Archive for May, 2010


The Pastor’s Fears

May 27, 2010

Several seminars for pastors are available at the T4G website. I especially enjoyed the talk on “The Minister’s Fears.” Frank, insightful, helpful.

  • Eric Bancroft: Convincing Christianity: The Implications of a Robust Gospel in Marriage  Download MP3
  • Tony Carter: Proclaiming the Comfort of the Gospel   Download MP3
  • Kevin DeYoung: ‘Tis Mystery All, The Immortal Dies: Why the Gospel of Christ’s Suffering Is More Glorious Because God Does Not Suffer  Download MP3
  • Greg Gilbert: What Is the Gospel?  Download MP3
  • Brian Habig: Fears of the Minister  Download MP3
  • Joshua Harris: Dug Down Deep: Helping Others Build Their Lives on Christ-Centered Doctrine Download MP3
  • Michael McKinley: Unity, not Uniformity: Diversity in the Body of Christ  Download MP3
  • David Platt: An Unadjusted Gospel in an Unreached World: Connecting Gospel Theology with Urgent Missiology  Download MP3

10 Questions For Expositors – Liam Garvie

May 24, 2010

God is raising up a growing band of young, faithful preachers in Scotland. One of them is Liam Garvie, pastor of St Andrew’s Baptist Church. I’ve often been edified by his sermons, and I appreciate his responses to our 10 Questions for Expositors.

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

Based on the understanding that the proclamation of the word of God is the ordained means by which God gathers his church and grants unbelievers life (Ezek 37; 1 Pet 1:23), and the means by which He grows his church and grants believers sanctification, I believe preaching, and expository preaching at that, should be considered by pastor and flock alike, absolutely central in the grand scheme of church life. God has spoken, and we should be a listening people.  What better way to exhort all to magnify Christ crucified and be conformed to his image and likeness than by preaching the Scriptures that testify about Him (Luke 24:27)? 

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

In short, through the affirmation of my local church in Dundee.  Not long after my conversion at the age of 19 I had a great appetite for God’s word and I became aware of a compelling desire to proclaim everything I was learning.  Having had opportunities to lead Bible studies for 18-25 year olds and given talks at our church youth group, I spoke to our senior pastor who explored my desire to preach, took me under his wing and gave me opportunities to preach in church.  Despite preaching some shockingly bad sermons, the church in Dundee were very gracious and encouraging and spurred me on towards full0time gospel ministry.  Ultimately the local church confirmed what i believed my compulsion to preach indicated… that I must preach.  It’s like what Spurgeon said in his autobiography, “A man who has really within him the inspiration of the Holy Ghost calling him to preach, cannot help it – he must preach. As fire within his bones, so will that influence be, until it blazes forth. Friends may check him, foes criticize him, despisers sneer at him, the man is indomitable; he must preach if he has the call of heaven.”

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

I usually give all of Thursday and Friday to sermon prep  – so on average about 16-20 hours per week.

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

I personally find it helpful in both sermon introduction and sermon conclusion to provide a clear one sentence statement summarising what the text is saying.  I would also add that I think it’s essential that each of the main points that make up the body of the sermon should a) be derived from the text with respect to the breakdown of whatever passage is being handled (not derived in order to fit a preferred outline), and b) serve to reinforce that clear statement that ‘bookends’ the sermon.  As for crystallising the key message of the text, I do that by reading, re-reading, and re-reading the text, taking notes, checking the context to see if there’s anything which negates any conclusions I come to.

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

Two things:  1) He must be himself – that goes without saying.  2) He must be passionate – A preacher who is noticeably impacted by the text he’s preaching from will be listened to.  Even is those hearing don’t necessarily believe everything he says, they will hear! 

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

For 4 years I have used a full manuscript but over the past year I have moved to using detailed notes/outline.  But I am considering reducing my notes further after preaching with a bare-bones outline recently – not by choice I might add (I copied over my morning sermon with my evening sermon and only realised that 20 minutes before leaving the house for church).  I might add, for me, preaching with full script or outline does not reduce the amount of time in careful excavation of a text and in careful consideration of application.  I know I would have been flailing a couple of weeks ago if it hadn’t been for three things, a) the grace of God, b) preaching expositionally through a book of the Bible (greatly increasing my ability to understand the text) and c) devoting myself to the rigorous wrestling of the text in the study. 

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

The big one for me is this: Failing to preach Christ from every text.  If Christ is not preached, the Gospel is not preached; and if the Gospel is not preached you not only miss the mark when you preach, you miss the target altogether!  “The Scriptures testify about me”, Jesus says (Luke 24:27), and our preaching must not only reveal that we have bore that in mind in our preparation, but that we have made it the central question that infiltrates and informs every thought and every word and every teaching. 

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

Admittedly, this is still something I’m working on, but by seeking to reserve Thursday and Friday for sermon prep, I try to fit meetings and pastoral appointments in to Tuesdays and Wednesdays).  I’m really keen to find ways of concentrating my time on discipling relationships and sharing life with the members of our local church.

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

Re: Exemplars of preaching that have influenced me?  Without a doubt, Mark Dever for his expository faithfulness.  I have learned so much from him and particularly from hearing him preach larger texts (covering chapters and even books).  John Piper, for his passion.  My old pastor Jim Clarke, for all the times when he would walk out from behind the pulpit and stand, as it were, face-to-face with his flock spurring them on to Christ.  And my best friend Charles Haddon Spurgeon whose sermons were so saturated with grace that I cannot read one without being freshly amazed.

Re: books on preaching that have influenced me?  Between Two Worlds by John Stott;  The Supremacy of Christ in Preaching by John Piper; Preaching with Passion by Alex Montoya, Preaching and Preachers by Martyn Lloyd-Joners; Heralds of God by James S. Stewart; Preaching that Changes Lives by Michael Fabarez, Feed My Sheep edited by Don Kistler; Christ-Centred Preaching by Bryan Chapell; Kindled Fire (methods of Spurgeon) by Zack Eswine.

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

Three things:  a) I set aside the evening service to make opportunities for discovering or developing preachers (as well as giving other gifted preachers in the church the opportunity to preach).  b) I invite those who are just starting out to lead every part of a service apart from the sermon just to give them the experience of putting a service together and standing up front.  c) This summer we’re giving a young guy the opportunity to work for us for 5-6 weeks, giving him the experience of preaching a 5-6 week series through a book of the Bible and he’ll be getting some feedback and encouragement from that.




May 21, 2010

I became a father for the fourth time yesterday. Beth Nicola Adams was born on Thursday the 20th of May, weighing in at a healthy 9 lbs 6 ounces. Thank you, Lord.

(Nicki and Beth)


10 Questions For Expositors – Melvin Tinker

May 19, 2010

Melvin Tinker has been the Vicar of St John’s Newland in Hull since 1994. Many will know of Melvin through his writing, but Melvin’s rigorous, insightful preaching has also blessed many of us in the U.K.  Here are Melvin’s answers to the 10 Questions.

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

2. How did you discover your gifts in preaching? As a young Christian at university I found myself being involved in giving evangelistic talks. This underscored both my desire to preach and God’s gifting in preaching.

3. How long (on average) does it take you to prepare a sermon? In some ways I am getting quicker- (pleased to say)- on average- around 9-12 hours.

4. Is it important to you that a sermon contain one major theme or idea? If so, how do you crystallise it? I don’t think so- one has to go with the text and this includes the genre. To speak of ideas or themes can be restrictive and impose on the text. Some texts will have a dominant theme, some won’t and have a variety of themes interacting. The key to me is not ‘what is the theme’ but what is God saying and doing through the text. ( See Tim Ward’s excellent book- Words of Life)

5. What is the most important aspect of a preacher’s style and what should he avoid? The preacher must be true to himself and not try to imitate other. I think it was Lloyd Jones who spoke about God speaking through personality. This is quite liberating. Although there are things we can learn from others – including matters of style – we have to make sure that the ‘jacket’ we wear fits us and we are comfortable in it. It is important to link passion with proclamation, heat and light, head and heart, so God uses the whole person to engage the whole person.

6. What notes, if any, do you use?  I use a full script.

7. What are the greatest perils that preacher must avoid?  To take himself too seriously as if all depends upon him. To be a crowd pleaser- not necessarily becoming liberal to be liked -but in some cases adopting a ‘sound’ theological position/ style  to be approved of by the evangelical guild. To preach to others and not to himself and so opening up a credibility gap between what he says and how he lives.

8. How do you fight to balance preparation for preaching with other important responsibilities (eg. pastoral care, leadership responsibilities).  We have to know ourselves and own situations well and work things out accordingly. I am more alert in the mornings and so those are secured for sermon preparation and guarded quite closely – but we still must be flexible and open to needs and trust God’s providence. Contact with people is crucial so we don’t become bookish and theoretical preachers- pastoral visiting does enrich preaching and earths it- as well as enriching the preacher/pastor. It shouldn’t be a matter of fighting for preparation, it should be a given priority and other things arranged accordingly. However, we must be avoid perfectionism as any sermon can be improved and if one is not careful you come to the point of diminishing returns when too much time is spent on a sermon. Allocate time, do it and leave it and so one can get on with other things.

9. What books on preaching, or exemplars of it, have you found most influential in your own preaching?  Books: Preaching and Preachers– Lloyd- Jones, I Believe In Preaching [Between Two Worlds]- Stott, The Supremacy of God in Preaching– Piper. They are all exemplars too.

10. What steps do you take to nurture or encourage developing or future preachers?  Give young men opportunities to preach, help with critical feedback and set a good example.

Melvin Tinker’s weekly sermons can be downloaded here.


Reclaiming Genesis

May 18, 2010

I’ll soon be rolling out another set of 10 Questions For Expositors interviews. Tomorrow we’ll be  putting the questions to Melvin Tinker, who is the vicar at St John’s, Newland in Hull.  Melvin Tinker has authored a number of books, including “Why do bad things happen to good people?” and “Wisdom to live by.”

Melvin also has a new book coming out, entitled “Reclaiming Genesis”. Those of us planning to preach on the first 12 chapters of Genesis should think about purchasing it.

Here’s the blurb:

Reclaiming Genesis – The Theatre of God’s Glory – Or a Scientific Story?
Melvin Tinker
Price £8.99
Due for release on 2010-08-15. Pre-order today.

Some argue for a literal treatment of the first 12 chapters of Genesis; others accept some form of deistic evolution. But what is its real message? Melvin Tinker argues that we should focus on the intended meaning of the text. Genesis challenges the nations surrounding Israel to a different view of the world. For example, God has no genealogy, unlike gods of surrounding nations. ‘The two great lights’ are so described because the words ‘sun’ and ‘moon’ referred to regional deities. When God rested on the seventh day, the day of contemplation of his good creation, this would have upset the Babylonians who considered seven an unlucky number. This is just the start. Genesis is pregnant with meaning and challenges to both the ancient world and the world today. Here are the foundational themes of the Christian faith: God’s mercy; human dignity and purpose; God’s mission to heal the nations.
Melvin Tinker is fully on wavelength in this lively and enlivening series of expositions. His book is wise, popular and powerful. I heartily commend it.
– From the Forward by J.I.Packer
This book is not only a useful commentary on the foundational chapters of God’s biblical revelation, but also an excellent model of serious reading, study and interpretation of the Bible text which also interacts with powerful contemporary issues in our society that confront us all the time in the media. Faithful exposition of Scripture can be insulated from the contemporary world, and interaction with the contemporary world can be insulated from Scripture. Melvin Tinker gives us a fine example and model of how to make those necessary connections, so essential for Christian living, for apologetics and for evangelism. He combines close attention to the text, the insights of Biblical theology, clarity of presentation, interaction with current ideas, and helpful insights from the past. I praise God for this book and its useful potential for ministry.

– Dr Peter Adam, Principal Ridley College Melbourne.
Avoiding much of the polemical heat without light that has surrounded the treatment of Genesis in the church over recent decades, Melvin Tinker has produced a winsome, warm, thoughtful, and pastoral treatment of the first twelve chapters of this critically important book, where all the major foundations of the human predicament and of salvation are laid down.  With the typical breadth of learning and clarity we have come to expect from this author, the book should be in the library of any preacher who wishes to make these passages come alive for his congregation.’

Dr Carl R Trueman
Academic Dean and Vice-President for Academic Affairs, Westminster Theological Seminary, Philadelphia.
While by no means lacking in appreciation for scientific accounts of the origin of our Universe, for Melvin Tinker Genesis does not compete with science. Here he tells us another story, offering an account of the theological significance of the sweep of early Genesis from Adam to Abraham that is fresh and illuminating. Melvin draws out principles about sin and grace, the plight of man and the power of God. He offers a theological commentary of the sort familiar to readers of early generations of Christian commentators such as Augustine and Calvin, written in a non-technical and easily accessible way for modern readers. Most welcome

Professor Paul Helm, Teaching Fellow, Regent College, Vancouver.
Attempts to tackle the early chapters of Genesis can easily yield polemical or eccentric results. I’m delighted to say that Reclaiming Genesis is at once a warm and sensible book. Melvin Tinker draws on the collected wisdom of the church from Augustine to Polkinghorne, but achieves a genuinely fresh and important perspective on the big ticket items of creation, being human and the fall.
This is all done with a wonderfully rich mix of quotations and illustrations from sources ancient and modern.
The value added of this book  is that it manages to combine a convincing apologetic- that engages with  current objections and obstacles to Genesis-with  a faithful and coherent Biblical theology. This is a refreshing and much needed book I commend it wholeheartedly.
Richard M Cunningham Director of UCCF
Too many interpretations of the early chapters of Genesis are not firmly based on the text of Scripture. It is good that Melvin Tinker brings us firmly back to the Bible and its implications for the 21st century. We are given rigorous exegesis, not polemic about evolution or sinning scientists. We have a marvellous Creator, who is a Cosmic Artist, not simply a clever craftsman. Thank God for people like Melvin Tinker who challenge us with scripture and eschew the contrived way in which some modern commentators treat the Creation narratives.’ Prof R.J.Berry, University College, London
“The author makes the early chapters of Genesis come wonderfully alive by first unfolding the texts within their contexts, and then demonstrating the lasting relevance and impact of their message for us in the 21st century in a way that gives full weight to current science. This accessible book is an essential guide for all those who wish to understand how Genesis speaks to us today”. Prof Denis Alexander, Director of the Faraday Institute Cambridge.
  ‘Genesis 1-12 is a foundational part of Scripture teaching foundational truths and Melvin Tinker leads us through them with clarity, care and insightful application. Whether wanting to understand these chapters for yourself or teach them to others there is much benefit here.’
 Graham Beynon
Melvin Tinker goes beyond the narrow debate about creation and evolution and applies his sharp mind to the text of Genesis 1-12.  The result is a theologically rich overview of foundational biblical truths about God, man, creation and Jesus.  If you want to see more of God’s glory, read this book.” Peter Comont- Oxford.
After a helpful and balanced introduction to the differing ways Christians have approached Genesis, Melvin Tinker lifts our sights and our vision to the meaning and purpose of these foundational chapters of the bible. He does so with a refreshing and masterful exposition.”
Dr Richard Turnbull, Wycliffe Hall, Oxford.

ISBN: 9781854249975
Published: 1st August 2010
Format: Paperback

Lion Hudson plc
Wilkinson House
Jordan Hill Road

Registered in England
and Wales 105118


PhD Pastors?

May 18, 2010

I’ve sometimes pondered doing a PhD.  My question has been: would my pastoral ministry be significantly enhanced if I endured the rigour of postgraduate study?  

On this very topic, John Piper has recently shared his views. Piper was asked: “Having been through PhD studies, would you recommend other pastors pursue this course of education?”  His answer: “If you’re already a pastor, I wouldn’t get a PhD! Its a lot of work and the pay-off is very small.”


Brilliant…But Not Recommended

May 14, 2010

Rather famously, Charles H. Spurgeon prepared his Sunday morning sermon on a Saturday evening. Spurgeon then readied his Sunday evening message on a Sunday afternoon. Thinking of trying it? Don’t. At least not until you’ve read the advice given over at

“This is not a recommended method of sermon preparation, unless you are a highly gifted preacher with a photographic memory, very sharp wits, a lifetime of in-depth reading, an encyclopedic knowledge of theology, a superb command of the English language, and a deep personal spiritual life.”


Cameron, Clegg, Coalitions, And God’s Good Pleasure

May 12, 2010

Why does God adopt children? Why does He forgive sins and redeem slaves? Why is God’s grand design to unite all things – in heaven and on earth – under the rule of His Son? (See Ephesians 1:3-14)

Paul’s answer is simple but profound. God devised His salvation plan “in accordance with His pleasure and will” (Eph 1:5).  God wills His gracious purposes. More than that, God takes pleasure in them.

Quite a contrast, wouldn’t you say, to recent political negotiations in the UK?  

God’s policies were not ratified by any man or woman. The Divine Sovereign heeded no focus group. He did not curry electorate votes on His ‘salvation proposals’ (for the constituents of His world did not exist). 

The Lord of heaven and earth did not need to cut a deal with any outside party. There was no need for God to ‘compromise’ with anyone.  Sovereignly, independently you might say, God the Holy Trinity determined the course of human history.

God decided that everything would be summed up in Christ. His was a coalition of One.


Putting to Memory: Ephesians 1:3-14

May 11, 2010

On Sunday evenings we have been studying Ephesians 1. What a joy it has been to savour Paul’s opening praise to God, in verses 3 to 14!

Paul’s words are so tremendous that Nicki and I have been trying to memorise them.  Week on week, verse by verse and little by little, we’ve been trying to learn Ephesians 1:3-14 ‘off by heart’. I thought I might encourage others to aim for the same goal. The passage is not that long, so it is entirely realistic.

So far, we have learned verses 3-8:

3Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. 4For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love 5he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— 6to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. 7In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace 8that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding.

Following that, we will gradually memorise the remainder:

9And he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, 10to be put into effect when the times will have reached their fulfillment—to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ. 11In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, 12in order that we, who were the first to hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory. 13And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, 14who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory.

Few passages could be more worthy of our memorisation.

Your brother in Christ,



Expository Excellence

May 4, 2010

John Brand has relaunched his blog on preaching: Encouraging Expository Excellence. John is the Principal of Faith Mission Bible College in Edinburgh, Scotland, and teaches there on preaching. His posts are well worth a read.



May 1, 2010

I was interviewed yesterday about being a pastor here. We discussed preaching, and what a pastor does with his week.