Archive for November, 2007

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The Fulwood Conference

November 16, 2007

I’m fighting the sin of jealousy this week. First a friend from church notified me that he would be attending the “Fullwood Conference.” Then, after the event, he pointed me to the audio. This surely was to punish me since I now realise what I missed! Carl Trueman, Dan Strange, Edward Lobb and Graham Benyon all gave talks on the theme of the church. Here are the treasured links:

Carl Trueman
– The Church in History: part one; part two

Dan Strange
– The Church in Culture: part one; part two

Graham Benyon
– Understanding the church: part one; part two

Edward Lobb
Titus 1:1- 2:10; Titus 2:1 – 3:7

Other Toolbox This Week

Piper’s Address to ETS on Justification
Bible Works or Logos?
Rob Bell – the gods aren’t angry?
Roger Nicole: How to Deal with those who Differ From us
Some Monday Reflections on a Longwinded Sunday
Grudem’s Advice on Preaching The Word
Joel Beeke on Targeting the Audience
An A-Z Outline!!
Q and A With Prof Patrick Collinson
Is there No End To This Man’s Talents – JP Does Dishes!
Three Common Preaching Errors
Choosing the Right Bible College – Brand
Top 10 Things To Say When Returning Home from Conference With Book Plunder
Worship Leading Seminars: Bob Kauflin

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Mark Dever – Pastoral Care Audio

November 15, 2007

This week – on Building Maintenance – some audio from Mark Dever of Capitol Hill Baptist Church. He answers the following questions relating to pastoral care:

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How do you care for home-bound seniors?
– How do you counsel women?
How do you care for members out of the area?
– How do you disciple someone?
How do you counsel the grieving?
What kind of questions do you ask in the membership interview?

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Four Fruitful Questions – pt 2

November 14, 2007

Continuing on from last week’s fruitful questions, (what is the content of the passage? what is the context of the passage?) let me conclude by adding another two. These, I recognise are straightforward enough, but every expositor must surely answer them of every text.

3. What is the structure of the passage?
I need to say that this question yields more fruit for me than almost anything else. Here I try to examine the passage in terms of its divisions, connections, and logical flow. Often I simply summarize each verse, highlighting what it contributes to the overall picture and how it connects to what is before and after. This is obviously productive when studying close argumentation (such as in Romans), but I find it can be as beneficial with a narrative account. For example, why does Luke place the story of Mary and Martha (Luke 10:38-42) immediately after the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37)? Is it not because Jesus is explicating both the first and second commands (see Luke 10:27; the Good Samaritan the latter, Mary and Martha the former)? Asking the question, how is the passage organised? – helps me see that Luke is ensuring that these two commands are seen in balance, not to the exclusion of each other. Therefore my sermon title on this section was ‘Deeds and Devotion.’

4. What is the author’s purpose in writing the passage?
Here I’m not just asking what did the author say but why? Another way of posing it would be: what was the biblical writer trying to achieve? So for example, in preaching from John’s gospel, I will want to know about how Jesus first miracle in Cana contributes to his overall purpose of bringing unbelievers to faith (see John 20:31)? Or over in Luke, what is the author hoping to communicate to Theophilus (a young Gentile Christian) when he conveys the Father’s glad reception of his outcast son in Luke 15?

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10 Questions For Expositors – Steve Cole

November 13, 2007

Its our great priviledge today to have Steve Cole of Flagstaff Christian Fellowship answer our 10 Questions for Expositors.

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By the way, if you happen to personally know any other relatively well known expositors who have not yet filled in the 10 Questions, could you help me twist their arm – ‘in a sanctified way’ – to answers the questions and have them send them my direction? The likes of Dever, MacArthur, Piper, Begg, Lawson and Mahaney would be especially welcome! For us ‘less-gifted’ preachers in the kingdom… Colin

1. Where do you place the importance of preaching in the grand scheme of church life?
Preaching is very important, in that it elevates the authority of God over the entire congregation. It sets the tone and agenda for the church. If people do not honor God’s Word, they will not grow and the church will be tossed around by every wind of doctrine. And there are plenty of strong winds blowing these days!

2. In a paragraph, how did you discover your gifts in preaching?
When I was in college, I tried teaching the Bible and found, much to my surprise, people seemed really to be helped by it. I never actually preached to any extent, though, before I began in the pastorate 30 years ago.

3. How long (on average) does it take you to prepare a sermon?
I manuscript all of my sermons, which are available for people to pick up as they walk into church. I also post them on our web site. To do this level of teaching/preaching takes me about 15 hours per week. Some weeks it takes longer if it is a difficult text or if the sermon just doesn’t flow together. On a few rare weeks, it flows together much more quickly. But usually I have to sweat and agonize through the entire process.

4. Is it important to you that a sermon contain one major theme or idea? If so, how do you crystallize it?
Yes, I sat under Haddon Robinson at Dallas Seminary, and if you are familiar with his method, he teaches that every sermon must succinctly drive home one major idea. Crystallizing this idea is the hard work of preaching. But I find if I’m not clear about it, I probably don’t understand the text as well as I need to. Sometimes in the middle of preparing the sermon, I realize that I am still not clear, so I go back and rework it. The main idea governs the entire sermon outline, with all of the points supporting or explaining that one idea.

5. What is the most important aspect of a preacher’s style and what should he avoid?
He must be authentic (i.e, not copying someone else’s style). He must not preach what he is not attempting to practice, and he must not falsely imply or convey that he is living a certain way if it is not true. In other words, if I’m struggling with my prayer life, I need to let people know that it’s a struggle, not convey that I’m a great prayer warrior.

6. What notes, if any, do you use?
I take my full manuscript into the pulpit, with key words highlighted or underlined with a colored pen. But I do not read it. I glance down at each paragraph and due to having written it and editing it several times and going over it several more before the sermon, I pretty much know where I’m going. The only part I read are quotations.

7. What are the greatest perils that preacher must avoid?
We must avoid neglecting our own walk with the Lord and just preaching as a performance. In other words (1 Tim. 4:16), “Pay close attention to yourself and to your teaching.” Your preaching must flow out of a genuine, fresh walk with Christ. And I am continually overwhelmed with a sense of my own inadequacy, both in the preparation and delivery of sermons. But that keeps me dependent on the Lord (2 Cor. 3:5).

8. How do you fight to balance preparation for preaching with other important responsibilities (eg. pastoral care, leadership responsibilities)
It’s always a struggle, but the church knows that my preaching preparation time is important and they leave me alone (for the most part) unless there is an emergency or crisis. I am not a strong visitation pastor, in the sense of Richard Baxter. I admire the man, but I could never come close to his routine.

9. What books on preaching, or exemplars of it, have you found most influential in your own preaching?
Haddon Robinson’s “Biblical Preaching” consists of his classroom lectures, which were my training. I don’t follow him to a tee, but he helps you be clear about the process. I found T. H. L. Parker’s “Calvin’s Preaching” to be very helpful. As far as examples, I really enjoy John Piper’s preaching. I also have read many of Martyn Lloyd-Jones’ sermons, as well as his book on preaching. While I don’t follow his style very closely, I have benefitted immensely from his careful analysis of Scripture.

10. What steps do you take to nurture or encourage developing or future preachers?
I don’t have any set of “steps” that I follow. I have often met with small groups of young men who are interested in the things of God, discussing various aspects of ministry. We have read books like J. I. Packer’s “A Quest for Godliness,” about the Puritans. Also, they have my weekly example of Bible exposition, and often we have discussed a recent sermon. I often share with them the struggle I’m having with a text or putting a message together, and we interact on it. Sometimes I will help them if they are preparing a sermon. Many of these young men have gone on to seminary and into ministry.

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

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A Global Community

November 12, 2007

Just the other week, I added one of those cluster maps to my blog. Very interesting. It not only gives me some indication of where people read this blog from, but in a strange way, its been a reminder of the global nature of Christ’s church. I work on just a tiny patch on God’s great and needy earth.

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This reminded me of a John Piper quote regarding our remarkable inclusion in what God is doing throughout the world:

Picture in your mind a great, wise painter, painting on a huge canvas with many brushes, most of them very ordinary and messy. The painter is God, so you can’t picture him. He’s invisible. But he intends for his painting to be the visible display of his wisdom. He knows people can’t see him, but he wants his wisdom to be seen and admired. His canvas is huge. It’s the size of the created universe. I know you can’t really imagine looking at that canvas because you are in it.

But do your best. And God is painting with thousands and thousands of colors and shades and textures—a picture as big as the universe and as old as creation and as lasting as eternity—a picture we call history, with the central drama being the preparation, salvation, and formation of the church of Jesus Christ. And he is using thousands of different brushes, most of them very ordinary and very small because every minute detail is crucial in this painting, to display the wisdom of the Painter. These brushes are God’s missionaries.

(From Piper’s sermon The Unfathomable Riches of Christ for all Peoples, above all Powers, through the Church)

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Expository Preaching Conference Audio

November 9, 2007

My i-pod’s going to be full for the next few weeks with the link I’m sharing with you today. This week’s Featured Toobox is the Expositors Conference recently held at Christ Fellowship Baptist Church with Steve Lawson and John MacArthur. If you couldn’t be there (!), the free audio below is the next best thing:

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Famine in the Land Dr. Steven J. Lawson (Amos 8:11)
The Invincible Weapon Dr. Steven J. Lawson (Hebrews 4:12-13)
Why I Am Committed to Expository Preaching I Dr. John MacArthur
The Ten How To’s of Expository Preaching Dr. Steven J. Lawson
Why I Am Committed to Expository Preaching II Dr. John MacArthur
Expositors Conference Question and Answer Session
What is Expository Preaching? Dr. Steven J. Lawson

Other Toolbox This Week

Worship.com
Review: Commentary on the New Testament’s Use of the Old Testament (Beale and Carson)
New Nine Marks Newsletter: Church and Transforming Culture
Westminster Preaching Conference Audio
Top Priorities When Looking For Scottish Pastors
20 Books To Read on Christians and Culture
S. Lewis Johnson Resources
Put It On Your Christmas List: Reverse Greek Interlinear
Bible and Reference Survey 2007
Books For Your Bride From Mine
Expository Misunderstanding
Two Different Views of Mission
Preachers, Politicians and the Spoken Word
Rethink Christmas @ Church
Video: A Call To Preachers
Scott Hamilton: Problems With Pastoral Training
Review: Expository Genius of Calvin
Ephesians – Best Book in the Bible?
Good Questions About A Pastor’s Home

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A Letter On Sermon Preparation – Steven Cole

November 8, 2007

An expository preacher I greatly admire is pastor Steve Cole from Flagstaff Christian Fellowship, Arizona. Along with commentaries I read, often I turn to one of pastor Cole’s sermon to glean further insights into the passage and how I might communicate it. Find his massive sermon database here. I’m grateful to Steve for allowing me to publish online a letter he wrote to a fellow pastor on the theme of sermon preparation.

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Regarding sermon prep, I had Haddon Robinson at DTS, and his course is basically contained in his book, “Biblical Preaching.” I don’t follow his method to a T, but I do generally follow it, with many shortcuts that are necessary for ministry survival. I begin just with the old observation, interpretation, application process that we learned in Bible study methods. I try to jot down any issues that need to be resolved, to figure out why the Lord included this passage in this context, etc. I try to determine what the subject of the passage is, and what it is saying about the subject (Robinson explains this process). If I can, I take an initial stab at a main idea.

Then I start reading commentaries. I start with the more technical ones first, trying to figure out interpretive issues, textual problems, history and background, grammatical matters, etc. After reading a half dozen or so, I generally know what the various problems are and what the major views are. I save the more devotional writers for last (Morgan, Spurgeon, Maclaren, Boice, etc.). With them, I’m looking to see how they applied this text to their congregations. All through this process, I’m throwing thoughts onto the computer screen in pretty much random order.

Eventually, I try to nail down the main idea in succinct form. For example, I just finished this Sunday’s sermon on the Jerusalem Council (Acts 15:1-11), and I’m taking it in the direction of when unity is wrong. My main idea (I’m going here from memory) is something like, Unity is wrong when it compromises the gospel of salvation by God’s grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone. Then my major points develop that theme. So I come up with an outline. Then I go back and move all of my notes around to fit under each point or subpoint. Some of my observations are interesting, but don’t fit, so I leave them out unless I determine that they really need to be said. Once I get my outline with my observations arranged, I print out those notes (usually one to two pages). I use these printed notes to work out my manuscript.

I type the whole thing out, as you know from looking at our web page. I find the discipline of manuscripting it forces me to be concise and precise. I usually have far more than I have time for, so I go back and chop out stuff that may be interesting, but isn’t crucial to the point. I’m always aiming at application–how should this affect people’s lives? I usually try to come up with an introduction that grabs attention, creates a need so that people want to listen, and introduces the body of the sermon. I also have an extensive illustration file (3×5 cards, a la Robinson). I began it long before computer days, so it’s all on cards, not on a computer data base. If I were starting now, I might figure out a way to scan them onto a computer. I’m always reading looking for illustrations and quotes (Reader’s Digest, books I read, etc.). I cross reference them, too, so that I can track them down.

Anyway, once I’ve typed out the manuscript and edited it to the right length (3500 words for a 35-40 minute sermon), I take the printed copy (face up, half sheet size, so I don’t have to be flipping pages in the pulpit), highlight and underline key words and quotes, and go over it several times, especially Saturday night, so that I know it well enough not to be tied to my notes. I do take the manuscript into the pulpit, but I never read it, unless it’s to give a quote verbatim. I glance at it and see the highlighted words and remember where I wanted to go, but I try to maintain eye contact with the congregation as I speak. I haven’t mentioned it either, but the whole process is shot through with prayer, both in preparation and prayer for delivery and the results.

I don’t feel very gifted at the process, like Spurgeon was. He was incredible! I have to work hard at it and it usually doesn’t flow easily. But that keeps me dependent on the Lord.

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Four Fruitful Questions – pt 1

November 7, 2007

As yesterday I was researching my sermon passage for Sunday, I took about an hour asking questions of my text. Though I have often understood the importance of doing this, I have often wrestled with what questions to ask. These days I tend to stick to only a few basic queries – queries which I’ve found most fruitful. Today I’ll share the first two. Come back next Wednesday for questions three and four.

1) What is the content of the passage?
Here I’m simply trying to establish what the passage says. This is not always straightforward. Usually whilst ‘reading through’ in several translations, I have already noted any significant differences in terms of translation. It is then incumbent upon me to study the Greek text carefully and do word studies on anything debatable or significant. Obviously we don’t have time to examine every word in a lengthy passage (nor is there typically a need to). However, we must do some digging to ensure that the English translation we are using doesn’t have blind spots to the content of the passage.

2) What is the context of the passage?
This considers the immediate circumference of the text and the location of the passage within the sweep of the book. It is crucial for correct interpretation. For example, this Sunday’s sermon from Luke 15 requires my understanding that conflict between Jesus and the Jewish religious establishment (Lk 15:2) has been ongoing since Lk 11:53-54. More immediately, Jesus has warned the Pharisees in chapter 14 not to miss out on God’s grace. Additionally, at the close of the chapter he calls for those who have ears ‘to hear’ (Lk 14:35). Yet from the outset of the 15th chapter it is clear that the Pharisees and Scribes are deaf to the gospel (v 2). At the same time, both ‘tax collectors’ and ‘sinners’ (v 1) are all-ears to this message of grace. All this informs my interpretation of Luke 15.

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Keller’s Outline For Gospel-Motivated Sermons

November 6, 2007

The following quote is an excerpt taken from Keller’s Preaching in a Post Modern City pt 3. When I read things like this, it makes me pray that Keller will eventually write a book about preaching the gospel in a post-modern culture.

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A BASIC OUTLINE FOR CHRIST-CENTERED, GOSPEL-MOTIVATED SERMONS

The following may actually be four points in a presentation, or they may be treated very quickly as the last point of a sermon. But more generally, this is a foundational outline for the basic moral reasoning and argument that lies at the heart of the application.

The Plot winds up: WHAT YOU MUST DO.

“This is what you have to do! Here is what the text/narrative tells us that we must do or what we must be.” The Plot thickens: WHY YOU CAN’T DO IT.

“But you can’t do it! Here are all the reasons that you will never become like this just by trying very hard.” The Plot resolves: HOW HE DID IT.

“But there’s One who did. Perfectly. Wholly. Jesus the—. He has done this for us, in our place.” The Plot winds down: HOW, THROUGH HIM, YOU CAN DO IT.

“Our failure to do it is due to our functional rejection of what he did. Remembering him frees our heart so we can change like this…”

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Over 1500 Pastors Take ‘Preacher’s Pledge’

November 5, 2007

Isn’t this a sad reflection on the state of preaching today that pastors would even need to sign something like this?

I will make the Bible my primary resource in sermon preparation and preaching.

I may use other resources such as commentaries and web sites to enhance, not replace, my personal interaction with Scripture.

As I study I will strive to accurately understand and honestly apply God’s Word, allowing Him to uniquely proclaim His truth in a relevant way through me.

Here for the whole story.

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The Idol Factory

November 5, 2007

Today I preached on Jeremiah chapter 44 under the title “Our Most Stubborn Sin.” The passage was a painful but pertinent expose on the sin of idolatry, and together we considered that:

i) idolatry has a past history (v 1-6)
ii) idolatry is a present problem (v 7-14)
iii) idolatry is a cunning competitor (v 15-23), and
iv) idolatry has a deadly conclusion (v24-30).

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An exceptional piece of extra reading I appreciated on the theme was CJ Mahaney’s article: The Idol Factory. This talk is insightful, well researched, and provides some excellent quotes to chew over as well.

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Preaching Points Podcast

November 2, 2007

This really seems worth a listen: the Preaching Points Podcast. Coming out of Gordon Conwell Seminary, you’ll find here short audio clips on stand alone topics from the likes of Haddon Robinson, Jeff Arthurs and Scott Gibson.

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Other Toolbox This Week

Good Questions About Pastor’s At Home
Facilitating Evangelism in the Church
Article: Calvin the Evangelist
New Books By Tripp and Welch
Audio: Life of Martin Luther (John Piper)
Reformation Day Synopsium
Evaluating Outlines
Worship and Idolatry
Open Air Preaching Doesn’t Work?
Audio: A Great Message for Pastors
Useful for Preachers – Argument Analysis
Gestation of the Biblical Text
Peter Grainger – Preaching Advice
Audio: How to Make the Most of Listening to Preaching (Piper)
Edward Lobb – Sharpening Up Your Preaching
Excellent Article: Fellowship Rediscovered
My Children: Blessings not Burdens!
Hanging out to the Glory of God
More than Preaching: A Vision for Shepherding God’s People