Archive for January, 2008

h1

The Dispensible Preacher

January 11, 2008

It is all to easy to slip into a false way of thinking that we preachers are indispensible people. No doubt we should be thought of as valuable and important – crucial even – in the life of our fellowship. Yet we are never ‘indispensible.’

I was reminded of this upon my return to work today. After addressing some men in our church on the subject of preaching, an older gentlemen humbled me with the following comment:

“In God’s providence, your missing last Sunday morning with illness was God’s appointment. Peter [who stood in] was outstanding and brought an evident challenge from God to the whole church. It was just as God intended that you were laid aside.”

Did I hear that?

It was God’s ‘intention’ that I be laid aside.
And God’s Word still went out powerfully.

May I continue to remember then that I am a dispensible preacher…

h1

Parrying Common Preaching Objections

January 8, 2008

Its so in vogue these days to take pot shots at preaching. Before the turn of the year, the Think Christian blog ‘highlighted’ an article which does just that .

pulpit-3.jpg
(Photo by Jordan, Creative Commons License)

Part of that article made the following statement: “Preaching as it is practised in modern churches is extra-biblical, a poor form of communication, and creates dependency.” Really? Here’s how I would respond – though you may have more to add:

First, preaching as is practiced in modern churches (if by that the author means a herald who proclaims and explains God’s Word) is not extra biblical. Such a suggestion is unfounded and easily refuted by just a cursory reading of Scripture. Moses restates, explains and applies God’s law in Deuteronomy. Ezra gives ‘the sense’ of God’s precepts when the temple is rebuilt. Jesus expounds God’s law and applies it more fully in the Sermon on the Mount. Paul’s life and teaching are replete with Old Testament exposition (even Acts 17 can be shown, in its ‘content’, to be founded on several key OT passages). Last but not least, the author of Hebrews performs detailed exposition from the Law, prophets and psalms. See some very basic support for all this here.

Second, even if preaching were a poor form of communication, this would be primarily a cultural, pragmatic and experiencial argument – not a biblical one. Having questioned the supposedly ‘monologue’ sermon myself in past years, looking back I can see that the underlying issue was that I didn’t want to sit ‘under’ God’s Word. Such would involve one’s mouth being shut, ears being open, and heart being ready to embrace whatever challenge or correction God would bring. Furthermore, I’m not sure that even the pragmatic argument works. On the one hand, I could point to secular audiences (congregations!) who listen to stand up comedians for an hour straight – and twenty somethings at the likes of Mars Hill, Seattle and Redeemer, New York who sit with rapt attention for long periods (at Mars hill, for an hour and a half). On the other hand, it can as easily be argued – ‘experiencially’ – that dialogue can be less than helpful. My common ‘experience’ of discussion without a firm lead has been pooled ignorance, not a growing understanding of God. That said, discussion and questions as a ‘response’ to God’s Word is imperative, not least if we are going to listen to the bible AND ‘do what it says.’

Third, preaching need not necessarily create dependence. Certainly it can do, especially if preacher’s only show the fruits of their study and never how they worked to get there. Also there is a kind of preacher who tries to assert that they have some special interpretive ability that no other in the congregation posesses. In such a situation congregants become like parrot’s: ‘pastor______ says…’ Nevertheless, in churches where clear exposition occurs, the opposite is often the case. Precisely BECAUSE good interpretation is modelled, church members become more able to handle the bible themselves. Almost without fail, Christians who transfer to our chrch from other good bible expositing churches are the most capable in handling their bibles.

h1

Work Break

January 7, 2008

Apologies for the lack of consistent posts since the New Year.

Mitigating circumstances have included the wonderful priviledge of taking my first wedding and the not so wonderful event of being struck down by a horrendous bout of flu. The bug has been so bad that yesterday, for the first and I hope last time, I was unable to preach when scheduled. Thankfully our lead pastor coped admirably with only a morning’s notice.

I’m liable to be laid up for a few more days yet but God willing I should get back to some kind of posting consistency toward the weekend. Until then, my prayers as you begin new year’s of ministry in your pastoral charges and new teaching series’ to boot.

h1

More Worthwhile Questions

January 3, 2008

Not specifically on the topic of preaching, Ryan Townsend points us to some more excellent questions to ask around this time of year. Here’s the jist of it:

The beginning of a new year is an ideal time to stop, look up, and get our bearings. To that end, here are some questions to ask prayerfully in the presence of God.

1. What’s one thing you could do this year to increase your enjoyment of God?
2. What’s the most humanly impossible thing you will ask God to do this year?
3. What’s the single most important thing you could do to improve the quality of your family life this year?
4. In which spiritual discipline do you most want to make progress this year, and what will you do about it?
5. What is the single biggest time-waster in your life, and what will you do about it this year?
6. What is the most helpful new way you could strengthen your church?
7. For whose salvation will you pray most fervently this year?
8. What’s the most important way you will, by God’s grace, try to make this year different from last year?
9. What one thing could you do to improve your prayer life this year?
10. What single thing that you plan to do this year will matter most in ten years? In eternity?

In addition to these ten questions, here are twenty-one more to help you “Consider your ways.” Think on the entire list at one sitting, or answer one question each day for a month.

1. What’s the most important decision you need to make this year?
2. What area of your life most needs simplifying, and what’s one way you could simplify in that area?
3. What’s the most important need you feel burdened to meet this year?
4. What habit would you most like to establish this year?
5. Who do you most want to encourage this year?
6. What is your most important financial goal this year, and what is the most important step you can take toward achieving it?
7. What’s the single most important thing you could do to improve the quality of your work life this year?
8. What’s one new way you could be a blessing to your pastor (or to another who ministers to you) this year?
9. What’s one thing you could do this year to enrich the spiritual legacy you will leave to your children and grandchildren?
10. What book, in addition to the Bible, do you most want to read this year?
11. What one thing do you most regret about last year, and what will you do about it this year?
12. What single blessing from God do you want to seek most earnestly this year?
13. In what area of your life do you most need growth, and what will you do about it this year?
14. What’s the most important trip you want to take this year?
15. What skill do you most want to learn or improve this year?
16. To what need or ministry will you try to give an unprecedented amount this year?
17. What’s the single most important thing you could do to improve the quality of your commute this year?
18. What one biblical doctrine do you most want to understand better this year, and what will you do about it?
19. If those who know you best gave you one piece of advice, what would they say? Would they be right? What will you do about it?
20. What’s the most important new item you want to buy this year?
21. In what area of your life do you most need change, and what will you do about it this year?

h1

7 Questions For Preachers At the Crossroads

January 1, 2008

Preachers standing at the calender-crossroads should ask such questions as the following:

calender.jpg
(Photo by Mrs Magic, Creative Commons License)

Looking back over 2007…

1) Did I grow in my own walk with God through my preaching and preparation? Was I personally impacted by what I preached? Am I therefore a more godly man entering 2008 than 2007 because of the texts I exposited? In what specific ways? If I have not grown: what sins have hindered my progress and require confession?

2) Did I provide my congregation with a balanced diet and at least some measure of ‘the whole counsel of God?’ Did I cover something from both Testaments? Were believers comforted and unbelievers challenged? Were the weak and strong, the immature and mature, given their share of milk and solid food? Was justification taught and sanctification?

3) Did I take the glory or give God the glory? Did I seek the limelight in any way this year? If so, in what specific ways did a desire to glorify ‘Self’ rear its ugly head during this year’s sermons? How can I best repent of this?

4) Did I preach the text, only the text, and nothing but the text? How often did I preach only in Scriptural terms and not in terms of the Scripture I was preaching? Even if I preached numerous topical sermons, were these exposing the meanings of texts, or imposing my agenda onto them?

5) Did I constantly preach Christ and him crucified? In other words, did I persistently preach the gospel, or lapse into talking in terms of religous self-effort and moralism? No matter what my passage, did I highlight its redemptive components? Even if the passage was wholly negative, did I trace the redemption of its sin and the bearing of its judgement to the Redeemer and Propitiator, Jesus Christ?

6) Humanly speaking, what one aspect of my sermons in general was the weakest component? Are my introductions invariably weak, my applications typically fuzzy or my conclusions often an anticlimax? How will I work on improving this area in 2008 for the glory of God and the good of His people?

7) Did I pray enough and depend on God for the results?

Looking forward to 2008…

Will I grow in my own walk with God through my preaching?
Will I provide my congregation with a balanced diet?’
Will I take the glory or give God the glory?
Will I preach the text, only the text, and nothing but the text?
Will I constantly preach Christ and him crucified?
Will I prayerfully depend on God during every stage of my preaching?