Posts Tagged ‘preaching’
We need tools to help us, but we need the Holy Spirit to illumine, convict, and empower. And much of the Spirit’s work in us will be done in conjunction with prayer.
Joe Thorn presses it painfully home.
Over at Reformation21, a couple of articles on street preaching:
- Thoughts on street preaching, looking at some of the qualities needed and offering some general counsels.
- Guessing and gauging the street preacher, answering a specific question about the qualifications and calling of street preachers.
The therapeutic concerns of the culture too often set the agenda for evangelical preaching. Issues of the self predominate, and the congregation expects to hear simple answers to complex problems. Furthermore, postmodernism claims intellectual primacy in the culture, and even if they do not surrender entirely to doctrinal relativism, the average congregant expects to make his or her own final decisions about all important issues of life, from worldview to lifestyle.
Authentic Christian preaching carries a note of authority and a demand for decisions not found elsewhere in society. The solid truth of Christianity stands in stark contrast to the flimsy pretensions of postmodernity. Unfortunately, the appetite for serious preaching has virtually disappeared among many Christians who are content to have their fascinations with themselves encouraged from the pulpit.
Al Mohler delivers the second in a series of broadsides at the modern pulpit. Good stuff!
The voice is the preacher’s primary tool, and we need to keep it in good condition. Reminded of and freshly and uncomfortably impressed with some of the elements of vocal hygiene, and being very willing to help other preachers keep their voices healthy, and equally to spare anyone the experience of a doctor inserting what looks and feels like a car aerial into your nasal cavities, or worse, herewith some counsels (garnered over many years) on vocal hygiene tailored to the preacher, arranged topically, some or all of which may be helpful to some. A lot of it is sanctified common-sense, and I should imagine that most preachers do most of it almost naturally.
Read the counsels at Reformation21.
. . . if someone has a burning calling, a teachable spirit, a passionate heart, and a reckless abandon to pay the price to preach well, then not even the limitation of their own background, personality, or natural talents will keep them from preaching the Word of God with power.
A very insightful article on learning to preach better here.
Joel Beeke offers some insights on plain preaching, Puritan style, which addressed the mind with clarity, confronted the conscience pointedly, and wooed the heart passionately. Not a bad model . . .
Kevin DeYoung passes on five features of preaching in the book of the Acts which he suggests should be essentially normative for all preaching:
Interesting and useful.
Russell Moore reminds us that pretty much every preacher is on a perpetual learning curve, and that our first attempts are almost invariably (though for various reasons) bad, that this is to be expected, and that it is part of what will, hopefully, make us sufficient. It is of particular encouragement to those starting out in the work, and may be read here.
Well-known blogger, recently-appointed pastor, and – by his own admission – novitiate preacher Tim Challies offers some perceptive thoughts on what he is learning along the way.
An anathema pronounced against the overuse and abuse of rhetorical questions and the interrogative:
I suspect that those of you who hear a fair amount of preaching have experienced this, haven’t you? Somewhere along the line the preacher has been informed that a rhetorical question is a good way to engage his congregation, hasn’t he? And so what does he do? Well, he uses them almost relentlessly, doesn’t he? Doesn’t he make sentences that don’t need to be questions into questions? If in doubt – and perhaps this is the most distressing approach – he even throws in some form of interrogation at the end of most sentences, doesn’t he?
The point, of course, is the necessity of a proclamational ministry, not one that is consistently asking for affirmation. Read it all at Reformation21.
St Paul expected his hearers to be moved. He so believed in his preaching that he knew that it was “the power of God unto salvation” [Rom. 1:16]. This expectation is a very real part of the presentation of the Gospel. It is a form of faith. A mere preaching which is not accompanied by the expectation of faith, is not a true preaching of the Gospel, because faith is a part of the Gospel. Simply to scatter the seed, with a sort of vague hope that some of it may come up somewhere, is not preaching the gospel. It is indeed a misrepresentation of the gospel. To preach the Gospel requires that the preacher should believe that he is sent to those whom he is addressing at the moment, because God has among them those whom He is at the moment calling: it requires that the speaker should expect a response.
Roland Allen, Missionary Methods—St. Paul’s or Ours? (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1962), 74.
HT: Justin Taylor.
You need to be neither fan nor foe of Veggie Tales to appreciate this thought-provoking piece from Mike Kruger, concluding:
All of this, of course, is not designed to downplay or deny the real threat of moralism in many churches today. To be sure, many pulpits lack the gospel message entirely and simply preach a “do this” version of Christianity. But, the solution is not to impose a “one size fits all” version of preaching where any extended moral exhortation is immediately labeled moralism. Indeed, the Bible is filled with extended moral exhortations. Perhaps we should take a cue from the Scripture on this issue. The indicative is the ground for the imperative, not its obstacle.
What good is it, if men and women have full pockets, sexual satisfaction, and healthy bodies but in the end go to hell? We are sent out to preach messages that will prepare souls for heaven. The gospel transforms lives so that they hate sin and live for righteousness—whether they have full or empty pockets. It is the absence of this life-transforming message that has resulted in so many churches around Africa but little or no moral effect on the society. We preachers are to blame for all this! Today’s preachers on the African soil need to answer this one question: Are we preachers or witchdoctors?
So asks Conrad Mbewe. In truth, the issues and questions are just as applicable on British soil, though the context in which they are asked is not quite the same. Every preacher ought to ask himself, “What am I offering, and on what basis, and to what end? Am I preaching the Word or – in effect – playing with superstition and magic?”
Although Spurgeon doesn’t quite make this point in the extract below (from Pyromaniacs), the demand left hanging here is that – if men love generalities and acquiesce to them without really being touched by them – it not only becomes every one of us to look to our own selves, but it demands that every preacher preach to the individual. In a church with faithful preaching it is all too easy to commend oneself for hearing faithful preaching without ever (or rarely) making a proper response to faithful preaching, to rest satisfied with the fact that you have heard the truth without considering whether or not you have acted upon the truth. Part of this truth was brought home to me many moons ago when I read some Puritan exhorting me to “repent particularly of particular sins.” We must so preach as, under God, to secure this effect, to promote particular repentance, personal faith, particular joys, personal conviction, and we must ensure that both we who are pastors, and those to whom we preach, are not so allowing the Word to wash around us (rather than through us):
In religion men love far rather to believe abstract doctrines, and to talk of general truths, than the searching inquiries which examine their own personal interest in it. You will hear many men admire the preacher who deals in generalities, but when he comes to press home searching questions, by-and-by they are offended.
If we stand and declare general facts, such as the universal sinnership of mankind, or the need of a Saviour, they will give an assent to our doctrine, and possibly they may retire greatly delighted with the discourse, because it has not affected them; but how often will our audience gnash their teeth, and go away in a rage, because, like the Pharisees with Jesus, they perceive, concerning a faithful minister, that he spoke of them.
And yet, my brethren, how foolish this is. If in all other matters we like personalities—if in everything else we look to our own concerns, how much more should we do so in religion? for, surely, every man must give an account for himself, at the day of judgment. We must die alone; we must rise at the day of resurrection one by one, and each one for himself must appear before the bar of God; and each one must either have said to him, as an individual, “Come ye blessed;” or else, he must be appalled with the thundering sentence, “Depart, ye cursed.”
If there were such a thing as national salvation; if it could be possible that we could be saved in the gross and in the bulk, that so, like the sheaves of corn, the few weeds that may grow with the stubble, would be gathered in for the sake of the wheat, then, indeed, it might not be so foolish for us to neglect our own personal interests; but if the sheep must, every one of them, pass under the hand of him that telleth them, if every man must stand in his own person before God, to be tried for his own acts—by everything that is rational, by everything that conscience would dictate, and self-interest would command, let us each of us look to our own selves, that we be not deceived, and that we find not ourselves, at last, miserably cast away.
You may be interested in reading about the beauty of concealed scholarship over at Reformation21:
Let ministers be scholars indeed, and “use all [our] scholarship to formulate the matters to be presented,” but let us abandon any desire for a mere reputation for scholarship: the minster “must conceal his scholarship in the pulpit.” The food – though it might need to be gathered from the topmost branches of the trees – must be set at the level of the guests: Christ’s people are sheep, not giraffes, and the sheep must be fed as sheep, even if it means that the minister can no longer publicly display his ability to climb or demonstrate how high up he can get.
A stimulating article on the centrality of preaching concludes:
The church today is beset with problems. It is continually stumbling upon new measure and approaches. The problem is these measures exacerbate rather than solve its problems. It dreams of answering felt-needs, building self-esteem, and motivation “purpose-driven” or “promise-keeping” lives. But amidst all these fads and inventions, the one thing, the only thing which will serve to overcome its distress is a return to God-honored and God-honoring preaching.
It is worth reading in full, not least for the bundle of good quotes.
This I also liked:
The pulpit is intended to be a pedestal for the cross, though, alas! even the cross itself, it is to be feared, is sometimes used as a mere pedestal for the preacher’s fame.
We may roll the thunders of eloquence, we may dart the coruscations of genius, we may scatter the flowers of poetry, we may diffuse the light of science, we may enforce the precepts of morality, from the pulpit; but if we do not make Christ the great subject of our preaching, we have forgotten our errand, and shall do no good.
Satan trembles at nothing but the cross: at this he does tremble; and if we would destroy his power, and extend that holy and benevolent kingdom, which is righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost, it must be by means of the cross.
John Angell James, quoted in Spurgeon’s Feathers for Arrows
If you wanted evidence of the cruel intelligence and brutal vindictiveness of the Adversary, ask a preacher about the coincidence of his preparations and temptations. You will begin to understand why it was that Luther flung an inkpot at the devil while seeking to translate the Scriptures.
I attempt to explain why here.
We cannot afford to go through the motions when we preach. We must reach the point at which we look at the words on the page or the screen, or review the things that are stirring in our minds and hearts, consider whatever notes that we have made to enable us to communicate the truth as it is in Jesus, and acknowledge that they will be as dry as a stick without heavenly influence. And that should drive us to our knees before God crying out to make his words effective in the hearts and lives of men, to do that thing which beggars human expectation and to make his word to prosper in the thing for which he sent it (Is 55.11), to bring the holy hammer of truth down with divine might on the stones of human hearts (Jer 23.29), and to glorify his name in salvation in its most complete sense.
And so we should gather up those dry sticks of our intended discourse, and pile them before God, and ask for fire from heaven.
Thoughts on preaching at Reformation21.
The brothers at Charlotte Chapel are beginning to put online the video from “The Call” Conference. The first session was my privilege to preach, and can be seen below or here. Others will follow in due course.
Brian Croft’s sermon on pastoral priorities is here.
Liam Garvie’s breakout session on the family is here.
There is no special honor in being so gifted [to preach] – there is only special pain. The pulpit calls them [preachers] to it as the sea calls its sailors, and, like the sea, it batters and bruises and does not rest, but always there is the lure of its ‘better and incomparable’ society.
Undeniable truth from The Cripplegate.
David P. Murray
Evangelical Press, 2011, 160pp., paperback, £5.99
With his customary clarity and precision of style and structure, David Murray provides us with a preacher’s toolbox – not a full pastoral theology per se but rather a practical homiletical help. As a toolbox, it is well stocked with just the kind of instruments and tools that a preacher needs in order to construct a well-ordered, well-balanced, well-directed sermon. But, as Murray would acknowledge, this is not a mechanistic process, and so the apprentice preacher must learn to select and employ his tools wisely and well through diligent practice and in prayerful dependence on the Spirit. As such, anyone who preaches and teaches would do well to take up Murray’s toolbox with a view to learning the use of the tools; the well-practiced preacher might readily survey the collection to see whether he has mislaid or neglected any of the tools of his trade; the sermon-hearer will learn some of what lies behind the hour of ministry he hears in the Sunday services. The proper use of this little book would be of genuine benefit to preachers and their congregations.
All pastoral theology reviews can be viewed here.
David’s book also benefits from a superb video trailer: