This week on the iPlayer
Two programmes worth catching on the iPlayer this week before they expire (sorry, UK users only):
- Ian Hislop's Age of the Do-Gooders. A rather superficial, but nonetheless interesting, account of some of the moral reformers of the Georgian and Victorian age with a clear indication that the grand-daddy of all moral reformers, William Wilberforce, was motivated by his conversion to "evangelical Christianity" – interestingly this is what Hislop says rather than his interviewee, Rowan Williams (Available until 20 Dec)
- A rather more sobering programme – Paxman meet Christopher Hitchens. Unrepentant in his atheism, this is a sad and numbing interview, but worthwhile watching for an interesting insight into the man nevertheless. (Available until 17 Dec)
Long passage preaching
I'm just writing this off the back of a preach on Zechariah 10-11. Too long a passage, really, but there were reasons….
At the other extreme, in this month's Banner of Truth magazine, Iain Murray writes about Andrew Bonar. There's some really good stuff about prayer there and some provocative and thought provoking stuff on preaching from texts rather than passages, especially when it comes to evangelism:
Of course, this is not to argue that God does not bless the consecutive method, or that preachers cannot be led of God if they follow that practice. Referring to these two different methods of preaching, Charles Bridges said wisely, 'It is far better to combine the advantages of both than to set either plan in opposition to the other, or to adopt either exclusively.' All I am arguing is that the single-text method ought to be taken far more seriously that is often done today. And one added reason for that method is that commonly it lends itself better to direct evangelistic preaching…There are great, pointed and searching texts that have been used repeatedly of God and they need to be a staple part of effective preaching.
I guess that will be how many of us approach Christmas evangelistic preaching. Peter Mead of Cor Deo has also been writing about length of passage and has some useful stuff here.
When we have the freedom to pick a passage on which to preach, the decision can end up taking an inordinate amount of time. Which book? Which bit? Typically my suggestion is fairly simple – “Pray, consider what the listeners might need, what they have been hearing lately and what you want to preach. Oh, and don’t waste 80% of your preparation time making your decision.”
Black Cab Bonus
I've been in London Taxis lots and lots of times, but I don't think I've EVER had a conversation quite like this:
I've not long finished reading a book for a review in Evangelicals Now. The book is called The Shepherd Leader by Timothy Z Witmer. You'll have to wait for EN to read the review, but one of the book's strengths is a top-ten list of why preachers should preach expository sermons. You can argue that one or two of the points are the same, but here it is anyway:
- Expository preaching identifies exactly what is at the heart of the Christian message
- Expository preaching requires that the shepherd concern himself with the intent of the Divine Author for every text.
- Expository preaching respects the integrity of the textual units given through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit
- Expository preaching keeps the pastor from riding his favourite hobby horses.
- Expository preaching requires the preacher to preach the difficult or obscure texts and challenging truths of the Bible.
- Expository preaching will encourage both pastor and students alike to become students of the Bible.
- Expository preaching gives us boldness in preaching for we are not expounding our own fallible views but the Word of God.
- Expository preaching gives confidence to the listener that what he is hearing is not the opinion of man but the Word of God.
- Expository preaching is of great assistance in sermon planning.
- Expository preaching provides the context for a long tenure in a particular place.
We have two primary schools right by us and which we can see out of our window. I notice that today the Catholic school is shut whilst the Protestant school is open. Is this the Protestant Primary work ethic, we wondered….?
Are we fighting the right battle on Scripture
This quote is taken from a 2008 book I'm just getting round to: Reforming or Conforming? Post Conservative Evangelicals and the Emergent Church edited by Gary Johnson and Ronald Gleason (interesting footnote, I notice that Smart Mart(in) Downes, one of Wales' leading lights has contributed a chapter entitled The Emerging Church Conversation and the Cultural Captivity of the Gospel; however, for some strange reason he's been left off the list of contributors! – do pray for Martin at the moment; read his blog to see why he and his family, particularly Kezia, need our upholding). The particular quote comes from Paul Wells who lectures at Aix-en-Provence (though he's really a scouser…).
And where does the real problem lie, in so far as the doctrine of Scripture is concerned for evangelicals? Not primarily in its authority and inspiration, nor in its divine nature, nor even in its inerrancy….but in its humanity. If the major evangelical publications over the last fifty years were reviewed, relatively little would be found about the specific nature of the humanity of Scripture. However, it was precisely on this point that modernist critique focused, in the belief that if the humanity of the text is taken seriously, then the nature of the divine revelatory action involved will require some reformulation. Liberals thought that because of the humanity of Scripture, the understanding of divine revelation needed revamping, whereas evangelicals seemed to suppose that if the divinity of Scripture were squared away in the context of inspiration, with inerrancy following close behind, the questions about the human nature of Scripture would somehow go away.
Do we want Apple to censor or not?
This interesting question gets to the heart of some of the issues about the church in society today.
- For some time, I've been impressed with Apple because they won't allow porn apps on their iPhone. I'm sure there are other ways to access immoral material, but it won't be through an app or an iTunes video download. Great, we say!
- Today, Phil Vischer is telling the story of how Apple pulled the plug on an app which allows online sign-up to a petition related to, amongst other things, opposition to gay marriage. Woah! Censorious Apple! (H/T Tim Challies). BTW, it does seem a supreme irony that liberalism is now becoming quite censorious as a force – the very philosophy it espouses is set aside when views are expressed are non-liberal (can you not see how absurd it is that liberals are seeking to have apps removed?).
Which do we want? Or is there a middle way?
I had the joy last Saturday of teaching on Friends International's Philip Project, something I have been doing for four years or so. The Philip Project was initially set up to train Africans studying in the UK in basic Bible handling skills – recognising that many of these would be the future leaders of churches back in Africa. It is essentially missionary work of the training kind, but based in the UK. Together with regular teachers John Richardson and Marcus Honeysett, our monthly training days are both a challenge (after all, the students all live in very different contexts) and a joy – their hunger for God's word is remarkable.
This year Philip Project is spreading its wings and on Saturday we had four Mandarin speakers. If you have any international students in your church, do think about the possibility of encouraging them to enrol – or even paying to enrol them yourselves. We have seen in a couple of African countries how students who really grasp the benefits can make a significant difference as champions of biblical preaching.
You can see some video footage from the Philip Project backed Limbé (Cameroon) preachers conference below. You also get the delight of seeing me not at my finest – very, very, very hot.
You know you’ve made a mistake when…..
…you cycle to work in the morning and then it starts snowing heavily.
God and his whispers
Tim Chester (speaking at next year's Spring Younger Minister's Conference) has blogged very helpfully about Bill Hybel's latest resource The Whisper of God and the normative role of the Word of God. Thanks Tim for an even handed and thorough review.