NEED MEETING & Do religious leaders really focus on homosexuality and abortion more than poverty? Not exactly #TheWashingtonPost

By Scott Clement, The Washington Post, 5/20/15

Inequality has become the hot issue in politics, and the latest squabble has scrutinized the efforts of religious groups – or lack thereof – to raise Americans’ focus on the issue.

In a Washington Post interview last week, Harvard sociologist Robert Putnam claimed organized religion’s public agenda has “been entirely focused on issues of homosexuality and contraception and not at all focused on issues of poverty.” Putnam’s comments were blasted by several commentators, including the New York Times’s Ross Douthat, who noted religious groups spend far more on charity, schools and hospitals than pro-life causes or to oppose same-sex marriage.

Putnam’s research has been important in proving that religious individuals give more to charity , but Douthat further argued the atmosphere at church services and in statements of leaders is not obsessed with homosexuality and abortion. Beyond anecdotal claims, how much do churchgoers hear about poverty at worship services compared with hot-button social issues?

Fortunately, the answer is easily at hand, and Douthat’s observation is accurate. Just before the 2012 presidential election, a Pew Research Center surveyasked regular worship attendees what issues they have heard their clergy talk about recently. Roughly 3 in 4 said their clergy spoke about hunger and poverty (74 percent), while fewer than 4 in 10 heard about abortion (37 percent) or homosexuality (33 percent).


A breakdown of the data by religious groups shows that poverty dominates discussion even at churches with strong stances on abortion and homosexuality. Abortion comes close to rivaling poverty among Catholics: 62 percent of Catholics reported hearing about abortion in the weeks before the presidential election, though a still larger 82 percent said they heard about poverty. Among white evangelical Protestants who largely oppose same-sex marriage, far more said clergy spoke about hunger and poverty than homosexuality.

One caveat on these data is warranted. Talking about “hunger and poverty” is not identical to taking action on rising income inequality and the impact it has on the poor, which is the focus of Putnam’s recent book, “Our Kids.”

Much the same, religious groups may emphasize somewhat different themes in weekly services (such as raising charitable contributions) than when attempting to impact policy or influence voters. While Catholics attending Mass ahead of the 2012 election reported hearing more about poverty than abortion, the U.S. Catholic Bishops’ “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship” bulletin places heavy emphasis on the former. The publication mentions the importance of a living wage, but also explains that abortion is an evil that “may legitimately lead a voter to disqualify a candidate from receiving support.”

Religious groups are clearly active in discussing poverty at services, providing for the poor and taking stances on social justice. It’s an open question how much religious groups will weigh in and prioritize income inequality heading into the 2016 presidential cycle.

Read more at …

PREACHING & A Bonhoeffer Quote on the Use of Symbols via @LenSweet

The time when people could be told everything by means of words, whether theological or pious, is over.” – Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Cited by Len Sweet in his book, “Giving Blood: A Fresh Paradigm for Preaching” in the chapter titled, “Under the Microscope: Preaching in. Google World” (see the picture).

Original at …

METAPHOR & Once Upon a Podcast: 11 Storytelling Podcasts To Love

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: “As you know from my postings, researchers have found that utilizing a story as the central aspect of a sermon or when creating church change will make your endeavors twice as effective (Wilchert, 2012). Knowing this, I often wonder why so many pastors rely mostly on topical sermons when research shows that narrative- and story-based sermons are better remembered and their lessons retained more clearly. Could it be that our seminaries don’t teach and our pastors don’t know how to present a good story? If you’re having trouble making a story come to life, then listen to some of these podcasts with great examples of how to make a story come to life.”

Read more at …

PREACHING & A Refresher on Storytelling 101

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: “I have pointed out that research shows that ‘organizational change’ is twice as likely to occur if you attach a storyline to it. And I have shown out how this is the case in many large church turnarounds. Here is more research that proves you should use the power of stories and narrative to help people visualize change and growth.”

Read more at …

PREACHING & Research Shows How to Give a “Sticky” Story #HarvardBusinessReview

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: “Here is the latest research about how to use story and structure for good communication. Lessons include:

1) use a story or metaphor to communicate,

2) use your own experiences,

3) don’t make yourself the hero,

4) highlight a struggle,

5) keep it simple.”

And here is an insightful quote: “In our information-saturated age, business leaders, ‘won’t be heard unless they’re telling stories,’ says Nick Morgan author of Power Cues. ‘Facts and figures and all the rational things that we think are important in the business world actually don’t stick in our minds at all,’ he says. But stories create ‘sticky’ memories by attaching emotions to things that happen. That means leaders who can create and share good stories have a powerful advantage over others.”

by Carolyn O’Hara, Harvard Business Review

Read more at …

WESLEY & Why Salvation Must Be Preached First & Is the Foundation of Our Preaching

“So then, that ‘whosoever believeth on him shall be saved,’ is, and must be, the foundation of all our preaching; that is, must be preached first.”

John Wesley, from his sermon “Salvation by Faith” which he preached shortly after his conversion to the students and faculty of Oxford University in St. Mary’s Church, Oxford. Read the entire sermon at

Speaking hashtags: #BetterTogether

COMMUNICATION & Lou Gehrig’s speech, recited by the first baseman of every team (#video)

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: “This is a good example of how to use multiple voices and multiple contexts to communicate a message. Church leaders should consider using multiple voices from varying cultures and contexts to read the Scriptures on Sunday morning. Since I believe the Scriptures are inspired by God to communicate with people of every culture, using communicators from these varying cultures can help us see the supernatural applicability and power of the Good News.”

by Kevin Roderick, 7/2/14

“July 4 is the 75th anniversary of the day in 1939 when Lou Gehrig, just 36 years old, made his final public appearance — a retirement speech on the field at Yankee Stadium with his teammates standing around him trying not to cry. “Fans, for the past two weeks you have been reading about the bad break I got,” the New York first baseman began. “Yet today I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of this earth…”

Gehrig, of course, was forced to leave the game in his prime by Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, the disease that ever since has been shorthanded to his name. He died less than two years later. As a fundraiser for ALS, produced this video of all 30 major league starting first basemen — plus Yankees captain Derek Jeter — reciting Gehrig’s words.

The video was played this afternoon on the scoreboard at Yankee Stadium.”


CONTEMPORARY ISSUES & NT Wright, Science and Religion via @ScotMcKnight

by: Scot McKnight

“A collection of his public presentations, N.T. Wright’s new Surprised by Scripture: Engaging Contemporary Issues, brings Wright’s well-known narratival reading of Scripture/Israel’s history/Israel’s Story to bear on a number of topics, including science, the historical Adam, a “scientific approach” to the resurrection, ordaining women … and that’s just the first four chapters! Yes, plenty to dig into here and I suspect it could be a fantastic seasonal adult Bible study focus group.”

Read more at …

PREACHING & 10 Ways Great Speakers Capture People’s Attention

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: “Preachers often don’t realize that the most important part of your sermon is the first 90 seconds. Once in those 90 seconds you establish the direction the sermon is going, you then build upon that to keep the audience’s attention. The standard format of the 3-lessons sermon (where the lesson is revealed in the middle or at the end of the sermon) does not engage today’s audiences. This article describes how to build upon that initial interest to a impactful conclusion.”

by Sims Wyeth, Inc. Magazine, 5/5/14

Read more at …

PREACHING & Should You Approach Your Audience When Giving a Talk? Maybe Not #HarvardBusinessReview

by Harvard Business Review: “People feel better about objects and people – whether positive, negative, or neutral – that are seen to be receding rather than approaching…”

Read the original research here …

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PREACHING & A4 (or AAAA): My Structure for Effective Preaching in a Postmodern World = Adversity – Answer – Adventure – Action

by Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., 4/28/14, 7/24/19.

Part of my study of today’s culture, which some call a post-modern culture, is to understand how we can effectively communicate with people the life-transforming truths of Jesus’ sacrifice for us.  Here are the elements I have developed and practiced to communicate the Biblical message in an increasingly skeptical world.

ADVERSITY.  State a problem with which people struggle …

1.1 Ask the congregation a “question” that illustrates the adversity.

1.2 The Serendipity Bible is a great source of these questions.

1.3  Wesley’s questions are also great sources for these questions.  You can find them adapted for today in …

1.3.1  Cure for the Common Church by Bob Whitesel (2012) and

1.3.2  The Healthy Church by Bob Whitesel (2013)

ANSWER biblically the problem (the more people who can relate to this problem the better).

ADVENTURE through a “passage” from a biblical story.  Choose a Bible passage that gives the answer to the problem…

3.1  Start with something like Eerdmans Handbook to the Bible to get the basic historical background,

3.2  Then two good commentaries on the passage,

3.3  Then consult two more books that deal with the problem you are addressing,

3.4 FILL your mind up with this background information until you think you can learn no more – then add a little bit more. Then see what the Holy Spirit brings up from your consciousness during the sermon.

ACTION, give them actions they can do in the next 24 hours to apply the biblical answer to the problem …

5.1  Give just two (2) ways to act on the problem that are based in the story (Adventure) you just described.

5.2  In the next 24 hours (e.g. before noon on Monday).


Notes:  I formerly developed this in the more unwieldy acronym ASJAA for Ask, State (the problem), Journey through the Bible with them, State the problem again and Act on the biblical answer.  This of course was difficult to remember and therefore I have replaced it with the A4, A-4, AAAA or the “A to-the-forth-power approach.”  I utilize this in preaching seminars and in communication consultations for my coaching firm

#CommunicationConsultation #Preaching #PreachingConsultation #Communication

LEARNING & How Reflection Aids Memory Performance

by Giada Di Stefano, HEC Paris – Strategy & Business Policy, Francesca Gino, Harvard University – Harvard Business School, Gary P. Pisano, Harvard Business School, Bradley R. Staats, University of North Carolina Kenan-Flagler Business School, March 25, 2014

Harvard Business School NOM Unit Working Paper No. 14-093
Harvard Business School Technology & Operations Mgt. Unit Working Paper No. 14-093

Research on learning has primarily focused on the role of doing (experience) in fostering progress over time. In this paper, we propose that one of the critical components of learning is reflection, or the intentional attempt to synthesize, abstract, and articulate the key lessons taught by experience. Drawing on dual-process theory, we focus on the reflective dimension of the learning process and propose that learning can be augmented by deliberately focusing on thinking about what one has been doing. We test the resulting dual-process learning model experimentally, using a mixed-method design that combines two laboratory experiments with a field experiment conducted in a large business process outsourcing company in India. We find a performance differential when comparing learning-by-doing alone to learning-by-doing coupled with reflection. Further, we hypothesize and find that the effect of reflection on learning is mediated by greater perceived self-efficacy. Together, our results shed light on the role of reflection as a powerful mechanism behind learning.

Read more at …

OUTREACH & How to Lead Your Church to be Evangelistic

by Thom Rainer

The number one commonality I see in evangelistic churches is a pastor who leads by example. Here are 10 ways pastors can lead their churches to be more evangelistic ….

1. Begin with prayer…

2. Build relationships with non-believers…

3. Become accountable to someone else for sharing the gospel…

4. Start new groups…

5. Preach the gospel…

6. Include evangelism in new members classes…

Read more at…

SOCIAL MEDIA & The Internet and Religion: The Great Disruption

The Internet and Religion: The Great Disruption
by Lee Rainie, Pew Research Center

At the National Religious Broadcasters Convention, Lee Rainie, director of the Pew Research Center’s Internet Project, reported the Project’s latest findings about how Americans use digital technology and their implications for religious institutions:

“There is no neutral position when it comes to the Internet. Whether you use it or you don’t, it still affects your organization. If knowledge is power, join us for this session and learn the most important Internet trends so that you can make an informed decision for the direction of your ministry relating to new media and digital technologies including mobile devices, tablets, and Internet-connected TV. Find out the future trends so that you can prepare strategically to maximize your results.”

The Internet and Religion: The Great Disruption from Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project

#GCRN #GCRN18 #GreatCommissionResearchNetwork