Tuesday, March 31, 2009

A Preaching Bible?

Literal-Dynamic Continuum

One of my friends/Timothys, Daniel Karestai sent me a request for a blog post:

Hey Cal...can I submit a blog topic request? I'm having a difficult time finding a preaching Bible. I'd like a translation that's pretty close to the Greek (not necessarily literally, but a text that captures the meaning), easy to read in public (unlike NASB and NRSV) and doesn't weigh five pounds. any suggestions?

The above chart is one that I used in the Principles of Biblical Interpretation class that I taught at the Genesis Training Center a couple of months ago. Most of the information comes from Gordon Fee’s How to Read the Bible for All It’s Worth, which is an excellent resource. 

While one might quibble with a few of the placements, here is my take on it:

I have used the NIV  for twenty years or so. (RSV before that).  I am increasingly dissatisfied with it, but it is the pew Bible that most of the churches in whose circles I move use.  I can reference others, but have hesitated until the past couple of years to use others except for cross-referencing, and then when I do, I put the translation abbreviation on the screen with the text. 

In the past couple of years at TCC, I began to use the TNIV, partly because I liked the changes they had made, including making the gender references more accurate than the NIV.   Partly it was also, I will admit, a reaction to James Dobson & his Luddite thugs who blackmailed Zondervan into making an academically untenable promise: that they would NEVER change the text of the NIV, no matter what textual evidence arose or literary changes occurred.

If I were starting at a church today, I would probably go with the NRSV.  I used the old RSV for 12-13 years (1974-87) and always felt a fondness for it. I think that the NRSV is stronger, however. I would be interested to know what you find unreadable about the NRSV.

I will admit a basic ignorance of the ESV.  It came out about the same time as the Revised English Bible and the Holman Christian Standard Version.  The REB was basically just an update of the British NEB, which, while I like it has too many Britishism to make it practical for public use in an American church.  The Holman version is basically (as I understand it) the RSV adjusted to be in line with Southern Baptist doctrine.  Not my idea of good translation philosophy.

But I lumped the ESV in with the other two, perhaps unfairly.  I know that Morris Proctor in his Libronix workshops has switched to totally using the ESV, and it appeared at his workshop I attended last summer that most of the participants use it as well.

I stopped in Monergism bookstore here in Tigard a few weeks back. (It is an ultra-reformed bookstore that is the distribution arm of the reformationtheology.com blog of John Hendryx, also from here in Portland. While there I talked with one of the sales guys there because I noted that the ESV was the only translation they carried.  They carried lots and lots of versions of it, but only the ESV.   He directed me to the ESV website (www.esv.com) and its translation philosophy (http://www.esv.org/translation/philosophy).  I really need to just get a copy of the text and spend some time reading it.   It may be a nice compromise between my personal affinity for the NRSV and what could actually get used in the more conservative churches in which I have served (and presumably will serve again).   My main problem with it (probably) will be that I don’t believe that it is gender neutral.  I don’t want the garbage about “Jesus, the Child of God” and “God, our Father/Mother who art in heaven,” but the English language has long sense stopped using “man” and “men” to refer to both genders, as it did in the past. Unless we are going to remain totally irrelevant (and offensive for the wrong reasons) to our world, we need to recognize that gender neutrality MUST be taken seriously in any translation that gets consideration for public use.

Dan, that may be more than what you wanted, but hopefully it  gives you an idea.  I probably would go the NRSV, but would check out the ESV before making a final decision.  If the NRSV is unreadable by you, it could be that the TNIV would best serve you.

Do others of my readers have input?  (I suspect [and hope] that you do). Share it with the rest of us.  If possible, please comment here on the blog rather than e-mailing me personally.  It encourages others to comment when they see that you are commenting.  cph.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Libronix Personal Book of Cicero’s The Orator

libronixIf you have the Bible software put out by Logos using the Libronix engine, you are probably familiar with PBBs:  Personal Book Builder.  It is a tool that allows you to build books that can be used from within the Logos software.  I mostly use it to produce books that have been of historical importance within the Restoration Movement (the fellowship of which I am a part). 

But in checking out the original of “The Orator” for my previous post, I produced a simple PBB of Cicero’s De Optimo Genere Oratorum (“On the Best Style of Orators).

If you have Logos software and can “read” PBBs (it take a special key that is only in boxed sets of Logos software), you are welcome to download Cicero’s “The Orator.”

You can find it at www.calhabig.com/articles.html.  The Cicero PBB is located toward the bottom of the page.

To Instruct, To Delight and To Move

In the article that I referenced recently from Christian Century (“Stand and Deliver”), the author, Jason Byassee (the director of the imageCenter for Theology, Writing & Media at Duke Divinity School) advocates that all speakers, Christian or not share three imperatives: 

Cicero’s description of the three-part task of rhetoric applies equally  to [preachers] and to secular performers: they seek to instruct, to delight and to move.

The citation is from De Optimo Genere Oratorum (“On the Best Style of Orators)

In The Mirror of Language: A Study in the Medieval Theory of Knowledge, (University of Nebraska Press, 1983) Marcia L. Colish expands on this:

The orator has three aims, “to prove, to please, to sway.”  Of these three objectives, persuasion is the most important: “The supreme orator, then is the one whose speech instructs, delights, and moves the minds of the audience.  The orator is duty bound to instruct, giving pleasure is a free gift to the audience; to move them is indispensable.

Colish’s quote/paraphrase is not quite accurate and I believe the difference is important. The original states that “to delight, is indispensably requisite to engage the attention.” 

Too many sermons don’t take this aspect of public speaking seriously.  That is why so many sermons are so deadly dull.  To “delight” is important in that it helps our listeners WANT to keep attention. 

 

Saturday, March 28, 2009

The Normal, but Faithful Isaac

I am teaching a class on Old Testament history and this week the students have been interacting online about the Patriarchs. One of the themes was about Isaac. image

The comment could be made (has been made!) that Isaac really doesn’t have much of a role in the book of Genesis on his own.  He is always the foil or the secondary player to bigger stores:  he is the promised son of Sarah, who came even though Abraham and Sarah had tried to bring about God’s will by  introducing Hagar into the equation.

He is the obedient son, whose faith in God (and in his father) is shown by the fact that he (perhaps) allowed himself to be tied up and laid on the alter to the point of watching the knife be raised above him to cut his throat and sacrifice him to YHWH.

Even the story about the search for a wife for Isaac isn’t really about Isaac.  It is about Abraham sending his servant to find a wife.  The servant found Rebecca and brought her back.  Isaac is pretty much in the background throughout the entire section of scripture.

Some have called Isaac (unfairly, I believe) a mothers boy because it says that Rebecca was able to comfort Isaac upon his mother’s death.

The only story where Isaac really appears on his own is the very odd story of Isaac hiding the fact that Rebecca is his wife when they come into the country of Abimelech. Even this story of duplicity is not really even Isaac’s, because in some strange way it has been told before:  when Abraham hid the fact that Sarah is his wife, claiming that she was his sister. 

In the last major scene in which Isaac appears, he again is a second string player in the competition between his sons Jacob & Esau.  He is blind and seen as a puzzled old man who is deceived by his wife regarding which son is which.

Compared to Abraham, Jacob, and Joseph, Isaac plays only a secondary role.

But in saying that, we may be missing the point.  Often what we have recorded are many of the shenanigans of the Patriarchs.  Could it be that we don’t have a lot recorded about Isaac because he was simply a good husband and father who was a worshipper of JHWH?  In many ways he is the representative of many of us.  He has moments of splendor (almost being sacrificed by his father); he has moments of shame (trying to pass his wife off as his sister).  But mostly he is very normal.  He lives a very normal life (for the time).  He was (in this matrix) a simple man of God who did the very best he knew how given the circumstances.  He was not a Joseph, but neither was he Joseph’s brothers:  neither perfectly good nor reprehensibly bad.  He was a simple man who sought to be faithful to his God, to his wife and to his sons.  Those sort of men don’t get a lot of press: even in the Bible.  But that is the type of men & women that most of us are.  Neither perfect saints, nor reprehensible scoundrels.  But men and women who are doing the very best we know how given the circumstances of life. 

May their tribe increase.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Performers In the Pulpit

The current issue of Christian Century has an interesting article on four preachers who either in their past or present were performers imagein one way or another.  (“Stand and Deliver” pp. 20-23) The point of the article is to ask, “What can preachers learn from professional performers in the weekly exercise of their preaching responsibilities?”

The article features four preachers who were/are:

  • A former stand up comedian
  • A former college basketball sports announcer
  • A former opera singer
  • A current professional storyteller

Without just excerpting the article, the conclusions they draw are these:

  • Preachers don’t practice enough (“Some people might be gifted enough to [know when to pause, figure out how to get from A to B to C in his sermon and where he wants certain reactions] in church on the spot, but honestly, not very many.”)
  • Preachers don’t smooth out the wrinkles in the service. (“They don’t realize that professionals practice in order to be more spontaneous.”)
  • Preachers don’t make their presentations interesting enough. 

It is really a helpful article.  If you have access to  the print issue, I would suggest you check it out.  Otherwise, in a couple of weeks when the next issue comes out, you can check out the article on www.christiancentury.org.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

17 Things Seminary Didn’t Teach Me

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Charles Savelle points to a great post by Deepak Reju on the 9 Marks Blog entitled: “17 Things Seminary Didn’t Teach Me.”  Most of us could probably add a half-dozen or more.  That is not a slam on seminaries, but just the reality that there are certain things that formal education can’t teach.  (Just as there are things that unless you learn them in seminary, probably you will not learn in located ministry & your ministry will be hampered because of it.) 

Reju’s list:

  1. How to tell a man his wife just died.
  2. How to tell a couple they should not get married.
  3. How to tell a staff member he is fired.
  4. How to tell my wife that I am depressed.
  5. How to tell someone that he or she is foolish.
  6. How to encourage someone who has given up on life.
  7. How to plead with a man to stay with his wife.
  8. How to give comfort to a woman whose husband just left her.
  9. How to give comfort to a mother who just suffered a miscarriage.

To find the rest of the list check here.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Stats on Depression

image The World Health Organization expects depression to become the #1 cause of disability worldwide in the next 10 years.

In the U.S., 5-10% of adults currently experience symptoms of depression, and up 25% do during their lifetime, making it one of the most common conditions treated by primary care physicians.

At any given time, around 15% of American adults are taking antidepressant meds.

Studies of all types of religious groups find no evidence these people’s rates of depression differ from non-religious people. So, in a typical congregation of 200 adults, 50 will experience depression at some point, and at least 30 are currently taking antidepressants. (Christianity Today 3/09)

Friday, March 20, 2009

A March Madness for Bibliophiles!

All of my friends may (will) not agree, but I have found a type of March Madness that excites bibliophiles like me.   I have mentioned before that Logos (Libronix format) Bible software is one of the most useful tools I own. (This is NOT an ad, really…)image

Over the years I have accumulated quite a library of electronic books and have even been putting some classic Restoration movement books into Libronix format (.pbb) so that they can be read on Logos software.   (If you have Logos & have the pbb reader key & want any I have produced, let me know--Thomas Campbell, Barton W. Stone, etc.)

Well today, I learned from T.C. Black over at Truth Is Still Truth that Libronix is running a March madness of their own.  They have taken 64 of their electronic titles and put them up head to head.  There are four brackets (16 Old Testament e-books, 16 New Testament e-books, 16 Theology e-books & 16 Popular e-books).  This week you pick eight winners in each category.  The top 32 (8 x 4) books then move on to the second bracket.  They will finally get down to a final four, then two and then a champion book. 

That’s all fine & good you say, but so what?  If you are a Libronix customer/fan, there is a big so what.  They are offering increasing discounts on books that make it farther in the championship.  Here is their breakdown:

To make things more interesting, we’re offering discounts on ALL the books in the tournament and YOU control how much the discount is. Every round that a book advances in the tournament the discount it is eligible for increases.

  • Books not advancing out of round 1 will be offered at 25% off.
  • Books not advancing out of round 2 will be offered at 30% off.
  • Books not advancing out of the sweet sixteen will be offered at 35% off.
  • Books not advancing out of the elite eight will be offered at 40% off.
  • Books not advancing out of the final four will be offered at 45% off.
  • The second place book in the tournament will be offered at 50% off.
  • The tournament champion will be offered at 75% off.

(No, I don’t think Libronix has an affiliate program & even if they do, I am not a part of it.)

If you are a Logos customer, I would suggest you check it out.  I have already voted & am anxious to see what books advance.  I know that at the end there will be a few I probably will pick up if they advance far enough & the discount goes deep enough.

You can find Logos’ description of the March Madness here.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

A New List of Stats re: American’s Fears and Concerns

Last week I gave some stats from last year on people's top concerns.  As it appears, I should have waited.  CNN image has a new poll that has quite different stats.

Thirty-six percent of people questioned in a CNN/Opinion Research Corp. survey released Monday morning said unemployment is the most important economic issue facing the country today, almost three times higher than the 13 percent who felt the same way last April.

Inflation is second at 20 percent, followed by the mortgage crisis at 16 percent, the stock market at 14 percent and taxes at 11 percent.

Last April, 47 percent of poll respondents said rising prices and the rate of inflation were the most important economic issues facing the country, putting that at the top of U.S. economic concerns.

"Last spring, Americans were spooked by rising gas prices," said Keating Holland, the CNN polling director.

"Now they're spooked by high unemployment figures and the growing concern that good jobs aren't available."

See the article here.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

When God Wants to Mold a Man…

Early yesterday morning Hiram Casselone of my heroes went home to be with the Lord. Hiram Cassel was the Dean of Students and professor of Acts, Personal Evangelism, and several other classes at Manhattan Christian College in the 1970’s while I was there. Someone described Hiram as the man who “made the flat-top cool”. I don’t know that Hiram ever had any other haircut besides a flat-top his entire life.

But that wasn’t who Hiram was. He was a straight-arrow man of integrity. He always seemed like he was so out of what was current, but he knew exactly what was going on, he just chose to stay the way he was. While he could be strict and unbending, he was incredibly loving and a good listener. And yet, when he preached, he was a fire-ball. He had been the preacher at Oakley, KS and came to MCC in the fall of 1974, the same time that I did.

Hiram and Marcy lived next door to Loretta and me in our first apartment in the spring of 1979 (around the time the above picture was taken). They were an example of what a marriage should be.

There are lots of memories of Hiram, but for some reason what really sticks with me today was a poem that Hiram quoted repeatedly, but especially in our Leadership class. It both describes what God did in Hiram’s life, but also what God was doing in OUR lives THROUGH Hiram.

When God wants to drill a man,
And thrill a man,
And skill a man.
When God wants to mould a man
To play the noblest part;
When He yearns with all His heart
To create so great and bold a man
That all the world shall praise –
Watch His method, watch His ways!
How He ruthlessly perfects
Whom He royally elects;
How He hammers him and hurts him,
And with mighty blows converts him
Into trial shapes of clay which only God understands
While his tortured heart is crying and he lifts beseeching hands!
How He bends, but never breaks,
When his good He undertakes. . . .
How He uses whom He chooses
And with every purpose fuses him,
By every art induces him
To try his splendor out –
God knows what He’s about.

Thanks brother. Enjoy the presence of our Lord.

(If you are interested, it appears that Hiram [or someone] “Christianized” Angela Morgan’s poem “When Nature Wants a Man.”)

Moo>>When the NT “Quotes” What the OT Doesn’t Say

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Andy Nasselli has a great excerpt from Douglas J. Moos’ work on Romans: Encountering the Book of Romans; A  Theological Survey. Moo is  discussing “The Many Uses of Quotations” (p. 161)

Let me just give a teaser:

We have encountered several places in Romans where Paul does not seem to apply the Old Testament in quite the way the original Old Testament context would seem to validate. This creates a theological problem. How can a New Testament writer use the Old Testament to claim that something is true when the Old Testament does not even teach what he claims it does? Such a procedure would be like our trying to prove a doctrine from a text that we have misunderstood. Understandably, we would convince few people. Answers to this problem, which theologians have discussed for years, are not simple. In fact, each of the texts has to be taken on its own, because they present different kinds of problems. But one part of the solution is to recognize that New Testament writers sometimes use the Old Testament not to prove a point but to borrow its language and ethos. An illustration will make the point.

Moo gives a great example that sheds a totally new light for me on many of those passages. I highly suggest you check it out.  Whether you agree or not, it deserves your attention. Find it here.

Not Great News on the Church Membership Front

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After years of steady growth, membership in the Roman Catholic Church and Southern Baptist  Convention have declined 0.59% and 0.24% respectively, according to the 2009 Yearbook of American & Canadian Churches. Although the percentages are small compared to the total membership, they have joined virtually every mainline denomination in reporting a membership decline.

Yearbook editor Eileen W. Lindner notes that many churches are feeling the impact of the lifestyles of younger generations of church-goers who attend and support local congregations but resist joining. Other denominations with membership losses include the

  • United Church of Christ (-6.1%)
  • African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church (-3.01%)
  • Presbyterian Church (USA) (-2.79%)
  • Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod (-1.44%)
  • Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (-1.35%)
  • American Baptist Churches USA (-0.94%).

Only 4 of the 25 largest U.S. churches are growing:

  • Jehovah’s Witnesses (+2.12%)
  • Church of God of Cleveland, TN (+2.04%)
  • Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (+1.63%)
  • Assemblies of God (+0.96%).

(Christian Post 2/25/09, via Foster Religious Market Update)

Monday, March 16, 2009

Hyatt>>Video Preaching as Refusing to Pay Your Taxes

image Bob Hyatt from Evergreen Community here in Portland has a powerful argument against video venue preaching. Find it here and a previous but related post here.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Stats—A Little Dated but Still Very Pertinent

The Barna group gave what I find to be interesting statistics last year. image

When asked what they considered “major” problems facing the US those “Alvin Americans” responded:

78%- Poverty

78% –Individual American’s personal debt

76%- HIV/AIDS

Listed as “moderate” concerns were:

60%- Illegal immigration

57% –Global warming

45% TV & movie content

About 1/3 listed homosexuality as a major problem

Evangelical Christians (Calvin Christians??) had an interestingly different list:

“Major” problems:

94%- Abortion

81%- Personal indebtedness

79%- TV & movie content

75%- Homosexual activists

75%- Gay & lesbian lifestyles

Global warming was a distant 33% compared to the 57% of the general population.

(Barna Update 1/21/08)

I have only really two comments about this and I’m not sure which is correct.  Do the differences reflect a biblical prioritization of issues?  If so, I wonder why poverty does not even register at all on the list of high (or even moderate) concerns for Evangelical Christians when it was such a big issue with Jesus. It is easy to say that “our” values are more biblically based and therefore different than “the world.” I am not sure that holds up to close examination, with the absence of poverty and the poor as just the first example.

The second observation (or question) is…what difference does it make that evangelical Christians’ values are so significantly different from those of the “average” American?  Is it wrong for conservative Christians to speak to the concerns of the “average American”?  Is that pandering? Is it false to address those concerns in an effort to share Christ with those outside the Church?

I guess I have more questions than answers.

All I know is that my personal preaching schedule hasn’t reflected much preaching about (material/financial) poverty, HIV/AIDS (at least in recent years) or global warming. I have spoken SOME (OK, a little) about illegal immigration (although not in terms that many of my church members thought well of…).  Is that wrong?

Although I have tried in recent years to preach more exegetically, I don’t know that I have intentionally looked in the passages for principles that addressed these matters in the texts on which I preached.

Just kind of thinking out loud and wished I had done more to even LOOK for principles in the passages that addressed these concerns that Alvin American has.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Matt. 18:20 & House Churches

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I have a dear friend who leads a group of house churches here on the west-side of the Portland metro area. He is a good man, for whom I care deeply. 

I have expressed my reservations about house churches before. But an article written by my friend has me continuing to process.  Process with me….

In a local Christian newspaper (Christian News Northwest) my friend has an editorial advocating/ defending house churches in the wealthy suburbs of an American city.  And in the process, he uses the scripture most of us know: Matt 18:20: “For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.”

The question was prompted by another brother who read the article and asked if the author was using the verse out of context.  The context surrounding v. 20 is not talking about what constitutes a church. In fact, in this context the 2-3 are differentiated from “the church.”  The context is confronting a brother/sister who has sinned.  If, when you confront a fellow believer who is in sin, in v. 16 Jesus says: But if you are not listened to, take one or two others along with you, so that every word may be confirmed by the evidence of two or three witnesses.

If the believer STILL does not listen, then the 2-3 are to take it to the entire church body and the person is to be treated as a Gentile or taxcollector.  (I’ll leave how we are to treat those people for another day).  But Jesus follows this with:

Truly I tell you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. Again, truly I tell you, if two of you agree on earth about anything you ask, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.”  (vv. 18-20)

The text then immediately turns to Peter asking Jesus about forgiveness:  “Lord, if another member of the church sins against me, how often should I forgive? As many as seven times?” (v. 21) to which Jesus responds with the parable of the unforgiving servant. 

OK….my point is this.  In this clear context of church conflict, can we use that text as one to define the church?  (For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.”)  I have my doubts.  This verse is not intended to describe what a manifestation of the church looks like. In fact, the two or three are CONTRASTED with the church.  (“But if you are not listened to, take one or two others along with you, so that every word may be confirmed by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If the member refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church.”

The Lord IS WITH these 2-3 as they confront the erring brother, but they are not “the church.”  The church is the larger community of which they are a part.

I am NOT saying that “Where 2 or 3 are gathered in my name, I am NOT with them!”  If we truly believe that Christ dwells in us, then where ONE is gathered, the Spirit of Christ is present!  It is just whether using this as a text to justify pulling away from the organized church and creating one’s own little group, in any way honors Christ or can be justified biblically. 

I have served in eastern Europe during the communist years.  And in a village, there may have only been 2-3 believers (or even 1) in a community.  And I have no problem saying that when they gathered, the church was gathered.  It was a legitimate manifestation of the church. That was the Christian community that they had.

There are other problems with the editorial (using Bill Hybels’ REACH study to justify house churches. I don’t hear Hybels redefining church, but changing approaches for how he grows disciples, but still within the context of a large (maybe huge) church community.)  But my main issue is in using this verse to define church.  I think that it is inappropriate.

Thoughts?

 

(This post has been edited from its original format.)

Third Entry on Stewardship and Money

image I’ll try to move away from this after today, but another article about giving and how/why we lose the givers we already have.  From Network for Good Learning Center (8/14/08)

Donors cite the top reason for ceasing their support is the way they are treated, from not being thanked to an avalanche of needy appeals. It is indeed cheaper to keep a customer/donor than to find a new one. Experts encourage non-profits and churches to thank donors three times as often as they appeal for donations. Remember to make thank-you messages personal, and show your recipients their impact.

My last church was the first (and only) church I had ever served where I was absolutely forbidden to see the list of donors. (Neither was anyone on the elder board allowed access to that information.)   The ability to express personal thanks is only one reason why such a practice is cutting off your nose to spite your face. People didn’t know we didn’t know, but wondered why we never expressed appreciation for their faithfulness in good and hard times.  We weren’t allowed to know.  How discouraging.

Friday, March 13, 2009

More on Preaching About Stewardship and Money

image On Monday I talked about stewardship preaching and/or preaching on money. That brought to mind an article I had seen last fall from Leadership Network. If you missed it, it is worth repeating here.  It’s not really kosher to just cut & paste, but I don’t know how to point to the original of this.  If you do, let me know and I will edit this to that I only give excerpts and point to the entire article.

Churches that embrace generosity and benevolence often avoid talking about giving money to the church. Some churches view it in conflict with stewardship ministry, which is to communicate what the church wants for its people, not from its people. However, churches occasionally but inevitably must conduct capital campaigns, the very nature of which requires asking people in the congregation for money. This built-in tension can be avoided with prayer, planning and advice from other churches that have successfully navigated those waters.

Televangelists of the last generation make discussions about money uncomfortable in the church. But Larry Dean, president of INJOY Stewardship services, asks, "Why are we trying to protect people from God's work? If it doesn't make sense, it won't make sense to God's people. If it does, it will make sense to God's people."

One church focused on "honesty and results" in its most recent capital campaign. Because everyone agreed the church was crowded, talking about a new building wasn't a surprise to the congregation; the idea of a campaign was actually met with applause. Another church, located in an affluent area, admitted that money was a hot-button issue for their members. Their stewardship pastor advises, "To convince people to participate in what you need before you convince them that you care for them—that's too difficult to overcome. You have to talk about money before it's a need." Other pastors advise church leaders to cultivate a culture of stewardship, stressing that the need of the giver to give outweighs the need of the recipient to receive.

Other advice about "money talk" from the pulpit:

  1. Don't tiptoe around the subject. Don't be secretive. Talk straight. Go in through the front door. Whispering and talking behind closed doors actually makes it worse.
  2. A focus on giving is an opportunity for your church. Many pastors worry about whether their congregation will step up, and that somehow their response is a referendum on the pastor's leadership. But giving is a lifestyle issue. Some families who make a good living still spend more money than they make. That's an opportunity for the church to step in and provide discipleship.
  3. View stewardship as a process. Be patient. Offer incremental steps; if they aren't giving, ask them to give one percent. If they are giving one, could they give two? This feels more manageable.
  4. Consider using a consultant in some cases. Even churches with stewardship teams can occasionally use outside guidance. Consultants are helpful in studying trends and avoiding pitfalls. They also have proven methods to train leaders and manage the stress of a capital campaign.

Excerpted from Alexis Wilson, "Avoiding the Money Conflict" Leadership Network, 8/26/08.

Preachers…You Need to Blog

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The longer I blog (I am heading up to the two year mark, here) the more convinced I become of its inherent  benefits.  I continue to be amazed by the preachers my age and even a little younger who look at me like a deer in headlights when I talk about blogging.  (“I could never do that!  I wouldn’t know what to say?”  DO YOU THINK I DO???)  I was in a room of about 30 preachers a couple of weeks ago and the presenter asked how many of them were on Facebook and then how many of them read blogs (not to mention WRITE them). Three of us raised our hands in both cases. The other two were guys who appeared to be in their twenties.  That is pathetic.  We preachers can be so out of the loop of where our people are (not to mention where the world is.)

But I am convinced I am a better preacher because of my blog…and not JUST because my major subject is about preaching. (Although hopefully that helps, too).

Chris Forbes (not a preacher) posted this week on ways that blogging help business people become better public presenters (read: “preachers”?)

Here is his list with a sentence or two, but you really should read his entire post here.

Blogging can help you shape your presentations by giving you an outlet to draft the concepts and phrases that work in sales and report presentations. Also, blogging helps you become more natural, confident, and concise in your conversations with clients.

1. Blogging Makes You a Better Extemporaneous Speaker and Writer

If you blog regularly your ideas will flow better in conversation because you have spent time thinking about your products and services and the solutions they offer to your clients.  Also, email exchanges with clients happen throughout the process of conducting your business with them. Blogging is like practicing good business email.

2. Blogging Helps You Become a Better Problem Solver

A good sales presentation needs to show you understand the needs of your customers and how your product is linked to a solution to their stinkiest problems. Blogging helps you translate corporate-speak into your own, more natural voice. Blogging can purge your conversation of useless technical jargon that only serves to put barriers between you and your clients.

3. Blogging Makes You More Concise

Anyone can give a long-winded response or report to a client. The honest truth is, the thicker the report, the less likely it will be read…. It is hard to communicate things in short ways. Blog posts by nature need to be brief, so by practicing blogging, you are honing your skills as a concise communicator.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

The Work is Not Near Done

image Wycliffe Bible Translators reports 25,000 unique language communities do not have Scripture in their language. (Foster Religious Market Update)

Mead>>Don’t Dilute by Distracting During the Conclusion

image I know that I refer you to Peter Mead quite a bit, but he is really that good. Today he has what is just a little reminder, but one I have never heard in all the preaching classes and workshops I have taken & the books I have read:

During the final thrust, the crescendo of the message, do not dilute the focus of listeners. It is so easy to unnecessarily add new elements to a message at a time when the need is not variation, nor interest, but focus. For instance:

Don’t dilute by adding distracting texts. It’s so tempting to refer to another verse somewhere or other in the Bible. Often, not always, but often, this is a distraction rather than a help.

Find the entire post here.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

SLATE: Won the Stem Cell War, but Lost Your Soul?

image Another article worth pondering, this time from Slate.

What is left unsaid in this article, but not in others is that Obama has simply substituted one ideology for another. It is not a question of ideology versus science.  It is a question on ideology versus an opposing ideology.  My fear is that history says unequivocally that this ideological road leads to the loss of soul. 

The End of Evangelicalism As We Know It?

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A blogger I read, Chris Forbes, points to what I think is a very important article in the Christian Science Monitor.   Get past the sensationalistic headline and read deep into the article.  It is worth thinking & talking about.

Find it here.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Update on Church Giving: Are You Planning to Preach on Giving?

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From Kluth.org, (3/2/09) via Foster Religious Market Update:

A recent survey of pastors and church leaders by generosity expert Brian Kluth finds 46.9% of churches reported a giving increase during ’08, while 29.3% were down and 23.8% were flat. So far, ’09 giving is behind in 51.6% of churches, 37.8% are meeting budget and 10.6% are ahead. 69.5% of pastors definitely plan to preach a sermon or series on finances and/or generosity in ’09.

Are you scheduling preaching on giving beyond what you might normally have planned to do this year?

Monday, March 9, 2009

Mead: The Way Jesus Preached

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It has long been my contention that those who push ONE style of preaching (exegetical, expositional, dialogic,  need-driven, etc.) are wrong in the very nature of their argument.   The sermons we find in scripture do not follow one model. 

It was with delight, then, that I found a couple of posts by Peter Mead of Great Britain who has been reporting on his reading of a book by Greg Haslam’s (pictured—the current successor to Martyn Lloyd-Jones at Westminster Chapel in London) entitled, Preach the Word.

In it, there is a chapter entitled “Learning from Jesus.”  Let me just share Peter’s comments:

To some it is obvious that we should look to Jesus, who was, after all, the finest of preachers.  But I suppose some would overlook Jesus as a model of preaching since, well, we’re not Jesus.  In this chapter, the writer points out ten characteristics of Jesus’ teaching.  It’s not an exhaustive list, but it is a list worth pondering:

(1) Revelatory in Content - intimacy with the Father added an authority to his teaching, quite unlike the teaching of his contemporaries.

(2) Anointed by the Spirit - another key element in his authority was the role and freedom of the Spirit in the empowering of Jesus’ ministry.

(3) Biblical in its Source - Jesus knew, quoted, cited, explained and preached the Hebrew Bible.  While he was able to add to it in a way we cannot, he never contradicted it.

(4) Always Relevant - Jesus knew who he spoke to and he connected his teaching to their lives.

(5) Compassionate in its Motivation - Jesus really loved those he sought to draw to faith, and it showed in his communication.

(6) Visual in its Appeal - Jesus painted word pictures.  He didn’t speak in abstractions, but he helped his teaching to form in the minds of the listeners (whether they were intended to really understand that picture is a different matter!)  For instance, imagery in Matthew’s gospel includes salt, light, gates, roads, trees, houses, foxes and birds, brides and bridegrooms, wine, farmers, weeds, seeds, bread, treasure, fishing, plants, pits, dogs, weather, rocks, mountains, sheep, vineyards and lamps.

(7) Varied in its Approach - Jesus varied and adapted his methodology, using parables, stories, proverbs, pithy statements, paradoxes, riddles, word plays, etc.

(8) Practical in its Application - Jesus taught his disciples to pray by giving them a prayer and not just a pattern or theory.

(9) Courageous in its Directness - He was through and through a God-pleaser, rather than a men-pleaser, which gave courage to Jesus’ ministry.

(10) Potent in its Impact - in just three years of ministry, Jesus’ impact far surpassed the combined decades of teaching of the finest philosophers of antiquity.  His words inspired the greatest art of history.  His teaching motivated the music and poetry of the greatest composers of the ages.  His preaching continues to change lives today.

Before we just say, “that’s Jesus, He’s different,” let’s be sure to not only praise the Lord for his ministry, but also look to learn from it as we continue to represent Jesus in preaching to the body of Christ and the world that needs Christ.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

New Edition of Spurgeon Fellowship Journal Online

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The most recent volume of the Spurgeon Fellowship Journal went online this week.  The theme is Enduring in Ministry.  That was the theme of the Winter Spurgeon Fellowship lectureship at Western Seminary in January.  (I was unable to attend that). The speaker was Scott Gilchrist, a local pastor. 

This edition of the journal has four parts:

Enduring...at Least on Mondays by Art Azurdia, the head of Spurgeon Fellowship and the editor of the journal.

A reflection on Psalm 90 by Ken Garrett entitled (appropriately), Perseverance In Ministry: A Reflection on Psalm 90.

An interview with R. James Earl Massey

and last, an Historical Reflection by Charles Spurgeon, Strength in Weakness.

It is worth at least checking out.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

It Made Me Cry

It’s not about preaching, but this clip brought tears to my eyes. Jesus in his people didn’t just talk…Jesus in is people did.

A Sermon Listeners Guide

image Michael Diduit points to A Sermon Listener’s Guide written by Eric Smith from Curve Baptist church in west Tennessee (as one who has lived in upper-east TN, believe me, those designations, east Tennessee, middle Tennessee and west Tennessee have significant cultural meaning).

Eric’s list begins like this:

A Sermon Listener’s Guide

What was the biblical text of the sermon?

Do I better understand this passage now than I did before?

What was the main point or main points of the sermon?

How did this message teach me about Christ and the Gospel?

What truths do I need to believe because of this sermon?

To get the entire list go here.

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