From the Editor:

The Question of Video

Building Disciples in the World
Preaching with a Prophetic Voice


Link of the Week

Preacher’s Bookshelf


And Finally…

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    Vol. 8, No. 28 August 4 , 2009    
Michael Duduit

It’s always dangerous to disagree with a gifted preacher such as John Piper — I can see the e-mails coming even now — but I’m afraid I’ve got to challenge a recent statement he made about the use of video in connection to preaching. I absolutely agree with every statement he made about the power and importance of preaching (you can hear his whole statement here), but I disagree with what he said here:

“I think the use of video and drama largely is a token of unbelief in the power of preaching. And I think that, to the degree that pastors begin to supplement their preaching with this entertaining spice to help people stay with them and be moved and get helped, it’s going to backfire. … It’s going to communicate that preaching is weak, preaching doesn’t save, preaching doesn’t hold — entertainment does.”

I use video only occasionally in my own preaching, but I’ve seen it used with great effectiveness in many, many churches. I see preachers who believe deeply in preaching use visual images as one more resource for effective communication. When it is used well, it is simply another illustrative tool that helps engage young adults with truth in a visual language they understand. In that sense, it follows in the tradition of Jesus’ own preaching and teaching, which was not only packed with word-crafted images, but filled with object lessons (coins, wheat fields, fig trees and so on) that would be quite comparable to the use of a brief video clip in our own age.

By all means, don’t use video, drama, microphones, pulpits or any other extra-biblical tool in your preaching if you feel it might compromise your message or God’s use of you as His messenger. But let’s not attack or belittle those faithful preachers in a new generation who find such tools helpful as they seek to proclaim the Word of God.

(Agree? Disagree? Got another take on the issue? Send me a note by clicking the e-mail link below to share your views on this. But be nice!)

Michael Duduit, Editor

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

On this week’s Preaching Podcast: Hershael York is Professor of Christian Preaching at Southern Baptist Seminary in Louisville as well as pastor of Buck Run Baptist Church in Frankfort, Kentucky. In this podcast he visits with Michael about the mechanics of developing an expository sermon, about managing time and more.


Near the end of his new book, Knowing Christ Today (HarperOne), Dallas Willard points out that as pastors, our task is not to draw people to church activities but to equip them to fulfill their calling as disciples in their own world. He writes:

“Pastors, then, are the ones who guide disciples into their place in their world and show them how to ‘exercise dominion in life through the one man, Christ Jesus’ (Rom. 5:17). Real life, ‘ordinary’ life, is the place of disciples and the place of discipleship. There disciples ‘reign’ in the office, laboratory, farm, the schoolroom as well as in media, sports, the fine arts, and so forth. They reign for what is good in the home, the community, and in international organizations and relations. They effectively care for the goods of human life that come under their care and influence. ‘The fruit of the light is found in all that is good and right and true’ (Eph. 5:9).

“Special ‘church’ activities involve the fellowship of disciples in worship, teaching, learning, and caring for one another. Those activities constitute a school of love. But all of that is for the creative life of individuals in their world and their work. There they will form and exercise the character that they will carry forward in eternity. ‘Divine service’ is not a church service, though it might include that. Divine service is life. It is in the world, in daily business of whatever level and importance, that there unfolds, in Paula Houston’s wonderful phrase, ‘the great adventure that was once Christianity.’ It can be so for everyone one of us.”

In his own blog, Michael Kruse extends the discussion: “The sad reality is that while people in the ‘helping professions’ (ex. nurses, teachers, social workers) are sometimes lifted up in church, the vast majority of business people (like managers, business owners, accountants, sales workers, etc.) report never having heard a sermon that speaks of the work they do as service to Christ. Those who report that they have heard sermons affirm their work report that the affirmation is usually backhanded, as in the idea that God has placed them there so they can work against greed or exploitation of workers. Or maybe their work is useful because it provides resources to fund the church’s programming and facilities.

“Most business people know that to some degree they are additives, not detractors, to societal well-being. They transform matter, energy, and data from less useful states to more useful states. They generate income for others. They organize human systems where people cooperate and compete to produce goods for endless win-win transactions in the marketplace. Many sense that their work has intrinsic value … that it is somehow deeply expressive of who they are at their core. Unfortunately, based on what they hear at church, God does not agree.” (Read the rest of the commentary here.) (Click here to learn more about Knowing Christ Today.)


In an article called “Preaching to Change the Heart” (at PreachingTodaySermons.com) Alistair Begg says: “We lack a prophetic voice. The church has politicized, psychologized, pragmatized and trivialized. People may say, ‘That approach was OK for Paul. But these are different days. Mr. Happy and his wife could handle that. You wouldn’t do that to 21st-century people.’

“Did you read any of the history? Felix was a twin. He and his brother were a bad lot. They were born as slaves. They crawled out of obscurity into the limelight. It was said they exercised the power of kings with the disposition of slaves, in savagery and lust. Felix had financial security, power, status and a good-looking woman. However, he had stolen the woman from her husband.

“And Paul says, ‘My first point, Mr. Happy, is righteousness. I want to talk to you about doing the right thing. I know you’re an adulterer, but I want to talk to you about righteousness.’ And Drusilla’s father killed James. Her great uncle killed John the Baptist. Her great grandfather murdered the babies in Bethlehem. And Paul spoke to her about self-control.

“A real user-friendly sermon.” (Click here to read the full article.)


A few years ago, rumors spread that a certain Catholic woman was having visions of Jesus. The archbishop decided to check her out.

“Is it true, ma’am, that you have visions of Jesus?” asked the cleric.

“Yes,” the woman replied.

“Well, the next time you have a vision, I want you to ask Jesus to tell you the sins that I confessed in my last confession. Please call me if anything happens.”

Ten days later the woman notified her spiritual leader of a recent apparition.

Within the hour the archbishop arrived. “What did Jesus say?” he asked.

She took his hand and gazed deep into his eyes. “Bishop,” she said, “these are His exact words: ‘I can’t remember.'” (Brennan Manning, The Ragamuffin Gospel)


In his “One Minute Uplift” newsletter, Rick Ezell writes: “St. Augustine, the early church father and theologian, described prayer as like a man in a hapless boat, who throws a rope at a rock. The rock provides the needed security and stability for the helpless man. When the rock is lassoed, it’s not the man pulling the rock to the boat (though it may appear that way); it is the pulling of the boat to the rock. Jesus is the rock, and we throw the rope through prayer.

“Samuel Chadwick said, ‘The one concern of the devil is to keep saints from prayer. He fears nothing from prayer less studies, prayer less work, and prayer less religion. He laughs at our toil, mocks at our wisdom, but trembles when we pray.'” (to subscribe to the newsletter send a request to http://www.rickezell.net/uplifts.htm.)

From the September-October issue of Preaching …

In an interview with pastor Mark Batterson, he encourages young pastors to “find your voice. Listen to as many people as you can; but at the end of the day, what does God want to communicate through your unique personality? Through your unique life circumstances? Through your unique gifts?

“And be comfortable in your own skin. I think early on I was trying to be a pastor, trying to be a preacher. More and more now I’m trying to be myself. And people respond to that, the authenticity when you’re just being real. And so I think part of finding your voice is, in a sense, discovering your unique contribution to the kingdom of God.

“C.S. Lewis said every life is comprised of a few themes. And I think discovering those themes helps us be confident as we communicate. On the flip side, it helps us realize that if we aren’t careful we might ride on those hobby horses and preach on the same things week in and week out. And so part of finding your voice is: what are those life-themes that God has woven into your life?”

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 September-October issue of Preaching: “What Would Jesus Twitter?” (on preaching and social networking sites), interviews with Mark Batterson and Jud Wilhite, “Preaching and Leading,” and much more. Order your subscription today!

Al Mohler and Danny Akin — two presidents of Southern Baptist seminaries — jointly wrote an article on “Why We Believe Children Who Die Go to Heaven.” They observe: “It is important for us both to ask and answer some important questions if we can. Do those who die in infancy go to heaven? How do we know? What evidence is there to support such a conclusion? Sentimentalism and emotional hopes and wants are not sufficient for those who live under the authority of the Word of God. We must, if possible, find out what God has said.” Since pastors and church leaders are often called on to minister to grieving families, this article may provide a helpful resource. You can read it here.

“Speak when you are angry — and you will make the best speech you’ll ever regret.”
(Laurence J. Peter)

One of the major trends in 21st-century church life is the multi-site church. If you are interested in learning more, one of the best resources you’ll find is Multi-Site Churches (B&H Books) by Scott McConnell. The book draws on extensive research from 40 current multi-site congregations. If your church is considering this strategy, start here.


Speaking of trends, in Church Morph (Baker), Eddie Gibbs talks about the trends and tools found in churches that are countering the decline experienced by too many congregations. He talks about the changes needed for churches to live out their mission in 21st-century culture, and offers a host of examples of churches that are reaching out and making a difference.



Finally, it’s not a book on ministry or faith, but Horse Soldiers (Scribner) by Doug Stanton is one of the most fascinating books you’ll read, as it relates the story of how a handful of special forces soldiers and CIA officers entered Afghanistan in the days after 9/11 and worked with Afghan forces to take on the Taliban. If you’re looking for an interesting book for that last bit of summer vacation, this one is hard to beat.

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


There was this preacher who was an avid golfer. Every chance he could get, he could be found on the golf course swinging away. It was an obsession.

One Sunday was a picture-perfect day for golfing. The sun was out, no clouds in the sky, and the temperature was just right. The preacher was in a quandary as to what to do; and shortly, the urge to play golf overcame him. He called an assistant to tell him that he was sick and could not do church, packed the car up, and drove three hours to a golf course where no one would recognize him. Happily, he began to play the course.

An angel up above was watching the preacher and was quite perturbed. He went to God and said, “Look at the preacher. He should be punished for what he is doing.”

God nodded in agreement.

The preacher teed up on the first hole. He swung at the ball, and it sailed effortlessly through the air and landed right in the cup 350 yards away. A picture-perfect hole-in-one.

The angel was a shocked. He turned to God and said, “Begging Your pardon, but I thought You were going to punish him.”

God smiled. “Think about it — who can he tell?”



The tribal wisdom of the Dakota Indians, passed on from one generation to the next, says that when you discover you are riding a dead horse, the best strategy is to dismount. However, in contemporary organizations other strategies have often been tried with dead horses, including the following:

1. Buying a stronger whip.

2. Changing riders.

3. Threatening the horse with termination.

4. Appointing a committee to study the horse.

5. Arranging to visit other sites to see how they ride dead horses.

6. Lowering the standards so that dead horses can be included.

7. Appointing an intervention team to reanimate the dead horse.

8. Creating a training session to increase the riders load share.

9. Reclassifying the dead horse as living-impaired.

10. Change the form so that it reads: “This horse is not dead.”

11. Hire outside contractors to ride the dead horse.

12. Harness several dead horses together for increased speed.

13. Donate the dead horse to a recognized charity, thereby deducting its full original cost.

14. Providing additional funding to increase the horse’s performance.

15. Do a time management study to see if the lighter riders would improve productivity.

16. Purchase an after-market product to make dead horses run faster.

17. Declare that a dead horse has lower overhead and therefore performs better.

18. Form a quality focus group to find profitable uses for dead horses.

19. Rewrite the expected performance requirements for horses.

20. Promote the dead horse to a supervisory position. (Mikey’s Funnies)

This kid really didn’t want to go to church last Sunday.

Police in Plain City, Utah, participated in a low-speed chase after a witness observed a child driving a Dodge Intrepid through a stop sign, according to a July 29 AP story. Sheriff’s deputies found the car and tried unsuccessfully to stop it — the car reached a high of 40 mph — until the auto pulled into a driveway and a 7-year-old boy hopped out and ran into the house.

The boy later told his father that he drove away to avoid going to church. Because of his age, police issued no citations, but they did urge the parents to keep the car keys where the boy could not reach them.

And please get that boy a more interesting Sunday School teacher!

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