Archive for the ‘preaching’ Category

Pitfalls of a Young Preacher: Things to Keep Out of the Pulpit

November 5, 2008

Charles Spurgeon once said, “Every workman knows the necessity of keeping his tools in a good state of repair, for if the iron be blunt . . . he knows that there will be a greater drought upon his energies and his work will be badly done.”  We shall do our Lord’s work the best when our tools are sharpened, and worse when they are blunt.  Below are common ditches young preachers fall into.

1. Carrying on a Conversations with Our Professors in the Pulpit
A common habit of young preachers (and I myself bare the guilt of this) is to try and fit everything we know about God, salvation, eschatology, hermeneutics, Karl Barth and the heresies of the Emergent Church all into 2 Samuel 8:4 (or whatever text we’re preaching at the time).  The problem is, 2 Samuel 8 only talks about 2 or 3 of these things.

It is important to remember that while you and I are wrestling with Ladd, Brunner, Barth, N.T. Wright and others, the people in the pew need to be encouraged, exhorted, corrected and instructed.

I’m not saying to keep your people dumb.  Not at all.  You should not shrink back from challenging them to use their mind, to wrestle with the complexity and mystery of the gospel and to struggle with tensions like the sovereignty of God and the responsibility of man.

What I am saying is don’t bring into the pulpit something you yourself are unsure of.  Countless of times young preachers take into the pulpit what they just learned that week. Preach what you know!  Bring certainty, not confusion.  The Pulpit is not the place to wrestle with an issue you have yet to figured out. Hey, if you’ve figured out how inaugurated eschatology coincides perfectly with Pre-Millennialism in Isaiah, go for it!  Seriously. Stretch the minds of your people and cause them to think deeply about God’s Word.  But, like me, if you’re still a little uncertain about how that works out, leave it in the classroom.  Don’t carry on a conversation with your professor in the pulpit.

2. Preaching Obese Sermons
As I said above, a tendency that I have is to pack everything I know about the text into the text.  This may not be the best approach, but it takes discernment.  Often, what I have found is a shorter, power-packed, point-driven, Word-exalting sermon is the best sermon.  Just remember: it’s better if you end 10 minutes early leaving them wanting more then going the set amount of time while they are wishing you were done.  I have heard many sermons that were incredible, only to bomb at the last 5 minutes—and everyone remembers the last part of your sermon the most. Your sermon should be the silver bullet that pierces the heart, drives home conviction, and sets the heart ablaze for God and His Word.  Aim for clarity.

3. Over-Dependence Upon Personality
If you are of the gregarious personality that can “wing it” in the pulpit and still present a fairly decent sermon . . . don’t.  You could easily fall into the habit of putting off preparation.  And don’t presume upon the Holy Spirit’s assistance when you have neglected preparation. When Friday night roles around and activities of all kinds seek your attention, it will be too easy to think in the back of your mind, “I’ll just wing it; I know I can get away with it,” when you know you should stay in your study and tighten your sermon.  The Holy Spirit works in the preparation as well as the delivery.  Give Him kindling to ignite a blazing torch.

On the other hand, If you’re like me, and you know there’s no way you can afford to approach the pulpit unprepared, prepare, but don’t over-prepare.  Yes, nail your sermon down. Memorize it.  Know it.  But leave room for freshness.  Know it well, make sure you have time to let it sit (a day or two), and then review it once before delivery.  Know your personality.

4. Overstepping the Authority of Our Elders
At times a young preacher can fall into the trap of feeling the need to correct the congregation in an area where the elders have “overlooked”.  This would be overstepping the bounds of authority given to you.  Leave room for elders to “eld”.  They are older for a reason: they can say things you can’t . . . merely because a certain amount of wisdom and authority comes with age.  Of course I’m being general here, and application takes discernment.  But the principle is the same: Let the elders see and address the need for correction of certain matters.

Hopefully, these few ideas will cause us to become much more effective in the pulpit and in the Kingdom.  There will be mistakes . . . many.  But learn from them and press on to sharpen the aim of your presentation of the gospel.

Preach the Word


What Are Some Other Tendencies Young Preachers Have?


 

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Revival Hymn

October 27, 2008

Below is a compilation of sermons put to music.  If you haven’t heard this yet, you need to see it.  Some of the preachers here include the 20th Century’s greatest revivalists: Leonard Ravenhill, Duncan Campbell, Paris Readhead and A.W. Tozer.

Leonard Ravenhill was a revivalist preacher in Great Britan as well as America.  He had a tremendous influence on men like Keith Green and Paul Washer.  Tozer once said of Ravenhill:

“To such men as this, the church owes a debt too heavy to pay. The curious thing is that she seldom tries to pay him while he lives. Rather, the next generation builds his sepulcher and writes his biography – as if instinctively and awkwardly to discharge an obligation the previous generation to a large extent ignored.”

Duncan Campbell was a Scottish born-minister and president of a Bible College in Edinburgh Scotland.
Paris Reidhead was an American preacher whose famous sermon “Ten Shekels and a Shirt” stands with “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God”.

And A.W. Tozer . . . well . . . everybody knows what he’s done.

All these men prayed for revival in the pulpit and in the hearts of people, and most of them died without seeing the fruit of their labors.  Check it out.



An Example of How Not to Preach From Steven Furtick

October 22, 2008

Steven Furtick is a 28 year old pastor at Elevation Church in Charlotte, NC.   Check this clip out and tell us what you think of his preaching.


A Misunderstanding of Doctrine

 I can sympathize with his frustration regarding all head and no heart Christians.  I understand the issue he is trying to address.  But Pastor Steven has led his flock to bad grass.  Underlying his message is a fundamental misunderstanding: It appears he thinks sound doctrine and sound living cannot co-exist, and if they do, it’s a shaky relationship.

You Can’t Preach Jesus Without Preaching Doctrine

Notice his sarcastic remarks regarding justification by faith in Galatians, propitiation from sin and the doctrines of grace of John Calvin.  I agree with him if he’s saying we are not to follow the teachings of man but the teachings of Christ.  I couldn’t agree more.  But what should first be understand is this: the doctrines of grace are not the idea of John Calvin; it’s the idea and theology of Paul.  Without the doctrines of grace there is no gospel.  Propitiation is the gospel.  Without grace and a proper understanding of that grace there is nothing to preach.  Doctrine is what drives evangelism.  Doctrine produces sound living.  It is the engine which pulls the train, the rudder which steers the ship from dangerous waters.  If people in his church have lost a vision for evangelism, loving the saints and preaching the gospel, then it’s possible they have never heard sound teaching.  You cannot have right living apart from right teaching.  If there is a disconnect, the fault lies with the preacher, not the sheep.  If sheep are not responding to sound doctrine, the course of action is not to move away from sound doctrine but to correct people’s misunderstanding of that doctrine

Pharisees weren’t Pharisees because they knew sound doctrine; they were condemned for knowing the wrong doctrine.

The aim of preaching is the salvation of souls, and the glory of God is our chief object.  We aim at it by clear statements of gospel doctrine, never shrinking from declaring the whole council of God. If the conversion of souls and the glory of God is our aim, then assuredly we should attend to the truths that most prominently speak to that end, which includes sound doctrine.

Conviction Vs. Condemnation

There is a large chasm between conviction and condemnation, and it would serve a young preacher well to know the difference. Condemnation beats the sheep; conviction lovingly disciplines the sheep. Condemnations leaves the saints with no hope and only fear of judgment; conviction leads them to the cross in repentance and godly sorrow, producing a harvest of righteousness and peace. In condemnation, the preacher is the judge ruthlessly giving a verdict to a people he cares not; in conviction, a preacher weeps over his flock that has gone astray. Condemnation curses; conviction pleads.  He’s angry.  And anger never produces a harvest of righteousness.

I started to count how many times he said “you”, but stopped after 50. Also notice how his finger is pointed at the people all the time. If his finger should go any where . . . it should go in the text.

Use of Humor in Preaching

His joke about taking his anger out on his wife is just childish. That type of “humor” does not serve the text nor the flock. He has ultimately dishonored his wife, the Bride of Christ and the gospel of Jesus Christ.  He has not served to adorn the gospel.

Don’t Imitate Other Preachers; Be Your Own Man

Who is he trying to be, anyway? A bad imitation of Mark Driscoll?  At least be original.  Spurgeon says one of the worst things you can do is fall into a foolish imitation of an admired preacher.  Be yourself in your presentation of the eternal truth.

In all honesty, I never want to preach a sermon the way this young man did. May we learn now so that we may have less to repent of later.


What would some of you Paul’s say to this young man?

What do you Timothy’s think?


Preach the Word

What to Ask Yourself Before You Preach

October 1, 2008

Is This What the Author Intended?

Your authority in preaching lies not in what you in your own ability or opinions assert, but rather in the proclamation of the authority of the author.  When you are preaching the intention of the author, your words carry with it the authority of God Himself.  By understanding the author’s intent you then release the Spirit’s power to convict sinners and comfort saints.

 

If you can, consult the original language.  In Luther’s day, not knowing the original language was a reasonable excuse.  In our day, there is no excuse.  There is an incredible amount of resources to access in order to learn Hebrew and Greek.  In this day and age, one can even learn a language over the internet.  Even if you do not know languages or have any idea where to begin, there are many tools available that can aid a non-linguistic.  To see some, click here. 

 

Does my Explanation Fit the Larger Context?

Your sermon must be a slave to the flow of the text.  No matter how small of a passage you are preaching, if you are preaching from an epistle, it would be in your best interest to have the entire book in mind.  You should have your own outline of the book, an understanding of major themes, repeated words/phrases, usages of O.T. quotation, exhortations and commands. 

 

There may be many surface level issues people are dealing with that seem legitimate—and this may be a temptation to use the passage in which you are speaking from as a springboard into some other topic foreign to the mind of the author—but humanity’s greatest problem and greatest answer is in the pages of Scripture.  Stick to the text.

 

How Will This Truth Be Resisted by the Hearers?

Assume resistance.  Romans 1 says that people naturally suppress the truth from themselves.  In other words, you should expect that everybody will not wish to believe what you have to say. 

Paul told Timothy that in the last days people will not put up with sound teaching but instead will surround themselves with the prosperity gospel, The Shack, Velvet Elvis and many other teachings that do not abide with sound doctrine.  (To listen to an excellent review of the Shack, click here for Albert Mohler’s radio program).

 

The Puritans approached preaching this way.  They would often craft their sermons around the very objection they believed their hearers would raise, and would then seek to clearly buttress their sermon from the argument of Scripture.  

 

Does This Sermon Convict Sinners?

Your primary task as a preacher is to point out the awfulness of sin and awesomeness of Christ.  You should make hell appear intolerably horrible and heaven irresistibly beautiful.   If people are not convicted over sin through the words of him who speaks at the pulpit, he has no business to stand before them.  Preach as if standing on the borders of another world, pleading with people not to sell their souls to such unsatisfying, unfulffilling pleasures of the world.

 

Does This Sermon Encourage the Saints?

Every sermon should cause the saints to hope in God, to hate sin, to stand firm in their faith and to long for the Day of Christ’s return.  If all you do is parse Greek verbs and talk about the historical-geographical background of the text, your listeners have yet to hear what the text actually says.  Stick to the text.

 

May the Lord bless you in your endeavor to be faithful to His Word and to tremble when presenting it.

 

Preach the Word.

On John Piper’s Blog, “What if you like the preaching, but not the truth?”

September 6, 2008

One of John Piper’s most recent blog enteries on Desiring God, entitled What if you like the preaching, but not the truth?, really got my gears turning.

In it, John Piper illudes to the danger of being so eloquent in preaching, that someone could enjoy the masterful delivery without taking hold of the content. Because there is not open commenting on the Desiring God blog, I’m really hoping that we can begin discussing it here. Piper seems to be reserving his final verdict for the upcoming Pastor’s and National Conferences.

I wonder, is it even possible to preach “Unless you repent, You too will perish!” in such a ‘masterful way’ that people refusing to repent can enjoy the delivery? This seems dangerous. Should we be worried about avoiding this pitfall? How should we deal with this as preachers?

Passion for God Before Passion for Preaching

September 3, 2008

On the desiring God blog, there is a new post by Abraham Piper called Dear God, Keep Me Saved concerning a recent book project John Piper was involved in called, Stand: A Call for the Endurance of the Saints.

Abraham’s comments, and the subject of the book, reminded me of 1 Corinthians 9:24-27:

Do you not know that in a race all the runners compete, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified. (ESV)

If this Scripture hits us as it should, it should evoke a healthy fear. There are indeed those that “after preaching to others” are “disqualified” themselves.

As we seek to care for, feed and protect the flock, let us not forget to guard our own souls… or rather, let us continually and purposefully entrust our souls to the master guardian and Shephard, Jesus Christ. One can so busy themselves with preaching to others, that they become in danger of losing their first love.

I was struck by a perpherial statement in C.J. Mahaney’s, Living the Cross Centered Life: Keeping the Gospel the Main Thing. In talking about the passion we should have for the gospel of God that saved us, he says:

And I don’t mean passionate only about sharing it with others; I mean passionate in thinking about the gospel, reflecting up it, rejoicing in it, allowing it to color the way we look at the world and all of life.

Let us strive to cultivate this kind of passion for the gospel, in our lives. Not only a passion for preaching it to others, but a reveling in the beauty of it ourselves, lest we, after preaching to others, should be disqualified.

God saved me, a wicked, God hating, hell bound person. This is my meditation, this is my song, and I will sing it into eternity! May He keep us until that glorious day!