Darryl Dash is one of my close friends in ministry here in Toronto. Knowing someone can make you either want to read what they write or not want to read what they write.
So when Darryl’s new e-book came out yesterday, I made sure to read it through, the first chance I got. Knowing Darryl, I wanted to read his thoughts on preaching.
The book itself is short. And frankly, that’s refreshing. Though there are 28 chapters, none are more than a few pages. Each chapter is concise, contains a single thought, and engages the reader well. Much of what you will find are lessons that Darryl has learned from authors, teachers, and preachers from whom he has learned. He is sharing with us what he has gleaned from years of study.
Ordinary Preacher is divided up into six decidedly uneven main sections: Fundamentals, Planning, Preparation, Application, Delivery, and Final Thoughts. Most of the content of the book is found in the Planning, Preparation, and Final Thoughts, with less space devoted to Application and Delivery.
In sermon preparation this week, I’ve been struck again by the simplest of realities. (Why is it always the simplest things that I have to re-learn the most often?) As I was praying over my study for the day — with my mind wandering from sustained prayer to thoughts about the text, and then back to prayer again — I found myself burdened with this reality:
The point of the text is the God of the text; apart from knowing the God who breathes the words, the knowledge of the meaning of words means nothing.
What does it profit a church-goer to gain a whole dictionary of knowledge, but forfeit the opportunity to know God? It is God himself who is exceeding joy, and whose love is better than life (Psalm 43.4; 63.3). It is God who is our refuge and strength, and God alone who proves himself to be for us when all else seems against us (Psalm 46.1; 56.9).
Don’t get me wrong. Rigorous study is an absolute must and precise attention to grammatical and contextual and historical detail is absolutely essential, lest we misunderstand what God is actually saying. But in the midst of the grammatical trees, we must not miss the covenantal-relational forest: Our God has revealed himself to us! He gave us these words that we would know him, and love him with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength (Deut. 29.29; Mark 12.29-30).
The reason any person speaks is for the purpose of being known. Our God speaks that he might be known, and that we might live in covenant with him. If my sermon — or any sermon — explains the words of the text, but doesn’t bring people face-to-face with the living God who spoke the text, it must ultimately be deemed a failure.
We must work with all diligence to discern the meaning of the words of the speaker, so that the speaker might be understood, cherished, and loved. May God make that true of me this week and every week!
I’m thankful for the 10 reasons for expository preaching listed by HB Charles Jr. Though I am committed to expository preaching through successive biblical texts as the norm for our church, it is all too easy to forget the reasons why, and to just assume the practice without thought to the reason.
In particular, one item on Charles’ list stuck out to me:
Expository preaching addresses the needs of the people which never occur to the preacher
I simply cannot tell you how many times I’ve seen this. Almost invariably, when someone feels that something in particular in a sermon is ‘for them’, it is not something I knew was going on in their life. It was not a need I was aware of now. But it is a need that God knew of so long ago when he inspired the text and ordained for me to preach it on this particular Sunday.
Viewed from that perspective, of knowing the needs of human hearts, we actually begin to see something of the audacity of not habitually preaching expository messages. Preaching topically, or as I see fit, actually places more faith in my ability to assess the needs of our people than it does in the sufficiency of the revealed word and will of God.
Expository preaching forces us to preach on topics and texts that we would never choose. Expository preaching forces us to be controlled in what we talk about next.
If the medium does indeed convey the message, then expository preaching in and of itself serves both the preacher and the people well in that it says: ‘This man is being told what to talk about; he is not the one who knows what we need.’ It militates against the projection of the false image of the pastor as the one who is ultimately setting the vision for the church. If the vision for the church is biblical, people will see it as it is drawn out from the word, rather than created in the mind of the ‘visionary’ pastor.
Yesterday I was blessed to be able to spend some time with some friends listening to a series of lectures by Don Carson on the Primacy of Expository Preaching. There was much to challenge me–and the others too, I trust.
Before teaching on the primacy of expository preaching, DAC taught for a while on the importance that the Bible (especially the New Testament) places on preaching. Sometimes I think that people think of preaching as something that we can take or leave. We treat it like it’s a product of modernity and may well have seen it’s last days of usefulness.
The New Testament has another view, however. DAC roots the priority of the spoken word in the nature of God–the fact that he is a God who speaks, and that is his nature. But then he listed a whole list of texts worth looking up and meditating on (in their respective contexts) which clearly show the New Testament’s emphasis on preaching.
Since I wanted to do the work of looking the texts up anyway, I thought that I may as well make the list available to you as well. You can view all the texts by simply clicking here. Here is a great reminder that the priority we give to preaching is not cultural but biblical. It is good to be reminded of even the basics from time-to-time.
It’s easy to see why reading and meditating on such a list would be important for a preacher or a pastor like myself. My question, though, is this: What does the average church member stand to gain from thinking about the biblical priority of preaching? How would it / could it affect you and your mindset as you go to church or serve in your church?
If you’re in any sort of ministry in the church, I would recommend that you go and download the messages from the Basics Conference. In particular, Piper’s messages, Begg’s first message (he hasn’t preached the second one yet), and Tim Challies’ breakout session are worth your time.
If I tried to write out all the things that I’ve been learning and been convicted by this would probably become a long post. What I would like to point out, however, is the one theme that seems to be recurring that is remarkably encouraging to me.
The conference itself is called ‘the Basics’ and that’s exactly what we’ve been reminded of. In the Q&A session, Piper was asked, ‘What’s the number one challenge coming for pastors in the next ten years?’ He responded that the challenges in the next ten years is the same as it has always been: stay red-hot for God and preaching the gospel undiminished. We don’t need to be culturally hip. We should bleed Bible, not movies. When Begg was asked what advice he would give to seminary students preparing for ministry, he responded, ‘Read your Bible, and meet with God in the secret place.’
The simple fact is that in ministry, it is so easy to get bored with telling the same old story, preaching the same gospel, teaching the same doctrine for so many Sundays, over so many years. That is, it is easy to get bored if your own soul is not finding life in the gospel.
The challenge, then, is to preach the gospel to your own soul. Be in the word. Meet with God. As you see your desperate need, you will not grow bored. You will be faithful to preach with desperation if you are faithful to feel the desperation of your own soul on the brink of eternity, in desperate need of the gospel that gives life.
This time has been quite a blessing so far. I’m looking forward to more.
Pastors Delighting in God to the Glory of God Together
This coming Monday is the final monthly meeting of the Toronto Pastors Fellowship for the 2008-2009 season. While I’m sad that it will be over for the next several months, I can’t wait for Monday to come, because the paper will be great!
I’ve just had a chance to read over Pastor Darryl Dash’s paper on theocentric preaching; it is full of insights, challenges, and encouragements.
Here is a brief preview to whet your appetite for Monday’s meeting. In this section, Dr Dash is detailing the pitfalls and flaws of moralistic preaching, and showing how even sermons that are textually based may be ultimately moralistic.
In Scripture, obedience is always a response to the gospel. Application that is not rooted in gospel leads to pride if the listener succeeds, and defeatism if the listener does not. The law does not give us power to obey its commands; we need good news (the gospel), not just good advice. The Bible does contain commands, but these are always applications of the gospel.
Moralism can creep into how-to sermons (e.g. “Four Steps to Better Parenting”), but it can also creep into expositions of a text. For example, preaching the imperatives of Ephesians 4-6 will be moralistic unless we link the imperatives to the gospel described in Ephesians 1-3. God’s gift and his commands (theology and ethics) are always linked.
Make sure to join us on Monday morning at 10am to get the full paper, the Q&A, and all the blessings of fellowship.
See you there!
My friend Nick Hill sent me some information on an event being hosted by Richview Baptist Church (where another friend, Darryl Dash, pastors).
Richview will be hosting a ‘Workshop on Biblical Preaching‘ from March 25-27, 2009. The featured speakers will be David Short and David Helm (author of The Big Picture Story Bible).
While I’ve not had much exposure to Simeon Trust and I don’t know David Short, I love Helm’s work in the Story Bible and Nick and Darryl both highly recommend the workshop. I thought I’d put the word out there in case anyone is looking for a chance to work on developing their preaching abilities.
Workshop on Preaching Put on by Simeon Trust and Hosted by Richview Baptist Church