Archive for January, 2007

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Good Preachers? Good Husbands?

January 22, 2007

Today’s Beyond the Workshop reproduces an article I ‘guest posted’ on my wife’s blog last November. Its on the theme of a pastor’s marriage. Two months on, I’m pondering how well I’m doing at this. And, after a heavy week of sermon preparation, I’m asking myself, ‘have I worked harder on my sermon than at my marriage?’

“Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.” (Ephesians 5:25)

For most husbands – whether admitted to or not – these words are terrifying. I know. Having been asked to ‘guest blog’ on the subject of a husbands’ role in marriage, I’ve been reminded again of my many short-comings. What a standard: as Christ loved the church.

Thankfully, help is at hand. As well as biblical examples and godly present day models of sacrificial husbandship, we have two thousand years of church history to instruct us. It’s on this latter front that Doreen Moore’s “Good Christians, Good Husbands?” offers a valuable resource. In this page-turning book, Moore examines the colourful marriages of three renowned evangelicals: John Wesley, George Whitefield, and Jonathan Edwards. What becomes clear is that while all made a significant impact for the gospel worldwide, they were variously successful on the home-front.

Read the rest of the article here.

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A Great Honour

January 22, 2007

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Though reluctant to break with my blog format ;), with slight amazement and great appreciation I can report that Tim Challies (“the world’s most famous Christian blogger”) has pronounced me King for a Week.

Read about it here.

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Workman’s Toolbox

January 20, 2007

Find below some more links around the blogs, with a special eye for things preacher’s might appreciate. If you are new to Unashamed Workman, read here an explanation of the blog format.

Preaching
* John Piper has a new DVD available especially for pastors: “Brothers – Feel, Think, Preach God”
* Expository Thoughts had two excellent posts this week on expository preaching: Expository Preaching – A display of what is there; and A Case for Consecutive Exposition
* Steve Weaver talks about one of his favourite preachers
* A facinating post by Phil Johnson examining Spurgeon’s approach to preaching, which was not always expository
* JRR Tolkien’s thoughts on good preaching (HT: Eternal Perspectives)
* Fide-O suggests ideas as to how our congregations can better perform “Expositional Listening”

Theology
* Gospel Driven Life considers the possibility that we Christians are often Preaching to the Choir. (parts one, two and three)
* Pulpit Magazine opens up a can of worms, responding to the claim that the KJV is the only version to preach from
* This may interest a UK audience: Peter Maiden exemplifying “black preaching” to a Carribean audience!
* Find here a review of a book I’m about to read: Overcoming Sin and Temptation by John Owen
* Joel Beeke shares 5 Puritan Evangelism Lessons (HT: Old Truth)

Miscellaneous
* Adrian Warnock is back blogging again and pondering why he receives “Better than I deserve.”
* For those who enjoy linguistics and all things regarding translations (and even for those who don’t, but should!) Better Bibles is a blog I’d highly recommend.
* Mark Driscoll asks Twenty Leadership Questions for Building a City Within a City. (HT: Buzzard Blog)
* Worship Matters considers Putting Together a Worship Song List
* Canadian Tim Challies is a brave man – he gives 16 things he hates about America.

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The Case for Preaching (part 3)

January 19, 2007

This week I’d like to pick up a question raised in last week’s post. Should we think of “preaching” as something that is necessary within Christian gatherings? Or is this, in the biblical sense, only something to be restricted to evangelism?

The argument is that in the NT preaching almost always (some say always) occurs in the context of evangelism. On the other hand, Christians in the New Testament are ‘taught’ the word of God. It was even suggested by one commentor last week that preaching to believers might actually ‘stunt’ their growth (for an example of this argument, see this article).

My own view is that we cannot be so hard and fast with these distinctions. At least we shouldn’t preclude the idea that believers should be preached to. I think that Jay Adams’ comment below is reasonably fair:

Strictly speaking, the principal biblical words translated “preaching” do not correspond exactly to that activity to which we affix the label. They are somewhat narrower in scope. These words, kerusso and euangelizo, are used in the New Testament to describe “heralding” and “announcing the gospel.” They refer to evangelistic activities. The former always has to do with public proclamation of the good news, while the latter may be used to describe making the gospel known to either unsaved groups or individuals…On the other hand, the word didasko, translated “to teach,” more nearly corresponds to our modern use of the word preach, and has to do with the proclamation of truth among those who already believe the gospel…Though at times didasko seems also to be limited to evangelistic speaking, and occasionally it is possible that kerusso may refer to preaching to the saints… There are, then, two kinds of preaching (because of a deeply impressed use of the English word I shall use the term “preaching” to cover both evangelistic and pastoral speaking): evangelistic preaching (heralding, good news) and pastoral or edificational preaching (teaching).” Adams, J, Preaching with a Purpose, p 5-6

Building on the latter part of the quote, many have noted that in the NT preaching and evangelism do (more than ocassionaly) come together, and sometimes virtually overlap. Thus…

“…this distinction between preaching (as announcement to the unconverted) and teaching (as explanation, clarification, application, and exhortation to those already informed) even in New Testament times, was not always clear. Sometimes, people spoke interchangeably about the practice of teaching and preaching. Thus, whereas Matthew 4:23 declares that Jesus was “teaching in the synagogues;” Mark and Luke indicate that he was “preaching” (Mark 1:39, Luke 4:44). In Jerusalem, the same apostles who were “proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection from the dead” were at the same time “teaching the people” (Acts 4:2). Whereas the term preaching consistently refers to the message announced, the term teaching may have people as its object.

In Antioch, the work of Paul and Barnabas is described as “teaching and preaching the word of the Lord” (Acts 15:35). Since teaching is mentioned before preaching in this verse, it may be that the major emphasis of their work at this place and time was in teaching the brethren while their secondary emphasis was on preaching to the unconverted. In any case, preaching and teaching go together. He who preaches (announces to the unconverted) also generally teaches (explains, clarifies, applies, and exhorts those who are already familiar with what has already been announced).” (Ref)

All this to say that I think drawing unyielding boundaries between the two is unhelpful. Perhaps, let me suggest, all clear preaching must include aspects of teaching, whilst all biblical teaching requires an element of gospel preaching. In this regard, I’d recommend Tim Keller’s article: we never get beyond the gospel. (HT: JT) We certainly need to keep preaching the gospel to Christians!

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Thabiti Anyabwile on Ephesians 4:1-16

January 18, 2007

For this week’s Workman Watch its Thabiti Anywabwile. This sermon was preached on October 26th 2006, and I especially selected it as it includes some important teaching on the church. Take time, if you can, to listen to the sermon and compare notes.


By the way, I couldn’t find a picture of Thabiti big enough to post – so instead here’s a snap of a beach in the Caymen Islands where he ministers. Thabiti, if you ever need pulpit supply you know where to find me!

What was the opening sentence? “Have you ever applied for a job you thought sounded really great; really excited about it, right down your alley?”

What was the introduction about? Spoke about the importance of job descriptions in the corporate world of society, but just as much in the corporate world of the church. It raised the question, “what is our job as a member of the gathering of Christ?”

What was the structure?
1. As Christians we are called to preserve the unity of the church
2. As Christians we are calledto serve the church until she is mature

Conclusion – an evaluation (how are we doing on these two points?)
– are we completely humble? (v 2)
– are we completely gentle? (v 2)
– are we making every effort to maintain unity? (v 3)
– are you maturing (v 13,14)

What was the main point?
The main responsibilities of every church member is to preserve unity in, and serve the body of Christ.

What illustrations were used? An opening illustration about applying for a job, which immediately engaged the congregation’s experience. The brief illustration: are you a porcupine Christian (on the point of gentleness) was very memorable.

What were the applications? Two general applications about unity and service, and a some pointed challenges at the end about applying humility and gentleness.

What aspects of the preacher’s style did you find helpful? One of the aspects that most stuck out was Thabiti’s dialogical style. He very naturally converses with the audience, constantly asking questions, and responding to them. On several occaions he raised the very question that had popped into my head. I also appreciated the sermon structure: a slightly unusual but effective approach of dealing with the general trends of the text first, before having an extended conclusion which came back to several pointed specifics. Finally,

What will you remember a week from now? Thabiti’s contention that the main way provided in the NT for the growth of a Christian is through service in the Christian community. That while quiet times are no where commanded in the bible as essential to our Christian growth, all across the NT especially, service is commended.

What is one thing that you will incorporate into your own preaching after listening to this sermon? I learned so much, its hard to choose. I guess the way Thabiti included non-Christians in what was primarily a sermon aimed at Christians was most exemplary. For example, in the middle of the first point about unity, several minutes were taken to explore a non-churched person’s perspective on the lack of unity in the contemporary church. The common objections were raised and dealt with.

To hear Thabiti Anyabwile’s sermons regularly, here is the sermon audio page. He blogs at Pure Church.

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Firm Foundations (part 1)

January 17, 2007

I have the great priviledge (which not everyone enjoys) of being part of a team ministry. Not only so, but as a fledgling preacher I have the blessing of sitting under the ministry of an experienced and gifted expositor.

Peter Grainger has been the Senior Pastor of Charlotte Baptist Chapel since 1992, faithfully preaching in a pulpit which has been previously occupied by the likes of Gerald Griffiths, Sidlow Baxter, Alan Redpath, Alistair Begg and Derek Prime.

Several years ago Peter released a book called Firm Foundations. The book “includes sermon outlines for over 150 sermons, introductions on preaching a whole book, a verse, a topical series, a psalm, Old and New Testament; and recommended books for further study. It is designed to help old and new pastors alike, and could also be used in personal bible study.”

In the excerpt below Peter Grainger explains how he prepares to preach. This is posted with his permission. To listen to Rev Grainger’s sermons, follow this link (more recent sermons can be downloaded). His latest sermon on Jeremiah 29 is typical of his high-standard fare.

Preparing to Preach
One of the questions I am most frequently asked about my role as a Pastor is, ‘How long does it take you to prepare a sermon?’ Most people are surprised by my answer, ‘At least ten hours and often as long as fifteen or even twenty hours.’ The assumption seems to be that, as with any other task, the person who performs it regularly will be able to complete it quickly – and certainly much more speedily than the ocassional ‘amateur.’

However, while the trained preacher may have a facility with the Biblical text and languages and a familiarity with the Biblical resources that others lack, none the less the task of sermon preparation is very demanding, and time consuming. The main reason for this is that preaching is unlike any other responsibility of presenting God’s Word to a congregation – and to the same congregation every Sunday (often morning and evening) for many years.

Such a task, if carried out faithfully and undertaken seriously, can never be a mere mechanical process, but is something living and vital which occupies my thinking and praying (and even sleeping!) moments throughout the week – and not just the ten to twenty hours of study.

Choosing the subject
The first task of the preacher is deciding which Biblical passage and particular subject to preach on. While the practice of preaching on unrelated topics every week and was favoured by famous preaching such as CH Spurgeon, the expository preaching method of preaching through a Biblical book or theme has much to commend it – especially in a long term ministry in the same church.

However, while the topic and passage for each sermon are planned beforehand, considerable thought and prayer is needed before deciding on a series and its relevance to a particular congregation. There is nothing worse than wondering, in week four of a two year series on 1 John, whether you have made a wrong choice!

The wise pastor knows his congregation and their needs and history, so he chooses his series prayerfully and carefully, often in discussion with other leaders in the church. So, for example, I began my ministry in Charlotte Chapel with a series on the letters to the seven churches in Revelation 1-3 as a diagnostic check-list of the kind of church we were and what the Spirit was saying to this particular church at this specific point in history.

How long should a series last? This depends partly on the topic or book that is chosen but is also determined by other factors. While many have tried to imitate the practice of Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones who spend several years on one New Testament Epistle, I believe that the level of Biblical literacy is so poor these days, that newcomers to the Christian faith need a broader exposure to a whole range of Scripture over a shorter period (added to which very few of us have the ability of the Doctor to sustain such long in-depth series).

It has been our practice in Charlotte Chapel to adopt a particular theme and verse for each year which is usually addressed on Sunday mornings. So, for example, our theme for 1997 was “Building on the Rock” – a series of sermons on the Sermon on the Mount with the key verse of Matthew 7:24: “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock.”

This series of thirty-four messages took the whole year (allowing for special Sundays and seasons) but most series are much shorter – for example, the series on John the Baptist, “A Voice Crying in the Wilderness”, which was only six sermons.

We also try to provide a balanced diet for the congregation, often having a series from the Old Testament in the morning and one from the New Testament in the evening, or an evening evangelistic series aimed at seekers, alternating with a morning teaching series directed towards Christians.


Next week, we follow up with part two where Peter covers further practicalities of how he prepares specific messages.

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Householders without Treasure

January 16, 2007

Today’s Classic Materials is a challenge from Charles Bridges’ classic book The Christian Ministry. Some powerful challenges here. Do we have substance in our sermons? Do the sermons we hear generally have ‘substantial’ content? And if so, how do we proportion the right amount so that we don’t leave the congregation overwhelmed?

“No powers of imagination, natural eloquence, or vehement excitement can compensate for the want of substantial matter. The ‘pastors according to God’s heart will feed the people with knowledge and understanding.’ But except there be a gathering proportionate to the expenditure, there can be no store of knowledge and understanding for distribution to the people.

Preachers of this stamp are generally known by their general want of variety. It is substantially not only (what it always ought to be) the same doctrine, but nearly the same sermon. If a new text may be expected, yet it is the repitition of the same thoughts, attenuated with regular but more wearisome uniformity.

They are ‘householders’, but without ‘treasure.’ The ‘old’ indeed they can readily ‘bring forth’ but where is the ‘new’?

This poverty of thought cannot be justly chargeable upon their resources. For there is no characteristic of Scripture more striking, than the diversified aspects and relations, in which it presents the same truths, fraught with fresh interest and important instruction.”

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