From the Editor:

Biblical Fidelity

Preaching-Teaching Tops List
Bitter Blogs

Storms, Miracles
Aging, Marriage

Link of the Week

Preacher’s Bookshelf


And Finally…

“Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go.”
(T.S. Eliot)

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    Vol. 8, No. 27 July 21 , 2009    
Michael Duduit

Responding to the recent decision by the leadership of The Episcopal Church (TEC) to drop any restrictions on ordination of clergy in same-sex relationships, Bishop N.T. Wright has written a powerful analysis in The Times of London. Noting that TEC has willingly turned its back on the judgment of the worldwide Anglican communion, he questions their appeal to “justice” as a rationale for abandoning biblical fidelity:

“The appeal to justice as a way of cutting the ethical knot in favor of including active homosexuals in Christian ministry simply begs the question. Nobody has a right to be ordained: it is always a gift of sheer and unmerited grace. The appeal also seriously misrepresents the notion of justice itself, not just in the Christian tradition of Augustine, Aquinas and others, but in the wider philosophical discussion from Aristotle to John Rawls. Justice never means ‘treating everybody the same way,’ but ‘treating people appropriately,’ which involves making distinctions between different people and situations. Justice has never meant ‘the right to give active expression to any and every sexual desire.'”

Wright goes on: “We must insist, too, on the distinction between inclination and desire on the one hand and activity on the other — a distinction regularly obscured by references to ‘homosexual clergy’ and so on. We all have all kinds of deep-rooted inclinations and desires. The question is, what shall we do with them? One of the great Prayer Book collects asks God that we may ‘love the thing which thou commandest, and desire that which thou dost promise.’ That is always tough, for all of us. Much easier to ask God to command what we already love and promise what we already desire. But much less like the challenge of the gospel.”

(Click here to read Wright’s article in full.)

Michael Duduit, Editor

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

On this week’s Preaching Podcast: Mel Lawrenz is Senior Pastor of Elmbrook Church in suburban Milwaukee and author of the new book Whole Church (Josey-Bass). In this two-part podcast he visits with Michael about how preaching can help create a “whole church” in our own congregations. Click here to listen to part 1, and click here for part 2.


Megachurches (2,000+ weekly attenders) represent about 0.3 percent of North American churches but more than 10 percent of weekly worshipers. In a recent Leadership Network survey, more than 80 percent of megachurch pastors identify their primary role as “preacher-teacher,” while “pastor” came in fourth on the list. He spends an average 19 hours a week on preaching, teaching and worship, while meetings and administration take another nine hours. He typically preaches for three weekend services and is the primary teacher 39 weeks of the year.

Most (74 percent) hold a master’s or doctoral degree, and they average 16 years serving their current church. Asked to select three pastoral tasks where they are strongest, 79 percent choose “preaching,” followed by “casting vision” and “teaching.” A small percentage list “pastoral counseling” or “one-on-one personal evangelism.”

(The survey report is available as a free download from Leadership Network. Click here to access it.)


In his most recent Serious Times newsletter, James Emery White writes: “Sociologist Deborah Tannen writes that we live in an ‘argument culture.’ Her observation is that we no longer dialogue with each other, contending that there has been a system-wide relational breakdown in our culture. It is as if we approach everything with a warlike mentality so we end up looking at the world — and people — in an adversarial frame of mind.

“And Christians seem to be leading the way. An editorial in Christianity Today discussed how no attribute of civilized life seems more under attack than civility. The author, David Aikman, noted the extent to which certain Christians have turned themselves into the ‘self-appointed attack dogs of Christendom. They seem determined to savage not only opponents of Christianity, but also fellow believers of whose doctrinal positions they disapprove. A troll through the Internet reveals Web sites so drenched in sarcasm and animosity that an agnostic, or a follower of another faith tradition interested in what it means to become a Christian, might be permanently disillusioned.’

“I recently read of a large church that made the news due to a problem with a persistently caustic blogger. A former member, he had become disgruntled over various actions of the senior pastor and became further incensed that said pastor maintained the backing of the leadership. With nowhere to go with his animus, and no means to lobby for his cause, he started an anonymous blog in order to wage a one-person campaign of bitterness. It quickly disintegrated on both sides to such a degree that the church complained to the police, who investigated and discovered the identity of the blogger; and now suits and countersuits are flying freely.

“What a God-forsaken mess.

“But the article had links, which led to other links, and before I knew it, I found myself exposed in a way I had never imagined possible to the sordid world of the bitter-blog, meaning blogs that exist for no other reason than to attack a particular Christian leader, church or ministry. I found that virtually ever senior pastor of a megachurch has one, intent on causing dissension and disunity and as much disaffection as possible. …

“While this sentiment has been brewing for some time, what is new is the increasingly public nature of our vitriol, its widespread dissemination through the Internet, and our growing comfort with its presence. As Francis Schaeffer presciently observed toward the end of his life, it has almost become a matter of personal privilege:

   ‘We rush in, being very, very pleased, it would seem at
   times, to find other men’s mistakes. We build ourselves
   up by tearing other men down…we love the smell of
   blood, the smell of the arena, the smell of the bullfight…’

“We may be pleased, but we are not being Christian. …

“Many long to return to the growth and vibrancy of the early church, and well they should — but we often mistake its dynamic. As Tertullian noted, the awed pagan reaction to the Christian communal life was, ‘See how they love one another.’

“Such love arrested the attention of the world. And it should have — it is, after all, the mark of a Christian.” (Go to the Web site to subscribe to the newsletter.)


An athlete regularly amazed onlookers when he won the 100-yard dash after being 10 yards behind at the 50-yard mark. His fast finish always made up for his slow start. A caterpillar creeps slowly across the sidewalk, unaware that one day it will be a butterfly flitting from flower to flower overhead. Many Christians plod through life thinking, “My family background, my past sins, and my ignorance of God and His Word keep me from being an effective servant of God.”

Don’t be discouraged: Your past background or yesterday’s failures need not hold you back. Abram, who later would be featured in the Hall of Fame of Faith (Heb. 11:8-19), almost didn’t make it out of the starting blocks in the race of faith. But he did believe God’s promise and, after several false starts, he grew in faith to become known as “the man of faith” (Gal. 3:9). And so can you. Live by the words of a New Testament son of Abraham: “Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3:13-14). (by F. Duane Lindsey, from Devotions for Kindred Spirits, Dallas Seminary)


Who wouldn’t like to walk on water? One magician devised an illusion for guests in which he walked across the water of a swimming pool, but he was secretly wearing a pair of transparent struts. In August 2006, an African evangelist named Franck Kabele insisted he could repeat the biblical miracle of Peter’s walking on water, but he drowned in the attempt.

David Jeremiah observes, “Nowhere does the Bible tell us to emulate the miracles of Jesus. They were ‘signs’ to teach us about His power in our lives. Peter had enough faith to step out of the boat and onto the water, but he was distracted by the splash of the waves and the force of the wind. When he took his eyes off Jesus, he began to sink.

“There are two approaches to life. We can focus on Jesus and acknowledge the storm, or we can focus on the storm and acknowledge Jesus. By keeping our eyes on our Lord, we can live above the circumstances and have an attitude of joy that can no more be drowned than a cork.” (Turning Point Daily Devotional, 7-18-09)

From the July-August issue of Preaching …

In a sermon titled “It’s Not About You,” Adam Dooley begins, “We would never be guilty of making worship more about ourselves than God, would we? How many times have you left a worship service only to complain, ‘I didn’t get anything out of it today!’ We make statements that are saturated with self as if worship is all about us:

• ‘Why can’t we sing more of the songs that I like?’
• ‘I don’t think the preacher should talk about this or that!’
• ‘I can’t believe so-and-so didn’t talk to me today!’
• ‘No one ever notices what I do in the church.’

“Here’s the problem: Worship isn’t about getting anything; it’s about giving everything to God! The above attitudes make us idle judges of activity rather than active participants in adoration toward a holy God. Christian consumerism defines the quality of our worship by the number of ministries for people, the size and quality of our buildings, the popularity of our pastors, the style of our music and an obvious determination to make people happy. One concern emerges as primary: ‘What have you done for me lately?’

“Unfortunately, we still fall short of making everyone happy, and God is disgusted with our obvious worship of and preoccupation with ourselves.”

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 surviving pages of the world’s oldest Christian Bible have been reunited online. The early work, known as the Codex Sinaiticus (“the book from Sinai”), has been housed in four separate locations around the world for more than 150 years. As of last week, it is now available for anyone to peruse at the Web site www.codexsinaiticus.org, allowing scholars and other readers to get a closer look at this unique treasure. Codex Sinaiticus is the oldest book that contains a complete New Testament and is only missing parts of the Old Testament and the Apocrypha. (ABC News, via The Pastor’s Weekly Briefing)

“If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.” (John Quincy Adams)

An effective army needs to know its enemy, but what do we really know about Satan and how he operates? Pastor Dennis McCallum has written Satan and His Kingdom (Bethany House) to provide solid biblical understanding about Satan, the demonic and spiritual warfare. When an excellent New Testament scholar like Ben Witherington recommends a book like this, I want to know more. (Ben says, “Not since C.S. Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters have we had as convincing a presentation that Satan’s favorite method of relating to modern people is to convince them that he is not real, thereby giving him freedom to operate among the unsuspecting.”) This is a book that pastors and church leaders will find to be an excellent resource for an important and little-discussed topic.


As McCallum says in the above book, it’s important to primarily keep our eyes on Jesus. But what does God see when He looks at us? In Eyes Wide Open (Multnomah), Jud Wilhite encourages readers to understand how God sees them — and how they should see themselves. The Sept-Oct issue of Preaching includes an interview with Wilhite, who is senior pastor of Central Christian Church in Las Vegas.



In Kindling Desire for God (Fortress), Kay L. Northcutt argues that preaching should be an act of spiritual direction, aiming at spiritual formation of the congregation. She writes primarily to “the postmodern mainline church.” One point Northcutt makes with which this reader is in full agreement: “the preacher’s spiritual life is as foundational to preaching as brilliant scriptural exegesis and breathtaking sermon delivery.”

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


A husband and wife are getting ready for bed. The wife is standing in front of a full-length mirror, taking a hard look at herself.

“You know, dear,” she says, “I look in the mirror, and I see an old woman. My face is all wrinkled, every thing else is either sagging or bloated. I’ve got fat legs, and my arms are all flabby.”

She turns to her husband and says, “Tell me something positive to make me feel better about myself.”

He studies hard for a moment, thinking about it, and then says in a soft, thoughtful voice, “Well, there’s nothing wrong with your eyesight.”

Services for the husband will be held Saturday morning at 10:30 a.m. at Morris Memorial Chapel. Female friends of the family are invited. (Mikey’s Funnies)



My first job was working in an orange juice factory, but I got canned. I couldn’t concentrate.

Then I worked in the woods as a lumberjack, but I just couldn’t hack it, so they gave me the axe.

After that, I tried to be a tailor, but I wasn’t suited for it — mainly because it was a sew-sew job.

Next, I tried working in a muffler factory, but that was too exhausting.

Then, I tried to be a chef — figured it would add a little spice to my life, but I just didn’t have the thyme.

I attempted to be a deli worker; but any way I sliced it, I couldn’t cut the mustard.

I studied a long time to become a doctor, but I didn’t have any patience.

Next, was a job in a shoe factory. I tried but I couldn’t fit in. I became depressed and soulful.

Then there was the professional fisherman job. But I discovered that I couldn’t live on my net income.

I managed to get a job working for a pool maintenance company, but the work was just too draining.

So then I got a job in a workout center, but they said I wasn’t fit for the job. 

After many years of trying to find steady work, I finally got a job as an historian — until I realized there was no future in it.

My last job was working in Starbucks, but I had to quit because it was always the same old grind.

Everyone knew cigarette taxes were going up, but this seems a bit overboard.

At least that’s what one New Hampshire man must think after he swiped his debit card at a gas station to buy a pack and was charged over 23 quadrillion dollars.

According to a July 15 AP story, Josh Muszynski checked his account online a few hours later and saw the 17-digit number — a stunning $23,148,855,308,184,500 (twenty-three quadrillion, one hundred forty-eight trillion, eight hundred fifty-five billion, three hundred eight million, one hundred eighty-four thousand, five hundred dollars).

The now impoverished smoker then spent two hours on the phone with Bank of America trying to fix the problem — and remove the $15 overdraft fee. (Who knew it only cost $15 to overdraft 23 quadrillion dollars?)

The bank corrected the error the next day. Bank of America says only the card issuer, Visa, could answer questions. Visa, in turn, referred questions to the bank.

Meanwhile, the same gas station has now put cigarettes on sale — only $12 quadrillion a pack this week.

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