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From the Editor:

New Year’s Resolutions

Ending the Sermon

Experiences Impact Interpretation

Rick Warren Joins Program for NCP 2008

Suffering, Cost of Service

Link of the Week

Preacher’s Bookshelf


And Finally…

“All you have is today, because when tomorrow comes it will still be today.”  

(A.R. Bernard )

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    Vol. 7, No. 2 January 8, 2008    

Michael Duduit

Looking over copies of Preaching Now from five years ago, I saw these comments I made then. Even five years later, they still work for me:

So far, so good on my New Year’s resolutions.

Over the years I’ve learned to be selective and realistic in my resolutions. (The weight loss industry lives off the unrealistic kind!) Thus, this year’s assortment:

  • Hug my kids at least once every day.

  • If you can’t say something nice about someone, keep your mouth shut – but keep an eye on them.

  • No more than one dessert a day, unless it’s a really, really, really special day.

Of course, at my house every day is special. How about yours?

Michael Duduit, Editor

In this week’s Preaching podcast (available on Wednesday, Jan 9), Michael interviews Mike Nawrocki, director of the Veggie Tales movie The Pirates Who Don’t Do Anything and the voice of Larry the Cucumber. They talk about the forthcoming movie, about the power of story, and how preaching can better engage children in the congregation.Click here to visit the Preaching podcast page.


In the Dec. 26 edition of his Ministry Toolbox newsletter, Rick Warren provides helpful insights about sermon conclusions. He begins with this: “Even some of the great preachers in history struggled with concluding their messages. Many never pressed for a verdict. Instead, they simply trailed off at the end of their sermons. Pastors fail in this area more than in any other part of their messages. I spend a lot of time on it because a sermon without a conclusion is a message without a purpose. Changed lives come from great conclusions.
Here are a few ways to make your conclusions more effective:

  • Always point back to Christ. Offer an opportunity to receive Christ and expect people to respond.

  • End with emotional intensity. Preach through the head to the heart. Once you’ve informed their minds, you must touch their emotions and challenge their wills. Your conclusion should be the emotional high point of the sermon.

  • Ask for a specific response. Nothing becomes dynamic until it becomes specific. I’ve heard it said that the goal of the sermon should be to storm the citadel of the will and capture it for Jesus Christ. Here are some ways that I try to do that:

    • Use an argument. Anticipate the objections the audience might have and logically refute them.

    • Use a warning. Warn them of the consequences of disobedience.

    • Use indirect conviction. Arouse moral indignation and then turn it on them. A good example is the story of Nathan and David (2 Samuel 12).

    • Use pleading. Express God’s love and concern for them and others.

    • Use vision. Paint a picture of what is possible if they obey God. Help them have faith.

    • Use encouragement. Tell them they can do this with God’s power.

  • Make it personal. The person listening should feel like you are only talking to him or her.”  (Click here to read the full article.)


In his book What Do They Hear? Bridging the Gap Between Pulpit and Pew (Abingdon) Mark Allan Powell describes the reality that our social location (including the communities of which we are a part) affects how we interpret texts, including biblical texts. As an example, he notes an experiment in which he read and discussed Luke 15 (the Prodigal Son) with two groups: a collection of American college students and a group of residents in St. Petersburg, Russia. (Remember that in 1941, the German army laid siege to St. Petersburg and the result was a 900-day famine that led to 670,000 deaths.)

In responding to Luke 15, 100 percent of the American readers mentioned the son’s squandering of his possessions, but only 6 percent mentioned the famine in the story. By contrast, 84 percent of the Russians mentioned the famine, but only 34 percent cited the squandering. As Powell notes, for the Americans it was a story about a young man who squandered his assets, and “the forgotten famine was but a superfluous detail that adds nothing essential to the story.”

For the Russians, however, “Squandering the money becomes a minor, forgettable detail. The logic of the Russians seemed to be the reverse of the Americans: a famine alone is sufficient to explain why a young man would end up hungry and in need; the fact that this man had previously squandered his property merely exacerbates the situation and intensifies his plight.”

Perhaps American preachers tend to emphasize the squandering of property because it places individual responsibility on the young man for his own misbehavior. For the Russian readers, however, “the boy’s mistake was not how he spent his money – or how he lost it. His mistake was leaving his father’s house in the first place. His sin was placing a price tag on the value of his family, thinking that money was all he needed from them…”

Click here to learn more about the book What Do They Hear?


We’re excited to announce that Rick Warren is the latest addition to the program 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 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.


It’s hard to believe, but Americans are the unhappiest people on earth. That is the conclusion of a new study by the World Health Organization and the Harvard Medical School, which found that 9.6 percent of Americans suffer from depression or bipolar disorder – the highest rate of the 14 nations surveyed. Our “Prozac nation” has a greater percentage of depressed people than war-torn Lebanon (6.6 percent); job-starved Mexico (4.8 percent); carefree, hedonistic Italy (3.8 percent); and overworked, socially rigid Japan (3.1 percent). And how’s this for a paradox: Nigeria, a land of desperate poverty, rampant corruption and violent tribal conflict, had the lowest depression rate of all – just 0.8 percent. 

How can this be? One possibility is that when your life is a struggle for clean water and adequate food, you don’t have time to indulge in existential despair. In New York, on the other hand, a lawyer making $200,000 a year may find himself “depressed” if he doesn’t make partner in his mid-30s. It may also be that in less modern societies, people find comfort and meaning in their families, their religion, and their cultural traditions. (Vince Siciliano, Wall Street Journal’s The Week Magazine, 3/23/07; cited in Church Leaders Intelligence Report, 10/31/07)


Missionary Karen Watson counted the cost of following Jesus. That’s why she left a letter with her pastor before going to Iraq. She went to provide humanitarian relief in the name of Jesus – but she was gunned down in the country she came to serve.

The letter began, “You’re only reading this if I died.” It included gracious words to family and friends, and this simple summary of following Christ: “To obey was my objective, to suffer was expected, his glory my reward.” (“Missionary Slain in Iraq Mourned,” Los Angeles Times (3-17-04); via Leadership email newsletter)


From the January-February issue of Preaching …

In the concluding article in Michael Quicke’s series on Preaching and Trinitarian Worship, he notes the importance of using Trinitarian language in our preaching: “Just as important as direct preaching on the Trinity, is intentional cultivation of “Father-Son-Holy Spirit language,” for hearers intuitively imbibe their ideas of God from the preacher’s words. Parry calls this the syntax of worship. “All languages have a syntax – a set of rules about how words do and do not fit together meaningfully in that language … the Trinity functions in Christian God-talk in such a basic and foundational way that it starts to function something like a syntax – a set of rules about how Christian language works.”

When preachers rarely speak of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, hearers instinctively settle for “Jesus only” or “you Lord” language, missing out the wonder and mystery of the triune God.”


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 January-February issue of Preaching: An exclusive interview with Charles Stanley, articles on “Preaching with Flavor,” “The Expository Method,” the final installment in Michael Quicke’s series on “Preaching and Trinitarian Worship,” sermons by Stuart Briscoe, Marvin McMickle, Michael Milton, and much more. Order your subscription today!

The interaction of preaching and culture is the theme of this year’s National Conference on Preaching ( and a major topic in the upcoming March-April issue of Preaching magazine.

One of the major sources of interesting analysis of issues of faith and culture is the publication First Things, and for ongoing discussion of many topics you can visit their blog here.

“Save the earth – it’s the only planet with chocolate. ” (Unknown)


Every pastor has a few: people who steal your energy by their attitudes and actions, be they critics or cynics, clingers or foot draggers, quitters or whiners. In Energy Zappers (Baker Books), Shaun Blakeney and Wallace Henley talk about strategies for dealing with 21 different types of “zappers” and turning draining relationships into positive ones. Church leaders will find themselves nodding with recognition throughout the pages of this helpful volume.



David Mosser has provided a helpful resource to pastors with his book Stewardship Services, part of the Just in Time! series from Abingdon Press. The book provides 23 worship services with a stewardship focus; each includes a call to worship, several suggested prayers, and a sermon brief with ideas and resources for a timely message.




In the midst of hectic schedules, many pastors say they struggle with prayer. Lloyd John Ogilvie’s book Conversation With God(Harvest House) is a helpful discussion of prayer. The book includes a 30-day guide to help you put these insights into practice.

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



After the visiting preacher finished, a woman came up and said, “You were much better than the preacher we had last Sunday. He spoke for an hour and said nothing.”

“Thank you,” the visiting preacher replied.

“Yes,” she continued. “You did it in fifteen minutes.”


The pastor announced that admission to a church social event would be $6 per person. He added: “However, if you’re over 65, the price will be only $5.50.”

From the back of the congregation, a woman’s voice rang out, “Do you really think I’d give you that information for only 50 cents?”


11. “Did anyone think about bringing a couple of umbrellas?”
10. “Hey, there are more than two flies in here!”
9. “I finally get a bass boat and now I have to take the whole family…”
8. “Wasn’t someone supposed to put two shovels on board?”
7. “Help! I need some Pepto for the elephants — QUICK!”
6. “OK, who’s the wise-guy who brought the mosquitoes on board?”
5. “Don’t make me pull this Ark over and come back there!”
4. “No, Ham, you cannot eat the pig!”
3. “And whatever you do, do NOT pull this plug out.”
2. “Nice doggie!”
1. “Are we there yet?” (from Mikey’s Funnies)

Those who choose a life of crime really need to pay more attention to what’s going on around them.

At least that’s the lesson learned by Adam Grennan, a 39-year-old Boston-area man. He passed a note to a teller at a local bank last Monday, demanding large bills and no “funny money.”

According to a Jan. 1 AP story, Grennan didn’t notice that police officer Kamau Pritchard was in uniform right behind him. Pritchand, who was working a security detail, pulled out his gun and placed Grennan under arrest.

The officer told The Boston Globe he was in a back room watching surveillance cameras when Grennan walked in. He said the suspect was wearing large white gloves, an oversized hooded parka and a scarf that covered his face.

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