Yes, Preaching Really Does Change People

Mike Bullmore: If you’ve been in pastoral ministry for any length of time at all you’ve asked the question: Is my preaching actually doing anything? Is it having any effect? The question could be addressed on several different grounds. It could be addressed on historical grounds, pointing to the powerful effects of preaching in various times and places in the history of the church, notably, from the beginning in the book of Acts. It could be addressed on personal grounds by means of collected anecdotes—“Let me tell you about Joe and Mary Black and what God did in their lives through the faithful preaching of God’s Word.” But without question, the most compelling response is going to be a theological one, grounded in the realities presented in Scripture regarding who God is, what he is doing, what his Word does, and what he fully intends preaching to accomplish. AN UNDER-CELEBRATED CHARACTERISTIC We rightly celebrate the authority, the trustworthiness, and the sufficiency of

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If We Read Our Bibles, Why Do We Need Sermons?

John Piper: Let me try to answer this question in two stages. First, I’ll try to show from the New Testament that it is God’s plan and design that, besides the infallible word of God in the Bible, the church is to be led, underneath that infallible word, by fallible elders — sometimes called pastors or overseers or teachers — who are gifted to lead and to teach the flock. And then second, we ask the question why: Why did God set it up that way, so that the ordinary members of the church, who have in their hand an infallible Bible, should listen to and respect and esteem and follow and rejoice in the ministry of the word through fallible preaching? Shepherds for the Flock So, step one: God’s plan. Just this week, I was preparing a Look at the Book session on 1 Thessalonians 5:12–14, and I was compelled to address this very question before I knew that this question would be

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A Meditation Before Preaching

Erik Raymond: It’s Sunday morning ten minutes before the service. How are you feeling? If you had to put it into a word, what would it be? For the one preaching the sermon, it’s probably some combination of words that express his inadequacy for the task at hand. Each week, like clockwork, my hands get cold, and my stomach works itself into knots. I’ve studied hard, prayed, did my work, and am by all accounts prepared. But the awareness of the preaching event and my inadequacy brings me a weekly meeting with a personal Sabbath storm. Recently, during a preservice prayer meeting, a friend said something that seemed like it was a large font. It was, “Lord, remind Erik what happens when you speak.” What followed was a gracious answer to this prayer. I began to recount how powerful God’s Word is. It brought me great encouragement that day, and each week since. In this post, I’ll share 15 meditations about

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What Is Preaching?

Lewis Allen: Q. What is preaching? A. Preaching is declaring God’s truth in Jesus, to the praise of his name. This grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ. —Ephesians 3:8 God’s Truth Brought Home What is preaching? Peter Adam defines it as “the explanation and application of the word in the assembled congregation of Christ.”1 God’s truth is declared by the preacher, and its meaning is brought home to those who listen. Preaching, though, is ultimately divine activity. J. I. Packer says that it is “the event of God himself bringing to an audience a Bible-based, Christ-related, life-impacting message of instruction and direction through the words of a spokesperson.”2 If this is preaching, then just how important is it? William Greenhill answers, “Where the word of God is not expounded, preached and applied to the several conditions of the people, there they perish.”3 The Puritan John Flavel, tireless (and fearless) servant of Jesus Christ, insisted that

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The Urgency of Preaching

Al Mohler: And how will they hear without a preacher? Romans 10:14 Has preaching fallen on hard times? An open debate is now being waged over the character and centrality of preaching in the church. At stake is nothing less than the integrity of Christian worship and proclamation. How did this happen? Given the central place of preaching in the New Testament church, it would seem that the priority of biblical preaching should be uncontested. After all, as John A. Broadus–one of Southern Seminary’s founding faculty–famously remarked, “Preaching is characteristic of Christianity. No other religion has made the regular and frequent assembling of groups of people, to hear religious instruction and exhortation, an integral part of Christian worship.” Yet, numerous influential voices within evangelicalism suggest that the age of the expository sermon is now past. In its place, some contemporary preachers now substitute messages intentionally designed to reach secular or superficial congregations–messages which avoid preaching a biblical text, and thus

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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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