Thursday, March 31, 2011
He pondered, later in life, why such sins were so enjoyable. Why he could not simply receive the gift of life, but instead, insisted upon taking that which he neither needed nor even especially wanted. He concludes, that in rebelling against God’s prohibitions, even in the face of God’s permissions, he sought “by gesture, to rebel against Thy law, even though I had no power to do so actually – so that even as a captive, I might produce a sort of counterfeit liberty, by doing with impunity deeds that were forbidden, in a deluded sense of omnipotence.”
Wednesday, March 30, 2011
Tuesday, March 29, 2011
Frank Schaeffer recently wrote an article for the Huffington Post entitled, "Franklin Graham, Religious Extremism, Dad, God and Me (Confessions of a Former Religious Nut Leader)". His basic argument is that people with the most doubts tend to shout more loudly and more harshly than others. Actually, that's not quite his point. He has plenty of doubts and doesn't seem to be prone to shouting anymore. More accurately, perhaps, is the idea that people with repressed doubts shout with a ferocity that leads to extremism.
Another insightful point in the article is Schaeffer's assertion that all Christian leaders suffer from the temptation to be relevant. This temptation leads them to use a rhetoric of certainty that often goes beyond the reality of their own beliefs. Whether we should paint all Christian leaders with as broad a brush as Schaeffer does, the article raises some challenging thoughts that might work their way into a sermon.
- What do the struggles of the children of celebrity Christians (who have seen their fathers' feet of clay) teach us about the tendency of Christians to treat their leaders as infallible? Do just the children of the leaders suffer or do we all suffer in some way?
- What is the role of uncertainty and doubt in faith? Is uncertainty the same thing as being humble? The Pharisees in John 9 had lots of certainty, but they didn't have faith, nor were they very humble.
- What is the role of being relevant in the proclamation of the gospel? In what ways does attempting to be relevant, important, significant create problems for the church?
"Research a friend of mine has done shows that repetitive listening to good sermons can enhance the listener's ability to understand and imitate vocal inflection and delivery pace, among other things. He requires his seminary students to choose a sermon (from a provided list) and listen to it over a period of three weeks. Week 1: 3 times consecutively three days in a row. Week 2: 2 times consecutively three days in a row. Week 3: 1 time three days in a row. This is based on the Suzuki music method."
Monday, March 28, 2011
The reasons the mathematicians gave for the move from affiliated to non-affiliated status attempt to speak concerning the basic reasons humans are motivated to join up with religious groups. The first reason they gave is basically, people like to be in the majority. As more and more people dis-affiliate from religious denominations more and more people will dis-affiliate from religious affiliation. Essentially, we're all still in junior high doing what everyone else does.
The second reason provided is more interesting to me. Apparently, we join up with things that bring us personal advantages. The scholars call this the utility motivation. Religious affiliation used to have a utilitarian advantage over non-affiliation. But recent data claims the opposite, non-affiliation now appears to have a utilitarian advantage over religious affiliations in many western democracies. No doubt there was a day when belonging to a denomination brought with it certain benefits for a person in society. In former days, you couldn't do business in the south without belonging to some church. That day is gone. Now affiliation has no utilitarian advantage over non-affiliation. Let me repeat. Religious affiliation has no utilitarian advantage over non-affiliation. It won't help you be a better business person, have a happier family, be a part of a more cooperative society - at least not in the majority population's eyes (For an expanded look at this reality read Darrell Guder's Missional Church).
How is the church to respond? Well, many in the church are attempting to argue for the utilitarian advantages of affiliation. They ratchet up the marketing to promote the usefulness of church. Pastors preach sermons on the usefulness of Christianity for life, marriage, economics, etc. All in an attempt to win back the utilitarian advantage the church once enjoyed. That is one option. It might work. It might not.
Either way it doesn't seem a lot like New Testament preaching that preached not on the usefulness of the gospel, but its truth. Preaching that had little utilitarian advantage (believing the message could get you killed - how's that for non-utilitarian) but could certainly set you free. Maybe, just maybe, losing our utilitarian advantage isn't as bad as it seems. Especially, if it helps us return to the emphasizing our greatest advantage, the truth of our gospel and the power of the Spirit at work in our midst.
Sunday, March 27, 2011
Here are three preachers I've listened to recently - who do you like to listen to?
Adam Hamilton - Dr. Hamilton is the founding pastor of the United Methodist Church of the Resurrection in Leawood, Kansas.
You can stream or download both audio and video at his church's website and on Itunes.
The sermon below is a sermon he preached a few weeks ago that combines a first person monologue (something we've discussed recently) with a normal sermon. I don't know what I think about combining the two, but it gives you an idea of what we were talking about previously.
Richard Kannwischer is the Senior Pastor at St.Andrews Presbyterian Church in New Port, Beach, CA. I visited with Dr. Kannwischer a few months ago for a D.Min. project. He was gracious and kind and had a wealth of wisdom for the task of preaching. I benefited greatly from that conversation and from listening to his sermons.
The video below is the only one I could find in a video format, but audio of his sermons can be streamed/downloaded from both his church's website and on Itunes.
Julie Pennington-Russell is the senior Pastor of the First Baptist Church of Decatur, GA. Julie was my pastor in Waco, TX when I was in seminary.
The sermon below is one she gave to the students and faculty of Logsdon Seminary in Abilene, TX. Audio of her weekly sermons can be streamed and downloaded at her church's website.
Friday, March 25, 2011
Enter the Preaching Points podcast from Gordon-Conwell's Center for Preaching. Found in the ItunesU section of Itunes, these weekly 4-6 minute segments, often by Haddon Robinson, give you one idea to think about. One idea, not twenty, not ten, not even five. One. That I can work with . . . this week. I listen on the way to a hospital visit, or while I'm waiting for an appointment, or while I'm staring at a blank page wondering when the words will start to come.
It's a resource that's helped me. It might help you. It only takes five minutes to find out.
What are some of the resources you've found helpful in keeping the basics of preaching fresh in your mind?
Thursday, March 24, 2011
Hor-ror. Ho-rror. Hor....ror. I still can't say it. Next time I used that quote I made an editorial decision, "Everyone you meet is either an immortal splendor or an immortal terror." Much better. Now if I could just take back the time I accidentally said in a Sunday morning sermon, "You know, sex is better in the church."
"The worst moment for the atheist is when he is really thankful and has no one to thank."
"Joy, which was the small publicity of the pagan, is the gigantic secret of the Christian."
“Jesus tells us to love our neighbors and to love our enemies, because often they are the same people.”
"The more I considered Christianity, the more I found that while it had established a rule and order, the chief aim of that order was to give room for good things to run wild."
Wednesday, March 23, 2011
You can read the Reuter's article here.
Tuesday, March 22, 2011
A great article on the limits of wealth to make a person happy. The article is well balanced. It recognizes the misery of poverty. On most days, it is better than to have some money over having none. But there are limits to how much happiness can come from having lots and lots of money. Having lots of money can cause as many problems as it solves. The quotes from the super wealthy are great. One section in the article rich (no pun intended!) for application is the section that talks about how spending one's money can shape one's happiness. Spending one's money on others does seem to improve one's happiness.
This article lends itself to several different possibilities for sermon use.
Monday, March 21, 2011
While all of us have been thirsty from time to time, few of us have experienced that kind of thirst that brings one to the edge of death. When I first saw the photo that showed the mud hole these families use for their daily water supply I almost became sick to my stomach. We who have never lacked for water for probably a few hours likely could never bring ourselves to take a sip from that nauseating pool. I was reminded once more that it’s remarkable what a person will drink who’s dying of thirst.
With in just a few days, our missionaries helped the people drill a new well in the little village of Thirsty, Uganda. After two days of work, clean water began to flow and the people where so excited they gathered together and gave the village a new name which when translated into English means, “Place where the waters run.”
Most recently, I've noticed some verbal tics that I'd fallen into without realizing it. My wife had pointed one of these out previously (that's an issue for another post - spousal critiques!), but hearing it for myself helped me realize how irritating it was. Fixing the problem hasn't been easy, but I have been working on it.
Admittedly, the process of listening to one's own sermon is somewhat excruciating, every verbal slip up or stumble causes me to cringe, but I do think the process is helping me to become a better speaker.
So, do you listen to your own sermons? How often? What is the experience like for you? When you notice something you'd like to change about your own speaking style, how do you go about it?
- The Short Preacher
Friday, March 18, 2011
The day I picked up my glasses, was quite a revelation. On the drive home I kept lowering and then raising my new glasses to my eyes. Amazing! I had no clue how much I'd been missing: individual leaves and twigs in the trees, the texture of the road, letters the street signs before you get to them. To be honest, the change wasn't as drastic as it is for most people with glasses - again, my perscription is a weak one - but I was giddy and my eyes rejoiced. No more stressing, squinting, and straining to see the world as it was meant to be seen.
The apostle Paul tells us that because of Christ's death on the cross we no longer "regard anyone from a worldly point of view." Instead, through the lense of God's love, we see them as they were meant to be seen, not as nameless faces, not as threatening competitors, not as hated enemies, but as men and women loved by God. When you look at others do you remember to look at them through the love of God?
Thursday, March 17, 2011
- C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves, Chapter 6
The Chronicles of Shamgar - The tale of an obscur Old Testament character.
The diary of Hagar the Egyptian - giving dignity and voice to an often overlooked woman in the Old Testament.
Give Me a Drink: Inside an Awkward Conversation with Jesus - Giving us an inside look at the Woman-at-the-Well's conversation with Jesus.
Apostles' Court! (A Play in One Act) - A creative retelling of Acts 19:13-20.
Wednesday, March 16, 2011
The introduction is about 3 minutes if you want to skip past that.
My decision process involved evaluating the advantages and disadvantages.
- Variety - it would definitely be different. People's attention would be grabbed (at least until I fell on my face).
- A new hearing - Not only have I preached on Nicodemus several times, the people in my congregation had probably heard even more lessons/sermons on Nicodemus than I have preached. This might help us all hear the text anew.
- The power of a good story - By it's very nature this kind of sermon is a narrative. If done well it could be very powerful.
- I might look stupid. My youth minister and I both agree that we spend an ungodly amount of time in life just trying not to look stupid.
- No notes. This sermon would absolutely not work with notes. It would have to come from a combination of good memory (I do write manuscripts) and the ability to speak somewhat extemporanously (once I obviously forgot something and needed to course correct).
- Application. Being Nicodemus would limit my knowledge of modern life. How would I make any application in my sermon?
Result: Once I decided to do this, I went for it. I had the manuscript done by Tuesday and spent an extra amount of time learning it. Whereas I usually go over my sermon verbally 2-3 times before a Sunday morning, I lost count on how many times I went over this one. It's been a while since I was truly nervous about a sermon. I was incredibly nervous about this. All in all, it went well, I thought. The response from the congregation was positive. In general, I think people appreciated the attempt to bring some variety into the service. Several said they thought I should do that more often. At least a handful seemed to connect to the message, "We must be born again" in a renewed way. I don't think that this is a style of sermon I'll do often, but it is something I'll do again.
If you want to listen to my attempt at this style of sermon - check here - it's the sermon on 3/13/11, entitled The Teacher Gets Taught
Have any of you every preached as a biblical character? What was your experience?
My wife asked if I knew what was going on. I'd seen a large nest in one of the trees and something sparked to life in the back of my mind. "I think that must be where the bald eagles nest. I read something about it in a magazine I think. But I'm not sure." We continued speeding on down the road filled with nothing but mild curiosity.
On the way back home, we noticed the cars again, and decided to stop. Just as we did a magnificent bald eagle took off from one tree and soared across the field, wings outstretched, its majestic white head gleaming in the spring sun. People cheered and cameras clicked. We all felt enriched by simply witnessing the grandeur of the moment. For me personally, mild curiosity had been replaced with the desire to offer praise to the Maker of eagles, spring days, and my own two eyes with which I had been able to take in such sights!
James Mays, an Old Testament scholar, explains that all people have a need for doxology, that is the need to be moved by the glory of another. Doxology is a fancy church word that simply means to speak praise. And as creatures, we were created with a built in desire to give praise. It's why we're drawn to stop and look, at eagles, and canyons, and any number of other spectacular sights. We yearn to be moved by the glory of another, but that can only happen if we pull over and take a look.
For pictures of the site on Hwy 29 between Burnett and Llano, click here.
Tuesday, March 15, 2011
Immediately, John Curtis, cut her a look that could kill and blurted out, "Hmpff! Your prayer didn't work!"
Thoughts on using this illustration: What does it mean to pray for other people? Do we ever use prayer just to stick it to someone? I think about the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector. Can our prayers sometimes do more harm than good if voiced out loud in front of the others for whom we are praying? What does it mean to pray for another person's actions, attitudes, etc. in light of the fact that they have free will?
That being said, departing from one's style on occasion can be beneficial, as well. Variety, after all, is the spice of life. Do you always preach inductive sermons? Try a deductive approach for just one Sunday and see how it goes? Always preach deductive sermons, give an inductive sermon a try? Growing up, most of the sermons I heard were deductive. They were good deductive sermons, not what gets derisively called three points and a poem sermons. Nevertheless, because this is what I heard most, when I started hearing inductive sermons at seminary they sounded very fresh. Guess what kind of sermons I started preaching? That's right, inductive sermons. Now, I preach inductively most of the time. It's my style, but occasionally, I'll preach a deductive sermon because I think the text or the purpose of the sermon leads me in that direction. Amazingly, what used to seem like a worn out style of sermon feels fresh again to both me and the congregation. Primarily because it's different.
I find variety especially helpful when I am preaching a text that is very familiar to the congregation. People see the sermon text and assume they know where you are going to go with it. Unconsciously, they tune out. How do you gain a new hearing for an old familiar text? I've found changing up the style of my sermon can help.
So, the question of the week is this: What is your basic sermon style? Do you ever deviate from that style? How? and What were the results? I'll provide my answer tomorrow.
Sunday, March 13, 2011
To you we owe our very lives.
Remind us that we are but the dust of the earth,
Dead as dirt without the breath of your Spirit.
Remind us that we are dead in our sins,
Without the redeeming power of your grace.
Breathe on us, breathe on us, that we may live once more.
In the name of the Feather who made us,
In the name of the Son who saved us,
In the name of the Spirit who guides us still,
Friday, March 11, 2011
This is a Lenten Sermon that Barbara Brown Taylor preached at Duke Chapel last year. The sermon starts at 30:10 and lasts about seventeen minutes. I listen to a lot of sermons and this one is in my top three. The move she makes at the 38:50 mark, speaking of Abraham's eyes, and the way she returns to that image at the end of the sermon in a way that involves the listener is nothing short of brilliant. I'm blessed everytime listen. I pray you will be as well.
- The Short Preacher
In many ways, Dr. Land's system anticipates what happens when I file my illustrations on a blog. I simply type the illustration once, then tag (or label) it with all of the subject headings I think fit that particular illustration. Then I can search the entire system by simply searching that tag word. The advantages of the blog, are that I don't have to retype things if I find them in electronic form. I can simply type a brief summary that will jog my memory and then link to the original article.
I've been keeping my illustration file this way for about five years. I keep this particular blog private because most things on there are copyrighted. With it being for my eyes only I avoid any trouble on that front. When I use an illustration I simply write in a comment noting the date and setting in which I used it. That way, a few years from now (or even months the way my memory is going!) I don't have to go by my memory alone to determine if I've used that illustration before.
This works for me. What works for you?
- The Short Preacher
Jürgen Moltmann, The Source of Life (Minneapolis: Fortress, 1997), 14.
Key words: forgiveness, joy, lost, Moltmann, prodigal-son, redemption, repentance
Do you have a blog on preaching? Are you a preacher who blogs? Leave a comment below with your blog's address. I'll check it out and if I like it, I'll add you to the blog roll.
No need to worry about if we're the same kind/tribe/style of preacher. I like hearing and learning from all types.
Grace and peace - The Short Preacher
Thursday, March 10, 2011
That's really not as big of a deal as it seems. As a kid, I had no idea how to get anywhere and yet I still managed to get there. How? I jumped in the back seat and went for the ride. As a child, it wasn't up to me to know how to get places - it was, however, up to me to know what to do once I got there.
I think of a ministry our youth group had. We called it HOP (Helping Older People). The youth minister drove us around to older people’s houses. I didn’t know how to get there but I knew what to do when we got there (mow their yards). In the same way, we might not know when or how the road to the future will unfurl but as believers we should know what to do along the way. Constantly asking, “Are we there yet” will not speed up the trip. And it may actually distract from perhaps a better question, “What are we here for?”
- The Short Preacher
Welcome to The Short Preacher! I'm so glad you've dropped by. The purpose of this blog is to be a place to share illustrations, frustrations, best practices, book reviews . . . you name it. Anything to do with preaching. I hope you'll drop by often and make your own contributions through through the comments. Many blessings - TSP.