Saturday, November 25, 2006

Bossaball, Another Off-beat Sport

This was another sport that seemed a bit out there. It is a mix of trampolining, volleyball, and soccer. From what I've read there is often a band or DJ playing up beat music when this is played.
What is Zorbing?

I was looking through the off beat sports that were listed on Wikepedia. Zorbing was listed so I went to YouTube to find out what Zorbing is all about.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Parableman: The Logical Problem of Evil

Parableman: The Logical Problem of Evil: "The Logical Problem of Evil"

Jeremy has an excellent discussion of the problem of evil. He will soon discuss some theistic solutions. I'm intrigued.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

How Do You Pronounce Missouri?

I got this from Parableman. I was surprised how easy the test was to take and how accurate it was.

What American accent do you have?
Your Result: The Midland

"You have a Midland accent" is just another way of saying "you don't have an accent." You probably are from the Midland (Pennsylvania, southern Ohio, southern Indiana, southern Illinois, and Missouri) but then for all we know you could be from Florida or Charleston or one of those big southern cities like Atlanta or Dallas. You have a good voice for TV and radio.

The Inland North
The South
The Northeast
The West
North Central
What American accent do you have?
Take More Quizzes

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Sermon Plagiarism is Different Than Borrowing Ideas and Illustrations

That Sermon You Heard on Sunday May Be From the Web - "The plagiarism debate grew louder in recent months after a sermon site posted an essay by the Rev. Steve Sjogren titled, 'Don't be original, be effective!' Mr. Sjogren urged pastors to quit spending time striving for originality and instead, to recite the words of better sermonizers."

Yesterday I bought a Wall Street Journal. I have not bought one in years but I saw a leading story on preaching and plagiarism so I spent my dollar to read the one article. Then I see that Tim Challies wrote a post on this same article.

My pastor goes out of his way to source his sermon material. I think his practice of mentioning who he read to get an illustration or an idea is great. However, some people misunderstand his sourcing content that he uses from books. One fellow was intimidated by the often mentioning of book. He was of average or better intelligence but he was not an avid reader so he felt a little chided every time a Christian book was mentioned. Since the practice is not wide spread to source one's sermon material, people can misunderstand it. This guy did.

I have mentioned many times I grew up in a rural church setting. It seemed pretty obvious to me even as a youth that country preachers used each other's material. The way to learn how to preach and get material for sermons was to go to revival services, go to camp meetings, go listen to good preaching. I believe it was understood that everyone would borrow from one another by borrowing illustrations, syllogism, ways of interpreting a passage, word play, speaking techniques, and ways of explaining a well know problem.

While I am NOT encouraging plagiarism, I think it is generally accepted that anecdote and other public speaking material are accepted as borrowed and brought alive in retelling. That is just in public speeches in general. In regard to preaching specifically, I don't think the average parishioner is expecting total originality. I do think they are expecting an original sermon, just not all the material contained there in. I find it amusing that someone would try to be original in trying to explain their own proofs for God when this topic has a well defined body of knowledge surrounding it and most of us would be hard pressed to do some original work in explaining the existence of God. Perhaps Ravi Zacharias has come up with some original thinking on this topic or Jeremy Pierce might come up with something original.

Preaching is a oral communications art. Our preaching institutions, seminaries, however focus on written communication. It is sort of a shame that we can't make the curriculum focus more on oral communication skills. While we have standards for sourcing in writing, the rules are different for sourcing material for public speaking and I think also for preaching. Since our seminaries teach writing through out the curriculum, seminary trained pastors might feel compelled to use the same types of sourcing that one would use in a term paper. I just don't think that works. The brief mention of the writer in passing is what is really required, or even sometimes simply say "I have heard the following illustration on this point". That makes it clear that you are using someone else's material, and most people don't care who came up with it originally.

Where retelling someone elses sermon illustration gets us into trouble is that the story might not be right. Some illustrations and stories may not have the facts correct. A friend of mine heard a pastor tell a story of King David hiding in a cave from his enemy. Not long before the enemy approached the cave, a spider quickly spun a web across the entrance of the cave. When the advesary saw the web, he did not bother searching the cave since there was a web across it. He left assuming no man had entered the cave due to the web. The only thing is, this story is not in the Bible, it is from the Koran. The main character is not David but the founder of Islam. My friend and I were taking Arabic class when he found out the source of the story. He was shocked. Preachers need to source their sermon material not only for the sake of guarding against plagiarism, but also to verify the material. The folks in the pew might just find out you told the story wrong.

In summary, I think sermons do not have to be sourced the same way that a term paper is sourced. Oral ideas and stories are meant to be retold. Reciting someone's sermon as your own is simply wrong. Sourcing sermon material needs to feel natural to the audience and keep the preacher on the straight and narrow with his facts.

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Sunday, November 12, 2006

Failing The License Exam: What I Learned From My Failure

This last week I took my license examination to preach. In the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) if someone is regularly preaching, they should be licensed. That basically means that the presbytery gives the one applying for the license a test in theology, Bible, Christian experience, and church government. The one applying for license also needs to preach sermon for the committee doing the testing. I did well in the theology examination. I had studied theology all summer for the exam. I basically read G.I. Williamson's to books on the Westminster Shorter Catechism, I read for a second time G.I. Williamson's book on the Westminster Confession of Faith. I read harmony of the Westminster Standards; the Shorter Catechism, the Larger Catechism, and the Confession of Faith each side by side coordinated by topic and content. I also read the Westminster Standards. So I did a lot of preparation and that paid off. I did well on the theology section. I passed on the church government examination. To prepare for the church government section I simply read the Book of Church Order. I wondered if that was enough, but I passed. For the Bible section did nothing to prepare. I read the Bible daily. I feel by and large, I know my Bible. Wrong. I failed this part of the test. There was a lot of questions regarding where you find something in the Bible. I can quickly find all these places, I just could not tell you book and chapter in the Bible I would find something. To prepare for the sermon I simply preached a sermon. I got kudos for my time management, for my tone and for my illustrations. I fell short on a coherent Christ focused message. I was supposed to give my sermon in 15 minutes and so I dispensed with reading the entire passage up front, something I would never do in a worship service. I assumed my audience was a bunch of preachers so I did not want to be too brash in my tone to them nor did I assume my audience was in need of salvation. They said that I did not have a Fallen Condition Focus (FCF) in my sermon. This, as I understand it, explains all problems in terms of our fallen nature, which of course I believe but I did not integrate into my sermon. My sermon also failed.

So basically I failed my examination because I don't know my Bible and can't preach. This is sort of like a mechanic who can't turn a wrench, a carpenter who can't hit a nail or a soldier who can't fire a gun. So, I am feeling pretty bummed about it all. I'm not giving up but I feel bummed. To top this bummer of a week off, I had a relative tell me I need to meet an acquaintance of theirs who went into the ministry and failed. He said I might learn from the experiences of these guy who had to give up on ministry. Message: "Terry, don't go into the ministry because you are going to fail". I do worry about failure quite a bit since I have failed on multiple occasions in my life.

What am I going to do about this? Well, I'm not sure if I should attempt to retake the portions of the examination I failed at sooner or later. I might be able to retake those portions in January. But will I have time for remedial study on these areas? The committee suggested that I outline all the books of the Bible. I can do that, but I'm not sure that is enough. I have focused my competency in the Scriptures on interpretation and linguistic interpretation. Neither, of course, were on the test. The committee told me I should read Bryan Chapell's book Christ-Centered Preaching: Redeeming the Expository Sermon. They also gave me a worksheet to work through during the preparation phase of a sermon. I think these can work. I'm more optimistic about getting this sermon form down than I am about mastering the Bible in a way that will cause me to pass the test. One of the things said more than once was that an expository sermon is not a running commentary on a passage. I'm not sure I'm convinced that a running commentary is a bad thing, but I don't think I will pass if I use that style.

I learned that I'm not as strong on Bible knowledge that I thought I was. In my 20's I focused a lot on outlines and Scripture memorization but I found something lacking. I found that passages that I had memorized, I still did not know the interpretation. In my 30's I focused on interpretation of the Bible. But now in my 40's I still need to go back and learn the book outlines and memorize Scripture.

I learned that I'm not as strong as I sometimes like to think that I am. I need more of God's grace than I thought I did.

I learned that people often don't hear you. Communication is difficult work and has to be done with wisdom.

I learned that some people will not understand the sacrifice needed for ministry.

About a week before I took the license examination orals I met an old friend at the grocery store. He and his wife attend a Pentecostal church. She is an ordained Pentecostal minister. I shared that I was about to take the license examination and the rigor involved. She said that when she was ordained that all she had to do was explain her sense of call and her testimony. I sensed that she felt I was bringing discredit upon her ordination. She wanted to engage me in a debate about women in ministry which I tried hard to not get sucked into but had to defend my self just a little. It was a strange experience. My friend just wanted to say hello. I just wanted to share what was going on with me. Instead this debate became the focus on the conversation. I think my friend's wife just wanted to be respected. She chose a route to ordination that was easy and achievable. I have chosen a route that is more difficult. I do not mean her any disrespect but I need to know that I have done more than punched my ticket with regard to ordination. I need to know that I have the right people skills, I have strong Bible knowledge, I the requisite communication skills and I have the right spiritual maturity. This test has shown me that I do have some gaps. I have been weighed and found lacking.

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Sunday, November 05, 2006

Pastor, what does your schedule look like?

When I was in high school I went to a Christian vocation conference at Bethel College in McKenzie, TN. It was a conference to get young people to come to the college, talk about their desires to go into the ministry and ultimately go to Bethel College. I had a good time and I ended up going to Bethel too. I had a question that I asked one of the leaders, "What does a pastor do all day?" Ultimately nobody answered the question. Perhaps other people don't have this problem, but I think they might. We had a lot of bi-vocational pastors in the Cumberland Presbyterian Church in the denomination that I grew up. Since some of the men could work at a shoe store part time and still do a great job pastoring the church, the question was in everyone's mind, "What does that pastor down the street do who is only a pastor?" Though I read a lot on the ministry, have pastored a couple of churches as a student pastor, and am now going to seminary, I have had no one answer the question until now. What I saw from my pastor growing up is that he did two things, visited the sick and prepared his sermon. Pastor's at other church I have thought they spent some time counseling. I'm reading the book Planting Missional Churches: Planting a Church That's Biblically Sound and Reaching People in Culture by Ed Stetzer. He addresses this issue in a way that I think is helpful. He distinguishes between the bi-vocational pastor and those who do full time work in their ministry. He also says that a pastor should be thinking of working at least 50 hours per week since that is what his volunteer leaders do when they work a 40 hour week and then add ministry duties that equals 50-60 hours per week.

Schedule CategoryFull-TimeBi-vocational
Evangelistic Outreach153
Sermon and Study Preparation103
Ministry(Visitation of Sick, Counseling)15 3

I found this helpful. Just thought I would share.