From the Editor:
Faithful to the Name

A Crisis in Preaching
hy Words Matter

Kindness, Blessing
Diligence, Details
Answers, Faith

Link of the Week


And Finally…

"No mistake or failure is as bad as to stop and not try again."

(John Wanamaker)

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    Vol. 8, No. 1 January 7, 2009    

Michael Duduit

Cleaning out my junk mail folder today, I noticed something interesting: almost every one of those spam emails is identified as sent by someone whose first name begins with the letter A. Whether it’s Alberto, Aguie, Adelbert, Alfonso, Allerd, Aldan, Alexandre or Alberta, it’s almost always a first name starting with A and a last name starting with B or C.

I can’t find any discussion of why such names are used — I’m guessing there aren’t that many people really named Aguie out there — so the spammers must have a reason. Perhaps they think the A moves them to the top of the list, or makes them stand out, and thus will be more likely to make me want to buy the latest weight-loss secret or a supply of those little blue pills.

And it’s not just the spammer names; your own email name can determine how much junk email you receive. According to a report at www.allspammedup.com, "A new study by a University of Cambridge computer scientist revealed that the first letter of your email address makes a difference in how much spam you get. It found that addresses that start with A, M, or S get more than 40 percent spam while those starting with Q or Z get only about 20 percent spam.

"Dr. Richard Clayton analyzed more than 500 million spam messages and discovered that A, M, S, R and P are favorites of spammers. He says this has to do with the dictionary attacks spammers use to generate addresses to spam. There are simply more names starting with those letters than any others."

What’s in a name? In the Bible, names were considered to be of great significance, indicating the character or nature of a person. Even now, names matter to us; in the midst of a lot of background noise, you’ll still notice if someone says your name.

In 2009, be thankful for the name "pastor" or "preacher." It’s a name that implies the call of God on your life and represents the opportunity you have been given to proclaim God’s Word in a special way. You and I have been blessed to share the name that is above all names: Jesus. In the new year, let’s be faithful to that task.

Michael Duduit, Editor

Follow me on Twitter: http://twitter.com/MichaelDuduit

On this week’s Preaching Podcast: Michael visits with James Emery White, pastor of Charlotte’s Mecklenburg Community Church and frequent speaker and author on faith and culture issues. Click here to listen.


In his new book He Is Not Silent: Preaching in a Postmodern World (Moody), R. Albert Mohler argues that all authentic preaching is expository — that is, shaped by the biblical text. He notes that, "In many pulpits, the Bible, if referenced at all, becomes merely a source for pithy aphorisms or convenient narratives. Moreover, the therapeutic concerns of the culture too often set the agenda for evangelical preaching. Issues of the self predominate, and the congregation expects to hear simple answers to complex problems. The essence of most therapeutic preaching comes down to an affirmation of the self and its importance …

"Furthermore, postmodernism claims intellectual primacy in the culture, and even if they do not surrender entirely to doctrinal relativism, Americans allow and demand moral autonomy and a minimum of intellectual and moral requirements. The average congregant expects to make his or her own final decisions about all the important issues of life, from worldview to lifestyle.

"However, the solid truth of Christianity stands in stark contrast to these flimsy pretensions of postmodernity. As theologian David F. Wells notes, ‘Sustaining orthodoxy and framing Christian belief in doctrinal terms requires habits of reflection and judgment that are simply out of place in our culture and increasingly are disappearing from evangelicalism as well.’ Consequently, the appetite for serious preaching has virtually disappeared among many Christians, who are content to have their fascinations with themselves encouraged from the pulpit." (Click here to learn more about the book He Is Not Silent.)


Warren Wiersbe writes in his book Key Words of the Christian Life (Baker Books): "Our younger son is an electronics engineer, who designs those little chips that run computers. He had to learn a special vocabulary to do his job. My two older brothers were involved in mechanics, and they could run machines and fix things. They also had to learn a special vocabulary in order to do their jobs. I’m a pastor, a Bible teacher. I had to learn a special vocabulary to be able to study and teach the Word of God.

"Some Christians say, ‘Don’t bother me with doctrine; just give me the beautiful devotional thoughts of the Bible.’ But if devotion is not based on correct doctrine, it is not going to accomplish anything."

Wiersbe argues it is important for us to understand key biblical terms, such as justification, imputation, sanctification and intercession. "The reason is very simple: When we understand these words, we are able to live what they teach. When we understand these key words of the Christian life, then we know what a Christian is, what God has done for us, and what God wants to do for us." (Click here to learn about the book Key Words of the Christian Life.)



Would you like to invest a week and come away with your year’s preaching plan? Preaching magazine and Anderson University jointly are sponsoring the first Preaching Boot Camp, May 18-22, 2009, on the campus in Anderson, South Carolina.The focus of this year’s camp is on planning a preaching schedule, and the keynote speaker is Stephen Rummage, preaching pastor at Hickory Grove Baptist Church in Charlotte and author of Planning Your Preaching (Kregel). Other speakers will include Mike Glenn, Michael Duduit, Ryan Neal and more. Built into the schedule is time for participants to work on their own preaching plan for 2009-2010. To learn more, go to www.preachingbootcamp.com.



In the movie Pay it Forward the concept of paying someone back for a good deed done was replaced with the idea of passing the blessing on to another person instead, creating an endless chain of giving to others what was given to you. The thought was that, in time, people everywhere would look for ways to "pay it forward" and the world would become a better place.

David Jeremiah observes, "As Christians, we have the opportunity every day to pay it forward to those who are lost in this world by giving them a glimpse of Christ through our kindness. We each were given a gift when Jesus hung on the cross and died for our sins, and every time we demonstrate His love to someone, we not only bless them, we also bless our Lord and Savior.

"The Bible tells us that when we stand before our Maker to account for our time on earth, what we have done for ‘the least of these’ will be as if we did it unto God Himself. So, let’s eagerly search for ways to bless those God places in our path with the ultimate aim of glorifying our Heavenly Father." (Turning Point Daily Devotional, 11-18-08)


In the Nov. 24 issue of his Monday Moments newsletter, Michael Halleen wrote: "Last week USA Today ran a series of articles about Scott Foster, a referee for the National Basketball Association. A reporter had followed him for a week to observe the habits and lifestyle of a professional referee. He noted with special interest the time officials take to prepare for a game and in critiquing their performances afterward. They study game film for hours, reviewing every call they made and discussing how they might have done it better. Even on the following day, headed for his next assignment, Scott Foster used the three-hour flight to review his performance again on a laptop computer. Diligence is a habit of the best.

"Following the death of Charles Dickens, a notebook was found among his effects in which he had jotted down possible names for characters in books he planned to write. Long admired for the suggestive and appropriate names he created, Dickens apparently had left none of those options to haphazard choice. The notebook revealed the fact that some of the names went through a dozen or more changes before they became exactly what satisfied the author. (Who ever has suggested better names for characters such as Ebenezer Scrooge, Uriah Heep or Bill Sikes?) Diligence refines good to excellent.

"Likewise, it was said of Robert Louis Stevenson that he never used a synonym. If the word he had was not what he wanted, he waited until he found it. No sentence was sent to his publisher until it was just right. Diligence separates superior from ordinary."

From the January – February issue of Preaching …

In an interview with Ed Stetzer, he observes: "I think ultimately one of the shifts we have to begin to see take place in missional churches is really the shift from attractional to incarnational. Much of the church growth movement was built on the idea that if we did certain things we’d attract certain people.I don’t think that’s inherently wrong. I don’t think attractional is necessarily sinful.

"But there are two reasons we probably need to reconsider that in our preaching. Number one: It doesn’t work like it once did. These aren’t in any order of priority, but perhaps in order of interest for some pastors. You know, 10 years ago if you put out a sermon and said we’re going to have 10 ways to do blank, and it’s practical and meaningful, you’d send out mailers and unchurched people might say, ‘You know, I might like to go and hear that. Church has been irrelevant to me. This seems relevant. I’ll come. It will meet my needs.’

"Well, the reality is that really anybody who wants to go to a cool, contemporary, cutting-edge church — whatever language you want to use — anybody who wants to go to a church like that already is. The reality is our task is now to ask the question, ‘How do we engage a culture that already knows there are great, cool, exciting churches and still has rejected them?’ So number one, it doesn’t work.

"But number two: It presents a picture of a gospel that I think probably is problematic. The picture of the gospel is that God wants you to come rather than God wants you to be, do and tell. So, it’s built on the wrong idea. Our churches, for 20 or 30 years, have revamped their services.  They’re cutting edge. They’re creative. That’s great — I’m pro all of that stuff. But at the end of 30 years, we’ve spruced up the buildings and spiced up the sermons; and the culture’s more lost; and people who go to church are less committed. So, I think ultimately we have to ask: ‘How do we retool our preaching to teach people to live on mission so they see it as central to what it means to be a Christian?’"

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: A series on missional preaching, including interviews with Stetzer and Dan Kimball, plus Al Mohler on Preaching & Theology, Ben Awbrey on Preaching with Unction and much more. Order your subscription today!

Dave Barry is one of the funniest writers around. Though he no longer writes a weekly column — a loss akin to that of the end of "Calvin and Hobbes" — he offers occasional columns, including his annual survey of the past year. You’ll find the 2008 edition here.

Heed the warning: If you don’t have a sense of humor, try something a little less amusing, like maybe this one.


The temporary Sunday School teacher was struggling to open a combination lock on the supply cabinet. She had been told the combination, but couldn’t quite remember it.

She went to the pastor’s study and asked for help. The pastor came into the room and began to turn the dial.

After the first two numbers, he paused and stared blankly for a moment. Finally he looked serenely heavenward and his lips moved silently.

Then he looked back at the lock, quickly turned to the final number, and opened the lock.

The teacher was amazed. "I’m in awe at your faith, pastor," she said.

"It’s really nothing," he answered. "The number is on a piece of tape on the ceiling." (Beliefnet daily joke)


As a new year begins, here are some books that people in your church and community are likely to be reading and discussing:

Malcolm Gladwell’s books (like The Tipping Point) have become influential, and his latest is likely no exception. Outliers: The Story of Success (Little, Brown & Co.) explores why some people succeed while others fail to live up to their potential. Gladwell is the master of helping us see why things happen the way they do, and this book is no exception.

With the beginning of a new presidential administration, it’s interesting that one of the bestselling books today is about a presidency of nearly two centuries ago. American Lion: Andrew Jackson in the White House (Random House) by Jon Meacham is a lively look at one of the most fascinating people ever to reside in the White House. He helped shape the nation and the presidency, and Meacham paints a compelling portrait that’s a fun read.

With the economy bad and getting worse, people are looking for counsel, and one place many are looking is in the biography of one of the world’s richest men and most astute investors. In The Snowball: Warren Buffett and the Business of Life (Bantam), author Alice Schroeder offers a frank look at the man whose name has become synonymous with successful investing.

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

"A New Year’s resolution is something that goes in one year and out the other."


Your favorite section of the newspaper is "25 Years Ago Today."

The parts that have arthritis are the parts where you feel best.

A big evening with your friends is sitting around comparing living wills.

Your clothes go into the overnight bag so you can fill the suitcase with your pills.

Somebody you consider an old-timer calls you an old-timer.

Your idea of a change of scenery is looking to the left or right.

Your knees buckle, but your belt won’t.

(from Today’s Clean Laugh)

Yet another reminder that really smart people rarely turn to a life of crime.

For example: a Chicago bank robber who made it easy for law enforcement when he wrote his threatening note on the back of his own pay stub.

According to a Dec. 29, 2008, AP story, an FBI affidavit says the man walked into a Fifth Third Bank last week and handed a teller a note that read, "Be Quick Be Quit (sic). Give your cash or I’ll shoot."

The robber got about $400 but left half of his note. Investigators found the other half outside the bank’s front doors. Authorities say that part of the man’s October pay stub had his name and address.

The suspect was arrested at his home and a judge ordered him held without bond. If convicted of bank robbery, he faces 20 years in prison.

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