Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Top 25 Preaching Books of the Past 25 Years

image In its March issue, Preaching Journal has listed the top 25 Preaching books of the past 25 years.

Which of these have you read (I have heard of most of them, own less of them (10) and have read even less of them! (7).

25. Concise Encyclopedia of Preaching (ed: William Willamon & Richard Lischer)
24. Doctrine That Dance (William Smith)
23. The Art of Preaching Old Testament Narratives (Steven Matthewson)
22. Preaching: The Art of Narrative Exposition (Calvin Miller)
21. The Art & Craft of Biblical Preaching (Haddon Robinson)
20. Scripture Sculpture (Ramesh Richard)
19. Preaching & Teaching with Imagination(Warren Wiersbe)
18. 360 Degree Preaching (Michael Quicke)
17. In the Company of Preachers (David L. Larsen)
16. The Burdensome Joy of Preaching (James  Earl Massey)
15. Preaching the Whole Bible as Christian  Scripture (Graeme Goldsworthy)
14. The Preaching Life (Barbara Brown Taylor)
13. Communicating for a Change (Andy Stanley)
12. Preaching & Preachers (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones)
11. Handbook of Contemporary Preaching (Michael Diduit)
10. Rediscovering Expository Preaching (MacArthur)
9. The Witness of Preaching (Thomas G. Long)
8. The Supremacy of God in Preaching (John Piper)
7. The Homiletical Plot--The Sermon as Narrative Art Form (Eugene L. Lowry)
6. Christ-Centered Preaching (Bryan Chappel)
5. The Modern Preacher and the Ancient Text (Sidney Greidanus)
4. Preaching (Fred Craddock)
3. Between Two World (John R.W. Stott)
2. Homiletic: Moves and Structures (David Buttrick)
1. Biblical Preaching (Haddon Robinson)

Are there ones that you would add to this list?  Put them in the comments section.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Alternatives to Spiritual Leadership


Many times the heads of churches, synagogues, etc. are called  the “spiritual leadership” of a community.  And yet most of us know that there is a huge difference between leading a church and spiritual leadership. 

In what ways can leaders of churches (I am not totally sure how to label this for this particular discussion) lead instead of leading spiritually?

Instead of leading spiritually, we can easily lead:

1. Intellectually-most pastors love to study.  If we are going to preach regularly, it is vital that we spend time in study, particularly of God’s Word.  We are looked to as one of (if not the) Bible & theological expert in our congregation. 

But because of that, it is possible to be a Bible scholar extraordinaire, but not lead spiritually.   We know the Bible and theology incredibly well, we do not know how to lead spiritually. 

2. Religiously-not everyone agrees that there is a difference between spiritual leadership and religious leadership, but I believe that it is vital to know the difference.  Religious leadership (in my definition at least) is focused on rules and traditions and institutions.  We are charged with keeping “religion” before people.

There can be a very fine line between spiritual leadership and religious leadership. It may be more attitude than anything else, but it comes down to are we keeping and leading people to keep religious rules and being defenders of the institution of the visible church on earth?  Or does my leadership encourage others to pursue God and be more in tune with God?

3. Functionally-Again, this can be a fine line that is differentiated mostly by attitude. I believe that this can be the bane and blessing of multiple staff churches. There are functional things that need to be done: children’s work needs to be organized and supervised; administrative work needs to be done effectively and using “best practices”, small group leaders need to be trained and a structure put in place for growth and accountability of small Bible study groups.  While I may raise the ire of some staff people by saying this, most of these jobs CAN be done without much spiritual emphasis at all.  (They SHOULDN’T be, but they can be). They are functional tasks, or have as a part of their job description largely functional tasks.  That is not the same as spiritual leadership.  The same thing can be said, of course, of preaching ministers or senior pastors.  They can speak well in public, organize the church very well, lead the church to phenomenal growth,  administer the day-by-day activities and yet provide little or no SPIRITUAL leadership.  

4. Organizationally-I may have slopped this category into the previous two. But in an age where growth is king is my primary emphasis the growth and promotion of an institution or of the spiritual conversion and growth of men and women.  THE TWO DO NOT HAVE TO BE MUTUALLY EXCLUSIVE.  But we must be clear that organizational leadership is not the same as spiritual leadership.  This statement is obviously too general, but I wonder if the emphasis on organizational success at the expense of an emphasis on spiritual leadership is the reason so many ministers have fallen into immorality.  They have nurtured the skills necessary for organizational leadership, but have not guarded their souls.

5. Logically-We need to lead churches in line with “best practices.”  Our Christian faith is logical and does not generally run counter to reason.  But if that is all our leadership is, it is not spiritual leadership.  God is so much bigger than our ability to reason.  And at times he asks us to do things that don’t make sense. Like feed 5,000 people with two loaves of bread and five small fishes.   Or wash the feet of those whom you lead.  There have been many instances where the leadership of a church was swayed to make a decision because “it made sense” or was “the rational thing to do”  when in fact, it was the wrong thing to do spiritually. 

6. Positionally-this is kind of where I began in my introduction.  Simply because a man or woman bears the title of minister, pastor, priest, rabbi, whatever, does not mean that they are spiritually oriented. Ministers can be like the Pharisees of Jesus’ time who loved “the place of honor at banquets and the most important seats in the synagogues; they love to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces and to have people call them ‘Rabbi.’” (Matt 23:6-7)  Jesus warned, “Do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach.” (Matt 23:3b)

Our world is positionally oriented. We want to know who is up and who is down. And so our world believes it should honor those who have positions of religious leadership in our communities.  They confuse positional leadership with spiritual leadership.  Whether or not the world confuses them is not as important as whether or not WE confuse the two.

But to describe what something IS NOT is not really to fully describe something. (A giraffe is not a horse even though it has four legs and is a herbivore; a giraffe is not a snake although it has a long thin neck,  a giraffe is not a leopard, although it can be reticulated.)  Next time I want to ask the question, then, “What IS spiritual leadership?”

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

The Seven Deadly Siphons

image I was working on creating a worksheet for one of my coaching clients on evaluating the breadth & depth of one’s spiritual life and I came across a great list on the loss of spiritual passion.

It appeared first in Leadership Journal (Winter 1998) and is by Gordon MacDonald.

Loss of spiritual passion seems to be the inevitable result of:

  1. Words without action. Speaking/teaching/preaching (whatever you want to call it) is a huge part of what we do as pastors. But there is the danger of thinking that speaking is doing or diagnosing is solving. MacDonald says “We have a momentary feeling of spirituality when we talk about wanting to pray more or "have more time in the Word."
  2. Busyness without purpose. Behind my house is a river called the Tualatin River. It is a Native-American name meaning “slow or lazy”. There is a good deal of water in  the Tualatin.  But it is a slow and meandering river.  That means several things: it gets stagnant, scum & moss develop on it easily and pollution that was dumped there decades ago doesn’t get washed away. (Want to go jump in for a swim with me, yet?)  In ministry, we can have a lot of activities , programs and conversations.  We can be DOING a great deal.  But unless it is going somewhere; unless it is focused; or in MacDonald’s words “if our choices of time-use are not disciplined by call and purpose” we dissipate our energy and can become as stagnant and as filled with spiritual PCBs as the Tualatin.
  3. Calendars without a Sabbath.  I am not talking simply about rest here.  A Sabbath is not simply plopping in front of the TV to watch the Olympics or football. MacDonald says: “A datebook filled with appointments but absent of significant hours (days) of quiet and reflection—written in first—is an abomination (an old and harsh word) to the God of the Bible.”  We emphasize the “rest” aspects of Sabbath, but we forget that “rest” was not the only purpose.  God declared: Six days you shall labor…but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. (Exod. 20:9-10a)  It is not just rest.  It is rest with a purpose.
  4. Relationships without mutual nourishment.  Most of us are familiar with the stat from a 1991 study: 70% of pastors have no close friendships.  They know and are friendly with a LOT of people.  But as for close friendships: they are few and far between.  I once followed a pastor in ministry where everyone in the church felt like they were close to the pastor.  But when I delved into what they knew about him: they knew next to nothing about him personally other than the bare facts (family members, ministry history, favorite jokes, etc.)  He is no longer in ministry.  MacDonald: “The spiritual masters have told us for centuries that without soul-friends, we won't gain spiritual momentum.”
  5. Pastoral personality without self-examination. MacDonald says it better than I can: “Too much ministry is built on unresolved anger, unhealthy needs for approval, and the instinct to control. Failing to explore our soul for unwholeness ultimately takes its toll.”
  6. Natural giftedness without spiritual power. After 30 years in ministry, I can say unequivocally: some of the most talented and gifted people I have known have been in ministry.  But human giftedness and human effort can only get what humans can do.  Spiritual power only comes from a “filled-up soul.”
  7. An enormous theology without an adequate spirituality. Many, many young pastors I meet are very equipped theologically.  While I am not Reformed in theology, I seem to run into a good deal of New Calvinists in ministry.  And many of them are theologically very well grounded.  But it is possible to have a well developed theology and a “spiritual-exercise regimen that is pea-size in contrast. A great theology demands a great spirituality.”

I appreciated MacDonald’s words.  While the spiritual life evaluation instrument for my client will take a bit of a different slant, it will be informed by this challenging information from MacDonald.  Again, you can find it here.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

The Amen Corner


Last week when I was listening to Jim Wallis of Sojourners speak, he  told a wonderful story.  In the 80s when Martin Luther King Day was first celebrated as a holiday, Wallis was asked to come speak at the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta.

Wallis tells of getting into the pulpit there on that January morning and being overwhelmed that he was standing in the same pulpit that Martin Luther King, Jr. and “Daddy” King has preached.  Wallis  began to preach, but he stuttered and stammered, repeating himself over and over.

Suddenly from the front pew on the left came a strong voice, “Help him, Lord!”

Wallis later learned that it was Deacon Jones.  Deacon Jones was the church’s unofficial “Amen Corner.” 

“Tell us the way it is!”


“He…..ep him, Jesus!”

“Preach it.”


It was the traditional cadence and “dialogue” of an African American preacher and his/her congregation.  Wallis says “With Deacon Jones help, I was dancing before I was done.”

After the service, Wallis went over to Deacon Jones to thank him for his help and encouragement.

Deacon Jones simply smiled and replied, “I’ve helped make a good preacher out of many a preacher in that pulpit.”  He included in that group, Martin Luther King, Jr.

It is fairly unusual for any of the congregations I serve to “talk back” to me, but when they do, oh the encouragement it gives. I don’t think that the average Caucasian congregation understands the huge help it can be to a preacher when he gets positive verbal feedback from the pews.

In my last church, there was one man, a former elder (who has since moved to Salt Lake City) who was occasionally verbal.  While Dave’s “talkback” was mostly limited to “Amen”s it was always a big help. I truly believe that I preached better when I got that verbal feedback.

For what it’s worth, the word “Amen” is one of those words that the bible doesn’t translate, but just transliterates from the Hebrew & has made it into most languages.  It comes from the Hebrew root “aman” which means to be firm or solid in the sense of permanency. Thus by implication, it means to be sure, true or faithful. So whenever we see this word Amen used in scripture, it is affirming truth, or illustrating something is said that is of absolute certainty.

The word is found throughout the Bible, all the way to the very last word of the Bible (Rev. 22:21)

In the Old Testament the people were even commanded to respond with “Amen”, although in a bit of a different context. 

On the same day Moses commanded the people:

When you have crossed the Jordan, these tribes shall stand on Mount Gerizim to bless the people: Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar, Joseph and Benjamin. And these tribes shall stand on Mount Ebal to pronounce curses: Reuben, Gad, Asher, Zebulun, Dan and Naphtali.

The Levites shall recite to all the people of Israel in a loud voice:

“Cursed is anyone who makes an idol—a thing detestable to the Lord, the work of skilled hands—and sets it up in secret.”

Then all the people shall say, “Amen!”

“Cursed is anyone who dishonors their father or mother.”

Then all the people shall say, “Amen!”

“Cursed is anyone who moves their neighbor’s boundary stone.”

Then all the people shall say, “Amen!”

“Cursed is anyone who leads the blind astray on the road.”

Then all the people shall say, “Amen!”

“Cursed is anyone who withholds justice from the foreigner, the fatherless or the widow.”

Then all the people shall say, “Amen!”

“Cursed is anyone who sleeps with his father’s wife, for he dishonors his father’s bed.”

Then all the people shall say, “Amen!”

“Cursed is anyone who has sexual relations with any animal.”

Then all the people shall say, “Amen!”

“Cursed is anyone who sleeps with his sister, the daughter of his father or the daughter of his mother.”

Then all the people shall say, “Amen!”

“Cursed is anyone who sleeps with his mother-in-law.”

Then all the people shall say, “Amen!”

“Cursed is anyone who kills their neighbor secretly.”

Then all the people shall say, “Amen!”

“Cursed is anyone who accepts a bribe to kill an innocent person.”

Then all the people shall say, “Amen!”

“Cursed is anyone who does not uphold the words of this law by carrying them out.”

Then all the people shall say, “Amen!”  (Deut 27:11-26)

HOWEVER…having sat in the pew for a year now, I can understand how intimidating that can be. 

Loretta and I love to sing.  And so during the praise time, we sing & both harmonize & really may get swept away.  I would bet that more than once a month, the people in front of us turn after service & say how much they enjoyed sitting in front of us and listening to us sing.  I am humiliated when they do that.  I don’t want do be a distraction to anyone else’s worship.  (But it doesn’t stop me from singly sincerely & in harmony!!)

There have been several Sundays when I wanted to shout out a solid “Amen!” to Pastor Guy.  His preaching is really solid. But I attend a solidly white church in a fairly affluent community.  It is a place where “people know their place.”  And that place includes being quiet while Pastor Guy is preaching.  You don’t draw attention to yourself. 

But one of these days, the Spirit is just going to make me do it.  Guy is going to hit one of his great points and it’s just going to come out. 

If you are not a preacher, but appreciate what your preacher is saying, I hope you will do the same!!

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