Wednesday, January 28, 2009

2009 Sermon Calendar Files for Logos

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If you use Logos Bible software, you are probably familiar with Morris Procter.  Morris is the “official trainer” for Libronix (the technical name for Logos).  He runs training seminars around the country that I have been two and they are really quite good.

On his website he often offers “freebie” add-ons and he has done one recently that is really helpful for you in sermon planning.  You COULD manually set up a notes file for every Sunday of the year and then in your preparation, drag notes and illustrations on the text for that Sunday into the note file. 

But Morris has already done that for you.  You can see instructions on how to do this and the download link here.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Hunker Down or Dream It’s your call.

imageThe 7 Steps to Hunkering Down:
1. Stay scared. Call it “street smart.”
2. Cultivate cynicism. Call it “straight talk.”
3. Praise pessimism. Call it a “reality check.”
4. Believe you are wiser than everyone else.
5. Feel secretly superior.
6. Take no action that might improve your condition.
7. Crow “I told you so” when things get worse.

Or The 7 Steps to Pursuing Your Dream:
1. Know what you’re trying to make happen.
2. Expect good things to happen for you.
3. Plant seeds of good things daily.
4. Trust that some of your seeds will grow.
5. Measure success by your own criteria.
6. Make progress daily without fail.
7. Believe in the power of the Exponential Little Bits.

(Monday Morning Memo from Wizard of Ads 1/19/09)

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Reflections on the Last Sermon at a Church

tcc_frontSo, today I preached my last sermon at TCC.  After 26 years of preaching ministry and 30 total years of “professional” ministry experience (sorry John Piper), I preached my last sermon at TCC today.  I have preached a final sermon three times before…when I left as Associate Minister of a church in upper east Tennessee (1983), when I left as the solo pastor of a church in Benton, KS (1987) and when I left as senior pastor of our church in Garden City, KS (1999).  But today I preached my last sermon at Tigard Christian Church in Portland, OR.  I don’t know why, but I kind of have the sense it may be the last sermon I ever preach as the minister of a church.  I don’t mean that to sound dramatic, but neither my wife nor I really feel that God is leading us to another church, and even if he does, a break from the politics of located ministry sounds welcome. 

So what do you say on your last Sunday?  I very vaguely remember the first two.  (No electronic copy of the notes in my computer from those “dark ages”!)

At the church where I was associate minister, I wasn’t all that excited about leaving the church in the hands of the new senior minister who had been there a year or so when I left.  I brashly thought I could do as good a job as he could.  I was probably a little brazen in encouraging the church to keep their eye focused on goals that I knew were not really the forte or desire of the new guy. I remember later reflecting and thinking I was pretty brash and not totally appropriate.

The next church was a smallish country church, basically run by two families.   I was not totally disappointed to be leaving, but I remember preaching on what I had tried to accomplish there.  It didn’t seem to make much difference, because the church is almost dead today.

My last church before this one was a church where we were dearly loved.  I knew that the next guys biggest problem was going to be “But Cal didn’t do it that way!” (And I was right!)  I had gotten advice (I think it was from John Maxwell…I was big into John Maxwell in those days) that it was important for people to see my clay feet so that the people knew I was human and the new guy would be human, too.   And so I spent most of the time simply telling stories.(There really was a text—it was Phil. 2:1-8, 11-13.  And there even was a fairly good outline (I say that in retrospect):

My challenge as the church goes forward:

  1. Take God’s Word Seriously (v. 1)
  2. Be a People Who Trust One Another (v. 2)
  3. Be Open to the Work of the Holy Spirit (3-4a)
  4. Be Oriented to the Future Rather than to the Past (4b-6)
  5. Have Clearly Understood Goals
  6. Be a Place Where Each Believer is a Minister (7-8, 11-13)

(I think the list really came from Lyle Schaller)

But today was different.

The elders desire to take the congregation in a different direction (it appears) and they have let me go.  It seemed presumptuous for me to try to challenge the church to go in any direction, when I have no idea what the continuing leadership wants to do.

Telling funny stories seemed crass.  I wasn’t really in a mood for laughter & joviality.

And so, in explaining to the congregation about this, (without the elder part) I simply said that I hoped my ministry would be remembered as one where people were drawn to a love for God’s Word and wanted to delve more into the Word as a result of my preaching.  I just simply preached a Bible sermon.  Very few references to our departure or the future of the church. 

I have been in a series on our Identity in Christ, and months ago had scheduled to preach today on 2 Cor. 5.17: “I am a new creation in Christ.”

My theme was: “You are a new creation in Christ” means we are free from the bondage of sin; that we are perfect in Christ; & that God is able to bring newness out of our hurts.”

I felt like I was faithful to the call of God to preach the Word.  Whether or not I ever again preach regularly in a church or not, I know that I was faithful to preaching the Word.  That is the most anyone can  ask of a preacher. 

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Interesting Misc Stats Gleaned From The Foster Letter

Foster Letter Jan 15 08 Children living with both biological or adoptive parents who attend religious services regularly are less likely to exhibit problems at school or at home, reveals a Child Trends study. A new analysis of national data shows children in such a situation (when compared to children not living with both parents and not attending religious services regularly) are 5.5 times less likely to have repeated a grade and 2.5 times less likely to have had their parents contacted by the school due to a conduct or achievement problem. (Baptist Press 12/3/08)

Customized Religion By a 3 to 1 margin (71% to 26%), Americans are more likely to develop their own set of religious beliefs than accept a comprehensive set of beliefs taught by a church or denomination, finds a Barna study. George Barna observes a growing number of people are serving as their own “theologian-in-residence,” resulting in Americans embracing an “unpredictable and contradictory body of beliefs.” Leading the pack are those under 25. 82% of them develop their own blend of beliefs rather than adopt a set offered by a church. Although born-again Christians are the least likely to adopt an a la carte approach, 61% say they have mixed their set of beliefs. (Barna Update 1/12/09)

Good Idea Here’s a number worth putting in your cell phone: 1-800-goog-411 (-800-466-4411). It’s a free service from Google— great when you are on the road. The voice at the other end says, “City & State.”  You say, “Garland , Texas.”  He says, “Business, Name or Type of Service.”  You say, “John’s Bookstore.”  He says, “Connecting…” and that’s it. (For more click on http://www.google.com/goog411.)

Words U.S. Parents Use to describe their home: 74% - Supportive, 71% - Positive, 69% - Encouraging, 69% - Active, 57% - Joyful, 51% - Relaxed, 50% - Optimistic, 40% - Noisy, 39% - Peaceful, 34% - Stressful, 18% - Argumentative, 14% - Confrontational, 8% - Critical, 4% - Negative, 3% - Pessimistic (The Parenting Adventure: Preparing Your Children for a Lifetime with God, by Rodney & Selma Wilson and Scott McConnell, B&H Publishing, 2009).

84% of Americans “think they live a simple life,” finds the Barna Group.

Find more info about The Foster Letter here.

Friday, January 23, 2009

One Pastor’s Perspective on Having an Expository Preaching Church


While the following quote it a little bit over-the-top, I appreciate the spirit that it communicates:


Pastors must develop congregations that facilitate expository preaching at every level of parish life and ministry. They must engender support for this exegetical process in five different ways.

  • First, they must develop the discipline of thorough study in their own libraries.
  • Secondly, they must teach staff to complement their study schedules by taking up slack in other pastoral duties left by the preacher.
  • Thirdly, they must train their secretaries and administrative personnel to aggressively protect their sermon preparation time.
  • Fourthly, they must ensure that their families understand and accept that the preacher must complete his exegesis and expository preparations before any other priority in the weekly schedule is addressed.
  • Finally, they must help the congregation grow to the point where they both expect and even demand solid exposition rooted in diligent study (Michael F. Ross, Preaching for Revitalization [Mentor: 2006], 213).

The quote comes from Michael F. Ross’s 2006 book, “Preaching for Revitalization.” I found the quote at How to Have an Expository Preaching Church on Pastor's Perspective blog.

The only beef I would have with Jim Kang, the author of the post is that he presumes that he stresses how this quote should be taken to heart by small church/ church plant pastors because (in his view) small church pastors are more easily distracted by the desire to be men-pleasers and they have to wear many, many hats. Sorry Jim…this advice is needed by ALL preaching pastors. It doesn’t get any easier to focus as the church grows. You still wear as many hats, although they may be different hats. The need for diligence in attention to expository preparation is critical for preachers of churches of all sizes and stripes.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Follow-up on Yesterday’s Post

image Came across this today and thought it fit in well with yesterday’s post:

By three methods we my learn wisdom:

  • First by reflection, which is noblest;
  • Second by imitation, which is easiest; and
  • Third by experience, which is the bitterest.

--Confucius (551-479 BC)

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Reminiscences vs. Remembrance vs. Recollection

 

image This may seem like a purely intellectual rambling, but it is the space where I am. 

I am continuing to (slowly) work my way through Extemporaneous Oratory by James M. Buckley (1898).  For whatever it is worth, I am finding it very fascinating. 

In his book, Buckley has a chapter on “The Value and Tyranny of Reminiscences.” In preparation for preaching without notes, or more specifically, “extemporaneous preaching” he looks at the subject of memory.  He differentiates the three types of memory listed in the title of this post: Reminiscences, Remembrance, and Recollection. 

He differentiates them in this way:

Remembrance is the ability to recognize that we have had a thought or experience when reminded of it by others.  It does not necessarily come to mind spontaneously, but when “reminded” of it by another person,or event, we have the ability to remember that the event occurred.  We may not be able to remember the details or all the facts about the event or thought, but (generally with an outside prompt) we remember that it occurred.

Recollection is “the art of sending the mind to rummage the brain, as one might search a library for a book which he knows is there.”  (p. 118)  I remember that my parents took me to the School of Ministry at Milligan College in upper east Tennessee in the early 1960’s.  I remember certain things about the trip, but they are disjointed and have no particular meaning for me other than I can remember that they occurred. I don’t need prompting. I very definitely can pull up isolated memories of the event.

Reminiscence is a deeper experience than either of the previous two.  It is “a narration of the circumstances, sensations, and reflections of individual experience….  [It is] habitually dwelling on the incidents, characteristics, events, within one’s own knowledge, including the books that he has read and the conversations he has had.” (p. 118-9)  (Yes, brother Buckley lived before the days of politically correct gender neutered speech).

Buckley stresses the importance in reminiscence as necessary preparation for extemporaneous preaching. 

As we reminisce about what we have felt, seen, smelled, tasted or heard, it does several things. It helps us prepare to recount those experiences in a more impactful way rather than just telling the mere fact that an event happened. It helps the audience understand the power in the moment, the tension in what was experienced.  They can identify the emotion as being familiar to similar emotions they have felt in other experiences.

It also helps us synthesize experiences.  As I reminisce about one experience, the emotions, smells, etc. can remind me of another.  As I then compare and contrast those two situations/experiences it can lead to deeper understanding and insight. 

But specifically for extemporaneous preaching, it allows these memories to be held so that they can be raised on a moments notice when something in our preaching suddenly brings back the particular reminiscence, thus making our speaking more interesting, more insightful and more impactful. I guess I like to think of it as putting another building block in the pile that the Holy spirit can draw from as he leads me in the act of preaching.

Buckley says that reminiscences are image

“the primary source of originality of oratory, poetry and conversation. Their specific character accounts for the ever-varied and fresh manner in which real orators are able to treat the same topic, and in a series of meetings may entrance audiences by eloquence upon a subject which, to the common mind, would not seem likely to furnish the materials for an hour’s good speaking.”

Of course, this demands several things. It demands that we actually pay attention to our surroundings!  We must become more sensitive both to what is happening around us, and also to the smells, the sounds, the sights, the connected emotions, etc.  How would I describe this situation that just happened five years from now to help someone relive it?

Second, the use of an indexed journal is critical as well.  Not just a journal. But a journal that is indexed as to the types of experiences that are in it so that even though we have forgotten all of the details of an event, we can use the tools of “remembrance” or “recollection” to point us to recapturing the reminiscence.

There is a balance needed, however, stresses Buckley.  By using reminiscence in excess we can fail to focus on today.  We can be so captured by the lessons learned from our past experiences and so enamored by our re-telling of them that we fail to make the connection with how the principles learned “back then” apply or relate to our situation and problems today.  We have all seen this in what we might call “ramblings” of older men (or women) who tell story after story of “the way it used to be” or what they did “back then” without any relationship to today and what people in today’s culture, setting and situations can learn from the reminiscences of the past. 

I think that this chapter in Buckley was/is so pregnant with meaning for me currently because I am boxing up my books and office and saying goodbye to people.  A week from today will have preached my last sermon at this church.  So much of what I am experiencing raises so much emotion:

  • comparing and contrasting leaving this church with leaving the three other churches I have served.  Leaving a student ministry after four years of service where I served mostly as part-time education and youth minister.  Leaving my first solo ministry after three and a half years of service where I first really learned to preach and to give pastoral care and leadership.  Leaving my longest ministry (of 13 years) where we built a strong congregation, discipled leaders, built buildings and sent out scores of preachers and Christian workers. (I really don’t think that that is an exaggeration).  To now, being asked to leave a ministry (for the first time in my life) after nine years.  I won’t, in a public forum like a bog, air dirty laundry, but the contrasts are stark.  And yet there are also points of comparison.  Those are the things upon which I need to reminisce. 
  • trying to capture what lessons and experiences I have learned from this nine-year ministry.  While there has been much frustration in this ministry; much has gone right.  What situations do I need to reminiscence on a bit more to settle them in my mind or to get down in my journal so that they can be shared in appropriate times in the future? And there have been many precious people with whom I have had the privilege of serving and being served.  What lessons and experiences do I need to capture so that they are not lost.  That includes #3:
  • whether I move into another preaching ministry, or ministry of another kind, or teaching at the college level, or secular employment, or whatever, I don’t want to waste the experience I am currently having here.   I read an article (referred to me by a Timothy of this congregation who was at death’s door a year ago with a life threatening health condition) on not wasting your cancer. It is an article by John Piper and I may reflect on it at a later time.  But the point for here is that I very much don’t to waste the experience of leaving this church under stressful circumstances. That includes both leaving under duress, but also doing so with a fresh diagnosis of cancer.  It would be easy to cast stones & paint myself as the victim of a lay leadership gone amuck.  But that is not totally true or the complete picture.  I must not waste this current experience.  So what events do I need to reminisce about to capture them for future learning?

What about you?  Do you reminisce in a helpful way?  You don’t have to be a 52 year old veteran of 30 years of ministry to be able to reminisce.  From your first experience in ministry on…actually from your first experience in LIFE on….you have the fodder for helpful reminiscing. 

I think it is called the building of wisdom.  Let’s do it wisely.  Not only that we may preach better…but that we may LIVE better.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

The Dismantling Has Begun

The process of packing, moving & putting into storage around 2,000 volumes plus a small business office has begun.  

IMG00006

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

I'll Be Back After a Bit

I know I posted this a week ago...but I want to keep it near the top of my blog for a while until I return.

"Sorry to not have blogged recently. With being released from my church and being diagnosed with cancer all coming at the same time, my life is a bit of a whirl right now. I will be back, but please stick with me."

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Looking for Visual or Audio Resources?

imageIf you use many visual aids in your sermons, (like for Power-Point) Mark G. Vitalis Hoffman (at his site Biblical Studies & Technological Tools) has a nice page putting together a listing of many web resources for pictures, music and videos.  While it is far from complete, it is nice to have this listing together in one place. 

You can find the page here.

 

(The picture is simply one I drew from one of the sites Mark mentions:  “Art and the Bible”  The painting is entitled, “Joseph’s Dream” and was painted by Georges Dumesnil de La Tour (1593 – 1652)

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

I Guess I’ll Just Stick With the Bible

image Maybe you have heard about the announcement that the American Folklife Center is looking for copies of sermons/orations regarding the inauguration of Barak Obama as president. 

They state:

On January 20, 2009, the United States will inaugurate Barack Obama, the country’s first African American president. In anticipation of citizens’ efforts to mark this historic time around the country, the American Folklife Center will be collecting audio and video recordings of sermons and orations that comment on the significance of the inauguration of 2009. It is expected that such sermons and orations will be delivered at churches, synagogues, mosques and other places of worship, as well as before humanist congregations and other secular gatherings.

Probably nothing I will do or submit, but if you want more information, you can find it here.

Thanks Justin Buzzard

Justin Buzzard over at buzzardblog.com providentially (I believe) posted this today.  It is a help to me:

For a long time it seemed to me that life was about to begin - real life. But there was always some obstacle in the way, something to be gotten through first, some unfinished business, time to still be served, a debt to be paid. Then life would begin. At last it dawned on me that these obstacles were my life.                                                     -Alfred Souza

I’ll Be Back After a Bit

Sorry to not have blogged recently. With being released from my church and being diagnosed with cancer all coming at the same time, my life is a bit of a whirl right now.  I will be back, but please stick with me. 

In the Meantime

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I had literally just posted the last post when I remembered an item about which I had been wanting to write.  As I am reading “Extemporaneous  Oratory” by James Buckley (copyright 1898), he notes the importance of regularly checking (or having someone else check) the length of the words you use.  What?

It is fairly simple.  He says, if we use very simple, particularly one syllable words it is hard to give adequate inflection and rhythm to the sermon which makes is flat and boring to listen to:

A due proportion of short and long words is necessary. If all are short, the oration will be fragmentary, and afford little room for inflection or for genuine rhythm. Although by the rising or falling inflection, or by drawling, a word of one syllable can be made to express very different ideas, it is difficult to construct a sentence of such words in prose and make proper use of inflection. Words of two syllables are easily inflected.

He warns, however, that too many long and complex words can like-wise put our listeners to sleep:

For the sake of inflection and rhythm, and the opportunity of developing the full strength of mighty voices, together, doubtless, with a natural tendency to ostentation, many speakers are inclined to use polysyllabic words. This is a serious error; it weakens the style, renders the delivery bombastic, produces little effect on a cultivated audience; and a continuous discourse consisting chiefly of long words delivered with their corresponding tone has the fatal defect of exerting a soporific influence.

The most effective style is that which contains a sufficiency of long words to produce an impression by their inflection and  continuous flow; and short ones which, according to position, will have the effect of an electric shock or an epigrammatic sparkle.

He then gives this funny example:

Dr. Skinner, of high renown in the city of New York half a century ago, was unable to use short words. Impressed with the
necessity of addressing the Sunday school, which was then becoming popular and promised to be of great usefulness, he consented to make an address, and began thus: "The Westminster Catechism is an admirable syllabus of Christian doctrine." The
superintendent gently intimated to him that the children could not understand him, upon which he said: "Your superintendent says you cannot understand me. I will explain. Syllabus, my dear children, is synonymous with synopsis."

Now, keep in mind that that was written formally in 1898 and we (most of us) neither speak nor write that way.  But I think his point is well made.   In our culture, I fear that the tendency is toward the first: “dumbing down” our sermons to the lowest possible denominator.  (Or, heaven forbid, the preachers are not educated enough to use exact vocabulary).   The sermon is not a seminary lecture, but neither is it a Junior Church object lesson.  There MUST be balance.

More later.

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