Pastor, learn to say no!
Agreed. We need more resources to help with application.
"Perhaps a generation of preachers who are now old enough to be looked up to by younger men assumed that good application is vital, but didn’t talk about it much. And of course, as we know from other areas, what one generation assumes, the next often denies. These older preachers may well be terrific appliers of Scripture in their own sermons, but if that’s not something they talk excitedly about at length when they talk about preaching, the younger men are not likely to notice it."
Prepping expository messages
Steve Lawson has an excellent series of lectures on the ‘Mechanics of preparing an expository messages’. Here is one of them.
“If we hope to help our congregation develop a Christian mind, we have to develop one ourselves. And the only way to do this is to soak our mind in the Scriptures.” (John Stott)Tweet
One major point of difference is the way that a preacher must employ repetition. Repetition is not critical to the writer. But for the speaker, and especially for their hearers, repetition is essential.
The people in the pew don’t have the privilege of rewinding. There is no ‘catch up’ when it comes to the sermon. Listeners cannot return to the paragraph they failed to grasp. The preacher’s spoken words can easily be lost in the wind forever.
So the preacher restates his key ideas. He repeats himself on a regular basis. He does not assume that his listener ‘got’ his main idea the first time. He re restates and re-emphasizes his points.
And though this practice is simple, it produces something profound. He finds that his words do not drift away so easily. Instead, they arrow their way towards people’s hearts. Repetition leads to clarity, conviction and change.
In saying all this, perhaps we must add a small word of caution. Repetition must not be overdone. The preacher who restates his ‘big idea’ 17 times tests his congregation beyond the limit! Repeat, but don’t tire. Bear in mind that many ideas can well be stated once. It is really important ideas that bear repeating.
Recall also that repetition doesn’t necessarily mean the exact restatement of certain words. We can restate the same concept but in varied and colorful language. This is what the best preachers do. And its something that the rest of us, yours included, could do a little bit better.
Some of you may not be aware that I have moved on to pastures new. With no little emotional wrench, I have waved Northern Ireland goodbye and returned to my homeland, to Scotland and Glasgow.
I have come to minister in a place where there is great spiritual need. The country of Scotland used to be aglow with gospel-light. Today it is shrouded by godlessness and atheism. The recent Barna survey, which claims that 17% of Scots are born again, has been received by Christians-on-the-ground as wildly optimistic. Yet it is the gospel – not the stats or the odds – that fuels our hope in the ministry endeavor.
So pray for me – please. Pray for my church, and most of all pray for Scotland. If you are ever in the Glasgow area, you would be most welcome to drop in. Otherwise, some info about the church can be found here.Tweet
It is unsurprising that when Timothy Keller brings out a book about preaching, lots of people will be eager to consume it. Preaching: Communicating In An Age Of Skepticism has drawn some notable reviews of a positive nature, but it has also raised a few questions. I am delighted, then, that Tim Keller joins us today on Unashamed Workman to give us an insight into his thinking.
Tim, in your book, you are drawing the preacher’s attention to the cultural and social environment in which they preach. Perhaps you can clarify for us, what are your views on exegeting texts as well as congregations?
Tim: There is no hint in the book that I believe exegeting texts is less important than exegeting the congregation. I point out that, since virtually all good textbooks on preaching devote vastly more space to exegeting Scripture than to exegeting listeners, I have tried to add a bit of balance in the literature by giving more pages to the latter. But I make it clear that understanding the meaning of the authoritative text is the most fundamental basis for preaching the Word.
This is a point well made, Tim, much of the preaching literature has very little to say about how our preaching context should affect the manner of our preaching. Now, a recent reviewer takes issue with the methodology that you sometimes employ in your book: namely, arguing points from historical and cultural sources. Do you agree that especially in preaching this approach is fraught with danger? If not, can you help people see the rationale for this approach?
Tim: In the book I say that every point the preacher makes and declares should be grounded in and should arise from the Scriptural text, but that (especially with listeners who don’t believe the Bible) you can use other sources that support the Biblical assertions. Paul did this of course in Acts 17. This can go a long way toward getting skeptical people to start listening to the Bible for the first time. I would not say that the preacher should make assertions or argue points from purely historical/cultural sources.
You have suggested in your book that preachers consider moving through Scripture at a quicker pace than preachers might have done in a bygone era. Could there be situations, though, where you might disagree with your own advice?
Tim: Certainly. But I’m not unique here. Dr Lloyd-Jones, for example, moved at a far slower pace in his Friday night expositions of Romans than he did on Sundays. He knew that the “Friday-nighters” were more mature Christians who were committed to listening over the long term. Sunday mornings he went through texts more quickly—the audience was more mixed in the levels of spiritual maturity. He moved most quickly of all in his evening expositions, where you had many non-Christians and visitors.
In his thoughtful review, Christopher Ash has gently critiqued your suggestion that the main point of the passage need not always be the main point of the sermon. I wondered if you had any response to this. Are you advocating a strongly different approach here, or simply making what you think is an important distinction?
Tim: It’s a gentle critique because I’m not recommending a strongly different approach. As you can see by my appendix, I believe that in sermon preparation you should indeed look for the main authorial intent and I also believe that a good sermon outline does need a “shaft” or central thrust to it. That is just a good discipline and it helps enormously in the development of clear sermons. This is especially important for young preachers to use.
But two other things should be said. First, in the history of preaching, plenty of great expositors (e.g. Calvin and Chrysostom) did not look for one main point in a text. Hughes Old’s volumes on the history of preaching show that the idea of the sermon outline and “one main point” developed in the medieval church, inspired in part by Greek rhetoric.
Second, I don’t think it’s exegetically defensible to insist that in every text there is only one point the author is trying to get across. Anything a Scriptural author asserts, whether it is his main point or a tangent, is divinely inspired and the proper object of exposition.
Tim, thank you for writing this book, and for taking time to respond to these questions!Tweet
I haven’t got round to reading Tim Keller’s new book on preaching yet. But my anticipation is growing after this helpful review by Robert Kinney of the Simeon Trust.
What does he think is the strongest element of the book? The way Keller helps us think through the contextualization of our sermons to our listeners.
Indeed Kinney suggests Keller makes a “unique contribution to the literature of preaching” on this point. That is quite a thing to say.
What are some of the characteristics of the gospel we proclaim? Four features of the gospel can be identified in Paul’s words to Timothy.
“He has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time, but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.” (2 Timothy 1:9-10)
It is a gospel of salvation. From the believer’s standpoint, the heart and soul of the gospel is that “God has saved us” (v 9). The gospel is not a matter of rule-keeping. The gospel is a matter of rescue. God has saved us, Paul would tell us – yes, God! In the matter of salvation, then, it follows that we sinners entirely passive. God the Father has taken all the initiative: He has reached down to sinners and pulled them out of the treacherous waters of eternal judgement. Forgiveness of sins has been granted, the Spirit of God has been gifted, salvation indeed has come!
It is a gospel of holiness. It is clear from what Paul writes elsewhere that God saves us from something negative, namely His own wrath. But salvation also has a positive side. God has saved us ‘and called us to a holy life‘ (v 9). Many Christians forget this point entirely. They know that they are saved from unholiness, but they are less clear that they are saved for holiness. Put another way, the gospel is far more powerful than we sometimes think. It’s power is not limited to changing the sinner’s status, it extends to changing the sinner’s character. True, this change will only be fully completed when Christ either calls us or comes for us. But even now the fruit of the Spirit begins to bud in the believer’s life. Though not fully ripe, the image of Christ starts to show its early promise in the Spring of our Christian experience. Our Holy Saviour is preparing for Himself a holy bride.
It is a gospel of grace. Paul wants to make it plain that our salvation and sanctification are a matter of God’s grace. The gospel does not declare that I am full of goodness. But it does declare that God is full of grace. Why, we ask, will my sinful soul be saved and sanctified at the last? Is it because of anything [good] I have done? Paul answers with a categorical no! To the contrary, our salvation is because of “his own purpose and grace.”
It is a gospel of life. Death has been an impregnable foe since the day that Adam ate the forbidden fruit. But through Jesus Christ, the fortress has been breached, the monster has been slain, the enemy has been defeated. In fact, defeated is not a strong enough word in this case. It is not simply that death has been defeated – to fight another day – it has been destroyed. In positive terms, Jesus has brought life and immortality to light. The way of life is no longer hidden, buried as it were in the darkness of the grave. The way of life is now out in the open, proclaimed by the messengers of the gospel. The preacher announces that our greatest and last enemy has been destroyed at last through the sacrificial death of Christ.
Could there be anything more thrilling to preach, more relevant to proclaim, more glorious to know, than this gospel?
“We are changed by preaching when the Word shows us our need, exposing our sin. We are changed when the Word shows us the solution, the finished work of Christ. We are changed when preaching agrees with the Word, that we must repent and believe. ” (RC Sproul)
Read the full article, Potent Preaching
The other day I was cleaning out some old files and stumbled across a folder marked illustrations. I forced open the reluctant ring-binder, to discover a topically arranged A-Z directory. Inside each section there were further sleeve pockets with sticky label titles like ‘Apathy’, ‘Assurance’ and ‘Atheism’ in black marker pen.
It struck me how much technology has changed our approach to things in a few short years. The need for space-filling, time-consuming methods of filing are largely over. A paperless world has arrived. Even for pastors.
Whether you are using Evernote, GoogleDrive, OneNote or some other platform, it is now quicker to file information, and easier to find it again.
I would be interested to know how pastors and preachers especially use these sorts of services to make themselves more productive.