Archive for October, 2008


Suprising Spurgeon # 4 – The Spirit

October 18, 2008

I’m continuing to read Zack Eswine’s excellent book about Charles Spurgeon, Kindled Fire,  and continue to find surprises. The latest concerns both the quantity and force of many of Spurgeon’s statements about the person of the Holy Spirit.

“Spurgeon’s explicit references to the Spirit in preaching seem often and notably absent among his reformed and evangelical grandchildren. For example, it is difficult to imagine such successors crying out from our pulpits today: ‘May the Lord answer us by fire, and may that fire fall on ministers and then upon the people! We ask for the true Pentecostal flame…this we must have, or our ministry will be in vain.” (Eswine, p 15)


The Preaching Course By Numbers

October 17, 2008

Last night we hosted at our house the last session of The Preaching Course. This course involved:

  • 16 hours of lectures & discussion: moving from basic hermeneutics to practical homiletics
  • 10 novice or non-preachers
  • 7 people going with preachers to churches giving feedback
  • 6 lecturers (including two senior pastors, a bible college VP and a former speech therapist)
  • 6 churches welcoming the preachers
  • 4 passages being preached from 4 different genres
  • 2 stages of feedback (the 1st on the manuscript before the preach; the 2nd on the preach itself)
  • 2 course leaders (thanks Tim: couldn’t have done it without you!)
  • 1 passion: to see God raise up more men for this glorious calling of preaching.

Surprising Spurgeon # 3

October 16, 2008

Narrative preaching. Story telling over and against propositionally-driven preaching. What a late 20th and early 21st century phenomenon, right!?

Wrong! During Charles Spurgeon’s lifetime, for example, Tait’s Edinburgh Magazine begged the following of preachers:

“Will not the great men – eloquent orators – remember sometimes that they were little children and had little thoughts and loved little things and were easily impressed with any pleasing incident? A tale of tenderness tenderly told occupying four or five minutes in the telling, would have kept them up then, through a quarter of an hour’s ‘dry as dust logic.'” (Eswine, 13)

Mind you, Spurgeon wasn’t shy of telling a story or two.


Sinners, We have a Friend

October 16, 2008

OK pastors, pull your heads out of the commentaries for five minutes and refresh your soul by listening to this. Remember that you were a sinner before you were a preacher. Remember that even today Jesus deeply loves you; not because of your graft but because of his grace.

Jesus, friend of sinners
Loved me ’ere I knew Him
Drew me with His cords of love
Tightly bound me to Him
’Round my heart still closely twined
The ties that none can sever
For I am His and He is mine
Forever and forever

Jesus, friend of sinners
A crown of thorns You wore for me
Bruised for my transgressions
Pierced for my iniquities
The wrath of God that I deserved
Was poured out on the Innocent
He took my place, my soul to save
Now I am His forever

Jesus, friend of sinners
I love to tell the story
Redeeming love has been my theme
And will be when in glory
Not death nor life nor anything
Can ever separate me
O love that will not let me go
Yes, I am His forever


Surprising Spurgeon #2 – Duration

October 15, 2008

Did you know that Charles Spurgeon faced the same cauldron of pressures we do in terms of congregations demanding shorter and shorter sermons? This was my second surprise in reading about Charles Spurgeon’s preaching context.

One contemporary complained:

“[If the] sermon cannot be altogether got rid of it can of course be shortened…the standard length being reduced from half an hour to a quarter.” (Eswine, p12)

Many others applauded the fact that 19th century sermons were largely being cut down from the traditional hour to such a brevity, some arguing that…

“an average person can only handle fifteen minutes of bare argument.” (Eswine, p 13)

And all this in the pre-television age!


Surprising Spurgeon # 1 – Relevance

October 14, 2008

Supposing a time machine could enable you to revisit the yesteryears of Christian history. What one preacher would you return to hear preach? Excepting the biblical period (Moses, Jeremiah, Paul!, Jesus!) I would probably have an almighty case of choice-paralysis. Trying to pick between the likes of Calvin, Whitefield, Edwards and Spurgeon?!

Thankfully I don’t have a time machine – only biographies – so I don’t need to choose! And having considered Edwards, Calvin and Whitefield in the last two years, with the help of Zack Eswine (in his book “Kindled Fire”) I’ve been returning to Charles Spurgeon.

Although I’ve probably read three or four biographies about the great man previously, some striking details about Spurgeon’s life and preaching have evidently evaded me. Several of the initial surprises revolve around the similarities between Spurgeon’s day and ours. In the first place, I’ve been somewhat surprised that ‘The Prince of Preachers’ had to contend with the cult of relevance. Even in Spurgeon’s time, someone bemoaned:

“I want something for today – for over burdened men and women in this year of our Lord 1869″ (Eswine, 13).

Another source demanded:

“…something live and something that has bearing on our daily work, something that recognizes the seething elements about us and their bearing on the questions of conscience and duty we are hourly called on to settle. Oh, if the clergymen would only study their fellow men more.” (Ibid)

Apparently, the quest for something new is nothing new. Similarly, the rallying cry for relevance is hardly the rarified call to the 21st century preacher we often think it to be.


Paul, The Faithful Preacher

October 14, 2008

I’ve been blessed this lunchtime to listen to a sermon about Paul’s example as a faithful teacher (an exposition of Acts 20:13-48).

Some marks of Paul’s faithful teaching?

• he was humble and passionate
• he was courageous and selfless
• his proclamation was both public and personal
• his proclamation was both gospel-centred and comprehensive

Listen to the whole of James Anderson’s sermon here.


Northern Ireland

October 10, 2008

Blogging silence for a while. We head to Northern Ireland this weekend. I’m really looking forward to speaking at a friend’s wedding on Saturday, and then preaching at Ballymoney Baptist Church on Sunday.


The Trot, The Canter & The Preaching Gallop

October 9, 2008

In some respects, preaching is like horseriding…

  • Some preachers deliver their sermons at a trotting pace. Slower, more deliberate, sometimes more intense (for the best of trot: think John Piper)
  • Other preachers deliver their sermons at a canter pace. Neither lightning fast or snail-like slow (for the best of canter: think John MacArthur)
  • Other preachers still, deliver their sermons at a gallop pace. Lines come thick and fast, cross-references fly in left and right, application is more quick and deadly than a rapier (for the best of gallop: think Mark Driscoll)

Suggestion 1: for best results mix trot, canter and gallop.

Suggestion 2: don’t push this analogy too far!


The Art of Manipulation?

October 8, 2008

Following on from John Piper’s excellent talk “Is there Christian Eloquence?” I’ve been pondering what is and is not acceptable in terms of Christian eloquence. To be honest, I sometimes find the lines a little blurry.

The above clip from TD Jakes is at one at level an example of powerful eloquence. Much of it, however, leaves me smiling at the irony that the clip should be entitled “The art of manipulation?” From a rhetorical point of view – not least during the last 60 seconds -Jakes is certainly ‘working the crowd.’

I’d be interested to hear what everyone thinks.

ps. I hasten to add, that I have significant problems with much of Jakes’ theology. At this point, I am only referencing his style.


Two New Blogs on the Block

October 7, 2008

One to add to your blog reader. My friend (and former Conventicle blogger) Chris Ross has started up a new website called “The Daily Scroll.” It looks like a Justin Taylor type blog, with lots of quality links relating to faith, culture, politics etc.

Another new blog which promises to be of a high quality is that of Dr James Anderson. Despite the fact that he is something of a Van Til expert and is preparing to take up a post in apologetics at RTS in Charlotte, James also happens to be a friend of mine (usually my friends aren’t that intelligent! – I couldn’t keep up). Hopefully he will manage to scratch out the spare time needed to blog his crisp ideas at Analogous Thoughts.


‘Preaching’ According to Ligon Duncan

October 6, 2008

Taken from Ligon Duncan’s EY Mullins Lecture “Principles of Preparation and Normal Practices for Preaching at First Presbyterian Church.” (Sep 29th, 2004):

“As far as I am concerned, preaching is fundamentally three things: it is the explanation, the application and the exhortation of the people of God with the Word of God. And so it involves helping the people to understand what God’s Word means, to apply that Word to them…and then to exhort them in accordance with God’s Word.”