Archive for January, 2009


10 Questions For Expositors – Ray Orlund Jr

January 28, 2009

This is a real treat today. Ray Ortlund Jr kindly answers a series of questions about his preaching!


By way of introducing Ray Ortlund Jr, much could be said:

Today, Ray responds to our Ten Questions for Expositors:

1. Where do you place the importance of preaching in the grand scheme of church life?

Preaching is central in the life of a church, because Jesus himself speaks savingly through the preached Word. The Second Helvetic Confession of 1566 was bold enough to say, “When this Word of God is now preached in the church by preachers lawfully called, we believe that the very Word of God is preached and received by the faithful.” Romans 10:14 (ESV margin: “. . . believe him whom they have never heard”) validates that conviction.

Another verse that means a lot to me is 1 Corinthians 14:8, “If the bugle gives an indistinct sound, who will get ready for battle?” I have never seen a church rise in spiritual power where the preaching was unclear, indistinct, overly cautious, timid. Every church I know of that is making a gospel impact has an unmistakably clear and winsomely courageous preaching ministry.

2. In a paragraph, how did you discover your gifts in preaching?

How does one discover gifts in any area? It just appears, as experience allows and in the fullness of God’s time. My own preaching started with complete ineptitude, graduated over time to struggle, and by now has advanced to varying degrees of effectiveness and ineffectiveness. My progress seems directly related to growing theological discovery of God’s glory in the gospel, through dissatisfaction with myself as a preacher, through the joy of seeing God use me, and through the assurance that at any time God can rend the heavens and come down in revival power.

3. How long (on average) does it take you to prepare a sermon?

Early in my ministry, I needed twenty-plus hours to prepare. By now, the disciplines are more streamlined. I average perhaps ten hours or so.

4. Is it important to you that a sermon contain one major theme or idea? If so, how do you crystallize it?

I often fall in love with every detail in my text, so that I tend toward excess at that level in my preaching. But I try to ask, “What is the precise pastoral burden of this unique passage?” Every detail, however fascinating, is there in the text to help construct that one overall message. So, after I have written my sermon draft, I go back and interrogate every sentence, “Do you really need to be here?” If not, it disappears.

5. What is the most important aspect of a preacher’s style and what should he avoid?

The most important aspect, in my view, is believability — the believability of the message and of the preacher himself. The first is a matter of clarity (exposition), defense (apologetics) and force (power in application). I want so to persuade the people that they are left thinking, “Well, of course. How could it be otherwise? I receive this as truth, I love this as beauty, I want this to change me.” I try to avoid everything about myself that may distract from that outcome.

6. What notes, if any, do you use?

I use a full manuscript. But I try to be in sufficient control of the flow of thought and certain key phrases that it doesn’t get in my way. I want to enjoy the sermon and the people in the moment.

7. What are the greatest perils that preacher must avoid?

The greatest peril is forgetting what preaching is there for in the first place. It is not there as a platform for pet theories, inner-church politics, the culture wars, developing a personal following for myself or for proving how cool I can be. The preaching ministry is there for the display of Jesus Christ, according to the gospel. It is for him alone, as he wants to speak to the people, love them, help them, save them. Preaching is a sacred experience and must not be profaned by misplaced enthusiasms.

8. How do you fight to balance preparation for preaching with other important responsibilities (eg. pastoral care, leadership responsibilities)

I wish I had a good answer here. It is a constant struggle. The only chance I have for success is setting aside protected blocks of time when I am quiet and alone with God and my books. That usually means I get away from my office. There is a difference between an office and a study. Right now all I have is an office. So I have to get out of here to do serious study.

9. What books on preaching, or exemplars of it, have you found most influential in your own preaching?

My favorite is Lloyd-Jones’ Preaching and Preachers, especially the final chapter, “Demonstration of the Spirit and of the Power.” I am stirred even now just to think about it. Oh, that I might preach just one apostolic, anointed sermon before I die!

10. What steps do you take to nurture or encourage developing or future preachers?

I want to do more in this way. I did teach at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School for nine years. And now, indirectly, my participation in The Gospel Coalition serves to lift up the next generation of preachers. I also desire to be encouraging to other preachers in the Acts 29 Network. And I hope that in five or six years my successor at Immanuel Church will be here, established in ministry, so that he can grow in authority as I fade away.

Previously on 10 Questions


Clowney Quotes

January 28, 2009

As promised, a few more Ed Clowney quotes from “Called to the Ministry.” Some of them are worth the price of the book.

“We are not called to build the kingdom of glory, but to carry a cross in the kingdom of grace. To forget the cause of missions is to forget the purpose of Christ in a world still spared from destruction. The purpose of your life must be the purpose of Christ’s death.” (25)

“Every gift you have received, then, is a calling of the Spirit.” (30)

“It is quite possible to overestimate the gifts you have; it is quite impossible to over-supplicate the gifts you need.” (30)

“What opportunities do you perceive? The first doors are in the room where you are.” (37)

“Both the heart of mercy and the hand of help must characterize the man who holds forth the Word of life.” (56)

“Worship is always an echo, reflecting the word of grace with the cry of praise.” (58 )

“The pulpit is not a psychiartrist’s couch or a seminar room. The preacher is a herald, an announcer, not a pollster.” (59)

“Wisdom is knowledge with the knower left in; or better, it is knowledge with God left in. True knowledge begins and ends with God.”(72)

“To learn how you may serve Christ tomorrow, you must serve him today. Stir up your gifts and Christ’s call will be made clear.” (82)


Good Book Company – Launches in US

January 27, 2009

Press release: We are pleased to announce the launch of a new, Bible-centered, Christian resource provider in North America. From the 2nd February 2009, The Good Book Company will make available its full range of resources to churches and individuals in North America from its new US-based website.

The Good Book Company is a Christian resourcing agency that began in the UK and grew out of the need for attractive, quality, practical materials for gospel work, which don’t compromise on the essentials of the Christian faith. It has a particular focus on daily devotional reading, small group Bible study, outreach, discipleship and resources for youth and children.

A number of The Good Book Company’s resources already have a strong following in the US and Canada, including Christianity Explored, The Gospel Centered Church, Christianity Explained and If you could ask God one Question. Now they are cheaper and easier to get hold of than ever before.

Editorial Director Tim Thornborough said, ‘When we exhibited at Together for the Gospel last year, we saw a real hunger for sound gospel resources which are faithful to the Bible but which also engage with an increasingly post-Christian culture. That’s what we specialize in and our prayer is that the range of resources we’ve developed over the past two decades will serve to equip local churches in discipleship and reaching out with the gospel.”

US Ministry Director Brad Byrd said ‘February 2nd may be Groundhog Day on the calendar but, no matter what our furry friend may predict, spring has come early with the launch of The Good Book Company in the USA. A wave of fresh ideas, new perspectives and tried and true Biblical insights are available for the first time in North America.’

The launch has been timed to coincide with the Desiring God Pastor’s Conference in Minneapolis where two of The Good Book Company’s key resources – Christianity Explored and Christianity Explained – are being commended to delegates.

To celebrate the launch, visitors to will receive 10% off all purchases until the end of February.

For more details of the Good Book Company range, contact US Ministry Director, Brad Byrd at or on 866 244 2165 (toll free). To browse the site, please visit


Spurgeon’s One-Page Sermon Note

January 26, 2009

Would you like to see Charles H. Spurgeon’s handwritten sermon notes? Check out this sample. Incidentally, its only one page long!



Don’t Minister To Save Your Soul

January 26, 2009

You’re probably going to get a few Ed Clowney quotes over the next few days. This one pierced my heart today:

“There is no call  to the ministry that is not first a call to Christ. You dare not lift your hands to place God’s name in blessing on people until you have first clasped them in penitent petition for his saving grace. Until you have done that the issue you face is not really your call to the ministry. It is your call to Christ… Don’t seek the ministry to save your soul…A man cannot earn his salvation by preaching that salvation cannot be earned.” (Edmund Clowney, Called to the Ministry, p 5)



January 25, 2009

Sunday morning’s Nehemiah 2 sermon (‘Planning Permission’) dealt with the challenge what to do when ‘waiting on God.’ One line was: “We need to take stock of the fact that while we live in an ‘instant’ world, our God does not always work in an instant.” Maybe of help to someone?


(The photo credit: my daughter looking rather bored, waiting in an airport!)


Historical Character Studies

January 23, 2009

Every thoughtful Christian should regularly draw water from the well of church history. A most accessible well to draw from is Dr Nick Needham’s historical lectures, on the lives of the likes of Chrysostom, Athanasisus, Knox, Wycliffe and Huss.  Dr Needham is pastor of the Reformed Baptist Church, Inverness, Scotland and Lecturer in Church History at the Highland Theological College, Dingwall.

Roman Catholicism Today
Has Roman Catholicism Changed?
Handout given out at the lecture (PDF Format)
Session 1 Lecture given in
One Session Only
Bernard of Clairvaux
A Medieval Monk and a Protestant Hero.
Session 1 Lecture given in
One Session Only
Life and Times of John Chrysostom
Session 1
Size 6.4mb
Session 2
Size 4.94mb
And the Deity of Christ
Session 1
Size 5.5mb
Session 2
Size 4.09mb
Session 1— The Value of Church History
Session 2 — Charles Finney and his Legacy
Session 1
Size 5.9mb
Length 50 Minutes
Session 2
Size 5.9mb
Length 49 minutes
Isaac Watts
His Life and Works
Session 1
Size 5.8mb
Length 47 Minutes
Session 2
Size 4.4mb
Length 34 minutes
John Knox
and the Scottish Reformation
Session 1
Session 2
Wyclif & Huss
Morning Stars of the Reformation
Session 1
Session 2

Ray Stedman on Preparation

January 22, 2009

Ray Stedman was well-known for his thoroughgoing expository preaching. This short article, “On Expository Preaching”, gives us some insight into how he prepared sermons. I was most gripped by the article’s conclusion, where Ray speaks from the heart about his feelings for preaching:

Following this approach, through the years I have gained a growing sense of the grandeur of preaching. I have seen many examples of its power to transform both individual lives and whole communities. I have increasingly felt a divine compulsion to preach, so that I know something of Paul’s words, “Woe is me if I preach not the gospel!” But even more—I feel a deeply humbling conviction that I could never be given a greater honor than the privilege of declaring “the unsearchable riches of Christ.” I often hear in my inner ear the words of the great apostle: “This is how one should regard us; as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God!” A servant of Christ! A steward of the mysteries! I can think of no greater work than that.

The whole thing here.


Your God Reigns!

January 21, 2009

On a week when political royalty has been crowned (for whom we should pray), let us nonetheless remember that our preaching-task is to joyfully proclaim that “Our God reigns!” Think of it: Sunday by Sunday we are honoured to exalt the King of King’s!

“The great design and intention of the office of a Christian preacher are to restore the throne of God and dominion of God in the souls of men; to display in the most lively colours, and proclaim in the clearest language, the wonderful perfections, offices and grace of the Son of God; and to attract the souls of men into an estate of everlasting friendship with him.” (Cotton Mather, quoted in Stott, Between Two Worlds, p 31)

“The keynote in the mouth of every prophet-preacher, whether in Isaiah’s day or Jesus’ day or our day, is ‘Your God Reigns!’ God is the King of the universe; he has absolute creator rights over this world and everyone in it. Rebellion and mutiny are on all sides, however, and his authority is scorned by millions. So the Lord sends preachers into the world to cry out that God reigns, that he will not suffer his glory to be scorned indefinitely, that he will vindicate his name in great and terrible wrath. But they are also sent to cry that for now a full and free amnesty is offered on all the rebel subjects who will turn from their rebellion, call on him for mercy, bow before his throne, and swear allegiance and fealty to him forever. The amnesty is signed in the blood of His Son.” (John Piper, the Supremacy of God in Preaching, p 23)


Highly Recommended

January 20, 2009



1 Timothy Audio

January 19, 2009

So here was my 1 Timothy intro.


In it, we

1. Meet the author

2. Recognise the recipient

3. Know the purpose


Opening 1 Timothy

January 17, 2009

Tomorrow we begin a new sermon series on 1 Timothy. I’m looking forward to opening up the letter, and the series, with an exposition on 1 Timothy 1:1-2.


Some of the resources that have helped me on the way are as follows:


Sermon Manuscripts

I’ll let you know how I get on.