sermon

Lots-o-Links 5.20.15

What Small Churches Can Do by Joe Thorn | 3 articles so far...

My Sermon Planning Worksheet by Chad Brooks | I'd do this a little different, but I'm sure many will find it helpful. Chad writes...

I really prefer having a physical document to orient my sermon preparation. I have found beginning a sermon on this sheet and letting it be for a couple of weeks is a great jump start to my weekly preparation. 

Retro 51 Tornado Homerun Limited Edition Pen | Review: Office Supply Geek...

Photo credit: Office Supply Geek

Photo credit: Office Supply Geek

The brass barrel of the Retro 51 Homerun is wrapped with a lacquer finish that has slightly raised red markings that do a great job of simulating not only the look but also the feel of actual stitches on a baseball.  The main body of the pen isn’t pure white, but more of an antique white which matches nicely with the antique brass looking finish of the clip and other accents on the knob and nose cone of the pen.

New Jazz: The Epic by Kamasi Washington | I've turned to this nearly every day since I bought it for new and interesting jazz that both grabs my attention and yet doesn't break my focus on reading, writing, and general work that takes concentration. 

Books On The Parables

Sower

I'm preaching on the parables of Jesus over the summer. Here are some key books I'm using... 

  • Stories With Intent by Klyne Snodgrass | [Amazon | Kindle | WTS] I got a lot of recommendations to pick up this book after a tweet asking for the best resources on the parables. After wading into the first bit, I've already collected a number of insights and quotes. And it's a massive resource. Excited to read more.
  • Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes by Kenneth Bailey | [Amazon | Kindle | WTS] Kindle version is 1/2 the price of the paperback. I've read the introduction to the section on the parables. Excellent.
  • Turning Your World Upside Down by Richard Phillips | [Amazon | WTS] I've used this before and it's been helpful.
  • The Challenge of Jesus' Parables edited by Richard Longenecker | [Amazon] Some good stuff from various essays by leading scholars.
  • Preaching the Parables by Craig Blomberg | [Amazon | Kindle | WTS] Haven't read much yet, but heard many good things.
  • Glory Veiled & Unveiled by Gerald Bilkes | [Amazon | Kindle | WTS] I love that this practical, devotional, personal book is there to temper more scholarly books above.

Kids Taking Notes During Sermons

A few weeks ago I emphasized to one son that it would be good to takes notes during my sermons. Now it seems to be viral. Here's a sample from my two other sons from Sunday. The backs are both covered with notes too. My 12 yr old said how much easier it is to remember what I'm saying and not have his mind wander when he takes notes. They really love letting me see what they wrote. It's a pretty cool thing. Jack (14) now is keeping a notebook of sermon notes. What do your kids do during sermons? Would love to see if any do something like this. (Click the pic to see it bigger & in more detail.)

Kids Doxa Notes 3.3.13 edit

On Freshness in Preaching

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I have a copyright 1898 edition of John Broadus' On the Preparation & Delivery of Sermons. The first edition was printed in 1870. Broadus was professor of homiletics at SBTS in Louisville, KY and died in 1895. Here he lists and explains "helps" concerning freshness in preaching (pgs 146-149). "The basis of preaching and the truth preached must ever be the same. Yet there is a freshness in the treatment of old truths, and in discoursing on the unchangeable basis of God's Word, that is eminently desirable and should be maintained though life."

1. Study the Scriptures. Earnest and continued study both of the Bible in general, and of each text in particular, will greatly enhance and sustain a preacher's freshness. Let him...seek not mere novelties and fancies in interpretation, but the exact meaning of the inspired Word. No matter how often he has studied the book or the text before, let him keep on, and new thoughts will be suggested. A man cannot fail to keep fresh in his preaching who continues through life really and properly to study the Word of God.

2. Study Theology. Keep in touch with the great books, both general treatises and special discussions, on Systematic Theology. Doctrine -- real doctrine -- is needed as a novelty in much of the preaching of our times. By all means should a man reflect profoundly upon the commonplaces of religious truth. Vinet well said that the basis of eloquence is commonplace; and another has remarked that the pulpit often "makes the mistake of giving us common thoughts about deep things, when what we need would be deep thoughts about common things." We get these deep thoughts about common things only by penetrating and persevering reflection.

3. Study occasions. Here, again, we should not be directly seeking freshness in itself, but the reality of things. The best freshness is found by simply seeking real adaptation to the real occasion. Study the general condition of the congregation; reflect upon the special occurrences of religious interest, and upon any of secular interest that may furnish illustration or call for passing application or remark. Whenever you repeat a sermon on a new occasion adjust it in your study beforehand to the new conditions. A sermon that suits equally well all occasions does not thoroughly suit any one of them. This adaptation to circumstances often depends upon apparently slight matters.

4. Study individual cases. Physicians and lawyers may set us here a valuable lesson. The wise preacher will know people individually, and how to apply the truth to their special needs. He may thus have the advantage of the Romish confessional without its grave objections. Sometimes a hint in conversation will be a rich germ of suggestion. No man can keep fresh in the pulpit without keeping up both spiritual and social contact with people.

5. Study the age in which we live. Let the preacher strive to understand the strength and the weakness of the age -- its healthy tendencies and its diseases --  its illusions and its well-founded hopes. Particularly should he endeavor to discover and proclaim the true relations of Christianity to the age -- what it needs from Christianity, and what Christianity needs from it. Its currents of thought and sentiment, religious and irreligious -- its difficulties and yearnings -- its movements and changes -- demand the thoughtful attention of the gospel preacher. Yet he should let the fruits of his study and reflection appear not so much in formal discussions through set discourses, as in apt allusion and application here and there in his ordinary sermons. Thus he may be constantly showing how truly Christianity meets all real human wants; and thus he may restrain and fortify his hearers without perplexing them with plausible errors. Excellence in preaching, like the truly excellent in literature and art, must either take hold of things present, even transient things, and penetrate though them to permanent eternal principles; or, if it begins with general principles, it must always bring them to bear upon living characters and actual wants.  

6. Study yourself. A man should continue through life to learn from his mistakes. Certainly the young preacher should do this, and even more imperatively the elder. Never fall into stereotyped methods of treating your subjects; cherish and cultivate a restless longing to preach better, and try frequent experiments in preaching differently. There is among preachers a deal of latent power which never gets itself developed. By all means should the inventive faculty be kept healthy and active. Some one has said, "Attention is the mother of invention." Fasten the mind on your subject by resolute effort of the will, and compel yourself to the task of analysis and association of ideas, which are the principal parts of invention. This may also be greatly stimulated by reading and conversation. And let us remember that our very best, our richest invention, is not achieved in preparing next Sunday's sermons, but in general reading, conversation, reflection, when the mind is quiet, throws off its accustomed burdens, and springs up elastic. All the labor and thought thus bestowed in cultivating and maintaining freshness will be richly repaid many times over in sustained power and usefulness in the pulpit.

George Whitefield: How To Listen To A Sermon

George whitefield post headerGeorge Whitefield offers keys for getting the most out of what the preacher says...

  1. Come to hear them, not out of curiosity, but from a sincere desire to know and do your duty
  2. Give diligent heed to the things that are spoken from the Word of God
  3. Do not entertain even the least prejudice against the minister
  4. Be careful not to depend too much on a preacher, or think more highly of him than you ought to think
  5. Make particular application to your own hearts of everything that is delivered
  6. Pray to the Lord, before, during, and after every sermon

Read more of Whitefield's thoughts on listening to a sermon.

The Secret of Whitefield's Success

Whitefield Head

The Secret of George Whitefield's Success, five points (via)...

1. Natural eloquence -- a gift from God - used by the power of God's Holy Spirit.
2. Fellowship with God -- Whitefield gives us a glimpse in his Journal of his walk with God. 'Early in the morning, at noonday, evening and midnight, nay, all day long, did the blessed Jesus visit and refresh my soul. At other times I would be overpowered with a sense of God's Infinite Majesty'.
3. Godliness -- 'Above all he was a great saint, and Wesley and others bore tribute to this during his life and his death. This was the ultimate secret of his preaching power' (Lloyd-Jones).
4. Concern for the lost and the conviction that sinners are in danger of an everlasting hell
5. Wholehearted commitment to God -- 'If ever a man burnt himself out in the service of God, it was Whitefield. He was tireless and relentless in his efforts to win souls. Throughout his life he enjoyed the presence of God in his preaching. Even on his last day in this world he preached, though he was very ill. He was a man whose sole desire was to preach Christ crucified' (Nigel Clifford, Christian Preachers, Bryntirion Press).

Read the rest of the article/short bio at Banner of Truth. Check out my George Whitefield Resources page.

Romans: Commentaries & Books

Romans

I started preaching through Paul's letter to the Romans a couple of weeks ago. Thought it would be helpful to list resources/commentaries I'm using. I listed them roughly in the order of how much time I give each volume. I'm not even coming close to reading everything listed, of course. Some only get a brief glance as I need another opinion. But here's what I have and what I'll use during this series.

Most essential...

As needed and occasional...

Devotional...

When applicable...

Preaching Has Great POWER

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Preachers, we talk big about the power of the Gospel and the power of preaching. But for most of us, our Gospel preaching is limited. It stays in our buildings at announced times to mostly our people. (I understand that one-on-one witnessing is a kind of preaching, but I'm talking to preachers and about our calling.)

My question is this: If preaching has power, God-designed and Spirit-delivered power, why are we not taking it everywhere, to the most people we can, with urgency? Why are we not preaching on the street corners, in public parks, in places of commerce and theater and government? It seems to me we believe Gospel preaching has power as long as it's in a pulpit, but out of the pulpit our language changes. Now the audience has power. Now they determine whether or not we preach to them. Their ears and wills and tastes and distastes become sovereign. Our the bad examples of bad public preachers tells us that approach isn't viable or helpful anymore.

We have excuses for it all from our demographics, city designs, lack of public dialogue, etc. And so the Gospel that comes with power is left in the sheath. We try to convince people to visit our church where it's taken out of the sheath. Where the power will be on display. Or we start emphasizing the power of other things, like our good examples and righteous living. 

But the truth is, the Gospel proclaimed is POWERFUL. It's like Ezekiel prophesying to the dry bones and then to the breath resulting in an army rising from the deadest of the dead. Preaching to bones is silly. Bones don't listen. Bones don't want your preaching. Bones aren't an attentive audience. But if the Gospel is preached, the worst audience and least conducive situations will be places of spiritual birth! Of salvation! Of army creation! The audience changes nothing about whether or not we preach. The audience only changes some of the bridges we use in preaching, like Paul in Acts 17.

How can we any longer fail to preach to everyone, everywhere? How can we have such a powerful Gospel and fail to unleash it? 

Let's make it public again.

The Gospel in the Open-Air Again

This is first post in a series. Here are links to posts that follow.

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Something has been burning in my belly. I can't shake it. I have a picture in my head of movement of preachers that, I believe, will shake up the culture and change the face of American Christianity in a myriad of good ways. I have much more to say about it, but let me start simply.

John Bunyan Open-Air Preaching

What if evangelicals hit America with 200, or 500, or 1,000 theologically strong, gospel-centered pastors who start preaching in open-air and public places in their cities, beyond their Sunday morning worship services, at least once a week for the rest of 2011? What would happen? What if even more did it, or what if it was done more often (Whitefield preached an average of 20 times a week for 34 years)? This idea has been on my mind in some form since my first few weeks as a new Christian (almost exactly 17 years ago). It continued through seminary as I did many outdoor evangelism projects and wrote a paper in seminary on open-air preaching. I've discussed it over the past few years with Joe Thorn. In the last few weeks I believe God has pressed this idea into me. I'm compelled to put it out there knowing many will probably think I'm stupid or crazy, and I'm ok with that.

In my opinion and in no particular order, here are some things that will probably happen if a movement of solid preachers would take to the open-air in America...

1. The Gospel would spread, maybe in an unprecedented way, across our land. It would be heard by people who would never set foot in our churches. It would spread in other ways explained below.

2. Our pastors and our people would be forced to learn to explain the Gospel simply, answer objections, etc. This would spark more training in theology, evangelism, apologetics, etc, but this time with a sense of need rather than something we too often learn for our "personal growth" only.

3. A *buzz* would grow among our neighbors. Suddenly it would be hard to miss seeing and/or hearing the Gospel where we live and in the places we go. People will stumble across it sooner or later, and probably more than once, and it will shake people up. Instead of being the odd guy down at the outdoor mall, it will be respected, calm, thoughtful, theological, loving people doing it. It will open a conversation as to "why" this is suddenly everywhere.

4. Persecution of one form or another (or all forms) would naturally increase. We are mostly left alone in our buildings, but when we preach with biblical power in the open-air the Devil will not be pleased.

5. The stereotype would change of open-air preaching and open-air preachers as the "turn or burn" and "sandwich board" folks would be drowned out by good, biblical, evangelistic preaching. It would come across as more normal because good preachers are doing it, yet it would still shake things up.

6. The media would take notice and start asking us what's going on, and we'd get free airtime to talk about Jesus. It would spark a growing public conversation about things on our agenda instead of merely getting asked to chime in when we fit in with the world's agenda. 

7. Dozens, hundreds of doors for personal evangelism would open up in every place public preaching is done because some of our people will attend and strike up conversations with those who stop to listen. In other words, we create a clear pathway for immediate personal evangelism. The preachers cast nets to draw them in, our people cast hooks, and together we work out our different roles in evangelism.

8. We would begin to pray with a new fervency, boldness, and deep need like in the end of Acts 4.. We would find ourselves relying on God in ways we've ignored because we take few risks. Our prayer meetings would, without question, see less "pray for aunt Sally's leg" and see more prayer for salvation, for strength, for the words to speak, for courage and boldness, for the many different issues that will result from the preaching, and so on.

9. Our churches would immediately start to see more visitors. The seeker kind. The skeptic kind. The curious kind. This would come because of the people who want to hear more from the preacher and the people who have connected personally with Christians during public preaching. They will come because this is the preacher who doesn't play well with others, and this time not because they spew judgments but because they won't stay away in their safe, warm buildings.

10. Christians will be separated from "Christians." Dead churches and denominations, the ones that don't have nor preach the Gospel, will start to look clearly different from evangelical ones. Our preaching will force the issue because people of various "Christian" groups will hear and react differently. Christians without Christ will be challenged to leave their Gospel-less churches and denominations. It will create a challenge to the peaceful, live-and-let-live relationship happening among all groups called "Christian" in our cities and it will reopen a necessary discussion on issues of Gospel, truth, theology, heresy, etc... and all in a much more public way.

I'm sure you can imagine that doors would open for a hundred other things. We don't know all that would happen as this has essentially been left untried. I don't believe there is even a need to discuss whether or not this is biblical. If anything preaching only in our buildings is what needs to be biblically challenged. Spurgeon wrote on page 254 of Lectures to My Students...

No sort of defense is needed for preaching out of doors; but it would need very potent arguments to prove that a man had done his duty who has never preached beyond the walls of his meeting-house. A defense is required rather for services within buildings than for worship outside of them. 

I believe that if in the next couple of months hundreds of preachers in America would embrace this, and public preaching started happening all over the place, especially with the spring and summer months coming as the perfect opportunity, that we would see amazing things happen by the hand of our good and gracious God. I believe we would see mighty works by the Holy Spirit. I believe it would be amazing, but we would have to do it in order to see it.

A lot of questions remain, I know. A lot of doubts. You may be skeptical that it can work. You may be wondering where you could even do it in your particular community. You may have fears of doing it and desire to stay in the comfort of your pulpit. I hear you, but I think there are good answers and motivations for all of this. More soon.

My prayer as this goes up is that God will stir in us by His Spirit a movement of preachers who preach the Gospel publicly, beyond the walls of our buildings. I'm praying first for myself, then for many of my friends and pastoral acquaintances by name, and then for a number of well-known pastors who I think God has put in places of influence for their theological strength and solid preaching of the Gospel. I believe we need older, mature pastors to lead us in something like this. God help us to preach the Gospel boldly and publicly.