Posts Tagged ‘preaching’

Ordinary Preaching is Fine

Great churches1“Church” = A group of disciples worshiping and growing in Christ together. don’t need great preachers to be great, but cults2“Cult” = Personality cult, false religion, a group centered around a human being, living or dead, rather than Jesus Christ risen from the dead. do.

Wait. What?

If by “great church” we mean a church that is leading unbelievers to become disciples of Jesus, baptizing them, teaching them what Jesus taught, leading them to serve each other and the needy, etc., then average attendance is not that important. A “great church” doesn’t have to be numerically large; it could be, but size isn’t the measure of its greatness.

Conversely, if by “great preacherPreacher Boy” we mean someone with great stage presence and who is able to stir the emotions with his or her speaking style and speech-writing skills, well, we don’t need them to make a church “great” as defined above. If the pastor is faithfully teaching the scriptures, his oratory skill is not as important. God can use men who are very good preachers and men who are merely adequate preachers. It is God who builds a church numerically (see Acts 2:47 for example.)

However, for a personality cult to grow, a “great preacher” is an absolute necessity. There were and are many great communicators who’ve created huge movements. But without their personally, their movement fade unless they are replaced by another great public speaker.

There are plenty of churches that are very good, possibly great, that are lead by godly men who are merely passable preachers. There are and have been large churches that are thoroughly unhealthy but since their pastors are excellent public speakers, they grow and financially thrive.

I am not belittling preaching; preaching is vitally important and the Bible has some significant things to say about it. Preaching is the hallmark of the Protestant Reformation. What I’m trying to do is to not add to what the Bible says about the primacy of preaching and include “great public speaking ability.”

And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling,and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power,so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God. (1 Corinthians 2:3–5)

Faithful preaching? Hail and amen! But “great preaching”? It isn’t as necessary as some people seem to think it is.

Find a faithful preacher who loves Jesus and knows the Bible, who is committed to making disciples, who loves the church the way Jesus does, who walks in holiness. If he is a great preacher, you are blessed. If he is adequate, try to stay awake during his sermons and be blessed by what you are able to find thre.

Not every church has have to have a Spurgeon, a Piper, a MacArthur, a Martin Lloyd-Jones, a John Calvin, or a Jonathan Edwards. These men are rare gifts to the Church. Learn from them, emulate them as they emulate Christ. Don’t just listen to their speaking, heed their message. By all means, don’t measure your pastor or other pastors by them. Ordinary preachers greatly outnumber them and God has been faithfully building his church through ordinary and extraordinary preachers.

1 “Church” = A group of disciples worshiping and growing in Christ together.
2 “Cult” = Personality cult, false religion, a group centered around a human being, living or dead, rather than Jesus Christ risen from the dead.

Preaching with Teeth

All are tempted to forget that preaching can do what it is supposed to do only if the preacher is a man of God. And they are tempted to forget that being a man of God means being a man of the Word and prayer. A sermon is not entertainment, nor a dump of information about God, nor a theological lecture. It is an encounter with the living God, and a preacher can fulfill his vocation well only if he knows that God…

As Eugene Peterson has often observed, pastors can camouflage their vocational failures under a frenzy of busyness—not least because church members notice busyness. A pastor devoted to prayer and the word looks like a withdrawn pastor, a pastor who doesn’t care much for his people, or any people for that matter. Parishioners may be more intrigued by a preacher who can speak in the latest slang, who quotes the hot bands, who jars them with obscenities from the pulpit than by a man who knows God deeply.

Preachers should believe that that God knows what people need better than people do. What builds the church is not a man who has acquired theological information, or a man who can keep the attention of a crowd. Theological information and rhetorical skill are important. But what a congregation finally needs is assurance that the man who speaks to them from the pulpit every week is capable of bringing God’s word because he is acquainted with the Father of Jesus Christ through the filling of their Spirit. – Peter Leithart, A Man of God, First Things blog

Unity in the Body of Christ

On 8/14 I preached at LifeSpring on Ephesians 4:1-16 on unity in the church. What I found fascinating as I prepare the message is how central the message of unity is to Ephesians. In verse 3 we’re told “to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” And they way that happens is seen in 7-13. It is through the gifts God gives to his church. The end result is that we grow up in the faith and bear with each other as we gather the nations. To get the full message, have a listen:

Unity In the Body of Christ

The Shape of the Text

I recently got to preach on prayer. I chose Nehemiah 9 as the text. It is a lengthy read but it is really an excellent prayer. Israel has returned to the land after 70 years of exile to find Jerusalem in rubble and themselves surrounded by their enemies. They begin rebuilding the wall and the temple. In the middle of this work, they stop to have a holy convocation. The prophet Ezra stands on a dais and reads and explains the Law to the people. They weep and confess their sins and then their leaders lead them in prayer. Having just heard redemptive history read to them, it naturally seeps into and forms their prayer.

The prayer breaks down into three movements: Creation to Abraham (6-8), The Exodus (9-21), The Promised Land (22-31) and then there is a response in 32-37 and an application in 38. In each movement, there is a statement about God. In verse 8, since he kept his promise to Abraham, he is declared righteous. (Or, since he is righteous he kept his promise to Abraham.) In verse 17b, God’s name from Exodus 34 is paraphrased. This name is a statement of his character. The last movement has statements about God’s mercy sprinkled throughout it.

What I didn’t get to comment on in the sermon was how Hebrew writing works these into the text. In the first one, it is about God calling Abraham out and the statement about God comes at the end of the section, as if it had been called out of the section. The second one is about God’s covenant name and his commitment to his people, to provide for them and dwell in their midst in the pillar of cloud and fire and in the tabernacle. This one comes in verse 17, in the middle of the section just like the tabernacle in the middle of the camp. The final one is about God’s repeated mercy to his people after their repeated faith failure. This time, the statement about God’s mercy comes at many spots in the narrative, verses 27, 28, and 31. His mercy is repeated over and over again.

It is beautiful the way the text itself illustrates the meaning. The words do, yes, but also the placement of the words is carefully done in order to illustrate the point as well. This shows the beauty of Hebrew poetry and the care they took in writing.