D.A. Carson on Preaching from Various Parts of Scripture

D.A. Carson is one of my favorite scholars.  His commitment to Biblical authority and his helpfulness in preaching the Scriptures rightly has been something from which I’ve benefited for years. 

Below are lectures he gave in regards to preaching from the gospels and the apocalyptic literature in Scripture.  (HT:  Monergism)

Preaching the Gospels 1 (MP3)

Preaching the Gospels 2 (MP3)

Preaching the Gospels 3 (MP3)

Preaching Apocalyptic 1 (MP3)

Preaching Apocalyptic 2 (MP3)

Discussion (MP3)

My Preaching Blog Back in Operation as Exposition Avenue

After an almost six month hiatus, delving in almost exclusively to my Gospel Gripped blog, I am now back to posting periodically at this blog, now retooled and been renamed:  Exposition Avenue.

Why Exposition Avenue?2012-06-19 13.13.28

Exposition Ave. is the name of a street here in Denver.  I would pass it frequently, and I thought to myself, “Wouldn’t it be great if our churches travelled on this road; not literally, but in practice?  Wouldn’t it be great if not just our preaching, but every part of our church life here at Arapahoe Road Baptist Church was an exposition of the teaching of Scripture?” 

My passion for expositional preaching stems from a personal journey that has included a life of ‘impositional living’—that is, me imposing my own interpretation and my own ‘reading’ upon the Scripture.  There is no room for this!  We expose the true meaning, context, and application directly from Scripture by the means of the Holy Spirit so as to expose the idols of our lives, have them toppled, so the Spirit would reign full and free.

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Thanks for being a part of my outlet as a Christian, husband, father, pastor, and preacher of the Gospel.  I can’t wait to see what God does with us!

“Be Well Instructed in Theology”—a Timely Word from Spurgeon

“Be well instructed in theology, and do not regard the sneers of those who rail at it because they are ignorant of it.  Many preachers are not theologians, and hence the mistakes which they make.  It cannot do any hurt to the most lively evangelist to be also a sound theologian, and it may often be the means of saving him from gross blunders.  Nowadays, we hear men tear a single sentence of Scripture from its connection, and cry, ‘Eureka! Eureka!’ as if they had found a new truth; and yet they have not discovered a diamond, but only a piece of broken glass.  Had they been able to compare spiritual things with spiritual, had they understood the analogy of the faith, and had they been acquainted with the holy learning of the great Bible students of past ages, they would not have been quite so fast in vaunting their marvelous knowledge.

“Let us be thoroughly well acquainted with the great doctrines of the Word of God, and let us be mighty in expounding the Scriptures.  I am sure that no preaching will last so long, or build up the church so well, as the expository.  To renounce altogether the hortatory [giving exhortation] discourse for the expository, would be running to a preposterous extreme; but I cannot too earnestly assure you that, if your ministries are to be lastingly useful, you must be expositors.  For this purpose, you must understand the Word yourselves, and be able so to comment upon it that the people may be built up by the Word.  Be masters of your Bibles, brethren; whatever others works you have not searched, be at home with the writings of the prophets and apostles.  ‘Let the word of God dwell in you richly.’”

— Charles H. Spurgeon, An All Round Ministry (c. 1870s)

The Threat of the Gospel Going Into Eclipse

“It is easy for a preacher to be bold when he is in his own pulpit, among friends.  But when there are manifestly hostile people breathing out fire, as Stephen was soon to find out, a bold preacher takes great risk.  That is why Martin Luther said that in every generation there will be the threat of the gospel going into eclipse.  Every time the gospel is proclaimed, clearly and boldly, opposition arises and conflict comes.  A minister has never mounted a pulpit anywhere in the world who has not been absolutely aware of how dangerous it is to be bold.  So when preachers are fearful, they have to come back to this text and look at the way the Apostles, without respect for their lives or their worldly goods, would say like Luther, “Let goods and kindred go, this mortal life also,” and then preach with boldness” (R.C. Sproul, Acts, St. Andrews Commentary—in commenting on Acts 2:14-41). 

Caricatures of True Preaching

Alistair Begg in his small book Preaching for God’s Glory outlines a number of caricatures of true preaching.  He begins this section:

If churches or their pastors begin to think of the place from which messages are delivered to the congregation as a stage, it is inevitable that caricatures of the preacher will emerge to take the true preacher’s place.  Sadly, this is precisely what has happened.  In our day the expositor of Scripture has been eclipsed by a variety of sad substitutions.

Here they are, complete with paraphrases of what these entail:

  1. The cheerleader.  The preacher’s task is to “pump them up.”  He has a need to be liked or accepted, and aims to be positively inspirational.  “A good Sunday for him is one where his people laugh a lot, are affirmed and affirming, and go away more self-assured than when they arrived. . . .  A quest for wholeness has replaces a concern for holiness.”
  2. The conjurer.  Where the preacher does not want to do the hard work of studying, but rather conjures up his own meaning to the text and fails to discover and look to what the biblical author/Holy Spirit intended by the text. 
  3. The storyteller.  Everyone loves a good story more than exposition of the Bible.  Thus, they find themselves working on telling a good story rather than working on understanding the Word of God better.  While Jesus did use stories (parables), Begg notes that this “does not grant the contemporary preacher the license to tell stories devoid of heavenly meaning that are of no earthly use!”
  4. The entertainer.  This is where the special preacher is not a worshiper with the throng, but is in the green room backstage ready to come on when it’s time.  While this is not entirely bad or sinful, this format risks a disconnect between the worshipers seeking to be entertained and the speaker wishing to entertain.  Both are worshiping and both have a job to do. 
  5. The systematizer.  This is the preacher who “views the text of Scripture as merely the backdrop for a doctrinal lecture. . .  The systematizer’s theological framework is so pronounced that it predominates the exposition.”  The risk is a lack of passion.  Scripture rules the framework, not vice versa.
  6. The psychologist:  Preachers preach on tips on how to raise your children, dealing with impatience, or purchasing flowers for your wife.  All of this can be done (and sadly is done) without reference to Scripture, causing listeners to be malnourished.  Why?  They need a banquet of the Word of God!
  7. The naked preacher:  In an effort to be authentic, the preacher shares all of his faults and foibles, warts and wrinkles to the congregation.  The risk is that it becomes an exercise in the pastor being “real” or “relevant”—and ultimately about the one preaching rather than about the One on whom we should be preaching—Jesus Christ and His redemptive work.

Begg goes on to say that there are those who are the “politician,” “end-times guru” or “hobby horse rider.”  We have a job to do and an announcement to convey—the Good News of God’s work through the cross and empty tomb of Jesus Christ.  Let’s be careful not to get off track. 

Any other caricatures you can think of?

Raising and Training Aspiring Preachers in Your Church

Kevin Larson at The Resurgence wrote a very compelling piece called “Why You Should Raise Up Preachers at Your Church.”  He notes that some church planters (and I would add even pastors of more established churches) fear vacating the pulpit for even a week because they are under the delusion that the church rises and falls on them. 

I found this quote interesting:

Do you feel alone in the struggles of preaching? Let someone else take a stab at it. The old joke that a pastor only works on Sundays won’t garner many laughs as other men take turns wrestling with God and a text and then proclaiming the results to God’s people. Many fear that sharing the pulpit will invite further criticism of their weakness, but generally the opposite occurs. Don’t be so insecure.

While I believe a calling has something to do with fueling preachers to preach 3-4 times each week, I actually have heard this from one of my deacons.  He said, “Bro. Matt, if anyone comes up to me about your preaching, I always tell them two things: (1) He’s preaching the Bible, and (2) would any of us be willing to give it a try.  When you’ve walked in a pastor’s shoes, you then begin to understand His calling.  So pray for him.”  I was so appreciative of that—not because he defended me (I do not feel that need), but because I know his prayers have teeth because he ‘gets’ to a degree what pastors go through.

But back to the original issue.  I had the pleasure of training young expositors as part of my Doctor of Ministry project at Southern.  It was one of the great joys of my life and I’m ready to tackle that again—ready to pour into others regarding preaching and ministry in general.   Not all of these men I trained during my DMin went into the preaching ministry.  In fact, one is now a band director and another is a worship leader (the latter found out through this project that he was not called to preach—but at least he worked through it to see). 

But we must not allow pride and insecurity to be used as leverage to rob others of the joy of ministry.  This has been a slow turn for me, but over the last twelve months, God has released me to see that I need to do more equipping and unleashing.  And it’s starting to take shape with missions, small groups, fellowships, and other areas. 

What think ye?

Preacher-Onlys Are Not Good Preachers

Tim Keller gives some great advice to those pastors who see themselves as preacher-onlys, at the expense of developing other areas of their leadership.  Here’s an excerpt:

I have often seen many men spend a great amount of time on preparing and preaching lengthy, dense, expository messages, while giving far less time and energy to the learning of leadership and pastoral nurture. It takes lots of experience and effort to help a body of people make a unified decision, or to regularly raise up new lay leaders, or to motivate and engage your people in evangelism, or to think strategically about the stewardship of your people’s spiritual gifts, or even to discern what they are. It takes lots of experience and effort to know how to help a sufferer without being either too passive or too directive, or to know when to confront a doubter and when to just listen patiently. Pastors in many of our Reformed churches do not seem to be as energized to learn to be great leaders and shepherds, but rather have more of an eye to being great teachers and preachers.

I’d point us to the example of John Calvin himself. No one put more emphasis on expository preaching as central to ministry. And yet ..

(To read the rest, click here.) 

When External Issues Affect Your Exposition

Every so often as a preacher of the gospel, you will have external issues which will affect your thinking and your countenance prior to your entry into the pulpit.   Issues that happen at home, or just before the service can take the wind out of your sails and affect the tone of your sermon.   What are some steps you can take?

  1. Get as much ready at home on Saturday night.  Lay out the clothes for all your children and yourself on Saturday night.  Get a good night’s sleep so that Sunday morning is not rushed–which may mean arising out of bed a half-hour to an hour earlier than normal.
  2. Set up boundaries regarding conversation before your sermon.  This morning, a deacon approached me about something.  I told him, “If this is bad news and can wait until afterwards, can we talk about it then?”  He told me, “Preacher, I wouldn’t do that to you”–then he smiled.   Emergencies will come up (such was the case with us when we had flooding downstairs) that need immediate attention.  But otherwise, address these issues at a later time, for the morning preaching is far too important.  The preacher needs all of his faculties in working order.
  3. Be aware that Satan will do all he can to ruin our disposition before we walk out of our house.   Need I say more?
  4. Be sure you are bathed in prayer during the first portion of the service. Engage in the congregational singing and prayer.  Enjoy the fellowship you may have with your people.  Greet visitors and let them know how thankful you are they came and how you’d like to partner with them in prayer.  But ask the Lord to bring you into His presence so our minds and hearts are focused on Him and His Word!
  5. Be sure you know your passage well! You never know what will happen on the morning of the preaching event, so the preparation during the week is absolutely critical.  Like a football player who knows his routes or blocking schemes through the weekly preparation and repetition, so does this apply to preachers of the Word.  The week should be having the Word on which we shall be preaching simmering in our hearts and minds as a grid for all we do.
  6. Remember your calling! Strengthen your people!  Share the gospel!  Fulfill your ministry in the power of the Holy Spirit!  You have the risen and victorious Christ empowering you!

Any other thoughts?

Another Case For Expositional Preaching

This morning, I had the privilege of preaching from Matthew 6:25-34 on the subject of anxiety.  I mentioned that faith cures anxiety, but anxiety kills faith.  This sermon landed on a Sunday when our church will have a Q&A time concerning the possibility of a new building.  As you can imagine, a lot of anxiety comes with that.  Do we have the money?  Is it really necessary?  With the economy the way it is, is it wise?  The questions and concerns can pile up.

This passage, though next in line in the series on the Sermon on the Mount, landed perfectly because of our God’s sovereign providence.  If we seek primarily the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, then God will take care of the necessities of our life.

Last week, I preached on Matthew 6:19-24 on a sermon I titled “A Better Economic Plan.”  You see, all that week, we saw the Dow drop, and drop, and drop.  God tells us the futility of laying up our treasures on earth because we allow those treasures to govern who we are and what we do.  I did not change my sermon for the occasion–God knew from eternity that our people would need to hear that message that Christ preached on the Sermon on the Mount.

We may believe we know what our people need to hear, but don’t give up on expositional preaching through the text of Scripture.   The Holy Spirit laid out the Scriptures in a certain way for a certain reason, so it would behoove us as preachers to preach them from that inspired layout.

I hope to post more in the future (been a bit sparse over the last two months).  Thanks to those of you who have inquired about this.  It’s encouraging.

Giving Opportunities to Young, Aspiring Ministers

I am now in Florida, celebrating mine and my wife’s tenth anniversary. In my absence from my pulpit at Boone’s Creek, God really laid something on my heart. He basically said, “My son, you have three young men in your church who feel a call into the preaching ministry. You know My hand is on them. Give them an opportunity to preach My truth.”

And so this morning, I just got off the phone with Eric Masters who will be preaching this morning. Eric has grown up at Boone’s Creek and I know the temptation he may be facing — for I faced it sixteen years ago. Since this is his home church and he is preaching on Sunday morning, the temptation is to make the home church folks proud. As I prayed with him, I simply prayed that his authority and grounding would be found in God’s Word and in nothing else. You see, when I preached my first sermon as a 21-year-old in front of my home church, I was so concerned that I wouldn’t let them down, that I really butchered His Word because, in hindsight, God’s Word was not the focus of my sermon — those people were.

Cameron Potts, a college student at EKU, will preach tonight. Boone’s Creek is not his home church, but we are his home away from home while he’s at college. Cam feels a call into the preaching and pastoral ministry.

Bo McMillan will preach on Sunday morning, August 10. He’s also a college student at EKU as well. He feels a call to work with Campus Crusade for Christ.

God has gifted each of these young men in different ways. We would do well to remember Paul’s admonition to Timothy:

2 Tim. 3:16-4:5
All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righ teousness, [17] that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.
[4:1] I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: [2] preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. [3] For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, [4] and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. [5] As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.

Churches, are there young men being called out of your church into the ministry? Then take up the mantle to give them opportunities to serve and exercise their gifts among the body of Christ.