Wednesday, February 28, 2007

More on refreshment in ministry

Christian leader, if you find your soul is in a dry place, you might be interested in Brian Colmery's meditation on 1 John 4:19.

Refreshment in ministry

If you're a Christian who looks for validity in what you do for God, I recommend Jim Martin's article on the importance of being with God:
How easy it is to be something other than Jesus. For many years, I saw myself as primarily a person who was doing things for God. Whether I would (or could) have articulated this or not, my faith was basically centered around doing the right things — an ever increasing number of right things. As a minister, my ministry was about doing the right activities. I lived with a constant sense of guilt and sense of inadequacy. The objective seemed to be "How much can I get done?"

Christian leaders especially need to learn the difference between doing things for Jesus and simply being with him.

Being with Jesus creates servants not just activity directors. Being with Jesus creates a person who others find refreshing.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Milton's Daily Dose

I've begun another blog for a church I've applied to preach for. Each day I write a paragraph or so on the kinds of things church leaders need to consider, not only in choosing a minister, but in setting the course for a congregation. Now I've decided to share it with anyone who might be interested. It's fun to actually be writing something, albeit briefly, every day. And I suppose I want to be considered not only a linker, but a thinker!

Limits on the vastness

SWAP Blog finds lessons in discipleship from fenced yards.

Scripture in evangelism

John Schroeder looks at the A-Team's series (Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3) on using Scripture in evangelism and offers some thoughts of his own:
There is an inherent trap in Evangelicalism - its outward focus often stands in the way of the inward work. Yes, God does the work of evangelism, we are but the tools, but if you have ever tried to shape wood with a dull chisel then you'll know the quality of your tools is vitally important to a job well done.

Part of making ourselves God's tools in the execution of His Great Commission is to work with Him to make ourselves the best possible tools. While we are spreading the Holy Spirit, we should be hearing His whisper in our ears many times louder than we shout it to the world. And yet often, I think we try to just yell louder to drown out His voice as concerns ourselves.

You want to be an evangelist? - start by listening.
Sounds right to me.

Monday, February 26, 2007

More pulpit tools

Unashamed Workman gives several helpful links in the latest Workman's Toolbox, including 10 ways to keep preaching fresh and the value of expository preaching.

Blogging as real community

Today I'm going to get personal. At connexions weblog, Richard Hall looks at whether or not the web offers true community among Christians. Richard's post, and the comments that follow, are thought provoking. And because Christian community is a vital part of transformation, I'd like to share my own experiences by posting the comments I made on Richard's blog:
In my life, the community formed from weblog connections has been enocuraging and real. While I was taking Claymore blasts from members of my own congregation, those I'd met through blogging were encouragomg me not only through blog posts and comments, but in private e-mails and face-to-face interaction.

My wife and I have sat down to meals with the families of two men I met through blogging. Not only that, but four bloggers have put their money where their keyboards are and sent me dollars when my church wasn't able to continue paying my full salary. Two of these men have continued to send me money while I'm between jobs. I'm not going to be gauche and name them, but they are prominent bloggers folks have heard of.

Christians who blog have been for me a community in a very real sense. Even though we're usually separated by distance, words connect us as much as they did, say, Paul and the Romans.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

On helping ourselves

Go the arm of flesh route one too many times and the inevitable falling away occurs. And perhaps that’s the problem with the Church today.

Friday, February 23, 2007

"The grave responsibility"

Randy McKinion takes a brief look at Psalm 50 and some profound implications for preachers.

Christianity in the U.S. marketplace

". . .the last thing I want to be is yet another blogging Christian curmudgeon, nor am I posturing as a paragon of Christ-like virtue. But it does concern me that American Christianity has positioned itself in the American marketplace as nothing more than a very effective avenue to self-esteem."

Against prosperity preaching

Justin Taylor offers a brief summary of John Piper's warning against prosperity preaching. I don't suppose it's surprising that the church in the United States is still battling the prosperity heresy. Prosperity is, after all, one of the preeminent false gods of the nation.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Lore and loss

Dan Edelen has written a heartbreaking essay on generations, media saturation, lore, and loss. Preachers, taking into account what Dan has to say will probably complicate our jobs (and disrupt our lives), but we and our hearers will be richer for it.

New preaching weblog

Thanks to Alive and Piercing for introducing me to Ben Brammer's new preaching weblog, Preaching That Matters. Here's a sample:
In the attempt for relevancy, many preachers have neglected, in my humble opinion, the true power of God’s Word to persuade. It seems that while the preacher’s audience is in the need of drastic surgery, the preacher in an attempt to “quick-fix” his audience’s present cirumstances, is only dealing with symptoms of an underlying disease. Further, some preachers try too hard for relevance in their preaching and fail in authentically communicating an authentic message. In other words, the preacher who is zealous for relevancy fails to be fair to his audience, fair to his biblical duty to “preach the Word,”, and fair to the biblical text he tries so hard to make relevant.

. . . . The cry for relevant preaching should never be confused as a cry for a relevant message. As preachers of God’s Word we already have a relevant message, yet it is our communication and application of that message that needs to be relevant.
PTM is off to a good start. I've added its feed to the Preaching weblogs group page.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Good stuff at Preaching Now

This week's issue of Preaching Now is strong. I found the articles on gutsy leadership and real sermons especially helpful.

Nourishing our own souls

Out of Ur is soliciting input for an upcoming issue of Leadership on practical ways for ministers to nourish their own souls. You might be interested in contributing. I'm certainly interested in what kind of answers emerge.

Being a "normal, healthy, genuine person"

Preachers, do you often find yourself giving in to the pressure toward buzyness? If so, you might be interested in Jim Martin's article about keeping healthy in ministry:
Far too often, ministers in churches model a lifestyle that is not healthy.

Many ministers and many churches place an inordinate value on busyness, activity, and noise. I’m not talking about working hard. That i a good thing! No, I am talking about a lifestyle that places little value on rest.
Jim looks to the work of Ruth Haley Barton, who recommends ministers "establish a constant back-and-forth motion between engagement and retreat." That sounds a lot like the kind of ministry Jesus practiced.

Monday, February 19, 2007

The main point in preaching

Whether you're a preacher or not, this essay at In the Clearing is pure gold for evaluating a sermon.

Jesus from A to Z

I recommend Dan Edelen's short, insightful post on contemporary North American perceptions of the Drill Sergeant Jesus and the Flower Child Jesus:
You can explain nearly every deviant view of Christ in the American Church by how great a percentage we practice one idea of Jesus over the other. Unfortunately, if we’re not looking at the whole truth of who Jesus is, we’re missing the real Christ.
And who's the real Christ? Read Dan's post. Better yet, read the New Testament.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Expert advice on preaching

Tim Ellsworth may not be a preacher, but he's heard enough sermons to know what preachers ought to be doing (HT: Oversight of Souls).

Facing up to the empire

I've only this week discovered the writings of Larry Chouinard, and already I'm hooked. His recent glimpse of life in the first-century Roman Empire is particularly timely:
Suppose you're a small Christian community living in the heart of the Empire; everyday confronting the pompous propaganda of Roman might. Your cultural mileau presents a daily reminder of [who's] in charge and who has the power. Everywhere the Empire's claims are reinforced by graffiti and monuments that herald the GOOD NEWS of Roman values and priorities throughout the Empire: CAESAR IS LORD SAVIOR SON OF GOD AND THE GREAT BENEFACTOR WHO BRINGS PAX ROMANA.

Of course, resistence is futile and any rival claims will be met with swift retaliation. The engine that kept the Empire running smoothly was love of honor and status. But pursuit of status and power created an environment of conquest and subjugation maintained by intimidation and fear. Those who refused tribute and challenged Roman nationalism understood the consequences: crucifixion. In Rome, the cross was a reminder of Imperial power and the shameful consequences to those who resisted. There could be nothing more irrational and un-Roman than to honor -- not to mention deify -- a man crucified by Imperial authorities (Gorman, Apostle of the Crucified Lord, p. 12).
And what could all that talk about first-century Rome possibly have to do with the church today and life in the twenty-first century United States?

Thursday, February 15, 2007

M+W+G+Y+W outlining

Andy Stanley shares his outlining method for preaching. He calls it MWGYW (me, we, God, you, we): Part 1 and Part 2.

Using us yet

One of the most wearisome elements of congregational ministry is the pressure to always be strong. It's reasonable for church members to expect their leaders to be strong in the faith, but as any Christian leader who is honest with himself knows, we aren't always so strong. That's why I was so encouraged by Kim Shay's recent article on the Apostle Peter and his three-fold denial of Jesus:
I can relate to this. I do something stupid. I deny Christ by my actions, and then later on, I weep bitterly because I am very sorry. I feel bad for Peter because I have done the very same thing. Certainly, I have never been in Peter's exact shoes, but I am sure that I have denied Jesus by my behavior if not verbally.

What does it mean to deny Jesus with my behavior? It means to live like he doesn't make a difference in my life. . . . It means not drawing upon the riches we have in Christ and allowing the Holy Spirit to change us.

. . . . The wonderful thing about Peter is that God used him mightily. That encourages me when I do something dumb. It reminds me that God is not finished with me yet.
Amen. That's a lesson most Christians have heard before, but sometimes it's encouraging to hear it again. It's not often that a blog post simply warms my heart with encouragement and hope, but Kim's has.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Fifteen long balls

Larry Chouinard has written a knock-you-flat insightful essay on how Jesus trains leaders. There may be some implications here for preaching (HT: SmartChritian).

I couldn't help but smile

The philosophers’ reactions to the LXX and NT are indicative of the cultural struggles of late antiquity. . . . They attacked LXX texts as part of their larger project of undermining Christianity. The pagans faded away, but some of their criticisms experienced a resurgence in modern biblical scholarship.
-John Granger Cook
"The Reaction to the Bible in Paganism"
The Bible and Interpretation

A different kind of Valentine's essay

How's this for a teaser:
You won’t hear this expounded this way in too many pulpits, but the first command of God to Mankind was, “Have sex. Often. Fill the earth with your offspring.”
That's but a tiny fraction of Dan Edelen's essay on general revelation and homsexuality. Dan asserts, in essence, that God's created order argues for heterosexuality and against homosexuality. There may be a flaw somewhere in Dan's argument, but I didn't find one.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Stepping up to good sermons

Looking to improve your preaching? You might be interested in Sherman Haywood Cox II's Seven Steps to a Good Sermon. To my knowledge, this is the first time I've linked to a post by a Seventh-Day Adventist. While I'm sure I disagree with Mr. Cox on substantial points of doctrine (please note disclaimer in right frame), I give him credit for keeping the light shining on homiletics in ways that can benefit all Christian preachers. You can also hear the podcast.

"Give me the seed growing secretly"

Andrew Jones, borrowing a phrase used somewhere before, asks Christians, "What did you go out to see?"
We need to learn to see the unexpected and unlearn our compulsion to see the expectable.

"What did you go out to see?" Jesus asked the crowds, in reference to a popular desert pilgrimage to John the Baptist. They expected a monarch, but God sent a monk. Outmoded expressions of prophetic ministry, warped by the greed of the Sadducees and the short-sightedness of the Pharisees, had to be unlearned.

Jesus' disciples had to be taught how to see. The disciples saw the clean robe of Jairus; Jesus saw the stained garment of a bleeding woman. The disciples saw a prostitute groveling at Jesus' feet; Jesus saw a servant preparing his body for burial. The disciples saw a threatening alien force teaching in Jesus' name; Jesus saw more partners for the harvest. Jesus saw a woman giving two coins, illustrating the mysterious generosity of Kingdom economics; the disciples would not have seen anything at all if Jesus had not pointed her out.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Preaching Christ

Here's a good reminder from Royce Ogle about the centrality of preaching Christ:
I fear that in most of our churches we are busily learning the nuances of prayer, going to conferences to discover our spiritual gifts, attending lectureships to try to learn some way to do ministry in more effective ways, and in so doing neglect the simplicity of plain gospel preaching depending completely and utterly on the God of heaven for any result. Again and again I am struck by the profound, but very simple message that Peter, Paul and others preached. It was the kind of preaching that got results. When was the last time you heard of well over 3,000 baptisms in a day? I hear lots and lots of great preaching by almost any measure, but not much on Christ and Him crucified.
Royce and most of you have never heard me preach, but you can find my sermon texts on Christ and him crucified (a 1 Corinthians series) at To the Word.

"How cool would it be . . . "

Conrad Gempf has written a sweet little post on Mk. 14:3-9. Along similar lines, this week's Preaching Now encourages readers: Don't focus on what's undone.

Friday, February 09, 2007

And the conclusion is . . .

"Yet not no hope"

Mike Russell shows what Gollum can teach us about depravity, redemption, and Jesus Christ.

Seven's not enough

Preachers, have you overcome the Ten Deadly Sins of Preaching?

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Which do we preach?

Reformers, take note

Ray Van Neste offers a little note to church reformers, especially when we "see insidious encroachment of paganism within the people of God":
. . . we must remember that we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, and our greatest battlefield is not out there anywhere but in our own hearts. Let us not become so engrossed with the planks in the eyes of the church out there that we become ignorant or careless about those in our own eyes. We must continue to be aware of our own need for being personally reformed according to the Word of God and growing in holiness.
Preachers, are we listening?

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Now on New Blogger

Well, Google wouldn't allow me to log onto Old Blogger anymore, so I've switched to New Blogger. I don't plan to do anything differently but will be experimenting with adding post labels. We'll see how it goes.

Theocentric preaching = practical preaching

On interactive preaching

The one-directional monolog Christians in our day typically associate with preaching---is it really a biblical approach to proclaiming the Good News? Paul Warby set out to see, and shares what he discovered:
I believe we can say without fear of contradiction that live interaction was the norm of Jesus and the early disciples with the monologue being an exception.

So if the Scriptures favour interaction how did we get to the place where we have focused almost exclusively on how to give a good speech?
OK, so what difference does the form of our preaching make? Why does it matter whether preaching takes the form of a monolog or not?
All I'm trying to do is to point out that in our Culture when adults get together they are used to participating and when they don't participate they don't function optimally.
Good point. Probably the best single thing I learned in earning a degree in education is that the lecture method is the least effective in actually teaching anyone anything. Realistically, I'm not going to try to fight against the paradigm of the sermon as monolog. But in class and group settings, at least, interaction is indeed far superior to lecture.

Mr. Warby's essay is thought-provoking, and I recommend it for anyone concerned about finding more effective methods for preaching (HT: Leaving Munster).

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Searching for "renewed power in the pulpit"

Zack Eswine gives ten principles from Spurgeon for following the Holy Spirit in our preaching (HT: Between Two Worlds).

What is the gospel, really?

Darryl Dash has been reading Ron Martoia's Static and thinking about what the gospel really is. Darryl makes a case for continuing to ask, "What is the gospel?"
. . . Paul gives over fifty gospels in a nutshell. If the gospel is that rich and layered, encompasses the whole biblical story, then it makes sense to spend a bit of time making sure we haven't settled for a truncated version.
In a culture too prone to reduce it to a tidy formula for salvation, it's good to see Christians suggesting we take time to know the fullness of the good news. In a follow-up post, Darryl shares some of the insights from Static:
Ron suggests something that, in theory, most evangelicals should agree with: that we should let the Bible define the gospel. The problem is that we have been taught things about the gospel that are extrabiblical, but we're not always aware of this. Words like gospel and repentance start to carry extrabiblical meanings, which we read back into the biblical text.
So if that's the problem, what's the solution? Darryl, and Ron Martoia, offer some ideas. I will, too: go directly to the Word, and let it do its work on us.

Update: Mike Russell has more at Eternal Perspectives.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Nope. Yep.

"I think I need moral instruction. I do not. I need Jesus."

Reminder on how not to preach

Jeff Voegtlin has written an excellent little essay on how easy it is to preach the opposite of what a biblical text actually means. Jeff gives an example of just such a sermon he heard years ago:
All I remember now is that the whole message was NOT biblical. Oh yes, it was moralistic. Yes, it contained many truths. Yes, it probably convicted some. But it was NOT biblical
It's possible to take the words of a biblical passage and use them to prove exactly the opposite of what the Bible says. Why do preachers do such a thing? Jeff has an idea:
Too many preachers know already what they are going to preach when they go to open their Bibles. Rather, let us have preachers who open their Bibles to see what God would have them deliver to His people.

Friday, February 02, 2007

On reading widely

Unashamed Workman has a long quote from D.A. Carson on reading widely for preaching.

More on the measure

Mark Lauterbach is spot-on with his series on "The Measure of a Sermon." Here's the opening to Part 4:
I have learned a great deal from my wife. She is a gift to me – and God has used her in my life more than any other human. One of the lessons she has taught me is about motivation and grace. She did this in the kitchen . . . .
She is a fabulous cook. Because of that I often enter the home at the end of the day to wonderful fragrances . . . baked chicken, stir fry, or chocolate chip cookies. As I walk in the garage door I am often not hungry – I am tired, worn in mind, distracted. My wife could tell me she is about to make dinner and ask what sounds good to me. I would not know. The possibility of dinner would not stir my hunger. But, one whiff of her cooking stirs my appetites.

This is what good preaching does. What I am talking about in these posts is the temptation of preachers to exhort people to be hungry – to trust in moral exhortation and the thunderings of the Law to create interest. That would not even be true to the Old Testament.

What NT preaching does is bake the cookies and let the Spirit empowered fragrance draw them to the Savior, stir hunger, and provoke godly motive. The law has rarely softened a hardened heart.
Amen. Mark's whole series at GospelDrivenLife is powerful.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

The alternative to moralistic preaching

"The measure of as sermon is this: do people come away seeing Jesus more clearly?" - Mark Lauterbach

Helps for exegeting the OT

Do you want to preach exegetical sermons on the OT but are rusty (at best) on your Hebrew? Expository Thoughts gives advice from Dennis Magary here and here on how to get your Hebrew skills up to speed for preaching the OT.

Caring for ministry staffs

Dan Edelen has hit a long-ball with his post on ministering to those who minister. In Dan's experience, ministries with multiple staff members operate under one of two sets of priorities: God first, those being ministered to second, and staff third; or God first, staff second, and those being ministered to third. The first set of priorities, Dan notes, is a formula for burnout:
When you work at a Christian ministry that puts everyone else before staff, you discover that about halfway through your ministry objective timeline the well’s run dry. So much time has been spent pouring the life of the staff into the lives of the people they’re ministering to that in a few months time your staff’s inner lives resemble the Sahara Desert—during a drought. And with a plague of locusts, too.
It's easy to wear out ministers and ministry staff, especially when those doing the ministry sincerely care about the souls they serve. But it's bad economy of soul.
Let’s be honest here. The amount of personal time we devote to interacting with the actual subjects of our ministry may pale compared with the amount of time we spend with other staff. Any wise person leading a ministry realizes that the lives most likely to be changed by the ministry are those who actually work for it. Yes, a ministry that works with the poor may very well touch the lives of the poor to whom they minister, but it’s far more likely that the ministry will forever change the staff that works in that ministry.
That's a good point, and Dan's article is worth reading.