Preaching and Representing Slavic Gospel Association at Your Church

July 10, 2008

Part of my role here at Slavic Gospel Association is to help spread the exciting news of what God is doing in the Commonwealth of Independent States. On that note, I am available to speak at churches in Ontario to that end. I can come and speak in an adult Sunday School class, a morning or evening worship service, or even a mid-week prayer service. Different services will have a different focus, but every message I bring ties in the Word of God with what is happenning here at SGA.

On an adult Sunday School class I would do something like “How God Used the Communists.” Sunday morning worship would be a regular exposition of the Word of God with a focus on church planting, missions, or other such biblical concepts. Evening worship services would have a more “nuts and bolts” focus on SGA and what we do. Mid-week prayer services would be a combined time of focus around the Word and about SGA and its ministry.

I am booking currently for the fall. If you are interested in having me come to your church please contact me. I would love to come, minister the Word, and share the exciting message of God’s dealings with the Slavic people in the former Soviet Union. May all of our global perspectives be enlarged!


Great Themes in Puritan Preaching

November 22, 2007

Preaching today is anemic at best and thoroughly unbiblical at worst! There is a solution! Learn from the past about what makes great preaching! Mariano Di Gangi has helped us by looking at the Puritans on preaching. Di Gangi, author of the new book Great Themes in Puritan Preaching from Joshua Press, is well known in Evangelicalism today having served in a number of well-known churches and taught in a number of schools. He received his M.Div. from Westminster and a D.D. from Gordon Conwell. He was written a previous book on the Puritans titled, A Golden Treasury or Puritan Devotion (P&R, 1999). With recommendations by Derek W. H. Thomas, John MacArthur, Jerry Bridges, and Joel R. Beeke and a forward by Michael A. G. Haykin, this book is surely to become a big hit! On a side note, Joshua Press will be distributing 6000 copies of this book to the Together for the Gospel 2008 conference attendees!

The table of contents reads as follows:

The infallible Word
No upstart sect
The Messiah revealed
Pastoral ministry
Guilt and grace
The second birth
Radical repentance
Justified and sanctified
Spiritual conflict
Bread and wine
Renewal and reform
Family values
Most blessed assurance
Advent to judgment

Below is the introduction of the book reproduced in whole to whet your appetite and encourage you to go out and buy this book (reprinted by permission of Joshua Press)! It is available from Sola Scriptura Ministries International. It is available in paper back or hard cover. Check out the website for Joshua Press for their other titles.

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Puritans have been caricatured by their critics as advocates of “the narrowest and most inquisitive clerical intoleranc, a gloomy Calvinism in doctrine, Sabbatarianism in practice, and a degrading mental slavery to the mere letter of the Bible.” “Where once one might be accustomed to see an altar, leading his thoughts straightway to Jesus and to ‘the Lamb in the midst of the elders as it had been slain,’ he sees a cushioned pulpit… The noble liturgies of the early church have given way to the extempore effusions of an individual. The place of worship seems to have become a preaching house… Catholicity appears to have yielded to a bald French Calvinism, capable of imagining nothing but a sermon.” The Puritans were suspected of having “one eager all-absorbing passion–to Calvinize the Church of England and assimilate its polity and ritual–in all respects–to those of Scotland and Geneva.”

Undoubtedly, there may have been Dissenters whose extremist excesses produced intolerance rather than renewal in the turbulent decades that followed the Reformation. The fact remains, however, that “Puritanism aimed at a radical purification and reconstruction of church and state on the sole basis of the Word of God, without regard to the traditions of men… Radical in its antagonism to the medieval church, it was a revolution and it ran into the excesses of a revolution.

The Puritans were people of austere morals, reformed in doctrine, and nonconformists in practice when confronted with the imposition of ceremonies and customs not commanded in the Scriptures. Puritan preachers did not major in minors. They would not trivialize the tremendous truths that had the power to change lives. Building on the Nicene Creed, the Apostles’ Creed, and the Christology of Chalcedon, they strongly opposed Pelagianism, Arminianism, and the Socinianism that eventually spawned Unitarianism. They also differed from the Antinomians who depreciated the authority o God’s moral law. Now would they compromise with the Semi-Pelagians who diluted the gospel of sovereign grace with doses of human merit.

Puritan theology expressed in the Westminster Confession of Faith (1643-1648) and the Savoy Declaration (1658), was also in harmony with the Scot’s Confession (1563), the Belgic Confession (1561) and the Heidelberg Catechism (1563) of the Reformation era. The Puritan movement was distinguished by a serious study of the Scriptures and the practical application of biblical doctrines. Accurate exegesis prepared the way for lively exposition and relevant conclusions. Puritan preachers “emphasized the importance of words in the text of Scripture… This wise and insightful use of words gave Puritan preaching an exactness and attractiveness that many other English pulpiteers lacked.”

The Puritans were noted not only for viewing the text in its context, and so avoiding a pretext, but also for comparing and contrasting biblical passages in such a way that Scripture was used to interpret Scripture. They knew how to distinguish between history and allegory and looked for Christ in texts that were typological. Above all, they believed that God’s eternal Word was timely and trustworthy. It spoke to the ethical, social, and doctrinal issues faced by God’s people in every generation. When the inspired Scripture is illumined by the Holy Spirit, it has an undoubted perspicuity.

It has been noted that “two emphases followed by the Puritans explain at least a part of their effectiveness… First, they educated the mind… They recognized that heat in the pulpit without light from the Scripture would not change people. Second, they appealed to an individuals relationship to God at each present moment. As they explained the Scriptures, they expected the Holy Spirit to honour their work by leading the hearers to judge themselves, and by producing response to the preaching.”

Puritanism developed as part of the Protestant Reformation in England. According to one writer, “Nonconformity was conceived during the days of King Edward, born in the reign of Queen Mary, nursed and weaned in the reign of Elizabeth, grew up a youth under King James, and shot up under Charles I to conquer the hierarchy–its adversary.”

Many of the Puritan pastors and leaders were prepared for the gospel ministry by their studies at Oxford or Cambridge. They preached the incarnate Word from the written Word with prayerful dependence on the Holy Spirit and a clear sense of purpose: that God would be glorified as people repented and believed the gospel, and then obeyed Christ in the fellowship of his church and in their daily work in the world. In all this, they were continuing the ministry of the Reformers and the Lord’s apostles before them.

At that first Pentecost after Christ’s resurrection, when the Holy Spirit came with power upon those praying disciples, Peter did not dwell on his experience of glossolalia but proclaimed the Lord Jesus–his humiliation and his exaltation. Peter summoned people to repentance and offered them the forgiveness of sins through the work of Christ, as well as the gift of the Spirit. Paul was also devoted to preaching Christ, particularly Christ crucified, the Saviour who paid the penalty of our sins and opened the way for us to have peace with God.

Preaching is not universally held in high esteem these days. It is often depreciated, especially by those who lack the discipline and passion to do it well. A pastor’s day can be so involved in matters of secondary and even tertiary importance that the priority of preaching the Word is crowded out. Administration, visitation, counselling, and community relations have their place, but they should never rob the communication of the Word from its place of primacy. When this happens, the consequences may be catastrophic. “The days are coming,” declares the Sovereign LORD, “When I will send a famine through the land–not a famine of food or a thirst for water, but a famine of hearing the words of the LORD” (Amos 8:11, NIV).

Let all who are called to feed God’s flock renew their commitment to preach the Word in season and out of season, correcting, rebuking, and encouraging, with great patience and careful instruction (2 Tim. 4:2).

The Puritans provide us with a model of faithful biblical preaching. There are those who compare the multiple headings and abounding subdivisions of a typical Puritan sermon to the bones Ezekiel beheld in the valley of his vision: they were many, all were dry, and definitely quite dead. Undoubtedly, some of their homilies would have benefited from sensitive editing. But such criticisms say more about the shortness of the average listener’s attention span today than they do about a Puritan pastor’s supposed prolixity.

True, they produced sermons replete with introductions, expositions, clarifications, objections, exhortations, dehortations, illustrations, applications, doctrines, duties, invitations, promises, warnings and consolations. Yet we can derive lasting benefit from focusing on the insights of these biblical preachers. In studying their sermons, writings, and lectures, we will be enriched as their homiletical heritage prompts us to persevere in the reading and teaching of the inspired Scriptures.


Lloyd-Jones (and others) on the Role of the Holy Spirit in Preaching

June 12, 2007

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The first time I read Lloyd-Jones was back in high school when sensing the call to the ministry a wise youth pastor put Preaching and Preachers into my hands to read. It was a worth-while book to read even though perhaps at the time I did not grasp all of the implications of Lloyd-Jones presentation.

Having since then spent some time in the pastorate and a lot of time in theological education, I have come to question Lloyd-Jones view on the role of the Holy Spirit in preaching. His references to “annointing,” “unction,” and “baptism of the Spirit” in the context of preaching have raised some theological eyebrows since my first reading of Preaching and Preachers.

I am going to post an article by my former pastor, and Professor of Practical Theology at Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary, Dr. David Doran related to this issue. The article, “The Role of the Holy Spirit in Preaching” (from the Detroit Baptist Seminary Journal [Fall 1998]) critiques a number of preachers who have seen a special role of the Holy Spirit in preaching including Spurgeon, R. A. Torrey, and Dr. Lloyd-Jones. I think it is an article that faithfully shows the positions of each of them and then compares it to the biblical data.

What I would like is for those who may have read more of Lloyd-Jones than myself to read the article and let me know what they think about Dr. Doran’s argumentation about the role of the Holy Spirit in preaching specifically with reference to Lloyd-Jones thinking.

The article is found here. Please interact critically with the article. Perhaps we can start a good discussion over this much debated issue!


Andrew Fuller the Preacher

April 9, 2007

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While Fuller was a very popular preacher, it is well-known that he was perhaps not the best preacher. In doing some reading and thought into Andrew Fuller the Preacher, I came across some interesting quotes in which everyone may be interested.

“His own sermons were weighty, logical, and grave; he had not the finish of Foster not the splendor of Hall, but his simple and vigorous style expressed simple and vigorous thought; that he was an effective preacher may be inferred from the fact that when Thomas Chalmers listened to him he resolved to so far make Fuller model that he would never again read a sermon, but henceforth trust to extemporaneous delivery” (T. Harwood Pattison, The History of Christian Preaching [Philadelphia, PA: American Baptist Publication Society, 1903), p. 287.

“There is little warmth–no heat; imagination is scarcely in evidence at all; and ‘flights of eloquence’ nowhere appear. The sermons on themes are orderly, discriminating, logical; the expositions… are careful and plain, in homily form; the style is clear and even, but lacks grace, fervor, and movement. Excellent good sense and timeliness for their day characterize the writings of Fuller, and they did good and enduring service; but they have not enough literary quality to make them standards, and their adaptation to contemporary though has, or course, passed away with their own times” (Edwin Charles Dargan, A History of Preaching [New York: George H. Doran, 1912], II:333).

“As a preacher he soon became popular, without any of the ordinary means of popularity. He had none of that easy elocution, none of that graceful fluency, which melts upon the ear, and captivates the attention of an auditor. His enunciation was laborious and slow; his voice strong and heavy; occasionally plaintive, and capable of an agreeable modulation. He had none of that eloquence which consists in a felicitous selection of terms, or in the harmonious construction of periods; he had a boldness in his manner, a masculine delivery, and great force of expression. His style was often deformed by colloquialisms, and coarse provincials; but in the roughest of his deliveries, ‘the bones of a giant might be seen.’… In entering the pulpit, he studied very little decorum, and often hastened out of it with an appearance of precipitation… Not aware of its awkwardness, in the course of his delivery, he would insensibly place one hand upon his heart, or behind him, and gradually twist off a button from his coat, which some of his domestics had frequent occasion to replace…. He was not the exact model of an orator” (J. W. Morris, Memoirs of the Life and Writings of the Rev. Andrew Fuller, late Pastor of the Baptist Church in Kettering, and Secretary to the Baptist Missionary Society (n.o. High Wycomebe, 1816), pp. 81-82).

These are just a few looks at Fuller’s pulpit ability. Yet, for Fuller it was passion in the pulpit over rhetorical and oratorical skill that he rightly stressed was important for the preacher.


Excellent "How To" Series over at Steve Weaver’s Blog

January 8, 2007

Expository preaching can sometimes be one of the most difficult things to do. And to do it well can be even harder. Steve Weaver is out on the front lines doing it Sunday in and Sunday out. He has prepared a really excellent series on expository preaching. It is not necessarily a “How To” preach expository messages but a “How He” preaches expository messages. It is well worth the read and will be helpful in your own preaching ministries. Check it out here at Pastor Steve Weaver’s blog.


"Listening to the Past – Lessons from Andrew Fuller" 3

December 10, 2006

In the context of a letter to a brother asking for Fuller’s thoughts on preaching, Fuller discourses on the importance of preaching.

This is taken then from “Thoughts on Preaching, in Letters to a Young Minister.” Specifically from Letter 1, “Expounding the Scriptures” (The Complete Works of Andrew Fuller, I:712).

“The work in which you are engaged is of great importance. To declare the whole counsel of God in such a way as to save yourselves and them that hear you–or, if they are not saved, to be pure from their blood–is no small matter. The character of the preaching in an age contributes, more than most other things, to give a character to the Christians of that age. A great and solemn trust, therefore, is reposed in us, of which we must shortly give an account.”


Reading Revelation with the Big Picture in View

November 15, 2006

I have a great fascination with the Book of Revelation. I have ever since I was a child. The movie “The 7th Sign” came on television and I wanted to watch it but my mother said no and told me to read the Book of Revelation instead. I have been reading it ever since.

I probably have more commentaries on the Revelation than any other book of the Bible (well… perhaps I have more on Romans but it’s debatable!). I even taught through it once on the Bible Institute level. It has a special place in my heart. No matter what your eschatological schema it is a tremendous message of perseverance and hope for the believer in Jesus Christ.

Now, I am a dispensationalist. I believe in a pre-tribulational, premillennial return of Christ. Yet, over the years I have been departing from the sensational approach to “charting the end times” and other such things.

When I was in Seminary we had to preach a graduating senior sermon. I chose Revelation 4 (and was told I was the only graduate who ever preached out of Revelation). As I was studying it out, I was amazed at the intricacies of the passage. It has incredible imagery that can be mined for centuries! Yet, I sort of had an “ah-ha” moment as I studied the text. I realized the message of the passage was that God was glorious (check it out for yourself). I thought, maybe if I missed the forest for the trees in this passage then maybe I missed it throughout Revelation!

With this new approach in mind (without throwing away my dispensational framework… sorry all you covenant theologians out there!) I planned on preaching through Revelation when I took my last charge as Interim Pastor at Grace Baptist Church in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia. I told someone I was preaching through Revelation and they said, “how can you preach through Revelation? I can understand teaching through it… but preaching through it?” I think his question is reflective of many who “miss the point” of Revelation.

Here’s the kicker. When we get so focused on all the little details (what is the rainbow under the throne, etc.) we miss the big picture. The big picture is that Revelation teaches us more about God than it really does about the end times. Go ahead, try it. Read through Revelation with the picture in mind that it teaches us most about who God is. Take notes. What does each passage teach you about God? When I preached through Revelation to my people we had an incredible time basking in the glory of the Triune God. There is an amazing amount of application in Revelation when we realize it teaches us about God and our response to Him!

So, read Revelation with the big picture in view. Read it knowing that it is a message about the Great God of the Universe and how we are to live in light of who He is! Now, I have not given up my dispensationalism or my eschatological framework. But, I have a new approach when I read my favourite book of the Bible. I read it knowing that I am coming face to face with the Sovereign Glorious God of the Bible and that I must live in fear and service to Him until He calls me home!

Remember, Revelation is more about God than it is about the end-times!