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Preaching – Unique Proclamation (via Adam Ch’ng at Gospel Coalition Australia)

The words ‘sermon’ and ‘preaching’ fall out of use in some churches for a variety of reasons, both social and theological.
None of the replacement words or phrases really embrace the fulness of God imparting his grace to his people that is the act of a sermon being preached.
Whatever it’s called, as long as that is what is understood is happening.

Adam Ch’ng, at Gospel Coalition Australia, writes that –
Preaching is more than “sharing the Word”
Preaching is more than “explaining the Bible”
Preaching is more than “giving a Bible talk”

And concludes by writing

How then should we introduce the sermon?
We might unashamedly describe the sermon as “gospel proclamation” and call our churches to repent and believe. We might pray for our church to be not just informed but transformed by the Word. We might even ask our churches to “prepare to hear God speak”.
Whatever we might say, we must not diminish the supernatural significance of the preached word. Instead, we must lift our churches’ expectations of this sacred event. We need to aim higher.
For when we preach the Word with faithfulness, clarity and conviction, we are declaring Jesus’ victory over sin and death. We are transforming hearts, saving sinners and sanctifying the church. And we are acting as the mouthpiece of God who in that very moment is speaking light into the darkness.

Read the whole article at Gospel Coalition Australia.


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Faithful Application Of Bible Teaching Terminates On The Glory Of God

Teaching the Bible involves application – the response to what is being proclaimed.

But application that halts on the benefit to the hearer undoes the centrality of the work of Jesus. Application must find its ultimate motivation in response to the glorious God who has saved us.

Jared Wilson offers this as one of three points about faithful application of the Scriptures.

…faithful application is not about self-improvement or self-actualization. Don’t tell your people that if they do steps 1-4 this week, they’ll have a successful life or a healthy marriage or a fat bank account or any other soft legalism quasi prosperity gospel. Tell them the gospel has set them free from working for God’s approval but to working for God’s glory.

If we obeyed for credit, we deem Christ’s sacrifice insufficient. But we don’t even get to take credit. The gospel empowers our works, so he gets the glory. As Paul writes, “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared ahead of time for us to do.” They’re not even your ideas!

Let your light shine before men this way: that those who would see your good works would glorify not you but your Father in heaven.

source


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Analysis Of 50,000 Sermons From The USA By The Pew Research Center

One of the more fascinating things I read this year was David Cook’s effort at auditing the preaching of the Presbyterian Churches of Victoria (Australia) in preparation for conducting a pastor’s conference in Melbourne.

This report from the USA based Pew Research Center computer analysed more than 50,000 sermons from a variety of churches in the USA over an eight week period around Easter 2019.
It’s interesting reading, though it provides mostly observation and doesn’t offer conclusions, except that there are differences in language, length, and Biblical referencing among various streams in the church.
That these sermons are from the period around Easter suggests that language, specific Biblical references, and themes might have their highest degree of commonality, so the differences may be all the more telling in how these churches focus on the same biblical and theological events in what would seem to be different ways.

Read the report here at the The Pew Research Center.


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Jesus Used Illustrations To Humble Pride, Not Encourage It (via Barry York at Gentle Reformation)

Illustrations, as their name demonstrates, are not the focus of a sermon’s message but serve to help important points of teaching or application be clarified and understood.
They must not distract or confuse, nor should they focus attention on the preacher or alienate hearers from the message.

This article about illustrations by Barry York is a good reminder of some basic principles.
I particularly appreciated this one:

Do not let them be boring or boorish.
If there is one place that should be guaranteed to be more lively and engaging in a sermon, it is when an illustration is given. If a story or anecdote is done poorly and does not hold the interest of the listeners, then things do not bode well for the rest of the sermon. Make them lively both in their content and presentation! Neither should the preacher seek to use the illustration in a condescending way, for instance having as its motivation an attempt to show the superiority of his church over others. Jesus used illustrations to humble pride, not encourage it.

Read the whole article at Gentle Reformation.


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Ready For The Inauguration Of The Reign Of God (via Will Willimon)

We clean out our church store-room constantly.
The main reason is so that folk can’t give in to the temptation to put materials that have passed their use-by date back into service.

In Accidental Preacher Will Willimon writes of an early pastoral appointment in a church that had a Congregation of four hundred accommodated in a building that could have held two thousand.

Most disheartening were the seven – count ’em, seven – empty Sunday school rooms, three of which were now used for storage, as if upon Jesus’s return his first command would be “Quick. Bring me downs of worn-out hymnals and all the rusting, folding metal chairs you can carry. Come on, people, let’s inaugurate the Reign Of God.
Will Willimon, Accidental Preacher, Eerdmans, 2019, pg 177.

Encourage your pastor to be a preacher, not a curator.


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In The Temptations Of Jesus, It Was The Devil Who Proffered Common Sense (via Will Willimon)

The temptation to adjust preaching from offering Christ to offering helpful advice about how to live you best life now has an old pedigree.
The temptation should be resisted at all costs. We live by the word of God alone.

From Accidental Preacher by Will Willimon.

I’m old enough to remember when preachers were expected to be good with Scripture. These days we’re cast into the role of experts doling out advice on marriage, business, the purpose—driven life, legislated justice, and sexual satisfaction. A lot of the preaching I hear today (and not only in a former stadium in Houston) is good advice; sentimental, worldly wisdom substituted for gospel foolishness; helpful hints for homemakers; tips for the anxious upwardly mobile; common sense widely available without having to get dressed and come to church to hear it. At least Rotary serves lunch.
In the temptations of Jesus, it was the devil who proffered common sense. Sanctimonious advice, even well meaning, is a bore. Most commonsense sermons — platitudes and principles foisted upon the congregation as if the preacher were an expert on life — are offered in the attempt to help us retain control over our lives by using common sense to keep a living God at bay. Preachers ought to remember the audience’s elation when Hamlet’s uncle — tedious, bloated-with—advice Polonius — finally gets a knife to the gut.
Will Willimon, Accidental Preacher, Eerdmans, 2019, pg 101.


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Preaching That Offers Aspirin When You Need Chemotherapy (via Will Willimon)

I hope if you hear a sermon tomorrow it does not offer counsel about therapeutic change, but an invitation to spiritual reanimation.
From Accidental Preacher by Will Willimon.

We mainline, non evangelical, noninvasive preachers pat a congregation on the head as we murmur, “There, there, God loves you as you are. Promise me you won’t change a thing.” Billy [Graham, who Willimon invited to preach at the Duke Chapel] consistently preached the gospel of the second chance. Those in desperate need of a second or third chance require more than “progressive” sermons – Jesus just hanging out with people as they re, bourgeois conformity with a spiritual tint, offering a bit of a spiritual nudge. Buttoned-down mainline Christianity offers aspirin for those in need of massive chemotherapy.
Will Willimon, Accidental Preacher, Eerdmans, 2019, pg 101.