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Just passing by

John Wesley (1703-1791), founder of Methodism

John Wesley (1703-1791), founder of Methodism (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A stranger visiting a Methodist community in Britain asked an old Cornishman to explain the obvious morality and spirit of the villagers. He replied, “A man named Wesley passed this way.” And so must the church of Jesus Christ constantly remind the observing world that Jesus of Nazareth is passing by. There is an irresistible contagion about the Christian. Above all others, the preacher—by word and ministry—must preach: Jesus is here! ~ Jones, G. C. 1986. 1000 illustrations for preaching and teaching (p. 303). Broadman Press: Nashville, TN

 

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A fool in the pulpit

Mark Dever answers a question about Church growth and explains how to tell, if you, as a pastor and preacher, are a fool.

 

 
 

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What is Preaching

The most simple, and biblical, answer is found, by example, in the Old Testament book of Nehemiah:

They read from the book, from the Law of God, clearly, and they gave the sense, so that the people understood the reading. Neh 8:8

The ESV translators note that “clearly” = with interpretation, or paragraph by paragraph.

Adrian Warnock provides the following, based on notes from a T4G conference.

1.Expository preaching should be defined as preaching that seeks to explain the main point of the portion of the Scripture selected.

2.Expository preaching does not always have to take place as part of a long series working slowly through a book. Series can be helpful, but they need not last a decade. One-off sermons on specific verses, a chapter, or even a whole book can also be expository.

3.We must not have an overly-narrow definition of expository preaching — thinking that there is only one way to preach. Instead we must encompass the many different styles of preaching which are helpful and biblically directed. We must also understand that whilst the message of a specific verse is, of course, unified rather than divided or contradictory, its meaning is usually rich and many faceted. Because of this, different themes may be drawn out of the same passage, giving rise to very different sermons from the very same portion of the Bible.

4.Any definition of expository preaching which is too narrow and excludes the style of such men as C. H. Spurgeon, who was probably the greatest ever preacher — just has to be wrong. To criticize CHS on these grounds and fail to hold his preaching up as a model worthy of emulation today is, in my view, inexcusable. (See for example this post on Pyromaniacs.)

5.Expository preaching is not without its dangers, one of the chief of which is sounding too much like a Bible commentary read aloud.

6.Preaching needs to skillfully draw modern people into the Bible, explain the text, induce wonder, then drive the point home with a clear sense of how the people need to think, feel, believe, and act differently here in the 21st century.

7.Preaching is entirely dependent on the supernatural and sovereign activity of the Spirit, who equips both preacher and hearers for what is an impossible task and makes the words of the Bible live in its hearers hearts. Preaching needs to be passionate, emotive (though not necessarily emotional), and bring about a holy moment of experiencing the presence and voice of God through His Word.

8.Preaching God’s Word is the primary way He has ordained for people to be saved, taught, equipped, matured, and encounter God. It is the hope of the church, and a restoration of true preaching has always accompanied true revival.

9.Our preaching should be targeted at and have something relevant for each of our different audiences — the unbelieving visitor, the backslidden, the new Christian, the mature Christian, and other church leaders in the congregation. But, ultimately we are accountable to an audience of One before whom we must give an account.

10.Given the impossibility of this task, is it any wonder we need to be devoted to the study of the Word and to prayer, expressing our utter uselessness and unworthiness to proclaim God’s Word? Surely we do well to conclude that we need the help of God in our preparation, personal lives, and delivery to make us instruments that He can use. When I read about preaching I do feel that we have barely scratched the surface, and that sadly a generation exists today that has mostly never heard preaching as it should be.

 
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Posted by on 08/07/2011 in church, ministry

 

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What does it mean to preach the gospel of the grace of God

J.I. Packer unpacks John Owen‘s ‘The Death of death in the death of Christ’ in chapter 4 of In My Place Condemned He Stood and chapter 8 of A Quest for Godliness. The essay is a doctrinal discussion, broadly of Calvinism, and particularly (pardon the pun) on the atonement of Christ. It is also a practical application of both of these and how sound theology will aid your understanding of the gospel and your preaching ministry. He claims in this chapter that Owen will teach you and set you free, (if you read his work) to preach the gospel.

According to Scripture, preaching the gospel is entirely a matter of proclaiming to men, as truth from God which all are bound to believe and act on, the following four facts:

  1. that all men are sinners and cannot do anything to save themselves;
  2. that Jesus Christ, God’s Son, is a perfect Savior for sinners, even the worst;
  3. that the Father and the Son have promised that all who know themselves to sinners and put their faith in Christ as Savior shall be received into favor, and none cast out-which promise is “a certain infallible truth, grounded upon the superabundant sufficiency of the oblation of Christ in itself, for whomsoever [fewer or more] it be intended:”;
  4. that God has made repentance and faith a duty, requiring of every man who hears the gospel “a serious full recumbency and rolling of the soul upon Christ in the promise of the gospel, as an all-sufficient Savior, able to deliver and save to the utmost them that come to God by him; able and willing, through the preciousness of his blood and sufficiency of his ransom, to save every soul that shall freely give up themselves unto him for that end.”
 
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Posted by on 05/07/2011 in Gospel, Theology

 

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Visiting is BETTER than Preaching

“Making a hospital visit to a suffering family makes more of an impact than the three points you made in your message on Sunday.”

Trevin Wax explains why this view of pastoral leadership is inadequate and belies a lack of understanding of the sufficiency and authority of scripture in the life of a Christian and the Church.

He discusses the relationship between preaching and physical presence (visiting) by showing that preaching is not about being a clever orator that uses fancy alliteration so everyone can remember their sermons. Instead it is about exalting the Word of God and allowing the cumulative effect of that Word to transform and enliven people.

Preaching is formative in ways that go beyond mere information retention. Every time a pastor opens up the Word and preaches the gospel, he is showing his church how to approach the Bible. Pastors who elevate the Scriptures week after week, sermon after sermon, lead their people to approach the Bible in the same way.

Too often when a Pastor (Teaching Elder, etc) prioritizes sermon preparation, the congregation may be tempted to assume that he is neglecting visiting and relationship building just so he can be more eloquent. There might well be men like that in Church and gospel ministry, but most cases, eloquence has very little (if anything) to do with the Pastor’s preparation. In fact, I’m not sure I’ve ever come across an instance in my ministry or another’s where an important visit has been ignored in favour of “studying”.

Pastors, don’t underestimate the cumulative effect of your preaching. You are not dumping information into brains. You are forming the habits of your people, teaching them how to read and understand and apply the Bible for themselves. How you preach week after week matters just as much as what you preach.

Weekly confrontation with the Word of God slowly changes how we look at the world. We see God more clearly, our human state, and the future of the world within the Bible’s framework, even if we don’t remember all the information in an individual message. Sermons gradually change the way we think and feel and believe and hope.

It’s not a case of “Either OR” when talking about preaching and personal visiting. It is “Both AND” – But the priority is on preparation of the Word not “serving tables“.

Yes, your presence at the funeral home and the hospital bed is vital. It matters greatly. But there’s a reason why your presence during suffering is so powerful: The Word. A pastor’s visit is unique because the pastor is the one who speaks authoritatively from God’s Word week in and week out. That’s why Christians want their pastor to be by their side, and not just a fellow church member.

So let’s not pit pastoral presence against sermon preparation. Your preaching influences your presence, and vice versa. May the Lord open our eyes to see the quiet, subtle influence that 1000 sermons have on the people God has entrusted to our care.

 

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Don’t change the channel

Martyn Lloyd-Jones comments on the benefits of attending Church to hear a real live preacher :)

“There is a unity between preacher and hearers and there is a transaction backwards and forwards. That, to me, is true preaching. And that is where you see the essential difference between listening to preaching in a church and listening to a sermon on the television or on the radio. You cannot listen to true preaching in detachment and you must never be in a position where you can turn it off.” (Banner of Truth Magazine, Feb 1990)

HT: Gregory Larson

 
 

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