Archive for the ‘Workman Watch’ Category

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Puritans on Preaching – Don Kistler Lecture

December 7, 2007

Thoroughly enjoyed listening to Don Kistler this week on his favourite subject: the Puritans and preaching. Lots of insightful points, not least on the whole issue of balancing exposition and application.

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Other Toolbox This Week

Willimon on Preaching
A Young Preacher’s Thoughts On Preaching – Practice Makes Better
Carson audio lectures – Missions and the Triumph of the Lamb
Lloyd Jones – Get to Know Yourself
The Five Points of Criticism
Mohler on the Golden Compass
Listen Up!
8 Ways To Get More Out Your Bible
Expositors Summer School – Edinburgh
Lloyd Jones on Emotion and Preaching
TF Torrance Dies (1913-2007)
How Does Your Day Start? Joy in the Morning?

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Bullmore – “Giving Ourselves to God’s Work

September 21, 2007

Mike Bullmore is the preaching-pastor of Crossway Community Church. This week I listened to his sermon, “Giving ourselves to God’s Work.” Here is a brief review of the sermon and things I learned from it. By the way, you can listen to Mike on a weekly basis here.

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What was the opening sentence?
‘Well this morning I’d like to ask you to take your bible and turn to two places with me.’

What was the introduction about?
Explaining the context of Haggai by walking through the first few chapters of Ezra, focusing on the rebuilding of the temples over a period of 16 years. He also highlighted the main players in these early chapters: Zerubbabel, Joshua the high priest, the people, and the prophet Haggai.

Roughly, what was the sermon outline?

a) Context of Haggai: Ezra and the rebuilding of the temple.
b) Key Theme: God’s people should give themselves first and fully to God’s Work.
c) Key Question: In what is your energy and your time and your resources invested?
d) Reasons why we should give ourselves to God’s work:

1. Because when we do, God is made much of (Haggai 1)
2. Because when we do, God is present and at work (Haggai 2)

What aspects of Bullmore’s style did you appreciate?

a) Accesibility. Bullmore really made his sermon accessible to people who had little biblical knowledge. He took time out to explain the structure of the Old Testament as a whole (and gave a memory device to aid in this) before taking time to unpack the immediate context of Haggai.

b) Good Application Questions. For example, “If an objective observers looked at the last three months of your ‘spending’ [in the currency of your life], what conclusion would they come to? What about your time commitments? What about your level of comfort? Ask yourself this question: is there something that is keeping me from giving myself first and fully to the work of God…And if there is something, ask yourself: what is it, and why?”

c) Prominence of Scripture. I found it interesting that Bullmore deliberately neglected to mention his points before first reading the Scripture. He would say, “let’s learn the second reason. Haggai chapter 2 says….” Following this, he would then state his second point. By doing this, a certain prominence was given to God’s Word by showing that he was clearly getting his thought from the text.

d) Restatement. Like many preacher’s who are strong on clarity, Bullmore has a great knack of rephrasing both his points of explanation, and especially his application. On some ocassions, Bullmore is virtually asking the same question four or five times, but it has powerful effect because he ‘clothes’ it differently each time.

What will you remember in a week’s time?
Actually, the sermon title. “Giving ourselves to God’s Work” is the single theme that dominates the whole sermon, and Bullmore preaches it in such a way that it will be hard to forget it!

What one aspect of Bullmore’s preaching will you seek to adopt into your own?
Perhaps Bullmore reminds me most of the need for clarity in delivery and unity in sermon purpose.

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Questions, Questions, Questions

September 7, 2007

My fellow Scottish pastor Scott Hamilton is “grilling me” over at Resolved today! His questions include:

* Describe the ministry context you find yourself in?
* What are your great passions in ministry?
* What are the greatest needs of the local church?
* What areas do you see most often neglected in the church today?
* Why does doctrine matter?
* As a young pastor what are your ambitions for the church in Scotland?

Find the whole interview here.

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10 Questions – Grainger

August 15, 2007

I truly count it an honour to work with a man who has exposited the bible for over forty years. That man is Peter Grainger, the senior pastor of Charlotte Baptist Chapel in Edinburgh. Prior to his fifteen years and counting (!) at the Chapel, he and his wife Nita worked with Wycliffe Bible Translators, with stints in India, Pakistan and Nigeria. Further to this, Peter pastored a church in Swindon. Today, Peter very kindly joins the ranks of respondees to our “Ten Questions for Expositors.”

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1. Where do you place the importance of preaching in the grand scheme of church life?
The preaching of God’s Word is at the heart of all that we do for through it, however imperfectly, we hear God speak and (at the risk of over-simplification) all that we do in the life of a church is a response to this

2. In a paragraph, how did you discover your gifts in preaching?
My father, grandfather, and great grandfather were all Methodist local preachers. As a teenager, I accompanied my father to the churches where he spoke and began by reading the Scriptures for him, singing (!), then leading and finally attempting to preach (around the age of 16).

3. How long (on average) does it take you to prepare a sermon?
Depending on the difficulty of the passage and my familiarity with it, between 15-25 hours.

4. Is it important to you that a sermon contain one major theme or idea? If so, how do you crystallise it?
I would usually look for a major theme and crystallize it with the title and the opening illustration which introduces that theme. I often try to conclude by returning to the illustration and theme to conclude the point.

5. What is the most important aspect of a preacher’s style and what should he avoid?
Be yourself – don’t try to imitate others.

6. What notes, if any, do you use?
I write full notes and thoroughly familiarise myself with them. When preaching I refer to them and follow the planned structure but don’t read from them.

7. What are the greatest perils that preacher must avoid?
The lure of popularity (being too worried what people might think) and complacency (not recognising that only the Spirit can bring about any lasting change).

8. How do you fight to balance preparation for preaching with other important responsibilities (eg. pastoral care, leadership responsibilities)
With great difficulty! Delegating to other members/staff non-preaching activities but at the same time earthing preaching in regular pastoral care with real people and their situations.

9. What books on preaching, or exemplars of it, have you found most influential in your own preaching?
I have read many of the usual books on preaching. I have benefited from listening to good preachers over the years (I try not to be away preaching elsewhere whenever someone else in the pulpit) and the Proclamation Trust and Evangelical Ministry Assembly has been a source of inspiration/reassurance since I attended it from its inception.

10. What steps do you take to nurture or encourage developing or future preachers?
Not enough! Training and encouraging younger preachers is one of the things I want to do but gets regularly squeezed out by other demands. I have been encouraged by seeing younger colleagues grow and develop in their preaching gifts and go on to serve in other places. One of the problems in a church like ours is that it is a daunting experience to put a potential preacher in front of a “critical” congregation of 800 people. There are not so many of the smaller fellowships in which a young preacher could cut his teeth around today.

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Steve Lawson Interviewed

July 26, 2007

Continuing on the interview theme, one of today’s outstanding preachers has been interviewed over at Monergism. J.W.Hendryx puts the following questions to Steven J. Lawson:

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1. Who are those that have had a profound influence on you and your ministry (both living and deceased)? and why?

God has been pleased to bring select men into my life, individuals who have played a strategic role in shaping me into what God desires me to become. Proverbs 27:17 says, “Iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.” This says, certain men have a stimulating and sharpening effect upon us. This has been true with me.

Undoubtedly, the most powerful influence has been John MacArthur, pastor/teacher of Grace Community Church in Los Angeles , CA . What I have learned from Dr. MacArthur is an unwavering commitment to biblical exposition with theological precision. This faithful shepherd is the embodiment of one whose preaching flows directly from the depths of a passage of Scripture. I have literally cut my teeth on his preaching and carry his influence upon my ministry. I have also learned from him the value of preaching verse by verse through entire books in the Bible over an extended period of time. Only in this fashion is the full counsel of God ensured to be brought to bear upon the life of a congregation. Dr. MacArthur has been very gracious to afford to me much of his time, a relationship which has greatly encouraged me in the things of the Lord. I have learned from this devoted servant what a gracious and humble spirit looks like in the life of a man of God.

In addition, R. C. Sproul, who is a former professor of mine, has had an extraordinary impact upon my life and thinking. His theological insights into Reformed theology, especially as it relates to the bondage of the will and monergistic regeneration, have been very helpful to me. I would also have to site his endearing spirit and winsome character as a strong influence upon me. Dr. Sproul has helped polish some of my rough edges by investing his life into mine.

In my earlier years, S. Lewis Johnson, teacher at Believers’ Chapel in Texas , was very influential in my life in bringing me to the understanding and acceptance of the doctrines of grace. No one was more Arminian than I was, yet the Word under his preaching transformed me. Sunday by Sunday for five years, I sat under his remarkable expositions and was greatly impacted. I will always be grateful for this gracious Southern gentleman with a commanding authority in the pulpit. His passionate gospel pleas at the end of his sermons still ring in my ears.

Further, James Montgomery Boice, former pastor of Tenth Presbyterian, Philadelphia , preached two Bible conferences in my church for me when I was a young pastor. Those visits left an indelible impression upon me in my formative years. His confidence in the power of the preaching of the Word of God played a key role in shaping me as a young man in the ministry.

Each one of these men—MacArthur, Sproul, Johnson, and Boice—have made a significant investment in my life and have been a living example to me of an expositor/theologian who has rightly handled the Word of God.

Among those men deceased, several men have significantly impacted me through the written page. As John Piper says, “My best friends are dead men.” Some of my good friends who are dead would be Charles Spurgeon, George Whitefield, A. W. Pink, and, more recently, John Calvin. All four of these men have thundered their expositions of the Scripture into my heart, most specifically, in their exaltation of the sovereignty and supremacy of God.

2. What are the most influential books, apart from Scripture, that God has used tremendously in your growth as a Christian and in influencing your ministry?

First, I would reference A Body of Divinity (Banner of Truth) by Thomas Watson. This book contains a series of sermons that Watson preached as he expounded the Westminster Catechism. I learned from this book the God-centeredness of theology, as well as the sovereignty of God in all things. His chapter on “ Providence ” was especially helpful to me in understanding this grand, life-changing truth.

Second, I must single out The Forgotten Spurgeon (Banner of Truth) by Iain Murray. This book deepened my understanding of the doctrines of grace, especially the relationship between regeneration and faith. It also demonstrated for me that the doctrines of grace are to be preached with evangelistic zeal and fervor. Believing in the sovereignty of God should not make us stoic and monotone in our public proclamation. Rather, as I learned from Spurgeon in this book, these truths should arouse the passions of our heart to preach with our entire being. This was the genius of Spurgeon—he was “theology on fire.”

Third, I have been significantly influenced by reading the two-volume work George Whitefield: The Life and Times of the Great Evangelist of the Eighteenth-Century Revival (Banner of Truth) by Arnold Dallimore. These excellent volumes convey something of the romance of preaching. Here in Whitefield’s life is the sheer adventure of a man who was entirely abandoned to the proclamation of the Word of God. Further, the warm piety of Whitefield’s life is compelling and contagious. If I could be anyone in church history, I think I would most want to be George Whitefield—on the back of a horse, riding up and down the eastern sea coast of the Colonies, advancing to the public square, lifting up my voice, and saying, “I have come here today to speak to you about your soul” and “You must be born again.” This is what I have gained from reading this excellent biography of Whitefield, an enflamed desire to preach the Word of God.

I would be remiss not to mention the sermons of Charles Haddon Spurgeon. The first six volumes which comprise The New Park Street Pulpit (Pilgrim Press & Baker) are especially powerful. The preaching of the early Spurgeon with all his youthful zeal is unusually arresting to read. Here was both light (truth) and heat (conviction) in the preaching of the Word. Here truly was one, as Richard Baxter said, who preached “as a dying man to dying men, as never to preach again.”

3. What prompted you to begin the phenomenal books that will be the five volume series “Foundations of Grace”?

What has prompted me to write the five-volume series A Long Line of Godly Men grew out of a desire to teach the men of our church the doctrines of grace. For the last three years, I have met on Friday mornings at 6:00am with our men, and have taught them biblical, systematic, and historical theology, specifically focused upon the sovereignty of God in salvation. I have wanted them to see that while we may be out of step with the times in which we live as we hold fast to these God-honoring truths, we, nevertheless, stand in a grand procession of godly men that spans the centuries. The great men of Scripture and church history, for the most part, have held to the truths of sovereign grace. These are the men who God has used to promote reformations, ignite awakenings, translate the Scriptures, and launch missions’ movements in their day. This five-volume series which I am writing with Reformation Trust—A Long Line of Godly Men—is the overflow of teaching these truths to the men of our church, so that it might reach a broader audience. Each handout has become a chapter in the book. Behind all this, my burning desire is to see a new reformation in this present hour.

4. As you have traveled to many different countries, do you see, by and large, a embracing of the doctrines of grace in other parts of the world? Do you think America is the most resistant to the doctrines of grace? Why or why not?

As I travel to many different parts of the world, I, unfortunately, see an Arminian base where I go. Tragically, the church in America , I have found, is the most resistant to the doctrines of grace. I think that this is caused by a culture and church that is saturated with political correctness, individual autonomy, and financial prosperity, as well as spiritual apathy and theological superficiality. All these elements have a deadening effect upon understanding the truth and feed Arminianism, in one way or another. Sad to say, the church is just as man-centered in other parts of the globe as it is here. We, who believe in the sovereignty of God in salvation, remain islands of reformed thinking in the midst of oceans of semi-Pelagian doctrine.

5. Do you see a trend rippling through modern evangelicalism that is turning back to the great doctrines of the reformation? If so, why do you think this is?

I am grateful to say that I do see what may be the initial sun rays of the dawning of a new day in the church. A resurgence in Reformed theology is definitely beginning to capture the minds and hearts of a new generation. Young people in their teens, twenties, and thirties are no longer content with the tired and trivial answers of my generation regarding the fundamental issues of a Christian world view. They long for more, and those answers are found exclusively in the depths of the Word of God. I am encouraged that there is a new wave of men and women who are marching onto the scene, who are committed to this great truth: “For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To God be the glory forever and ever. Amen” (Romans 11:36).

6. What do you think is the doctrine that is most foundational for the church of today to be solid on in order to be a healthy church?

I believe that the most foundational truth for the church today, as well as in any generation, is the sovereignty and holiness of God. As one’s view of God goes, so goes the entire church. A high view of God inevitably leads to high and holy living. But a low view of God leads unmistakably to low living. A towering view of God in which He is seen in His unrivaled sovereignty and absolute holiness has the most dramatic and profound effect upon the church. Such a vision of God inspires transcendent worship, induces godly living, empowers tireless service, deepens spiritual fellowship, imparts supernatural joy, breathes abundant life, and motivates global outreach. The church will never rise any higher than her lofty view of God.

7. Where do you think the monergism vs. synergism debate falls on this scale? can you elaborate?

I agree with Charles Spurgeon, who once noted that days of revival in the church are marked by, among other things, the preaching on the doctrine of regeneration. Our understanding of monergistic regeneration is absolutely essential for a holy and healthy church. Even having a converted church is at stake. The debate between monergism and synergism is nothing more, nothing less, than the controversy between a God-centered world view and a man-centered paradigm. Monergism teaches that ‘salvation is of the Lord,’ entirely and exclusively. Synergism fabricates that ‘salvation is of God and man.’ In this latter view, man becomes his own co-savior, and this robs God of His glory. A monergistic view of regeneration dusts off the high ground of soteriology and gives the church a firm place to stand and serve.

8. As you touched upon in our conversation. Describe the greatest trial that you have endured as a pastor and how did God minister to you (whether through Scripture, the Spirit, or other people) in that time and how have you been able to use it for the benefit of other pastors (see 2 Cor. 1:3-9)?

The greatest trial that I have endured in the ministry is being put out of the previous church that I pastored. The last six years of my pastorate there saw many pressures brought to bear upon me, each one provoked for teaching the full counsel for God. Issues such as expository preaching, the lordship of Christ, church discipline, divine sovereignty in salvation, and marrying only two believers created much controversy and caused much difficulty for me. Ultimately, it was the truths of the doctrines of grace that caused many people to gnash their teeth and reject the clear teaching of Scripture. In reality, this refusal was a clear and calculated rejection of God Himself, who is the Truth. Standing in the vortex of such a whirlwind was most demanding and draining.

What enabled me to persevere through this difficult time was the sufficiency of Scripture, the sufficiency of Christ, and the sufficiency of the Holy Spirit. The all-sufficient grace of God abounds to us and is always greater than our deepest valleys and darkest nights. God gives a greater grace to those who humble themselves in His presence. This was my experience.

The testimony of the psalmist was tested and found to be true: “The Lord is my Shepherd I shall not want. He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside quite waters. He restores my soul; He guides me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You have anointed my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever” (Psalms 23:1-6).

Either these verses are true, or they are not. In my time of greatest difficulty in the ministry, a season in which I was being attacked and assailed for preaching the full counsel of God, I found the sufficiency of God’s sustaining grace to be enough. Solus Christus—Christ alone—was my all and all.

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What Are the Workmen Up To?

July 19, 2007

What an immense privilege we have in 2007. No longer, preachers, do we only need to listen to our own voice! With the mere click of a button, we can ‘sit under’ some of the most gifted expositors on the planet, benefiting weekly from their God-exalting preaching. We might even decide to follow a series by one expositor over a series of weeks. So – what are some of the ‘workmen’ up to these days?

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Mark Dever has been asking questions about Jesus from Luke’s gospel

John Piper is continuing a ‘short’ series (6 months now!) on the subjects of marriage, singleness and divorce.

Steve Lawson is preaching through Mark’s gospel

Al Mohler has recently completed his studies of the 10 commandments

Conrad Mbewe is sojourning through an all-encompassing doctrinal series

Dale Ralph Davis
has been tackling 1 Kings and Genesis

Philip Ryken is also addressing 1 Kings

Sinclair Ferguson has been considering the 7 churches in Revelation

Thabiti Anyabwile is marching through Matthew, but slowing his pace for the Sermon on the Mount

Liam Golligher is teaching on the gospel according to Isaiah

Tim Keller is also working through the ten commandments

Mark Ashton is expositing 1 Corinthians

AllSouls London have four sermons series at once: Esther, Jeremiah, Hosea and a topical series on money

Vaughan Roberts has just finished the book of Daniel

Alistair Begg
is thinking about Jonah

Now, I’m sure I’ve missed somebody….

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Two Tremendous Spurgeon Tales (part two)

June 21, 2007

The second part of today’s Workman Watch could only come from the experience of Charles Spurgeon! Can’t say I’ve ever been involved in tag team preaching? Yet.

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I had quite a different experience on the occasion when I went to preach at Haverhill, in Suffolk. The congregation that day had the somewhat unusual privilege, or affliction, of listening to two preachers discoursing by turns upon the same text! The passage was that grand declaration of the apostle Paul, “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God” (Ephesians ii. 8). It does not often happen to me to be late for service, for I feel that punctuality is one of those little virtues which may prevent great sins. But we have no control over railways and breakdowns, and so it happened that I reached the appointed place considerably behind time.

Like sensible people, they had begun their worship, and had proceeded as far as the sermon. As I neared the chapel, I perceived that someone was in the pulpit preaching, and who should the preacher be but my dear and venerable grandfather! He saw me as I came in at the front door, and made my way up the aisle, and at once he said, “Here comes my grandson! He may preach the gospel better than I can, but he cannot preach a better gospel; can you, Charles?” As I pressed through the throng, I answered, “You can preach better than I can. Pray go on.”

But he would not agree to that. I must take the sermon, and so I did, going on with the subject there and then, just where he left off. “There,” said he, “I was preaching on ‘For by grace are ye saved’. I have been setting forth the source and fountain-head of salvation, and I am now showing them the channel of it, ‘through faith.’ Now, you take it up, and go on.”

I am so much at home with these glorious truths, that I could not feel any difficulty in taking from my grandfather the thread of his discourse, and joining my thread to it, so as to continue without a break. Our agreement in the things of God made it easy for us to be joint-preachers of the same discourse. I went on with “through faith”, and then I proceeded to the next point, “and that not of yourselves”. Upon this, I was explaining the weakness and inability of human nature, and the certainty that salvation could not be of ourselves, when I had my coat-tail pulled, and my well-beloved grandsire took his turn again. When I spoke of our depraved human nature, the good old man said, “I know most about that, dear friends;” so he took up the parable, and for the next five minutes set forth a solemn and humbling description of our lost estate, the depravity of our nature, and the spiritual death under which we were found. When he had said his say in a very gracious manner, his grandson was allowed to go on again, to the dear old man’s great delight, for now and then he would say, in a gentle tone, “Good! Good!” Once he said, “Tell them that again, Charles,” and of course I did tell them that again.

It was a happy exercise to me to take my share in bearing witness to truths of such vital importance, which are so deeply impressed upon my heart. Whenever I read this text, I seem to hear that dear voice, which has been so long lost to earth, saying to me, “TELL THEM THAT AGAIN.” I am not contradicting the testimony of forefathers who are now with God. If my grandfather could return to earth, he would find me where he left me, steadfast in the faith, and true to that form of doctrine which was once for all delivered to the saints. I preach the doctrines of grace because I believe them to be true; because I see them in the Scriptures; because my experience endears them to me; and because I see the holy result of them in the lives of believers. I confess they are none the less dear to me because the advanced school despises them: their censures are to me a commendation.

I confess also that I should never think the better of a doctrine because it was said to be “new”. Those truths which have enlightened so many ages appear to me to be ordained to remain throughout eternity. The doctrine which I preach is that of the Puritans: it is the doctrine of Calvin, the doctrine of Augustine, the doctrine of Paul, the doctrine of the Holy Ghost. The Author and Finisher of our faith Himself taught most blessed truth which well agreed with Paul’s declaration, “By grace are ye saved.” The doctrine of grace is the substance of the testimony of Jesus. [pp. 363-364, Autobiography, V1: The Early Years]

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Two Tremendous Spurgeon Tales (part one)

June 21, 2007

Today’s Workman Watch is not so much an examination of a sermon, as a recounting of two preaching experiences. In some ways, these accounts from Charles H Spurgeon fit well with what we’ve been thinking about on Friday (“Expect the Unexpected”). However I leave these twin tales with you- a typically good Spurgeon read – for your perusal. Thanks to the dear friend who sent me these excerpts.

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I once had a very singular experience while preaching at New Park Street Chapel. I had passed happily through all the early parts of Divine service on the Sabbath evening, and was giving out the hymn before the sermon. I opened the Bible to find the text, which I had carefully studied as the topic of discourse, when, on the opposite page, another passage of Scripture sprang upon me, like a lion from a thicket, with vastly more power than I had felt when considering the text which I had chosen.

The people were singing, and I was sighing. I was in a strait betwixt two, and my mind hung as in the balances. I was naturally desirous to run in the track which I had carefully planned, but the other text would take no refusal, and seemed to tug at my skirts, crying, “No, no, you must preach from me! God would have you follow me.” I deliberated within myself as to my duty, for I would neither be fanatical nor unbelieving, and at last I thought within myself, “Well, I should like to preach the sermon which I have prepared, and it is a great risk to run to strike out a new line of thought, but, still, as this text constrains me, it may be of the Lord, and therefore I will venture upon it, come what may.”

I almost always announce my divisions very soon after the exordium, but, on this occasion, contrary to my usual custom, I did not do so, for a very good reason. I passed through the first head with considerable liberty, speaking perfectly extemporaneously both as to thought and word.

The second point was dwelt upon with a consciousness of unusual quiet efficient power, but I had no idea what the third would or could be, for the text yielded no more matter just then; nor can I tell even now what I could have done had not an event occurred upon which I had never calculated. I had brought myself into great difficulty by obeying what I thought to be a Divine impulse, and I felt compara-tively easy about it, believing that God would help me, and knowing that I could at least close the service should there be nothing more to be said. I had no need to deliberate, for in one moment we were in total darkness—the gas had gone out; and, as the aisles were choked with people, and the place was crowded everywhere, it was a great peril, but a great blessing. What was I to do then?

The people were a little frightened, but I quieted them instantly by telling them not to be at all alarmed, though the gas was out, for it would soon be re-lighted; and as for myself, having no manuscript, I could speak just as well in the dark as in the light, if they would be so good as to sit or stand still, and listen. Had my discourse been ever so elaborate, it would have been absurd to have continued it, and, as my plight was, I was all the less embarrassed.

I turned at once mentally to the well-known text which speaks of the child of light walking in darkness, and of the child of darkness walking in the light, and found appropriate remarks and illustrations pouring in upon me; and when the lamps were again lit, I saw before me an audience as rapt and subdued as ever a man beheld in his life.

The odd thing of all was that, some few church-meetings afterwards, two persons came forward to make confession of their faith, who professed to have been converted that evening; the first owed her conversion to the former part of the discourse, which was on the new text that came to me, and the other traced his awakening to the latter part, which was occasioned by the sudden darkness. Thus, Providence befriended me. I cast myself upon God, and His arrangements quenched the light at the proper time for me. Some may ridicule, but I adore; others may even censure, but I rejoice. [pp. 268-269, Autobiography, V1: The Early Years]

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Conrad Mbewe – 1 John 5:13-15

June 7, 2007

Quotes like the following brought me into contact with our preacher today:

“CONRAD MBEWE SLICES THE air with his hands. His booming baritone soars to a frenzied pitch. “I ask, what is your attitude to authority in your home?” he says. “What is your at-ti-tude? If that’s what characterizes your life, stop cheating yourself that you’re a Christian.” The congregation’s eyes follow every jab of his finger, every sweep of his hands. They’re hearing—and watching—a regular Sunday sermon from their pastor. But he also happens to be the Spurgeon of Africa.” (World Magazine, March 29th, 2003)

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So here is a brief review of his sermon based on 1 John 5:13-15. Find a detailed list of Conrad links here. Pastor Mbewe pastors Katwaba Baptist Church in Zambia.

What was the opening sentence? ‘We’re continuing in our series of messages under the theme: “the things most surely believed among us”‘

What was the introduction about?
This was a recap of the previous week’s sermon that assured believers that if they are truly Christ’s, then what he has begun, he will finish. This week the theme will be: that God wants all those who are saved, to know they are saved, in this life.

What was the outline?
1. Who does John wants to assure?
Only those who are “believers” are promised full assurance (1 John 5:13). But there are frequently two forms of self-deception, which blind people to the fact that they are not believers:
i) they think they can be saved by outward actions
ii) they think they can be saved and sin with impunity

2. How are they to know it?
i) Loving the brethren (1 John 3:10)
ii) Peace and joy in the Holy Spirit (Romans 14:17)
iii) Inwardly our spirit cries out “Abba Father” (Romans 8:15)

What aspects of Mbewe’s style did you appreciate?
a) Interaction with the congregation. Talks near the beginning of the sermon to an imaginary objector, who doubts the fact that Christians can be assured. This kind of dialogue returns throughout the sermon.
b) Flat out earnestness. This guy can preach!
c) Use of questions in application. Rarely have I heard a preacher so relentlessly question his congregation, and to such effect.
d) Mbewe’s concluding appeals. Really, you should all listen to this…!

What will you remember in a week’s time?
The rising of Dr Mbewe’s voice as he pleads with the congregation.

What one aspect of Mbewe’s preaching will you seek to adopt into your own? His excellent use of questioning. Surely this is one way to press the soul of the hearer! A good explainer of the text must know how to question his text and his hearer.

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David Jackman on 1 Peter 4-5 (pt two)

March 29, 2007

The latest Workman Watch has spilled over into a two-parter. There is a simple reason for this: David Jackman’s excellent sermon on 1 Peter 4 and 5 was longer than I anticipated. The benefit of this has been (hopefully) that you’ve had time to listen to the whole thing in the meantime. Here now is my full review….

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How long was the sermon?
53 minutes 30 seconds.

What was the opening sentence?
‘Our series has been called “Good lives among the pagans” and this morning we come to the theme with which the letter closes “Suffering for the Lord”, and a very positive and strategic view of that suffering.’

What was the introduction about?
Martin Luther King’s reform movement which did good even though suffering. This is a somewhat close modern parallel to what Peter describes in this section.

What was the outline?

Part One – Strategies for Suffering
1. Don’t be surprised (4:12-13)
a) its for your strengthening
b) its for your glory

2. Don’t be ashamed (4:14,16)
a) you bear his name
b) you share his Spirit

3. Don’t be diverted (4:17-19)
a) keep trusting your Creator
b) keep delighting in his will

Part Two – Strategies for Shepherding
Good leadership (5:1 – 4)
Proper humility (5:5 – 7)
Resisting the real enemy (5:8 – 9)
Remaining steadfast (5:10 – 11)
Assurance of grace (5:12 – 14)

What aspects of Jackman’s style did you appreciate?
a) A lack of flashiness. There is nothing glitsy about Jackman, but he is an interesting, clear speaker. I appreciate this in an age when so many preachers are trying hard to be ‘cool.’

b) Jackman is literally fastened to the text from start to finish, and is especially gifted at pointing the congregation to the text.

c) The way that Jackman applied as he went along, almost point by point. In a more lengthy message (52 minutes) no doubt this is especially important. 50 minutes of explanation and a brief application at the end wouldn’t be good!

What will you remember in a week’s time?
Jackman’s point that what we do with our anxiety is actually a test of our humility.

What one aspect of Jackman’s preaching will you seek to adopt into your own? A greater faithfulness to the text, knowing that is “the gospel” which is the power of God for salvation, not my preaching style.

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David Jackman on 1 Peter 4-5 (pt one)

March 22, 2007

This week’s Workman Watch has spilled over into a two-parter. There is a simple reason for this: David Jackman’s excellent sermon on 1 Peter 4 and 5 was longer than I anticipated. The benefit of this, however, is that you can take time to listen to the whole thing this week and come back for next week’s installment. All I’ll do today is outline the first half, and leave you with some homework.

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How long was the sermon?
53 minutes 30 seconds.

What was the opening sentence?
‘Our series has been called “Good lives among the pagans” and this morning we come to the theme with which the letter closes “Suffering for the Lord”, and a very positive and strategic view of that suffering.’

What was the introduction about?
Martin Luther King’s reform movement which did good even though suffering. This is a somewhat close modern parallel to what Peter describes in this section.

What was the outline?

Part One – Suffering

1. Don’t be surprised (4:12-13)
a) its for your strengthening
b) its for your glory

2. Don’t be ashamed (4:14,16)
a) you bear his name
b) you share his Spirit

3. Don’t be diverted (4:17-19)
a) keep trusting your Creator
b) keep delighting in his will

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Three Reasons to Give Thanks

March 8, 2007

I don’t usually get personal on this blog (its about preaching, not about this preacher) but today I will. I’m feeling quite reflective this morning. And thankful. There are several reasons…

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First, this is my birthday. As always on the 8th of March, I’m looking to the past, surveying the present, and dreaming about the future. God has been extraordinarily good to me and my family this past year. There have been many temporal blessings. But most of all, I feel a great sense of thankfulness to Him for his unfailing love in Christ.

Second, this is the anniversary of my grandfather’s death. Andrew Steen went to be with Jesus nine years ago today, on what was my 18th birthday. I was moved, therefore, to read John Piper’s post yesterday (Hello, my Father just died) about the passing of his father. Though I didn’t know my grandfather so well, I am thankful to God for his cherished memory. His godly example continues to spur me forward. By the grace of God, he was a passionate preacher and a good man. We loved him; we still miss him.

Third, though of lesser importance, this is almost the three month anniversary of Unashamed Workman (Sunday will be the official day). I’d like to say how much I’ve enjoyed posting six days out of seven on the theme of preaching. Its been even more pleasurable than I imagined to interact with many of you over this period. For what its worth, I’d like to link you to my ten favourite posts over this season. If you missed these the first time, you can read and comment on them now.

1. The Case for Preaching (part one) (Just reading these quotes makes me want to get behind a pulpit!)
2. Tim Keller on Luke 15 (This has to be highly rated, not least because Tim Keller commented on it himself!)
3. A Friday Question – Visual Props (The most commented post)
4. Preaching that Understands the World (Don Carson, with some helpful advice)
5. How John Stott Prepares a Sermon (Many sites linked to this)
6. Ten Reasons to Take Time Out (This one’s gone on my wall…)
7. Theology on Fire! (Truly, this belongs in the category of ‘classic materials’)
8. Twenty Reasons to Read Good Christian Books (This wasn’t a hard post to put together – the reasons are boundless)
9. Unashamed Additions (You can still make suggestions for this)
10. Anchor Man (part one) (Reading this again is no less challenging)

Soli Deo Gloria