Friday, July 29, 2011

From around the Web this week

A man in South Africa, thought to be dead by friends and family, woke up after spending 21 hours in a morgue refrigerator. Workers went screaming from the building after hearing his screams thinking he was a ghost. Lots of applications from this one from thoughts on the resurrection to what it's like to mistake a person for being dead.

CNN's Faith Blog listed ten things they learned in their first year of existence.  Included in their findings, Atheist like to comment on religious stories; Americans, though very religious, don't actually know much about religion; and people are still interested in the Bible.

What does your church communicate about its beliefs through its Sunday morning worship service?  Skye Jethani, senior editor of Leadership Journal writes about his 9-year-old daughter's encounter with two different churches: one liturgical and one contemporary.  In one church she notices the cross, the Bible, and communion.  In the other, she notices they have a coffee shop.  Worth your read.

Finally, to brag on my wife, she has written an excellent piece about grief, the church, and learning to worship not only with, but for one another.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Can't attend a preaching conference this year? Watch one online.

I enjoy listening to other preachers talk about the craft, but I can't always take the time away from family or church to travel to one of the many conferences offered around the country. The good news is that, now, with the Internet, you can find more resources than you could ever work through. One that I have great affection for is the work being done at The Kyle Lake Center for Effective Preaching at George W. Truett Seminary. They've started hosting several events a year. When I can, I attend.  When I can't, I watch online. Currently they have the entire Will Willimon and Haddon Robinson Lectures available with more on the way.

To listen to the first Willimon lecture, click through the jump.

Does the Bible teach us how to preach?

"The new Testament contains an implicit theology of preaching but no operating instructions or tips for effective preaching."

Richard Lischer, The End of Words, 10.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

What can preachers learn from poets?

Gary Charles briefly explains how reading helps preaching. I especially like his reasoning for reading poetry. "Most good poets," he explains, "are forced to make something that is fairly mundane, imaginative, and do it in few words. And most preachers would really benefit to learn how to say what they say in fewer words."


Thanks again to the folks over at for these videos. Keep them coming.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Preaching from the whole Bible

Does it matter to you if you preach from the whole of Scripture?  Should it matter?  If you preach in a tradition that emphasizes the lectionary in worship, the congregation should at least hear most of the Bible read to them every three years in worship.  Even so, there is no guarantee you preach from each portion of the scriptures.  If you are from a more free church tradition then there is a good chance that portions of scripture go completely untouched in corporate worship over the course of a congregation's life.

I've been preaching at Southland now for five years, so I decided to do an inventory of the sermons I've preached here.  I preach from the New Testament 73% of the time, from the Old Testament 27% of the time.  Over a forth of my sermons are from the gospels, Luke being my apparent favorite.  I've preached from the third gospel twice as often as any of the others.  I've spent over three months of those five years in the book of Acts.  The rest of my NT sermons are fairly evenly split between the Pauline epistles and the rest of the NT cannon.  In the OT I've spent a lot of time in Psalms.  This inventory revealed that there are 20 OT and 5 NT books I've never preached a sermon on here at Southland.  11 of those I've covered in Wednesday evening Bible Study, but that is a much smaller crowd.

I will certainly take these numbers into consideration as I plan my sermons in the future.  Do any of you keep statistics like this?  What about keeping topical statistics (Like how many sermons on forgiveness, discipleship, loneliness, etc.)?  I could see where that might be helpful.  I'd love to have your input on your record keeping and how that record planning influences your planning.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

The survey says . . . Using polls in research and as illustrations

I will use a statistic from a poll only infrequently as an illustration in one of my sermons.  Many people today, I think, are fairly skeptical of polls having seen opposing sides of an argument use surveys in contradictory ways. That being said, a good poll can help the preacher get a feel for what his or her congregation might be thinking on an issue. Preachers are like everyone else.  We often assume that other people think the way we do about a given issue.  Good research can help broaden our understanding of our congregation and of our communities.

Rasmussen Reports is a reputable source of polls. Primarily they survey political opinions, but also do surveys on other things like, "Do you believe life exists on other planets in the universe?" 58% of Americans say they do. You can browse the surveys at their website or sign up for a daily e-mail of their latest poll. Barna Research Group focuses their research upon the church.  You can sign up for a twice a month e-mail from them that highlights some of their more recent work.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Tony Campolo, "Models for Forgiveness"

This sermonette is from the web show 30 Good Minutes. They do interviews with preachers (primarily mainline preachers) and ask them to preach a brief sermon. The sermons often fall flat. My guess is that this has to do with preachers attempting to preach to a camera in a nearly empty studio when they are accustomed to preaching to a congregation.

Campolo handles the camera with ease. Unlike most of the others, he's been there before. I like listening to Campolo speak. After listening to this, I've decided, I really like listening to Campolo speak for 10 minutes! He usually goes much longer. Anyway, this is a good example of a deductive sermon. This is a style of sermon that has taken a beating in preaching classes over the last few decades due to its overuse in the past. Tony proves that sometimes deductive preaching sounds great.

Tony Campolo, "Models for Forgiveness" - PG5323 from 30goodminutes on Vimeo.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Preaching that is more than your two cents

I came across this quote from Fred Craddock today, "Small topics are like pennies; even when polished to a high gloss, they are still pennies" (Preaching, 49). The quote is placed within a section in which Craddock argues for preachers who think and preach theologically.  His point is that good theology compels the preacher to bring a big agenda to the pulpit for God has a big agenda for the world.  Good theology reminds us that God is up to more than whether or not we, the congregation, are presently pleased, comfortable, or entertained.

Craddock's point is well taken.  I read quite a few theology books each year, and I believe I am a better preacher because of it.  This isn't because I get anything out of those books for direct use in my sermons (like quotes or illustrations).  No.  Very little in such books makes a direct jump into the text of my sermons.  No, the point isn't to get material for my sermons, but rather, to get deeper thoughts into me.  Reading theology stretches my understanding and challenges my assumptions.  Reading theology calls me to examine questions I'd rather leave unasked and to hear answers I'd rather not hear.  Reading theology, good theology, deepens my faith, and that makes me a better preacher.

Three favorite theology books (among many):
  •  Exclusion & Embrace by Miroslav Volf
  • The Drama of Doctrine by Kevin Vanhoozer
  • The Crucified God by Jurgen Moltmann
Here are two of the more theologically focused blogs that I follow:
  • Roger Olson, Professor of Theology at Truett Seminary.  You can read his thoughts on why theology is essential to ministry here.
  • Scot McKnight, a New Testament professor at North Park University (I realize McKnight is not technically a theologian, but the truth is, all good biblical scholars also do theology just as good theologians also study their Bibles!).
I'd love to hear of your favorite theology books and blogs, as well.