Archive for the ‘Preaching’ category

Preaching that rejects the gospel enforces legalism and lusts after self-help.

July 15, 2010

A very important excerpt from Graeme Goldsworthy on the kind of preaching that rejects the gospel:

” . . . we are all legalists at heart.  We all love to be able to say that we have fulfilled all kinds of conditions, be they tarrying, surrendering fully, or getting rid of every known sin, so that God might truly bless us.  It is a constant temptation to want to take our spiritual pulse and to apply the sanctification barometer. . . . The preacher can aid and abet this legalistic tendency that is at the heart of the sin within us all.  All we have to do is emphasize our humanity: our obedience, our faithfulness, our surrender to God, and so on.  The trouble is that these things are all valid biblical truths, but if we get them out of perspective and ignore their relationship to the gospel of grace, they replace grace with law.

If we constantly tell people what they should do in order to get their lives in order, we place a terrible legalistic burden on them.  Of course they should obey God; of course we should love him with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength.  The Bible tells us so.  But if we ever give the impression that it is possible to do this on our own, not only do we make the gospel irrelevant, but we suggest that the law is in fact a lot weaker in its demands than it really is.  Legalism demeans the law by reducing its standards to the level of our competence.

[ . . .] In practical terms, if we as preachers lay down the marks of the spiritual Christian, or the mature church, or the godly parent, or the obedient child, or the caring pastor, or the responsible elder, or the wise church leader, and if we do this in a way that implies that conformity is simply a matter of understanding and being obedient, then we are being legalists and we risk undoing the very thing we want to build up.  We may achieve the outward semblance of conformity to biblical pattern, but we do it at the expense of the gospel of grace that alone can produce the reality of these desirable goals. To say what we should be or do and not link it with a clear exposition of what God has done about our failure to be or do perfectly as he wills is to reject the grace of God and to lead people to lust after self-help and self-improvement in a way that, to call a spade a spade, is godless.”

— Graeme Goldsworthy, Preaching the Whole Bible as Christian Scripture (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2000), 118-19, emphasis mine.

Exegeting the Context

January 19, 2010

As someone who is still relatively new to preaching, I am finding myself given more and more to not only the content and delivery but also reception.  In other words, I am giving myself not only to rightly understanding the text of Scripture but also the context of people’s lives.  We often stress the importance of faithfulness to the biblical text (and rightly so), but as pastors there is a call to faithfulness regarding to the context as well.

One of the reasons why I love the Puritans so much is because they were to “earthy”.  As Phil Ryken puts it in his book, they were “Worldly Saints.”  In his excellent little book on preaching, William Perkins displays this in giving multiple categories of hearers, such as unbelievers who are ignorant and unteachable, unbelievers who are teachable but ignorant, unbelievers who have knowledge but have never been humbled, those who believe but have fallen back, and those who believe and are growing in their faith.  For those of you prepare messages on a weekly basis, a large majority of your time is in the text with very little time left over to working through the context of people’s lives.  But it is here where we learn that faithful expository preaching is inadequate apart from ongoing pastoral ministry.


Good News, NOT Good Advice

September 30, 2009

The gospel is good news, not good advice.  And this fact has tremendous implications on how the gospel is proclaimed and lived out as the people of God.

In his sermon, “Gospel-Centered Ministry,” Tim Keller directs us to the sure words of Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones in his exposition of 1 Corinthians 15.  Keller, quoting Lloyd-Jones, explained the significant difference between the gospel being goods news versus good advice:

“Advice is counsel about something that hasn’t happened yet, but you can do something about it.  News is a report about something that has happened which you can’t do anything about because it has been done for you and all you can do is respond to it.”


Gospel Workshops – An Idea for Consideration

September 29, 2009

I have argued for several years now that the greatest need for our churches today is the recovery of the gospel.  Some people have concluded that what I mean by that is everyone embracing the doctrines of grace; however, a casual observer of my blog could able to discern that is not the case.  What I mean is understanding the functional centrality of the gospel and its sufficiency in every aspect of the church.

I have become more and more aware of this need when I talk to, for instance, seminary-trained Christian counselors who have never heard or been trained in how to apply the gospel to situations in life involving believers and conflict of any sort or a leadership style that reflects more of corporate one-upmanship rather than the gospel style of decreasing to serve others.  I have grown up in the county-seat First Baptist Church and heard how the gospel of Matthew was a how-to manual to overcome stress, worry, fear, and so on and also been in the seeker-sensitive megachurch where the stories are gripping but the gospel missing.  I have been in the smaller, more rural church where the preacher is excited and earnest as in the tradition of revivalism but the gospel is reduced to a few points and a prayer.  Reflecting and experiencing these realities have served to increase the burden in my heart for the gospel to be preached, lived, and result in truly transformed lives.


God Exposed: Awkward Preaching in a Comfortable Age

August 11, 2009

God Exposed HeaderI want to recommend what looks to be an excellent conference on preaching jointly sponsored by SEBTS and IX Marks called God Exposed: Awkward Preaching in a Comfortable Age.  The dates are September 25-26, 2009 and will be held on the campus of Southeastern Seminary.  Conference speakers include Danny Akin, Thabiti Anyabwile, Mark Dever, C.J. Mahaney, and Michael McKinley.  Here is a blurb from the conference website:

God Exposed will call pastors and church leader to embrace and defend expositional preaching as a means to strengthen and grow the church. Expositional preaching – that which has as its aim to explain and apply a particular portion of God’s Word – is especially important in a day when many are abandoning faithfulness to the Scripture in their pulpit ministries. This conference will encourage and train pastors whose primary calling is ministering the Word of God to their people.

Registration for the conference is an affordable $45, and the deadline is September 21, 2009. Below is the conference schedule.  To register for the conference, click here.


8:00a-10:00a | Registration
10:00a-11:30a | Session 1 – Dever
11:30a-12:00p | Sermon Review – Dever, Lawrence, Gilbert, Schmucker
12:00p-2:00p | Lunch
2:00p-3:30p | Session 2 – Akin
3:30p-4:00p | Break
4:00p-5:30p | Session 3 – McKinley
5:30p-7:30p | Dinner
7:30p-8:45p | Session 4 – Mahaney
8:45p-9:30p | Panel Discussion – all speakers


9:00a-10:00a | Session 5 – Anyabwile
10:15a-11:15a | Panel Discussion – all speakers
11:15a-12:30p | Session 6 – Dever
12:30p | Conference ends

Pulpit Plagiarism by Popular Preachers

March 2, 2009

Here are two popular preachers doing an unfortunately all-too popular thing in preaching the same sermon.

HT :: Ray Van Neste, Purgatorio, & Joe Thorn

Update: Here’s the deal. Tadd Grandstaff plagiarized Craig Groeschel’s sermon, in particular the sermon illustration. Listen to this audio to hear his first attempt at apologizing, and then listen to his second apology.

That’s cool that Tadd finally apologized, but this does not minimize the seriousness of the error and the philosophy of preaching underneath all of this.  Southern Baptist pulpits have become auctioned off to the best sermon with the coolest graphics and the catchiest sermon series.  Pulpit plagiarism is akin to ministerial pragmatism.  Sermons are being preached that compromise the integrity of the preacher that carry the promise of better results.  God-called preachers tethered to the sacred text should not be bartered off this way.  The call to preach simply should not be up for sale.

However, that is not to say that we do not learn or benefit from the writings or sermons of other people! We all benefit to some degree or another from being taught by other people.  Yet the burden of the preacher is to carry the weight of the sermon in his own bosom, having labored over the text of God’s Word himself.

Update 2: Craig Groeschel on plagiarizing pastors: “On Open, we don’t require attribution for resources that people download and use. We don’t need credit nor desire it. . . . It isn’t plagiarizing if you’re given permission.”

Matt Chandler on Silly Preaching

February 21, 2009

From the 2009 Desiring God National Pastor’s Conference:

Wordle-ing Manuscripts

February 17, 2009

This past Fall, I completed an eight-sermon series working through Matthew 8-9 called “The Scenes of Our Savior.”  I am following that series with a six-sermon series from Matthew 9:35-11:1 focusing called “The Sending of Our Savior” (primarily on the discipleship discourse of Matthew 10 and its relation to the mission).  One of the things I have been doing is wordling my manuscripts.  Here are the first two messages of the new series wordled:

“The Love-Motivated Mission of Jesus” (Matthew 9:35-36)


“The Making of Men on Mission” (Matthew 4:19)

the-making-of-men-on-mission-wordleYou can find other messages wordled here and here.

Ray Ortlund on Power in Preaching

October 4, 2008

Dr. Raymond Ortlund Jr., pastor of Immanuel Church in Nashville, recently spoke on “Power in Preaching” at the 2008 Mullins Lectures at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.  I would like to direct your attention to his messages and encourage you to download the audio.  The MP3s are provided below.

* “Power in Preaching: Decide” (1 Corinthians 2:1-5)

* “Power in Preaching: Desire” (1 Thessalonians 1:2-5)

* “Power in Preaching: Delight” (2 Corinthians 12:1-10)

You can also check out sermons of guest speakers at previous Mullins Lectures by going here.

Brethren, Pray for Us

August 1, 2008

This morning, I was directed by a brother from Grace to read Winslow’s Morning Thoughts.  (Isn’t it a blessing to be fed, edified, and encouraged by others in the body of Christ?)  I found this devotional thought wonderfully true and convicting.

“Now I beseech you, brethren, for the Lord Jesus Christ’s sake, and for the love of the Spirit, that you strive together with me in your prayers to God for me.” Romans 15:30

There are many weighty and solemn considerations which powerfully plead for the prayers of the Church of God, in behalf of her ministers and pastors. The first which may be adduced is- the magnitude of their work. A greater work than theirs was never entrusted to mortal hands. No angel employed in the celestial embassy bears a commission of higher authority, or wings his way to discharge a duty of such extraordinary greatness and responsibility. He is a minister of the Lord Jesus Christ- an ambassador from the court of heaven- a preacher of the glorious gospel of the blessed God- a steward of the mysteries of the kingdom. Properly to fill this high office- giving to the household their portion of food in due season- going down into the mine of God’s word, and bringing forth to the view of every understanding its hidden treasures- to set forth the glory of Emmanuel, the fitness of His work, and the fullness of His grace- to be a scribe well instructed, rightly dividing the word of truth- to be wise and skillful to win souls, the grand end of the Christian ministry- oh, who so much needs the sustaining prayers of the Church as he?

Secondly. The painful sense of their insufficiency supplies another affecting plea. Who are ministers of Christ? Are they angels? Are they superhuman beings? Are they inspired? No, they are men in all respects like others. They partake of like infirmities, are the subjects of like assaults, and are estranged from nothing that is human. As the heart knows its own bitterness, so they only are truly aware of the existence and incessant operation of those many and clinging weaknesses of which they partake in sympathy with others. And yet God has devolved upon them a work which would crush an angel’s powers, if left to his self-sustaining energy.

Thirdly. The many and peculiar trials of the ministry and the pastorate ask this favor at our hands. These are peculiar to, and inseparable from, the office that he fills. In addition to those of which he partakes alike with other Christians- personal, domestic, and relative- there are trials to which they must necessarily be utter strangers. And as they are unknown to, so are they unrelievable by, the people of their charge. With all the sweetness of affection, tenderness of sympathy, and delicacy of attention which you give to your pastor, there is yet a lack which Jesus only can supply, and which, through the channel of your prayers, he will supply. In addition to his own, he bears the burdens of others. How impossible for an affectionate, sympathizing pastor to separate himself from the circumstances of his flock, be those circumstances what they may. So close and so sympathetic is the bond of union- if they suffer, he mourns; if they are afflicted, he weeps; if they are dishonored, he is reproached; if they rejoice, he is glad. He is one with his Church. How feelingly the apostle expresses this: “Then, besides all this, I have the daily burden of how the churches are getting along. Who is weak without my feeling that weakness? Who is led astray, and I do not burn with anger?” To see a Christian pastor, in addition to his own personal grief, borne often in uncomplaining loneliness and silence, yet bowed down under accumulated sorrows not his own- others looking to him for sympathy, for comfort, and for counsel- is a spectacle which might well arouse in behalf of every Christian minister the slumbering spirit of prayer. We marvel not to hear the chief of the apostles thus pleading, “Brethren, pray for us” (1 Thess. 5:25).


Octavius Winslow, Morning Thoughts (August 1)

For the Time Being . . .

July 20, 2008

NOTE: For regular updates on Tom Ascol’s health condition, please see the comments section of this post.

For the past week or so, I have been wrestling where to go with the blog in writing series as well as keeping up with Blue Collar Theology and the 2008 Puritan Reading Challenge (among other things). One of the desires I have is to share with you the journey I have been on that has taken me from a full-time seminary student/part-time 3rd shifter to full absorption into gospel ministry in the local church. All but the last two months of my blogging tenure has been spent in a seminary environment, and as a result, a considerable number of people who read my blog are fellow seminarians who will likely be serving in a ministerial context of some sort. Perhaps my journey, and retelling of some scenes along the way, could be profitable not only for the seminarians who are also making that great leap but also for the churches who would be receiving them.

But due to God’s providence, I have been led to a point where I understand that the place my blog is supposed to go is nowhere. At least not for the time being.

Many of you know already about the situation with Tom Ascol, whom I serve alongside here at Grace Baptist Church. Allow me to give another brief update on his condition. The last couple of nights have afforded Tom greater lengths of sleep time, which has been really good. However, the process has continued to be incredibly painful. The nerves in his body are beginning to regenerate at various parts of his body, and when they do, it is like great jolts of pain shooting to that area. So for instance, at one moment it could be his ankle, then later his hip, and a moment later his arm. It cannot be predicted when or where those jolts of pain come as the nerves regenerate, and so at any moment, things can turn from a moment of rest to restless pain. As I mentioned in the comments of my earlier post, the doctors are giving promising reports, expecting Tom to make a full recovery. But it will take time, and it will demand a change of pace and a season of rest. Please continue to pray for Tom and the Ascol family as I know they are really grateful for your support and prayers.

As you might imagine, Tom will not be able to receive email or phone calls for the immediate future. While I encourage you to comment and share your thoughts and prayers either in the comments here or on Tom’s blog, I do ask on behalf of Tom and the family that calls and emails be left to matters of necessity. I will be receiving all of his email, so I will be sensitive to respond to all matters that merit his (or his family’s) attention. I do ask that, given the circumstances, grace would be afforded to myself and others who will be attempting to administrate these tasks in a timely manner (he receives quite a bit more email than I do!). For all you Facebook users, you can also leave a message on his wall, or perhaps you could catch Tom twittering in the days ahead (though I would not expect him to).

Next Sunday, I will likely be preaching to our people on “God’s Providence and Our Pain” as I think it would be appropriate that we hear from Scripture on what God is doing here and how we can respond in faith to our loving and faithful Lord. If I may ask, please pray for me in the days ahead as well. I will be preaching and teaching 13 times over the next six weeks will be quite demanding, especially for a young novice like myself. 😉 Much of that will be a series on the prayers of Paul for the churches he planted–seeking to know what specifically Paul prayed and how prayer impacts church planting. Lord willing, our church will begin the early phases of planting a church about 45 minutes east of where we are located.

Lastly, we are finally at the point of closing on a home here and are expecting to moving in at the end of this week. This is a big praise, but the season of living in suitcases in homes of members has been immensely rewarding and encouraging. I know Nolan will look forward to having his own room! 🙂

As a result of all that God is doing here and the circumstances I find myself, (immediate) future blogging plans will be kept to updating you on the situation with Tom’s health and perhaps posting some stuff I have benefited from in my study. I embrace with joy the plans the Lord has for me in serving His people and look forward to allotting the overflow to spill out here. It is a privilege for me to serve God, His church, and our beloved pastor, and I thank you again for remembering us in your prayers.

We Have to Live and to Die, and We Must Have the Gospel

July 6, 2008

Mornin’ words from Charles Spurgeon:

“I may not have many more opportunities of preaching, and I make up my mind to this one thing, that I will waste no time upon secondary themes, but when I do preach it shall be the gospel, or something very closely bearing upon it.  I will endeavour each time to strike under the fifth rib, and never beat the air.  Those who have a taste for the superfluities may take their fill of them, it is for me to keep to the great necessary truths by which men’s souls are saved.  My work is to preach Christ crucified and the gospel, which gives men salvation through faith. I hear every now and then of very taking sermons about some bright new nothing or another.  Some preachers remind me of the emperor who had a wonderful skill in carving men’s heads upon cherry stones.  What a multitude of preachers we have who can make wonderfully fine discourses out of a mere passing thought, of no consequence to anyone.  But we want the gospel.  We have to live and to die, and we must have the gospel. Certain of us may be cold in our graves before many weeks are over, and we cannot afford to toy and trifle: we want to see the bearings of all teachings upon our eternal destinies, and upon the gospel which sheds its light over our future.”

– Charles Haddon Spurgeon, The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit Vol. 28 (1882) (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1971), 200.

MacArthur, Lawson on Expository Preaching

June 5, 2008

In the Fall of 2007, Dr. Steven Lawson hosted a conference on expository preaching with Dr. John MacArthur at Christ Fellowship Baptist Church in Mobile, AL.

Session 1: The Invincible Weapon Dr. Steven J. Lawson (Hebrews 4:12-13)
Session 2: What is Expository Preaching? Dr. Steven J. Lawson
Session 3: Why I Am Committed to Expository Preaching I Dr. John MacArthur
Session 4: Why I Am Committed to Expository Preaching II Dr. John MacArthur
Session 5: Expositors Conference Question and Answer Session
Session 6: The Ten How To’s of Expository Preaching Dr. Steven J. Lawson
Session 7: Famine in the Land Dr. Steven J. Lawson (Amos 8:11)

HT :: My Backyard Burger Buddy

Don’t Waste Your Pulpit

April 28, 2008

Check Out “The PIT”

April 8, 2008

I have often written about the disconnect between seminary and the local church. One of the major setbacks, for instance, are ministers will little experience in preaching and teaching and will soon enter their first ministerial context. I recall in preaching class earlier this semester a time when the professor asked for a show of hands of how many preached the past Sunday, and in a class of about 20, only two raised their hands. Moreover, as students had opportunity to preach, many shared that this was only their second or third time they had ever preached.

So with that in mind, I am really excited to hear about a new effort by Third Avenue Baptist Church (here in Louisville) that has started “an intensive training, experience, and evaluation for aspiring pastors” called The PIT (“pastors-in-training”). Here is how Third Avenue explains the program:

The PIT is a semester-long training and evaluation program for men at Third Avenue who are aspiring to be pastors; an “under-the-hood” look at pastoral ministry at Third. Participants in The PIT will be invited to and commit to:

* A one-on-one goal-setting meeting with all the elders at the beginning of the program.
* Preach at least 2 (and perhaps even 3) Sunday evening devotionals in a row, and receive feedback from elders and other PIT participants.
* Attend all Elders’ Meetings, and be invited to stay for some of the Elders’ Private Session.
* Attend Service Reviews with the pastor and elders.
* Attend a Discipling/Debriefing meeting with an elder after each Elders’ Meeting.
* Attend a monthly(ish) dinner with your wife at the Heaths’ house, other PIT participants, their wives, and anyone else the Heaths invite.
* Go with the pastor on occasional pastoral visits.
* Lead the morning service at least once, and receive feedback.
* If needed, receive credit for Applied Ministry Project at SBTS. (We’re still working on this.)
* A one-on-one evaluation meeting with all the elders at the end of the PIT program.

How cool is that? Those who are called to minister and serve as leaders in the church in the office of pastors or elders are called to “equip the saints,” and yet there is a real need today to equip those who will equip the saints. I can say that, were I had been given such an opportunity in a local church to be trained, instructed, mentored, and invested in, I know that not only would I be more mature in ministry but it would have prevented many of the mistakes I made as a young, immature, inexperienced minister.

Churches and pastors, allow me to make a plea here. You have young men whom God is called out for the work of gospel ministry. They may go to seminaries to get theological education, but there only so much that seminaries can teach. The pastoral training and experience they could receive in a local church context is invaluable, and many are hungering for such an opportunity. Please consider developing something like “The PIT” in your own church for the sake of these young ministers and the churches will they eventually minister.

We need to build bridges between the seminaries and the local church, and I think The PIT is a great place to start. Perhaps other churches are doing something similar to it (I know of a couple in AL). The results of such intentional investments in the kingdom through training pastors in a local church context will cultivate continuity and continued health (or bring about health) for the next generation. May this generation leave behind faithfulness to the gospel and faithfulness to those who are most entrusted with it.