Mistakes Preachers Make, From an Expert

I'm honored to be an occasional contributor to Theology Mix. Me and a bunch of smart people.

Here is the link to my latest piece on Theology Mix, in which I add (from experience, I promise you) to another writer/preacher's list of mistakes preachers make. It's one of the few areas in which I think I can speak with confidence.

Church Signs With Moveable Letters Should Be Outlawed (Pt. 29)

Clearly some basketball opponents are tougher than others (thanks to Ed Stetzer's blog).

Soul Keeping

One of the best pieces of advice I ever received was the year before I entered ministry training, when someone asked me what I was reading. I listed a few books with enthusiasm--and pride, I'm sure. He asked if he could offer some advice, and I agreed. "Don't read books," he said. "Read authors."

I can't say I've followed his advice to a T since then, but when I find a good or great book, I seek out other books by that author.

John Ortberg is one such author. I love his writing style and the way he handles biblical texts and teachings. So I was anxious to read his book, Soul Keeping: Caring for the Most Important Part of You. He says that many souls in this day and age are starved and unhealthy, unsatisfied by false promises of status and wealth, and the way to depth and fulfillment is to give attention to the soul, and to care for it well.

I loved that the book was crafted around Ortberg's relationship with another of my favorite authors, the late Dallas Willard. In fact, I found my interest piqued every time Willard entered the scene. Overall, however, I didn't find Soul Keeping as helpful and engrossing as the other Ortberg books I've read. Maybe that's because I read it at the wrong time, or at the wrong pace, or something like that.

But I can recommend it nonetheless, because it's solid teaching and helpful insights on an important subject, with some flashes of brilliance sprinkled throughout. And who doesn't need that?

Church Signs With Moveable Letters Should Be Outlawed (Pt. 28)

Okay, so maybe we can't immediately outlaw church signs with moveable letters, but in the meantime can we at least use spellcheck?


I read virtually everything Leonard Sweet writes (although he is so prolific he seems able to write faster than I can read). Yet I delayed reading Nudge: Awakening Each Other to the God Who's Already There. I wasn't highly motivated to read another book on evangelism.

This wasn't that.

Nudge (like everything Sweet writes) is compelling. It is both strikingly simple and truly revolutionary, as incredible as that may seem. Also like most of what Sweet writes, Nudge expresses much of what I've been feeling and thinking but could never have explained without his help. In my view, he captures perfectly what "evangelism" is, and what it must be, moving it away from the modernist and revivalist traditions (which he and I share as part of our backgrounds) and toward a relational, respectful, and responsive way of helping ourselves and our fellow earth-dwellers to awaken to and interact with, well, the God who's already there among us.

The book is divided into two sections. The first--titled "Shining"--defines "nudging" and "nudgers" as part of a process based on three assumptions: (1) Jesus is alive and active in our world, (2) Followers of Jesus know him well enough to recognize where he is alive and moving, and (3 ) Evangelists nudge others around them to wake up to that activity. "Nudgers," he says, "meet people in their context and nourish their souls in some way." The second section--titled "Sensing"--explores how "nudging" works through each of the five senses, a chapter at a time.

Like all the other Sweet books I've read, I highlighted so many memorable lines that it would be unwieldy to share them all. But here are some of my favorite bits:
The more I discover who God is and who God made me, the happier I become.

I have a friend, Michael Blewett, who is a rector in Bowling Green, Kentucky. He informs his parish that they have three things to spend in life: time, money, and attention. And the greatest of these is attention.

One of the worst mistakes you can make in life is to confuse fallow time with shallow time.

If you want to make God laugh, show him your plans. If you want to make God cry, show him your planet.

The quieter we become, the chattier God gets.

I have no right to argue with you until I can state your case to your satisfaction. I have no right to tell your story until I can state your story to your satisfaction.

Jesus’ image of fishing was not solitary but social.

In the Jesus story of the miraculous catch of precisely 153 fish, the number 153 is the celestial calculus for completion. The ancient world believed there were exactly 153 different species of fish. A catch of 153 fish symbolized the church’s need to reach in its communal netting every culture upon the earth.

Nudgers live and love as Jesus lives and loves: with a blend of fortieth in re, suaviter in modo, or to translate this ancient theological phrase into English, "resolutely in action and gently in manner."

It’s so hard for people to hear ‘God loves you so much’ when the church loves so little. ‘Love All. Serve All’ is the corporate motto of Hard Rock Cafe.

Lancaster Seminary professor Frank Stalfa hammers into the heads of his students this six-word mantra: "Truth without compassion is merely aggression."
It's all so good. So good. So much so, in fact, that I can honestly say it not only reawakened me to the God who's already there, but also to the Gospel and the Great Commission.

Church of the Week: Harbison Chapel, Grove City, PA

On a recent visit to Grove City College in Grove City, Pennsylvania (see here and here), I was so pleased to find Harbison Chapel on the school's campus open at midday.
The chapel, in the center of the campus, was built by the sons of Samuel P. Harbison as a memorial to their father, who served the college as a trustee.
The interior is beautified by hand-carved woodwork and brilliant stained glass windows. It is the campus home to chapel services, convocations, and Sunday vespers, and hosts frequent and numerous weddings throughout the year. It is a stately treasure, and I'm glad I got to visit it and pray in it, however briefly.