Friday, August 31, 2007

Preaching as to Convert Nobody, Charles Finney (Part 2)

This continues the list on how to Preach so as to convert nobody by Charles Finney. I preached what I considered a strongly evangelistic sermon last Sunday, but find several things about it in the list below. I recognize that some of the items in the list are culturally bound to Finney's time, but not all. Maybe that was why there has been absolutely no response to the evangelistic sermon I preached last week.

11th. Give your sermon the form and substance of a flowing, beautifully written, but never-to-be-remembered essay; so that your hearers will say "it was a beautiful sermon," but can give no further account of it.

12th. Avoid preaching doctrines that are offensive to the carnal mind, lest they should say of you, as they did of Christ, "This is a hard saying. Who can hear it?" and that you are injuring your influence.

13th. Denounce sin in the abstract, but make no allusion to the sins of your present audience.

14th. Keep the spirituality of God's holy law, by which is the knowledge of sin, out of sight, lest the sinner should see his lost condition, and flee from the wrath to come.

15th. Preach the Gospel as a remedy, but conceal, or ignore the fatal disease of the sinner.

16th. Preach salvation by grace; but ignore the condemned and lost condition of the sinner, lest he should understand what you mean by grace, and feel his need of it.

17th. Preach Christ as an infinitely amiable and good-natured being; but ignore those scathing rebukes of sinners and hypocrites which so often made his hearers tremble.

18th. Avoid especially preaching to those who are present. Preach about sinners, and not to them. Say they, and not you, lest any one should make a personal and saving application of your subject.

19th. Aim to make your hearers pleased with themselves and pleased with you, and be careful not to wound the feelings of any one.

20th. Preach no searching sermons, lest you convict and convert the worldly members of your church.

Enough said.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Preaching as to Convert Nobody, Charles Finney (Part 1)

Charles Finney was one of the greatest revivalists that America has ever produced. He lived from 1792-1875 and was instrumental in the Second Great Awakening. For many years I have known of his list of How to Preach So as to Convert No-one. I thought it would be good for me to review them for myself and share them here. I intend to make a few comments in this list. I will mark what I add by CPH: followed by italics. Otherwise what you see is what he wrote.

Preaching as to Convert Nobody

The design of this article is to propound several rules, by a steady conformity to any one of which a man may preach so as not to convert anybody. It is generally conceded at the present day that the Holy Spirit converts souls to Christ by means of truth adapted to that end.

It follows that a selfish preacher will not skillfully adapt means to convert souls to Christ, for this is not his end.
CPH: Obviously he is dealing in the realm of sarcasm in order to persuade to quite the opposite point of view.

Rule 1st. Let your supreme motive be to secure your own popularity; then, of course, your preaching will be adapted to that end, and not to convert souls to Christ.

2d. Aim at pleasing, rather than at converting your hearers.

3d. Aim at securing for yourself the reputation of a beautiful writer.
CPH: Ouch! There are times I have to decide if I am a writer or a preacher. I fear there are too many times when I am the former.

4th. Let your sermons be written with a high degree of literary finish.
CPH: Again, ouch. As someone who loves words and who preaches from a manuscript, I know that I work to polish the grammar and the structure. I am not totally convinced that is wrong, however. If poor grammar or poor sentence or argument construction detract from the point of the sermon, then why not do the work on it? The real question may be, "Do I spend an equal amount of time in prayer and petitioning God to make the sermon effective?" Usually, no.

5th. Let them be short, occupying in the reading not to exceed from twenty to twenty-five minutes.
CPH: So the length of sermons was an issue then as now!! The cry today is still: "Keep it short; 20-25 minutes." The reality is that it takes time to weave an argument and it takes time to drill past the hardened crust into the heart.

6th. Let your style be flowery, ornate, and quite above the comprehension of the common people.

7th. Be sparing of thought, lest your sermon contain truth enough to convert a soul.

8th. Lest your sermon should make a saving impression, announce no distinct propositions or heads, that will be remembered, to disturb the consciences of your hearers.
CPH: It is important to remember that there is a difference between speech-making and preaching. In preaching you are trying to present the Gospel so that

9th. Make no distinct points, and take no disturbing issues with the consciences of your hearers, lest they remember these issues, and become alarmed about their souls.

10th. Avoid a logical division and sub-division of your subject, lest you should too thoroughly instruct your people.

CPH: More tomorrow.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Peter Mead: Multiplying the Fruit of Your Study

Here is one of the many reasons why Peter Mead over at BiblicalPreaching has become one of my favorite preaching bloggers. Another excellent article. Check it out.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Watching Our Words

Every preacher's nightmare is a slip of the tongue that overshadows anything else you might say in the rest of the sermon. This poor guy's preaching slip will haunt him for years. I did a similar thing in my first preaching church which was filled with older widows. And in a sermon on Sarai, I talked about Abram passing her off as his sister because she was so beautiful that the king of the country they were visiting would desire her and kill him. And I tried to comment on how odd I thought this was, "because we don't normally think of older women as attractive." And the more I tried to dig myself out of that hole, the worse it got.


Saturday, August 25, 2007

More on Preaching in Community

Steve's most recent additions to this subject.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Group Sermon Preparation

Steve Matthewson over at Preaching Today blog suggests Six Disciplines for Taking Your Preaching to the Next Level. In his list he gives #3. Study the biblical text and prepare sermons in community. That has always seemed to be an unattainable ideal for me. Have any of you ever had any success in doing something like that? I would of course presume that it would be much more viable for preachers who use the Common Lectionary. Any insights?

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Participating in the Eternal

A few years ago, I was doing some spiritual direction from a Catholic priest at a nearby monastery and he was educating this "poor uninformed semi-Protestant" about the finer points of Catholic theology. And he taught me a whole new understanding of the Lord's Supper. My understanding of Catholic doctrine was that every time the Lord's Supper (Eucharist) was celebrated Christ was re-crucified over again. That seemed totally unbiblical to me (and to him as well). Father Pius X showed me that Roman Catholic doctrine was much different from that. He said that the death of Christ was of such import that it was/is not bound by time. Christ's sacrificial death is an eternal action. When we celebrate the Lord's Supper we are simply joining in for that period of time, the eternal reality of Christ's death. We are for that moment joining the eternal sacrifice of Christ for the sins of the world in partaking of the wine and the bread (body and the blood). Whatever you think of Catholic Eucharistic doctrine, [and I don't buy into all of it] I have a much deeper appreciation for the subtleties of that teaching.

That experience was brought to mind when I read a quote by John Knox on preaching. In "The Integrity of Preaching" he writes:

"The Spirit makes the ancient event in a very real sense an event even now transpiring, and the preaching is a medium of the Spirit's action in doing so. In the preaching, when it is truly itself, the event is continuing or is recurring. God's revealing action in Christ is, still or again, actually taking place. . . . Here is the final test of Christian preaching, if it be genuine preaching and genuinely Christian: Does it really convey the saving action of God? Just as God used the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, so also, if in a subordinate way, is he using the preacher's preaching of that life, death, and resurrection as the medium of his power and love?. . . . Insofar as preaching is failing, here is the primary point of its failure – not that it fails to be learned enough, or entertaining enough, or brief enough, or 'modern' enough, but that God's power and action are not being effectively communicated in it. This is the primary point of failure, because in failing here, preaching is failing to be preaching at all. A man is expressing his opinions, true or false, interesting or uninteresting, about matters important or unimportant. But God is not acting. Something is being said, but nothing is taking place. The judging and saving event of Christ is not recurring. The Spirit, the 'glorious might' of God, is not present (The Integrity of Preaching, pp.93-94).

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Preaching a Part of the Act of Salvation Itself?

H.H. Farmer in his book The Servant of the Word states that

Bearing witness to the unique saving activity of God in Christ is now seen not as merely an adjunct, even an indispensable adjunct to, but as indispensably part of, the saving activity itself" (The Servant of The Word, 17, 19, 21).

Without preaching there can be no authentic Christianity. It is a part of the saving event itself. "God therefore decided to save those who believe by the folly of the message we preach" (I Corinthians 1:21, Barclay).

Ronald Sleeth says, "Historically, we have affirmed that God is revealed in creation, Scriptures, Jesus Christ, sacraments, the church, the apostles, and the mouths of preachers" (God's Word and Our Words, 4).

It puts what I try to do feebly each week into perspective. What do you think of Farmer and Sleeth's statements? Is it overstating the case?

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

How Can He Preach without an Organist?

I know that in many Afric-Am churches the sermon is "accompanied" by an organ, but here is another example. There are actually several YouTube films on playing "PreachingChords." Here a preacher solicits an organist because he can't preach without one! They didn't teach me that in Bible College.

Here's another:

And one more for good measure:

And you put it all together and it looks like this:

Don't ever say I don't give you diversity on this preaching blog!

Paul's Theology of Proclamation

This is interesting: Paul’s theology of preaching.

Four Types of Preaching

Myron Taylor again speaks at how preaching is/was a varied activity. Instead of the more typical divisions of exegetical, expository, topical preaching, he points out four ancient basic forms:
    • Kerygma. Literally means a herald's announcement and is a plain statement of the facts of the Christian message.
    • Didache literally means teaching and it elucidated and worked out the meanings, the significances, the implications of the facts which have been proclaimed.
    • There is paraklesis or exhortation. That kind of preaching urges upon men and women the duty and the obligation of fitting their lives to match the kerygma and the didache which they have just received.
    • There is homilia which means the treatment of any subject or department of life in light of the Christian message. I Corinthians; household passages; relation to the State; Book of Revelation.
Fully rounded preaching has preaching has something of all four elements. There is the plain proclamation of the facts of the Christian gospel; the explanation of the meaning and the relevance of these facts; the exhortation to fit life to them; and the treatment of all activities of life in the light of the Christian messages.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Myron Taylor-The Priority of Preaching

Many moons ago, I heard Myron Taylor speak at some conference at Manhattan Christian College (my alma mater) in Manhattan, KS. I came across my notes from that lecture recently and found them helpful. In thinking through why we do what we do, his lecture on the Priority of Preaching was good. Imagine my delight and surprise to find that the lecture I heard many years ago is available in an updated format on his web site. ( In fact, at 83 years young, he is still going strong and recently completed teaching a summer school class at another of my alma mater's, Emmanuel School of Religion.

Some of my notes on that long-lost lecture:

If we study the Bible, we see that preaching has a priority

  • Jesus came preaching. “God had only one son and he made him a preacher.” –Thomas Goodwin
  • From the beginning the church was a preaching church (Acts 6:4)2. Theologians have been more convinced of and excited about preaching than preachers have.
  • When you look at the history of preaching, you see that the high times of the church—the times of revival & reformation—have been times of great preaching. Low periods of the church have been low periods of preaching.

Preaching today
  • We are losing our ability to concentrate
  • Commercialism has resulted in our loss of vocabulary
  • As a result of propogandism, the better a speaker is today, the more he is suspected of insincerely trying to put things over on his hearers.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

When Will Jesus Be Enough?

Milton Stanley over at Transforming Sermons quotes from a Christianity Today article from Bob Roberts. While this blog is designed to be on preaching, I think that this quote is important enough for preachers to include here. I know that it spoke to me and just for myself I wanted to include it in my blog so that I could come back to it again and again. It is the same struggle I have had for some time.

Bob Roberts says:

Years ago, I was at a point of growing our church big. I was concerned about how fast we could get there. We relocated, and the church started going to pot; it was doing badly. I was embarrassed; I was humiliated. But I'd made a public commitment that I would stay at the church forever, because I heard Rick Warren say that! That's a fun thing to say when things are going good. But when the church is going in the crapper, when you've got First Baptist of Israel in the middle of the desert, you want out of there. And I wanted out bad.

I was walking in a pasture behind my house one day. A pastor not far from me had had affairs with five women; he crashed and burned. Another guy north of me had a megachurch, but he was going to the pen for embezzlement. I told God, "God, I've got my pants on. I've got my hands out of the offering plate. You've got these guys over here doing all this stuff. Why aren't you blessing me?"

All of a sudden this little question came to my mind: When will Jesus be enough for you? Sometimes, I think that's when I became a Christian. I just began to weep, because I realized he wasn't. I was miserable because of our attendance the day before. That's wrong. I mean, if I've got the Holy Spirit, if I've got the Word of God, why can't I be content? Why is my joy based on having to grow my church as big as Rick Warren's or Bill Hybels's?

So I began to think: What does it mean for Christ to be enough?

White Preaching Too Acculturated?

Myron Taylor writes:

"When the story of this century is finally written the preaching of the black preachers in the South will fill one glorious chapter. They had a cause which was just, they had courage to buck the tide, they paid the price in prison and in death. Most white preachers of our time are too much a part of the establishment – to much acculturated – adapted to the culture – to deliver the message our nation and our world needs to hear. One example is the lack of preaching and of action in behalf of the growing numbers of the poor in our land and around the world. Read your Bible again with a view to seeing what it says about the poor."

While I have long recognized that this is true, how do you overcome that? Is simply reading what the Bible says about the poor enough? Is traveling to other cultures and then returning to your own part of the answer? You see things with fresh eyes when you do that. I found that to be especially true after each of my trips to eastern Europe. Not so much Mexico...they seem to want to be too much LIKE north Americans. But eastern Europeans are different. I am finding rediscovering Sojourners magazine helpful in doing this, but what other resources are out there. Have you found any?

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Preachers vs Promoters

I had an interesting contrast today. I don't want to read too much into it, but I think the point is worth making.

I went to one of the many promotional events of companies who want to market their materials through churches. I walk into presentations like these with not great feelings toward such organizations. (My personal prejudices). This one is fairly well known and widespread because of a strong radio connection.

There were two speakers. The first one was the professional promoter. He was slim, good looking, well spoken, funny, articulate (and kept poking fun at his Tennessee drawl). He spoke clearly and had a great stage presence. All his jokes didn't go over well, but it was not for lack of trying. I wasn't overly interested in the program when I went into the presentation, but he made it sound viable and helpful.

Then they had a guy who came up who emphasized that he had been (apparently up until recently) a preacher. He mumbled, he meandered, used poor grammar and didn't make a whole lot of sense. He was overweight (I have to be careful because so am I), but was unkept, poorly dressed and not well groomed. He kept emphasizing how badly pastors were paid. Maybe his lack of nice attire was supposed to emphasize that, but also his grooming, and his lack of professionalism? He stressed that he was out of debt (the point of the material being promoted) and I am glad for that, but he was a huge turn-off for the program. My interest in the program plummeted the longer he talked.

Why is it that those who speak in the secular world understand the principles of good communication and presentation and preachers too often do not? We think sincerity is enough. We think biblical literacy is enough (although this preacher wasn't saying anything biblical). We almost use our dress and presentation so that it becomes something the message has to overcome instead of enhancing the message. Bad presence and presentation does not make people believe the message is more credible. There is a difference between using technique to manipulate and recognizing the need to speak/preach/present in ways that connect with people.

Again, I don't want to read too much into one bad preacher or one bad presentation, but it seems to feed into the stereotype of preachers that none of us need. Oh well...just another rant from this judgmental and temperamental preacher.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Using the Original Languages in Sermon Preparation

I am working on a longer blog on Myron Taylor and the priority of preaching, but in the meantime, Steve Matthewson over at Preaching Today blog has a couple of good posts on Using the Original Languages in Sermon Preparation:

Part 1-

Part 2-

This goes along well with my own revived attempts at using the Greek. I don't even really try to do much with the Hebrew.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Is Your Preaching in a Rut?

Peter Mead over at Biblical Preaching has a really helpful post on getting out of a preaching rut. It is something all of us need to pay attention to:

It is easy to settle into a pattern of the familiar and comfortable. We do this in all areas of life: same breakfast cereal, same choice in the restaurant, same type of movie, same store for clothes. It is natural and usually not a problem. But once in a while it is good to vary things. A different salad dressing, one of those new deli sandwiches on the menu, a thriller or rom-com instead of the usual _______ (fill in the blank). In the same way, in our preaching it is easy to get into a rut. Perhaps it’s time to challenge yourself with something fresh:

1. Different kind of text: I don’t mean preaching from a different “holy book.” Perhaps you find yourself always preaching epistles, or Old Testament narratives, or stories from the gospels. Schedule something different – one of the other three above, or a Psalm, a Proverb, a Prophet.

2. Different shape of sermon: It’s easy to always preach deductively (main idea up front), or inductively (just the theme or subject up front, the main idea emerging at the end). When the text allows for it, try the other one, or an inductive-deductive outline. Perhaps your sermons are always a list of keyword points? Try preaching a one-point message.

3. Different type of sermon: When was the last time you preached first-person? Loads of options – you can be the writer, a character, an implied character. You can visit your listeners today, or have them travel through time and visit you back then. You can preach the whole sermon in character, or part of a sermon. You can use costume, props or neither one.

4. Different props in delivery: If you’re used to taking a manuscript into the pulpit, try abbreviated notes. If you’re into notes, try no notes (see earlier posts on how to do this). If you usually project something on a screen, try turning it off and having people look at you instead.

5. Different preaching logistics: If you always preach from behind a pulpit, try removing the pulpit, or move out from behind it. Perhaps stand on a different level, or even sit on a high stool (if it suits the sermon).

A change is as good as a rest. You will benefit from getting out of the rut, and you may find your people listen more attentively too!

You can find the original at:

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Jay Adams on Application

As a part of a bigger discussion on "Is Application Necessary in Expository Preaching" (which actually has some helpful insights), Paul Lamey over at Expository Thoughts blog quotes Jay Adams in his book Truth Applied (pg. 54), Adams offers a few questions which help aid the expositor in thinking through application:

1) What is the telos [end, or purpose] of the preaching portion? Is that also the telos of your sermon?

2) In what sort of situation does the telos occur? What was going on? To what is it addressed?

3) In the passage, who is doing what about the situation

  • to understand it?
  • to change it?
  • to complicate it?

4) How does God view the situation? Is He

  • Pleased with it?
  • Displeased with it?

5) What response does He require?

You can view the entire discussion at:

Monday, August 6, 2007

Love the Central Element of the Christian Ministry

This is the conclusion of the notes/quotes from Henry Ward Beecher's 1872 Lyman Beecher lecture on "Love the Central Element of the Christian Ministry."

p. 244-245

And so a man who is truly intellectual, without any special sympathy or love, cannot deal rightly in moral truth. He may in physical truth, because that is not at all a question of influence; but all moral truth—and with that you have mainly to deal—is truth that springs out of experience. Unless you have love, you cannot go right by pure intellect; while the intellect working in an atmosphere of love can rarely go wrong in moral things.



But there are other things. No one can deal with the hearts of men as he ought, unless he has the sympathy which is given by love. I have always been struck with the Apostle’s notion as to quality and quantity of feeling. If he charges you to be hopeful, it is to be very hopeful. It is not enough for you to be right, You must be very largely right; each particular good must be carried up to its ideal form. Thus, we are, not only to be fruitful but we must abound in fruitfulness, as a vine, bearing so much clusters have to be cut away to make room for those for those that remain. We do not know what Christian qualities are until we see them in their larger forms. Suppose we knew nothing about apples except as we had seen them grown in Siberia, what could we say about pound pippins? Suppose you only see those poor, mean, and barren qualities that often are called Christian experiences, what would you know about the depths, the beauty, the freshness, and the power that are in a true man, who is built after the model of Jesus Christ, who is conscious of his strength, who is free, who is profuse, generous and abundant? God is in him; and men see God more nearly than they can by their own meditation, when they see a man like that. You may have benevolence as a pale stream of moonbeams shining into your study window, and you may sit and write your thin sermons in the light of that pale, speculative benevolence, but it will not do.

p. 253

Now, your congregation will be full of sluggish people. Somebody must bear with those dull and stupid ones. You will find, what is a great deal worse, people who know everything, and yet know nothing. You cannot teach them anything. They are conceited snips of men, who are rushing up to you, and taking on airs in your presence, and you feel like smacking them, as you would a black fly or a mosquito. But somebody has to bear with them. If Christ died for the world, he died for a great many ordinary folks; and if we are Christ’s we must do the same thing.

p. 257

You have sold yourself to any man fear of whom makes you silent.

A congregation knows when a minister is afraid of them just as well as a horse knows that his driver is afraid of him.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Love, The Central Element of the Christian Ministry

I am doing personal study on emotion in the life and effectiveness of the preacher, particularly the emotion of love. I shared about my own journey in what I called the “school of love” this morning in my message. But God led me to a three-volume set of lectures on preaching. They are the first three volumes of the famed Lyman Beecher Lectures on Preaching at Yale University Divinity School. The first three years were delivered by Lyman Beecher’s son Henry Ward Beecher, the famous social reformer and abolitionist preacher.

Amazingly (i.e. providentially) there was an entire lecture in the first series (1872) entitled, “Love the Central Element of the Christian Ministry” (p. 238-263). [All page numbers are from the 1881 compilation of the first three lectures--all given by H.W. Beecher and published by Fords, Howard, & Hurlburt of New York]. I am going to make three posts out of this material. I have taken notes/quotes from this lecture. They are really too long for one post (they may actually be too long for two posts). In addition I want to put in a biographical sketch of Beecher. So, here is the first set of notes/quotes. It will be followed by the biographical sketch of Beecher. Tomorrow I will finish posting the notes from this terrific lecture.

p. 254-255


There are also, some specialties in this true Christian love and sympathy that bear upon the pulpit. In the first place, the whole case of your thought and the subjects with which you deal are to bear the impress of this good news—that God is Love, and that God so loved the world that he gave his son to die for it; and that Christ so loves the world, that having died for it, he now sits at the right hand of God, a risen Saviour to live for it.

If you preach justice alone, you will murder the gospel. If you preach conscientiously, as it is called, if you sympathize with law & with righteousness as interpreted by the narrow rule of a straight line; if you preach, especially, with a sense of vindictive retribution, --I do not care who the criminals are,--you will fail of your whole duty. There must be justice and punitive justice, of course; but, after all, “Vengeance is mine,” saith the Lord. It is a quality so dangerous to handle that only Infinite Love is safe administering it. No mortal man should dare to touch it, for it is a terrible instrument. You are to administer all the great truths, the most rugged truths, in the spirit of the truest sympathy, benevolence, and love.

p. 239

I purpose…to speak to you on the love-principle as the central power in the work of a Christian minister. “Speaking the truth in love” is the expression, and it is still stronger in the original than in our version, because we have no word signifying “to truth.” We say “to speak the truth.” Literally, it is truthing it in love.

p. 242

I do not believe that any other temper than that of love will carry a minister through his whole work with so little wear & tear, with so much inward satisfaction. Indeed, it is the element by which he interprets at once God and man.

A minister who has pure intellection only to offer to his people is like one who would in winter drag a plow over the frozen ground. He marks it, but he does not furrow it. He who has to make the seed of truth grow in living men into living forms must have power to bring summer to men’s hearts, --light and heat; and then culture, whether it be by the plow or the harrow, by the hoe or the spade, will do some good.

pp. 243-244

A great many persons, when you say such things as these, feel at once, “That is my doctrine. I do no believe in these always dry, metaphysical men, arguing and arguing and arguing.” Another man says, “That is my idea about it. I do not like these men who are always combative. I like a mild, meek and lowly man.”

But I do not mean any such thing as that. I do not mean these lazy sunshiny, good natured men, who have no particular opinions and who would about as soon have things go one way as another; who are without sharp and discriminating thought, have no preferences, no indignation, no conscience, no fire. I do not believe in any such men. I like to see a man who has got snap in every part of him, who knows how to think and to speak, and to put on the screw, if that is his particular mode of working.

This sweet and beneficent heart-quality that I am speaking of is the atmosphere in which every other faculty works, and which is generic to them all. It is Christian sympathy, benevolence and love. Do you not suppose that love has anger? There is no such anger as that which a mother’s love furnishes. Do you suppose that when se sees the child that is both herself and him whom she loves better than herself, the child in whom her hope is bound up, the child that is God’s glass through which she sees immortality, the child that is more to her than her own life, doing a detestable meanness, that she is not angry and indignant and that the child does not feel the smart of physical advice? Do you not suppose that the child knows what anger is? I tell you that there is no such indignation possible as the indignation that means rescue, help, hope and betterment. You might as well say that a summer shower has no thunder as to say that love has no anger. It is fully of it, or may be. Has love no specialty or discrimination in removing error, nor any continuing intense regard for specific and exact truth? God has it, and we are like him. We are his children, and know it by that. Love is simply that which overhands all those powers, which gives them quality and direction, and gives to us a larger power through these lower instruments.

Biographical Sketch of Henry Ward Beecher (from Wikipedia)

From Wikipedia:

Henry Ward Beecher (June 24, 1813 – March 8, 1887) was a prominent, American Congregationalist clergyman, social reformer, abolitionist, and speaker in the mid to late 19th Century. He was born in Litchfield, Connecticut, the son of evangelist Lyman Beecher. He was the brother of Harriet Beecher Stowe (author of Uncle Tom's Cabin) and Isabella Beecher Hooker, a suffragist. He also had a brother, Charles Beecher, who was a renowned Congregationalist minister.

Thousands of worshipers flocked to Beecher's enormous Plymouth Church in Brooklyn. Abraham Lincoln (who said of Beecher that no one in history had "so productive a mind") was in the audience at one point, and Walt Whitman visited. Mark Twain went to see Beecher in the pulpit and described the pastor "sawing his arms in the air, howling sarcasms this way and that, discharging rockets of poetry and exploding mines of eloquence, halting now and then to stamp his foot three times in succession to emphasize a point.”

"He obtained the chains with which John Brown had been bound, trampling them in the pulpit, and he also held mock 'auctions' at which the congregation purchased the freedom of real slaves," according to the Web site of the still-existing Plymouth Church. The most famous of these former slaves was a young girl named Pinky, auctioned during a regular Sunday worship service at Plymouth on February 5, 1860. A collection taken up that day raised $900 to buy Pinky from her owner. A gold ring was also placed in the collection plate, and Beecher presented it to the girl to commemorate her day of liberation. Pinky returned to Plymouth in 1927 at the time of the Church's 80th Anniversary to give the ring back to the Church with her thanks. Today, Pinky's ring and bill of sale can still be viewed at Plymouth.”

Henry Ward Beecher died of a cerebral hemorrhage in March 1887. The city of Brooklyn where he lived declared a day of mourning upon, and the New York State Legislature went into recess to honor him. He was buried on March 11, 1887 in Brooklyn's Green-Wood Cemetery.

For the entire article, see

Friday, August 3, 2007

Observations on “Pastoral” Preaching

This post is part of a bigger theme that I am working on personally. I will write more about it [have part of it written already], but I found this helpful to my thinking:

Paul Lamey over at Expository Thoughts gives some observations (both negative and positive) on the intersection of pastoral ministry and our preaching:
  1. Preaching great sermons should not be a cover for poor shepherding (1 Peter 5).
  2. Beware of preaching that is not applied personally.
  3. Beware of preaching that is not applied publicly.
  4. Don’t make an idol out of a theological system especially if it prevents you from making specific conclusions about special issues in the text.
  5. Preaching that encourages pure doctrine to the exclusion of pure religion is sub-christian (James 1:27).
  6. Learn to preach in weakness, fear and in much trembling….the opposite is a kamikaze pride (1 Cor. 2:3).
  7. Show the congregation that your preaching is dependent on the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 2:4-5).
  8. Learn to embrace anything (e.g., “thorn”) that will keep you from exalting yourself (2 Cor. 12:5-7).
  9. Don’t hide behind terms like “missional” and “contextualization” in order to justify worldly desires and carnality (2 Cor. 1:12).
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Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Do We Really Expect Anything to Happen in Our Preaching?

This whole discussion of invitation was brought home to me today when I read a quote from D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones' classic Preachers and Preaching:

"Seek Him always. But go beyond seeking Him; expect Him. Do you expect anything to happen when you get up to preach in a pulpit? Or do you just say to yourself, “Well, I have prepared my address, I am going to give them the address; some of them will appreciate it and some will not?” Are you expecting it to be the turning point in someone’s life? That is what preaching is mean to do….Seek this power, yearn for this power; and when the power comes, yield to Him."(p. 325)

It could be that my sloppiness or at least lack of attention to invitations is because, too often I am afraid, I don't really believe that God is going to do anything in people's lives as a result of preaching. Without giving it much thought, I see it as improving their morality, increasing their knowledge, giving them tools for daily living, improving their relational skills, improving their ability to read and understand God's Word, to pray, to serve. But change?

My first reaction is that I have seen too much hypocrisy and duplicity in the church to believe that people really change. I know my own difficulties and struggles with changing. You work with someone, believe there has been divine change and then they fall back into old patterns and behaviors. Too often I have seen people "improved" but not changed.

And yet that is my first reaction. My second reaction is that you get what you expect. If I don't expect change to come as a result of preaching, then change will usually not come (God can override my own expectations at any time). And so I am challenged to increase my faith.

My third reaction is that this is one more manifestation of my own suspicion of the motives of people...something I have been struggling with for years, but acutely in the last 12 months. The old definition of a cynic is "an idealist with life-experience." And that is too often how I have seen things. But when you expect the worst of people...guess what you get? When you expect the best...hopefully at least some of the time you will get better or best.

Thank you Dr. Lloyd-Jones: "Seek this power, yearn for this power; and when the power comes, yield to Him."

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