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)

“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)

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.

The Razor’s Edge Balance of a Pastor, Part I

Summary: Have the emergent church folks got it right in saying that pastors shouldn’t not exert any type of ecclesiastical authority in the church, or have the more formal churches got it right when they try to separate themselves from their flock? This is the razor’s edge balance that pastors must find.

—————-

First of all, let me say how glad I am to be back. Cindy and I went to Florida to celebrate our 10th anniversary. My sister let us use one of her timeshares at the Ron Jon Cape Caribe Resort in Port Canaveral. Then we went to St. Augustine about two hours north, then we went south to see some old friends in Clewiston. I had the privilege and the honor of preaching at the First Baptist Church of Clewiston where I served as Minister of Music and Youth from 1998-2001.

While down there, I really had an opportunity to revisit the place where God called me into the preaching ministry. I obtained my B.S. in Church Music from Palm Beach Atlantic University in 1994, then went to the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary to obtain my Master of Church Music, which I received in 1997. I went to FBC-Clewiston right after in March of 1998. I planned on having a long and wonderful ministry among those wonderful people.

God had other plans. A call to preach. Back to seminary. Serving in small churches. Children on the way. Times of joy and times of strain. While in Clewiston, we were financially set and were saving money like crazy. Since, with children and school, finances have been ultra-tight. Yet, being in God’s will has been a tremendous blessing and joy.

As I was pondering this, along with a sermon series I’ll be doing on Church Membership, along with my DMin project which seeks to make the case for the local church to take up the mantle of training preachers, I came across again for the first time (you know what I mean, right?) 1 Peter 5:1-4:

So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed: [2] shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; [3] not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock. [4] And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory (ESV).

I asked the flock at Boone’s Creek Baptist Church here in Lexington, KY, to read this passage and craft it into a prayer for me that I would be able to navigate the razor’s edge of pastoring and preaching.

Pray That I Would Shepherd Diligently

Churches and the people of God are often referred to in the Word of God as a flock of sheep. Wiersbe helped me realize that sheep are clean and tend to flock together (a good thing) but have a tendency to stray, desiring to go their own way. Sheep are defenseless and in need of protection.

As so Jesus as our Great Shepherd has placed undershepherds to serve in shepherding the flock of God.Jesus, as he is in heaven working among the churches (Revelation 1:9-20), initiated his church in such a way that he places pastors (undershepherds) to oversee the people of God. Paul tells young Timothy in 1 Tim. 3:1-2

The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task. [2] Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach.

I would read over this passage and think, “God, no way! Keep me as a music and youth minister, but do not call me as a fellow sinner — and a young fellow sinner at that — to oversee a people.” So for 18 months I wrestled. Yet the Hound of Heaven would not leave me alone! Finally, he brought me to a point where I finally submitted and left Clewiston to return to seminary training and a new area of minister.

Shepherds are not always called on to maintain the peace — sometimes that rod of staff is not just for comfort but for correction! Shepherds of God have a tough balance — pastors are among the sheep as the people of God, but also “over” the flock.

Yet, some pastors swing one way or the other. Some reject having authority, as the emergent church folks tend to do, and say, “It’s not about us having authority, but merely facilitating.” Yet, we are overseers. Hebrews 13:17 addresses this:

Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.

As you can see, it takes prayerful study of God’s Word and a high degree of character to find the God-ordained balance he seeks.

(Tomorrow: Part II — Pray That I Would Shepherd Willingly)

When Journaling Helps Your Preaching

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:

My Large Ruled Moleskine Notebook
My Large Ruled Moleskine Notebook
My sermon notes on Psalm 23
My sermon notes on Psalm 23
Notes in my moleskine for a recent Deacon\'s Meeting
Notes in my moleskine for a recent Deacon

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?

  1. 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.
  2. 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.”
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.

Breaking in a new moleskine!
Breaking in a new moleskine!

When the Delight of Preaching Becomes Routine

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?

How Preaching the Hard Texts Can Endear You To Your People

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?

  1. 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.
  2. 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).
  3. 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).
  4. 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?

The Driving Question of Faithful Preaching Ministries

I find myself pondering the place of the preaching ministry not just in the life of the church in general, but in my church in particular. Having been here almost five years, I am now seeing the importance and the cruciality of leading from the pulpit. The pastor is the primary vision-caster and mission developer of the church by virtue of his leadership status but also due to his studious diligence in his primary duty, preaching and teaching the Word. In Acts 6:1-4, we read:

Now in these days when the disciples were increasing in number, a complaint by the Hellenists arose against the Hebrews because their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution. [2] And the twelve summoned the full number of the disciples and said, “It is not right that we should give up preaching the word of God to serve tables. [3] Therefore, brothers, pick out from among you seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we will appoint to this duty. [4] But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word” (Acts 6:1-4, ESV).

This oft-quoted passage really stresses the necessity of why “prayer and the ministry of the word” is so important. Prayer crafts our hearts to the framework of God’s will and way. The Word helps give us an objective anchor to the relevation of God through the person of Jesus Christ. The pastor is the intercessor and the point person for each local church assembly to connect with God and then in turn connect God’s people with God’s vision for them.

Ultimately, God’s vision for his church is found in Romans 8:28-29:

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. [29] For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.

God’s vision for his local church is to conform his people to Christlikeness. And the preaching ministry should and must drive every person and every other ministry to this pursuit.

Where churches encounter trouble is when we forget the ‘why’ of a particular ministry or program and simply get caught up in the ‘what.’ If a missions program exists, we are tempted to focus on the ‘what’ of that program and how we should have that program because its that program. But when asked ‘why,’ the response can be boiled down to the following: ‘Because this is what has always been done.’ It can be any other ministry in the church.

The pulpit ministry of a church should encourage Christlikeness and challenge the traditions, mindsets, and ministries of the church by asking this question: “How does this exalt Christ, His gospel, and the believer’s transformation to Christlikeness and (to be redundant) holiness?” Pastors must challenge their people in this, regardless of the age or influence of the church. When churches begin to lose sight of this, it is because their leaders have lost sight of this.

So pastors, use the pulpit for not only to faithfully exposit the Word of God, but prayerfully consider how to apply this to your individual people and to the corporate ministries of the church. Evaluate, question, challenge, encourage, love, support, motivate, compel, and pray over everything that takes place under the banner of your local church and, ultimately, the Lord Jesus Christ. Pastors must not be afraid to lead. Hebrews 13:17 says:

Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.

What think ye?

“Brothers, We Are Not Professionals” by John Piper (A Book Review)

“Insulated Western Christianity is waking from the dream world that being a Christian is normal and safe. More and more, true Christianity is becoming what it was at the beginning: foolish and dangerous” (ix). So says John Piper, senior pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and author of Brothers, We Are Not Professionals. Piper sees that the professionalizing of the ministry kills pastors rather than refreshes. He calls pastors to abandon a secular view of seeing their pastoral ministry as a professional vocation and to reclaim the view of God’s call as a prophet. “The aim of this book is to spread a radical, pastoral passion for the supremacy and centrality of the crucified and risen God-Man, Jesus Christ, in every sphere of life and ministry and culture” (xi).

The title of this book is sure to garner attention and even surprise from full-time pastors and preachers. To this, Piper offers his rationale behind the title:

The title of this book is meant to shake us loose from the pressure to fit in to the cultural expectations of professionalism. It is meant to sound an alarm against the pride of station and against the expectation of parity in pay and against the borrowing of paradigms from the professional world. Of for the radically Bible-saturated, God-centered, Christ-exalting, self-sacrificing, mission-mobilizing, soul-saving, culture-confronting pastors!

Summary

Piper divides this book into 30 short chapters that may serve well as a devotional for pastors to read one chapter a day, thus finishing the book by the end of the month. These chapters deal with different areas. The first area Piper addresses is the love of the true nature and glory of God. He lays an excellent foundation for the pastor’s ministry in rightly representing God’s character before his people. Piper also encourages pastors to have a love for the doctrines of the Scriptures by rightly dividing the Word of truth, even the hard texts.

Piper also encourages a love for the church of Jesus Christ. He exhorts pastors to avoid sacred substitutes and man-made traditions which add to and take from the Scriptures all at once. Piper also encourages pastors to actively minister to their people during times of affliction and tragedy, giving them the sacred promises of God and assurance of his presence. He also encourages pastors to preach salvation not just to the lost but also to the saints so they will persevere in the faith.

Piper then encourages pastors to maintain a strong and healthy devotional life. He promotes the priority of prayer, as well as the reading of Christian biography. Pastors must see themselves as fellow servants of Christ and the church and therefore must sincerely model a walk with Christ before their people.

Soundbites

• “[God’s love for his glory] is no isolated note in the symphony of redemptive history. It is the ever-recurring motif of the all-sufficient Composer” (7).
• “The holiness of God is the absolutely unique and infinite value of His being and His majesty. To say that our God is holy means that His value is infinitely greater than the sum of the value of all created beings” (13).
• “Paul warns against any view of God which makes Him the beneficiary of our beneficence. His informs us that God cannot be served in any way that implies we are meeting His needs. It would be as though a stream should try to fill a spring that feeds it” (40).
• “Prayer is the coupling of primary and secondary causes. It is the splicing of our limp wire to the lightning bolt of heaven” (53).
• “Since preaching and the pastoral ministry in general are a great means to the saints’ perseverance, the goal of a pastor is not merely to edify the saints but to save the saints. What is at stake on Sunday morning is not merely the upbuilding of the church but its eternal salvation” (106).
• “The issue of racial prejudice and snubbing and suspicion and mistreatment is not a social issue; it is a blood-of-Jesus issue. When you get the conviction and the courage to say something about it to your people, tell them you are not becoming a social-gospeler but a lover of the blood-bought blessings of the cross of Christ” (197).

Critical Review

John Piper stands as a pastor and scholar captivated by displaying the glory of God in all things. As a result, he sees the professionalization of pastors diametrically opposed to exalting the glory of God in preaching and ministry. God must set the course for Spirit-led pastoral ministry and not the agendas of the world. John Piper’s book is a much-needed tonic for the contemporary evangelical world that looks to the culture first in order to address cultural issues. Piper declares:

We are most emphatically not part of a social team sharing goals with other professionals. Our goals are an offense; they are foolishness (1 Cor. 1:13). The professionalization of the ministry is a constant threat to the gospel. It is a threat to the profoundly spiritual nature of our work (3).

This statement sets this book apart from other books dealing with pastoral ministry which are pragmatic and program-laden in nature.

What strikes the reader most is the difference of perspective between Piper and those of the New Homiletic and the Emergent Church. Whereas these two movement seek (whether intentionally or unintentionally) to move away from the sole authority of Scripture to a more open and conversant style of ministry, Piper sprints toward Scripture’s authority thus giving traction to the pastor’s message and ministry.

One of the great strengths of this book is Piper’s dogged determination to support every belief he preaches from Scripture. This fact alone distinguishes this book from the majority of other so-called Christian books. Piper seeks to establish every principle he puts forth on the basis of Scripture. All pastors would do well to model this practice of his. He notes:

Where pastors can no longer articulate and defend doctrine by a reasonable and careful appeal to the original meaning of Biblical texts, they will tend to become close-minded traditionalists who clutch their inherited ideas, or open-ended pluralists who don’t put much stock in doctrinal formulations. In both cases the succeeding generations will be theologically impoverished and susceptible to error (84).

This exhortation serves the pastors and their churches well. In many Baptist state conventions, a large amount of rhetoric comes forth from these entities against the ill effects of alcohol and gambling. In regards to alcohol, traditionalists advocate total abstinence — even though the Bible never explicitly advocates this understanding. In regards to gambling, few biblical references accompany the high rhetoric against the lottery and casinos, although exceptions to exist.

In Chapter 21, entitled “Brothers, Don’t Fight Flesh Tanks with Peashooter Regulations,” Piper unfolds the controversy within himself and ultimately the church in dealing with the subject of alcohol. The majority of Baptist churches contain a clause in their church covenant calling for abstinence of alcohol. To this, Piper responds, “I am persuaded that such a regulation for church membership falls into the category of legalistic exclusivism and stands under the judgment of the apostolic word in Scripture” (152). Piper describes legalism as “the terrible mistake of treating Biblical standards of conduct as regulations to be kept by our own power in order to show our moral prowess and earn God’s favor” (153). Again, on every level, the reader sees Piper’s desire to honor God and his Word in every area, even in areas that may cause great controversy and even dismissal from a ministry position. He makes the pastor and preacher think through each of the issues he holds dear and to examine those issues under the white-hot light of the Spirit-inspired Scriptures.

Piper uses the gospel to address to distressing social issues of our time: racism and abortion. In Chapter 26 (“Brothers, Sever the Root of Racism”), Piper asks, “Are our churches thermometers registering the racial attitudes and actions of the world; or are they thermostats raising the warmth of commitment to racial understanding and love and demonstrable harmony” (197)? Instead of appealing to another social construct to turn the church away from racism, he appeals to the Scriptures’ discussion of the barrier broken down between Jew and Gentile (Ephesians 2:11-22). In addressing the issue of abortion, Piper adamantly exhorts pastors to exhibit courage to stand and fight for those who cannot fight for themselves.

I believe pastors should put their lives and ministries on the line in this issue. The cowardice of some pastors when it comes to preaching against abortion appalls me. Many treat the dismemberment of unborn humans as an untouchable issue on the par with partisan politics…. The law of our land is immoral and unjust. That should be declared from tens of thousands of pulpits in America (212).

One rather convicting area Piper addresses to pastors is the issue of continually using and understanding the biblical languages. Piper believes that the languages in our churches and denominations should be “cherished, promoted, and sought” (82). He believes that the reason that expository preaching has lost its luster among the churches is because it lacks “precision and clarity” (83) along with the problem that preachers “tend to be second-handers. The harder it is for us to get at the original meaning of the Bible, the more we will revert to the secondary literature. … Secondhand food will not sustain and deepen our people’s faith and holiness” (83).

While this book stands tall above the majority of other books on pastoral ministry, one weakness is the intensity that Piper brings to the book. Clearly, the Puritans’ influence on Piper shows. When Piper noted how the Puritans preached salvation not just to the lost but also to the saints, he says, “What is at stake on Sunday morning is not merely the upbuilding of the church but its eternal salvation. It is not hard to see why the Puritans were so serious” (106). Piper is short on humorous anecdotes and illustrations in this book and for a reason. He does not want to give pastors the idea that pastoral ministry should not be taken with utmost gravity and seriousness. Yet Piper shares so many convictions in this book that he deems necessary, the reader risks being overwhelmed under the load, which may serve as Piper’s point.

Conclusion

I have read this work several times over the past five years and would highly recommend this book to every preacher and pastor. Pastors need to reclaim the understanding of the high calling God has placed on them. Piper’s contagious attitude toward the glories of Christ and the love for the church is refreshing and illuminating. This would stand as one of the first books I would recommend to any pastor, regardless of age or experience.

Piper, John. Brothers,
We Are Not Professionals
. Nashville, TN:
Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2002. 286 pp.
$14.99

Five Questions For Dennis E. Johnson About Expository Preaching Answered

Dennis E. Johnson, author of Him We Proclaim: Preaching Christ from All the Scriptures, was gracious enough to take time to answer five particular questions I had about expository preaching. I am thankful for the depth with which he answered these questions. I pray that his answers will help you in your understanding of expository preaching.

MRP: What role do you see expository preaching playing in the life and ministry of the local church?

DEJ: I began to “catch the vision” for Christ-centered preaching through my M.Div. studies at Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia (1970-73), and then became increasingly more convinced of it through my pastoral ministries in New Jersey (1973-76) and Los Angeles, CA (1976-81), although I did not have a clear idea about how to preach Christ appropriately from each distinct passage of Scripture and often did not give myself enough time for meditation, for turning over the passage in my mind and comparing it with other texts and themes throughout the Bible until I could see the intrinsic lines of connection that tie the whole Bible to Jesus through the theme of God’s covenants with his people. When I began to teach at Westminster Seminary California in 1982, and especially as I began to teach other pastors in our D.Min. program in preaching in the early years, I began to work through more consistently a way to see what Jesus showed his apostles in terms of the interconnections of the Scriptures in Himself.

MRP: Who has been your greatest influence as an expository preacher?

Edmund P. Clowney has been the greatest influence, without a doubt. I have also learned from the way Tim Keller of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in NYC preaches Christ, and from my own pastor, Ted Hamilton, of New Life Presbyterian Church in Escondido. I also have learned from Dr. Iain Duguid, now teaching at Grove City College in PA, both in his preaching (he taught with me here at WSC and pastored a PCA congregation in my presbytery), and in his writings.

MRP: Do you believe that expository preaching can be inductive as well as deductive?

DEJ: I believe that expository preaching must first of all be inductive–that is, observing carefully what the text actually says, its inner flow of thought and logic when read in the context of the book in which it appears and in the context of the spiritual need and situation of its first readers. Then, I believe it is also appropriate to engage in a more “deductive” analysis, comparing what I believe I have heard this text say with the broader themes and framework of truth revealed in Scripture, including the way in which that system of truth has been summarized in the great creeds and confessions of the church.

MRP: What role does the local church play in training preachers? Should they farm this training out exclusively to the seminaries?

DEJ: I believe that the local church is a great training ground for preachers-in-the-making, and that the best arrangement is a close cooperation between churches and seminaries. In seminaries, pastoral candidates can get exposure to the gifts of a variety of teachers and mentors who can each bring his own strengths into his relationship with the budding pastor. In the church, the focused studies pursued in seminary can be put to the test “where the rubber meets the road,” in bringing the gospel of grace into the lives of really hurting people in real life venues.

MRP: What would be some of the basic areas you would cover in training lay preachers who have had no theological training whatsoever?

In training lay preachers I would focus on making sure they have a solid grounding in systematic theology that is based in Scripture and proven by the church over the centuries. This will help keep them on an even keel when winds of doctrine, promising “new” insights, blow across the church. Then I would focus on a basic hermeneutic or method of interpreting Scripture, in light of the way language works, and in light of the context of the Bible in the history of redemption. Finally, I would emphasize, for any and all leaders (whether those who can attend seminary or those who cannot), the importance of godly character as Paul places that “center stage” in his lists of qualifications of elders in 1 Tim 3 and Titus 1. These attributes of humility, holiness, integrity, etc., must be grounded in a firm grasp of the gospel of God’s grace, given in Christ and received by faith alone.