Why Expository Preaching?

We have no shortage of preaching formulas on our bookshelves and pervading the blogosphere. And here I am, adding my own two cents worth to the subject. It’s the AMEN affect! These four items should be (must be) in place as you prepare and preach the Word!Before, I get into this, allow me to expand on what I mean about preaching–I mean, expository preaching. But first, a story. 

During a hospital visit a few years, I happened to run into another pastor whom I met through my parents some time back. He is a retired pastor who preaches on an interim basis in various churches who are in-between pastors. I, being relatively young in the ministry, would spend more time listening to this man than I would talking. 

The conversation turned when he asked me where I was serving and in what other endeavors I was engaged. I told him, adding that I was ready to finish up seminary work. “Oh! What are you working toward?” I replied, “A DMin in the field of Expository Preaching.” “Expository preaching? What exactly is that?” I explained briefly that it is a type of preaching that takes the theme of the text and makes it the theme of the sermon — exposing the theme, if you will. His response? 

He just looked at me. I continued on that it takes a look at each word of the Scriptures verse-by-verse. I felt he was being rather polite, otherwise I fear he would have questioned whether such a style of preaching was helpful. 

Many question the necessity of expository preaching. It sounds dry, dusty, academic, and irrelevant. With people trying to keep marriages together, raise kids, invest for retirement, pay off bills, and a myriad of other day-to-day issues, why not address these issues rather than going verse-by-verse through a biblical book. Talk about a certain relevant topic! 

Having been in ministry almost 25 years and now going into my ninth year of teaching ministry (youth pastor and pastor), I am now convinced of a number of reasons for preaching in a expositional manner.

  • It models how one should take the text seriously and to study it therein.
  • It forces you (and your listeners) to deal with topics that you would risk avoiding otherwise.
  • It often bypasses “felt needs” and addresses “real needs.”
  • It helps the preacher and the listener see the Bible as a whole rather than simple snippets as prooftexts to support a particular topic.
  • Along with (4), it helps the preacher and the listener see the harmony among the verses, paragraphs, chapters, books, and Testaments and demonstrate the unity of the Scriptures.
  • It models how clear the Scriptures are once studied on the Spirit’s terms rather than our own.
  • It puts Christ on display throughout the Scriptures.
  • It shows how the Scriptures are grounded in history (places, events, times, people).
  • It puts God’s progressive relevation on display, showing God’s work in redemptive history and shows how history is truly HIS-story. 
  • It forces the preacher and the listener to deal with the various literary forms found in the Scriptures (history, narrative, poetry, the epistles, and apocalyptic genres) and, in turn, forces the preacher/listener to understand these genres for correct interpretation and understanding.
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Why Replanting? Reflections on the Recent Replanting Lab at NAMB

Churches matter to Jesus–and every church should matter to us.

Over the last two days, I’ve been at the North American Missions Board in Alpharetta, GA at the Replant Lab. (Should you wish to see more of what this is about and how the 170+ attendees responded and reacted, you can go to Twitter and check out the hashtag #ReplantLab.)

Replanting is simply helping a dying church continue on in some form, whether through long-term revitalization, merger with another church, or having a hard reset.  Many believe replanting is just turning the keys over to another authority and that’s it.  Not so!  There are many ways to replant–but they are all ways to make sure stave off the trajectory of  900 SBC churches closing every year, with 77% of them in cities over 100,000 and 90% of them in growing communities.

Mark Hallock, one of the regional replanting leaders based here in the West, already put out a great blog post on the choicest quotes, which I encourage you to read.

My immediate takeaway is that this movement honors the history and heritage of churches, all the while helping them move forward in being disciplemaking disciples. I’ve gone to many conferences and even attended seminary where many make fun of established/traditional churches.  They use this as a stand-up routine to bring laughs.

Not here. Repeatedly, they honored the senior saints in an effort to help everyone attending and those not yet attending to see the glory of a fresh vision for making the Great Commission a living breathing reality.  Many times, these churches are tired, but they do not want to see their churches die.

Hallock rightly said that the #1 task of leadership is to name reality. Many times, pastors and churches alike avoid reality because it’s just too difficult to embrace and engage. But it all comes down to strengthening disciples to make new disciples.

Brian Croft, senior pastor of Auburndale Baptist Church in Louisville, KY, and head of Practical Shepherding, encouraged us to ask five questions in evaluating a dying church:

  1. Authority: Who is in charge?
  2. Leadership: Whom do I follow?
  3. Membership:  to Whom am I accountable?
  4. Unity: Who is my brother?
  5. Worship:  Why do we gather?

The two biggest questions deal with authority and leadership.  Churches struggle with pastors moving on at a three-year clip on average. Therefore, other members fill in those pastoral gaps. Thus, when a new pastor comes in to take on his pastoral duties, tensions arise due to other members taking those duties on.

Of all the offices and roles in the church, only two are defined: pastors/elders and deacons. We must continue to look to 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1 and properly vet pastors and deacons for their roles in churches. Then prayerfully and joyfully let them lead in a manner that is in line with their biblical qualifications and role.

If you’d like more information about what replanting is all about, go to namb.net/replant and look around. God’s not done with any church.  Many we wake up, repent, and follow our Great Shepherd!

 

 

Silos Aren’t Just on Farms: Developing an Interconnectedness in Your Church’s Ministries

Growing up in Virginia, I lived on a farm surrounded by more farms. It was there I realized that, even though I was born in the South (i.e., the southeastern part of the United States), I was not a full-blown Southerner.  I never developed a taste for grits or sweet tea, I don’t care for NASCAR, and can do without the bugs and humidity, thank you! But I wasn’t a farm boy.  I had the accent, but not the acumen for agricultural life. 

Those silos dotted the land and pierced the horizon on many fronts, each containing their own grains: wheat, corn, etc. They stood on their own.  At no point did those silos interconnect with any other silo.  No need existed.

Sadly, many ministries in many of our churches are silos.  How so?

  • They operate with their own purpose and identity apart from the rest of the church.
  • They operate with their own present work (mission) and their preferred future (vision) in a vacuum. 
  • They operate with an overinflated sense of ownership (this is our ministry and no one else’s).

What’s missing is an overarching understanding of the vision and mission of a church and how each team and ministry plays a part.  A vision gives a laser focus, setting the trajectory for where a church is going. All plans sprout from the vision.  And all plans are usually carried out by the various ministry teams, which involves a unity of mind and heart in moving toward the goal set.

Not Silos, But Aquifers

In Kentucky, I became acquainted with aquifers, those underground streams and channels that keep that Kentucky bluegrass so bluish-green. I wasn’t aware of aquifers until I pastored my previous church (Boone’s Creek Baptist Church in Lexington).  After a torrential rain, water began flooding our downstairs children’s area and began gathering into our fellowship hall.  It took us hours with a Shop-Vac to clean this up. But the aquifers, which usually can absorb the water, became full underground and had nowhere else to go but into our building.

The grass and trees that show up are watered, if you will, by those aquifers underground. These channels interconnect to provide nourishment to what was most apparent. 

We need channels moving unseen and seen that bring about the vision and mission of the church that fuels the plan and trajectory of every team and every person in our church.  

An Initial Exercise

Draw one central circle with three other circles surrounding the center circle.  Draw lines from the center circle to each of the three circles.

In the center circle, write in your team or ministry. In the other three circles, write in three other teams that directly connect with your team.  Here’s an example:

Two of our members have developed a new Greeter System.  While this system, by name, deals with greeters, they have connections with other teams such as Building & Grounds, Decorating, etc. Now, your churches may not have a decorating team, but ours does and we can certainly see how all of these can intersect well to provide a good first impression.

Another exercise you can do is to ask:  “What role does my team play in feeding our vision and mission?”  Our vision at ARBC is to help all in Denver and the nations believe that Jesus is enough.  How?  By being and making hopeful, joyful disciples of Jesus. So the question is: What role does my team play in helping all of Denver and the nations believe Jesus is enough?  How are we presently helping make hopeful, joyful disciples of Jesus. For some teams, there’s a direct understanding.  For other teams, this may not be apparent upfront. Mine out why not, then create some action steps to move this in the right direction.

This needs to be a part of every church’s DNA: working together to multiply disciples, leaders, classes, services, and churches. This will not be accomplished with a silo mentality.  Let’s be aquifers, interconnecting to provide nourishment to each other as we see to make the vision God’s given our churches a reality.

Where Your Church’s Budget is a Membership Covenant

Our vision for Arapahoe Road Baptist Church is for all of Denver and the nations to believe Jesus is enough.  That’s our future dream.  For our friends, relatives, co-workers, neighbors—everyone to see the sufficiency of Christ.  Only through Christ may we have forgiveness of sins and eternal life. Through Christ is the treasure of all wisdom and knowledge (Col 2:3). He is the focus and the point of all Scripture and all that God has revealed. What you do with Christ in this life counts forever.

Everything that we do must move us toward becoming hopeful, joyful disciples of Jesus.  If we do not see that Christ is enough, then the world around us will not be compelled to see Him as enough either.  Our strategy, our teams, all of our plans must answer the big ‘why’ and the big ‘how.’  

  • Why do we do what we’re doing?
  • How does what we’re doing produce hopeful, disciples?

In your hands, you are holding the ARBC Financial Plan, which we also call a Church Budget.  This budget should and must reflect those two questions:  why are we doing what we’re doing?  How does what we’re doing produce hopeful, joyful disciples of Jesus?  

In this passage in Acts, we see a number of things, but allow me to mention two:

First, we are called to be witnesses from our hometown to every town.

Secondly, we must remember that we are witnesses, but witnesses to what?  

You see, we’re all witnesses to whatever worldview we hold.  Our words give indication to it to a degree, but our words, thoughts, and actions all come together to bring clarity to our worldview.

When Jesus told them that they would be witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and the ends of the earth, he meant it as a concentric circle that starts in our hometown with our friends, family, and neighbors, spreads to the region (Judea), to other races and demographics (Samaria) and to the ends of the earth (self-explanatory).  Our vision statement seeks to restate that:  “Where all of Denver (Jerusalem) and the nations believe Jesus is enough.”

Your church’s budget, this financial plan, is a covenant.  The first Sunday in November, our church spends time discussing our financial plan/budget. We have that during our family conference (a.k.a. business meeting).  We bring this out in the open for discussion because we believe that our budget is not simply a financial plan, but a covenant that we as a church body make with God and with each other.  As God leads us to help all in Denver and the nations believe Jesus is enough, we covenant to approve the budget and sacrificially help.

When it comes to stewardship, it’s not about spending less money, it’s about spending God’s money rightly–that’s stewardship.  When the majority of studies conclude that the average church member gives between 1.5 and 2.5% of their income, we have to ask ourselves if we really believe we are stewards of God’s money or earners of our money.

  1. When you give, remember all that Christ has given to you.  As the Corinthians did, so we must give in remembering the grace that God has bestowed on us.  If we struggle to give to the Lord’s work, primarily through the church through which you’ve made this covenant, then what is going on in our heart?  Do we believe we’ve earned his grace just like we’ve earned our money?  His grace is a gift.  The resources you have is a gift.  So give as He has given to you!
  2. Remember that every penny you give goes to help others know about Jesus, grow in Jesus, and go for Jesus.  Do you long to be a part of something significant, something great, something eternal?  What is greater than telling all that Jesus is enough?

But missions in our Jerusalem is not something we can farm out to the professionals.  Our budget in-house is our financial plan that allocates resources that you contribute to help make our vision of Jesus being enough for Denver and the nations to become a reality.  Our mission field is just as crucial as everywhere else because that’s where we live.  We are truthbearers who are here. Let’s be all here.

It’s Not About You: Coming Into the Lord’s Day Rightly

My friend*, Hershael York, posted this rather choice devotional on Facebook this past Sunday morning that really hit home regarding our attitudes in approaching our Lord’s Day.

What are you thinking on this Lord’s Day morning? Whose glory do you seek? Whose feelings matter to you?

Are you thinking about sleeping so you can get more rest? It’s not about you.

Are you thinking of staying home so you can catch up on the list of things that you can never seem to do? It’s not about you.

Are you worried about your clothes, that they’re not as nice or as fashionable as what others wear to church? It’s not about you.

Do you feel troubled that others get the best parking places, or the best seats, or a better view? It’s not about you.

Do you hold a grudge against someone you feel has slighted you or said something to you that wounded your pride and hurt your feelings? It’s not about you.

Do you lament that the pastor’s sermons are too long and make you late to the restaurant so you can’t be seated immediately? It’s not about you.

Do you resent that an offering is received and you feel guilty because you don’t contribute much to the mission of the church? It’s not about you.

Do you feel distracted, even self-righteous, because you know that so many people in the church are hypocrites and do not live through the week what they pretend on Sunday? It’s not about you.

Do you feel such gratitude in your heart that God has saved you through the finished work of Christ that you must go and praise Him with His redeemed people? Good. It’s about Him.

Do you long to hear the Word preached this morning because you know that it will be the voice of God speaking personally to your weary heart? Good. It’s about Him.

Do you have such a passion to exalt Christ that a thousand wounding words from a hundred hypocritical Christians could not keep you from the worship of the One who gave His life for you? Good. It’s about Him.

Are you so willing to be possessed and guided by the Holy Spirit that, even before you get to church, you are saturated with prayers for God to do something significant in your heart this morning that will bring glory to Him? Good. It’s about Him.

Your life is either lived for you, and you’ll lose it, or it’s lived for Christ, and it will be richer and more rewarding than you can imagine. No time in your week will reveal whose glory you care about more than the way you prepare for worship. It’s not about you. It’s about Him.

* He also is a preaching professor at Southern Seminary and Senior Pastor at Buck Run Baptist Church in Frankfort, KY. But for me, friend will do quite nicely.

Five Keys for Young Preachers to Remember

Young preachers have their work cut out for them.They sense a call to preach.  They may go to school or sit with their pastor to learn some basics about preaching.  Many scholars and pastors write books on the subject.

But the only way to really learn how to preach is to, well, preach. Even so, young preachers would do well to have a paradigm from which they work to approach their sermons.  This will help not only them, but their listeners that they so want to see know and grow in Christ.

Intention.  Preaching needs a plan.  What is your intention with your sermon?  This involves much prayer and study of the text at hand.  If you preach expositionally, you will certain have the parameters of the text from which to proceed.  But given that the Spirit has inspired the Word, you must engage in persistent prayer and study of the passage.  Cull your sermon down to one main point or intention.  Even if you use multiple points, they should all feed the main intention.

Inform.  Yes, preaching is about information.  You are passing along propositional truths.  Grammatically, these are known as indicatives—truths and objective facts of what God has revealed in His Word.  “Christ has died, and has risen, and will come again” is an example.  This speaks to what has been done.

Be careful not to bring every last thing you’ve culled in your study.  You risk being a fire hose on your unsuspecting people.  They point is not to show how much information you know, but the goal is transformation by the Word and the Spirit (Romans 12:1-2).

Inspire.  This brings passion to the propositions!  This gives heat to the light of God’s Word.  To preach God’s Word without the corresponding passion will not inspire.  The Apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians 5:14 says, “For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died” (NIV).  That inner drive, that inner compulsion, that inner desire to rally the troops!  This must be present—without it, it will land flat.  And there’s no reason this should ever happen.  It’s the Word!  Preach!!

Illustrate.  Preachers must connect biblical truth to present-day situations.  Illustrations aren’t selling out, as if the Word is not sufficient!  It is—and we must illustrate how the Word is brought to bear to the culture today.  Spurgeon brings his usual insight:

In addressing my students in the College long ago, I was urging upon them the duty and necessity of using plenty of illustrations in their preaching, that they might be both interesting and instructive. I reminded them that the Saviour had many likes in his discourses. He said, over and over again, “The kingdom of heaven is LIKE”; “The kingdom of heaven is LIKE.” “Without a parable spake he not unto them.” The common people heard him gladly, because he was full of emblem and simile. A sermon without illustrations is like a room without windows. One student remarked that the difficulty was to get illustrations in any great abundance. “Yes”, I said, “if you do not wake up, but go through the world asleep, you cannot see illustrations; but if your minds were thoroughly aroused, and yet you could see nothing else in the world but a single tallow candle, you might find enough illustrations in that luminary to last you for six months.”

Illustrations bring light onto the truth being preached.  You do not want to leave your people in the dark, do you?

Infuse.  I use this word as a way to infuse the power of the Word by the Spirit into the lives of the believers through application.  It’s the ‘so-what’ factor.  “OK, you’re telling me this today—so what?”  Again, this is not taking over for the Holy Spirit.  Whereas the ‘inform’ aspect is about the indicatives, the ‘infuse’ part deals with the ‘imperatives’—the commands.  “Walk worthy of the gospel.”  The Ten Commandments.  “Go, and do likewise.”  These commands are infused via the information and illustrations given.  You then inspire through the Spirit’s work in your heart concerning what God has revealed in Scripture.

Yes, young preachers have their work cut out for them—but if you have this paradigm before you, it will make the sermon easier on you—and your dear listeners.

Thoughts?  Do you remember your first sermon?  How have you changed from then until now?

 

Broadus Warns of the Danger of Sensationalistic Preaching


broadusRecently, I’ve grown fascinated with John Broadus, most know for being one of the founding members and later a president of my alma mater, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky.  He’s also known for penning one of the greatest preaching manuals in our nation’s history, A Treatise on the Preparation and Delivery of Sermons (hardcover |Kindle ).

One of the warnings he gave his students was on the danger of sensationalistic preaching, that is, preaching that strictly appeals to the emotions of the listener rather than to the mind.  Beecher Johnson, contributor to John Broadus: A Living Legacy, defines this as

… using any means to gain the ear of, or have an effect on, the audience that does not honor the sacred nature of God and the things of God or ensure singular focus on the spiritual and theological message of God in the text (216).

In the mid to late 1800’s to even now, preaching that is rooted in emotion rather than revelation of Scripture fails to honor God and will fail to change lives in any substantial way.

In that same book, Steven Lawson gives a warning to churches today:

Pressure to produce bottom-line results has led many ministries to sacrifice the centrality of biblical preaching on the altar of man-centered pragmatism.  A new way of “doing” church is emerging.  In this radical paradigmatic shift, exposition is being replaced with entertainment, preaching with performances, doctrine with drama, and theology with theatrics (Famine in the Land, p. 25, quoted in A Living Legacy, p. 213). 

Pray for preachers of the gospel, that they rely on the testimony of Scripture rather that the shifting sands of sensationalism.  That’s what the world and the church most needs.

Do You Have Cirrhosis of the Giver?

“There is a disease which is particularly virulent in this part of the twentieth century.  It is called cirrhosis of the giver.  It was actually discovered about 34 A.D., and ran a terminal course in a couple named Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5).  It is an acute condition which renders the patient’s hand immobile when it attempts to move from the billfold to the offering plate.  The remedy is to remove the afflicted from the House of God, since it is clinically observable that this condition disappears in alternative environments such as golf courses or clubs or restaurants.”

— Kent Hughes, Mark, Volume II.  1989, p. 134.

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