Archives For Preaching

When it comes to the Great Commission, there are basically three responses a church can have. A church can do nothing, something, or one thing.

Doing Nothing

A church that does nothing believes the Great Commission does not apply to them. In other words, they make the argument that the command of Jesus to His disciples then was for a particular people in a particular time and has no direct implications to Christians today. Therefore their church members are off the hook, so to speak, when it comes to making disciples. The exceptions to this principle are the “great” Christians who obey the command of Christ to make disciples. The “great” aspect of the Great Commission refers to the elite special forces of the Christian faith which, of course, excludes most, if not all, of us.

This response also attempts to use seemingly good theological arguments to make their case. God is sovereign, and He’s got the whole salvation thing under control. He does not need our help. If He wants more disciples, He will make it happen. This argument, although is partly true, actually does not really appreciate the sovereignty of God as it is revealed in Scripture. God is not only sovereign over the ends but also the means as well. God will make it happen, and He will do so by making it happen through means—through His people who are called to join Him on mission. Playing the sovereignty card on doctrinal table is an ungodly way to justify disobedience to the commands of Christ.

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HIM We Preach!

Tim Brister —  August 3, 2013 — 1 Comment

Last night, I watched this sermon by H.B. Charles Jr. and was incredibly blessed by it. Faithful exposition powerfully communicated on the Christ-centered preaching. If you are a gospel preacher, you’ve got to watch this.

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True and False Christianity MindMap

Last Sunday, I preached a message on true and false Christianity from Philippians 3. One of the newer elements of my sermon prep has been to incorporate mind-mapping at the early stages of developing the sermon. This usually happens alongside the time of sentence diagramming and shaping thoughts on the moleskine. Last week, I did my mindmap while in bed late Monday night. When I posted it on Twitter Saturday night, I had a lot of questions about mind-mapping and how I use it for sermon development.

Our minds likely work differently, so the approach to mind-mapping will vary. However, I still think every preacher can benefit from the exercise. For me, it has been instrumental in collecting thought and connecting them to the thesis or main idea of the text. In a non-linear fashion, it has allowed me to flesh out thoughts better than the bullet point format.

For those interested, I thought I’d share the connection between my mindmap and my manuscript, both of which I am posting below. You can also listen to the MP3 of the message. As for the tools, I produce my mindmap using iThoughtsHD on the iPad, and I create my mindmap on MS Word to be converted on Pages for the iPad. Click on the mindmap to get the larger version to view.

True and False Christianity Mindmap
True and False Christianity Manuscript
True and False Christianity MP3

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Gospel-Centered Expectations

Tim Brister —  December 29, 2012 — 6 Comments

Danger-ExpectationThe nature of your expectations will have direct impact on your receptivity of future grace.

The preaching of the gospel is a powerful means of grace for the Christian, but is that your expectation? What is the nature of your expectations every time you hear the Word of God preached? A gospel-centered church will have a congregation full of gospel-centered expectations every time the Word of God is proclaimed. The commentary (and lifestyle) post-preaching will evidence the nature of expectations, whether they are God-honoring or not.

When it comes to the preaching of God’s Word (or gospel) . . .

» If you expect to come away with intellectual insights, you will find something to satisfy knowledge cravings.

» If you expect the preacher will say something debatable, you will find something to blog about.

» If you expect to judge the quality of the preacher’s message, you will find something he said wrong or could have said differently.

» If you expect to have a to do list for moral improvement, you will find opportunity for behavioral modification to try harder and do better.

ON THE OTHER HAND . . .

» If you expect life transformation, you will discover the Spirit exposing sin and fostering greater desire for repentance.

» If you expect to become like Jesus, you will be granted fresh eyes of faith to behold Jesus.

» If you expect to be used in the service of the kingdom, you will find the Word empowering and enabling you to bear fruit disproportionate to your abilities.

» If you expect to meet with God, you will find God will not pass you by without glimpses of His glory and grace.

The question is . . . what are you expecting whenever you come under the authority and power of God’s living and active, faith-engendering, sin-exposing, Christ-exalting, gospel-centered Word?

He who has ears to hear, let him hear. – Jesus

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This past Sunday I preached on Matthew 11:28-30, and below is my sermon manuscript wordled.

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Since my last post, I have enjoyed considerable feedback on the use of a full manuscript in preaching. I thought I’d comment on some of the questions I’ve been asked, including practical inquiries.

1.  Preaching from a full MSS is not for everyone. But even if it is not for everyone, I would argue that it is a good and helpful exercise, especially for young and developing preachers.  It will be helpful in your thinking/processing, writing, and eventual delivery.  I don’t know if I will preach from a MSS for the rest of my life, but I certainly have found it challenging and helpful at this particularly developmental stage.

2.  Speaking of delivery, that seems to be the main drawback from using a full MSS in preaching.  That certainly is a challenge, but the opposite could also be the case.  Consider two comments from my last post:

I have been preaching for about 12 years now, and have only recently begun to manuscript. I resisted for a long time, fearing it would make my preaching wooden and dry. The truth is, it’s done the opposite. I’m finding myself saying things in fresh ways, rather than falling into the rut of saying the same things the same way. I’ve also found that it has brought so much clarity and focus – the process of manuscripting (and the editing!) has really helped me sharpen the content of my sermons. – Bill Streger

But the ironic thing is: For me, it’s works the other way. I use a full manuscript, because I can communicate more naturally, directly, passionately and engagingly WITH a full manuscript than without. I know it’s a personal thing, but if I have notes or nothing (yes, I’ve tried it), half my brain is worrying about whether I’ll forget something important, where I’m up to, etc., which means I can’t relax. With the “safety net” of a manuscipt, I can put all my thought power into what I’m saying, and all my energy into engaging with people. – Stephen Shead

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“Pharaoh, let my people go!”

That’s a joke my mother uses on occasion with my friends regarding my first sermon preached.  Admittedly, it was not that great, and I did preach everything I knew in the Bible in one sermon.

Prior to coming to Grace, I had eight years of Bible college and seminary training and six years ministering as a youth and college pastors in local churches.  With that training and experience, you would think I had a lot of practical training in preparing and delivering sermons.  But the fact of the matter is I had no formal training in college and one class in seminary in which I preached one 20 minute sermon.  Although I preached many times, I still felt woefully unprepared for the fundamental task of pastoral ministry.

Then I came to Grace and immediately began to be helped by my fellow pastor and churchman Tom Ascol.

The first thing he did was pay a lady to transcribe my first message at Grace word for word and spend two hours working through the 17-page document full of grammatical errors, pointless commentary, and incoherent argumentation.  It was one of the most grueling and embarrassing things I had ever done.  The scalpel (Tom’s red pen) dissected and performed surgery and fully exposed areas of incompetency in my preaching.  While it was almost unbearable, it was the best thing that could have ever happened to my preaching.  In fact, it was what I need 12 years ago that neither Bible college, seminary, or two church positions offered.

I have heard it said from experienced practitioners like Tim Keller and others that it takes a pastor five years or more than 200 sermons before he finds his voice/style and feels comfortable in his own skin.  In the day of podcasting and sermon downloading where church members can listen to the best preachers evangelicalism has to offer, the pressure to perform and excel in preaching is daunting.  If you can listen to Matt Chandler on Monday, David Platt on Tuesday, Mark Driscoll on Wednesday, John Piper on Thursday, and Mark Dever on Friday, then for the that church member, the young and inexperienced preacher on Sunday morning feels “karaoke”. Only a church stubbornly committed to making disciples, including disciples in the pulpit, can celebrate amateur preachers and pitting them against more polished, seasoned practitioners in the pulpit.

As one of those young and inexperienced preachers, one of the best gifts God has given me is men who are committed to making me a better preacher of the gospel.  Every sermon I preach is evaluated.  Everything is considered: thesis, exegesis, illustrations, application, eye contact, speech, grammar, length, etc.  In the beginning, I dreaded that one hour in our weekly elder meetings; however, as I sought to apply the fraternal criticism to my preaching, I began to anticipate those meetings, knowing I was benefiting from an experience in true pastoral training that many, if not most, in my generation are not afforded.  The opportunity to receive real, significant preaching instruction and help is a stewardship I hope not only benefits my hearers but also those I may have opportunity to help in the future.

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Yesterday I preached a message entitled “A Celebration of Grace”.  It was the conclusion of a 4-part series on grace from passages in the Gospel according to Luke.  My final text was a very familiar text to Christians, commonly called the “parable of the prodigal son.”  Two particular readings affected me greatly this past week.  One was reading Tim Keller’s book The Prodigal God.  I highly recommend it.  The other reading was a sermon by Charles Spurgeon called “Prodigal Love for a Prodigal Son” or “Many Kisses for Returning Sinners.”

Spurgeon’s sermon focuses on the father’s love for his prodigal son as communicated in his multiple kisses upon his son’s face.  At several points in his sermon I was wrecked by God’s love and pursuing grace, but one that I found particularly illustrative and encouraging was the portion below.  I referenced this portion in my message yesterday and thought it would be fitting to post it here as well.  Be encouraged in the kisses of the father for your past, for your present, and for your future!

Spurgeon:

This poor young man, in his hungry, faint, and wretched state, having come a very long way, had not much heart in him. His hunger had taken all energy out of him, and he was so conscious of his guilt that he had hardly the courage to face his father; so his father gives him a kiss, as much as to say, “Come, boy, do not be cast down; I love you.”

Oh, the past, the past, my father!” he might moan, as he thought of his wasted years; but he had no sooner said that than he received another kiss, as if his father said, “Never mind the past; I have forgotten all about that.” This is the Lord’s way with His saved ones. Their past lies hidden under the blood of atonement. The Lord saith by His servant Jeremiah, “The iniquity if Israel shall be sought for, and there shall be none; and the sins of Judah, and they shall not be found: for I will pardon them whom I reserve.”

But then, perhaps, the young man looked down on his foul garments, and said, “The present, my father, the present, what a dreadful state I am in!” And with another kiss would come the answer, “Never mind the present, my boy. I am content to have you as you are. I love you.” This, too, is God’s word to those who are “accepted in the Beloved.” In spite of all their vileness, they are pure and spotless in Christ, and God says of each one of them, “Since you were precious in My sight, you have been honourable, and I have loved you. Therefore, though in yourself you are unworthy, through My dear Son you are welcome to My home.”

“Oh, but,” the boy might have said, “the future, my father, the future! What would you think if I should ever go astray again?” Then would come another holy kiss, and his father would say, “I will see to the future, my boy; I will make home so bright for you that you will never want to go away again.” But God does more than that for us when we return to Him. He not only surrounds us with tokens of His love, but He says concerning us, “They shall be My people, and I will be their God: and I will give them one heart, and one way, that they may fear Me for ever, for the good of them, and of their children after them: and I will make an everlasting covenant with them, that I will not turn away from them, to do them good; but I will put My fear in their hearts, that they shall not depart from me.” Furthermore, He says to each returning one, “A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh and I will give you an heart of flesh. And I will put My spirit within you, and cause you to walk in My statutes, and ye shall keep My judgments, and do them.”

Whatever there was to trouble the son, the father gave him a kiss to set it all right; and, in like manner, our God has a love-token for every time of doubt and dismay which may come to His reconciled sons. Perhaps one whom I am addressing says, “Even though I confess my sin, and seek God’s mercy, I shall still be in sore trouble, for through my sin, I have brought myself down to poverty.” “There is a kiss for you,” says the Lord: “Your bread shall be given to you, and your water shall be sure.” “But I have even brought disease upon myself by sin,” says another. “There is a kiss for you, for I am Jehovah-Rophi, the Lord that heals you, who forgives all your iniquities, who heals all your diseases.” “But I am dreadfully down at the heel,” says another. The Lord gives you also a kiss, and says, “I will lift you up, and provide for all your needs. No good thing will I withhold from them that walk uprightly.” All the promises in this Book belong to every repentant sinner, who returns to God believing in Jesus Christ, His Son.

The father of the prodigal kissed his son much, and thus made him feel happy there and then. Poor souls, when they come to Christ, are in a dreadful plight, and some of them hardly know where they are I have known them talk a lot of nonsense in their despair, and say hard and wicked things of God in their dreadful doubt. The Lord gives no answer to all that, except a kiss, and then another kiss. Nothings puts the penitent so much at rest as the Lord’s repeated assurance of His unchanging love. Such a one the Lord has often received, “and kissed him much,” that He might fetch him up even from the horrible pit, and set his feet upon a rock, and establish his goings.

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One of the biggest tensions regarding philosophy of gathered services is the issue of breadth and depth, or who should be the priority and focus of the ministry.  Obviously, everything we do should be first and foremost with a focus and passion for the honor and glory of God.   But the question we are usually asking is this: “Should our gathered services be evangelistic, focusing on unbelievers, or edifying, focusing on believers?”

Yesterday, Tim Keller answered the question by referencing Martyn Lloyd’Jones by saying “both.”  Keller concludes:

The lesson I eventually learned from him was—don’t preach to your congregation for spiritual growth thinking everyone there is a Christian—and don’t preach the gospel evangelistically thinking that Christians cannot grow from it. In other words—evangelize as you edify, and edify as you evangelize.

I agree with MLJ and Keller completely.

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This past Monday, John Piper preached a powerful sermon focusing on the first phrase of the Lord’s Prayer, “Hallowed be your name.” In the typical expository exultation style of Piper, you can sense the gravitas and the gladness of the text as we are brought face to face with the greatness of God. In my generation, I pray there would be many who would yearn and learn to bring God’s Word to bear upon God’s people with such weightiness.

You can read Piper’s sermon here.

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