Sinclair Ferguson takes a good look at about pastors should think about their preaching. Excellent message by Ferguson, who we’d expect nothing less.
Don’t miss the God Exposed Conference, a pastors conference focusing on expositional preaching. This is a much needed conference which was co-sponsored by 9Marks ministry and Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.
To begin with, Dan Akin’s message is one of those defining messages that set the standard for what preaching is meant to be. Akin looks at the preacher in Ecclesiastes. He begins his message by stating the phrase, ‘The most important thing about any message is what you say, but how you say it has never been more important.’ Akin comes down hard (helpfully so) on the need for preaching to engage and hold interest in the listener. He even goes so far to say that it is a sin for a preacher to be boring. This is a message you will want to listen to twice (which I did).
Mark Dever opens the conference with a good anticipatory message and concludes it with a fantastic message. In fact, all of the speakers made very thoughtful and engaging contributions to the conference.
One of the unique qualities of this conference is something that I first heard at T4G, and that is that immediately after the message all the speakers gather to discuss the message–a very helpful practice.
God Exposed is a pastors conference on expositional preaching that
- Session 1: Mark Dever – “The Power of God’s Word” (Mark 4:26-34)
- Session 2: Daniel L. Akin – “The Preaching on Preaching” (Eccl. 12:9-14)
- Session 3: Michael McKinley – “The Centrality of the Word” (Luke 10:38-42)
- Session 4: CJ Mahaney – “Expository Faithfulness” (2 Timothy 4:1-5)
- Session 5: Thabiti Anyabwile – “Will It Preach? Exposition in Non-White Contexts”
- Session 6: Mark Dever – “Expositional Preaching: A Defense and Charge”
John MacArthur and Bruce Ware join Bryon Yawn at the 2009 Nashville Conference.
Right off the bat MacArthur delivers some of the best messages I’ve heard this year. He begins in session one by reflecting over the core convictions of his ministry that he formed early on and have not let go of since. These convictions happen to be Trinitarian: The Glory of God, the Lordship of Jesus Christ, and the work of the Holy Spirit in Scripture.
There is so much to talk about regarding his messages. But perhaps the most needed, is he relates the story of when he met a ministry friend who told him about this incredible book about how IBM was structured, and why pastors needed these lessons. MacArthur asked this man, “Why, is the Word of God deficient somewhere?”
MacArthur also talks about why he does church discipline. Again, early in his ministry other pastors told him he would empty his church. It never happened. If you are a church planter or pastor who buys a lot of contemporary books on how to “do church” you need to listen to a pastor who saw God build His church apart from all the books, programs, polls, and expert opinions. Listening to MacArthur is like a breath of fresh air in a day when the church looks more to Starbucks for it’s ecclesiology than it does the Apostle Paul.
Above Every Name pt. 1, John MacArthur
Above Every Name pt. 2, John MacArthur
Above Every Name pt. 3, John MacArthur
Beholding the God of Merciful Holiness; Transcendence, Immanence & Ministry, Bruce Ware
An Overwhelming Greatness, Bryon Yawn
Beholding the God of Self-Sufficient Fullness; Humility, Satisfaction & Ministry, Bruce Ware
Beholding the God of Sovereign Supremacy; Good, Evil & Ministry, Bruce Ware
Slaves of Christ, John MacArthur
Alistair Begg, John Piper and John Lennox come together in a conference that is a real treat to listen to. This trio is a uniquely fitted group of men that shine with distinctive voices, backgrounds and convictions that resonate with combined power. The Q&A session is testimony to this.
Each one of these men and their messages are equally marvelous and helpful. Begg with his down to earth wisdom and pastoral insight; Piper with his rational theological power and motivation; and Lennox with his sharp discerning mind and articulate clarity.
I must point out that this conference was my introduction to John Lennox. Lennox is a mathematician and philosopher of science at Oxford, and a Christian. He is one of the most formidable opponents to the new atheism crowd. The man is a wealth of wisdom.
This certainly was a great conference and I commend it highly.
Michael Horton delivered 3 messages at the Spring Theology Conference of the Reformation Society of Oregon at Estacada Christian Church. These messages are related to his forthcoming book: The Gospel-Driven Life.
Gospel-Driven is the positive sided companion book to his previous book Christless Christianity. Horton’s thesis is that the contemporary evangelical church has moved the Gospel from the headlines to the back page of the paper. This hasn’t been an intentional move by the church, but it has happened as we’ve focused on minor issues.
There are two points I found very interesting. First, Horton helpfully illustrates the contemporary Gospel message as every Christian being the main actor of a movie with Jesus as the supporting character. This is false Christianity. True Christianity sees the believer as the supporting character and Jesus is the main character.
Second, Horton quotes statistics which reveal the younger generation not being impressed with visuals and entertainment in the church. They are bombarded with that all week and when they get to church they’re ready for theology. And trends now show that once a flock of believers get a taste of strong expository preaching then nothing on the light side satisfies.
Horton’s goal for this series is to answer the question raised in Christless Christianity–“What do we do now?”
The messages are:
The Front Page God
The Promise-Driven Life
Feasting in a Fast Food World
Q & A
John Piper and Don Carson address in their unique ways, Piper lo0king at the Pastor as Scholar, and Carson looking at the Scholar as Pastor. Both provide very intriguing reflections of their ministries. Both talk about influences. Both look at how important writing is to their ministry. “I learn as I write and I write as I learn” as John Calvin was quoted.
Piper talks about how his slow reading speed was difficult for him as a student, but now talks about how slow reading allows him to savor what is written. He also relates how he was terrified to speak in public. He also talks about how the greatest lessons he learned that now help him in ministry were in geometry and biology.
Carson gives 12 points of advice for ministry, some he’s said before in other addresses, but always important to hear and apply.
These messages were given at the Henry Center.
The Mullins Lectures at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary this year invited Hughes Oliphant Old to present 3 lectures on Preaching as worship. Who is Hughes Oliphant Old? All I know about him is that he has devoted much of his life to studying the history of preaching, which has produced a massive series of books. If you preach, this is one man you don’t want to miss.
Gordon’s book is basically a look at the deterioration of preaching in the media, multi-tasking age. Gordon draws much from Marshall Mcluhan and Neil Postman, who both suggest the decline of intellectual/literary thinking to the mass media of television and motion pictures.
The answer to why Johnny can’t preach is twofold: First, Johnny’s thinking has been shaped by the media. Gordon provides a vivid example of the problem. A preacher reads a very powerful passage of Scripture overflowing with potential. However, the sermon that follows ends up turning into something far from the passage, talking about parenting or marriage. How is this kind of thing possible? Gordon suggests this is possible because we are not used to seeing Scripture as being consequential, and so we read Scritpure we miss those things that are consequential. And that allows the preacher to be inconsequential.
The second reason Johnny can’t preach is because Johnny’s listeners don’t know how to listen to good preaching. It’s foreign to them. Gordon provides another vivid picture of this. A preacher received a comment from a church member that he had improved in his preaching. The preacher realized that it was not he who had improved, but his congregation who had improved in listening to preaching.
One friendly criticism I have is that sometimes these discussions about media go a little too far in vilifying the medium of the media, without giving adequate weight to the content. Marshall Mcluhan coined the phrase, “The medium is the message”, and while on some level that is true, it’s not helpful to take that in isolation of other important factors. All forms of media are a tool. The tool is not the root problem. It’s abuse is the problem. I would whole-heartedly agree with Gordon that movie clips have no place in preaching, but I do that not on the ground of the medium, but on the overpowering emotional & sensual nature of the movie clip content itself. If we oversimplify it as a medium problem we haven’t sufficiently dealt with the reasons why.
And this leads us to vilify the use of Powerpoint just because of it’s ‘graphical’ nature. Yet no one ever criticized the use of overheads or blackboards (which R. C. Sproul uses) as an evil use of those mediums. Some preachers use Powerpoint very effectively. Others have no business using it. Powerpoint is a benign tool. The preacher who utilizes it is what counts.
Despite my minor criticism, this discussion is a very important one, and if you are a preacher you will gain some good insight from this lively discussion.
For the first year the audio downloads of the Shepherds Conference are free of charge right out of the gate. You just have to sign up for an account if you don’t have one.
There are some great highlights for this years conference.
John MacArthur opened the conference with a careful and we reasoned address on 6 day creation. MacArthur contends that creation is a miracle and is therefore out of the bounds of science to analyze in any satisfying way, and therefore, we need to be careful that we keep science in it’s place. After all, scientific method is not perfect or infallible. Lazarus was raised from the dead, and Jesus multiplied the fish and loaves to feed 5000. Would science be of any service if it were able to analyze the fish or sample the blood of Lazarus? MacArthur offers a great many arguments that cannot be overlooked by Christians’ who engage in “Creation Science”.
The headliner to the Shepherds Conference this year belongs to Al Mohler, for his one address which powerfully exhorts preachers to authoritative preaching. To preach without an element of authority means 1. you don’t know your text, and 2. you don’t fully understand that Scripture is the very Word of God to man. If we believe that the power of God is in the Word’s of Scripture we will preach it as such. Our preaching will reflect this conviction. Phil Johnson writes a post on the conference, particularly highlighting Al Mohler’s address.
In General Session 3, John MacArthur talks about the history of his ministry and how he developed his convictions about how the church should operate. This was a very helpful address that will encourage pastors to remain faithful to Scripture while shelving the business and contextualization strategies that plague the church today.
General Session 5 is a Q&A with MacArthur on the subject of expository preaching. These are not questions from the audience, these are questions written by the elders and pastors at Grace Community Church. The result is a very informative and helpful session about the place of preaching, why expository preaching is so important, and what methods MacArthur uses. There is so much information here you will want to have pen and paper to take notes.
Phil Johnson steps up to the plate and completely dismantles the new trend toward vulgarity in the pulpit, and in my estimation, leaves those who engage in such a pulpit practice without any of their usual arguments for doing so. Phil looks to Paul’s letter to Titus for his exhortation. Titus was a pastor in Crete, which was a grunge culture of new converts, very similar to the target audience of most evangelical post-modern preachers who bring vulgarity into the pulpit. Paul did not suggest in any way that Titus contextualize his preaching in that culture. Phil’s arguments and biblical reasoning takes the wind out of their sails and calls them to repentence.
Rick Holland considers what it means to have a fearless ministry, to the likes of John Knox and the Apostle Paul. Rick looks at 2 Corinthians 11 and gives some strong and weighty exhortation to fearlessness.
Steve Lawson looks at Galatians 1 and considers what it means to defend the Gospel.
MacArthur closes the conference by addressing the common question, “Why does God allow suffering and evil in the world?” He does this by looking at different categories of evil.