From the Editor:

Clear Communication

Let Scripture Drive Preaching
Why Leviticus?

Think Like Jesus
Identity, Confusion

Link of the Week

Preacher’s Bookshelf


And Finally…

“No man can follow Christ and go astray.” (William H.P. Faunce)

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    Vol. 8, No. 25 July 7 , 2009    
Michael Duduit

I recently heard Frank Page tell the story of the pastor who asked the congregation if anyone needed special prayer. Bubba raised his hand and said, “I do.”

The pastor called Bubba down to the front and asked what he needed prayer for. “My hearing,” said Bubba. So the pastor prayed for Bubba’s hearing, and other members gathered around and prayed also.

When they were done, the pastor said, “So how’s your hearing now?” Bubba replied, “I don’t know — it’s not ’til Wednesday.”

Pastors know better than most: What we think we say is not always what they hear. May your communication be crystal clear this week!

Michael Duduit, Editor

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

On this week’s Preaching Podcast: This week’s podcast features Ralph Douglas West, pastor of The Church Without Walls in Houston, Texas. Listen here.


A few months ago I was invited to contribute some thoughts about preaching to the Southern Seminary magazine — the periodical produced by my alma mater. While I don’t usually include links from this newsletter to my own writing, I thought I’d pass these along:

“Preaching adapts and changes, but it must never lose its connection to Scripture. Preaching is ultimately and always the communication of what God has said in His Word; when we are no longer saying what God has said, we are no longer preaching.

“If you were to ask a hundred evangelical pastors in the United States if they were expository preachers, probably 75-80 percent would say they were. If you listened to those same preachers on Sunday morning, however, you would quickly learn that the definition of expository preaching is pretty varied. Expository preaching has come to be understood so broadly that any preacher who makes significant use of Scripture in the sermon tends to think of himself as an expository preacher.

“It’s my view that in expository preaching, the biblical text drives the sermon — the text is what gives shape to the sermon. Unlike sermons where the preacher takes a text and departs from it, exposition lives with the text — explaining, exploring, illustrating and applying the insights of that portion of God’s Word. As a result, there are a number of different forms that expository preaching can take and still be properly understood as exposition.

“We do expository preaching because there is an inherent power in the faithful proclamation of the Word. God has not promised to honor your word or mine, but He has promised that His own Word will not return to Him void. That is, when the Word of God is faithfully explained and applied in preaching, God works through His Word to touch and transform lives. By opening God’s Word and placing it before our people, we create the context in which the Holy Spirit will do His work. You and I have no authority in and of ourselves, but the Word of God has a divine authority and power that we should recognize. As ambassadors for Christ, we do not speak for ourselves but on behalf of the One whom we represent.” (From Southern Seminary magazine, Spring 2009. Click here to download the entire publication, which includes several articles about preaching.)


When he launched Mars Hill Church in Grand Rapids, Rob Bell began by preaching through the book of Leviticus — not the obvious choice for most church planters! In an article for the PreachingToday newsletter, he explains: “First, I didn’t want the church to succeed because we put together the right resources. I wanted the church to flourish on the power of the Spirit alone. I knew opening with Leviticus — foreign words to today’s culture — was risky. But the bigger the risk, the more need for the Spirit and the more glory for God to get.

“Second, unchurched people often perceive the Bible as obsolete. If that crowd could discover God speaking to them through Old Testament law, it would radically change their perception that Christianity is archaic. I wanted people to know that the whole biblical story — even Leviticus — is alive.

“The Scriptures are a true story, rooted in historical events and actual people. But many people don’t see the connection between the Moses part and the Jesus part. But Moses’ Leviticus is all about Jesus. The whole story. Every message in my series ended with Jesus. Every picture is about Jesus. Every detail of every sacrifice ultimately reflects some detail of Jesus’ life.

“This teaching hit home. Many of my listeners wanted to make sense of the Bible, yet they knew only fragments of the story. Leviticus taught us all to ask the difficult questions: How does this connect with entire biblical narrative? How does this event point to the cross? How do I fit into the story?

“We discovered that the Bible is an organic whole: these concepts do connect, these images do make sense. For the first time, many in our congregation began to realize, ‘This story is my story. These people are my people. This God is my God.'” (Click here to read the full article.)


People grow and mature at different rates. Thomas Edison’s teacher said he could never amount to anything and advised his mother to take him out of school. Winston Churchill was admitted to school in the lowest level classes and never moved out of the lowest group in all the years he attended Harrow. Albert Einstein seemed so slow and dull that his parents feared that he was mentally deficient. One observer has said, “Great minds and high talent, in most cases, cannot be hurried and, like healthy plants, grow slowly.”

It is so with God’s Kingdom. We scatter the seed, but we are not ultimately responsible for its growth. We cannot make things happen. The process by which the kingdom of this world becomes the Kingdom of God proceeds very slowly, and it exasperates us. But, at the same time, if we have faithfully scattered the seed, we are not to blame for its failure to appear in its fullness. We are being cautioned, in these words of Jesus, to be patient. (David G. Rogne, “Sermons for Sundays After Pentecost”; via Sermons.com newsletter)


Scientists have succeeded in causing chickens to sound like quail. Researchers took tissue from parts of the quail brain thought to control the bird’s call and implanted it in the brains of five chicken embryos. The experiment worked! The hatched chicks sounded like quail rather than chickens.

David Jeremiah writes: “When we accept Christ into our life, God implants His mind into ours and we become new creations (2 Cor. 5:17). However, unlike the chickens who sound like quail forever, Christians will not sound and act like Christ for the rest of their lives without continually fostering and putting on a mind like His.

“The Bible instructs us to ‘ …be transformed by the renewing of (your) mind,’ which implies that we must be proactive in nurturing Christ-like thoughts (Rom. 12:2). This can be done through daily Bible reading, listening to praise and worship music or an audio Bible, fellowshiping with other Christians who encourage you in your walk with the Lord, and spending time getting to know Christ Himself through prayer.

“Though there are a variety of things you can do to renew your Christlike mind, the key is to do something every day.” (Turning Point Daily Devotional, 6-17-09)

From the July-August issue of Preaching …

In an article on “The Danger of the Pulpit,” Michael Ruffin observes: “I am vulnerable, I should be vulnerable and I will always be vulnerable. Christianity means vulnerability; ministry means vulnerability. I will not take foolish chances. If someone had expressed specific threats against me, I might consider temporarily wearing a bulletproof vest under my preaching suit (maybe that would give me an excuse to wear a robe like I’ve always kinda sorta wanted to do); but I can’t see wearing one all the time. I certainly don’t want our church to take foolish chances, and I would be in favor of our becoming more security conscious; but I don’t want us to become overly suspicious and paranoid.

“Frankly, it’s hard for me to imagine how a church and a preacher could reasonably guard against the kind of thing that happened that Sunday in Illinois. If someone walks into our church, I will greet him. If he wants to speak with me, I will speak with him. If in that context he wants to do me harm, he will probably do me harm. If he can be stopped, I’m sure the members of my congregation will try to stop him.

“I want the people I pastor to know that I want them — I want us — to be safe. I want them to know, though, that as we minister to real people in the real world, people who are in danger in their own way in their own world, we just may get hurt. I hope not. I hope they don’t get hurt, and I hope I don’t either.

“Chances are good — excellent, really — that what hurt we encounter or that I encounter will not involve bullets or even slings and arrows or tomatoes. But sometimes helping to heal the hurt of people involves taking some of their hurt onto yourself — I think that’s part of living the crucified life.

“Yes, there is danger in the pulpit because the pulpit is in the church, and the church is in the world and the world is a dangerous place. I hope that the hurting don’t hurt me; I hope that they don’t hurt us. But I also hope that the hurting will keep coming to us because in coming to us, they just might find the Christ who-willingly and purposely — died for them.”


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 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!

The site Church Website Ideas recently featured a variety of postings, listing online tools that would be useful to pastors and churches. There is so much here that you’ll want to save these links and go back to study them at length. It’s a great collection of worthwhile sites, broken down by categories:

Scheduling and calendar tools

Charting and diagramming tools

Workgroup, conferencing, and presentation tools

File storage and e-mail tools

“Wash your face every morning in a bath of praise.” (Charles Spurgeon)

When sorrow comes into our lives, many questions surface: Why did God allow it to happen, why wasn’t there healing, and much more. Nancy Guthrie brings biblical insights to bear on such questions in her new book Hearing Jesus Speak Into Your Sorrow (Tyndale House). This can be a resource for preaching and teaching but also a helpful volume to share with families who struggle with loss.


Roger E. Van Harn and Brent Strawn are editors of Psalms for Preaching and Worship: A Lectionary Commentary (Eerdmans), which includes contributions by a number of writers. Those preaching in the Psalms — particularly those using the responsorial Psalms used in the Revised Common Lectionary — will find this to be a useful source of exegetical and homiletical insights.



In a culture where individual expressions of faith are exalted and communal expressions are often neglected, it is important that evangelicals reclaim the doctrine of the church. A useful tool in that quest is the new book Exploring Ecclesiology (Brazos Press) by Brad Harper and Paul Louis Metzger. Though written for use as a college and seminary text, pastors will find much of value here in their own study of what God intends for His church.

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


A high school football player called his coach at home one night. When his wife informed the kid that the coach wasn’t home, he became frantic and said he had to speak to the coach right away.

“Just calm down, and I’ll have him call you as soon as he gets home,” the coach’s wife told him. “What’s your number?”

The flustered kid replied, “Three.”



You’re showing your age if you remember . . .

~ Metal ice cubes trays with levers

~ Roller-skate keys

~ Drive-in movies

~ Topo Gigio

~ The Fuller Brush Man

~ 15-cent McDonalds’ hamburgers

~ 5-cent packs of baseball cards

~ Jiffy Pop popcorn

~ Green stamps

~ Burma Shave signs

~ Brownie camera or flash bulbs

~ Fire-escape tubes

~ Timmy and Lassie

~ Aluminum Christmas trees

Some dogs don’t like bathtubs. This one is going to avoid toilets.

One muddy British puppy faced an unpleasant adventure when a 4-year-old tried to clean him in the toilet and accidentally flushed him down the drain.

The boy’s mother, Alison, assumed the week-old Cocker Spaniel was dead, but “a drainage firm was able to locate the beleaguered animal in a pipe 20 yards away from the house using specialist camera gear,” according to a June 15 AP story.

The dog is now fine — or as fine as you can be after being flushed down the toilet.

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