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Archive for the ‘Preaching’ Category

Note: I am overseas at the moment and will not have any internet.  This is a guest post by Michael A. Coughlin.  His blog can be found HERE.

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Previously, we looked at our need to presuppose the inerrancy, sufficiency and infallibility of the Bible when we open air preach in order to faithfully proclaim God’s good news. In this post, let’s look at some key areas of preparation.

For each preacher specific preparation may look different. Some folks are more comfortable with a prepared ‘sermon’ to preach in the open air, some preachers may even read the text from a tract, and others cheerfully preach with no notes or sermon. These types of preparations are optional and stylistic, meaning that there is no one size fits all approach.

But EVERY man who aspires to open air preach ought to have certain godly disciplines. The man who is daily in the Word and prayer is the only man qualified to stand (anywhere) on the street and herald for Christ. It doesn’t matter if you have a pre-written manuscript; if you are missing these basic habits of the Christian life, you are not qualified to preach.

What I am saying is this: Unless you are first being a good Christian, you are not prepared to be an open air preacher.

If you are not in the Word and prayer, you are in danger of violating God’s will. We are hypocrites if we stand on the street exhorting people to repent of sin because of the impendingjudgment, yet we ourselves do not love the Lord enough to search His Scriptures daily!Our lives ought to be examples for someone converted under our ministry to imitate.

There is physical preparation too. Have your stuff ready: your amp, your throat lozenges, your soapbox, water bottles, honey and lemon tea, whatever you need. Do voice exercises and bodily exercise to increase your stamina and help you to breathe easily. If you are tired and out of breath after a few minutes of preaching, how will you reach as many as you could by preaching 1 hour? Be wise! Know the local laws concerning amplification and what is public property.

Be prepared, in season and out, to herald the full counsel of God, respond to good questions that teach people, and to handle people in a respectable way.

In the next post we will look at practical pointers for our relationships to people in our open air preaching.

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Ministry Charles Brown

Charles J. Brown.  The Ministry: Address to Students of Divinity.
Carlisle, PA: The Banner of Truth Trust, 2006. 112 pp.

I started reading this book during a break in ministry as a devotional to refresh my soul. I had this book for a few years now and I thought I finally get around to reading it.  It turns out that the book really ministered to my heart and I was glad I read it.

The book has a biographical introduction to the author Charles Brown that was written by the biographer Iain Murray of Banner of Truth. I found the biographical sketch helpful since I didn’t know anything about the author before I read the book and learning a little more about this largely forgotten nineteenth century Scottish preacher prepared me to want to read the rest of the book in order to learn more from a great man of God and faithful minister of four decades. The book was an adaptation of several addresses that Charles Brown delivered for the Free Church of Scotland with attention towards ministers and seminarians.  The first chapter argues for the connection between Godliness and Christian ministry, the second on public prayer, the third on preaching and the fourth on elements of pulpit power.  There is an appendix that ought to be a chapter in of itself on various other aspect of pastoral ministry followed by one of Brown’s sermon that is a great example of Gospel driven preaching.

The book is short and is a plus in many ways: first it is the perfect size for a pastor’s devotional. Secondly, the author is concise and to the point.  Thirdly, its spiritual impact is greater than its size; in reviewing this book I was pleasantly surprised how much of the book I highlighted that fed my soul. The following are some of the valuable gems in the book:

  • Reverend Brown is a man of deep prayers. For instance, he devotes a while chapter to public corporate prayer. I appreciate his practical and pastoral reasons for short public prayers.  He doesn’t merely give a pragmatic argument but argues for the benefit of the spiritual well being of the congregation.  Even when he talks about sermon preparation and visitation he talks about the importance of prayers.
  • Brown presented an excellent two point argument for the importance of godliness in the ministry but he doesn’t just leave the readers there; he had some helpful practical hints to strive for personal holiness such as reading more works that are more personal and experimental in character.  I love also seeing Brown’s recommendations, which are all Christian classics and one that stood out to me is his recommendation to read Rutherford’s Letter’s since I didn’t know it had such an effect on Brown.  I’ll definitely be keeping my eye out for Rutherford’s work, which previously I have known about only as the man who wrote Lex Rex.
  • I love his illustration of the Word of God being like a gem, arrow and bait in that it is what the minister must master if they are going to preach evangelistically and powerfully.
  • Brown is against manuscripting a sermon; he argues that one should have an outline instead in order to ensure that one is able to look at the eyes of people and to ensure what Brown quoted from John Livingstone as saying “I was more helped in my preaching by the thirsty eyes of the people than anything else.”  Livingstone’s quote must have made a profound impact on Brown since he quoted him twice in the book.
  • I have always felt that as a preacher I should spend more time and effort preparing a conclusion well than the introduction given that it’s important to “land” the sermon properly and to drive home to the hearers a call to respond.  It is wonderful to see a successful preacher with forty one years of experience affirming my conclusion.
  • Brown did share his one regret in ministry was that he wished he got to ministered to the younger members more.  A lesson well taken.

I definitely recommend this book for pastors young and old to read.  I also recommend this for lay people to get this as a gift for their pastors.

Purchase: Westminster | Amazon

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What is the Role of and Cautions Concerning Illustrations and Applications in Expository Sermons?

I may do a little Q & A series on preaching.  We will see how it goes.  I thought it would be helpful since myself and another fellow brother at my church are discipling a few men on preaching.  The first topic will be on illustrations and applications, as already indicated in the title.  The role of and cautions concerning illustrations and applications are two terms that have received much discussion in the preaching world.  Before addressing the cautions, I will first address the role of illustrations and applications.  Another danger is when we put too much focus on illustrations.  

In regards to applications, that element puts the listener in a state of urgency because applications demands that one’s affections are stirred in order to apply what they learn.  Without the use of application, it may not be helpful for the hearer because the listener maybe prone to have head knowledge, but is not applying that knowledge to daily living.  But application prevents one from having a passive Christian walk.  Applications prompt one to step out of their comfort zone.  And when they step out of their comfort zone, they step into Christ’s comfort zone.

I believe the appropriate question that must be asked is not, “Should we use applications?”  Instead, it should be, “What type of illustrations and applications should one use?”  Answering those questions will help one understand the cautions concerning what illustrations and applications should be used in expository sermons. 

Let’s first tackle illustrations.  Illustrations can be misapplied in many areas, but one area that I see it being misapplied negatively is towards the doctrine of penal substitution.  For example, before one uses an illustration for penal substitution, the expositor must answer these questions, “Does the illustration deny the active, consenting involvement of the Father and the Son?  Does the illustration imply a conflict between God’s law and will?  Does the illustration imply that God’s action in averting our punishment is unjust?  Does the illustration imply a conflict between God’s wrath and God’s will?  Does the illustration imply a conflict between God’s attributes? Does the illustration imply that God did not foreordain Christ’s atoning work?  Does the illustration imply that no-one actually benefits from God’s saving work” (Steve Jeffery, Michael Ovey, and Andrew Sach, Pierced for Our Transgressions, 334-335)?  Because of the misuse of illustrations at times, sometimes it is safer to use illustrations from the Bible when covering doctrines such as penal substitution or other timeless truths such as the Trinity.  

As Martyn Lloyd-Jones said, “Stories and illustrations are only meant to illustrate truth, not to call attention to themselves” (Preaching & Preachers, 245).  And if you are too infatuated with illustrations and trying to be clever with it at the expense of timeless truth being expounded, I think it would be wise to take heed to Lloyd-Jones exhortation once again, “To me, that kind of thing is not only professionalism at its worst, it is , as I say, the art of the harlot, because it pays too much attention to, and is too much concerned about, enticing people.  What is even worse, of course, is when preachers repeat other preachers’ stories and illustrations without acknowledgement; and even yet worse when they buy books of sermons mainly in order to find such stories” (243).  This is a convicting and sobering reminder for myself.  I do not want people to come hear me because of the clever illustrations I use, but I want people to come to listen because of the truth. If I have done that, then I can be satisfied.  Many expository preachers implement illustrations and applications in their sermons.  They see a role for them in their sermons because illustrations add clarity concerning complex topics and terms and also adds color to the listener’s mind. And there is nothing inherently wrong with that.  We just need to make sure as preachers that we have the eternal perspective so that truth which is the main priority is not kicked to curb because of over emphasis and the cleverness of illustrations that calls attention to the preacher rather than being a means that leads others  to the truth.

As for my concern for application, it becomes a concern when applications are too specific and narrow.  When that happens, it no longer becomes applicable for the entire congregation.  I think it is best not to have narrow applications, but broader applications that will be applicable for all.  Some explain that universal applicability by using the term “implication.”  Implications still demand the second person plural, which is important, but it does not do it by making its demands too specific to listeners, but to the entire congregation.

I pray that as preachers, we will grow and mature in our preaching.  I pray that we will preach with accuracy and power to the best of our ability, but with the assistance of the Holy Spirit.  There is much more to be learned concerning applications and illustrations.  With more careful practice, the expositor will be more effective.

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Shepherds Conference

What follows is my notes from the evening service of the first night of Shepherd’s Conference 2014.  The speaker was Mark Dever.

Establishing the need: How are you brother pastors?

There are those here tonight in ministry who are:

  • The Resigned
  • The Hopeless

Isaiah has a Word for you.  Turn to Isaiah 34-35.

Context:  

  • Chapters 1-11 Warns Judah
  • Chapters 12-27, God’s call to repent
  • Chapters 28 onwards, Judah Judged
  • Recurring theme: Judgment and Salvation

Outline:

  • Chapter 34 Judgment
  • Chapter 35 Salvation

 

Do you feel you are about to give into fear of days ahead?

  1. Hold on, God’s judgement is coming (Chapter 34)
    • It will be universal (v.1-4)
      • Don’t forget when God waits to vindicate, He waits to vindicate His name!
      • He has more of an incentive to vindicate His name than just vindicate us!  We need to remember that.
    • It’s for us (v.5-8)
    • It’s is final (v.9-17)
      • Real description here but also pictures of future judgment
      • Look at verse 10, “forever.”
    • Application: Know that God’s judgment never ned but our trials do.
  1. Hold on, God’s Salvation is coming (Chapter 35)
    • Wilderness/desert will bcome like spring again
    • Glory of nature restored, a window of God’ glory (v.2b)
    • This include the justice of God
    • Hebrews 12 quotes Isaiah 35:4, which is the point of the whole book of Isaiah
    • God is a bigger problem one will face, and also a bigger solution than that the nations poses
    • Application: Remember the fullness of God’s goodness

 

We need to preach this “Judgment/Salvation” today.  This is not strange, rememebr Jesus’ prayer “Thy Kingdom Come,” would does that mean?

God will put an end to all injustice.

Look at verse eight, note “highway” is a highway to God.  We of course know Jesus is the Way to God.

Look at verse ten, we have singing.

Let not the enemy win, let us go through our trials in a way that glorifies God, let us rejoice in God in our suffering.

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Shepherds Conference

 

This upcoming week we will be blogging through some of the sessions from the Shepherd’s Conferences which takes place between March 5th-7th, 2014 at Grace Community Church pastored by John MacArthur.

Keynote speakers include Al Mohler, Mark Dever, Steve Lawson and Phil Johnson.

I heard also this year that Paul Washer is doing a seminar session on the Great Commission as a Theological Endeavor.

Stay Tune!

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Do you sense that your preaching has no depth, light, heat, fire, or glow that is being emitted from the pulpit?  Are you boring your audience to death?  You may present a well-intended and accurate exposition, which is the light, but is passion, which is the heat, missing?  If so, it maybe wise to take heed to Professor John Murray’s statement, “To me, preaching without passion is not preaching at all.”  J.W. Alexander statement is of help too.  Here is what he says, “The whole mass of truth, by the sudden passion of the speaker, is made red-hot and burns its way.  Passion is eloquence.”  If these statements are germane to your current situation in the area of preaching, I recommend that you read this book.  And if you are not experiencing a lack of light and heat, I still recommend this book because it is wonderfully refreshing to the soul of a preacher.

The author’s main theme in this book is in regards to “The Immediate Agency and Operations of the Holy Spirit in and on the Preacher in the Act of Preaching.”  It seems to be a long title and theme that Pastor Martin refers to often in this book.  For example, he stated: “I will seek to demonstrate that His agency (His active power) and His operations (the effects of that power) are direct and immediate in and on the preacher in the act of preaching, in contrast to those operations that come through intervening agencies.”  What he has just described is what he calls the bull’s eye topic that he seeks to unravel for the readers.

Before he gets into the details of explaining the theme or the bull’s-eye topic, Pastor Martin provides some helpful presuppositions to consider in regards to the Holy Spirit.  First the Holy Spirit is a person.  Whether it be His gifts or functions, we must always remember that they are operations of a person, not a force.   Second, the Holy Spirit is a divine person.  As the pastor so clearly states, “All that constitutes the essence of the Father’s deity and the Son’s deity can and must be equally attributed to the person of the Holy Spirit.  Hence, all the reverence, all the submission, and all the love that flows out of Spirit-renewed hearts to the Father and to the Son must also constantly flow out to this glorious divine person called the Holy Spirit.”  Third, the Holy Spirit is not only a divine person, but He is sovereign.  He possesses supreme and ultimate authority when it comes to regeneration and the dispensing of spiritual gifts.

In light of the presuppositions concerning the Holy Spirit, the writer devotes much of his material under three main headings: “1) its indispensable necessity, 2) its specific manifestations, and 3) its restrained or diminished measure.”

I will not go into details concerning the book’s details regarding this topic, but what I can tell you is that in his first main heading: “its indispensable necessity,” the writer argues that Spirit’s role is an indispensable necessity in preaching because just as how He was involved in Christ’s ministry (Luke 2:52; Isa. 61:1; Luke 3:21-22; Luke 4:1-2; Luke 4:14; Heb. 9:14), the apostles’ ministry (Acts 1:3; Luke 24:45-48; Luke 24:49; Acts 1:8; Acts 1:7-8; 1 Thess. 1:5), and the New Covenant ministry (2 Corinthians 2:14-4:18; 3:1-8; 3:5-6; Romans 8:26), He too is involved in our preaching.

Much more can be said about this book, but I will quote an excerpt from Charles Spurgeon’s book, Lectures to My Students, and a few exhortations from Pastor Martin in terms of what they have to say concerning the indispensability of the Spirit’s agency and operations that is in connection to the preaching ministry invested to the preacher by God.  Here are the wise sayings from a godly experienced pastor:

To us, as ministers, the Holy Spirit is absolutely essential.  Without him our office is a mere name.  We claim no priesthood over and above that which belongs to every child of God; but we are the successors of those who, in olden times, were moved of God to declare his word, to testify against transgression, and to plead his cause.  Unless we have the spirit of the prophets resting upon us, the mantle which we wear is nothing but a rough garment to deceive.  We ought  to be driven forth with abhorrence from the society of honest men for daring to speak in the name of the Lord if the Spirit of God rests not upon us.  We believe ourselves to be spokesmen for Jesus Christ, appointed to continue his witness upon earth; but upon him and his testimony of the Spirit of God always rested, and if it does not rest upon us, we are evidently not sent forth into the world as he was.  At Pentecost the commencement of the great work of converting the world was with flaming tongues and a rushing mighty wind, symbols of the presence of the Spirit; if, therefore, we think to succeed without the Spirit, we are not after the Pentecostal order.  If we have not the Spirit which Jesus promised, we cannot perform the commission which Jesus gave.” ~ Charles H. Spurgeon, Lectures to My Students (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 2008), 255.

Now a word of discernment must be made.  In light of this quote, I believe what Spurgeon said about the flaming tongues should be perceived as an element that is giving the presentation of what took place and how the Spirit operated, not a model to follow because flaming tongues have ceased for today.  But that is beyond the scope for this post and that is a topic for another day. But what we can extract from Spurgeon’s statement  is that the indispensable necessity of the Holy Spirit’s operation back then in the lives of believers also operate in preaching for the sake of God’s glory and one’s edification.  Without Him, preaching will have no life.

As for Pastor Martin soul-stirring exhortations concerning the immediate agency and operation of the Holy Spirit in our preaching that gives a heightened sense of the spiritual realities, please take note of them below.  I pray that they will be helpful to you:

  • “But in the act of preaching it is as though you are given the ability to smell the brimstone and to hear the hopeless cry of the damned, and your soul feels the horrors of the pit that awaits the impenitent.  You preach the truth of hell as one who senses and feels the reality of what you are preaching.  What are these experiences?  They are nothing other and nothing less than the blessed reality of the immediate agency and operation of the Holy Spirit in our preaching, giving us a heightened sense of the spiritual realities in which we are trafficking as we preach” (20).
  • “One of the results of this blessed experience is that at times it will give an involuntary glow to the very countenance of the preacher.  No actor can produce it.  There is nothing in your notes that says ‘glow here.’  You cannot anticipate it; you cannot force or imitate it.  It may evoke an unplanned and unforced tear in the eye.  At other times it will inject an element of pathos and pleading power into the vocal cords and in many ways take a preacher totally out of himself.  My dear reader, if you are a preacher and do not find these things resonating with you in terms of things you have experienced, both you and your hearers are to be pitted.  This is why George Whitefield said, ‘I would not for one thousand worlds preach an unfelt Christ.’  This is what Whitefield was talking about” (21).

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Purchase: Westminster | Amazon

NOTE: This book just came off the press (March 2013) and was on sale and promoted widely during Shepherd’s Conference!  I thought it would be timely to put up this review. This was a very edifying read; one ought to purchase it for their pastor! The book makes the case that Luther must be understood as a preacher before all other roles that he had, whether it’s a theologian, professor or writer. I learned that Luther zeal for preaching was done while he was doing everything else in ministry and on any given Sunday he preached three to four sermons with the first service beginning at at 5 AM! He would preach a sermon every two days. While I have enjoyed other biographies on Luther in the past (see for instance, this recent post), what makes this particular book unique is that this book on Martin Luther as a preacher is written by Steven Lawson who is himself a powerful and passionate preacher. There’s nothing like a good preacher having the insight on another famous preacher. Lawson is not only a preacher but he has proven himself in the past to be a capable writer especially in the area of the history of preaching and this work doesn’t disappoint. For a work in which the body comes in at 122 pages, Lawson’s historical leg work is amazing with 324 footnotes total. The sources he cites indicate his familiarity with both secondary sources and English translation of primary sources on Luther. And he’s able to do this without making the book feel boring.  On the contrary, reading the book made me felt passionate about preaching especially when I got to chapter five on Luther’s passionate delivery in the pulpit. I couldn’t go to sleep until after three in the morning because I wanted to preach God’s Word as a result of reading this book!  I am a firm believer that true Christ-centered preaching that’s Biblically driven can’t be delivered as a mono-tone lecture–one must internalize the Word of God and let the Word set you ablaze with a conviction of it’s truth and power. I highly recommend the book for all readers.

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