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4 Stages of Writing and 5 Errors to Drop from Easter Preaching


Scribble: 4 Stages of Writing and 3 Mistakes We Make

“I recently came across the HBR Guide to Better Business Writing, a book that has a chapter on the four stages of the writing process. Reflecting on my experience writing blogs and non-fiction books, I recognized these stages even if I’d never consciously labeled them this way.”

Read the rest, along with 3 wrong-turns we can make along the way, here.

Preach: Five Errors to Drop From Your Easter Sermon

“1. Don’t say Jesus died when he was 33 years old.

The common assertion seems reasonable that if Jesus “began his ministry” when he “was about thirty years of age” (Luke 3:23) and engaged in a three-year ministry (John mentions three Passovers, and there might have been a fourth one), then he was 33 years old at the time of his death. However, virtually no scholar believes Jesus was actually 33 when he died. Jesus was born before Herod the Great issued the decree to execute “all the male children in Bethlehem and in all that region who were two years old or under” (Matt. 2:16, ESV) and before Herod died in the spring of 4 B.C. If Jesus was born in the fall of 5 or 6 B.C., and if we remember that we don’t count the “0″ between B.C. and A.D., then Jesus would have been 37 or 38 years old when he died in the spring of A.D. 33 (as we believe is most likely). Even if Jesus died in the year A.D. 30 (the only serious alternative date), he would have been 34 or 35, not 33 years old. No major doctrine is affected by this common misconception. But don’t damage your credibility by confidently proclaiming “facts” from the pulpit that are not true.”

Read the other four here.

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New Series: Preach Like a Missionary.

Last week, drinking my morning coffee, I stumbled across a book. I’d read through the book before, once or twice. But that was before ministry, mostly. I thought the book was “decent”, at the time. I’d have given it an obligatory 4 stars on Amazon, if someone paid me.

But last week – oh, last week – I cracked this little book open, wiped off the dust, and read. The words leapt off the page, screaming, sizzling and popping like firecrackers. I hadn’t realized the liquid gold I’d had in hand, sitting on the shelf, for years.

It was a letter from an old pastor. He’d been converted at a late age, then gone on to lead a church planting effort so effective it virtually upended the largest empire in history. He was writing to a struggling church plant in a major metropolitan city. They’d had back and forth before, and now it came down to it: apparently, some were questioning his pastoral competency.

So the pastor sat down, and composed a letter. It’s a letter about being a pastor on mission. The letter is part autobiography, part theology, and all practical. It’s dripping with untapped wisdom, from a man who was arguably the most effective missional pastor in history.

His name is Paul. The letter, “2 Corinthians”.

As I’ve gleaned over this little gem over the last few weeks, I’ve decided it’s worth a blog series. I’d originally thought to post once on some takeaways, but soon realized the book was too big for that. Every page is brimming with missional preaching wisdom.

So, you want to learn to preach like missionary? Let’s learn together, from the most effective evangelist the world has ever known.

The series will begin next Tuesday, 4/22/14. Installments will be one week apart, until we’ve finished the book together. So, gear up, read through 2 Corinthians, and let’s learn together.

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A Glimpse of Truth: Sherlock Holmes

“When you have eliminated all which is impossible, then whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.”  - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Sherlock Holmes, Book #9

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“Frozen” Writers on Princess Mythology and 10 Ways to Kill Your Sermon Series

Scribble: “Frozen” Writers on Princess Mythology

“If you have young children, you may know by heart the songs from the Disney animated musical Frozen, including its massively ubiquitous “Let It Go.” The songwriting team behind the Oscar-winning hit includes Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez (a married couple with two children), who each sing on the soundtrack.

Robert Lopez co-wrote the satirical Broadway musicals Avenue Q and The Book of Mormon, which is now touring. He is now an EGOT, the acronym for the select few who have won an Emmy, a Grammy, an Oscar and a Tony. Together, the two also wrote the songs for the 2011 Disney animated musical Winnie the Pooh. They tell Fresh Air‘s Terry Gross about the inspiration for the songs from Frozen, including “Let It Go” and a “very strong strike across the bow at all princess-myth things” song that didn’t make the film.”

Listen to the whole interview here.

10 Ways to Kill Your Sermon Series

By visiting churches across the country, I’ve learned that many churches use sermon series to hone their message and encourage people to invite their friends, not just for one week but perhaps for four or six. I’ve also noticed that some churches implement sermon series more effectively than others. And some series engage the unchurched better than others. You can learn how to do things right from the churches who are doing it wrong.

Here are ten ways to sink your sermon series: Here.


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Killing Your Creativity Killer.

You sit down to write, pick up your pen, or place your hands on the keyboard.

Cup of coffee? Check.

Pacing nervously around the room for half-hour? Check.

Exhausting every social media outlet available so you have no conceivable excuse to delay? Check.

It’s only you, and the blank page. Sort of. Other people are there, too, it seems. Little people, in your head, shouting at you:

“This is a waste of time – you’re not doing anything important.”

“This book is CRAZY. No one will understand it.”

“Why do you think you can write? You don’t have formal training. You have no idea what you’re doing.”

And on, and on, and on it goes until you just can’t take it anymore. These little voices are most writers greatest hindrances – they kill our creativity, and keep us frozen, unable to produce work. They prohibit us from writing those terrible but necessary first drafts, and keep us re-editing the same sentence over and over again, never finishing a thing.

So, to the rescue – Anne Lammott:

“Quieting these voices is at least half the battle I fight daily. But this is better than it used to be. It used to be 87 percent.”  Here’s an exercise she suggests to quiet those voices:

“Close your eyes and get quiet for a minute, until the chatter starts up. Then isolate one of the voices and imagine the person speaking as a mouse. Pick it up by the tail and drop it into a mason jar. Then isolate another voice, pick it up by the tail, drop it in the jar. And so on. Drop in … anyone who is whining in your head. Then put the lid on, and watch all these mouse people clawing at the glass, jabbering away ….”

Maybe your exercise doesn’t look exactly the same – but if you’re going to write, you’re going to have to shut those little buggers up somehow, and it’s not a bad way to start.

Stay positive. Keep writing. It will come.

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900 Free Online Courses and Making it Stick Through Story

Scribble: 900 Free Online University Courses

Get free online courses from the world’s leading universities –  Stanford, Yale, MIT, Harvard, Berkeley, Oxford and more. This collection includes over 900 free courses in the liberal arts and sciences. You can download these audio & video courses (often from iTunes, YouTube, or university web sites) straight to your computer or mp3 player. Over 30,000 hours of free audio & video lectures, await you now.

See all the collections here.

Preach: Make it Stick Through Storytelling

Before there was the written word, humans used stories to transfer culture from one generation to the next. Stories are who we are, and we are our stories. Stories may contain analogies or metaphors, powerful tools for bringing people in and helping them understand our thoughts clearly and concretely. The best presenters illustrate their points with stories, often personal ones.

The easiest way to explain complicated ideas is through examples or by sharing a story that underscores the point. If you want your audience to remember your content, then find a way to make it more relevant and memorable by strengthening your core message with good, short, stories or examples.

Read the research here.

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Two People Who Shouldn’t Like Your Sermon.

One of them is you.

In other words, don’t preach the sermon you want to hear. You’re a preacher, so I’ll assume you’re a mature Christian, which means you’re interested in the nuances of scripture. You likely (although not surely) don’t need to hear a beckoning call to receive Christ. You probably don’t need to hear that secular worldviews are unworkable. If you were hearing a sermon, you’d want mind-twisting theology, deeper knowledge of a text than you’ve acquired after years of study, and a no holds-barred, in your face approach to application.

You also bring your personality into it. Certain illustrations resonate with you. You bring your own sin struggles in – some applications resonate with you. You bring in your own presuppositions – things you assume about scripture, and the gospel, and how life works.

But the people sitting in the pew aren’t you. So don’t preach the sermon you want to hear.

On the other hand: the people listening shouldn’t be happy with your sermon, either.

They should be convicted. So we change our illustrations, and we change our tone, and we change the words we use and we switch up the content to avoid our pet-issues. But it’s not to make them happy.

It’s to make the gospel understandable. And it’s to make God glorified.

And that should make you happy, anyway. And them.

Just not the way we thought.

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A Glimpse of Truth: Lion King Flashmob

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Tolkien on The Rubbish of Writing for Children and Edwards on the Primacy of Preaching

Tolkien on Fairy Stories, Psychology, and the Rubbish of Writing for Children.

“I do not believe that I have ever written a children’s book,” the great Maurice Sendak once said in an interview. “I don’t write for children,” he told Colbert. “I write — and somebody says, ‘That’s for children!’” This sentiment — the idea that designating certain types of literature as “children’s” is a choice entirely arbitrary and entirely made by adults — has since been eloquently echoed by Neil Gaiman, but isn’t, in fact, a new idea…”

Read Tolkien’s insights here.

Jonathan Edwards on the Primacy of Preaching

“In his famous treatise on the Religious Affections Jonathan Edwards notes the primacy of preaching over good commentaries and books to change the hearts and affections of those who hear the Word.”

Read the quote here.

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9 Reasons to Collaborate Your Writing Project.

Some recent blog posts by the folks at Pixar and others have got me thinking about the value of writing collaboratively (I don’t mean, “we all write a little bit,” but, “I write it, and I ask for collaborative feedback). Great authors like Mark Twain, Charles Dickens and Victor Hugo all published their works in local newspapers, and crafter their books around the response. In the digital age, this is easier than ever. But should we? Here are 9 reasons why I think the answer is “yes”?

  1. Collaboration allows for verbal feedback. Was that punch-line funny? Was that insight could enough to warrant a grunt of affirmation or a finger snap? You won’t know until you read it out loud to others – of course, this one is restricted to live collaboration.
  2. Collaboration makes you reader focused. As I think about collaborating, I’m beginning to think increasingly about the people who my writing is targeted toward, and less about what looks good on paper. There’s a fine line, but it makes a big difference.
  3. Collaboration brings a “forest” perspective. Sometimes, you’re just too in love to see straight. Bringing your work to the eyes of others can help give you a sense of flow, as others will be hearing how everything is structured after you’ve been down in the weeds.
  4. Collaboration creates a mega-mind. You know, “Mega-mind.” I love working in teams on solutions – I always come up with something better and slightly more sane than when I try to hash out the answer to a problem alone. People have a variety of gifts, and those ALL can be brought into your writing when you collaborate. You’ve just multiplied the talent contributing to your work.
  5. Collaboration gives you voice. Most collaboration efforts involve reading out loud. Knowing you’re going to read your work out loud in front of your team keeps you real, and honest – you can’t sound like a write. You’ll need to sound like yourself, and as you continue to write collaboratively you’ll increasingly discover what you sound like.
  6. Collaboration is accountability. Collaborative writing gives us expectations – people are waiting for the next chapter. You’ve got your next session coming up. Better get writing.
  7. Collaboration is easy. Like I said – google chat, skype, blogs, e-mail, google drive, coffeehouses – collaboration, in our world, is easy. Find some people – anywhere – who know writing, and you’re set to go.
  8. Collaboration brings clarity. One of the rules of teaching is that I don’t teach what I thought I taught – I teach what people understood. Many times, those things don’t match up. Sometimes, when I’m trying to express passion, I sound bull-headed. Sometimes a word-picture that makes sense in my head doesn’t make sense in anyone else’s. Instant feedback is the only way to clear this up.
  9. Collaboration is more fun. Finally – who really wants to be the tortured writer sitting alone in a room for weeks at a time, bemoaning the muse of inspiration’s vacation leave? I’m an introvert, but that has always sounded horrible to me. I need a team of faces I can knock this around with, if not just to keep me sane.

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