Thinking Out Loud

July 25, 2016

Should Local Church Sermons Have Footnotes?

Filed under: Christianity — Tags: , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:11 am

PlagiarismTo what extent should the average local church pastor list all his/her sources and provide annotation for all his/her slides?

This is a recurring question in our house because, online as we are, we often recognize things preached as owing to particular websites or books.

Typically, in a pre-internet age, the pastor was expected to spend “one hour in study for every one minute in the pulpit.” I knew a few pastors who met this expectation, or at least came very, very close. Their studies were filled with commentaries, lexicons and a variety of great books. For them to pause to mention every source would severely break up the flow of their message. It was a given that not all the content was their own, but was the culmination of a week of study.

Today, people sit in the pews fact-checking with their phones, and looking for the source of unique phrases. Plagiarism, in the church at least, is a crime punishable by embarrassment and censure.

What if there isn’t a list of footnotes because great bulk from a single source was copied and pasted wholesale into their sermon notes? “That’s a lot of material to borrow from a single source without attribution;” I said to my wife after lunch the other day. Why not at least direct the congregation to that source in the event they wish to follow-up with further study?

Furthermore, what if the minister/pastor/preacher was hired on their ability to compose great sermons on their own? What if that 30-minutes-equals-30-hours rule is still the general expectation? Doesn’t that make the wholesale borrowing a more serious situation?

What say you?

 

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June 16, 2014

Preaching to the Choir

 

preaching-to-choir_from fritzcartoons-dot-com

…the problem is not that some churches are seeker-sensitive, the problem is that MOST churches are seeker-hostile. The problem is not that some churches are emergent, the problem is that MANY churches are stagnant. The problem is not that some churches are led by false teachers, the problem is that SOME churches are so busy bashing other churches that they really don’t teach anything. The problem is not that some churches have grown to become mega-churches, the problem is that TOO MANY churches are dying, and can’t see the reason why.

The above is part of a response I made to a comment on my other blog last week. People keep throwing around terms like seeker-sensitive, but that whole discussion is so 1990. Furthermore, in 2007, the church that popularized the term “seeker sensitive” published the Reveal study which showed, as least as far as data at that time was concerned, that the spiritual needs of seekers had changed. Some critics went so far as to suggest that the entire philosophy had been a mistake which needed to be repented of, but to do so is to both overstate the situation, and rob Willow Creek of its unique history which contributed to its growth and the the growth of other similar churches.

The thing that does need to continue to be addressed however is the opposite of seeker sensitivity, which is best expressed in the not-so-new term, “preaching to the choir.”

We have no idea how often we do this, and we do this at the expense of opportunities to reach a much broader, wider portion of the general population. I believe we do this specifically in two different areas.

In terms of felt needs, we often miss the brokenness that people experience as a starting point. The Four Spiritual Laws begin with the premise that “man is sinful and separated from God,” but the average person is not aware of God, or knowledgeable about what constitutes sin. They only know that they have an addiction problem, or that their employer is laying off staff, or that their marriage is in trouble, or that they are lonely, etc. As many have observed, the church is often answering questions people are not asking.

In terms of vocabulary, we truly don’t have filters for the words we toss around which are so familiar to us, and yet so foreign to the average listener. Terminology must be clear, and where uniquely-Christian theological concepts have no other lexicon, those words must be fully explained.  Plain speech can still be profound.

In terms of primary message, we think that we are sufficiently countering the anti-this and anti-that perceptions the world has about Christian faith, but really, we can’t say “God really loves you” enough times, especially when there are people in the church who don’t truly know the love of God. Yes, there is balance in many things, and the love of God has to be offset with a communication of God’s justice and hatred of wrongdoing. But maybe that’s the thing that’s needed, sermons that begin “on the one hand,” and move to “on the other hand.”

In terms of form, I don’t think the average pastor can pull off Andy Stanley’s 45-minute sermon length. Many start out with a really engaging premise, but are unable to maintain the intensity after the first seven or eight minutes. It truly is all downhill from that point. In a world where you can make an impact in just 140-characters, concision is all important. I often tell people who ask me about writing, “Pretend you are placing a classified advertisement in the local newspaper and you are being charged $1 per word.” That will cause you to excise much unnecessary verbiage.

In terms of context, we really need to take the message to the streets, figuratively if not literally. I heard this many years ago: So much of what we think constitutes out-reach is actually in-drag. We want people on our turf, in our building, attending activities that take place in our expensive facilities. Rather, we ought to look for ways to salt the broader community through involvement and participation in non-church activities, clubs, sports, recreation, arts programs, forums, reading groups, etc. Furthermore, we need to be ones staging events that have a huge potential to attract people from the widest spectrum of our cities and towns. Better yet, we need to go where people already are, places they already gather.

The choir know the story just as they know the lyrics and tunes of the songs they sing. It’s time to spend the greater portion of our energies on people who have not yet come into the family of faith.

 

 

October 24, 2012

Wednesday Link List

Insert your own introduction here.

  • Another Christian leader is brought down by a sex scandal. Not to be flippant, but we could probably do a weekly link list just on stories like this one.
  • Or this one.
  • Rob Bell is doing a January conference in LA for 50 pastors to spend two 12-hour days learning to improve their writing craft. (With a break for surfing.) (No, not internet surfing.) If that’s you, find out more about CraftLab.
  • I like this piece about making a faith-identification with people in the broader community, and then deciding if you and they want to get into a faith discussion.
  • In England they count as deaths, and more than a quarter of all deaths there are due to abortions.
  • In another link to The Christian post, a megachurch pastor questions the hype when his fellow megachurch pastors describe every Sunday as “super” or “biggest” or “best.”  Actually the one he used was “megamonster.” He thinks the hype is unsustainable.
  • The New Zealand Herald thinks Christianity is losing its world dominance, but one blogger doesn’t think we should accept that conclusion.
  • A reporter for the LA Times — who is looking to gauge success solely from the Billboard charts —  seems to think that Christian rock music is making a comeback.
  • An American currently living in Canada finds her present location gives here a fresh perspective on U.S. election issues.
  • So author Janette Oke wrote eight “Love Comes Softly” books, but when they got made into DVDs they added two prequels. 8 + 2 = 10, right? So when you buy the 10-disc box set why is there an 11th empty slot in the packaging? Answer: It’s for this one.
  • Here’s a new church video clip on the subject of insecurity. (Reminder, you have to buy these; they aren’t expensive; don’t stream them live during your service.)
  • Earlier in the summer,  James MacDonald & Co. boarded a bus for the 40-city Vertical Church tour. Here’s a video recap.
  • Memorized any Bible verses lately? A Canadian author once put this list together of 50 verses you should know by heart.
  • Drew Marshall had Bob Smietana as a guest this week. The Tennessee writer is an expert on snake-handling churches, but because newspapers are now denying access to their files, we can’t read his landmark article. Here’s a summary. as well as a version written originally for USAToday.
  • You’re trying to participate in an outdoor mass in Poland, but it’s so crowded the only place to stand is at the door of a sex shop.  Personally, I hate when that happens.
  • And while we’re on that subject, a hotel in Europe has replaced the Gideon Bibles with copies of 50 Shades of Gray. Author Shannon Ethridge takes a look at sexual fantasies in The Fantasy Fallacy. reviewed here.

October 15, 2012

Did Church Work For You Yesterday?

Carlos Whittaker posted this on his blog, Ragamuffin Soul exactly two weeks ago.  You may find it a little harsh, or you may feel he nailed it. Perhaps you attend church, and it’s not perfect, but you go with different expectations.  Either way, I’d like to know your reaction.

Yesterday millions of people stood in rows and sang songs.
Yesterday millions of people sat in rows and listened to a person talk about God.
Yesterday millions of people left a building and went back home.

Today millions of people are waiting to see if “going to church” worked.
Today millions of people are going to be severely disappointed.
Today millions of people need to see that church wasn’t yesterday and it wasn’t in a building…
Today millions of people need their church staff to not start planning CHURCH next Sunday until they show them CHURCH today.

June 15, 2012

Discovering a Bible Study Goldmine

Yesterday at Daily Encouragement, Stephen and Brooksyne Weber mentioned a Bible study resource that they use to prepare their daily devotional.  Precept Austin online Bible commentary study guide that is basically a collection of material from many, many commentaries.

As the name suggests, it’s helpful for use with — but not directly affiliated with — the Precept Ministries’ approach to Bible study, popularized by Kay Arthur’s inductive Bible study method and International Inductive Study Bible.  Both her Bible and this site use NASB as the base text, which is a reasonable choice for something of this nature.  But you don’t have to be familiar with that particular methodology in order to appreciate the hours that went into creating this, and the potential value to clergy (pastors) and laity (that’s you) alike.

My suggestion on how to get your feet wet with this resource: Click over the home page, and then under options select a Bible book and then a particular verse which is of interest.

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?

April 20, 2011

Wednesday Link List

I chose this particular WordPress theme for its wide margins, but inherited a rather tiny default typeface in the process.  For years  I’ve been bumping it up manually with HTML codes, but last week WordPress changed the rules, and I would now have to do it paragraph by paragraph.  [Update: Which, now having the time, I’ve just done! Which renders the rest of this paragraph redundant.] So… if you can’t read what follows simply press Ctrl and while you’re holding it down press the “+” sign, although technically you’re pressing “=” sign, because it’s done without holding down the shift key.  But nobody thinks of it that way…

As a bonus today, excerpts from the links are included in red.

  • Brant Hansen continues to blog, albeit not at Kamp Krusty.  He recently explained to WAY-FM listeners why he doesn’t tithe. People like me who no longer believe we are bound to tithing are not arguing for less giving.  Oh no.  We’re arguing for more, for those who have it.  Much more.
  • In a related post, Christianity Today asks if people receiving unemployment benefits should tithe on that “income.” Tithing is not a luxurious option achievable only by those whose financial security is assured. It is the ancient spiritual practice that God uses to begin setting our priorities right, to heal our hearts of greed and fear, and to draw us ever closer into his own boundless generosityJoin the conversation at CT.
  • Followers of Judaism are fighting declining numbers by modernizing many of its practices, including an enhanced use of creative arts. Every branch of Judaism has seen membership drop digits. Interfaith marriages… continue at a pace of 50% for Jews.  Look for parallels between their efforts and what Evangelicals have done in the last few decades in this USAToday story.
  • Tom at the blog Living in the Beauty of  Dirty Faith has a concise summary of the objectification of our children:  So this is the message young daughters around the country (and world) are getting:  don’t be measured by what type of person you are becoming, how you treat others, etc. but rather be measured by your measurements.  Check out Girls Gone Wild.
  • Just so everybody’s clear, Shaun Groves makes it clear that Facebook friends are not true friends: I have friends. You’re probably not one of them.  Not everybody likes this news, but they’re now redirected to a fan page.
  • With all the attention being given the new NIV revision (and the new NAB revision) it’s easy to miss the Josh James Version.  Having appreciated the many opportunities that the web has to offer, I decided in 2008 to begin using web space to publish some of my Bible study, sermons, instruction in the Greek language, my Greek translation of the New Testament, and various other bits of information. The individual pages take forever to load, but I admire his diligence!  Check out Josh James’ translation page.
  • Readership at Christianity 201 — my other blog — is growing faster these days; so I thought I’d scare everyone away with a really, really, really, really long post by Steven Furtick.    We could be judgmental, but the truth is that there are things that are just as elementary that you and I still don’t get. And it’s these things that keep us in a state of inertia in our walk with God and the calling He has placed on our lives. Check out this reposting of his three-part series at Maybe You Just Don’t Get It.
  • If you’ve been avoiding the magazines at the grocery store by doing the self-checkout thing, you may have missed out that Rob Bell has put the issue of hell on the cover (see above) of Time Magazine.  Bell’s arguments about heaven and hell raise doubts about the core of the Evangelical worldview, changing the common understanding of salvation so much that Christianity becomes more of an ethical habit of mind than a faith based on divine revelationThe article is long, but well-researched.
  • Meanwhile, Barna Research shows that one in four “born again” Christians subscribe to universalist beliefs.  For many evangelicals, the idea of Christians holding universalist ideas is particularly disturbing because it nullifies the need for Christ to die on the cross and the message of Jesus that he is the only way, truth and life… A 2008 Pew Forum survey revealed that 57 percent of evangelicals agreed with the idea that other religions than their own can lead to eternal life. Read the story at Christian Post.
  • Speaking of the above, Adam Powers blogs a few quotations from the Gospel Coalition’s special session on responding to Bell.  Crawford Loritts on people who have cut their spiritual teeth on Bell: We all need to be careful when we talk about these things not to overcorrect. We are to love unbelievers and we are to preach the love of God. I would encourage this person, not only to pursue right exegesis on this issue, but to the study of the nature of God altogether. Look at the wholeness of who God isRead more at the blog Pleasing Pain.
  • Speaking of responses, a reader is trying to get me to recant of my earlier support of Bell’s alt interpretation of Peter and Jesus walking on water.  I reply, Bell’s alternative reading on this stops short of the kind of fantasy scripture that his friend Peter Rollins would conjure up. It’s not the main point of the story, but, a year later, I still think Jesus is saying to Peter, “I chose you, I invited you to step out of the boat, I have faith you can walk on water; do you trust my choice?” And then, I refuse to withdraw my endorsement on this particular bit of Bell’s teaching.
  • When it comes to preaching, I know what I like; but not as well as Darryl Dash knows what he doesn’t like.  I’ve observed that there are countless ways to preach well, but there are only a few key steps you need to master if you want to preach poorly.  Check out his guest post at Soren’s blog, Six Keys to Poor Preaching.   (BTW, Darryl’s brother is a neighbor of mine who sends me hilarious e-mail forwards by the truckload.)
  • The Seventh Day Adventists, which make up a large majority of the population in Loma Linda, California are losing their unique Sunday mail delivery.  Carrier supervisor Duane Hubbard told the paper that the postal service’s computers don’t recognize Sunday as a workday, meaning the local office is unable to communicate with any other agency offices then.  Now only two communities in the U.S. are left with the unique delivery situation.
  • The “gone wild” reference earlier reminded me of this t-shirt concept available at Kaboodle.com

  • …which in turn reminded me of this backprint/frontprint T-shirt concept also at Kaboodle

  • Today’s quote:
“People ask, ‘How could a loving God send people to hell?’ but I believe that a loving God put a blood-stained cross on the pathway to hell and if someone ends up going to hell they had to step over that blood-stained cross to get there.”
~Perry Noble, April 15th

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