Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Things to Pray for Those in Your Church

In John 17, Christ prays at several levels.  At one level he prays for his disciples.  There are several lists of ways to pray for those imageto whom we preach on Sunday mornings  But I like this list because it comes directly from Jesus' prayer in John 17. 


As I pray for those to whom I preach, here is what I try to pray:

  1. Protection for unity (v. 11)
  2. Joy (v. 13)
  3. Protection from the evil one (v. 15)
  4. Sanctification by the truth (v. 17)
  5. For the unity of the followers (20)
  6. For the followers' closeness to God and to one another so that others might believe (21)
  7. For the followers unity (22)
  8. For all followers to be present with the Lord & to see Christ’s glory (24)
  9. That both the Father's and Jesus' love may be in them (25).

I am not sure where this list originated.  It may be something from Pray Magazine or it may be from John Maxwell or it may be from somewhere totally different.  If you know the source, let me know and I will try to credit it.

Cerebral Preaching


Colin Adams over at Unashamed Workman has an EXCELLENT quote by Geoff Thomas, pastor of Alfred Place Baptist Church in Aberystwyth, Wales. Thomas begins:

“One of the great perils that face preachers . . .is the constant danger of lapsing into a purely cerebral form of proclamation, which falls exclusively upon the intellect. Men become obsessed with doctrine and end up as brain-oriented preachers."

Find the rest of the quote in context here.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

The United States Chaplain and Altar Calls

imageDr. Richard Halverson served for twenty-three years as the preaching minister for Fourth Presbyterian Church in Bethesda, MD. (1958-1981)  It was a prominent church in the Washington D.C. area. In 1981, he was appointed Chaplain of the U.S. Senate.  His primary sponsor was Mark Hatfied, former senator from here in Oregon.  Senator Hatfield called him "a singing, a suffering, a praying, a preaching, a comforting and compassionate presence in the United States Senate."  He died in 1995.  

In the mid 80's after serving as Senate Chaplain for a couple of years, he was interviewed by one of the Christianity Today magazines (Leadership?  Preaching Today?  Christianity Today? I don't know).  But the audio of that interview was preserved.  In it, Dr. Halverson talks about altar calls.  Now, he was Presbyterian and my church tradition is a bit more revivalistic than his tradition.  But I found what he said to be very thought provoking. 

He is discussing his own inability to distinguish between preaching and teaching:

"I think I teach more than I preach.  That's personally, and I think that's the way people think of me.  My sermons were teaching.  As a matter of fact, I discovered that when I was just teaching the Word of God, that evangelism was happening all the time.  It was one of the marvelous discoveries that I made.  And I finally got to the point where I could not understand why you would make a distinction between preaching for decisions for Christ, and instructing the saints.   Because I found as I was teaching God's Word, unsaved people were coming to Christ, as naturally almost, as naturally as childbirth. And it was...they were just coming to birth all the time, without any effort.  It became absolutely effortless.  Which taught me that whenever the truth is expounded, whether it is in the form of a sermon or a lesson, truth demands a verdict.  If it is the truth...if it is the Word of God, it demands a verdict. 

"But this is the way I was led: if I would give an altar call and they would not respond, the matter was kind of settled as they left the church, they hadn't responded and that was the opportunity to and they didn't, period.

"Whereas if we didn't have an altar call in the conventional sense they could not escape. The Holy Spirit could hound them in the car, back home and when they were at the dinner table and when they were trying to sleep that night.  All next week at work. Because they hadn't responded and they knew they should.  And because there wasn't a specific time to do it, and they didn't they couldn't ignore it.  That kind of thing.  That was a deep conviction with me. And incidentally, there were all kinds sorts of things in my experience that confirmed that was the way for me and my ministry to go."

What do you think?  Do you offer an altar call each Sunday?  (I almost always do).  What is your reaction to Dr. Halverson's thinking? 

I am not quite ready to accept it whole-cloth, but I think it has some merit.  It would still be essential, I believe, to make SOME avenue available by which people could respond.  How do they know what to do?

This week my sermon is designed evangelistically.  And while I will do an altar call for salvation, I also plan to put cards in the bulletins that people can hand to me or mail back or with my telephone number so they can call me to make an appointment to talk about their relationship with Christ.  Sometimes when I have done that it is tremendously effective.  Other times...not so much. 

Anyway, what is YOUR reaction to Dr. Halverson's idea?

Monday, January 28, 2008

Relevance and Application


Peter Mead at Biblical Preaching has a helpful post re: application versus relevance. He begins...

Biblical preaching needs to be relevant. It can’t simply be a theological lecture or a vaguely devotional time-out. It needs to be relevant. There are some who suggest that every sermon must include a series of action steps in order to be considered relevant. Would you agree with that idea? Are relevance and application close to the same, like twins in the preaching family, or are they more like cousins? What is the connection between relevance and application?

You can read the rest of his post here.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Great Analogy: Sermon Illustration: Western Theology


“According to Wes Seeliger in his book Western Theology, there are two kinds of people, two visions of life. The first sees life as a possession to be carefully guarded. They are called Settlers. The second sees life as a wild, fantastic gift. They are called Pioneers.

These two types give rise to two kinds of theology: Settler Theology and Pioneer Theology. Settler Theology is an attempt to answer all the questions, define and housebreak some sort of Supreme Being, establish the status quo on golden tablets in cinemascope. Pioneer Theology is an attempt to talk about what it means to receive the strange gift of life. The Wild, Wild West is the setting for both theologies.

In Settler Theology, the Church convenes at the Courthouse. It imageis the center of town life. The old stone structure dominates the town square. Its windows are small, and this makes things dark inside. Within the courthouse walls, records are kept, taxes collected, and trials are held for the bad guys. The courthouse is the symbol of law, order, stability, and most importantly, security.

imageIn Pioneer Theology, the Church moves in a Covered Wagon. It’s a house on wheels, always on the move. The Covered Wagon is where the pioneers eat, sleep, fight, love, live and die. It bears the marks of life and movement—it creaks, it’s scarred with arrows and bandaged with bailing wire. The Covered Wagon is where the action is. It moves toward the future, trying not to get bogged down in old ruts. The old Wagon isn’t comfortable, but the pioneers don’t seem to mind. They are more into adventure than comfort.

In Settler Theology, God is the Mayor. He is slick and fancy like a dude from back East. His office is on the top floor of the Courthouse. He looks out over the whole town, as his eagle eye ferrets out the smallest details of town life. No one actually sees him or gets close to him. He keeps his blinds drawn. But since there is order in the town, who can deny that he is really there? The Mayor is predictable and always on schedule. The Settlers fear the Mayor, but look to him to clear the payroll and keep things running. Peace and quiet are the Mayor’s main concerns, so he sends the Sheriff to check out any Pioneers who might ride into town.

In Pioneer Theology, God is the Trail Boss. He is rough and rugged, full of life. He chews tobacco, drinks straight whiskey. The Trail Boss lives, eats, sleeps, and fights with his people. Their well‑being is his concern. Without him, the Wagon wouldn’t move and living free would be impossible. The Trail Boss will get down in the mud with the Pioneers to help push the Wagon, which often gets stuck. He prods the Pioneers when they get soft and want to turn back. His fist is an expression of his concern.

In Settler Theology, Jesus is the Sheriff. He’s the guy who is image sent by the Mayor to enforce the rules. He wears a white hat, drinks milk, outdraws the bad guys. The Sheriff decides who gets thrown in jail. There is a saying in town that goes: those who follow the rules and believe that the Sheriff is sent by the Mayor, they won’t stay in Boothill when it comes their time.

In Pioneer Theology, Jesus is the Scout. He rides out ahead of the Wagon to find out which way the Pioneers should go. The Scout faces all the dangers of the Trail and suffers every hardship. He is even attacked by the Indians. Through his words and actions he reveals the true intentions of the Trail Boss. By following the Scout, those on the Trail learn what it means to be a true Pioneer.

In Settler Theology, the Holy Spirit is the Saloon Girl. Her job is to comfort the Settlers. They come to her when they feel lonely or when life gets dull or dangerous. She tickles them under the chin and makes everything okay again. The Saloon Girls also squeals to the Sheriff whenever someone starts disturbing the peace.

In Pioneer Theology, the Holy Spirit is the Buffalo Hunter. He imagerides along with the Covered Wagon and furnishes fresh meat for the Pioneers. They would die without it (and him). The Buffalo Hunter is a strange character—sort of a wild man. The Pioneers never can tell what he’ll do next. He scares the hell out of the Settlers. He has a big, black gun that goes off like a cannon. He rides into town on Sunday morning to shake up the Settlers. You see, every Sunday morning, the Settlers have a little ice cream party in the Courthouse. With his gun in hand, the Buffalo Hunter sneaks up to one of the Courthouse windows. Then he fires a tremendous blast that rattles the whole Courthouse. Men jump out of their skin, women scream, dogs bark. Chuckling to himself, the Buffalo Hunter rides back to the Wagon Train shooting up the town as he goes.

In Settler Theology, the Pastor (the clergyman) is the Banker. Within his vault are locked the values of the town. He is a highly respected man. He has a gun, but keeps it hidden in his desk. He feels that he and the Sheriff have a lot in common. After all, they both protect the Bank.

In Pioneer Theology, the Pastor is the Cook! He doesn’t furnish the meat. He just dishes up what the Buffalo Hunter provides. This is how he supports the movement of the wagon. He sees himself as just another Pioneer who has learned to cook. The Cook’s job is to help the Pioneers pioneer. He doesn’t confuse his job with that of the Trail Boss, the Scout, or the Buffalo Hunter.

In Settler Theology, the Christian is the Settler. He fears the open, unknown frontier. His concern is to stay on good terms with the Mayor and keep out of the Sheriff’s Way. “Safety First” is his motto and the Courthouse is his symbol of security, peace, order, and happiness. He keeps his money in the bank. The Banker is his best friend. The Settler never misses an ice cream party.

In Pioneer Theology, Christians are Pioneers. They are persons of daring, hungry for new life. They ride hard, and know how to use a gun when necessary. The Pioneer feels sad for the Settlers and tries to tell them of the joy and fulfillment of life on the Trail. They die with their boots on.

In Settler Theology, Faith is trusting in the safety of the town; obeying the Law and keeping their noses clean; and believing the Mayor is up there in the Courthouse.

In Pioneer Theology, Faith is the spirit of adventure; the readiness to move out; the willingness to risk everything on the Trail. Faith is obedience to the restless voice of the Trail Boss.

In Settler Theology, Sin is breaking one of the Town’s ordinances.

In Pioneer Theology, Sin is wanting to turn back.

In Settler Theology, Salvation lies in living close to home and going to the Courthouse.

In Pioneer Theology, Salvation rests in being more afraid of a sterile life in Town, than of death on the Trail. Pioneers find joy in the thought of another day to push on into the unknown Wilderness. They realize their Salvation by trusting the Trail Boss and following his Scout, while living on the meat provided by the Buffalo Hunter.

The Settlers and the Pioneers portray in cowboy-movie language the People of the Law and the People of the Spirit. In the time of the historical Jesus, the guardians of the ecclesiastical setup, the scribes and the Pharisees and the Sadducees, had hunkered down in the Courthouse and enslaved themselves to the Law. This not only enhanced their prestige in society, it also gave them a sense of Security. Man fears the responsibility of being free. It is often easier to let others make the decisions or to rely up the letter of the Law. Some men want to be slaves.

[excerpted from The Lamb and The Lion by Brennan Manning, 1988, pgs. 23-27]

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Don't Make the Holy Spirit's Job Harder Than it Needs to Be!

CB064047 Last night I was with a group of our church people at an event that I will try to keep vague. The first night was intended to be evangelistic and toward that end a world-famous evangelist was asked to speak. I have heard this evangelist before, and benefit from and enjoy his preaching.

Last night, I wanted to weep, however. The sermon was fair, but what had me shaking my head was that he did not pay attention to announce the correct scripture refs. Almost to a one, every scripture reference he announced was wrong. Several times he asked us to "turn to John chapter 37". (He wanted John 7:37). He repeated this mistake numerous times in looking at this passage. Later he spoke from "John 17:19-24. When he began to read, it was obvious that that was not the correct scripture. Fortunately from the context I knew that it was John 16, not 17.

But what broke my heart was that sitting in front of me and to my left was the brother in law of one of our church guys. He is a non-believer for whom I and others have been praying. I was flabbergasted that he even came to an event like this. And so I had been sending up prayers all night on his behalf.

It was so incredibly frustrating to watch this guy try to find the correct scriptures while the preacher spoke. I am sure that he missed a great deal of what he was saying because although he quickly found John he kept rifling through the pages trying to find the text.

Now, I understand and believe that the Holy Spirit can and does work in spite of our feeble efforts. But why do we have to make it harder for him than necessary? Being Spirit-led in our preaching surely does not leave out looking down at notes to make sure you are giving the correct references.

There was a booklet for the event with a page on which to take sermon notes. The title of the message was provided, but no scriptures. There was an incredible video system in place and being used for the music. But it was not used at all during the sermon except to project the speaker's image. (And I am not complaining about that). But surely there is someone in the organization who could have been given the references, even minutes before the program who could have plugged in 2-3 scripture references and projected them so people could easily find the correct place when the evangelist failed.

While I no longer project the text of the main scripture during my sermons, I do always project the reference and page number for the pew Bibles. (This event was held at an area mega-church and the guy was looking through a pew Bible).

At the end of the space for sermon notes, there were five discussion questions. At the end of the sermon we were to turn to a couple of guys around us and discuss the questions. I was not sitting in close enough proximity to this man to include him, but when we began to discuss the questions, my frustration increased again, because the questions were ones that bore very little connection to what had been preached.

Again, this allowed the man to be distracted from the evangelistic thrust of the message.

I am currently praying that the guy will come back for the second day, but my heart weeps for what may have been a grand opportunity lost.

May my preaching be more focused than what my homiletical brother's was because of my exposure to this.

Friday, January 25, 2008

7 Powerful Steps to Overcoming Resistance and Actually Getting Stuff Done

One of the secular blogs I read image (actually it is not secular, it is Buddhist) is ZenHabits. I came across it when I was new to the Getting Things Done practices. I have found it helpful to me on several levels, mostly dealing with productivity.

Today Leo Babauta of ZH has a post that is drawn from the book "The War of Art." It involves seven steps to overcoming resistance and actually getting stuff done.

He is dealing with writers and artists and such, but I find that what he says is directly applicable to sermon work. Whether it is actually doing a yearly plan of preaching and getting it to Will (my worship pastor) or if it is doing the hard spade work (more fun than hard for me actually) of language and grammar work on a text, it is so much easier to get distracted.

Here in a nutshell are his seven steps, but you really should pop over to his site to read what he says about it.

1. Become aware that we struggle with resistance and put up reminders to ourselves that we struggle with it.

2. Become a pro. He says, "The professional, unlike the amateur, comes to work ready to work. He’s doing it for a living (and loves what he does) and knows that as long as he shows up and starts working, the rest will come."

3. Be very clear about what you want to accomplish today, and focus. Don't over estimate, but finish one or two things of importance.

4. Clear away distractions. (One of my problems is that I get distracted by cleaning up distractions. That means I am not using my GTD Inbox properly and not putting everything back in its place when I am done with it).

5. Have a time and place. Know when you are most productive. Set a starting time and start. No exceptions.

6. Know your motivation. (Why is preaching important? Why are you doing this work of ministry? What are you trying to accomplish at this church, in people's lives, in yourself?)

7. Just start

Again, find the full post here.

(And now, I am going to stop blogging and get to work on that year sermon plan for Will.)

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Any Interpretation That Leads to the Love of God is OK?


One of my long-time habits is listening to books on tape/CD/iPod (depending on when in my life we are talking about and in what format it is available). In recent months I have been bouncing back and forth between Hercule Poirot mysteries and preaching lectures.

But last week I finished a terrific series of twelve lectures by Phillip Cary of Eastern University on "Augustine: Philosopher and Saint." (Put out by The Teaching Company). Excellent, excellent, excellent lecturer. But in Lecture Nine: Signs and Sacraments, Cary discussed an aspect of Augustine's theology (or theological interpretation) that I have not been able to let go. Cary is discussing how Augustine sees scripture, particularly how he sees it as a sign. Here is my transcript of that part of the lecture:

Scripture is part of that process of directing us toward eternal life with God. How does it do that? It does that by our act of interpretation. The Scripture is not a living thing for Augustine the way it is for some Protestants. It is an external sign and we have to interpret them [signs]. We have to understand their significance. Remember…you don’t understand the sign until you first understand the thing signified. That’s why the best interpreter of Scripture is someone like Ambrose (who Augustine met in Milan) who already knew what Scripture was about and therefore could interpret it properly. Ambrose knew that Scripture was about something intelligible and therefore interpreted the stories of scripture to lead toward this intelligible and eternal truth; as opposed to the Manichaeans who interpreted scripture in a carnal way. A spiritual interpreter of scripture will know about intelligible things and therefore interpret scripture in the light of those intelligible and eternal things. That means also that a spiritual interpreter of scripture will interpret scripture in a way that is based on charity. Because it is based on the love of divine truth; the love of that intelligible truth which is God. So we interpret scripture and we read scripture because we’re longing to get to this point where we understand the divine truth.

Charity is thus the MOTIVE of our interpretation for scripture. Likewise, charity is the RULE of interpretation. That is, whenever we interpret the Bible, for Augustine, we ought to be tying to find the truth about love. Any interpretation of scripture which helps us understand the love of God and builds us up in love is a good interpretation. Even if it is not perfectly accurate: Augustine is a great believer in the possibility that there can be many good interpretations. Even if some interpretations are historically more accurate than another, all of them are good IF they lead toward love of God. Even if it is sort of historically inaccurate or not literally true, if it leads to the Love of God…it is good enough. That is a very broad minded view of interpretation. Augustine is not interested in finding THE ONE RIGHT interpretation. Any interpretation that builds you up in love is at least OK.

Likewise, (and here is the really interesting thing) the very act of reading and interpreting scripture and seeking the ultimate truth that it signifies builds us up in love. This is the reason that Augustine says one of the most striking things about interpretation--In Augustine’s theory of interpretation, it is good if a passage of scripture is difficult and hard to understand. It is good because in the very act of trying to understand something that is difficult to understand, we are built up in longing.

Hmmm.... Part of me agrees with Augustine and part of me really struggles with that. (As I suspect many will). "Any interpretation of scripture which helps us understand the love of God and builds us up in love is a good interpretation. Even if it is not perfectly accurate."

I understand the necessity of that. Although I am not Presbyterian (or even Calvinist, despite my name), I appreciate the Westminster Confession and Catechism. The most famous (and first) article of the Westminster Catechism is "Man's chief and highest end is to glorify God, and fully to enjoy him forever." I would equate that with loving God. Correct doctrinal interpretation is not the chief end of man, nor is it a requirement for salvation.

And yet "ANY" interpretation? I am not willing to go that far. What do you think?

P.S. As I drove back from Cannon Beach today I listened to the first two lectures (out of 25) by Bryan Chapell on Preparation and Delivery of Sermons at Covenant Seminary. Oh wow. I HAVE to get his book Christ-Centered Preaching and dig into it. It is the text for those lectures and if it is as good as his lectures, it will be rich!

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Tearing Down Baal-ish Altars and Asherah Poles


Yesterday, Dan Mayhew, the IRM coordinator of the Portland Pastors Prayer Summit asked us all to spend some time alone and review the story of Gideon. I am a sucker for all those Old Testament stories that I learned as a kid! But reviewing the story again showed several things to me. Here is just one of them:

It is not enough to praise God positively. The angel of the Lord appeared and Gideon asked the angel to wait while he went & prepared a sacrificial meal for him. When Gideon returned, the angel instructed Gideon to lay out the goat meat and the unleavened bread and the angel burned up the sacrifice.

Gideon, awed, immediately built an altar and sacrificed and called it Jehovah Shalom—“the Lord is my Peace.” (Should Gideon have asked the angel about the type of sacrifice he wanted before going off and doing it the way Gideon thought it should be done?)

But when Gideon was done, the Lord told him in a dream to build a new altar of sacrifice…but this time to do it on the site of his own father's altar to Baal & the Asherah pole. Gideon might have echoed the words of the Tin Man in the Wizard of Oz when he was told that the Wizard of Oz would grant their requests if they would bring him the broomstick of the Wicked Witch of the West:clip_image002

Tin Man: B-B-B-B-But if we do that, we'll have to kill her to get it!

Wizard: Bring me her broomstick and I'll grant your requests....Now go!

God was not necessarily basing his freeing of the Hebrews on Gideon proving himself “worthy by performing a very small task.” (Again, the words of the Wizard) But the instruction were commandments just the same.

"B-B-B-B-But to do that, I'll have to tear down my father's altar to the local god and goddess! That will make people VERY unhappy. They may even try to kill me!!" (Which they did)

We love worship (however we define that. Don’t get me started on musicians defining worship solely as singing). All believers love giving praise to God. I LOVE preaching on praise and prayer and worship and the comforting qualities of God.

But God also sometimes calls us to preach on hard subjects. To tear down some Baal-ish altars or some Asherah poles. (the sea goddess Asherah [the wife of Ď‹ber-god El] sought after the love of the storm god Baal, and they are sometimes seen as a couple although Baal is more often linked with another goddess Astarte).

It is easy to shirk. It is so tempting to find the superficial way out...Gideon tore down the altars at night and then went & hid!

But in spite of his fear, we remember Gideon as having the character by which the angel first addressed him in v. 12: "The Lord is with you, mighty warrior!"

In spite of my fears and trepidation when it comes to preaching some hard stuff that is in effect tearing down some Baal-ish altars & Asherah poles, Lord help me be a Gideon...a "mighty warrior!"

BTW: This afternoon I walked on the beach here at Cannon Beach--it was mid 40's and the sky was light cobalt blue. An absolutely fabulous day on the coast. This morning, right before dawn, the moon was about as big and as bright as I have ever seen it and it was shining down on the incoming surf. Below the moon, a highway of light followed the incoming waves all the way from the beach to the horizon. Praise God for his incredible creation!

Monday, January 21, 2008

Off on a Retreat

imageEvery January for the past several I have been able to attend the Portland Area Pastors Prayer Summit at the Cannon Beach Retreat Center in (where else, but?) Cannon Beach, OR.

It is a fabulous location and a wonderful facility. And the prayer summit provides lots of opportunity for both corporate and personal prayer.

When I have been there before there has been very limited Internet connectivity and so I am presuming that I will not be able to post many if any blogs while there.

I will be imagetaking some reading with me and so hopefully there will be some benefit to my blog when I return. Until then... blessings.



A Prepared Preacher, More Than a Prepared Sermon

Last year was the 50th anniversary of the publishing of an important little book on preaching: The Integrity of Preaching, by John Knox. Listen in:

“The aim of the preparation is clear; it is a man prepared, not a sermon prepared. The sermon must be an element in the man’s own personal readiness for the occasion of preaching. The sermon must not be thought of as doing the preacher’s job for him, or even as being the mere instrument with which he does it. The sermon at its truest and best is the man himself doing his work. The sermon is the preacher preaching—an action, not a thing. It is an act of personal expression and communication, not a deposit of previous experience and reflection. It is this fact that makes it so difficult to preach an old sermon. The sermon is an intimate personal creation belonging essentially to the moment of preaching itself. The more truly creatively and vividly he can anticipate that moment, the more intensively he can experience it in advance, the more appropriate and effective his preparation can be. He will be preparing, not a sermon, but himself; or to say it perhaps better, his preparation of a sermon will actually be a preparation of himself and his preparation of himself will be in part the preparation of a sermon.” (pp. 67-68.)

This paragraph hit me like a ton of bricks. It probably shouldn’t. I am confident that they said such things in my Bible college days decades ago. It is pretty basic stuff. But it did hit me hard. I am a writer. That is part of who I am. It is where I find my joy and where I am able to think. I think best on paper…or at a keyboard. What has been difficult is that I have prepared sermons like I have prepared a written lesson or a paper. And my preaching has shown that. The biggest criticism I receive of my preaching is that it is academic and class-room-like. And here is why. Because I am preparing a sermon to be presented. I “preach” the sermon…but it is really just trying to making the presentation of the sermon as real as possible.

Even when I was in Toastmasters, extemporaneous speaking terrified me and was my weakest area.

Yesterday morning was interesting. We were in Acts 2 and I preached on vv. 1-12. It was basically the coming of the Holy Spirit and the signs of the sound of the wind, the tongues of fire and the speaking in unlearned languages. And I had wrestled with this paragraph last week.

I went into the pulpit MUCH less prepared than normal. That is not totally true. I was about as prepared in my mind as normal. What wasn’t prepared was the final structure and specific wording of the sermon. And in the end (as I preached it) I dropped a big part of what I had prepared and I expanded on other parts of it. I ended up putting my Bible down on the stool so I could use both hands to gesture. Weeks ago that would have terrified me.

I don’t have a good feel for how the sermon went. I think it went well. It was a big stretch for me. I don’t know whether people could tell or not, but I could tell.

I can’t let that go. “He will be preparing, not a sermon, but himself; or to say it perhaps better, his preparation of a sermon will actually be a preparation of himself and his preparation of himself will be in part the preparation of a sermon.” It warrants more thought.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Ten Commandments For Our Day Of Rest


Colin Adams over at Unashamed Workman had a solid post back in September about the Day of Rest. I didn't note it at the time, but in December he celebrated the first anniversary of his blog and listed some posts that he labels as "favorites." (His? His readers? God's? He doesn't say.) Any way, this one is worth a look-see.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Neglect of the Holy Spirit in Preaching

I am preaching on the Holy Spirit tomorrow. (I initially typed I am preaching IN the Holy Spirit tomorrow. While the first is definitely true, my prayer is that the second is true as well). There is in the material that I gleaned, but will NOT be using this quote on preaching and athe Holy Spirit. It is by Albert Mohler Jr., the President of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary:

The preacher stands before the congregation as the external minister of the Word, but the Holy Spirit works as the internal minister of that same Word. A theology of preaching must take the role of the Spirit into full view, for without an understanding of the work of the Spirit, the task of preaching is robbed of its balance and power.

The neglect of the work of the Spirit is a symptom of the decline of biblical Trinitarianism in our midst. Charles H. Spurgeon warned, “You might as well expect to raise the dead by whispering in their ears, as hope to save souls by preaching to them, if it were not for the agency of the Holy Spirit.” The Spirit performs His work of inspiration, indwelling, regeneration, and sanctification as the inner minister of the Word; it is the Spirit's ministry of illumination that allows the Word of the Lord to break forth.

Both the preacher and the hearers are dependent upon the work of the Holy Spirit for any adequate understanding of the text. As Calvin warned, “No one should hesitate to confess that he is able to understand God's mysteries only in so far as he is illumined by God's grace. He who attributes any more understanding to himself is all the more blind because he does not recognize his own blindness.” This has been the confession of great preachers from the first century to the present, and the absence of a conscious dependence upon the Holy Spirit is a sign that the preacher does not understand his task and calling. Tertullian, for example, called the Spirit his “Vicar” who ministered the Word to himself and to his congregation.

Helping Your People to Be More Satisfied in God


Justin Buzzard points to an article by John Piper on Advice to Pastors: How to Help Your People Be More Satisfied in God. I appreciate Piper's words and just as much appreciate Justin's pointing to it. If you haven't kept an eye on his blog, I would recommend it. He is a young adult pastor in SanFrancisco and I enjoy reading him a great deal.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Should Our Goal Be To Make Conversion Easy?

I kind of stumbled upon this quote by accident (a Google return on something else entirely), but I think it bears attention:

"How many souls have been led to vain confidence by a man-made, evangelistic formula? How many are sent home from evangelistic services with calm, who should have gone away grieved and disturbed as the rich young ruler who approached Jesus? How many unsaved children have been given assurance by the teachers of Bible classes, so that they have ceased to seek God for salvation?" --Walter Chantry

Should Our Goal Be To Make Conversion Easy?

I don't know anything about Walter Chantry or Jim Bublitz, the guy on whose site the quote appears and don't know if I should be quoting him (some things on there make me a little nervous) still I think that the quote is solid.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Preaching to the Faceless

image This year I am using the Bible reading program by Robert Murray M'Cheyne for my morning time with the Lord. (You read through the Bible one time and the NT and Psalms twice). But this morning one of the places I was in was Nehemiah 7. And I was in what is usually considered an incredibly boring section: a listing of exiles who returned to Jerusalem from captivity. Heads of families with the accounting of the number of family members who returned to Jerusalem with them.

"The men of Kiriath-jearim, Chephirah, and Beeroth, 743. The men of Ramah and Geba, 621..." Lives lived. People loving their children, husbands and wives spending years together, tears wept, laughter, hopes and dreams lived out, people devastated by tragedy. What did the lives of these five men hold? (Presuming that they are all men's names). We don't know. They are just five names in a long list of family heads who came back to Jerusalem from captivity. Names that are easy for me to just skim and marvel at how hard they are to pronounce. But each one is a life that had significance and worth. Additionally, following most of the names is a number..a number that represents additional human lives lived. Lord help me never see the people around me in the way I am tempted to see these people A name oddity...a cipher. Let me see them today with your eyes of understanding and love.

There are certain people in my church whom I know well. When I prepare my sermon, I often think of them and how this sermon will speak to them. Sometimes it is because we get along so well and I am blessed by their walk and faith. Other time it is because they are constantly complaining or their lives/families seem always to be in crisis. But what about the rest? What do I know about the nameless ones. The ones who are there and I am friendly with, but about whom I know little more than a name or an occupation? Does my sermon prep and prayer time reflect them? How can it if I really don't know much about them? And yet with so many people and so little time, how realistic is it that I can get to know the intimate details of hundreds and hundreds (for some preacher thousands and thousands) of people?

Then later today, I came across (was led to?) this quote from an article in last April's Forbes magazine. God seemed to be speaking the same message through it that he had spoken to me this morning:

Ortberg spoke of how her mentor, Max De Pree, former CEO of Herman Miller, engaged his workers, ‘Max had a rule for his leadership team. Every Wednesday they were to bring a brown bag lunch and go down to the factory floor, where the furniture was being made, to eat. They were to sit and listen for an hour to get to know the names of the workers on the floor and to learn about the obstacles workers were facing as they did their jobs, as well as hear about the ideas they had for future designs.’

Ortberg herself was at one time an emergency room nurse. One night she witnessed an astonishing leadership act: It was about 10:30 p.m. The room was a mess. I was finishing up some work on the chart before going home. The doctor with whom I loved working was debriefing a new doctor, who had done a very respectable, competent job, telling him what he’d done well and what he could have done differently.

Then he put his hand on the young doctor’s shoulder and said, ‘When you finished, did you notice the young man from housekeeping who came in to clean the room?’ There was a completely blank look on the young doctor’s face.

The older doctor said, ‘His name is Carlos. He’s been here for three years. He does a fabulous job. When he comes in he gets the room turned around so fast that you and I can get our next patients in quickly. His wife’s name is Maria. They have four children.’ Then he named each of the four children and gave each child’s age.

The older doctor went on to say, ‘He lives in a rented house about three blocks from here, in Santa Ana. They’ve been up from Mexico for about five years. His name is Carlos,’ he repeated. Then he said, ‘Next week I would like for you to tell me something about Carlos that I don’t already know. Okay? Now let’s go check on the rest of the patients.’

Ortberg recalls: ‘I remember standing there writing my nursing notes — stunned — and thinking, I have just witnessed breathtaking leadership.’ (Rich Karlgaard, "Godly Work" in Forbes, April 23, 2007)

Lord, as Sunday is coming, help me to know our flock so that I can best communicate what you are saying to them and not get in the way.


Ultimate Preaching Rules

These "rules" are fairly old, but several of them make me smile. If we can't smile and laugh at ourselves and our own foibles, I think we are less use-able by God. So...enjoy.
  • According to your congregation, there are bad sermons and short sermons but there are no bad short sermons.
  • A life saver mint will last 22 minutes exactly if left lying between the cheek and gum during the normal course of talking. This is a helpful hint to time your sermon. Just don't make the mistake of putting a button in your mouth instead of a life saver before you get up to preach.
  • It never fails that when an "Awesome Sermon" is preached, members of the congregation cannot remember the scripture citations or what the sermon was about when the service is over.
  • When you reach a weak point in the sermon, raise the pitch and volume of your voice to compensate.
  • Have the congregation stand for the last hymn before the message, to assure everyone starts out awake.
  • Have a good opening. Have a good closing. The middle with take care of itself if you quote enough scripture.
  • Every good sermon must contain two good parables and a scripture, or two good scriptures and a parable.
  • The number of faithful tithers in a congregation and the amount in the offering plate is in direct inverse proportion to the number of sermons the pastor delivers on stewardship and tithing.
  • The likelihood that someone will walk the isle drops by a value of 10 percent for each minute the sermon goes into overtime.
  • The louder the congregation sings the longer the preacher should preach.
  • It is a well kept secret among Music Ministers that the offering total goes up 5 percent each time the third verse of a hymn is skipped (so, that's why they do that).
  • Contributions to "special" or "dedicated" funds go up and contributions to the "general" fund go down in direct proportion to the pastor’s popularity.
  • Almost everyone is capable of being a Pharisee from time to time.
  • The purpose of a great sermon is to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable. The latter is preferable to the former.
  • No matter how hard you have studied and prayed, some sermons seem to barely get out of your mouth before they drop on the floor in front of the first pew.
  • Whatever scripture you quote and whatever your sermon outline, remember that your verbs HAS to agree with their subjects.
  • If you wear a big shinny watch, when the congregation starts to doze off you can wake them up by catching light from the back window and reflecting it into their eyes (with a little practice). For extra amusement with some additional skill you can get an extra bounce off of bald heads.
  • When the congregation starts to lose interest and doze off you can awaken them by saying loudly, "And Finally" or "In Conclusion." This will only work about four times per sermon.
  • A good sermon should NEVER generalize.
  • No matter how hard you may try, sometimes a scripture just will not fit in the sermon you wanted to use it in.
  • Analogies in a sermon sometimes fit like feathers on a snake.
  • Murphy must have been a preacher, but at least he was an optimist.
  • When you lose your place in your sermon notes, a well placed prayer can help distract the congregation and give you time to get things back on track.
  • If you have repeated yourself more than three times in a given sermon it is time to quit.
  • Have a good opening point. Have a good closing point. Keep the two as close together as possible.
  • The quality of a sermon can be judged first by the number of people who walk the isle, and second by the number of people who are willing to stand in line for15 minutes after the service to shake hands with the preacher and tell him what a great sermon he preached.
  • You can judge the length of your sermon by the length of response from your SPOUSE to the question, "How was my sermon, honey?" Examples:
  1. "Fine" means Way too long
  2. "It was okay" Means A bit lengthy
  3. "It was really good this week, I gained a blessing
  4. dear!" means Just about right
  • If you're going to preach on Sunday morning, do not eat onions on Saturday night.
  • Take advice from the rooster. One day, a hen expressed the ultimate ambition of her life, which was to lay an egg in the middle of a busy expressway. So the rooster took her there. When they got to the edge of the road, and traffic was whizzing by, the rooster gave her this advice: "All right now! Make it quick, and lay it on the line!"
  • You know your sermon is not connecting when the choir begins their final number and you haven't reached your last point yet!
  • Always remember, those nods of agreement from our silvery-haired friends may just be nods!
  • A good sermon is similar to a good sandwich. It has two ends: the bread and lots of meat in the middle. However, unlike a sandwich, the two ends of a good sermon should be as close together as possible.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Anne Lamott on Forgiveness


Forgiveness means it finally becomes unimportant that you hit back.

Nothing else to say.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Preaching Out of Satisfaction in Christ

Dallasl WillardMost preachers I know have had the experience of sermons that  they felt were absolutely incredible, falling absolutely flat.  And other sermons for which we are ill prepared or not feeling well and have to say, "God, please use this in some way." are the ones that result in people coming up weeping afterwards speaking of how God has spoken to them. I always just saw it as an irony of God. 

But Dallas Willard gives a much broader perspective on it in an article where he writes about preaching out of a satisfaction with Christ. 

Preachers who are not finding satisfaction in Christ are likely to demonstrate that with overexertion and overpreparation for speaking, and with no peace about what they do after they do it. If we have not come to the place of resting in God, we will go back and think, Oh, if I'd done this, or Oh, I didn't do that.

When you come to the place where you are drinking deeply from God and trusting him to act with you, there is peace about what you have communicated.

One of my great joys came when I got up from a chair to walk to the podium and the Lord said to me, "Now remember, it's what I do with the Word between your lips and their hearts that matters." That is a tremendous lesson. If you do not trust God to do that, then he will let you do what you're going to do, and it's not going to come to much. But once you turn it loose and recognize we are always inadequate but our inadequacy is not the issue, you are able to lay that burden down. Then the satisfaction you have in Christ spills over into everything you do. A Cup Running Over |

This really speaks to my soul, especially the first sentence:  Preachers who are not finding satisfaction in Christ are likely to demonstrate that with overexertion and overpreparation for speaking, and with no peace about what they do after they do it.

If it is all up to me, then I must work extremely hard and over analyze how I have "performed".  This is not an excuse for sloth.  But it IS a realization that after we have done the hard work of preparing, that we must release the work to Christ.

Yesterday was one of those days.  It had been quite a busy week and VERY short on sermon prep time.  The week ended with a Fri-Sat elders-staff planning retreat .  The retreat was fine, but I only had the rudiments of a sermon outline ready.  (It was on Acts 1:15-20 and Peter's comments about Judas before they selected Matthias).  I was physically sick at the retreat (physically & emotionally) and came home and collapsed.  I DID work on the sermon some on Saturday night, but came to the Lord before preaching it...and God used it in a mighty way.  I think there was a great deal of God-work between my mouth and their ears.  That is absolutely no excuse for inadequate preparation.   But there is a confidence in Christ, that HE is the one working if I will lay down the burden of having to make it MY work.  Thank you Lord.

Technical Difficulties

Sorry to miss several days of posting. As I say in my other blog entry for today, we had a elder-staff planning retreat Fri-Sat, I was physically ill and our home phone/Internet line was down from mid-day Saturday until mid-day today. Thank (whoever) for cell phones.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Physical Prep Before Preaching

Tim Warner over at Mother Tongue Annoyances has a couple of good articles on preparing yourself physically before you speak. Let me focus on one of them.

(Caveat: I have no idea of Warner's religious background. He is a computer programmer, not a preacher. He speaks in terminology that is a little too Buddhist for my tastes, but I think that his advice is sound).

He particularly recommends:

  • Loosen Your Body
  • Wiggle Your Toes
  • Practice Deep Breathing

You loosen your body by learning different (subtle) "mini-stretches, isometric holds and subtle yoga poses with my neck, shoulders, arms, wrists, hands, back, torso, legs, and feet in order to improve cardiovascular flow as well as to discharge nervous energy." [cph: I know the mention of yoga poses is heresy to some people, so just stick with the stretches & isometrics if that bothers you]

Stretching helps you to be--and appear--open (as opposed to closed) to your audience and it helps to increase blood flow to your body, particularly to your brain.

Wiggling your toes has the remarkable ability to distract your attention away from any nervousness.

Deep breathing has the dual benefit of relaxing you as well as flooding your blood with good oxygen saturation to better prepare you.

You can see the Warner's entire post here.

Physical prep does not negate the work of the Holy Spirit. I can be as relaxed and ready to go and still speak a spirit-less sermon (been there, done that). But dispelling nervousness and relaxing my body (IMHO) helps make me better prepared to be used by the Spirit. As a mentor of mine said, "God can use any vessel, but there are some vessels that are better prepared to be used than others." I still think that is good advice.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

The Problem with "The Problem with Preaching"

No Preaching logo Colin Adams in Edinburgh directed my attention yesterday to an article from David Allis, (who coordinates a network of house churches in New Zealand) slamming preaching. Sometimes articles like this shouldn't even be dignified by a response. But Colin's response was quite good.

In a nutshell, the original article slams preaching because (according to Allis):

  1. 1. It is unbiblical
  2. 2. It is a poor form of communication
  3. 3. It creates dependence on the part of the hearer.

It was fascinating, because then today as I was working on my own person project of analyzing all of the sermons of the Bible ( can it be unbiblical if there are at least 31 identifiable sermons in scripture?). But as I did a Google search to see if others had found more sermons in the Bible than I had, links to this article came up all over the place...most of them favorably disposed (uncritically) to Allis' view.

My point is not to praise this article (quite the contrary), but to point you to Colin's excellent response linked above. I recommend it.

Thank you John Piper

The attached video of a sermon excerpt by John Piper is extremely powerful. Whether or not I could ever preach like that is irrelevant. The message is good (important) for my soul.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Expository Preaching Defined

Bible on stand F.B. Meyer describes expository preaching as "the consecutive treatment of some book or extended portion of Scripture on which the preacher has concentrated head and heart, brain & brawn, over which he has thought and wept and prayed, until it has yielded up its inner secret, and the spirit of it has passed into his spirit."

Maybe not as precise as some would like, but I still like it as a fitting description.

Monday, January 7, 2008

17 Characteristics of the Best/Worst Communicators of 2007

Todd Rhoades over at Monday Morning Insights shares a list of  The Top Ten Best and Worst Communicators of 2007 from Bert Decker. 

As I read Decker's list, I began to make a list of the specific characteristics of the communicators that he believed made them exceptionally good or exceptionally bad communicators.  Here is my list:

  1. Openness
  2. Integrity in actions
  3. Authenticity/Vulnerability
  4. Not Harsh, abrasive, sarcastic
  5. Thinking & speaking fast on feet
  6. Tells stories
  7. Crisp words, forcefully put/Energy
  8. Lack of Hemming & Hawing (Ums & ahs)
  9. Appropriate dress
  10. Fluidity (not appearing aloof & distant by being stiff)
  11. Creativity
  12. Competency in subject matter/Conviction
  13. Good use of visuals
  14. Takes risks
  15. Confidence
  16. Good eye contact
  17. Authoritativeness (watch quality of voice)

We could do far worse than to make this a checklist to check our own public preaching/speaking.  Maybe give the list to 2-3 people we trust & ask for their feedback. I think it is a helpful list. 

Todd Rhoades then goes ahead and makes his own list of the Top Five Worst CHRISTIAN Communicators of 2007. (James Dobson, Juanita Bynum/Bishop Thomas Weeks, Pat Robertson,  Ted Haggard, and Richard Roberts). Unfortunately, unlike Decker, he doesn't give us communication reasons for people being on his list.  It is basically just a list of the 2007 Christian "Hall of Shame"--included more for their behavior than for their communication strengths or weaknesses.

The Five Aims of All Genuine Preaching

james s stewart The Scottish preacher James S. Stewart notes the five aims of preaching:

  1. to quicken the conscience by the holiness of God
  2. to feed the mind with the truth of God
  3. to purge the imagination by the beauty of God
  4. to open the heart to the love of God
  5. to devote the will to the purpose of God.

(Heralds of God, p. 73)

Sunday, January 6, 2008

A Lesson in Humility

Absolutely true story: [LATER EDIT: MY STAFF THOUGHT THIS WAS JUST A FUNNY PREACHER STORY THAT I FOUND SOMEWHERE. No, people...this happened to ME last Sunday 1/6/08!]

This morning after first worship service a lady sought me out "to thank me". This is not a woman who is critical of me or a pain in the side. She is relatively new in our body, but I have been able to minister to her family in several medical crises, she is always verbally supportive and she attends fairly regularly.

She came up and sincerely wanted to thank me "for helping her son improve his math." I looked at her in a puzzled way because I genuinely had NO IDEA what this woman was talking about. She said "A while back during one of your sermons, my son [about 10 years old] leaned over and said 'This is REALLY boring...I'd rather be doing math!" (She noted that he absolutely hates math...thanks, I needed to hear that...) So she took him up on his offer and began to bring math worksheets for him to do during my sermon and his math scores in school have noticeably improved!! She wanted to thank me for helping her son improve his math.

You're welcome...I think...

Thank you Lord for another lesson in humility--it's not all about me. Thou art the potter... I am the clay.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

The Wine is Still There...but Who Would Want to Drink It?

William Law, the eighteenth century English mystic tells a charming story of a kind woman's gift of a biblical commentary to an old shepherd named John and his wife Betty. The shepherd describes what happened:

"Madam, the Squire's wife, of our Town, hearing how Betty and I loved the Scriptures, brought us one day a huge expounding book upon the New Testament; and told us that we should understand the Scriptures a deal better by reading it in that book than in the New Testament alone.... The next Lord's Day, when two or three Neighbors according to custom came to sit with us in the evening, "Betty," said I, "bring out Madam's great book and read the fifth chapter of Matthew." When she had done that, I bid her read the fifteenth chapter of the First Epistle to the Corinthians. The next morning I said to Betty, "Carry this great expounding book again to my mistress and tell her that the words of Christ and His apostles, are best by themselves, and just as they left them." And as I was that morning going to my sheep, thought I to myself, This great expounding book seems to have done just as much good to the little book of the New Testament by being added to it, and mixed with it, as a Gallon of water would do to a little cup of true wine by adding to it or mixed with it. The wine indeed would be all there, but it's fine taste & cordial spirit which it had when drunk by itself would be all lost and drowned in the coldness and deadness of the water."

pompeii_diluting I got this little story from John Knox's volume on "The Integrity of Preaching". He uses it to make that point that just because something is called expository preaching, does not mean that it is helpful, or even biblical! The quote is not just a warning about/to biblical commentators, but in the word of Knox: "Let us remember that the preacher is also an expositor and that a sermon can hide or distort a biblical text as certainly and as thoroughly as any commentary. It is not the scholars' "huge expounding books" alone about which it can sometimes be said that they succeed only in dulling "the fine taste" of the original and diluting its "cordial spirit"; the preachers' long expounding discourses often have the same effect. In other words, making use--even large use--of the Bible is not enough to guarantee effective, or even authentic biblical preaching. Everything depends on how we make use of it."

Friday, January 4, 2008

Church Leader’s Top 5 Weaknesses


Last month, I saw a note that listed pastor's self-declared top weaknesses/mistakes. It is sobering to think that these would probably be among my top 7 or 8.

The top five weaknesses that they are willing to admit are:

  • Pastoral Ministry - 3 out of 4 admit their number one leadership weakness is providing personal pastoral ministry. Pastoral ministry is defined as counseling, doing hospital visitation and performing weddings and funerals, to name a few of the responsibilities.
  • Lack of Patience - Another top weakness among effective church leaders is that they are task driven. More than 7 out of 10 indicate they are impatient to see objectives accomplished. Contributing to this dilemma is the fact that most American churches are notoriously resistant to change.
  • Dealing with Staff - 7 out of 10 considered their staff leadership skills to be weak.
  • Dealing with Criticism - Nearly 7 out of 10 effective church leaders struggle with handling or avoiding criticism.
  • Always Task-Driven - The dominant leadership style noted was "task-oriented." Task-driven or oriented is defined as "high interest in production and getting things "done." When a leader is always task-driven, sometimes to the exclusion of relational issues, there is a tendency to fail to take people's feelings into consideration. It's good to be task-driven, but it's not good to be so driven that you forget about people.
Adapted from Lessons on Integrity:A Tribute to James Draper by Tom Rainer, Christian Post 8/13/07 as found in Church Leaders Intelligence Report, 12/5/07

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Short and Sweet on Expectations

“Preaching is effective as long as the preacher expects something to happen-not because of the sermon, not even because of the preacher, but because of God.”
--Episcopal bishop John E. Hines

Denzel Washington on Preaching...sort of...

denzel-washington-picture-5 Today as I was driving back to the church after accompanying a family to meet with a director at a local funeral home, I was listening to "Fresh Air" on Oregon Public Radio. Today was an interview with Denzel Washington who is up for double honors for his roles in both "American Gangster" and "The Great Debaters". I haven't seen "American Gangster" (and don't really plan to from what I hear about it) but I eventually hope to see The Great Debaters.

In the interview Terry Gross questions him about a scene in one of his older films, "Training Day", where he is holding two guns on a person and he scrapes the guns against one another like they are two knives that he is sharpening. She asks if that was "a bit of business [he] came up with while [he was] holding the guns?" He replies, (in his cool, insouciant style): "Of's just rhythm. Acting is like music. You improvise. It's like jazz. There is no rhyme or reason to it. It's not a plan. I just did it. It's a rhythm. Stanislavsky said that you cut 90%. You do all your research; and you prepare, and then you let it rip. And that's how it is. You practice the music, you know, and then you just play it."

In looking back at years of preaching, if I were to self-critique myself in one area it would be that sense that I am too self-aware. I have prepared the sermon. I know the material. But I stick "religiously" (sorry...) to my notes. I am not ready yet to fly naked, but I think that is part of what makes Denzel Washington such a phenomenal BELIEVE that is is each of the characters. And he plays very diverse characters (like Johnny Depp does). But he does his homework, his research, and then he "lets it rip." He simply lives out how the character that he has studied to be would act or react in the particular scene in which the script has placed him.

Perhaps it is a fear of failure on my part, but in fact by not communicating in a heart-felt way (by sticking to a rote manuscript) I am failing. (I am not really as awful as this post makes me seem. But I am so strongly desiring to improve in my preaching and to discover ways to help others improve in theirs that I resort to my bad habit of overstating the case.)

How to get from point A to point B (from reading a movie script to flying like a Denzel Washington) is a huge question for me. But I need to try...


The audio interview can be found here.

Heat and Light

jonathan edwards

"Jonathan Edwards preached an ordination sermon in 1744 on the text about John the Baptist, 'He was a burning and a shining light.' (John 5:35). His main point was that a preacher must burn and shine. There must be heat in the heart and light in the mind--and no more heat than justified by the light."

sinners sermon I think that this is interesting, based on the unfounded assumption that Jonathan Edwards in his sermon on "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God" was totally playing on the emotions of the hearers. (The reports say that people hung onto the pillars of the church so that they would not fall into hell, the descriptions were so vivid).

But John Piper (who wrote the first paragraph) says this is absolutely not so. He states, "Edwards can never be brought forward as an example of one who manipulated emotions. He treated his hearers as creatures of reason & sought to move their hearts only by giving the light of truth to the mind."

That balance of heat and light was what was so effective in that which many say is America's most famous sermon.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

7 Questions for Preachers in the New Year


Over at Unashamed Workman blog, Colin Adams has a terrific list of questions for all preachers as we enter into the New Year. Actually the list is not just for the New Year, but is for us always to be asking about our preaching. It is entitled, 7 Questions for Preachers at the Crossroads. Thanks Colin. Good stuff.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Five Steps to Preaching Not in My Own Strength

pray Many other blogger's recommend The Supremacy of God in Preaching by John Piper.  I am almost finished with it, but Piper notes five steps that he takes to make sure that he is preaching not in his own strength, but in the strength that God supplies.  He uses the acrostic APTAT. 

Lest you think that Piper's list is like some sort of magical formula or incantation to guarantee the presence of God in his words, my observation is that it is mostly self focused.  It is getting oneself in a right position to be used by God.  It is not that "If I pray these five things, then God will automatically bless my preaching."  But in submitting oneself in this way, one is better open to be used by God. 

The five elements are:

A-Admit to the Lord my utter helplessness without him. (John 15:5)

P-Pray for help (insight, power, humility, love, memory and freedom).

T-Trust.  "Not merely in a general way in God's goodness, but in a specific promise in which I can bank my hope for that hour." 

A-Act "in the confidence that God will fulfill his Word."

T-Thank God.  "Gratitude to God that he has sustained me and that the truth of his Word and the purchase of his cross have been preached in some measure in the power of his Spirit to the glory of his name."

Piper says more about each of these, but I recommend the book to you and am not interested in just duplicating it here! 

The Top Ten Predictions for 2008


1. The Bible will still have the answers.

2. Prayer will still work.

3. The Holy Spirit will still move.

4. God will still inhabit the praises of His people.

5. There will still be God-anointed preaching.

6. There will still be singing of praise.

7. God will still pour out blessings upon His people.

8. There will still be room at the Cross.

9. Jesus will still love you.

10. Jesus will still save the lost.

HAPPY 2008.....

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