Seedbed Gathering, connecting, and resourcing the people of God to sow for a great awakening. Sun, 25 Sep 2016 09:00:00 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Two Legitimate Models of Ministry Among the Poor Sun, 25 Sep 2016 09:00:00 +0000 When one thinks of ministry to the poor, the first impression that comes is that of great socioeconomic need. I have come to the conviction that the glaring and urgent need to remedy inequality in the world requiring large-scale humanitarian assistance programs cannot be adequately met by groups following the typical discipling model of ministry.

The discipling model works through the pastoral care of individuals. Discipling is a labor-intensive ministry, as it requires disciplers to get close to individuals and minister comprehensively to their spiritual, social, physical, and mental needs. There are millions of economically needy people in the world and substantial funds available to meet some of their material needs. If we adopted the discipling model we could touch only a limited number of people. But there are funds to help many more people. Christian social service organizations can admirably fulfill the need for larger relief and develop social service organizations can admirably fulfill the need for larger relief and development initiatives among the poor. I believe they are an important segment of the body of Christ, even though they are limited in their ability to fulfill a typical discipling role. Youth for Christ has primarily adopted the discipling model of ministry, which ministers to lower numbers of individuals than typical social relief organizations.

This division of responsibilities among groups within the body of Christ has become necessary in many countries for practical rather than theological reasons. It is necessary for the church to have a holistic ministry. But in some countries it is not advisable, and sometimes not legally permitted, to combine larger social programs with evangelism. In Sri Lanka, this may soon be prohibited by law. Already organizations with both social and proclamation ministries as their primary objectives are not being granted government registration. The allegation is that unethical allurements are being offered through socioeconomic assistance to bribe people into becoming Christians. People who convert to Christianity are often told that they have betrayed their family religion for a bag of provisions.

This environment may necessitate the separation of evangelism from major social projects for practical rather than theological reasons. The body of Christ, represented by Christian relief and development organizations, is responsible for uplifting the socioeconomic lot of people. The body of Christ, represented by evangelistic organizations and churches, is responsible for evangelizing and discipling people. A few decades ago, evangelicals pitted social action against evangelism, followed by a phase when social action was presented as a partner of evangelism within a given body. Now, in some countries like Sri Lanka, major social projects are led by some segments of the body of Christ distinct from evangelism that is done by other segments.

For four months after the tsunami hit Sri Lanka in December 2004, our ministry gave all its time for relief, working in schools to enable students and those associated with them to recover. It was a time of intense and exhausting ministry, but we could not proactively share the gospel with those we were ministering to because we were permitted into the schools on the condition that we would not do so. (Of course, the friendships forged sometimes resulted in subsequent evangelistic fruit through personal work.) After four months, we decided that we would return to our primary call to evangelism, though we continued with some social (mainly educational) programs. We turned down many offers of funding for large social projects because we needed to get back to our vocation as youth evangelists (for which raising funds was much more difficult).

Separating these two types of ministry is helpful for other reasons, too. Many poor people do not have a personal identity that they are proud of or wish to guard. Owing to this, it is not a major issue for them to leave their family religion in order to join a religious group that offers economic assistance. This can result in people becoming Christians for reasons other than the core of the Christian faith. This is an inadvisable situation both for the convert and for the church. The separation of economic assistance and evangelism could be a solution to this problem.

In our early years of working with the poor, seeing the desperate need to assist families in their economic development, we launched programs giving loans to families to enable them to begin income-generating projects. We soon found that it was almost impossible for our workers to recover the loans. Evangelists do not make good debt collectors! Youth for Christ subsequently launched a sister organization that operates independently of us and has been much more successful in such ministries.

Of course, there is an overlap in the functions performed by each ministry group. Ministries majoring on social work and those majoring on evangelism will, to varying extents, have some aspects of the programs of the other ministry group. For example, local churches with a vibrant evangelistic ministry may also have some very significant social projects. Also it would be wise for those in each group to be aware of and learn from the best principles and practices driving those in the other group. Workers in development organizations should adopt incarnational lifestyles in keeping with the model of Christ. The picture of the social worker coming from outside and delivering aid to the people without establishing friendship is a denial of many Christian principles and often fosters animosity toward the social service workers from those who are recipients of the aid. On the other hand, those discipling people from poorer back grounds must do all they can to ensure that they are treated justly by society and must help them in every way possible to develop economically and socially.

While major social projects may not be part of our program, teaching on social responsibility is a part of the regular discipleship curriculum. Following Christ includes being committed to the poor—to their economic needs and to ensuring justice. In Youth for Christ we have challenged our volunteers to consider vocations that are connected to poverty alleviation. We are happy that many of them have gone into such vocations working both in the government and the non-government organization (NGO) sectors. Volunteers and alumni are serving as teachers in schools in economically deprived areas. Presently the CEOs of four of the six largest Christian social service agencies in Sri Lanka are Youth for Christ alumni and there are several alumni serving in the other two.

Another important aspect of the discipling of young volunteers would be giving them opportunities to be involved, at least in a small way, in meeting the socioeconomic needs of others. On my part, despite restrictions within my ministry to involvement in heavy social projects, I have made it a priority to be available to Christian social service agencies to minister to those working in them as a counselor, theological advisor, and Bible teacher.

If you want to find out more about perspectives on ministry among the poor, you’ll find my essay called, “Discipling the Urban Poor: Observations from the Field” in the book Fulfilling the Great Commission in the Twenty-first Century: Essays on Revival, Evangelism, and Discipleship in Honor of Dr. Robert E. Coleman.

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Our Third New Room Annual Conference is in the books and from all we can tell, it was history making. We hosted about 1500 souls here in Franklin, Tennessee, beginning last Wednesday and ending Friday.

I want to welcome all of you who follow the Daily Text to a new way of doing it. Over the past few years I’ve heard from so many people who read the Daily Text and process the content and questions together throughout the week. Over the past two years our team has been working with a software design company in Nashville, Tennessee, to take this possibility to the next level.

With this new online platform you can form what we call a New Room Band, and connect with one another on a daily basis in a private group for more focused and intentional discipleship. It offers a way to share the Daily Text (and other resources) with anyone anywhere. It works on any kind of mobile device as well as any type of personal computer.

So here’s my question. Will you give it a try? You can learn more about it here. Or to get straight to it, click here.


P.S. I’ve authored a study entitled, “Awaken,” I think you will appreciate. You will find it on the site.


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Join the Daily Text Fasting Challenge here. Whenever you sign up, it will begin the following Tuesday.

J.D. Walt, is a Bond Slave of the Lord Jesus Christ.

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Is the New Testament a Trustworthy Guide to Ethics? Sat, 24 Sep 2016 09:30:00 +0000

Is the New Testament a trustworthy guide to ethics? How can an ancient book that seemingly condones slavery and patriarchy be considered a reliable source of truth? In today’s video, Dr. Bill Arnold and Dr. Ben Witherington challenge the common assumption that the Bible condones these practices. Rather, they suggest that reading Scripture through a trajectory lens reveals that the kingdom of God was sowing seeds to upturn these ancient practices.

Read more on the topic of women, slaves, and homosexuals here. Watch this Seven Minute Seminary for an example of how key historical insights undermine popular interpretations of biblical passages about women.

View the rest of the videos in this series:
What Bible Did Jesus Use?
The Divine-Human Authorship of Scripture
The Bible Must Be Read in Context
Is the Bible Still Relevant?
Where Is Jesus in the Old Testament?
Christians and the Old Testament
How to Interpret the Bible Correctly

Find all of our resources on Scripture here. Read articles from Dr. Bill Arnold here. Watch more videos from Dr. Ben Witherington here. Explore our OneBook Bible Study resources here.

View all of our video interviews here.

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Thomas A’Kempis w/ the Sixth Day Exercise Sat, 24 Sep 2016 08:00:16 +0000 September 24, 2016

1 Samuel 3:10

Lord, speak because your servant listens.” 

Psalm 119:125

“I am your servant; give me grace to know what you say; I want to know your laws.” 

Quote of the Week

Motivate me to hear well, so your words will penetrate my heart; as moisture in air distills to make dew, so make your speech distill its meaning in my heart. A long time ago the children of Israel told Moses, “You can talk to us and we will listen; but we don’t want God to speak to us because we might die!” (Exodus 20:19) Lord, I won’t talk to you like that; I will talk to you like Samuel, humbly and earnestly, ‘Speak Lord, your servant hears.’ Don’t let Moses speak, nor the prophets; I want you to speak, Lord God, Inspirer and enlightener of prophets, for you alone, without these great people, instruct perfectly; But without you, even the prophets would speak no helpful word.

Thomas a’Kempis, The Imitation of Christ. From Book II: Recommendations about the Inner Life. Chapter 2. (Edited and Paraphrased by Donald E. Demaray. Alba House Press.)


In case you are just joining us, each week we share in an exercise called “The Sixth Day Exercise.” As Genesis 1 has it, God created human beings in his own image on the sixth day. Genesis 3 shows us the desecration of the image of God in our race which has only compounded itself across the centuries. It’s why the Image Bearer himself, Jesus Christ, came. His life, death, resurrection and ascension reversed the curse of sin and death and created a pathway whereby our broken race could be made gloriously whole again; restored to the Creator’s intent. Paul put it this way:

For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. 1 Corinthians 15:22. 

Given we were made on the Sixth Day, it makes sense that we might stop and assess how it’s going on the long journey of being “remade” on each successive sixth day.
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J.D. Walt serves as Seedbed’s Sower in Chief.

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Camp Meetings (Episode 21) Fri, 23 Sep 2016 09:00:14 +0000 Listen as Jeremy Steele and John Wigger sit down to talk about camp meetings.

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7 Keys for Loving Your Missionary Children While on the Field Fri, 23 Sep 2016 09:00:00 +0000 I look at that dark, out-of-focus photo from 1993 and shake my head. There I sit in the Atlanta airport, holding our four-week-old daughter in my arms, waiting while my husband, Len, picked up our boarding passes for the first leg of our trip to Costa Rica and a year of language school.

Seriously, what were we thinking? Leaving the country with a one-month old baby? What did we know about raising a child, much less raising one thousands of miles from home and family?

Nonetheless, emboldened by the ignorance that attends most first-time parents, off we went. Now countless flights, several countries and two more kids later, we’ve learned a little about navigating airports, life, ministry, and parenting while serving on the mission field. So while I will be the first to admit we aren’t experts (just ask our kids!), here are seven keys I’ve discovered to loving your children while on the mission field.

1. Remember who was called.

Obviously infants can’t help make informed family decisions about moving overseas. But as our children grew older, we did consult them about potential changes. Ultimately, however, we, as their parents, made the decision as we sought to follow God’s call on our lives. It’s easy to project that “called” perspective on to our children’s experiences, but it’s misplaced. Generally, they aren’t called, they are carried. Let your kids feel the gamut of emotions accompanying transition and love them through it. Show them that the God who called YOU loves them enough to reveal His care, plan, and purpose for them as well.

2. Make them a priority, in life and ministry.

Life and ministry are intertwined, but sometimes not in a healthy or balanced way. Let your children know that they are a priority for you. Invest intentionally in their spiritual growth. Pour God’s Word into their lives. Disciple them on a daily basis. Serve them by showing up at ballgames and performances. Love them by finding out what motivates them, what frightens them, what interests them, what makes them laugh. These years are short. Make them count.

3. Affirm their individuality.

All Missionary Kids are not alike. Be careful not to measure your own children by what you see, or think you see, in your coworker’s children. Instead, spend time learning about your child’s unique strengths, talents, and interests. Publicly and privately express your gratitude for the original and immensely valuable individual God has created them to be.

4. Connect them to family back home.

Make sure your children know they have family both on the field and back in your passport country. Display family photos around your home. Spend time with extended family during furloughs. Keep your children connected to their grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins through social media and online communication. Though they may at first think grandparents are six-inches high and confined to a screen, they will soon learn that the network of those who love them reaches far beyond borders.

5. Encourage them to engage where you are.

This may be easier for some of your children than for others due to temperament, personality, or age. But don’t confuse their reluctance to immerse themselves in the culture with your reputation as an incarnational missionary. Help your children find ways to get connected but don’t push too hard. Do lead the way in prioritizing relationships, in valuing the culture and people.  Explore and travel together. Yes, that means you should take family vacations.

6. Teach them about your passport country.

Chances are your children will end up spending a significant amount of time back in your passport country, even if they weren’t born there. Whether for furloughs or education, your children are going to need a working knowledge of how to navigate relationships, finances, travel, shopping, and medical care. Television, movies and the internet certainly provide an introduction to current cultural norms across the world, but not enough. Help them prepare.

7. Protect your children.

Whether you live in an urban or rural setting, there are always obvious dangers from which to protect your family. But we must also be on our guard against other insidious and unseen dangers. Spiritual warfare is real and our children are often targets. People can betray our trust through their actions towards our children. Our children are not immune to temptation and sin. Fervent prayer and zealous discernment must be any missionary parent’s constant companions in raising children on the field.

Parenting anywhere is hard. It requires perseverance, intentionality, and grace…lots of grace. But if, as Psalm 127:3 tells us, “Children are a heritage from the Lord, offspring a reward from him.” (NIV) God will grant us the grace we need to parent them well, even on the mission field.

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Facing the Cold, Hard, Harsh Truth Fri, 23 Sep 2016 08:00:19 +0000

September 23, 2016

Matthew 21:33-41

33 “Listen to another parable: There was a landowner who planted a vineyard. He put a wall around it, dug a winepress in it and built a watchtower. Then he rented the vineyard to some farmers and moved to another place. 34 When the harvest time approached, he sent his servants to the tenants to collect his fruit.

35 “The tenants seized his servants; they beat one, killed another, and stoned a third.36 Then he sent other servants to them, more than the first time, and the tenants treated them the same way. 37 Last of all, he sent his son to them. ‘They will respect my son,’ he said.

38 “But when the tenants saw the son, they said to each other, ‘This is the heir. Come, let’s kill him and take his inheritance.’ 39 So they took him and threw him out of the vineyard and killed him.

40 “Therefore, when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?”

41 “He will bring those wretches to a wretched end,” they replied, “and he will rent the vineyard to other tenants, who will give him his share of the crop at harvest time.”


Religious establishments are dangerous. Why? Because people are dangerous. And why are people dangerous? Because people are full of fear. People are insecure. It is our fundamental flaw. As a result of this condition we human beings will do just about anything you can imagine, for good or ill, to feel secure. We are given the choice to trust in God as our security or to seek our security elsewhere. The former is faith. Everything else is fear. The former is assurance. Everything else is anxiety. The former is salvation. Everything else is sin.

There’s nothing more beautiful and powerful than a community of faith. There’s nothing more dangerous than a community filled with fear.  In fact, that’s not a community at all. It’s a crowd. Crowds act with a kind of collective responsibility in which no-one is actually responsible. In a crowd, personal responsibility gets unwittingly delegated to collective activity. Some of the worst things in human history have happened at the hands of a crowd acting under the auspices and authority of a religious establishment.

That’s the story Jesus is telling in today’s text. He’s telling the story of the religious establishment that had become the Temple. At the same time, he’s foretelling the story of what will happen to him at their hands. The Farmer God planted his people like choice vines on a fertile hill. He did everything to make way for flourishing, building a wall, a winepress and a watch tower. Can’t you hear the echoes of Eden in this story? God did everything for us to thrive and he gave it all to us to steward, to live abundantly fruitful lives that would reveal the goodness of God to all of the Earth.

Over and over and over we have chosen not to trust. We have acted out of fear and control, which has become collectivized as the all consuming destructive force of sin and death. Our fear has led us to turn the farm of God’s making into a fortress of our own security, from which we would defend ourselves against the God who gave it to us in the first place. What could be more absurd than this? And yet this is our story, from Eden through Israel and onward to the church.

Religious establishments are dangerous and they can be deadly. This is why people hate what they refer to as “organized religion.” So what are we to do? The only thing we can do: we must follow Jesus all the way to the Cross where we must abandon ourselves to him unreservedly, unconditionally and irrevocably, come what may, forever and ever to be his disciples. Even then we will discover in the inner circles of the closest disciples we are prone to betray, deny and deceive.

As we now begin to move in haste toward the Cross, we must keep bringing it back and back and back to ourselves, to me and to you. We can push  nothing onto the responsibility of anyone else. We must see the Cross like never before and we must grasp the horror like never before that we put him there. I did. You did. We killed the Son so we could take the inheritance. NO. I killed the Son so I could take the inheritance. It was not Caiphas or Pilate or those Roman centurions. It was me.

Here’s the great ironic conundrum. We can only go to that place alone if we go together with a few others who will go with us. Will we go? Who with?


Merciful God, I want to come to the Cross like I haven’t before. I want to step out of the crowd of the establishment and I want to come in the fellowship of sinners. I want to cast aside my shame that I may feel my guilt. Yes, I want to feel my guilt even though you have given me a pardon, because I will never appreciate what you have done until I can own what I have done and not done as the case may be. Please God, save me from mindless religion. Free me for real faith. Open my heart to trust you like never before. Be my complete security or be nothing to me. In Jesus name and for his sake, Amen.


1. Does all of this feel too harsh for you? Why? Why not?

2. Honestly, where do you find your security?

3. Will you let the following text serve as a mirror for yourself? We are given the choice to trust in God as our security or to seek our security elsewhere. The former is faith. Everything else is fear. The former is assurance. Everything else is anxiety. The former is salvation. Everything else is sin. What do you see in the mirror of those words? What do you want to see?


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Join the Daily Text Fasting Challenge here. Whenever you sign up, it will begin the following Tuesday.

J.D. Walt, is a Bond Slave of the Lord Jesus Christ.

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5 Indicators that You Might be Leading a Church Planting Church Thu, 22 Sep 2016 09:00:58 +0000 Can you imagine if Thomas Edison desired to invent only one light bulb? Or, if Henry Ford wanted to produce only one Model T? Or, if Apple wanted to design only one generation of iPhones? Or, if Jesus desired to make only one disciple?

Something just doesn’t feel right about those pictures does it?

Some things were just meant to multiply.

One of the TV shows I love to watch is Make Me A Millionaire Inventor. The show capitalizes on inventions that have the potential to be highly marketable. I don’t know a whole lot about an inventor’s process, but I know there is a moment for every inventor where the light bulb goes on and he or she recognizes his or her invention has the ability to multiply.

Shortly after the Pentecost event, Jesus’ disciples had a flame-like light bulb moment. I can envision thoughtful Thaddeus sighing, “Ah… So Jesus wants us to come up with a discipleship path ultimately leading to those disciples being sent out into our town, the neighboring town, the town across state, and the town in a far away place. Hmm… I think I see what Jesus wanted!”

Light bulb moments are not something we can force; they tend to come when we least expect them or maybe even after we’ve already given up. John Wesley is a good example from church history of an apostolic leader who saw the light, felt the warmth, and decided to take responsibility for the brokenness and lostness in the world. It’s important to note, Wesley never set out to start a denomination. He wanted to start a multiplication movement, which is exactly what happened.

Not everyone is going to go down in history as an instigator of a Great Awakening, but I am convinced there are more apostolic leaders, like Wesley, within the church at large who could potentially light up and lead their church to become a church planting church.

Journey with me a moment and consider five things that may indicate if God has uniquely designed you and your ministry to be a church planting church.

You might be a church planting church:

  1. If you dream about reaching other communities besides your own.

Do you feel a spiritual burden for the surrounding communities outside of driving range from your church? Do you wish your neighboring zip code had a life-giving church in it? Do you strategize about how to leverage your missional resources for other communities?

  1. If you think about sending capacity more than seating

When you picture your church, do you obsess about how many people you can fit in your worship space? Or, do you obsess about how many people you can send out over the course of the next year? Do you get excited about sending people out into the mission field (locally, regionally, and globally)? Do you enjoy developing intentional missional strategies for your church?

  1. If you enjoy spending a large portion of your time developing leaders.

Do you find yourself desiring to connect and meet with people who demonstrate a leadership gift mix? Do you view time with leaders as your greatest ministry investment? Do you have some sort of leadership development category in your church budget?

  1. If you are willing to develop a church planters residency experience.

Do you enjoy raising up and training future multiplication-minded leaders? Could you envision your church starting a 9-12 month residency or internship program for budding church planters? Do you have a burden for future church planters and are willing to invest in their life spiritually, mentally, and financially?

  1. If people find you and your ministry to be inspiring and encouraging.

Are emerging leaders drawn to you and your ministry? Do you regularly have people experience a call to ministry under your leadership? Do people find you to be a source of ministry encouragement? Do you believe in people?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, you’re not crazy. You just have a really big heart for those who are missing from Christ and the church. You may or may not realize it, but you are leading a church planting church.

You may not currently have a strategic plan within each of these categories noted above yet, but maybe there is enough grip there for you to prayerfully ask the Lord to give you a vision and strategic plan for being a church planting church.

Maybe after processing these questions the Holy Spirit seems to be affirming an unstoppable vision buried inside of you to not only spark one church, but also to do your part in the multiplication of many. If this is the case and the light bulb is going on, consider taking a next step and begin praying what I call the Harvest Prayer. In Matthew 9:37-38 Jesus said,

“The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into His harvest.”

Notice, Jesus didn’t say to pray over a town or an area—he said to pray for the workers. So, don’t run to your board inferring that you feel led to plant 50 churches and campuses in five years launching on the 5th of every month throughout your five neighboring cities. Just start small and ask God to send you one worker for the harvest that will in turn multiply into a family of multiplication maniacs.

One of the things I love to do is talk with older pastors who have been serving our Lord’s church for 30 or 40 years. What’s interesting to me is that they don’t tend to talk about their church sizes, how big their budget was or how many buildings they acquired. These wise leaders love to talk about the people they poured their lives into that now have thriving ministries. They walk around with a smile knowing they didn’t just invent one generation of iPhones—they invested in a multi-generational ministry model. Wouldn’t it be amazing to look back on your ministry one day and celebrate how God used you to multiply the branches of your family tree?

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Choosing Songs for Kids to Sing Thu, 22 Sep 2016 09:00:23 +0000 Growing up as a child who went to church Sunday morning and Sunday night, I learned a lot of songs. I remember following along in the hymnbook as my mom pointed to the words, even before I could read and understand them. Even though we had a hymnbook filled with hundreds of songs, our church only sang a selection of them. We all have our favorite songs, sometimes for melody and sometimes for words. Some of those songs became my favorites. Honestly, there were some I didn’t enjoy singing! But whether I liked the songs or not, they worked their way into my brain and into my memory. I’m amazed now at how I can hear a hymn I haven’t heard in years but I can still recall the lyrics or the melody. I know the same truths about God’s character that I sang as a child are still true today.

Now I’m a parent and I have three kids of my own. Our fourth is on his way! As a parent and a worship leader, one of the most exciting milestones I’ve witnessed in my kids has been hearing them sing a song about God. I remember riding in our car, playing a CD of music from a friend’s church and hearing my oldest daughter begin to sing along with one of the songs. “You make beautiful things, You make beautiful things out of the dust.” She softly sang. Then she yelled it! “YOU MAKE BEAUTIFUL THINGS, YOU MAKE BEAUTIFUL THINGS OUT OF US!” That experience gave me a new perspective on the songs we sing in our worship services on Sunday mornings. I realized my kids were going to remember these songs, just the way I remember the hymns I grew up singing. As I learned about God from the lyrics we sang out of the hymnbook, my kids will also be learning about who God is from the songs we sing from our screen. I need to be more intentional in considering the songs we sing for the sake of the faith formation of my kids and all children in our church.

My kids are in the preschool and early elementary school years. One of the ministries our church has in place to form and shape the faith of kids this age is Vacation Bible School (VBS). We follow a traditional model, where kids come to the church every night for a week’s worth of crafts, science projects, games, stories from the Bible, and singing. In the past we used purchased curriculum for this week and that included using songs written to re-enforce the week’s themes. We found that a lot of these were great songs. They were catchy and fun for kids to learn and sing. But our kids would sing them for the week of VBS and usually never hear them again.

A few years ago we made a change to our VBS program. We chose some songs for our kids to learn in addition to the ones that came in the curriculum. We intentionally chose three songs we knew our kids would hear again on Sunday mornings in our worship service. We did this because we wanted our kids to learn songs about God that were not only fun for them to learn and sing, but that they would hear and sing again on a regular basis. Singing the songs over time (we hope!) would allow the songs to become a part of the children’s memories, so that as they hear and sing the songs throughout their lives, they’ll remember their faith from a young age. Maybe they will be reminded that the truths about God they learned as a child are still true when they are adults.

This year our church has written our own curriculum for VBS and we’ve chosen four songs for our kids to learn as a part of the week. The songs do speak to the main ideas we want our kids to learn about who God is and who they are as a part of God’s story. We’ve been intentional about the lyrics, asking ourselves if these songs speak about God’s character and his actions. We also consider whether the children are able to understand the lyrics. And we’ve been intentional in choosing melodies that will be easy for kids to learn. Of course we want them to be fun to sing, too.

If you’re interested in adding a few songs to your VBS program or your kids ministry that they’ll hear again as they grow up, here’s a couple of suggestions:

“Good Good Father” -It speaks to God’s character and to our identity as his children. And it’s easy to sing.

“God’s Not Dead (Like a Lion)” -This one is so fun to sing with kids. You can challenge them to see how loud they can roar and use that as a way to talk about how the Holy Spirit lives and speaks in us.

WorshipHouse Kids is good resource if you use videos in your children’s ministry programs. We’ve used lyric videos to worship songs to help engage kids in the lyrics, and sometimes to teach motions that help them memorize the words.

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Preaching That Exhorts vs. Preaching That Evokes Thu, 22 Sep 2016 09:00:00 +0000 I was speaking with a good friend recently about the difference between exhortational preaching and evocative preaching.

Exhortational preaching challenges. Urges. Implores. It is filled with phrases like “you should” and “we ought” and “do this” and “consider that.” It implores people to change beliefs and behaviors based on the propositions included in the sermon.

Exhortational preaching is deductive in its logic. By that I mean it begins with the point and then systematically seeks to prove and/or demonstrate that point. The congregation doesn’t have to wait for the answer to the sermon’s dilemma; it instead joins the pastor on a journey to see why the answer makes sense and how it applies to life.

Evocative preaching is different. It seeks to evoke a response in the hearer; to craft the kind of experience that moves the emotions before it speaks to the mind. It uses fewer imperatives and asks more rhetorical questions. It’s heavy on images, often leaves the “punch line” to the end, and sometimes leaves the implications of the message in the hands of the listener. The experience of the message will empower people to change beliefs and behaviors.

Evocative preaching, then, is inductive in its logic. It begins with life, raises questions, creates tension, and then seeks to see how Scripture intersects with dilemma in a way that brings meaning, power, and change.

I believe evocative preaching communicates well with 21st Century people — people who are often skeptical of authority and yet accustomed to receiving their information from screen-based images. I attempt to be more evocative than exhortational in my messages — though I’m not sure how often I reach the goal.

When done well, evocative preaching can even open the way for exhortational preaching: as the proclaimer and engages emotions, he or she then has the trust, space, and freedom to issue challenges. Even blunt ones.

Back in 2014, as part of an Elijah-based sermon series called Lost & Found, I delivered a sermon called Lost Religion. The message dug into the story of the contest at Carmel in the prophets of Baal fail – miserably so – to ignite a bull carcass while Yahweh through Elijah does so with effortless ease. The sermon’s journey that day landed at this bottom line:

The gods you make will always let you down. The God who made you will never let you go.

To bring home that point – to evoke trust and assurance – the message closed this way:

Down in rural Florida, a little boy was walking near a pond near the family home. (Child, water, FLA . . . you know what’s next).

As happens down there, a gator bit on to the boy’s legs. Fortunately, the boys’ mother was near, saw what had happened, was filled w/ adrenaline, and grabbed his little arms. Tug of war started. More tug. More war. The gator was stronger but the mother was more determined. Great thing was, a farmer drove by, heard the screams, had a gun in his gun rack, took aim, and shot the gator dead (Dead bull AND gator in one sermon; sorry).

Remarkably the boy survived though he had some nasty scars on his legs. Several weeks later a reporter came to the hospital room to do an update. He asked the boy if he could see the scars on his legs. He pulled sheets over so he could.  

But then the boy did something else: “But look at my arms! I have some great scars there, too. I have them because my Mom wouldn’t let me go.”

She made him; she wouldn’t let him go.

The gods you make will always let you down. The God who made you will never let you go.

Very little exhortation needed in that moment because the evocation was complete.

If you’re a constant exhorter, try giving evocative preaching a shot. Chances are your exhortation will stick even better!

*For a resource of evocative sermons, I recommend The Collected Sermons Of Fred B. Craddock, Westminster John Knox Press


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