Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Beyond Churched and Unchurched

image The phrases "Churched" and "Unchurched" have always bugged me.  A person is not living according to the Kingdom of God just because he or she is "churched."  A person will not go to heaven just because she or he is "churched."  I am sure it is an attempt to get away from the saved/unsaved labels that have been no abused in our culture. ("He has lived like a pagan for the past 50 years, but thank God he was 'saved' as a 5 year old child.")

The Ellison Research group dug into the statistics a little deeper.  I find the information interesting, although I admit, I am not sure what practical use the information is: 

If adults are placed in more realistic categories based on their normal behavior, attendance stats at religious services would look like this: 11% attend more than once a week. 22% attend once a week. 14% attend 2-3 times a month. 5% attend once a month. 9% attend occasionally, not on a regular basis. 10% attend only on religious holidays. 29% do not attend at all. The study also found if an adult attended worship services regularly at some point before the age of 18, there is a 55% chance that person is currently attending once a month or more. If the person never attended prior to age 18, there is only a 21% chance he/she is currently attending worship services on a regular basis. When someone grows up in a home where both a mother and father occasionally attend religious services, there is a 62% chance that individual is now regularly attending services as an adult. If only one parent attends services occasionally, there is a 50% chance that grown adult is now regularly attending worship. But when an individual grows up with neither parent regularly attending worship services, the chances of that person regularly attending is only at 33%. Ron Sellers, President of Ellison Research, said, "We estimate that up to 43 million adults who do not regularly attend worship services will visit a church or place of worship at some point during the year."
Christian Post 7/17/08

The information is a great support for the importance of an active children's and youth ministry (as if such additional support were needed). 

What about you?  Do you see any practical use for the above information more than just interest?

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

DA Carson on the Gospel as Biblical

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In is list of eight words that describe the Gospel, D.A. Carson states that the Gospel is Biblical.

The gospel is biblical. "Christ died according to the Scriptures" (vv. 3–4).

It's important that our hearers see that we preach the gospel from the Bible. An expository sermon demonstrably explains what the Bibles says. Demonstrably—that's the crucial word. So at the end of the day people say, In truth that is what the Bible says. If someone wants to disagree with what I've said, they have to disagree with my understanding of the Bible, which they have every right to challenge me on, but the authority finally is the Bible and not me.

Defending the Bible is not the first responsibility of the preacher; preaching it is.

Amen.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Even Politicians Know We Must Have Time to Think

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In yesterday's New York Times there was a snippet of a conversation caught between Barak Obama and Tory leader David Cameron, while Obama was visiting at Parliament on his recent trip to Europe.

 

Mr. Cameron: You should be on the beach. You need a break. Well, you need to be able to keep your head together.

Mr. Obama: You’ve got to refresh yourself.

Mr. Cameron: Do you have a break at all?

Mr. Obama: I have not. I am going to take a week in August. But I agree with you that somebody, somebody who had worked in the White House who — not Clinton himself, but somebody who had been close to the process — said that should we be successful, that actually the most important thing you need to do is to have big chunks of time during the day when all you’re doing is thinking. And the biggest mistake that a lot of these folks make is just feeling as if you have to be ...

Mr. Cameron: These guys just chalk your diary up.

Mr. Obama: Right. ... In 15 minute increments and ...

Mr. Cameron: We call it the dentist waiting room. You have to scrap that because you’ve got to have time.

Mr. Obama: And, well, and you start making mistakes or you lose the big picture. Or you lose a sense of, I think you lose a feel ...

Mr. Cameron: Your feeling. And that is exactly what politics is all about. The judgment you bring to make decisions.

Mr. Obama: That’s exactly right. And the truth is that we’ve got a bunch of smart people, I think, who know 10 times more than we do about the specifics of the topics. And so if what you’re trying to do is micromanage and solve everything then you end up being a dilettante, but you have to have enough knowledge to make good judgments about the choices that are presented to you.

If politicians recognize this, how much more do we who are supposedly speaking for God and seeking to communicate his Word to a congregation of people whatever the size.  The demands of ministry seem time and time again to sap every last minute out of the day with no time to just THINK about God and his Word and what God is saying through that Word. 

On the other hand, it is ultimately no one else's fault except our own.  People will take whatever we are willing to give them.  If we set boundaries, they will huff & puff, but we must know our own limits. 

More on Collect Prayers

image If the previous post was hard for you to grasp, let me give you a couple of the prayers that John Witvliet includes in his article and then break them out according to his form:

1. A collect for purity:

Almighty God, to you all hearts are open, all desires known and from you no secrets are hid: cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit,that we may perfectly love you and worthily magnify your holy name, through Christ our Lord, Amen. 

  • Statement of address to God-Almighty God,
  • Description of God -to you all hearts are open, all desires known and from you no secrets are hid:
  • Petition for divine action -cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit,
  • Statement of result -that we may perfectly love you and worthily magnify your holy name,
  • Statement of mediation -through Christ our Lord, Amen. 

2. From a fourth century mealtime prayer: (non-contemporary grammar = sic.)

Blessed are you, O Lord, who nourish me from my youth and who give food to all flesh, fill our heats with joy and gladness, that having always what is sufficient for us, we may use what is over for every good work, in Christ Jesus our Lord, through whom glory, honor and worship be to you for ever. Amen

  • Statement of address to God-Blessed are you, O Lord,
  • Description of God -who nourish me from my youth and who give food to all flesh,
  • Petition for divine action -fill our heats with joy and gladness,
  • Statement of result - that having always what is sufficient for us, we may use what is over for every good work, in Christ Jesus our Lord,
  • Statement of mediation -through whom glory, honor and worship be to you for ever. Amen
  • Writing Collects to Clarify the Sermon

    image In the current print edition of Christian Century, there is an excerpt by John D. Witvliet from the work "Ancient Faith for the Church's Future." In the middle of that article he describes the preparation of a collect as...

    "one of the most clarifying actions a preacher can make.  That simple actions interprets the text with an awareness of God's activity in both past and present and in the context of an eschatological trajectory."

    Being from a very "low church" tradition, the whole word "collect" was confusing to me.  (Wikipedia defines collect as "a short general prayer"; the Catholic Encyclopedia says that it arose when a congregation gathered (collected), but the service was to be held elsewhere.  The officiant would offer a short prayer to those "collected" and then they would move to where the service was to be held. [If you are from a liturgical church and have a different understanding of this, please help me understand this in the comments])  We were raised that "heart-felt" and "written" prayers were opposite poles.  I have given up that simplistic differentiation, Furthermore,...most "spontaneous prayers" I hear in worship are fairly shallow and repetitive.

    Is there a middle ground where there is structure and balance, and yet freedom for spontaneity?

    Witvliet notes that many liturgical manuals & textbooks describe the simple outline of a collect which is composed of:

    • a statement of address to God,
    • a description of God in terms of a specific attribute or action,
    • a petition for divine action,
    • a statement of result, what some sources call "the aspiration," and
    • a statement of mediation, such as "through Jesus Christ our Lord."

    To use the above outline both to think through the text that you are studying for the week as well as to prepare a prayer for the service that accompanies the sermon would be very useful. 

    Saturday, July 26, 2008

    The Use and Abuse of Others' Sermons

    Justin Buzzard over at BuzzardBlog notes the disclaimer on a page image of sermons by famous preachers.  In all of the hyperventilation about preachers using other preachers sermons, there is wisdom in this disclaimer.

    A NOTE ON THE USE AND ABUSE OF SERMONS

    The instant availability of thousands of expository sermons and addresses prompts us to reflect a little on how they should not be used, and how they should be used.

    To take the latter first: many of our Council members avidly read the sermons of others, or, increasingly commonly, listen to them while they are driving or walking or jogging. Good preaching not only opens up texts, but helps us learn how others tackle the challenge of structure, apply Scripture to their particular congregations, relate their texts to the central themes of God and the gospel, and much more. We soon sense their urgency and God-given unction. We are sent back to the study and to our knees to become better workers who do not need to be ashamed of the way we handle the word of truth.

     

    The bad way to listen to the sermons of others is to select one such sermon on the topic or passage you have chosen and then simply steal it, passing it off as if it is your own work. This is, quite frankly, theft, and thieves, Paul tells us, will not inherit the kingdom of God (1 Cor 6:10). Yet in some ways that is not the most serious aspect of this form of plagiarism. Rather, it is the deep damage you are doing to yourself and others by not studying the Bible for yourself. Ministers of the gospel are supported by their congregations so they will give themselves to the ministry of the Word and prayer. That demands rigorous study. A faithful minister of the gospel is never merely a biological tape recorder or CD, thoughtlessly parroting what someone else learned, thought through, prayed over, and recorded. Indulge in this exercise and before long you will starve your own soul -- and, no matter how good the sermons you steal, your ministry will sooner or later, and deservedly, become sterile, for the stamp of inauthenticity will be all over you.

     

    One helpful suggestion: Listen to many sermons, not just one or two. You will be far less likely to steal, and far more likely to be stimulated and helped, if you listen to five or ten sermons than if you listen to one.

    I think that it is helpful.  As one who not doesn't hyperventilate about this issue as others seem to do, there is a balance needed.  I remember the old academic saw that if you only use one source it is plagiarism, if you use 2-3 it is research. 

    Whatever.

    But this article strikes a good balance. 

    Thursday, July 24, 2008

    Eclov: Inspiration Points

    image I am still being blessed by the writings of Lee Eclov.  In an article entitled "Inspiration Points" he compares preaching to driving along a mountain road.  Periodically you come upon "Scenic Overlooks" or "Inspirational Points".  It is good if you pause for a brief minute and take an appreciative look at the view. 

    Hear what he says:

    I have occasion to listen to dozens of sermon tapes by as many different preachers each year, and I have been struck by how seldom preachers invest in the hard work of developing inspiration points in their sermons. There is much explanation, some illustration, occasional passion; but there is little beauty, few breath-catching moments, seldom need for a moment of silence to take it all in.The main reason our sermons lack inspiration points, though, is developing them is such hard work. We are taught to exegete and research, to marshal thoughts into an outline, but professors never upped our grade in seminary for writing something beautiful, for painting a word masterpiece, for setting a text a-singing. As we guide our listeners up the mountains of Scripture, however, we misguide them if we do not stop at some inspiration points.

    After we have done our study to rightly understand a text, we must pause to think about what is before us. Where is the beauty, the poetry, the wonder in this text? If I do not see it, I haven't stopped long enough to look at the view, for no passage of Scripture is a mere parking lot. All Scripture is inspired by the same God who tosses off sunsets every night. Even genealogies have inspiration points!

    Look for a truth that has become too familiar. Look for a phrase everyone takes for granted. Look for a metaphor that puts a paintbrush into your hand and a canvas before your people. Look for a moving photo where you can point out what people might have missed in the black-and-white of print. What is the melody of this passage? What would a poet see? Ask God to heal your blindness and release your tongue!

    Scenic overlooks don't just happen to be along the highway. Someone saw the possibilities and engineered a wide spot in the road, cut away the brush that hindered sight, and put out signs telling us what is coming. Preaching an inspiration point takes some rhetorical engineering also. Several different tools are at our disposal:

    Eclov gives several examples of ways to do that.  So that I don't just reproduce his article here, let me summarize his list:

    • Story.
    • Quotation.
    • Stacking.
    • Extrapolation.
    • Expanding a biblical metaphor.

    This is not the first time I have addressed the need for me and other to be inspirational in our preaching.  It is a constant struggle for me.  Maybe this article rang a bell with me because it is something to which I have been sensitized.  But I think Eclov is right...there is the need for this in the work of most preachers. 

    You should be able to find the article here.

    Wednesday, July 23, 2008

    Death of a Friend and Confidant

    Bruce Nelson

    Early this past Sunday morning as I was reviewing my sermon for later that morning, the call came in from one of Bruce's best friends: Bruce's body had been found in a creek near Detroit Lake in central Oregon.  That began what has been a very, very sad week for me.

    Bruce had been camping alone, as he always did. It was the highlight of his summer...going away alone for a week or two to one of his most favorite spots: a sort of hidden camping spot tucked away off the main path.  How many years he had been going there, I have no idea.  But it was always alone.  He told me in one of our last conversations that he had climbed Mt. Hood over 40 times.  And all but one or two of those times had been alone--an incredibly stupid thing to do.  He had almost died there, coming close to falling in a crevasse...only his ice pick saved his life.  No amount of arguing or cajoling could talk him out of it.  He would hike & camp alone. He had recently been terminated from his job and was stressed and depressed and he needed the relaxation and rejuvenation that this week brought. 

    Bruce had more schooling and had had more jobs then most people have in two or three lifetimes.  A graduate of Moody in Chicago and Trinity in Deerfield, he had completed his doctoral work in Greek, but never finished his dissertation.  He had planted a church while living in the Cabrini Green high rises in Chicago.  He had a passion for the poor and downtrodden.  He had later served as youth minister & pastor for a church here in Portland.  He completed a Masters in Ed Psych and for the past fifteen years or so had taught special education in the public schools around Portland. 

    His wife, Linda, has said several times over the past three days, "People either loved Bruce or hated him."  I corrected her. There was a third category...those who hated him and loved him all at the same time.  (Hated is not really the right word, but I was in that third category).  He was both maddening and irritating and lovable all at the same time.  He had wanted me to hire him on church staff and we could not do it.  He was too abrasive. He spoke his mind too boldly, too plainly.  He was not wrong in what he said...but he was often wrong in how he said it. 

    But mostly I considered him a friend.  We had had some superficial interactions for the first six years I knew him.  After I found out his background I recruited him to lead our Benevolence Ministry Team at the church.  I didn't always agree with his decisions, but he was always clear eyed and fair. 

    But two years ago in May, Bruce came into my office.  He had two concerns.  My sermons were shallow.  There was no meat there (this coming from a man with a doctorate in Greek...come on...what did he expect?).  Additionally, the Bible studies based on the sermons which I was preparing for our small groups were equally shallow.   He had been preparing supplemental (read "meaty") Bible studies to go with the studies for his group and was willing to do the same for all the groups. 

    I was put out.  I was hurt.  "What do you mean shallow?" I thought.  But I DID take it to heart.  I decided, "You want deep, I can show you deep."  I set out a plan to really deepen my preparation.  I went to a Morris Procter workshop on using my Libronix software to a great capacity.  (I HIGHLY recommend both, the software and the workshops). 

    And I believe my preaching was improved because of it. (Never mind that a few months later a group of people came and complained to the elders that my sermons were too deep and lecture-like.  I think I eventually found a better balance.) 

    But after several months, Bruce and I began to meet regularly.  Sometimes once a week...other times we would go a month without meeting. But he did (at least) two things  for me.  He let me talk freely.  He was someone who understood ministry.  He was someone who had been burned by ministry & who wanted me to be more successful at it than he felt he was.  I was able to share things with him that I have been able to share with no one else.  He validated my feelings, even if he challenged my interpretation of events or logic.

    But he also challenged and deepened me.  He would come with a book or a verse or even a word in the Greek and give me "an assignment."  And then, next time, we would talk about it.  I needed that.  It was both good for my mental health, but it was also good for my mind.  Maybe it is snobbery, and if so, so be it.  But I get tired of always having to dumb things down.  Shoot to the least common denominator.   If I hadn't thought about the ramifications of something or had missed an important point in a theological term...he would (like some crotchety old professor) send me back the books (or usually back to my Libronix).

    The medical examiner said that Bruce was trying to cross a log that lay across the stream in slick leather moccasin-like slippers.  He slipped and hit his head on the log. He fell, unconscious, face forward into the creek.  The water, which is snow melt, was barely above freezing and he died of the knock on the head, lack of oxygen from his face laying in the water, and hypothermia.  His body probably laid there in the stream 8-10 hours before some other campers found him.

    I will help lead his memorial service on Thursday.  I grieve for his wife.  I grieve for his friends.  But I also grieve for me. He was someone with whom I could (and did) share freely, knowing that he was committed to total confidentiality, someone who was intellectually stimulating and challenged me to think deeper and harder and longer than I was.  And someone who was both fun and maddening at the same time.

    Without the hope of the resurrection, we of all people would be most miserable.  I will miss him. 

    I already do. 

    Tuesday, July 22, 2008

    Eclov: Browsing the Library of the Lives You Know

    image  In his article on "What Makes a Sermon Deep?"  Lee Eclov gives a good exercise in application as well as making sure that we have covered the objections that will arise in people's minds:

    When I am working through a text, people I've known come to mind. I test the verses against their stories. One Sunday morning years ago I had spoken on a text of great encouragement. After the sermon, a grieving mother came through the hand-shaking line and ambushed me. " It doesn't work, " is all she said. So now when I have a passage like that, I think, " What would keep someone from believing that this works? "

     

    Once when I was preaching about Moses' excuses to God in , I called a pastor I know who stutters. " For Moses, stuttering was an excuse, " I said to him. " Why wasn't it for you? " His answer helped me make the sermon more practical. Many times, I've pushed God in my prayers, " Lord, I think I know what this text says, but I just don't see how it will make much difference to Dave or Marjie. I really don't think people will go home moved by this. What am I missing? " Crash-testing the text against the walls of real lives helps me find the weaknesses in my sermons and make them strong enough to keep people safe in real life.

    I am afraid that I think of the objections intellectually, but I don't think of the objections in living something out.   Good thoughts. 

    Monday, July 21, 2008

    Don't Substitute Fact Finding for Thinking

    image I have been really blessed  by an article by Lee Eclov, "What Makes a Sermon Deep?". 

    It is a relatively short article, but has several really helpful comments.  One of the ones that hit me hard was "Don't substitute endless fact-finding for thinking.

    Folks who love to study [that's me] never want to stop. [me again].  There is always one more word to trace, one more commentator to check out, a leftover handful o cross-references to read.  But there is limited time to prepare a sermon, and if we take all our time in research and writing, we leave no time to ponder.  We are not preparing a term paper; we are preparing our hearts as much as our heads.

    I think that this goes well with the previous post on Bible teaching.  Obviously there is nothing wrong with teaching the Bible...it is an essential part of preaching.  But it is not the sum of preaching.  Preaching must reach the heart as much as the head. 

    It Always Becomes Leah

    Tim Keller preached on Genesis 29:15-35 (Jacobs marriages to image Leah & Rachel).  At one point he says,

    "No matter what your hopes for a project, no matter what your hopes for marriage, no matter what you hopes for a career, no matter what you hope in, in the morning it will always be Leah.  No matter what you think is Rachel, it will always be Leah."

    Is he being cynical, or do you agree with his words.  I can't decide.  On the one hand, I understand that if we put our ultimate trust in anything else besides Christ, it will disappoint.  But I almost feel like he overstates the case.  On the other hand, there is a part of me that totally agrees with his statement. But since I struggle with the sin of cynicism, I am cautious. 

    What do you think?

    Sunday, July 20, 2008

    Teach the Bible or Preach Christ?

    image

    Charles Saville points to a blog post by a blogger with whom I  was unfamiliar:  Michael Jensen from the UK.   Charles disagrees with the person Jensen quotes and thinks that he has set up a straw-man. 

    What do you think?

    I was speaking with a prominent English conservative evangelical not so long ago, and we were talking about preaching. He had a gripe: the phrase 'bible teaching' (and the idea of 'bible churches', too). It has crept into the evangelical vocabulary to describe what used to be called 'preaching'. A church is great, we will say, because 'the bible teaching is excellent'. But, he said, the vocab change is significant: it represents a shift to a more cognitive, flat and explanatory style of discourse. The hearers will not be exhorted or edified so much as 'taught'. What's more, and perhaps more seriously, we talk less of preaching Christ, but of teaching the Bible. A subtle but significant difference perhaps?

    Is this vocabulary to be encouraged, or is the English preacher right?

    (Find the original here.)

    I waver back and forth on this: on the one hand, to preach Christ and to teach the Bible can and should co-exist together. 

    But I think that there is a point to be made in this brother's words.  It is easy to fill notebooks with Bible notes and for our church folks to KNOW a lot about the Bible, but never be moved to repentance.  Never be moved to submission to Christ.  Never be moved to action. 

    What do you think? 

    Saturday, July 19, 2008

    Seth Godin: How to Make Everyone Happy

    Seth Godin is a fun writer and a perceptive guy. Not a believer, as far as I can see, but still a perceptive guy. image

    Anyway, a while back he referenced a news article about the city of Folsom, CA.  They had built a $117 million bridge and it needed to be named.  

    Here's Seth:

    How about "Johnny Cash"? He's famous, he made Folsom famous, he's dead, his daughter said yes, he has fans, they need tourists... you get the idea.

     

    City Council votes 4 to 1 against.

     

    The two key money quotes:

    “Why would we promote a prison? We are known for a lot more things than the prison.”

    and my favorite:

    In regards to the Folsom Lake Crossing name, King said “just about everybody I’ve talked to is happy.”

     

    Here's the takeaway: If you are willing to satisfy people with good enough, you can make just about everybody happy. If you delight people and create change that lasts, you're going to offend those that hate change in all its forms. Your choice.

    How often do we find that in ministry.  If you are willing to satisfy people with "good enough" you can make just about everybody happy.  But real change, good change, God-led change...now THAT'S a different story. 

    Here's the original post: Seth's Blog: How to make everyone happy

    Wednesday, July 16, 2008

    Ticklish Ears in the Pews

    image I was recently exposed to the Blog of Trevin Wax (what a GREAT name!)  On his blog Kingdom People, he talked about "itching ears".

    We are all familiar with the scripture from 2 Tim. 4:3: “For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions…”

    Pastors who tickle the ears. Many of us read this verse and nod our heads in agreement.

    Ahh, yes. Lord, deliver us from the liberals who don’t believe anything and don’t preach anything!

    Lord, deliver us from those who give good advice and moral platitudes without the good news of individual salvation!

    Lord, deliver us from the stand-up comics who fill stadiums with ear-tickling, side-splitting sermons that are all about us and not about God!

    But are these the only examples of preaching that tickles the ear?

    Is it possible to preach harshly against certain sins and yet still be an ear-tickling preacher?

    I say yes, and here’s why.

    The human heart is deceitful and desperately wicked. We think that preaching hard messages with hard truths will necessarily keep us out of the “ear-tickling” category. But such is not the case. Paul tells Timothy that itching ears want teachers who will tell them what they want to hear. And many congregations hope to hear a preacher who every week will tell them what’s wrong with everybody else.

    Itching ears? Judge for yourself.

    The congregation of teetotalers who hires a pastor who every week, without fail, will condemn alcohol in the pulpit…

    The congregation of staunch Republicans who hires a pastor that will preach against “the gays, the liberals, and the environmentalist wackos” every week…

    The congregation of Calvinists who hire a pastor that will preach against the errors of those pesky Arminians every week…

    The congregation of door-to-door evangelists who hire a pastor that will rail against all the namby-pamby ”lifestyle” conversations that pass for evangelism in this day…

    Can you hear the hearty “Amens” coming from the pews? Yes, Lord! Help us not to be like those timid Christians! Help us not be like those divine-sovereignty-denying Arminians! Thank you, Lord for delivering us from the liberals of this country! Thank you, Lord that we’re not like the social drinkers!

    Suddenly, the Amen corner sounds more like the Pharisee than the tax collector.

    Read the rest here.

    Friday, July 11, 2008

    Paul: Varying the Method to the Audience

    image I am continuing my sermon series on Acts and this Sunday I am in Acts 8 and Paul's sermon to the philosophers in Athens.  In researching on the speeches in Acts, I found an article by Wm. Barclay very helpful.  (Thanks Colin Adams!) 

    I was unaware that we only have three evangelistic sermons from Paul.  We have sermons to churches, but only the summary of three sermons to non-believers by Paul. 

    But the most cursory look at those three sermons show how very, very differently Paul crafted the sermons.  Listen (in the words of William Barclay) as to the most basic of those differences. 

    • Pisidian Antioch- preaching in a synagogue to Jews, to proselytes and to God-fearers. He therefore began in Jewish history, and used the Old Testament as an arsenal of prooftexts to prove his case.
    • Athens-In Athens he began from local religious worship, and he quoted from the Greek poets (Acts 17:28).
    • Lystra-In Lystra he was out in the wilds. Certainly no one there would know anything about Jewish history or Jewish scriptures. Lystra had not the widely disseminated culture of Athens, and there was no point in quoting the Greek poets. He therefore started straight from nature, from the sun and the wind and the rain and the growing things. In his missionary approach Paul had no set scheme and formula; his approach was completely flexible. He began where his audience was.

    Again, all that this really does is reinforce the importance of exegeting the culture where one is preaching. 

    Monday, July 7, 2008

    Journaling as a Part of Sermon Prep

    image Charles Savelle over at BibleX points to a helpful post over at ExpositionaLogistix on journaling as a part of sermon preparation. 

    I have tried various forms of this and have not been particularly successful with it, but I think that Matt makes some good points. 

    Find it here.

    Sunday, July 6, 2008

    The Preachers Library...

    I have the quote of the day feature on my Google homepage. Today's is too humorous not to share (or too realistic, I'm not sure which).

    Books to the ceiling,
    Books to the sky,
    My pile of books is a mile high.
    How I love them! How I need them!
    I'll have a long beard by the time I read them. - Arnold Lobel

    image

    Saturday, July 5, 2008

    Camp is Ending: Spirituality and Children's Happiness

    Spirituality is a major contributor to a child’s overall happiness (more so than for adults), finds a University of British Columbia study. Past studies have shown that in adults, spiritual feelings and higher levels of religious behavior typically account for about 5% of a person’s overall happiness. Surprisingly, the results of the study found 6.5% to 16.5% of children’s happiness can be accounted for by spirituality.
    USA Today 3/25/08 via Church Leaders Intelligence Report

    So Far I Only Have One...

    image

    Friday, July 4, 2008

    Devotional Works on Deuteronomy

    image I am using the Global Bible Reader from Libronix as my devotional guide this year.  I am using M'Cheyne's Bible reading schedule (through OT one time, through NT & Psalms twice in a year).  I have just finished Deuteronomy and have not found it particularly uplifting.  I don't know why, but this time I found that book particularly hard to enjoy and benefit from.  The "Global" aspect of the "Global Bible Reader" is that you are reading with people from all around the globe and you can comment on the readings and people, literally from around the world, can respond. I asked for advice on devotional commentaries on Deuteronomy and here is what I got: 

    Newtownabbey, UK:  Pentateuch by CHM, David Guzik online commentary, Be Equipped (Wiersbe),

    Lancaster PA: The Gospel in Deuteronomy by Henry Law

    If you were to recommend a devotional commentary on Deuteronomy, what would you suggest? 

    Dying Well

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    "The work of dying well is, in largest part, the work of living well." --John Richard Neuhaus As I Lay Dying: Meditations Upon Returning

    Wednesday, July 2, 2008

    The Second Night Telling the Story at Bonfire

    Me Speaking at Bonfire1

    Thanks to Sammy Rust for the pic.  The benches are in a complete circle...yes there are people in front of me to whom I am speaking!

    And God Said, "Just Do It" - TIME

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    Sorry...my preaching calendar is full this year, but it is a fascinating concept. 

    And God Said, "Just Do It" - TIME

    Sound System Update

    An update on last night's message and the sound system.  When  I arrived at the bonfire area, I was __________ (add in an imageadjective for frustrated and upset).   The sound system that I had worked with and gotten to work was now completely gone!  There was no amplifier or speakers even to be seen.  I was really agitated.  Fortunately, I had arrived 40 minutes before I was to speak so that I had time to remedy this "travesty"!  I went hunting around for the people in authority to find out what had happened.  Fortunately I ran across Tom R (in charge of taking kids fishing on the lake this week & the chair of my elders).  He had one of the walkie-talkies.  I asked him if he could call up one of the directors. At first I didn't tell him why, but after I did, he "enlightened" me.  One of the kitchen guys who had been really obviously agitated about how bad the sound system had been the night before had come in after I had worked on it and totally physically rebuilt the system.  The speakers (new speakers) were located in the speaker boxes mounted on trees--like they were supposed to be.  He had physically rewired everything and taken away the old corroded amp and replaced it with a new one.  It also was tucked away in the case hanging on the wall...as it was supposed to be!!!  It worked like a dream!  Again, the body of Christ came through.  An audiophile that I did not even know about came and did his role in the body.  Thanks John H (although I'm sure he doesn't read this) and thanks God for creating the body of Christ!

    Buzzard: Evolution English Into Not Understand

    image Justin Buzzard points to a fascinating article in Wired magazine on how English is Evolving Into a Language We May Not Even Understand.  It points out that today most conversations in English are between people for whom English is not their native tongue.  It is the new lingua franca.  By 2020 only 20% of those speaking English will be native speakers. 

    The upshot?  More and more "acceptable" English will begin to sound like Chinese.  How and if this will affect American preaching in MY lifetime is problematic, but it certainly could affect preaching around the world and preaching in America in the next generation or two. 

    Fascinating article.  Find it here.

    Tuesday, July 1, 2008

    ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS...Check the Sound System

    image Too often I think that in preaching, my only responsibilities are to prepare an appropriate message and deliver it to the best of my ability.  Both of those ARE my responsibilities. 

    But it is also part of my responsibility to make sure that I can be heard.  And that includes making sure that the sound system is up and functional (if one is used). 

    Example: The last two nights I have been speaking at bonfire here at this youth camp.  BOTH nights there were MAJOR sound issues.  The first night I showed up a little early to check out the system (half-way the right thing to do--I should have done it much earlier.)  I found that the one that was there was TOTALLY unfunctional.  I tried to work my ten-thumbs magic on it, but could never get it to work.  The musicians started and there was a mid-level panic to find an alternative.  I kept saying that I would just speak without a sound system.  That is what they taught us to do back in the days when we were taught homiletics in the early 70's.  (But that is a rant for another post). Even though for some reason it was OK for the musicians not to use a sound system & the camp director to make announcements without a sound system, it was not OK for ME to preach naked (without a system).

    After the musicians "punted" we were able to get a portable system down from another building and get it set up.  I had to use a wired microphone, but it worked fair.  It actually was much better than Tuesday night.  I was told that "they" would take responsibility for getting the system brought down each night and set up.  I "didn't need to worry."

    So last night I show up at the last minute (HUGE UNFORGIVEABLE MISTAKE) and find that an entirely different system is in place. Not the one that was there the night before and, instead of using the wired mic from the night before, I am to go back to using the lavaliere.  I had noticed that the lav didn't have a clip on it (to attach it to my clothes), but since I was now using the wired mic, no need to think about it .  Now it HAD to think about it. 

    And although there was a system in place, it had not been adequately checked.   It squealed to high heaven almost everywhere in my speaking area.  The only place it didn't squeal much was right against the bonfire--literally RIGHT against the bonfire. So here I am in a sweatshirt that I can't remove quickly because I have paper clipped a wireless mic to it, trying to speak and not move because if I move either the system drops me or it squeals.  Yikes!!! I got hotter and hotter and hotter and at one point my mind literally was thinking, OK if your clothes catch on fire, drop and roll...drop and roll. 

    So you know what I did this afternoon.  I was over at the empty bonfire area, hauling out the sound system, setting it up in different configurations and making sure I could be heard. EXACTLY the thing I should have done Sunday afternoon before my first speaking presentation.

    Part of my responsibility is to make sure that I can be heard.  Normally, I am blessed with conscientious and talented sound personnel who make me sound great! (As great as they can considering the material they have to work with.)  And I am VERY thankful for them.  But ultimately it is MY responsibility to make sure that the processes and people are in place so that the message God gives me can be heard.  Hopefully tonight I have that taken care of....

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