Two years ago I had the privilege of preaching at the community Thanksgiving service in Sylvania, GA. In the message I preached on 1 Timothy 6:6-12 I addressed the fact that we will never be truly thankful until we learn to be content with what God has provided us with. List to that message here:
In my sermon yesterday I touched on the issues of marriage and divorce. In many ways the attitude of the church reflects that of the Pharisees of Jesus day in that any reason is a valid reason for divorce. This is a denial of God’s design for marriage and when it is accepted in the church ends up presenting a distorted view of the gospel. Listen to the sermon below and heard what Jesus had to say about marriage and divorce.
There are several biographies available on the Doctor, The Passionate Preaching of Martyn Lloyd-Jones by Steven J. Lawson stands apart in its laser focus on his preaching ministry. Lawson in the work demonstrates clearly that Lloyd-Jones stands as a much-needed model of expositional ministry for our days.
Lawson begins the book with a summary overview of Lloyd-Jones’s life and ministry. In his second chapter he addresses Lloyd-Jones’s call to the preaching ministry and the self-understanding the Doctor had of the preaching ministry. The third chapter addresses the importance of Lloyd-Jones’s emphasis upon biblical authority in light of the spiritual and theological decline which was characteristic of the church in Lloyd-Jones day. Lloyd-Jones did not merely verbally assent to the authority of Scripture but as Lawson demonstrates lived a life reflective of that commitment. Chapters four and five delve into the nature of his preaching and his preparation. Chapters six and seven address the God-focused nature of his preaching and the commitment to sound doctrine which framed his preaching ministry. Chapter eight addresses how his understanding of the doctrines of grace shaped his preaching ministry. The final chapter in my opinion focuses on an important emphasis upon the work of the Spirit in preaching. Lloyd-Jones had an understanding of divine unction which is often neglected in works on preaching.
Lawson’s work in focusing on the preaching ministry of the doctor is commendable. Lawson does a wonderful job of distilling from various sources the things that set Lloyd-Jones apart as a model preacher. In light of the decline of preaching in America this work could not be more timely. Lawson demonstrates areas where preachers would do well in imitating the Doctor.
Disclosure: I received this book free from the publisher for providing this review. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html
H.B. Charles, Jr. has provided a short and helpful resource for preachers in his book On Preaching. Charles from the very beginning of the book demonstrates his understanding of the vital importance of preaching for pastoral ministry.
Charles addresses three main areas surrounding preaching preparation for preaching, the practice of preaching, and general points of wisdom for preaching. Charles in addressing the need for preparation recommends that if one is able to get theological training at seminary they should, while also emphasizing that whether one attends formal schooling or not one should still be a student. He also addresses a bias towards candidates with a master’s degree in churches. This is a needed word for the church and for pastors. I know men who have graduated with a M.Div. and have departed the faith while on the other hand I know men who have never completed college who are faithfully serving the Lord in pastoral ministry. His focus on preparation focuses on preparing a preaching calendar, studying the text, and praying before preaching.
In his advice on preaching itself he recommends writing out a full manuscript before for clarity of communication and becoming familiar with the material in such a way that neither a manuscript or notes are needed. The overall focus of the final section is becoming comfortable with being yourself as a preacher and not trying to imitate or steal another preacher’s sermons or style. His last two chapters are probably ones that bear repeated reading as reminds preachers that we are not to seek to be somebody and that the aim of our charge is to be men of God who faithfully and rightly handle the word of God.
I think there is much to commend this book to wide audience of preachers and pastors. Rather than focusing on mechanics the author addresses the heart and soul of preaching ministry. He does not seek to give a one size fits all model of preaching and preparation but provides principals that would be applicable to any pastor of any background.
Disclosure: I received this book free from from the publisher for providing this review. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html
I didn’t get to preach last Sunday as it was Youth Sunday at church. I have been thinking about my sermon from the previous Sunday. In the closing section of Luke 14 Jesus makes clear what it means to be his disciple in truth and not in word only. As a pastor my greatest fear for anyone in my church is that they would profess discipleship without ever having come to the place where they have truly counted the cost of following Christ.
An honest assessment of what tries to pass itself off as Christianity in America reveals that what people have embraced or professed in many cases is not the radical life altering call of Christ, many people have embraced a form of religion that costs nothing and is worth nothing when put to the test. Below is the audio from that sermon on counting the cost of following Christ:
Today is Good Friday but Sunday’s coming. My greatest fear is that many will gather together in churches, hear the Easter story, and never see real life transformation. It’s not enough to come to church on Christmas and Easter or every time the doors or open for that matter. The question we should all ask ourselves is what difference does Easter make or what difference should it make in our lives. Last year I preached a sermon on that very issue and invite you to listen to it:
Jonathan Edwards was a preacher who was used of God to bring about revival. His preaching style was nothing less then a recovery of the type of preaching which helped spawn the Reformation and bring about a return to the gospel in the Church. Edwards railed against the common view and practice of his age which made preaching a display of knowledge rather then the means of communicating grace through the word of God. Rather then a cold and tempered discourse Edwards saw his day needing something more then what was being done in the pulpits of his day. Edwards says in regards to preaching:
An increase in speculative knowledge in divinity is not what is so much needed by our people as something else. Men may abound in this sort of light, and have no heat. How much has there been of this sort of knowledge , in the Christian world, in this age! Was there ever an age wherein strength and preparation of reason, extent of learning, exactness of distinction, correctness of style, and clearness of expression, did so abound?…Our people do not so much need to have their heads stored as to have their hearts touched, and they stand in the greatest need of that sort of preaching which has the greatest tendency to do this. (Iain Murray , Jonathan Edwards: A New Biography, pp. 126-127.)
This is also true of the present day and age. Even in this present day and age what people need more then information is an encounter with the living God, through the preached word, which will impact their heart. This feeling of the true nature and need for preaching guided how Edwards preached the gospel. Iain Murray in his work on Edwards addresses what has been a popular misconception regarding the preaching style of Edwards. Whereas many think Edwards read from a full manuscript Murray makes it very clear that this assumption does not appear to hold true. Murray says, “Thus, in his later ministry at least, Edwards would have agreed with Grosart who asserts that the practice of reading sermons, ‘except in rare instances, quenches all real eloquence’ and ‘breaks the spell of influence which ought to bind a speaker and his audience'( Ibid., pp. 190-191).
Edwards provides an example for preachers of the gospel, in that we to must seek to connect to the audience to whom we are preaching. Edwards example if followed would give greater freedom in the pulpit, so that one would not feel constrained by their manuscript. This however does not give license for a minister to fail to prepare, not having a manuscript does not mean that one has not studied the message they are seeking to preach to the congregation.
Charles Spurgeon stands above most other preachers in church history and is still remembered today as the Prince of Preachers. Therefore it would be foolish for any minister to ignore the example and model of Spurgeon as a preacher of the gospel. Misconceptions have also surrounded the pulpit ministry of Spurgeon. Some have thought Spurgeon to be a lighthearted huckster in the pulpit, the truth is far from that. Dalimore says of Spurgeon:
In his regular Sunday work, he spent some time before the beginning of the services alone with God, feeling the awesome responsibility of preaching the gospel to lost mankind and pouring out his soul in prayer. On some occasions he seemed unable to go out and stand before the people, and the deacons found it necessary almost to lift him from his knees as the moment for commencing the service drew near…He preached with confidence, with clear instruction and heart-felt pleading, but as soon as the service was concluded he hastened away to his vestry, there to groan out before God his sense of failure (Arnold Dalmore, Spurgeon: A New Biography, p. 77)
We ought to emulate Spurgeon in how we view preaching. So often we are tempted in the ministry to be flippant and lighthearted when it ought not be so. Rather then trying to defuse the seriousness of the gospel and all that it entails we should embrace it as Spurgeon did. Our demeanor must reflect the weightiness of the gospel and the great value of the souls of the men and women to whom we are preaching the unsearchable riches of God in the person of Christ. Another area in preaching that we must emulate Spurgeon is in his Christ-centered preaching. It is easy to begin with a text that does not mention Christ by name and to do the same or tack Christ and the gospel on to the end of the message, this should not be so because all Scripture is a testimony to Him. In his work The Soul Winner Spurgeon says:
I believe that those sermons which are fullest of Christ are the most likely to be blessed to the conversion of the hearers. Let your sermons be full of Christ, from beginning to end crammed full of the gospel. As for myself, brethren, I cannot preach anything else but Christ and His cross, for I know nothing else, and long ago, like the apostle Paul, I determined not to know anything else save Jesus Christ and Him crucified. People have often asked me, “What is the secret of your success?” I always answer that I have no other secret but this, that I have preached the gospel,—not about the gospel, but the gospel,—the full, free, glorious gospel of the living Christ who is the incarnation of the good news (Charles Spurgeon, The Soul Winner, p. 106).
There is much ministerial wisdom in what Spurgeon says here about the content of a sermon. For Spurgeon the call to make sermons full of Christ was not rhetoric but the life blood of his ministry. One can read any of his sermons and find it filled with reference to the saving work of Christ. If we are to see spiritual health in our church, and see change wrought by the message then we must imitate Spurgeon’s faithfulness in lifting up and exalting Christ in every sermon.