Posted tagged ‘Preaching’

More Thoughts on Sermon Manuscripts

September 9, 2011

Since my last post, I have enjoyed considerable feedback on the use of a full manuscript in preaching. I thought I’d comment on some of the questions I’ve been asked, including practical inquiries.

1.  Preaching from a full MSS is not for everyone. But even if it is not for everyone, I would argue that it is a good and helpful exercise, especially for young and developing preachers.  It will be helpful in your thinking/processing, writing, and eventual delivery.  I don’t know if I will preach from a MSS for the rest of my life, but I certainly have found it challenging and helpful at this particularly developmental stage.

2.  Speaking of delivery, that seems to be the main drawback from using a full MSS in preaching.  That certainly is a challenge, but the opposite could also be the case.  Consider two comments from my last post:

I have been preaching for about 12 years now, and have only recently begun to manuscript. I resisted for a long time, fearing it would make my preaching wooden and dry. The truth is, it’s done the opposite. I’m finding myself saying things in fresh ways, rather than falling into the rut of saying the same things the same way. I’ve also found that it has brought so much clarity and focus – the process of manuscripting (and the editing!) has really helped me sharpen the content of my sermons. – Bill Streger

But the ironic thing is: For me, it’s works the other way. I use a full manuscript, because I can communicate more naturally, directly, passionately and engagingly WITH a full manuscript than without. I know it’s a personal thing, but if I have notes or nothing (yes, I’ve tried it), half my brain is worrying about whether I’ll forget something important, where I’m up to, etc., which means I can’t relax. With the “safety net” of a manuscipt, I can put all my thought power into what I’m saying, and all my energy into engaging with people. – Stephen Shead

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Preaching, Manuscripts, and Fraternal Critique

September 6, 2011

“Pharaoh, let my people go!”

That’s a joke my mother uses on occasion with my friends regarding my first sermon preached.  Admittedly, it was not that great, and I did preach everything I knew in the Bible in one sermon.

Prior to coming to Grace, I had eight years of Bible college and seminary training and six years ministering as a youth and college pastors in local churches.  With that training and experience, you would think I had a lot of practical training in preparing and delivering sermons.  But the fact of the matter is I had no formal training in college and one class in seminary in which I preached one 20 minute sermon.  Although I preached many times, I still felt woefully unprepared for the fundamental task of pastoral ministry.

Then I came to Grace and immediately began to be helped by my fellow pastor and churchman Tom Ascol.

The first thing he did was pay a lady to transcribe my first message at Grace word for word and spend two hours working through the 17-page document full of grammatical errors, pointless commentary, and incoherent argumentation.  It was one of the most grueling and embarrassing things I had ever done.  The scalpel (Tom’s red pen) dissected and performed surgery and fully exposed areas of incompetency in my preaching.  While it was almost unbearable, it was the best thing that could have ever happened to my preaching.  In fact, it was what I need 12 years ago that neither Bible college, seminary, or two church positions offered.

I have heard it said from experienced practitioners like Tim Keller and others that it takes a pastor five years or more than 200 sermons before he finds his voice/style and feels comfortable in his own skin.  In the day of podcasting and sermon downloading where church members can listen to the best preachers evangelicalism has to offer, the pressure to perform and excel in preaching is daunting.  If you can listen to Matt Chandler on Monday, David Platt on Tuesday, Mark Driscoll on Wednesday, John Piper on Thursday, and Mark Dever on Friday, then for the that church member, the young and inexperienced preacher on Sunday morning feels “karaoke”. Only a church stubbornly committed to making disciples, including disciples in the pulpit, can celebrate amateur preachers and pitting them against more polished, seasoned practitioners in the pulpit.

As one of those young and inexperienced preachers, one of the best gifts God has given me is men who are committed to making me a better preacher of the gospel.  Every sermon I preach is evaluated.  Everything is considered: thesis, exegesis, illustrations, application, eye contact, speech, grammar, length, etc.  In the beginning, I dreaded that one hour in our weekly elder meetings; however, as I sought to apply the fraternal criticism to my preaching, I began to anticipate those meetings, knowing I was benefiting from an experience in true pastoral training that many, if not most, in my generation are not afforded.  The opportunity to receive real, significant preaching instruction and help is a stewardship I hope not only benefits my hearers but also those I may have opportunity to help in the future.

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Evangelize as Your Edify, Edify as You Evangelize

July 14, 2011

One of the biggest tensions regarding philosophy of gathered services is the issue of breadth and depth, or who should be the priority and focus of the ministry.  Obviously, everything we do should be first and foremost with a focus and passion for the honor and glory of God.   But the question we are usually asking is this: “Should our gathered services be evangelistic, focusing on unbelievers, or edifying, focusing on believers?”

Yesterday, Tim Keller answered the question by referencing Martyn Lloyd’Jones by saying “both.”  Keller concludes:

The lesson I eventually learned from him was—don’t preach to your congregation for spiritual growth thinking everyone there is a Christian—and don’t preach the gospel evangelistically thinking that Christians cannot grow from it. In other words—evangelize as you edify, and edify as you evangelize.

I agree with MLJ and Keller completely.

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Give Them the Gospel, Yes, But Give Them You, Too

June 7, 2011

I have always admired and sought to emulate the pastoral heart and compassion found in C.J. Mahaney. Speaking to a group of church planters, he implored them to love, love, love, and then preach to their people.  When I first watched this, the following verses came to my mind . . .

7 But we were gentle among you, like a nursing mother taking care of her own children. 8 So, being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us.
– 1 Thessalonians 2:7-8

Joe Thorn on Note to Self

June 4, 2011

My good friend Joe Thorn was recently interviewed by Justin Taylor about his new book, Note to Self: The Discipline of Preaching to Yourself.  I have been recently working through it in my morning devotions (on Kindle) and have found it to be a very edifying read.  In this interview, Joe answers the question of what it means to preach the gospel and follows up with an excellent summary of the importance of law and gospel in the Christian life.  Check it out!

[vimeo 23867585]

David Platt Resource Library

April 15, 2011

One of the most used search terms for my blog over the past two years has been variations of  “David Platt”. This page has been accessed nearly 8,000 times, averaging roughly ten people a day, even though many of the links have since been outdated as The Church at Brook Hills changed and updated their web page.

I just found out last night about a (new?) website called Disciple-Making International that literally has scores of information and resources including a blog and a resource directory.  As a big fan of family worship, I encourage you to check out their 52-week family worship guide walking through the Bible from Genesis through Revelation.  They also have a basic introduction to family worship for those unfamiliar with it.

Because there is so much on this website worth checking out, I want to be selective here and highlight a few that have encouraged me personally:

* All Things Secret Church
* Abide Sermon Series
* Radical Sermon Series
* LifeBlood Sermon Series (What is the Gospel?)
* Covenant Community Sermon Series
* Global Gospel Sermon Series

Each of the sermons in the sermon series provides you the option of watching, listening, reading, or obtaining a small group study guide.  God has obviously raised up David and given him a generational platform to proclaim Christ and call us to live wholeheartedly for him and those who have never heard His name.  I pray these resources are accessed by many and leave a lasting gospel legacy for the next generation.

Shai Linne on Expository Preaching

November 13, 2010

The first mark of a healthy church, as chopped up by the reverend Shai Linne . . .

The Bible Is NOT About You

August 26, 2010

For the past seven weeks, I have been leading a group of men in our church through Tim Keller and Ed Clowney’s class on Preaching Christ in a Postmodern World. The 35 MP3’s are available for free on RTS iTunesU, and a PDF of the class notes are available as well.  I have also been supplementing the men with articles, chapters, and essays on Christ-centered preaching from Chapell to Greidanus to Goldsworthy to Spurgeon.  It has really be a lot of fun to learn together how to expound Christ, apply Christ, and adore Christ in our preaching.

Below is a video which is a good summary of what Tim Keller means by Christ-centered preaching, followed by a summary transcript of the audio excerpt.  Do you, preacher, make your message all about Him? Are you, Christian, satisfied with Christ-less messages?

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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.

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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.”

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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.

Friday

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

Saturday

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

Matt Chandler on Silly Preaching

February 21, 2009

From the 2009 Desiring God National Pastor’s Conference:

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.

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.