From the Editor:

Quitting Church


Ten Stupid Things
Planning Worship


Fathers, Pets
Marriage, Babies

Link of the Week

Preacher’s Bookshelf


And Finally…

"We are what we repeatedly do."


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    Vol. 8, No. 20 June 2 , 2009    

Michael Duduit

As far too many people depart from our churches across America, Julia Duin poses the question: Is the pastor the problem? In her book Quitting Church (Baker), Washington Times religion editor Duin analyzes why millions are fleeing congregations, and she identifies leadership issues as one factor.

"Not only is there no understanding of who leaves and why," she writes, "but most church leaders don’t want to know. These leaders and pastors are acting more like the hired hands than the good shepherd. … Whereas many businesses court departing customers by asking why they are leaving, church leaders deliberately refuse to ask. More important to them are the people coming in the front door."

Such an approach is "incredibly shortsighted … as the average leave-takers are in the prime of their lives, at the height of their earning power, skilled workers, and mature in the faith." She quotes researcher Alan Jamieson: "As they leave, all the resources they have to give the life of the church and missions go with them. … Imagine the depths of commitment, maturity and trust in God these people would bring to our churches. Losing people like this is nothing short of a tragedy for the church."

So while we focus attention on bringing people into the front door of our churches, what can we do to help people from slipping out the back door?

(Click here to learn more about the book Quitting Church.)

Michael Duduit, Editor

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

On this week’s Preaching Podcast: Jud Wilhite is pastor of Central Christian Church in Las Vegas and author of the new book Eyes Wide Open. Listen in as we visit about helping people recognize the power of God’s grace in their lives.


In an insightful (and very funny) book called Ten Stupid Things That Keep Churches from Growing (Zondervan), Geoff Surratt begins with the top "stupid thing" on the list: trying to do it all yourself. After describing a pastorate in which he tried juggling multiple roles, he writes:

"If you are scoring at home, I was the pastor, the bookkeeper, the Sunday School superintendent, the worship director, the administrative assistant, the groundskeeper, the maintenance man, the janitor, and the preacher. As I look back at my time at Church on the Lake, I can’t help but wonder what I was thinking. We had capable and gifted people in the church who would have done a much better job than I did in most of these roles, but I seldom took the time to develop them or give them the freedom to make the job their own.

"As I’ve talked to pastors around the country, I’ve discovered I’m not alone. Trying to do all (or most) of the work themselves is the number-one stupid thing pastors and leaders do that inhibits their church from growing. Inevitably in growing churches the senior pastor does less and less of the everyday work of the ministry and the staff and volunteers do more and more." (Click here to learn more about the book Ten Stupid Things That Keep Churches from Growing.)


Len Wilson and Jason Moore have written a helpful and practical book titled Taking Flight with Creativity: Worship Design Teams That Work (Abingdon). They offer useful suggestions about creating and leading teams to plan worship in churches of varying sizes.

Writing about working with such teams, the authors remind us: "The Wright flyer wasn’t the only plane that the brothers built. They kept breaking new ground as time went on. Successful teams must strive to do the same. If worship planners don’t continue to innovate and focus on the real reasons for designing worship in the first place, it won’t be long before the regular design team meetings are only about the work of worship design.

"Being focused solely on the work of worship design means coming into the room and wanting to just get through all of the particulars as fast as possible. When the focus centers on how fast this can be done, much is compromised, and worship might as well be planned using a Magic 8 ball.

"The reality of worship design is that the harder we work to convey the message in creative ways, the easier we make it for the congregation to receive it. The weeks that the attitude is ‘Let’s just make this a simple one’ are the weeks our congregations are forced to work harder to understand the message.

"It is of the utmost importance to remember that what we do in worship design team meetings is possibly the most important thing we’ll ever do in life. We are telling the most important story there is to tell, and if our hearts aren’t in it or we just want to get it over with, we are taking a serious risk with the lives of those who will enter our sanctuaries. If we succeed in crafting services that are creative, engaging, and full of the Holy Spirit, we will see lives transformed." (Click here to learn more about the book Taking Flight with Creativity.)


Nothing prepared Mary Lee Bright for the pain of losing a stillborn child and of nearly dying herself. When she learned she was expecting again, friends feared and were afraid. This pregnancy, too, appeared troubled. But Mary determined to carry the child to term, and she withdrew to her devotions. "I just searched the Scriptures and prayed without ceasing," she said. "As I did this, the strong feeling came over me that I would be all right and so would the child. It was at this time, before he was born, that I dedicated him to the Lord. And do you know, he turned out wonderfully well!" He did indeed, for that baby became a great evangelist—Bill Bright, founder of Campus Crusade for Christ.

David Jeremiah says, "It must have been difficult for Hannah to give her child to the Lord before he was even born  (1 Sam. 1:11). But dedicating something to the Lord is the surest way of keeping it, and entrusting our loved ones to the Lord is the best way to stay in the winner’s circle." (Turning Point Daily Devotional, 5-23-09)


The children begged for a hamster; and after the usual fervent vows that they alone would care for it, they got one. They named it Danny. Two months later, when Mom found herself responsible for cleaning and feeding the creature, she located a prospective new home for it.

The children took the news of Danny’s imminent departure quite well, though one of them remarked, "He’s been around here a long time. We’ll miss him."

"Yes," Mom replied, "But he’s too much work for one person, and since I’m that one person, I say he goes."

Another child offered, "Well, maybe if he wouldn’t eat so much and wouldn’t be so messy, we could keep him."

But Mom was firm. "It’s time to take Danny to his new home now," she insisted. "Go and get his cage."

With one voice and in tearful outrage the children shouted, "Danny?! We thought you said Daddy!"  (from Cybersalt.org)

From the July-August issue of Preaching …

In an article on the growing concern about security in churches, Sara Horn writes: "SCG International, a security organization, recently released a year-long study on the issue of violence against churches and other places of worship in the United States. Its findings show churches are increasingly falling victim to violent acts by individuals, usually male, 25 to 60 years old, who are angry with God and the church and see a church as an easy target.

"With the noticeable increase in danger, more churches are examining whether the security plans they have in place are enough. In some cases, churches that once thought they didn’t need a plan have finally become convinced they do. A poll conducted by churchsolutionsmag.com in March showed 67 percent of its respondents said their churches were going to increase security, and 14 percent wished they could but lacked the necessary resources. The remaining 19 percent of those surveyed indicated they felt the shootings were isolated incidents and did not feel pressure to increase security. The latter is a dangerous view to hold, though, say church security experts."

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Also in the July-August issue of Preaching: "Safety in the Sanctuary," "The Curious Case of the Illusive Illustration," an interview with Michael Quicke and much more. Order your subscription today!

At a past Q Conference, Rick Warren talked about how we can more effectively engage culture. The talk is just 18 minutes, and you can see the video here.

"Be faithful in small things because it is in them that your strength lies." (Mother Teresa)

In The Three Tasks of Leadership (Eerdmans), an outstanding team of authors (most related to Fuller Seminary in some way) draws on the leadership insights of Max DePree to offer counsel to pastors and other church leaders. The various essays are organized around the categories included in DePree’s own definition of leadership: defining reality, servanthood and gratitude.


Future church leaders who are considering their educational plans may find value in So You’re Thinking About Going to Seminary (Brazos Press) by Derek Cooper. The author–who has studied at six different seminaries and now teaches at one–explores a variety of issues that prospective seminarians should consider, including curriculum, costs and much more.



In his new book Confessions of an Insignificant Pastor (Faith Walk), W. Mark Elliott tells us that 80 percent of Bible college and seminary grads who enter ministry will drop out within their first five years. That’s a dangerous statistic, and Elliott’s book is an attempt to help and encourage church leaders to stay with their calling. He deals with a variety of challenges pastors face, and offers practical counsel (and examples) to help readers stay in the race.

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


A 6-year-old boy told his father he wanted to marry the little girl across the street.

The father being modern and well-schooled in handling children, hid his smile behind his hand.

"That’s a serious step," he said. "Have you thought it out completely?"

"Sure," his young son answered. "We can spend one week in my room and the next in hers. It’s right across the street, so I can run home if I get lonely in the night."

"How about transportation?" the father asked.

"I have my wagon, and we both have our tricycles," the little boy answered.

The boy had an answer to every question the father raised.

Finally, in exasperation, the man asked, "What about babies? When you’re married, you’re liable to have babies, you know."

"We’ve thought about that, too," the little boy replied. "We’re not going to have babies. Every time she lays an egg, I’m going to step on it!"



4 years: "My daddy can do anything."

7 years: "My dad knows a lot, a whole lot."

12 years: "Oh, well—naturally–Father doesn’t know that either."

14 years: "Father? Hopelessly old-fashioned."

21 years: "Oh, that man is so out-of-date. What did you expect?"

25 years: "He knows a little bit about it–but not much."

30 years: "Maybe we ought to find out what Dad thinks."

35 years: "Let’s ask Dad what he would do before we make a decision."

40 years: "I wonder what Dad would have thought about that? He was pretty

50 years: "My dad knew absolutely everything."

60 years: "I’d give anything if Dad were here so I could talk this over with
him. I really miss him."

No good deed goes unpunished.

That’s what a Sandusky, Ohio, man discovered when he took it upon himself to help mow foot-high grass in Central Park.

According to a May 29 AP story, John Hamilton said he just wanted to make his city look better. But when a witness reported he was blowing grass onto the sidewalk and shredding trash that had not been picked up, police showed up and arrested the 48-year-old man. He was charged with obstructing official business and disorderly conduct when he refused to stop mowing.

The city manager called the arrest "unfortunate" and explained that budget cuts have left much of Sandusky’s seasonal maintenance work "understaffed."

No word if they have asked Mr. Hamilton to be a spokesman for volunteerism in Sandusky.

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