Numbers, exciting numbers
I must get in a post about cricket. England have just whitewashed India, the number one test nation in the world, drubbing them 4-0 and gaining the number one spot themselves in the process.
This will get you. Here are the series averages. To be honest, if it wasn't a work day, I would spend a good few hours going over these numbers. For example, did you know that KP scored an average of over 100 (106.60 to be precise) but his balls/100 rate was commendably low (good patience etc). And Broady picked up 25 at an average of 13.84 with an RPO of 2.24?
[Well, I don't understand the baseball averages either (though in fact they were devised by the same Englishman who invented the cricket scorecard).]
Numbers can be desperately boring….unless you're interested in them in which case they are delightfully, marvellously exciting and relevant. Believe it or not, US friends, we Brits can spend a whole evening talking about these things and still have room for more.
I'm studying the book of Numbers at the moment and many people who have read it will say that that the first few chapters are desperate, desperate, desperate. All those stats! All that counting! Count me out!
But no! Understand the context and the setting and then you can get excited about the numbers. Understand that only 70 people went up into Egypt (Exodus 1.5). Understand that the promise making God told Abraham about numerous descendants. Understand that this was still a rebellious people who should be wiped out.
Seen rightly, numbers are glorious.
Numbers, exciting numbers. Which means you can preach them too.
Applying Romans 14/15
Here's a very practical illustration of the application of Romans 14/15 in our church setting. It's all to do with Halal meat.
We live (and our church is situated) in a Muslim majority area – one of the few in the UK. So when we put on events at church that include food we need to think about what Muslim's eat. We know from 1 Corinthians that:
"…an idol is nothing in the world and that there is no God but one."
And therefore we can eat Halal meat without any problem at all. So, why don't we make sure that all the meat we eat at church events is Halal? Answer – not everyone feels this way in the church.
"But not everyone knows this."
"Be careful that the exercise of your freedom does not become a stumbling block to the weak."
These verses are all from 1 Corinthians 8 of course. But now Romans 14/15 kicks in which ensures that those who are strong in the faith (and presumably, technically, in the right) do not despise those who are weak. These are disputable matters. However, nor do we prohibit all Halal meat as that would hinder our outreach to the Muslim people around us. So we ask each side to exercise Romans 14/15 priniciples. In one sense, it does not matter who is the weak and who is the strong and even if the weak consider themselves the strong as well as the strong considering themselves the strong. Each thinks of the other before themselves.
Practically, in this case, it means we provide both Halal and non-Halal meat at our meals even though this is more tiresome. Unity is thus preserved.
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.