The Essential Marks of a Preacher

Jason K. Allen: “How shall they hear without a preacher?” (Rom. 10:14). With airtight logic, the Apostle Paul sets forth the indispensable human link in fulfilling the Great Commission—the preaching of the gospel of Jesus Christ. In so doing, he instructs us in the way of the kingdom, that in every generation God is calling out preachers to serve His church. Paul’s timeless question is especially relevant for the twenty-first-century church. Evangelical churches are in the midst of a massive generational transition, with vacant pastorates and empty pulpits dotting the landscape. Vacant pulpits ought not induce the wringing of hands. Christ is building His church. He does not hope for ministerial volunteers; He sovereignly sets apart pastors to serve His church and preach His gospel. Nonetheless, the church is to call out the called, and every qualified man of God should consider if God is calling him to pastoral ministry. How might one know if God is calling him to the ministry? There are

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3 Ways Pastors Fail to Be Jesus-Full

Jared Wilson: I’ve been and always will be doggedly suspicious of pastors who rarely (or never) mention Jesus. John Piper says, “What we desperately need is help to enlarge our capacities to be moved by the immeasurable glories of Christ.” We ministers of the gospel—and Christians at large—can fumble this commission in three main ways. 1. We speak in vague spiritual generalities.  Love. Hope. Peace. Joy. Harmony. Blessings. All disembodied from the specific atoning work of the incarnate Jesus and exalted Lord. It all sounds nice. It’s all very inspirational. And it’s rubbish. He himself is our peace. He himself is love. He himself is life. He does not make life better. He is life. Any pastor who talks about the virtues of faith, hope, and love, with Jesus as some implied tangential source, is not feeding his flock well. 2. We present Christ mainly as moral exemplar.  We tell people to be nice because Jesus was nice. We tell them

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21 [quick] Thoughts on Preaching

Jared Wilson: In no particular order, here are some reflections, musings, and bits of advice on the noble task of preaching the Word of God. 1. I’ve heard it attributed to Tim Keller that you have to preach at least 200 sermons to get good. (Or something like that.) I think this is generally true. For those gifted to preach, it does take a long time to hit your stride and become reliably good, and even then, you keep growing and refining. For those who aren’t gifted to preach, I think even reaching the 200 mark shows no discernable growth. Someone is ungifted to preach when they’ve been at it a long time and show no real development. Sermon 201 is probably not noticeably improved from sermon 1. 2. I personally favor the use of manuscripts, but I understand they’re not for everyone. If you can’t preach from a manuscript without sounding like you are reading a manuscript, it’s probably

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The Priority of Preaching the Word

Steven Lawson: Understanding the fiery preaching of Martyn Lloyd-Jones requires an apprehension of the exceedingly high view he possessed of preaching. He believed that the chief business of the church is what Paul charged Timothy with his dying words, to “preach the word” (2 Tim. 4:2). Preaching must come first in the life of the church before anything else can find its rightful place. With compelling clarity, he stated, “The primary task of the Church and of the Christian minister is the preaching of the Word of God.” Nothing, he maintained, must ever supplant the primacy of biblical preaching in the pulpit. The Doctor believed everything in the life of the church is defined and directed by the proclamation of the Scripture. Through the many challenges Lloyd-Jones faced, the public exposition of Scripture consistently occupied the central place in his ministry in Wales and London. In his estimation, the pulpit held the chief place in his ministry, and it was here

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What the greatest preachers recognize

“Throughout the history of the church the greatest preachers have been those who have recognized that they have no authority in themselves and have seen their task as being to explain the words of Scripture and apply them clearly to the lives of their hearers. Their preaching has drawn its power not from the proclamation of their own Christian experiences or the experiences of others, nor from their own opinions, creative ideas, or rhetorical skills, but from God’s powerful word. Essentially they stood in the pulpit, pointed to the biblical text, and said in effect to the congregation, “This is what this verse means. Do you see that meaning here as well? Then you must believe it and obey it with all your heart, for God himself, your Creator and your Lord, is saying this to you today!” Only the written words of Scripture can give this kind of authority to preaching.” — Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology (p. 82). (HT:

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Pastor, are you having fun?

  Tony Reinke: “I have a little and earnest peeve,” John Piper said last night in his second message at DG’s 2015 Conference for Pastors, “Make War: The Pastor and His People in the Battle Against Sin” (2/3/15). “‘Fun’ has become an adjective, and is the most common word used today, I think, among pastors to describe their happiness in ministry. That’s very telling. All of you do it. I hear it everywhere. ‘Having a blast in the work.’ ‘Oh, we’re having fun!’ Lots of people who say that are not superficial people, they have just absorbed the language from superficial people. If any word is superficial, the word ‘fun’ is superficial.” He went on to explain: I think one of the reasons so many worship services in America are so playful and amusing and entertaining and casual and flippant and jokey and trifling and downright silly is that there is so little sense that anything ominous is really at

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Before we preach tomorrow

“There are some who preach before their people, like actors on the stage, to display themselves and to please their audience.  Not such were the self-denied preachers of Ross-shire. There are others who preach over their people.  Studying for the highest, instead of doing so for the lowest, in intelligence, they elaborate learned treatises, which float like mist, when delivered, over the heads of their hearers.  Not such were the earnest preachers of Ross-shire. There are some who preach past their people.  Directing their praise or their censure to intangible abstractions, they never take aim at the views and the conduct of the individuals before them.  They step carefully aside, lest their hearers should be struck by their shafts, and aim them at phantoms beyond them.  Not such were the faithful preachers of Ross-shire. There are others who preach at their people, serving out in a sermon the gossip of the week, and seemingly possessed with the idea that the transgressor

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A Watchman on the Walls

Kevin DeYoung: It is not the work of the pastor to say whatever seems relevant or whatever seems noncontroversial or whatever is especially interesting to itching ears. Our responsibility, before God and for the sake of God’s people, is to declare the whole counsel of God (Acts 10:27). The teachers of the church must disclose all of the glorious parts in Scripture and all the hard parts, all the promises and all the warnings, all the blessings and all the curses, all the parts that make us smile and all the parts that make us wince. While we do not like to upset people and we do not wish to be thought uncouth, we answer to a higher authority. It is the solemn task of the preacher–weak and failing though he may be–to stand fast as a watchman on the walls. We cannot shrink back from the uncomfortable bits in the Bible (Acts 20: 20-21, 25-32). If we see the

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10 Pastors I’m Concerned About

Scott Postma:  It’s not a secret the church has been in decline for a number of years and for a variety of reasons. You can read some statistics and views on why, here and here and here. Everyone has their opinions. Abuse, apostasy, and irrelevance are just a few of the words that keep coming up in the search for reasons for the decline. There are a variety of compelling opinions and I even have a few of my own. But I suggest there is another area of decline more significant and perhaps much less obvious—and one that certainly contributes to the church’s decline in numbers. And I think its likely a careful analysis would implicate the church’s leadership for this more significant issue. In other words, I’m concerned about pastors and the role they play in the church’s decline. By saying so, I’m not suggesting this pastor has it all together. Nor am I trying to cultivate (or ratify) some dishonest skeptics’ hate for the

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Seven Qualities of Expository Preaching

By Wayne McDill: Among evangelicals, the term expository preaching has come to stand for authentic biblical preaching. However, exactly what constitutes expository preaching varies from writer to writer and preacher to preacher. I have talked with preachers who described themselves as “expositors,” and I believed them until I heard them preach. For many, exposition seems to mean taking a text and preaching on the subject the passage seems to address. For others exposition means defining some of the words in the text. For others expository preaching seems to mean giving a history lesson on a text with most of the sermon in the past tense. The word exposition is from the Latin, expositio, meaning “a setting forth, narration, or display.” As applied to preaching, the word has come to mean the setting forth or explanation of the message of the biblical text. In expository preaching the sermon is designed to communicate what the text says, including its meaning for the contemporary

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9 Ways to Pray for Churches and Pastors

From the 9Marks 2013 report: 1. Expositional Preaching: pray that more pastors will commit to preaching the whole counsel of God, making the point of the passage the point of their sermons. 2. Biblical Theology: pray that more pastors will preach about the big God from the big Story of the Bible, protecting the church from false teaching. 3. The Gospel: pray that pastors will faithfully proclaim the gospel every chance they have. Pray their churches will ask for nothing more than the good news of salvation through Jesus Christ. 4. Conversion: pray that more churches would grasp the doctrine of conversion rightly, and shape their practices to promote born-again believers, not nominal believers. 5. Evangelism: pray that churches will be bold and faithful in proclaiming the Good News of Jesus. 6. Church Membership: pray that churches will take the biblical call to church membership seriously, and encourage the whole body of Christ toward holiness and active participation. 7. Church Discipline: pray that churches will grow in purity

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Preaching with Authority: Three Characteristics of Expository Preaching

Al Mohler: Authentic expository preaching is marked by three distinct characteristics: authority, reverence, and centrality. Expository preaching is authoritative because it stands upon the very authority of the Bible as the word of God. Such preaching requires and reinforces a sense of reverent expectation on the part of God’s people. Finally, expository preaching demands the central place in Christian worship and is respected as the event through which the living God speaks to his people. A keen analysis of our contemporary age comes from sociologist Richard Sennett of New York University. Sennett notes that in times past a major anxiety of most persons was loss of governing authority. Now, the tables have been turned, and modern persons are anxious about any authority over them: “We have come to fear the influence of authority as a threat to our liberties, in the family and in society at large.” If previous generations feared the absence of authority, today we see “a fear

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The Preacher at His Best

Kevin DeYoung: Permit me a brief word about a disconcerting trend I see in young, and sometimes very popular, preachers. I mention this concern knowing full well my own temptation to it. Let me pose the problem as a question: Preacher, are you at your best when you are closest to the text? Too many preachers are at their best when they are telling a personal anecdote or ripping into some sacred cow or riffing on in a humorous fashion. There is a time for all of that, but we ought to beware if those times are when we are at our best. We can be orthodox preachers of good, gospel truths and still tickle people’s ears. If we’re not careful, we’ll train the large conference audience and our local congregation that the time to really pay attention is when we start drifting not when we start digging. “Got it. Understood. Text means this, not that. Sound good. Now get

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Preaching today? Listening to preaching today?

Encouragement from Darryl Dash: Pastors can always use encouragement. If you’re a pastor (or even if you’re not), here are some truths that you might find encouraging today. God promises to use his Word (Isaiah 55:11). When God speaks, things happen. No matter how feebly preached, God honors the proclamation of his Word. Our weakness displays God’s glory (2 Corinthians 4:7). Our weakness doesn’t diminish God’s glory. It provides greater contrast between us and the surpassing power of the God we serve. God uses the “things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are” (1 Corinthians 1:28). If you and your church don’t look like much, you are just the type that God loves to use. Your position is secure (Romans 8). There is no sermon that you could preach that would make you more acceptable to God. There is no sermon, however bad, that can remove you from the love of God. Our imperfect churches display the

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Paul Tripp on Law and Grace

When I hear a sermon that is essentially law-driven, that is, asking the law to do what only the grace of Jesus Christ can accomplish, I am immediately concerned about the preacher.  I immediately wonder about his view of himself, because if he had any self-consciousness about his own weakness and sin, he would find little hope and comfort for himself and his hearers in that kind of sermon.  You see this dynamic in the Pharisees.  Because they thought of themselves as righteous, perfect law givers, they had no problem laying unbearable law burdens on others.  Their misuse of the law had its roots not only in bad theology but also in ugly human pride.  They saw law keeping as possible, because they thought they were keeping it. And they thought that others should get up and keep it as well as they did.  They were the religious leaders of their day, but they were arrogant, insensitive, uncompassionate, and judgmental.

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7 Deadly Diseases of Pastoral Ministry

  By Nick McDonald: Full time ministry is dangerous. The temptation toward spiritual pride is deadly, and it infects the body like nothing else. Pastors suffer uniquely with this temptation. Because people cast their gaze on us, we’re tempted to believe we’re more important, more righteous, or wiser than we are. Spiritual pride is constantly creeping into my heart, and I need to be forced to face my idols squarely on to demolish them. With that in mind, here are 7 dangerous diseases particular to full-time ministers of the gospel: 1. The Island Syndrome. For whatever reason, pastors tend to isolate themselves from accountable community. This is beyond dangerous – it’s stupid. Maybe it’s the fear of losing respect when we reveal our sin; maybe it feels like one too many items on the task list. Whatever the reason, it’s not acceptable. Pastors need a community within which they can confess sin safely. Simon and Garfunkel said, “No man is an island”,

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What preaching is meant to do

Our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction.  1 Thessalonians 1:5 “Paul knew he was clothed with power and authority.  How does one know it?  It gives clarity of thought, clarity of speech, ease of utterance, a great sense of authority and confidence as you are preaching, an awareness of a power not your own thrilling through the whole of your being, and an indescribable sense of joy. . . . What about the people?  They sense it at once; they can tell the difference immediately.  They are gripped, they become serious, they are convicted, they are moved, they are humbled.  Some are convicted of sin, others are lifted up to the heavens, anything may happen to any one of them.  They know at once that something quite unusual and exceptional is happening. . . . What then are we to do about this?  There is only

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True Preaching

“God teaches both outwardly and inwardly at the same time.  Christ reserves his authority to himself and does not transfer it to any other, ‘so that he might stand idly by as a spectator while his ministers work.’  Yet when they do what their Lord commands, they may be said to open the kingdom to the obedient and shut it to the disobedient. . . . Such a conjunction between the work of the Spirit and human ministry suggests how congregations should honor the latter.  ‘As we receive the true ministers of the Word of God as messengers and ambassadors of God, it is necessary to listen to them as to God himself’ (Genevan Confession 20).  The first chapter of the Second Helvetic Confession deals with Scripture as the true Word of God. . . . ‘When this Word of God is now preached in the church by preachers lawfully called, we believe that the very Word of God is proclaimed and

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What Made Spurgeon a Great Preacher

  By Michael A.G. Haykin In many ways, C.H. Spurgeon’s ministry was nothing less than amazing: the crowded auditories that assembled to hear the “Cambridgeshire lad” in the 1850s and that continued unabated till the end of his ministry in the early 1890s; the remarkable conversions that occurred under his preaching and the numerous churches in metropolitan London and the county of Surrey that owed their origins to his Evangelical activism; the solid Puritan divinity that undergirded his Evangelical convictions-something of a rarity in the heyday of the Victorian era during which he ministered for that was a day imbued with the very different ambience of Romanticism; and finally, the ongoing life of his sermons that are still being widely read around the world today and deeply appreciated by God’s children. What accounts for all of this? Numerous reasons could be cited, many of which may indeed play a secondary role in his ministerial success. For example, in a fairly

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