The Craft: Recapturing the Power & Beauty of Preaching

Preaching is terribly important.

In fact, it may be more important now than it ever has been. Everyone – both Christian and non-Christians – have some thought, idea, or question about preaching and what preaching should be.

What we like. What we don’t like. Who we believe is effective and who isn’t, all of these issues are front and center in the mind of the hearers when it comes to preaching.

Since Christians spend a good bit of time throughout their lives, sitting in pews and listening to preaching, it’s fair to assume that each would have opinions. Therefore, I’m not surprised to find an increasing number of people asking me about the preaching event and preparation for preaching. In recent weeks I’ve been contacted by preachers, youth ministers, lay persons, elders, and all other stripes of church members about my preaching, their preacher, their preaching, or becoming a better preacher (This is not necessarily because I am a great preacher, but rather because I’ve become well-known and greatly teased for my all too frequent railings about bullet points). To shed some light on my process, I’m going to spend a few posts dealing with – what I hope – is a helpful approach to the weekly homily. I pray I don’t bore my “non-preacher” readers with a shade too much “inside baseball.” Let’s start with a few words from a preaching giant, Dr. Fred Craddock:

Share with us: What do you think makes good preaching? 

 

Moving to Wineskins?

You may have heard that this blog is moving to The Wineskins Network. If so, you might be wondering if that is true. The answer is “yes” and “no.” Let me explain, but first I need to explain some things before I can explain the upcoming changes.

I grew up a member of The American Restoration Movement. Over time, The Restoration Movement – which began as a unity movement in the church – splintered into three branches, Churches of Christ, Christian Churches, and Disciples of Christ. I’m a child of churches of Christ. All of my life I have been and will be shaped by people who developed their faith within those churches.

When I was in college, and for much of my twenties, “Wineskins Magazine,” – which later became “New Wineskins Magazine” – was THE  outlet for thoughtful, forward-thinking, may I dare even say, “progressive” conversation within churches of Christ. I loved it. Back in those days there was no Internet, no such things as blogging, and a monthly dose of fresh thinking from my preaching heroes like Max Lucado, Mike Cope, Rubel Shelley, Jack Reese and others kept my spirit afloat. One of my professors, André Resner wrote a little piece called “Christmas At Matthew’s House” which sparked my imagination and was the inspiration for my book “Scandalous: Lessons in Redemption From Unlikely Women.”

wineskins

 

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Living At Peace (A September 11th Reflection on Romans 12)

Tomorrow our nation, and our allies around the world, will pause to remember the events of September 11th. As a teacher, my wife Rochelle, will cease teaching science and spend the day guiding students through reflection about the terrorists attacks in New York and Washington. My daughters, in first and fourth grade respectively, will do much of the same.

In advance of September 11th (and since this blog post every Tuesday and Thursday), here a reflection on peace which I penned last year.

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There are any number of scriptures we Christians don’t take seriously, but maybe none are taken less seriously than Romans 12.18-20. Here, the apostle Paul instructs the church this way: “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord. On the contrary: ‘If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.’”

Living at peace is tough business and “Christian America” has particularly struggled with it in the wake of September 11, 2001. The reasons are obvious. We were struck! Hit! Devastated! All by an enemy that had long been at war with us, though many of us knew or cared very much about them. At the time it felt reassuring to hear President George W. Bush tell New Yorkers — and the rest of the world — that the people who did this would hear from us.

We needed protection from the twisted minds that could envisage, plan, and celebrate the kind of destruction visited New York, Washington, and Shanksville, PA. Innocent people were targeted, children were killed, families undone. It was a slaughter, pure and simple. And in some sectors of the world, there was dancing in the streets.

It was no wonder then that so many of us — Christians, that is — supported combat in Afghanistan and Iraq. I did! Full steam ahead.

And I wasn’t shocked to learn, even years after 9/11, that the majority of Christians supported torture in some instances. It’s not that we’re evil or vengeful, it’s that we’re human. We have spouses and children; parents and grandparents; friends and classmates; that we love, that we want to protect, and we have a country we want to flourish.

What’s more, many of us believe that God has blessed us to live in the best, most humane, most prosperous and healthy country in the history of the world. And we want the best of that country to live forever and would love for others around the world to enjoy the benefits and blessings of our system. In sum, the September 11th attacks came from a place of evil, and as scripture teaches, evil must be resisted.

But the scriptures teach us about peace too.

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How To Get Beyond “Sin Management”

About 50 times a day I crash into the reality that I’m not everything God intended when he created me. Part of the wreckage was caused because I was born into a fallen and sinful world. The rest of the damage has been caused because I am a fallen and sinful person.

I don’t like admitting I’m a sinful person, but my disquiet with the phrase doesn’t rob the idea of its truth.

I’m a mix, as I suppose you are. I am sinful, but I don’t want to be. I want to be all that God intended. I want more than “saved” – even though being saved is glorious. I’m not worried about whether God loves me or about my place in God’s everlasting Kingdom. I’m worried about whether or not I’m becoming the kind of person God can trust with His everlasting kingdom.

Here’s what I mean:

Sin Management

 

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You’re Worth Your Investment

Subscribers to The Palmer Perspective receive a weekend newsletter that focus, not on church or theology, but simply personal growth; a topic to which I’m devoted. Today’s post is this past Saturday’s newsletter. To get this newsletter and be automatically added to blog giveaways and contest and get my e-book, Scandalous: Lessons In Redemption From Unlikely Women, SUBSCRIBE in the box below this post or in the upper right-hand corner.

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You’re going to fail if you don’t bet on yourself.

This past week I heard the story of Reginald “Reggie” Hudlin. Hudlin is a screen-writer, director, producer, and former CEO of BET. He is also a graduate of Harvard University, but he was born and raised in East St. Louis, one of the most dangerous cities in the country.  Hudlin’s most recent credit was as producer of Django Unchained and his first was House Party.

As you can see, Hudlin possesses an incredibly creative mind and has accomplished much in his field.
Hudlin tells the story of selling his very first script. The script was hand-written on legal paper, but that wasn’t all that strange at the time. As a struggling creative, Hudlin caught the bus and bummed rides with friends to get to and from pitch meetings and to connect with artists and studio executives. He was broke and did whatever he had to do to make rent. 

Then, all of Hudlin’s hard work payed off. He sold his first script. He only made $2,500, but for him that $2,500 was a fortune. But now Hudlin had a choice to make. He’d made enough money to either buy a used car or purchase a computer. 

Hudlin went with the computer.

As convenient (and fun) as it would be to have a car – or even to spend the money celebrating with friends – Hudlin opted to invest in himself. He says, “I figured with a computer, I could sell a lot more scripts.” He bet on himself. He invested, not in his comfort, but in his goals.
My life as a pastor and BeachBody coach gives me a front-row seat to people saying they want to make changes or move ahead, but we typically don’t mean it. We often fail to realize that making changes means investing in ourselves. When the next step cost money, time, or more effort than we first imagined, we bail, quit, or try to opt for the cheapest option.  Then we turn up shocked when investing nothing and doing nothing got us nothing.

Truthfully, though, those who invest in their goals are the people who meet them.

Suppose you want to grow spiritually, what lengths are you willing to go to? Will you spend money on those books, that retreat, or the time and money to find a spiritual director?  Will you wake-up earlier or delete unnecessary events from your calendar in order to carve out focused time with God?

If you want to get fit, are you ready to revamp your nutrition, work with a coach, and pay the monetary and physical price?

If you have goals, how does your life reflect movement toward those goals? And I say this so that you’ll know this: You can do anything!

All it takes is a willingness to invest in yourself. I think you’re worth it.

Tell us, what one thing can you do TODAY to invest in yourself?

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