Links I like

How to speak Christianese

HT: Jeff Medders

Are We Passionate for People?

Jonathan Parnell:

It is an amazing thing that God comforts the downcast, and that he tells us this so clearly. The idea of God’s comfort isn’t religious folklore, nor is it some spiritual platitude to pull out when we can’t think of something more specific to say. This is a truth read explicitly in the words of Scripture, and pervasively narrated throughout.

But how exactly does he comfort us? This is an important question. Comfort, in order for it to be real comfort, must be as palpable as our pain. Theoretical comfort won’t do. The idea of comfort won’t satisfy. Therefore, in what ways might the “God who comforts” actually comfort his people?

7 Ways We Pray Without Praying

Aaron Earls shares how we might be praying without praying at all.

Who’s Self-Controlled Now?

Lore Ferguson:

People are prone to affirmation when it comes to commentary on one’s goodness or their kindness, but rarely do I hear someone say, “Wow, your self-control is really stellar. You’ve got it going on in that department.”

Why?

Because you can’t see my self-control unless I give you opportunity and opportunities like that are few. Before you can see me exercise my will power you have to know that there’s a struggle of my wills.

And I don’t let people see those things.

Don’t You Worry Child

Tullian Tchividjian:

One night about 18 months ago when I was putting Genna to bed, I asked her, “Honey, how do you think God feels about you?” Her immediate response was, “Disappointed.” After some probing, I realized that she wasn’t feeling convicted about any particular sin, she simply sees God as someone whose feelings toward her are basically unhappy ones. She knows that God is perfect and that she is imperfect—she understands that God is holy and that she is sinful—and so it only makes sense to her that God is perpetually displeased with her.

Lloyd-Jones on Scandalous Grace that Isn’t Cheap

Kevin DeYoung shares wisdom from Martyn Lloyd-Jones.

Brothers, abandon the green room

bigdeal_fullpic_artwork

Every so often, I’ll be reading a book by a pastor and see mention of a green room at the church. For those who don’t know, a green room is one in which in which performers can relax when they are not performing (typically, they’re found in a theaters, concert halls, and studios).

Which, of course, is one of the goofiest things ever.

Now, I get it: I am not a natural “crowd” person. My favorite time at a party is when it’s time to go home. Most pastors (at least, most of the pastors I know) tend to have a more introverted temperament.

And while I get that, I hope we all realize that the green room runs completely contrary to the gospel.

No matter how we over-spiritualize it—whether we say that area is used for pre-service prayer, or yet another review of our sermon notes—it represents more of a detriment to our spiritual well-being than we might realize, both those of us in the congregation and those who preach. The green room is about isolation, about creating barriers between the shepherd and the sheep.

The green room is a place to hide.

The gospel, however, refuses to let us remain isolated. It connects us to God through Christ; but it also connects us to others. That whole “body” metaphor Paul kept using? Yep. The vine and branches analogy Jesus used? Ditto.

No matter how much we believe, “No one knows what it’s like to feel these feelings,” autonomous Christianity doesn’t work. Ever.

If a pastor does not feel that he can be present with the congregation while waiting to preach, there is something dreadfully wrong, internally. And if there’s a lesson for all of us—both congregation members and pastors alike—it’s that. Pastors cannot be disconnected from congregations. When they cease to be connected, they cease to truly be pastors. They become something else entirely. And this should never be.

Brothers, abandon the green room. Do not hide from the congregation; do not perpetuate the leadership is lonely garbage. Worship with the congregation, seeing your place in the body so you might experience the ministry of the body.

Links I like

Kindle deals for Christian readers

These deals from Zondervan and Thomas Nelson could end any time (99¢ each):

Here are a few new deals from Crossway:

Finally, today’s the last day to get these five books from Cruciform Press for 99¢:

On Platforms, Self-Promotion, and Pleasure Complete

Tim Brister:

You think that, following such an ordinary introduction, his list of accomplishments would soon follow to make up for a bland beginning. And yet, it seems to be all the more paradoxical. The Apostle John says John the Baptist “was not the light.” This was confirmed through the testimony of John the Baptist who, at every point, told people who he was not. “I am not the Christ.” “I am not Elijah.” “I am not the Prophet.” Finally, when asked to explain who he was, John could only describe himself as a voice in the wilderness. And when his followers pressed him to be more aggressive and increase his influence, John could only respond by saying, “I must decrease.”

So there you have it. The man who Jesus said was without comparison (Jesus excluded of course). His life did not end with him on a throne but in prison. He did not have a crown on his head but ended with his head on platter. How could it really be true what Jesus said about John the Baptist? Is there really none greater?

Driscoll steps down for at least six weeks while disqualifying charges are reviewed

More at RNS.

Parable of the Vineyard Workers: The Best for Last

Aaron Earls:

o what it is it that makes the last different from all the other workers? They went into the job blind – totally relying on the landowner’s generosity. He didn’t even promise to pay them anything.

Then why did they go to work for someone without having any type of agreement? Trust. They trusted the landowner to do right by them.

After the workers put their trust in the landowner, how did he treat them? Grace. They didn’t deserve the denarius. They barely deserved any pay, yet the landowner was compassionate to them. Their trust found grace. Their reliance was met with undeserved favor.

Losing your voice: 4 ways pastors lose pulpits

Clint Archer:

There are many ways to leave a church honorably. You could die in the pulpit. You might gracefully retire so a younger man can fill your shoes. Perhaps you feel called to another ministry, and your current elders support you in that endeavor. But there are some ways no pastor wants to be ejected from his ministry.

The Questions God Asks

Lore Ferguson:

I can’t shake the heaviness. It’s been there for weeks, months, a year. A funeral shroud. “Where, oh death, is your sting?” Oh, it’s here. All here.

I’ve been thinking of Mary in the garden these days, weeping by the tomb, the empty tomb. Standing by the evidence that her Lord had risen and she didn’t even recognize the man who asked, “Why are you crying? And whom do you seek?”

But he knew.

Links I like

How to Raise Up Leaders in the Church

This is a conversation that, if you’re not having already in your own church, you desperately need to begin:

To Trust in Men

Lore Ferguson:

A few months ago I sat across from a pastor who took my shameful history and held up his own, point for point. It wasn’t a competition, it was a “You too? Me too.” I am grateful for men like him who do not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but stand on the level ground before the cross and say, “There’s room here. There’s room here.”

Am I a Horrible Parent for Moving My Kids (Back) to Africa?

Stacy Hare:

Currently our kids are used to playing in the Olympic stadium just around the corner from our house. They know where the neighborhood castle is, and if ever we visit a different city, they are always on the lookout for that city’s local castle. They go to a school where they are being taught how to properly brush their teeth, how to recycle, and of course how to speak French. It is not uncommon for me to come home with a handful of birthday invitations that their little friends gave them at school. And if they cannot go to school, they cry. America is a faint memory, but France is their home, and being surrounded by the amazing Alps is their normal.

Now we are taking them to a remote, poor village in Africa without electricity, a school, or a nearby hospital.

Ferguson is Ripping the Bandages off our Racial Wounds

Trevin Wax:

The policy successes of the Civil Rights movement have given rise to the narrative that the worst of our racial and ethnic prejudices are behind us. Unfortunately, politics and policies show only one side of the story.

The truth is, we are still a country divided.

Get Economics for Everybody in today’s $5 Friday at Ligonier.org

Today you can get t<em
Economics for Everybody: Applying Biblical Principles to Work, Wealth, and the World a teaching series by R.C. Sproul, Jr (audio and video download), for only $5 in today’s $5 Friday sale at Ligonier.org. Other items on sale:

  • Psalm 51 teaching series by R.C. Sproul (DVD)
  • The Faith Shaped Life by Ian Hamilton (paperback)
  • The Unwavering Resolve of Jonathan Edwards by Steven Lawson (hardcover)

$5 Friday ends tonight at 11:59:59 PM Eastern.

God uses two “gardens”

JD Greear:

In Psalm 127, Solomon refers to children as a “heritage” or an “inheritance” from the Lord. It’s easy to miss how revolutionary that statement is. Solomon isn’t saying that children will receive our inheritance. He is saying that they are our inheritance. But what doesthat mean?

It means that the most important task we have as a church is to teach the next generation the gospel.

Let’s do some catalytic visioneering… and stuff!

large_126441045

I have to be honest: I really, really miss the days when leaders were cool with just being called managers or leaders. You know, when people weren’t adding qualifiers to boost their self-importance self-esteem?

Today, instead of being managers, we’re leaders. But not just leaders, catalytic leaders. Visionary leaders with fireworks shooting out our rear-ends with every decision we make. (And not just because of the Taco Bell we ate at lunch.)

We get it, okay? You’re a big deal. You’ve got people skills, dag-nabbit!

But could you maybe shut up about it?

There’s a problem in leadership circles when you have to declare yourself a catalytic, visionary such-and-such with mad woo skills (which is just as creepy as it sounds). The problem is simple: you’re clearly not one.

Your vision is seen in what you’ve accomplished, not by what you say you’re doing.

Your ability to move people to action is less important than what action you’re calling them to.

Your charisma is less important than your character.

Who are we trying to kid, honestly? The more I think about it, the more I’m convinced it’s ourselves.

We want to be seen as important. We want to be seen as big deals. We have a brand to uphold and promote, after all. We want to matter… because, well, we are deeply insecure. We are unsure of our ability to lead faithfully, so we mask it in bravado. We are insecure in our relationship with Christ, so we look to our performance for comfort.

But it’s a little bit like a foodie blog operated by someone who only knows how to make Kraft Dinner. The disconnect is often obvious to everyone but us.

“Let another praise you, and not your own mouth,” says Proverbs 27:2, “a stranger, and not your own lips.” There’s a reason the Lord inspired these wise words. When we praise ourselves, we reveal our insecurity.

But, brothers (and sisters, too!), we do not need to be insecure. The fruits of our labors will be apparent to all in time, if they are not already. And in time, if the fruit is good, the lips of another will praise our efforts. So we don’t need to!

Leader, let another praise you. Worry less about calling yourself a catalyst or a visionary. Vision and charisma is fleeting, and your security is not in those things anyway.


Photo credit: Pulpolux !!! via photopin cc

You know it’s not that hard, right?

large_3935059442

I don’t always do something stupid, but when I do, it’s usually reading comments on blogs.

Seriously. I’m very thankful for the helpful quality and tone of 99.9 per cent of the comments I receive on this blog. But, dang, you all are the anomaly, I think. That or I’m just reading the wrong websites.

Anyway…

The last time I made the mistake of reading the comments section on a blog, it was on an article talking about some of the latest blunders and buffoonery coming out of Seattle (I can’t remember the site, which may or may not be a good thing). As I read these comments, some thoughtful, some obvious trolling and attempts at gaining some attention for their own blogs, I stumbled upon a statement I never expected to see:

“I don’t believe any pastor needs to be above reproach.”

I… What do I even do with that besides say: “Well, you should, because the Bible tells you so (1 Tim 3:2)?”

The thing that’s funny about this blanket character qualification for a pastor/elder, this whole idea of being above reproach, is, really, it’s not that hard in some ways. I mean, at a basic level, being above reproach could be summed up simply as being a person of good character—you’re the kind of person who, as Thabiti Anyabwile puts it, “no one suspects of wrongdoing and immorality” (Finding Faithful Elders and Deacons, 57).

It doesn’t mean you’re perfect. It doesn’t mean you’re sinless.

But it does mean your character is such that others would be absolutely shocked if you were accused of some wrongdoing or immoral behavior or speech.

It means people would be surprised if you were accused of trolling on a website, swiping from other people’s sermons, only allowing your kids to watch the prequel trilogy, fudging your taxes, sexually harassing your admin assistant…

You know it’s not that hard, right?

When we no longer believe a basic character requirement—one that, at the lowest possible bar, means adhering to “Wheaton’s Law“—is actually a requirement, it’s sad. When we no longer believe it’s attainable, something is dreadfully wrong.


Photo credit: __o__ via photopin cc

Links I like

Kindle deals for Christian readers

PROOF by Daniel Montgomery & Timothy Paul Jones (which I reviewed yesterday) is $3.99, and What’s Best Next by Matt Perman is $3.79. Also on sale:

Should I Tell My Spouse about Struggles with Sexual Purity?

Garrett Kell:

“Should I tell my wife?” Daniel leaned back with no interest in the meal before him. He’d looked at racy pictures again and the weight of conviction was inescapable. He had confessed his sin to God and to me, but should he confess it to her? What would you tell Daniel?

The Elder’s Vows

Thabiti Anyabwile:

This past Sunday I stood with four other men to be ordained as elders at Capitol Hill Baptist Church. I’ve had the honor of being ordained an elder on four occasions now, twice at Capitol Hill. Each time it’s been a sobering and joyful experience. Each time I’ve been reminded of the seriousness of shepherding the Lord’s people, sheep purchased with His own blood. For me, the most solemn part of the day is the taking of vows before the Lord, my fellow elders and the congregation.

For Some Reason, Anger Never Works The Way I Think It Will

Stephen Altrogge:

I have this idea that if I get sufficiently angry with a person, I can get them to change. If I raise my voice to a high enough decibel level, my children will get the point, repent of their sin, and be healthy, happy, productive members of the family. If I communicate forcefully, and with enough fury, my friend will stop looking at the porn that is destroying his life. If I give someone the silent treatment long enough, they will be brought to their knees in sorrow. Yeah right.

Searching for Fellowship amid Friendliness

Here’s a really good piece highlighting TGC Atlantic Canada. Really excited by what they’re doing on the East Coast.

What Loving the Unlovable Looks Like

Mike Leake:

You’ve likely never heard of her. She died a recluse in 1933. Having never married and living most of her life deaf and bedridden by a spinal problem, her name threatened to fall through the cracks of history. That would have been a shame because she single-handedly changed the course of American history. Her name is Julia Sand. The world was unaware of her name and her profound influence until a stack of twenty-three papers were uncovered in 1958. Encased in those letters were words that changed a would-be president.

Links I like

The writing on the (bathroom) wall

Peter Jones offers some brief commentary on “gender-open” washrooms and worldview.

The Loss of Pastoral Credibility

Alastair Roberts:

On the Internet, one soon discovers that many respected church leaders are quite unable to deal directly with opposing viewpoints. In fact, many of them can’t even manage meaningful engagement with other voices. Their tweets may be entirely one-way conversations. They talk at their audiences. They can talk about other voices, but fail to talk to them, let alone with them. Their representations of opposing viewpoints reveal little direct exposure to the viewpoints in question. They may talk about ‘postmodernism’, but one has good reason to believe that they have never read any postmodern philosopher. They make bold generalizations about ‘feminism’, but you can be pretty certain that they don’t know their Butler from their Greer or their Irigaray. When they are actually exposed to an intelligent and informed critic, they reveal themselves to be reactive and ignorant. Their views are quite incapable of withstanding the stress-testing of disputation.

Get God Alone in today’s $5 Friday at Ligonier.org

Today you can get R.C. Sproul’s God Alone teaching series (audio and video download) for only $5 in today’s $5 Friday sale at Ligonier.org. Other items on sale:

  • Believing God by R.C. Sproul Jr. (ePub & Mobi)
  • Gospel Wakefulness by Jared Wilson (ePub)
  • Reformation Profiles teaching series by Stephen Nichols (audio and video download)

$5 Friday ends tonight at 11:59:59 PM Eastern.

The Next Chapter for Christian Publishing

Karen E Yates:

Earlier this month, renowned Christian author Philip Yancey said Farewell to the Golden Age of Christian publishing, leaving authors and readers concerned over the future of the industry. One author shared, “This is why I’m re-evaluating whether I want to be a writer anymore.” Another said, “This is just depressing.”

Working with my family’s Christian literary agency and law firm, Yates & Yates, I’ve witnessed some of the obstacles and opportunities in today’s ever-changing book market. While the industry looks different in the 21st century, many authors who have adapted to the new era find Christian publishing remains alive and well.

The Mark of the Beast – What Does the Bible Say?

This is a good introduction to this subject.

Free Logos book of the month

This month’s free book from Logos Bible Software is Creation and Fall, volume three in their Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works collection. You can also get volume seven in the series, Fiction from Tegel Prison, for an additional 99¢.

Bring Back the Holy Kiss

Megan Hill:

We might be tempted to think of the holy kiss as a practice for a particular first-century culture, too fraught with issues for our day. But this imperative covers the wide diversity of the New Testament church. Paul commands it, and Peter commands it, too. It is required of the Jewish-background diaspora recipients of Peter’s epistle, and also of the Roman and Thessalonian churches—bodies largely composed of Gentile converts. Twice, the holy kiss is commanded for the Corinthian church, a church so beleaguered by sexual impropriety that you’d think the apostle Paul would ban touch altogether.

Links I like

Encourage your church to pray

The ERLC has just put together an insert about the continued persecution of Christians around the world. I hope you’ll print this out for your congregation and include with this week’s bulletin.

Two Questions that May Greatly Improve Your Church’s Ministry

Kevin DeYoung:

I’m no management consultant, leadership expert, or church growth guru. But if you love your church and want to see it as effective as possible–for the sake of evangelism, education, exaltation, and whatever other E’s you may have in your mission statement–try asking these two questions. One is from the pastor for his leaders, and the other is from the leaders for his pastor.

Coffee Shops and Productivity

This is a very helpful article discussing just how productive we really are at coffee shops.

The Use and Abuse of Video Church

Richard Phillips:

For all the blessings of this kind of technology, there are some important limitations to video worship of which Christians should be aware and which call for us to make a wise use of this resource. In short, our live webcast is designed for those who are not able to come to church, not as a substitute for those who would otherwise come to church. With this in mind, let me point out some reasons why we should greatly prefer attending church in person, along with some suggestions for our practice.

 Should My Middle Schooler Date?

The short answer is no. But for a more nuanced answer, read this.

Justice Needs a Face

Bethany Jenkins:

I studied law under some of the top legal minds in the world. I learned about foreign affairs and the Constitution from an adviser to the State Department, corporations law from a former SEC commissioner, and criminal investigations from a United States circuit judge.

Throughout my three years in law school, though, there was one word that my professors never uttered and my classmates and I never mentioned. In fact, I don’t think I ever saw it referenced in any of the hundreds of Supreme Court cases that I read. Yet this one word—hospitality—is integral to the biblical idea of justice, order, and flourishing.

5 words on extemporaneous preaching

medium_13086962183

“Not for faint of heart.”

There’s your five words. (Just kidding.)

Extemporaneous preaching isn’t for everyone, but it is for me. I cannot manuscript. I mean, obviously I can, I write a lot and I love to do so. But I don’t like to write out sermons. My writing voice is far too different from my speaking voice. My one attempt at using a manuscripted sermon in a dozen years of preaching was an intolerably, uncomfortable preaching experience. So, you don’t want to come to me for advise about manuscripting a sermon. However, if you want to take a stab at preaching extemporaneously, then listen up. Here are five words of advice:

1. Preach your sermon to yourself during the week

For whatever reason, I don’t preach a dry run of my sermon in front of a mirror, in an empty auditorium, or in front of my family filled couch. No. Instead I preach it in my car, on my face, in the shower, on my bed, and in coffee shops. I do it in clips and in sections. I don’t do it out loud; it’s all in my head. Most of it is prayer. Sometimes you may catch me pacing my study trying to smooth out certain ideas, but I won’t preach the sermon from beginning to end until I’m in front of my congregation.

And it’s likely that what I preach to myself will sound and be different than what I preach to my congregation. Why? I’m preaching to myself, so I need to hear more, less, or different than what my congregation needs.

If you’re not preaching to yourself first, then you won’t preach to your congregation well. The Word of God has to lay ruin to the miserable ways of your soul and refresh you with the grace of God first before it will effectively do so for others. I want the Word of God to strike me between the eyes before I admonish God’s flock with it.

2. Let the text guide your outline

Quite honestly, I think that extemporaneous preachers are going to be twice as likely to be expository preachers. Allowing the text to guide your sermon outline makes it so much easier to preach without a manuscript. You read the text; then you expound on that text. You read the next text; then you expound on that one. This makes the preaching task fairly straightforward. Its less likely you’ll get lost in your outline.

3. Make a legible, coded outline

If you’re going to preach extemporaneously, you’re going to need a concise outline. I use the perforated pages in the back of my moleskin where I’ve been jotting down notes throughout the week to construct my outline.

Typically, on Thursday afternoon I coalesce all of my notes into an ordered two column homiletical outline that fits on the front of one page. It’s made up of nothing more than single-word signals, transitional statements, verse references, markers for anecdotes, and crucial textual observations. I’ll use a highlighter to code different elements of the outline.

I actually tape this outline into my bible on the opposite page of my passage with special Scotch Magic 811 removable tape. I’ve used this tape in my Bible for some time and have never ripped a page when removing it. This is handy because then I don’t have to necessarily be tied to a pulpit. I can pace and preach with Bible in hand.

So what if I’m going to quote something? Any quotes I use I put in my phone. I just pull it out and open the note I made for the sermon. That note has a quote or two – I don’t think I’ve ever used more than two – and a benediction. Sometimes, I just memorize the quote, which is an effective way to do it. This lets your congregation know that the quote is valuable to you.

4. Record quotable thoughts

Here I’ll add that extemporaneous preachers run the risk of not being quotable. Manuscripted preachers are more likely to include really quotable statements in their manuscript. To overcome this challenge, during my study and prayer throughout the week, if a real quotable, pithy statement forms in my brain, I write it down in my notebook in a special section I’ve created. I go over that section daily to allow those quotes to settle into my mind. That way they will come to me naturally when I preach. Quotability is crucial; quotable becomes memorable; memorable becomes shareable.

5. Fill in your thoughts with other’s

Scripture guides most of my sermon preparation. My personal study of the text is where I lean in most heavy. After I draft my outline on Thursday, I usually read commentaries through the weekend to fill out my knowledge of the text.

This doesn’t mean that I avoid commentaries altogether Monday through Wednesday. I go to them when I have specific questions of the text that I am unable to answer. It could have to do with a word study, interpretive issue, or complex theological idea. I then permit commentaries to help me sort out the matter. I also allow all my other peripheral reading, study, and conversation to fill in and add thickness to what I’m going to say.

Conclusion

Like I introed, extemporaneous preaching is not for the faint of heart. It takes a long time to develop a rhythm and pull it off with a polished delivery. You almost have to begin your preaching ministry as an extemporaneous preacher in order to pull through the learning curve. But that doesn’t have to be the case. You can do it!

Both styles, manuscripting and extemporaneous, have pros and cons. In Preaching and Preachers, Martyn Lloyd-Jones provides sound balance here on preaching regardless of which method you use, so I’ll close it with what he says:

What I regard as being always important is that you should preserve freedom. This element can never be exaggerated. Yet, at the same time you must have order and coherence. As is so often true in this matter of preaching you are always in the position of being between two extremes, you are always on a kind of knife-edge. (Kindle location 3788)

Regardless of what model you use, preserve freedom while maintaining order and coherence.


Joey Cochran, a graduate of Dallas Seminary, is a church planting intern at Redeemer Fellowship in St. Charles, Illinois under the supervision of Pastor Joe Thorn. Follow him at jtcochran.com or @joeycochran.

photo credit: A.D. Wheeler Photography via photopin cc

Links I like

50 Shades of Strange

Aimee Byrd:

One neighbor I haven’t seen in a while asked me what I had been getting into over the year, and I had the opportunity to tell her about the book I had been writing. I explained to her that it was about how our knowledge of God shapes our everyday living. Now you never know what kind of reaction you are going to get when you tell people you write Christian books. But I wasn’t prepared for this one. She was thrilled because she loves to read, and as a matter of fact, she was currently devouring 50 Shades of Grey. I think I my facial expression matched that of Ralphie when he decoded his first Little Orphan Annie message in his bathroom.

N Is for Nazareth

Russell Moore:

Christians around the world are changing their social media avatars to the arabic letter “n.” In so doing, these Christians are reminding others around them to pray, and to stand in solidarity with believers in Iraq who are being driven from their homes, and from their country, by Islamic militants. The Arabic letter comes from the mark the ISIS militants are placing on the homes of known Christians. “N” is for “Nazarene,” those who follow Jesus of Nazareth. Perhaps it’s a good time to reflect on why Nazareth matters, to all of us. The truth that our Lord is a Nazarene is a sign to us of both the rooted locality and the global solidarity of the church.

Kindle deals for Christian readers

Why Singles Belong in Church Leadership

Lore Ferguson:

Where I live, in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex, young marriages are common. Younger than the national average at least. Yet few single men and women are involved in ministry. My pastor leads a large church-planting network, and I asked him recently, “How many single guys are planting in the network?” He named a mere few. The dearth of undistracted men and women in ministry is sad, but more so, it is alarming.

Instead of Building Your Platform, Build Your Character

Derwin Gray:

Pastor, words like “platform” and “influence” are important.

But if we aren’t careful, in our desire to build our platform and influence, we can end up building our EGO.

Spurgeon on Expositional Reading and Teaching in the Worship Service?

Nick Batzig:

One does not have to read many of Spurgeon’s sermons to understand that the same approach was themodus operandi for own preaching. In fact, there were many times during my seminary education that I remember getting in arguments with students who were hyper-critical of Spurgeon’s preaching. I was so thankful for the example of one who was so spiritually-minded and Gospel-centered that I was ready to be more forgiving with regard to his lack of textual precision and for the absence of an expository approach to preaching in his ministry. On one occasion, a student was criticizing Spurgeon’s preaching openly in the class. Welling up with frustration I shot back, “When you can preach the Gospel like Spurgeon, you can criticize Spurgeon.” One of the professors at my seminary quickly agreed with me as over against the unjust criticisms being raised.

Man may have advanced, but he hasn’t changed

Martyn Lloyd-Jones

It is to me almost incredible and incomprehensible that anybody who has ever read the Bible at all, or even indeed human history, could possibly dispute this, even for a second. What superficial thinkers we are. We are assuming that because man can travel in an aeroplane, and split the atom, he is somehow different from his forefathers who could not do these things. But man himself has not changed. Man himself, you discover by looking into how he thinks, what he is really interested in, how he acts. And man today is, primarily and fundamentally, interested in the very things that interested him four thousand years ago, in the time of Abraham. If we just read the newspapers we see that the major interests of Man are still, eating, drinking, making war, sex and pleasures of various kinds. They are all here in the Old Testament, and man is still doing the same things. Look at the major social problems confronting us today, and you will find all of them in the Bible: theft, robbery, violence, jealousy, envy, infidelity, divorce, separation, perversions, all these things, are in the Bible. These are the problems of man today, as they have always been.

Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Revival, 25–26.

You need something that can shatter evil’s power

Martyn Lloyd-Jones

Everything that can appeal to the modern man, the last word in presentation is used, in the belief that when it is done, and you do it with a modern technique, then you will get hold of the modern man. But I think that the time has now come to ask this simple question: what are the results? Is the modern problem being touched at all? Of course these various methods, the apologetics and the others may indeed lead to individual conversions. We are all aware of that. Almost any method you like to employ will do that. Of course there are individual conversions, but my question is this—what of the situation, what of the bulk of men and women, what of the working classes of this country, are they being touched at all, are they being affected at all? Is anybody being affected, except those who are already in the Church or on the fringe of the Church? What of the spiritual and religious condition of the country? What of the whole state of society? Is this being touched at all by all our activities?

Well, my answer would be that it all seems to put us into the position of the disciples who had tried to cast the devil out of the boy, these men who had been so successful in many another case, but who could not touch this case at all. And our Lord gives them the explanation, ‘this kind’ can come forth by nothing like this. By what, then? ‘This kind can come forth by nothing but by prayer, and fasting.’ You failed there, he said in effect to these disciples, because you did not have sufficient power. You were using the power that you have, and you were very confident in it. You did it with great assurance, you were masters of the occasion, you thought you were going to succeed at once, but you did not. It is time you paused for a moment and began to think. It was your ignorance of these gradations in power amongst evil spirits that led to your failure, and to your crestfallen condition at this moment. You have not sufficient power. I did what you could not do because I have power, because I am filled with the power that God gives me by the Holy Spirit, for he gives not the Spirit by measure unto me. You will never be able to deal with ‘this kind’ unless you have applied to God for the power which he alone can give you. You must become aware of your need, of your impotence, of your helplessness. You must realise that you are confronted by something that is too deep for your methods to get rid of, or to deal with, and you need something that can go down beneath that evil power, and shatter it, and there is only one thing that can do that, and that is the power of God.

Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Revival, 18-19

What might Jesus say if He visited your small group?

7467478638_b04d906011_z

I wonder what would happen if Jesus stepped into your small group this week.

  • Would he cry? Laugh? Yell? Flip over tables?
  • Would he sit down and eat some nachos with you?
  • Would he grab a cup of coffee and stay late?

If Jesus came to your small group, I think there are a few things he’d say:

You’re too easy on church people.

Jesus was never easy on people that claimed a relationship with God. He was much tougher on them than he was people outside of the Church. He held them to a much higher standard, and called them to be living, breathing examples of the Gospel. And when they weren’t, he let em have it.

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness. So you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.”- Matthew 23:27-28

You’re too tough on lost people.

Groups should be the place where “outsiders”feel comfortable exploring, disagreeing, and bringing the full weight of themselves into the conversation. And when they sin, we should expect it. Don’t be surprised when lost people act lost.

Speaking to a woman caught in adultery, Jesus said:

“Woman, where are they (your accusers)? Has no one condemned you?” She said, “No one, Lord.”And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more. – John 8:10-11

You’re too stingy.

Groups should be the place where our combined resources make a dent in the Kingdom. Our generosity should shape neighborhoods, shake families, and leave people shaking their heads at our love.

Give to everyone who begs from you, and from one who takes away your goods do not demand them back. – Luke 6:30

Generosity is costly and formative. The strongest small groups are marked by lavish generosity in various forms. All too often, we in small groups just think, “What’s in this for me? How am I going to grow? How should I change?”It’s not all about us.

Why so serious?

People take spiritual growth too seriously. Too heavily. Too ominously. Spiritual growth happens in the serious moments, but it also happens in the laughter and the fun.

Jesus didn’t say this, but I can only imagine he obeyed it:

Our mouths were filled with laughter, our tongues with songs of joy. Then it was said among the nations, “The LORD has done great things for them.” The LORD has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy. –Psalm 126:2-3

When they heard the people’s mouths filled with laughter and their tongues singing songs of joy, they said, “They must serve a great God!”Laughter and joy became attractional for the church. Outsiders began to notice the community of God-followers because they were laughing.

Just 1.5 hours?

Spiritual growth is much more all-encompassing than 1.5 hours. In no way can you expect to grow if you just spend 1.5 hours together in a week. Small groups build relationships with one another. Phone calls, cups of coffee, texts, lunches, and other relationship-building times are a must.

Throughout the gospels, we see Jesus not just teaching, but spending time with, his disciples.

What are you producing?

So many small groups have no idea where they’re headed. They think that small group is about the curriculum. Or about the meeting. Or about the project. The reality is that all of those are just the backdrop for the real mission: creating disciples.

And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations…”- Matthew 28:18-19

Let’s eat!

Eating together is such a vital part of the success of a small group. It gives depth to relationship as you meet one another’s physical needs, it gives a natural reason to congregate together (everyone’s got to eat), and through providing food for one another you inadvertently put a bit of yourself into your meal.

We see multiple examples of Jesus eating with his disciples, both before and after the resurrection.

What do you think Jesus would say to your small group?


Ben Reed is the author of Starting Small: The Ultimate Small Group Blueprint. He is the small groups pastor at Long Hollow Baptist Church in Nashville, TN. Ben is also an avid Cross-Fitter and coffee drinker. But not at the same time.

Photo credit: Sathish J (CC)