The Rev. Gene Jennings has a preacher's ear for a good story and good jokes. Saving them is second nature.
After collecting jokes, quotes and anecdotes for years, he started distributing a weekly inspirational bulletin to co-workers about four years ago.
He learned recipients were faxing the bulletin to other offices. If he was late getting it out one week, there were consequences - his readers got upset and called to complain.
"I was on to something," he said.
He compiled the best of the bulletin's first three years into a book, Timely Words, Inspiration for Everyday Life, released in October. An electronic newsletter by the same name will kick off Monday through his Web site, www.timelywords.com.
Creating the newsletter "was my way of sharing the word with the masses," said the Rev. Jennings, administrative pastor at Stevens Creek Community Church in Martinez.
The book is divided into four sections: Timely Words for Your Soul, ... for Your Mind, ... for Your Wallet, and ... for Your Funny Bone.
Entries vary from one-liners to a few hundred words. Regardless of the heading, most are thought-provoking. Many are humorous.
Here is a sampling. Under ... for Your Soul: "The spectacle of a nation praying is more awe-inspiring than the explosion of an atomic bomb. The force of prayer is greater than any possible combination of man-made or man-controlled powers because prayer is man's greatest means of tapping the infinite resources of God. - J. Edgar Hoover."
In ... for Your Funny Bone: "Seen on a T-shirt: My mother was a travel agent for guilt trips."
Ordained in 1987, the Rev. Jennings was pastor for several Baptist churches before becoming a church planter about four years ago. He took a job in insurance sales and marketing to support his family while the new congregation took root in North Augusta.
The Jennings' church had about 25 members when the couple discovered Stevens Creek with its contemporary music and ministry style. It was the sort of church they were trying to build themselves, so the Jenningses dissolved the start-up congregation in 1998 and joined Stevens Creek. About half the members of the start-up church enrolled with them.
The Rev. Jennings joined the staff at Stevens Creek in May 2000. When Dr. Marty Baker, Stevens Creek's pastor, "gave me the opportunity to join the staff, I took it," he said. Preaching and teaching were "always my No. 1 goal and passion."
The newsletter is free to anyone who expresses an interest in receiving it. "We certainly won't Spam people," said the Rev. Jennings, whose mailing list already has several hundred subscribers.
He initially intended the newsletter as an entertaining source of inspiration and evangelization for co-workers. "I wasn't teaching and preaching any more but was used to writing sermons every week. It was a way to share with people, sharing the written word through the newsletter," he said.
For more information, call 863-7002 or see the Timely Words' Web site, www.timelywords.com.
Reach Virginia Norton at (706) 823-3336 or firstname.lastname@example.org.