Archive for the ‘Workman Watch’ Category


Philip Ryken on Jeremiah 29:7

March 1, 2007

Alright, I have a confession to make: I’ve chosen the preacher and sermon for this week’s Workman Watch for selfish reasons. At the moment, I have the privilege of sharing the preaching through Jeremiah. Ryken has produced a most fantastic Jeremiah commentary, which offers so many lines of application it’s almost deadly to read! Therefore, I was interested to see what Philip Ryken did with this passage. Listen to the audio here. View the sermon here.


How long was the sermon? 35 mins 30 seconds

What was the main point? Pray for the redemption of your city.

What was the opening sentence? Well as many of you will know, this has been a month of considering the vision of Tenth Presbyterian Church.

What was the introduction about?
An illustration of a book called “prayer for the city.” Ryken went on to point out the priority of prayer – that before, during and after everything else, we are to pray for the city.

What was the sermon structure?
Q- How should the people pray for the city?
– Some other biblical examples of such praying (Abraham – a positive example; Jonah and Nineveh – a negative example)
– Jeremiah 29:7 (cf. Psalm 22)

Specifically, we should pray for peace of the city
– the total well being of the city
– for the sake of the people of God

Generally, we should pray kingdom prayers
– not just personal prayers

Conclusion – Jesus prayed for the city; and gave himself for it.

What illustrations were used? These were mainly biblical illustrations, particularly Abraham and Jonah.

What will you remember a week from now? Ryken’s description of the prayer walk that members of his church are involved in several times a year. Meeting early in the morning, the congregation break into groups and walk around town stopping at businesses, churches, and residential areas to pray for it. Also, Ryken’s comment that “if only we will pray, the city still has a prayer.”

What one aspect of Ryken’s preaching will you attempt to take over into your own? Ryken’s ability to give concrete examples of applying the prayer to Philadelphia. By this, it became evident that Ryken understood a great deal about the needs and demographics of the city, and this grounded the prayer in reality. I need to become a greater student of Edinburgh and its people.


Unashamed Additions

February 15, 2007

On this week’s Workman Watch I want to draw your attention to some of the updates I’ve made to Unashamed Workman. Read on…


1. Workman on the Web – You don’t need to wait till Thursday rolls around to listen to some exemplary preaching. This link on UA’s sidebar takes you to a long list of preachers worth hearing. The page also includes links to some Classic Preaching in written form, as well as to a Rolling List of specific sermons. Also (if you’re interested!) I’ve added a link to the preaching audio from my own church. This is mainly a combination of my own preaching and that of our Senior Pastor, Peter Grainger.

2. Workman’s Reading List – This not only contains my personal recommmendations for preaching-pastors, but also links you to other lists, such as that of Master’s Seminary, Desiring God, and Nine Marks. Well worth a read before you shop.

3. Worktools – This is a section I’m slowly developing. The basic idea is to have online preaching helps (such as dictionaries, commentaries and the like) readily available to those preparing sermons. I’d especially appreciate any sites you’d recommend that would be worth adding to the list. Where do you go for assistance?


Workman’s Toolbox

February 10, 2007

Welcome to this week’s Workman’s Toolbox. As usual there are plenty of interesting things on the blogs this week that I’d like to direct you to.


* Adrian Warnock points us to a CS Lewis quote about “Plain English Preaching”
* Of interest to those in the UK, I’m quite depressed that I can’t make it along to the EMA conference this June, when Tim Keller, Dick Lucas and Vaughan Roberts will be among the speakers. You might want to go, however!
* John Brand reviews a John MacArthur book on preaching.
* Some fantastic material coming out of Expository Thoughts these days, including preaching poetry , preaching historical books, and recommunication of biblical narrative.

* The Desiring God pastor’s conference has just concluded. Listen to the talks here.
* In a short video, John Piper answers, What one thing must a pastor do? (HT: Cawley Blog)
* Jonathan Pennington with some lectures on the Kingdom of God. (HT: Justin Taylor)
* The latest Nine Marks Newsletter is available on the theme of eldership.
* You may be interested to know what is now happening to Ted Haggard.
* A glimspe into the emerging church (HT: A-team blog)
* A great quote from Carl Trueman on why Christianity can never be “cool.” (HT: Vitamin Z)
* Monergism’s free online books page (recently updated) is well worth a look.
* “Can worship be fun?”
* You’ve heard of a mega-church, how about a giga-church?


S Lewis Johnson on Acts 28:16-31

February 8, 2007

Appreciation to those who have suggested preachers for attention on Workman Watch. Yesterday, I was enjoying one such selection – an expositor by the name of S. Lewis Johnson (Believers Chapel, Dallas Texas). This sermon on Acts 28:16-31 was the concluding sermon in a 29 part series on the life of Paul, and was entitled “The last days of Paul.” Listen in and hear a different style of preaching to your usual favourites.


What was the opening sentence?
We’re turning tonight to Acts 28, as we consider the last days of Paul.

How long was the sermon? 46:51

What was the main point?
God accomplishes his purposes of spreading the gospel despite the interference of man.

What was the sermon structure?
The preacher didn’t give any formal headings at all, but simply outlined the text as follows:
v 16-22: Paul’s 1st interview with the Jews;
v 23-28: Paul’s 2nd interview with the Jews;
v 30-31: Paul’s continuing prison ministry.

Following this, Dr Johnson asked what then happened to Paul? (offering possibilities and probabilities regarding this).

Finally, he summarised Paul in terms of his appearance, personality and doctrinal distinctives.

What illustrations were used?
* A story about Sir David Baird who during the 2nd World War evangelised his prison guards
* American football illustration – “Cowboys must be able to play even when they’re hurt”
* Oscar Wilde: “You’re only young once, but can remain immature indefinitely”

What were the applications?
There was a specific exhortation to know what the OT says about the coming of Christ (as Paul did). There was also an application to preachers, that for all the clarity of Paul’s preaching he saw a mixed response. Generally, the aim was to inspire us to follow Paul’s example in his commitment to the gospel.

What aspects of the preacher’s style did you find helpful?
The preacher’s powers of explanation were excellent. Clearly, there was a deep well of knowledge that Johnson was drawing upon, yet he was able to unpack complicated issues in simple language.

Any constructive criticism?
For all that I learned, it seemed at times evident that the preacher was by occupation a lecturer. For this reason, perhaps, the structure wasn’t so readily accessible, and the application wasn’t always drawn out and driven home.

What will you remember a week from now?
Johnson’s summary of the preaching of Jesus and Paul as “preaching the kingdom through a cross”

What one aspect of Johnson’s preaching will you attempt to take over into your own?
Probably Johnson’s knowledge of the subject matter was most inspirational. Though our job isn’t to impress others with our knowledge or simply spout what we know, nevertheless a good preacher needs to be knowledgeable in the Scriptures. That I might study so hard and long that I could one day have Johnson’s grasp of biblical theology!


So, here’s the deal…

February 1, 2007

I’m moving house today, which doesn’t lend itself to a long and thoughtful post. But I do want to ask for your help in two ways.

1) Under Construction
Over recent Wednesday’s I’ve posted articles on how John Stott and Peter Grainger prepare sermons. I’ve also benefited greatly from Steve Weaver’s posts “How I Prepare an Expository Sermon.”

So here’s my thought. Preachers, I’d love to hear how YOU prepare sermons. If you would be willing to summarise your prep steps onto no more than an A4 sheet, I’ll try to post as many as come my way on our Wednesday slot (send to my email: This will not only benefit other pastors but might help you clarify what steps you are currently taking. If you’ve like to get an idea about how you might set out your entry, check out John Stott’s version.

2) Workman Watch
One or two of you have asked if I would be willing to listen to and review one of your sermons. I’m humbled by this thought, but open to it. One hope I have for these Thursday slots is that they will include reviews of ‘lesser known’ preachers and not only the ‘big names.’ So, if you are an expository preacher and would like to submit one of your sermons (or suggest a preacher you know) just pass on the details.


John Piper on 1 Thessalonians 4

January 25, 2007

I’m neither alone nor ashamed in saying I regard John Piper as one of my favourite living preachers. This is a man who defines preaching as “expository exultation.” Appropriately, Piper models it as well as anybody.

For today’s “Workman Watch” I’ve chosen to review one of his sermons with a rather long title: “This is the Will of God for You: that you abstain from sexual immorality.” A few reasons why I picked this particular sermon…

Firstly, because it models how to preach with exegetical accuracy and emotional appropriateness on a challenging topic. I for one need to see good examples of preaching on difficult themes. Secondly, many people hear Piper at Conferences not realising that his week to week style involves trawling through a couple of verses in an expository style. And finally, on a personal level, this sermon helped me a great deal when I had to preach on this same text a few years back. Do take time to listen to it and compare notes. You can read the sermon here. Its a cracker!

What was the opening sentence?
“For three weeks now we’ve been working on this series – a little mini series between Romans 8 and 9.”

What was the introduction about? This was a review of the previous two sermons (seeking the lost; seeking social justice). Piper brought out the point that Christians don’t have to choose between evangelism, social justice and sexual purity, and addressed those who feel that Christians are hung up on sex. He points out that Jesus managed to succeded in all three areas: seeking lost people, social justice and sexual puritiy.

What was the main point? Sexual purity is one of God’s priorities for His people and we will only attain this by knowing Him better.

What was the sermon structure?

1. What?
a) sexual impurity – avoid it (fornication and adultery .v 4)
b) sexual purity – pursuit it (walking to please God .v 1, sanctification .v 3, holiness .v 7)

2) Why?
a) the incentive of pleasing God (v 1)
b) the incentive of doing the will of God (v 2)
c) the incentive of honour (v 4)
d) the incentive of Christian love (v 6a)
e) the incentive of God’s vengence (v 6b)

3) How?
Knowing God (v 5 – “not in passionate lust like the heathen, who do not know God“)
a) know the patience of God (v 1 – “more and more”)
b) know the power of God (3:13 – “May he strengthen your hearts so that you will be blameless and holy in the presence of God the Father)
c) know the preciousness of God

Did the preacher cover the scope of the text? Thoroughly. I especially appreciated that this wasn’t merely a “how to” sermon, but that all the aspects of the text (the what, the why and the how) were dealt with.

What aspects of the preacher’s style did you appreciate?
A number of things, not all related:
i) Piper’s intensity. No matter how many times I hear this man, his passion takes me aback. There is a palpable intensity, which combines a seriousness for the subject and a love for the people.
ii) Piper’s ability to be frank without being unhelpful in his language. On subjects such as this, many preacher’s seem either to not live in the real world (where things like “pornography” and “masturbation” exist) or, on the other hand, seem to revel in speaking about risque things.
iii) Piper’s attempt to speak to children in terms they could understand. Not only will this benefit the children, but parents are seeing how they might talk to their children on such matters. Admirable indeed.

Was there anything in the sermon that you would query? I did wonder a little about Piper making so much out of the last point – which is only an inference from verse 5. Not to say that the logical deduction couldn’t be made (i.e. if the heathen’s not knowing God leads to sexual impurity, then knowing God will lead to purity). I’m just not sure this was a point Paul was making here.

What one thing will you remember in a week’s time? Piper’s description of how someone might pray whilst on the internet to maintain their sexual purity. (“Lord, lift my hand from that mouse!”)

Is there a single aspect of Piper’s preaching that you will attempt to incorporate into your own preaching? Piper’s sheer passion for the subject and the people. This, I know, can’t simply be mimicked but has to come from much time spend with God in prayer and the Word. Earnestness, however that may look like through my personality, is a quality Piper models for me in abundance.


Thabiti Anyabwile on Ephesians 4:1-16

January 18, 2007

For this week’s Workman Watch its Thabiti Anywabwile. This sermon was preached on October 26th 2006, and I especially selected it as it includes some important teaching on the church. Take time, if you can, to listen to the sermon and compare notes.

By the way, I couldn’t find a picture of Thabiti big enough to post – so instead here’s a snap of a beach in the Caymen Islands where he ministers. Thabiti, if you ever need pulpit supply you know where to find me!

What was the opening sentence? “Have you ever applied for a job you thought sounded really great; really excited about it, right down your alley?”

What was the introduction about? Spoke about the importance of job descriptions in the corporate world of society, but just as much in the corporate world of the church. It raised the question, “what is our job as a member of the gathering of Christ?”

What was the structure?
1. As Christians we are called to preserve the unity of the church
2. As Christians we are calledto serve the church until she is mature

Conclusion – an evaluation (how are we doing on these two points?)
– are we completely humble? (v 2)
– are we completely gentle? (v 2)
– are we making every effort to maintain unity? (v 3)
– are you maturing (v 13,14)

What was the main point?
The main responsibilities of every church member is to preserve unity in, and serve the body of Christ.

What illustrations were used? An opening illustration about applying for a job, which immediately engaged the congregation’s experience. The brief illustration: are you a porcupine Christian (on the point of gentleness) was very memorable.

What were the applications? Two general applications about unity and service, and a some pointed challenges at the end about applying humility and gentleness.

What aspects of the preacher’s style did you find helpful? One of the aspects that most stuck out was Thabiti’s dialogical style. He very naturally converses with the audience, constantly asking questions, and responding to them. On several occaions he raised the very question that had popped into my head. I also appreciated the sermon structure: a slightly unusual but effective approach of dealing with the general trends of the text first, before having an extended conclusion which came back to several pointed specifics. Finally,

What will you remember a week from now? Thabiti’s contention that the main way provided in the NT for the growth of a Christian is through service in the Christian community. That while quiet times are no where commanded in the bible as essential to our Christian growth, all across the NT especially, service is commended.

What is one thing that you will incorporate into your own preaching after listening to this sermon? I learned so much, its hard to choose. I guess the way Thabiti included non-Christians in what was primarily a sermon aimed at Christians was most exemplary. For example, in the middle of the first point about unity, several minutes were taken to explore a non-churched person’s perspective on the lack of unity in the contemporary church. The common objections were raised and dealt with.

To hear Thabiti Anyabwile’s sermons regularly, here is the sermon audio page. He blogs at Pure Church.


Montgomery Boice on Ephesians 1

January 11, 2007

Last week’s Workman Watch (Tim Keller on Luke 15) stimulated a lot of profitable discussion. Today I hope turning to James Montgomery Boice might be just as productive. As with last week: listen to the talk, compare notes, and if you’ve heard Boice before, share what you found helpful in his preaching.


What was the opening sentence to the sermon? “I’m especially glad to be here to teach Ephesians this year because it seems to me that there’s probably never been a better time in the history of the church to pay attention to the teachings of this book; because this book of Ephesians – this letter of Paul’s – is a miniature theology of the church.”

What was the introduction about? The need to get back to the biblical view of how the church is built. Boice suggested that the problem with the modern church is that we are too man-centred in our ecclesiology. Ephesians, on the other hand, is about how the church functions to please and glorify God.

What was the main point? Salvation is all the work of the sovereign God: Father, Son and Spirit.

What was the sermon structure?
Literary Context – the book of Ephesians
Historical Context – brief description of Ephesus (a capital, commercial and corrupt)

1. Election (God the Father)
– election eliminates boasting
– election leads to holiness
– election encourages evangelism

2. Redemption (Christ, the Son)
-a definition of redemption
-an illustration of redemption from Hosea

3. Application (The Spirit)
– the Spirit works through the Word
– pointing to Christ

What illustrations were used? There weren’t many. An illustration of BB Warfield leafing through a hymn book and pointing out those which reference “redemption” – such is the prevalence of the concept. The Hosea redemption illustration was used at length and was ultimately applied to Christ, who bid above the world with the price of his own blood.

What were the applications?

One main application was to respond like Paul to these great truths in prayer: “Why does he pray if God works through it all? Because God works through means. And one of those means is our prayers….You know, some of us who are wrapped up in the great doctrines of grace, I’m not sure always pray as we ought. And here Paul is an example. And its challenge to us because Paul certainly understood these things (and looked to God for salvation from beginning to end) yet he prays, and prays fervently.”

Boice’s pre-eminent challenge is that we embrace a God-centred theology of the church: “Unless we have a kind of theology that says it is from God from beginning to end, until we have that, we really are not going to see the fulness of God’s blessing on our churches, and the kind of blessing we need. Nor are we going to have the strength in our theology and convictions to stand against a hostile world.”

What aspects of the preacher’s style did you find helpful? Perhaps most striking was the way that Boice drummed home the main point. This came out in the introduction, throughout the sermon, and strongly at the end. Helpfully, this was not vain repitition, but carefully crafted restatements of the central thought. Further, I appreciated Boice’s plain, unadorned style. He had no catchy introduction and illustrations were spare. It was a reminder to me that great preaching can be devoid of these things, providing the explanations are clear, vivid and full of conviction.

What was the final sentence? “We need a revival, a new reformation, but we’re not going to see it until we understand these things and can say from the bottom of our heart that only God receives the glory – and He certainly will!”

How long was the sermon? 51 mins, 22 seconds

What one aspect from Boice will I try to take over into my own preaching? Boice modelled for me how I might preach on a bigger section – especially one loaded with vast ideas (Ephesians 1!). The basic approach seems to be: isolate the dominant thought and furnish the sermon by selecting suitable supporting material from the passage. In this way, Boice still left us satisfied, without exhausting the passage in all its detail.


Tim Keller on Luke 15

January 4, 2007

Its Thursday and so we kick off what I’ve called “Workman Watch.” This first sermon is from a preacher I very much admire, Tim Keller. The sermon is called “The Prodigal Sons” and was preached here in Scotland at the Tron in Glasgow.


Let me give one disclaimer before plunging in: this will not be a detailed sermon critique. Most of these invidivuals have bags more preaching talent than I’ll ever have! What I do hope is to glean something from their examples of expository preaching.

Perhaps some of you might take time to listen to the talk and compare notes with me on what you found helpful. (Or if you’ve heard them elsewhere, do thrown in your tuppenceworth in the comments section.)


What was the opening sentence?
The parable that we’ve just read is very famous, and is almost always called the parable of the Prodigal son; but Jesus does not call it that.”

What was Keller’s introduction about? Drawing out the point that if you focus mainly on the younger brother you will sentamentalise the parable.

What was the structure of the sermon?
1) That there are two worldly approaches to God which are wrong
* Moralistic approach (elder brother):
* Relativistic approach (younger brother):

2) There are therefore two ways to be lost and alienated from God
* Trying to be very good
* Trying to be very bad
But in both cases, trying to be your own Saviour.

3) There is only one way home

The main point? The only way to approach God is on the basis of sheer grace.

Did he deal thoroughly with the text? Keller works hard to bring the original context to life. For example, he shows at length how the original hearers would not have heard this parable in a sentimental way: “this parable was not told to warm our hearts, but explode every human category of what it means to approach God.” He also carefully explains from the preceding section how Jesus was aiming this parable at a dual audience: thus the tax collectors equate to the younger brother, while the Pharisees correlate to the older. Furthermore, Keller eventually covers the scope of the text, without unpacking every detail.

What aspects of Keller’s style was helpful?
The overarching thing that strikes me is Keller’s clarity. As I reflect on why this is so, I note a couple of things: 1) He puts his sermon signposts up front, even before his first point. This always aids to help with clarity. That said, the main points don’t reveal too much (the sermon is basically inductive) and therefore some suspense is retained. 2) Keller’s use of language is mainly plain and he is particularly adept at using terms which the unchurched person can understand. Nevertheless, he does use the odd big word. i.e. “moralistic and relativistic approach” might not be understood by an uneducated person. And 3) Dr Keller frequently uses restatement: saying the same truth in different words to aid the listener’s comprehension.

What was the application? A challenge for the individual: “There’s more of the elder brother in us than we like to think, and less of Jesus in us than we like to think.” A challenge for the church: “Why are tax collector types not as attracted to our churches as they were to Jesus?” ‘Is it because we are like the Pharisees’, Keller asks? Keller’s ultimate remedy is that we need to understand grace – and for that, we have to focus on the true elder brother, Jesus Christ.

What was the closing sentence of the sermon? “We will never stop being elder brothers in our hearts, until we see the work of our true elder brother, Jesus Christ.”

If there’s one thing you could take from Keller into your own preaching, what would it be?
Its hard to isolate one aspect, but I think Keller challenges me as to how well I connect the two worlds of the bible and contemporary culture. Keller’s ability to study the bible is, of course, foundational. But its his use of the bible in a sermon like this to diagnose the culture around him that makes him especially helpful to listen to.

For more free Tim Keller sermons, click here.
For Tim Keller sermons you pay for, click here.
Over at Reformissionary Steve McCoy has lots of stuff on all things Keller.

[Next Workman Watch – James Montgomery Boyce]