Simplicity in Preaching
I have been reading a wonderful forthcoming book by Derek Prime about Charles Simeon, and loved this, from Simeon, about simplicity in preaching: “The distinguishing mark of the religion of Christ is its simplicity, and its suitableness to the condition of all men, whether rich or poor, wise or unlearned. It is not to our credit when people listen to us and remark how clever we are; whereas it is greatly so when they say, ‘Now I understand.’” I hope I can learn to preach clearly and simply – not simplistically or with banal waffle, but clearly so that my hearers understand.
Sinclair’s Decalogue of Preaching
The new edition of Themelios is out and preachers ought to read Sinclair Ferguson's article on what he wishes he'd been taught about preaching. I don't think I'm spoiling by giving the headlines, but you really need to read the full article here.
- Know Your Bible Better
- Be a Man of Prayer
- Don’t Lose Sight of Christ
- Be Deeply Trinitarian
- Use Your Imagination
- Speak Much of Sin and Grace
- Use “the Plain Style”
- Find Your Own Voice
- Learn How to Transition
- Love Your People
Making of the KJV app
The excellent Bodleian Library have created a really good app for the iPhone and Android based around their making of the KJV exhibition. It's not free (sadly) but still worth a look.
Why your church needs pew Bibles
Guest post from Ian Metcalfe, Director of Publishing at Hodder Faith
As Publishing Director for the UK's largest Bibles publisher I do have to declare a vested interest in this matter(!) – but nonetheless I hope I will be forgiven for taking this opportunity to argue the case that churches should resist the temptation to rely on modern technology instead of ensuring there are good stocks of Bibles in the pew.
The modern penchant for big screens and video projectors is all well and good, and it may seem to offer a one-size-fits-all solution. After all, you could use a different Bible translation every week, skip around at will between passages in the course of a sermon, and at no point will anyone in the pew have to do anything more than lift their eyes to the screen to see what (metaphorical) page they're on. And that page will be exactly the one the preacher wants them on.
But that is, in fact, more or less the sum of the problem. The big challenge in any church is to get people to go beyond mere listening to the wisdom of others and become truly engaged with the challenge of wrestling with the truth for themselves, not just during the 10, 20, 30 or 40 minute sermon (delete as appropriate) but out into the week that follows. And the pew Bible, mundane and outdated as it may seem, is perhaps the most powerful single tool at our disposal to drive that kind of engagement.
With the words on a screen, the chances are the Bible passage will disappear soon after the reading is finished, making way for a key sermon point or a powerful image. Such things are all well and good in themselves – but unless the congregation have a photographic memory, the removal of the Bible passage leaves them hanging off the words coming out of the speaker's mouth at each successive moment (including whatever Bible snippets they may choose to repeat), rather than the word of God itself.
Let's assume, though, that the passage does remain onscreen. Even so, it is stripped of context, so the folk in the pew end up at the mercy of the speaker's ability to frame it adequately. With a pew Bible there is endless opportunity to explore and to assess for themselves the environs in which a particular passage appears, and the style and intent that might go with that. (Sure, they may use that opportunity to dive off at a complete tangent. But I guess that could be God's leading too, assuming the guy up the front doesn't have a monopoly on inspiration. And better a biblical meander than mere daydreaming.)
Even if you want to read from a different translation to make a particular point, there's more to be gained than lost in having people compare with the version in the pew as listeners have the chance to weigh up the different strengths of one translation against another.
I can't help thinking it's a bit like the satnav/road atlas argument – one that road atlases definitely seem to be losing. But the humorous stories of how satnav leads lorries (sometimes literally) up the garden path disguise the fundamental difference between these two tools that are, after all, both designed to help you get where you're going. Using a road atlas, you work out a route and build up a picture of how the land lies which will stand you in good stead even when things take an unexpected turn. With satnav, by contrast, you blindly follow directions and if it all goes wrong you have even less of a clue than someone just driving by their wits, because they at least know how they got to where they are now. When satnav works, it is ultra accurate; when it fails, people get seriously lost.
So with the Bible, we must surely desire that people get to know the territory, and are equipped to make their own explorations, even more than that they slavishly follow the particular points made in any one sermon, however valuable those points may be. Otherwise we'll be creating poor followers of the local Apollos or Paul rather than mature disciples of Jesus.
And that's why your church needs its pew Bibles.
Keller: preaching teams
At Redeemer they preach series and the preaching team all participate. How does Tim manage that process? Here he answers the question. Again, useful snippets of wisdom for those leading preaching teams.
Keller: prayer IS your life
When I interviewed Tim Keller at this year's EMA, prayer was a very strong and useful theme. How pastors need to hear this!!
Keller: pastoring larger churches
Here's some more from the Tim Keller interview at this year's EMA. This time around it's some useful thoughts about pastoring larger churches…
Keller: pastoring and preaching
From this year's EMA, Tim Keller on the relationship between pastoring and preaching and how that differs in a larger church. Also some stuff on how Keller "learnt" to preach.
A word of expectation: Notes on Colossians part 11
The final part today!
The connection between 2:20 and 3:1 should not be missed. An established pattern of Christian relationships (3:1-4:6) is aptly joined to the main matter of the letter. Compare the different application in Ephesians.
The Pattern is a general one:-
I. The Christian and Christ Col 3:1-7
II. The Christian and the (local) church Col 3:8-17
III. The Christian and the family Col 3:18-21
IV. The Christian and the workplace Col 3:22-4:1
V. The Christian and the outsider Col 4:2-6
The Application is an appropriate one:-
- Elitism misunderstands the extraordinary privileges of 3:1-4. Living in Christ they are still living in Colosse. It is time to return to earth from fantasy land. Though seated in the heavenlies with Christ sin is not yet vanquished, depravity eradicated, nor the fight won. Mortification (the Christian variety) is a permanent obligation, since Christ is coming – and so is the wrath of God!
- Elitism promises a heavenly unity above the strife and the doctrinal differences. It is an illusion. Reality is spelt out at length in 3:8-17. It is humbling stuff. It is hard to ‘bear with each other’ (13), to tolerate and cope with our brothers and sisters, to forgive as the Lord forgave us (imagine). Let peace rule in the assembly (15).
- Paul teaches a subordinationist ethic. Resurrection life does not cancel social realities that are part of the created order, either in the home or the household of God. ‘The Son would no longer be the kind of Son we know him to be if he ceased to be obedient to, and dependent on, the Father’ (Barrett).
- Elitism characteristically has problems with both heavenly and human authority. In familiar form, total devotion to sectarian leadership easily permits a disregard of the authority of Christ the Head (3:19). And while obedience to Jesus as Lord may necessitate rejection of corrupt authorities (Acts 4:19), nevertheless Romans 13:1-7 remains normative. See 1 Tim 6:2.
- Bold preaching in a hostile environment, with battling in prayer, seems to be the regular standard for Paul and his fellow-workers (Ephesians 6:10-18 is an intriguing commentary). But winning the outsider is our proper calling rather than securing trophies from within the churches for our select company of ‘saints’.
The Colossian believers had received Christ as Lord. They are urged now to live in Him, according to the Faith as taught them by that faithful minister of Christ (and of Paul), Epaphras (1:7; 4:12, 13). It is a familiar N.T. exhortation (e.g. 2 Tim 3:14f; Heb 13:7f).
For those privileged to serve both gospel and church, Elitism, a form of manic Christianity, is only one of many threats to Christian unity and stability. But, if Paul is our mentor, here in this letter it gives us an incentive to preach the Word of God in its wholeness, namely the mystery of Christ in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.
CHRIST IS ALL AND IN ALL
A word of exhortation: Notes on Colossians part 10
Colossians 2:6-7: The core appeal from Paul to the Colossians was ‘Remain true to your beginnings’.
‘The virtual identification of the tradition of the facts about Christ with the believer’s experience of the living Christ himself is here strikingly illustrated’ (Moule p.89).
(Reflect on 1 Cor 3:10f; 1 Cor 15:1,2).
2:8-23 Watch out for aspiring Kidnappers (8), Detractors (18) and Spiritual Snobs (18). All are committed Elitists. They itch to ‘capture’ your allegiance for their notions (philosophies), take you to task for neglecting their religious obligations, and pronounce you to be second class citizens of the Kingdom for lack of their alleged attainments. Contemporary applications are legion, and are the responsibility of the preacher, who knows the times in which he lives and the people he is called to serve and protect.
How Paul negates the influence of the Elitist is of value to Pastors:-
IN CHRIST the Colossian Christians have already found spiritual ‘reality’. Union WITH CHRIST is theirs.
Elitists are ever in danger of ‘inflation’, i.e. becoming spiritual swells. That the Corinthian Elitists were ‘puffed up’ is repeatedly recorded in 1 Corinthians. This term (largely limited to Christian literature, AG) is found otherwise only here Col 2:18.
As the Colossian believers have died to ‘religion’ why do they want to have anything more to do with ‘human piety, human self-justification, human conjecture’ (Barth)?