AN ORPHAN GOSPEL

The gospel preached today is often a man-centered gospel.
 
“Are you lonely? Do you feel afraid? Do you feel ashamed? Are you hurting and broken? Jesus came to meet your needs. God loves you as you are and has a great plan for your life. Jesus died on the cross to give you abundant life. Come to Jesus today and live.”
 
Much missional preaching today identifies needs and proclaims Christ as a need fulfiller. It is a man-centered gospel, but the apostolic gospel was God-centered.

What are the characteristics of missional preaching in Acts? Read more…



HOMILETICS AND HERMENEUTICS: A REVIEW

One of the most recent books – if not the most recent – to be published for preachers is Homiletics and Hermeneutics: Four Views on Preaching Today. Edited by Scott Gibson and Matthew Kim, the book became available in December 2018. What are the theological and hermeneutical underpinnings of our preaching? Do we preach Christ-centered or gospel-centered sermons? How does the flood narrative in Genesis 6 relate to the New Testament? This book will spark discussions about those questions and many others as preachers think through the different evangelical preaching traditions.
 
The book follows a simple format. Each practitioner presents his position followed by responses from the other three writers. Each writer interacts with four topics in advocating his position: 1) A biblical rationale, 2) A theological rationale, 3) A homiletical rationale and 4) An applicational rationale. There is a refreshing irenic spirit throughout the book as each writer debates the merits of each position with a heart of respect for each other.  Read more…


CHRISTMAS THROUGH HEAVEN’S EYES

Earthly events are the result of heavenly actions. There are cause and effect relationships between heaven and earth. We can see Christmas through heaven’s eyes portrayed for us in Revelation 12:1-5. In this story, there is a woman, a dragon and a baby. The woman is Israel. The baby is Messiah – Jesus – who will rule the nations with a rod of iron. The great, red dragon represents Satan (cf. 12:9). Satan wages war against Israel over the birth of the Messiah.

Satan is the enemy of God and God’s people. He is determined to rule this world and will do whatever he can to maintain his rule. Milton wrote of Lucifer in Paradise Lost, “To reign is worth ambition, though in hell. Better to reign in hell than to serve in heaven.” Power is what drives Satan. That same ambition is what drives all those who serve Satan in this world. We see Satan’s global strategy pictured in these verses. He works through humans who will swear allegiance to him. In return, Satan offers such pawns the illusions of earthly success, wealth and power. Read more…



A PENTATHLON STRATEGY FOR PREACHERS

 A modern Olympic pentathlon combines five sports into one. An athlete completes all five sports in a single day. The first three sports are fencing, freestyle swimming, and equestrian show jumping. The final two sports combine pistol shooting and running into one event. An athlete must balance her efforts to achieve the highest total score which means that sometimes she must avoid pushing to win in one event to focus on a later event. The total score of all five events is all that matters to win Olympic gold. Read more…


SERMON WAYPOINTS

I just returned from a ten-day boat trip down the eastern coast from Falmouth, Maine to Norfolk, Virginia in Mark Halfacre’s boat Pegasus. Mark was beginning his trip down the intra-coastal waterway to Florida, and I had the privilege of joining him on the first leg. Each night Mark would get out his navigational charts on the IPad and plot his course for the next day. He had to chart a course that avoided shoals under water and buoys above yet led us to the next marina.
 
Mark would enter the GPS markers on his chart plotter as “waypoints.” Each day we would navigate the boat from waypoint to waypoint. The chart plotter would alert us when we arrived at a waypoint. We would check it off and start for the next waypoint until we arrived at our destination for the night.
 
Sermon waypoints help us navigate our way from text to message each week. I know that I need spiritual GPS markers to plot the course for my sermon preparation. The waypoints help me avoid the shoals, so my message does not end up as a Sunday shipwreck. Read more…


THE SAFNS FUNNEL

Preaching is disciple-making. Our purpose in preaching is to grow fully developed followers of Jesus Christ. We must not neglect the often forgotten word in the Great Commission given to us by Jesus when he called us to teach the people “to observe ALL that I commanded you” (Mt. 28:20). As Paul told the Ephesian elders, “I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole purpose of God” (Acts 20:27). Expository preaching is the best way to achieve the purpose of disciple-making in corporate worship.
 
Every preacher follows a method. The SAFNS funnel is mine. It is not unique to me. Nothing we teach or write about is unique. We stand on the shoulders of others in our ministries. I have taught it at the Bible college level, in the seminary classroom and workshops both here and abroad. I have practiced and honed this method beginning with my first sermon 45 years ago. Here, in summary, is the SAFNS method. Read more…


IS ANYBODY LISTENING?

We preach our hearts out Sunday after Sunday. Nothing much seems to change! Change comes slowly in small-town churches. The same people sit in the same seats occasionally supplemented by a new family in town. Growth is slow with frequent setbacks. Resources for ministry are limited. “Nice sermon, pastor,” people say as they leave. “Good job.” Another Sunday done. All good. Little changes. Lord, is anybody listening?

I agree with Karl Vaters that small church pastors are some of the hardest working and faithful servants of the Lord. He writes that “discouragement is unquestionably the most widespread burden faced by small church pastors.” More small church pastors leave the ministry because of discouragement than any other factor. He notes that the most common cause of discouragement comes from “feelings of failure for not hitting the goals for numerical increase that are set, either by others or by ourselves” (“The 3 Most Common Challenges Small Church Pastors Face – and How to Help,” Pivot Blog, June 1, 2018, Christianitytoday.com). Read more…



MEASURING TO IMPROVE

Satisfaction is the enemy of improvement. We have to want to improve our preaching before we can improve our sermons. A pastor recently asked me about the purpose behind the preaching cohorts. I explained that the objective is to gather with other pastors to improve our preaching. His response was all too common. He said, “I’m pretty satisfied with my preaching. It is something I think I do well at and enjoy doing.” Here is the danger we all face. We start to settle. What we are doing works. Why fix what is working? We become satisfied, so we stop improving.  Read more…


PATHETIC PREACHING

Apostolic preaching was intentionally persuasive. Rhetoric is the art of persuasion. Therefore, apostolic preaching was rhetorical without being dependent on rhetoric. Unfortunately, the church in the first few centuries moved away from the apostolic model of limited rhetoric to a culturally popular model of professional rhetoric.  As society accepted the church, preachers adopted a professional model for preaching, and the sermon took on the rhetorical style of the culture. Modern sermons, too, can bear little resemblance to the apostolic model in our desire to be culturally relevant. Why? What changed? Read more…


A REVIEW OF EXPOSITIONAL PREACHING BY DAVID HELM

 The atheist philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche wrote, “he who knows himself to be profound endeavors to be clear; he who would like to appear profound endeavors to be obscure.” Too many homileticians labor to sound profound as they seek to make their books academic. Thankfully, not David Helm. His book, Expositional Preaching: How We Speak God’s Word Today, is short, lucid and insightful. I have read many books on preaching in recent years and, I must confess, when I picked this one up I wondered if anything worthwhile could come from such a short text. I was wrong. These 112 pages are as helpful a text on preaching as I have read in some time.

David Helm is the lead pastor for Holy Trinity Church in Chicago, Illinois and the chairman of the Charles Simeon Trust, a ministry devoted to expositional preaching. He wrote the book to be the preaching entry in the series, 9Marks: Building Healthy Churches led by Mark Dever. The first mark of a healthy church is expositional preaching, and this book explains what that means in a very readable manner. You can check out more resources on their websites, www.simeontrust.org and www.9Marks.org. I recommend both ministries as excellent resources for any pastor. Read more…