Archive for December, 2011
A letter from overseas was once addressed simply to “R C Chapman, University of Love, England”; yet so well known was its intended recipient and his reputation that it was correctly delivered to Robert Chapman, the Pastor of an Assembly of Christians in Barnstaple, Devon. Charles Spurgeon once described him as “the saintliest man I ever knew”.
This self-effacing, humble man rubbed shoulders with and was consulted by the likes of Spurgeon, Hudson Taylor, J N Darby, George Muller and even Gladstone, the Prime Minister, yet was always reluctant to see his own name in print lest it draw attention to himself and detract from the Bible and the Lord. Raised in a wealthy family and educationally privileged, Chapman became a prosperous lawyer, only to give it all up soon after his conversion and adopt a simple lifestyle as a Pastor in a deprived area of Barnstaple where he served the cause of the Gospel for 70 years, still preaching in his 98th year and enjoying remarkably good health.
(Read my full review here)
It’s five years since I first dipped my toe into the world of blogging, though I have taken a few breaks and this present blog is my third version. I have found it an amazingly rich world of resources and have benefitted so much from what’s available out there in the blogosphere.
I have asked some of the Christian bloggers whose sites I regularly visit and gain from about their approach to blogging and their vision for it and will be posting their responses week by week, starting on Monday with Trevin Wax who blogs at Kingdom People.
My thanks to Carlton Wynne at the Reformation 21 blog for this:
Consider well the charge given by John Murray to the recent champion of Christ-centered preaching, Dr. Edmund Clowney, when the latter was installed as Professor of Practical Theology at Westminster Theological Seminary on October 22, 1963. May it be a charge to all those who seek to honor Christ from the pulpit this Sunday:
“Your work is concerned with homiletics, the exposition and effective presentation of the Word of God. I charge you to continue to press home, as you have done in the past, the necessity of discovering, unfolding, and applying the particularities of each text or portion of God’s Word. Few things are more distressing to the discerning, and more impoverishing to the church, than for a preacher to say much that is scriptural, indeed altogether scriptural, and yet miss the specific message of the text with which he deals. It is by the richness and multiformity of God’s revealed counsel that the church will grow up into the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ, and the witness of the church will be to all the spheres of life and to all the obligations of men”
(John Murray, “Charge to Edmund P. Clowney,” Collected Writings, 1:108-9; emphasis added).
(Each Saturday, ahead of the Lord’s Day, I send out by email a word of encouragement to those who, like me, are called to “preach the word”. There is no higher calling given to anyone than that of regularly preaching the inspired, living word of God and we need to pray for and encourage one another as we seek to live out our calling. If you would like to receive this weekly email, or know a preacher who would be encouraged by this, please let me know via the comments.)
- Thabiti Anyabwile is senior pastor of First Baptist Church of Grand Cayman in the Cayman Islands and one of my favourite bloggers. Dayton Hartman asked him ten questions, the answers to which make fascinating reading, especially as Thabiti is a convert from Islam.
- Monergism posted an article by Thabiti on A Healthy Church Member is an Expositional Listener
- James MacDonald shares some thoughts on preaching and a video clip of several preachers – himself, John Macarthur, Chuck Swindoll, Greg Laurie and Boby Coy – in a Q&A about sermon preparation
- Matt Perman at The Gospel Coalition recommends 9 books on leadership for Christians
- On a similar theme, Chris Larson at Ligonier Ministries identifies 5 principles for evangelical leadership
- Mike Leake asks “Should a pastor spend 20-25 hours in sermon preparation?“
- Psalm 45 Publications asks Why is the study of theology important?
- Calvin Theological Seminary lists some key books on preaching
Somehow I’ve managed to get to the ripe old age of 57, have been in ministry for over 30 years, and have still not read Calvin’s Institutes right through! 2012 is the year when I put that right. Steven Lawson has described the Institutes as “…the greatest work by the greatest theologian of the church. Outside of the Bible itself, this magnum opus remains to this day the finest masterpiece of Christian literature ever written.”
Since I find that writing about what I am reading helps me get more out of reading I decided it would be useful to me, and perhaps to some others, to blog my way through The Institutes. So, I have set up a Blogging the Institutes blog where, starting on January 1st, I hope on most days to post comments as I work my way through The Institutes more or less following this reading plan.
It’s perhaps a bit late in the day now but it did occur to me that there may be others out there who would like to tackle The Institutes as well and would appreciate some company and the opportunity to share some insights. Why not get in touch through the comments section, either on this site on or the Blogging the Institutes site? I would be delighted and encouraged by others joining me.
I also plan to develop a list of Calvin related resources on the site.
- Derek Thomas shares his testimony at the Gospel Coalition blog. “Why am I still a believer forty years later? The answer does not lie in me but in the grace of God. I would have fallen away a hundred times and more apart from restraining grace and a love that will not let me go.”
- Again at the Gospel Coalition, John Starke links to what he describes as “a wealth of stimulating and profitable material that can redeem commuting, lawn work, or a morning run.”
- C Michael Patton at Credo House tells us how he finds scholars he can trust
- Nancy Leigh DeMoss, writing at True Woman, has some good advice on how to get the most out of your Pastor’s preaching. “If we’re not benefitting from the ministry of the Word as it is publicly proclaimed in our local churches, the fault may not lie in the one proclaiming the Word. It may lie in our readiness to hear, receive, and respond to the Word.”
- Paul Tripp at the Gospel Coalition writes about what he describes as “the most transformational word.”
- The Wanderer takes us into his library and gives us a survey of his books on pastoral theology
- Ligonier Ministries has made available – online and for free – recordings of the 2009 Pillars of the Christian Faith Conference with Ligon Duncan, Sinclair Ferguson, Steven Lawson, and R.C. Sproul.
- This is a great non-Christian resource of quotations about reading.
- Scott Newling at The Sola Panel unashamedly affirms that Genesis 1:1-2:3 is not poetry and is historical. Amen to that!
- Niddrie Pastor, aka Mez McConnell has some advice on doing evangelism and mission through social media. “The social media phenomenon obviously needs no introduction to those reading this blog! As with all things, there is good and bad and it can be twisted and perverted for nefarious means (love that word – thought I’d slip it in for Christmas ). Being a good old missionary I, of course, believe that it can be ‘redeemed’ and used for gospel purposes.”
The recordings of the 2011 Expositors’ Conference with speakers Steven Lawson and Albert Mohler are available at Sermon Audio
- Recently John MacArthur posted a thought provoking series of articles on contextualisation. This is a summary post with links to the whole series.
- David Jackman on What’s so special about preaching? from the Proclamation Trust. “To encourage us, David Jackman first shows us that Jesus himself was a preacher, and then goes on to dismantle various objections to preaching. Then he examines what preaching really is.”
- In many ways The Cripplegate was one of my favourite blog finds of the past year. Surely this must be the post title of the year: The Amputative Consequences of Poor Hermeneutics by Clint Archer.
- Paul Tautges, at Counselling One Another puts preaching in its place: “…nothing can or should ever replace the exalted position of teaching and preaching the Word of God in the life and ministry of the local church. A biblical counseling ministry will not be effective in churches whose pastors are unfaithful in the pulpit.”
- Koinonia has a link to the Digital Dead Sea Scrolls. “A project of The Israel Museum and Google, five of the Dead Sea Scrolls have been digitized, and can be viewed for free as searchable high resolution images, along with short explanatory videos and background information on the texts and their history.”
- Timmy Brister posted a powerful audio recording of David Wilkerson. Says Brister, “David Wilkerson shares about what I have learned to be “soul travail.” No one talks about it these days, but I’ve read about it from the Puritans and those whom God used in history to bring revival and renewal to God’s people.”
- Again from The Cripplegate, this time Mike Riccardi has a sample plan for one hour of structured personal devotions. Very helpful.
- As a Bible College Principal, I shared with some of my new students C Michael Patton’s Twelve Steps to approaching theological studies.
- For His Renown has posted Wayne Grudem’s essay on Are Only Some Words of Scripture Breathed Out by God? Why Plenary Inspiration Favors ‘Essentially Literal’ Bible Translation?” in which he argues that “(1) that the Bible repeatedly claims that every one of its words (in the original languages) is a word spoken to us by God, and is therefore of utmost importance; and (2) that this fact provides a strong argument in favor of “essentially literal” (or “word-for-word”) translation as opposed to “dynamic equivalent” (or “thought-for-thought”) translation.”
- Finally for today, The Gospel Coalition blog has scanned and made available as a pdf Don Carson’s now out of print book, The Inclusive Language Debate: A Plea for Realism.
The heartbeat of this blog is the call by Paul to Timothy to “preach the word” (2 Timothy 4:2) by “rightly handling the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15). Beginning with this post I want to examine the what, why, how and who of expository preaching. Each of the posts ,in what will be a regular and lengthy series, will also get ‘filed’ in a more structured format under the new section of this blog called Expository Preaching
To be a preacher of God’s Word is, without doubt, the highest calling and greatest privilege known to man. When a discouraged preacher wrote to the great Scottish preacher, Alexander Whyte, and asked at what point he should give up, Whyte’s response was forthright. “Never think of giving up preaching; the angels around the throne envy you your great work.”
However, you don’t need me to tell you that the days we live in, even within churches that claim to be evangelical, are not days when faithful, earnest, passionate, Bible based, Christ centred, God glorifying preaching is the norm.
My conviction, which I will defend throughout this series of articles, is that true preaching is always expository preaching. Or to state it in another, perhaps even bolder way – non-expository preaching is not true preaching at all. The only legitimate way to teach and preach God’s Word is to do so by means of exposition.
Sometimes the best way to understand what something is to identify what it is not. Let’s look at some approaches to teaching Scripture that are not expositional or expository.
Derek Newton in his excellent book, ‘And the Word became….a sermon’, identifies several popular types of sermons or talks, including:
1. Rocket Sermons
In these talks, the Bible text is simply used as a launch-pad, from which the preacher goes off in some direction that is clearly unconnected from the passage and context of Scripture altogether. As you listen, with your Bible open, trying to follow the link between spoken and written word you will quickly become bewildered and lost.
2. Heart on the Sleeve Sermons
The sermon or talk is simply an opportunity for the speaker to express their own opinions or insights, possibly very loosely based on but not rooted in a Scripture passage.
3. Grasshopper Sermons
Here the preacher extracts a theme or even a word from a passage of Scripture and then hops all around the Bible, showing its occurrences and uses in various parts of Scripture.
4. Skyscraper Sermons
Like a block of high rise flats, these messages are little more than one story after another. Their entertainment value may be high but their Bible content is low.
In the words of Walter Kaiser, “It is no secret that Christ’s Church is not at all in good health in many places of the world. She has been languishing because she has been fed, as the current line has it, “junk food”; all kinds of artificial preservatives and all sorts of unnatural substitutes have been served up to her. As a result, theological and Biblical malnutrition has afflicted the very generation that has taken such giant steps to make sure its physical health is not damaged by using foods or products that are not carcinogenic or otherwise harmful to their physical bodies. Simultaneously a worldwide spiritual famine resulting from the absence of any genuine publication of the Word of God (Amos 8:11) continues to run wild and almost unabated in most quarters of the Church.”
If we could continue with Kaiser’s food analogy for a moment, what happens if people live on a diet of junk food rather than a well balanced and nutritious diet? Well the answer is clear for all to see in the Church of today – spiritual malnutrition, truth decay, and even, strange as it may seem, obesity.
- spiritual malnutrition: If we adopt these generally random, haphazard, agenda driven approaches to God’s Word, then the men and women who sit under that sort of preaching week in and week out do not grow in their knowledge and understanding of God’s Word or of the God of that Word. They will never grow past the knowledge or maturity level of the preacher. In the words of Colin Smith, formerly of Edinburgh and now in Illinois, “Topical preaching, for example, can only take you where you have already gone with what you already know.”
- truth decay: Our listeners will never become familiar with, or stretched by, vast tracts of God’s Word and, perhaps most dangerously of all, they will end up with a very strange view of the Bible itself. Instead of seeing the Bible as being a series of carefully constructed books with progressions of thought and teaching, they will see it as a collection of proof texts or as some sort of leather bound ‘promise box’ that you dip into every now and then for a blessed thought or word of comfort.
- obesity: Why then are some of the places where they have abandoned expository preaching, if ever they practised it, packing the numbers in? This seems to be what people want and are attracted to so surely we should provide anecdotal, entertaining talks because at least that gets people into Church. The idea of a man standing up for 30, 40 or 50 minutes and talking is so out of date and unattractive so lets abandon it. Let’s have short, entertaining messages, ideally strung together with lots of visual images like video clips etc.
The issue is, the congregation may have been entertained but have they been fed? Churches do not exist simply to pack crowds in on a Sunday morning but to be a place where the authoritative word of the living God is heard.
Expository messages, on the other hand, begin with a text of Scripture, continue with a text of Scripture and finish with the text of Scripture. They use illustrations and cross-references from elsewhere in the Bible but only to show more clearly what the text says and what the text means. The popular but false forms of preaching listed above do exactly the opposite. Far from being expositions of the Bible they are, in fact, impositions – for they reads into God’s Word something that isn’t there. As Alex Motyer so succinctly put it, “Central to it all is that concern which the word ‘exposition’ itself enshrines: a display of what is there.”
 Kaiser W Toward an Exegetical Theology Grand Rapids: Baker, 1998 pp7-8
 Preaching Today Audio, Issue 290
 Motyer, J A foreword to Robinson, H. Expository Preaching: Principles and Practice Leicester: IVP, 1980
This is one of those books that proves why e-readers will never be able to completely replace the printed book. It’s beautifully produced with an attractive cover; it’s nicely laid out and an absolute delight to hold and read. I love my Kindle for convenience but give me a good, well produced book that looks and smells like a book in my hand any time.
Having said all that, there are more important reasons to commend this particular book. Few things inspire me more than the accounts of faithful believers who have lived and finished well. This book is a collection of such records and is intended to redress a western imbalance to the history of the Christian church and mission, highlighting as it does 17 spiritual leaders from Africa and Asia who have left their mark. Some of them I was already familiar with; people like Byang Kato and Janani Luwum of Africa and John Sung, Sundar Singh and Wang Mingdao of Asia, but it was thrilling to be introduced to a host of new heroes and heroines. The writers give us an eclectic mix of characters; mystics and revolutionaries, tribal chief and Bishops.
I do, however, have one major problem with the book. All those featured are described as “Christian voices” but, as is sadly so often the case today, the term Christian is very elastic. In their introduction, Knoll and Nystrom say, “As evangelical Protestants, it has been easier to find and write about individuals with connections to evangelical movements, though we have also made a point to include nonevangelicals, one Catholic and several others who are difficult to categorise by the standard definitions of Western Christian traditions.” I find the suggestion that the term ‘Christian’ can be defined culturally and traditionally rather than biblically disturbing, especially in a book published by a leading evangelical company. To include a spiritual leader, however heroic his resistance to the communist regime of his day, as a “Christian voice” when , in the writers’ own words, his “entire conception of Christianity was defined by loyalty to the pope”, is a cause for genuine concern.
Having said that, this is an inspiring book and there are far more positive aspects than negatives and I would commend it to all who want to share in the blessing of the growth of the world-wide, multicultural church.
Clouds of Witnesses: Christian Voices from Africa and Asia
Mark A Knoll and Carolyn Nystrom
IVP 286 Pages ISBN: 978-0830838349