Staying in the Loop

A PASTOR I KNOW HAS SERVED the same church for more than twenty years. His staff members joke about the yellowed notes he takes into the pulpit. They call Sunday mornings "golden oldie time at pulpit city." The pastor was an effective preacher in the '70s, but at some point he stopped growing and starting repeating. His sports illustrations are out of the '60s and '70s. During the unbelievable summer of 1998 when Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa kept America counting as they raced to break the Roger Maris single season home-run record, this pastor used illustrations about Hank Aaron.

Apparently he did not realize that many in his congregation had no idea of Hank Aaron's contribution to baseball—that his lifetime home-run total surpasses even that of the legendary Babe Ruth. This preacher's points are good and timeless, but he wraps them in yesterday's news, so his preaching does not connect well with a large portion of his audience.

At any stage of life, an effective preacher understands the ...

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