Friday, January 30, 2009

30-Minute Sermons in a 30-Second Culture by Pastor Bob Merritt

Today I (along with a couple of pastor friends) traveled up to Bethel University to sit in on a Pastor's Preaching Seminar led by Pastor Bob Merritt, senior pastor of Eagle Brook Church. I've mentioned my relationship with Bob a number of times on this blog, and it was great to hear from him again today. After the session Bob joked with me wondering if I learned anything new (I was his teaching assistant covering this very material for 2+years), and truthfully, I didn't learn anything new. But that wasn't why I went. I went needing a review. Bob Merritt is one of the best craftsmen in creating a sermon I have ever met. And any chance for me to get in front of him to learn from him, or to have him remind me of the things he has taught me over the years, is a opportunity for me to grow as a preacher. I always appreciate Bob's genuineness and openness when he is with other pastors.

Below are my notes from today's session. Everything in BOLD was on a handout minus a key word or two - fill in the blank style. Some of the sub points are my thoughts, some are things Bob said.

30-Minute Sermons in a 30-Second Culture
Principles to Help Your Sermons
Thursday, January 29, 2009

Preaching Principles (Romans 10:14-15 and 1 Timothy 4:12-16)

There are 2 parts to preaching: Content & delivery
-if you have great content but bad delivery, message is lost, and vice versa – need both

Great preaching comes from great writing
-no shortcuts to this
-Bob spends 15-20 hours a week writing sermons at his best hours of the day
-What is it you can stop doing (and be willing to be criticized for it) to spend more time writing sermons.
-doing good things at the expense of what is great

Write your messages over several days – staging your messages
-must open with story, and lead them to question – a question people are already asking

Write messages for real people. Answer the “so what?” Connect with real life, transform, not just inform.
-if it doesn’t help them get through Monday, why preach it?

Preach to people’s needs. What are they?
-wounds and shame

Invite one, pray for one, reach one, share with one

Start with humor and end with heart
-humor is a requirement
-it opens people up
-relaxes people, breaks down barriers
-engages them
-releases tension, particularly about coming to church
-use humor to deliver hard truth

Get better at writing personal stories
-push for a personal story early on in every message
-a point of connection for people
-shows you are a real person
-talk about your faults, your flaws, your fears early on
-establish a relationship each weekend
-Matthew 13:34 – story
-best stories come from personal experience, second best is other’s experience
-put yourself in situations where something could happen

Get more visual.
-pictures, videos, visuals

Read a chapter out of a book 4-5 days a week.
-Read everything Ortberg writes, Hybels, Henry Cloud, Andy Stanley
-9 thinks you must do
-The elegant solution
-Wealth Conundrum
-Fields of Gold

Rely on the goodness of God and the power of his spirit.

Stop writing messages in isolation.
-have a team of people who can review your sermons before you preach
-have a mix of people
-people you trust to give you honest feedback

Avoid meaningless cliches
-“on fire for Christ”
-“cleansed by the blood of the lamb”
-“God spoke to me”
-drop the churchy insider language

Drop the __________ (missed this note)

Bring them to a verdict
-what are you asking them to do, change or stop

Deliver with freedom. Use whatever it takes to know it.
-gives you the freedom when preaching to be personable

Take a writing class if you can

Get a camera
-get pictures of life happening
-helps with story, both to jog your memory, but to also support what you are saying

Me, We, God, You, We – Andy Stanley

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Thursday, January 29, 2009

The Importance of Religion

(from FotF's Pastor's Weekly Briefing)

The United States is generally a religious nation, although the
degree of this religiosity varies across states and regions of the
country. Overall, 65 percent of Americans say religion is an important
part of their daily lives, according to results of a new report
released this week on

When asked the straightforward question, "Is religion an important
part of your daily life?" (in the more than 350,000 interviews
conducted by Gallup in 2008), analysis found the top 10 most religious
states to be: Mississippi (85%); Alabama (82%); South Carolina (80%);
Tennessee (79%); Louisiana (78%); Arkansas (78%); Georgia (76%); North
Carolina (76%); Oklahoma (75%); Kentucky (74%) and Texas (74%).

Results for the 10 least religious states showed: Vermont (42%); New
Hampshire (46%); Maine (48%); Massachusetts (48%); Alaska (51%);
Washington (52%); Oregon (53%); Rhode Island (53%); Nevada (54%) and
Connecticut (55%).

Additionally, at least half of the residents of all but four states
(Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine and Massachusetts) say religion is
important in their daily lives. Although there is a wide range in the
self-reported importance of religion — from a high of 85 percent for
residents of Mississippi to a low of 42 percent for residents of
Vermont — the distribution of religiosity by state takes the form of a
bell-shaped curve, clustered around the overall nationwide mean of 65
percent. Twenty-three of the 50 states and District of Columbia are in
the range of 60 to 70 percent saying religion is important.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Video of Pastor Mark Driscoll of Mars Hill Church on Nightline

In case you missed Pastor Mark Driscoll on Nightline last night I have included the video below. I missed it last night too. I tuned in to watch it, and missed it by a few minutes apparently.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Investing in the Kingdom: One Share of Coca-Cola - Mark Batterson

I'm going to paraphrase an article Mark Batterson just posted on his blog  If you aren't familiar with Mark, he pastors National Community Church in Washington, DC, and he authored In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day and Wild Goose Chase (which I reviewed HERE).

Begin Mark's brilliance:

If you purchased one share of Coca-Cola when it went public in 1919, how much do you think it would worth today?

We need a paradigm shift when it comes to giving. You don't have to. You get to. We naturally think that the more we give the less we'll have. Not true. God can do more with 90% than we can do with 100%. It comes down to the law of measures: "With
the measure you use it will be measured unto you." I believe that. I've
experienced that. And I'm gonna preach that, even in a tough economy!

I like to think of giving as buying stock in the kingdom. And the truth is that those kingdom shares will earn compound interest for eternity. Talk about a Return on Investment (ROI). Eternal dividends!

I did a little research to put it in perspective. If you purchased one share of Coca-Cola stock in 1919, and simply held that one share, by the year 2000 it would have split into 4608 shares. And that original $40 investment, if you kept reinvesting the dividends, would have been worth $7 million. Dang! To further your pain, if your great-great grandparents had purchased one of Asa Candler's original shares in 1892, that $100 investment would be worth $7.34 billion. Dang! Dang!

Here's the bottom line: we'll never regret one ounce of energy, one second of time, or one penny of money invested in the kingdom of God.

I often think of the band of sisters in Luke 8 who supported Jesus. They got in on the Initial Public Offering (IPO). They were the original shareholders.
What a return on investment! But nothing has changed. Sure, we're
talking about Alexandria, VA not Jerusalem, Israel. But it's all about advancing His kingdom.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Super Bowl Allowed at Churches

In a Feb. 29, 2008 letter, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell stated that the League would not object to live showings of the Super Bowl by religious organizations, regardless of screen size, as long as the viewings are free and are on premises that the church uses on a routine and customary basis. They may take up a donation to help with the cost of the event, if desired. To avoid any copyright infringements, churches may want to call their event a "Big Game Party" rather than "Super Bowl Party." For more information, go to [Rutherford Institute]

Friday, January 23, 2009

Who sat where for the Obama Presidential Inauguration?

Curious who sat where for President Barack Obama's Inauguration speech?  Check this site out, you can see details down to the expression on people's faces.  This is a very cool site, and almost makes me wonder if it violates national security with that level of detail.  I'm sure someone will identify each face in the photo, and thereby be able to identify who are Secret Service etc. from this image.

Religious Affiliations of U.S. Presidents

Pew Forum has released some interesting facts regarding the religious affiliations of U.S. presidents. The denominational breakdown is as follows: Episcopalian (11); Presbyterian (8); Baptist (4); Methodist (4); Unitarian (4); No formal affiliation (3), Disciples of Christ (2); Dutch Reformed (2); Quaker (2); Catholic (1); Congregationalist (1) and United Church of Christ (1).

Of special interest is the fact that nearly half the nation's presidents have been affiliated with the Episcopal or Presbyterian churches, with John F. Kennedy remaining the only Catholic to have held the nation's highest office. Only three U.S. presidents — Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln and Andrew Johnson — have been unaffiliated with a specific religious tradition.

And finally, President Barack Obama was a member of Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago, Ill., for over 20 years before resigning his membership in 2008 — the only member of the elite list with this affiliation. []

Thursday, January 22, 2009

America Still Divided on Abortion

Yesterday marked the 36th anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court's landmark abortion ruling, Roe v. Wade.
According to a poll conducted by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public
Life in August of 2008, a slim majority of the public (54%) says
abortion should be legal in all (17%) or most (37%) cases, while 41
percent say abortion should be illegal in all (15%) or most (26%) cases.

The U.S. Religious Landscape Survey, conducted in 2007 by the Pew
Research Center, shows a wide variance in how religious affiliation
influences views on abortion. For example, members of the following
groups believe that abortion should be legal in most or all cases:

  • Jewish — 88 percent
  • Mainline Protestant — 62 percent
  • Catholic — 48 percent
  • Muslim — 48 percent
  • African American — 47 percent
  • Evangelical — 33 percent
  • Mormon — 27 percent
  • Jehovah's Witness — 16 percent

For further details about this and other studies go to

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Inauguration Prayer by Rick Warren - Transcript and Video

Justin Taylor beat me to the punch, but I am including the transcript and video below as well to share why I am proud that Rick Warren didn't back down and proclaimed Jesus Christ without shame!

Inauguration Prayer for President Barack Obama by Pastor Rick Warren

Almighty God, our Father:

Everything we see, and everything we can’t see, exists because of you alone.

It all comes from you, it all belongs to you, it all exists for your glory.

History is your story.

The Scripture tells us, "Hear, O Israel, the LORD is our God, the LORD is one." And you are the compassionate and merciful one. And you are loving to everyone you have made.

Now today we rejoice not only in America’s peaceful transfer of power for the 44th time, we celebrate a hinge point of history with the inauguration of our first African American president of the United States.

We are so grateful to live in this land, a land of unequaled possibility, where a son of an African immigrant can rise to the highest level of our leadership. And we know today that Dr. King and a great cloud of witnesses are shouting in heaven.

Give to our new president, Barack Obama,

the wisdom to lead us with humility,

the courage to lead us with integrity,

the compassion to lead us with generosity.

Bless and protect him, his family, Vice President Biden, the Cabinet, and every one of our freely elected leaders.

Help us, O God, to remember that we are Americans--united not by race or religion or blood, but to our commitment to freedom and justice for all.

When we focus on ourselves, when we fight each other, when we forget you--forgive us.

When we presume that our greatness and our prosperity is ours alone--forgive us.

When we fail to treat our fellow human beings and all the earth with the respect that they deserve--forgive us.

And as we face these difficult days ahead, may we have a new birth of clarity in our aims, responsibility in our actions, humility in our approaches, and civility in our attitudes—even when we differ.

Help us to share, to serve, and to seek the common good of all.

May all people of good will today join together to work for a more just, a more healthy, and a more prosperous nation and a peaceful planet.

And may we never forget that one day, all nations--and all people--will stand accountable before you.

We now commit our new president and his wife, Michelle, and his daughters, Malia and Sasha, into your loving care.

I humbly ask this in the name of the one who changed my life—Yeshua, 'Isa, Jesus [Spanish pronunciation], Jesus—who taught us to pray:

Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name.

Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.

Give us this day our daily bread.

And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.

And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil,

for Thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever.


HT: Brad Greenberg for the initial transcript.

Pastor Rick Warren Inauguration Prayer Transcript

Later today I will try to get posted a transcript of Pastor Rick Warren's prayer at Barack Obama's Presidential Inauguration in Washington, DC.

I would like to go on record thanking Rick Warren for what he said, and for not backing down.  It saddens me greatly that Barack Obama would choose someone like Eugene Robinson though.  Warren doesn't balance out Obama's bad choice, but I am thankful for at least one person getting the chance to proclaim Christ!

Monday, January 19, 2009

Most Caffeinated U.S. Cities

Tampa, Florida is the most caffeinated city in the U.S., followed by Seattle and Chicago. However, they won the top spot not only for their fondness to coffee, but also for drinking lots of tea and for being the most likely to take pain relievers containing caffeine on a daily basis. The twin cities Riverside/San Bernardino in California consume the least amount of caffeine, followed by Atlanta, San Diego, Minneapolis/St. Paul and Dallas. []

Sunday, January 18, 2009

The big annoucement

My wife and I are expecting our first child!

Due late July 2009! We are excited obviously!! We shared this with our church today as well. So 2009 will bring a lot of changes in our lives. This past Thursday we got to see our first images via ultrasound and then we got to hear the heartbeat for the first time. Truly a miracle, both the child as well as the technology. My wife has the heartbeat recorded on her phone, so if you want to hear it, just ask, she'll be overjoyed to share it with you! The jagged line across the bottom of the photo above is the heartbeat, pumping along like a small train at 164 beats per minute. Doc said things are going well, and we'll get another checkup in 4 more weeks. So I would ask and invite that you pray for all three of us in the months to come. Pray that we are great parents to this gift from God. Pray for a healthy mom and baby. And pray for wisdom for me. Thanks!

Sermon - Proverbs 25:11 - Wise Words

New sermon is posted from today is posted at First Congregational Church's web site. I drew from a number of Proverbs as well as some New Testament sources looking at how we use words and how we can gain wisdom from the Proverbs to guide our speech.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Denominational Loyalty

(From FotF's Pastor's Weekly Briefing)

A new study released this week by Ellison Research has found that, among people who attend church once a month or more, only 30 percent are completely loyal to the denomination they are currently attending (meaning they would only consider attending church within that specific denomination). Another 44 percent prefer their current denomination, but would be willing to consider others.

Eleven percent have a small number of denominations they would consider, with no particular favorite among them. Six percent don't have any particular denomination they prefer, but they do have certain ones that they would not attend. Finally, nine percent say that denomination does not factor into their decision of what church to attend.

There are relatively few demographic differences within the findings. Denominational loyalty does not vary significantly by gender, household income, age or type of community (rural/small town, suburban or urban). It does, however, vary by race/ethnicity and by region of the country.

The survey sample included those who regularly attend worship services at a church broadly considered to be within the Christian tradition. The survey also asked Americans about their loyalty to specific brands of products, services, stores, automobiles, hotels, pain relievers and airlines to see if there were any correlations in the loyalty shown to these and the loyalty shown to denominations. To see these and other additional results, visit the Ellison research Web site at

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

What Unchurched Young Adults Want from a Church

In their recent book, Lost and Found: The Younger Unchurched and the Churches that Reach Them, Ed Stetzer and co-authors Richie Stanley and Jason Hayes found that 63% of young adults said they would attend a church if that church "presented truth to me in an understandable way that relates to my life now."

15% of the younger unchurched attended church weekly as a child and have no current
animosity toward the church, yet 37% are hostile toward the church and Christians. Four out of 5 unchurched adults aged 20 to 29 in the U.S. believe a supreme being exists. Though they are not attending church, 3 out of 4 claim the existence of God does or would impact their lives, but this does not seem to translate into involvement in a church.

Nearly three-quarters express some level of agreement that the Christian church is generally helpful to society. Young unchurched African-Americans agree more than others (25% to 7%) that the church is the only place to learn what it means to be Christian. (Lost and Found, Stetzer, Stanley and Hayes, B&H Publishing Group 2009)

Monday, January 12, 2009

Life in the Fishbowl - by Craig Groeschel

The following was written by Pastor Craig Groeschel of I've mentioned Craig Groeschel a number of times over the years on this blog. He has a great insight into life, and I really respect how he goes about his ministry. Plus he has done great things to spread the name of Jesus Christ!

Life in the Fishbowl

goldfishThose who are not in vocational ministry may not understand this week’s discussion. (Even when I was an associate pastor, I didn’t fully understand the public pressure my pastor’s family faced.)

Right or wrong, when you’re a pastor, people’s expectations of you change.

  • Some believe you are holier than you could humanly achieve. Others are skeptical, secretly hoping you’ll fail.
  • Some sincerely hope your family is materially blessed. Others think your family should barely be above the poverty line.
  • Many will have very high expectations of your kids. Some will privately (or publicly) gloat when your kids fail.
  • Some people will want to be close to you simply because you’re a pastor. Others will be too nervous to be themselves around you.
  • Some will extend irrational love toward you and your family. Others will be easily offended (and dislike you) over something you would consider a minor misunderstanding.
  • Some will almost worship you (even though you don’t want it). Many of those same people will leave your church before the end of this year.
  • The joy of intimate Christian relationships for pastors couldn’t be greater. The pain and loss of broken relationships will haunt you throughout your ministry.

The life of a pastor isn’t better or worse than others. But it is different. This week we’ll talk about how to handle some of those differences.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Sermon - Genesis 1:1 - In the Beginning...

Forgot to post that my sermon from last Sunday is online at I didn't follow my manuscript very closely, but it probably turned out better for it. Preaching on Proverbs tomorrow - Proverbs 1:1-7 to be exact. I'm going to spend a while in Proverbs covering some topics we need to talk about from time to time. Join us every Sunday at First Congregational Church 503 2nd Ave. NE Waseca, MN 56093 at 9:00AM for Sunday School, and 10:00AM for our worship service.

Friday, January 02, 2009

Top 10 New Year's Resolutions for Couples

In an article appearing in Associated Content, Sally Albright suggests that the new year is a good time for couples to be reminded of some simple but powerful ways to strengthen their relationships. To that end, she presents her Top Ten New Year's Resolutions for Couples:

#10: Exercise Together
Exercising together as a couple can make getting more exercise fun, and you and your spouse can truly have a "healthy" relationship.
#9: Cook Together
Cooking dinner together is a great way to spend time together.
#8: Play Games Together
Take the time to have some fun with your spouse by playing games together — especially in the colder winter months.
#7: The Little Things
Sometimes, it's the littlest of things that really matter. Something as simple as setting the coffee machine to brew in the morning or opening the car door for your spouse can really show how much you care.
#6: Get Romantic
The types of romantic gestures you do really depends on what your spouse considers to be romantic, whether it be bouquets of flowers or cuddling together and watching a football game on TV.
#5: Listening
Truly listen. Keep in mind that your spouse isn't always in search for answers and may not want to receive advice. They just want your ears all to themselves.
#4: Fewer Arguments
Make a New Year's resolution to argue less. Pick your battles wisely. Most importantly, learn to compromise.
#3: Compliments
Taking the time to compliment your spouse shows them that you do still love them, you appreciate them, and you still find them attractive. Surprise your loved one with compliments during appropriate times, such as when they dress up for a dinner out, do a job well done, or the way they handled your child's misbehavior.
#2: Dates
A little alone time with your spouse can be all that you need to feel reconnected with them. Having a special date night at the end of the week can give you and your loved one something to look forward to.
#1: Saying I Love You
Say it often, say it with meaning. A simple I Love You can melt someone's heart.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

What People Believe

Newly released results from The Harris Poll® show that a very large majority of the American public believe in God, miracles, the survival of the soul after death, the resurrection of Jesus Christ and the virgin birth. But what may be surprising is that substantial minorities believe in ghosts, UFOs, witches, astrology, and the belief that they themselves were once other people. Overall, more people believe in the devil, hell and angels than believe in Darwin's theory of evolution.

Some of the findings in this new Harris Poll include:

* Eighty percent of adult Americans believe in God — unchanged since the last time the question was asked in 2005. Large majorities of the public believe in miracles (75%), heaven (73%), angels (71%), that Jesus is God or the Son of God (71%), the resurrection of Jesus (70%), the survival of the soul after death (68%), hell (62%) the virgin birth of Jesus born to Mary (61%) and the devil (59%).

* Slightly more people — although both are minorities — believe in Darwin's theory of evolution (47%) than in creationism (40%).

* Sizeable minorities believe in ghosts (44%), UFOs (36%), witches (31%), astrology (31%), and reincarnation (24%).

Interestingly, slender majorities of all adults believe that all or most of the Old Testament (55%) and the New Testament (54%) are the "Word of God." However, only about a third of all adults (37% and 36%) believe that all of these texts are the word of God. Only 26 percent of all adults believe that the Torah is the word of God, even though it is the same as the first five books of the Old Testament.

Regarding religiosity and religious practice, less than a quarter of Americans describe themselves as "very religious." However, a large majority (68%) describe themselves as either very (23%) or somewhat (45%) religious. A quarter (27%) of adults say that they attend church once a week or more, compared with 36 percent who say they attend less than once a year or never (18% each).

This nationwide survey of 2,126 U.S. adults was conducted online between November 10 and 17, 2008, by Harris Interactive.

(from FotF's Pastor's Weekly Briefing)