Eyes That See

“I Once Was Blind”

Preaching 101, From a Pre-Seminarian

Note: I have taken one seminary class.  However, I believe that my limited level of training at this point qualifies me as “pre-seminarian.”

As I prepare to, Lord willing, jump into seminary with both feet, I thought that I would post my pre-seminary thoughts on preaching.  Make no mistake, I have a lot to learn.  But these are my thoughts at this point.

As I embark on this journey, I am fearful.  With God’s blessing our worst efforts will be fruitful, but without God’s blessing our best efforts will be barren.  Because God promises not to give His glory to another, I fear that He will not bless our efforts if we strive in such a way that we are glorified rather than giving Him His due glory.

I am also fearful because I have no doubt that I could construct a “successful” message (at least in worldly measures) that would give the best proponents of the prosperity “gospel” a run for their money.  I also have no doubt that I could steer a church from focusing on doctrines to focusing on a relationship with God and living our beliefs in a way that would put me neck-and-neck with the leaders of the emergent movement.

I believe that C.S. Lewis’ oft-mentioned quote applies to those in both of these camps.  Lewis said that our problem with sin is not that our desires are too strong, but that they are too weak.  If we truly sought to fulfill our desires in the most satisfying way, then our efforts would lead us to God and His way rather than from Him and it.  Similarly, I think those in both the prosperity and emergent movements suffer from desires to help people and be relevant that are too weak.  If those that we classify in the “prosperity gospel” camp really sought to help people and bring them true prosperity, then they would go through the seemingly “negative” aspects of Christianity, rather than around them.  We can only give people true prosperity if we help them to realize that God is angry with their sin, and that they are storing up wrath for themselves unless they cast themselves upon Christ and His cross for atonement of their sins and reconciliation with God through Christ’s life, penal substitutionary work on the cross, and resurrection from the grave.  Only by a right understanding of God, in all His holiness and anger toward sin, and a right understanding of our sin and God’s righteous anger at our sin, and the fear of God that such understanding produces, can we rightly understand Christ and Him crucified, in all His wondrous glory.  Only by fearing God as we ought can we love God as we ought.

And if those in the emergent camp sought to truly be relevant, then they would realize that relevance does not come about by chasing the newest fad, but by basing present efforts on what we can learn from history.  We cannot have a relationship with the triune God without knowing Him as He has revealed Himself to us in His Word.  True relevance comes about by sharing the wisdom of God, from a collection of writings that has been relevant for nearly 2,000 years (and the Old Testament for longer than that).

Now, thanks to those ramblings I must be brief in my thoughts on preaching, or nobody will actually read them!  I believe that God is glorified in us individually when, in spite of the millions of other things we could be doing, we make time to regularly read the Bible.  Similarly, I think that God is glorified when, in spite of the millions of other things a preacher could do from the pulpit, he exposits the Bible.  I think that much of the terrible man-centered preaching that abounds today is the result of incrementally moving from faithfully preaching the Bible, to focusing on the “positives” and minimizing the “negatives” in the name of “evangelism.”  Then, the digression moves from man-centered, decision-driven “evangelism,” to “apologetics.”  However, I believe that even then we are failing to do Biblical evangelism and/or apologetics.  Thankfully, our God did not give us a “preaching gospel,” an “evangelism gospel,” and an “apologetics gospel;” He just gave us the Gospel.  Paul said the Gospel is the power of God unto salvation for everyone who believes.  So any preaching, evangelism, and/or apologetics that leaves out the Gospel is leaving out the power of God unto salvation (substitution theory of mathematics: the Gospel = the power of God unto salvation; Preaching/Evangelism/Apologetics – the Gospel = Preaching/Evangelism/Apologetics – the power of God unto Salvation… Mr. Hixon, my 10th grade Geometry teacher would be so proud! proofs, baby!).

All that said, I believe that a preacher should faithfully exposit the Bible, and if the Lord enables and allows him to preach at the same church long enough, he should seek to exposit the whole Bible for his congregation.  He should preach Christ from every text, and proclaim the Gospel in every message.  There is the difficulty in every speaking/teaching opportunity of identifying the audience.  Do you teach up to the smartest person and make sure to challenge everybody or teach down to the “weakest link” and make sure not to leave anybody behind?  However, I believe that every sermon should be prepared and given with the realization that somebody could be hearing both their first and last sermon, ever.  That person needs to hear the Gospel.  Conveniently, the same Gospel that he or she needs to hear is the Gospel that every congregant needs to hear.  I heard John Piper make the now-obvious connection between the audience of the epistle to the Romans and Romans 1:16.  When Paul said that the Gospel is the power of God unto salvation, he was writing a letter to Christians in Rome.  There is a sense in which our salvation takes place at the point of conversion.  However, until our perseverance is complete- by the return of King Jesus or our death- our salvation is not final.  As long as we are in these sinful bodies, there is the possibility that we could each prove to be the seed that fell on the path, in the rocky or dry soil, or among weeds.  So I believe that the Gospel is the power of God unto salvation in that it both produces conversion and leads to perseverance.

Lord willing The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary will teach me how to do that, among all the other things I will learn there.

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July 29, 2008 - Posted by | Uncategorized

4 Comments »

  1. Amen, and amen. The Lord is faithful to the preaching of His Word.

    Comment by jakeporter | July 30, 2008 | Reply

  2. Thanks Jake!
    From what I hear, I would do well to follow your example!

    Comment by bigham | July 30, 2008 | Reply

  3. Amen, Brother!

    You will probably appreciate the overview of Justin Peters’ seminar given at Southwestern’s chapel on the health and wealth message… A prosperity gospel that cannot save! Check out: http://www.justinpeters.org and be sure to click on “demo.”

    Mr. Peters spoke at my church and comes highly recommended by my pastor, Dr. John MacArthur.

    Comment by Caron | July 30, 2008 | Reply

  4. You are learning.

    Comment by Mom | September 5, 2008 | Reply


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