Wednesday, February 29, 2012

"Holy Hutzpah" by Ben Patterson

Ben Patterson Sermon from FPC Kingwood on Vimeo.

There are two ways in which a text can be difficult. One is that it's simply difficult to understand. It's complex. It doesn't make sense. Other passages are difficult for the opposite reason, they are easy to understand, we just don't like what they have to say. In both cases, the temptation for the preacher is to make text easier, smoother, more palatable.

I like this sermon from Ben Patterson because he allows a difficult text to remain difficult. He doesn't smooth over the sharp edges, which in the end, keeps the text connected to our own rough experiences with life and with God. The Mark Galli book he references (Jesus Mean and Wild) is a good one for reminding us of the difficult sayings of Jesus. My favorite quote from the sermon, "If you've not met God as one who opposes you, you've not met God."

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Quote of the week - the scandal of Friday, the rumor of Sunday

"In a culture that has learned well how to imagine - how to make sense - of the world without reference to the God of the Bible, it is the preacher's primal responsibility to invite and empower and equip the community to reimagine the world as though Yahweh were a key and a decisive player . . .

"We are forever reimagining and retelling and reliving our lives throuh the scandal of Friday and the rumor of Sunday"

- Walter Brueggemann, Deep Memory, Exuberant Hope, 2, 10.

Monday, February 27, 2012

N.T. Wright on preaching the whole Bible via one text

The Whole Sweep Of Scripture from The Work Of The People on Vimeo.

Interviewer: "How should we read the scriptures?"
Bishop Wright: "Frequently and thoroughly."

Bishop Wright speaks a word to the whole church about reading scripture as it was meant to be read. For the preacher, I found the his word at the end of the video (around the 6 minute mark) especially valuable. He uses a metaphor about seeing the countryside through a window. Only by pressing in towards the window does one get a wide view of the countryside beyond the pane. In worship each week, we press in towards one text in order to see the sweeping countryside of the biblical story. This runs somewhat contrary to the way we often isolate texts in worship, especially in the free church tradition (where we may only read that one text in worship!). I wonder, what ways do you help the congregation keep the whole story in view during worship each week?

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Quote of the Week: Countercultural preaching

"I think that there is nothing more powerful than a person who loves other people, standing under the power of the Spirit and telling the truth about something. As a matter of fact, it's so shockingly countercultural that it has the ability, when it is done with passion, to create an attentive listener."

Thomas Long, from an interview in Ten Great Preachers: Messages and Interviews edited by Bill Turpie

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Lenten Resources

Here are some Lenten resources that I've found helpful.
  • Journey to the Cross - this online devotional is from the folks over at The devotionals are simple and yet stirring. It's worth stopping by for the the Ken Medema music alone.
  • Lent for Everyone - This is a Lenten devotional by one of my favorite writers, N.T. Wright. I can only find this on the YouVersion website / app. I don't think you have to sign-up in order to use it, but you might. It's free, and the YouVersion app is a great way to read the Bible on your phone or tablet. 
  • Lenten Blog by the Huffington Post - As strange as this one is, two days in I've been pleasantly surprised by this Huffington Post Lenten blog. I'll say up front, I have no idea who all the contributors will be and so I don't vouch for any of them. That being said, o far they've had piece from the late Henri Nouwen and from Walter Brueggemann two of my favorite authors.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Dr. William J. Carl III on preaching without notes

William J. Carl III Brain Technique for Preaching Without Notes from Tom Dykhuizen on Vimeo.

This seminar is a little over an hour. The technique is interesting. I haven't tried it yet, but might this week. I'll let you know how it goes. Have any of you tried something like this?

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Life as a short preacher

Last week I was visiting with one of our 5th graders about being baptized. We were standing in the baptistery (sans water). I asked her if she had any questions. She said that she had always wondered what the cinder block in the bottom of the baptistery was for (our baptistery is level with the stage and it is easy for young ones to peer over the edge into it). I explained that shorter people will often stand on the block during their baptisms so that they they are easier to see.

She replied, "Oh, I always though it was for you."

I laughed, but the girl's mother shot her a look, as if to say, "That's not polite."

The 5th grader continued, "What?! That's what all the kids say."

Out of the mouth of babes. . .

Monday, February 6, 2012

Quote of the week: Calvin Miller

"Becoming a great preacher, like becoming a great artist, requires a life commitment."

- Calvin Miller, The Empowered Communicator

Friday, February 3, 2012

Women in Ministry (Part II): It's not about being a liberal or conservative

Liberal. In my part of the country, that's a bad word. Politically, if you call someone a liberal, you might as well be calling them a communist (Even the Democrats here try to avoid being called liberals!). Theologically the terms mean something different than they do in the political arena, but the term still means something negative to many of my baptist friends. In Baptist circles (and other evangelical traditions, as well), calling someone a theological liberal is the equivalent of questioning their commitment to the Bible and even their commitment to Christ. I'm not saying that I agree with the use of the word liberal as an epithet. I for one don't consider liberals enemies, even if I disagree with them on a number of issues. I'm simply explaining how the word is used in my part of the world.

I make this point for this simple fact: when someone (like myself) begins to advocate for women in ministry, many others will immediately begin accusing them of being a liberal. That's a serious accusation in the circles I operate in and can cost people their jobs and destroy their ministries. The threat of these accusations keeps many people (both lay and clergy) from voicing their support for women in ministry even though their convictions lead them in that direction.  The atrocity of this kind of criticism is not simply that it's often mean-spirited and damaging to the body of Christ. The trouble is that such accusations are often patently untrue. A person can be theologically conservative and a Christian who supports women in ministry. 

Take for instance, the many charismatic churches that have conservative theology and yet allow women to participate in all levels of ministry. The Salvation Army and Nazarene churches, both conservative denominations, also ordain women to the ministry. In the last few decades many evangelical churches have also begun to incorporate women into all aspects of church life. Conservative preachers like Haddon Robinson, former president of Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary, have made the case for women in ministry. Heroes of Baptist life like Frank Pollard have, as well. Conservative scholars like Gordon Fee, F.F. Bruce, even Millard Erickson (Southern Baptist), have advocated for the ordination of women.

Now, I know that for every name that I throw out there will be someone who says, "Yeah, but that person isn't a real conservative." What those people mean is that these names don't fit their definition of what a conservative is supposed to look like (even though, all of the names listed above would be considered conservatives to many, many people).  This leads me to my bigger frustration with this issue. While I fully believe that you can be conservative theologically and support women in the ministry, I also believe the terms liberal and conservative have limited usefulness in many of our discussions. The reason is simple: nobody agrees on what these terms mean. When you think about it, how could they? Life is not made up of just one issue. It's made up of any number of issues. And there are a large number of ways to arrange one's beliefs. As my professor Roger Olson wrote recently on his blog, "There’s no 'right' or 'left' or 'middle.' There’s just (limited) variety."

There was a time that I would proudly boast of being a conservative. No more. That's not because I consider myself a liberal. I don't (but I do count both self-described liberals and self-described conservatives as my friends). No, the reason I don't worry about touting my conservative credentials is because I find such a term almost useless in describing what I think almost all of us are attempting to do - follow Jesus not liberally or conservatively but faithfully. How each of us works that out will definitely look a little different from one another. That's no reason to go slandering one another as being less than faithful.

For now, we all see through the glass darkly, but one day . . .


If you're interested in a more in-depth look at the uselessness of the left-middle-right spectrum in the field of theology, check out Dr. Roger Olson's blog post "On tossing out the 'right-middle-left' spectrum."

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Sermon of the Week: Case Study of a Mugging by Haddon Robinson

This sermon is from a series Haddon Robinson did for the Dallas Theological Seminary. All four sermons from the series are available on DTS's website. Each is worth hearing. Dr. Robinson excels at several levels of preaching, but I am always most impressed in his ability to say succinctly what the sermon is about. 

Watch for the lines: "Your neighbor is anyone whose need you see, whose need God put you in a position to meet" and "What you are determines what you see."

Women in Ministry (Part I): Why I'm glad to support women in ministry

My first genuine encounter with women in ministry happened in college. Week after week, I would listen to faithful women give powerful proclamation to the word of God. At that time, I'd never really given any thought as to whether or not it was permissible for a woman to preach to men or to serve on a church staff. The church I grew up in only had men in the pulpit, but I remember women taking a prominent role in many other aspects of church life. If that church had discussions about the role of gender in church life, they didn't have it with the teenagers. So college was the first time that I encountered women teaching and preaching in any significant way. It was, therefore, the first time I began a serious pursuit of what the Bible had to say about women in ministry. 

The women that first got me thinking about this issue weren't employed by any church. They were my peers at the Baptist Student Ministry at Texas A&M. We would often have students lead small group Bible studies and the larger weekly meetings. Some of the very best teachers/preachers were some of the women students. What is ironic, is that these women, for the most part, believed that it was unscriptural for women to preach. They would explain their own teaching by explaining that it wasn't in a church setting or that it wasn't really preaching. They'd call it testimony or something like that (I think Beth Moore does the same kind of verbal gymnastics). I always found that a little silly. In those days, we Baptist would often talk of having a foot-function, but everyone (including us) knew we were having a dance. The difference between teaching/preaching/offering a testimony is almost negligible.