Archive for November, 2007

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Dever Lecturing on Preaching

November 30, 2007

This week’s Featured Toolbox was actually included in last weeks list. Worried as I am that it may have been lost in the shuffle, I wanted to ensure you didn’t miss Mark Dever’s excellent lectures on preaching. These three talks were delivered for the 2007 John Reed Miller Lecture Series.

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Lecture 1 – the Symbol and Significance of Preaching
Lecture 2 – The Use of Preaching
Lecture 3 – The Art of Preaching

Other Toolbox This Week
CJ Mahaney on Biblical Masculinity and Fatherhood

Preaching in Spite of Persecution in India
I-Pod Food for Pastors
Phil Johnson pt 3 – the Word of God is precise
Breaking Writing Rules for Manuscripts
New Sovereign Grace Music Website
Crawford Loritts MP3 Sermons
Patrick Sookhdeo on the Challenge of Islam
Nine Marks Audio: Interview with Derek Thomas
Books for A Preacher’s Soul
Forum: On Choosing What to Preach Next
Elements of Good Preaching: the Life Study
Phil Johnson pt 2 – the word of God is penetrating
Phil Johnson pt 1 – the Word of God is powerful
Conrad Mbewe on Pastoral Purity
Greidanus: Six Steps to Historical Redemptive Sermons
Chuck Swindoll: Discipline in Study
Sinclair Ferguson: How the Pulpit Shapes the Pew
Steve Lawson: the God Driven Church (HT: Resolve)
Piper Responds to Witherington
Preach Like It May Be Their Last
Witherington Takes on Christian Hedonism
Good Reasons to Crossreference
Imposing Points on a Text?
Lloyd Jones Summary of Ephesians
Basic References: Recommendations
Piper: Multi site Church Models

(Workman’s Toolbox is featured each day at the top right hand corner of Unashamed Workman. Four or five links are added each day)

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The Pastoral Review

November 29, 2007

Just the other week I had my annual pastoral review. Strangely -some might say – I rather enjoyed the experience! The following article therefore caught me attention: Pastoral review, process and procedures. Some of the suggestions/points it makes regarding reviews include:

A. Pastoral and personal growth is the goal.
B. The primary importance of on-going patterns of evaluation.
C. Both congregation and pastor(s) need review.
D. Focus on the future.
E. Keep a long-term perspective.
F. The need to review the person, the office, and the task.
G. Consult with your conference.
H. Deal with known conflicts first.
I. Anticipate and make decisions .

I wonder how people elsewhere are reviewed? Are there other materials that people draw upon to conduct them?

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The Overview Sermon

November 28, 2007

On Sunday past, I had the daunting priviledge of preaching on four chapters of Jeremiah. Even more challenging, they were chapters 46 to 49 of the prophecy. Nine oracles of judgement upon the nations!

As well as the obvious theological and apologetical challenges such a portion poses, I also wrestled with how to preach what was essentially an overview sermon. Here are some suggestions I would give in hindsight if you must do the same:

i) Help them see the wood for the trees.
Give them the main thrust of the section. My overarching point for Sunday (which I also thought was the main point of the text!) was that God is sovereign over all nations. Whatever else the congregation didn’t understand, they could at least go home with that overarching point. An overview sermon cannot highlight every specific detail; but if it does not highlight the overarching point of the section it is undoubtedly a failure.

ii) Point out the main landmarks in the text.
I suggested near the outset of my sermon that it was going to be rather like an aeroplane coming into land. The plane is too high to see everything in detail, but low enough to see any significant structures on the ground. My proposal was that I was the fellow passenger pointing out the major landmarks, but people would have to examine things in closer detail after landing! In the case of Jeremiah 46 through 49 I pointed out that i) God knows the sins of the nations, ii) God judges the sins of the nations, and iii) God saves the nations from their sins.

iii) Spend some time doing more detailed exposition.
Do some detailed exposition. Just because you can’t cover all of it in depth, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t cover some of it. On several ocassions, we slowed down to identity smaller areas of the text. I also read most of chapter 46 so that we had some specific focus.

iv) Give them homework.
Since you are bounding over the text, and also because the congregation are relying on your study more than usual in overview sermons- be sure to encourage the congregation to look at the passage further in their own time. At one point I encouraged people to read through the four chapters identifying the sins specific to each nation. It is especially important in overview sermons that the congregation are willing to do such further study.

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Calling all Highlanders to Keswick

November 28, 2007

I’m glad to have confirmed the speaking engagement below and grateful for the opportunity to go North. If you’re in the area, and for some reason fancy five sessions on Jeremiah, put it in your diary.

January 2008. 25 Fri –27 Sun ‘Keswick in Buckie’ winter weekend convention, Buckie North Church, Cluny Square, Buckie. Speaker: Colin Adams of Charlotte Chapel, Edinburgh. Programme: Fri, Sat, Sun, 7.30 pm, evening convention; Sat, 10 am, Bible study. Contact: Sandra Innes, tel 01542 832852, email keswickinbuckie@hotmail.com | Location map | [326]

(Taken from Aberdeen Christian Diary)

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Preach the Gospel More Than Ever

November 27, 2007

Preachers, today’s Classic Materials is one to print out and stick to the side of your computer screen. Charles Spurgeon, ‘the prince of preachers’, on why we should preach the gospel more than ever.

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“Today there is not very much gospel about; the church has given it up; a great many preachers preach everything but living truth. This is sad; but it is a strong reason why you and I should teach more gospel than ever. I have often thought to myself – other men teach Socialism, deliver lectures, or collect a band of fiddlers, that they may gather a congregation; but I will preach the gospel. I will preach more gospel than ever if I can; I will stick more to the cardinal point.

The other brethren can attend to the odds and ends, but I will keep to Christ crucified. To the men of vast ability, who are looking to the events of the day, I would say, ‘Allow one poor fool to keep to preaching the gospel.’ Beloved teachers, be fools for Christ, and keep to the gospel. Don’t be afraid: it has life in it, and it will grow: only you bring it out, and let it grow.”

(Charles Spurgeon, quoted in Ryken and Wilson, Preach the Word, p205)

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Books, books, books…

November 26, 2007

Its that time of year again when I’m starting to think about Christmas presents for my wife. Given that my wife loves to read, books are invariably involved! But where to begin?

Whether you are a pastor buying for your wife, or a wife buying for your pastor husband, you’re bound to find some of links of recommendations below helpful. I have. In addition, a good place to evaluate books before you read them is The Discerning Reader.

Alistair Begg’s book recommendations
Al Mohler: Bible Story Books for Children and 10 Christian Biographies
Karalee Reinke recommends some “Books for Your Bride”
Tullian Tchividjian suggests 20 Books on Christ and Culture
Ligon Duncan, on his top 10 books
Desiring God’s biblical commentaries recommendations
RTS reading list
Nine Marks recommended books for pastors
Master’s Seminary: 850 books for Preachers
Westminster Seminary Faculty Recommendations
Steve Weaver book recommendations

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More from the Reformission Rev

November 23, 2007

Previously I’ve heard mixed reviews about Mark Driscoll. But I can honestly say that I’ve been impressed by his gracious demeanour and powerful preaching on his recent visit to Scotland. Along with our senior pastor, today I had the great privilege of meeting Mark and showing him around our church building.

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So this Friday I thought I would link you to a few more Driscoll resources. Once more, I cannot recommend Mark’s recent talk on the atonement highly enough. Also find below Mark’s two recent series: one on Nehemiah, the other on Philippians. The vigilant will notice that Mark’s last sermon was preached in absentia: via video recording!

Philippians

The Rebel’s Guide to Joy (Acts 16; Phil 1:1)
The Rebel’s Guide to Joy in Loneliness (Phil 1:1b-11)
The Rebel’s Guide to Joy in Suffering (Phil 1:12-18)
The Rebel’s Guide to Joy in Death (Phil 1:19-30)
The Rebel’s Guide to Joy in Humility (Phil 2:1-11)
The Rebel’s Guide to Joy in Temptation (Phil 2:12-30)
The Rebel’s Guide to Joy in Conflict (Phil 3:1-11)

Nehemiah

Nehemiah 1:1-11a
Nehemiah 1:11b-2:8
Nehemiah 2:9-20
Nehemiah:3:1-32
Nehemiah 3:1-32 (Pain and Progress)
Nehemiah 4:15-23 (The Sword and the Trowel)
Nehemiah 5:1-13 (Wealth and Worship)
Nehemiah 5:14-19 (Humility and Hospitality)
Nehemiah 6: 1-14 (Diversion and Deception)
Nehemiah 6:15-7:5 (Completion, Critics and Continuation)
Nehemiah 7:5-73 (Multitudes and Money)
Nehemiah 8:1-12 (Air War and Ground War)
Nehemiah 8:13- 18 (Religion and Revival)
Nehemiah 9:1-27 (Prayer and Repentance)
Nehemiah 9:30-10:37 (Change and Covenant)
Nehemiah 11:1-36 (Urban and Missional)
Nehemiah 12:1-26 (Movements and Bricks)
Nehemiah 12:27-43 (Dedication and Delight)
Nehemiah 12:44-47 (Ministry and Money)
Nehemiah 13:1-14 (Anger and Action)
Nehemiah 13:15-22 (Work and Worship)
Nehemiah 13:23-31 (Fathers and Fighting)

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Other Toolbox This Week

Piper – Multi church site model
Why to Leave a Church – #1. Preaching
An Irish Powerhouse In Preaching
Mark Dever – Lectures in Preaching
Great Themes in Puritan Preaching
Carson – Preaching the Whole Counsel of God
Piper Address to ETS on Justification

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Driscoll On Atonement Audio

November 22, 2007

The Mark Driscoll audio which outlines eleven aspects of the atonement is now online. Thanks to those who have made this available.

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10 Questions – Paul W Martin

November 22, 2007

Today Paul W. Martin kindly shares with us the latest installment of our 10 Questions for Expositors. Do take time to read his detailed and very helpful answers. Paul shepherds Grace Fellowship Church in Toronto Canada and also lectures at Toronto Baptist Seminary. Spare a thought for Paul, who along with preparing expositions every Sunday also has the daunting challenge of pastoring Tim Challies!

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1. Where do you place the importance of preaching in the grand scheme of church life?
Preaching defines, drives and feeds the life of the church. “Expository exultation” establishes our vision of who God is and that feeds our delight in Him. The more we delight in Him and not the world, generally the more we live for Him moment by moment. My observation has been that churches spiritually thrive where there is a man faithfully digging deep into the Word and delivering that Truth as best as he can week by week. On the other side, I have seen many churches (even full ones) slide into spiritual decline as the preaching of the Word of God is ignored or forgotten.

2. In a paragraph, how did you discover your gifts in preaching?
I was naturally quiet and avoided crowds as a young man, but I felt my soul come alive when I studied the Word. I found it nearly impossible to study Scripture privately and not start talking to someone about what I had seen there. That seemed to lead to different teaching opportunities in small groups.

Strangely, I had always thought I would be a pastor – long before my conversion. But my vision of pastoral ministry was a reflection of the bizarre activities of the liberal church circles I ran in as a boy. Once I began to teach and study the Word, I laboured hard over whether I was called to the ministry. Spurgeon’s chapter in Lectures to My Students broke this camel’s back – I could not imagine being content doing anything else other than loving God’s people through the preaching of His Word. I began to pursue opportunities to preach and the Lord’s people confirmed me in it. (That was two paragraphs!)

3. How long (on average) does it take you to prepare a sermon?
When I first entered the ministry I would spend a minimum of 15-20 hours of preparation for one sermon. Now that has been refined into something closer to 10-12; depending on the text and a host of other factors.

4. Is it important to you that a sermon contain one major theme or idea? If so, how do you crystallise it?
I find most of my sermons drive to one major point, but this has more to do with the structure of the text itself than being constrained to any one homiletic model. Rightly understood, most texts have a singular, over-arching point. If I can, I try to distill that major point into one sentence – usually something in the sermon-writing process that I cannot do until the very end. That thought/point then determines much of the introduction to the sermon and functions as the skeleton to the sermon body.

5. What is the most important aspect of a preacher’s style and what should he avoid?
I had one of those epiphany moments in this regard while eating lunch with Geoff Thomas of Alfred Place Baptist Church, Wales. In asking him about preaching (something I think every preacher should do with other preachers!) he noted that it had taken him many years to “find his own voice.” If you have heard Geoff preach, you know that his voice is very unique to him – I could listen to him preach all day long! But I think this is perhaps the greatest battle every preacher faces. Learning to be yourself, to say things in your own words, to genuinely “connect” with your hearers – no doubt this is part of what makes men from John MacArthur to Mark Driscoll so endearing to so many. The preacher is genuine and he seems to give you himself as he gives you the Word. In the category of things to avoid, besides the obvious “don’t jingle loose change in your pockets,” or “don’t read your manuscript” I would add: Don’t be content with “sleepers.” I cannot understand a preacher that tolerates disinterest in the Word of God. It is the Truth! We ought to do all that we humanly can to make that Truth alive to sinner and saint alike!

6. What notes, if any, do you use?
I carry a handwritten manuscript into the pulpit. I find by using the pen and not the keyboard that I can shape things on the page to reflect their place in the sermon. I experimented with a typed manuscript (full and partial) last year for six months. I thought it took away from my freedom so I reverted to the old-school method! I strive for liberty in the pulpit and there is something about handwritten notes that makes this easier to attain.

7. What are the greatest perils that preacher must avoid?
All the horrible heart sins of pride, envy, bitterness and jealousy. Those can birth themselves in many different ways depending on the man and the areas in which he is prone to sin. I find envy an area I have to battle more and more. I may hear of the Lord growing a work of a man who’s preaching does little for me, or who’s theology is suspect in some large ways and it bugs me. Such pride! I am praying for more of Paul’s heart as seen in Philippians 1:18 “What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice.” I think most of us preachers are prone to think far too much of ourselves. Then again, maybe it is just me.

8. How do you fight to balance preparation for preaching with other important responsibilities (eg. pastoral care, leadership responsibilities)
“Fight to balance” rather answers the question, doesn’t it? It really is a fight. On a practical level, I give priority to study. That is what I am called to do and that is what my little flock expects out of me week by week. I need to be in the Word for most of Tuesday and then I can come at it through the week again as it simmers in the back of my brain. I write the actual sermons on Friday which allows another full day for thoughts to percolate before sermon delivery. We also have many able and gifted men in our church leadership, so our deacons and my co-elder all take up many different duties.

Finally, I try to learn my limitations and the limitations of my family. If I was single I would more than likely work 22 hours a day – but that is not good for a marriage or children and I am so incredibly grateful God blessed me with both! With four kids at home still, I am happy to invest much time into their lives now.

9. What books on preaching, or exemplars of it, have you found most influential in your own preaching?
• George Whitefield for calling sinners to repentance from sin and faith in Jesus, and for the freedom to “colourize” the Truth with illustration and story.
• Dr. Lloyd-Jones for modeling how a text must press on the hearer’s conscience.
• John MacArthur for book-by-book exposition and the willingness to keep at it when everyone else seems to jump over to more “pragmatic” means.
• C.J. Mahaney for careful and thoughtful application of the text.
• Alex Montoya for preaching with passion.
• Michael Haykin for wedding historical fact to living truth.
• And my favorite living preacher, Bob Hueni; also my father-in-law. A man who never had the blessing of seminary training but stayed true to the text, preached it with passion, lived it in his life, read it daily, illustrated it creatively, prayed it privately, exhorted with it publicly and gazed from it with piercing eyes from the pulpit right down into your soul. Years and other duties keep him from preaching from the pulpit now – but he still preaches with his life daily.

10. What steps do you take to nurture or encourage developing or future preachers?
I teach pastoral theology at Toronto Baptist Seminary which means I am always around young preachers. Many of my students attend my church and I meet with them weekly in a small group aimed to work on their sanctification and preaching skills. Each man takes a turn to teach us for 5 minutes and then we all say what we liked about it… and maybe one or two suggestions for improvement. I have always had little groups like this running. Stuart Olyott once said that there is little point in this kind of group unless you allow them to critique you as well, so I try to invite their ideas about my preaching, too. (That tends to help on that envy and pride thing I was talking about earlier!) I also keep an eye on the future men in our church. We try to identify possible future preachers early and give them age-appropriate opportunities to try that possible gift.

Previously on 10 Questions
* Tim Keller
* Philip Ryken
* Voddie Baucham
* Liam Goligher
* Vaughan Roberts
* Thabiti Anyabwile
* Peter Grainger
* Derek Prime
* John Brand
* Steve Cole
* A young Scottish expositor!

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Too Clever, Too Crafty, Too Systematised

November 21, 2007

I’m indebted to the blog Daylight for referencing some thoughts of Simon Manchester (St Thomas Church in North Sydney) on four common preaching errors. These comments are taken, I believe, from the monthly journal The Briefing.

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Error 1. Clever beats Substance

There is a strange idea around at the moment that clever beats substance. Put more crudely, this view seems to think that the Bible is pretty dull and hard to sell, but with some marketing, we can sneak it past people’s guard. This loss of proper confidence in the Bible confuses the power of the clever gimmick with the substance of the powerful Word. But once a preacher has grasped the way God works (by his word) and the impact of his message (in the Word), it lights up everything he says, and people learn quickly who to trust. 20 minutes of straw followed by five minutes of wheat at the end is a strange way to feed your listeners. Somewhere the preacher has to think (and say), “Here is the book that will explain your life and the God behind everything. Now listen!” It’s embarrassing to treat Scripture as weak or dull.

Error 2. Craft Beats Meaning

Another (similar) idea around today is that craft beats meaning. No-one would put it this foolishly, but there is more attention paid (in this error) to the presentation than to the meaning. What is the long-term benefit of a passage used devotionally (without proper biblical theology) if its packaging is better than its truth? What is the point of abusing a text to sell a clever idea? Some sermons are so formulaic in their presentation, only a discerning person realizes that its all ‘form over facts’ – and that’s the sad problem! Sermon craft is a great servant in preaching; it helps the communicator and the listeners. But its a bad master when it pretends that there is an only way to do things (clever story to begin, three points and a bombshell to finish). The Bible is bigger than our craftiness

Error 3. System Beats Text

Even more common than this manner-over-matter preaching is the system-beats-text preaching. This is the widespread danger of dragging every text through the grid of one doctrine that ignores the point of the original passage. For example, one overseas preacher seems to put every passage through the ‘justification by faith’ grid. He is clever and insightful and searching – you’re on the psychiatrist’s couch in no time! – but there is this sa/bad taste left in your mouth that the biblical book was in the service of an idea. ‘Bible-combing’ preaching also has its systematic strengths but often seems to neglect each biblical writer’s specific point in favour of the biblical overview. For example, if Jesus is teaching on people in prison (Matt 25:31-46), it is dangerous to start collecting ‘prison’ references and miss the point in the passage that Jesus will one day announce those who took his ‘brothers’ seriously. Much better to stay with the text in hand until the main point is clear.

Error 4. Teaching Beats Learning

A final danger I would mention is the teaching-beats-learning syndrome. This is the style – often picked up by the pew more than the pulpit – that the message has had no effect on the communicator. When the word of God is passed from an unaffected preacher to some unaffected listeners, the result is unworthy of God and discouraging to people. We must cry to God to search us because if the word of God that is “profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness” (2 Tim 3:16) does none of these things, who has the problem? There is an arrogance in some preaching that imagines that the preacher is ‘up there’ with the word of God, not ‘down there’ with the humble listener. To preach cold food every week (and not warm transforming food) is proof that something is wrong. May God help us.

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Preaching the Gospel Like An Apostle

November 20, 2007

In their excellent book “Being a Pastor“, Alistair Begg and Derek Prime succinctly outline the gospel that the Apostles preached. As you read their six point summary, ask yourself whether ALL these points regularly surface in your gospel presentations.

“It is helpful to remind ourselves from time to time of the six main elements in the apostolic declaration of the gospel, once they were sure that they had gone back far enough to enable their hearers to realize that their message was from the one true God, the Creator and Supreme Law-Giver:

First, the appointed time, concerning which the Old Testament prophets had spoken, and to which God’s chosen people had looked forward, has come. Through Christ, God has visited and redeemed His people (Acts 2:16-21).

Second, this act of God intervening in human history is to be seen in the life of Jesus Christ, the Messiah, sent by God, rejected, put to death by men, and raised up by God on the third day (Acts 2:32, 36).

Third, by his death and resurrection, Jesus Christ has conquered sin and has opened the kingdom of heaven to all believers. Salvation is found in no one else. (Acts 4:12)

Fourth, the proofs of God’s present power in the world are to be found in the fact of the resurrection of Christ and evidence of the Holy Spirit’s working in the church (Acts 4:33, Romans 1:4; Ephesians 1:19-20).

Fifth, this is but the beginning of God’s kingdom. Our Lord Jesus Christ will return again as Judge, and God’s kingdom will be finally established (Acts 3:20-21; 17:30-31; 2 Thesalonians 1:7-10).

Sixth, all men and women, therefore, should repent and be baptised in the name of Jesus Christ the Messiah and Lord for the forgiveness of their sins, and they will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”

(pages 139-140)

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Driscoll Delight

November 19, 2007

I was there on Friday night when Mark Driscoll preached on eleven aspects of the atonement in Edinburgh. Others have more fully recounted what was said (I didn’t realise Adrian Warnock was even there!). I simply want to say that I was greatly encouraged, and perhaps even a little surprised, at Mark’s whole approach. I say respectfully that there seems to be something of a maturing going on that may be quickly producing one of the most powerful preachers of our day.

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Another blogger sums up better than I can why it was so good.

1) He preached on 1 Corinthians 2.2 for about an hour and a half. I’m not sure exactly how long it was, but the time really flew by. I was stunned when I looked at my watch and realised how long he had spoken for.

2) His sermon had eleven points. (Jesus is our: substitutionary atonement, victor, redemption, new covenant sacrifice, justification, propitiation, expiation, ransom, example, reconciliation, revelation of God).

3) He was not in any sense embarassed or ashamed to preach theology. He always explained what the theological terms used were, and used that to magnify Jesus greatly.

4) He demonstrated very well just how much right doctrine (i.e. the gospel) is the only thing that can lead to right living.

5) He quoted extensively from various excellent theologians (Martin Luther, Don Carson, J.I. Packer…) and showed that he is clearly in touch with historical theology. He even referenced the Council of Chalcedon and the issue of the hypostatic union.

6) He openly stood for the truth with regards to penal substitutionary atonement. He was honest and open about how guys like Steve Chalke and Brian McClaren have strayed into heresy on this key doctrine. If only more Christians would follow Mark’s lead and actually stand for the gospel on this issue.

7) He was serious, engaging, provocative, interested and interesting, passionate and (at times) absolutely hilarious. He has a great gift as a communicator.

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