Tag Archives: To Preach

Preaching and Prayer

Mike McKinley just posted this fine quote (below) regarding the importance of prayer in faithful preaching. Obviously the pastor who prays is not a wimp!

To preach the word, therefore, and not to follow it with constant and fervent prayer for its success, is to disbelieve its use, neglect its end, and to cast away the seed of the gospel at random.
                                                 — John Owen, Works, Vol 16, page 78
http://feeds.9marks.org/~r/9marks/blog/~3/ix57PVj97Ow/preaching-and-prayer ]

The Preacher and His Pickaxe

Perspicuity. Sufficiency. Infallibility. Inerrancy.

These, says Tim Keller, are core beliefs every preacher must hold about the Bible. But once a preacher holds these beliefs with a good conscience, how does he move on to produce sermons that draw his hearers into greater depth of biblical theology, greater passion for the lost and most of all, greater love for the God of the Bible and the Saviour who makes Him known? I think it’s not a matter of moving forward so much as digging deeper.

As I watched this short interview between Keller, Carson and Piper, I was reminded that there are no shortcuts in discipleship. Every now and then I run across a preacher who seems to approach his task with a sort of mechanical arrogance: do this, then this, then this, and, “Voila!” you have an excellent sermon! No. Wrong. Preachers are first and foremost disciples–sinners themselves, saved by grace and being transformed into the likeness of the One who saved them, as they look upon His glory revealed in the Scriptures they study. Discipleship is about learning. Learning to see the glory of Jesus as He reveals God in the pages of Scripture. And this glory threads throughout the pages of the Bible, Old and New Testaments, like veins of gold in mountain rock. But like that gold, it is not mined without digging for it. Continuing self-discipleship, for preachers, is hard work.

I loved the part in this video when Piper talked about having a new vision for the glory of God as the end of all things (taking the idea from Jonathan Edwards, The End for which God Created the World), and then the discovery of finding that thread all throughout the chapters of the Bible as he began to dig for it. Maybe then the most apt symbol for the work of a preacher is not the pulpit, but the spade? Or the pickaxe?

Corrected and Constrained by the Text from The Gospel Coalition on Vimeo.

"God, make them not throw tomatoes this time, for your glory…"

Okay, maybe that’s not what preachers should pray as we step into the pulpit, but most of us do pray something as we walk to the front of the room. I read this blog this morning and was reminded in a new way how important prayer is not just for the sermon delivery, but for the whole work of preparation.

I know you pray for your sermon at least once a week. As you’re walking toward the front on Sunday morning, prayers are flying thick and fast: Help! You know people need to hear something more than an inspiring thought or tip. They need to hear from God. And if it’s going to happen, it’s going to happen through you. So you pray!

Read more…

Putting the REACH back in Preach

I recently wrote my seminary graduating essay on the topic of an evangel-driven (Gospel-driven) model of ministry that can help churches steer a middle road between the ditches of dead, doctrinal orthodoxy, on the one side, and numbers-driven pragmatism on the other. The idea that the Gospel should be the driving force behind church ministry is hardly original. The idea that all preaching should proclaim “Good News” (the “evangel” in Greeek, or “the Gospel” in Christian lingo) should seem like absolute common sense. But I’m shocked at the number of churches I’ve visited in which the pastor failed either to exposit a Bible passage or to include the Gospel somehow in his exposition. So I thought I would blog about it.

It should be hard to believe, but I heard one popular local preacher (famous for his calvinistic theology and zeal for Bible exposition) of a larger Baptist church preach a Christmas message on Luke 2 in which he failed to preach the Gospel. Here’s the passage he zoomed in on—decide for yourself whether the Gospel should have been part of the exposition of the text:

” 8 And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.  9 And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with fear.  10 And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.  11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.  12 And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.”  13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,  14 “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!””  (Luk 2:8-14 ESV)

I mean seriously, how can you NOT preach the Gospel from those verses?? Instead, that pastor exhorted his congregation to be holy because God is holy. ARGGGHHH! HE PREACHED THE LAW INSTEAD OF THE GOSPEL! In Luke 2!

Another pastor at another larger Baptist church gave a semi-expositional outline of a passage and proceeded to use his time to hammer away on an unrelated pet peeve of his—from one of the clearest Law/Gospel texts in the whole Bible (I won’t say what the text was because it would then be too easy for too many of you to guess who he was and I don’t want to embarrass him).

Another Baptist pastor gave a pretty good exposition of a New Testament text but neglected to show how it had anything to do with Good News requiring a response of faith.

Still another Baptist pastor gave an excellent exposition and application from an Old Testament text, and though he touched on the Gospel in his prayer, he neglected the Good News altogether in his sermon.

One pastor preached a solid expositional message AND showed how it connected to the Gospel AND called for a faith response, but subsequently resigned due to a serious moral failure. It breaks my heart.

In only four churches, of all those I have visited in the last 12 months, was the Gospel preached by way of the exposition of a text of Scripture in a way that required a response of faith in Christ as part of the application in the sermon. In other words, the meaning of the passage was clearly taught and hearers were shown how to understand and apply the message of that Bible text in light of the person and work of Jesus Christ. These four churches deserve honourable mention here, ranked for excellence of preaching and Holy Spirit unction (all four were excellent in terms of the exposition and inclusion of the Gospel).

  • #4 – Mission Evangelical Free Church, Mission BC www.missionfreechurch.com
  • #3 – South Delta Baptist Church, Tsawwassen BC www.southdelta.org
  • #2 – Willingdon Church, Burnaby BC www.willingdon.org
  • #1 – Crossway Community Church, Langley BC www.crossway.ca (I have heard four different men, 3 staff pastors and 1 guest speaker, preach at Crossway and every one of them knocked it out of the park!)


So. Maybe you’re reading this and you’re thinking, “Is Joe referring to me in one of those above examples?” Or maybe you’re thinking, “I’m not sure if I do a good job at both exposition and Gospel centredness in my preaching?” To be honest with you, I’m sympathetic. Exposition is really, really hard work. Evangelistic exposition is brutally difficult work, especially if you are the primary preaching pastor week in and week out.  But think of it like this, if you preach the Word of God (exposition) and preach it as if there are unsaved people in your pews (evangelistic) then pretty soon, I am convinced, the Holy Spirit will start drawing unsaved people to your church so that they will hear God’s Word, hear the Gospel and be saved. And, as Tim Keller has said many times, existing believers in your church will start wanting to invite their unsaved friends to church knowing that they will hear what they need to hear and that your careful exposition of Scripture will not be embarrassing. That is, you will do the Christian Faith justice, showing that it is grounded in the Bible so that believers and unbelievers alike will be able to see why you believe the things you believe.

If you wonder at all if you have room for improvement in the area of evangelistic exposition in your preaching in order to be able to reach unsaved people with the Gospel (putting the REACH back in preach) while building up the saints with the proclamation of the whole counsel of God, then check out these resources from 9 Marks Ministries:

And also consider adding these three books to your library:

Ten Convictions About Preaching

Dr. Darryl Johnson, Senior Pastor at First Baptist Church in Vancouver, BC (http://www.firstbc.org/) spoke this morning to the Church Planting BC “cadre” on the subject of expositional preaching. In his presentation, he gave his “10 Convictions on Preaching”. Here they are…

  1. The living God has chosen the preaching of the Word as a primary means for the blessing and transforming of the world.

  2. The preaching of the Word of God is the Word of God.

  3. The preaching of the Word of God participates in the preaching of the Word of God by the Word of God.

  4. Preaching the Word is hard work.

  5. The Word “deliver” is a wholly appropriate description of preaching.

  6. The Church must set the preachers of the Word free to be engaged in all that faithful preaching of the Word demands.

  7. The preaching of the Word takes place in many different modes.

  8. Preaching that participates in the preaching of the Word, emerges from, is rooted in, and returns to, a text—a Spirit breathed, biblical text.

  9. Preaching that participates in the preaching of the Word Himself has the transforming power it does because the of what the preached text is designed to do.

  10. The person most transformed by the preaching of the Word is the preacher.

My Statement of Faith – Part 8

When I served, a few years ago, as an associate pastor at a church in northern Alberta, I became friends there with the pastor of the local Baptist church. He was an interesting fellow: gifted in evangelism, able to study the New Testament in Greek, enjoyed hunting—a man’s man and a preacher’s preacher. But he was stubborn and close-minded to practices and beliefs that did not fall neatly into black / white categories. Baptism was one of those practices.

In the Mennonite context I was working in there, many of the members of our congregation had been “baptized” as young adults as a prerequisite to getting married. Then at some point along the way they heard the Gospel and got saved and in time came to be members of the church which I was serving at that time. My senior pastor was pretty clear in his teaching on baptism: if you get saved, you should get baptized, preferably by emersion (though I think pouring was an option in some cases). But this was in spite of the fact that a large portion of our congregation were baptized before they were born again, not after. Yet the senior pastor would not require those individuals to get baptized because to do so would likely cause them to be shunned by their extended families for whom re-baptism was scandalous. Being Mennonites, they were “ana-baptists” (Greek: re-baptizers) who rejected “ana-baptism” (Greek: re-baptism). Ironic.

My friend, the Baptist pastor, could not understand my senior pastor’s position of “letting things be”. That particular Baptist preacher saw things as black and white: if the Bible said believers had to get baptized, that was the end of it. Therefore, in his mind, any member who refused to be baptized after conversion should be disciplined and potentially expelled. I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about those two men, my senior pastor at the Mennonite church and my friend, the Baptist pastor, and about their beliefs and practices concerning baptism. It seems to me that the Baptist pastor, though too rigid in many things, was right about this. It seems to me that the Mennonite pastor, though gentle and well-meaning, was in the wrong about this.

The issue seems to boil down to fear. Those Mennonites in that church who refused to be “re-baptized” (though their original “baptism” was really no baptism at all since it happened before they were born again) refused out of fear for what others (in most cases, members of their extended families) would do or say. And granted, those are difficult situations: a Christian’s rebaptism would probably be perceived by family members still living under the old ways as a repudiation of their heritage and at least as a denouncement of the value of their original baptism. These sorts of decisions would no doubt involve lots of hurt feelings and strained relationships for all involved. So the Mennonites there who chose not to get baptized again after coming to personal faith in Christ understandably preferred to not rock the boat. They wanted to believe in Jesus without offending their relatives.

Luke 9:26  For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words, of him will the Son of Man be ashamed when he comes in his glory and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.

The problem with this compromise is that it really isn’t about rules for Christian baptism but about the Gospel. The problem is that these born-again-but-not-re-baptized Mennonites wanted to believe the Gospel but not proclaim it. They wanted a passive Christianity without an active witness. To put it plainly, they wanted to receive the Good News but not spread the Good News. And that’s what the Gospel is: News. And that’s what baptism is supposed to do: spread that News. Declare it. Proclaim it. Visibly, in the outward sign and drama of baptism.

Maybe some of the older, more traditional enclaves of Mennonites have come to believe that baptism and church membership is what saves a person. I don’t know. But I do know that some people think it is the act of baptism that achieves salvation—like the most recent Lutheran pastor in the town I’ve recently moved from. But the whole reason the Gospel is “Good News” is that it announces what Jesus has already done to save us so that in hearing this news and believing it, we are saved. That’s what faith is: trusting in what Jesus has done. And so the sacraments—baptism, the Lord’s supper, preaching—announce and proclaim that Good News so that Christians are reminded and strengthened in our faith in the Gospel. I use the term, “sacraments” as the traditional heading for these practices of the Church in much the same sense that Augustine used the term to refer to “the visible form of an invisible grace”. In other words, practices that help you hear and picture God’s grace in the Gospel to help you believe.

With that rather long introduction, then, here is part 8 of my statement of faith:

The Sacraments

I believe that God has given the preaching of the Word, baptism and the Lord’s supper as gracious instruments for the establishing of faith in Christ, the edification of the Church and the glorification of Himself.
I believe that God has commanded that each believer be baptized upon the profession of faith in Jesus Christ, that baptism is rightly understood from the Bible to be by emersion in water, and that it is the grace of Jesus alone, through faith, that saves the believer and not the act of baptism itself.
I believe that the Lord’s supper was instituted by the Lord Jesus so that the Church would celebrate and commemorate His Gospel regularly and perpetually through the tangible means of bread and cup until His second coming.

New at Keruxai.com: Audio Sermons

esvbible-calfskin Due to popular demand (actually there were only, I think, 3 requests for this but I thought it seemed like a good idea) I have created a new section on Keruxai.com to make available audio recordings of the sermons I preach. Check it out here: http://historicism.com/blog/?page_id=124  or by clicking on “sermons” from the menu at the top of this page.

So far I have uploaded sermons in a series on the book of Romans 8-10, and some sermons from a short series for Advent 2009.

One sermon, however, pertains especially to the focus of this website. This blog is all about the importance of biblical, Christ-centred, Gospel-proclaiming preaching. That’s also what this sermon is about, introducing Romans 10: http://historicism.com/blog/?page_id=124&sermon_id=6 

I’ll try and make audio recordings of any new sermons available here in the future.