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Pastor Paul Martin

There is simply no way I could reflect on the 30 years of life God has given me without reflecting on the role of my uncle-pastor-mentor-brother-friend, Paul Martin. There is also no way I could do justice to the influence he has had on my life in a blog post. But I need to try because (1) I’m reflecting on my life, and, (2) it’s Paul’s birthday today (I won’t tell you how old, but I will tell you he is old).

So I think I will proceed by simply reflecting on the different capacities in which Paul has influenced me. For each heading I’ll try to identify what I’ve seen of God’s grace working through Paul, and then the impact that it has had on me.

As an Uncle

What I’ve Seen: Growing up in Toronto with an uncle in seminary in California made Paul more of a mystery to me than anything. But from the conversations we did have and from the little I saw him in summers, I knew Paul to be a man who loved God and loved his word. Paul loved me even though I gave him every reason to dislike me as a bratty child. His warmness to me as I grew to a teenager opened the necessary relational door for me to hear the gospel from him later. As an uncle he took an interest in my life and that made a difference.

What I’ve Learned: I’ve learned simply that family can be powerfully used of God to shape us in a gospel sense. Family relationships can become powerful spiritual relationships as well. I pray that God gives me grace as an uncle, as a nephew, as a cousin, as a brother, to develop meaningful relationships with my extended family that will open doors for the gospel in the future.

As a Pastor

What I’ve Seen: As I often tell people, more than being influenced by one particular sermon (though I can remember several particular sermons), the effect of Paul’s ministry has been a cumulative one. That is, week by week he has shown me again and again the glory of God in the gospel of Jesus. He has shown me the sufficiency of the Scriptures. He has shown me the grace of God that has changed my life. He preached the gospel faithfully, I heard, repented, believed, was baptized, and have grown to some measure of maturity (as small as that measure may be) because he was faithful to the word. Every week I would come to church fully expecting to be shown something of God from the one place he may be found: his word. And I’ve never been disappointed. Not one single Sunday.

What I’ve Learned: That a pastor is called first and foremost to minister to God’s people according to their real need, not their felt needs. A doctor would be a fool for trying to treat symptoms without first addressing the real issue causing the problems, but many foolish pastors (no matter how well-meaning) abandon the call to ‘preach the word in season and out of season’ because they think there are more pressing issues that need to be dealt with. But in the word, God has dealt with our real needs, our heart needs: the ones that he, as the great physician of souls, has identified. I pray that God would make me faithful to the word, like Paul.

As a Mentor

What I’ve Seen: Paul took an interest in me as a punk teenager (literally… I was in a punk band… scary thought). I had very little to offer and not much to commend myself to him. I failed him early, often, and bitterly. That’s been the consistent pattern. But he was patient, modelling the gospel, absorbing the pain I inflicted, forgiving me as God in Christ has forgiven him. He gave me hope, he gave me chances to succeed or to fail, and he gave me sound teaching, advice, counsel, and did not shy back from rebuke. I am forever thankful. All his counsel was sweet and the wounds were always faithful.

What I’ve Learned: The gospel takes people who are nothing, people who have nothing to offer and no way to repay and invests in them, gives them grace, and gives them life. The gospel redeems people so that their lives can become meaningful and significant for Christ’s sake. That’s what Paul did for me. That’s the pattern I pray I can follow in mentoring others: injecting people with gospel-life and hope and giving them opportunities to succeed or to fail, but always being patient and speaking truth, calling on people to make their lives meaningful for Christ.

As a Friend and Brother in Christ

What I’ve Seen: As a brother in Christ and as a friend, Paul has let me close. He has let me in his home, in his family, in his ministry. I’ve seen him in every context of life I can think of. Here’s what I’ve seen: He’s not perfect. Far from it. He’s a sinner saved by grace… who still sins. But instead of becoming hardened by his sin with his (old) age, I’ve seen an ever-increasing sensitivity to sin and an ever-increasing sense of his need of grace in the cross and resurrection of Jesus. Watching Paul these past 14 years especially I can honestly tell you that he cherishes the cross more now than ever. Rather than growing in pride or judgmentalism, he has grown in humility and awareness of his need of grace. As a young man, I cannot possibly express to you how counter-worldly and ultimately hope-giving it is to watch your mentor and your hero in the faith grow in humility. The gospel has progressed in Paul; the gospel is progressing in Paul; the gospel is working in Paul.

What I’ve Learned: I’ve learned that Paul is a man, like his namesake, whose life (because of God’s grace) allows him to say, ‘be imitators of me, as I am of Christ’ (1 Cor 4.16; 1 Cor 11.1; 1 Thess 1.6). I pray that God would make me a man whose life, upon inspection by friends and brothers, does not disqualify me. I’ve learned from knowing Paul, from observing his life, that God takes sinners and uses them to move mountains. Through his work in Paul, God saved me, called me to ministry, and equipped me through the training Paul has given me.

As a Gift

Of all the good gifts my heavenly Father has given me, one of the most dear and precious of them all is my uncle-pastor-mentor-friend-brother Paul. I am forever thankful to my Father for him, and today, on his birthday, as I reflect on my life, I want to publicly give thanks to God for Paul.


** This is written as part of the series 30 for 30: Reflections on Life at My 30th Birthday **

The Sufficiency & Centrality of the Gospel

Looking Back

Looking back over the last few years of my life, there has been really only one significant doctrinal change so far as I can see. And even that doctrinal change hasn’t been a change of mind so much as a change of priority.

The biggest change in my theological worldview has been an increasing awareness of the expansiveness of the gospel and its ultimate sufficiency. But rather than reflecting here on being gospel-centred (there are lots of other places you can read about that), I thought I would simply identify a few of the key events God has used to help me realize the ongoing significance and relevance of the gospel for all of life.

1. The Toronto Pastors Conference 2010

The keynote messages preach by Mike Bullmore were especially used of God to help me see the sufficiency of the gospel for all of life.

2. Preaching through 1 Timothy

Preaching through the book of 1 Timothy taught me to see just how ‘gospel-centred’ the apostle Paul was in his approach to pastoring. Throughout the book he insists that Timothy protect the right doctrine of the gospel of Jesus because it alone is what changes lives. No matter what pastoral problems the Ephesian church was facing, Timothy’s charge was one and the same: protect the gospel, because that’s why the church is there, that’s what saves sinners and teaches them how to live in a way that is pleasing to God.

3. Sitting Under the Faithful Preaching of a Faithful Preacher

One of the incalculable blessings of being in a church where more than one pastor preaches is the blessing of sitting under the ministry of another man as he teaches the word. For the 13 years or so before planting GFC I sat under the ministry of Pastor Paul Martin. While there are many things which mark his ministry, none is more prominent in my view than this: he is a man faithful to preach the word. What the word says, he says. The effect of sitting under that week-by-week, month-by-month, year-by-year can only be known in eternity. But over the last few years in particular, I have been profoundly affected by the bigness and the omnipracticality of the gospel as Paul preaches. I hope, by God’s grace, to be able to replicate that for our people in our church plant.

Looking Forward

I pray that this trajectory of growth in understanding the gospel in new and dynamic ways through all of Scripture will continue. I also pray that my ministry will continue to grow, like the apostle Paul’s, to be one that is rooted and grounded in the gospel. The truth of the good news of what God has done for us in Christ must be the guiding principle for all my decisions, words, and actions as a pastor.


** This is written as part of the series 30 for 30: Reflections on Life at My 30th Birthday **

A Must-Hear Sermon

It is very easy to get used to hearing excellent, biblical, engaging preaching every week. Praise the Lord that solid preaching is the norm, not the exception, at Grace Fellowship Church!

That being said, yesterday was an exception–God blessed the preaching of his word in remarkable ways so that it came with great with even more conviction and clarity than normal.

If you are married, ever intend on being married, want to know more about gospel-centred marriage, or know someone who is married, I cannot recommend enough that you listen to this sermon on gospel-centred marriage. You will be convicted and your soul will be blessed and encouraged as you think about how Christ’s glory displayed in the gospel is the reason and power for marriage.

TPF 2008-2009: Free Download of All the Sermons for Pastors

The Toronto Pastors Fellowship has come to a close for another season, and the Toronto Pastors Conference is just about to get rolling!

While the TPF page has a media library where you can download all the free sermons and papers for pastors, it can at times be cumbersome to have to download so many files. So I thought I’d put them all in one place for you.

Now, just download the zip file below, open it up and you’ve got MP3 files of all the messages + the Q&A sessions, all the PDFs of the papers, and all the PDF files of all the book reviews that were distributed this year. All in all, it’s a phenomenal resource.

With messages from men like Dr Michael Haykin, Dr Pierre Constant, Dr Darryl Dash, Pastors Tim Kerr, Carl Muller, Stephen Kring, and Paul Martin, and über-blogger extraordinaire, Tim Challies, this is great link to pass along to any pastor friends you may have.



Free Resources for Download

I just wanted to pass along word to those of you (especially those outside the GTA) who haven’t been able to make it out to the Toronto Pastors Fellowship meetings. Our media library contains all the messages (as well as the papers, in pdf format) that have been delivered at our monthly gatherings. There are also messages there from past conferences. Everything is available to download for free.

There are great messages to download from

  • D.A. Carson
  • Michael Haykin
  • Tom Schreiner
  • Stephen Wellum
  • Paul Martin
  • Tim Kerr
  • David Sitton
  • Charles Woodrow
  • Brad Powers
  • Stephen Kring
  • Alex Montoya
  • And many others!

In particular, I would like to highlight two messages that I think are particularly worth listening to, both preach by Pastor Carl Muller of Trinity Baptist Church in Burlington.

First is a message he preached at the 2007 Pastors Conference on the topic of ‘Balance in Ministry.’ This is an excellent admonition to pastors to maintain a close watch on their life and doctrine, and to keep a large perspective on all of life and ministry.

The second is the message he just preached at the past meeting of the Toronto Pastors Fellowship. It is called, ‘Pastor, Serve the Weak: Minister to the sick, elderly, and dying.‘ It is a phenomenal reminder to pastors that this part of our job is not a burden, but a blessing; it is an essential element of shepherding, and one that must not be neglected.

If you are a pastor, want to be a pastor, or know a pastor, these are great messages for you to hear. I recommend them all!

The Worship of a Sinful Woman

CH Spurgeon’s sermon “A Woman Which Was a Sinner” is based on Luke 7.37-38.

And behold, a woman of the city, who was a sinner, when she learned that he was reclining at table in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster flask of ointment, and standing behind him at his feet, weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears and wiped them with the hair of her head and kissed his feet and anointed them with the ointment.

Recently, at GFC, Paul preached on the incident of Mary’s anointing of Jesus with the expensive perfume. Spurgeon argues vehemently that these are two separate incidents. I completely agree. He comments:

But it ought not to astonish you that there were two persons whose intense affection thus displayed itself; the astonishment should rather be that there were not two hundred who did so.


What both these incidents have in common is that they are oth lavish and extravagant displays of love for Christ, devotion to Christ, and affection for Christ. They are both displays of worship, in public, which are extremely personal and emotion-filled. Those are all things that are challenging for me!

Could it be that this ‘sinful woman’ from Luke 7 has much to teach me about worship? Absolutely! Here’s more from Spurgeon:

The woman’s service showed her love in that it was fervent. There was so much affection in it–nothing conventional; no following chilly propriety, no hesitating enquiry for precedents. Why did she kiss his feet? Was it not a superfluity? What was the good of it? Did it not look sentimental, affected, sensuous, indelicate? Little did she care how it looked; she knew what she meant. She could not do otherwise. Her whole soul went out in love, she acted naturally as her heart dictated, and, brethren, she acted well. O for more of this guileless piety, which hurls decorum and regulation to the winds.

Her act of worship was passionate, affectionate, non-conventional, not hindered by propriety (slang for man-fearing). It was superfluous–which was exactly the point.

She didn’t look noble or dignified… and she knew it. But she didn’t care. She opened herself to the charge of being sentimental, senduous, indelicate, and all sorts of other things. People would question her motives and the genuineness of her worship. But she didn’t care.

Her worship was genuine. Her love for Jesus demanded response, and she gave it. O for love and worship like this! How I wish I was more like that ‘sinner’ of a woman!

Sermon Prep and Preaching: An Interview with Pastor Paul W. Martin

Recently for my homiletics class, I was given the assignment of interviewing my favourite pastor/preacher on the topic of sermon preparation and preaching. I’ll post some of the excerpts here. If it should strike you as interesting (and if you’re a preacher, it should!), then you can download the whole interview transcript here.

Let me also say that I’m extremely thankful to my good friend, Tom Gee, who is also in the class with me, and who contributed just about all of the good questions you’ll read in the interview.


What is the role of preaching in your church?

Pastor Paul W. Martin

Pastor Paul W. Martin

Central. I’d say the pulpit drives any church, so the strength of your church will be directly correlated to the strength of the pulpit ministry.

You can two bad ways with it. You can go to where you elevate pulpit ministry above everything else to the point where you neglect, or you elevate everything else so that pulpit ministry becomes a lame con-versation by someone sitting on a stool with a mic.

But my own spiritual observations is that the healthiest churches are ones that are driven by a vibrant pulpit ministry, and if that is coupled by real pastoring then you are forced to deal with all the other stuff. So I can identify amazing pulpit ministries that I’ve been witness to that have in my view neglected real pastoring and then half floated in “preaching centres”, that’s all it is, it’s not church. Obviously the more dominant example would be churches that are caught up in all the external peripheral things that pulpit ministry is not there.

How do you create a sermon that seeks to change people?

I’ll start with a book that helped me with that, which is Jay Adams’ Preaching with Purpose. I think that book nails it. Every sermon ought to have a point, and it ought to drive to change because that’s its pur-pose in the church, to change. If I’m doing my study correctly, I’m trying to ask of the text all the time what difference does it make, or the so what. Why, if everything in the Scripture pertains to life and godliness, then why is this Scripture here? How does it pertain to life and godliness in my life, and how does it pertain to life and godliness in my sheep.

Having that question in mind in all of your study is going to help you decipher in the study what things are of import. So, I may need to know that this is a continuative gar or an explanatory gar, but they may not. Sometimes they do because for them to be, for the change to be effective, they need to see that this is absolutely essential for whatever reason. So I think having that question in the back of my mind, is very helpful.

And then I think that’s what drives illustration. So looking for ways to illustrate things that are cloudy, that are essential, for the ongoing change. And then, I think, prayer. As you prepare and as you preach, praying that the Lord will direct and knowing that the Spirit of God is the only agent of change.

And I find that often, I chuckle now, I was shocked earlier in my ministry, I find it kind of enjoyable now, to hear how the preached word brought change in someone’s life and 90% of the time it was nowhere in an area that I intended. People say, “you said this” and blah, blah, blah, and you just think well the Lord has his designs, I mean you laboured to do something, and no good, and that’s fine.

How do you develop illustrations? Do you gather material ahead of time?

I’m probably the worst person to talk to about that. I try to catch things I think might work, but I always forget that I have them. So I have a big file on my computer, that I’ll go to when I’m desperate. For me it’s a memory issue, I live in a 72 hour window all the time.

So, my goal is always to have at least two illustrations which are aimed at kids. I don’t always get it, but I want to have two times I can call out to kids in the sermon. Try to get into their world a little bit.
I just try to think of what’s happening in life, in news, read Google news every day. I’ve been working lately trying to use biblical examples more. Some people say you should only use OT stories, but it seems to me the Lord used a lot of things, fishermen, sheep, plants, I think we have liberty there to talk from the issues we know about. Whatever is going to make something clear; like the whole boomerang / ar-row thing, I knew it had to be illustrated somehow. I still don’t like it, but at least it was weird enough to make people think about the issue, like if they didn’t get it, they’re like “Huh?” But, that’s a good exam-ple of something that needs something to make sense, so it’s not just a thought out here where everybody can go “yeah, yeah” without really thinking about it.

What really helped me were those Walter letters. When I wrote those, I had a goal of illustration or word play or simile every sentence. I couldn’t always do it. Sometimes you need a sentence to build into it, but at least every paragraph. It got to be surprisingly easy. It really got my brain functioning in a different area. So I’m trying to pull that into my preaching. I can’t become Walter while preaching John, and that’s where it’s a little bit tricky, because it’s so tied to this imaginary character.

Biblical allusions… if you read the Puritans, they are always alluding to texts, they didn’t quote them, and I’m trying to work on that as well. You realize that young Christians are going to miss it completely, but phrases, not saying turn to Phil 2, but saying “he didn’t regard equality with God something to be grasped”, some people are going to think wow he just made that up, because they’ve never read it, but read the Puritans. Constant allusions to the text. When you start hearing it it really adds to your understanding.

Are there topics or types of things that you will intentionally use or not use for illustrations?

Illustrations are the servants of the truth. I will use anything that is not inherently sinful or offensive in the wrong sense, so long as it serves the purpose of conveying and applying truth.

In writing sermons, are you intentional to include humour, to exclude humour, or is it not that important to be intentional about?

It has to fit the text. Jesus used humour, but it always fit and it was not a dominant theme in his ministry; therefore it should not be in mine. There are 12 funny things I do not say for every one that pops into my head. But too much humour does two things: First, it shifts the focus off God and onto me, and second, it lightens the heaviness of truth. Like illustrations, humour must serve the truth, never obscure or diminish it.

Do you write out manuscripts for sermons or preach from notes? Do you memorize the sermon verbatim? Do you ever practice it aloud?

I am currently writing 90% manuscripts; that is, I write out 90% of what I plan to say. I take that to the pulpit and preach from it, but add to it and omit stuff from it as I go. I do not memorize the sermon, but I do try to learn the truth. Once I forgot my notes at home and did not realize until I walked to the front to preach. It was not my best sermon, but I was able to communicate the meaning of the text and preach from an outline, simply because it was all in the text. I do practice aloud on occasion, especially if there is a phrase or sentence that I want to get just right. I also find it a good way to experiment with my voice and expression.

How do you go about evaluating your preaching?

Tuesday staff meeting. I mean, you always do self-evaluation. Most of that happens as I go, as I’m preaching. If people are falling asleep… Like I was preaching the gospel—always try to include the gospel, in every sermon –and this one fellow who is a non-believer was talking in the back corner. So, in my moment-by-moment evaluation, I’m thinking they need to hear the gospel, they’re not hearing the gospel, so I start preaching into that corner. I catch each of them by eye, and I stare at them.

Some asked if I get Susan’s evaluation, and I don’t. I let her if she has something to say, but I remember Larry Crabb talking about pastors who jump in the car and the first they say is “Well?” That doesn’t need to be her role. She needs to sit under the word and not listen to me as an evaluator, she needs to be fed. At the same time, she has had some of the most helpful evaluations in my preaching, because she will see my inconsistencies and my pride faster than anybody else, and she has gently and lovingly identified that and called me out on it on numerous occasions, and it’s a great check, because now when I’m preaching I know that she’s aware of that, because she just feels that, it’s not that she’s looking for it, but she’ll just think c’mon Paul you’re being a kind of arrogant here. And I appreciate that, because I am arrogant and I would be a lot more arrogant in the pulpit if it wasn’t for my wife.

How have your sermon writing habits changed from the time you first starting preaching until now? Do you take more time or less time to prepare sermons now? Why is that?

My time is about the same. I thought it would get a lot less, but I am stupid and need a lot of time to say very obvious things! I went into more detailed study early on, parsing every word, jot and tittle, but after a while, you develop a sense for what must be done and your overall bank of knowledge increases. So I would say that there is a little less of the nitty-gritty, but maybe more on the end of application now than ever before. I have really been trying to work at that—and on illustrations as well.

What are some of the most common mistakes you’ve seen young men make in the area of sermon preparation / writing?

The basic mistake is this: they try to teach a seminary class in a church. They are more concerned about how they look than how God looks… they use archaic language, the message is sloppy, and ultimately comes out as boring and irrelevant. This is simply a result of arrogance. Humility seeks to magnify God through his revealed truth, not magnify self as the knower and dispenser of truth.

Why do you love preaching?

I feel his pleasure. I feel that this was what I was built to do. Qualified for those things. Even physically, I have a loud voice, because that’s what I think that’s who the Lord made me to be, to be a herald of the gospel. I can remember as a boy preaching at the cottage, with the waves crashing against the rock. I wasn’t even a Christian.

I always felt that that was what I was to do with my life. Wasn’t even that cognitive. I would say that I love the discovery of truth, and the challenge of packaging it in order to present it. I love the Spirit-attended energy of delivery, and looking into men’s hearts, and being given this privilege to speak and they’re going to listen, and leveraging the Spirit’s power through prayer and attendance and sticking to the word and doing things that are foolish, to see people change. And so I would say the final fruit of my love of preaching is changed lives, watching people alter their course of trajectory to become different people because the truth has come, through the Holy Spirit, to change. And you’ve been able to be a part of that. What’s not to love?
There’s even in the physical act of preaching. Lloyd-Jones talked about the electrical energy; not anxiety, but, it’s different. It’s different than talking. And, there is a pleasure even in that. Not in a sensual way, but, you follow your pleasures. I know for some people it’s terrifying to stand in front of people. I don’t like crowds. I don’t like being with people in that way.

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