Why We Need Both Clarity and Courage in Preaching

  John Stott: Clarity and courage remain two of the most crucial characteristics of authentic Christian preaching. For they relate to the content of the message preached and to the style of its presentation. Some preachers have the gift of lucid teaching, but their sermons lack solid content; their substance has become diluted by fear. Others are bold as lions. They fear nobody, and omit nothing. But what they say is confused and confusing. Clarity without courage is like sunshine in the desert: plenty of light but nothing worth looking at. Courage without clarity is like a beautiful landscape at night time: plenty to see, but no light by which to enjoy it. What is needed in the pulpits of the world today is a combination of clarity and courage, or of ‘utterance’ and ‘boldness’. (HT: Trevin Wax)

Eight Traits of Good Teaching

David Mathis: It’s a very short book on spiritual leadership — just a booklet, really — but the walls of this small cave are lined with gold. You won’t even need a pickax to pluck off a nugget. In The Marks of a Spiritual Leader, John Piper points to an “inner circle” and an “outer circle” of traits. The inner circle is “the absolute bare essentials,” or what must happen in the leader’s own soul if he is going to take even the first step in leading others spiritually. These include prayer, meditating on God’s word, and acknowledging your helplessness. The outer circle, then, is comprised of “qualities that characterize both spiritual and non-spiritual leaders.” Piper gives 18 of these traits. One is skill in teaching. “It is not surprising to me that some of the great leaders at our church have been men who are also significant teachers. According to 1 Timothy 3:2, anyone who aspires to the office of

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Top 20 Christ-Centred Expository Preaching Checklist

  David Prince: Preach the text/Preach Christ and His Kingdom (redemptive history, epoch, person & work of Christ, eschatological fulfillment in the Kingdom of Christ) Honor the Authors of the text Apply the text in light of the Gospel of Jesus Christ Preach with authority as an ambassador of Christ Understand preaching as an eschatological act of spiritual war that demands prayer and Spirit-given unction Preach the sermon and not the outline Remember the outline is primarily for you and not the congregation Prepare sermon notes in thought blocks with orality mind Keep your audience in mind as you prepare Concretize illustrations and application bringing theological truth down the ladder of abstraction Use an illustration like a window not like a painting Start strong. Do not slowly ramp up. Finish strong. Do not introduce new ideas in the conclusion Do not narrate your sermon moves and make sure sermon moves are connected and not abstracted from one another (why I prefer to say moves and not

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“We Always Worship, and We Usually Preach”

  Andrew Wilson: Theologian and teacher types are often taken for pedants, and no doubt that’s often with good reason. When, for example, I make the observation / loaded comment / speech / rant that “worship” isn’t the bit with the guitars at the start of the meeting, as in many charismatic circles, people tend to roll their eyes and wonder why anyone would bother being so fussy. What does it matter what we call it? Surely what matters is that we’re doing it, right? Well: yes and no. Yes, it matters more that we worship God than that we use the right language for it. But no, the words we use are not irrelevant, and can in fact inhibit and prevent true worship from happening if they are used often enough and inaccurately enough. For a case in point, consider this statement I heard recently, which is (so I’m told) a regular part of the culture at one very

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Protect Your Church in One Simple Step

Tim Challies: A few days ago I tried to demonstrate how a church self-destructs. There is a sad progression that begins with the people growing weary and ashamed of truth. No longer able or willing to endure sound teaching, they get rid of the truth-tellers and accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions. Inevitably, they soon turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. All of this is laid out in chapter four of 2 Timothy. In the face of this kind of assault, Paul juxtaposes the simplest solution: Preach. It’s as simple as that one step, that one commitment. The church that remains faithful to God is the church that remains faithful to the Word of God. The healthy church is the preaching church. Here, as I see it in 2 Timothy 4:2, are Paul’s specific instruction for the kind of preaching that glorifies God and protects the church. Preach Expositorily It is

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The Sermon is a Worship Song of Its Own

Jared Wilson: In that day the LORD with his hard and great and strong sword will punish Leviathan the fleeing serpent, Leviathan the twisting serpent, and he will slay the dragon that is in the sea. In that day, “A pleasant vineyard, sing of it!” – Isaiah 27:1-2 The art of preaching the gospel falls not only within the category of Instruction but also Exultation. Worship in a “worship service” does not stop when the music is over; it continues in the sermon. The sermon is a music of its own. No matter the text, no matter the topic, the tune is the joyous anthem of God’s slaying the dragon, a redemption song. The Bible is about God; beginning to end, it is the ballad of God’s exploits in vanquishing evil and restoring shalom through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Preaching rehearses this song. Each Sunday: Once more, with feeling! Jesus is restoring all things. “A pleasant vineyard, sing

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The Importance of Preaching

C.H. Spurgeon: The pulpit has become dishonoured; it is esteemed as being of very little worth and of no esteem. Ah! we must always maintain the dignity of the pulpit. I hold that it is the Thermopylae of Christendom; it is here that the battle must be fought between right and wrong; not so much with the pen, valuable as that is as an assistant, as with the living voice of earnest men, “contending earnestly for the faith once delivered unto the saints.” In some churches the pulpit is put away; there is a prominent altar, but the pulpit is omitted. Now, the most prominent thing under the gospel dispensation is not the altar, which belonged to the Jewish dispensation, but the pulpit. “We have an altar, whereof they have no right to eat which serve the tabernacle;” that altar is Christ; but Christ has been pleased to exalt “the foolishness of preaching” to the most prominent position in his

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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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7 reasons to preach God-centred messages

Darryl Dash: Preachers everywhere face the pressure to preach messages that put humanity at the center. Someone has estimated that over 80% of sermons are human-centered. David Wells writes: It seems that God has become a rather awkward appendage to the practice of evangelical faith, at least as measured by the pulpit. Indeed, from these sermons it seems that God and the supernatural order are related only with difficulty to the life of faith. He appears not to be at its center. The center, in fact, is typically the self. God and His world are made to spin around this surrogate center, for our world increasingly is understood within a therapeutic model of reality. (No God but God: Breaking with the Idols of Our Age) The alternative, of course, is preaching that centers on God. Rather than being less relevant, it is actually much more explosive and life-changing. I spent some time thinking about this a few years back, and

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The danger of ‘how-to’ sermons

Timothy Raymond: Several years ago a very dedicated church member pulled me aside. I could tell he had some important words for me, words that had been on his heart for quite some time. In a hushed, sober tone he said, “I’m concerned you’re being too hard on the Roman Catholics in your preaching and teaching. From time to time, you’ve specifically called-out Catholics as being wrong for this or that reason. But, frankly, when it comes right down to it, what Roman Catholics believe and what we believe is basically the same.” At the time, I had nothing to say. I was so dumbfounded that I simply nodded my head and furrowed my brow and (to my shame) tried to change the subject. But in retrospect I concluded that this sincere man misunderstood what Roman Catholics believe, misunderstood what we evangelicals believe, or, most likely, misunderstood both. And to make matters worse, I really don’t think he viewed that

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Preach to the Affections, Don’t Manipulate Them

Matt Smethurst: Should preachers aim for the affections? Is this even possible without resorting to manipulation techniques? In a new roundtable video, John Piper, Voddie Baucham, and Miguel Núñez—all Council members for The Gospel Coalition—explore differences between “working the crowd” and awakening authentic, God-honoring emotion. “As long as preaching unpacks the greatness of God, the emotions should be moved,” Núñez observes. Faithful exposition, then, is a excellent way to cultivate godly affection and safeguard against squalid manipulation. A bored preacher misrepresents the God he proclaims, Piper adds, since God is not boring. Moreover, he explains, “the difference between emotion and emotionalism is whether you’ve awakened it with truth.” Baucham references a complaint sometimes voiced in more traditionally emotional (e.g., black and Latino) cultures that emphasizing truth and theology amounts to “denying your culture, your heritage, your ethnicity.” But the call to awaken affections with biblical truth is not culturally specific. As Piper quips, “I want to be known as the best black preacher there

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US-centred or GOD-centred?

Darryl Dash: A radical shift has taken place within the church. Pressure is put on pastors and church leaders to make church about us. The focus is no longer God and how we fit into HIs story. The focus is us, and how God meets our needs. One author puts it this way: Throughout Western societies, and most especially in North America, there has occurred a fundamental shift in the understanding and practice of the Christian story. It is no longer about God and what God is about in the world; it is about how God serves and meets human needs and desires. It is about how the individual self can find its own purposes and fulfilment. More specifically, our churches have become spiritual food courts for the personal, private, inner needs of expressive individuals. (Al Roxburgh, The Sky is Falling) This shows up in a number of ways within the church: Worship — “Contemporary worship is far more egocentric than theocentric. The

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How Your Preaching Might Increase Sin in Your Church

Kevin DeYoung: For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering . . . – Romans 8:3 We tread lightly here, but I fear we vastly underestimate the spiritual damage inflicted on our churches by “How To” sermons without an explicit gospel connection. The Bible is full of practical exhortations and commands, of course, but they are always connected to the foundational and empowering truth of the finished work of Christ. When we preach a message like “Six Steps to _______” or any other “be a better whatever”-type message — where the essential proclamation is not what Christ has done but what we ought/need to do — we become preachers of the law rather than Christ. (And it is not rare that this kind of message with barely any or no mention of Christ(!) at all gets preached.) But

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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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There Are Only Two Kinds Of Sermons

Chuck Collins: I marvel when someone says, “I have no regrets.” That’s not me; I have plenty. Perhaps my biggest regret, outside of not spending more time with my kids when they were growing up and not discovering Irish whiskey sooner, is that for much of my 30 years of ordained ministry I have not preached “the gospel.” By-and-large I have been a nice man standing in front of nice people, telling them that God calls them to be nicer. And just about none of it was life-changing. I have come to see that there are really just two ways to preach: one is the gospel, the other is get-better messages. The first is based on God’s goodness; the second on self-improvement. Gospel preaching presupposes that, even though we deserve punishment for our sins, Jesus Christ suffered the punishment in our place on the cross. Get-better sermons, on the other hand, is moralistic advice in which a preacher mounts a

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The sum of gospel preaching

“All revealed truth ought to be greatly valued, and received by faith; and, if properly used, may be subservient to the main subject and design of the gospel. But the special subject of the gospel is Christ; and preaching Christ, according to the light and direction of the Word of God, is preaching the gospel—to preach Christ the Savior and the Lord, is the sum of gospel preaching. To exhibit Him as a powerful Savior, not merely as to save us from our ignorance or our errors, as a prophet and teacher sent from God, or merely as a powerful Lord to protect us during our course of obedience to Him in our way through this world, and at last to raise us up by His power to eternal bliss; but in the most comprehensive sense to save us from our sins.” — James Fraser A Treatise on Sanctification (Audubon, NJ: Old Paths Publications, 1992), 465 (HT: Of First Importance)  

Rejoicing in the Preaching of the Gospel (Philippians 1:18)

Matt Harmon: In this context Paul’s joy is rooted in the progress of the gospel through the proclamation of Christ. In other words, it is a joy that is rooted in the gospel rather than his personal circumstances. As he sits in Rome under house arrest his personal circumstances are not favorable, but because his joy is rooted in the progress of the gospel it is impervious to the discomfort he is experiencing personally. The present tense of the verb translated rejoice likely portrays Paul joy as a continual experience. What is our joy rooted in? If we are honest, we find ourselves looking often to our circumstances for joy. When things in our lives are favorable or going our way, we are joyful. But when life takes a turn we do not like, large or small, joy seems like a distant memory. But when our joy is in the gospel of Jesus Christ and its progress in the world, we have

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