Latest Event Updates
I’m grateful to all of you who have visited this blog. I have moved now to http://www.drmattperry.com and am pouring my writing about preaching, pastoring, and productivity. The site is called Lead With Joy. May God help all church leaders do just that. Stop by, read up, and let’s sharpen each other for the gospel cause.
The day is coming. One of the two ‘big days’ of the year for worship services in general, and preachers specifically. One of those days is right around the corner: Christmas. Usually, two services around this time really matter during Christmas time are the service the Sunday before Christmas, and the Christmas Eve Service. I include the Christmas Eve service because in my 20+ years of ministry and almost 12 years as the preaching pastor of local churches, I’m always amazed at how well Christmas Eve services are attended. People who come to these many times do not come to a regular worship gathering. So preachers should prepare as well for the Christmas Eve service Sunday-before-Christmas service.
As expositors, what do we do?
First, resist the temptation to discard or disregard or discount exposition in your sermons. Our conviction is to preach the whole counsel of God and bring out the Book. We believe that God intends for His Word to be shown and searched. That should not change.
However, second, concision would suit the occasion better. While the background of the Magi would be an interesting foray into biblical history, this may not time. While flexing the lexical muscles of your Greek and Hebrew prowess may impress on other Sundays, refrain on this one.
Thirdly, be conside and be clear. Roll out the main point (or the Big Idea, for all you Haddon Robinson fans), and stay tethered to it for the duration of the sermon. Get to it. Clearly. Repeatedly. Make it pass the 3 AM test, where you could call your listeners up at 3:00 AM the following week and ask them what the point of the sermon was, and they could answer!
Fourthly, be Christian. ‘Be gooder, do better’ sermons need to go the way of the do-do. Preach about not what your listeners should do, but drive home what Christ has done. Don’t pour on more law, but slather your sermon in God’s mercy and grace. Do we avoid the sticky subject of sin? No, for Christ came to save His people from just such a thing (Matthew 1:21). But by him coming is the epitome of his mercy and grace put into action, culminating at the bloody cross and the empty tomb.
Fifthly, encourage them to come, and keep coming. The church is the Bride of Christ, the body of Christ, the pillar and ground of the truth, and puts on display the manifold wisdom of God. This is a great place to be, a place where sinners can come to be with other sinners who have been rescued by Christ. Help them to take that next step in their journey with Christ. And ultimately, you want them to repent of their sins and come to Christ.
Sixthly, once they come, encourage them to connect. Christ has set up his church and various local kingdom outposts for us to join and be accountable. Through baptism, membership, connecting in a small group, connecting with another fellow member of the church for discipleship and accountability as well will provide that connection so many in our world long for, and the church provides in Christ.
Seventh, encourage them to contribute. Everyone wants to belong to something and Someone bigger than themselves. As they connect, they grow and mature to the next step of leadership and contributing to the work as ambassadors of the Kingdom. Again, help them to take that next step.
What else would you suggest as an expositor over Christmas?
Preaching is not simply a Sunday morning event. By that, I am NOT speaking of having more preaching events on Saturday nights, etc. And by this, I do not mean to deemphasize the declaritive method and mode of preaching. Preaching is not a conversation, but Proclamation.
What I mean is that preaching from the pulpit must translate into a passion in the pew. We must take what we’ve learned while listening to preaching of the gospel, and take that message to our friends, relatives, Associates, and neighbors.
For the pastor, preaching must also translate from the pulpit to personal conversations that take place Monday through Saturday. What I mean is that preaching must not be the only time that pastors and preachers share the gospel. We will not be let off the hook if little happens in evangelism during the week. The evangelistic fervor the pastor has during the week will fuel the Sunday preaching. Along with this, The Sunday preaching of the Word of God will fuel our evangelistic fervor the following week. Just as we believe as pastors that the Word of God can and does change hearts by the Spirit during the preaching event, we also realize that the Word of God can change hearts during our evangelistic and counselling endeavors. It’s a duel fuel.
You’ve heard of writer’s block, right? The blank page just stares back at him–and nothing. The ideas have dried up. Inspiration and motivation have taken a vacation.
Do preachers ever get preacher’s block? Sadly, they do. They look at the Scriptures from which they are to preach, and nothing comes. Few things are more frightening or discouraging. Even expositors, who know from which book and passage they shall preach, have those holy and inspired words look back at them and sense little movement, little excitement, little… anything! What should a preacher do? I’ll list off a few things.
First, take a spiritual inventory of your personal relationship with Christ. Are you still communing with him in prayer and study of Scripture even if it’s not directly tied to your sermon? Are you only in the Scriptures because you are compensated for doing so? Jesus is not simply your job–He’s your Lord and Savior. It’s good to take a spiritual inventory to (1) see if you are in Christ, and (2) evaluate your relationship and your engaging in the spiritual disciplines.
Two, once you’ve prayed, get away from distractions. For the preacher and pastor, this may mean getting away from the office or getting out of the house. “The office? That’s where all my books and commentaries are.” And… your point? Go to a coffee shop, find a quiet spot, and clear your mind. I go up to a local eatery called Corner Bakery here in town. Other times, I find a small hidden room in the church. Once a year, I check into a hotel for a couple days, leave the TV off, and just decompress. I’m thankful for our Colorado Baptists that have a camp in Monument called Ponderosa. Pastors can take a night or two free of charge to get away, either by themselves or with their family. You may have some places like this near where you live. Ask around. You’d be surprised. And your congregation would be grateful.
Thirdly, read meaty works on the subject or the passage from which you preach. Tread lightly here. You could find yourself standing behind the pulpit, preaching Edwards or Spurgeon or Keller or Piper or Warren. Some do go so far as to preach other people’s sermons, salving their conscience a bit by giving full attribution. Fellow pastors, they called you as their pastor to feed the sheep. We already have an Edwards, Spurgeon, Keller, Piper, or Warren. Go and drink from the fountain of the Spirit, but recognize that the Spirit has given us theological and pastoral giants on whose shoulders we may stand. They may shake out the scales from your homiletical eyes.
Fourthly, ask yourself if you’re trying to be too creative or clever. Are you taking the Word and its power for granted? Are you saying to yourself, “Yes, I know the Word is there, but if I just had that zinger, that one-liner, that illustration, then this sermon would have power!” While illustrations and the like are, as Spurgeon said, like windows that shed light on the Scripture, the true power lies in the Word, which will accomplish all that God seeks it to accomplish” (Isaiah 55:11-12). Maybe you need to back off your cleverness and get back to the pure preaching of the Word.
Lastly, talk to another pastor about this. He may be on staff with you, he may be a fellow pastor in the area, he may be a mentor from days gone by. God has given us friends who have journeyed this path as well. You’re not alone. Pray together with them. Share with them. Ask their advice about a passage. Or talk about something completely unrelated. You can overthink yourself into a corner.
What are some things you’ve done to break the preacher’s block?
I confess, I preach from a Samsung Galaxy Tab, so I may be jumping fences here in sending this article forward, but Tim Challies has some excellent tips on preaching from an iPad.
I started preaching from my Galaxy Tab about six months ago and truly love it. It’s environmentally sound (because I don’t have to print off my sermon on paper, using precious wood and ink unnecessarily), and I don’t have to worry about misplacing my notes—they are all there.
Just heed the tips Mr. Challies gives! Hint: You don’t want your SportsCenter app to go off in the middle of your sermon. You can find out how the Bengals did after the service.
I’d love your thoughts on the matter.
Steve Lawson gives ten characteristics of Calvin’s preaching that we expositors would do well to emulate. You can read more about this in his book John Calvin: A Heart for Devotion, Doctrine, and Doxology .
As many of you know, today is the 150th anniversary of the delivery of the Gettysburg Address by then President Abraham Lincoln. He was invited to attend the dedication of the Soldiers’ National Cemetery give some brief remarks to commemorate the battle that took place just months before (July 1-3, 1863) where almost 30,000 Americans (Union and Confederate) gave their lives for their respective causes. Though Edward Everett, a great orator of the time, served as the keynote speaker and spoke for over two hours, Lincoln’s speech took only ten sentences and landed shy of 300 words, Everett recognized that Lincoln captured the spirit of the times better in two minutes than he did in two hours.
Fourscore and seven years ago, our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.
Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that this nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.
But, in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate, we cannot consecrate, we cannot hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task before us–that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion–that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain–that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom–and that government of the people, by the people, and for the people, shall not perish from the earth.
So why speak about this on a blog regarding ex the positional preaching? Simply put, Lincoln engaged in exposition himself. He sought to expose the meaning, not of Bible as we preachers aim to do, but of the Declaration of Independence. He started off, “Four score and seven years ago.” This 87 year marker took the listeners back not to the Constitution’s ratification (1787–only 76 years prior), but to 1776 when the Declaration of Independence was signed. Lincoln sought to take the readers ‘ad fontes’–to the source of the nation that declared that all men were “created equal.” This issue did not simply go toward the South, but to also the Northerners who struggled with the ethics and rationale behind the war. Racism was not relegated to the Confederacy. The issue of slavery was left untouched by the Founders and the foundational documents of our nation, but the idea of all men begin created equal had far reaching ramifications.
Expositors take our document (the Bible) and preach not simply to expose the Bible, but to expose the hearts that listen to the Bible. For many, a disconnect exists between His Word and our world–just like the disconnect existed between the Declaration of Independence and the declaration of most citizens living under that document. And it took a Civil War to bring these issues to a head. Did “a new nation conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal” really come to pass?
Lincoln in his exposition called for an invitation, if you will. While he recognized that the purpose of the dedication was for the fallen soldiers on that battlefield, he turns this on his listeners Though quoted above, let’s isolate this understanding:
“It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought her have thus so far nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here to the great task remaining before us–that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion–that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain–that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth dedicated of freedom.
Lincoln knew that if he left this as simply something they did as soldiers, it would be left in the dustbin of history. But he put it to the people–they fought, will we? Will we move forward in such a way that the cost they paid would be worth it? Or would it be all for nothing. It’s up to you.
Pastors, we must not preach the Scriptures as a historic artifact, but preach it in such a way that the price that Christ paid on the cross and His work in being raised from the dead is worth the price as He is raised in us (Romans 6:1-4). The price that the martyrs paid will not be in vain. The sacrifices made for the cause of Christ would not be in vain.
What hath the Gettysburg Address to do with exposition? Lincoln exposed the meaning of the text (the Declaration of Independence) and exposed the worldview of the listeners’ hearts. Will we, having the power of the Spirit to lead and aid, do no less with the inspired text of Scripture?