Archive for the ‘Homiletics/Preaching’ Category

Jared Wilson suggests that hymns aren’t outdated as much as the progression of preaching that has morphed into something that makes hymns sounds weird (link). The point being that preaching is no longer as Gospel-saturated as it once was, which provided the fitting response of the hymn because the emotions were engaged within the context of Biblical preaching. Lot’s of people say that hymns are too doctrinal and too God-centered. This explains why many newer songs lack any doctrinal precision and are filled with repetitions of how God loves us and how we love Him, as if love is the lone attribute of God toward us and us toward Him.

A Christianity Today article from the May issue described how Birmingham pastor David Platt inaugurated a 6-hour (!) special service based on his knowledge of Asian Christians’ dedication to studying the Bible:

At an average of 55 minutes, David Platt’s Sunday morning sermons at the Church at Brook Hills in Birmingham, Alabama, are already far longer than those of most pastors. But to Platt, they seem awfully short. He has been struck in his travels by underground Asian house churches that study the Bible together, under the threat of persecution, for as long as 12 hours in one sitting. He has imported this practice into a biennial event that Brook Hills calls Secret Church. Starting at 6 p.m., Platt preaches for six hours on a single topic, such as a survey of the Old Testament. About 1,000 people, mostly college students and young singles, turned out for the first Secret Church. Since then, other Secret Church topics have included the Atonement and spiritual warfare. It is now so popular the church requires tickets.

“It’s one of my favorite sights as a pastor to look out at 12:30 a.m. and see a room full of 2,500 people, their Bibles open, soaking it in,” Platt says.

Platt’s description of the purpose of Scripture was really good, and the results of his engagement with Scripture have been interesting:

Disciples of Christ do not merely pursue Bible knowledge for its own sake, he says. It changes the way they live, but not by merely offering them tips for parenting or financial freedom. Rather, the Bible gets them in touch with the Holy Spirit, who conforms them to Christ’s image.One year ago, Platt endured a crisis of belief as he saw how, throughout the narrative of Scripture, God equates faith with care for the poor. Platt believes, preaches, loves, memorizes, and studies the Word. But he wasn’t sure if he had submitted his life to its teachings.

“We are ignoring the poor with the way we’re living in Birmingham,” Platt finally told his congregation. “If we believe the gospel, then our opulent living compared to the rest of the world does not make sense. We need to make major changes.”

The rebuke did not sit well with everyone. But Platt and his wife set an example by selling their house and living more simply. One wealthy church member called him crazy, but soon he too sold his house to invest in needs around the world. Biblical literacy is a precursor to biblical transformation.

I’m not saying that Platt’s path is the path for everyone.  I just thought that it was worth passing on.  Also, it’s interesting how an American pastor was impacted by the global church.  You can see a review, critique, and author’s response regarding Platt’s recent book here.

Piper contends along the same lines as Wayne Grudem that NT prophecy was of a different character than OT prophecy. I appreciate how Piper acknowledges and concedes why people would have a hang-up over such a declaration. He also argues that the NT gift of teaching is fallible and a good analogy of how NT prophecy works:

Spirit-Prompted yet No Intrinsic, Divine Authority
Now ask yourself this question: Did Joel and Peter and Luke think that all the men and women—old and young, menservants and maidservants—would become prophets in the same sense that Moses and Isaiah and Jeremiah were prophets, that is, people who spoke with verbal inspiration and with the very authority of God and who could write infallible Scripture? Is the prophesying of Acts 2:17 that sort of prophecy? Or is there a difference?
I believe there is a difference. I don’t think the gift of prophecy today has the authority of the Old Testament prophets or the authority of Jesus and the apostles. Or, to put it more positively, this sort of prophecy is prompted and sustained by the Spirit and yet does not carry intrinsic, divine authority.
One of the reasons that this kind of prophecy is so hard to get a handle on today is that most of us do not have categories in our thinking for a Spirit-prompted statement that doesn’t have intrinsic, divine authority. That sounds like a contradiction. We stumble over a kind of speech that is prompted and sustained by the Holy Spirit and yet is fallible. But I am going to try to show this morning and this evening that this is what the gift of prophecy is in the New Testament and today. It is a Spirit-prompted, Spirit-sustained utterance that does not carry intrinsic, divine authority and may be mixed with error.
Now if that makes the gift of prophecy seem insignificant and unedifying, consider the analogy of the gift of teaching.
The Analogy of the Gift of Teaching
Would you not say that, when the spiritual gift of teaching is being exercised, teaching is prompted and sustained by the Spirit and is rooted in an infallible, divine revelation, namely, the Bible? The gift of teaching is the Spirit-prompted, Spirit-sustained act of explaining biblical truth for the edification of the church. And all of us would say it is tremendously valuable in the life of the church. But would any of us say that the speech of a teacher, when he is exercising the gift of teaching, is infallible? No. Would we say it has divine authority? Only in a very secondary sense would we say so. Not in itself, not intrinsically, but in its source, Bible. (more…)

thabiti anyabwile

Recently, I posted some reflections on preaching in the African-American church.

Yesterday, I listened to Thabiti Anyabwile’s talk on expositional preaching in non-white contexts (you can find the audio here).  Late in the talk, he broadened non-white to “subcultural.”  He said that there is a conception that expositional preaching (where the preacher focuses on explaining the text) is often thought of as a white or socially elite way to preach, whereas the distinctive emotionalism of preaching in the black church (or the hwyl in the Welsh church that Martin Lloyd-Jones refused to imitate) is thought to preclude expositional preaching.

Anyabwile, an African American who now pastors in the Caribbean, used the example of the reading and explanation of the Law in Nehemiah 8 as proof that expositional preaching is not “white,” for it moved the Jews who had returned from exile to observe their faith.  Instead, he argued, the exposition of the Word of God is part of the culture of the “new humanity,” the community of people from all nations redeemed in Christ. (more…)

Kevin DeYoung, pastor at University Reformed Church in East Lansing, Michigan, did a series this week on his five-part plan for “reaching the next generation” with Christ: “Grab them with passionWin them with loveHold them with holinessChallenge them with truthAmaze them with God.”  The focus of the series is this: substance is more important than style, truth and depth and holy living are more important than a cool presentation or appearance, and a challenging, God- and gospel-centered message is more important than being non-threatening.  In fact, DeYoung argues, these meaningful things are often what people want, rather than something watered-down or shallow.  Presentation is important, he says, and there’s nothing wrong with thinking about presentation, but more important is what you’re presenting.

The whole series is good, but I thought that I would pull out a couple of things out.  From the post on love:

The evangelical church has spent far too much time trying to figure out cultural engagement, and far too little time just trying to love.  If we listen to people patiently and give people the gift of our curiosity we will be plenty engaged.  I’m not arguing for purposeful obscurantism.  What I’m arguing for is getting people’s attention with a force more powerful than the right lingo and the right movies.We spend all this time trying to imitate Gen X culture or millennial culture, and to what end?  For starters, there is no universal youth culture.  Young people do not all think alike, dress alike, or feel comfortable in the same environments.  Moreover, even if we could figure out “what the next generation likes” by the time we figured it out they probably wouldn’t like it anymore.  Count on it: when the church discovers cool, it won’t be cool anymore.  I’ve seen well meaning Christians try to introduce new music into the church in an effort to reach the young people, only to find out that the “new” music included “Shine, Jesus, Shine” and “Shout to the Lord.”  There’s nothing worse than a church trying to be fresh and turning out to be a little dated.  Better to stick with the hymns and the organ than do “new” music that isn’t new or do the new music in an embarrassing way.

As the post on holiness makes clear, DeYoung sees these five ideas as important for parents, too:

Remember, the next generation is not just out there.  They are also in here, sitting in our churches week after week.  We often hear about how dangerous college can be for Christian teens, how many of them check out of church ones they reach the university.  But studies have shown that most of the students who check out, do so in high school, not in college.  It’s not liberal professors that are driving our kids away.  It’s their hard hearts and our stale, compromised witness that opens the door for them to leave.

One of our problems is that we have no done a good job of modeling Christian faith in the home and connecting our youth with other mature Christian adults in the church.  One youth leader has commented that how often our young people “attended youth events (including Sunday school and discipleship groups) was not a good predictor of which teens would and which would not grow toward Christian adulthood.”  Instead, “almost without exception, those young people who are growing in their faith as adults were teenagers who fit into one of two categories: either (1) they came from families where Christian growth was modeled in at least one of their parents, or (2) they had developed such significant connections with adults within the church that it had become an extended family for them.”  Likewise, sociologist Christian Smith argues that though most teenagers and parents don’t realize it, “a lot of research in the sociology of religion suggests that the most important social influence in shaping young people’s religious lives is the religious life modeled and taught to them by their parents.”

The take home from all this is pretty straight forward.  The one indispensable requirement for producing godly, mature Christians is godly, mature Christians.  Granted, good parents still have wayward children and faithful mentors don’t always get through to their pupils.  But in the church as a whole, the promise of 2 Peter 1 is as true as ever.  If we are holy, we will be fruitful.  Personal connections with growing Christians is what the next generation needs more than ever.

He closes the series with this observation:

We have an incredible opportunity before us.  Most people live weightless, ephemeral lives.  We can give them substance instead of style.  We can show them a big God to help make sense of their shrinking lives.  We can point them to transcendence instead of triviality.  We can reach them with something more lasting and more powerful than gimmicks, gadgets, and games.  We can reach them with God.

Imagine that.  Reaching the next generation for God by showing them more of God.  That’s just crazy enough to work.

Helping a Preacher Preach

Posted: October 5, 2009 by Scott Kistler in Homiletics/Preaching

Two weeks ago, my fiancée and I went to a Missionary Baptist Church in Kankakee, Illinois, where I live and work.  I’ve been to predominantly black churches before, but this time I heard something that I had not before: the pastor of the church and the guest preacher both talked a bit about the role of the listeners in a preacher’s performance.  It’s something that one can see in the black church, but I had never heard it discussed specifically before.

When the pastor gave a lengthy introduction to Dr. William H. Copeland, one of the most prominent figures in Kankakee’s black community, he encouraged the congregation to get involved.  He said something like, “Preaching isn’t just the pulpit, it’s also the pew.  When you ‘Amen,’ you can help a preacher preach.”  He also exhorted the congregation to do no less for their guest than they would for another preacher.

For me, one of the most visually striking things about the African-American Christian tradition is the image of the preacher at the pulpit flanked by one or more other preachers urging him on.  When Dr. Copeland came to the pulpit, he talked about the need for other preachers, seated behind him and on either side, to support him as well.  He joked that there are some “jackleg preachers” that sit up front with their legs crossed and flipping through a Bible rather than voicing their support for their colleague at the pulpit, and told us to let him know if any of the four up there with him were doing that.  Dr. Copeland preached about hell with the story of Lazarus and the rich man as his text, beginning softly and building up to a passionate conclusion and gospel invitation.

The music was tremendous, with a medium-sized choir accompanied by an organ and drum set.  I don’t want to be a white person who idealizes the black church, or feels that he has to be ashamed that white Protestantism is too low key and therefore not “spiritual” enough.  I mean, really, if I hear one more white person sheepishly call his congregation “the frozen chosen” because they don’t clap their hands, I might go nuts.  But I have loved the few experiences that I have had in black churches, and I do hope that God’s people in this country and around the world can find more ways to worship together and learn from each other’s traditions.  All of God’s people are going to be worshipping together forever, so why not start now?

I have pasted below my sermon outline from 5.10.09. I am also attaching a pdf copy here: Proverbs 31.10t31 a woman who fears the Lord

Here is a link to the audio: “A Woman Who Fears the Lord


Proverbs 31 “A Woman Who Fears the Lord”

A History of Mother’s Day

Mother’s Day, in one form or another, has been around a long time. In ancient Greece, a celebration honoring mothers occurred every Spring.

In the Middle Ages, a custom called Mothering Sunday began when children, who often left home early to learn a trade or become apprentices, would be released from work every year on the forth Sunday of Lent to attend church with their families. As they returned home, they often took cakes or little gifts to their mothers. This was termed “going a-mothering.” To this day, Mother’s Day in the United Kingdom is celebrated on the fourth Sunday of Lent.

It was in 1872 that Julia Ward Howe (author of The Battle Hymn of the Republic) suggested the idea of Mother’s Day in the United States. (more…)