Autumn Ministers Conference
I'd like to invite you to our Autumn Ministers Conference, held at Hothorpe Hall in Market Harborough from 12-15 November 2012. This year we're joined by Doug Moo leading workshops and preaching from Colossians/Philemon. Alongside Doug, Professor Glynn Harrison will be speaking about preaching to blokes and Vaughan Roberts will also be speaking. There'll be extra stuff planned as well as our preaching workshops – a chance to sharpen ourselves in the great task of preaching God's word, but also to develop support networks, praying for and encouraging one another. If you've never been, why not come along with a friend as these conferences are a great way of building and cementing local gospel partnerships. You can book online here. We look forward to seeing you. If cost prohibits you from attending but you'd like to come, please get in contact with the office and we may be able to help.
I have just started reading The Lost World of Genesis One reviewed in EN this month. Too soon to say what I think of it. However, the early chapters did get me thinking about what we mean when we talk about the Bible being true or literal. The trouble is that this is a concept that is fundamentally understood by those who comment on evangelical Christiansity and even those who don't understand these things from within. To understand the literal meaning of a passage or text does not mean to read it at its more obvious level, nor at its apparent face value. Literal, in terms of biblical interpretation, means to understand a passage as it was originally intended to be understood. That's why reading a text is not just about, well, reading a text, but rather working at it, seeing what the author originally intended.
We don't often ask for things on this blog. That's deliberate. So you won't find any monetary appeals (though we're always welcome when people support the work). However, we're about to begin a new academic year (because of Cornhill that's just the way our years work) and we do covet the prayers of God's people as we endeavour to serve the church. So please do pray for
- our Cornhill course, starting next Monday. It's full again, and this term under the watchful eye of Robin Weekes as Christopher takes a sabbatical. He's joined by new boy Jonathan Griffiths as Cornhill tutor. Pray that those who teach (primarily Robin and Jonathan with input from David Jackman, me and one or two others) will be godly, careful, wise and faithful. Pray for students, please and their placement churches. We continue to long to see the training course doing good.
- our conferences. This comes under my remit, helped by Rachel Brabner, our conference manager. We always long that conferences will serve people well and encourage them to keep going with preaching – so as we plan and deliver a new season of conferences, pray that would continue to be the case.
- our resources. Again, this is my responsibility. Do pray for recent titles and upcoming titles and our work on revamping the website as well as making as much material available as possible.
The minister’s Bible
We started a new series at church last Sunday evening taking us through the Bible story genre by genre and equipping church members to 'read the Bible for all its worth' (to borrow a well known title). I think it's going to be good – not our idea, by the way, but borrowed with thanks from David Cook, with us on his latest trip. As part of the evening service we read out a slightly modernised version of a prayer from the Valley of Vision. At the risk of sounding like a cracked record, I do like that book! Here's the prayer. Good for every minister. Good for every Christian.
O God of truth, I thank you for the holy Scriptures, their precepts, promises, directions, light. In them may I learn more of Christ, be enabled to retain his truth and have grace to follow it.
Help me to lift up the gates of my soul that he may come in and show me himself when I search the Scriptures, for I have no lines to fathom its depths, no wings to soar to its heights.
By his aid may I be enabled to explore all its truths, love them with all my heart, embrace them with all my power, engraft them into my life.
Bless to my soul all grains of truth garnered from your Word; may they take deep root, be refreshed by heavenly dew, be ripened by heavenly rays, be harvested to my joy and your praise.
Help me to gain profit by what I read, as treasure beyond all treasure, a fountain which can replenish my dry heart, its waters flowing through me as a ever-flowing river drawn on by your Holy Spirit.
Enable me to distil from its pages faithful prayer that grasps the arm of your omnipotence, achieves wonders, obtains blessings, and draws down streams of mercy.
From it show me how my words have often been unfaithful to you, harmful to my fellow-men, empty of grace, full of folly, dishonouring to my calling. Then write your own words upon my heart and inscribe them on my lips; So shall all glory be to you in my reading of your Word!
Something special for an eight year old
Reformation Heritage Books produce some very nice gift books and I've enjoyed reading through Lady Jane Grey – a Christian biography for young readers. It's a hardback children's book and whilst not cheap, is beautifully produced and illustrated. (And, do my eyes deceive me, it is Smyth sewn – how about that!) I really like this book, it's a faithful account of England's nine day queen which doesn't cover over the brutality of the period, but explains it simply and clearly. Moving on the gospel too, repeating her execution speech words: "I look to be saved by none other means but only by the mercy of God and the merits of the blood of his only Son Jesus Christ." I am looking forward to reading it with my eight year old daughter – I think that's about the level. Simonetta Carr has written others in the series.
Why a good start should not be important but is
I've enjoyed a few weeks away and noticed how many of the good books I read began well. Can you spot the openings? Click through for the answers. (I realise, by the way, that releasing my summer holiday reading habits is a dangerous business, but I'd just like to point out that this wasn't all I read!)
- Thirty years ago, Marseilles lay burning in the sun, one day.
- Everything comes to an end
- His children are falling from the sky
- Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again
- The thud of a big gun woke Ian Fleming from his doze.
Doubt you got them all, but then my reading tastes are a bit eclectic. The point is that the first line often draws you in. It hooks you.
So should it be with sermon introductions. They need to faithfully introduce the sermon, I think. You can't just tell your best one-liners. But they need to hook and intrigue and tell listeners – this is one for you.
But here's the thing. They shouldn't have to. In an ideal world, our hearers would be so hungry for the word of God that we could begin like John Owen, "The apostle in these verses carries on in his previous design." But the sad reality is that our messages have to accommodate to the fact that people are not hungry as they should be, they need to be persuaded to listen. And therefore, a good start is important. Don't write it first (before you know what direction the sermon is going to take). But do take care over it.
Best books on preaching (10)
I've saved one of my favourites till last. Peter Adam's volume is the theology of preaching and it warms my heart. This is such a dense, packed book that it requires slow reading to take in all the gold that is found here. It's not dry and dusty theory though. Adam backs it all up with practical help and advice. It was formed from material origianlly given at Moore College Sydney and later delivered on our ministers conferences (incidentally, Peter is speaking at our Spring conferences next year, why not book a space now?). It's now republished in the New Studies in Biblical Theology series by our friends at IVP. Better cover. Same excellent book.
Best books on preaching (9)
You know what Piper is going to say, right? Of course. But here he applies his trademark style to preaching, and it is worth it. It's not long. It's easy to read. But it's important stuff. It takes us away from the 'how to' and delivers on the 'why?' Erwin Lutzer says every preacher should read it once a year. Well, I'm British, so I'm less effusive. But it's certainly worth reading more than once! You know what you're going to get – a healthy dose of Jonathan Edwards (taking up last three chapters). The chapter on the work of the Holy Spirit in preaching is biblical, measured and challenging.
Best books on preaching (8)
I said Ed got two in the list and here's the second. I'm always telling my preaching group to make sure their sermons offend the Rabbi and Iman. That's a rather provocative way of saying that preaching should always be preaching. This book is actually a collection of sermons – worked examples of the principles laid out in the first chapter. Both warming and helpful. And, joy, in print still!
Best books on preaching (7)
When The Trellis and the Vine came out, many of us thought 'this is an excellent book, but where is preaching mentioned or championed?' The answer was – if only we knew it – that we were waiting for volume 2. And it was worth the wait. This book is not long, it's essentially a developed and worked illustration of an arrow and target, but it is readable, useful and rewarding. If you are an experienced preacher it may not tell you anything you do not know – but I still think it's worth the read anyway. And buy copies for your leadership team too. Read it with them. Importantly, it stresses the importance of both systematics and biblical theology (a necessary balance which may have been lost in recent years).