Archives For Preaching

200408-omag-hungry-600x411It usually happens like this: a married couple or an individual shows up at church. They are struggling relationally or spiritually. At some point they say, “I have been attending so-and-so church for several years, but something does not feel right. We know that the Bible says we should be growing spiritually, and we have tried lots of things, but I go away feeling empty. And my [unbelieving] husband even recognizes it.” After many questions, it becomes clear that they have little to no understanding of God, themselves, sin, Christ, and how it all applies to their lives. Very often, it’s because their ears have been tickled. They have been pandered from the pulpit.

Pander: “to provide what someone wants or demands even though it is not proper, good, or reasonable” (Merriam-Webster).

I imagine that these individuals have sat under preaching similar to a kind I heard recently. The pastor approached a somewhat controversial and very important text. He opened by saying that just about any interpretation of the passage is fine, and one cannot really say that this or that view is correct. After reading some of the passage and skipping over other parts, he began to describe his personal ministry experiences which argued against the clear meaning of the text. On the basis of personal sentiment, it was described that the passage could not mean what it said. In so many words, he excused and apologized for the text like one might do for an embarrassing uncle at a Christmas party. The preaching continued around the text without the text being preached.

This is one of the many forms of pulpit-pandering. But I’ve wondered about the long-term effects of this approach to preaching the word of God. What might happen to people as they sit under this all-too-common occurrence week after week? To be sure, it will not be without consequence.

Here are a few perils that can result from pulpit-pandering:

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WhitefieldThis week, I came across a remarkable sermon from George Whitefield, entitled, “The Eternity of Hell-Torments,” which he preached in London in 1738. When the reality of the fate of those who perish in this life without Christ is again pressed upon one’s conscience, it always seems like a burden too great to bear. But, as Whitefield would say in the sermon, “If the bare mentioning the torments of the damned is so shocking, how terrible must the enduring of them be!” Truly this is the most solemn of subjects. But we as Christians — as preachers of the Gospel of Christ — we must give our minds and hearts to the biblical teaching of the unbeliever’s fate. And Whitefield has done us an excellent service. You can read the sermon in full here, but I wanted to highlight his conclusion today on Cripplegate.

As a preacher, it was instructive for me to observe the way Whitefield pled with his hearers to flee from the wrath to come. He was not content to simply parrot out a few stock phrases that summarized the content of the Gospel, and give an “invitation.” No, he reasoned with his hearers. He considered what objections their sinful hearts may have concocted in their own spirits as they were listening, and he did his best to respond to those objections. He loved these people enough to get inside their heads, to trace out the probable outworkings of their unregenerate affections, and to leave them no room to think or feel the way they had been when they came in. This is the kind of penetrating, heart-searching application I aim for in my own preaching — not because my hope is to be like Whitefield for his sake, but because my hope is to love my people the way Whitefield loved his, and the way Christ loved His. This is the way that I want to preach the Gospel in my sermons.

But beyond observing a good homiletical example, this sermon penetrated my own heart, just as a fellow-sinner in need of the grace of God, and as a Christian who proposes to be in the ministry of rescuing souls from hell through the preaching of the Gospel. To be reminded of the eternal torments of hell is, in the true sense of the word, awful. But it is so necessary, in order to shake my soul from the complacency wherein I am too often found. I don’t want the miseries of hell; I want the joys of seeing and loving Christ in heaven! Sermons like this — and Gospel-appeals like this — urge me to renew my resolve to fight sin in my life, “lest,” in the words of the great apostle, “that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway” (1 Cor 9:27). And I don’t want the miseries of hell for those whom God has providentially placed in my path, either. Sermons like this urge me to renew my resolve to be intentional in proclaiming the Gospel to the people around me, lest I fail to be a God-glorifying watchman (cf. Ezek 3:17-21). I pray you’re benefited by Whitefield.

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Note: I posted this yesterday on Preachers and Preachingthe new blog of The Master’s Seminary. I’ve duplicated it here at the Cripplegate, to make sure as many people as possible know about the resources available from the Summit on Biblical Inerrancy.

Summit_Session

It’s hard to believe the 2015 Summit on Biblical Inerrancy is over. With 16 guest speakers and 18 general sessions, it was a power-packed week celebrating our common commitment to the absolute truth of God’s Word.

In case you missed any of general sessions, you can find summaries of each session below. Videos for the sessions can be found here and also here.

In session 1, John MacArthur opened the conference by listing four reasons why a summit on biblical inerrancy is needed. Those who love God and His Word are called to defend it. Click here for a full summary.

In session 2, Alistair Begg exposited 2 Tim. 4:1-5, emphasizing the divine charge to preach the Word in the midst of a culture that does not want to hear the truth. Click here for a full summary.  Continue Reading…

This is the final part of a three-part blog series where we asked Dr. Steven J. Lawson some questions about expository preaching, current issues facing evangelicals today and Expositor magazine.

ExpositorWhat exactly is Expositor?

Expositor is a ministry of OnePassion Ministries, which is a work I have founded to encourage and equip pastors in biblical preaching. It is a magazine that comes out every other month and is approximately 50 pages in each issue. I have asked many of the leading expositors around the world to contribute articles based around a central theme that each issue has. The first issue was on The Inerrancy of Scripture and Expository Preaching. The second issue was on The Glory of God and Preaching. The third issue was on Evangelism in the Pulpit. The fourth issue will be on Preaching in a Post-Modern World. Not only do I contribute an article in each issue, but so also does John MacArthur, who I believe is the premier expositor in our day. Other notable men who have written for us include R.C. Sproul, Sinclair Ferguson, Al Mohler, John Piper, Derek Thomas, and many others. We also have an extended interview with different leading expositors. For example, in our last issue, the interview was with R.C. Sproul and the focus was upon getting the gospel right. In our next issue, I interviewed Ligon Duncan regarding preaching in days such as which we find ourselves, in a post-Christian society. The goal in all of this is to raise a standard in these days that would call men back to biblical preaching.
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This is part two of a three-part blog series where we asked Dr. Steven J. Lawson some questions about expository preaching,  current issues facing evangelicals today and Expositor magazine.

What are the main challenges today facing evangelicals today?

I do not think there is a one-size fits all answer for this because so many different Christians live in different parts of the world and are being confronted with different issues. So, there is not one critical issue that is facing the average Christian in the average church. Having said that, several things do come to my mind that rise to a high level of importance.

First, the evangelical church today tends to be non-theological. In other words, so many churches and ministries want to emphasize the practical aspects of Christian living, but they neglect the doctrinal foundations of the faith. This is like attempting to build a solid house on shifting sand. I believe that churches and ministries must put first things first and lay the foundation before they would build upon it. This necessitates the teaching of sound doctrine and the general framework of systematic theology.
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LawsonThis is part one of a three-part series where we asked Dr. Steven J. Lawson some questions on expository preaching, inerrancy, current issues facing evangelicals, and more about Expositor magazine.

 

Define expository preaching.

There are two words in expository preaching: one is expository and the other is preaching. Expository is the adjective and preaching is the noun. Expository preaching defines a certain kind of preaching. It is the kind of preaching that is prescribed in Scripture itself. The word ‘expository’ carries the idea of explaining the meaning of a text. The word ‘preaching’ describes the manner with which this instruction and explanation is brought. Expository preaching is the kind of preaching that begins with a passage of Scripture and explains the authorial intent of that passage, while making application with exhortation to the life of the listener.
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pulpitFaithful Bible preaching is not always easy to find. In some churches the Bible is barely opened, much less preached. And even when it is preached, how do we know that what is happening is faithful and helpful by God’s standards? Things like our feelings or filled pews, for example, are not good barometers.

The following will make a few suggestions on where to start. This is not all that constitutes biblically faithful preaching, but a few things which we should observe as the Bible is opened and preached:

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Persecutor

* Note: This article has been updated. And by updated, I mean completely changed.

The article I originally posted this morning was an amazing tale of intrigue, conspiracy, and dramatic conversion. It involved a former KGB agent named Sergei Kourdakov who violently persecuted the church in Russia only to be radically saved in America where he began working with Underground Evangelism—a California-based ministry that helped to smuggle Bibles into communist countries.

He was like a modern-day apostle Paul, risking his life to minister to the very people he had formerly persecuted. The parallels to Paul’s testimony were obvious and compelling. Moreover, the details of Kourdakov’s life were all arranged in convincing fashion in an autobiography published by Fleming H. Revell soon after he died (in 1973).

His story has been repeatedly told in books and sermons. Even Wikipedia houses an article propounding the details of Kourdakov’s incredible testimony.

My post this morning accurately conveyed details from Sergei’s autobiography. The problem is that his autobiography appears to have been a work of fiction, rather than fact.

Thanks to my friend and fellow blogger, Tim Challies, I discovered that the story Kourdakov recounts in his autobiography is most likely untrue. Christianity Today tells the full story at this link.

I had not been aware of the controversy surrounding Sergei Kourdakov’s story before seeing that link. But now that I’ve read the article there, I cannot in good conscience leave my previous post online.

If Kourdakov’s story is in fact false, it is a good reminder (for me) of the need to verify everything carefully. One of my pet peeves is sermon illustrations that are untrue. It appears, on this occasion, that I may have been unknowingly guilty of using such an illustration.

Consequently, I’m posting this retraction — possibly the first in Cripplegate’s history. While it might not be the last, I certainly hope to do better at vetting stories like this before I publish them.

This June, Immanuel Bible Church (in the Washington DC area) is hosting a conference for college students/young adults. The Foundry Conference will focus on the different ways God calls people to glorify him: the calling to salvation, the calling to sanctification, the calling to vocation, etc. The goal is for those who attend to come away with a deeper understanding of how they glorify God by responding to his call in their lives.

foundry logo

Registration is $25, and includes books and lunch. The conference begins Friday evening, June 5, and ends Sunday evening, June 7.

I’ll be preaching at the conference, along with:   Continue Reading…

books

Anyone who knows me or has seen my office or home library, knows that I’m a connoisseur of commentaries. I “fell in love” with them in seminary (another story for another time) and have been collecting them ever since. Why do I think they are so valuable and helpful for preachers and students of God’s Word? First, by using great commentaries, you’re interacting with the best scholarship in the world and in most cases, with Christians who have been gifted to teach the Scriptures (Eph. 4:11).

Second, I find that reading through commentaries helps me to meditate on God’s Word (Ps. 1). They cause me to chew on each verse and even each word more slowly and to reflect on the flow of thought in the passage each time I read another commentary. This continual intake prepares my heart to preach and usually ensures that the point of the passage becomes the point of the message. Third, by interacting with commentaries, it helps me say things in new ways. It’s easy for me to use the same vocabulary or style week after week, or to repeat the same truths in the same way, which can be tedious for the listener. But reading the “personality” and style of each author expands my thinking and vocabulary and helps me to say things more creatively for the benefit of the listener (and of course, if I use a quote I always give credit). Continue Reading…