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For a while now, we’ve had bear sightings close to our house. Not especially close, but close enough to take notice. (Say, withint a mile.) However, yesterday on my way to work I found this huge bear (HUGE!) crossing the street about a tenth of a mile from our house. It picked up its pace as my car approached, but didn’t seem overly concerned to run away. It ended up in a field looking back over its shoulder at my car.

There is a huge corn field next to our house. I’m wondering how long it will take for the bear to find it. I just hope it doesn’t start desiring chickens and goats next.

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“Can we only speak when we are fully living what we are saying? If all our words had to cover all our actions, we would be doomed to permanent silence! Sometimes we are called to proclaim God’s love even when we are not yet fully able to live it. Does that mean we are hypocrites? Only when our own words no longer call us to conversion. Nobody completely lives up to his or her own ideals and visions. But by proclaiming our ideals and visions with great conviction and great humility, we may gradually grow into the truth we speak. As long as we know that our lives always will speak louder than our words, we can trust that our words will remain humble.” – Henri Nouwen.

As a preacher I’ve struggled with this. How can I preach this sermon when I know my life doesn’t match it? When I was younger I maybe shied away from some subjects because I was uncomfortable. But then I realized that maybe I needed to hear the sermon more than the congregation. If I needed to hear it, then maybe some of them could benefit from hearing it too.

We just got back from my Father’s Day Dinner. My family thought it might be too busy on Sunday and wanted to take me out tonight. We went to Olive Garden. I’ve got really good boys. Traci and I are really blessed. We our having a 4-H exchange student come for a month. For the visit we had a home inspection and interview. The interviewer asked us what are some rules of the home. We had a hard time coming up with many. We don’t really need many rules. They don’t act out. They’re respectful. They’re smart, funny, creative. It was a good night. And now, cheese cake for dessert.

I’ve been experimenting with a new sermon style. I recently read a book ┬áby Andy Stanley, Communicating for a Change, arguing for a one point sermon. He argued that if we are about preaching for change, then we need to change the way we preach. Three points and an illustration or story may be entertaining or informative, but it can’t really create the change in people’s lives we desire. It’s too much for people to remember week to week. It might go into a notebook, but it won’t make it into their lives. Stanley argues that we make one point in the sermon and have everything (illustrations, stories, applications) all point to that one point for the sermon. If there is one point, it is much more likely that people will remember.

Part of my problem is that Stanley doesn’t go into a lot of detail on filling time. We’re preachers after all. We don’t have trouble filling time speaking. But I do. My sermons were never long to begin with. I think it was my business class training. We’d be given an assignment. Write a one page summary. The professor would hand it back. “Your manager doesn’t have time to read an entire page. Give me a paragraph.” We’d rewrite the assignment. “Your CEO doesn’t have time for a paragraph. This is still too long. Give it to me in one sentence.” We had it trained into us to avoid the superfluous. Be concise. I remember taking essay exams in graduate school. Professors were amazed that I could write an essay containing the information I had in such a short paragraph. Others would write ten pages or more and I’d write four. “I just can’t figure what you’ve left out.”

So, now, my sermons are even shorter than before. But I think Stanley is correct. I’ll continue to work on my form and learn to support my point better. Of course, most people don’t complain about too short a sermon.