Tag Archives: pastor

My Preaching Essentials (Part 3)

PreacherVisionAnd the list continues from here and here
7. Clear. This one seems pretty obvious. However, I know how much fuzzy thinking can make fuzzy sermons. In addition, I know from personal experience (I repent!) how trying to sound smart can ruin a message. If the people don’t understand then you have communicated well. (Ephesians 4:12-13; Ecclesiastes 12:9–10)
8. Expectant. This one is tough for me. I often settle into defeat too soon. It is easy for duty to become an end in itself. However, the Bible makes clear that God is powerful and that his word will accomplish much. I must preach with a heart that trusts God will accomplish his purposes. I must preach with confidence that God will finish what he started! (Philippians 1:6; Hebrews 4:16; Isaiah 55:11)
9. Theological. Theology is the task of translating the timeless gospel to a particular culture. For that reason, theologians through the ages have used contemporary language and thought to explain the truth of God’s word. Just think about it. Why don’t we just read the Bible when we assemble as the church? Why do we do more than that? Why do we explain and apply the message? Are we adding to the timeless gospel? No, we are articulating the timeless message to our culture. The preacher is bridging the linguistic and cultural gap between the Bible and his audience. He is showing how the world of the Bible is the real world that makes sense of all our current experiences, hopes, and fears. A good preacher connects his audience to God’s word. (1 Corinthians 9:19-23)
It is because preaching is not exposition only but communication, not just the exegesis of a text but the conveying of a God-given message to living people who need to hear it.
John Stott
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My Preaching Essentials (Part 2)

PreacherVisionAnd the list continues…
4. PreparationSome circles emphasize extemporaneous preaching. I think there should be great freedom for the Spirit to work in a preaching setting. That being said, flexibility is usually enabled by preparation. Why should one carefully prepare? First, it is the model of Scripture.  When the apostles spoke, their message was theologically deep and biblically sound. They had pondered what they would say. When the Scripture writers wrote, they carefully crafted arguments with deep biblical connections and powerful rhetoric. The Biblical writers demonstrated great care in the way they used words. We would do well to emulate their example. Second, the text of Scripture is too important to teach flippantly. In addition, though it is able to be understood it is not always easy to understand. The distance between our language and the languages of the Bible, our culture and the cultures of the Bible, and our background and the backgrounds of the Bible necessitate care in teaching its message. (1 Timothy 4:11–16)
5. Honest. I know the temptation to preach ‘what works’. I know the ‘that’ll preach’ mentality. I know how my ego and desire for approval bids me sacrifice truth at the altar of utility. My appeal to preachers is to avoid pragmatism. Be honest with people even when the honest answer is not always the easiest thing to preach. Share your struggles. Preach the difficult texts.
Be honest about the text. Tell people when there is a passage that exceeds your understanding. Explain interpretive options when you don’t know which is best. The tendency for preachers is to yell louder and make statements of certainty to overshadow any doubts. However, the historical, textual, and hermeneutical difficulties make it tough to preach. Rejoice in the diversity and celebrate the difficulty. One example of a difficult text is the famous pericope de adulterae (the story of the adulterous woman) found in John 7:53–8:11. Whether or not this story really happened, the evidence is strong that it is not original to John’s gospel. The historical and textual evidence points fairly conclusively to it being a later addition. However, this story ‘will preach.’ It’s powerful and illustrates a lot of honest truths about Christ. However, what will preach and what is original to the Bible conflict (in this instance). I would implore preachers to trust the plan of God in the organization and content of Scripture. What is original is sufficient. Some hearers might be dismayed by such a choice but I think the harm done by glossing over the truth will be exposed when someone less amenable to Christianity uses Christian deceit or ignorance to undermine the truthfulness of the Bible. Be honest when you preach! (Colossians 2:8)
Be honest about yourself. Be honest about your sin. Be honest about your failures. Be honest about your limitations. Be honest about your sources. Be honest about your life. Be honest about your credentials. The end.  (1 Thessalonians 5:5; Titus 2:7)
6. Textual. This is a good counterbalance to my talk about originality. While the messenger is unique, the message is timeless. The text should determine the shape and structure of the message. I love Andy Stanley’s classic, Communicating for a Change. He has a lot of good information for communicators on how to memorably and winsomely engage an audience with a message. My biggest concern with his thesis is in regard to his ‘one point sermon.’ He lays out an argument from pragmatism. Essentially, people can only remember one point when you preach. In addition, the preacher can only really make an impact if he has a laser focus around one clear area. While I think people can remember, understand, and apply more than one point, my major critique is that the principle of a ‘one point message’ dare not overrun the logic of God’s Word. Sometimes a self-contained pericope contains multiple points. What if Paul uses multiple points to get his message across? Am I, the contemporary preacher, really confident that the original authors intent is of no value in this case? Am I willing to overrun the organization and rhetoric of the original text to make it more palatable for the modern audience? Ultimately, we only know God if he speaks to us. Let’s trust that what he said and how he said it is sufficient. For more on this, see Mark Dever and David Platt talking about the role of expository preaching in a healthy church. (1 Timothy 4:11–16)

My Preaching Essentials (Part 1)

PreacherVisionFor what it’s worth, I’ve been thinking a lot about preaching lately. I remember in seminary being very disappointed in my preaching class. Now that I’ve had the chance to think about it, I’ve compiled my thoughts on a few important criteria for a preacher. The order is not significant, so don’t read into it too much.
1. Authenticity. Gone are the days of the polished performance. The Bible speaks consistently of honesty and truth as essential to the Christian life. No radio voice here. No stage actors. The modern preacher is more akin to a stand-up comedian than a Shakespearean orator not because he tells jokes but because he tells the truth! Your listeners don’t need a performance, they need the truth. (1 Thessalonians 2:1–12)
2. Originality. With the internet anyone can find top notch preaching at the click of a mouse. There are enough quality sermons to fill an ipod for days. If your audience wants to hear John Piper, Danny Akin, David Platt, or any myriad of other preachers they can. But they are listening to you. Your church has called you to teach. They want to hear how God has gifted you. I’m not saying to speak only your opinions. Speak the timeless truth of God’s word but teach it from your unique perspective. Use the gospel-cultivated personal relationships you have within your local body of believers to meet people where they are and take them where they are to go. There is an atmosphere that cannot be duplicated via video.  (1 Corinthians 7:7)
3. Growth. A preacher should be growing in their knowledge and ability through the power of the Spirit. There is no room for stagnation or staleness. I’m not even sure that one should “settle into a groove” as they say. If one is growing, stretching, and being challenged by the cost of discipleship, then the message should reflect it. (2 Peter 3:18)

I think my blogging hiatus is about over…

It’s been quite some time since I’ve blogged regularly. I think things have slowed down just enough for me to get back into it.

This past year has been quite an adjustment in many ways. I’ve been adjusting to the demands of being back in school. This is the first time I’ve gone to school while working “full-time.” I always thought I worked a lot in college and seminary but the increased level of responsibilities at the church in combination with the higher academic expectations of PhD courses has been daunting at times.

I’ve enjoyed teaching more regularly at Nansemond River Baptist Church. In fact, I just uploaded a recent series on “Discipleship” under the resources tab. I’ve been very happy to watch our church embrace a vision of shared leadership. I must say that I pastor alongside some of the most talented and godly men on the planet. In addition, the church has been very receptive to the Scriptures. I believe NRBC has a bright future as a church that embraces the Great Commission in every area of life.

This summer has been busy as we took the teenagers at NRBC to camp. Also, we’ve been using Dare2Share’s “Gospel Journey Maui” curriculum on Wednesdays. The thoughtfulness and openness of the discussion among our students has been an encouragement. I sense a desire among them to embrace a radical vision of obedience to the call of Christ.

On a personal note, Whitney and I have also been adjusting to a lot of things. Whitney will be starting classes at William and Mary this fall to pursue a Master’s of Higher Education. In addition, she starts a new job at W&M on August 18. She is very excited about all of these changes but they are changes nonetheless. In addition, God has been teaching Whitney and I a lot about risk, obedience, faith, and contentment. We are wrestling with what it means to leverage our marriage for the cause of Christ. It is scary to ask such questions but we are convinced that whatever we must sacrifice is well worth the reward.

I hope this fall will allow me time to post my musings on life, culture, mission, and miscellany. I know I have some music and book recommendations and I am rarely want for an over-the-top rant.

Thanks for reading.

Famous “Christians” and Their Famous Sins

I recently read the allegations regarding Eddie Long, Atlanta-area mega pastor.  These allegations regarding sexual immorality are saddening though not much surprises me anymore.  Long has been under investigation in the past for financial impropriety.

I am not interested in humiliating or insulting Long nor am I making a judgment regarding his innocence or guilt.  However, I recently came across a thread on Facebook regarding this topic and wanted to provide a little bit of Biblical guidance.  Read for yourself what some were saying:

I agree that we should examine ourselves and be slow to judge.  God is the ultimate judge.  However, this idea that we are NEVER to judge or never to make moral statements regarding the sin of other Christians is ridiculous (and unbiblical).  Judgment is an integral part of being a Christian and being part of a faith community.  Think about Paul, he spoke very clearly about how to deal with immorality within a church (see 1 Corinthians 5)!  We are called to judge the Christian within the church!  Furthermore, we must banish any nonsense that the “pastor” is God’s anointed and is beyond judgment.  As a pastor, I pray that my brothers and sisters (my coworkers in the gospel) will be firm in holding me accountable.

Atheist Pastors

I recently read this article about various pastors and worship leaders at Christian churches who have embraced atheism.  It is amazing that someone can get to such a position of leadership in a church without evidence of genuine salvation.  In addition, these pastors/worship leaders have kept their atheism a secret to maintain the income that comes with their church position.  The “atheist pastors” continually are affirming that they had to be “honest” with themselves about what they believe.  Apparently, that “honesty” does not include full disclosure to their congregation.

This is particularly depressing news, the kind that makes me think the situation with the “American” church is grim.

Thankfully, my hope is in Jesus and not dishonest “pastors.”

Lessons from Verizon

Today is the day!  Today is the day I again get high-speed internet access at home.  You would think this was a simple task, but not if Verizon is involved.

Their customer service structure is so segmented and dysfunctional that I’m surprised anyone can get home phone or high speed internet service from them.

I am convinced that Verizon’s customer service setup is intentionally designed to make their agents and customer helpless.  Follow me on a verbal reenacment:

First, the customer calls the Verizon customer service hotline and is greeted by an automated voice.  Automated machines are not bad IF THEY WORK! After ten or so minutes of going through every possible automated menu the customer is reduced to screaming at a non-sentient machine asking to speak to a human being!

Finally, a customer service agent answers (after another five minutes of ’90s elevator music).  The customer service representative is inevitably sweet, sensible, and harmless.  However, they have no actual power to do anything.  Customer service can merely transfer you to the appropriate department.  There is no one stop problem solver.  After talking to repair, billing, dispatch, dsl, phone… there is no end in sight.  A mile wide and an inch deep.

Are you feeling the beginnings of my frustration?

After experiencing this situation I couldn’t help but compare it to my role as a pastor/elder in the church.  I think there are a lot of lessons about communication and problem solving to be learned.  The most significant lesson I learned was about empowering people to fulfill their duties.  You have to trust the people in your company to use their wisdom, creativity, and skills to solve-problems and do their job.  You cannot always limit them to pre-programmed responses.

In the same way, as a pastor, my job is to “prepare God’s people for works of service” (Eph. 4:12).  I think that churches often try to function like businesses and corporations with a top-down hierarchy when the Bible speaks of unity and equality.  To be sure, there are leaders in the church, but they lead with a humble example and the result is that other Christians are equipped to do ministry.  Each Christian is a fully-called, fully-capable, fully-commissioned minister of the gospel