Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Video Introduction of the Pastor's Area of LifeWay.com

My buddy Aaron Linne is our new Digital Media Producer here at LifeWay. He came by my office with his video camera to interview me. Here's a short video that will help you understand the wealth of help available at www.lifeway.com/pastor









Thanks for watching, now visit www.lifeway.com/pastor

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Prayer Guide: Praying for Missionaries

Pastor, I know it was not an accident that I was on week 12 of Disciple's Prayer Life by T.W. Hunt and Catherine Walker this week. December 2-9, 2007 is the Week of Prayer for International Missions (learn more at pastor.imb.org).

Throughout this chapter, I've been learning new things about praying for Missionaries. What helped me most was something that Hunt and Walker call "The Apostle Paul's A - F Prayer Requests for Missionaries." It's a handy guide to topics you can pray for as you lift up missionaries to the Lord. Here are the basics. Pray for ...
  • Acceptance by coworkers - other believers (Rom. 15:31b)
  • Boldness in witnessing (Eph. 6:19)
  • Clarity in communicating (Col. 4:4)
  • Deliverance from evil (Rom. 15:31a)
  • Extension of the ministry (Col. 4:2-3)
  • Fruitfulness in spiritual endeavors (2 Thess. 3:1)
Hunt and Walker have a whole week dedicated to learning about this as well as a Prayer Guide with more like the "A-F." I've posted Prayer Guide 12: Praying for Missionaries to help you as you lead your church family to pray knowledgeably for missions.

Monday, November 19, 2007

David Jeremiah on Giving Thanks

I am thankful for David Jeremiah. He always has great insights like the one I saw this morning in Baptist Press. This would be an excellent outline for a Bible study or sermon on thanksgiving.

In the article he quotes the following verses:
  • "Rejoice in the Lord always" (Philippians 4:4)
  • "In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you" (1 Thessalonians 5:18).
He says, "The word "joy" occurs 181 times in the Bible, and the theme of thanksgiving is woven like a golden ribbon throughout the fabric of Scripture.

He wants to hear our doubts, fears, and questions; but He especially desires our praise! He seeks those who will worship Him in spirit and in truth. When is it appropriate to praise and thank God?"
  • Every morning and every night
  • At midnight
  • At meals
  • When we pray
  • In every word and deed
  • In time and in eternity
Read the whole article on BaptistPress.com

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

California Wildfires, Saddleback rallies to help

LAKE FOREST, Calif. (BP)--Three of the 18 fires that ravaged Southern California in recent days scorched portions of the valley where Saddleback Valley Community Church is located.

Saddleback's facilities escaped the rampaging flames. But the crisis lit a fire of urgency for Saddleback members as they mobilized for disaster relief efforts to provide food, housing, comfort and counseling.

Warren noted that Saddleback's counselors seek to encourage fire victims in five ways:
  • release the grief.
  • receive help from others.
  • refuse to be bitter.
  • remember what's important.
  • rely on God.
Read more ...

Monday, October 29, 2007

Videos Featuring Disaster Relief in California Wildfires


I'm very thankful for the tireless efforts of my fellow Southern Baptists. View videos or download to show in your church at http://www.namb.net/cafiresvideo

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Southern Baptist Disaster Relief in California


FRESNO, Calif. (BP)—Southern California’s wildfires, which burst to fury over the weekend, have destroyed an estimated 1,300 homes in seven counties thus far -– and prompted the evacuation of 350,000 homes, killed two people and injured several dozen others, including at least 16 firefighters, according to news reports.


Three California Southern Baptist disaster relief feeding teams were called up Monday, Oct. 22, in response to the wildfires which stretch from Santa Barbara to San Diego.
By all estimates, containment of the fires, which have been fueled by fierce winds and high temperatures, remains days away.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Scenery from our Maine Vacation

Most of these pictures were taken by my wife, Barbara. She has an artists' eye. We had some friends who invited us to visit them in Boothbay Harbor, Maine. We are very thankful to God for providing this brief time of relaxation and refreshment as a family.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Great Passage for Pastors - Exodus 33:12-23

I was blessed by this passage and wanted to share it with you today...

Moses said to the Lord, “Look, You have told me, ‘Lead this people up,’ but You have not let me know whom You will send with me. You said, ‘I know you by name, and you have also found favor in My sight.’ Now if I have indeed found favor in Your sight, please teach me Your ways, and I will know You and find favor in Your sight. Now consider that this nation is Your people.”

Then He replied, “My presence will go [with you] , and I will give you rest.”

“If Your presence does not go,” Moses responded to Him, “don’t make us go up from here. How will it be known that I and Your people have found favor in Your sight unless You go with us? I and Your people will be distinguished [by this] from all the other people on the face of the earth.”

The Lord answered Moses, “I will do this very thing you have asked, for you have found favor in My sight, and I know you by name.”

Then Moses said, “Please, let me see Your glory.”

He said, “I will cause all My goodness to pass in front of you, and I will proclaim the name Yahweh before you. I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.” But He answered, “You cannot see My face, for no one can see Me and live.” The Lord said, “Here is a place near Me. You are to stand on the rock, and when My glory passes by, I will put you in the crevice of the rock and cover you with My hand until I have passed by. Then I will take My hand away, and you will see My back, but My face will not be seen.” Exodus 33:12-23 (HCSB)
I recommend you memorize this part:

Now if I have indeed found favor in Your sight, please teach me Your ways, and I will know You and find favor in Your sight. Ex. 33:13a

Monday, July 23, 2007

The Pastor and His Prayer Life

In case you don't get my e-newsletter, this was the feature and is on my heart today.

Pastor, as I prepared to preach a sermon on prayer last week, I got out two resources that have shaped my prayer life. The first was T.W. Hunt's Disciple's Prayer Life. This in-depth 13-week study would be the perfect daily study and prayer guide for you personally for the next three months. I am going through it for the fourth time and am amazed at how fresh it is. I got permission to post a 22-page sample including the introduction, first complete week of daily studies, and one of the twelve prayer guides.

The other study shaped how I pray with others. It is T.W. Hunt and Claude King's "In God's Presence." The cool thing is that this study has been revised and is now part of our "Growing Disciples Series." The new study called Pray in Faith just released this month and I've posted a 17-page sample including the introduction and week one. I personally led this study when I first got to the church that I served before coming to LifeWay. It established a biblical pattern for group prayer for the nine years I served there.

Blessings,

Craig Webb, Editor
View back issues of Pastors Today here

Friday, July 6, 2007

Sermon, Antiques Roadshow, Ephesians 2:1-10

I had some fun in a sermon I preached recently. I used the theme from the TV program "Antiques Roadshow" to teach truths from Ephesians 2 about our value to God. I compared the four ways that an antique is valued (Rarity, Provenance, Quality, and Condition) to what the Bible says about our value in God's eyes. I have included the simple PowerPoint presentation and handout I used so you can get a feel for what we did and adapt this for your church family.

Access the model sermon and complimentary downloads now...

Listen to the sermon as I preached it...

Friday, June 15, 2007

Ruth Bell Graham dies at 87

MONTREAT, N.C. (BPNews.net)--Ruth Bell Graham, wife of evangelist Billy Graham, died at 5:05 EST June 14, surrounded by her husband and five children at her Montreat, N.C., home. She was 87.

"Ruth was my life partner, and we were called by God as a team," Billy Graham said in a statement after her death. "No one else could have borne the load that she carried. She was a vital and integral part of our ministry, and my work through the years would have been impossible without her encouragement and support.

"I am so grateful to the Lord that He gave me Ruth, and especially for these last few years we've had in the mountains together," Graham added. "We've rekindled the romance of our youth, and my love for her continued to grow deeper every day. I will miss her terribly, and look forward even more to the day I can join her in heaven."

For several weeks, Graham had been confined to bed as she suffered from degenerative osteoarthritis of the back and neck, and two weeks ago she was diagnosed with pneumonia and seemed to be recovering, A. Larry Ross, a spokesman for the Graham family, told Baptist Press. But on the morning of June 13 she fell into a coma.

At the Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting in San Antonio that day, SBC President Frank Page led messengers in a time of prayer for Graham, whom he called a "dear saint of God."

Ross said Graham was alert on Sunday, June 10, to celebrate her birthday and was encouraged by visits from family members.

Billy Graham released a statement June 13 announcing the plans he and Ruth had settled on for their burial.

"Earlier this spring, after much prayer and discussion, Ruth and I made the decision to be buried beside each other at the Billy Graham Library in my hometown of Charlotte, North Carolina," Graham said. "We have held this decision privately and only decided to announce it now that she is close to going home to heaven."

Graham called Ruth his soul mate and best friend, saying he cannot imagine living a single day without her by his side.

"I am more in love with her today than when we first met over 65 years ago as students at Wheaton College," he said.

The worldwide evangelist said he and Ruth appreciated the prayers and letters of encouragement they had received.

"Our entire family has been home in recent days and it has meant so much to have them at our side during this time," Graham said in the June 13 statement. "We love each one of them dearly and thank God for them."

Graham, 88, suffers from fluid on the brain, prostate cancer, Parkinson's disease and age-related macular degeneration. The Billy Graham Library was dedicated in his honor May 31 with three former U.S. presidents in attendance, and it opened to the public June 5.

The Grahams married in 1943 and they have 19 grandchildren and numerous great-grandchildren in addition to their five children. Arrangements for a private funeral are pending.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

VBS 2007 Sermon, Get Off the Bench and Get in the Game, Hebrews 12

I just posted the sermon I preached this past Sunday as we kicked off our 2007 Vacation Bible School. The theme this year is a sports theme: "Game Day Central, Where Heroes are Made." The main Bible passage for VBS is Hebrews 12:1-2 so I used that as my scripture and used the daily VBS themes as my five points. (I found these on the VBS Gameday website in the section Daily Overview for Children.)

You may download my manuscript, handout, and PowerPoint files free from Proclaim Online.

This is the basic outline I used...
“Therefore since we also have such a large cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us lay aside every weight and the sin that so easily ensnares us, and run with endurance the race that lies before us, keeping our eyes on Jesus, the source and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that lay before Him endured a cross and despised the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of God’s throne.” Hebrews 12:1-2 (HCSB)
If you want to be great in God’s eyes …

1. Obey God and Get on the TEAM
“Therefore since we also have such a large cloud of witnesses surrounding us…”
2. Do you best and Play your POSITION
“let us lay aside every weight and the sin that so easily ensnares us…"
3. You believe in Him – Get in the GAME
“and run with endurance the race that lies before us, keeping our eyes on Jesus”
4. Put others first & Take it to the next LEVEL
“keeping our eyes on Jesus, the source and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that lay before Him endured a cross and despised the shame”
5. We tell others and Recruit new TEAMMATES
“and has sat down at the right hand of God’s throne”
By the way, if you interested in the 2008 VBS theme, LifeWay has just announced it, you can learn more here...

Monday, June 11, 2007

Add Details to Make Your Sermon Illustrations Sticky

I mentioned last week in the Pastors Today e-newsletter that I have recently completed studying a book called Made to Stick by brothers Dan and Chip Heath.

One element that I've been applying is their recommendation to include "specific details" when telling a story. They say that it helps people to visualize the situation you are describing and makes the story more "credible" or believable.

For instance, this past Sunday our worship service used the sports theme "Game Day Central" since we were kicking off our Vacation Bible School. I was sharing a personal illustration during my sermon about a football player that lived next door to us. As I told the story, I purposefully used concrete details in my story.

Instead of saying, "Rocky drove up into his driveway," I said, "Rocky drove up in his Blue 1973 Fastback Mustang." Instead of merely saying he was a football player I added the following details, "Rocky is 6 foot 4 inches and 245 pounds and has red hair and freckles." (For my International pastors, that's 193 centimeters and 111 Kilograms.)

You can imagine how those details helped the listeners visualize what I was describing and also made my story more believable. I encourage you to try this in your next sermon.

Monday, June 4, 2007

Who do you want to Jott?

Jott.com is a new free service that uses voice recognition technology to e-mail you the contents of your recorded voice message. Go to Jott.com and set up your phone, e-mail address, etc. and you can do what I do...

My son's baseball coach is giving his speech at the end of a game and announces that the next practice is Tuesday at DuPont Tyler at 6:30 pm.

I grab my cell phone and call the Jott.com toll-free number 877--568-8486 and hear a perky female voice, "Who do want to Jott?"

I answer, "me." She say's "Jott to self," and I hear a beep. I then say, "Casey practice, Tuesday at DuPont Tyler at 6:30 pm." I wait a few seconds to hear her say, "Got it!"

I then get an e-mail with my message transcribed into text, "Casie practice, Tuesday at DuPont Tayler at 6:30 pm." It's not exact - but pretty close. I can then copy it into my calendar.

You might ask the question, "what if it doesn't understand what you say?" I wondered the same thing until I got the following message last week after Jotting something after a game...
Casie batting practice 4:30 Saturday at [unclear speech, please listen]. It then had a link where I was able to hear a recording of my message. I then realized that every time I get my Jott e-mail, there is an option to listen to my message.

Here are some ways a pastor or other church leader might use this free service...
  • Call Jott and record an idea for your sermon
  • Call Jott to e-mail yourself a reminder for something you need to do
  • Jott a journal entry, devotional thought, or something the Lord tells you.
You can also set it up to Jott others and even set up groups.
  • You might set up Jott to send quick updates to other church leaders, Sunday School teachers, or church staff.
  • You might Jott your administrative assistant with something you need.
You can use Jott.com for free - I say, "try it, what have you got to lose."

LifeWay Research Studies the Use of Private Prayer Language

The survey asked SBC pastors, Protestant pastors and laity their beliefs about private prayer language using this wording: "Do you believe that the Holy Spirit gives some people the gift of a special language to pray to God privately? Some people refer to this as a Private Prayer Language or the 'private use of tongues.'"

You may view a longer article on lifeway.com here but I was especially interested in the responses from pastors ...
Fifty percent of Southern Baptist pastors answered "Yes," 43 percent said "No," and 7 percent responded "Don't know."

Non-SBC pastors are more likely to believe that the Holy Spirit gives some people a private prayer language than Southern Baptist pastors. Sixty-six percent of non-SBC pastors responded "Yes," 32 percent responded "No," and 3 percent responded "Don't know."

Protestant pastors (Southern Baptists and non-SBC) are more likely to believe the Holy Spirit gives some people a private prayer language (63 percent) than Protestant laity (51 percent).

Of the Protestant laity surveyed, 15 percent responded "Don't know" when asked if they believe in the gift of private prayer language. Of the Protestant pastors, only 3 percent are unsure.
Again, you may view a fuller treatment of the survey here on lifeway.com... and be sure to listen to the Inside LifeWay podcast.

You may also see a PowerPoint presentation with results from the survey at www.lifeway.com/research

Thursday, May 31, 2007

The Richest Guy in the Cemetery

I've been glued to video.allthingsd.com watching Walt Mossberg and Kara Swisher interviewing Apple CEO Steve Jobs and Microsoft CEO Bill Gates at the D5 Conference. While I've been fascinated by the interview, it was a question asked during the Q&A time by Jesse Cornbluth of headbutler.com that grabbed my attention.

Here's his statement, followed by his question,
"Because you're not the youngest guys in the room any more it's perhaps appropriate to ask you a question about legacy. Bill, even your harshest critic would have to admit that your philanthropy work is planet shaking, incredible, and could be, if you make it, a second act so amazing that it would dwarf what you've actually done at Microsoft (audience applause)."
"Steve Jobs and Bill Gates, if you had to choose a legacy, what would it be?"
Bill answers,
"The most important work I got a chance to be involved in, no matter what I do, was the personal computer ... that's my life's work. It's lucky for me that some of the skills, and resources, but I put skills first (that I was able to develop through those experiences), can be applied to the benefit of the people who haven't had technology including medicine working for them. So it's and incredible blessing to have two things like that."
Jesse Cornbluth also directed a question to Steve Jobs as to whether he envied Bill a bit, the second act that he has. Steve's response was profound,
"I think the world is a better place because Bill realized that his goal wasn't to be the richest guy in the cemetery. Right? That's a good thing."
Yes, it is a good thing. It reminded me of Jesus' words in Mark 8:34-37
"If anyone wants to be My follower, he must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life because of Me and the gospel will save it. For what does it benefit a man to gain the whole world yet lose his life? What can a man give in exchange for his life?" (HCSB)
As we serve our Lord and our church family, I believe it is vital that we teach and preach and model this type of perspective on life that views everything we do as an act of offering it up for the Glory of God.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Pastors Today e-Newsletter Will Come Tuesday

I hope you all are taking the day off today. Pastors Today will be sent to your e-mail inbox on Tuesday, May 29, 2007. If you need to see it today you may view the archived version here...

Blessings on your day!

Craig

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

iGoogle Lets You Create a Free Home Page

I've been using the beta version of Google Home Page for months and it seems to get better and better. My favorite part of this public version of iGoogle is the ability to track my favorite bookmarks, rss feeds, search tools, weight loss tool, blog feeds, and a whole assortment of "gadgets." This is a screen shot of my iGoogle Home Page...


I encourage you sign up for one of these free pages and begin playing with it. Once you add elements, play with dragging the elements around to different places on your screen. Then begin adding tabs to keep track of the blog feeds you follow, sermon search tools, news feeds, and other tools. Be sure to add the following feeds in the "add by URL" form.

  • Pastors Area of LifeWay.com Feed
    http://www.lifeway.com/rss/?rss=n&id=200734


  • Latest Sermons Posted in Proclaim Online http://www.lifeway.com/rss/?rss=n&id=200983

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

wetpaint.com lets anyone create a wiki

I saw wetpaint.com featured in a Wall Street Journal article a couple weeks ago and just got to play with it this past week. wetpaint.com helps regular users create wikis.

Wiki is from the Hawaiian word for quick. Wiki systems are designed so that their content can be made available in a quick and uncomplicated manner. Wikis are websites or online resources that allow anyone to add and edit content collectively - like Wikipedia (in fact, I got this information from wikipedia)

One church that's using wetpaint.com is Mars Hill Seattle. Check out mhcseattle.wetpaint.com

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Church Uses Twitter to Communicate by Text Message - Free

Life Church recently used Twitter, a free online "micro-blogging" service to keep people up to date during a 3 day fast. They found it to be an inexpensive (free) and effective way to communicate with their members by text message, instant message, and e-mail.

Life Church is a leader in using technology for their ministry including creative methods of satellite locations as well as a true online church. Read the article here...

I've tried out Twitter for a few weeks and found it to be novel and fun. It got old after a while. However, if you had some type of purpose like this one, I can see some great possibilities. I was glad to see how it could be used for God's glory. The brief article includes ideas about how it could be used for other purposes.

Friday, May 4, 2007

8 Ways to Improve Wednesday Night Church Dinners


Many of you loved Diana Davis' fresh ideas for Mother's Day and Graduation so I asked her for more. She sent me an article with ideas to help you with your Wednesday night fellowship meal.

Get the 8 Tips to Make Your Wednesdays Worthwhile

And if you still need help for Mother's Day (Sunday, May 13) you can still access sermons, articles, dramas, and ideas in the Mother's Day and Graduate Recognition Resource Page

Hydrate Your Soul, New Sermons Posted for June

Pastor Steve Andrews serves in the deep south where it's hot and humid in the summer. So last summer he treated his church to a refreshing series of sermons dealing with Bible passages that have to do with water.

Steve says, "Every soul thirsts for love, joy, peace, and purpose, but only the living water of Jesus Christ can quench a thirsty soul." He sent me four of these sermons to post as our Extra! sermons for June. I've included downloadable manuscripts, images, and a powerpoint template.
  • Streams of Blessings, Psalm 1
  • The Water of Worship, John 4
  • Redig The Wells, Genesis 26
  • Reclaiming The Cutting Edge, 2 Kings 6
You may access them on the EXTRA! Sermon Helps page

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Protecting Yourself and Your Leaders from Scandal

I was listening to Rick Warren's podcast this week and was reminded that we as church leaders must be diligent in intentionally protecting ourselves and our leaders from potential moral failure. He spoke with Pastor Ken Baugh (Coast Hills Church) and Pastor John Baker (from Saddleback's Celebrate Recovery ministry).

If you want to listen to it you can find it here: Moral Failure of a Staff Member

Be sure to see the two documents he mentions in the podcast. One is a letter he sent to his congregation after dismissing a staff member for moral failure, What Happens When a Staff Member Falls. The other is the Saddleback Staff Ten Commandments.

I preached on this issue several months ago in a more general sense to our congregation. I was applying this to all Christians. I used these two lists:

8 Safeguards Against Getting too Close (Jill Savage)

1. Choose wisely.
Avoid unnecessarily spending time with someone of the opposite sex. For instance, if you're looking for a personal trainer at the local gym, choose someone of the same sex.

2. Share carefully.
If you find yourself sharing things about yourself or your marriage that you haven't or wouldn't share with your spouse, that's a red flag. Not all affairs are physical-an emotional affair is just as damaging.

3. Stay in large, public settings.
Determine not to meet one-on-one with anyone of the opposite sex. If your coworker asks if he or she can join you for lunch, ask a third person to join you as well. If necessary, don't hesitate to share the boundary you and your spouse have agreed upon in your marriage. You just might lead by example.

4. Don't be naïve.
Most people who end up in affairs don't set out to have one. Infidelity usually begins with an innocent relationship that, in time, moves to an emotional depth that crosses a line of fidelity.

5. Increase your investment at home.
Solid marriages are built by spending time together, laughing together, and playing together. If you aren't dating your mate, set up dates for the coming months and make spending time together a priority.

6. Pay attention to your thought-life.
When all you think about is your spouse's faults, any other man or woman will look better. Make a list of the strengths that initially attracted you to your spouse. Increase encouragement and decrease criticism.

7. Don't play the comparison game.
We all make mistakes, have bad habits and annoying behaviors. When we compare a "new friend" to our spouse, it's an unfair comparison because we aren't seeing that person in a "living under the same roof, taking care of kids at 3 a.m., struggling to make ends meet" reality.

8. Seek help.
Seeking help is a sign of strength, not weakness. A Christian counselor can provide valuable perspective and help set new strategies for a marriage that can go the distance.

Moral Fences (James MacDonald)

1. I will not, under any circumstances, ride alone in a car with a female other than my wife or an immediate family member.

2. I do not stay alone in a hotel over night.

3. I speak often and publicly of my affection for my wife, when she is present and when she is not.

4. Compliment the character or the conduct - not the coiffure [hairstyle] or the clothing [of someone of the opposite sex].

Friday, April 27, 2007

Comeback Churches, How 300 Churches Turned Around and Yours Can Too


Next Tuesday, May 1, B & H Publishing Group will release a new book from Ed Stetzer and Mike Dodson called Comeback Churches.

I haven't been as excited about a new book since Thom Rainer and Eric Geiger's Simple Church.

Thom, Ed, and a team of researchers surveyed 300 churches from across ten different denominations that recently achieved healthy evangelistic growth after a significant season of decline. What they have discovered is an exciting method of congregation reinvigoration.

I've posted a 29-page sample in the Pastors Area of LifeWay.com. I hope you will take the time to read it and then order the book.

Monday, April 23, 2007

The Value of a Listening Ear

Listening is a valuable commodity. A good example is 20-year-old Ryan Fitzgerald. According to abcnews.com, Ryan got 5,000 calls after posting a video on YouTube saying he was available to listen to anyone who wanted to call him. You can read the story here...

If you would like to improve your listening skills I have an excellent article posted in the "Pastors as Shepherd" section of our site called 10 Tips for Good Listening Skills. It's by Richard Dodge. This would be a good investment of your time today.

Baptism of the Holy Spirit, Tongues, Demons, & Healing

Dr. Jimmy Draper is the former President of LifeWay. He wrote a series of articles on doctrinal issues that appeared last week on BPNews.net. Here are the articles that have been posted so far...

Barna says we are missing the point on the Virginia Tech tragedy


(Ventura, CA) - Researcher and bestselling author George Barna says the current public debate about the implications of the Virginia Tech tragedy is missing the point.

"The animated conversations about gun control, campus security, counseling standards, campus communications, drug abuse and mental health funding do not address the core issue raised by this event. This situation is not primarily a challenge to politicians, educators or police. It’s a dramatic wake-up call to parents."

Barna indicated that he was sympathetic toward the parents of the college student who murdered 31 classmates and faculty before taking his own life. But he also stated that it sometimes takes a crisis to focus attention on important issues that a society must address.

Read the rest of his article at Barna.org

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Virginia Tech Massacre, Resources for Church Leaders


I've struggled this week with how to help you all as you minister to your church family in light of the terrible tragedy that has hit our nation. I've pulled together articles, worship readings, prayer guides, and images you may use to help your church family deal with the tragic events and mobilize prayer support and other support that God may lead you to.
Virginia Tech Massacre, Resources for Church Leaders

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Virginia Tech Baptist Collegiate Minister Prayer Request

This is a prayer request from the campus minister at Virginia Tech. Join me in lifting up these concerns before God...

We have been overwhelmed by the support and prayers of our campus ministry family around the nation. Thank you for the emails, calls, and prayers. We obviously can’t respond to them all right now, but know that they have been a huge encouragement. We are doing all we can here to help students walk through the first steps of grief. Here are some prayer requests…

  • Pray for the students as names are released today and the reality of connections and relationships bring the grief to another level.
  • Pray for the family of Brian, a grad student in our ministry who was killed yesterday. Pray for our alumni and students that were close to Brian as well.
  • Praise for a gathering of 300 plus students here last night to pray and begin to walk through the grief process.
  • Pray for wisdom for our staff (Laura, Mark, Leah, Susan) and student leaders in all the opportunities that will come through relationships on campus this week.
Again, thank you, thank you so much for all the prayers and encouragement.

Blessings,
Darrell Cook
BCM at Virginia Tech

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Help for Recognizing Your Graduates


I spent most of the morning updating resources to help pastors or other church leaders honor graduates. You can find the links here Graduation Recognition and Mother's Day Resources.
I updated the following:
  • I had fun updating the sermon with information from 1989 (the year most 2007 high-school graduates were born).
  • I updated power point graphics.
  • I created a new PowerPoint presentation.
There is also excellent Mother's Day resources there (including 10 sermons). But I have not added to or updated these yet.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

New Church Switchers article says they leave for a different type of church

According to a new article from LifeWay Research relating to their "Church Shifter" research, they say that, "Church switchers often choose a new church that is different in several ways from their previous church."

The article discusses findings related to Worship style, Church size, Denomination change, Preaching, and Involvement.

The topic that caught my attention was Preaching. I remember visiting a couple that had stopped attending the first church I pastored. Their reason was that my preaching was not strong enough. Even though it was 20 years ago, I still get a sick feeling in my stomach when I think about it. I was devastated.

The great thing, is that with God's help, we can do something about this. Look at what they found in their research about preaching.
Twice as many church switchers typically consider the preaching at their current church to be relevant, interesting, understandable, and challenging compared to their previous church.

Ninety-one percent say the preaching is relevant; only 44 percent found the preaching relevant at their previous church. Similarly, 91 percent say at their current church, the preacher holds their attention; only 37 percent were this interested at their previous church. Eighty-six percent are challenged by the preaching at their current church to live and think as Scripture teaches; only 39 percent were challenged in this way at their previous church.

Eighty-seven percent base their selection of a church on preaching. Nine out of ten church switchers have found preaching that meets their need for relevance, interest, and clarity.

"The importance of the pastor and preaching in a believer’s spiritual journey cannot be overstated," McConnell said. "From the church switchers" perspective, changing churches has enabled them to find better preaching that addresses two of the top reasons they left their previous church: lack of help to develop spiritually and the pastor was not a good preacher."
If you are looking for some help in improving your preaching, be sure to check out the Preaching Skills section of Proclaim Online Sermon Helps from LifeWay.

7 Reasons to use the Telephone instead of Email

A new book just hit the shelves called Send: The Essential Guide to Email for Office and Home (Knopf, April 2007). It's written by David Shipley and Will Schwalbe. You may read an excerpt here.

I found a good article on NPR.org that reviewed the book. Their article included "Seven Reasons to use the Telephone instead of Email."
  1. When you need to convey or discern emotion.
  2. When you need to cut through the communication forest.
  3. When you need to move fast.
  4. When you want a remote communication to be private.
  5. When you need to reach someone who doesn't check their email.
  6. When you want people to be able immediately to engage and respond.
  7. When you need to send a harsh email, you can soften the blow (or distance yourself from it) by calling first with advance warning.
You can read the article here...

As pastors, we need to be very careful about the use of e-mail.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Honor Your Father and Mother

It doesn't surprise me but it does delight me when I see secular people grasping for a biblical solution when their worldly methods have failed. A great example is in a county in China where special investigators are trying to find out how you treat your parents before they will allow you to remain as a government official.

The article is found at Reuters Oddly Enough and is called Want a promotion? Treat Mom well. Here's a quote from the article...
China's leaders are fretting about how to support its aging population, and worried about slipping moral standards as younger generations rush to take advantage of the booming national economy.
Here's a quote from God's Word...
Honor your father and your mother so that you may have a long life in the land that the Lord your God is giving you. Exodus 20:12

Monday, April 9, 2007

God Debate: Sam Harris vs. Rick Warren


There is an informative article available now featuring Pastor Rick Warren of Saddleback Church and atheist Sam Harris. You can read the whole 5000 word (that's long) article at God Debate: Sam Harris vs. Rick Warren. I do hope you'll find some down time to read it for a couple reasons:
  1. Rick's good at explaining our conservative, Christian world-view in ways normal people can understand.
  2. It's helpful to hear an atheist's basic arguments so we can get over our fears of being questioned.
Two additional features of this article online include...
  1. In the introduction to the article, the Newsweek editors included background to the debate. I especially appreciated the mention of Pascal's Wager, "It is rather simple: it is smarter to bet that God exists, and to believe in him, because if it turns out that he is real, you win everything; if he is not, you lose nothing. So why not take the leap of faith?" You can read the introduction to the debate here...
  2. Poll Results. A belief in God and an identification with an organized religion are widespread throughout the country, according to the latest NEWSWEEK poll. Nine in 10 (91 percent) of American adults say they believe in God and almost as many (87 percent) say they identify with a specific religion. Christians far outnumber members of any other faith in the country, with 82 percent of the poll’s respondents identifying themselves as such. Read more here...
Warren summary at the end of the article:

I believe in both faith and reason. The more we learn about God, the more we understand how magnificent this universe is. There is no contradiction to it. When I look at history, I would disagree with Sam: Christianity has done far more good than bad. Altruism comes out of knowing there is more than this life, that there is a sovereign God, that I am not God. We're both betting. He's betting his life that he's right. I'm betting my life that Jesus was not a liar. When we die, if he's right, I've lost nothing. If I'm right, he's lost everything. I'm not willing to make that gamble.

Thursday, April 5, 2007

How JAGs and Pastors Deal with Conflict on the Battlefield

I was listening to NPR this morning to a story about the JAGs (Judge Advocate Generals) and how they are being trained at the Judge Advocate General school at Charlottesville, Virginia.

They used a series of battlefield simulations to try to translate their book knowledge to the chaos they may find on the battlefield in Iraq. I thought about how what they are learning would be helpful for pastors who are thrust into church conflict battlefield.

One of the main lessons they learn is that on the battlefield, it's not always about what is legal (someone levels their weapon and you eliminate the threat), but what is culturally appropriate, what is strategically effective, and what makes sense in a counter insurgency. The trainer said that there are times that if you just eliminate the threat, it may escalate the problem.

I think that as pastors and church leaders, there are times on the church conflict battlefield that we think that it's the right thing to do and that we have the right to eliminate the threat (ask a member to leave, give someone a piece of our mind, etc.). But in many cases, it escalates the problem.

I think it would be great to have church conflict battlefield simulations for pastors to help us translate the great knowledge we get in seminary to the real world.

You can listen to the audio from that program here: NPR : JAGs Take a More Central Battlefield Role

6 Exercises to Maintain Unity in Your Church Family

I just posted an article by Rick Ezell (one of my favorite writers) called 6 Exercises to Maintain Unity in Your Church Family.

He says, "Unity is not uniformity. Uniformity comes from without. Unity is not unanimity. We will never agree on everything. In fact sometimes, we must agree to disagree agreeably. Unity comes from within; it is a matter of the heart."

He also says, "Unity, like the heart, may very well be the most important muscle in the body. " So "to keep it healthy" Rick offers 6 Exercises for your churches heart to help it maintain unity.

The other cool thing is that he has four model sermons in a series called "God's Peace Corps." Links to the sermons are in the article.

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

New Sermons to Help Promote Unity in Your Church

I've just posted four new sermons on the EXTRA! Sermon Helps page that are by Rick Ezell

  • Making Peace With God (Selected Scriptures)
  • The Steps to Reconciliation (Genesis 33:1-11)
  • The Unexpected Response (2 Samuel 9:1-13)
  • Being a Peacemaker (Matthew 5:9)
These have excellent content. You can access them on the EXTRA! Sermon Helps page.

Powerful Music for Easter Week - Thief 2006


I'm sitting at my desk posting some great sermons and listening to Chronology Vol. 1 - from Third Day which is a combination of re-mixes and new recordings of their best stuff. I just got to track 4, "Thief 2006." What amazing lyrics and what powerful music.
It tells the story of the crucification from the standpoint of the thief on the cross. My favorite lyrics:
My time has come, I'm slowly fading
I deserve what I receive
Jesus when You are in Your kingdom
Could You please remember me

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Center for Missional Research Study finds 75 percent of Americans believe in the Resurrection

I was really grateful to find this one today. Ed Stetzer and the folks over at the "Center for Missional Research" at the North American Mission Board (http://www.namb.net/cmr) released a new study last week showing among other things, that "75 percent of Americans believe in the Resurrection."

You can view the study along with support materials here. Be sure to note the research they did related to James Cameron's recent documentary, "The Lost Tomb of Jesus." It's fascinating.

Their main takeaway is...
So, what can we learn from these numbers? First, the general public, and even those who only show up at our churches on Easter and Christmas, may actually agree with the greeting, “Jesus is risen! He is risen indeed!” Our message to congregants on Easter Sunday may not require a defense of the physical resurrection so much as an explanation to its meaning and redemptive power for the individual sitting in the pew. And guess what—people carry their beliefs with them in our communities throughout the year. Three of the next 4 adults you encounter probably believe this foundational truth of the Christian faith.

I think this has important implications for your preaching and teaching this weekend.

Monday, April 2, 2007

LifeWay Research Examines the 'Church Switcher' Phenomenon

Brad Waggoner and the folks at LifeWay Research have a very nice set of articles dealing with the ever present problem of why people leave your church. They also have an insightful audio interview and a powerpoint presentation explaining their results.

Check out http://www.lifewayresearch.com/

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

A New Look at the Role of Your Spouse in Ministry

Face it, the thing that makes us want to quit the ministry more often than anything is our spouse's struggle with their role in it. A fascinating and engaging article in The Wall Street Journal caught my eye and my imagination yesterday. In fact, I read the entire article to my carpool pal and LifeWay colleague, Chris Ediger.

The article, titled "Our Better Halves Sometimes Expose Our Worst Side," basically says that we should not seek business or career advice from our spouses. The article's author, Jared Stanberg, maintains that the love and support we receive from our family is invaluable for our well-being and our ability to do our work and advance in our career. However, because our spouse knows very little about what actually goes on at work or in our work world, they often provide faulty, short-sighted, and potentially disastrous advice. He calls them "badvisors" and recommends getting workplace advice from elsewhere.

Mr. Stanberg quotes David Maister in the book he co-authored called The Trusted Advisor:

"advise should be helpful reasoning, not conclusions that can be tainted by bias - "a negative bias or a positive bias, which gets in the way just as much."

This immediately made me think about pastors or other ministry leaders and their spouses. I began to think about some basic principles for how a minister and their ministry spouse should deal with this. I don't think there are universal principles for this.

I do think it's vital that a husband and wife be aware of this potentially damaging dynamic. The best thing they could do is to sit down and talk about it. Ask the difficult questions and take responsibility for complaining too much and for offering to much advice.

I remember my wife catching herself one time when she wanted to tell me what do in a specific situation. She said, "I need to be careful so that I don't try to be your Holy Spirit." That was a good catch. I need to be careful about asking my wife to fill that role that only God can.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Why the Wealthy Don't Give More

One e-mail has remianed in my inbox all week because I wasn't sure what to do with it. In Bob Buford's latest e-newsletter he deals with the topic of Why the Wealthy Don't Give More. It's very helpful, especially for his "half-timer" or successful over-50 audience.

His main takeaway is that the really rich are aware of three main risks to giving their money to charities. These risks are Fear – of not having enough, Failure – even embarrassment, and Doing more harm than good.

I think he's on to something. In my years serving as a pastor a pastor in Hawaii, I had a chance to meet many Christian men and women who had been entrusted with wealth beyond my imagination. I feel that after years of struggling and agonizing over how to relate to, encourage, and disciple those who have great wealth, I still don't have the answers.

However, I feel I learned a few lessons I'll share with you...

1. Treat them as individuals, as fellow believers, and as equals.
There is no Jew or Greek, slave or free, male or female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. Gal 3:28 (HCSB)
2. Beware of asking them for money every time there is a need in your ministry.
  • First, you become dependant on this person instead of on God.
  • Second, you may give this individual too much power. You will be tempted to listen to them instead of the Holy Spirit.

3. When they give, allow them see the "Kingdom Impact" of their giving.

  • Write a thank you letter or e-mail detailing the use of the resources.
  • Send pictures of individuals impacted by their generosity

4. Don't become enamored with their lifestyle. Recall Jesus' words in the Parable of the Soils...

Others are sown among thorns; these are the ones who hear the word, but the worries of this age, the seduction of wealth, and the desires for other things enter in and choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful. Mark 4:18-19 (HCSB)


Bob Buford is author of Finishing Well. You can visit his website activeenergy.net

Monday, March 26, 2007

Rationalization for Taking a Nap at Work

In case you walk by my office and my head is laid back, my mouth wide open, and I appear to be contemplating the ceiling tiles through my eyelids, please read this article from RealAge.com before you wake me...

When You Snooze You...Win!

"A daytime doze is a stress buster and heart protector. Just 30 minutes midday, three times a week, is all you need. Middle-aged working men who did just that cut their risk of a fatal heart attack and other heart problems by a whopping 37 percent."

While you are there, be sure to check out their RealAge Test to see how old you really are! Once you take the test and get the results, they will give you ideas of how to lower your Real Age.

It was very helpful and inspiring for me.

David Jeremiah on Being Prepared to Give an Answer

Over at Baptist Press, David Jeremiah, pastor of Shadow Mountain Community Church and founder of Turning Point for God, comments on 1 Peter 3:15, "always be ready to give a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you." (HCSB)

He shares a simple outline. Knowing God's Word ...
  • gives assurance of salvation
  • defeats Satan’s attack
  • enables us to witness to others
  • helps us know our heavenly Father

You can read the whole commentary on Baptist Press - Know for an answer

Friday, March 23, 2007

How to Stop Your Church from Growing

I just posted a new article in the "Pastor as Missionary" area.

Let's Worship Magazine editor Matt Tullos sticks tongue in cheek to take a funny look at church growth. He says, "For some people, church growth can be rather tedious. There’s the parking problems, the new people to get to know, the reduction of political power due to the influx of new people that don’t know you, the extra wear on the carpet, the noise of young children, the overuse of bathroom facilities . . . you name it."

So he shares 25 Easy Ways to Curb The Annoying Problem of Church Growth

My favorites are ...

  • If your auditorium slopes downward to the platform give every kid under 12 a handful of marbles before the service.

  • Replace the pictures of former pastors with pictures of Larry, Moe, and Curly.

  • Before the offertory hymn have the worship leader scream,“Show me the money!”

  • Use the “American Idol” format for staff hirings.
Read all 25 and share it with your fellow ministers...

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Spirit-Led Preaching

Greg Heisler is Assistant Professor of Preaching and Speech at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary and author of a new book published by Broadman and Holman Publishing Group called Spirit-Led Preaching: The Holy Spirit’s Role in Sermon Preparation and Delivery.

I stumbled on to his blog at spiritledpreaching.com today and found some excellent resources.

I don't want you to miss his article on The Expository Method

In the article Heisler says, “I believe the aim of all preaching is the glory of God through spiritual transformation. More specific, the goal of a Spirit-empowered, expository ministry of the Word of God is to change lives through preaching that engages the mind, inflames the heart, moves the will, and engenders faith in the hearer.”

While the alliterative style of this article is a little “old school” for me, he really has strong content here. I’ll list the main points of his article but you’ll want to read the whole article to get what he means by each point.
  • Surrender Yourself to the Spirit’s Illumination
  • Saturate Yourself in the Spirit’s Inspiration
  • Survey the Context of Your Text.
  • Scrutinize the Contents of Your Text
  • Scan the Structure of Your Text
  • Stick to The Authorial Intent of Your Text
  • Support the Central Proposition of Your Sermon through Explanation and Illustration
  • Secure Your Sermon to the Heart through Penetrating Application
  • Show the Savior Throughout Your Sermon
  • Spark Interest with an Intriguing Introduction To Your Sermon
  • Specify the Response Your Sermon Seeks in the Conclusion
  • Seek Sinners Through the Invitation of Your Sermon
Good stuff, don't you think. You'll also want to see the Excerpts from Spirit-Led Preaching that he posted there.

This is excellent training for pastors...

You can buy the book from the LifeWay Online Catalog here…

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

How to Be a Better Small Group Leader

One of the new LifeWay authors is Michael Zigarelli. I've been telling my pastors this year about his great study for Adults called Freedom from Busyness: A Biblical Remedy for Busyness and his amazing book for pastors called The Minister's MBA: Essential Business Tool for Maximum Ministry Success.

I posted an article that Michael sent me this week - it's from the leader helps section of Freedom from Busyness and is some of the best stuff on how to lead a small group. Read The Art of Leading Small Groups

Blessings,

Craig
Pastors Today