possessions. Well, my dad didn’t have many possessions. But of all the things we found, the one that lasted for almost all of my growing up years was a bottle of Old Spice cologne. It smelled like my father. I didn’t use it for years afterward but we kept that bottle of cologne in the medicine cabinet. And every time I washed my face, I opened the cabinet to check and see if the Old Spice was still there. Aunt Eva never said anything, but she never touched it either. She must have known. The Old Spice was the only thing I had of my father to grow up with.

"Later, when I started shaving as an adolescent, Aunt Eva bought me a bottle of Hai Karaté! It was alright but it just wasn’t the same. It was supposed to make girls go crazy, and that didn’t work either. I can honestly say I never was attacked by a woman wanting to smell my Hai Karaté. Most important, it just didn’t have the right smell. It didn’t remind me of my father.

"The Lord instituted offerings in the Old Testament. We are told they were sweet smelling offerings and a pleasing aroma to the Lord. What did that mean? It meant there was a smell of sacrifice that pleased God. Later we would understand this was a sign to point to Jesus Christ. His life, His death was pleasing to God. It was the fulfillment of the Old Testament sacrifices. But there is a wonderful verse. It says that "we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing." This tells us the life of our Lord is now all over us. His blood covers our sins. His life fulfills the perfect Law of God on our behalf. Christ has died and risen and ascended. His life, like my father’s Old Spice, is now on us, and His life in us reminds us of our Father.

"More importantly, it is attractive to those who are being saved. When I am with you, when I hear of Christ at work in your life, I am reminded of my Father. The Old Spice became a sign of my father with me, growing up. Now, as a believer in the Lord, the savor of Jesus in your lives helps me. I am in the Church because I need to sense His presence. This is where He wants me. Thank God, through the lives of His people, though my Savior is in Heaven, He is here with me through the sweet aroma of Christ on all of His people." (Click here to read the full commentary.)

From the March-April issue of Preaching …

In an interview with Ron Martoia, he observes, "When I use a word, I am encoding that word with specific sorts of ideas – I am assuming the kinds of things I am investing in its meaning are the sorts of things you extract from its meaning.

"I actually used this is an illustration: If I used the word ‘barn,’ in a sentence I obviously have all sorts of experiences, and ideas and thoughts in me using that particular word ‘barn.’ If those are positive experiences of growing up at Grandma’s farm and going into the barn and swinging on a great big tire from the rafters and jumping off into hay piles, then that is a pretty positive word and a pretty positive experience. But if by hearing me use the word ‘barn’ you recall what was actually a tragic experience for you – perhaps you lost a loved one in a barn burning down – suddenly the sort of ideas and feelings, the intangibles that are conjured up in that word definitely are not what I am hoping it provokes in you when I use the word. So we have some static.

"The issue that we are really being challenged with here is obviously something we talk about in preaching a lot. What I am investing the words with is what I am hoping you are getting out of the words, and if they are not the same it is up to me to communicate or to make sure that somehow I get that clarified.

"When we move that concept into the arena of biblical communication or preaching, we’ve got an even harder complexity to face. Now not only do I have the material invested in your head and in my head of what the word might mean, but we have how the world has defined a lot of our Christian nomenclature. As a result we often have got barriers to overcome that makes the language game more challenging."

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 May-June issue of Preaching: It’s one of the issues our members most want us to address and yet we often avoid: sexuality. In this issue we have articles on "Preaching and Marital Intimacy," "Preaching on Homosexuality" and much more. Plus you’ll enjoy an interview with creative communicator Ron Martoia, articles by Robert Smith and D.A. Carson, great sermons and much more. Order your subscription today!

N.T. Wright is one of the most insightful Christian writers of our day, and his latest book is Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church. (Click here to order a copy from Amazon.) To read an excerpt from the book go to

"One filled with joy preaches without preaching." (Mother Teresa)


The March-April issue of Preaching contains Al Mohler’s annual survey of the past year’s best books for preachers. Among the books he highlights:

Donald K. McKim has edited a fascinating resource in the massive Dictionary of Major Biblical Interpreters (InterVarsity Press). This reference volume — adding up to more than a thousand pages — reviews the major interpreters of the Bible from the patristic era to the present. Helpful articles will provide something of a summary of the development of biblical exegesis over the last twenty centuries.


John Piper, pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, Minnesota, has written The Future of Justification (Crossway), intended as a response to the proposals of N.T. Wright. This volume will assist preachers in understanding the issues at stake in contemporary debates over justification and the Pauline letters.


Where Is God When We Suffer?

Robert Wuthnow of Princeton University has produced another interesting volume in After the Baby Boomers: How Twenty-and Thirty-Somethings are Shaping the Future of American Religion(Princeton University Press). Wuthnow turns his attention to the generation that has followed the Baby Boomers, noting that this generation is redefining much of the culture and establishing a significant challenge for the Christian church.

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



When the local doctor began attending church services the pastor was delighted, and it wasn’t long before they were helping each other in their work – the minister referring people to the doctor, and vice versa.

One person who received a referral from the doctor called at the church office with a note prescribing the pastor’s last four sermons. The pastor was most pleased until he discovered that the patient’s problem was insomnia.


I’d love to, but . . .

1. I have to floss my cat.

2. I’ve dedicated my life to linguini.

3. I want to spend more time with my blender.

4. The President said he might drop in.

5. The man on television told me to stay tuned.

6. I’ve been scheduled for an eyelash transplant.

7. I’m staying home to work on my cottage cheese sculpture.

8. It’s my parakeet’s bowling night.

9. It wouldn’t be fair to the other Beautiful People.

10. I’m building a pig from a kit. (from

Some people apparently turn to crime due to a lack of common sense.

Such as the 18-year-old would-be thief who showed up to rob a Chicago muffler shop. When employees told him a safe he wanted to rob wasn’t open, he asked them to give him a call when their boss returned with the combination, according to a March 26 AP story.

"He gave us his phone number when we told him we didn’t have any money. He told us to call him back when the owner came back with the money and he was going to come back and rob him," said worker Tony Diaz. "It’s pretty funny now, but it wasn’t at the time."

The prospective thief eventually got a call, but so did Chicago police.

The man returned around noon, wearing the same mask and clothing. Chicago police officers ultimately shot and wounded him in the leg; he was charged with attempted armed robbery and aggravated assault of a police officer.

"No one could make this up," said police Lt. Scott Schwieger.

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