US preachers don’t preach on hell

Just when it seemed to have cooled off, the topic of hell is back on the front burner—at least for pastors learning to preach about a topic most Americans would rather not talk about. At the recent annual Beeson Pastors School, Selles led two workshops to discuss “Whatever happened to hell?” He asked how many of the pastors had ever preached a sermon on hell. Nobody had, he said. “I think it’s something people want to avoid,” he said. “I understand why. It’s a difficult topic.” Only 59% of Americans believe in hell, compared with 74% who believe in heaven, according to the recent surveys from the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life. “I think it’s such a difficult and important biblical topic,” said Kurt Selles, director of the Global Center at Samford University’s Beeson Divinity School. “There’s a big change that’s taken place as far as evangelicals not wanting to be as exclusive.” The Rev. Fred Johns, pastor of Brookview Wesleyan Church in Irondale, Ala., said after a workshop discussion of hell that pastors do shy away from the topic of everlasting damnation. “It’s out of fear we’ll not appear relevant,” he said. “It’s pressure from the culture to not speak anything negative. I think we’ve begun to deny hell. There’s an assumption that everybody’s going to make it to heaven somehow.” The soft sell on hell reflects an increasingly market-conscious approach, Selles said. “When you’re trying to market Jesus, sometimes there’s a tendency to mute traditional Christian symbols,” he said. “Difficult doctrines are left by the wayside. Hell is a morally repugnant doctrine. People wonder why God would send people to eternal punishment.” Speakers said the seriousness of Jesus dying for man’s sins relates to the gravity of salvation vs. damnation, according to Johns. “If you don’t mention God’s judgment, you are missing a big part of the Christian gospel,” Selles said. “Without wrath, there’s no grace.” Jesus never soft-pedaled the concept of hell, Selles said. “It’s not metaphorical in Jesus’ mind; it’s a real place,” he said. Either way, Selles said, pretending that hell doesn’t exist, or trying to preach around it, short-circuits the Bible. “This is a doctrine, a teaching, that’s being neglected in churches,” Selles said. “It needs to be preached. It’s part of the Gospel.” (USA Today 16/6/09)

Should we do a survey of Singaporean preachers?

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A Christian blogger’s prayer

This was a prayer written by William Barclay for use by writers, authors, journalists or speakers. I find it useful for bloggers like myself so I have mounted it on my ABOUT page as a prayer and reminder for myself.

O God, you gave me the gift and the responsibility of using words. Help me in all my writing and my speaking to be the servant of goodness, of beauty and of truth. Help me never to write or to say anything which would injure another’s innocence or take another’s faith away.

Help me never to write or say anything which would make that which is wrong more attractive, or which would soil the mind of anyone who reads or hears it.

Help me never to pander to that which is low, never to seek popularity at the expense of truth, never to be more concerned with sensations than with facts, and always to respect the feelings and the rights of other people.

Grant that all that I write or say be such that it can stand the scrutiny of my own conscience, and such that I could with a clear conscience offer it to you. This I ask for your love’s sake. Amen.

-William Barclay

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Honing my writing skills

Armour Publishing Writers Workshop at Kum Yan Methodist Church

I have done much to hone the teaching gift the Lord has given me. I went into the National Institute of Education and had homiletical training in seminary, attended seminars on preaching, and read and practised what I gleaned from scores of books on preaching. Most importantly I preached and taught hundreds of times.

Bishop Robert Solomon sharing as a Christian writerWhen it came to writing, it was different. I never quite saw it as a gift I had to responsibly develop. I was not aware of the call. When I became aware of the call recently, I jumped to attend this workshop my colleague alerted me to. “The beginner writer and all who feel a call to write but have no idea as to where to start should attend this workshop.” This was the inaugural Armour Publishing Writers Workshop’s plug in the advertisement. The theme was: “Christian Writing: Hearing the Call and Honing Your Craft”.  It was three days of instructing, actual writing, and sharingRaphael, John and Kenny among participants under the eye of John Maust, President of Media Associates International. I was surprised that over 30 apiring writers showed up. Like most of them, this was my first experience. I felt inspired and empowered. I learned what it meant to be serious about your call to write. I picked up ideas and skills of writing well. I learned how to write a personal experience article, a devotional article and even a book. I saw possibilities as John and Christina Lim the facilitator demystified the path to being a published author. One thing I deduced and was confirmed was that most writers of Christian books here do not get much in royalties. Still I was challenged by the personal anecdotes and stories of ordinary writers who persevered and the impact they have had on others. It was also wonderful to network with other aspiring Christian writers as this is a lonely path and having fellow-travellers to share with is a burden halved. Furthermore, I enjoyed the company of Raphael Samuel, friend and fellow blogger, Bolivian Beat. Here is a pic of the whole group.

armour writing workshop participants

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