Posts Tagged ‘preaching’

Another great resource from 9Marks as Mark Dever delivers a sermon on the requirements for pastoral office. Download it here.

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Joe Lechner, from Sovereign Grace Ministries has written a couple of articles recently on the role of the Holy spirit in the life of the preacher and in the life of the congregational listener. The former can be found here and the latter here.

In it he reminds us of the following, powerful quote from Charles Surgeon,

“Unless the Holy Ghost blesses the Word, we who preach the gospel are of all men most miserable, for we have attempted a task that is impossible. We have entered on a sphere where nothing but the supernatural will ever avail. If the Holy Spirit does not renew the hearts of our hearers, we cannot do it. If the Holy Ghost does not regenerate them, we cannot. If he does not send the truth home into their souls, we might as well speak into the ear of a corpse.”

May we be blessed by God’s Spirit today as we meet together to Worship Him.

I picked this book up a while ago and recently got around to reading it. The subheading is: “With illustrations from the sermons of Thomas Watson”. The book was so good that instead of reading it in my customary speedy fashion I forced myself to read a chapter and then slowly digest it over a couple of days. Hence, the length of time it has taken me to read it!

For those of you not in the know, Thomas Watson was one of the great Puritan preachers and was famed for being something of a wordsmith in the pulpit. 8 Chapters long (and an extensive appendix) it is choc full of helpful wisdom and insight for any budding and/or experienced preacher. I challenge any serious Christian not to be blessed by the Godly insights of the contents of this book. Consider this as an example:

‘..the preacher’s first duty is to be sure that the Word he is to proclaim is with God, and is drawn from the heart of Deity; and his second duty is to see that the Word becomes flesh and dwells amongst us.’

He goes on to challenge us as preachers that our, ‘effectiveness as a herald is not determined by your ability to know what you are saying, but your ability to get the people to whom you are preaching to know and understand what you are saying.’ There are just countless nuggets like this peppered throughout the book which should cause us to pause and give careful thought to how we are communicating God’s Holy Word to those whom he has entrusted into our care. It is not very often that I would 100% recommend a book but this is one of those rare occasions. I suggest you go out and buy it right now if you are preaching and considering entering into teaching ministry of any sort. This will absolutely improve your preaching and help you to be more understandable to your congregation.

Let me leave you with some words from the great man himself regarding preaching: ‘St. Paul’s preaching was not with enticing words of wisdom but in the demonstration of the Spirit and power (1 Cor. 2:4). Plainness is ever best in beating down sin. When a wound festers, it is fitter to lance it than to embroider it with silk or lay vermilion upon it.’

Five stars for this bad boy!

So, my Pastoral Assistant stiffed me and I haven’t had the time to prepare a full post today. On the plus side, you get to enjoy this great post from the ‘Ordinary Pastor’ here on this fascinating topic!

by Andy Constable

I am very privileged to work in an environment that is gospel focused. I came onto the Niddrie team 2 years ago and one of the reasons for doing so was because Mez’s vision was and is to bring the gospel to bear in his life, the life of the church and into the community of Niddrie. I haven’t had to build a gospel community because the building blocks were already in place when I came and God was and still is blessing and using that gospel vision. Here are some things that I have learned that are key to building this sort of gospel community.

Gospel Centred Leaders. If you want to build a gospel community then the leaders driving that vision must be gospel centred. Leaders as much, probably more, than anybody else in the church need to live and breathe the gospel. This means that leaders need to preach the gospel to themselves each and everyday. The gospel is what excites them. The gospel is what drives them. If a leader isn’t gospel focused then they will either burn out or build a community that is religious. As leaders we need to guard our souls and make sure that we remind ourselves daily that we are not justified by the amount of work we do, the amount of meetings we attend, how good our sermons are or how nice we are to our congregation, but by the blood of the lamb. We are justified by the good news that on the cross Christ bore the punishment for us and died the death we deserved to bring us to God.

Gospel Centred Preaching. If a leader is gospel centred then by necessity their preaching should be gospel centred to. The Bible is one big story unfolding God’s redemption story culminating in Jesus Christ. This means that all of scripture points to the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. We need to set the agenda for our vision by preaching the gospel from the pulpit. We do not want a congregation who are little law abiders but have no deep change in their hearts. But we want people who are being changed daily by the grace of God. We want a people who are recognising their sin daily and their need for repentance but also a people who know the love of God shown to them in Jesus Christ deeply and intimately. We set the agenda through our preaching and it must be gospel centred. The gospel is not just for non-Christians but for Christians too. As Tim Keller reminds us “the gospel isn’t just the the ABC of the Bible but the A through Z.”

Gospel Centred Evangelism. If we are preaching the gospel to ourselves and to our church then, by necessity, our evangelism will be gospel centred as well. We need to proclaim to all we meet that there is judgment to come unless people repent and believe the good news. We need to proclaim this good news with sorrow in our hearts for those who are perishing but also with great joy because it is good news! Many Christians are not set on fire by the good news of Jesus Christ and so find it hard to get excited about the gospel. But it is good news to those who believe. It liberates the captives and is the only way to salvation!

Gospel Centred Discipleship. It is easy, particularly in schemes, to preach the gospel and then give people a whole load of laws to follow after. For example with a drug addict we can slip into legalism by sharing that they are saved through Jesus Christ and then give them plan x, y and z to get off their drugs. We want to be very careful that those who come to Christ are then counselled through the gospel. I really recommend CCEF material here as they are gospel saturated in their counselling approach. We must remind ourselves that it is the gospel that brings us to Christ and then continues to transform us. It is the only thing that can truly transform our hearts. If we teach people gospel + legalism then we will create a lot of self-righteous disciples. Eugene Peterson calls these Christians iatrogenic* disciples. They come in with one problem like drugs but then they pick up another – self-righteousness. They go around thinking that because they have come off their addiction that they are suddenly better than everybody else. They become legalists. If we want to build a gospel centred community then our counselling needs to be gospel centred to.

Gospel Centred Fellowship. The gospel should characterize us when we meet socially as well. If we want to build a gospel church then we need to spend concerted effort getting to know each other. Too many churches meet on a Sunday and Wednesday and then don’t see each other between. The early church was characterised by praying together regularly and sharing everything they had so that no-one is in need. When did we turn community into this individualised thing where we never meet! If we are gospel focused then we should meet regularly and share fellowship because we love Jesus and we love each other. This again is something that can’t be forced by telling everyone from the front to have fun and hang out with each other. This is something that happens organically as barriers are broken through the gospel and as leaders model it. We should not be scared to meet socially and hang out and have fun. We are a community of sinners who have been saved by the grace of God and are called to love each other. This happens as we spend time with people’s families and in people’s homes.

I am encouraged at Niddrie because I am seeing these elements worked out in the life of the church. We are seeing people come to Christ. We are seeing people having their lives changed. We are seeing a greater sense of community as people move into the area and get to know each other. This is not our work but God’s of course but he blesses the foundation of the gospel that is being preached and lived. Pray that we would continue to hold dear to the gospel in Niddrie and that this would continue to build a community that reflects the church that God’s wants us to be.

*this is a medical term describing people who come into hospital to get sorted for one problem and then pick up another problem while they are there e.g. MRI virus!

Michael McKinley has written a helpful little article on the 9Marks site. Read it here.

A really helpful article here from the always solid reformation21 boys. A must read here.

by Mike Stark

Most of us are familiar with the terms  ADD or ADHD (attention deficit disorder, or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder). We work with and know many local children who have been diagnosed as such, placing them in a box and giving them a medical label to help them understand their (so-called) deficiency. Closely tied to these conditions is the issue of “attention span(s)”. Much is said, and has been published, about the length of time young people can really concentrate on something. The average young person, apparently, has an attention span of around 10-20 minutes. In our local High School, lessons last 50 minutes. In the High School where my wife teaches, periods last 35 minutes. The theory being that young people can only concentrate on a topic for a short period of time before needing to move on to something else.

So, when we see these articles that pop up from time to time, telling us that children can only concentrate for short bursts, and that their minds are being eroded by TV and video games, we may naturally begin to think about our context within the church and, specifically, our preaching on Sundays. Are our sermons too long for our young people? Are our sermons even too long for the adults?

Since the start of the year, our average sermon length at Niddrie has been 29.5 minutes long (yes, I have counted!). We often have a group of people from the community coming along to services on a Sunday morning. In recent months, we’ve also had a few young people as a direct result of  our school’s work and the other activities we do, such as our Youth Café. These individuals are not Christians, they’re ‘un-churched’, and they’re generally not in the habit of sitting and listening to a 30 minute sermon.

Bearing this in mind, we’ve been careful about our preaching recently, and those that bear the bulk of the teaching responsibility take great care each week to contextualise their message, often meeting together to run through it on the Friday beforehand to share ideas. They’ve also been careful about the length, although I’m not even convinced that the length of a sermon is necessarily the defining issue. Many of us will have experience of 10 minute sermons that have bored us to tears within the first minute. My old minister always says, in preaching: “If you’ve not struck oil in the first few minutes, stop boring”. On the other hand, I’m sure we’ve sat through 60 minute sermons that seemed to fly by. So the length isn’t everything.

Recent experience has shown me that even a group of Niddrie young people can sit still, listen to, and learn from a 30 minute sermon. Without going into too much more detail about some of the technical and structural changes the preachers have made (that would be an other blog post), I’d like to share with you just a few things that have worked well for us in Niddrie with the young people who have been coming along each week.

  1. Sit with the young people throughout the service. Be deliberate and make sure other youth leaders in the church are being deliberate too. In our church, some of us have to get up to play instruments; we have to make sure that when we get up, the young person we were sat next to isn’t left by themselves. Young people don’t like being a Norman-nae mates – sit with them!
  2. Try and ensure young people have the freedom to make a little noise. They’ll need someone to help them find their way through the Bible, they may not understand something that’s been said and sometimes they’ll want to ask a question. This can be done quite easily and without being a distraction to the rest of the church if, (a) you’re putting into practice number 1 above, and (b) the young person is capable of whispering – which is never a guarantee. Hopefully whoever is preaching will be sensitive to the situation and not get too distracted and/or irate. I’ve tried to speak to whoever is preaching beforehand to be sure they’re aware. One young man who came for the first time last week (after a number of invites) needed to leave early to visit his dad. He told me beforehand, and so I told Mez beforehand; that way he wouldn’t be distracted when he got up to leave. Sometimes a short answer to a young person’s question isn’t possible, and will have to be explained further after the service. Be sure and remember what the question was!
  3. Finally, give them a notebook and a pen. This has been the most helpful thing we’ve done. Mez said that the best thing anyone did for him when he started coming to church was to put a notebook and pen in his hand. It gives them something to focus on and it helps them to process what’s said and even reflect on it later. Two of the boys that have been coming along recently will testify to the difference it has made for them. It helps that I also take notes, so there is a sense in which they’re watching me and doing as I do. So far they have been copying points that I’ve noted down, but that’s because they’re not used to note-taking. With time, they’ll be able to jot down their own thoughts and points that have challenged or encouraged them throughout the sermon. It’s a skill that needs to be learned, but it first needs to be put into practice.

None of these are particularly new or revolutionary ideas. There’s still much more that could be said on tweaks and changes that the preacher could make in order to help maintain young people’s attention; but perhaps these are a few helpful suggestions if you’re the one  sitting in the congregation each week, wanting to help your young people engage more with what’s being taught up front.

Hehe…very good…I presume this little set up was shown at the beginning of the service as a reminder to people.