Posts Tagged With: preaching

The Danger of Sensationalistic Preaching

Recently, I’ve grown fascinated with John Broadus, most know for being one of the founding members and later a president of my alma mater, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky.  He’s also known for penning one of the greatest preaching manuals in our nation’s history, A Treatise on the Preparation and Delivery of Sermons (hardcover | Kindle ). 

One of the warnings he gave his students was on the danger of sensationalistic preaching, that is, preaching that strictly appeals to the emotions of the listener rather than to the mind.  Beecher Johnson, contributor to John Broadus: A Living Legacy, defines this as

… using any means to gain the ear of, or have an effect on, the audience that does not honor the sacred nature of God and the things of God or ensure singular focus on the spiritual and theological message of God in the text (216).

In the mid to late 1800’s to even now, preaching that is rooted in emotion rather than revelation of Scripture fails to honor God and will fail to change lives in any substantial way.

In that same book, Steven Lawson gives a warning to churches today:

Pressure to produce bottom-line results has led many ministries to sacrifice the centrality of biblical preaching on the altar of man-centered pragmatism.  A new way of “doing” church is emerging.  In this radical paradigmatic shift, exposition is being replaced with entertainment, preaching with performances, doctrine with drama, and theology with theatrics (Famine in the Land, p. 25, quoted in A Living Legacy, p. 213). 

Pray for preachers of the gospel, that they rely on the testimony of Scripture rather that the shifting sands of sensationalism.  That’s what the world and the church most needs. 

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How My Pastor Friend’s Death Changed Me

2014-03-20 08.05.55 Almost two months ago, my friend Tommy Rucker took his own life.  To say this affected me would be an understatement.  In preaching his funeral, God permitted me to sort through a number of theological issues surrounding his death—as well as talk to the family and friends of Tommy that I hadn’t seen in over a decade. 

But funerals end.  Lives have to go on.  A wife has to pick up the pieces.  Children and grandchildren have to proceed without their dad and grandfather in the picture anymore.  Awful! 

I cannot speak on the subject of all of Tommy’s friends, but I can speak about one of them—me.  God has used this to change me in a number of ways.

  1. I must be honest about what’s happening in my own heart.  Tommy clearly had a dark season in his life up to the end.  Yet, his wife did not know the extent of this.  Neither did his kids.  Nor his church.  Nor did his friends.  And I wonder if Tommy really understood this!  We all must understand our hearts before God and others.  This stands as a non-negotiable.
  2. I must have someone to share what’s happening in my heart.  I remember saying during the funeral sermon, “I wish I could have had another chance to talk to Tommy—to see what was happening.”  You see, Tommy and I carpooled to seminary for over a year during our MDiv work.  We shared things with each other that we haven’t shared with anyone else other than our spouses.  I wish I could have had one more car ride with him.  Who knows?  But now, I know I must have a transparent life with someone with whom I can be accountable—my spouse or even another friend as well. 
  3. I am more diligent in keeping up with my friends now.  Phone calls.  E-mails.  Facebook.  Smoke signal.  Carrier pigeon.  I see my pastor friends online, I pop in and say hello and ask them how I’m doing.  Who knows?  Some may say, “Oh, him again?”  Yup!  Me again.  I talked online to Tommy once per week.  We didn’t talk about much, but it was that connection.  Could I have done more?  Could I have said more?  Sure, he was in Iowa and I in Kentucky—but still… .  Even so, I need to do what I can to make sure all of us minister and live faithfully, and finish well in Christ.
  4. I’m preaching with more passion.  At least, that’s what folks tell me.  I didn’t connect until just now that maybe Tommy’s death is why.  What is happening in the hearts of the pastors with whom I serve?  What is happening with the staff with whom I’m supervise?  What’s happening with the congregation for whom I will have to give an account (Hebrews 13:17)?  What’s happening in our community in which God has placed our church?  So, I’m preaching with much more urgency.  If God can use this clay pot (2 Corinthians 4:7) for His purposes, then I pray He will put in me desire to compel others to chase after Christ (2 Corinthians 5:14-15). 

I’ve been sitting on this for a number of weeks.  It’s so hard to think about, much less write about.  Plus, I do not want to unearth feelings among the family that may be starting to heal.  But if there are any family members reading (Kay, Melissa, Jesi, Derek, Steve, Jeff, Betty, wives, husbands, and children), please know that God is and will use all things for good, even though what happened was not good. 

You know that Tommy was my brother!  We kept talking about seeing each other again sometime.  And I will see him again!  That last season did not represent the totality of Tommy’s passion for relying on His grace.  You all are in my prayers.  Thank you for letting me be part of your lives.  May God use us to be a part of the lives of those whom we care about. 

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What is the Antidote to Anemic Worship? The Answer May Surprise You

Albert Mohler of Southern Seminary gives the answer, and it’s a good one: expository preaching.

If most evangelicals would quickly agree that worship is central to the life of the church, there would be no consensus to an unavoidable question: What is central to Christian worship? Historically, the more liturgical churches have argued that the sacraments form the heart of Christian worship. These churches argue that the elements of the Lord’s Supper and the water of baptism most powerfully present the gospel. Among evangelicals, some call for evangelism as the heart of worship, planning every facet of the service—songs, prayers, the sermon—with the evangelistic invitation in mind.

Though most evangelicals mention the preaching of the word as a necessary or customary part of worship, the prevailing model of worship in evangelical churches is increasingly defined by music, along with innovations such as drama and video presentations. When preaching the word retreats, a host of entertaining innovations will take its place.

Music touches the emotions like few things can.  Songs are packed with chord constructions and changes that can move the heart; they contain numerous memories attached; and they have been used as ammunition in the dreaded ‘worship wars’ that take place among God’s people.

Oftentimes, we come to worship with an idea of what we want, but God in His word tells us what we need—a steady diet of His whole counsel (Acts 20:24-28). 

Pray that your pastors have time to study so that you and the church may be well-fed. 

Pray they would have clear thoughts and clear speech in which to convey His Word.

 

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Five Keys for Young Preachers to Remember

Young preachers have their work cut out for them. 

They sense a call to preach.  They may go to school or sit with their pastor to learn some basics about preaching.  Many scholars and pastors write books on the subject. 

But the only way to really learn how to preach is to, well, preach.  Even so, young preachers would do well to have a paradigm from which they work to approach their sermons.  This will help not only them, but their listeners that they so want to see know and grow in Christ. 

Intention.  Preaching needs a plan.  What is your intention with your sermon?  This involves much prayer and study of the text at hand.  If you preach expositionally, you will certain have the parameters of the text from which to proceed.  But given that the Spirit has inspired the Word, you must engage in persistent prayer and study of the passage.  Cull your sermon down to one main point or intention.  Even if you use multiple points, they should all feed the main intention. 

Inform.  Yes, preaching is about information.  You are passing along propositional truths.  Grammatically, these are known as indicatives—truths and objective facts of what God has revealed in His Word.  “Christ has died, and has risen, and will come again” is an example.  This speaks to what has been done. 

Be careful not to bring every last thing you’ve culled in your study.  You risk being a fire hose on your unsuspecting people.  They point is not to show how much information you know, but the goal is transformation by the Word and the Spirit (Romans 12:1-2). 

Inspire.  This brings passion to the propositions!  This gives heat to the light of God’s Word.  To preach God’s Word without the corresponding passion will not inspire.  The Apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians 5:14 says, “For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died” (NIV).  That inner drive, that inner compulsion, that inner desire to rally the troops!  This must be present—without it, it will land flat.  And there’s no reason this should ever happen.  It’s the Word!  Preach!!

Illustrate.  Preachers must connect biblical truth to present-day situations.  Illustrations aren’t selling out, as if the Word is not sufficient!  It is—and we must illustrate how the Word is brought to bear to the culture today.  Spurgeon brings his usual insight:

In addressing my students in the College long ago, I was urging upon them the duty and necessity of using plenty of illustrations in their preaching, that they might be both interesting and instructive. I reminded them that the Saviour had many likes in his discourses. He said, over and over again, “The kingdom of heaven is LIKE”; “The kingdom of heaven is LIKE.” “Without a parable spake he not unto them.” The common people heard him gladly, because he was full of emblem and simile. A sermon without illustrations is like a room without windows. One student remarked that the difficulty was to get illustrations in any great abundance. “Yes”, I said, “if you do not wake up, but go through the world asleep, you cannot see illustrations; but if your minds were thoroughly aroused, and yet you could see nothing else in the world but a single tallow candle, you might find enough illustrations in that luminary to last you for six months.”

Illustrations bring light onto the truth being preached.  You do not want to leave your people in the dark, do you?

Infuse.  I use this word as a way to infuse the power of the Word by the Spirit into the lives of the believers through application.  It’s the ‘so-what’ factor.  “OK, you’re telling me this today—so what?”  Again, this is not taking over for the Holy Spirit.  Whereas the ‘inform’ aspect is about the indicatives, the ‘infuse’ part deals with the ‘imperatives’—the commands.  “Walk worthy of the gospel.”  The Ten Commandments.  “Go, and do likewise.”  These commands are infused via the information and illustrations given.  You then inspire through the Spirit’s work in your heart concerning what God has revealed in Scripture. 

Yes, young preachers have their work cut out for them—but if you have this paradigm before you, it will make the sermon easier on you—and your dear listeners. 

Thoughts?  Do you remember your first sermon?  How have you changed from then until now?

In the meantime, check out this helpful video with Tullian Tchvidijian, Voddie Baucham, and Russ Moore:

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This Blog is for Preachers—A Conference, Search Teams, Guest Preaching, and Awesome Books

Mile High Preaching Conference 2013:  This coming October 25-26, we will be having a Preaching Conference here in Denver.   Why?  After being out here for the last 15 months, I am recognizing this one fact:  Denver and Colorado and the West need preachers of the Gospel—yes, even expositors of the Word!  Trainings for pastors are prevalent east of the Mississippi and south of the Ohio River, but not so much in this part of our country.  When I say that “we” are hosting this, God planted this in the minds of Mark Hallock (pastor of Calvary Church of Englewood, CO) and myself—and it came to light in the aisles of our local LifeWay Stores in Lone Tree. 

So the theme is “Preaching that Engages, Preaching That Endures.”  Our speaker will be Dr. Hershael York, Preaching Professor at theSouthern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, KY as well as Senior Pastor of Buck Run Baptist Church, Frankfort, KY. He is a gifted preacher and communicator, and has authored an incredibly helpful book, “Preaching With Bold Assurance: A Solid and Enduring Approach to Engaging Exposition.”For more information, contact either Matthew Perry (Pastor of Arapahoe Road Baptist Church) Mark Hallock (Pastor of Calvary Church in Englewood).  The cost will be $10 and will be held at Arapahoe Road Baptist Church (but if we have more than 250 sign up, we will pick another venue). 

With this, I would like to share with you a few other helpful blog posts for preachers:

The Four Levels of Scrutiny for Pastoral Search Committees by Thom Rainer.

Preaching that Cuts to the Heart by Tim Keller.

How to Be an Awesome Guest Preacher by H.B. Charles, Jr.

The 10 Books Every Preacher Should Read (2013) by Albert Mohler

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Expositors Summit at Southern Seminary

Expositors Summit BadgeI am back home in Denver!  And what a week we had at the Expositors Summit at Southern Seminary in Louisville, KY.  Hearing some great preaching about preaching (I’ll explain that soon), catching up with friends present and past, seeing in-laws of whom I do not consider outlaws (and I believe that feeling is mutual)—what a great week.

Why am I encouraged to hear preaching about preaching?

That deserves explaining!  My task is prayer and ministry of the Word (Acts 6:4) and I had the opportunity to listen to three men who exemplify just that:  Albert Mohler, Alistair Begg, and Ray Ortlund, Jr. who was brought in off the bench when weather prevented John MacArthur from attending. These men love Christ, love the Word, love the church, love the Scriptures—and love other ministers of the Word. 

We preachers when we pray, prepare, and present a sermon are executing both a science and a craft, as well as an art.  It’s not enough to just present information, but we are transformed preachers who pray for the transformation of the listeners (see Romans 12:2).  It is a presentation and a passion.  I confess to all of you, I cannot wait to hit the times of study.

But in proportion to this, I cannot wait to see what God is doing with our people Monday through Saturday.  This is a little more complicated, but this is part of the ministry of the Word—taking what’s presented and applied on Sunday and working to drive it deeper as agents of the Holy Spirit.

Below are the sessions!  If you are a preacher, Bible teacher, or Bible student, you will benefit from these greatly!

General Session 1: R. Albert Mohler, Jr.

General Session 2: Ray Ortlund, Jr.

General Session 3: Alistair Begg

General Session 4 Q&A

General Session 5 with Ray Ortlund, Jr.

General Session 6 with Albert Mohler

 

Thursday Chapel with Alistair Begg: Proverbs 27:1-6

 

 

There were breakout sessions that you can listen to as well (no video provided):

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Politicking in the Pulpit—a Caution to Pastors

Brian Lee writes a cautionary piece to preachers who are encouraged this election season to be openly political in regards to particular candidates. 

That’s what Jim Garlow and the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) are urging preachers to deliver. ADF is promoting October 7th as “Pulpit Freedom Sunday,” and is asking ministers to dedicate their sermons to explicit politicking. According to an online pledge, sermons should evaluate the presidential candidates according to “biblical truths and church doctrine,” and make a specific endorsement. Launched in 2008, over 500 pastors signed last years pledge, though promotion of the event seems to peak in election years.

Mixing politics with religion is a slippery slope.  A line should be drawn.  If a candidate makes a remark or a political party has a platform that the Bible addresses as true or false, this should be acknowledged.  Many have said that abortion is a ‘political issue,’ and thus should not be preached from the pulpit.  I disagree—this is an issue that the Scriptures directly address and should not be hijacked by political figures and , thus, make it off-limits to preachers.  God has spoken, and thus we should speak.

But for those who stand up and say that God supports a particular party’s platform and all that it addresses is treading on thin ice and, in my opinion, is squandering his biblical authority. 

But Lee closes this article with a spot-on message for us as ministers, and for all believers who walk into church and might be subject to another political advertisement behind the pulpit.  Read and heed!

 

Furthermore, the New Testament offers no encouragement for direct political action. When Jesus was asked a trick question about the propriety of paying taxes — is there any other kind? — he asked whose name was on the coin, and told his followers to “Therefore render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s.” Later, when on trial for his life, he did not deny his royal authority, but instead claimed “My kingdom is not of this world.”

At a time when the major issue in Jewish politics was the overthrow of the oppressive regime, neither Christ nor his Apostles had a word to say about it. The Apostles surely could not conceive of a democracy, or shaping imperial Roman policy, yet they urged submission for the Lord’s sake “to every human institution.” In his letter to the Romans, Paul twice called the deeply flawed governing authority of his day — that of Nero, persecutor of Christians — a “minister of God” for good and evil. With Jesus, he urged for this reason the paying of taxes that were owed, along with honor and respect. Clearly, loss of tax-exempt status may be an injustice as well as a threat to our constitutional liberties, but it poses no threat to the well being of the church.

The primary message the New Testament commends to preachers — “Christ, and him crucified!” — is scarcely a political one. But this doesn’t mean preachers should be constrained from speaking politically. One care barely open one’s mouth on a moral question of the day without giving political offense, and no one would suggest God’s word has nothing to say on these matters.

But the further the minister of the word ventures from the claim of “thus sayeth the Lord,” there is a spiritual and political price to be paid. We risk squandering moral authority and offending the politically disaffected. The Gospel we are commanded to preach to all reaches a precious few, and the heavenly respite of worship becomes a good bit more earthly. Almost a century ago, J. Gresham Machen voiced a similar concern with the rise of politically progressive pulpits:

The preacher comes forward…not with the authority of God’s Word permeating his message, not with human wisdom pushed far into the background by the glory of the Cross, but with human opinions about the social problems of the hour or easy solutions of the vast problem of sin. Such is the sermon. Thus the warfare of the world has entered even into the house of God, and sad indeed is the heart of the man who has come seeking peace.

The minister doesn’t speak for himself; the title means “servant.” Perhaps preachers should ask themselves, before they step up to the pulpit this Sunday, whether they’d feel comfortable reading on behalf of their boss the standard campaign disclosure when they’re finished:

“I’m Jesus Christ, and I approve this message.”

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“I’ll Pray for Your Leadership, You Pray for My Follow-ship”

After a particularly joyous Sunday at our church where I pastor (with a fellowship to follow), one of our dear senior adults came up to me and engaged me in a conversation about the service.  Since I’m still learning the ebbs and flows of the church where Christ has placed me, I often use humor to scope out the lay of the land.  This time, our service went somewhat longer than usual, and I preached a few minutes longer than usual.  So I made a comment about having a talk to that “long-winded preacher we have.”   This time, though, I followed it up with, “We say when we start, but not when we end.  And God did something wonderful this morning.” 

How this person responded not only encouraged me, but reminded me of an important lesson.  He said, “Preacher Man, we have been trained here over the years to be done by 11:30.”  (He paused, and I honestly braced myself for what was to come.)  “But you’re just going to have to un-train us!  Keep preaching the Word!  It’s taking hold!” 

When we parted, he said to me, “I’ll pray for your leadership—you pray for my ‘follow-ship’.”   I hugged him and thanked him, promising him that I certainly would. 

No church is perfect!  At least, in my situation, if it was at one time, it lost it’s perfection the moment I set foot on the premises.  But you can’t love Jesus and hate His bride.  He’s called us to be a part of it with all its warts and wrinkles.  We know that He is working in us to make it  spotless and without blemish (Ephesians 5:28). 

John Maxwell once said, “If you are a leader or want to be a leader, and no one is following you—you’re just taking a long walk.” 

Are we leaders in our churches, but no one is following our lead?  We can react in one of the following ways:

  1. “Well, these people haven’t got it together.  They just need to get on-board.  I’m right—can’t they see that?  If they can’t, they must be so worldly as not to know better.”  These folks suffer from self-righteousness.  Don’t take time to share with them your struggles—they will subtly or not let you know that they just cannot relate to you.  If you’re a Christian, you should never struggle with Scripture reading, prayer, witnessing, or any other myriad of activities along this line.  You have to lead people from where they are to where they need to be with boldness mixed with compassion (speaking the truth in love—Ephesians 4:15). 
  2. “Who am I to lead any of this?  I’m only a sinner saved by grace, but that’s all.  Who would ever want to follow my lead!  I can barely lead myself.”  Trevin Wax recently posted how dishonoring to the Spirit of God it is to say you’re “just a sinner saved by grace.”  Take the ‘just’ out and recognize that the Spirit of God dwells in you through the atoning work of Christ.  And recognize that God calls all Christians to tasks, and has gifted all Christians to certain tasks.   We were not given a spirit of fear, but of “love and power and self-control” (2 Timothy 1:7).  Rest on the fear of Christ, not on the fear of man.
  3. “Before we do anything, let’s find out what others think because I’m afraid to make this decision.”  This can be a good rule of thumb, especially with your key leaders.  In our situation here with the hurt that has taken place over the years from various fronts, the key lay leaders here need to know that the ministry leaders hear them and have an avenue in which to contribute to a conversation.  So whenever we make a key decision, they need to be in on the discussion.  And when it comes to the congregation, they need to be communicated with clearly.  But there is a balance in discussing/communicating, and balancing that with not leading at all until you know where the current is flowing (politicians get blistered for not saying anything until the latest polls are in, then lacing their speeches with those poll-driven talking points.)  Leaders have to lead.  If this is out of balance, then the leadership and ‘follow-ship’ become reversed.  God has placed shepherds and teachers to lead in proclaiming the Word of God and to lead the sheep into His pasture.   And we must lead the sheep boldly, instilling in them the confidence that they know the shepherd cares about them and their ultimate well-being.

One young minister lamented how people kept getting in the way of his ministry.  The older minister replied, “People are your ministry.”   There’s wisdom in this reply!  Christ has called us to minister to actual people.  May we ministers minister, and may all of us have a heart ready for others to minister to us! 

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My Preaching Blog Back in Operation as Exposition Avenue

After an almost six month hiatus, delving in almost exclusively to my Gospel Gripped blog, I am now back to posting periodically at this blog, now retooled and been renamed:  Exposition Avenue.

Why Exposition Avenue?2012-06-19 13.13.28

Exposition Ave. is the name of a street here in Denver.  I would pass it frequently, and I thought to myself, “Wouldn’t it be great if our churches travelled on this road; not literally, but in practice?  Wouldn’t it be great if not just our preaching, but every part of our church life here at Arapahoe Road Baptist Church was an exposition of the teaching of Scripture?” 

My passion for expositional preaching stems from a personal journey that has included a life of ‘impositional living’—that is, me imposing my own interpretation and my own ‘reading’ upon the Scripture.  There is no room for this!  We expose the true meaning, context, and application directly from Scripture by the means of the Holy Spirit so as to expose the idols of our lives, have them toppled, so the Spirit would reign full and free.

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Feel free to not only subscribe to this blog via e-mail or by RSS, as well as going to our Twitter feed.  All of this information is on our blog.  These social media avenues will help all of us to be sharpened, challenged, and encouraged as the Word by the Spirit is the central focus of our churches and lives. 

Thanks for being a part of my outlet as a Christian, husband, father, pastor, and preacher of the Gospel.  I can’t wait to see what God does with us!

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Preachers, Be Touched by that Word You Handle

“The preacher who handles the Word must first be touched by that same Word. Doctrinal preaching has an impact within both the cognitive and the emotive sectors. Preaching that leaves the cognitive untouched produces hearers who may leave the sanctuary feeling better but without having been helped by the deep doctrinal truths of the Scriptures. Classical rhetoricians attempted to be holistic in the speech act: enlighten the mind, touch the heart, and move the will. Preaching that avoids head engagement will lead to blindness, and preaching that ignores heart engagement–the emotive realm of the believer’s existence–does so at the cost of boredom and dullness, which prevents the result of an engaged hearing for a transformed life.”

–Dr. Robert Smith, Doctrine That Dances

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