Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Spurgeon Fellowship Schedule for 2009-2010

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I have recently been blogging about the first of the 2009-2010 Spurgeon Fellowship lectures at Western Seminary which was given by  Art Azurdia.  This is the fourth season for the SF lectures. In case you will be in Portland on the following dates, here is the schedule for the rest of this school year.  (While the sessions are free, pre-registration is required.  The auditorium will only hold 250 people. It ALWAYS sells out).

November 3, 2009 (Tuesday)
DR. ALEX MONTOYA “Preaching And The Purpose Of The Church”
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Associate Professor of Pastoral Ministries at The Master’s Seminary in Sun Valley and Pastor of First Fundamental Bible Church of Monterey Park, California.

We will examine the place of Biblical preaching as the primary means for advancing the grand purpose of the church, the importance of the pulpit as the driving force for the church, as well as the necessity of the pulpit being in step with the Biblical purpose of the local church.

January 12, 2010 (Tuesday)
DR. MIKE JONES “The Weapons Of Our Warfare”

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Pastor of Independent Bible Church in Port Angeles, Washington.

At the end of our spiritual journey, will we be able to say with the apostle Paul, ”I have fought the good fight?” In a day given over to constant attacks on the role of the preacher and the importance of preaching the word of God faithfully, we need to know the weapons supplied by God for victory.

 

March 16, 2010 (Tuesday)
Session 1: DR. JOHN JOHNSON “The Need To Preach Ecclesiastes In An Age Of Folly”
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Associate Professor of Pastoral Theology and Director of the Doctor of Ministry program at Western Seminary in Portland, Oregon. John is also Lead Pastor of Village Baptist Church in Beaverton, Oregon

Most congregants have a disparaging view of Ecclesiastes, while most preachers tend to avoid this book. But could Ecclesiastes be one of the most timely, significant books for our present culture? If so, how in the world do we preach it?

Session 2: DR. ROBERT SMITH “Doctrine That Dances”
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Professor of Christian Preaching at Beeson Divinity School. Author of Doctrine That Dances: Bringing Doctrinal Preaching and Teaching to Life, he pastored for twenty years and has preached and taught in over forty schools in the United States and abroad.

“Ministers who dare to preach doctrinally must always remember that they not only participate in rightly dividing the word of truth before the congregation, but that they are also divided by that same word.” But what happens to the man who, while laboring at preaching, fails to experience the truth being proclaimed? What are the effects of this on the congregation? How can a preacher be touched by the Word he proclaims?

For more information or to register for The Spurgeon Fellowship, call 877-517-1800 x1855 (toll-free) or 503-517-1855 or visit www.thespurgeonfellowship.org.  Western Seminary is located at 5511 SE Hawthorne Blvd in Portland, OR.

Download the informational brochure here.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Further Thoughts on Successful vs. Faithful and Divine Healing

The last couple of days I have reported on Art Azurdia’s presentation at the Spurgeon Fellowship on the topic: Faithful or Successful: Shattering the Dichotomy.    And I absolutely appreciated Art’s emphases.  It is worth listening to, if you weren’t there. (You can find the audio here.)  It helped me put a number of things from my last pastoral ministry in context.

But I struggle with one aspect.  And perhaps I am coming at it wrongly, but it is where I am coming from. 

(Excuse me for the excurses into divine healing. I promise to bring it back to Art’s lecture)

In recent years I have been in regular contact with a pastor friend from Beaverton, Craig DeMo, who espouses the principles of image_thumbPortland faith-healer John G. Lake. (Lake—picture to the right--ministered in Portland in the 1920’s).

I do not want anything I say to come across as anything but respectful to Craig. I value him and the ministry he performs. I just can’t buy into it.  My friend has evangelistic and healing ministries both in the US as well as in Asia, particularly Pakistan. 

He teaches regularly in writing, in classes and on CD recordings on “divine healing” that I have studied & of which I have tried to make sense.  He has seven principles of divine healing, the first and last which are:

#1: We cannot judge whether or not someone is healed based on what we see, what we hear or on ANY external evidence. (p. 3)

and

#7: The Word always works.  Healing always comes. (p. 28)

Later, he seems to qualify this a bit when he says, “Whenever we act or move in faith for healing, healing always comes.” (p. 30) But his principle still stands: Healing always comes.

Let me break down a little bit more what I believe Lake & DeMo are saying:

#1: We cannot judge whether or not someone is healed based on what we see, what we hear or on ANY external evidence.

Divine Healing144He compares it to salvation: When someone accepts Christ, we may not immediately see any observable difference in their lives or behavior. But we have no qualms declaring that they are saved. Craig notes: “When it comes to the New Birth, we don’t judge based on what we see—but when it comes to divine healing, we change the rules.” (p. 3)

I just don’t see evidence of that in the New Testament.  When Jesus healed someone, there was an immediate, observable change in the physical condition of the person asking for healing.  The example that Craig uses as his main point of evidence is the healing of the blind man who was healed in stages in Mark 8.

Mark 8:22-26: They came to Bethsaida, and some people brought a blind man and begged Jesus to touch him. He took the blind man by the hand and led him outside the village. When he had spit on the man’s eyes and put his hands on him, Jesus asked, “Do you see anything?” He looked up and said, “I see people; they look like trees walking around.” Once more Jesus put his hands on the man’s eyes. Then his eyes were opened, his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly. Jesus sent him home, saying, “Don’t even go into the village.”

The point made, was that this man was not healed immediately. It took two steps. Therefore, Craig says, healing may not come immediately: the observable healing may come days, weeks or years later.

However, observable healing DID come when Jesus put spit in the man’s eyes & touched them. He did NOT remain blind. It was an observable difference. Now the reason why the healing was in two stages is a discussion for another article (or not) but I don’t believe this is a valid example of healing not being immediately observable. Even in this case, Jesus did not leave the person until healing was complete.

#7: The Word always works.  Healing always comes.

The only exemption that Craig allows to that is when there is unbelief, but not unbelief on the part of the one seeking healing, but unbelief on the part of the one administering healing. He uses the example of Jesus’ disciples in Matt 17:

Matthew 17:14-21 When they came to the crowd, a man approached Jesus and knelt before him. “Lord, have mercy on my son,” he said. “He has seizures and is suffering greatly. He often falls into the fire or into the water. I brought him to your disciples, but they could not heal him.” “You unbelieving and perverse generation,” Jesus replied, “how long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring the boy here to me.” Jesus rebuked the demon, and it came out of the boy, and he was healed from that moment. Then the disciples came to Jesus in private and asked, “Why couldn’t we drive it out?” He replied, “Because you have so little faith. Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.”

As much as I want to believe Craig’s teachings on divine healing, it just doesn’t add up to me. To say that healing ALWAYS comes whether or not we can observe it or not seems like a bit of word-play hocus-pocus. It comes across as not just faith, but blind faith. “In spite of all of the evidence to the contrary, I choose to believe.” And there may, sometimes, be an aspect of that in faith. But that is not a definition of faith. 

I have to say there comes a time when one MUST say, “Healing didn’t come. Whatever God’s reasons; we were not necessarily at fault, the sick person was not necessarily at fault. But God chose not to heal.”

So…back to Faithful-vs.-Successful.

Probably I am just reading too much into this based on my reaction to Craig’s teaching on Divine Healing, butimage these two principles seem to be the same as what Art is saying about preaching and ministry.

Remember where Art left off as his conclusion: “IF YOU STAY FAITHFUL TO THE GOSPEL, YOU WILL SUCCEED.”  And I surmise from both lectures that success will come, even if it is not observable.

He premised that on his previous lectures that –

1. Success does not come because of our efforts, but because of God’s work. (I buy into that).

2. God has said that he chose us to bear fruit. (I buy into that).

3. Therefore…our work will always be successful; we may just not see it.

(Perhaps the fault in the logic that I am tripping over is that Art is equating “bearing fruit” with success?

I hear both of them saying, “In spite of all of the evidence…healing/success will come.”

I understand all the talk about Paul “planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow.” (I Cor. 3:6) And I ABSOLUTELY believe that.

But I struggle with the blanket statement that “IF YOU STAY FAITHFUL TO THE GOSPEL, YOU WILL SUCCEED.”

“All evidence to the contrary, you will succeed.”

Maybe that is just an element of faith. But I cannot differentiate clearly between what my friend Craig teaches and what I hear from Art.

It seems there may come a time when we say, “We were not successful. Whatever God’s reasons; we were not necessarily at fault, those around us were not necessarily at fault. But God (for his own reasons) chose not to make this endeavor successful.” And blindly saying, “Well, we ARE or WILL BE successful because God promised that,” seems a bit like presuming on God.

I would say of my friend Craig that he has set up human principles on healing that he must defend whether or not the evidence stacks up against it. May we also say that if we accept what Art says about ultimate success, that we may find ourselves having to do the same thing: defend principles whether or not the evidence stacks up against it?

I am not wanting to be negative and prematurely declare failure when the story is not all in. But I (wonder…not conclude…just wonder…if Art is setting up principles that may prove to be indefensible in the end.

Don’t take any of this as dissing Art’s presentation. It was excellent. And I may be splitting hairs a bit too much. l just want to understand if he is taking a scriptural truth and making a man-made principle out of it that is not actually biblical truth. 

Can you help me differentiate between the two teachers and their teaching?

If you can, put a note in the comments section. I may address this again if there is enough interest.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Faithful or Successful: Shattering the Dichotomy, Part II

  imageYesterday I gave a report on Art Azurdia’s first presentation at the Spurgeon Fellowship at Western Seminary which was held a couple of weeks back. In spite of what some of my friends thought, it was not the Surgeon Fellowship (I am not a physician) nor was it the Sturgeon Fellowship (for my Columbia River-fishing friends)

Both of Art’s presentations were EXCELLENT and dealt with the topic of Faithfulness vs. Success in the proclamation of the Gospel.  Last time we looked at the divine aspect…that ultimately God, not we, are the determiner of whatever success we have. We are called to be faithful. 

HOWEVER… at the break, I ask Art, “So what does that do to job evaluations and personal accountability.”  He smiled and said, “Just wait until the second lecture.” 

And for the most part he was correct.  He MOSTLY answered my question.

Art’s thesis during the second lecture was: (my notes follow)

Can a called man(*), faithful to the gospel, be certain of success?

John 15:12-17 (esp. v. 16)

The preacher does not select his vocation. It is selected for him. –Will Houghton

The man whom Christ makes a fisher of men is successful. --Charles Haddon Spurgeon

Prayer is one half of a man’s ministry; and it gives to the other half all its power and success –Charles Bridges

Size in and of itself is not the sign of anything good or bad.

Can a called man, faithful to the gospel, be certain of success?

John 15:12-17: You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit—fruit that will last. Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name.

I. Considering the Context (…as I have loved you”)…

  • That phrase appears at the beginning and the end of this passage like parenthesis “inclusio”
    • v. 12: My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.
    • v. 17-This is my command: Love each other.
  • Jesus: “ponder how you should love each other based on how I have loved you.”
  • Moral imperative based on a moral indicative.
  • The love of Jesus displays itself in
    • His death for them (v. 13: “to lay down his life for one’s friends.”)
    • His intimacy with them (v. 14-“you are my friends if you do what I command.”)
    • His appointment of them. (v. 15: I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master's business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.)
  • Lest they get pompous because of His love, he punctures their balloon—You didn’t choose me, I chose you.”

II. Narrowing the Focus

Can a called man, faithful to the gospel, be certain of success?

John 15:16: You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you.

Three truths:

1. Gospel ministers are sovereignly commissioned. (v. 16a-“you did not chose me, but I chose you”)

Don’t be afraid of this. (“You did not choose me [for yourself], but I chose you [for myself]”)-middle active.

  1. “Jesus found Philip” vs. “We have found him of whom Moses & the prophets spoke.” Was Philip a liar? No, he was speaking existentially.
  2. This is not the appointment of salvation, but the appointment of certain people to tasks of bearing fruit. An election FOR ministry/an election to GO.
    • Num 8-the appointment of the Levites
    • Jeremiah-before you were born, I knew you.
  3. We must not democratize the church.
    1. Jesus calls
    2. It does not mean that
    3. The plurality of elders is not the NT’s only word about church leadership. (My emphasis, not his)
    4. Gospel ministers are sovereignly commissioned.
    5. This appointment is not for indolence and ease, but for a task that is relentless, vicious & at times dangerous to their health.
    6. You have not chosen this work, but that God chose it for you.
    7. We have too many “self-sent” men: Self-centered entrepreneurialism.
    8. People in our congregations are thinking “Any boob can be a pastor”

2. Gospel ministers are commissioned to succeed (16b: “I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit & that your fruit should abide?”)

  1. What is the type of fruit referred to here?
    1. The fruit is the consequence of their going. Fruit that is borne of mission.
    2. It is the disciple-making process (not to be confused with the decision-making process).
  2. In this context WE WILL BEAR FRUIT.
  3. It is a LIE to say: “God hasn’t called you to be successful; God has called you to be faithful.”
    • Some people use it to excuse complacency.
    • The occupational hazard of the ministry is a broken heart.
  4. Faithful or successful is a false dichotomy; it is Faithful AND successful
  • (Is Peter dispassionate in Acts 2:38-39?)
  • The gospel is not an invitation; it is a summons.
  • To NOT do it is not to decline; it is to deny.
  1. What brings passion in preaching?
    • Passion is the fruit of a Word saturated life.
    • I expect something to happen when I preach.
    • That doesn’t mean that I can immediately see the results of each sermon.

3. Gospel ministers are successful through Prayer. (v. 16c: Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name.)

  1. Culture sets your context, but it must never set your agenda.
  2. We must distinguish between the assembling of a mob from the salvation of the multitude. (“so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you.”)
  3. Praying IS YOUR JOB (If it was not part of your job description given to you by the church, it was part of your job description given to you by Christ).
  4. “Apart from me you can do nothing.” (Luther: “a nothing does not mean a little something.”)
  5. How do we live in the tension between an evidence fruitlessness?
    • 1. Resist all attempts to measure success now.
      • You not possess the capacity to measure success accurately.
      • Your knowledge & motives are limited & stained.
    • 2. Rest your assurance of success on the promise of Jesus.
      • If you are a God-called man & are faithful to the Gospel, then fruit will be born of your ministry.
      • You may not see the fruit in your lifetime.
      • For now our assurance must rest not on what we see, but what Jesus said.

IF YOU STAY FAITHFUL TO THE GOSPEL, YOU WILL SUCCEED.

 

And so, in answer to my question about accountability and evaluation, it seems to me that Art’s answer would be that we are accountable for the execution of what we set out to do…but not necessarily to the immediate results.  If the supervisor/eldership/senior minister/whatever and the minister/staff person, whatever have agreed on the criteria for the execution of a plan, then the execution, not it’s immediate results are what is evaluatable. 

I am not positive that this is what he is saying.  I also have one more hesitation which I will lay out tomorrow.

 

(*)- The Spurgeon Fellowship premise is that only men can be called to Gospel ministry and so their language is always “men.”  Please don’t give me grief about it…I am only reporting, not advocating nor defending.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Spurgeon Fellowship: “Successful or Faithful: Shattering the Dichotomy”

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Last week I promised to give you a run-down on the Fall Spurgeon Fellowship meeting at Western Seminary.  Each year, the director of Spurgeon Fellowship, Art Azurdia, gives at least one of the major presentations.  Dr. Azurdia is Associate Professor of Pastoral Theology and Director of Pastoral Mentoring at Western Seminary here  in Portland. He was the founding minister of Christ Community Church in Fairfield , California , which he subsequently pastored for 19 years. He is also the founder of The Spurgeon Fellowship at Western Seminary, a fraternity of ministers devoted to seeking the wisdom of classical pastoral theology for contemporary church ministry. Art is the author of Spirit Empowered Preaching (Christian Focus Publications) and a contributing author in two additional volumes: The Compromised Church (Crossway) and Reforming Pastoral Ministry (Crossway).

Art’s presentation last week was not so much on preaching (the primary focus of this blog), but on ministerial leadership generally.  His theme was “Successful or Faithful: Shattering the Dichotomy.”

You can find the audio here.

Here are my notes in outline form:

HOW CAN YOU CRUCIFY MINISTERIAL JEALOUSY
WHEN ANOTHER’S APPARENT SUCCCESS SO CLEARLY OUTSTRIPS YOUR OWN?
John 3:22-30

We aim at God’s glory when we are content to be outshined by others in gifts and esteem --Thomas Watson

No other sin has wrought such havoc among the ministers of Christ as the inordinate love of place and power.  --Charles Jefferson

A preacher must despise praise  --William Willamon

Introduction

  • The dangers of pastoral jealousy:
    • “The bitch goddess of success”- William James
    • Unsanctified ambition: the lust to succeed.
    • An acid rain that can burn holes in your heart.
  • John & Jesus were baptizing in close physical proximity to one another.
    • v. 35-as a consequence of these two very similar ministries in the same geographical area, questions arose over competition.
    • Johns disciples: John’s baptism is the original; the “real deal”
      • The disciples went to John & tried to imply that Jesus was inferior to John since John’s ministry was first & Jesus had co-oped John’s methodology—baptism.
      • They didn’t even refer to Jesus by name
      • Exaggerated the extent of the receiving of the message-“everyone is going to him”
      • v. 23-“was baptizing” –implies continual action.

John’s reply tells us how to battle pastoral jealousy.

Recognize that…

1. …any expression of success is the exclusive prerogative of God. (John 3:27)

    • John 6-no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the father
    • To Pontius Pilate: You would have no authority over me at all unless it was given to you by God.
    • What do you have that you did not receive?
    • “Apollos planted, I watered, etc.” Paul: sovereignty does not deny pastoral responsibility
    • Peter: “not lording it over those allotted to your charge.” God allots those who are in your church. God is the one who determines the size of your church.
    • Dissatisfaction with the sovereignty of God is not the mark of a sanctified mind.

2. …ultimate Satisfaction is found in uniting people intimately with Jesus Christ. (John 3:28-29)

  • v. 28-You yourselves can testify that I said, ‘I am not the Messiah but am sent ahead of him.’
  • Responsibilities of bridegroom-
    • To prepare for the wedding
    • He was forever forbidden from marrying the bride
    • To escort the bride to the bridal chamber & wait outside the bridal chamber until he hears the word of the groom that the bride is indeed a virgin.
  • In America success is measured by bodies, bucks & buildings.
  • We talk about “building the church” when in fact that is exclusive role of God.

3. The exclusive preeminence of Jesus has been irresistibly predetermined. (John 3:30)

  • John bore the exclusive right to be the hinge between the old & new covenant?
  • “No-one is greater than John”
    • Greater in miraculous power? (John did no miracles)
    • Greater in revelatory insight? (John wrote no books)
    • Greater than David, Noah, Moses?
    • Greater because he is able to point to the Messiah with an immediacy like no one else.
  • John could only point to Jesus in anticipation.
  • Yet Jesus said, “the least in the KOG is greater than John the B” Why? When we declare the conquest of Jesus in his death & resurrection, we are greater than John the Baptist
  • “He MUST increase & I MUST decrease” MUST is one of John’s favorite words. The Greek word means pre-ordained.

CONCLUSION

Example of Alexander Whyte-  He was known as one who poured himself into younger ministers, even those whose abilities were greater than himself.  “All of his geese became swans.”

Again, you can find the audio here.

The second half, on pastoral responsibility tomorrow.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

The Good Funeral…Or Is It?

image It is kind of a funny thing. I have a post 4/5 completed on Origen: one of my top 100 preachers and sermons of all time; I have a two-part report on Art Azurdia’s presentation at the Spurgeon Fellowship of two weeks ago well underway, and yet today I find myself posting on something totally different…funerals.

One of the most spiritually rewarding things I have done in the past few years is subscribe to Christian Century.  It was always the “liberal” nemesis to Christianity Today, and so I avoided it for a long time.  But I find the Century more interesting and more spiritually challenging than CT has been in a long time. 

In the current issue the cover article is on “The Good Funeral” which might seem to be a fairly innocuous subject. But I found it very thought provoking and insightful.

For most of my pastoral career, I have pushed for a more personalized, informal and positive focus to funerals.  And those are not in and of themselves wrong. 

But Thomas Long (professor of preaching at Candler School of Theology in Atlanta) contrasts the “normal” service of today with the historic understanding of a funeral…and the contemporary “normal” service comes up short in a number of ways. 

Long posits that by the beginning of the third century, Tertullian could speak of a basic form of Christian funeral practice that had arisen which firmly reflected Christian theology.  It consisted of three parts:

  • Preparation
  • Processional
  • Burial

“In Preparation, the body is washed, anointed and clothed in garments representing baptism.

“In Processional, the body was carried to the grave, and sometimes the procession entered the church on the way for prayer and the reading of Scripture.

“The Burial phase took place at graveside & included the commendation of the deceased to God and the actual burial of the body  During each movement, the church prayed, chanted psalms and sang hymns of joy.  Often a Eucharist was held, either in the church or at the grave.”

But note this:

“The theme of the service was the completion of baptism, and the church accompanied a brother or sister to the place of union with God through the resurrection of Christ.  Taken as a whole, the early Christian funeral was based on the conviction that the deceased was a saint, a child of God and a sister or brother of Christ, worthy to be honored and embraced with tender affection.  The funeral itself was deemed to be the last phase of a lifelong journey toward God, and the faithful carried the deceased along the way to the place of final departure with singing and a mixture of grief and joyful hope.”

Contrast that with the normal “memorial service” of today.  The body is often cremated.  If there is an interment of the body (or of the “cremains”) it happens privately with the family…or sometimes simply is done by the funeral home or cemetery attendants.

If there is a service, it is a “memorial service.” The customary distinction between a funeral and a memorial service is that the body or “cremains” are present at the former and not the latter. It is usually held many days, or even weeks or months later (to allow a dispersed family time to get the best prices on airline tickets).

It is generally a simple, brief, highly personalized and customized service often involving several speakers remembering the life of the deceased.

The focus is on good remembrances of the life of the deceased and there is usually a display of photos or memorabilia of the person being memorialized.

The emphasis is on joy rather than sadness. But the joy is not based on a biblical concept of resurrection and hope in Christ.  It is a celebration of the past…of a life (presumably) well-lived.  Much is done to avoid the somber reality of death.

Long’s judgment is that “these newer rituals, for all of their virtues of freedom, simplicity and seeming festivity, are finally expressions of a corrupted understanding of the Christian view of death.  These newer practices are attractive mainly because they seem to offer relief from the cosmeticized, sentimental, impersonal and often costly funerals that developed in the 1950’s, which were themselves parodies of authentic Christian rituals.”

Long notes that the contemporary funeral is really not about the deceased at all.  It is about the mourners and psychologically encouraging them to move on.  (I have often pretty much stated as much at funerals). 

But it is no longer the metaphorical expressions of the journey of a saint to be with God (the body of the saint isn’t even present!) “Instead of the grand cosmic drama of the church marching to the edge of eternity with a fellow saint, singing songs of resurrection victory and sneering in the face of the final enemy, we now have a much smaller, more privatized psychodrama, albeit often couched in Christian language.  If we take the plot of the typical memorial service at face value, the dead are not migrating to God; the living are moving from sorrow to stability.”

What is your reaction to this?  At a minimum it makes me rethink what I say when I meet with a family and what I say at the meditation part of the service. (I DO insist on keeping that in the service, much to the consternation of some). 

I don’t know that I have done justice in a few paragraphs to Longs five-page article, but I would recommend it to you. Whether or not you agree that we should go back completely to the idea of the community of faith accompanying the deceased brother or sister to the last step of his/her journey towards God, it is at least worth mulling over.  Is what we have gained in the personalization of the service greater than the loss we have endured by the change?

If we as preachers are Christian LEADERS, do we have any say in what happens at a funeral/memorial service that takes place in the church building?  Or do we just cower to the ill-informed wishes of the grieving family, not wishing to buck them or “further upset” them by suggesting that their plans for grandma’s memorial service really is devoid of any Christian content other than platitudes that might be said at the funeral of Carl Sagan?

I don’t think that the Christian Century has this article up on their website yet (they usually wait until the next issue comes out before posting the articles from the last issue), but when I see that it is up, I will try to post the link here.  It is at least worth reading and mulling these issues over for oneself.   

Thoughts?  Reactions?  (As I have said so many times, “God forbid that we should actually THINK for a change!”) Post them here.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Crosswalk.com>>Preaching: Such Demanding Work but Such a Calling

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"I have known what it is to use up all my ammunition. Then I have, as it were, rammed myself into the great Gospel gun and I have fired myself at my hearers - - all my consciousness of sin, and all my sense of the power of the gospel. There are some people upon whom that kind of preaching tells when nothing else does, for they see that then you are communicating to them not only the gospel, but yourself also."

--Charles Spurgeon

That quote ends an article entitled “Preaching: Such Demanding Work but Such a Calling” on Crosswalk.com today.    It’s one of those you need to read when you are discouraged about your preaching.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Spurgeon Fellowship

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Tomorrow I will be attending the Spurgeon Fellowship at Western Seminary here in Portland.  If any of you who read this are going to be there, let me know and perhaps we can connect.  I have live-blogged the Spurgeon Fellowship before, but doubt that I do it tomorrow.  I do intend, however, to give a full report.

Top 100 Preachers and Sermons: Justin Martyr

imageWhile the first on my list of the Top 100 Christian Preachers & Sermons was anonymous, although the homily is entitled “Second Clement”, the second on my list has a name, but no extant sermons. 

Justin (ca 100-165) was born probably about the beginning of the second century, at Neapolis (the ancient Sychem) in Samaria.  We do not know his lineage, whether Greek or Roman, although he himself claimed that he was Samaritan.  It appears that Justin was financially wealthy because he had the means to study & travel. He was well educated and studied widely in philosophy which he thoroughly enjoyed.

One day he met an old man who introduced him to Christianity.  Justin was converted & found peace of mind in his faith. He later stated, “Straitway a flame was kindled in my soul... I found this philosophy alone (Christian faith) to be safe and profitable."

Justin began to share his faith, but he continued to wear the distinctive cloak of a philosopher. Dargan states that Justin “retaining his philosopher’s cloak, not so much now because it was a badge of distinction, as because it gave him the opportunity to teach, with the authority of culture, the truths of his religion.” (p. 47). 

Justin is the chief representative of the early preachers known as the Apologists.

Dargan divides the earliest preachers into three categories:

  1. Apostolic Fathers (ca. 68-160) These preachers knew, or might have been reasonably been expected to have come in direct contact with one or more of the apostles.  This time period stretches from approx date of the death of the apostles [68 or 100 depending on how you see the death of John] until the middle of the second century, perhaps 160.  This group included Polycarp, Ignatius of Antioch, and as we have already seen, Clement of Rome.
  2. Apologists-During the period of continued persecution of the church, there arose the need to be able to vigorously and intellectually defend the Gospel and the Church. There were enough times of stability and tolerance, however for Christians to gain the needed education. Examples would be Dionysius, bishop of Corinth; Tertullian; Quadrates of Athens; Melito, bishop of Sardis; Theophilus, the sixth bishop of Antioch and of course Justin Martyr. 
  3. Ante-Nicene Theologians-(ca. 180-300) (for those who are unaware, “ante-“ means “before.” It is not the same as “anti-“ which means “against”.  And Nicene refers to the development of the Nicene creed in 325 A.D at the Council of Nicaea.  Thus those who preached & taught before the Council of Nicaea were “Ante-Nicene preachers and teachers)  It was during this period that the most severe persecutions arose. While there continued to be a need for teaching and preaching that was highly apologetic, some of the great heresies of the church sprung up in this period.  It was necessary for preacher-theologians to arise who could develop the great thoughts of Scripture into a defined system of theology and philosophy.  This period includes Origen as its primary standout. Because its make up was more complex than the times of the Apostolic Fathers or Apologists, I will outline it more when I come to discuss Origen (DEFINITELY one of my 100).

Is is recorded that Justin, while not located in any one specific congregation, travelled and preached to all who would hear him.  And he was popular enough that he awakened the jealousy of a Cynic philosopher named Crescens, who successfully worked to have Justin killed under the leadership of Marcus Aurelius for sedition around 165.  When Justin and six others refused to sacrifice to the emperor as god, the sentence was read: “Those who do not wish to sacrifice to the gods and to obey the emperor will be scourged and beheaded according to the laws.” 

He didn’t, so they did. It was then that he earned the appellation of Justin (the) Martyr.

While we have no specific extant sermons from Justin, we have several writings from him which show his views, his style and his ability.  Most of his teaching/preaching deals with the Old Testament and prophesies that were fulfilled in Christ.  He was fairly loose with scripture and misunderstanding several thing about Judaism, led him to make connections that preachers and scholars today would say are inaccurate. 

His three main extant works are First and Second Apology and the Dialogue with Trypho the Jew. 

One of the charges against early Christians was that they were atheists.  Justin’s reply:

And we confess that we are atheists, so far as gods of this sort are concerned, but not with respect to the most true God, the Father of righteousness and temperance and the other virtues, who is free from all impurity" (The First Apology. Chapter VI).

And neither do we honour with many sacrifices and garlands of flowers such deities as men have formed and set in shrines and called gods; since we see that these are soulless and dead, and have not the form of God (for we do not consider that God has such a form as some say that they imitate to His honour), but have the names and forms of those wicked demons which have appeared. For why need we tell you who already know, into what forms the craftsmen, carving and cutting, casting and hammering, fashion the materials? And often out of vessels of dishonour, by merely changing the form, and making an image of the requisite shape, they make what they call a god; which we consider not only senseless, but to be even insulting to God, who, having ineffable glory and form, thus gets His name attached to things that are corruptible, and require constant service (The First Apology. Chapter IX).

What sober-minded man, then, will not acknowledge that we are not atheists, worshipping as we do the Maker of this universe, and declaring, as we have been taught, that He has no need of streams of blood and libations and incense; whom we praise to the utmost of our power by the exercise of prayer and thanksgiving for all things wherewith we are supplied (The First Apology. Chapter XIII).

To counter claims that Christians wanted to take over the government, Justin replied:

And when you hear that we look for a kingdom, you suppose, without making any inquiry, that we speak of a human kingdom; whereas we speak of that which is with God, as appears also from the confession of their faith made by those who are charged with being Christians, though they know that death is the punishment awarded to him who so confesses. For if we looked for a human kingdom, we should also deny our Christ, that we might not be slain; and we should strive to escape detection, that we might obtain what we expect. But since our thoughts are not fixed on the present, we are not concerned when men cut us off; since also death is a debt which must at all events be paid (The First Apology. Chapter XI).

One of the most famous excerpts is from his First Apology where he describes the early Christian worship services, still very reflective of Acts 2:42:

'On the day called Sunday, all who live in cities or in the country gather together to one place, and the memoirs of the apostles or the writings of the prophets are read, as long as time permits; then when the reader has ceased, the president verbally instructs, and exhorts to the imitation of these good things. Then we all rise together and pray, and, as we before said, when our prayer is ended, bread and wine and water are brought, and the president in like manner offers prayers and thanksgivings, according to his ability, and the people assent, saying Amen; and there is a distribution to each, and a participation of that over which thanks have been given, and to those who are absent a portion is sent by the deacons. And they who are well to do, and willing, give what each thinks fit; and what is collected is deposited with the president, who succors [give assistance to] the orphans and widows, and those who, through sickness or any other cause are in want, and those who are in bonds, and the strangers sojourning among us, and in a word takes care of all who are in need. But Sunday is the day on which we all hold our common assembly, because it is the first day on which God, having wrought a change in the darkness and matter, made the world; and Jesus Christ our Savior on the same day rose from the dead.'

I will draw this to a close, but the second in my list of the greatest preachers of all time is Justin Martyr.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Chrysostom and the NFL

imageI intend to talk about Chrysostom (347-407) later in my “Top 100 Preachers of All Time” series, but today I ran across a  great little article from the Christian History Blog.  It deals with the launch of the fall NFL season and what Chrysostom preached about sports. 

The article begins:

This week, the bane of preachers everywhere returns. When the clock strikes noon on Sunday in America's heartland, anxious Christians will clear their throats, shift positions in their seats, and hope the pastor's next words are "in conclusion." Some Christians living in the Mountain West and on the Pacific Coast might decide to skip church altogether. Because the NFL is back. And pastors will once again wonder privately how members can forget everything about that morning's sermon but recall detailed statistical information for scores of players they "own" in fantasy football leagues.

Few preachers I know would dare mention this frustration in a sermon.… What many Christians may not realize, however, is that these pastoral concerns run all the way back past the fundamentalists, beyond the Puritans, to the early church. Even those of us who love to watch the pigskin fly would be wise to consider the warning from the most famous preacher in early Christianity.

You can read the entire article here.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Losing My Religion

Usually when I review books here on the blog they are one of two or three types: books on preaching, books which have been sent to me gratis with the request that I review them, or some things I have written myself. losing-my-religion-blurbs-0011

Tonight I finished a book that has really made me think (which is a good thing!).  It is “Losing My Religion: How I Lost My Faith Reporting on Religion in America—and Found Unexpected Peace” (NY: Collins, 2009) by William Lobdell.

Lobdell was for many years a religion writer for the Los Angeles Times.  He was not raised in the church, but at a very difficult time in his twenties, after a very painful divorce, was introduced to (and “accepted”) Christ.  He took the path that I have recommended over and over to new believers…small group Bible studies, personal study, accountability groups, regular worship, finding a ministry to serve God. Bill Lobdell believed that his journalistic career was his spiritual gift.  By using journalism, he could expose people to the benefits of faith in God (and further down his journey, he believed God had put him in this position to clean up the church through his journalistic endeavors). “For such a time as this” as Mordecai told Queen Esther.

Lobdell travelled a spiritual journey from the Mariners Church in southern California, (where he had accepted Christ, but as he grew in his faith he saw it as “too simplistic”) to St. Andrews Presbyterian Church in Newport Beach, CA (a compromise between Bill and his Catholic wife, Greer) to being literally the night before he was to be baptized as a Catholic after a year of catechism.   He backed out, because by the time his baptism was about to happen, his faith in God and the Church had pretty well been destroyed.  To be baptized in the Catholic church seemed a betrayal of all of the victims of the church with whom Bill Lobdell had come in contact.

Several streams came together to overwhelm Lobdell’s faith:

The biggest of those was reporting on the Catholic priest sexual child abuse cases that have filled the papers over the past decade or so. Lobdell was at the forefront of the reporting on this great tragedy. Seeing the evil to which an amazing number of priests would stoop, and in so doing damage some of the most innocent members of their flock disgusted Lobdell (as it should all of us).  But even worse than that was the cavalier and self-protective attitude of the priests’ superiors.  The lies and the manipulation that was used to cover up the heinous behavior almost seemed worse (if that was possible) than the behavior of the child-molesting priests.

(My favorite Lobdell account was the one about the Archbishop here in Portland who defended a priest who had impregnated a young unemployed woman 13 years before.  The Archbishop said that the pregnancy was the result of “the woman’s own negligence” because she had failed to use birth control.   The irony of an archbishop chastising a woman for not using birth control, which is considered a mortal sin in Catholicism, was not lost on Lobdell). 

He writes (as he discussed with his wife Greer, the extreme pain that this reporting was doing to his own mental & spiritual health), “Unbeknownst to us, it was leading to skepticism.  We would find, in fact, a deep connection between faith in the church and faith in God.” (p. 145)

But Lobdell’s beat was not limited to Catholic priests.  His religion responsibilities took him into the world of TBN (Paul & Jan Crouch) and Benny Hinn.   The corruption of TBN and Hinn (and other evangelists like them) would make even Bernie Madoff blush. 

Ironically, some of the most “moral” people Lobdell met were Mormons.  But the belief system of Mormonism so lacks intellectual credibility that Lobdell wondered at the herd mentality of those who buy into it. 

Bill Lobdell was asked to speak at one Mormon gathering, at a time when recently discovered scientific evidence pointed to the fact that the American Indians (whom Mormonism teaches are part of the lost tribes of Israel) have no genetic similarity to anyone from the Middle East, but are genetically similar to Asians.    This genetic evidence simply destroys a basic tenet of Mormon “history” and theology.  When confronted with the evidence, at least one of the speakers angrily declared “After we have been defeated and all our stories proven untrue, we will perhaps come to know the more important reason and the only question that ever is—not whether the histories are true, but whether we are true to our stories.”

Lobdell’s observation was that the speaker resorted to “a smokescreen of angry rhetoric, biting humor, sarcasm and clever phrases.  I suspect [the speaker], like most of his Mormon brothers and sisters, believed his religion had a good thing going—the church members loved each other, looked after those who had fallen on hard times, raised good families—and he didn’t need outsiders, or science, to cast doubts on the operation. Mormonism worked, so leave it along.  If too many people chipped away at it, if too much truth were revealed, the foundation that [he] and other Mormons built their life upon might give way.” (p. 282)

Earlier in the book, after listing out the bizarre and self-contradictory teachings of the book of Mormon and the “go with the winds of the moment” theological changes Mormon leaders have made doctrinally, Lobdell noted:

At the time I didn’t see any parallel between the Mormon’s fidelity to the claims in the Book of Mormon and my allegiance to the New Testament which included stories of a virgin birth, water turning into wine, two people rising from the dead, a coin to pay a temple tax bring found in a fish’s mouth, Jesus walking on water, five loaves of bread and two fish feeding 5,000 families, and Jesus and his apostles curing people of crippling and fatal illnesses.  And that’s just the New Testament. The Hebrew scriptures talk about a global flood, people living well into their hundreds, a parted sea, a vast exodus not yet found in the archaeological record, bread falling from heaven daily for 40 years and a man living three days inside a whale before being spit out.  The details of Mormonism are fresher, but not much more strange and mythical. I just happened to have grown up with the stories of the Bible.  I was more used to them. (pp. 126-127)

Was there much difference between between the absurdity of Scientologists and their sacred E-Meters that allegedly trace the emotions of adherents, the Mormons and their belief that the Garden of Eden was in Missouri, and the Jews and Christians and their belief that the sound of trumpets caused the fortified walls of Jericho to come rumbling down? (p. 271)

But the stumbling block that finally shipwrecked Lobdell’s faith was the behavior of traditional Christians themselves. What troubled Bill Lobdell (as it should trouble those of us in leadership responsibilities in the church) was the utter lack of impact that faith in God seems to have on the morality of (at least American) Christians. He notes the oft-quoted findings of George Barna, the Pew Research Center & the Gallup poll:

“Christians  divorce at about the same rate as or even at slightly higher rate than atheists.  White evangelical Christians are more racists than others.  Evangelicals take anti-depressants at about the same rate (7%) as others.  Non-Christians are more likely to give money to a homeless or poor person in any given year (34%) than are born-again Christians (24%).  Born-again Christians are taught to give 10% of their money to the church or charity, but 95% of them decline to do so. The percentage of Christian youth infected with sexually transmitted diseases is virtually the same as the rate among their non-Christian counterparts.” (p. 205)

img_3118_rt If God and faith cannot even get those who claim to be his most devoted followers to do what he teaches, is he really that powerful?  If God cannot or will not protect the most susceptible members of society, but instead allow those who claim to represent him to be some of the biggest offenders and abusers, what kind of power can this god really have? 

Lobdell (pictured, left) had an e-mail correspondence with his former pastor at St. Andrews, John Huffman, and he duplicates much of the correspondence in the book.  Huffman doesn’t shy away from Bill’s hard questions, but in the end Lobdell isn’t buying any of it.

Finally, Lobdell, after realizing that he had totally lost his faith in God and the Church asked to be reassigned off of the religion beat and wrote an article for the LA Times chronicling his journey from faith to “reluctant atheist” or, at best, deist.  He stated his motivation for the article (and, by extension, for the book):

“The darkest part of my heart wanted to show, in a very public way, how people who identified themselves as Christians had driven me away from a faith I loved.  If someone with my desire for God could come away disillusioned by faith, then Christianity in its present form was in trouble,and someone should point that out to believers. I felt a little like the kid who declared that the emperor had no clothes, though I had no illusion that my revelation would open the eyes of others. It would be enough just to speak up for myself.”  (p. 262)

So, why have I spent so much time detailing this book and why did I read it in the first place?  Because I believe that there are many people in the church who are in the same position as Lobdell, but they have not had the courage or opportunity to simply walk away.  Or there are even more (like me) who have seen the behavior of people who claim the name of Christ and yet act in ways that Christ would find abhorrent and who wonder, “Is it really worth the effort?”

If the Christian faith is true (which I am convinced that it is), then the matters that trouble Lobdell need to be seriously addressed by the church.  Simply yelling claims that he was “never a believer in the first place”, or that he is “just looking at humans and not looking at God”, or “those problems are just limited to the Catholic church” are not adequate.

Grappling with the issues is the only way that the church can begin the long process of regaining credibility with people like Lobdell and the hundreds of thousands (millions?) like him, who do not have the pulpit of a world-class newspaper to broadcast their views. 

I don’t have a lot of answers.  I am very sad for Bill Lobdell.  I am, however, also hopeful.  On the back jacket of the book was a quote by John Huffman, Lobdell’s former pastor.  In part Huffman says, “This is a must-read filled with warnings and wake-up calls to those of us in leadership positions. I respect Bill for his honest reporting of his odyssey to this point and pray that someday there may be a future book, just as honest, with a grace-filled conclusion.” 

That is my prayer as well.  For William Lobdell and for many, many others as well. 

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

The Encouragement of a Middle School Boy

image The largest gatherings I have preached to have been Easter weekend in 1998 (2,500) and Easter Sunday 2000 (1,400).  And those experiences were rewarding in their own way.

But last Sunday I had a rewarding experience that will go down in my mental record book.  I was filling in for a friend who had taken a much-needed Sunday off.  He is a church planter who three years ago planted a congregation in a (then) fast-growing area of Portland.

Last week the church planter and I met and Matt told me that they average about 60 in worship and meet at a local middle school.  OK, great.

However, this was Labor Day weekend.  Summer.  A holiday weekend.  The LAST holiday weekend before school starts. And my brother-in Christ told his congregation he was going to be gone.  Oh my…

There were twenty of us in worship.  The gymnasium was set up with some chairs in the front and then round-shaped tables encircling the back where most of the people sat. It is probably one of the smallest groups to which I have preached (at least in as long as I can remember).  But none of that is really the point. God was worshipped and honored.

BUT (BIG but…)  as I began to preach, I noticed this middle school youth, kind of wandering around the back.  He fidgeted around the coffee table (where the pastries were…he was a middle school boy, remember).  He kind of wandered over to the sound board & watched the technician there. 

But the longer I preached (maybe total 25 min), the more he wandered towards the front. And while earlier his attention had been focused on the pastry table & the soundboard, he began to make eye contact with me. (It was a small crowd, remember.  It is easy to move from person to person making eye contact pretty quickly with just twenty people!)

The longer I preached, the closer he moved. 

The last five minutes or so, he had moved up to the back row of tables & was holding on to a chair & leaning forward.  His eyes were glued to the front.

SUCCESS!!

I was preaching on what it means to be a new creation in Christ. But, little matter.  If I can not only attract the attention, but KEEP the attention of a middle school boy who is not being corralled by his parents and forced to sit in a chair and keep quiet, then I must be doing something right! 

It’s fun to preach to the large crowds.  But I actually felt better after preaching to one middle school boy (and nineteen others) than I did after those Sundays where the masses had gathered. 

Thank you, God, for the encouragement that middle school boy gave to me.  I hope I gave him something in return.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Questioning God’s Definition of Preaching

In thinking through what defines great preaching (see recent “Top 100” post), I came across an article from The Carolina  Messenger by David N. Powell titled “God’s Definition of Preaching”  (The Carolina Messenger seems to be a paper of the non-instrumental churches of Christ)

I know nothing of Mr. Powell, except that the article says he preaches in Bluefield, WV. The article is not even dated. 

The article does not explicitly define great preaching (or even preaching) and doesn’t explicitly lay out what “God’s Definition of Preaching” entails. The closest he comes is to quote Nehemiah 8:8- “They read from the Book of the Law of God, making it clear and giving the meaning so that the people could understand what was being read.”

BUT…he DOES give a helpful list that could be entitled “Questioning God’s Definition of Preaching.  Here is a summary of what he states: image

I question God’s definition of preaching when I…

  • put decibels over doctrine  (God used both trained & untrained preachers. He examined the heart, not their tongues or college degrees). 2 Timothy 4:2
  • put undue emphasis on excitement (style over substance has always been the downfall of the shallow) 2 Timothy 4:3-5
  • feel his message will fail unless augmented by my ability. (“The excitement ought to be from the truth realized during sermon preparation and not merely as some speaking tactic. Some put on a preaching voice that is as phony as Monopoly money. Why in the world do they feel the need to jazz up their delivery? Is the Bible so dull, or study so infrequent, and our members' attention so short that God's book is not enough? Anything I do that draws
    attention to me takes attention from what I supposed to be heralding.”) Romans 16:18
  • put my oratory over his oracles.  I Cor. 2:4-5; 2 Cor. 11:6; I Cor. 2:2

At least worthy of consideration. Find it here.

Monday, September 7, 2009

100 Top Preachers and Sermons: Homily by Clement of Rome (aka Second Clement)

The first sermon that is worthy of note is traditionally called The Second Epistle of Clement. The title is ironic because early on it was recognized that it was not an epistle, but a sermon; and it was also recognized as anonymously image written, not by (as the title would suggest) Clement of Rome.  No matter…the title stuck.    (I went ahead and put his picture to the right anyway).  

2 Clement is significant mostly because it is the first fully extant post-Biblical sermon. The homily says that it was to be read after the reading of scripture in the worship service, thus signifying it as a sermon (homily).

Edwin Dargan describes the sermon this way homiletically:

The doctrine is not elaborate, the homily being hortatory in character, but the main great teachings of the Christian faith are implied, and for all that appears to the contrary the treatment is orthodox. The morality urged is sound and elevated. The style is natural, simple and appropriate; but is not marked by special oratorical excellence, is somewhat feeble, and is marred by much repetition. The use of Scripture is reverent. There is no text, but the quotations and allusions are frequent, and derived from both the Old and the New Testament. This is significant for the early recognition of the New Testament writings as authoritative in pulpit use. The interpretation and application are fairly good. There is no wild allegorizing or forcing of Scripture. The tone and spirit are admirable faith, hope, and love, with humility and sincerity, are apparent throughout. Particularly worthy of note is a passage near the end, where the preacher modestly declares that though conscious of imperfection he tries to do what he urges upon others, and begs his hearers to think on these things after they leave the house of worship and go about their affairs. He earnestly exhorts them in view of the future life, and tenderly consoles them in the midst of present trials, concluding with a doxology.” (p. 44-45)

The sermon does not have natural large outline points.  It has traditionally been broken down into twenty “chapters” and it is best to simply see them as an elucidation of two themes that are necessary for the Christian life: confession of Christ, and repentance.

The outline (such as it is) is this:

  1. We Ought to Think Highly of Christ.
  2. The Church, Formerly Barren, is Now Fruitful.
  3. The Duty of Confessing Christ (How do we confess him? By doing what he says.)
  4. True Confession of Christ (confession by words will not save us; we must confess him by our deeds)
  5. This World Should Be Despised.
  6. The Present and Future Worlds are Enemies to Each Other.
  7. We Must Strive In Order to Be Crowned
  8. The Necessity of Repentance While We are on Earth.
  9. We Shall Be Judged in the Flesh
  10. Vice is to be forsaken and Virtue Followed
  11. We Ought to Serve God, Trusting in His Promises.
  12. We are Constantly to Look for the Kingdom of God
  13. Disobedience Causes God’s Name to Be Blasphemed.
  14. The Living Church is the Body of Christ
  15. Faith and Love the Proper Return to God.
  16. The Excellence of Almsgiving
  17. The Danger of Impenitence.
  18. The Preacher Confesses His Own Sinfulness.
  19. He Justifies His Exhortation
  20. Concluding Word of Consolation. Doxology.

You can find a good online translation of Second Clement here

Just a couple of thoughts:

For those preachers who “poo-poo” non-exegetical preaching, I would warn that they do not necessarily have history on their side. Most of the preaching --even great preaching--in scripture and throughout history is non-exegetical. 

Second, there is a great emphasis on what Christians are TO DO.  Action, implementation, application are key to this sermon. 

So, that is #1 in my list of the Top 100 Preachers or Sermons in Church History!

100 Top Preachers & Sermons

image I want to begin an occasional series laying out what I see to be the top 100 preachers and/or sermons in the history of the church. I put “and/or” because some of the sermons are anonymous, (see below) but worthy of note; and other times a preacher may be worthy of note and have several sermons that may qualify as great.   I don’t intend for this to take over my blog, but for it to be a regular feature, reminding us that preaching has a rich past and is a constantly changing and varied activity.  Preaching has, however, remained a central constant throughout the history of the church and has been the spark of most of the church’s revivals.   Many of the preachers in my list will come from Edwin Charles Dargan’s History of Preaching, but in more recent centuries I will deviate from it because Dargan ends with the 18th century and has no preachers from America in the 19th century.

One of my goals in this process is to come up with a definition or a list of what makes a sermon truly “great”.  I already have a list of 2-3 items, but hope to expand it and then try it out before you as we go along. 

Loretta and I went and watched “Julie & Julia” last night and in the spirit of that movie (one I highly recommend), I hope to list & review these 100 preachers/sermons within a year.

You can help in a couple of ways:  I would very much solicit your suggestion.  My list is not even half-way complete. I have some ideas on direction, but my list is a growing list at this point. So I would ask for your input.

Second, as I stated above, I am working on a definition or a list of criteria for what makes a sermon truly “great”.  If you have suggestions toward that end as well, I would welcome them.  So let’s get started…

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Leadership Network presents "THE NINES"


This online, free workshop might be worth your attention. I can't figure out how long it is, but sounds helpful. Of broader concern than just preaching.

Leadership Network presents "THE NINES"

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Blue September

PCFNZ_BLUESEPT_Logo

Talking the Walk is a preaching blog.  Always has been. Always will be.  But it is MY blog, and most of you know that I was diagnosed with prostate cancer this past year.   I had surgery in April and am doing well.  This past weekend I participated in the Portland to Coast—a 127-mile relay race.  It was hard, but I had some of the best walk times on our team, even though I was the oldest member. 

It is, however, estimated that this year (2009) 27,360 American men will die of prostate cancer.  192,280 men in the U.S. will be diagnosed with prostate cancer this year.

My cancer would have gone totally undetected if I had not had a PSA blood test.  My doctor said that after the physical exam, my prostate “looked" great!”   But for the past five years or so, I have insisted on having an annual PSA test. When I did, the count came back 5 points higher than it had been the previous year.  The number itself was not all that high, but the jump in one year was significant.  The doctor ordered a biopsy and it was then that they discovered cancer.

Most preachers are men.  And most men HATE going to the doctor. And even MORE than most hate the prostate exam.  But it is essential.

We cannot afford to lose good preachers to an easily treatable disease. (We can’t afford to lost faithful, mediocre preachers either!)

This month has been declared “Blue September” to highlight prostate awareness.  (Pink is often used for breast cancer…typically a women’s disease and blue is usually used for prostate cancer, a specifically man’s disease).

Men, if you are over 45 (especially if you are over 50): make this a Blue September--get a physical & get your PSA count checked, so that your family doesn’t have a “blue” month down the road because of your untimely death due to prostate cancer.

End of sermon.   Go in peace of God, the grace of Christ and the comfort of the Holy Spirit.

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