Archive for March, 2008


The Ascension!

March 31, 2008

Never heard a sermon on the ascension? I had the joy of preaching on Luke 24:50-53 last night, closing out the gospel on this glorious topic. My outline was:

1. Witness the ascending Jesus! (50-51)
* witness Jesus leading
* witness Jesus blessing
* witness Jesus rising

2. Worship the ascended Jesus! (52-53)
*the earthly location of their worship
*the expectant posture of their worship
*the exhuberant core of their worship

You can listen here.


Stott: What The Congregation Should Remember

March 28, 2008

“They [the congregation] will not remember the details. We should not expect them to do so. But they should remember the dominant thought, because all the sermon’s details have been marshalled to help them grasp its message and feel its power.” (John Stott)



Young Lloyd Jones’s Sermon Feedback

March 27, 2008

‘The great defect of that sermon this afternoon was this…that you were overtaxing your people, you were giving them too much…you are only stunning them and not helping them.’

(Comments from a mature Welsh preacher to the sixty years younger Lloyd Jones, upon hearing the Dr preach for the first time)



Why Sermons Are Like Telescopes

March 26, 2008

“I think that a sermon should have like a telescope but one object in the field.” (Charles Simeon)

(Photo by Brapke, Creative Commons License)


Dennis E Johnson on Training Young Preachers

March 25, 2008

What would be some of the basic areas you would cover in training lay preachers who have had no theological training whatsoever?

In training lay preachers I would focus on making sure they have a solid grounding in systematic theology that is based in Scripture and proven by the church over the centuries. This will help keep them on an even keel when winds of doctrine, promising “new” insights, blow across the church. Then I would focus on a basic hermeneutic or method of interpreting Scripture, in light of the way language works, and in light of the context of the Bible in the history of redemption. Finally, I would emphasize, for any and all leaders (whether those who can attend seminary or those who cannot), the importance of godly character as Paul places that “center stage” in his lists of qualifications of elders in 1 Tim 3 and Titus 1. These attributes of humility, holiness, integrity, etc., must be grounded in a firm grasp of the gospel of God’s grace, given in Christ and received by faith alone.

Find here the whole interview with Dennis E Johnson over at Expositionalistix. Personally, I would highly recommed Johnson’s book “Him We Proclaim” (reviewed here).


A Good Idea for Big Ideas

March 24, 2008

Brian Jones has written a really stimulating article on putting the big idea in a more application-focused form: Teaching Students The Applicational Power of the Big Idea.


The 3am Test

March 24, 2008


“If your spouse or roommate were to roll you out of bed at 3 A.M. and ask, “What is the sermon about this Sunday morning?” if you cannot answer in one crisp sentence, the sermon’s not ready to preach. You need an idea people can grasp. If the sermon’s idea is, “In the Babylonian incarceration of God’s people, they suffered for seventy years to determine what God’s plan was and never could determine it…” and you keep talking, that idea is not going to pass the 3 A.M. test. We need something like “God remains faithful to faithless people,” something that’s crisp.”

(Bryan Chapell, interviewed on


Risen – Just as He Said!

March 23, 2008

This morning’s sermon from Luke 24:1-12.

Also, a Tim Keller quote I shared from his helpful chapter on the resurrection in “The Reason for God.”

“Most people think that, when it comes to Jesus resurrection, the burden of proof is on believers to give evidence that it happened. That is not completely the case. The resurrection also puts the burden of proof on its unbelievers. It is not enough to simply believe Jesus did not rise from the dead. You must then come up with a historically feasible alternative explanation for the birth of the church…” (pg 202)

Happy Easter!!


What’s the Big Idea? – Audio

March 21, 2008

I spoke at The Preaching Course last Tuesday night. Unfortunately for my audience, I was still suffering from jet-lag. If you’re interested in the subject, however, you might still want to eavesdrop on my first talk: “what’s the big idea?” In this we considered two main questions. 1) Is there a need for a big idea? And 2) How might we go about defining it?

(Photo by ZakQ100, Creative Commons License)


Application Driven Sermons?

March 21, 2008

A good question by PJ Tibayan: What do you think about Bryan Chapell’s suggestion to label your main headings in the second person and use the imperative to make sure the application is being driven at as you prepare and deliver the sermon?

My brief response:

I think Chapell’s approach can be quite gripping to listen to – purely from a homiletical point of view. I sometimes use it myself if I feel its appropriate. Obviously, if the listener knows from the big idea itself how the truth will apply to them, they are bound to listen more intently.

That said, I think there can be a danger to follow this format rigidly. For one thing, I’m not always convinced there is something for us to *do* in response to every sermon.

We can run the risk of conveying the idea that responding to sermons involves merely the ticking-off an activities checklist (pray more; read the bible more; evangelise more). I’m not saying that’s what Chapell is proposing – after all, his whole thing is preaching redemptive sermons. I’m only suggesting that the approach itself, woodenly used, could lend to that kind of misuse.

The bible is fundamentally gospel. It tells us of God’s great ‘work’, and conversely our ‘failure to apply.’ Thus we must be sure that people approach God by grace not merit.


CHBC Weekender – 30 Things I Will Remember

March 20, 2008

1. The elders meeting.
2. Joining fifty Christian brothers in singing “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing” unaccompanied at the outset of the leader’s meeting.
3. The Capitol Hill elders praying by name through several pages of their membership directory.
4. Meeting times, Washington style (6pm – midnight).
5. The wonderful generosity of everyone at Capitol Hill, offering many books for free and allowing us to stay in their homes to cut costs.
6. The 150 page note book full of fascinating documents.
7. The great humility of Dever and the other staff shown in their willingness to receive critical feedback in terms of services and the Weekender itself.
8. How close the pastoral staff live to the church building and to each other.
9. The fact that the CHBC staff, with the senior pastor leading the charge, took time to learn all fifty names of those present.
10. Enjoying fellowship with men from all over the United States and from as far afield as India and Bolivia.

(Photo by StormCrypt; Creative Commons License)

11. The servant-spirit of the interns who willingly gave of themselves to the visitors in so many ways.
12. Dr Dever’s study. Can I get one of these?!
13. That Mark’s study is invariably filled with people reading books and asking questions – even during sermon prep!
14. Being told by several Weekenders that they spent late Saturday night in the pastor’s study as he read through his sermon and invited their feedback.
15. Sitting next to a church member in the morning service who said that he had never previously “been part of a church like this.” “The leaders”, he informed me, “really care for the congregation as individuals. We’re not just numbers on a roll.”
16. The Sunday morning service singing – especially when devoid of accompanyment.
17. That during morning and evening services, pastors from other local churches were specifically prayed for.
18. The fact that 2/3 of the evening service congregation stayed on for the bi-monthly members meeting. They all sat gladly for a further hour and a half.
19. Church discipline being discussed and executed in terms of protecting the honour of Christ’s name.
20. The senior pastor’s gripping sermon (all 1 hour 4 minutes of it) entitled: “He bore our sins in his body on the tree.”


21. Mark Dever’s comment on Saturday night that he deliberately ties himself to his manuscript when preaching in order to contain his gregarious personality. He wants the service to be about the person of the Lord Jesus, not Mark Dever’s personality.
22. That we started a services feedback session at 10pm on the Sunday night…
23. The complementary and God-glorifying gifts of Michael Lawrence, Deepak Reju, Matt Schmucker, Andy Johnson and Mike Gilbart-Smith.
24. The unrelenting commitment to hospitality among the CHBC leaders and the fact that this aspect of the elder’s role is taken so seriously.
25. The heartfelt, biblical and specific intercessory prayer of pastor Mark for his congregation.
26. Matt Schmucker’s passion for the local church and love for the small church pastor.
27. The focus on ecclesiology. Capitol Hill Baptist thinks much more in terms of “we” than “I”.
28. How thought-through everything was: from small groups to children’s ministry, from missions to money. I learned something helpful in practically every area of church life.
29. The gospel exulting OT reflection given by Scott Croft (elder) on Sunday evening.
30. The irony that the only Scottish attender to the weekend should live with the one member of staff who is English 🙂 Thank you Mike and Hannah.


Capitol Hill Snaps #3

March 19, 2008

(Ah yes, the badge…)

(A great venue)

(Weekender transport).

(The kind of serious conversation you can expect on a Weekender!)