Sunday, February 28, 2010
Is there a place for the "altar call". Firstly, I've never been fond of that term. The "altar call" originated in the 1820's under the ministry of Charles Finney (as did the "sinner's prayer"). In the scope of Christian history that is pretty recent to become a bedrock of church life and doctrine. However, I think it is appropriate to have a period of reflection after the sermon and at the conclusion of the service especially for Christians. As a culture we are always busy and always on the move. It is important to slow down and meditate on the Word that has been presented and how God intends for each to apply it. Also as I say at times if true conversion has occurred in a person's life I want to provide a moment for those to come meet with me briefly for prayer and encouragement. This always leads to an appointment for further discussion and testing of the faith. People don't join the church in that moment and we must wait to see fruit before confidently affirming salvation but I am not entirely oppossed to a public profession of faith if we are clear that genuine faith has already been produced by the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit. I've been challenged to be more clear by my words that the invitation is not to 'walk the aisle and be saved'. God's work of salvation doesn't need a 20 foot walk to be completed. I do want to invite people to "let their light shine before men" and not be ashamed to declare to others Christ is Lord. I want to also invite people to covenant with our congregation in membership so that we can watch each others' walks. Finally I want to invite people to stop moving so fast through the day and reflect on the weight of God's holy Word. That is an invitation we should all respond to.
Friday, February 26, 2010
- Meditate on the sermon passage during your quiet time.
- Invest in a good set of commentaries (my words- for follow-up study).
- Talk and pray with friends about the sermon after church.
- Listen to and act on the sermon throughout the week.
- Develop the habit of addressing any questions about the text itself.
- Cultivate humility.
I "amen" what Thabiti has shared in his book, but let me add to or put into my own words some tips to more efficiently and effectively listen and process what you hear on Sunday mornings.
- Get the sermon text ahead of time and read through it during the week. I provide a "worship card" which includes the sermon text, title, and a related Old Testament reading, but you could probably call or email your pastor and get that info (at least by Friday). He'd probably be delighted you showed interest which would be an encouragement as he goes into the pulpit.
- Bring your Bible and follow along... highlight, underline, and TAKE NOTES.
- In your notes try to write down the main idea or main point of the passage/ sermon. If the pastor doesn't clearly state it or you miss it, write down what you deduce it is and check with him to make sure you got it right. Also note sub-points that build off or support the main point... these will help with future study and with application.
- Write out questions. In the bulletin I supply "table talk questions" which are simple questions that will help review the message and the passage. My hope is that families or friends will discuss them around the lunch table or in the car on the way home. Try writing out your own questions as the sermon unfolds. Perhaps they will be answered in the sermon or they will be good discussion points later or you can quiz your pastor (I'd be delighted to field questions... just give me some time to breathe after the sermon).
- Go back through the passage of Scripture on your own no later than Monday to make sure it sinks in. Make some bullet points in your mind (helps to write them out) of ways you can apply the Scripture that week.
Rarely in school did I ever master content without listening, taking notes, studying, and being tested. So why do we think we can check our brains at the door, put forth little mental effort, and never revist the content and still be equipped? Thankfully the Holy Spirit has been given to "guide you into all truth" (John 16:13), but let's make every effort to "present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth" (2 Timothy 2:15).
Thursday, February 25, 2010
If you are having trouble answering any or all of those questions you are probably not alone. Sadly though, the same people who by Monday morning cannot remember the substance of the sermon they just heard can give you a play by play of the football game they watched on Sunday afternoon or describe in detail a phone conversation that was shared with a friend on Saturday night. We process what is important to us therefore we need to make an added effort to listen to preaching or teaching with a sense of importance. Now I'm not going to address bad preaching or poor exposition. That's another post for another time (I've actually covered that one a few times already). I do want to address the issue of bad listening. In Thabiti Anyabwile's helpful little book, What is a Healthy Church Member? he defines the way we should listen to sound expositional preaching as "expositional listening". Expositional preaching is preaching that takes the main point of the text as the main point of the sermon- supports it, explains it, and applies it (the preacher "exposes" the meaning and implications of Scripture). Anyabwile says, "Expositional listening is listening for the meaning of a passage of Scripture and accepting that meaning as the main idea to be grasped for our personal and corporate [i.e. your whole church] lives as Christians." So what can you do to be better "expositional listeners" and what is the pay off? Check back with me tomorrow for part two but until then watch a classic Mr. Bean clip below about how not to listen to preaching!
Wednesday, February 24, 2010
How to treat your pastor? Fling him into his office, then tear the "Office" sign from the door, and replace it with a sign that says, "Study." Take him off the mailing list. Lock him up with his books—get him all kinds of books—and his typewriter and his Bible. Slam him down on his knees before texts and broken hearts and the flippant lives of a superficial flock and a holy God. Force him to be the one man in the community who knows about God. Throw him into the ring to box with God until he learns how short his arms are. Engage him to wrestle with God all the night through, and let him come out only when he's bruised and beaten into being a blessing.
Shut his mouth from forever spouting remarks and stop his tongue from forever tripping lightly over every non-essential. Require him to have something to say before he breaks the silence. Burn his eyes with weary study. Wreck his emotional poise with worry for the things of God. Make him exchange his pious stance for a humble walk with God and man. Make him spend and be spent for the glory of God. Rip out his telephone. Burn up his success sheets. Put water in his gas tank. Give him a Bible and tie him to the pulpit. Test him, quiz him, examine him. Humiliate him for his ignorance of things divine. Shame him for his good comprehension of finance, batting averages and political party issues. Laugh at his frustrated effort to play psychiatrist. Form a choir, raise a chant and haunt him night and day with, "Sir, we would know God."
When at long last he does assay the pulpit, ask him if he has a word from God. If he doesn't, then dismiss him. Tell him you can read the paper. You can digest the television commentary. You can think through the day's superficial problems and manage the weary drives of the community and bless the assorted baked potatoes and green beans better than he can. And when he does speak God's Word, listen. And when he's burned out finally by the flaming Word that coursed through him, consumed at last by the fiery grace blazing through him, and when he who was privileged to translate the truth of God to man and is finally himself translated from earth to heaven, bear him away gently. Blow a muted trumpet and lay him down softly. Place a two-edged sword on his coffin and raise a tune triumphant, for he was a brave soldier of the Word and ere he died he had become a spokesman for his God.
Thursday, February 18, 2010
Once upon a time there was an Anglican clergyman who was lazy. He had long ago given up the bother of preparing his sermons. He had considerable native intelligence and fluency of speech, and his congregation were simple people. So he got by pretty well with his unprepared sermons. Yet in order to live with his conscience, he took a vow that he would always preach extempore and put his trust in the Holy Spirit. Everything was fine until one day, a few minutes before the morning service began, who should walk into the church and find a place in one of the pews but the bishop, enjoying a Sunday off. The parson was embarrassed. He had managed for years to bluff his un-educated congregation, but he much less sure of his ability to hoodwink the bishop. So he went went over to welcome his unexpected visitor and, in an endeavor to forestall his criticism, told him of the solemn vow he had taken always to preach extemporaneous sermons. The bishop seemed to understand, and the service began. Halfway through the sermon, however, to the preacher's great consternation, the bishop got up and walked out. And after the service a scribbled note from the bishop lay on the vestry table: 'I absolve you from your vow!'
Wednesday, February 17, 2010
Monday, February 15, 2010
- He should 'teach systematically' (through Scripture)
- He should 'have a ready wit'
- He should 'be eloquent'
- He should 'have a good voice'
- He should 'have a good memory'
- He should 'know when to make an end'
- He should 'be sure of his doctrine'
- He should 'venture and engage body, blood, wealth, and honour, in the Word'
- He should 'suffer himself to be mocked and jeered of every one'
Friday, February 12, 2010
She is not wasting the time she has left though. Even in her most recent hospital visit days ago she was sharing the gospel with nurses and hospital employees. What an amazing testimony she is of the grace and power of God! I'm so thankful to be her pastor and the pastor of many other wonderful Christians at Memorial Baptist Church, young and old. We have much need for sanctification but are growing in Christ together. Mrs. Jewel is a wonderful reminder of the blessings that come from being in covenant with other Christian brothers and sisters as a local church. She is also a wonderful reminder of the eternal joy that awaits those who are alive in Christ and persevere until the end.