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From the Editor:

Share the Good News

Articles:
Political Guidelines for Churches
Are Megachurches Friendlier Places?

Illustrations:
Immorality, Sin
Time with God
Revenge

Link of the Week

Preacher’s Bookshelf

Humor

And Finally…
 

“Courage is fear that has said its prayers.”
(Dorothy Bernard)

 
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    Vol. 7, No. 34 September 23, 2008    
Michael Duduit

Flowing Streams (Zondervan) is a wonderful new memoir by Stuart Briscoe, a gifted preacher and long-time contributing editor of Preaching magazine. One of the stories that particularly touched me was from the days when Stuart and Jill were still in Manchester (in their native Britain) and he decided to venture into the local coffee house to engage some young people.

He opened a conversation with one young man who allowed him to share the gospel. When the man had to go, he told Stuart, “You don’t believe a word of all this stuff you’ve been telling us about God.”

Stuart said, “I was stunned but managed to stammer, ‘Why would you say that?'”

He replied, “That’s easy. Because all you have told us here tonight is so wonderful that if you and people like you really believed it, you would have been down here long before tonight to tell us kids about it.”

Are there people in your community who could say the same thing? Do we believe this gospel enough to take it to those who most need to hear it?

Michael Duduit, Editor
michael@preaching.com
www.michaelduduit.com


POLITICAL GUIDELINES FOR CHURCHES

In an article for pastors.com, Tobin Perry identifies some guidelines to be aware of during this political season:

  • Churches can speak out on issues. If churches and pastors, in their official capacity at the church, focus on the moral and spiritual questions surrounding election cycles, they are constitutionally protected. They can talk about the positions of the candidates themselves on those issues — as long as they don’t endorse candidates.

  • Churches cannot officially support candidates. Any discussion of political candidates should avoid “advocacy” words like “elect,” “support,” “defeat,” or “oppose.” Pastors cannot officially support candidates from the pulpit.

  • Churches can distribute literature explaining candidates’ positions on issues. This includes traditional voter guides and the voting record of incumbent politicians. There are some restrictions on voter guides and voting records. For example, all candidates should have an opportunity to be questioned for any voter guide prepared. Church positions on issues or voting records should not be compared to the candidates.

  • Candidates can speak at churches. Candidates can preach or read Scripture at a church without any restrictions. There are restrictions on how a candidate can speak about issues in a church service. If a candidate speaks on issues in a service, all candidates must be invited, and questions must be administered by an impartial third party. (Click here to read the full article.)

ARE MEGACHURCHES FRIENDLIER PLACES?

A new survey by Baylor University researchers suggests megachurches are more intimate than popular stereotypes would suggest. Results of the 2008 Baylor Religion Survey were released during a meeting of religion reporters. It found some results that might surprise those unfamiliar with the lives and beliefs of deeply religious Americans.

For example, stereotypes about churches that have an average weekend attendance of more than 1,000 worshipers:

“We all know megachurches have all sorts of flaws. They’re big; they have a wonderful Sunday service because they can afford a symphony orchestra. But they’re kind of cold, they have kind of, like, theater audiences,” said Baylor sociology professor Rodney Stark, the study’s lead researcher, noting common perceptions of megachurches. “All wrong.”

The survey found that members of such churches tended to have more friends within their congregations, hold more conservative or evangelical Christian beliefs, share their faith with friends and strangers more often, and be involved in volunteer work more frequently than their counterparts in churches with less than 100 in average attendance.

“How does that make any sense?” Stark asked. “The answer is: That’s how they got there. Their friends brought them to church, and then they brought their friends to church, and that’s how the congregation was built.”

An additional factor suggested by the survey: Megachurches are far more likely than small churches to be conservative evangelical congregations. Meanwhile, smaller churches had a higher rate of affiliation with what the survey called a “liberal Protestant denomination,” or with mainline church bodies such as the United Methodist Church and the Episcopal Church. (Associated Baptist Press, 9-19-08; click here to read full article.)

   
 

Plan now to join us for the 20th Annual National Conference on Preaching, April 20-22, 2009, in Tampa, Florida. We’ll have a great line-up of speakers, including John Ortberg, Stuart Briscoe, Jack Graham, Robert Smith, Dave Stone, Steve Brown, Ralph Douglas West, Tommy Green, Timothy Warren and many more. The deadline for early registration is October 13, 2008. To take advantage of the discounts available on advance registrations, click here.

 


IMMORALITY, SIN

Imagine going to the doctor and discovering you have a cancerous tumor. The doctor believes the tumor is operable, and he has the ability and skill to remove it completely. Instead of doing surgery, however, he announces the cancerous cells have the right to grow just like all the other cells, and he’s going to leave the tumor alone. If a doctor said such a thing, you immediately would seek another physician! Yet it can be tempting to leave spiritual cancer free to grow, with the result that it will battle the healthy part of the body. (Today in the Word, Sept. 2006)

TIME WITH GOD

In his most recent Friday Evening newsletter, Tom Barnard wrote: “Author Fay Angus tells the story of attending a weekend retreat at a Christian conference center in Southern California. At the registration desk, she was given a small, glass container wrapped in decorative paper. She was told to unwrap the package and read the directions taped to the item. When she opened it, she discovered it was a small baby-food jar containing a walnut surrounded and filled to the brim with grains of rice. The directions read as follows:

The walnut in this jar represents the time we spend with God. The rice represents the time we spend doing other things. If you pour the rice into the empty jar first, then try to insert the walnut, it will not fit. The rice takes up too much space. If you put the walnut into the empty jar first, then pour the rice around it, there is sufficient room for everything. Likewise, if we spend time doing other things first, we never will find time to spend with God. If we spend time with God first, there always will be time for everything else.

Jesus was quite clear on the subject of walnuts and jars. He said, “Set your mind on God’s kingdom and his justice before everything else, and all the rest will come to you as well” (Matt. 6:33, NEB). (To subscribe, email Tom at barnard22@cox.net


From the September-October issue of Preaching …

In his sermon on Luke 8:40-56, Christian George says, “In his commentary on the gospels, John Calvin posited that while this woman was walking toward Christ, Christ was pulling her to Himself. Now, I don’t know where God’s pulling starts and our pushing ends. I don’t know where God’s reeling begins and our swimming concludes. But I do know one thing. There is a salvific synergism at play in our passage, and the God who pulls us to Himself, joins us for the journey. 

“It is not your grasp on God that saves you, but rather, it is God’s grasp on you. So fixed are you within those fingers that not a hand from the pit of hell can reach up and pull you into the flames. Because in the beginning, God reached into the blackness of time, grabbed hold of nothing, decided it should become something, altered absolutely everything so one day He could bless it with anything. Jesus Christ, the One who curls constellations with His biceps, the One who swirls galaxies with His triceps, the One who throws Saturns like Frisbees across the universe, bends down to our level, adopts us as children of a heavenly home, and accommodates Himself to our imperfect, superstitious, faulty, fragile faith.
_______

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: Interviews with John Ortberg and Ralph Douglas West, articles on “The Preacher as Storyteller” and preaching in a “post-everything world,” plus great sermons and much more. Order your subscription today!

One of the books reviewed in the forthcoming November-December issue of Preaching is Essential Church? by Thom and Sam Rainer. For a limited time, B&H Publishing is offering a free download of the entire book (by agreeing to have your email address added to an e-newsletter list). This is an excellent book and a great offer, which you can find here.

“Sometimes the road less traveled is less traveled for a reason.” (Jerry Seinfeld)

In many churches, the “forgotten people” are the missionaries who represent us on foreign fields, faithfully sharing Christ far from home. Prayers for the Faithful (B&H Books) by Mary Ann Bridgwater is a devotional and prayer resource to help you incorporate meaningful prayer for missionaries into your own prayer time. Preachers in particular will be drawn to the many powerful stories of how God has used career and short-term missionaries in reaching people for Christ.

Speaking of prayer, the little book In Constant Prayer (Thomas Nelson) by Robert Benson is about incorporating “the daily office” (an ancient tradition of fixed-time daily prayer) into your own walk with Christ. Many church leaders struggle with maintaining a meaningful devotional life; this volume will encourage you in that task.

In Total Church (Crossway) by Tim Chester and Steve Timmis, two U.K. church planters talk about the challenge of being church in the 21st century, and affirm the need to create real community without abdicating truth. Church leaders will find plenty here to stimulate their own thinking.

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


REVENGE

Bob was dying. His wife Mary was maintaining a candlelight vigil by his side. She held his fragile hand, tears running down her face. Her praying roused him from his slumber. He looked up, and his pale lips began to move slightly.

“My darling Mary,” he whispered.

“Hush, my love,” she said. “Rest. Shhh, don’t talk.”

He was insistent. “Mary,” he said in his tired voice. “I … I have something I must confess to you.”

“There’s nothing to confess,” replied the weeping Mary. “Everything’s all right, go to sleep.”

“No, no. I must die in peace, Mary. I … I fooled around with your sister, your best friend, her best friend, and your mother!”

“I know, Bob.” Mary whispered softly, “That’s why I poisoned you.”

 

A MAN AND HIS BBQ

When a man volunteers to do barbecue cooking, the following chain of events is put into motion:
 
1) The woman goes to the store.
 
2) The woman fixes the salad, vegetables and dessert.
 
3) The woman prepares the meat for cooking, places it on a tray along with the necessary cooking utensils, and takes it to the man, who is lounging beside the grill, drinking a cold beverage.
 
4) The man places the meat on the grill.
 
5) The woman goes inside to set the table and check the vegetables.
 
6) The woman comes out to tell the man the meat is burning.
 
7) The man takes the meat off the grill and hands it to the woman.
 
8) The woman prepares the plates and brings them to the table.
 
9) After eating, the woman clears the table and does the dishes.
 
10) The man asks the woman how she enjoyed “her night off.” And, upon seeing her annoyed reaction, concludes there’s just no pleasing some women.

Good dog.

A German shepherd has been credited with saving its owner by placing a call to 911, according to a Sept. 13 story in the Arizona Republic.

Scottsdale police say a service dog named Buddy dialed emergency dispatch when his owner Joe Stalnaker began to have a seizure. Stalnaker’s condition resulted from injuries he received during military service.

He adopted Buddy as an 8-week-old puppy and trained him to retrieve the phone when seizure symptoms manifest. If Stalnaker has blacked out or cannot place the call himself, Buddy uses his teeth to press programmed buttons until a 911 operator is on the line.

Buddy, now 18 months old, can be heard whimpering in an audio recording of the 911 call. Emergency responders arrived at the home about two minutes later.

“Buddy, he basically gives me my independence,” Stalnaker says. “He’s my world. He’s my best friend, no question. He’s always there, and I just hope I can be as good to him as he’s been to me.”

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