Friday, December 31, 2010

Preaching Notes

A friend of mine recently told me he was rebuked after preaching a sermon at a church where he was a guest. The rebuke was not for ignoring or misrepresenting Scripture- he is a diligent expositor. The rebuke was certainly not for being dull or lifeless- he is an engaging and winsome communicator. The rebuke was not for neglecting the gospel- he is a passionate evangelist. The rebuke was for preaching with notes. He was told that "at seminary we are taught not to preach with notes". The rebuker was a seminary student who I pray had his heart in the right place even if his words lacked wisdom or kindness.

The truth is I preach with notes- a full manuscript. I was encouraged recently by other faithful preachers who allowed their notes to be published by Josh Harris on his blog. Here are Tim Keller's notes. Here are Mark Dever's notes. Here are C.J. Mahaney's notes. While I know other brothers who preach completely from memory or from only short-hand notes, there is no "one way". I remember in John Stott's book on preaching (I don't have the reference handy) he argues that there is too much preaching from notes but he meant that preachers can rely too heavily on rote preaching rather than preaching from the heart. He's right. Notes should not be a teleprompter for a performance. One should preach from the overflow of his deep wrestling and devotion with the text. Listeners should hear that the preacher is moved by the text not just regurgitating notes. However notes protect from rambling, rabbit-chasing, and soap-boxes. The Holy Spirit guides me in the study as much as He does from the pulpit so my notes are a product of that.

So what are your thoughts... if you're a preacher, notes, limited notes, or no notes? If you are a listener I'm interested in your thoughts as well. There is a delay to comment posting as I have to clear it first (I've had a spam problem) but let's hear it!?

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Tuesday Hodge-Podge

I'm presently enjoying our winter family vacation and hope you all had a Merry Christmas. These are a few interesting links I fell upon in the blogosphere before we left town (confession: this is a pre-scheduled post... no blogging during vacation).
  • CNN blog post on why Francis Chan stepped away from the mega-church he pastored and moved to an undisclosed location in Asia.
  • Here is a free online Hebrew course... in case you're making it a New Year's Resolution to learn Biblical Hebrew.
  • R.C. Sproul fields an assortment of questions- watch here.
  • We're doing a book study group on Wednesday nights at our church on the excellent book, The Trellis and the Vine that you can buy here for 41% off!
  • Check out my favorite (wink wink) Christmas song below...

Friday, December 24, 2010

Lebron say what??!!

As I am waiting for my wife to finish getting dolled up before we drive to Houston to celebrate Christmas with my family I just read this article. It gave me a revelation- 25 year old Lebron James and 25 year old Jeremy Bradshaw (I'm nearly 34 now) are a lot alike. Okay, my basketball skills were probably not as great as I remember displaying them on my plastic doorhanger hoop but really, we have a huge quality in common. At 25 I thought I was much wiser than I really was (which wasn't very wise at all) and thought people wanted to hear my wisdom. Now I know I may be a little wiser nine years later but not much and I'm certain noone really wants to hear it. I wish Lebron would learn this and just play basketball.

Merry Christmas!!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

A Few Minutes with Billy Graham

I really enjoyed this interview with "the Evangelist". He offers great advice to young preachers- "Spend more time in study and prayer".

HT: Trevin Wax

Friday, December 17, 2010

Re-Reclaiming Christmas

I read that one very prominent church in Texas started a website to post complaints and report stores that say "Happy Holidays" rather than "Merry Christmas". It does bother me that stores are embarrassed to acknowledge the holiday that is making them boo-koos of money because they are uber-sensitive of hurting the feelings of those who do not recognize the holiday. It is ridiculous. In fact I doubt businesses are really worried about people's feelings and being offended (otherwise they wouldn't place all those women-degrading magazines at their check-out lines). They are worried about the bottom line--$$-- and if they alienate a group that group may not help their bottom line. Yet with no logic or common sense they don't mind alienating the group that boosts their profits the most-- Christmas shoppers. They are betting that people will Christmas shop anyway and that most Christmas shoppers know little of Christ or couldn't give a flip about whether He is recognized by saying "Merry Christmas". For the most part stores have placed a safe bet.

Now with regards to the church website. I think this is short-sighted. In the first place we are never commanded in Scripture to celebrate Christmas so it is not like business are openly scoffing at one of the Ten Commandments. Two, we should not be surprised that the world does not want to recognize our Lord because sin is still their master. Three, we should remember that Christmas was started by the Church to reclaim pagan celebrations for a celebration of Christ. Today Christmas is shared by the non-relgious who enjoy the common graces God has given all humanity: family, friends, expressions of love through giving, etc. So rather than gripe that unbelievers don't behave more like believers in praising Christ we should counter secular references to Christmas (or "Happy Holidays") with a Christ-exalting message and attitude. We should re-reclaim Christmas.

When you are in line at the store it does not exalt Christ to hammer an unbeliever for not saying "Merry Christmas"... especially if you've shown no interest or care for that unbeliever other than them moving customers through more quickly so you can get to your next destination. You may not have much time but rather than worrying about their words, concentrate on how your words might be a blessing to that person and how your behavior might exalt your Lord Jesus. I feel as though Christians are more passionate about unbelievers giving lip-service to Christ by saying "Merry Christmas" than they are actually knowing Christ as Lord. Let's re-reclaim Christmas by actually making sure Christ is exalted through our words and lives.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Reaching the Unchurched (part two)

Sometime back I read this article which contained the chart above. This research merely affirmed what I have seen and what I believe to be true. Advertising and glitzy programs cost a lot of money, consume a lot of time and energy, and often take the lion's share of attention in church life but have a marginal effect in connecting unchurched people to the church. The most effective tool at sharing the gospel and exposing an unchurched person to the fellowship of gospel-changed people continues to be the personal invitation. Building relationships costs the least amount in a line-item budget but has the biggest effect. Building relationships does demand time, prayer, desire, courage, and patience-- we are often more willing to shell out a few more dollars on a program or billboard than expend energy on any of those other things.
It has been reported that between 75%-90% of people who walk through the doors of a church auditorium for the first time because a friend or relative invited them. I believe that the Holy Spirit has to overcome a person's depravity and give them "ears to hear" but our faithfulness to invite these people often put them in a position to use those Spirit-awakened ears to hear. We cannot be complacent or lazy concerning people in the community. We must be active "bridge builders", active invitors, and active at cultivating conversation about the gospel. This isn't easy. I'll be the first to confess I need to be more proactive than reactive (just waiting for people to come to me) so let's get on with our mission to bear the image of God before men. It can start with a simple invitation to a church worship service where the gospel is preached.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Reaching the Unchurched (part one)

Why do people choose which church to attend or unite with? That is a question many people take for granted. If you have been in the same church for decades you've probably never considered that question. You might think people pick a church because of the location, the advertising, the "bells & whistles" music ministry, the buildings, the programs listed in the "welcome" brochure, or because you think they instinctively know all the wonderful things you love about your church. Thom Rainer (president, LifeWay) offers some interesting insight from research presented in his book, Surprising Insights from the Unchurched.

From his own surveying Rainer lists the "Top 13 reasons unchurched people choose a church":

1. 90%- Pastor/ Preaching
2. 88%- Doctrines
3. 49%- Friendliness of members
4. 42%- Other issues
5. 41%- Someone from the church witnessed to me
6. 38%- Family member belongs to the church
7. 37%- Sensed God's presence/ Atmosphere at the church
8. 25%- Relationship other than a family member
9. 25%- Sunday School class
10. 25%- Children's/ Youth ministry
11. 12%- Other groups/ Ministries
12. 11%- Worship style/ Music
13. 7%- Location

These are very interesting and even helpful statistics as we consider and pray about how to build relational bridges into the community. They are also informative in thinking about how we should spend our time and resources. There are three things we must remember though. One, we aren't governed by statistics. They tell a story but don't necessarily dictate our future. Two, regardless of people's interests or what hooks them for people to genuinely and enduringly love the church they must love Christ (it is His church) and this comes by the grace of God (1 Corinthians 2:14). Three, there is no getting around our responsibility to personal evangelism. No hook, no enticement, no strategy will ever replace the need and command for the gospel to be verbally proclaimed (Romans 10:17).

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Pitching Rotation for the Ages?

As a casual Yankees fan (I am a diehard Astros fan- there’s a difference) I’m disappointed they weren’t able to sign Cliff Lee. I’m more disappointed he’ll be throwing against the Astros in the National League. As a baseball fan though, I am in awe of the Phillies rotation: Roy “Doc” Halladay, Cliff Lee, Roy Oswalt, and Cole Hamels. It is the best I have seen since Maddux, Smoltz, Glavine, and Avery/ Neagle of the Braves in the 90’s and perhaps the best I have ever seen personally. My early World Series prediction for 2011: Philadelphia Phillies over the Boston Red Sox in five games. What?! Not a sweep?!! I’m thinking it is possible the Phillies bus could get caught in November snow and be late to the game forcing a forfeit in the Sox favor.

Tuesday Hodge Podge

Here is a bunch of stuff I've been meaning to post on but haven't had the time:

  • In preparation to preach through Galatians in 2011 I've been reading up on Luther. Here are all his Table Talks free to read online.
  • Is Paul talking about corporate election rather than God's election of individuals to salvation in Romans 9? Michael Patton and Dan Wallace both chime in on this one.
  • Follow THIS LINK to view the video of the five sessions of the Nine Marks at Southeastern Seminary conference from earlier this year. It is a great line-up: Mark Dever, Thabiti Anyabwile, David Platt, Danny Akin, and Matt Chandler.
  • I've had multiple conversations with folks in my church who are either for or against the use of a choir in the main congregational worship on Sunday. Here is an interesting "for" article.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Video Monday- Swedish Singing Horses

This is one of my son's favorites and it is always good to laugh.
Click on the link below and click on each horse to start or stop his singing. Enjoy!

Follow this link to hear the Swedish Singing Horses... then get back to work!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

That's Rude!

Do you ever get emails that really tick you off because of the rude tone? I've received some that were actually rude and some that because of my mood I read rudeness into them where it wasn't intended. I've had to learn that after writing my response email to let it sit there in the Draft Box for a few hours or days. Usually I will delete it and start over or at least do some serious editing. We are very blessed to live in such a day where communication can be so accessible and quick but there is a down side in that things often get lost in the transfer.

Justin Taylor recently posted some wise thoughts by David Mills regarding how to respond to rude (or seemingly rude) comments or emails. These were helpful to me so I thought I'd pass them on...

1. Never rebuke or confront even the most obnoxious inquirer, unless you know him well enough to judge that you can fruitfully do so.

2. Many people often write (or speak) much more rudely than they mean to because they have no idea how their words sound to others, and those who mean to be rude will not respond well to being rebuked.

3. Answer them as if they had written politely.

4. If they didn't mean to be rude, this will encourage them to keep talking.

5. If they meant to be rude, this will either convert them or annoy them. Both have their uses.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Out of the Whirlwind

Back in the summer I preached through the Book of Job on Sunday nights and one of the most mesmerizing passages is Job 38:1-2, "Then the LORD answered Job out of the whirlwind and said, 'Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge?'" I've often imagined what this encounter was like and how terrifying this must have been for Job. Below is a NASA photograph of a supercell thunderstorm over Montana taken back in November. Notice the little tree and imagine Job sitting there beside it.

Friday, December 10, 2010

No Pain, No Gain

My son got a rocking horse for his birthday but this was a rocking horse for a new generation. There were no hard wooden edges or piece and no metal of any kind. It is all plastic, padded, and rubber. It is designed to be injury-proof. I’m good with that as I do not enjoy taking my son to the emergency room or seeing him hurt for that matter. However it did remind me that we live in a society that goes to great lengths to make sure people are injury-proof. There are added safety features and safety regulations to everything, warranties. Insurance, liability waivers, politically correct rules for what you can and cannot say (hurting feelings is more loathed that bodily harm), and of course padded rocking horses.

I asked my son’s pediatrician recently why there seems to be a rise of allergies among children and he said our society is too clean. We are so “sanitize-crazy” that we weaken our immune system. Presently Asher has no allergies to speak of so I guess we aren’t clean enough in our home. I mention all this to point out an inherent trade-off in our injury-insulated society: we lose the lessons that come with scars.

Don’t inflict pain on yourself or others to learn life lessons. That’s dumb and sinful. However much of our personal and spiritual growth comes out of scars. Rather than obsessing over insulating ourselves from all harm we should trust the Lord and take life as He gives it to us. When He leads us through difficulties and pain we should remember that the fire is where refining happens. Consider what Solomon said to his son in Proverb 17:3, “The refining pot is for silver and the furnace for gold, but the LORD tests the heart.”