Archives For ministry

Tim Raymond has just completed a 4 part series on the Credo blog. His series title is a good description: How to Keep the Seminary Christian. Here you can find part one,

part two,

part three,

and part four.

His intro to part 1:

For decades, seminary education has endured the slings and arrows of bad jokes, unkind mockery, and downright slander. If I had a quarter for every time I’ve heard a disillusioned preacher intentionally misspeak, recalling his years in “cemetery, I mean seminary,” I might be able to buy something edible. It would be easy for the average Christian to think wrongly, like Nathaniel did with Nazareth, that nothing good can come out of seminary.

Recently, however, the critiques of seminary have taken on a different form. If you’ve been following the blog chatter, you know that it’s become popular almost to assume that seminary is this dangerous place where young people are continually going shipwreck in the faith.

Now having spent a number of years in seminary myself, I have a few different reactions to all of this. First, I’m somewhat baffled. Baffled because I think we need to ask the obvious question, “What has so gone wrong that the process whereby we train future pastors, church planters, missionaries, and theologians has degenerated into a crisis of faith?” …

My second response has been one of relief – profound, grateful, relief. Relief, because my years in seminary were a far cry from a crisis of faith. Instead they were four years of concentrated biblical, spiritual, intellectual, and leadership maturation…

And by the conclusion of my seminary experience, there was nothing I wanted to do more than serve Christ by pastoring His church.

Now as a result of these recent blog articles, I’ve done a good bit of reflecting on why my educational experience was so different from what so many others are apparently suffering through in seminary. In my next few posts, I’ll consider some of the factors that I believe resulted in my seminary feeding my soul as opposed to killing my faith.

I commend Tim’s thoughtful articles to anyone concerned about ministry and preparing the next generation of pastors.

A brief article that I wrote for one of our institutional publications was recently reprinted on the SharperIron blog. It’s generated quite a bit of discussion (which seems to be finally winding down). The last post offered a great analogy that I’d like to pass along.

Rob Fall said:

As a Californian, I understand that you can only get so much gold from panning. You need different tools to mine out a vein of gold.

That’s a great analogy for illustrating the value of knowing the languages rather than depending on good, but secondhand tools.

The Foolishness of the Cross and Church-Planting Strategies

See the short, thought-provoking post by Justin Taylor on the Between Two Worlds blog.

I don’t usually post this sort of thing, but since a number of my students and other seminarians read my blog–and are also interested in some “contemporary” issues in church and ministry, here’s an evaluation of Mark Driscoll’s ministry that’s worth reading. He’s very popular and has some things right, but read Chris Anderson’s comments on My Two Cents Blog. It’s not brief, but that’s well justified—and makes it worth you taking time to read it.

HT: Dave Doran

Ministry attitudes

October 21, 2008

Dave Black posted an anonymized email today (Oct 21, 2008) that speaks volumes regarding the attitude of some regarding ministry. Unfortunately, this sort of approach is not unknown and perhaps not even uncommon. Doesn’t the Bible say something about “thinking more highly of oneself than he ought”?

7:53 AM I just received this email from a professor in a major evangelical university. Read it and weep.

– – –

Dear Colleagues:

Greetings. I write this letter to several of you at the Seminary because I am coming to Raleigh to speak at an event on Saturday Nov. 8 related to the _____, in my capacity as ________.

I … would like to minister at the Seminary by giving a presentation to your Chapel or other venue, or to speak at a big Baptist Church in the area. Since I am coming to Raleigh for the other event, I offer my services to you. Most of my expenses are already paid, so all I would need is an honorarium.

The reason I am bold to write you is because I am a licensed Baptist pastor (with the _______________ Church), I am a dynamic speaker using PowerPoint, I am the Director of the world-renowned _______ Institute, and am official editor of the _________. My presentation on _______ is powerful, faithful to Scripture, and a strong apologetic for the Christian faith. It is very well received among believers, especially Baptist seminaries and colleges and Churches, where the Scriptures are revered. I received a standing ovation at _______ Seminary and at _________….

I am sorry for the rather short notice, but I guarantee my presentation will exceed your expectations, and your students will be greatly encouraged in their faith and learning.

Yours in Christ,

With best wishes,

– – –

As the character in Woody Allen’s Hannah and Her Children says, while watching a TV evangelist appeal for money: “If Jesus came back and saw what’s going on in his name, he’d never stop throwing up.”

[Note: The words in bold here were in red on Dave’s blog. I assume they are Dave’s addition to make his point. If they were original in the email, it would be even sadder.]

Λέγω γὰρ διὰ τῆς χάριτος τῆς δοθείσης μοι παντὶ τῷ ὄντι ἐν ὑμῖν μὴ ὑπερφρονεῖν παρ᾿ ὃ δεῖ φρονεῖν ἀλλὰ φρονεῖν εἰς τὸ σωφρονεῖν, ἑκάστῳ ὡς ὁ θεὸς ἐμέρισεν μέτρον πίστεως (Rom 12:3).

Paul’s attitude regarding his public ministry sounds a bit different:

Κἀγὼ ἐλθὼν πρὸς ὑμᾶς, ἀδελφοί, ἦλθον οὐ καθ᾿ ὑπεροχὴν λόγου ἢ σοφίας καταγγέλλων ὑμῖν τὸ μυστήριον τοῦ θεοῦ. οὐ γὰρ ἔκρινά τι εἰδέναι ἐν ὑμῖν εἰ μὴ Ἰησοῦν Χριστὸν καὶ τοῦτον ἐσταυρωμένον. κἀγὼ ἐν ἀσθενείᾳ καὶ ἐν φόβῳ καὶ ἐν τρόμῳ πολλῷ ἐγενόμην πρὸς ὑμᾶς, καὶ ὁ λόγος μου καὶ τὸ κήρυγμά μου οὐκ ἐν πειθοῖς σοφίας λόγοις ἀλλ᾿ ἐν ἀποδείξει πνεύματος καὶ δυνάμεως, ἵνα ἡ πίστις ὑμῶν μὴ ᾖ ἐν σοφίᾳ ἀνθρώπων ἀλλ᾿ ἐν δυνάμει θεοῦ. Σοφίαν δὲ λαλοῦμεν ἐν τοῖς τελείοις, σοφίαν δὲ οὐ τοῦ αἰῶνος τούτου οὐδὲ τῶν ἀρχόντων τοῦ αἰῶνος τούτου τῶν καταργουμένων (1 Cor 2:1-6).

I hope and pray that those of you in ministry and those preparing for ministry sound more like Paul and less like the author of the letter which Dave cites!

Ecclesiological Hamartiology

October 18, 2008

Today is one of the first really cool days here in NE Pennsylvania. We had our first killing frost this morning. So I’ve been curled up in front of the fire reading. I hope to finish a book that I began last spring while I was traveling, but only managed to get about half of it read during those “no electronic devices” periods while you’re sitting in a well-worn seat with not enough leg room.

That book is Tim Keller’s The Reason for God (NY: Dutton/Penguin, 2008). It’s a book well worth reading for Keller’s perspective on communicating the gospel in a postmodern culture. It’s apologetics, but not a textbook—Keller is actually doing apologetics, writing for unbelievers (and those who want to minister to them).

I just finished ch. 11 (“Religion and the Gospel”) and found it to be a powerful statement that many Christians and churches need to read. I would have titled it “Ecclesiological Hamartiology”—but that wouldn’t communicate with Keller’s intended audience. Here’s a sample.

Sin and evil are self-centeredness and pride that lead to oppression against others, but there are two forms of this. One form is being very bad and breaking all the rules, and the other form is being very good and keeping all the rules and becoming self-righeous. There are two ways to be your own Savior and Lord. The first is by saying, “I am going to live my life the way I want.” The second is [to avoid sin and to trust] in your own goodness rather than in Jesus for your standing with God. You are trying to save yourself by following Jesus.

That, ironically, is a rejection of the gospel of Jesus. It is a Christianized form of religion. It is possible to avoid Jesus as Savior as much by keeping all the Biblical rules as by breaking them….

Keller then discusses this second group, tagging them as “Pharisees—men and women who try to save themselves.” He suggests that these people “are more unhappy than either mature Christians or irreligious people, and they do a lot more spiritual damage.” His analysis of these people are where I find my title for his chapter.

Despite all their legal righteousness, then, Pharisees have lives that are, if anything, more driven by the despair of sin… Pharisees know deep down that they are not fully living up to those standards…. The resulting internal anxiety, insecurity, and irritability will often be much greater than anything experienced by the irreligious.

… Pharisaic religion doesn’t just damage the inner soul, it also creates social strife. Pharisees need to shore up their sense of righteousness, so they despise and attack al who don’t share their doctrinal beliefs and religious practices…. Churches that are filled with self-righteous, exclusive, insecure, angry, moralistic people are often highly judgmental, while internally such churches experience many bitter conflicts, splits, and divisions…. Millions of people raised in or near these kinds of churches reject Christianity at an early age or in college largely because of their experience. For the rest of their lives, then, they are inoculated against Christianity…. Pharisees and their unattractive lives leave many people confused about the real nature of Christianity.

The remainder of the chapter talks about the motivation of grace. If you’ve not yet read Keller, borrow or buy it soon so that you can.

Preparing to preach

October 16, 2008

I just ran across two interesting interviews, both relatively short, on preparing to preach. Both are on the Sovereign Grace Blog (C. J. Mahaney).

The first is with Mark Dever who spends 30–35 hours a week on sermon prep and preaches from a full manuscript—for an hour. I appreciate his emphasis on the text, observing and laboring to understand what the text says.

The second is with John Piper. His trademark intensity is very evident, but my favorite part of the interview is this, especially the part that I’ve bolded:

Keep your minds from being contaminated, because the preparation moment is a heart/mind thing in which every three minutes you are crying out to the Lord as you are reading your text in Greek or Hebrew or English. You are reading it and you are saying, “God, please. I have got to have a word. I have got to have a word for my people. Let me see what is really here.” That is a prayer for the mind part. My points must be here in the text. I can’t make this up. My people have to see it. I have to see it. I don’t want to pull rank on these folks by quoting Greek—and they say, “I don’t see that,” and I say, “Well, believe me it is there.” I don’t want to do that. I want them to see what is really there, so I need to see what is really there. So I am pleading with the Lord, “Show me what is there.” [emphasis added]

[HT: Justin Taylor, Between Two Worlds]

When trying to emphasize the same point I sometimes tell my students the story of an acquaintance who, while in seminary, taught an adult Sunday School class. He was big on his Greek and often used it in his teaching—and I don’t mean in his preparation, but from his lectern. He was waxing eloquent one Sunday morning and was having trouble persuading his class of his interpretation of the text. They weren’t buying his explanation, but he insisted it could only be his way because the Greek said so. His downfall was that a visitor was present that day whom he did not know. After listening patiently for much of the hour, the visitor finally spoke up. He said something along these lines: “I’ve listened to you trying to explain this passage, but I have to say that you’re wrong and your class is right. They can’t argue with your claims that your interpretation is in the Greek, but I read Greek and what you claim is not valid.” This visitor happened to have a ThD in the biblical languages from a highly respected seminary. I heard the story from the visitor himself several years later when I had him as a professor in another seminary. (He never identified the teacher by name, but I knew enough about them both and about the church involved to identify my former classmate.)

If you can’t demonstrate your interpretation from English in light of the context, you’re likely on shaky ground! The last thing you want is to have an anonymous visitor with an earned doctorate listening to your pontifications who must finally speak up to defend what the Bible says! That’s a really fast way to loose credibility. Yes, the biblical languages are indispensable in your study and preparation. They will enable you to work much faster and more efficiently and to pick up details not readily evident in a translation. But you must remember that you are teaching/preaching to ordinary people who have only a translation. Never use your Greek (or Hebrew) as a “bully stick” (“I’m right because that’s what the Greek says”). Please use it, but use it as a tool, not an authority club. Learn to communicate in ordinary language if you want to have an effective ministry.

How to Make a Baptist!

September 4, 2008

Earlier this year an acquaintance who writes a regular (and helpful) newsletter commented that:

The great Southern Baptist Greek scholar of a century ago, A.T. Robertson said, “Give a man an open Bible, an open mind, a conscience in good working order, and he will have a hard time to keep from being a Baptist.”

Though some of my Presbyterian friends might not be impressed 🙂 I was intrigued by the statement, and particularly the fact that the quote was attributed to a book by Robertson titled “How to Make a Baptist.” I hunted library catalogs in vain for such a title by ATR and even interrogated the church historians at Louisville regarding this title (through the intermediary of a former student now doing his PhD in NT there)—but they had never heard of it.

I have finally tracked it down. In the newsletter mentioned it is a secondary citation from ATR’s biography by Everett Gill (Macmillan, 1943). Since our seminary library didn’t have it, I requested it through inter-library loan. It finally arrived a week ago and I’ve just finished reading it. The citation is accurate, but it is *not* from a book by ATR titled “How To Make Baptists.” It is rather in ch. 8 of Gill’s biography titled “Doctor Bob’s Sayings,” in a *section* on p. 181 titled “How To Make Baptists.”

The dozen pages in ch. 8 are selected sayings of ATR excerpted from W. E. Davidson’s shorthand transcription of ATR’s NT Interpretation class lectures (mimeographed, 2d ed., 1916). I’ve not seen these notes, but the citations included suggest it might make for interesting reading—not the typical published NT Intro textbook! Since they are shorthand notes from oral lectures, they include far more such “asides” that would certainly be edited out of a published MS.

(One of my colleagues has been preparing a review of Bruce Waltke’s new biblical theology–which is apparently also based on a student’s transcription of classroom lectures, and Waltke says some things there that I doubt he’d say if he were writing strictly for publication!).

Yesterday our church had the dedication service for our new building. For a rural church that averages around 130, the crowd of nearly 400 was amazing.


Our first Sunday was the week before–and even then we had 160! Everyone came at once (a few visitors, but mostly our regular church family).


The contrast between the old and the new buildings is obvious. For over 160 years the church has met here:



And we’re now meeting in this facility that God has graciously enabled us to build–with 15,000 volunteer hours over 2.5 years and the help of Baptist Missionary Builders, and a mortgage of less than $500K. The church saved over $340K before they began (plus $65K for 20 acres of land 10 years ago). We don’t know exactly what the cost of commercial construction would have been, but likely somewhere in the $2–3 million range.


God is good. (And he would be even if he didn’t see fit to enable us to erect this building for ministry.)

Kevin’s Bauder’s weekly newsletter, In the Nick of Time, begins a new series this week. As always, these are always worth reading. If you don’t subscribe, you ought to. Past issues are archived.

To understand this week’s essay (and the others which will follow it), remember that ἀπορέω means “to be at a loss, to be uncertain, be in doubt.”

I don’t usually post the entire text, but this week I will, if for no other reason than to entice you to subscribe (free) to Dr. Bauder’s newsletter (details at the first URL above).

Captain’s Log, Part One: Ship to Shore

Kevin T. Bauder

August 15, 2008

Once upon a time there was a young ship’s captain named Apores. He was new to his ship, having just completed Command School. He knew a good deal about detecting pirates and how to fire canons, but not much about navigation. In Command School he had been told that there were stars, and he knew that he ought to steer by them, but he had no real idea of how that was to be done. Mostly, the captains whom he knew steered in the wake of other captains, and they in the wake of yet others. He had heard about the Old Captains, and how they sought to navigate directly by the stars, but he had never learned the craft himself.

As a new captain, Apores supposed that he would imitate his fellow-captains. He would find a successful captain of a large vessel and would steer as that captain steered. Before he had properly embarked, however, he was confronted with a problem.

His ship was an older vessel, and all of the crew had been recruited under other captains. Those captains had all steered differently, for each of them followed some different successful captain. Each crewman wished the ship to be steered just as the captain who recruited him had done.

The senior officers had been recruited by Captain Pragmatus. They could remember days when the ship’s berths had been crowded. In those days, they had a great deal of fun attracting new passengers. Pragmatus had kept order aboard the ship by making sure that the crew stayed busy. The officers hoped that Apores would sail as Pragmatus had done.

Some of the crew had been enlisted by Captain Sympatus. A tender man, he could never bring himself to enforce order. He was always concerned for every crew member, however. If a sailor got a blister from hauling the ropes or a splinter from the yardarm, Sympatus was sure to take time to commiserate. Some of the crew hoped that Captain Apores would be like that, visiting their quarters every day and enquiring after their needs and wants.

The most recent members of the crew had been brought aboard by Captain Demagogus. While he made sure the crew got good rations, he had governed the ship with an iron hand. The crew had finally threatened mutiny, and Demagogus wisely abandoned ship. Nevertheless, he left behind him a few crew members who had a taste for good rations and a desire for an orderly vessel.

What Apores quickly learned was this: whatever direction he tried to take the ship, whatever rations he had prepared for the sailors, and however he set the sail and lashed the rigging, at least two thirds of the crew was bound to grumble. If he attempted to sail through waters into which none of the previous captains had ventured, the entire crew would come close to mutiny. He could make no move and chart no course without some sailor abandoning ship.

Apores decided that the solution lay in getting advanced training in navigation. He went to the most renowned captains of his day, men who commanded imposing warships in the Big Fleet. What he discovered was that those men also navigated by following other captains. The captains they followed, however, were not captains of the Fleet, but pirates. Without realizing it, they were sailing their ships directly into the buccaneers’ harbor, where they would be easy prey.

The situation was desperate. Then one night, when all seemed lost, Apores lifted up his eyes and saw the stars above him. In a moment his resolve hardened. He must learn to navigate for himself. He must learn to follow the stars, and not to follow captains who were following captains who were following captains. Most of all, he must learn where the Admiral of the Fleet wanted his ships to be sailed.

But the sky, though dazzling, was terribly bewildering. How could one make sense of it? By what star should he steer?

He found himself driven back into the Mariner’s Handbook, originally authored by the Admiral of the Fleet. There he found new answers—new to him, at least, because they answered questions he had never before thought to ask. He found a clear description of the Destination—so clear that his heart began to break with longing for it. He found words about the stars, and the Star. These were words that his peers had not heeded for generations, given as they were to following other captains.

He also opened the logs of the Old Captains. What he discovered there was breathtaking. These were captains indeed, ancient mariners who had set the prows of their vessels upon the Star and had sailed straight into uncharted waters. They had fought pirates and weathered storms. And they had reached the Destination.

Apores was filled with admiration for these Old Captains, because they loved the Star and the Destination and the Admiral of the Fleet. He longed to follow them, for to follow them was to follow the Star and to reach the Destination.

But then he would look upon his leaky ship with its ragtag crew. Could he ask them to sail with him into the high seas? Could he bring them under the dangers of rapacious pillagers and raging weather? And his heart would fail, for he knew of no other ships that sailed by the Star. How could he be right, when no others saw what he saw? How could he ask his crew to risk so much when he was still uncertain?

Some years had gone by, and the crew had now grown accustomed to Apores. Many young sailors had even enlisted under his watch. Apores had learned to love the leaky old vessel. He had talked to its crew about the Star and the Destination. A few seemed interested, but to most it seemed as if he spoke a foreign tongue. The ship was still drifting. If Apores set sail for the star, the crew might mutiny. The ship might be destroyed. He was himself uncertain of truths that he had but newly learned.

And so he became convinced that the ship would be better off with another captain, one who at least would sail the vessel no worse than it had been sailed before him. He spied an island, and thought that he might land there. He imagined that, untroubled with the burdens of leadership, he could gaze upon the stars, and especially the Star. He could ponder the words of the Admiral of the Fleet as they were written in the Mariner’s Handbook. He could read further from the logs of the Old Captains. And perhaps after a time he could find a coracle, and by himself begin to paddle toward the Destination.

Apores told the ship to put him ashore on the island. Their parting was tearful, more so for Apores even than for the ship’s crew. And there, surrounded by his books and charts, and under the starry night sky, he pondered the Destination and sought to discover how best one might follow the Star.

As I worshipped with a group of God’s people this morning (not my usual church family since I’m away teaching this week) I thought again about the importance of preaching. Here are some comments I wrote some time ago about preaching. They are but a small part of a larger essay. I’ll append a few related thoughts below.

In its biblical portrait, the central focus in pastoral ministry is the public proclamation of the Word of God. Preaching. There are certainly other aspects of pastoral ministry, both in the NT model and in the traditional (and faddish) models of ministry that have developed in the church. I don’t intend to imply that ministry is only about preaching. But it can be no less than preaching if it is to be a biblical pastoral ministry.

I have some serious concerns about the state of the pulpit these days. My concern could be stated fairly well in the words of 1 Sam 3:1. As the old King James says, “the word of the Lord was precious in those days; there was no open vision”—which, as I’m sure you know, is better translated, “the word of the Lord was rare in those days, visions were infrequent” (NASB). I would adapt that wording and suggest that biblical preaching is rare in our day, a word from God is infrequently heard from our pulpits. That is not just my cantankerous opinion; some of today’s best known preachers echo the same sentiment. John Stott says that “true Christian preaching … is extremely rare in today’s Church” [1] and Kent Hughes bemoans the fact that “dis-exposition … is a serious problem that deserves careful thought. At least in my part of the world [says Hughes], these abuses increasingly dominate the pulpits” [2]

Pastors have the same charge as that with which Paul charged Timothy: “Preach the Word” (2 Tim 4:2). That is an awesome responsibility. The apostle Peter reminds us that “if anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God” (1 Pet 4:11). John Wycliffe, the “Morning Star of the Reformation,” described preaching as “the highest service that men may attain to on earth.” [3] The Word of God is a most precious treasure—equal to our very salvation in worth, for if we had no Bible we would know nothing of God’s Son, the forgiveness that his crosswork provided and the new covenant relationship which that work inaugurated.

As John Stott has said so well,

Preaching is indispensable to Christianity. Without preaching a necessary part of its authenticity has been lost. For Christianity is, in its very essence, a religion of the Word of God. No attempt to understand Christianity can succeed which overlooks or denies the truth that the living God has taken the initiative to reveal himself savingly to fallen humanity; or that his self-revelation has been given by the most straightforward means of communication known to us, namely by a word and words; or that he calls upon those who have heard his Word to speak it to others. [4]

Although the Word of God has been given for all, the pastor is entrusted with the Word of God in a special sense due to his primary responsibility of proclaiming that Word to a congregation. Handling the Word of God correctly is an enormous responsibility. As James exhorted his hearers, “Not many of you should presume to be teachers, my brothers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly” (Jas 3:1). There ought to be a very real sense in which we recognize and acknowledge our inadequacy for such a great task. I sense little of that in many preachers. Some are quite confident—even proud—of their ability in the pulpit. Others treat it rather flippantly. Richard Baxter, the famous 17th century preacher, saw it quite differently. He said,

The public preaching of the word … requires greater skill, and especially greater life and zeal, than any of us bring to it. It is no small matter to stand up in the face of a congregation and deliver a message of salvation or condemnation, as from the living God, in the name of our Redeemer. [5]

Indeed, “the pulpit is a perilous place for any child of Adam to occupy”! [6] Martyn Lloyd-Jones, the pastor of Westminster Chapel in London for many years, was of the opinion that

It seems to be the case that the greater the preacher the more hesitant he has generally been to preach…. A man who feels that he is competent, and that he can do this easily, and so rushes to preach without any sense of fear or trembling, or any hesitation whatsoever, is a man who is proclaiming that he has never been ‘called’ to be a preacher. The man who is called by God is a man who realises what he is called to do, and he so realises the awfulness of the task that he shrinks from it. [7]

One of the books that you need to read carefully and thoughtfully is D. A. Carson’s Exegetical Fallacies. Let me cite part of his introduction and adapt it to my homiletical concerns. The issues of the biblical languages, exegesis, homiletics, and church ministry, are closely related (though one might not suspect that from many sermons!). Addressing the focus of his title, Exegetical Fallacies, Carson acknowledges that,

To focus on fallacies, exegetical or otherwise, sounds a bit like focusing on sin: guilty parties may take grudging notice and briefly pause to examine their faults, but there is nothing intrinsically redemptive in the procedure. Nevertheless, when the sins are common and (what is more) frequently unrecognized by those who commit them, detailed description may have the salutary effect of not only encouraging thoughtful self-examination but also providing an incentive to follow a better way. I hope that by talking about what should be done in exegesis [and, I would add, homiletics], we may all desire more deeply to interpret [and “preach”] the Word of God aright….

… This study is important because exegetical fallacies [and, I would add, “homiletical fallacies”] are painfully frequent among us—among us whose God-given grace and responsibility is the faithful proclamation of the Word of God. Make a mistake in the interpretation of Shakespeare’s plays … and there is unlikely to be an entailment of eternal consequences; but we cannot lightly accept a similar laxity in the interpretation [and preaching] of Scripture. We are dealing with God’s thoughts: we are obligated to take the greatest pains to understand them truly and to explain them clearly. It is all the more shocking, therefore, to find in the evangelical pulpit, where the Scriptures are officially revered, frequent and inexcusable sloppiness in handling them. [8]

Ministry in general and preaching in particular are directly influenced by our theology. If we really believe, not just as a matter of academic statement, but as genuine convictions that the Bible is God’s revealed truth, inspired and inerrant in the originals, then our preaching and teaching of that revelatory corpus must, of necessity, be based on our careful study of the text in the original languages. There is no other way to have the immediate confidence necessary to undergird our proclamation of “thus says the Lord” if we cannot read what he said how he said it. If you cannot read the OT in Hebrew and the NT in Greek you will always be at the mercy of those who claim to be able to do so.

That’s what I wrote some time ago. In a similar vein, I would add these thoughts.

When you preach, focus attention on the text, not on what you say about the text. Always make sure that your audience knows when God is speaking and when you are speaking. Read Scripture in big chunks. Read it well. Emphasize that what you are reading is God’s Word and authoritative. I like the pattern of some preachers (I first heard it listening to D. A. Carson), who when they read the Scripture at or near the beginning of their message, say something to this effect: “This is what Scripture says: …” Then they read Scripture. (And some add at the end of the text, “This is the Word of the Lord.”) The exact phrasing isn’t important, but the emphasis is good.

I heard another preacher recently who intended to expound about a dozen verses, but he never read them all together. After a fairly long introduction, he read two verses so quickly that if someone yawned, they would have missed it altogether! He read some other scattered verses in the text during the sermon (and some other verses from elsewhere), but the net impact seemed, at least to me, to detract from the priority and authority of Scripture. And that despite the many good things that he said.

Fellow ministers: Preach the Word! And be sure your people hear it as God’s Word.


[1] Between Two Worlds: The Art of Preaching in the Twentieth Century (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1982), 15.

[2] Kent Hughes, “The Anatomy of Exposition: Logos, Ethos, and Pathos,” The Southern Baptist Journal of Theology 3 (1999): 45–46. “Dis-Exposition” is Hughes’ term: “Though the term is new, you have all experienced dis-exposition as a listener. You can easily recall a Sunday service in which the biblical text is announced and you settle back, Bible in hand for a good Sunday meal, only to find out that the text is departed from, never to return. Dis-exposition causes Sunday indigestion” (ibid., 44).

[3] Cited in Stott, Between Two Worlds, 22.

[4] Between Two Worlds, 15.

[5] The Reformed Pastor, abridged (Grand Rapids: Sovereign Grace, 1971), 17.

[6] Stott, Between Two Worlds, 320.

[7] D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Preaching and Preachers (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1971), 107.

[8] Exegetical Fallacies, 2d ed. (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1996), 15–16.

[Edited to add the notes.]

Many of you are likely familiar with Themelios. It has recently transferred owners (or custodians?) and been relaunched as a free e-journal under the sponsorship of The Gospel Coalition, DA Carson ed. The first of the new series is now available. It’s well worth reading.

Now if they only had an RSS feed to announce new issues…

Themelios is an international evangelical theological journal that expounds and defends the historic Christian faith. Its primary audience is theological students and pastors, though scholars read it as well. It was formerly a print journal operated by RTSF/UCCF in the UK, and it became a digital journal operated by The Gospel Coalition in 2008.

Themelios – Volume 33, Issue 1 Volume 33, Issue 1 – May 2008

Preaching from Leviticus—in a church “plant”—on Sunday morning! Now just how “wrong” could that be from all the church growth and contemporary church planting advice?! And I mean expository preaching through the entire book over the course of several months. Sounds crazy to many people. But it’s being done, and God appears to be blessing it. Pastor james Schmidt of North Valley Baptist Church (Mayfield/Carbondale/Jermyn, PA) has been doing just that. This is the church plant with which I worked for about 5 years before moving too far away to be involved on a regular basis. James, who was one of my MDiv students, called to chat the other day and recounted his current preaching schedule. I asked him if he would write a brief summary that I could post here. In his own words…

In August of 1007, I made a preaching plan to cover the entire book of Leviticus in 12 weeks for the Sunday morning services. This decision was a difficult one as Leviticus is far from the norm of what people expect from the pulpit. I was convinced that God was serious about preaching the whole counsel of His Word. I was also convinced that my people needed to have a more firm understanding of how to live with a holy God. I had concluded that most people have a very poor understanding of what holiness really is. There are several songs often sung about holiness being longed for by a Christian, yet while the song may be fun to sing, I am not convinced that holiness is something the average person in the pew actually wants.

After firmly deciding to preach from Leviticus, I decided right away to bolster myself and my pulpit with congregational Scripture reading—in unison. I choose passages like Rom 15, Ps 19, Ps 1, 2 Tim 3, et al. all passages which talk about the values of Scripture, and the values of the OT. Each week we gave a very brief disclaimer before or after the reading explaining that ALL Scripture is valuable including difficult passages like Leviticus. The unison reading of Scripture lent itself well with the background of Moses going into the tent and the people standing waiting for the Word from the Lord.

As the weeks passed (actually the first week) people quickly recognized that Leviticus was not like the rest of Scripture. I spent some credibility points in chapters 11–15 (which I covered in one week—that was one of the hardest presentations for me) both because of the content of the Scripture and for my application. My application was somewhat ‘weak’—due primarily to the content and the time I had allotted myself. If I had it to do over, I would not change much. In our feel-good culture people did not generally walk out feeling better than when they came in. I really struggled that week with what I had just done to my people. Yet I was confident that God was honored.

The climax (I believe) of the book is chapter 16. I coved that the next week, alone by itself. I planned that all those months ago. I knew that covering so much the previous week would lay the ground work for the big day, the Day of Atonement which, compared to what we have previously coved, was easy to apply. There was a young lady [college age] there; it was her 3d time visiting us. She had been there the pervious 2 weeks. She said in her own words to me [after the 2d week], “So what you mean is, God is too good for us?” She meant holy; she understood that from the week before there was little hope found in the Law to save us, that people needed something more. The 3d week, she walked the aisle after the sermon. In 5 years it was only my third “altar call.” She got saved because she recognized the holiness of God and could compare herself to that. But it took several weeks of challenge for her pastor. I rejoice that God’s word is powerful and effective to accomplish his purposes. I am learning fast not to be ashamed of the Word of God—especially of the parts that used to embarrass me.

I have several people in the church who were really challenging my decision to preach from Leviticus. After that Sunday, watching that young lady get saved, I believe the debate is over. I prayed that God would save her, for many reasons, one of which was so that people would trust in God’s Word—all of it.

When he finishes Leviticus, James has made a wise choice—he’s going to follow Leviticus with Hebrews.

My only regret is that I’ve not been able to be part of the North Valley congregation each Sunday the past few months!

John Stackhouse just posted a very helpful discussion regarding PhD studies in general, why you might consider one, and how to go about applying. Most of this info is relevant to any variety of PhD programs in biblical studies.

HT: Justin Taylor, Between Two Worlds


July 3, 2008

I was going to title this, “trivia,” but it’s really not trivial. Nor is it very directly related to NT studies, but you’ve probably figured out if you read this blog (when I get time to post something! 🙂 ) that it’s really broader than that anyway. This actually consists of just a few pieces from elsewhere that are worth reading.

First, an article on Christianity Today site by Troy Anderson: A New Day for Apologetics.

Second, some good advice on getting things done (without the guilt of the over-organized efficiency experts who “manage [life… and ministry] by objectives.” This piece by Doug Wilson is titled The Fruitfulness of Plodding. HT: Between Two Worlds