Thinking Out Loud

June 10, 2011

Ya Want Deep Preaching? I’ll Give Ya Deep…

This piece appeared originally earlier in the week at Christianity 201.

There are presently two strains of evangelical preaching emerging. Some preachers, like Andy Stanley prefer the “one thing” approach; providing a rhythm and cadence to their preaching which leaves their listeners remembering a clear message and a clear application. The classic, “It’s Friday Night… But Sunday’s A-Comin'” is a message you’ve probably heard, or at least heard alluded to, that is based on this type of teaching.

The other style is the kind of message that gives you much information about context and history as well as cross-references to at least a dozen related scriptures. There are multiple points and various information sidebars.  While both styles can do verse-by-verse, or exegetical teaching; this exegetical style or expository preaching is considered by some a hallmark as to what constitutes real depth in preaching ministry.

The problem is that sometimes the people in the second camp, feel that the people in the first camp are not giving their people enough “depth.” This came up in the Elephant Room Conference where Steven Furtick used hyperbole to indicate the degree to which he did not want to aim for going deep on Sunday mornings.*

And it comes up here in this exchange between John Piper and Rick Warren. You might prefer to go direct to the YouTube page and click on some of the other subjects covered in this interview series. Some of the clips will also run in playlist form, allowing you to just sit back as the videos play in succession.

“Simple does not mean shallow.” “Simple does not mean simplistic.” What is deep? Warren says he taught series on sanctification and incarnation without actually using the words; do you think that is possible?

*For your interest, here is the discussion between Steven Furtick and Matt Chandler, moderated by James MacDonald. It gives you some insight into how pastors wrestle with the “deep” question.

What’s your definition of deep preaching?

June 8, 2011

Wednesday Link List

Thanks for all of you who voted for us as Top Christian Blog Link List Published on a Wednesday.   Our visitor at right can be purchased as a poster at, though, truth be told, there isn’t much you can’t buy there.

  • Angela Wyatt — as in Angela Schuller Wyatt — reports at Christian Post as to Why The Selling of the Crystal Cathedral is a Bad Idea.  Highlight: ” In any U.S. corporation, the leadership would be REMOVED in the face of bankruptcy.  As long as the current leadership maintains control, there will be no positive change at the Crystal Cathedral. They’re buying time by hawking one of America’s greatest cathedrals. Their actions will only delay the inevitable. It’s like loaning money to a gambler.”
  • Who better than The Pipe-ster himself to challenge Rick Warren as to whether or not he’s “deep” enough as a preacher.  Piper sits down with the Saddleback pastor and Purpose Driven author for a longer interview.  This YouTube link will actually set you up to watch a number of the topics  continiously in a playlist.   Even though you’re not a pastor, there are some good issues raised here.
  • On the other hand, I’d say this one is deep, and it’s in, of all places, The Washington Post.  Kyle Roberts and Adam Rao contrast popular “rapture theology” with what what they prefer, calling it “Biblical Eschatology,” or if you like, “de-raptured theology.”
  • Here’s a site you’re going to want to bookmark and return to often, though maybe not if you have high blood pressure issues.  Faith and the Law’s Blog highlights stories where churches encounter the legal system in all of its forms (legislation, justice, enforcement, etc.) in various parts of the world; such as, for example, this story where a Charlotte area church was fined $40,000 (US) for improper trimming of their trees.  Seriously.  It was based on $100 per branch.
  • “Hey, That’s Not in the Bible!”   A CNN Belief Blog item about non-existent Biblical quotes has now crossed the 6,000 comment line.  So now there’s a best of the comments item, but it’s crossed the 1,o00 comment mark.
  • Dan Bouchelle reminds us that being a former pastor doesn’t mean that all interest in former parishioners and counselees disappears when the paychecks stop coming.  Basically, it all comes down to motivation.
  • Youth ministry people:  Here’s a new blog from New Zealand that started a few weeks ago and has already received a healthy response.  It’s called Ideas for Youth Ministry in New Zealand but blogger Amy wants to collaborate with people from other parts of the world.
  • This link actually ran here a long time ago, but it’s an excellent article by Craig Groeshel on Generational Tension In The Church.
  • Here’s another one that was still in my files from December of last year.  It’s a longer article on Why C. S. Lewis’ Popularity Still Endures.
  • For this week’s link list cartoon, we return, after a long absence to Dan Lietha and the After Eden comic at the Answers in Genesis site.  (Click the image to link.)

January 1, 2010

Bottom Drops Out of Donations at Saddleback: $1M Debit Crisis

The bigger they are, the harder it gets during a recession,  as USAToday reports:

Rick Warren, Pastor of Saddleback Community Church

Evangelical pastor Rick Warren appealed to parishioners at his California megachurch Wednesday to help fill a $900,000 deficit by the first of the year.

Warren made the appeal in a letter posted on the Saddleback Church website. It begins “Dear Saddleback Family, THIS IS AN URGENT LETTER.”

“With 10% of our church family out of work due to the recession, our expenses in caring for our community in 2009 rose dramatically while our income stagnated,” the letter reads.

Still, Warren said the church managed to stay within its budget, but “the bottom dropped out” when Christmas donations dropped. “On the last weekend of 2009, our total offerings were less than half of what we normally receive…”

[continue reading the story at USAToday Religion]

Related story at Godvertiser blog discusses the announcement — just one day earlier — that Warren’s magazine is discontinuing its print edition and going digital.

September 19, 2009

Don’t Judge a Book By Its 2,900 Covers

Rick WarrenAs far as the book industry is concerned, Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren is the number-one, all-time, best-selling, non-fiction hardcover book in history. Period. So you can see why everyone is excited about the November release of The Hope You Need (Zondervan).

Well, not everyone. Certainly not at the blog, Church Marketing Sucks — yes that’s the name of it and don’t laugh, it was recently rated the 11th most popular Christian blog.

Their point of view, as outlined in this post, concerns Rick Warren’s decision to open the book jacket design up to a $5,000 competition, what graphic designers refer to as “spec work.”

Unfortunately, it’s not such a sweet deal. For the hundreds of designers who spent hours of time on your project, it’s a total loss. These kinds of projects communicate that their work is of little value.

As a double whammy, it’s not a very sweet deal for you, Rick. The quality of work you get is going to be sub-par … because the designers didn’t have the benefit of a working relationship with you the client where they could be privy to all the ideas, expectations, insights and everything else that goes into making a creative project work. In a nutshell: You’re not getting the best work because you’re not valuing the worker.

While the mechanics of getting a book to press don’t often register with readers, you really should read the whole article, and if for some reason you can’t, then you really MUST have a look at the 2900 contest entries.* You have to wonder why, given the success of its predecessor, a book that is this important is being put through this bizarre tendering process.

I can guarantee you’ll never look at a book cover the same again.

porpoisedrivenporpoisepurse driven

*That’s about 2,946 as of the contest closing.  Entries will remain posted online at the linked site until October 2nd, 2009

~from the blog, Christian Book Shop Talk

March 5, 2009

Purpose Driven Life, Left Behind, The Shack: Ultimately, Were They Printed For Christians?

the-shack-spanishI am starting to question whether certain books, having penetrated the mainstream book market, were ever truly meant for Christians to read themselves; especially considering that all we do is dissect them to death.   Here’s how I put it recently in a comment on Tim Challies‘ blog:

When certain “Christian” titles strike a nerve in mainstream culture, like Shack, Purpose-Driven and Left Behind; I start to wonder if they were really written for “us.” They do however, become easy targets for critique, analysis and even spin-off books which do both. If someone finds Christ in these books and is intent on discerning their next steps through fellowship and Bible study and prayer; then, later on, we can do the mid-course corrections that will center their doctrine.

I have read, seen and heard so many interviews with author Wm. Paul Young; and I have heard so many stories from satisfied readers that I feel in terms of the “big picture,” this book has done more good than harm. The greatest potential for harm comes when the book becomes a vehicle for division within the body; a springboard for pro-Calvinist or anti-Calvinist sentiments; when in fact the heart of the book is about how God meets us in the middle of the tragedies of life, what lead character Mack calls “the great sadness.”

Another great sadness would be to miss all that, and get so focused on the book’s alleged theological shortcomings that we miss the sound of the angels rejoicing in heaven over souls being saved. I’ll take a flawed Shack over similar efforts that never break out of the Christian reading ghetto; or efforts that never happen at all.

I’ve just reached a point where I’ve had it with all the analysis.   Purpose Driven Life is not perfect, The Shack‘s attempt to capture the heart of a loving God has lots of rough theological edges, and the Left Behind series is…well…

But I’ve heard of people being saved through reading the LaHaye/Jenkins series, and one story of Ashley Smith’s witness after reading PDL would justify  the book’s entire print run, and the Wm. Paul Young book is producing story after story of people finding faith.

Meanwhile, the Evangelical community is constantly bickering.   Enough already.   You win.   God is not a woman.    Oh yeah, and strictly speaking, God is not a man.

…and all the other debates and arguments also.

Pictured:  The Shack Spanish edition.  The book is currently available or being translated into 23 languages.

One Link – 3 Different Things To See at Mars Hill Grand Rapids
rob_bell Sermon posts at Rob Bell’s church only stay up for a dozen weeks, so time is running out quickly to catch three great moments in time at this church in Michigan. First go to the site linked here.   Then check out

  • February 8th –  The church celebrates a ten year anniversary where they celebrate the world wide influence this church is having.
  • February 15th – Rob Bell announces a coming tour in support of his book, Drops Like Stars, releasing in April, that will take him across the U.S., to Canada, and to the U.K.; and then introduces guest speaker Jeff Manion, who has pastored in Grand Rapids for 25 years who preaches on how the love of Christ needs to manifest itself in very down-to-earth, practical situations.
  • March 1st – Rob teaches on how our culture is in denial when it comes to death — I know, not a grabber of a subject — and begins a 6-week teaching from the book of Lamentations.   Not your average sermon, but a really good one.

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