From the Editor:

Lessons for Leaders


Do We Preach the Gospel?
Reversing Spiritual Decline


Christian Education
Providence, Luck

Punishment, Marriage

Link of the Week

Preacher’s Bookshelf


And Finally…

"God did not create anything without a purpose. Mosquitoes come close."


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    Vol. 8, No. 12 March 24, 2009    

Michael Duduit

I’m already planning our family’s summer vacation, a portion of which will be spent at Gettysburg. So it caught my attention when the Academy Leadership newsletter recently featured five lessons leaders can learn from the Battle of Gettysburg. Here is one of the five:

THE HISTORY LESSON: Pickett’s Charge. On July 3, nearly 15,000 Confederate soldiers massed for a frontal assault against Federal troops dug in along Cemetery Ridge, nearly a mile distant. Lee had every reason to believe his men, who had been victorious in almost every meeting with the Union Army, would prevail, break the spine of the Union position, split the enemy forces and send them running. Lee would then move on to Washington, and the war could be over in a week.

Lieutenant General James Longstreet was Lee’s most trusted and experienced subordinate. He counseled Lee against the assault: It was unnecessary, unwise and, as he saw it, doomed to fail. Longstreet argued his case for hours. Lee listened but finally overruled him. Longstreet was right, and Pickett’s charge turned out to be the beginning of the end for the Confederacy.

THE BUSINESS LESSON: Know When to Listen. "One of the hardest things to do is to accept that your convictions may be wrong," says [historian Ed] Ruggero. "I think the lesson here is that when a trusted subordinate or partner approaches you with a viewpoint that’s vastly different from your own, you should push aside ego and preconceived notions and carefully consider what he or she is saying. This doesn’t mean you should concede every point — but true leadership means knowing your own limitations and respecting the insights of others." (Click here to read the full article.)

Michael Duduit, Editor

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

On this week’s Preaching Podcast: Reggie McNeal is a prolific writer and analyst of trends in today’s church, as well as an effective strategist. His newest book is The Missional Renaissance. In this week’s podcast, he discusses trends in the church, the need for a missional vision, and how a missional approach will impact preaching.


In an article for SermonCentral’s newsletter, David Nicholas writes: "If the problems of sin and death and what God has done to overcome them through Jesus Christ are not clearly set forth, who will understand their need and come to Jesus in faith? I decided to see how pervasive this problem is. I asked LifeWay Research … to conduct an independent survey of sermons from churches across the country — churches large and small, denominational and non-denominational — to see how often the Bad News and the Good News are being explained in a meaningful and understandable way. … The results are in, and Dr. Ed Stetzer with LifeWay Research called them ‘unsettling.’

"It seems that the overwhelming majority of pastors have assumed that the gospel, as set forth by the apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:1-4, is Christianity 101 and that the people listening to their sermons already grasp the basic concepts of the gospel. The LifeWay Research survey revealed that 94 percent of pastors are not preaching the Bad News (our sin and death problems and why good works don’t work) and the Good News (what God has done through Christ to overcome our sin and death problems).

"Most pastors do not mention the Bad News or the Good News in their sermons. But, sadder than this, most pastors do not know how to preach and explain the Bad News and Good News in a meaningful and understandable way. … We have pastors who think they are preaching the gospel by using ‘Christianese’ jargon; their congregants think they are hearing the gospel because the message contains familiar buzz words. Those on the inside are happy with what is going on, but unbelievers are not being reached because the Bad News and the Good News are not clearly explained. …

"Either pastors do not believe they have any unbelievers in their services, or they don’t believe the gospel is God’s power for the salvation of all who believe. Or perhaps they just do not realize they’re not communicating clearly." (Click here to read the full article.)


In a recent article for Church Central, Bill Easum suggests eight steps for reversing spiritual decline in churches. Here are the first two:

Someone (usually the pastor) begins to cast a vision of a different future and gathers together a group of like-minded members to be the leaders of the future. These people may or may not presently be in leadership. Please note: this action is never the result of a committee or board; it will always be one person who decides to become a change agent.

The new vision disrupts the comfort level of the church leaders — a positive step because people are open to change in direct proportion to their level of discontent. The more discontent, the more open to change people are. Rather than trying to smooth over the waters, the leader fans the discontentment of the gathered leaders in whom the Spirit is growing. This is a critical point in the turnaround. If the change agent blinks here, it’s all over. The old guard gains strength, and those who hope for change lose their last ounce of courage.

It’s not unusual in this stage for the pastor to create one or two quick victories. Many spiritually bankrupt churches have not had a victory in years, and even the slightest victory challenges the belief that "we’re just a small church and could never do that!" It doesn’t matter how simple these victories might be as long as it is something the church has not been able to do for some time. (Click here to read the full article.)


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 the book 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, visit www.preachingbootcamp.com.


The late Donald Metz wrote: "The Christian college may well be one of the last best hopes of mankind. In a society that is degenerating into moral anarchy and intellectual stagnation the Christian college stands as a potential source of power and direction. The roots of the Christian college are well planted. The mission of the Christian college is clearly stated. The possibilities of the Christian college are unlimited."

Dr. Donald Wellman pastored large churches in Colorado, Oregon, Florida and Arizona. In a conference for ministers where Don was guest speaker, he referred to a study that one of his churches conducted over a period of years that traced the high-school graduates from that congregation. He said the study revealed that of high school-graduates who went on to college, nine out of 10 who attended a Christian college or university remained spiritually committed to the Christian values they were taught in the church of their youth.On the other hand, Dr. Wellman said that of the high-school graduates who pursued their college work at secular institutions of higher learning, about nine out of 10 laid aside their Christian faith within a few years after they left home for college. While the study conducted by his church was not a truly scientific one, the conclusions were impressive.

Maybe those conclusions do not apply to your family or the college you choose. Maybe there are other factors that lead young people to remain true to the faith of their youth after college. Maybe the results where you live would show only six out of 10, or seven out of 10, kept their faith. But if, as Dr. Metz argues, "The Christian college [is] one of the last best hopes for mankind," wouldn’t it be prudent to include this option as one of the reasons to encourage young people from your church to consider making a Christian college the college of their choice?

Experience shows that many crucial life-decisions for young adults occur between the age of 18 and 22 — roughly the years most students attend college. Where do you want your youth to be when they make these decisions — in an environment where moral values are seldom taught or completely ignored, or in a God-honoring environment where positive influences for right living are embraced and taught? (Tom Barnard, Tuesday Morning newsletter. To subscribe send a note to barnard22@cox.net.)


Yahoo News recently reported about a man in St. James, N.Y., who kept his van running while he ran into the Cool Beanz Coffee Shop on Long Island. He also left his dog, Bentley, in the vehicle. Somehow Bentley managed to jump into the driver’s seat and engage the gears. The van tore through patio tables and into the glass windows of the coffee shop with the dog at the wheel. Fortunately no one was injured.

It does seem that sometimes the dogs are at the wheels of life, and some days take an odd turn for the worse. For the Christian, however, all things eventually work together for good (Rom. 8:28), and all things work together for God’s glory (Eph. 1:11). Even the days that hold deep bouts of anguish — perhaps this is such a day for you — in God’s providence will somehow work for our benefit.

There are no unlucky days for Christians. We don’t believe in luck, but in blessings! (Turning Point Daily Devotional, 3-13-09)

From the March-April issue of Preaching …

n a sermon dealing with God’s intentions for marriage and family, Stuart Briscoe says, "When God makes two people one in marriage, in spirit and flesh, guess what happens? Little offspring often come along. It’s quite normal! In fact, it’s more than normal; it’s divinely intended. God intends that because these ‘little ones’ were brought into this covenant family, then it is incumbent on the parents who care for the child to bring up the child to become what the Creator God of covenant intended the child to become. The child is intended to become godly offspring!

"Makes sense, doesn’t it? One, one, one and one, and now we’ve got a little one! The expression ‘godly offspring,’ is not a very good translation of the Hebrew. ‘Godly’ is an adjective, ‘offspring’ is a noun; in the Hebrew it’s two nouns — literally a ‘God offspring.’ Another way of putting could be a ‘God kid’ — that is, ‘a child of the covenant’!

"Jesus was a Child of the covenant, a ‘godly offspring.’ His parents brought Him to the temple on the eighth day, He was circumcised, He was a Child of the covenant. Now, we have a little clue about how He was brought up. We are told that ‘Jesus grew in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and men.’ So this is what you can realistically expect to see in a ‘God kid’ who has been brought up in favor with God and in favor with man. The parents will be making absolutely certain that that child is developing and maturing normally in a balanced way."

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Also in the March-April issue of Preaching: Our annual survey of the year’s best books for preachers, plus an interview with James Emery White, articles on preaching in tough financial times and "Preaching in HD," sermons by Stuart Briscoe, John Huffman, Mike Glenn and much more. Order your subscription today!

John Maxwell always has helpful insights on leadership, and his blog is a regular stop for those who want to learn to lead more effectively. A recent entry, however, is particularly interesting: how he got arrested. It’s a good example for leaders of how to accept responsibility for their own mistakes; you can read it here.

"In the midst of a generation screaming for answers, Christians are stuttering." (Howard Hendricks)

As you think about plans for summer youth camps and events, take a look at The Domino Effect (Thomas Nelson), a study developed by the gifted young leaders at Wayfarer (www.wayfarer.tv). Here’s a study that presents solid biblical theology in a way that will engage young people as they explore the issue of evil and see how God offers the only solution to evil. The kit includes a DVD with six sessions, a CD with daily audio devotions, a leader’s guide, and even some dominos. Separate participant guides are available. Today’s most effective student ministries don’t avoid big issues; they deal with them biblically and in an engaging manner. The Domino Effect can help you do precisely that with your young people.


Speaking of youth, Mark DeVries offers helpful counsel in his book Sustainable Youth Ministry (IVP). He advises church leaders on building a solid youth ministry that won’t be victim to the ups and downs that characterize many programs. This will be a useful book for youth pastors and the senior pastors who lead them.



Loads of Barna research tells us that born-again people in today’s culture live lives that are little different than their secular brethren. That, says John Piper, is because of a faulty idea of what it means to be "born again." In his new book Finally Alive (Christian Focus), Piper says the real problem is that churches are filled with people who never have experienced the new birth. He then offers a biblical exploration of what it means to be "born again" and what results from such a transforming experience.

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


An aged farmer and his wife were leaning against the edge of their pig pen when the old woman wistfully recalled the following week would mark their golden wedding anniversary.

"Let’s have a party, Homer," she suggested. "Let’s kill a pig."

The farmer scratched his grizzled head.

"Gee, Ethel," he finally answered, "I don’t see why the pig should take the blame for something that happened 50 years ago."


You’ve probably seen them before, but we just love to read these transcriptions from actual court cases:

Q: Is your appearance here this morning pursuant to the deposition notice I sent to your attorney?
A: No, this is how I dress when I go to work.

Q: Doctor, how many autopsies have you performed on dead people?
A: All my autopsies are performed on dead people.

Q: Do you know if your daughter has ever been involved in voodoo or the occult?
A: We both do.
Q: Voodoo?
A: We do.
Q: You do?
A: Yes, voodoo.

Q: The youngest son, the 20-year-old — how old is he?

Q: Were you present when your picture was taken?

Q: What is your date of birth?
A: July 15.
Q: What year?
A: Every year.

Q: Doctor, before you performed the autopsy, did you check for a pulse?
A: No.
Q: Did you check for blood pressure?
A: No.
Q: Did you check for breathing?
A: No.
Q: So, then it is possible that the patient was alive when you began the autopsy?
A: No.
Q: How can you be so sure, Doctor?
A: Because his brain was sitting on my desk in a jar.
Q: But could the patient have still been alive, nevertheless?
A: Yes, it is possible that he could have been alive and practicing law somewhere.

The devil made her do it.

The former administrative assistant at Arlington Free Methodist Church in Arlington, Wash., has been arrested and accused of stealing more than $73,000 by forging the pastor’s signature on 80 checks.

According to a March 19 AP story, the 62-year-old woman told detectives that, "Satan had a big part in the theft."

Yes, that would be called sin. Hopefully, she heard something about it while at church.

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