Monday, December 31, 2007

Preachers Prayer for 2008 (and beyond)

For the past, oh, fifteen years or so, I have had a prayer taped prayer onto the front of my sermon preparation notebook.  At times I have paid more attention to it than others.  I am not sure where it came is something I have typed up from someone else.  (If you know the source, I would deeply appreciate you letting me know so that I can properly credit it).

It summarizes my prayer for myself and my preaching as we enter into 2008.  It is also my prayer for you that this is true of you as well.

"Lord, here's my mind.  Think your thoughts in me.  Be my wisdom, knowledge and insight.  Here's my voice.  You told me not to worry about what I am to say but that it would be given me what to say and how to say it.  Free me to speak with silence or words, whichever is needed.  Give me your timing and tenderness. Now Lord, here's my body, release creative affection in my face, in my touch, in my embrace.  And Christ, if there is something I am to do by your indwelling presence, however menial or tough. control my will to do it.  Lord, I am ready now to be your manifest intervention in situations, to infuse joy, affirm growth or absorb pain and aching anguish.  I plan to live this day and the rest of my life in the reality of you in me.  Thank you for making it so. So, Lord Jesus, speak to us in your strong name.  Amen." 

May God bless you and your service for him in the New Year.  Come Lord Jesus, come. 

The Compass' Master Points in a Disingenuous Direction


For those of you who follow the same preaching blogs I do, you have probably seen comments on this quote before, but I can't get it out of my head, so I want to get it down on paper. (well...not paper so much,, get it...down in writing. That works).

Our church didn't do a lot when the movie "The Golden Compass" came out. We made an informational article about it available to parents warning them of the dangers that this film holds. We announced in the bulletin that the article was available, but I don't think I even made a verbal reference to it. I didn't want to draw attention to the film in any way to provoke curiosity.

But at the time of the release of the movie, Philip Pullman gave an interview in which he made an interesting statement. He is talking about the "anti-Christian purpose" of his book. In part he says: "...what I'm doing is telling a story, not preaching a sermon."

The reference for the quote is:

As both a fiction writer and a preacher, I must say that either Philip Pullman is incredibly naive (which no one has ever accused him of being) or he is totally disingenuous (the kindest conclusion). For a writer to minimize the power of words is a contradiction of terms. It is impossible to write stories without showing a bias and influencing people towards that bias. No one would say of the parables of Jesus, "What Jesus was doing was telling a story, not preaching a sermon." The message of the sermon comes through loud and clear through the use of the story.

There are two groups of people who should understand the power of words in influencing people: novelists and preachers. And in Pullman's case, I am sure that he understands the influence of his story. It was not unintended

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Trying not to Slaughter Typology

So today I tried an experiment that seemed to go OK. This Advent we have been looking at Christmas as a time for emotional healing: healing for barrenness, hurt, anger, fear and this week was healing for sorrow. I was preaching on the slaughter of the innocents. It only covers two verses and a big part of that is a quoting of the words of Jeremiah from Jer. 31:15.

"This is what the LORD says:
"A voice is heard in Ramah,
mourning and great weeping,
Rachel weeping for her children
and refusing to be comforted,
because her children are no more."

It is basically a strange passage (if you have studied it) because it is not easily identifiable how this verse pertains to the event, except that Rachel is buried at Bethlehem. But Rachel is not recorded to have wept for her children. She died in childbirth when Ben-Oni/Benjamin was born.

But in studying it, the event referred to in Jer. 31:15-17 is a "type" of the slaughter of the innocents. Without going into the entire sermon, the passage makes perfect sense if you understand biblical typology (which is currently pretty much out of vogue).

But I decided that this morning I wanted/needed to spend a little time explaining the principle of biblical typology. I thought, "this could really be disastrous!" I have been criticized for making my preaching more like college classroom than a pulpit.

But I clearly stated that one of the purposes of my preaching is to equip people to understand scripture as they read it for themselves. And an understanding of types is essential. It is found in the teachings of Jesus (Jonah and Jesus being in the tomb for three days) as well as Epistles (Melchizadek and the priesthood of Jesus). I only spent five minutes on it (although that is a LONG time if it is confusing and boring to you!) And so I was willing to invest the time. I then totally turned away from a discussion of typology and focused on principles from the slaughter of the innocents that inform us as we deal with sorrow.

  • Sorrow must be taken seriously (a particular need here in the northwest)
  • God is not the author of all sorrow.
  • Sorrow reminds us of the need for the promises of God
        • God has not forgotten us
        • For believers, there is eternal life
        • For believers, there is resurrection and reunion
        • God does bring healing
        • God can create new and wonderful things in your life, and in the life around you out of the heartache of your grief
  • God's plan is not thwarted by sorrow-causing events.

And I think my experiment was successful. I got good (often emotion-laden) responses to the sermon. And the one person I questioned about the discussion of typology mentioned that he had been helped by it because he had been troubled by this verse for some time (Thanks for the feedback, Bruce!)

I hope that I accomplished both of my purposes: Inspiration: showing how this passage addresses how we handle sorrow; but also Biblical Exegesis: equipping the saints to understand an important principle of biblical interpretation.

Bible Marathon for the New Year?

Boy reading scripture

This is the time of year for encouraging people to increase (start?) their regular reading of the Word of God in the New Year.

Garry Friesen (from Multnomah Bible here in Portland) has great experience in running Bible reading marathons. This is a bit different from regular individual reading of scripture. Anything from 2-18 hours of oral reading of scripture qualifies as a marathon.

He has some great ideas!

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Don't Suffer Fools Gladly

foolToday I have been reading in "Hear and Be Wise: Becoming a Preacher and Teacher of Wisdom" by Alyce M. McKenzie.

It was recommended by Wes Taylor a friend who preaches in an area UMC, is highly involved in community social affairs and teaches preaching in the M.Div. program at Marylhurst University near here.

She says that one of the responsibilities of the preacher is to serve in his/her function of sage. That role of sage has three parts: Preservation of Shalom, Fool Management and Character Building.

I was intrigued with the part of the pastors role which she labeled "Fool Management." She says, "'I thought briefly about becoming a pastor,' confided a friend of mine. 'But then I realized that I don't suffer fools gladly enough.' Part of the role of [the pastor] is to protect the community from the fools in its midst. Fools represent, to varying degrees, chaos in the community that is counter to the moral order created by God."

She states that there are eight different Hebrew words for fools used in the Hear and Be Wise book of Proverbs, (she references James Crenshaw, Old Testament Wisdom: An Introduction). She, however, only highlights three.

The pethi (simple fool-the shallow, gullible person who believes anything and everything--Proverbs 14:15). "He lacks the wisdom to stabilize his life and is therefore susceptible to evil companions.

The lutz (scorning fool-the know-it-all; the unteachable type of person-Proverbs 9:7; 13:1) "The word is often translated 'scoffer' or 'scorner.' The lutz is haughty (21:24) and delights in mocking others, especially wisdom teachers (1:22). He delights in folly (1:22) and will not listen to wisdom (13:1; 15:12). His supercilious arrogance (21:24) sets the whole community on edge (22:10; 29:8).... Heraclitus, a philosopher of the fifth century B.C.E. once said, with reference to his opponents, that the opposite of wisdom is not stupidity, but knowing it all. The lutz know it all and has nothing to learn from God or other people."

The nabal (steadfast fool-a churlish, brutal person who cannot control his anger and who enjoys the misery of others). This is the fool who in Proverbs. 14:1 "says in his heart that there is no God." Sensible words are out of place in his mouth (Proverbs 17:7) and he is a source of grief to his parents (Proverbs 17:21).

As McKenzie says, "In our teaching and preaching, it is important to acknowledge our own tendencies toward folly and the chaos that it brings, but also to celebrate the progress we have made on the path of wisdom."

While I have not seen Crenshaw's book, a website of the Advanced Training Institute International adds a couple more:

The kes-eel (Sensual Fool-who rejects the correction of parents or other authorities and seems almost determined to make wrong choices) His (or her) focus is on that which brings him/her immediate gratification or pleasure. (Proverbs 10:23; 13:19–20; 18:6-7). The book of Proverbs gives more warnings to/about this type of fool than that of any other. (Proverbs 13:30; 26:3; 19:21)

The ev-eel (Silly Fool-perverse or silly;when things go wrong for the silly fool, he becomes angry, resulting in more damage.) I don't know that I can clearly differentiate between this type of fool and the lutz. This fool believes that his own way of thinking is right (Proverbs.12:15; 1:7; 10:21; 29:9; 7:22).

I am just getting into the book, but I have high expectations for it. The preacher's role as sage is one that is unfamiliar to me. And if the rest of it is as intriguing as that of "Fool Management," I know I am going to enjoy it.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Happy Christmas!

A Child is born May all who read my blog have a blessed Christmas!

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Frederick Buechner: Out of Touch, but with What?

frederickbuechnerlrg"The trouble with many sermons is not so much that the preachers are out of touch with what is going on in the world or in books or in theology, but that they are out of touch with what is going on in their own lives and in the lives of the people they are preaching to. Whether their subject is hope or faith or charity or anything else, let them speak out of the living truth of their own experience of those high matters. Let them have the courage to be themselves." --Frederick Buechner, The Living Pulpit

Friday, December 21, 2007

Some Recent Posts to Check Out

There have been some posts in blogosphere this week that are Blog1worth checking out.
Peter Mead talks about The Secret to Preaching With Passion

Gordon Cheng on Ten great reasons for preachers to work at one-to-one ministry

Colin Adams over at Unashamed Workman has excellent quote from Bryan Chappell on The Greatest Danger in Sermon Preparation. An excellent quote

Peter Mead (again) charges us to be thankful for The Preacher’s Personal Cloud. I for one sent out several notes of appreciation to some (not all, but some) of the cloud of witnesses in my life.

I don't know why this stands out to me, but Peter is from England, Colin is from Scotland and Gordon is from Australia. I am so thankful for the breadth of geographical perspective that the Internet can bring us!!

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Judge Rules in Sermon Sharing Scandal

Evangelical churches and ministries across Americaman in handcuffs are reeling today after a lower court in Manhattan found the defendants guilty in the "U.S. vs. 'Rev. John Smith'" sermon sharing case.

On April 1, 2007 the justice department filed charges against thousands of pastors and seminary students across America. Due to the large number of parties involved, the justice department simply designated the defendant as "Rev. John Smith" to represent the whole.

At the center of the suit are the sermons and writings of Rev. Timothy J. Keller of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Manhattan. After an intensive three year investigation the justice department uncovered an extensive network of pastors, seminary students and other church workers who downloaded hundreds of sermons by Rev. Keller, distributed them and preached them regularly in churches across America.

Read more at Judge Rules in Sermon Sharing Scandal

Creative Preaching meets Who Wants to be a Millionaire

Over at Ministry Today Magazine, John Brandon writes about a  program (plus individual hand-held wireless keypads) that allow people to answer questions anonymously that the preacher poses from the pulpit. Turning Point is a PowerPoint add-in, but doesn't work well with Media Shout (we happen to use both). logo_turningpoint

The preacher can ask simple questions to gauge the congregation's interest or level of experience with a subject matter.  An example was "Porn Sunday" users were asked about their struggles.  The responses helped people understand that they are not alone in their struggles. Because it is anonymous, those who use it believe that people will be more honest in their answers. 

Another church used it to survey the congregation as to when throughout the week they would like small groups to be offered. 

I got to their site, (see below) but did not find an easy way to find the cost. I am usually pretty out front when it comes to tech things...but I can think of a lot of other ways to spend our church's money first.

Ministry Mag's article:

or Turning Points website:

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Helpful Blogs

blogcover1As a follow-up to my post about reading on preaching, here are the preaching blogs I referred to that I currently have in my reader (Bloglines):

Transforming Sermons

A Peculiar Prophet (Blog of William Willamon)

A Steward of the Secret Things

PreachingToday Blog

Unashamed Workman (the more recent addition to my list)

Theocentric Preaching

Biblical Preaching.

All are quite good. Milton Stanley lists others as well as a preaching blog group in the comments section of my previous post. I recommend you check it out.

Five Elements of Inspirational Preaching

...............................................................When people talk about preachers, often the presumption is that they specialize in inspiration. And many times (in my experience) that is denigrated. "Oh, that was an just an inspirational sermon...really no meat there." "Oh there was lots of warm and fuzzy feel good inspiration, but he/she never really told us what we should DO about it."

Maybe it was the time period in which I was formed, perhaps it was the churches in which I was raised, but KNOWING the Bible was paramount. To KNOW was the key. The Holy Spirit only legitimately spoke through the Word of God and so knowing the Word was huge. (and while I still affirm the second, I would rephrase the first--the Word is the PRIMARY way the Holy Spirit speaks but not the only way.).

And I have always tried to allow the Holy Spirit to be the one providing the inspiration. Emotional manipulation is anathema to me. I still believe that the Word preached will lead to inspiration.

But what is inspiration? Is it helping people to "dream the impossible dream"? Is it pushing people to "march off the map"?

One newsletter I get (from Dan Reiland) noted today that inspiration can be done through charisma, through relationships and/or through passion.

But that doesn't really tell me what inspiration IS. It only tells me ways it can be communicated.

In thinking about inspiration, I still don't have a definition, but I see five elements of inspiration:

  • Inspiration broadens people’s visions of what is do-able or desirable. Suddenly all sorts of possibilities seem to open up.
  • Inspiration helps people believe that what seems too big for them is actually do-able, or at least worth attempting. It may seem too big to be accomplished at present, but might be accomplishable if we allow ourselves to… (grow, trust God, give someone a second chance…whatever.)
  • Inspiration includes a call to action, but also motivates people to be excited about acting or feeling drawn to want to act.
  • Inspiration is evolutionary. There is a bit of uncertainty about where the path will lead, but wherever it is, it will be exciting.
  • Inspiration is a call to grow personally in some way. Gifts and talents within you seem to awaken or call for development. Inspiration will not leave you where it found you.

These goes way beyond facts and beliefs. They touches the heart God has put within us.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Preaching "Beyond" What the Bible Says

Ever since Friday when I added my "Amen" to the article about not using Mary and Joseph as an example of how to handle marital stress, I have had a bit of discomfiture. CB064047

The article seemed to make sense. But there was something about it that bugged me. And after giving it some thought, I think I have figured out what it was. (Caution: I have not heard the sermon that Darryl Dash, pastor of Richview Baptist Church in Toronto [the author of Theocentric Preaching] refers to. And so I am just reacting to his reaction to the sermon, which is always a dangerous thing to do.)

But the thing that made me uncomfortable is the unstated presupposition that it is illegitimate to take a secondary feature of a passage and make it a primary point for teaching and preaching.

Haddon Robinson, who is someone that we should be very cautious about contradicting says, “We must never take the incidental features of a passage and make it the focal point of our teaching.” Or put in other words, “One must not take a secondary feature of a passage and make it the focal point of a sermon.” But is that true?

I have referred in a previous post or two to a series of lectures by Daniel Doriani (a Presbyterian pastor in St. Louis) who gave this fall's preaching lectures at Westminster Theological Seminary.

And in his closing lecture (provocative entitled, Beyond the Sacred Page: When The Story Doesn't Quite Say What You Wish) he states that not only CAN we do so, but it is necessary to do so. And we do so in the best of company. JESUS did so. Doriani gives several examples:

  • Matt 12:1-8=Jesus takes a secondary point (that David & his men took the showbread from the tabernacle & ate it) to make the point that mercy allows for his disciples to take wheat on the Sabbath and prepare and eat it.
  • Matt 22:29=Jesus takes the self-revelation of the Father to Moses ("I am who I am") to explain why there is not marrying or giving of marriage in heaven. That is definitely not the point of God's self-revelation. Jesus takes a secondary feature and makes it the primary point of his teaching.
  • Doriani also uses the example of multitudes of preachers at weddings who have said that Jesus blessed weddings by the performing of his first miracle at a wedding in Cana. Blessing weddings was NOT the point of the Cana story or of the Cana miracle. But still...we take a secondary point (Jesus' presence at and miracle performed at the wedding at Cana) to make the point that this was a blessing of the wedding ceremony.

And so to take the tension between Mary and Joseph and to use it as an example of how we should/could handle stress in our marriages today (while recognizing that is not the main point of the passage), COULD be a legitimate use of the passage. It also could be used illegitimately, but that depends on how the passage is used in the specific sermon. Bro. Dash doesn't tell us HOW the passage was used, just that it was used to make this specific point.

That is why I felt uncomfortable that I had (mostly thoughtlessly) added my "Amen" to that point, when I'm not sure (upon further reflection) that I still can.

You really should check out Doriani's lecture. A lot of it is a helpful reaction to I.H. Marshall's, “Beyond the Bible: Moving from Scripture to Theology.” That book moves well beyond what Doriani is advocating here into areas that would make most evangelicals shudder. But in countering that book, Doriani notes that there are several ways to go "beyond the Bible" and still stay faithful to the message of the text.

You will find the audio at: Doriani: Beyond the Sacred Page

Saturday, December 15, 2007

How Many Words Does It Take?

bored listeners

In my constant struggle against verbosity (along with several other similar struggles), I am helped by there words collected by Leroy Lawson, one of my predecessors at my current church assignment:

Words are like leaves; and where they most abound, much fruit of sense beneath is rarely found. --Alexander Pope

Thomas Hardy observed that Henry James had developed a "ponderously warm manner of saying nothing in infinite sentences."

Chief Kilchie: "I must think more on this. Otherwise my words will have no mind behind them, and be like rattling stones.'

Lincoln responded to a vitriolic critic: "He can compress the most words into the smallest ideas better than any man I ever met."

Disraeli's description of Gladstone in 1878: "a sophisticated rhetorician, inebriated with the exuberance of his own verbosity."

  • Lord's Prayer-56 words
  • Lincoln's Gettysburg address-268 words
  • Declaration of Independence-1322 words
  • U.S. Government's regulation on the sale of cabbages -26,911

Fred Smith, early in his speaking career, found his speeches getting heavier, crowds becoming smaller. In Indiana he saw a farmer plowing with a single mule & fifty chickens were following him. He thought, "The chickens will always follow the fellow whose plowing up the worms. I realized then I had to feed people not only what I thought would feed them, but what they are really hungry for."

Friday, December 14, 2007

More About Christmas Preaching: It's Not All About Us

All About Me MugOver at Theocentric Preaching there is an excellent entry reminding us that the Christmas season is not ultimately about us. He uses the great example of a sermon which used Mary's pregnancy as an example of how to handle stress in our marriages. It's worth checking out:

Preaching Christ at Christmas

Reading on Preaching?!?

I was having lunch with a couple of friends last the church planter of our most recent daughter church and the other a friend who heads a local para-church organization. Sean (the planter) was commenting on a post on my blog (the principles on the use of PPT by Guy Kawasaki) and the other friend asked about the blog. I commented that I started the blog when I realized that I had not read anything new on preaching in a long time. I had been approached by and was interviewing with my alma mater about heading their preaching department (I eventually pulled out), but in the interview process one of the faculty asked a VERY fair question. "What are you currently reading or what have you recently read on preaching?" I am embarrassed to say that everything I came up with was old and they were things I had read years ago. After almost 30 years of ministry it is so easy to get into ruts. And so part of the reason for the blog was to serve as an accountability tool to myself to make sure that I am reading on preaching.

The friend asked, "Reading on preaching? What would you read about preaching?" Ignoring the presumptions behind the question I mentioned what I was currently reading:

1. The "Supremacy of God in Preaching" by John Piper
2. "Preaching" by Fred Craddock
3. I just finished "Preaching:25 Things You Can't Learn in School" by James MacDonald.
4. I am ready to re-read "Between Two Worlds" by John Stott
(Many of the books and articles I have been reading over the past seven months that I have been writing this blog have been referenced in posts as I have gone along. These are only the things I am in right now.)

I currently subscribe to (and read) Preaching magazine. I have looked at (and used to subscribe to) others, but this one has proven to be most helpful to me.

Blogs and Websites
I have seven preaching blogs that come up in my Bloglines reader. Some of them post several posts per day. A few have more than one person who posts on the blog. Others haven't posted in weeks. (Eventually if they don't post, I will delete them). But I find them helpful. You see a number of them referenced here on my site. I also receive e-mail newsletters from They are very frustrating, however, in that you can't read the articles unless you subscribe to their service which is relatively expensive. (IMHO)

What other resources have you found helpful? Whatever you find helpful, make sure that you are constantly honing your craft. We are instruments in the hands of the master communicator, but we have a responsibility to make sure that the instrument is sharp.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Grace and Truth

John 1:14 & 17 says: The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. ...For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.

James MacDonald makes an important point about Jesus and about our preaching. It is often hard to balance that "grace" and "truth"
thing. I suspect that I over stress the grace part, but I think that this is a reaction to being raised in a church environment where the truth was stressed over and over and over again. It was the time of denominational fissure in our church movement and doctrinal truth seemed (and was ) critical. It was the time of the charismatic movements early 'heady' days. And we were raised to examine the claims of the "charismaniacs" with extreme skepticism. In the Meiers Briggs I am solidly a INTJ where the J stands or Judging, which anyone who knows me well knows that I am very good at doing. And so I think in reaction I overreact and stress the grace aspect too much perhaps at times. But whether or not I do, I believe that most preachers have difficulty in balancing grace and truth.

The point that MacDonald makes is that Jesus is awesome because he is not a 50/50 balance of grace and truth. He is FULL of grace and truth. He is 100% grace AND 100% truth.

"He is totally truthful, but with so much grace. All truth and no grace is brutality. All grace and no truth is hypocrisy. But let your preaching be like Jesus, full of grace and truth, and you will find greater power." (Preaching: 25 Things You Can't Learn in School, p. 36.)

May God give me the length of life and the strength to be able to learn to be that 100% truth and 100% grace.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Death by Video

I have used movie video clips in sermons for 10-12 years (or more?). They can be very effective. I have also caused all sorts of furor by some clips I have used. (Live and learn, I guess).

Michael Duduit (the editor of Preaching magazine) summarizes some principles for using video clips that were found in the fall issue of Leadership journal. There are some basic principles to make sure that videos used in preaching are handled effectively.

Michael's summary: “You’ve heard it said that ‘too much of a good thing can be a bad thing.’ This is certainly true with video clips. Video can be very compelling, when used sparingly. Here are my rules for video use:

The 60-Second Rule. Keep it short. A minute is plenty.

The R-rated Rule. No clips from a film that I would not encourage church families to see in its entirety.

The Room-Size Rule. What looks and sounds good on a television screen in the living room may be inaudible or too dark when shown in the sanctuary.

The Simplicity Rule. If it takes longer to explain the clip or set it up than it takes to play it, don’t use it.

The “Stories Rule!” Rule. Often telling a story is more powerful than seeing it. Don’t feel like you must use video. Some sermons are more effective without it.”

cph: I have broken everyone of these rules. I still think that videos are an important linkage in illustrating a point in a message. Not AS the point, but illustrating the point. I question whether #1 and 4 are self-contradictory, however. #2 is problematic for me. I have used some clips from R-rated movies, but prefaced my cautions about the movie. Have also gotten flack for it. Good food for thought.

The Secret to Good Preaching

Someone once asked John MacArthur "What's the secret to good preaching?" He said, "Keep your butt in the chair until the hard work is done."

As the Cowardly Lion used to say, "Ain't it the truth...ain't it the truth."

There are so many things, both legitimate and illegitimate that would draw us out of the chair and away from sermon preparation. One of the hard things is that there are so many LEGITIMATE reasons to get your rear out of the chair. People expect you to be available. There are always calls to be made. There are always "emergencies." Staff always have questions. One of my favorite cartoons is of the secretary barging into the pastor's office and when she sees that he is praying, she says, "Oh're not busy." (Fortunately my secretaries are much more thoughtful than that.)

And yet people will be able to tell if you (I) strayed too much out of the chair and fudged on getting the hard work done.
"Keep your butt in the chair until the hard work is done." Thanks Macarthur.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Sermons are Seen

Quite a few years ago, 10BiggestMistakesFloyd Bresee in Ministry magazine listed out five good ways to improve pulpit body language:

1. Beware of mannerisms

Chances are you unconsciously making many meaningless movements in the pulpit. You may move your Bible or notes, adjust your clothing, put your hands in and out of your pockets or fidget with your glasses. These mannerisms are probably unconscious, yet they are extremely distracting to listeners. Ask someone you trust (like a spouse) to pick these up and share them with you. But if you do, care enough to listen & adjust!

cph: Loretta is an excellent help to me in this. I am not always as good as I need to be in following her critiques, but they are always fair & balanced.

2. Improve gestures in daily conversation

Watch how people express themselves as naturally through body movements as through words. Pretentiousness turns listeners off.

3. Be sure your body and mouth agree.

Body movement that says nothing can be very distracting to listeners. Logically, the time to move from one place to another is when your sermon makes a transition from one direction to another.

cph: Again, Loretta reminds me regularly that I need to SMILE more. (See my October 30 post on this). But it IS essential that my body and my mouth agree. She will point out that sometimes when welcoming someone into the congregation I am sour faced & look like I am not happy to have them. Whoops....

4. Keep you eye on your target.

Your eyes should focus on the people, not on the ceiling, or the back wall, or your notes. If your congregation cannot see your eyes and the expression on your face, they may miss half the sermon.

Quintilian says: "The face is the dominant power of expression. With this we supplicate; with this we threaten; with this we soothe; with this we mourn; with this we rejoice; with this we triumph; with this we make our submissions; upon this the audience hang; upon this they keep their eyes fixed; this they examine and study even before a word is spoken."

5. See it, feel it, and forget it.

  • See it-see pictures in your mind as your prepare the sermon & you'll naturally use gestures to describe what you see. Imagine yourself saying it from the pulpit.
  • Feel it-Gestures improve not from practice, but from feeling more. Generally the more you rely on notes the more difficult it is to use gestures well. Following notes makes it difficult to feel your sermon as you preach.
  • Forget it-A focus on gestures while we are preaching will make them seem unnatural and ridiculous. Once you are in the pulpit, focus on your subject, your audience and what you want your subject to do for your audience. Then feelings & gestures should come naturally.

(Others, not in Bresee):

6. The feet. The standing position should be easy, the feet at an angle of forty-five degrees, one foot in advance of the other, the width of the base depending upon the height of the speaker. The knees should be straight, shoulders even and chin level. Avoid rising on the toes and too frequent change of foot position. The most graceful effect is secured when the left foot is forward and the gesture made with the right hand, or vice versa. This combination gives balance, though it is not always possible to use it. The change of foot position will not be so noticeable if done in the act of making a gesture.

7. The hands are the most important tool you have to make a gesture in public speaking. Making a gesture with your arms will add a visual representation for your audience hence making it more interesting. All your hand gestures must be deliberate and slow enough for the audience to know what you are gesturing. Movements may be slow and gentle, slow and intense, swift and light, or swift and strong. The size, length, and velocity of a gesture depend upon the what you need to emphasize on.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Can I Shoot to Wound?

An interesting article in today's New York Times reports that police officers who shoot their weapons in response to crime hit their target less than half the time, many times less than one-third of the time.

New York City police statistics show that in 2006, in cases where police officers intentionally fired a gun at a person, they discharged 364 bullets and hit their target 103 times, for a hit rate of 28.3 percent, according to the department’s Firearms Discharge Report.

In 2005, officers fired 472 times in the same circumstances, hitting their mark 82 times, for a 17.4 percent hit rate.

In all shootings — including those against people, animals and in suicides and other situations — New York City officers achieved a 34 percent accuracy rate (182 out of 540), and a 43 percent accuracy rate when the target ranged from zero to six feet away.

Wow! When the target is less than six feet away the officers still miss more than half of the time! Does that mean that they are bad marksmen (markspersons?)

Not at all. When you factor in that the target is likely running, the officer is likely running, the weather, the lighting conditions, the officer being taken by surprise, that the officers are trying to not hit innocent by-standers, the fact that a handgun is not a perfect weapon...all that combines to result that those who track such things consider the "hit rate" to be fairly acceptable. It also lays to rest the misconception that officers can "shoot to wound" verses "shoot to kill." It is only in TV and movies that an officer can realistically shoot a gun out of a criminals hand. It just doesn't happen. In the majority of cases, the officer shoots, not to kill, not to wound, but to stop. The subject must be stopped from harming others and the intent is simply to stop the subject. Wounding vs. killing is not necesarily an option.

(Entire news story:

So what is the point of that in a preaching blog? This morning I got slammed by a couple of church members who were livid over some comment that I made from the pulpit. They took almost my entire time between worship services complaining about a comment that they disagreed with. And part of that is OK...that's my job...whether the comments are justified or not. But it did totally bum me out and put me in a lousy mood to begin second worship service.

But for some reason, reading that news report encouraged me. Usually I don't have upset people (whether I should be WORKING to upset more people instead of pleased that I don't upset people is a subject for an entirely different blog entry!!). And my observation was that most of the people there today were encouraged by what I had to say. So if I only had two mad ladies out of 350 in attendance...I guess my rate is better than that of the police officers in New York. Good salesmen make sales often less than the 50% the time. Marketers consider something a success if more than .5% of the people their message reaches make a purchase! So I guess that would put my "hit rate" into a little better light.

So, it puts is in perspective for me. You preach what you believe God has put on your heart to say. You do your best. You are faithful to the text. If you miss hitting someone, well...that is unfortunate, but not avoidable. You trust that God takes your best efforts at being faithful and works them for his purposes.

Friday, December 7, 2007

The Whore of Babylon for Christmas?

Woah! Now here is an advent series! Steve Matthewson is preaching on/from the book of Revelation this advent.

His plan:
Dec. 2 – “Discover the Wonder” (Revelation 1)
Dec. 9 – “The Defeat of the Grinch That Stole Christmas (Revelation 17-18)
Dec. 16 – “A Tale of Two Suppers” (Revelation 19)
Dec. 23 – “A River Runs Through It” (Revelation 22)

The whole article:

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Christmas Preaching

I had a hard time coming up with what to preach this Christmas season. I began preaching weekly in 1983 (plus a stint in 1981 as a six-months interim in Kingsport, TN). Maybe it is lack of creativity, but I had a hard time being excited about preaching Christmas this year. It was not that I was not excited about Christmas, I just felt like my reading of the Christmas story had become old hat.

I decided to preach a series that I couldn't get out of my mind that I couldn't see that I had preached yet. It was related to emotions and healing. And so that was the direction I went. But in order to keep this from happening again, I laid out what I had preached on at Christmastime for the past twenty years. In 1987, we moved from the Wichita, KS area (Benton, KS) to Garden City, KS where I began a 13 year ministry, followed by the 8 years (so far) here in Oregon. Much to my chagrin, I see some patterns that mean my choice of texts and subjects is pretty much the same year after year! Yuck! Now, I realize that there is a limited number of Christmas texts, but I seem to be overusing the same old ones. I think that I will do some looking at the lectionary before next Christmas and see if it offers some helpful ideas.

For what it is worth, here is my list of sermon titles and texts along with any series I could identify:

(No, the guy in the white robe is not me...)

2007: Christmas: the Healing Season

  • Dec. 2 Healing of Barrenness (Zechariah & Elizabeth) (Luke 1:5-25; 57-80)
  • Dec. 9 Healing of Hurt (Joseph)
  • Dec. 16 Healing of Anger (Herod)
  • Dec. 23 Healing of Fear (Mary)
  • Dec. 30 Healing of Mourning (Women of Bethlehem)

2006: A Christmas to Learn Dependence

  • Dec. 3 Ready Willing & Waiting (Matt. 1:1-17)
  • Dec. 10 There’s Something About Joseph (Matt. 1:18-25)
  • Dec. 17 The Grinch…Named Herod (Luke 1:5-66; 2:1-20)
  • Dec. 24 Generation to Generation (Luke 1:46-56)

2005 Always Winter, Never Christmas

  • Dec. 4: “Aslan is on the Move” (The Hope of Christmas) (Heb. 6:18-19)
  • Dec. 11 Turkish Delight (The Power of Sin to Capture) (John 8:34)
  • Dec. 18 The Lion of Judah (Who is the one in the manger?) (Rev. 5:5)
  • Dec. 25: What If It Never (Were?) Was Christmas? (Luke 2:1)


  • Preached a series on stewardship up until the Sunday before Christmas
  • Dec. 19-Desperate Housewives (and other Christmas Shoppers) Luke 2:1-7
  • Dec. 26 Sunday after Christmas--Beyond Christmas (story of Joseph)

2003: Christmas Conflict

  • Nov. 25 …Belief vs. Skepticism (Zechariah and the Angel)
  • Dec. 7 …Joy vs. Disillusionment (May and Joseph)
  • Dec. 14 …Spiritual vs. Material (The Shepherds)
  • Dec 21…Humility vs. Egotism (The Wise Men and Herod)
  • Dec. 28- Holiday vs. Reality (Slaughter of the Innocents)


  • Did stewardship series up until Dec. 15
  • Dec. 22 What Christmas is All About (Micah 5:4-5)

2001: Waiting for Christmas

  • Dec. 9 Only 1,095,000 Shopping Days Until Christmas (Gen. 3:15)
  • Dec. 16 Open My Eyes that I May See (Ps. 2 & 22)
  • Dec. 23 A Christmas Carol (Isa. 8:19-9:7)


  • Dec. 3 Finished Vital Connections series
  • Dec. 10 Joseph—Believe the Best in People (Matt. 1:18-25)
  • Dec. 17 Mary—Trust God for the Impossible (Luke 1:26-38)
  • Dec. 24 Staff person preached


  • 12/5 Only 1,095,000 Shopping Days Until Christmas (Gen. 3:15)
  • Next Sunday was my farewell sermon at BCC & then we moved to Oregon.

  • 1998
  • 11/29 Shepherds Seize the Moment (Luke 2:18-20)
  • 12/13 Christmas-Prepare the Way (Luke 7:18-28)
  • 12/20 Jesus: Prince of Egypt (Matt 1:18-25)

1997 Open before Christmas

  • 11/30 Open My Ears (Is 55:3)
  • 12/7 Seeing is Believing (Luke 2:25-32)
  • 12/28 Open Your Mouth (Luke 2:20)


  • 12/1 Only 1,095,000 Shopping Days Until Christmas (Gen. 3:15)
  • 12/8 Could Jesus be born at Bible Christian Church? (Phil 2:5-7)
  • 12/15 Open My Eyes That I May See (Ps. 2)
  • 12/22 A Christmas Carol (Isa 9:1-7)


  • 12/10 Christmas-Healing from Hurts (Matt 1:18-25)
  • 12/17 Christmas-Healing from Anger (Matt 2:1-16)
  • 12/24 Christmas-Healing of Fear (Luke 1:26-38)


  • 12/4 From Barrenness to Celebration (Luke 1:5-20)
  • 12/11 From Anger to Peace (Matt 2:1-18)
  • 12/18 An Awesome Night (Luke 2:17-18)
  • 12/25 The Giving Season (Luke 1:38)


  • 12/5 The Small Becomes Great (Ps. 22)
  • 12/12 O Come Let Us Adore Him (2 Sam 6:1-22)
  • 12/19 Unto You is Born in the City of David (Micah 5:2-5)


  • 12/6 Between Alpha & Omega (Rev. 22:12-13)
  • 12/13 Dayspring from on High (Luke 1:78-79)
  • 12/20 Just Call Me Jesus (Matt 1:21)
  • 12/27 He Shall Be Called a Nazarene (Matt 2:23)


  • 12/1 The Word in the World (John 1:1-18)
  • 12/8 Rediscovering Unity (Isa 58:11-12)
  • 12/15 Whose Child is This? (Matt 1:18-25; Luke 1:26-38)
  • 12/22 Prophet, Priest & King (Luke 2:11)
  • 12/2 Prepared but Not Ready (Gal. 4.4)
  • 12/9 Messiah Our Deliverer (Rom 11.26)
  • 12/16 The Christ is Now Here (Ps. 110)

1989 –People at the Manger

  • 12/3 The Forgotten Joseph (Matt 1:15-25)
  • 12/10 Fear Not (Luke 2:2-18)
  • 12/17 Mary an Example of Giving (Luke 1:26-38)
  • 12//24 Wonderful Counselor (Isa 9:1-7)


  • 12/4 God’s Creative Love (John 4:10-11)
  • 12/11 Incarnation: Fact or Fiction? (John 1:1-18)
  • 12/18 Emmanuel- God With Us (Isa 7:14)


  • 12/13 The Who of Christmas (Luke 2)
  • 12/20 The Where of Christmas (Luke 2)
  • 12/23 She Treasured & Pondered (Luke 2:19-51)

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Seven Passions of a Revolutionary and NCD

While I was reading Barna's book Revolution, I was struck that there were similarities between his "Seven Passions of a Revolutionary" (as he coins it) and the eight signs of a healthy church.

Christian Swartz (and his research of tens of thousands of churches) has found that churches that are growing in ALL places around the world exhibit eight common characteristics. And he found that NO church that scores above 60/100 in these areas on his inventory is NOT growing. The characteristics are:

  • Empowering Leadership
  • Gift-Oriented Ministry
  • Passionate Spirituality
  • Functional Structures
  • Inspiring Worship Services
  • Holistic Small Groups
  • Need-oriented Evangelism
  • Loving Relationships

This post is not intended to be an exposition of NCD (Natural Church Development), although I highly recommend that you familiarize yourself with it. (If you are familiar with NCD, you will know the significance of the staved barrel above. If not...I suggest you look into it!)

But Barna has listed seven characteristics of "Revolutionary Christians." (See my previous post about this). I find the two lists interesting in their similarities:

Barna's list:

  • Servanthood
  • Faith Based Conversations
  • Intentional Spiritual Growth
  • Servanthood
  • Intimate Worship
  • Resource Investment
  • Family Faith
  • Spiritual Friendships

Both lists stress the importance of meaningful worship, Servanthood (need-oriented evangelism as well as gift-oriented ministry) Loving Relationships (Spiritual Friendships, perhaps Faith based conversations), Functional structures (while not on the list, Barna's entire thesis is presupposed on the assertion that the current church structures are not working. There are perhaps other areas of overlap, but I just find the parallels interesting. It would be interesting to find out the receptivity of NCD "healthy" churches to the "revolutionary" movement described by Barna.

Preaching the Passions

revolution by barna

I have just finished reading "Revolution" by George Barna. It is not a new book (copyright 2005). But I am just now getting around to it. I have not been overly impressed with the house-church movement through the years and when first looking at the book and thinking that house-churches was what Barna was pushing, it dropped way down my reading list.

But circumstances arranged themselves for me to spend time in this little book. And while this is not going to be a book review, I will say that I have real mixed reactions to it. On the one level, it is an idealistic book that paints "revolutionaries" in the best possible light and churches in the worse possible light. And when you compare the best of one movement to the worst of another, it doesn't take a fifth grader to guess which one is going to come out on top. I don't believe that he also takes human sin seriously. He paints a picture of the future of house churches that is all rosy and, well..., revolutionary. While he tips his hat, to "this movement will not be perfect", I believe that the movement he describes will take on the same or fundamentally similar foibles & weaknesses of the local church, because it will be populated by (mostly) redeemed sinners, just like the church.

HOWEVER... I do believe that there is much to be said for how we address people in this new age. Drawing from the book of Acts, he lays out seven (the perfect number of course) passions of revolutionaries. Putting it that way is a bit disingenuous because it presumes that they are not passions of other believers as well...but the point is still valid that these are biblical passions that fit well for this emerging culture:

Seven Passions of Revolutionaries (drawn from Acts 2-5.

  • Intimate Worship
  • Faith Based Conversations
  • Intentional Spiritual Growth
  • Servanthood
  • Resource Investment
  • Spiritual Friendships
  • Family Faith

Barna then takes each of these and lays out how existing churches can take advantage of this movement (in a good way) to help people in their church draw closer to Jesus.

How Churches Should Respond:

1. Your church must cultivate an atmosphere in which intimate
worship can occur.

2. We must resource and encourage people to enter faith-based
conversations with others.

3. We must get intentional about spiritual growth.

4. We must release in people the God-given desire to serve.

5. Don’t be afraid to address the issue of resources – and that
includes money.

6. Create opportunities for the development of spiritual friendships

7. We must put emphasis on the family, resourcing parents to teach their children the ways and ethics of the Kingdom of Christ.

There is nothing there that is objectionable (at least to me). It will be important for me to make sure that my preaching reflects how to develop these characteristics in our lives...and that our church's programming is focused in these directions.

Maybe more later on Barna...but maybe not!

Friday, November 30, 2007

Great Quote for the Life of a Preacher

It might seem strange to put a Kurt Vonnagut quote in a preaching blog, but I love this quote. It came from the last interview he gave before he died (which was last April). And while it may not deal directly with preaching, I think it deals directly with the LIFE of the preacher.

"I’ve been drawing all my life, just as a hobby, without really having shows or anything. It’s just an agreeable thing to do, and I recommend it to everybody. I always say to people, practice an art, no matter how well or badly [you do it], because then you have the experience of becoming, and it makes your soul grow. That includes singing, dancing, writing, drawing, playing a musical instrument."

On the Public Reading of Scripture in Worship, Pt. 4

The material in this blog post is now available for purchase here.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

On the Public Reading of Scripture in Worship, Pt 3

The material in this blog post is now available for purchase here.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

On the Public Reading of Scripture in Worship, Pt 2

The material in this blog post is now available for purchase here.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

On the Public Reading of Scripture in Worship, Pt 1

The material in this blog post is now available for purchase here.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Change in How We Get into a Sermon

Ed Stetzer comments that in the new culture in which we find ourselves, how we enter into a biblical text of topic must be approached differently than in the past. Formerly, when it was basically recognized that the Bible was authoritative and normative, you could simply state what the Bible said and urge people to do it, because they believed that what the Bible said was worthy of respect and following. He outlined it this way:
  • 1. The Bible says this.
  • 2. It is important
  • 3. You should do it.
But in a new culture in which the Bible is seen (tragically even among some Christians) as needing to be SHOWN to be authoritative or relevant, we must approach it differently. "For those with no biblical reverence point, the beginning point is often that of relevance. They are asking, 'Does this have anything to do with my life?' Or 'Is it relevant?'"

He suggests the following outline for beginning:
  • 1. Why is this important and how does it relate to me?
  • 2. What does the Bible say about it?
  • 3. What am I going to do with what the Bible says about it?

Friday, November 23, 2007

Preaching as Re-Revelation

Steve Mathewson over at the PreachingToday blog was really helpful to me today. Let me quote from his post and then comment. He writes:

"I recently ran across a helpful way of describing preaching. It’s in an essay by D. A. Carson in Preach the Word: Essays on Expository Preaching in Honor of R. Kent Hughes (Crossway, 2007). In his essay, “Challenges for the Twenty-first-century Pulpit,” Carson encourages preachers to think of preaching in terms of 're-revelation.'”

"Carson explains: “Perennially we read [in the Scriptures], ‘The word of the Lord came to such-and-such a prophet.’ So when that Word is re-announced, there is a sense in which God, who revealed himself by that Word in the past, is re-revealing himself by that same Word once again.” Carson argues that preachers must bear this in mind, making their aim more than explaining the Bible. He writes: “They [preachers] want the proclamation of God’s Word to be a revelatory event, a moment when God discloses himself afresh, a time when the people of God know that they have met with the living God.”

"This raises the stakes, doesn’t it?! If my role as a preacher is to be a spokesperson through whom God reveals himself in a fresh way to His people, then this calls for a certain level of urgency and intensity as I study the text, pray over and through the text, and wrestle with what the Spirit is saying to me and to the people with whose care I have been entrusted."

"Pastors, our task as we preach this weekend and beyond is to re-reveal the living God. What a calling! What a privilege! What a responsibility! What a message! What a Savior and God!"

(Find this at:

cph: I think that this is helpful to me in terms of the information/inspiration tension upon which I have written on here before. As someone with a strong gift of teaching, I want people to UNDERSTAND the Bible. And when I have done maps and charts usually it is so that people can understand. And some of that is good. But does it further the message of the text? Or does it make us take a step back from the text? For example: this Sunday I am preaching on Esther. The "perhaps you were raised up for such a time as this" idea.

And I had planned on showing a map of Iran to show where Susa is located. But with a verbal reference, "Susa is located in present-day Iraq", I have located the scene in a real location without drawing attention away from the point of the story. I have always said that it was important to me for people to understand that the Bible events took place in real places...not "far, far away." But the point is NOT that Esther was in captivity in Susa. The point was that GOD was there and He raised Esther up to save his people. I have to apply that idea to my own life and then declare THAT TRUTH to people.

The term "re-revelation" makes me a bit squeamish, however. I understand what Carson means, that we are revealing to the people what God has already revealed to us in His Word. But I just don't care for the word. It seems to Joseph-Smith-ish if you know what I mean. The canon is closed and has been for centuries. But I can live with Carson's concept easily.

Am I catching his point? Is there something here that I am missing? Speak up if you have a thought.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

100th Blog Post: Reality Check

Well, what began as inspiration in Nashville the middle of May has now come to the point where I have logged my 100th blog post. Woo-hoo!! In light of that, the following quote is a good reality check:

"This site is best viewed by turning off your computer and participating in real life."
--Tantalizing If True website.

To those in the US: Happy Thanksgiving!


Daniel Doriani, preaching minister at Central Presbyterian Church in St. Louis, MO, recently gave the main lectures at the 2007 Westminster Conference on Reformed Preaching at Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia, PA.

On Tuesday, Oct. 23, he gave his introductory sermon to the lecture series. But before he preached on the story of Jesus beckoning Peter to walk on the water, he gave a summary of how he tears apart a narrative in his sermon preparation. I found the outline helpful. Here are my notes on his lecture:
  1. Identify your story. Preach on the ENTIRE periscope. If it is 10 verses, let it be 10 verses. If it is 60 verses let it be 60 verses. “Let God’s unit of action be our unit of preaching.” Think hard and long before preaching on just half of a story.
  2. Locate where we are
    1. Physically-what land
    2. Time period
    3. Atmosphere-tense, happy, etc.
    4. Level of God’s activity/Where are we in the movement of redemption
    5. In a house or a field or temple or wherever.
  3. Identify the characters
    1. Triune God is always present
    2. Major char/Minor char
    3. Believers/Unbelievers
    4. Believers acting brilliantly, believers acting like unbelievers
  4. What event that starts the drama
  5. Find climax of the narrative—the point at which you would be holding your breath if you had been there. Example of Daniel & Lions den; we no longer hold our breath [we know how it ends], but IF YOU HAD BEEN THERE WHEN WOULD BE HOLDING YOUR BREATH?
  6. Final Resolution-when you exhale!
  7. Main point is usually found around –just before or just after—the climax/resolution nexus; usually in the dialog or commentary surrounding the climax/resolution. Sometimes God is speaking, sometimes it is the narrator; sometimes it is others.
His entire lecture can be found at:

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Lazy Preaching?

Peter Mead reflects on an Andy Stanley comment in a Preaching Magazine interview about cross referencing. Worthy of all of our attention whether or not you agree:

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Henri Nouwen Quote

I am listening to Henri Nouwen's tape series on "The Return of the Prodigal Son." It was a lecture series he did some time before his death. Today's tape (#2- on the elder son) was one in which I kept saying (out loud in the car) "Oh wow." "Oh wow." "Oh wow." This is a tape that I am sure I will listen to again and again.

But one quote that I want to keep before my face regularly is appropriate for interpersonal relations, for actions and for choosing on what we will preach.

"Don't act when you know you have feelings that are not telling the truth."

Saturday, November 17, 2007

MLK: Political Preaching

In reflecting on my previous post, I was reminded of the following sermon by Marking Luther King, Jr. at Ebenezer Baptist Church some 40 years ago. He is an icon for many younger evangelicals today. Perhaps they should heed his example.

The quote is a bit long, but I think it bears reading. What would political leaders say to this today? This is just one example. I have in my library a book entitled,
"Political Sermons of the Founding Era (1730-1805)" It is a part of the heritage that has made America great.

MLK:The sermon which I am preaching this morning in a sense is not the usual kind of sermon, but it is a sermon and an important subject, nevertheless, because the issue that I will be discussing today is one of the most controversial issues confronting our nation. I'm using as a subject from which to preach, "Why I Am Opposed to the War in Vietnam."

Now, let me make it clear in the beginning, that I see this war as an unjust, evil, and futile war. I preach to you today on the war in Vietnam because my conscience leaves me with no other choice. The time has come for America to hear the truth about this tragic war. In international conflicts, the truth is hard to come by because most nations are deceived about themselves. Rationalizations and the incessant search for scapegoats are the psychological cataracts that blind us to our sins. But the day has passed for superficial patriotism. He who lives with untruth lives in spiritual slavery. Freedom is still the bonus we receive for knowing the truth. "Ye shall know the truth," says Jesus, "and the truth shall set you free." Now, I've chosen to preach about the war in Vietnam because I agree with Dante, that the hottest places in hell are reserved for those who in a period of moral crisis maintain their neutrality. There comes a time when silence becomes betrayal. [...]

The truth of these words is beyond doubt, but the mission to which they call us is a most difficult one. Even when pressed by the demands of inner truth, men do not easily assume the task of opposing their government's policy, especially in time of war. Nor does the human spirit move without great difficulty against all the apathy of conformist thought within one's own bosom and in the surrounding world. Moreover, when the issues at hand seem as perplexing, as they often do in the case of this dreadful conflict, we're always on the verge of being mesmerized by uncertainty. But we must move on. Some of us who have already begun to break the silence of the night have found that the calling to speak is often a vocation of agony. But we must speak. We must speak with all the humility that is appropriate to our limited vision, but we must speak. And we must rejoice as well, for in all our history there has never been such a monumental dissent during a war, by the American people.

Polls reveal that almost fifteen million Americans explicitly oppose the war in Vietnam. Additional millions cannot bring themselves around to support it. And even those millions who do support the war [are] half-hearted, confused, and doubt-ridden. This reveals that millions have chosen to move beyond the prophesying of smooth patriotism, to the high grounds of firm dissent, based upon the mandates of conscience and the reading of history. Now, of course, one of the difficulties in speaking out today grows the fact that there are those who are seeking to equate dissent with disloyalty. It's a dark day in our nation when high-level authorities will seek to use every method to silence dissent. But something is happening, and people are not going to be silenced. The truth must be told, and I say that those who are seeking to make it appear that anyone who opposes the war in Vietnam is a fool or a traitor or an enemy of our soldiers is a person that has taken a stand against the best in our tradition.

Yes, we must stand, and we must speak. [tape skip]...have moved to break the betrayal of my own silences and to speak from the burnings of my own heart, as I have called for radical departures from the destruction of Vietnam. Many persons have questioned me about the wisdom of my path. At the heart of their concerns, this query has often loomed large and loud: "Why are you speaking about the war, Dr. King? Why are you joining the voices of dissent?" Peace and civil rights don't mix, they say. And so this morning, I speak to you on this issue, because I am determined to take the Gospel seriously. And I come this morning to my pulpit to make a passionate plea to my beloved nation.

This sermon is not addressed to Hanoi, or to the National Liberation Front. It is not addressed to China or to Russia. Nor is it an attempt to overlook the ambiguity of the total situation and the need for a collective solution to the tragedy of Vietnam. Nor is it an attempt to make North Vietnam or the National Liberation Front paragons of virtue, nor to overlook the role they must play in a successful resolution of the problem. This morning, however, I wish not to speak with Hanoi and the National Liberation Front, but rather to my fellow Americans, who bear the greatest responsibility, and entered a conflict that has exacted a heavy price on both continents.

Now, since I am a preacher by calling, I suppose it is not surprising that I have seven major reasons for bringing Vietnam into the field of my moral vision. There is...a very obvious and almost facile connection between the war in Vietnam and the struggle I and others have been waging in America. A few years ago there was a shining moment in that struggle. It seemed that there was a real promise of hope for the poor, both black and white, through the Poverty Program. There were experiments, hopes, and new beginnings. Then came the build-up in Vietnam. And I watched the program broken as if it was some idle political plaything of a society gone mad on war. And I knew that America would never invest the necessary funds or energies in rehabilitation of its poor so long as adventures like Vietnam continued to draw men and skills and money, like some demonic, destructive suction tube. And you may not know it, my friends, but it is estimated that we spend $500,000 to kill each enemy soldier, while we spend only fifty-three dollars for each person classified as poor, and much of that fifty-three dollars goes for salaries to people that are not poor. So I was increasingly compelled to see the war as an enemy of the poor, and attack it as such.

Perhaps the more tragic recognition of reality took place when it became clear to me that the war was doing far more than devastating the hope of the poor at home. It was sending their sons, and their brothers, and their husbands to fight and die in extraordinarily high proportion relative to the rest of the population. We were taking the black young men who had been crippled by society and sending them eight thousand miles away to guarantee liberties in Southeast Asia which they had not found in Southwest Georgia and East Harlem. So we have been repeatedly faced with a cruel irony of watching Negro and white boys on TV screens as they kill and die together for a nation that has been unable to seat them together in the same school room. So we watch them in brutal solidarity, burning the huts of a poor village. But we realize that they would hardly live on the same block in Chicago or Atlanta. Now, I could not be silent in the face of such cruel manipulation of the poor.

y third reason moves to an even deeper level of awareness, for it grows out of my experience in the ghettos of the North over the last three years--especially the last three summers. As I have walked among the desperate, rejected, and angry young men, I have told them that Molotov cocktails and rifles would not solve their problems. I have tried to offer them my deepest compassion while maintaining my conviction that social change comes most meaningfully through non-violent action; for they ask and write me, "So what about Vietnam?" They ask if our nation wasn't using massive doses of violence to solve its problems to bring about the changes it wanted. Their questions hit home, and I knew that I could never again raise my voice against the violence of the oppressed in the ghettos without first having spoken clearly to the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today: my own government. For the sake of those boys, for the sake of this government, for the sake of the hundreds of thousands trembling under our violence I cannot be silent. Been a lot of applauding over the last few years. They applauded our total movement; they've applauded me. America and most of its newspapers applauded me in Montgomery. And I stood before thousands of Negroes getting ready to riot when my home was bombed and said, we can't do it this way. They applauded us in the sit-in movement--we non-violently decided to sit in at lunch counters. The applauded us on the Freedom Rides when we accepted blows without retaliation. They praised us in Albany and Birmingham and Selma, Alabama. Oh, the press was so noble in its applause, and so noble in its praise when I was saying, Be non-violent toward Bull Connor;when I was saying, Be non-violent toward [Selma, Alabama segregationist sheriff] Jim Clark. There's something strangely inconsistent about a nation and a press that will praise you when you say, Be non-violent toward Jim Clark, but will curse and damn you when you say, "Be non-violent toward little brown Vietnamese children. There's something wrong with that press!

As if the weight of such a commitment to the life and health of America were not enough, another burden of responsibility was placed upon me in 1964. And I cannot forget that the Nobel Peace Prize was not just something taking place, but it was a commission--a commission to work harder than I had ever worked before for the brotherhood of Man. This is a calling that takes me beyond national allegiances. But even if it were not present, I would yet have to live with the meaning of my commitment to the ministry of Jesus Christ. To me, the relationship of this ministry to the making of peace is so obvious that I sometimes marvel at those who ask me why I am speaking against the war. Could it be that they do not know that the Good News was meant for all men, for communists and capitalists, for their children and ours, for black and white, for revolutionary and conservative. Have they forgotten that my ministry is in obedience to the One who loved His enemies so fully that he died for them? What, then, can I say to the Vietcong, or to Castro, or to Mao, as a faithful minister to Jesus Christ? Can I threaten them with death, or must I not share with them my life? Finally, I must be true to my conviction that I share with all men the calling to be the son of the Living God. Beyond the calling of race or nation or creed is this vocation of sonship and brotherhood. And because I believe that the Father is deeply concerned, especially for His suffering and helpless and outcast children, I come today to speak for them. And as I ponder the madness of Vietnam and search within myself for ways to understand and respond in compassion, my mind goes constantly to the people of that peninsula. I speak not now of the soldiers of each side, not of the military government of Saigon, but simply of the people who have been under the curse of war for almost three continuous decades now. I think of them, too, because it is clear to me that there will be no meaningful solution until some attempt is made to know these people and hear their broken cries.

Now, let me tell you the truth about it. They must see Americans as strange liberators. Do you realize that the Vietnamese people proclaimed their own independence in 1945 after a combined French and Japanese occupation. And incidentally, this was before the Communist revolution in China. They were led by Ho Chi Minh. And this is a little-known fact, and these people declared themselves independent in 1945. They quoted our Declaration of Independence in their document of freedom, and yet our government refused to recognize them. President Truman said they were not ready for independence. So we fell victim as a nation at that time of the same deadly arrogance that has poisoned the international situation for all of these years. France then set out to reconquer its former colony. And they fought eight long, hard, brutal years trying to re-conquer Vietnam. You know who helped France? It was the United States of America. It came to the point that we were meeting more than eighty percent of the war costs. And even when France started despairing of its reckless action, we did not. And in 1954, a conference was called at Geneva, and an agreement was reached, because France had been defeated at Dien Bien Phu. But even after that, and after the Geneva Accord, we did not stop. We must face the sad fact that our government sought, in a real sense, to sabotage the Geneva Accord. Well, after the French were defeated, it looked as if independence and land reform would come through the Geneva agreement. But instead the United States came and started supporting a man named Diem who turned out to be one of the most ruthless dictators in the history of the world. He set out to silence all opposition. People were brutally murdered because they raised their voices against the brutal policies of Diem. And the peasants watched and cringed as Diem ruthlessly rooted out all opposition. The peasants watched as all this was presided over by United States influence and by increasing numbers of United States troops who came to help quell the insurgency that Diem's methods had aroused. When Diem was overthrown, they may have been happy, but the long line of military dictatorships seemed to offer no real change, especially in terms of their need for land and peace. And who are we supporting in Vietnam today? It's a man by the name of general Ky [Air Vice Marshal Nguyen Cao Ky] who fought with the French against his own people, and who said on one occasion that the greatest hero of his life is Hitler. This is who we are supporting in Vietnam today. Oh, our government and the press generally won't tell us these things, but God told me to tell you this morning. The truth must be told.

The only change came from America as we increased our troop commitments in support of governments which were singularly corrupt, inept, and without popular support and all the while the people read our leaflets and received regular promises of peace and democracy and land reform. Now they languish under our bombs and consider us, not their fellow Vietnamese, the real enemy. They move sadly and apathetically as we herd them off the land of their fathers into concentration camps, where minimal social needs are rarely met. They know they must move or be destroyed by our bombs. So they go, primarily women, and children and the aged. They watch as we poison their water, as we kill a million acres of their crops. They must weep as the bulldozers roar through their areas preparing to destroy the precious trees. They wander into the towns and see thousands of thousands of the children, homeless, without clothes, running in packs on the streets like animals. They see the children degraded by our soldiers as they beg for food. They see the children selling their sisters to our soldiers, soliciting for their mothers. We have destroyed their two most cherished institutions: the family and the village. We have destroyed their land and their crops. We have cooperated in the crushing of the nation's only noncommunist revolutionary political force, the United Buddhist Church. This is a role our nation has taken, the role of those who make peaceful revolutions impossible but refusing to give up the privileges and the pleasures that comes from the immense profits of overseas investments. I'm convinced that if we are to get on the right side of the world revolution, we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin the shift from a thing-oriented society to a person-oriented society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, militarism and economic exploitation are incapable of being conquered.

A true revolution of values will soon cause us to question the fairness and justice of many of our present policies. On the one hand, we are called to play the Good Samaritan on life's roadside, but that will be only an initial act. One day we must come to see that the whole Jericho Road must be changed so that men and women will not be constantly beaten and robbed as they make their journey on life's highway. True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar. A true revolution of values will soon look uneasily on the glaring contrast of poverty and wealth with righteous indignation. It will look across the seas and see individual capitalists of the West investing huge sums of money in Asia, Africa, and South America, only to take the profits out with no concern for the social betterment of the countries, and say, "This is not just." It will look at our alliance with the landed gentry of Latin America and say, "This is not just." The Western arrogance of feeling that it has everything to teach others and nothing to learn from them is not just. A true revolution of values will lay hands on the world order and say of war, "This way of settling differences is not just." This business of burning human beings with napalm, of filling our nation's homes with orphans and widows, of injecting poisonous drugs of hate into the veins of peoples normally humane, of sending men home from dark and bloody battlefields physically handicapped and psychologically deranged, cannot be reconciled with wisdom, justice, and love. A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.

Oh, my friends, if there is any one thing that we must see today is that these are revolutionary times. All over the globe men are revolting against old systems of exploitation and oppression, and out of the wounds of a frail world, new systems of justice and equality are being born. The shirtless and barefoot people of the land are rising up as never before. The people who sat in darkness have seen a great light. They are saying, unconsciously, as we say in one of our freedom songs, "Ain't gonna let nobody turn me around!" It is a sad fact that because of comfort, complacency, a morbid fear of communism, our proneness to adjust to injustice, the Western nations that initiated so much of the revolutionary spirit of the modern world have now become the arch anti-revolutionaries. This has driven many to feel that only Marxism has a revolutionary spirit. Therefore, communism is a judgment against our failure to make democracy real and follow through on the revolutions that we initiated. Our only hope today lies in our ability to recapture the revolutionary spirit and go out into a sometimes hostile world declaring eternal hostility to poverty, racism, and militarism. With this powerful commitment we shall boldly challenge the status quo, we shall boldly challenge unjust mores, and thereby speed up the day when "every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low, and the rough places shall be made plain, and the crooked places straight. And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together."

A genuine revolution of values means in the final analysis that our loyalties must become ecumenical rather than sectional. Every nation must now develop an overriding loyalty to mankind as a whole in order to preserve the best in their individual societies. This call for a worldwide fellowship that lifts neighborly concern beyond one's tribe, race, class, and nation is in reality a call for an all-embracing, unconditional love for all men. This oft misunderstood and misinterpreted concept, so readily dismissed by the Nietzsches of the world as a weak and cowardly force, has now become an absolute necessity for the survival of mankind. And when I speak of love I'm not speaking of some sentimental and weak response. I am speaking of that force which all of the great religions have seen as the supreme unifying principle of life. Love is somehow the key that unlocks the door which leads to ultimate reality. This Hindu-Muslim-Christian-Jewish-Buddhist belief about ultimate reality is beautifully summed up in the first epistle of John: "Let us love one another, for God is love. And every one that loveth is born of God and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God, for God is love. If we love one another, God dwelleth in us and his love is perfected in us."

Let me say finally that I oppose the war in Vietnam because I love America. I speak out against this war, not in anger, but with anxiety and sorrow in my heart, and, above all, with a passionate desire to see our beloved country stand as the moral example of the world. I speak out against this war because I am disappointed with America. And there can be no great disappointment where there is not great love. I am disappointed with our failure to deal positively and forthrightly with the triple evils of racism, economic exploitation, and militarism. We are presently moving down a dead-end road that can lead to national disaster. America has strayed to the far country of racism and militarism. The home that all too many Americans left was solidly structured idealistically; its pillars were solidly grounded in the insights of our Judeo-Christian heritage. All men are made in the image of God. All men are bothers. All men are created equal. Every man is an heir to a legacy of dignity and worth. Every man has rights that are neither conferred by, nor derived from the State--they are God-given. Out of one blood, God made all men to dwell upon the face of the earth. What a marvelous foundation for any home! What a glorious and healthy place to inhabit. But America's strayed away, and this unnatural excursion has brought only confusion and bewilderment. It has left hearts aching with guilt and minds distorted with irrationality.

It is time for all people of conscience to call upon America to come back home. Come home, America. Omar Khayyam is right: "The moving finger writes, and having writ moves on." I call on Washington today. I call on every man and woman of good will all over America today. I call on the young men of America who must make a choice today to take a stand on this issue. Tomorrow may be too late. The book may close. And don't let anybody make you think that God chose America as his divine, messianic force to be a sort of policeman of the whole world. God has a way of standing before the nations with judgment, and it seems that I can hear God saying to America, "You're too arrogant! And if you don't change your ways, I will rise up and break the backbone of your power, and I'll place it in the hands of a nation that doesn't even know my name. Be still and know that I'm God."

Now it isn't easy to stand up for truth and for justice. Sometimes it means being frustrated. When you tell the truth and take a stand, sometimes it means that you will walk the streets with a burdened heart. Sometimes it means losing a job...means being abused and scorned. It may mean having a seven, eight year old child asking a daddy, "Why do you have to go to jail so much?" And I've long since learned that to be a follower to the Jesus Christ means taking up the cross. And my bible tells me that Good Friday comes before Easter. Before the crown we wear, there is the cross that we must bear. Let us bear it--bear it for truth, bear it for justice, and bear it for peace. Let us go out this morning with that determination. And I have not lost faith. I'm not in despair, because I know that there is a moral order. I haven't lost faith, because the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice. I can still sing "We Shall Overcome" because Carlyle was right: "No lie can live forever." We shall overcome because William Cullen Bryant was right: "Truth pressed to earth will rise again." We shall overcome because James Russell Lowell was right: "Truth forever on the scaffold, wrong forever on the throne." Yet, that scaffold sways the future. We shall overcome because the bible is right: "You shall reap what you sow." With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our world into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith we will be able to speed up the day when justice will roll down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream. With this faith we will be able to speed up the day when the lion and the lamb will lie down together, and every man will sit under his own vine and fig tree, and none shall be afraid because the words of the Lord have spoken it. With this faith we will be able to speed up the day when all over the world we will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, "Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we're free at last!" With this faith, we'll sing it as we're getting ready to sing it now. Men will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. And nations will not rise up against nations, neither shall they study war anymore. And I don't know about you, I ain't gonna study war no more.

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