What book shall I preach on next? 10 things to think about
I’ve always found it slightly ironic that we evangelicals who quickly decry the kind of preaching which jumps around from text to text as being a bit mystical (“the word the Lord gave me”) freely choose books through which to preach. Given that any individual book has a dominant theme, we are still, therefore, selecting themes on which to preach at some level. The only way around this, it seems to me, is to begin at Genesis and keep going!
No, I’m quite OK with giving the pastor-teacher (together perhaps with other church leaders) the prayerful and thoughtful duty of selecting a book to preach. I happen to think the value of consecutive expository preaching is not that is completely eliminates the whim of the preacher, but that it mitigates it. But how to choose which one? Here are some things to bear in mind.
1. What kinds of genre have you been preaching recently? Good to give a range.
2. What testament have you been in? We believe the whole Bible to be inspired as Christian Scripture.
3. What gospel have you recently preached? There are four for a reason and they are worth returning to regularly.
4. What particular issues are pressing in church? Are these addressed by a prophet or an epistle?
5. What are kids doing in Sunday School? Can you tie in?
6. Have you covered key themes? Churches turnover very rapidly; we need to ensure as much as possible that people with us for a while have not simply had three years of Jeremiah?
7. What speed have you been going? Try speeding up or slowing down? For example, a series on the Lord’s prayer is a good way to slow things up.
8. What have you been challenged by in your personal devotions recently? This kind of series is going to be fresher than something you have picked off the shelf?
9. What do your other leaders say? They can have good insights into what the church needs.
10. What can you cope with? Some parts of Scripture are harder than others. The over-ambitious preacher makes trouble for himself.
There are others, of course. But these will get you started.
Praying for Muslims
We’re right into Ramadan – possibly the longest one for many years as it falls squarely across the summer equinox when the days are longest. It means the area of London where I live is unusually quiet during the day but surprisingly noisy after sunset (just when I’m trying to get to sleep). We live in one of the most densely populated Muslim parts of the UK which brings with it all kinds of challenges. One of them – at least – is reaching Muslims with the good news of Jesus who saves.
Surprisingly, more Muslims become Christians during Ramadan than other times of year. Experts think this may be because they are more open to spiritual things and are, indeed, searching for something elusive during this period – something that Islam cannot deliver.
It’s therefore a great time to be encouraging your churches to pray for Muslims, especially those in the UK. Pray for conversations! Pray for engagement! Pray for disenchantment! But above all, pray for salvation. It’s a big thing for a Muslim to convert from Islam to Christianity; dangerous, even in the UK. We’re using the WorldChristian Concern 30 days of prayer booklet and resources and you might like to as well.
Loving your wife, Mr Preacher
Last year, Mrs R and I took a marriage seminar in Huddersfield and a dear saint gave me a copy of a cherished article she had kept (and obviously photocopied many times). It is entitled 103 ways a husband may express love to his wife (how to convince your wife you love her) and 94 ways a wife may express love to her husband. (Typical, women get the easy ride, only 94).
It’s quaint and humorous. No.42 “Gently brushing her leg under the table”, No. 14 “Looking at her with an adoring expression” and the remarkably practical and forthright No. 17. “Shaving or having a bath before having relations with her.” It’s easy to mock these things of course, but there’s plenty of wise advice mixed in among the old-folksy stuff that some people I know (me?) might do well to follow.
In a sense, it’s all part of a piece. “Husbands, love you wives as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” says Paul. Too many husbands I know obsess about what it means to be head of the house. Now, there is no doubt that husbands are head (I’m a firm complementarian) and they need to think about what that means. But “be the head” is not a command of Scripture. It is certainly a reality to be worked out, but it is significant, I think, that the command is actually “love your wife.”
That is the measure. And – to be frank – many ministry husbands could do with a dose of Mrs Saint’s 103 tips. They have spent too much time working out how they will be the head and not nearly enough time praying and acting on Paul’s marriage imperative.
How are you going to love your wife today?
Me? I’m going for no. 43. “Be reasonably happy to go shopping with her.” Now, that’s sacrifice.
I’m thinking a lot about persevering at the moment because that’s the theme of the EMA coming up in just two weeks. It’s amazing how many times the theme has come up in my morning devotions – just again this morning as I wrote out Revelation 2.1-7. I try to write a little portion of Scripture out each day as it helps me absorb (and sometimes even remember) what I’m reading. I’m currently writing out Revelation.
Now, I know that this is a letter written to a church. But the challenge is not just for a church (though that is its primary sharpness). It is also personal. For churches are made up of people, and are led by leaders. So what is written to the church must sink into the lives and hearts of leaders.
And on that basis, this first letter of Jesus is sharp as nails. It’s full of perseverance. Jesus knows my “hard work and perseverance” to make it personal. He knows “I have persevered and have endured hardships for his name and not grown weary.” All well and good.
But such perseverance is empty and meaningless; worse, it is dangerous, unless accompanied by love (v4-5). It’s good we’re talking about perseverance and keeping going. There is a real risk of giving up which we must face up to. But perseverance without love is nothing at all. If I make it to the finish line but have lost my first love then there is no finish line. I’m deluded. Worse still, I’m lost.
Perseverance Plus. Definitely.
EMA 2016 new songs
Each year we try to sing a mix of old and new songs at the EMA. This year we’ll be singing Dustin Kensrue’s Grace Alone. You can hear the song here. If you’ve accomplished musicians in your church, they’ll be able to pick up the song from chord charts available online. One thing you won’t be able to find though is the sheet music for those who need it. We’re very hesitant about learning something new that is not repeatable in church life, so you’ll be glad to know that we’ve scored out the music which, if you email us nicely, we can send to you. It goes with all the normal copyright restrictions, of course.
EMA 2016: just a couple of weeks to go!
It’s just over two weeks until this year’s Evangelical Ministry Assembly – Leaders who last – at the Barbican. We’d love to see you there and here are five reasons why we think it’s worth making space in your diary for this annual event.
1. The topic is important. Statistically, you’re more at risk of giving up than you might imagine. It doesn’t matter whether you’re young and seemingly invincible or experienced in ministry and a little more realistic – we all need help to make it to the finish line.
2. The fellowship is essential. Ministry, even within a team setting, can be a lonely business. We need the fellowship of others in ministry to be encouraged and to encourage. Standing with like-minded brothers and sisters spurs us on in the gospel.
3. The resources are unparalleled. This year’s Bookstore has some great titles, and you’re not going to see a handpicked store of this size targeted at those in ministry anywhere else in the UK. This year we’ve also got a new consultancy area where you can get free advice for your church in a number of ministry areas.
4. The solidarity is spiritual. The EMA is not a church gathering. Nevertheless, when people from different backgrounds get together in the context of the gospel, we proclaim to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms the manifest wisdom of God. This is an enormous privilege.
5. The habit is healthy. We need good gospel-forming habits, and taking time out to be spiritually refreshed is key. Maybe you don’t feel like you need that this year, but regular attendance is a good habit to form, ready for the more barren times.
Leaders who last. Tues 21- Thurs 23 June 2016 at the Barbican Centre, London.
You can book online here.
EMA 2016 Bookstore: open to the public
One of the highlights of the EMA is our Bookstore. Packed with over 1,250 titles (many of which are new this year) each one has been carefully chosen to serve those who attend. These days, it’s difficult to find a good Christian bookshop and those of you whose members live or work in London may like to know that the Bookstore is open to the public via the Barbican Terrace. It’s open during conference hours from 9:30 to 5:00 (3:00 on Thursday). Come along and browse and encourage your people to visit too. We’d love to see them.
Spring ministers media
We were packed out at this year’s spring ministers conference and had some excellent input. Here are the video links. The audio is also available for download on our website.
Bryan Chappell’s sessions are here, here and here.
Vaughan’s opening and closing expositions.
Simon Medcroft’s two sessions on 2 Corinthians here and here
Andrew Cornes’ sessions will follow shortly.
Wives’ conferences just around the corner
It’s just a short while until our summer wives conference (4-7 July) and we’ve still got some spaces left (though, sadly, no room in the crèche). If you’re in the first few years of ministry, or at college, your wife may well be very thankful Mr Preacher, if you were to enable her to come along. There are many reasons for coming to a PT wives conference and encouraging your wife to come, but surely earning your wife’s thanks is a win-win! We’ve got an experienced set of wives, both Anglican and Free Church, to help things along. There are not many better places than Hothorpe Hall in the sun. What about it?
Perhaps Monday-Thursday is a difficult stretch because of work, family or church commitments? If so, then you may be interested in our weekend wives conference. Held over the weekend of 7-9 October at the luxury Ettington Chase hotel near Stratford-upon-Avon we’ve condensed our standard programme into something that will work over a weekend break. Don’t worry – there’s still space to relax and unwind (and swim and sauna!) with our normal mix of Bible input, seminars and fellowship. It may be just what you’ve been waiting for…
Thanks for praying
Some of you were praying about our Home Office inspection which we needed to pass in order to be able to sponsor visa students. Thank you so much. We have to whisper it, at the moment, but suffice it to say your prayers were answered. There was a hilarious moment where the Inspector, checking that we encourage students to be law-abiding, sat in a lecture on Galatians 2 and heard that those in Christ were not under law, definitely not so. It required a bit of explaining. 😉