Archive for July, 2009

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Fond Farewell

July 27, 2009

After the bitter-sweet experience of leaving Charlotte Baptist Chapel today, departing from a church is not something I want to do too often!  We love the church, thank God for it, and pray for grace upon grace to be poured out upon it. Here are some photo highlights from our farewell service, courtesy of Andrew Robertson.

Farewell gifts

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Farewell sermon

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Farewell words and prayers

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As You’ve Never Heard Him Before…

July 25, 2009

You MUST listen to this sermon introduction. It includes Mark Dever talking about the rain-forests and saying words like “cool”, “nerd” and “nyeaaah.”   Remember: you heard it here first!

(Photo courtesy of James.Thompson; Creative Commons License Attribution 2.0 Generic)

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Don Carson on Sermon Preparation

July 20, 2009

HT: PJ Tibyan.

“Preaching through Bible Books -  This is from a conference in 2003 called, “Katoomba Christian Conference Centenary (Sydney, Australia).”  D.A. Carson lectured on 12 points in preaching through a book of the Bible.  You can listen to the audio by downloading the message here (left-click).  This is taken from The Gospel Coalition website.

      (1:38 ) – Read and re-read and re-read and re-read and re-read the book. – It’s a mistake to read the book once and then start reading commentaries (Read it in English and the original language).(3:11) – Ideally start the process early.Give time to re-reading, meditation, and saturation.

(4:58 ) – Eschew the division of head and heart.

(6:14) – Early on attain sufficient grasp of the book that you can succinctly state (a) what the book is about, (b) what this book contributes to the canon that overlaps with what other books bring to the canon, and (c) what distinctive things this book brings to the canon.(All these things need to be thought about simultaneously.This is what brings clarity and precision).Scan biblical theologies on the book to get a large scale picture of the book.

(11:10) – At roughly the same time determine (a) the number of sermons you’ll devote to the book and (b) the large scale outline of the book insofar as it impinges on your text boundaries for each sermon (11:10).

(19:27) – Start working on individual sermon preparation (either in advance or week by week).Ideally work on the text first.  A.(23:26) – Ideally develop note taking techniques.This keeps your tools sharp and keeps your files for resources for future ministry (writing, preaching, evangelism, etc.);  B.(29:32) – from these detailed exegetical notes(Note for young preachers: you must determine and discipline yourself to leave stuff out).You need to know what to leave out.The sermon is the best of the material and the highlights of what you learned.The aim is to think through what contributes to the burden of that text; C.Work on the text’s structure.Work on it so that it is fresh and appealing and helpful.

(32:27) – Each sermon must simultaneously stand alone and constitute a part of the series.

(33:34) – Remember the different contributions of a Paul House (corpus/book) biblical theology and a Charles Scobie (thematic) biblical theology.

(38:11) – Recognize that there may be special study and focus necessary for certain books (historical, cultural, literary genre, etc).

(42:32) – Ideally try to make your sermon material reflect in some way the genre of the book you are treating.

(44:24) – Remember constantly that this is not an exercise in artistic creation.The sermon is not an end in itself, but it is a re-revelation of God to his people.This means that as you prepare you ought to be thinking about the people to whom you are ministering.

(50:28 ) – ideally keep revising, praying, preparing so that it is not so much that you have mastered the material as that it has mastered you.There is a way of preaching that projects an image of being an expert and an image of being captured by the text.

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Northern Ireland Conferences

July 19, 2009

A few treats for those in Northern Ireland territory…

  • New Horizon 2009 takes place this week in Coleraine, with speakers Don Carson and Ray Ortlund Jr.
  • Paul Tripp has a week of events in Portrush Northern Ireland in October: my wife and I will be going to the marriage and parenting seminars!
  • Mark Dever is provisionally booked to come to Northern Ireland next February (16/17), to do a 9 Marks workshop with church leaders. More details will be forthcoming in the next few months.

Don Carson

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The Pastor’s Personal Walk (pt 3)

July 18, 2009

Who pastor’s the pastors? (continued)

3.  Pastors in other churches.

Who knows a pastor’s peculiar struggles more fully than another pastor? No wonder many of us draw strength from other pastors: over the phone, at the fraternal, or in a regular social context. Oft-times a younger pastor will have a more experienced shepherd that he goes to for support. Like Paul to Timothy, the more senior figure becomes a well of wisdom and a haven of help. What a great blessing pastors can be to pastors!

4. The church congregation.

Why shouldn’t the church congregation be able to pastor its pastor?  Actually, we pastors are being shepherded by our flocks all the time!

  • That member who asks about the condition of our ill spouse.
  • That thoughtful card or email which gives us a boost on a hard week.
  • That prayer for the pastor’s (your) sermon, that you are blessed to hear and say ‘Amen to.

In all these ways and more, the pastor receives a measure of Christian encouragement from the congregation he serves.

5. Other Christian Confidants.

This slightly ambiguous category is a catchall for Christian carers beyond the sphere of our local church congregation. For example, many pastor’s I know have one or two long-standing relationships in churches they have long left – relationships which continue to provide an outlet for the pastor’s encouragement. These close confidants have the great advantage of not being involved in the pastor’s local church situation. They also have a deep enough friendship to know both how to encourage and confront the pastor if necessary. Such people are invaluable ‘pastors to the pastor.’

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The Pastor’s Personal Walk (pt 2)

July 14, 2009

John Tindall asks a good question: Who pastor’s the pastors? Here are some arising thoughts:

1. The Lord.

Strangely absent from some discussions of the pastor’s pastoral care is  the very wellspring of the reservoir of grace: the Lord Himself! However as much (if not more) than his flock, the pastor must be able to say “the Lord is my shepherd.” The pastor is an undershepherd. Yet it he will be a good one, he himself must know the tender help of the Good Shepherd. One hesitates to say that every trial and temptation can  be resolved simply by  ‘taking it to the Lord in prayer’ – if that were the case, the church may never have been birthed to provide pastoral support, and eldership never established. Speaking personally, though, I have found that there can be no substitute for simply pausing to hear God’s voice afresh (through his Word) and then casting up my needs to His attentive ears (through prayer). The Psalms in particular must be a stream in which the pastor regularly bathes.

2. His fellow elders.

Moving from the most direct source of our care, we move to the next most obvious: the pastor’s fellow elders. One of the marks of an authentic and accountable eldership will be the way that elders speak openly about their own spiritual lives, and ask questions about the Christian walk of other elders. A growing and good practice in elders meetings is to spend some time sharing and praying about the personal challenges that each elder is facing, within the safe bounds of confidentiality. The vulnerable pastor, who is open about his own struggles and temptations, is able to enjoy the great blessing of other elders praying for him. They will soon be aware (if they are not already) that the pastor has pastoral needs too!

More tomorrow…

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Challenges From Calvin’s Preaching

July 13, 2009

I’ll get back to the pastor’s devotional life tomorrow. Today, given the much mentioned birthday of John Calvin, I thought I should link you to the following:

Calvin & the Preaching of the Word

by Peter Adam

Peter Adam listens carefully to Calvin’s preaching to appreciate the genius and complexity of what he was trying to accomplish in the pulpit. As always, Peter is simultaneously witty, profound, and challenging as he opens up this aspect of the Reformer’s ministry.

This talk was originally given at Trinity Theological College in Perth, Australia in June 2009. Our thanks to Trinity and to Peter for allowing us to publish this excellent talk here.

Click here to download the talk in mp3 format

There are also a host of other talks on Calvin that I haven’t seen much linkage to on the blogosphere, here.

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The Pastor’s Personal Walk (part 1)

July 11, 2009

When a pastor has a close personal walk with His Saviour…

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…he becomes known as a godly Christian first and foremost, and only secondarily as a capable pastor or preacher

…he blesses the congregation by the vitality of his prayers

…he preaches a Saviour he knows

…he becomes a ‘worthy’ example to the flock

…he strengthens the faith of his family who see that he loves Jesus as much in the home as he does in the holy-pulpit

…he bears the weight of the ministry by bringing its burdens to Jesus


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The Pastor’s Devotional Life

July 9, 2009

The penny is finally dropping for me that the minister’s devotional life really, really is his number one priority. On the subject, John Tindall has some excellent discussion starter questions about pastor’s personal walk with the Lord. I’m planning to write my thoughts on each of them shortly.

•  What benefits overflow to families and congregations when a minister is walking closely with the Lord?

•  What other aspects are there to our devotional life? What part should retreats or fasting have, for example?

•  Should we keep a spiritual journal?

•  What are the obstacles to having quality time with God? How do we overcome these obstacles?

•  In spiritual oversight, who pastors the pastor?

•  What should we be praying for? How should we divide up our prayer time?

•  How do we keep our reading of Scripture fresh?

•  John Wesley used to say that he thought very little of a man who did not pray for four hours every day. Discuss.

•  Are there devotional Christian books that should be read by every minister?

•  How can we encourage one another to read good books?

•  How important is it to vary our reading?

•  How can we help one another when we are feeling spiritually barren?

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Summer Preaching

July 8, 2009

The arrival of summer brings summer vacations. And this leads to the pastor’s dilemma: what to preach on when church is not consistently assembled.

Should the pastor continue his expositional series throughout the summer months or not? Some pastors find it profitable to postpone lengthy, momentum-building, expositional series during the summer months. I agree. From my pastoral experience I have found it wise to pause and wait until the church gathers together in the fall to resume.

Read the whole of CJ Mahaney’s helpful article here.

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1 Timothy – “Building a Healthy Church”

July 7, 2009

“Building a Healthy Church” was the last sermon-series I’ll participate in at Charlotte Chapel.  As much as I hope other people benefitted from the studies in 1 Timothy, I personally profited from them a great deal. The Apostle Paul’s sagely words should be relevant to many readers of this blog, of course. 1 Timothy is a charge given to a young-ish man concerning the conduct and creed of the church he pastors (1 Tim 3:14-16; 6:11ff)!

Title Preacher Passage    
Opening 1 Timothy    Colin Adams   1 Tim 1:1-2  
The doctrine driven church   Colin Adams   1 Tim 1:3-11  
A matter of life or death Peter Grainger   1 Tim 1:12-20  
Gospel-Centred Praying    Peter Grainger   1 Tim 2:1-7  
Worship and Witness   Peter Grainger   1 Tim 2:8-15  
The Noble task   Colin Adams   1 Tim 3:1-7  
Godly Servants   Rodney Stout   1 Tim 3:8-13  
The Heart of 1 Timothy   Colin Adams   1 Tim 3:14-16  
Whom Do I Serve?      Tim Bridges   1 Tim 4:1-10    
A Pastor’s Priorities   Peter Grainger   1 Tim 4:11-16  
A Caring Community   Colin Adams   1 Tim 5:1-16  
Leading Questions   Colin Adams  1 Tim 5:17-25  
Work and Wealth   Colin Adams   1 Tim 6:1-10  
A Personal Challenge Colin Adams   1 Tim 6:11-21  
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No, Northern Ireland Isn’t A Christian Country

July 2, 2009

Quite regularly I hear people say that “Northern Ireland is a Christian country.”  But even if you accept the premise (is there really such a thing as a ‘Christian country?’) one would surely have to say that Northern Ireland is less Christian than it used to be. Consider the results of a survey carried out in 2007 on behalf of the Evangelical Alliance of Northern Ireland:

Only 42% of NI respondents can say there are four Gospels
Only 54% of respondents can name the Holy Trinity
Just 60% of respondents can name the first book of the Bible
Only 31% of respondents could say the First Commandment
Only 31% of respondents could identify Martin Luther as the man who started the Reformation
Just 21% of NI respondents aged 16-24 could say there are four Gospels versus 54% of the over 65s

Then in 2008, a BBC online survey found the following results concerning Northern Ireland:

• 73% believe in a god/deity/higher power
• 64% believe there is a link between declining church attendance and declining morals in today’s society
• 81% believe that society is moving away from religion
• 71% feel that churches could offer more for young people
• About half (51%) say religions are out of touch with society and need to change with the times
• 21% agree that shops shouldn’t be open on a Sunday
• 61% say sport should be played on a Sunday
• 50% would like churches to develop more online resources

These surveys indicate what few seem to realise: secularism is on the rise in Northern Ireland.

Like the rest of the Europe it has become a mission-field once more.

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