The Most Powerful Platform In America

For my pastoral ministry class I recently completed reading The New Guidebook for Pastors by James W. Bryant and Mac Brunson. Although there are a few things I would quibble over, all in all I profited spiritually and practically from it. One of my favorite chapters was chapter 3, “The Pastor and His Preaching.” Below are a few quotes from it that encouraged me and I hope will encourage you.

All through the Word of God and down through the annals of history, when God has moved it has almost always been attended by the preaching of the Word. There is no task more important, no calling any higher, and no work more noble than preaching the Word of God. – page 31

 

Too often our desire to reach numbers, people, and crowds has caused us to sacrifice the Word of God on the altar of drama, theatrics, and entertainment. While there is nothing wrong with skits, great music, PowerPoint presentations, and even appropriate videos, there is something tragically wrong when we do anything other than make preaching the Word of God central in the service. You cannot separate the Word from worship. – page 34

 

John Albert Bengel, speaking of the Word of God in preaching, said, ‘When the pulpit is in strong health, the light of Scripture shine bright; when the church is sick Scripture is corroded by neglect, and thus it happens that the outward form of Scripture and that of the church usually seem to exhibit simultaneously either health or else sickness; and as a rule the way in which Scripture is being treated is in exact correspondence with the condition of the church.'” – page 35

 

The centrality of the Word of God is of utmost importance. Whenever a preacher steps into the pulpit, what he does with the text influences the health of the church. If there is any hope of winning the lost to Jesus Christ, if there is any hope of maturing the vast majority of those in the pews who are in desperate need of growing, then the preacher must preach the Word! The only thing that twill relieve the famine in our land is commitment to content. Preach the Word!

 

The Lord said to Jeremiah, “Behold, I am making My words in your mouth fire and this people wood, and it will consume them” (Jer. 5:14 NASB). Think about that for a moment. When you preach the Word of God, it is like fire that sets people aflame. No U.S. president in any state-of-the-union speech can claim that. No Hollywood writer, actor, or producer can do anything like that. No athlete in any winner’s circle can make a speech that sets the audience on fire. But the man of God has the promise of God that when he speaks the Word of God, it is like fire that burns and like a hammer that shatters rock (Jer. 23:29).

The pulpit that is on fire with the Word of God is the most powerful platform in America and all over the world. Pastor, is your pulpit aflame with the truth of God’s Word? Is your heart still on fire for God?

1 Timothy 4:13 – “Until I come, give your attention to public reading, exhortation, and teaching.”

A Prudent Preacher

Back in March I attended a church conference near Grand Rapids, MI and picked up the little work, “A Labor of Love” by J. Stephen Yuille and it has been immensely encouraging and convicting. Essentially Yuille has extracted Swinnock’s 16 prayers in The Christian Man’s Calling and has enlarged upon the central truth within each prayer, supporting them with other Puritan quotations and his own thoughts. As I was reading tonight I came to chapter 9 called “A Prudent Preacher” and it begins with this heartfelt minister’s prayer. I enjoyed it so much I had to share it.

The minister’s principal work is the preaching of the gospel, with which he undermines and overturns the stronghold of sin and the kingdom of darkness. Therefore, I wish that I might prepare for this work diligently, handle this weapon carefully, and deliver this message soberly, in a manner that is most for my God’s glory and my people’s good – not with the enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in the demonstration of the Spirit’s power.

Prayerfully

To this end, I desire that all my sermons might be, like Monica’s son, children of many tears and prayers, and thereby unlikely to perish. Martin Luther says, “Whoever prays hard studies hard.” Lord, may all my sermons be heaven-born. May they drop down on my people like rain on the grass. Let prayer be the key that opens the mysteries of Christ to me. Let prayer be the key that locks them safe inside me. Let prayer open and close all my reading, writing, and preparing. Let prayer begin and conclude al my sermons. In every sermon, I preach my beloved neighbors into eternal burnings or eternal pleasures. Oh, how I should pray for my preaching and before my preaching!

Passionately

I also wish that I might preach every sermon to my own heart before I preach it to others, so that – preaching feelingly – I might preach effectually. May the Word come naturally, like milk from the mother’s breasts, to nourish my children. Why should I plead God’s cause without having a personal interest in it? Oh, let me be like the doctor, who takes the same remedy he prescribes to his patients.

Purely

I desire that I might never play the huckster with God’s Word – adulterating it with my own additions. May I receive from the Lord what I deliver to others. May I feed all under my charge with the sincere milk of the Word, so that they might grow. As an ambassador, may I keep close to my instructions. As a builder, may I set every stone in God’s temple by the line and rule of His Word. as a doctor, may I never experiment upon my people’s souls, but prescribe those tested and approved remedies, which the great Physician has entrusted to me.

Plainly

Because my work is to touch and pierce my people’s hearts, and not to tickle and please their ears, I wish that I might preach a crucified Savior in a crucified style. May I not paint my sermon with a showy display of words, but employ all plainness, stooping to their lowest capacity. May I be “made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some” (1 Cor. 9:22). I am a foreigner to my people, if I preach to them in an unknown language. I starve their souls, if I give them meat that they can never digest. Let me not read commentaries as the butterfly goes to the flower to gild her wings, but as the bee goes to the flower to gather honey to supply her young. Lord, let me never be guilty of painting the windows, thereby hindering the light of Thy glorious gospel from shining powerfully into the hearts of men and women.

Prudently

My prayer is that I might not strengthen the hands of the ungodly nor sadden the hearts of the godly, but distinguish between the vile and the precious, and preach to each accordingly. May I give milk to babes and meat to adults. May I order my prescriptions in a manner that is suitable to their constitutions. May I use the needle of the law to make way for the thread of the gospel. May I lead my people – like Jacob his flock – as they are able to bear it. And may I teach my people – as Christ His disciples – as they are best able to hear it.

Powerfully

Oh, that I might not only preach prudently, but also powerfully. May my sermons be delivered, not as prologues to a play, but as the message of a herald with all seriousness and fervency, containing conditions of life and death. The Word is a hammer, but it will never break the stony heart if it is not brought to bear. What is preached coldly is heard carelessly. Lord, let me not – like the moon- give light without heat. Cause me to lift up my voice like a trumpet to give – like fire – heat as well as light. May I be consumed with zeal for Thy house. May I beseech poor souls to be happy, as if I were begging for my life. May I preach so successfully that I might produce much fruit.

– Swinnock, A Christian Man’s Calling as found in this work by J. Stephen Yuille

The Healthy Church is a Preaching Church

“Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage – with great patience and careful instruction.” – 2 Timothy 4:2

Using 2 Timothy 4:2 Tim Challies lays out Paul’s specific instruction for the kind of preaching that glorifies God and protects the church:

  1. Preach Expositorily
  2. Preach Persistently
  3. Preach Practically
  4. Preach Patiently
  5. Preach Doctrinally

Click here to read Challies’ further explanation of each point. 

Preachers on Preaching

Ten reminders for those who preach and teach God’s Word courtesy of Nathan Busenitz over at the Cripplegate:

  1. Effective ministry consists not of fads or gimicks, but of faithfully preaching the truth.
  2. Preaching is a far more serious task than most preachers realize.
  3. Faithfulness in the pulpit begins with the pursuit of personal holiness.
  4. Powerful preaching flows from powerful prayer.
  5. Passionate preaching starts with one’s passion for Christ.
  6. The preacher is a herald, not an innovator.
  7. The faithful preacher stays focused on what matters.
  8. The preacher’s task is to make the text come alive for his hearers.
  9. The preacher is to be Christ-exalting, not self-promoting.
  10. Faithful preaching requires great personal discipline and sacrifice.

Click here to read an explanation of each point.

The Most Amazing, the Most Thrilling Activity

Martyn Lloyd-Jones description of preaching in his lectures published under the title Preaching and Preachers, delivered as lectures at Westminster Theological Seminary, Philadelphia, PA, in 1969:

What is preaching? Logic on fire! Eloquent reason! Are these contradictions? Of course they are not. Reason concerning this Truth ought to be mightily eloquent, as you see it in the case of the Apostle Paul and others. It is theology on fire. And a theology that does not take fire, I maintain, is a defective theology; or at least the man’s understanding of it is defective. Preaching is theology coming through a man who is on fire. What is the chief end of preaching? I think it is this: To give men and women a sense of God and His presence . As I have said already, during this past year I have been ill, and so have had the opportunity, and the privilege, of listening to others, instead of preaching myself. As I have listened in physical weakness this is the thing I looked for and have longed for and have desired. I can forgive a man for a bad sermon, I can forgive the preacher almost anything if he gives me a sense of God, if he gives me something for my soul, if he gives me a sense that, though he is inadequate in himself, he is handling something which is very great and very glorious, if he gives me some dim glimpse of the majesty and glory of God, the love of Christ my Savior, and the magnificence of the gospel. If he does that I am his debtor, and I am profoundly grateful to him. Preaching is the most amazing, the most thrilling activity that one can ever be engaged in, because of all that it holds out for all of us in the present, and because of the glorious endless possibilities in an eternal future.

 

Preach the Word

Recent Sermons Preached at First Baptist Church of Newberry, Michigan:

February 17, 2013:

Genesis 17:1 – “El Shaddai and Holiness”

The Big Idea: Be Living the Sanctified Life in Light of God’s Revelation Concerning Himself and His Promises

February 24, 2013:

Proverbs 2:1-6 – “Expository Listening: How to Get the Most Out of a Sermon” PART 2*

The Big Idea: Preaching is joint venture. My commitment to the Lord is to be prepared every week to stand and deliver His Word. Your commitment to the Lord should be to be prepared every week to receive His Word. My goal is to be the best preacher possible. Your goal should be to be the best listener possible.

*Unfortunately, due to a blunder on my part, the part one of this series was not recorded!

March 3, 2013:

Proverbs 2:1-6 – “Expository Listening: How to Get the Most Out of a Sermon” Part 3

The Big Idea: Preaching is joint venture. My commitment to the Lord is to be prepared every week to stand and deliver His Word. Your commitment to the Lord should be to be prepared every week to receive His Word. My goal is to be the best preacher possible. Your goal should be to be the best listener possible.

Welcoming the Word

“And we also thank God continually because, when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men, but as it actually is, the word of God, which is at work in you who believe.” – 1 Thessalonians 2:13

“Chicken again?” Those are words that my wife and I hear again and again in our household at supper time. Unfortunately, as much as we enjoy it our daughter does not (unless, strangely enough, it is chicken Mcnuggets – go figure!).  Maybe that is how you feel about Saturday night into Sunday morning, “Church Again? I have to listen to that guy preach again?”

Not so with saints of Thessalonica! In spite of severe suffering they “welcomed the message with the joy given by the Holy Spirit” and “became a model to all the believers in Macedonia and Achaia” (1 Thessalonians 1:6-7). Virtually overnight, these idol worshipping pagans were radically transformed into devoted followers of Jesus Christ (1 Thessalonians 1:9).

Thus Paul is unceasingly thankful to God for their two-fold response to the preaching of God’s Word (see verse above – 1 Thessalonians 2:13).

“Hearing of the Ear”

 

First, they “received the Word of God.” This refers simply to the fact that they heard Paul preaching and objectively understood it. It is the outward reception of words into the mind through the ears.

“Hearing of the Heart”

 

Second, they “accepted it not as the word of men, but as it actually is, the word of God.” The word “accepted” was used to describe welcoming a guest in your home. The picture here is of one “putting out the welcome mat” for God’s Word of truth as one would a good friend or guest, and inviting entry into one’s house. In other words, the Thessalonians had swung the door of their hearts wide open and warmly embraced the Word as a cherished guest. They understand that by heartily welcoming the words of Paul’s preaching, they were welcoming the authoritative counsel of God Himself into their hearts and lives. They not only heard and intellectually understood the message (received) but also appropriated and welcomed it into their hearts (accepted).

Unfortunately, not all exhibit this receptive attitude toward God’s truth.

In 2 Thessalonians 2:10-11Paul speaks of those who will perish because “they refused to love the truth and so be saved.”

In 1 Corinthians 2:14 Paul tells us that “the man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned.”

In 2 Timothy 4:1-4 Paul charges Timothy to faithfully preach the Word, especially in view of the fact that a time was coming when people within the church “will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.”

Those days are upon us. All around us, clear, convicting, authoritative preaching straight from God’s Word is being devalued by both those standing in the pulpit (if they haven’t already thrown it out in the trash) and those sitting in the pew (or around the coffee table). In great contrast to this and as a model to us are the Christians of Thessalonica who had great appreciation and affection for the preached Word. They loved to listen to Paul preach. They were preaching enthusiasts.

How Many Sermons Have You Merely Heard?

What about you? Do you attend preaching with a burning thirst and fervent listening heart?

Do you believe with the Thessalonians that when a man is faithfully preaching the Word of God it is actually the voice of God being heard? If so, should this not cause you to pay earnest attention to every sermon of God being heard? Ken Ramey in his book Expository Listening: A Handbook for Hearing and Doing God’s Word  makes this striking thought:

Let’s say you came to Christ at age ten and you live to be seventy-five. If you average two sermons a week, you will listen to over seven thousand sermons during the course of your life. And at the end of your life you will stand before God and give an account for every sermon you heard. On that day, God will essentially ask you, ‘How has your life changed as a result of the thousands of times you have heard My Word preached?’ So we see that it is vital that you are ever welcoming the Word of God and diligently seeking to put what you hear into practice, thus proving ‘yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves’ (James 1:22).

So how is your responsiveness to God’s Word?

Would Paul rave about you, like he did about the Thessalonian saints?

How are you at listening?

George Whitefield, one of the most dynamic preachers of all time, once said:

If only all who hear me this day would seriously apply their hearts to practice what has now been told them! How ministers would see Satan, like lightning, fall from heaven and people find the Word preached sharper than a two-edged sword and mighty, through God, to the pulling down of the devil’s stronghold.

By the grace of God, let’s stir ourselves up to attend church tomorrow and every Sunday passionate to honor God’s Word through passionate devotion to the Word. Let’s come as thirsty men, women and children craving to drink from the soul satisfying truth of God’s Word. Let’s come with hearts fervently longing to hear the Word faithfully preached because we know that in it God speaks to us!