Just back from a good time at Bible by the Beach meeting in Eastbourne on the South coast.
Bible readings by Alistair Begg (blog summary by Hugh Bourne at http://www.hughbourne.co.uk/) and good input from Wallace Benn and others, on the theme of the Cross of Christ. Engaging and winsome presentation of the glory and power of the cross. It was heartening to have the bible opened and the clarity of preaching the sinbearing work of Christ’s death. Stuart Townend, Lou Fellingham and Ian White did a great job leading sung worship.
I led seminars on “Maintaining Healthy Marriages” launched “Lives Jesus Changed”, and preached at Victoria Baptist Church http://www.victoriabaptist.org.uk/ on the Sunday
For an event in its second year it was most encouraging to have over a thousand at the two evening celebrations and an average of a little over 600 over the whole weekend. Praise God for a great new event! 2011 event planning is well under way (29th April – 2nd May 2011). See www.biblebythebeach.org
Many thanks to all who responded to my two questions:
1. Who is your most favorite living preacher(s) to listen to?
2. Can you name what it is that they do that makes you listen?
I polled students and those on my email address book; I also received a number of results via my Facebook page. So far, over 200 people have replied. I do not intend to produce a “most favorite preacher” list (which would be unedifying). Moreover, my survey was intended to give a “gut” reaction rather than a scientific survey.
The purpose of the survey is twofold
- It assists me in writing the book “Things which 12 popular preachers do well”;
- The observations made about preaching and preachers will end up becoming part of a soon-to-be launched website on preaching and preachers.
I shared the following comments with my students recently:-
1. Good preachers manifest Humanity (vulnerability, empathy, warmth), Humour (Story-telling, insight); Holiness (Spirit’s presence, unction, awe, Christ-centered); Heartiness (anointing, urgent, passion). As Jonathan Edwards put it: there is Heat & Light. This is not the totality of things which good preachers do well, but they certainly feature highly in the congregations sense that the preacher has enabled them to meet with the living God through their sermon.
2. Whilst some of the top preachers include, in no particular order (although I now feel like one of X Factor judges!): John Piper, Simon Ponsonby, Mark Driscoll, Rico Tice, Christopher Ash, John Stott, Tim Keller, Dick Lucas (and there were many more!) – I agree with the comment that someone made: “I would put down (…) as my favorite ‘big name’ preacher, but in fact, the faithful week-in-week out preaching of my local Vicar is what nourishes me as a Christian.” I am not interested in starting a guru mentality or personality cult, but rather, I would like us to learn from those who preach well and understand why they connect with us.
3. Finally, I think Tim Keller is spot on when he says to preachers:
If you put in too much time in your study on your sermon you put in too little time being out with people as a shepherd and a leader. Ironically, this will make you a poorer preacher. It is only through doing people-work that you become the preacher you need to be–someone who knows sin, how the heart works, what people’s struggles are, and so on. Pastoral care and leadership (along with private prayer) are to a great degree sermon preparation. More accurately, it is preparing the preacher, not just the sermon. Through pastoral care and leadership you grow from being a Bible commentator into a flesh and blood preacher.
I have much more to say in this topic, so watch this space!
Make a house a home
Some thoughts on preaching which hits home
We are preparing to move house again soon (2 miles across the other side of Oxford). As we prepare for the process of transporting all our possessions from one house to another my thoughts turned to what makes a house a home? The bare structure and location of a property only becomes home when it feels lived in and starts to reflect the personality of its inhabitants.
The same could be said to be true of preaching. Many sermons which I listen to show evidence of structure, design and effort. But they often don’t feel lived in. They lack the warmth and personality which only comes when the preacher has inhabited the text for themselves and taken it home.
What are some of the errors which sermons make? You can probably think of more, but these few thoughts came to mind.
When you first move into your new house boxes get emptied and mounds of clothing, books etc. await proper ‘filing away’. Should someone come to visit the chances are their coat will need to be draped over a chair or put on the bed. Hopefully, in time, pegs will appear upon which you may hang your coat.
In a similar way, many sermons which I hear offer nowhere to ‘hang your hat’ so to speak. There is content, but it lacks pegs. Without this attention to structure, the hearer can struggle to navigate their way through the sermon. Without pegs it is unlikely that hearers will be able remember salient points of the sermon for the week ahead.
Rhetoric gets a bad name today. But the later Greek sophists (Isocrates. Cicero etc.) believed Rhetoric to be the ability to speak with such clarity that the audience would be persuaded. Philosophers think clearly. Rhetoricians think clearly out loud. Preachers should be doing the same. This will in part be reflected by careful attention to the structure and form of the sermon.
It takes time for a house to become a home. Over time the inhabitants will begin to stamp their own personality on their property – hanging curtains, arranging flowers, decorating to taste etc.
Many sermons I hear lack personality. Phillip Brooks’ now famous comment that preaching is “communication of truth through personality” is exactly right. Obviously we don’t want the sermon to be littered with personal anecdotes and stories. It is not supposed to be a talk about them. However, congregations listen when they can see that for the preacher the message has hit home personally.
They have been moved by the message they are preaching. They have made the connections as to how it applies to their own life.
Sermons which hit home are those which apply pertinently and pointedly to today’s world. They are illustrated in real life.
Too many sermons I hear leave me only in the world of the text. Now, of course, this is not the worst problem, there are equally many messages that never take me to the world of the text and only start in the world of today. I guess the former may be the weakness of evangelical expository preaching; the latter is the weakness of liberal preaching.
John Stott has regularly repeated the need to engage in “double listening” – Hearing the voice of the text; hearing the voice of the world.
When you move into a new house you are inclined to think: however did they live with that wallpaper? How come they didn’t modernise the bathroom suite etc. But of course, it is very difficult to see your environment and culture from the fresh perspective of an outsider.
As preachers we need to retain the fresh “eyes” of an outsider, someone who has not spent the whole week labouring over the text, and who can see the difficult punchy questions which might need addressing.
At home in the sermon
By this expression I don’t at all mean that preaching should be psychologically therapeutic, only comforting and devotional. What I think I mean is that I expect preaching to give me pegs (to help me recall and apply the bible to my life in the week ahead); personality (so I feel that the preacher has met with God in his preparation); punch (I see the issue with a freshness and pertinence for the week ahead).
UK LAUNCH OF FELLOWSHIP OF CONFESSING ANGLICANS JULY 6, 2009, WESTMINSTER CENTRAL HALL, LONDON
THE launch in the UK and Ireland of the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans (FCA), an orthodox Anglican movement for mission at global and local level, is to take place on July 6 in London.
The Fellowship is the outworking of last year’s GAFCON conference in Jerusalem, at which 1200 delegates signed up to the Jerusalem Statement. Those attending Gafcon 2008 represented some 40 million Anglicans world-wide, 70% of the total active membership of 55 million.
The launch event, entitled ‘Be Faithful! – Confessing Anglicans in Global and Local Mission’ will be held at Westminster Central Hall from 10.30am-5.30pm. The aim is to encourage and envision Anglicans who are committed to the orthodox teachings of the Anglican Church and who are passionate about global and local mission.
It will be the first of regular ‘fellowship’ events both in the UK and across the world. Speakers at the July 6 gathering, where around 2,300 bishops, clergy and laity are expected, will include contributors from across the Anglican Communion, including Bishops Keith Ackerman (President of Forward in Faith North America), Wallace Benn (Bishop of Lewes), John Broadhurst (Chairman of Forward in Faith UK) and Michael Nazir-Ali, Dr Chik Kaw Tan plus Archbishop Peter Jensen (secretary of the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans www.fca.net).
They, and others yet to be announced, will also lead gatherings in London churches on Sunday July 5th. the day before the launch.
Regional meetings, in the run up to the London event will also be held on:- * May 14, St Batholomew’s,Bath
* May 15, Christ Church, Virginia Water
* May 18, Holy Trinity, Platt, Manchester
* May 19, St Andrew’s, Newcastle-under-Lyme
* May 20, Christ Church, Fulwood, Sheffield
The Revd Paul Perkin, vicar of St Mark’s, Battersea Rise, London, and Chairman of the event planning team, said: “The fellowship is just that, a spiritual movement of brothers and sisters across the nation and the world. It is not a separatist party, nor is it an organisation, but a spiritual fellowship issuing from a concern for truth and unity. It is a renewal of our confessing Anglican roots and convictions, and will be forward-looking in gospel mission locally, and in solidarity globally with Anglicans throughout the world, especially those suffering through poverty or discrimination”.
For further information about the event, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or book on-line here For further information: Revd Paul Perkin, Be Faithful, Event Chairman: 020 7326 9412 Canon Dr Chris Sugden (Anglican Mainstream): 01865 883388
I have to say, I have a lot of sympathy for the predicament the Archbishop of Canterbury has found himself in as he used his General Synod opening address to apologise for comments leading to the press reporting of his statements about Sharia Law. His lecture on Islam and English Law in the Royal Courts of Justice 10 days ago was followed by a BBC interview. Note what he actually said at the interview:
“It seem unavoidable and, indeed, as a matter of fact, certain provision of sharia are already recognised in our society and under our law. So it’s not as if we’re bringing in an alien and rival system.”
“Nobody in their right mind, I think, would want to see in this country the kind of inhumanity that sometimes appears to be associated with the practice of the law in some Islamic states — the extreme punishments, the attitudes to women, as well.”
My humble observations are threefold:
1. The Media is generally inflamatory in its reporting of these events and obfuscates rather promotes healthy discussion. The “red rag headlines” in the Tabloid Press were quite alarmist, and even the Times’ headline was “Archbishop of Canterbury argues for Islamic Law in Britain”. To be on the receiving end of partial and inflamatory press reporting is painful and I don’t wish that on anyone.
2. Rowan Williams told the General Synod in London last week that he had expressed his words “clumsily”. He said: “I must take any responsibility for any unclarity.” I think that the standing ovation at General Synod was a reflection of the affection that many feel for his humble openness. But as one who has read quite a bit of Dr Williams’ writings, I confess that, despite his obvious brilliance, he is very difficult to read and often open to misundertsanding. Whilst he is a liberal in the best sense of the word (i.e. he is equally charitible to conservative evangelicals as well as everyone else, unlike many other liberals!), his theology, nevertheless is liberal. I have to say that I feel that he would be better in Academia than as the leader of the already fragmenting Anglican Communion.
3. Finally, surely, for all the attempt to start a debate about the place of Muslims in British Society, and his nuancing of the “clumsy” comment, Dr Willliams is wrong! We have a law of the land which must apply equally to all, irrespective of religious convictions. Moreover, Protestant believers have always worked hard to see the law of the land reformed under God’s word so it is more accurately reflective of a nation that is shaped by biblical convictions about God. It is for that reason that the Apostle Paul writes:
1 Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. 2 Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. 3 For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and he will commend you.
We need leadership which give us clarity and conviction about Christian issues in a Nation that is still dominantly, albeit nominally, Christian.
- Preparing for suffering with the help of Job
- Existential Threats
- Some biblical wisdom on dealing with Stress and Worry
- The Hunger Games – Christian Review
- Wouldn’t you like to be a castaway?
- Lessons from the Long Distance Cycle Ride
- An Easter Word for Exhausted Preachers
- the agnostic, the atheist and the Christian
- Tim & Kathy Keller “The Meaning of Marriage”
- resources for training preachers in Osijek, Croatia
- with great thankfulness to John Stott
- a tall story
- back from the dead
- Bible by the Beach
- Big Ben
- Big Issue
- Bishop of Rochester
- Charlie Cleverly
- Christ Church Cathedral Oxford
- Christian Focus
- Christian Leaders
- Don Carson
- Egyptian Plagues
- Episcopal Church
- fellowship of word and spirit
- Fundraising Bike Ride
- General Synod
- John Piper
- John Stott
- John the Baptist
- John's Gospel
- Millennium Wheel
- New Testament
- Nigel Biggar
- no-go areas
- Oxford Church
- Professor Wotton
- reformed theological serminary
- Richard Turnbull
- Rowan Williams
- shi'i law
- Simon Vibert
- Son of God
- Song of God
- St Aldates Church
- St Paul's cathedral
- third millennium ministries
- wycliffe hall
- wycliffe hall students