Heaven, hell and funerals

Anyone who has lived in a minister's house knows that middle-of-the-night telephone calls often bring bad news.But for many pastors there is one kind of call that is uniquely painful. There are times when the shock of death is easier to handle than questions about eternal life."It happens like this," noted the Rev. J. Gerald Harris, who became editor of the Southern Baptist newspaper of Georgia after 40 years in ministry. "A grieving widow would call and say with a broken heart and with tears … [Read more...]

Dark Knight of the soul

For many years, Marc Newman used a simple test when asking college students if they thought some actions were always right and others were always wrong -- slavery.Then something strange happened in his philosophy of communication classes. Students began arguing that slavery might be acceptable in certain cultures and under certain conditions. Besides, who were they to judge others?So here's a new question. What if you had two ferries and each contained a bomb. One ferry is full of criminals, … [Read more...]

Preaching to a tempting choir

The YouTube era has produced a few Catholic stars, priests whose performances have inspired scores of web surfers to pass along emails full of grief or glee.Who can forget "The Barney Blessing," with the priest who traded his vestments for a purple dinosaur suit before the final prayer of a Halloween Mass? Then there was the trendy priest whose loopy dance to the altar, accompanied by trumpets and drums, inspired comparisons to Prince Ali's arrival in the Disney classic "Aladdin."But these were … [Read more...]

Sex, sin and surveys

It's becoming more and more dangerous for preachers to use the words "sex" and "sin" in the same sentence.Consider this question: Is sex outside of marriage a sin?Say "yes" and millions of believers who are sitting in pews will say "amen." But that same affirmation of centuries of doctrine will offend just as many believers and nonbelievers, giving them an easy excuse to avoid congregations they believe are old fashioned and intolerant."We have to recognize that our historic positions on sexual … [Read more...]

The roots of King’s dream

The telephone rang after midnight and sleep was not an option for the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., after he answered it.It was late 1956. Years later, King quoted that hellish voice: "Nigger, we are tired of you and your mess now. And if you aren't out of this town in three days, we are going to blow your brains out and blow up your house."King ended up in the kitchen, meditating on the mystery of evil and worrying about his family. He began praying out loud, voicing his feelings of weak … [Read more...]

Plagiarism and the pulpit

One thing great preachers enjoy about traveling is that they can hear other people preach.But the American orator A.J. Gordon received a shock during an 1876 visit to England. Sitting anonymously in a church, he realized that the sermon sounded extremely familiar -- because he wrote it."The man in the pulpit was reading it verbatim without saying a word about the source. After the service, Gordon introduced himself and we can just imagine the pastor's reaction," said the Rev. Scott Gibson, di … [Read more...]

Missionary cohabitating, Part II

From the pulpit, the typical pastor can see all kinds of people whose ears will burn during a sermon about what used to be called "living in sin."There will be a few young adults who are cohabitating, as well as many moms and dads whose children quietly share street addresses with their significant others. There will be smiling couples the pastor married without asking many personal questions. There may be one or two divorced deacons with skeletons in their closets.Few ministers have the courage … [Read more...]

Missionary cohabitating, Part I

Church people have a name for what happens when young believers get romantically involved with unbelievers.They call it "missionary dating," usually with one eyebrow raised in skepticism. Most of these relationships involve a good girl who is convinced that, with time, she can help a bad boy see the error of his ways and learn to walk the straight and narrow path.Times have changed. According to new research, a surprising number of females have graduated from "missionary dating" to "missionary … [Read more...]


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X