Friday, August 31, 2007
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.
Thursday, August 30, 2007
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
Monday, August 27, 2007
(DON'T WATCH IF YOU ARE EASILY OFFENDED)
Saturday, August 25, 2007
Friday, August 24, 2007
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
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
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
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!
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.
Monday, August 20, 2007
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.
- 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
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?
"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
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
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:
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
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!
Tuesday, August 7, 2007
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
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.
LOVE, A POWER GIVING ELEMENT
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
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.
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
Amazingly (i.e. providentially) there was an entire lecture in the first series (1872) entitled, “Love the Central Element of the
LOVE, THE KEY-NOTE OF PULPIT WORK
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
Thousands of worshipers flocked to
"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
Henry Ward Beecher died of a cerebral hemorrhage in March 1887. The city of
Friday, August 3, 2007
Paul Lamey over at Expository Thoughts gives some observations (both negative and positive) on the intersection of pastoral ministry and our preaching:
- Preaching great sermons should not be a cover for poor shepherding (1 Peter 5).
- Beware of preaching that is not applied personally.
- Beware of preaching that is not applied publicly.
- 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.
- Preaching that encourages pure doctrine to the exclusion of pure religion is sub-christian (James 1:27).
- Learn to preach in weakness, fear and in much trembling….the opposite is a kamikaze pride (1 Cor. 2:3).
- Show the congregation that your preaching is dependent on the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 2:4-5).
- Learn to embrace anything (e.g., “thorn”) that will keep you from exalting yourself (2 Cor. 12:5-7).
- Don’t hide behind terms like “missional” and “contextualization” in order to justify worldly desires and carnality (2 Cor. 1:12).
Wednesday, August 1, 2007
"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."