Saturday, May 31, 2008

How Much of This is Work for Adults?

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Teens average only thirteen hours a week online vs. the nineteen hours spent by adults.   

--The Church Leaders Intelligence Report, 5/28/08

Will You Include Advice to Graduates?

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I may use this as an intro this Sunday. It is the Sunday we will be  recognizing all of our high school and college graduates:

Mary Schmick is a columnist for the Chicago Tribune. She wrote an article for her column which she describes as “the commencement address she would give if she were asked to give one.”

  • Wear sunscreen. If I could offer you only one tip for the future, sunscreen would be it. The long-term benefits of sunscreen have been proved by scientists, whereas the rest of my advice has no basis more reliable than my own meandering experience. I will dispense this advice now.
  • Enjoy the power and beauty of your youth. Oh, never mind. You will not understand the power and beauty of your youth until they've faded, but trust me, in 20 years, you'll look back at photos of yourself and recall in a way you can't grasp now how much possibility lay before you and how fabulous you really looked. You are not as fat as you imagine.
  • Don't worry about the future. Or worry, but know that worrying is as effective as trying to solve an algebra equation by chewing bubble gum. The real troubles in your life are apt to be things that never crossed your worried mind, the kind that blindside you at 4pm on some idle Tuesday.
  • Do one thing every day that scares you.
  • Sing.
  • Don't be reckless with other people's hearts. Don't put up with people who are reckless with yours.
  • Floss.
  • Don't waste your time on jealousy. Sometimes you're ahead, sometimes you're behind. The race is long and, in the end, it's only with yourself.
  • Remember compliments you receive. Forget the insults. If you succeed in doing this, tell me how.
  • Keep your old love letters. Throw away your old bank statements.
  • Stretch.
  • Don't feel guilty if you don't know what you want to do with your life. The most interesting people I know didn't know at 22 what they wanted to do with their lives. Some of the most interesting 40-year-olds I know still don't.
  • Get plenty of calcium.
  • Be kind to your knees. You'll miss them when they're gone.
  • Enjoy your body. Use it every way you can. Don't be afraid of it or of what other people think of it. It's the greatest instrument you'll ever own.
  • Dance, even if you have nowhere to do it but your living room.
  • Read the directions, even if you don't follow them.
  • Do not read beauty magazines. They will only make you feel ugly.
  • Get to know your parents. You never know when they'll be gone for good. Be nice to your siblings. They're your best link to your past and the people most likely to stick with you in the future.
  • Understand that friends come and go, but with a precious few you should hold on. Work hard to bridge the gaps in geography and lifestyle, because the older you get, the more you need the people who knew you when you were young.
  • Accept certain inalienable truths: Prices will rise. Politicians will philander. You, too, will get old, and when you do, you'll fantasize that when you were young, prices were reasonable, politicians were noble, and children respected their elders.
  • Respect your elders.
  • Don't expect anyone else to support you. Maybe you have a trust fund. Maybe you'll have a wealthy spouse, but you never know when either one might run out.
  • Be careful whose advice you buy, but be patient with those who supply it. Advice is a form of nostalgia. Dispensing it is a way of fishing the past from the disposal, wiping it off, painting over the ugly parts, and recycling it for more than it's worth. But trust me on the sunscreen.  (via Preaching Now newsletter, May 13, 2008)

Friday, May 30, 2008

Preaching on Race

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It in indeed turning out to be an interesting election season. Whatever you think of Barak Obama and his troubles with his pastor Jeremiah Wright, they have at least opened a dialogue that has needed to be opened. Today in USA Today Online there is an article entitled, Americans Using Religion to Navigate Racial Landscape. The article is about different churches and their struggles with race issues.

The issue of race drew sharp focus as Barack Obama's contentious split with his longtime pastor, Rev. Jeremiah Wright, played out in a national glare. In response, the United Church of Christ and National Council of Churches USA called on 10,000 ministers to initiate a 'sacred conversation on race....' The conversation, which grew loud and rancorous around the Wright episode, started long before and continues afterward, but in softer tones that show the faithful want to be constructive, want to make progress, want their voices heard.

The article goes on to speak fairly positively about the relationship of churches and race and their current state. It really is a good article.

It did get me thinking that I don't know that I have EVER preached a sermon on race. Perhaps I have, but I cannot recall one.

I know that as I was outlining possible sermons on Acts, I made some note about the effect of one black man from the story of the Ethiopian eunuch. I presume that he was a black man. But Philip went and preached to him and tradition states that he had a profound effect on founding and spreading the gospel in east Africa.

I find it interesting that it is easier to preach on the Bible and environmentalism than it is on race. I don't know that I will/should preach "a sacred conversation on race," during this election season, but it surely is something I need to give more attention to. If for no other reason than to get the church talking about race again, the candidacy of Obama and his fight with his preacher have been worth it.

Cases in Missing the Point, #235 - The Boston Globe

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Is this really the purpose of seminary? Andover-Newton Seminary is concerned that evangelicals are ahead of mainline churches because of their expertise in technology. So they are going to help ministerial students produce video resumes, learn to produce streaming video and produce and edit podcasts. Part of the article:

NEWTON - Saying evangelicals have gotten too far ahead of mainline Protestants in the use of technology to reach out to the unchurched, a liberal Protestant seminary here is launching a new program to train future clergy in high-tech evangelization.

The seminary, Andover Newton Theological School, is joining the Massachusetts Bible Society in establishing a media center that will also coach pastors on creating better websites and podcasts, train seminarians on the liturgical uses of video, and offer material on biblical interpretation to congregations and clergy around the country.

Find the entire article here.

Call me old fashioned, but that doesn't seem to be the point of seminary. Let's teach them the Bible; let's teach them doctrine; let's teach them to preach. Let's teach them the importance of equipping the body and finding those people in the body who already have the skills to do these technological tasks. Can you imagine a medical school emphasizing in their training of doctors how to put a medical encyclopedia on their websites?

Although an outsider looking in, I generally have a heart for main-line churches and their struggles to keep from dying off. But this seems to be more indicative of the problem than it is a viable solution.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Gordon MacDonald: What's So Different About 'God Damn America'?

image Gordon MacDonald asks what is truly a provocative question: 

Is there a significant difference between Jeremiah Wright's "God damn America," and the comment so oft-quoted in evangelical pulpits (attributed to a well known preacher who shall go unnamed): "If God does not judge America for its sins, He will have to apologize to Sodom and Gomorrah."

Don't quibble about word choice; think substance.  Is there a significant difference?

I'm not really sure that there is.

Never Read, Never Be Read

 Justin Buzzard Thanks to Justin Buzzard for this pithy reminder from Spurgeon:

"The man who never reads will never be read; he who never quotes will never be quoted. He who will not use the thoughts of other men's brains, proves that he has no brains of his own." --Charles Spurgeon, Sermon: Paul, His Cloak And His Books

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

291 Posts Later: What Have Been Your Top Three?

image 365 days and 291 posts later, last Saturday marked my first anniversary writing this blog, Talking the Walk.  I am even more committed to it than when I began a year ago.  I have had lots of fun with it; I have benefited from it; and I hope it has been of some small inspiration or help to others. 

I am putting together a Top Ten list of my top ten posts for this year.  Can you help me?  If you have been reading Talking the Walk and you have two or three that are your favorites, can you either reply to this post with which ones have been your favorites, or for those shy ones out there (I know you're there...)  you can privately send your list to me at cal@tigardcc.org.  Thanks.  Watch for the list in the next week.

Wow. Piper on Thinking.

I know it is not kosher just to copy another blogger's post, but I don't know how to really summarize well Colin Adam's quote from John Piper on reading-vs-thinking.  It is one of the best things I have read in a long time:

We make a great mistake when we think that study consists  mainly in reading (as commonly understood)—even reading the Bible. Many think they have studied well when they have spent the morning reading through some worthy book of divinity. And thus the measure of our study becomes the number of books that we have read.

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But my own conviction is that fruitful study is primarily thinking not reading. My guess is that reading, which was meant to become a stimulus and guide to independent thinking, usually becomes a substitute for it. The evidence for this is how many books we read and how little we write down. Fresh thinking must always be put down on paper to get it clear and preserve it for use. Much reading and little thinking makes for a second-hand pastor. And it is not easy to preach and teach second-hand truths with power.

 

(extract taken from The Ministry of the Word, Ordination of

Steve Roy, Acts 6:1-6, November 25, 1984)

This reinforces my increasing desire/need to be constantly writing. 

Thanks Colin.  You can find his blog with this post here.

Risky Preaching

image 55% of pastors can identify one or more topics on which they would not preach at all or only sparingly, because the sermon could negatively affect their hearers’ willingness to attend church in the future. Among them are politics (38%), homosexuality (23%), abortion (18%), same-sex marriage (17%), war (17%), women’s role in church and home (13%), the doctrine of election (13%), hell (7%) and money (3%). (Your Church 5-6/08 via The Foster Letter)

cph:Nothing good comes from fear.  Of course most of us are familiar with 2 Ti 1:7: For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.

That doesn't mean that we are not wise in our preaching, but we must also be bold. 

Back from the Metolius

We spent an extended Memorial Day holiday in Central Oregon camping on the Metolius River. (Near Sisters). It is one of my favorite spots in God's creation. We drove through snow flurries as we came across Santiam Pass and I thought that didn't bode well, but it ended up OK. (But I am more than ready for summer).

There were forest fires there a couple of years back and I hadn't been there since then. Was afraid of what we would find. It was still beautiful:image I really did miss posting. Glad we went and glad to be back.

While we were gone, my recent college graduate son got an accounting job and an apartment! Woo-hoo!

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Catch You on the Other Side

I likely will not be blogging for the next week or so. 

Various and Sundry Statistics... on Home and Families

image Cohabitation Between 50% and 60% of all American marriages begin with the partners cohabitating. Yet living together before marriage increases the chances of divorce in a first marriage. 67% of cohabitating couples eventually divorce vs. the first marriage norm of 45%. The number of cohabitating couples has soared from about 439,000 in 1960 to more than 5 million in ’08. About 10% of couples who married between ’65 and ’74 lived together before marriage vs. more than 50% today. (Baptist Press 3/26/08)

Nuclear families have dropped to below 25% of all U.S. households. (HomeWord.com)

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

I Am Now on Facebook

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I have finally given into the social networking pressures and expanded to Facebook.   I have been on MySpace for quite some time, but don't really do anything with it.  My wife Loretta has been encouraging me to join Facebook for some time.  While on the plane back from Cali, I read "Facebook for Pastors" and decided I should go for it.  If you are on Facebook, give me a holler.

44 Ways to Waste a Theological Education

imageCharles Saville points to a good post by Derek Brown on how to waste a theological education.  While it is written from the point view of of someone still in seminary, I found it helpful for my soul. (It is eminently possible to waste an education AFTER you have graduated).  I picked out my top 10 ways:  

  1. Mistake the amount of education you receive with the actual knowledge you obtain. Keep telling yourself, “I’ll really start learning this stuff when I do my Th.M or my Ph.D.”
  2. Practice misquoting and misrepresenting positions and ideas you don’t agree with. Be lazy and don’t attempt to understand opposing views; instead, nurse your prejudices and exalt your opinions by superficial reading and listening.
  3. Set aside fellowship and accountability with fellow brothers in Christ.
  4. Let your study of divine things become dull, boring, lifeless, and mundane.
  5. Make the mistake of thinking that your education guarantees your success in ministry.
  6. Gain knowledge in order to merely teach others. Don’t expend the effort it takes to deal with your own heart.
  7. Don’t serve the poor, visit the sick, or care for widows and orphans - save that stuff for the uneducated, non-seminary trained, lay Christians.
  8. Appear spiritual and knowledgeable at all costs. Don’t let others see your imperfections and ignorance, even if it means you have to lie.
  9. Love books and theology and ministry more than the Lord Jesus Christ.
  10. Don’t really try to learn the languages - let Bible Works do all the work for you.

You can find the complete list here.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Five Core Values from Three Experienced Preachers 3

A few years back three experienced preachers from our fellowship of churches were asked to share five core values for preaching and ministry.  I found what they said helpful. 

imageDr. Barry McCarty is the preaching minister of the Valley View Christian Church in Dallas, Texas. He is also the former President of Cincinnati Bible Seminary/College. He also has served as the speaker on The Christians' Hour radio program since 1996.

He poses his five values for preaching in questions:

1. Is this biblical?

2. Is this sermon going to be relevant to the the needs of the people to whom I am preaching?

3. Am I making this sermon interesting?  They need both information as well as images. 

  • "He is a good speaker who can turn an ear into an eye." --Arab proverb.
  • Jesus created pictures in people's minds. 
      • "When Jesus preached, he projected filmstrip images onto the mental screens of the minds of his listeners."
      • "Your listener's brain lie behind their eyes, just as much as it does between the ears."

4. Does this sermon cast the vision? (God's vision for the church.)

The people want to know...

  • that you know where you are going
  • that you are really going to get there.
  • whether or not  they should go with you.

5. Have I prayed about this sermon enough?

Monday, May 19, 2008

Five Core Values From Three Experienced Preachers 2

A few years back three experienced preachers from our fellowship of churches were asked to share five core values for preaching and ministry.  I found what they said helpful. 

image Leroy Lawson served for many years as the minister of the Central Christian Church in Mesa, AZ and later as the president of Hope International University in Fullerton, CA.  (He is also the founding pastor of the church I serve and my younger son will be graduating from HIU this coming Saturday).

Leroy's five core values on preaching are...

1. If I can't say it simply, I simply don't understand it.

It takes us a while to get over our education.  In school, we spend a lot of time learning a vocabulary that is peculiar to that profession.  But in general preaching we will lose people if we don't say things simply.

2. If I can't answer your "So what?" then I am wasting your time.

3. If I can't capture the sermon in one sentence, I don't know what I'm hunting.

4. Before I can make it yours, I must make it mine.

5. If I'm trying to write great sermons, I'm destined to fail. 

6. (Bonus) Before I try talking, I should try listening...hard...

  • to God in Bible study & prayer
  • to my people, who have so much to tell me
  • to the heartbeat of the world of which I am a part.

(Too often we are not listening and are answering questions that no one is asking).

Good stuff!!

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Five Core Values from Three Experienced Preachers 1

A few years back three experienced preachers from our fellowship of churches were asked to share five core values for preaching and ministry.  I found what they said helpful. 

image John Russell has preached at Lakeside Christian Church in Lakeside Park, KY (in the Cincinnati, OH area) for 38 years (since October 1970.  (His brother is Bob Russell, the pastor of the massive Southeast Christian Church in Louisville).

John's five core values for preaching and ministry are: 

1. Bend the knee humbly

  1. a) to God;
  2. b) learn the servant-leader mentality

2. Learn how to build relationships

        • within your church
        • with other preachers

3. Always bring glad tidings

Five Times People Want to See Their Preacher's Face (Bob Shannon)  When there is a...

  • Death
  • Birth
  • Marriage
  • Illness
  • They are accepting or have just accepted Christ

4. Learn to battle wisely. Learn to know which issues are cancer and which issues are only measles (if left alone, they will eventually go away)

5. Bear up bravely.  Hardship is not the exception.  Don't whine.  Suffer graciously. 

Fun Family Celebration

Fam at Trevs graduation

Our younger son Trevor graduated today from Hope International University in Fullerton, CA.  Loretta and I flew down for the festivities. Pictured above are Loretta and I, Trev and our other son Ryan and Trevor's fiancee Kelsey.  We're proud of you Trev!

Friday, May 16, 2008

Brilliant Conception and Presentation are Not Enough.

Leroy Lawson tells the story of a time when Abraham Lincoln went to church. He and his bodyguard were allowed to listen to the sermon from the preacher's (Dr.Gurley) office.

image When it was done, the bodyguard asked the president, "What did you think of tonight's sermon?"

"It was brilliantly conceived, biblical, relevant and well presented."

"So, it was a great sermon?"

"No, it failed. It failed because Dr. Gurley did not ask us to do something great."

Many times I would settle for sermons that are brilliantly conceived, biblical, relevant and well presented.  But in reality, unless I can answer people's so what and call them to be something great, then I have failed.  At least failed to make the sermon all that it could/should have been.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Preaching Sunday Morning to a Monday People

Joy Lawson, the wife of Leroy Lawson (founding preacher of the church where I serve) made this helpful comment to her husband about his preaching:

"When you begin working on a sermon, you begin working on Monday morning.  You work all through the week and you finish it up on Saturday.  On Sunday morning you take off where you left off on Saturday, but we're still back at Monday."

imageLeroy has said that if he has any goal in preaching it is to preach to people who are still back at Monday. 

We all would do well to follow that advice and preach simply.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

What is the Fallen Condition Focus? « Unashamed Workman

In my posts on the introduction, I intended to put something in  about the FCF: what Bryan Chapell labels, the "Fallen Condition Focus."  Because it was a new concept to me (the term, "Fallen Condition Focus", not the fallenness of humanity!) I put off writing about including the FCF in the introduction and ended up not writing about it at all. 

Colin Adams has excerpted a paragraph from Chapell.  The definition of the FCF according to Chapell is : image

[The] FCF is a human problem or burden addressed by specific aspects of a scriptural text, informed preaching strives to unveil this purpose in order to explain each passage properly.

Colin has a longer quote and comment here. I recommend it. 

A Politician's Wife's Word to Preachers

image Muriel Humphrey was the wife of former vice-president Hubert Humphrey.  Humphrey was known for talking on and on at great length.  When Humphrey ("the happy warrior") ran for president in 1968, his wife gave him the following advice, which applies to me and to many other preachers when it come to sermon length: 

"You don't have to be eternal to be immortal."

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Ronald Reagan a Pastoral Role-model?

In last weeks issue of Newsweek magazine there is an exchange that I find very interesting.  The occasion of the conversation is the publication of Sean Wilentz's new book "The Age of Reagan."  The book is a more favorable look at Ronald Reagan that one might expect from a more liberal author. 

There is a much more extensive conversation between Sean Wilentz (as I said above, a self-professed liberal) and George Will (a self-professed conservative and long-time Reagan admirer).

SEAN WILENTZ:  I think there is a mold which was thought [of] in the 1950s as the all-pervasive, consensus, liberal tradition in the American life. And imagethe mold was a great leader who mobilizes a coalition, which manages to take on the interests, one way or another—whether it's the slave[-owning] power or the malefactors of great wealth. These are the characters we think of and who are usually liberals in one way or another. What Reagan did was something different—it was to lead with the same spirit and optimism and forward-looking hope that liberals had projected, but in the name of policies that were frankly conservative. And he managed to do that in a way that no previous president, and certainly no conservative president, had managed to do before.

GEORGE WILL: I think that's right. What makes Ronald Reagan hard to fit quite into the American or even conservative tradition is that he understood that you cannot govern this country if you're a pessimist. Pessimism has always been a strand of conservatism—pessimism about human nature, pessimism about government. Reagan simply understood when people said that Eisenhower's smile was his philosophy. In a way, that was Reagan's philosophy. He said that when the American people are happy, good things happen: they invest, they save, they have children. So he thought that getting America back to cheerfulness was an intensely practical program.

Now this is a preaching blog, not a political blog (and I am determined to keep it that way).  And I, as much as the next fellow, could enumerate many of Reagan's flaws.  But I think that there is a legitimate point here about pastoral leadership.  There is no benefit in covering over problems and difficulties.  But one of the keys to effective leadership seems to be the attitude one brings to the problem.  I am fairly melancholic and that works against me (or I let it work against me).  The importance of the smile, the positive outlook, remembering the power of God is at work, even in sinful people, must be kept at the forefront. 

What do you think?  Am I glossing over it too blithely?

Monday, May 12, 2008

14 Most Persuasive English Words

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My friend and partner in ministry Bob Garwig [minister of the local Presbyterian Church (USA)] sent what he says are the 14 most persuasive words in the English language:

  • save
  • discover
  • safety
  • health
  • you
  • guarantee
  • love
  • easy
  • how to
  • money
  • proven
  • free
  • results
  • new

I am not sure who came up with Bob's list, but these sorts of lists have a long lineage. Mark Liberman and Geoffrey K. Pullum at their "Language Log" found a similar list dating back to an article by Bennett Cerf from November 1963. (Cerf lists "discovery" instead of "discover" and does not list "safety", "health", "how to" or "free." You can find the Language Log lists here. They show the progression/evolution of this list through the 1960's and 70's.

I found a similar list from Wayne Berry, "Australia's TOP GUN Sales coach & sales speaker." He lists the 16 most Persuasive Words. He does not have safety (he has "safe" instead), you, love, or "how to." But he adds "good, own, freedom, best, investment." You can find Berry's List here.

I am not sure what such lists show, except that there are certain key words that some "experts, somewhere, sometime felt were helpful at getting people to buy, do, think whatever you want. Frankly, I am glad the proclamation of the gospel is not that complicated!

(Thanks Bob for the list!! Another member of our Thursday pastors prayer group issued the challenge to use all 14 of Bob's words in this Sunday's sermon. I think I'll pass...)

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Alan Redpath: Five Questions to Ask Before You Speak

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Yesterday, I was in Acts 4:36-37 and spoke on the character Barnabas (in my year-long series on Acts).  Since it was Mother's Day, I thought it fitting to preach on the characteristics of an encourager as demonstrated in the life of Barnabas, the "son of encouragement," 

For my third characteristic (Encouragers Speak the Truth in Love), I referenced the examples of Barnabas in Acts 11:23-24 and 13:46. 

Illustrative of that, I used Alan Redpath's five questions to use before you speak.  Redpath was the pastor of the Moody Church in Chicago in the sixties.  He formed a group at the church called the “Mutual Encouragement Fellowship,” and he used the following five questions as guidelines to use before we speak anything of which we have a question: 

T - Is it true?

H - Is it helpful?

I - Is it inspiring?

N - Is it necessary?

K - Is it kind?

If what we are about to say does not pass these tests, we should keep our mouth shut.

I had lots of people either ask me for the list, or say that it was going to go up on the wall of their cube at work.  I consider there to be few greater compliments than that!

Saturday, May 10, 2008

I Answered My Own Mother's Day Question

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If I had done a quick search before asking if other places celebrated Mother's Day like we do in the U.S. (American provincialism strikes again!!), I would have found that it is celebrated...

Second Sunday in February --Norway

February 2 Greece. Corresponds to the Eastern Orthodox feast day of the Presentation of Jesus at the Temple. Since the Theotokos (The Mother of God) appears prominently in this feast as the one who brought Christ to the Temple at Jerusalem, this feast is associated with mothers. However, today many Greeks are beginning to observe Mother's Day as rendered by the West.

Shevat 30 (falls anywhere between January 30 and March 1) -Israel

March 3 -Georgia

March 8 -Afghanistan, Albania*, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria,Laos, Macedonia*, Moldova*, Montenegro, Romania*, Russia*, Serbia**, Ukraine, South Korea, and Vietnam. *In Albania, Belarus, Bulgaria, Guyana, Italy, Macedonia, Mongolia, Russia, and Ukraine it is observed as International Women's Day, not specifically Mothers' day.

Fourth Sunday in Lent (Mothering Sunday - March 2 in 2008)
Ireland, Nigeria, United Kingdom

March 21 (vernal equinox) -Bahrain, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Oman, Lebanon, Palestine, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Syria, United Arab Emirates, Yemen (All Arab countries in general)

March 25 -Slovenia

April 7 -Armenia

April 2 (Chinese calendar)*-China

Baisakh Amavasya (Mata Tirtha Aunsi) -Nepal

First Sunday in May -Hungary, Lithuania*, Portugal, Spain

May 8 -Albania (Parents' Day), South Korea (Parents' Day).

May 10 -El Salvador, Guatemala, Mexico

Second Sunday in May - (May 11 in 2008) -Anguilla, Aruba, Australia, Austria, Bahamas, Bangladesh, Barbados, Belgium, Belize, Bermuda, Bonaire, Brazil, Brunei, Bulgaria, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Croatia, Cuba, Curaçao, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Ecuador, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Ghana, Greece, Grenada, Honduras, Iceland, India, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Latvia*, Malta, Malaysia, Myanmar, The Netherlands, New Zealand, Pakistan, Peru, Philippines, Puerto Rico, Slovakia, South Africa, St. Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname, Switzerland, Trinidad and Tobago, Turkey, Ukraine, United States, Uruguay, Venezuela, Zimbabwe

May 15 -Paraguay

May 26 -Poland

May 27 -Bolivia

last Sunday in May -Algeria, Dominican Republic, France (except if it coincides with Pentecost day, in which case Mother's Day will be shifted to the first Sunday of June), Haiti, Mauritius, Morocco, Sweden, Tunisia.

May 30 -Nicaragua

June 1 -Mongolia (The Mothers and Children's Day. Mongolia is the only country that celebrates Mother's day twice a year.)

2nd Sunday of June -Luxembourg

Last Sunday of June -Kenya

August 12 -Thailand (the birthday of Queen Sirikit Kitiyakara)

August 15 (Assumption Day) -Antwerp (Belgium), Costa Rica

Second Monday in October -Malawi

October 14 -Belarus

Third Sunday in October -Argentina (Día de la Madre)

Last Sunday of November -Russia

December 8 -Panama

16 December, Iranian calendar: 25 Azar (Mother And Child Foundation) -Iran

December 22 -Indonesia

(Thanks Wikipedia!)

Mother's Day Conclusion: This, Mom's, For You...

image I am using this as part of the conclusion to my Mother's Day sermon tomorrow. (Does the UK or other countries have something like Mother's Day?  I know that Russia has "Women's Day" in early May, but I don't know about anywhere else).

My sermon is actually from Acts 4:36-37 and the five characteristics of an encourager as demonstrated by the character of Barnabas.

But I will end with this:

  • This is for all the mothers who have sat up all night with sick toddlers in their arms, wiping up barf full of Oscar Mayer wieners and cherry Kool-Aid saying, "It’s OK honey, Mommy’s here."
  • This is for all the mothers who show up at work with spit-up in their hair and milk stains on their blouses and diapers in their purse.
  • This is for all the mothers who froze their buns off on metal bleachers at football or soccer games, so that when their kids asked, "Did you see me?" they could say, "Of course, I wouldn’t have missed it for the World!”
  • This is for all the mothers who sat down with their children and explained all about making babies; and for all the mothers who wanted to but just couldn’t.
  • This is for all the mothers who read "Goodnight, Moon" twice a night for a year. And then read it again, "Just one more time."
  • This is for all the mothers who taught their children to tie their shoelaces before they started school. And for all the mothers who opted for Velcro instead.
  • This is for all mothers whose heads turn automatically when a little voice calls "Mom?" in a crowd, even though they know their own are at home.
  • This is for mothers whose children have gone astray, who can’t find the words to reach them.
  • For all the mothers who bite their lips sometimes until they bleed--when their 14-year-olds dye their hair green.
  • This is for the mothers who gave birth to babies they’ll never see.
  • And for the mothers who took those babies and gave them homes.
  • This is for mothers who put pinwheels and teddy bears on their children’s graves.
  • This is for mothers of children with severe limitations. Your freedom has been exchanged for a cherished service of love.
  • This is for those who have lost their mothers and would give anything to take them out to lunch today.
  • This is for young mothers stumbling through diaper changes and sleep deprivation. And mature mothers learning to let go.
  • For working mothers and stay-at-home mothers, single mothers and married mothers. Mothers with money, mothers without.
  • This is for you all. So hang in there. You’re doing a great job!! "Home is what catches you when you fall - and we all fall."

I am not sure where I got it actually. Perhaps from SermonCentral.com.  Not positive. 

Friday, May 9, 2008

Seth Godin on Church Growth

I appreciate Seth Godin. I have no idea if he is a disciple of Jesus or not.  But he is pretty perceptive.  I was introduced to him by his little book "The Dip."  Maybe I'll speak to that another time. 

But his blog Tuesday, while having absolutely nothing to do with faith, religion, church or evangelism got my mind to thinking.  Perhaps it is because we continue to get snipes from both ends of the "worship war" continuum in our church.  Today our worship guy talked about being approached in a local restaurant (Elmers) with complaints that we don't do enough hymns. (Last Sunday half of the songs were traditional hymns). 

You don't talk long with our teens & twenties before hearing that the music we do is too old and boring. (And they are NOT talking about the hymns). 

Perhaps it was because that was on my mind that I was struck by Seth's post today.  In a nutshell he states that in most endeavors there is a tension between that which is edgy/obsessed and that which is vapid or trite.  At one extreme, you can be so edgy that hardly anyone is interested in your work, your music, what you write or your church.  But a little bit in from that Seth says:

That bell curve to the left represents acceptance by the focused/excited/tastemaking community. Those are the people who love microbeers and haute couture and Civil War memorabilia. Like all market curves, there's a sweet spot. Go too nutsy on us ($90,000 turntables, for example) and even the committed will flee. Go too pop, though, and we'll avoid you as well....

He goes on:

The bell curve on the right, you'll notice, is bigger. This is a second market, a bigger market, the market of pop. These are the folks who go to the Olive Garden for a nice Italian meal instead of the authentic place down the street. They too want something that's not too edgy and not too (in their opinion) trite.

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The reason you need to care is that gap in the middle. Every day, millions of businesses get stuck in that gap. They either move to the right in search of the masses or move to the left in search of authenticity, but they compromise. And they get stuck with neither.

Find his complete post here: Seth's Blog

My question/reflection is about whether or not the same is true of church style and of preaching style. You can have churches that are so edgy that they attract only the fringiest of fringe.  That may be house churches or hyper-fundamentalist churches or the Catholic Mass in Latin.  Either way, it will never attract much of a following.  But there are then churches that have most of the elements as these fringe churches, but not as "weird" (however that is defined) as the fringe ones.  Many successful contemporary churches and very conservative mega churches fit this model. 

There are, however, the pop churches...reaching lots of attenders, and yet more culturally mainstream than the bell to the left.  Perhaps they are more marketing driven.  Perhaps their worship music style is exclusively pop.  But they are a "safe" place to be.  No-one is threatened too badly.   (I know I am setting myself up for all sorts of misunderstandings and criticisms by this simplistic and generalized description).

The real point of my post is in regard to those churches who try to go half-way.  Who try to be the specific genre church; who try to attract a specific form of Christ-follower; who want to move their church to a more post-modern style, for example. But they compromise.  In the name of keeping onto people, they make compromises that really do not allow them to move as far that direction as they hope. (Or church politics keep them from moving as far one direction or the other as they believe would be beneficial).  And what happens?  You get caught in the trough, or "the gap in the middle" as Seth puts it.  As two different music ministers on my staff (at very divergent times in my ministry) have stated it, "Instead of everybody getting a little bit of what they want, nobody gets enough of what they want and everyone is unhappy." 

The answer to that must be bold leadership.  It must be an unerring eye toward where you believe that God is leading your church.  It must be as willingness to loose people.  Hopefully it is not Ben Tre Logic (from the Vietnam War: a U.S. Major reported on the destruction of the provincial capital of Ben Tre: ""It became necessary to destroy the town to save it.")

But how many churches have become lost in the gap? What are your thoughts about this? Am I totally misapplying the data?  Give me feedback so I can refine my own thinking. 

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Various and Sundry Statistics on...Preaching and Communication

image Communication Preference The leadership development organization Growing Leaders recently asked focus groups of young adults (ages 16-24) how they prefer to receive communication. Their order of preference: text messages, MySpace and/or Facebook, podcasts, instant messaging, cell phone, CDs, DVDs and Email. (Pastor’s Weekly Briefing 4/4/08)

NIV Preferred Evangelical leaders were asked, “What is your preferred English Bible translation?” and were left to write in their response. 49% named only the NIV as their preferred translation, while another 18% named a second translation along with the NIV. Other versions listed included the New Living Translation, The Message, the New English Bible, the New Testament in Modern English (J.B. Phillips, 1962) and the King James Version. (Christian Post 4/11/08)

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Various and Sundry Statistics... on Stewardship

image Generous People Among the most generous U.S. population segments were evangelicals (24% of whom tithe); conservatives (12%); people who pray, read the Bible and attended a church service during the past week (12%); charismatic or Pentecostal Christians (11%); and registered Republicans (10%). Among the least generous are people under the age of 25, atheists and agnostics, single adults who have never been married, liberals, and downscale adults. 1% or less of the people in each of these segments tithed in ’07. Among all born again adults, 9% contributed one-tenth or more of their income. Protestants are 4 times as likely to tithe as Catholics (8% vs. 2%). From ’00 to ’04, an average of 84¢ out of every $1 donated by born again adults went to churches. Since ’05 that proportion has declined to just 76¢. (Barna Group 4/14/08)

Giving in the U.S. in ’07 was up 4.2%, and in current dollars before inflation adjustments it has increased $279 billion since 1966. Giving in ’07 is estimated to be $295 billion, an increase of more than 200% adjusted for inflation in the last 40 years. In just the last 10 years, it is up 65%. Giving by individuals and households was $222.9 billion in ’06 or 76% of total U.S. giving. Gifts to religious organizations hit $96.82 billion, up 4.5% over ’06. 32.8% of all giving went to religious organizations and has increased an average of 4.7% per year for the past 10 years. Since ’95, the number of registered 501(c)(3) organizations are up 67%, while total giving is up 185%. Total charitable giving as a percentage of the GNP was 2.2% in ’06. Individual giving as a percentage of personal income was 2.0% and above the 40-year average of 1.8%. There are approximately 1.4 million charities in the U.S. Americans really are generous! (Giving USA 2006)

In ’07, just 5% of American adults tithed 10% of their earnings.

The percentage of U.S. adults who tithe has stayed constant since ’00: 5% to 7%.

The median amount of money donated during ’07 was $400; the mean amount was $1308, vs. $1348 in ’06.

A Barna study finds 34% all U.S. adults gave away $1000 or more during ’07 while 18%) donated $100 or less.

83% of Evangelical Christians gave at least $1000 to churches and non-profit entities during ’07, the highest of all population segments.

64% of U.S. adults donated to a religious institution in ’07 (median amount $101; mean amount $883).

25% of the people who gave to religious centers donated at least $1000.

96% of evangelicals gave money to a church in ‘07; 81% donated at least $1000.

Stewardship Killers

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Andy Stanley lists three Stewardship Killers.  These are ways that if expressed or experienced, will kill people's desire/motivation to give. 

Note that it is not the REALITY of these things.  It is the PERCEPTION of them in the mind of the giver. 

The perception of:

  1. Ingratitude –People give for many reasons, but if they perceive that we are not appreciative, they will dry up their giving or give elsewhere.  (Stanley notes that any gift $10K or higher, his secretary is expected to give him the name and then he calls & thanks them by phone or drops them a note.  While I think that this is a good policy, I am not privy to what people give.  It also overlooks the widow's mite factor.)
  2. Waste-If people feel that their money is not being used wisely, or is being wasted, they will stop giving.
  3. Duplicity –be extraordinarily transparent.  Stanley says he would rather over trust people's ability to handle information than under trust that ability.  He notes, "If you treat them all as dumb, you will chase off the smart ones and be left with only the dumb ones."   Ouch!

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Feeling Uncomfortable With What I DIDN'T Do

This past Sunday I finished a three-part stewardship series.  image While I try to do a stewardship series every 12-18 months, I usually vary when I do it (partly out of design & partly out of what is going on in my preaching or in the church). 

I had committed to our elders that I would teach on stewardship some time this spring and so April seemed good. And it actually was fun to draw out stewardship themes from Acts (see one of my previous posts). 

But I am still struggling with what I didn't do.  For many years, I have always ended any stewardship series with a commitment time.  We distribute a card that asks people to commit to tithe over the next year.  We do not ask them to put in a dollar amount.  We don't have a financial goal and seek to "raise subscriptions" as it used to be put, to finance the budget.  We simply have asked people to commit to tithing and let them stand before God re: whether they keep their word or not. 

I remember John Maxwell stressing time and time again that if you don't ask for a specific commitment, it is useless to preach stewardship sermons.  It is like a salesman explaining the product, but not being willing to ask for the sale. 

And yet this year I didn't do so. No card.  No appeal to commit to tithe.  I simply explained what the word of God said in Acts 2, 3 & 20 and let it go at that.  The emphasis was more on generosity than it was with tithing.  I will be interested to see how this turns out over the months ahead.  I'll let you know. 

What has worked well for you in stewardship teaching /preaching?  Do you use a formal commitment card?  Has that made a difference? Share with the rest of us please.

Monday, May 5, 2008

People Buy Into People First

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One of my favorite bloggers is Scott Ginsburg.  Scott lived (briefly) here in Portland where I met him when he was working at a furniture liquidation warehouse.  Scott is a 27 year old young man who began wearing a nametag for a research project in college and has worn a nametag every day ever since. (Something like 2500 straight days).  He now lives in/near St. Louis and speaks to business groups on approachability and how it affects business success.

Yesterday he had a video on his site excerpting from a lecture he did somewhere.  But in it he quotes a girl who "gets" why approachability is so important.  The girl is Jenny Grody, is a 16 year old student who, after hearing Scott at an international youth leader training event, made the following statement.

"All leaders have to be approachable.  If people can't come up to you, how will they ever get behind you?"

That seems like a no-brainer until you realize how many preachers do not work on their approachability factor, either in their preaching or in their interpersonal relationships.  People buy into people first.  They don't FIRST buy into a church, but they buy into individuals, particularly in the leader/up-front person.  (Of course they have to "buy into" Christ first, but I am really talking about why people choose to be a part of one specific church fellowship).

The whole HelloMyNameisScott.com segment is good, as is lots of other stuff on his site.   Check it out. I have learned and am learning a lot from Scott. You can find it here.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

What Do I Want FOR Them?

Andy Stanley in a lecture on developing stewardship in your  people makes a valid & fascinating point about motivating people to give. image

He says that we must...

  • Preach Stewardship
  • Teach Stewardship
  • Celebrate Stewardship
  • Apply Stewardship

Specifically he said that we must

  1. Preaching Stewardship Motivates
  2. Teaching Stewardship Educates
  3. Celebrating Stewardship Punctuates
  4. Applying Stewardship Authenticates (Stewardship begins with a look in the mirror)

But as he talks about preaching (on) stewardship he makes what is to me a very helpful comment.  He said, "You’ve got to show your people what you want FOR them (particularly financially) before you can tell them what you want FROM them financially." If people only think we want something for them, they will be even more resistant to hearing about stewardship. But if we are clear first about what we want FOR them (freedom from the stresses that come from debt, the ability to obey God because we are financially free, able to receive the blessings from God that accompany faithful giving to him, etc.).  I found this resource quite helpful.

You Can't Build The Church With Us, But We Don't Mind!

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Saturday, May 3, 2008

Stewardship in the Book of Acts: Everywhere You Look!

image This Sunday (tomorrow) I am finishing up a three week series on Stewardship in the book of Acts.  I focused on Acts 2:42-46;  3:32-37; and 20:35. I touched on stewardship in the sermon on Acts 5 and Ananias & Sapphira, but that was not the primary emphasis.

The Generous Giving Web Site lists 37 (YES, THIRTY-SEVEN!) passages on stewardship or with a stewardship application in the book of Acts.  Among those they list twelve that are "Key Passages" on Stewardship. 

Acts 1:4; 1:8; 2:1-12; 2:38, 39, 42-46; 3:1-8; 4:32,34,37; 5:1-11; 5:17-32, 40-42; 6:3-6; 6:54-60; 8:18-20; 9:16; 9:23-25, 29-30; 10:1-2; 10:3-4; 10:23; 10:34; 11:1-18; 11:26-30; 13:50; 14:5-7; 14:19-20; 14:21-23; 15:7-11; 16:15; 16:19-24; 18:3; 19:23-41; 20:18-20; 20:33-35; 20:35; 21:10-14; 24:17; 24:25-26; 28:30-31

If people complain that I am preaching too much on stewardship I will probably point out this statistic & let them know I COULD legitimately preach on stewardship in Acts for 37-straight weeks. Maybe not effectively, but I could do it legitimately!

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Bob Buford: The Tragic Flaw

I received the following article in the Church Leader's Intelligence Report. You can find the original post here.  I know that it is not kosher to simply duplicate an article in its entirety, but I believe that it is important for all preachers to read.

Particularly take note of the three questions at the end. 

Buford writes:

I’ve always said, “Better is always better.” But lately I’ve been asking myself, “Is this really true?” Ambition is a good thing. Hard work is a good thing. Leisure, rest and play are good things. But there are limits to each. This is a true story of two good men, men whose work I know and respect, virtuous men whose lives have been spent serving God’s purposes and serving others. Both found themselves out beyond their limits.

We have a ceaseless barrage of TV news about bad guys who lie, cheat, steal and break the rules in a variety of nasty ways. But what about the good guys? Most of the people I know mean well. They lead purposeful lives and intend to do so until their last breath.

image This is a tale of two of the good guys. I’m disguising the names and situations, but believe me, I have firsthand knowledge of each. Both men are senior pastors of megachurches. Both are very gifted communicators and are loved and respected by the people they serve. Actually, they are held in awe. Both of them are in their fifties, leading churches with more than two thousand attending each week. Think of the pressure of that job—preparing and delivering a message to thousands of people each week and being very much under the spotlight. Combined with the leadership responsibility of what is essentially a very large service enterprise, the job must be enormously demanding.

The first person leads a church in the western U.S. He began the church himself, is a well-known writer, and does leadership seminars for many other pastors. Not long ago, I heard him give a message to pastors describing his experience of burnout. He said he had gotten to a point where he felt like he was faking everything. He said, “I felt ‘fried inside.’ I lost enthusiasm for what I was doing. The work that had been a great passion for me had become just a job. I was dragging myself through each day. I knew something was wrong, talked to a couple of friends about it, and finally sought medical help. The doctor diagnosed burnout and prescribed six months of rest– absolutely no work. It was that bad.

“I said ‘No way,’ but I did book a short (not six months) silent retreat in a Catholic monastery right away. It wasn’t perfect, but it gave me enough relief to at least think deeply about what was happening to me. I could take steps to make myself accountable to my family and co-workers for a much easier schedule. I delegated responsibility for all manner of things to subordinates, who did a terrific job.”

The second story is not as pretty. In this case, this pastor who also had a large church in a different part of the country began to experience burnout as well. A number of people had predicted it. This pastor was very detail-oriented and reluctant to delegate anything. He was operating a large church as if it were a small parish church—doing lots of pastoral care and preparing messages each week. He was a micro-manager. He began to feel some physical pain, so he took pain killers that soon led to a serious addiction to prescription drugs. As it was discovered later, multiple doctors in his congregation prescribed him strong and addictive prescription drugs, not knowing others were doing the same. In each case, the pastor told the doctor involved not to tell his wife about it. He was like a duck that appears calm on the surface and paddles like crazy underwater just to stay afloat.
The people on his Board felt that something was clearly wrong and tried to hire more help for him. One of them later told me, “We were treating the wrong disease in the wrong way, but how were we to know?”

Things finally came to a head, and this story found its way onto the front page of a local newspaper. People were shocked. The minister was temporarily relieved of his duties and, as we speak, is undergoing a six-month regimen in a treatment center and halfway house.

I had an opportunity to speak with his wife, who told me she was deeply wounded. She was living with a person with a secret life, a dual existence. She felt utterly betrayed, not so much from the addiction itself, but by her husband’s instructions to his doctors not to say a word to her. Being the most intimate person in his life, she would have wished to have been involved.

In the first case, the pastor is fully recovered and has restored his spiritual vitality, passion and energy for work. The jury is out on the second case. But there’s hope. He is a very intelligent man who has taken steps to restore his relationship with his family and others with whom he serves. He still has the love of members of his congregation, but he’s not out of the woods yet.

I asked Dr. Larry Allums, my “personal trainer in literature,” about this issue. He told me that a great deal of literature and drama turns around “the tragic flaw,” characters not admitting their limits to themselves or others. In Shakespeare, Julius Caesar is a great general and a very poor politician. King Lear is so blinded by his own self-absorption and desire to take it easy that he is careless about putting his kingdom and his own future in good hands.

The tragic flaw in the case of the two pastors could have been not admitting their limits. They failed to acknowledge their need for others as the demands of their work scaled up dramatically.
So what about you? Do you think everyone is at risk of being brought down by a tragic flaw? A blind spot they refuse to see? Think about your life. Have you ever experienced burnout? Do you have a tragic flaw that makes you vulnerable? A secret life—so far undetected?

  1. Do you think everyone is at risk of being brought down by a tragic flaw? A blind spot they refuse to see? 
  2. Think about your life. Have you ever experienced burnout? Do you have a tragic flaw that makes you vulnerable? A secret life –- so far undetected? 
  3. The Aspen Times (where I summer) has on its front page each day: “If you don’t want to see it in print, don’t let it happen.” Good advice. What would you not like to see in print? 
Adapted from Bob Buford, Musings for Friends... Year 2, Chapter 18, 10-27-06

Introduction or Preliminaries?

In thinking through the sermon introduction it is important to differentiate between the introduction and simple preliminaries. 

image Austin Phelps in his classic The Theory of Preaching gives a good distinction. 

Preliminaries –general remarks may be made which have no connection with the message.

Introduction-the preacher seeks to bring to the minds of the congregation into such a relationship with his theme that they are willing to lend an ear to his discourse.

Too often we confuse the two, or we build a huge porch or preliminaries without giving proper attention to the introduction itself.  Keeping (even if it is only in the mind of the preacher) a clear distinction between the two is important.

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