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)
“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)
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.
I have found that one of the best developments in the area of sermon preparation for me is journaling. In fact, I have begun to use a Moleskine journal in order to write out my sermon notes before I even touch a computer. Here’s how one looks:
Since March 28 (when I began using this type of journal), I have written just over 130 pages in my 240-page Moleskine. How has this helped my walk with Christ in general and my sermon preparation specifically?
- I begin reading the text from which I shall preach devotionally. Journaling helps me to read the passage personally so the Word can soak into the fabric of my being. If I expect my people to come before God in his house and soak in the Word being preached, I must put myself before God beforehand so his Word will soak into me. This practice of journaling has really transformed this. I am not merely reading the Bible so I can get ‘stuff’ for my sermon. I’m seeing what Howard Hendricks notes in his book Living By the Book that Bible study is for life-change. With this, I am fully engaged in the “so-what factor” — I always leave room in my entries to seek God in apply His Word, i.e., application, i.e., the ‘so-what factor.’ “This is what the Bible says? Great! So what?” I am able to prayerfully brainstorm some implications.
- I think better with pen and paper than I do in front of a computer. In a post at another blog I run, I noted: “Speaking of Moleskine: I am hooked, and I have Joe Thorn to blame for it. I was a Mead Composition Notebook guy, but found that the paper, the wide ruled nature of the layout, and the ease with which it falls apart made me begin to look for other options. So, I tried a Moleskine, and now I love it and am hooked on journaling, especially when it comes to sermon preparation. I find that if I write out my research in this journal rather than type it out on a computer, I absorb the content a bit more and the sermon becomes more personal to me as well.”
- It’s portable. I do laptops, but dude are they a burden to carry, especially around an airport. But, if I need to travel and do some sermon preparation, I take my ESV Personal Size Bible, my Large Ruled Moleskine Notebook, my Large 18-Month Moleskine Planner, my Zebra F-301 0.7 mm fine point pen, photocopies of sections of commentaries from which I will be preaching, stick them in a manila envelope, and I am set. Then, when I get to a computer, I can just start typing.
- It actually helps my penmanship. Computers not only hinder my thinking, but also kill my penmanship. I am just stunned at how sloppy my writing became.
- It leaves a legacy. For more on this, I would recommend reading through Don Whitney’s Simplify Your Spiritual Life. He notes that in 100 years, your relatives may not know about you at all — except if you journal.
Do any of you journal as part of your sermon preparation? If so, what are some methods you use? We can always learn from each other.
Many times, the rigors of ministry make the primacy of our calling as expositors dim. Here what Spurgeon has to say:
Unless we are careful, we shall be likely to say to ourselves, “Monday evening here again, I must give an address at the prayer-meeting. Thursday evening, and I have to preach, although I have not yet a topic! Sunday morning, Sunday evening; I have to preach again! Yes, preach again! Then there are all those extra engagements; it is for ever preach, preach, preach! I am always preaching. What a weariness it is!” Preaching ought to be a joy, yet it becomes a task. Constant preaching should be constant enjoyment, and yet, when the brain is tired, pleasure flies. Like the sick boy in the prophet’s day, we are ready to cry, “My head! My head!” We ask, “How can we keep up our freshness?” It is hard to produce so much with such scant leisure for reading; it is almost as bad as making bricks without straw. Nothing can maintain us in the freshness of our beginnings but the daily anointing of the Spirit” (The All-Round Ministry, Pilgrim Publications, 1973, pp. 134-135.)
I can entirely sympathize with this, but am continually thankful that God continues to replenish and supply. What steps do you take to remain fresh in your preaching ministry?
Whereas conventional wisdom in most evangelical circles dictates that pastors would do well to avoid the hard texts, my contention is that pastors should never shy away from this. While the Joel Osteens and the Robert Schullers of the world will shy away from such dealings , I believe that many in our pews are just wanting a pastor who will deal directly with what the Bible says and address the issue at hand.
A case in point: the past two Sundays, I have preached on two rather “hard texts”: one dealing with the role of women in the church, the other on the necessity of giving. After each of those sermons, one of my deacons came out and said, “Man, I thought you’d be black and blue right now — you really laid it out there.” But the reaction couldn’t have been different. By the grace and glory of God, I received thank you’s for being willing to tackle such issues and helping to make things clear.
Why should we preach the hard texts as well as the other types to our people?
- Those texts are in the Scriptures! Obvious, yes. But I have had well-meaning ministers tell me that just because it is in the Bible does not necessarily mean it will be appropriate to preach on. This is why I make the case for expositional preaching: if forces you to deal with a text that your flesh may tempt you to avoid.
- For all the talk about our people despising authority, I believe they are looking for solid ground on which to stand. We all are. All this noise about postmodernism winning the day is far too premature. It may be prevalent, but it hasn’t won anything. If anything, our culture feels more in the dark than ever because many people’s spiritual journey is leading them down some deadends. Preachers must never forget the supernatural transformational power of the Scriptures that are breathed out by the Spirit of God himself! Never give up preaching! The world may deem it folly, but to those who are being saved it is the power of God (1 Corinthians 1:18).
- People, especially Christians, long to be dealt with honestly. Many in my generation are becoming angry at the church for their failure to teach them the things of the faith. They praise God for churches sharing the gospel with them and showing them Jesus, but afterwards they become afraid of being too doctrinal (read: divisive) and therefore they do not “grow in the grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18).
- People feel patronized when pastors fail to deal with a text or issue. When pastors avoid these texts, they are in so many words telling their people, “You really can’t handle this right now.” Yet, pastors who stay with their churches and invest their time in their people can take them along slowly and help them step-by-step. Young pastors especially need to remember that you don’t need to tell them everything you know (or think you know) in one sermon. Pour yourself out into your people and teach them with patience (1 Timothy 4:13-16).
What do you think?