One of my favorite quotes comes from Johannus Oecolampadius who says, "The world would be better off with fewer ministers."
While we want harvesters to be thrust out into the harvest, we have to recognize that we need the Lord to first prune the ranks. For many men who go into the ministry ought to have heeded James' words, "Not many of you should become teachers."
Men who enter the ministry ought not to do it just because they think that they are called or because they want to serve the Lord. It takes more than a desire to "share" with people about God.
Men who enter the ministry must be thoroughly trained and understand Scriptural doctrine. They must be able to spot wolves and then fend them off if they prowl around within your neighborhood.
Unfortunately, we have many who are barely Christians standing in our pulpits. They cannot fight unbelief because to do so would be an act of friendly fire. They may well be evangelicals, but they are so wildly ignorant of Biblical teaching or lacking in holy zealous fire that they do a greater injustice to the kingdom than a legion of demons.
It would be better for them to demit the office and seek another profession.
The people over at American Vision have written a little piece criitcing some of the "transformational" hype that is common in Reformed circles. I didn't appreciate the amillennial slap or the post-mill jibber-jabber. Nevertheless, it was a good article overall.
I've often found that being "transformational" means being artsy and all gung-ho about engaging the beat nick scene. But it doesn't ever seem to go much farther--as if the arts were the whole extent of culture.
I'm all for taking a Francis Schaeffer attitude towards the arts. Let's engage it, but let's also have a balanced view. I mean, what kind of impact are we going to have on culture if all we do is stare at some paintings, pretty up our churches with nicer decorations, and say, "Dude, Jesus would have Bob Dylan on his iPod."
True transformation means attacking the gods of the age, and the biggest god of our era. That means that the most necessary place of cultural transformation today is the life sucking monster we call the state.
But most don't go there. To do so would violate some "spiritual" duty of the church and would be to "forget the real calling of the church."
This overlaps a lot with the erroneous view of "preaching the gospel." I find that many want to talk about "the gospel" but neglect the rest of God's word (i.e. law). Or, they will say things like, "We need to bring the gospel to bear on the arts." That would be ok if they would also seek to bring the gospel to bear on the realm of economics or civil magistrate.
A question was asked about the second commandment and the making of pictures of Jesus. To which I responded,
The Lord reveals himself through his word and sacrament. Those are his appointed means. We should be wary of going beyond them to "help" kids. We may even belittle the simplicity of his means when we demand pictures.
You will often find too, that wherever pictures have increased in the history of the church, piety has decreased.
As we wrap up our series on preaching, we want to make sure we conclude on a high note. What better way to do that than by talking about the gospel!
Over the years I've experienced two different extremes when it comes to the gospel and how it fits into a sermon. In my early days I attended a church that never really mentioned the gospel. Christ was pretty much absent from every sermon that was ever preached. So the messages were mainly moralistic.
Later, I attended a series of churches where the gospel was preached every Sunday. It was good at first because I had been deprived of it for so long at my other church. However, I came to find that the gospel presentation was ordinarily tacked on to the end of the message and really didn't have anything to do with the message that was just preached.
What's more, in these churches I found that the gospel was not really even for me! It was typically directed towards the unbeliever as a call was issued to him to embrace the Savior.
Our aim at Providence Church is to preach the gospel every Sunday because we know it is important for everyone's spiritual development, even the Christian's. As a matter of fact, we believe that if Christ is not preached, then we have not preached a truly Christian sermon!
But how do you do that without tacking the gospel on at the end of the message? The answer lies in the expository method. We believe that the gospel should rise naturally from the text itself.
Jesus said that the whole of the Scripture bears witness to him (John 5:39). At another time he took time to interpret the things concerning himself in the law and the prophets (Luke 24:27).
This means that every text of Scripture finds its culmination in Christ. It doesn't matter if it is the deep recesses of Leviticus or the heavy arguments of an epistle, every line finds its fulfillment in Christ.
So as you come to Providence you will not just hear sermons that are practical. You will hear sermons that are guided and shaped by the gospel. Better yet, you will find how the gospel should guide and shape your own life.
When you are trying to figure out which restaurant to attend, you want to make sure you choose one that will provide the best meal.
The same can be said for the church you choose. You want to choose a church where you are sure to receive the best spiritual nourishment.
But what makes for the best soul food? We believe it is a church that is dedicated to expository preaching.
In our last post we began to introduce expository preaching. We contrasted it with topical preaching, and said that expository preaching was a superior form of preaching because the topic and points are drawn straight from the text (and not simply from the preacher's interests or preferences!).
Today, we want to further show how expository preaching is the best way of examining the Scripture and feeding the flock of God.
The word exposit is not one that is tossed around a lot today. It may help to know what it means. Exposit simply means "to explain." Thus, in expository preaching, the preacher is seeking to explain the meaning of a single text of Scripture.
In the book of Nehemiah we see an example of this form of preaching. In Nehmiah 8 we read that the people of Israel had gathered together on a special occasion to listen to Ezra read from the book of the law. Ezra also had helpers with him whose job was to "give the sense" so that all the people could understand what had been read (v. 7-8).
Supposedly, this is how it would go: Ezra would begin by reading a portion of the Scripture. He would then pause so that his attendants could explain what it meant to the people. Then Ezra would read another portion, and it too would be opened up so that the audience could have a deeper grasp of what it taught.
This is the Biblical grounding for our practice of expository preaching. Our goal is to help those in the congregation intimately understand each part of God's book. So each Sunday a portion of Scripture is read, and then, the minister seeks to explain what it means so that the congregation can have a secure grasp on what God has said there.
For example, the minister might get up and read a parable from one of the gospels. After it is read, he will seek to explain the meaning of that parable in simple terms. He will move line by line through the text and give the sense of each part so that the hearers may have a firm grip on what the Lord was trying to communicate in that parable.
In our next post, we will talk a little more about how one "gives the sense" of Scripture. There is a three step method that we typically use when explaining a passage.
For now, you can check out some expository messages by listening to any of oursermons that we have posted here on our site!
I just posted the first article in a series I'm going to be doing on expository preaching over at the Providence site. This one simply introduces expository preaching and topical preaching.
If there is one thing we are serious about, it is articulating Scripture in a clear and biblically sound way. We believe that expository preaching encapsulates this goal best. You can learn why by staying tuned in to this series.
This is a pic of my desk each Lord's Day. I am greatly blessed to be able to stand here and deliver the Word of God to the people of Providence Church. They are a kindly congregation who eagerly listen and are ready to take the truth of Scripture to heart.
I love this pic too because it expresses something of the church itself. It is a massive piece of furniture, expressing the congregation's focus on the whole counsel of God. It is something of an antique too, representing their desire for the old paths and not new fads & falsehoods.
Lastly, you can see a cup ring in the polish. Since I don't take water when I speak (for fear of spilling it mainly!), I think that is symbolic of the men who stood here before me. We are where we are as a congregation because faithful men had led the congregation in years past.
The seeds of sin are always germinating in the garden of God's church. Let us therefore as Christ's ministers be ready to perform our duty as the appointed husbands of this divine orchard. We have the only solution that may exterminate these gross weeds. Those who do not diligently apply the holy Word of God will be guilty of destroying the fruit of the field.
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