Monday, July 30, 2007

How to Give an Evangelistic Invitation

Yesterday we worshiped at the Duvall Church outside of Seattle, WA. (My son is the worship minister there.) I really enjoyed the service. (Although anytime I am able to be away from my regular pulpit, is usually refreshing for me). But they are without a senior minister & the associate who is generally filling in takes (deserved) breaks into which others step. Yesterday a young man who worships with them and recently graduated from Northwest University preached. (I think it is an Assembly of God school). He was about 30, his first time to preach and one of his academic emphases was New Testament Greek. It could have been a recipe for disaster. His content was actually pretty good. And with some practice, he will have a good delivery style. I've certainly seen worse preaching in folks who have preached more than he has.

But what I wanted to mention was his invitation. It was superb. It was well thought out, it combined both emotion and logic. It was delivered with a passion that was overshadowed in the rest of his sermon by his fear & insecurity. But what stood out to me was "That was a great invitation."

Afterwards, Loretta (my wife) and I were talking about it and she stated what I recognize as true and others have pointed out as well. The invitations are the weak part of my preaching. I am more of a teacher than an evangelist, but that is not an acceptable excuse for poor or missing invitations. Now, I am not convinced that every sermon should have an invitation. That is more a vestige of the revivalism of the 1800's. But there ought to be regular invitations. (Again I was reminded a week ago in my post about the Holy Spirit moving at the end of our youth missions presentation). And the invitations ought to be good and well thought out. Through the years I have had seasons when I have paid special attention to invitations. When I give them the attention they deserve, they are much better. But usually it is the last part of the sermon I write and I just throw something on (to be bluntly honest!)

In thinking through these things I came across a list of suggestions on giving invitations that I think came from that wonderful preacher and mentor for preachers Ben Merold. (formerly of Fullerton, CA & most recently of the St. Louis, MO area).

Here are notes from a lecture I heard him give some time ago:


1. Give it with authority and without apology. What we mention from the pulpit is considered important. What is not mentioned is not considered important. Most preachers don't give invitations that are too strong. You have the authority of the gospel behind you.

2. Be definite - never suppose that they know what you want them to do. Be specific.

3. Prepare the invitation -KNOW THE HYMN NUMBER or the song that will be sung, if any!! Have prearranged signal for organ/pianist to play soft mood music during invitation. Often church don't have congregation sing invitation hymn. Choir, special, etc. Successful invitations are carefully prepared (*) Use scriptures that refer to decision in the invitation. (*)

4. Prayer in the invitation -Merold leads into invitation with prayer. Some pray in the middle of it. Have a number of people praying intercessorily for the invitation.

5. Variety -II Tim. 4:2. Have someone else come up to give the invitation. Have the people sit down, preach a little more and offer invitation again.

6. Give it for Different Decisions -Importance of a trained counseling room.

  • After sermon on profanity --invitation to quit swearing.
  • Inv. to pray for the lost.
  • Inv. to talk to someone about Christ.

7. Take time for the invitation -90% of converts come after last verse of inv. hymn --John Bisagno (So. Baptist preacher) **Let's have shorter sermons & longer invitations.

8. Deal properly with those who respond. Counseling room. Specially trained counselors. Unhurried approach. Stay around front where people can come and talk with you.

9. Teach others how to give the invitation. Teach SS teachers, BS leaders how to extend the invitation.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Of Messengers and Mascara

I'm not positive I will post this. But I am going to write it and see... I have two women on my mind this morning.

In a good way, mind you.

One is Tammy Faye Bakker Messner. The other is Barbara Brown Taylor. (Why don't famous women just have two names? Hillary Rodham Clinton...Carol Mosley Brown, etc.)

First Tammy Faye. We are at my son and his wife's house. This morning I mentioned that Tammy Faye had died last week. Michelle (my daughter in law) asked, "Who was she?" I smiled, realizing that the PTL debacle collapsed was when she and Ryan were 5 years old. Tammy Faye (as we older ones know) was the wife of Jim Bakker, the tele-evangelist who had a massive "Christian" network of TV stations and all pervasive program, the PTL Club in the 70's & 80's. (PTL either stood for People that Love, or Praise the Lord). They also built a huge entertainment resort center in North Carolina. It was financed heavily by "partner" investments. After Tammy Faye had her own questionable relationship with a Christian singer who appeared on the show, Jim (who also was accused of homosexual advances on men who appeared on the show) had an affair with a secretary. They began to pay hush money to this woman but then it was discovered by investigative reports from the local newspaper and went public. Jimmy Swaggert (who was actually having his own moral problems at the time) and Jerry Falwell worked together (greed makes strange bed fellows) to grab control of the PTL network of stations. Jim was pressed out of his position (supposedly temporarily) but when the lynchpin of the institution was removed, the whole house of cards collapsed. It was discovered that the Bakkers had been living in a lifestyle (off of donor funds) that was deemed inappropriate for a minister (however much "inappropriate" is). When the empire collapsed Jim was charged with bilking investors, he was convicted and sent to prison. He served his time, was released, wrote the requisite book of repentance ("I Was Wrong") and works in a Christian ministry in the LA area (last I heard). Many have seen the end of the Christian era as coming in 1988 with PTL's fell. I think that is a bit dramatic and overstating the case, but I do think the continual barrage of negative publicity changed something in the national psyche towards Christians, particularly towards evangelicals. It cemented the direction that the nation had been taking...away from Christian values and interests.

But this is about Tammy Faye. While Jim was in prison, she was "comforted" by Roe Messner, one of Jim's best friends and the man who had built many of the buildings in the Bakker empire. Messner was a church building contractor from Wichita, KS. He also had built some commercial buildings in the Wichita area that I have been in while I was ministering just outside of Wichita in the mid 1980s. Roe is a close friend of a friend of fact my friend and his wife later had dinner with Roe & Tammy Faye at Applebees in Manhattan, KS. Tammy divorced Jim and married Roe. She also became an icon to gays and transvestites because she knew the mocking & rejection that many of them feel and I guess they were attracted to her outlandish makeup and demeanor. She refused to condemn them, but shared God's love with them. There was a movie, "The Eyes of Tammy Faye" that documented much of her life before and after the PTL fall a few years back that was quite good. It stressed her outreach to gays. The poster for the movie was simply the imprint of the makeup of Tammy Faye.

In many ways she was a clown. In many ways I think she deserved some of the mockery that was pointed her way. In some ways, I think she was addicted to media and the attention it brought. Perhaps that was a little bit of what was behind her night-before-death interview with Larry King.


But I have always had a soft spot for Tammy Faye. We sold her album and books at the bookstore that I worked at while I was in seminary. My take was not that she was a horrible women, but she was a simple woman caught up in the charismatic/fundamentalist subculture of the 70s & 80s who truly loved Jesus, and genuinely wanted to represent him well, but she made several (SEVERAL!!) very poor choices. I hate to say that she made them because she was dumb. I am not convinced that she was. Simple, yes. Dumb, no. She was a woman with strong flaws who still represented her Lord. Even in the Larry King interview, the love of her Lord and the love she had for others came through. Even when she was drawn & haggard from the cancer that took her life the next day, there were glimpses of "that smile" and that pitched little girl voice, simply declaring her love for Jesus.

So...this is a blog on preaching. What does this have to do with preaching? In some ways, I realize that Tammy Faye represents us as preachers many times. We are flawed. Some of us are funny and awkward. (Others of us are cool and trendy). But in spite of all of that, Jesus uses us. We sometimes seem to preach more of ourselves and our opinion that the Gospel. But in spite of all of that, Jesus uses us. We may not always be theologically precise or refined (Tammy Faye certainly wasn't). But in spite of all of that, Jesus uses us.

But it doesn't always feel good. At times you wonder if you are making any headway at all. You see the big mega-churches which outwardly appear to be going so smoothly. You pour your life into preaching the gospel & leading people...for what? "Jewels in your heavenly crown" as so many people put it, don't seem to be that attractive. Maybe selling insurance, or real estate, or teaching school would be more fulfilling. It just seems like we are "laboring in vain".

Which brings us to my other woman this morning, Barbara Brown Taylor. I finished her book of sermons, Gospel Medicine today. (She is an Episcopal priest & preaching professor I heard at the FOH. See my previous posts about her). She ends the book with a series of Christmas sermons. And her final sermon is called "Laboring in Vain" and her text is Isaiah 49:6. BBT is describing the servant who thinks he/she has wasted his time in what he has been doing, mostly because of his/her own failings, foibles & weaknesses.

"Expecting to be fired or at least retired and replaced by someone more equal to the task, he [the servant in Isaiah's text] tells God that he has accomplished nothing, is nothing, deserves nothing, but God does not accept his resignation. God—whose ideas of success & failure have never coincided with our own—has a better idea. “I will give you as a light to the nations,” God says, “that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.”

“Now that is divine logic for you. Fail at a large task and you are given a larger one. Produce hardly a spark in your own corner of the world and you are promoted to light the whole planet. It is either a case of divine irony or else God knows something we servants do not known; namely, that our success does not depend on those who are chosen but on the one who chooses them, the Holy One of Israel, in whose hand the sharp sword cannot fail to dazzle, in whose bow the polished arrow cannot fail to find its mark. The only way we can truly fail, apparently, is to remove ourselves from those hands, to let our own poor judgment make us quit our relationships with the Chooser, disqualifying ourselves from God’s service on the grounds that our efforts are not good enough, our skills are not fine enough, our scores are not high enough. Who do we think we are?

“When our own ideas of success go bankrupt, when our own notions of servanthood are exhausted, only then is there room for God to give us a new vision of ourselves….

“It is just an idea, but if there is anything to it then there is no such thing as laboring in vain. How would we know? Can a flame see its own light? Who asked our opinion? Who put us in charge? The Holy One of Israel has chosen us, has called us from our mother’s wombs and names our names, giving us mouths like sharp swords, making us like polished arrows. It is not up to us to decide whether we have succeeded or failed. It is not up to us to decide if we have labored in vain. To spend our strength doing that is to spend it on nothing and vanity, while the call of God hauls so much more strenuously at our hearts, calling us to service, certainly, but calling us first and last to stay as close as we know how to the one who has chosen us, to stay as close to the light as we can, so that our witness is not a matter of performing tasks or playing roles or meeting expectations, but of remaining in white hot relationship with the one who is able to make epiphanies out of all our days.”

God help it be so. In the life of Tammy Faye Bakker-Messner. In the life of Cal Habig. In the life of every preacher who reads this blog. In the life of every preacher who doesn’t.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Responding on Monday to the Notes People Write You on Sunday

I found this article helpful. While not totally about preaching, every preacher I know has been "blessed" with these types of notes.

Noel Heikkinen is pastor of Riverview Church in East Lansing, Michigan. He writes, "I look forward to and dread Mondays at the same time because on Mondays, I read feedback from our church’s weekend services. The notes I receive can be divided into three categories..."

These are people who have legitimate questions about how I treated the Bible during the services. The “Berean” notes I get are people who have dug into the Word and come to a different conclusion than I did. These notes have a positive, respectful tone and I love dialoging with people like this. Many times, we will end up agreeing to disagree but will have an even greater respect for each other because of the tone of the exchange.

I love answering Bereans.

These are quick little notes encouraging me regarding the service. I get a few of these every week. Someone was touched by something I shared and wanted me to know. Often, it was an “aha” moment they had in their walk with Jesus. When I get these notes, I am always blown away that God is using me. He is obviously a great God if he can use me through all of my failings.

I love reading notes from Encouragers.

These people find something nit picky they don’t like in me or my delivery or my message. Perhaps it’s a word I used that they don’t like, or an illustration they thought was inappropriate, or maybe they disagree with me on a gray area. Whatever their message, the strategies remain the same. Here are a few:

1) Anonymous notes. Recently someone wrote a letter “to the church,” (even though it was specifically about me) and mailed it without signing it. I read it and promptly threw it away. It carried zero weight. It was a gray area they had issue with but they were too cowardly to have a conversation with me, so we will never be able to talk about it. It’s a shame--I think we could have learned something from each other.

2) Hateful notes. These are attacking / offensive notes when people write what they would never say to my face. Often it is something disparaging my character or my faith. I usually respond politely once and if their tone does not change, I ignore any more notes I get from them.

3) Gossipy notes. This is when someone contacts me to tell me his or her “friend is upset.” My response is always the same, “What did they say to you when you reproved them for gossiping and asked them to talk directly to me?”

4) Symbolic Gestures. I once taught on money and someone ripped up a check into tiny pieces and threw it in the offering basket.

As pastors, what should we do with cowards? Ignore them. The thing about Cowards is that they could so easily be Bereans--it’s all about tone and respect. Until they see that, they won’t be teachable enough to hear you.

For everyone reading this who is not a pastor, may I ask a favor?

Please, be Bereans. If you have a concern/disagreement, bring it directly to your pastor. Don’t gossip, don’t be hateful, don’t be a coward; and by all means, be respectful. I have made good friends with people who started out as dissenters. Some of my biggest supporters started out as critics. Now, we will both defend each other to the death. We may still disagree, but we love each other. That’s Christian unity.

Monday, July 23, 2007

The Work of the Holy Spirit Continues to Amaze Me

Yesterday morning our High Schoolers gave a report on their summer missions trip to Mexico. Our congregation invests a lot in the trips these kids take and I thought it best if the congregation heard the impact they were having, not only in Mexico, but on the kids themselves. They did a SUPERB job! (I actually got sick of the number of people who joked [thinking it was original with them]: "That's the best sermon I've heard here in a long time!") Four of our kids gave testimonies of what God did in their lives that had people in tears.

But our youth minister and I had agreed that we wouldn't really issue an invitation. It wasn't really an evangelistic type of message. Why push it, when that was not the focus. Although we had told our music minsiter that Matt would endthe service in prayer instead of me, we had not specifically said there woudl not be an invitation. So first service we had the invitation (Will led it and then invited me up to pray...exactly what we agreed would NOT happen).

So before second service I touched base with both of them...after the presentation, Matt would end the service inprayer and Will would lead us in the closing song--no invitation. It especially seemed appropriate because one of my two prayer counselors for that service was in the hospital with her mother with an emergency. (Mom had been rushed by ambulance from Tilamook on the Oregon coast to Portland). And that is how the service went.

EXCEPT...the Holy Spirit keeps deciding to do things HIS way. Where many, many Sundays no one comes forward for prayer with our prayer/decision counselors, this week TWO GROUPS of people came up asking for prayer. My one counselor (thank you Jerry if you read this blog) acted valiantly and covered both groups.

*I* had decided that God was not going to move in a service that was not evangelistically focussed (was there a bit of pride also...I wasn't preaching, so God couldn't move? I hope not, but I don't know). But God chose to move. He has the habit of doing that. Thanks, Lord for not letting me forget.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Karl Barth on the Paradoxical Nature of Preaching

Karl Barth said in The Word of God and the Word of Man, "As ministers we ought to speak of God. We are human, however, and so cannot speak of God. We ought therefore to recognize both our obligation and our inability and by that very recognition to give God the glory. This is our perplexity."

So What Happened to I Cor 13?

If you have read any of my posts last week you know I was struggling with I Cor. 13. The outline I had on Thursday was going nowhere. Part of my problem was trying to take the whole chapter in one chunk. There is too much there to do in 30 min. And so I focussed on vv. 1-3. Love is more important than...
  • spiritual gifts
  • knowledge & prophecy
  • faith
  • generosity
  • accomplishments
I then ended with a much abbreviated application. I cut down the application because we were out of time. I was uncomfortable with that...but time seems to be paramount.

I began with a clip from the movie Moulin Rouge...I don't know if it worked or not. I thought it was a powerful statement. David Bowie sings the old Nat King Cole song "Nature Boy"
"There was a boy
A very strange enchanted boy

They say he wandered very far, very far

Over land and sea

A little shy and sad of eye

But very wise was he"

"And then one day
A magic day he passed my way

And while we spoke of many things
Fools and kings

This he said to me

"the greatest thing you’ll ever learn

Is just to love and be loved in return"

"the greatest thing you’ll ever learn

Is just to love and be loved in return"

While the song is being sung, there are aerial shots of Paris in 1900 (recreated) and it ends on the protagonist of the movie in tears in his upper garret typing the words to the last phrase: "the greatest thing you’ll ever learn; Is just to love and be loved in return" The point was to set the mood for the importance of love as seen in the above outline. I think it was too confusing for most people. They didn't seem to get it. It is always interesting when people react more to the movie from which I had drawn a clip than from than the content of the clip itself.

The most interesting response so far was from a lady (whom I like a lot) who volunteered in the office today who said she liked the sermon... "I was so relaxed at the end of it." Hmmmm. That's good...I think.....

As Mark Driscoll said in the post referenced previously: "After you've preached, let it go and sleep like a Calvinist."

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Common Pitfalls with Expository Preaching

Paul Lamey at Expository Thoughts blog gives an excellent list of cautions in preparing expository sermons.

Here are a few things we all struggle with at times. These are items to either avoid or amend in our expository preaching (in no particular order):

  1. Not taking enough time to observe the text of Scripture.
  2. Observing things that are not there or are not significant.
  3. Not checking and double-checking your observations.
  4. Rushing exegesis for the sake of exposition.
  5. Being slavishly dependent on commentaries.
  6. Preaching too long.
  7. Preaching too short.
  8. Missing the point(s) of a passage.
  9. Abusing the aorist tense .
  10. Losing site [sic] of the context.
  11. Having all heat (passion) and no light (content).
  12. Having all light and no heat.
  13. Flattening out a text for the sake of a theological system.
  14. Erecting a theological “mountain” in the place of a mere theological “hill.”

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Preaching and I Corinthians 13

William Barclay says of preachers in his comments on I Cor. 13:
There are two kinds of preachers. There is the preacher whose one aim is to save the souls of his people, and who woos them and yearns over them with the accents of love. Of no one was that more true than of Paul himself. Myers, in his poem
St. Paul, draws the picture of Paul looking at the Christ-less world.

Then with a thrill the intolerable craving
Shivers throughout me like a trumpet call--

O to save these--to perish for their saving--
Die for their lives, be offered for them all

On the other hand, there is the preacher who dangles his hearers over the flames of hell and always give the impressions that he would rejoice in their damnation as much as in their salvation. It is told that Sir George Adam Smith once asked a member of the Greek Church, which has suffered much at the hands of Islam, why God had created so many [Muslims] and received the answer, "To fill up hell." The preaching which is all threat and no love may terrify but it will not save. (DSB)

Saturday, July 14, 2007


Mark Driscoll up at Mars Hill in Seattle has an excellent article on preaching on his site. Because he asks that it not be republished, I will just give you the link. But read it. There is some good stuff there.

When Your Preparation Hits a Brick Wall

Peter Mead over at Biblical preaching blog has a helpful post on suggestions when your sermon preparation hits a brick wall:

I’m sure I am not the only preacher who sometimes, perhaps regularly, hits a brick wall during preparation. What can you do when the words are no longer coming, and your brain is starting to give you cause for concern?

1. Do something else. Profoundly obvious, but it is easy to feel obliged to stay put and strive fruitlessly. Perhaps this is your allotted time for this stage of sermon preparation, so you feel obligated to endure. But when the brain is stuck, it can be unstuck by something else. Perhaps switching to a different part of the sermon preparation will help, maybe thinking through possible illustrations, or writing a rough draft of the conclusion. Perhaps you should switch to other work and come back to the sermon (be careful not to just procrastinate though, switch to stimulate your thinking again). Perhaps you should take an energizing trip to the gym, or pick up your guitar for a few minutes. Get the brain unstuck.

2. Discuss the sermon. Sometimes hours and hours of study can be helped beyond belief by a brief discussion of the sermon. Perhaps another preacher might help. I find a brief chat with Mike helps no end. Try to find someone you know will help either through their input or their ability to listen and probe carefully. Perhaps your spouse. Perhaps a pre-arranged group from the congregation.

3. Deliver the sermon. Somehow the link between brain and pen is different than the link between brain and tongue. Sometimes it helps to stand up with an open Bible and just preach the message. Verbalizing the message may release the jam and allow the study to flow. Having done this, it is important to get back to the outline, manuscript, or whatever, and not just rely on a good “practice run.”

4. Doze or get a full night. The mind can get overwhelmed and slow down just like my computer. But the wonder of God’s creation is that the brain can defragment as we sleep. I rarely take power naps, but some people swear by them. If it’s late, take a full night’s sleep and come back to the message in the morning. Sometimes when it is not time to sleep yet, I’ll leave the message, but review my sticking point right before retiring to bed (but don’t do that if you suffer from insomnia).

5. Divine help, obviously. Of course, firstly, lastly, throughoutly, be in prayer about the passage, the personal application of it, the sermon and so on. Preaching is a profoundly spiritual endeavor and it would be totally wrong to omit this point. However, it would be naïve to only include this point. Sometimes God helps us through prayer, plus a trip to the gym, or a good sleep!

You can find the post at:

I Don't Love I Cor 13 tonight

I am preaching on I Cor 13 this Sunday (tomorrow) and I hate my outline. I have often been told that the hardest passages to preach are the ones that are the most familiar to people in the pew and therefore they have both high expectations and preconceived notions of what you should/are going to say. (i.e. Ps. 23, I Cor 13, John 3:16 --although for some reason I have always LOVED preaching on John 3:16) Because of that, they almost think they can tune out during today's sermon because they know what is coming.

That is one of the reasons I hate my outline. It is totally predictable. It is like the American Heritage dictionary definition of love:
"Love (n.) A deep, tender, ineffable feeling of affection and solicitude toward a person, such as that arising from kinship, recognition of attractive qualities, or a sense of underlying oneness. [Middle English, from Old English lufu; see leubh- in Indo-European roots.]"

Oh yeah...that's the kind of love *I* want!

This outline is pretty much like it:
II. The Impeccability of Love (13:4–7)
III. The Indestructibility of Love (13:8–12)
IV. The Invincibility of Love (13:13) (Thank you Harold Wilmington)

Doesn't that outline suck!! It literally sucks the life out of that passage

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.

Now THAT is inspired.
Maybe I should just read that and shut up & sit down.

I'll keep you posted.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Discouragement In Ministry

Warren Wiersbe writes:

"It has been my experience that the young preacher in his first church and the middle-aged preacher (in perhaps his third or fourth church) are the most susceptible to discouragement. This is not difficult to understand. The young seminarian marches bravely into his first church with high ideals, only to face the steamroller of reality and the furnace of criticism. He waves his banners bravely for a year or so, then takes them down quietly and makes plans to move. The middle-aged minister has seen his ideals attacked many times, but now he realizes that time is short and he might not attain to the top thirty of David's mighty men."

"God help the preacher who abandons his ideals! But, at the same time, God pity the preacher who is so idealistic he fails to be realistic. A realist is an idealist who has gone through the fire and been purified. A skeptic is an idealist who has gone through the fire and been burned. There is a difference." (from: Preaching to Convince)

I put this in because it was helpful to me. In searching for artwork to accompany the post, I came across the picture above. In case the text is too small for you to read, it says this: "In spite of everything, I shall rise again; I will take up my pencil, which I have forsaken in my great discouragement and I will go on with my drawing." --Vincent van Gogh.

Thursday, July 12, 2007


From Preaching magazine (5-6/07)

In an interview with pastor and author Dave Ferguson, he talks about the collaborative process his team uses in developing sermons: “A lot of churches have teaching teams like baseball; ours is more like basketball. The teaching teams that are more like baseball teams have a teaching rotation; this guy is up this week, this guy’s up the next week, lefty is up on the third week. You have your four man rotation and you start all over again. Each of them goes up and does their own thing and they are on their own.

On a basketball team, everybody plays every game. Only one guy takes the shot, but everybody gets to touch the ball. Our teaching team is a collaborative effort that works much more like a basketball team. Every week we work together -- actually we work about nine weeks in advance, starting three weeks in advance on the actual manuscript. We all work together to actually create that manuscript. We call it the 105 fastest minutes of your week. . . .

The first five minutes is what we call focus. Here is the big idea that we are working on, that we are going to have to do a sermon on in three weeks. Then we have what we called the Desired Outcomes. We go around, everyone is responsible for bringing something that will relay what is the desired outcomes that we want to have. You have to rethink very simply in terms of head, hearts and hands. How are we going to get people to think differently, how do we want them to feel, what do we want them to actually do differently?

Then we start brainstorming. What are the possibilities? Anything goes. We use big white sheets and put everything up on the board. This usually lasts about 45 minutes. We have enough stuff for at least a whole series. One of the things you discover with a collaborative process is there is never a time when you don’t have enough content. . . . Then the next thirty minutes is how do we put it into some kind of structure. Depending on what the topic is, how do we most effectively communicate that?

About ten minutes we spend in consensus vote -- is everyone really sold on this? Will we all really buy into this? Once everyone is on board with that, then the last five minutes we divvy it up, we divide up the message. . . . So around the room each of us takes a section and they all agree to write that part of the message. They all have a week to write their part of the message, they email it in, and Tim edits the whole thing into a manuscript. That is what we call our 1.0. We actually have our 1.0 done at least two weeks in advance before we have to deliver it. That gives everybody a chance to go out and let it marinate, to live with it for awhile. Then we can make it more our own throughout that creative process.”

Sunday, July 8, 2007



Shauna Farley, PhD. Speech/Language Pathologist (Orange, CA)

RESPIRATION-use abdominal breathing

RECORDING-record your voice in a variety of settings & situations, record practice material

RECITING-look for opportunities to read poems, scriptures, etc; use the dramatic

REVIEWING-record samples & exercises-identify and eliminate trouble spots

RESOLVING-to improve your voice, be consistent and use your new skills

Changing how you use your voice will require the 3 C’s:


Saturday, July 7, 2007

Brian McLaren, Part 2

What are the top global problems?/ What does the message of Jesus say to these problems?

Several lists exist:

  • UN Univ. list.
  • Millennium Development Goals
  • Copenhagen Consensus Top Ten Global Problems
  • Rick Warren’s Peace Plan

McLaren’s summary:Four Global Crises

Because the image above is fuzzy, let me give it's elements:

There is the ecosystem. (Oval) Into it comes solar energy & light.

There is the societal system. It (we) receive resources from the ecosystem & put out waste.

Within the societal system there are three struggles: equity, prosperity & security.


  1. A prosperity system that can’t stop growing beyond environmental limits, resulting in multi-faceted environmental crises
  2. An equity system that can’t keep pace with the growing gap between the rich minority and the poor majority resulting in resentment and fear.
  3. A security system that pits rich against poor with more and more catastrophic weapons.
  4. Framing Story = The failure of the world religions to provide a framing story capable of healing the societal machine, ie Good News.

Religions can too often be found in support of existing framing stories

  • Domination/ Empire
  • Revolution / Warrior
  • Revenge / Scapegoating
  • Isolation / Withdrawal

These dynamics were present in Jesus’ day

  • Dominations ---Herodians
  • Revolution --- Zealots
  • Scapegoating --- Herodians
  • Isolation --- Senses

Friday, July 6, 2007

Brian McLaren: Part 1

Brian McLaren spoke on Wednesday afternoon at the Festival of Homiletics. I have waited to blog about his presentation both because it was complex, but also because I was trying to figure out how to put his diagram into the blog. It is still pretty fuzzy. It should be in part 2 of this multi-part blog.

McLaren began by bemoaning sermons that he said diminish the power of the Christian story. They either are much ado about nothing or are so self focussed as to insult the gospel. Too many preachers are like that old ad for LifeLine for seniors: “Help! I’m speaking and I can’t shut-up”

The gospel is actually about saving our world, not just saving my soul.

"The tragic thing is to think how many churches this Sunday will be treated to safe, nice, harmless, insignificant, intramural, and trivial-pursuit sermons," McLaren said. "There are going to be an awful lot of sermons preached in Christian churches … that actually probably help the world become a worse place. They will use the Bible, and God, and Jesus, to increase greed, to increase fear, to increase alienation, resentment, scapegoating, escapist thinking, fatalism, and an approach of abandonment toward the world."

Specific suggestions for “transformational” Christian proclamation:

1. "Don't assume it will be easy, Many of our Christians have been converted into consumers of religious goods and services. When you come to them with … a call to be disciples or agents of the transforming kingdom of God, they won't say, ‘At last! Thank you.’”

2. Don’t miss the proverbial forest for the trees. Rather than preaching from a few isolated verses, pastors would do well to present the sweeping themes of scripture. The core of the biblical message is the story of God's involvement in "our messed-up, self-destructive world.”

What you focus on determines what you miss. There was an incredible illustration. He showed a video of people dressed in white and black tossing a ball between themselves. You were told to count how many times the ball was passed from one person to the next ONLY BY THOSE DRESSED IN WHITE. And so we did. When it was done he asked how many had seen the gorilla in the video. WHAT!!??? I swear there was no gorilla. (To excuse myself, neither did 99% of the 1500 people present. Only about 5 raised their hand as having seen the gorilla). He then replayed the video and a huge gorilla walked into the middle of the scene, jumped up and down, waved his arms & walked off. I NEVER SAW IT!!!!! Wow! What you focus on determines what you miss.

3. Emphasize integral reconciliation with God, self, creation, others, enemies. He then went into a discussion of the Top Global problems and how the Gospel addresses them. I will save that (& the accompanying diagram) to part 2.

4. Contextualize the language of “Kingdom”
  • Your personal Kingdom
  • Cultural, national, economic kingdoms
  • The dream of God
  • The global love economy of God
  • The sacred ecosystem of God
  • God’s revolution of hope
He also spoke about framing the narrative. I might save that to a part 3.

5. Realize that preaching isn’t everything
  • Liturgy of transformation
  • Prayers of transformation
  • Testimonies of transformation
  • Songs of transformation
6. Work person-global and global-personal (with a bias toward the latter)
7. Realize who is working with, in, and for you (Holy Spirit)

Thursday, July 5, 2007


The following list is a little old (1999), but most of the advice is useful in any age. You can find the original at:


There are many "top ten" lists being made today on many subjects. Here's mine for preaching.

10. Read at least two books on preaching.

Hardening of the arteries can effect us as we age in life. Likewise, what has been called "hardening of the categories" can effect us as we age in the pulpit. We become very familiar with the way things work for us - so familiar, perhaps, that we lose that fresh sense of wonder that used to come as we prepared to preach. A fresh infusion of perspective is beneficial, lest we become predictable and routine. As I heard one homiletics teacher quip to his students who protested the cost of many books: "Buying books is cheaper than renting a moving van!" Online bookstores can help you here as can conventional ones. Used bookstores shouldn't be overlooked if they have a "religious" section. If you plan this as a yearly activity you can watch for good books through the year and get them at reduced prices.

9. Establish a budget for good reference books.

Commit a few dollars a month out of your regular living if you can. If you are in a located situation, ask the church to give you a book allowance. It will pay them back many times over as your preaching improves. One of my teachers taught all of his students many years ago to keep a "want list" - a list of your most desired books. Discreetly see that your wife and relatives get a copy - those people who tend to buy you gifts for your birthday and other holidays. Then, instead of getting another tie that doesn't match any suit you have you just might get a book. One time my wife surprised me with an entire set of Lenski's Commentaries. Unknown to me, she had saved up for them and knew just what to get because of my list. Retiring ministers can also be a source of good books. Such men may sell or even give away their libraries and many would love to see them go to someone who would appreciate them. I've been on the receiving end of this twice in my 21 years.

8. Start a file system for collecting resources that works for you and stick with it.

I intend to take on the subject of ministers' filing systems in a future issue of this ezine. For now I'll just stress the need to have good material and be able to find it when you need it. I've tried a number of systems over the years and have settled on my own system that allows me to catalog both electronic and paper items painlessly and without hiring a full-time librarian. More in a future issue.

7. Make illustration collecting your passion.

Illustrating isn't all of a good sermon but it often is a determining factor between good preaching and great preaching. Having just the right story or analogy at just the right time will do wonders for you and your hearers. Again, I plan to write more on this in a future edition, so stay tuned. For now, let me heartily recommend Parson's Bible Illustrator (the Deluxe version) as the greatest single thing you can do in this area. It is reasonably priced and if I didn't have it presently, I would make it a first order of business to get it. More info is available at:

(If the URL above wraps in your email, cut and paste the whole string into your browser.)

6. Carry a tape recorder and use a diary.

A tiny micro-cassette recorder is nearly always with me. If I'm in the car between appointments and hear something good on the radio, out comes the recorder and I have it on tape. If I have a good idea filter through my mind, the recorder is out again and I dictate the thought before it escapes. This tiny machine is with me when I walk every morning and it goes with me nearly everywhere else. I even take it on vacation. Good ideas have a way of disappearing if we don't catch them.

This past year I began using a computer diary and found that if I transcribe these random things from the tape to the diary at the end of each day, I can take full advantage of them later. I use a little shareware program called "My Personal Diary 2000." You can try it for 30 days free at:

5. Listen to and read great sermons.

When you hear or read someone else's sermon you're getting the best that preacher has to offer. Iron sharpens iron and listening to good preaching will sharpen you. There are many ways to do this including radio, tapes, and the web. If you hear a good sermon, take it apart and examine the structure. If it is really good, transcribe it and analyze it. You'll benefit from the effort.

4. Subscribe to a good sermon service.

Most of us want to write our own sermons. I know I do. Realistically though, there are times I need help - at least I need a good idea or a fresh perspective. I preach over a hundred different sermons each year. I have a lot of good ideas but they are quickly consumed with that kind of schedule.

You say you wrote a really great sermon last Sunday? Great! Can you do it again this Sunday? What about next Sunday and the one after that? What about all those Sunday nights and those special occasions? What about those times when you are sick but you preach anyway? A good sermon service can help you stay ahead of the crush. Of course you will not totally rely on this any more than you rely on your commentaries or books. You'll glean out the best things for you and your listeners - the things that are Biblically sound and honor God. You'll weigh them carefully, correct them where needed, and filter them through your own unique way of communicating. But for a relatively small outlay, you won't be caught again without good ideas and resources.

3. Mentor someone or find someone to be a mentor to you.

I hear a theme repeated often among those who write to me. Though they learned much in seminary, they learned more when someone personally tutored them. A young preacher can greatly benefit from an older, seasoned preacher. Likewise, an older preacher can find new energy and challenge in mentoring a younger man.

Choose your mentor carefully. When you find one, treat him with honor and respect.

2. Master your personal computer.

If my email is any indicator, many preachers out there would do well to heed this one! I used to say that the computer will save you time. Realistically, I've had to revise that. I now say that the computer can add much to your preaching. Whatever time you may save will be taken up by the many more things you find that you can do productively. But then that's the name of the game, isn't it?

Learn the programs that you use. Your word processor, your online Bible, your illustration database - whatever good software you find that works for you. The mechanic is a master of his tools. The artist is the master of his paints and canvas. You should be the master of your writing and speaking tools.

1. Ask God to work in your life and make you a better servant.

"Unless the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain who build it." (Psalm 127: 1)

Prayer, discipline, integrity, honesty, humility and the reminder of Whom you are working for is critical to good preaching. Allow God to work on the man as you work on the message.

(c) Dave Redick, The Preacher's Study, 1999.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

What Preachers Can Learn From Ernest Hemingway

Steve Matthewson over at the PreachingToday blog had a great post on our use of words in preaching.

Steve says:
Ernest Hemingway has something to teach preachers. For years, Hemingway has fascinated me at two levels. First, I am haunted by his quest for love and deep healing. As D. Bruce Lockerbie points out in his book,
Dismissing God, Hemingway abandoned his Christian upbringing and turned to the worship of a rugged masculinity. Yet neither bull-fighting, big-game hunting, nor booze brought him the hope and healing for which he longed. Second, I am intrigued by the way Hemingway wrote his novels and short stories. The way he communicates in A Farewell to Arms (my favorite Hemingway novel) or Big Two-Hearted River (my favorite ‘Nick Adams’ short story) models something which I must master as a preacher of Scripture.

What Hemingway modeled is the ability to paint vivid pictures through strong words and striking analogies. He once remarked: “Prose is architecture, not interior decoration.” Hemingway never pursued elegance or cleverness. He captured the imaginations of readers even though his prose was lean simple. It boiled down to words and analogies.

Hemingway was a genius at enlisting concrete terms rather than depending on adverbs and adjectives to prop up bland words. For example, he used “climbed” instead of “went up,” and he described blood as “dripping” and “pattering.” Hemingway also created simple but pointed analogies. For example, he writes: “The drops fell very slowly as they fall from an icicle after the sun has gone.” That analogy is short yet thought-provoking. Yes, I noticed that Hemingway used a couple of adverbs in his sentence! But read a few paragraphs of his, and you’ll be struck by how few modifiers he used. He simply used words and analogies to press his point.

That’s my challenge as a preacher this Sunday! God has called you and me to work with words. The purpose is not for us to appear clever or literary. The purpose is for the message to reach its destination. Whether or not this happens depends, in part, on word choice.

If your manuscript or outline for this Sunday’s sermon is finished, take time to read through it with an eye for the language you use. Are the nouns bland? Are they specific enough? Do you punctuate your delivery with a couple analogies? Suddenly, you’ll see that “unpleasant smell” can become “stench.” “Good food” can become “corn bread” or “pizza.” “Terror” packs more punch than “great fear” or “very great fear.” To be sure, there are weightier issues – exegesis, theology, prayer, sermon form, etc. But I thank Ernest Hemingway for modeling how to use the right words and analogies. Like a personal check made out to your mortgage company, a biblical sermon must reach its destination in order to make any difference. The right words and analogies help your sermon reach that destination.

You can find the original at:

Monday, July 2, 2007

Away at Camp

I have been able to keep up the blogging fairly consistently for the past few weeks, but I am at WiNeMa Christian Camp at Junior II week this week (Bonfire Speaker). That probably means my posts will be pretty sporadic at best. Should be able to be more consistent with I get back home.

Visits Since Dec. 11, 2007