Announcing ‘Announcing’!

The church I pastor, Greenview Church, is pleased to be part of the West of Scotland Gospel Partnership. In a few weeks time we are planning to have a conference with the theme: “Announcing – Introducing Christ to an Introspective Culture.”

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The main speakers will be Rico Tice (All Souls, Christianity Explored) and Richard Borgonon (St Helen’s, The Word 121). We will also have seminars on the topics:

  • Seminar 1 – From Christianity Explored to Life Explored – Rico Tice
  • Seminar 2 – Workplace Evangelism – Richard Borgonon
  • Seminar 3 – Addiction and Evangelism – Terry McCutcheon
  • Seminar 4 – Evangelism in Marginalised Communities – Norrie McKay
  • Seminar 5 – Evangelising Immigrant Communities

It is open to Christians from all churches who have an interest in seeing the gospel spread across Glasgow, the West of Scotland and indeed the entire land of the Saltire.

The venue is the Tron Church in Glasgow, and tickets can be found here. It would be great to see you!

Finally, here is a personal invitation from Rico where he explains how excited he is to be sharing a preview of the Life Explored Course with us….

 

 

The blood, the guts and the glorious Gospel

I’ll be thinking about Leviticus this week, morning, noon and night.

Literally.

I’m joining about 150 enthusiastic leaders and young people who will be investing a week of their lives, trawling through the glory (and gory!)that is Leviticus. (The camp/event is called Contagious)

Having spent many hours in prep, I feel like I have already been blessed. Though often feared and neglected, Leviticus is a marvellous book. By the end of this week, I am fully expecting to gain a much bigger view of sin, the atonement and my great High Priest.

To give you a flavour (or a reminder) of the riches of Leviticus, check out this brilliant video.

To hear some great sermons on Leviticus, I would recommend the sermons of Pete Woodcock, which you will find here. (Crosspreach, by the way, is a great place to find sound preaching).

 

Keep It Simple…

Over at Desiring God, a great reminder for us that preaching has a rather simple formula. See great things; then say what you see!

“…preaching is not fundamentally complicated. Yes, there are numerous factors to consider when thinking through what to say and how to say it, but I would like to suggest that all faithful, biblical preaching shares a single characteristic. It flows from the heart of a man who has seen great things in the Bible, has savored what he has seen, and stands before God’s people to say what he saw. Faithful preaching can be much more than this, but it shouldn’t be less.”

(Jonathon Woodyard, “A Simple Formula For Effective Preaching”)

Preach To The News

What is the preacher’s task? Does he communicate the contemporary news to his people, broadcasting current affairs from the pulpit? No. The herald of God – should he have the foggiest notion of his task – will endeavour to proclaim a news that is vintage. Indeed this ‘good news’ is millennia’s old!

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That the Word of God is relevant, but not recent, is a fact that should sit perfectly well with us. The preacher’s appointed task isn’t to relay the temporal, ephemeral, and often trivial. The words we speak are living and enduring. They will resound long after the current newscycle. They will echo in eternity itself.

And yet… Could it be that the news should actually be featuring more, not less, in many of our sermons? Having listened to a lot of preaching (including my own!) I would argue in the affirmative. True: the daily news should not drive the agenda in our expositions. But with reasonable regularity our sermons should be applied to the daily rag.

Let me pose the question like this: What does my sermon have to say to this week’s news?

Does this passage, for instance, speak to citizens who are suddenly living under a new prime minister, or who are facing the future within a new and uncertain political landscape?

Alternatively, how might this passage address the racial tensions which are being felt across the United States right now?

Then again: does our text have anything to say to people who are filled with fear and fury in lands like Turkey and France?

These sort of questions will take our application in new and helpful directions.

It is not possible, nor helpful, to aim our applicatory-sights on every news story. Nor is the pulpit the place to get ‘all political.’ We should keep our personal views out of the place where God’s views are meant to be heard. But the Bible has a message for the globe. The preacher who only ever addresses individual concerns will convey (however inadvertently) that the Bible itself is parochial.  The Bible is not so impotent that it cannot speak to political uncertainty or a terrorist attack.

The summary? Don’t be so foolish as to preach the news. Preach God’s Word to the news.

A Few Simple Ways That Most Of Us Could Instantly Improve Our Preaching

My preaching could be better, and so could yours. Here are just a few ways that we might improve our sermons.VRU2C8T6L1 (1)

Apply more  – The upsurge in recent decades of expository preaching has seen a welcome focus upon explaining the Bible. At the very same time, biblical application has been arguably in decline. Of course, application must be done biblically, carefully, and sensitively –  but application must be done. I would suggest that we shouldn’t wait until the sermon’s conclusion before we start showing the relevance of the text. Start early. Show people right from the off that the passage lands in the street where they live. And keep showing them throughout the sermon.

Don’t just make the obvious points – Many sermons suffer from stating the obvious. We preachers tell people what they could easily pick up themselves with only a superficial reading. Now its true, we do need to explain things simply. And yes, we must remind people of the truths they know. What I am suggesting, though, is that having spent hours studying the passage, we help people see some things which are less obvious. Don’t just explain the easy parts. Explain the hard parts. Could it be that some sermons aren’t very interesting because they don’t go deep enough?

Work harder at the logical flow – The best sermons are clear sermons. And one of the things that makes a sermon clear is the fact that its easy to follow. Putting a negative spin on it, some preachers are like butterflies. They hop from flower to flower but there is no obvious connection between each leap!  Preachers who speak with clarity are less like a butterfly, and more like a locomotive train: they progress sequentially from one station to the next, with a clear sense of direction and a steady sense of development. To help us strengthen this area, we should revisit our manuscript prior to preaching. We should review our manuscript and ask questions like: do the topics arise in order? Does every sentence, paragraph, and main point naturally flow from the one before?  In addition, periodic ‘summarising’ will also help our listeners follow the movement of the sermon.

Use everyday language – JC Ryle’s little book Simplicity In Preaching argues for plainness in a preacher’s language. Ryle talks about using simple Saxon words rather than words which come from either a French or Latin base. He also generally counsels us against using long words. Reading the newspapers, and simply talking to people, can help us in using everyday language, and not just the language of the commentators.

Tighten up your illustrations – Illustrations are great slaves but poor masters. Used rightly they can illuminate; used wrongly they can confuse. One preacher I used to listen to had a habit of using illustrations which were encumbered with details. Some of these details were tangential to the point he was making. The result: confusion! At other times his illustrations didn’t seem to even make the point he was drawing out of them. I noticed this about this brother, but I dread to think how often I have done the same myself!?  A further danger, peculiar to illustrations, is that they can shine a positive spotlight on the preacher. The “when I was doing my quiet time the other day…” illustration is probably not the most endearing thing to say to a congregation! Equally bad is “During our family devotions….”!  The church will naturally assume the preacher is engaged in these things, but when said (even in passing) such illustrations can appear self-serving.

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*I recommend the writings of Bryan Chapell on the subject of transitions.

 

Easter Retrospect

UVB3URX1FMOn the run up to Easter I wrote about how we might avoid preaching a terrible Easter sermon. A brief retrospective is now in order…perhaps peppered with a little more nuance.

I spoke about the dangers of:

  1. preaching an apologetics lecture rather than a sermon
  2. preaching a compendium of the resurrection accounts
  3. focusing on facts alone
  4. becoming amateur psychologists
  5. overplaying differences between character responses
  6. ignoring our distance from the eye-witnesses
  7. preaching in a joyless routine manner

I suppose my simple reflection in retrospect is that points 1 to 4 are less of problem than points 5 to 7. I think errors 5 to 7 are always wrong, whereas 1 to 4 are more a matter of where we place the emphasis.

As it happened, on Easter Sunday morning I was preaching John’s account of the resurrection. My Easter sermon, therefore, had a more ‘evidence-heavy’ feel to it. After all, John is working hard in his gospel to demonstrate why we should believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God!

I certainly hope that it was more than an apologetics lecture. But the sermon certainly had an ‘argumentative’ feel.

All this to say, it not wrong to have emphases in our Easter sermons. What matters most is that we allow the passage to guide us as to which emphasis is most appropriate.