Learning to Read

Fred Craddock has long been among my favorite preachers, and this short sermon may convey why. It is an audio file, so sit back, listen, and hear the word of the Lord:

Learning to Read from Faithkid Zhang on Vimeo.

Church of the Week: Redeemer Church, Hamilton, OH

This past Sunday I had the opportunity to visit Redeemer Church, an Evangelical Covenant Church on the northeast side of Hamilton--just off Rt. 4 near the Butler Tech school and Walden Pond community. The congregation dates to 1892 and moved to their current location in 1963.
As I entered with my wife, daughter, son-in-law, and grandchildren Calleigh and Ryder,  we were all warmly welcomed and quickly found our way to the inviting children's wings, where Calleigh and Ryder were quickly signed in and made themselves at home.

The 11 a.m. worship service, held in the Family Life Center (the earlier "Heritage Service" is held in the sanctuary) began on time and was ably led by four instrumentalists and five vocalists. In fact, on the last song of the worship set, I thought the bass playing would transport us all to the seventh heaven.
Pastor Rev. Dr. Kim Katterheinrich took ample time to hear prayer requests from the room of a hundred or so worshipers and then continued a series of teachings on spiritual gifts.

Having had a number of fine associations with the Evangelic Covenant Church, a fast-growing, multiethnic denomination in the U.S. and Canada, I was glad for the opportunity to discover this seemingly solid, growing congregation just twenty minutes from our home.

Redeemer Church is located at 3431 Hamilton Middletown Rd., Hamilton, OH 45011.

Beyond "Topical" and "Textual": Ten Types of Creative Sermons

In an excellent post on his blog, Lawrence Wilson details "ten types of creative sermons that may push the preacher to greater imagination and creativity, and may help draw hearers deeper into the text."

It begins:
Although there are several preaching styles, nearly all sermons these days fall into two broad categories: textual and topical. Given that numbing lack of variety in form, it is no wonder many congregations (and not a few preachers) have grown bored with the sermon as the centerpiece of Protestant worship.

Perhaps it is time to recover two elements that were once hallmarks of great preaching: imagination and creativity.
To which I can only say, "Oh, amen!" And, read the whole thing.

Surprised by Hope

I am an unabashed N. T. Wright fan. I think he is one of the most important theologians of our day, and the most entertaining to read and listen to. His book, Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church, is an example of why I say that.

The book seeks to answer two important questions: “What are we waiting for?” and “What are we going to do about it in the meantime?” In other words, are our contemporary ideas about heaven and the afterlife based on Scripture? And what difference do such things make here and now? Wright convincingly argues that most Christians--and churches and pastors as well--believe in something other than what Jesus and the early Christians believed and taught, and consequently cheat themselves of the "hope" of his title. He makes the case for a hope in "life after life after death" and relates that hope to our relationship to the world and our conduct in the world. In doing so, he obliterates popular conceptions of what the word "heaven" means, exposes our faulty (even Gnostic) understanding of "physical" and "spiritual" states of being, reinforces the significance of Jesus' bodily resurrection, and prescribes a cure for both "hollow triumphalism" and "shallow despair."

Some of my favorite lines:
"Heaven is important but it's not the end of the world." 
"A Christian in the present life is a mere shadow of his or her future self." 
"Resurrection isn't life after death; it is life after life after death." 
"We are saved not as souls but as wholes." 
"The church, because it is the family that believes in hope for new creation, should be a place in every town and village where new creativity bursts forth for the whole community, pointing to the hope that, like all beauty, always comes as a surprise." 
"Jesus's resurrections summons us to dangerous and difficult tasks on earth." 
"In the Bible heaven and earth are made for each other. They are the twin interlocking spheres of God's single created reality."
Like everything I've read by N. T. Wright (and he is so prolific I fear I'll never catch up...in this lifetime), Surprised by Hope is, well, surprising. And hopeful. And compelling. And memorable. And life-altering.

The Pastor's Desk (Episode 8)

The pastor's desk above belongs to Peter Krol, who is an elder at Grace Fellowship Church of State College, Pennsylvania.

(If you would like to participate in this recurring feature on the Desperate Pastor blog, submit a single photo of a pastor's study, office, or desk--but no tidying up before taking the picture, mind you--to bob@bobhostetler.com, along with a short description identifying to whom it belongs)

Church of the Week: Ebenezer Baptist Church, Fulton, MO

I had the honor and joy a couple weekends ago of visiting and preaching at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Fulton, Missouri, in the company of my wife, the lovely Robin, and a great crowd of others.
Ebenezer has a long and storied history, dating back to the nineteenth century. The main corridor of the church has a gallery of the church's pastors since its inception. The bottom row far right is my Uncle Walt; the bottom row second from left is his father!
Our morning was delightful--a worship hour that included enthusiastic congregational singing, a trumpet trio, my Aunt Shirley's beautiful and masterful piano playing (that's her at the piano and Uncle Walt, seated). The preaching was subpar, but everyone was gracious and kind to the preacher of the day (me). And it was a true blessing to worship for the first time in decades with my cousins Lynne and Ed, Ed's wife Karen, and some of their children and grandchildren. 

Ebenezer Baptist Church is located at 6841 State Road Z near Fulton, Missouri. 

Church Signs with Moveable Letters Should Be Outlawed (Pt. 16)

The latest installment in this recurring "Church Signs With Moveable Letters Should Be Outlawed" feature has a personal side to it.
Recently I had the honor and joy of preaching at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Fulton, Missouri--my Uncle Walt's church. They very kindly announced me as a "spc guest speaker" on their church sign. On one side, that is.
The other side bore a different message--one that seemed a bit too appropriate, given that the other side announced my visit.

Uncle Walt didn't assure me that the two messages were unrelated. Didn't even try. Not even a little bit.

The Pastor's Desk (Episode 7)

The pastor's desk above belongs to Major Raphael Jackson, pastor ("corps officer") of The Salvation Army in Harlem (who sent it with something that sounded like a growl).

(If you would like to participate in this recurring feature, submit a single photo of a pastor's study, office, or desk (but no tidying up before taking the picture) to bob@bobhostetler.com, along with a short description identifying to whom it belongs)

Do the Desperate Pastor a Solid

Did you know that when you click on the ads featured here on The Desperate Pastor blog and patronize those advertisers, you help the Desperate Pastor blog financially?

Also, while this blog's author and moderator does not choose which ads appear on the blog (that is left up to some man behind a curtain in a room filled with computers somewhere in Silicon Valley, more or less), the ads you express an interest in will result in more of those kinds of goods and services appearing on the site.

So please do the Desperate Pastor a solid and explore what our advertisers offer. Thank you for that...and thank you especially for reading The Desperate Pastor!

Books I Keep Mentioning

Though I read roughly 100 books a year and write reviews for a couple dozen of those, there are relatively few that keep popping up in conversation--some repeatedly, and some for years after I read them. So I thought I would give a little thought to the books I keep mentioning over and over to others. Here are those that come quickly to mind:

From the Garden to the City (The Redeeming and Corrupting Power of Technology) by John Dyer. I have recommended this book to many for its expert discussion of technology, philosophy, history, and theology in a thoroughly and constantly engaging way. His call to control technology instead of letting it control and shape our lives continues to speak to me.

I will also mention Leonard Sweet's Viral (How Social Networking is Poised to Ignite Revival) in the same breath as Dyer's book (or vice versa). With his usual flair for coining memorable terms, Sweet sketches the difference between one generation and the next, which he labels "Gutenbergers" (those born before 1973, the year the cell phone was invented) and "Googlers" (those born since). He demonstrates how differently--often better--Googlers think and relate, compared to Gutenberger ways, and how some of the "Googler" ways of doing things bode well for the Gospel in the twenty-first century.

N. T. Wright's book, The Challenge of Jesus: Rediscovering Who Jesus Was and Is, is a portrait of Jesus that both confirms the central tenets of the historical faith and challenges the sloppy thinking, talking, praying, and practice of which many of us are guilty. Wright always challenges and deepens my thinking.

I frequently recommend Justin Lee's book, Torn (Rescuing the Gospel from the Gays-vs.-Christians Debate)written by a young man who loves Jesus Christ and is also gay, in the hope that--whether or not it changes any minds on the "gay debate"--it will change Christians' and churches' hearts.

Jesus: A Theography, by Leonard Sweet and Frank Viola, tells the story of Jesus, the God-man, as revealed not just in the Gospels but as told from the first lines of "the First Testament" in Genesis to the last words of "the Second Testament" in the Revelation. In doing so, they show compellingly, thoroughly, and engagingly how the whole Bible reveals Jesus. It is an astounding book, and one I frequently bring up in conversation.

In discussing the role of women in the church, family, and society, I will often mention the excellent book by Stanley Grenz and Denise Muir Kjesbo, Women in the Church: A Biblical Theology of Women in Ministry. I generally find it futile to try to reason with someone on the biblical issues if they haven't at least tried to read that book (which, admittedly, can be intimidating and a little too scholarly for some folks). But then along came Rachel Held Evans's  A Year of Biblical Womanhood (How a Liberated Woman Found Herself Sitting on Her Roof, Covering Her Head, and Calling Her Husband Master) which charts, with sincerity, authenticity, insight, and humor, the author's efforts over twelve months to experience all the Bible says (or seems to say) about womanhood. Seriously, this wonderful book should be read by anyone who cares, one way or the other, about Christian teaching on the place of women in the home, church, and society.

I mention Michael Hyatt's Platform: Get Noticed in a Noisy World--also subtitled "A Step-by-Step Guide for Anyone with Something to Say or Sell"--all the time these days to people who want to write and publish a book.

Still another Leonard Sweet book, I Am a Follower (The Way, Truth, and Life of Following Jesus) comes up often in conversations about leadership. The book skewers the modern church's success-worshiping, corporate-obsessed "leadership" fixation, and contrasts it with the example and message of Jesus--what Sweet calls "followership culture." He says, "Leadership is an alien template that we have laid on the Bible." And then he goes about showing us the more excellent way of Jesus, in his typically colorful, thoughtful, biblical, and entertaining style.

Both the Henry Cloud classic, Boundaries, and Allison Bottke's book, Setting Boundaries with Your Adult Children, are books I regularly recommend (and give away copies of) in recent years.

Finally (though I could go on, and often do, to mention many others) Ann Voskamp's One Thousand Gifts (A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are) is a beautiful book that I have often recommended to others not only as a great read but also for its potential to change a person's perspective and introduce a deep and lasting "attitude of gratitude" into their lives.

These twelve just scratch the surface. On any given day, I may mention several of these, and several others I haven't listed. But these seem to be the ones that, in the last few years, at least, have had the most memorable impact on my thinking and living...and on my conversations with other people.

A Word to Pastors Who Don't Use Social Media

“How can you squander even one more day not taking advantage of the greatest shifts of our generation? How dare you settle for less when the world has made it so easy for you to be remarkable?”- Seth Godin, sethgodin.com, Guerrilla Marketing for Home-Based Businesses.

The Pastor's Desk (Episode 6)

The pastor's desk above belongs to Kevin Miller, associate rector at Church of the Resurrection in Wheaton, Illinois.

(If you would like to participate in this recurring feature on the Desperate Pastor blog, submit a single photo of a pastor's study, office, or desk--but no tidying up before taking the picture, mind you--to bob@bobhostetler.com, along with a short description identifying to whom it belongs)