Rebuilding After a Deadly Earthquake: Ecuador Relief Update

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Leadership Resources and our partners in Ecuador have been encouraged by the response to our Ecuador relief appeal and how God has used the funds to minister in Portoviejo, Ecuador.

Rebuilding after an earthquake is never easy, and it takes wisdom to know where to start. The most obvious place to start is with food and shelter for our affected brothers and sisters.

13002334_10207859540359396_4187493265238930468_oCongregants in churches in areas affected by the earthquake suffer the loss of homes, property, and sometimes their livelihood. When you rely on your car or bike for work, losing either one of those things becomes very costly.

This loss suffered by many church members has directly impacted pastors and their families as well, not only in terms of increased hours caring for hurting people, but also economically, since pastoral salaries largely come from tithing, which has been impacted by the earthquake.

Because of this, relief funds sought to provide funds for tuna, grains, and pasta for pastors and their families. Instead of the funds going directly to the pastors, our partners had a smarter idea: they gave it directly to the pastors’ wives.

According to the “experts”, wives/mothers are the best household administrators. (But we don’t need experts to tell us that!!! :))

In addition to providing sustenance, relief funds helped The Good Shepherd Church in Portoviejo – a church of about 300 that was devastated by the earthquake – rebuild their space for children’s Sunday School.

Another church, founded by pastor and chaplain Elvis Cerón in a community near the province’s prison (El Rodeo), used funds to buy building materials for their children’s ministry.

One unmarried TNTer, a youth minister who is about 30 years old, brought food home, which impressed his unbelieving father. “Why would strangers from the other side of the world send money to us?” This gesture has softened his stance toward his son Luis Gabriel having church friends over and going to share Christ on the streets.

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Luis Gabriel (far left) and Pastor Elvis (second from left) studying the Psalms in TNT.

Praise the Lord that we can be such a tangible presence to our suffering brothers and sisters in this hard time!

Thank you for your generosity and being the hands and feet of Jesus in Ecuador. Let’s keep praying for God to use these difficult times for His glory and the building of His church.

There is still time to help churches of Portoviejo, Ecuador rebuild.

Learn more about Leadership Resources ministry training pastors in Ecuador:

A Simple, Biblical, and Glorious Approach of Discipleship: The 4 P’s

Do you ever overcomplicate things? Instead of taking the short, logical route while driving, you choose the roundabout way that gets you to your destination twenty minutes late. Instead of simply asking your friend a question, you think through all possible scenarios of how the conversation might go.

We have the potential to overcomplicate everything—even discipleship.

The Vine Project: Shaping Your Ministry Culture Around Disciple-Making, written by our friends Tony Payne and Colin Marshall, presents a compellingly biblical, yet simple way to think about discipleship, “Disciples are made by the persevering proclamation of the word of God by the people of God in prayerful dependence on the Spirit of God” (83). They neatly describe this type of thinking as ‘4 P Ministry.’

If you have overcomplicated discipleship and focused more on programs, events, expensive curriculum, or thought it as something left to the professionals, thinking in terms of the 4 P’s could revolutionize your life and ministry by making it simpler and more effective.

“Disciples are made by the persevering proclamation of the word of God by the people of God in prayerful dependence on the Spirit of God.”

P #1: Proclamation of the Word of God.

Disciples are made by hearing and receiving the Word. God’s living and active Word is able to break through stony hearts and bring new life. Proclaiming God’s living and active Word from the pulpit, in a small group, over coffee with a friend, through a text message or email will not return to God without accomplishing His purposes. That is why pastors and their people need to know God’s Word and proclaim it.

P #2: Prayerful dependence on the Spirit of God.

God is the one who brings growth and fruit to any ministry (1 Corinthians 3:6). As believers make progress in the Christian life, the Spirit of God is active speaking through His Word, renewing our hearts, guaranteeing our future inheritance, transforming us, gifting us for ministry, and giving us boldness to speak His Word.1

As you make disciples, pray for them and rely on the Spirit to work in their hearts through His Word. The Apostle Paul models this type of prayer throughout his epistles. Consider the way Paul prays for the Colossians to grow in Christ-like maturity in Colossians 1:9-10:

“…we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God.”

The Spirit of God uses prayers to grow disciples. Don’t neglect this indispensable part of disciple-making.

P #3: People are God’s fellow workers.

God’s Spirit works through God’s Word as God’s people proclaim it. In God’s infinite wisdom and mercy, He chooses to use imperfect people as His ambassadors to this lost world. We are “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for [God’s] own possession” redeemed to “proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9).

God’s people are His proclaimers. This fact should drive us to faithful proclamation ministries and the ministry of training other proclaimers for God’s use. The more people in our churches we equip to prayerfully proclaim God’s Word, the more the gospel will grow in our church and beyond.

Learn how you can grow as an expositor and equip others to rightly handle the Word in the Fellowship of the Word Program.

P #4: Persevering, step by step.

There’s a reason it is tempting to measure ministry pragmatically: it’s easier to count heads than patiently wait for God’s Word to have an impact. And yet, our calling is patience: prayerful Word proclamation is to be done “in season and out of season” and “with complete patience and teaching” (2 Timothy 4:2).

Growing people in the gospel is often a slow growth like gardening. Day to day, it might be hard to tell if a plant is growing, but over a long period of time, growth is obvious. Evangelism takes great patience as well. God works in people’s hearts with the gospel often months or years before they come to faith. Don’t let slowness discourage your ministry, let it drive you to a prayerful dependence on God and a patience that trusts God to bring growth.

Preacher and professor Tony Merida shares a simple way to grow in patience, “How can we grow in patience as pastor- preachers? Since patience is a fruit of the Spirit, then the simple answer is to walk by the Spirit. Commune with God. Abide in Jesus. As you spend time in God’s presence, in unhindered and unhurried prayer and worship, meditate on God’s patience.”2

The beauty of the 4 P’s is how simply they communicate discipleship. Simple does not mean easy. But knowing that disciples are made by a prayerful proclamation of God’s Word by people with patience should greatly liberate believers by helping them not overcomplicate things, but rather trust God to work through their obedience.

The next time you are tempted to overcomplicate discipleship, remember this simple, biblical, and glorious approach.

For a comprehensive guide to how this simple approach can impact your church, buy The Vine Project: Shaping Your Ministry Culture Around Disciple-Making. Read 25 quotes from The Vine Project or an excerpt on Where Changing Church Culture Begins.


1 The Vine Project, pages 88-89.

2 Exalting Jesus in 1-2 Timothy and Titus, Kindle location 3645.

The Vine Project: Shaping Your Ministry Culture Around Disciple-Making | Book Review

This review originally ran on The Gospel Coalition.


vine_project_250_394_90It’s been seven years since a book on ministry from an Australian publisher took the evangelical world by storm. The success of The Trellis and the Vine: The Ministry Mind-Shift that Changes Everything (2009) surprised authors and Colin Marshall (CEO of Vinegrowers ministry) and Tony Payne (CEO of of Matthias Media), who described it (with typical Aussie humility) “as an unexciting little book that consisted mostly of the blindingly obvious” (14).

As is often the case, the “blindingly obvious” is where we most need clarity, especially when it comes to a biblical vision of ministry and discipleship. As the title suggests, The Trellis and the Vine is built on a metaphor: the “vine” representing spiritual growth by Word-centered disciple-making activities (teaching, training, prayer, one-to-one Bible reading), and the “trellis” representing the structural side of ministry (administration, organization, running programs, etc.). Churches need to structure their ministry around growing people, not programs, and letting trellis work support, not overtake, vine work.

The initial success of The Trellis and the Vine sparked countless conversations and caused many to rethink their approach to ministry. It also unearthed serious struggles. Though many were gripped by the book’s compelling, biblical vision for disciple-making communities, they had trouble actually changing their church’s culture. A new sermon series or one-to-one Bible reading campaign isn’t enough to “change everything” (in the words of the subtitle).

Without a more comprehensive and strategic plan to foster the right trellis dynamics for vine growth, changing a church culture is like “trying to turn around an ocean liner with a few strokes of an oar” (30). Marshall and Payne’s new sequel, The Vine Project: Shaping Your Ministry Culture Around Disciple-Making, is their roadmap toward a comprehensive and strategic plan that will help slowly turn the ship toward a culture of disciple-making disciples.

Phases for Changing Culture 

Changing culture begins by changing deeply held convictions that underpin culture and your activities, practices, and structures that express those beliefs (32). Naturally, phase one (“Sharpen Your Convictions”) presents a theology of the why, what, how, who, and where of making disciples (or, as the authors call it, “learning Christ”). It lays a compelling and biblical foundation to build on in the next four phases.

The 100 pages of phase one should be required reading for every Christian because of the simple yet glorious vision of discipleship founded on the four P’s of Ministry: (1) proclamation of the Word in multiple ways, (2) prayerful dependence on the Spirit, (3) people as God’s fellow workers, and (4) perseverance in the task (83).

Phase two briefly seeks to sow these biblical convictions of discipleship into the heart of the reader to reform his or her personal culture. Leaders must exemplify the change they seek to foster.

Phase three—on “loving, honest evaluation”—strategically guides leaders in how to do a whole-church disciple-making audit to understand current dynamics and diagnose roadblocks. This is where the hard work of implementing The Vine Project for culture change begins.

Phase four (“Innovate and Implement”) is a detailed and immensely practical phase composing about a third of the book’s 340 pages. This section will strategically lay out a plan to slowly rebuild what phase three deconstructed, and will likely prove to be the book’s most helpful and heavily referenced portion as leaders seek to refine their Sunday gatherings, think through pathways for disciple growth (the four E’s of engage, evangelize, establish, equip), and change how they communicate.

The approach for change is both top-down (ensuring the leadership team properly structures their activities and communication), and bottom up (working with lay leaders and individuals so they know how to adopt the 4P ministry mentality for making disciples).

Phase five focuses on maintaining momentum and understanding the long-term dynamics of implementing The Vine Project, and teaches practical skills to keep your church moving toward a discipleship-based culture.

Faithful Roadmap 

The Vine Project isn’t a book to read through once and put back on the shelf; it’s a guide for a project, a self-described roadmap for a journey toward a healthier disciple-making culture. Building on their biblical compelling theology of discipleship, Marshall and Payne deftly apply business-world wisdom on changing organizational culture to the ministry context.

Pastors and leaders will value the recommended resources, exercises, discussion questions, and insightful interviews with ministry leaders who have seen progress in their ministries.

The Vine Project sharpens, clarifies, and builds on the principles of The Trellis and the Vine in a cohesive way aimed at implementation. It’s one sequel you don’t need to have read the original to appreciate.

I suspect this book, like its predecessor, will be a game-changer for churches looking to cultivate a culture of disciple-making and gospel growth. I also suspect it will leave many frustrated—not because of what the book lacks, but because of the slow nature of both discipleship and change. Consider the words of one ministry leader interviewed:

The best way to manage change, in my opinion, is to acknowledge that change for the sake of the mission makes things harder, not easier—and that is okay; it is what God uses to do his work. Allowing people to acknowledge the mess is what keeps the mess from taking momentum away. In fact, I find excitement when the change creates a mess. It shows we are walking the pattern of Scripture. (336)

The pattern of Scripture is often the slow, hard, and messy road. Reading and implementing The Vine Project will remind you that God meets us on that hard and messy road when we, as God’s people, prayerfully and patiently proclaim his good Word to others.


Colin Marshall and Tony Payne. The Vine Project: Shaping Your Ministry Culture Around Disciple-Making. Sydney, Australia: Matthias Media, 2016. 355 pp. $19.99. 


Watch our interview with author Colin Marshall about The Vine Project:

Ignite a Movement of the Word by Partnering with Leadership Resources

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Every kingdom-minded church and individual yearns for long-term impact in their ministries and missions programs.

Leadership Resources offers an opportunity for lasting impact to ignite movements of God’s Word by investing in the pulpits of the nations through pastoral training.

Our ministry thrives on faithful partners who support our training venue through prayer, finances, and sometimes traveling to train alongside us.

Several partnership opportunities exist for training groups in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. For more information on partnering with our work training pastors to preach God’s Word with God’s heart, please email Melanie Lachick or call 800-980-2226.

Current Partnership Opportunities Include

480px-Asia_(orthographic_projection).svgCreative Access Asian Country

This training will further develop a number of our gifted students (Mentor Trainers) from our Training National Trainers (TNT) program. They have been passing on their training in biblical exposition and hermeneutics to other ministry leaders in their large network of over 400 churches in some of the world’s largest metropolitan areas. Our hope is that these trainers, along with other Mentor Trainers in the country, would help spread a movement of God’s Word across the whole country to win many to Christ and build up the existing church.

Learn more


Missions in CubaCuba

Our training in Cuba will consist of two groups.

The first group’s training will be done in conjunction with brothers we have trained from a large church in Atibaia, Brazil. We hope their faithful example will encourage our Cuban brothers to not only be transformed by God’s Word, but to think in terms of a movement of the Word of God in their country.

Our second group will work with MOCLAM (Moore College in Latin America) to train ten pastors and church leaders. This group’s advantage is having already received biblical training from Moore and passing on training to others in their networks. Lord willing, this will make passing on their training with us in biblical exposition second nature and fruitful for the strengthening of pulpit ministries in Cuba.

Learn more


India_(orthographic_projection).svgIndia

Our work in India is spread across three different locations in different stages of development.

  • In Northeast India, we will continue to invest in key men we have trained (Mentor Trainers) who are now expanding our training in and around one of India’s fastest growing metropolitan areas. Three of these men have been appointed by denominational leaders to head up ongoing training using TNT for pastors, church planters, and missionaries in their denominations (Churches of Northern India, First Evangelical Church Association of India, and Asian Outreach Ministry). Training has already expanded outside of India into a creative-access country.
  • In Northwest India, we will start a training group in October 2016, drawing from five potential states. Pray for this group to have God’s Word grip their hearts and fuel a desire for Word-driven preaching, training, and discipleship.
  • In North Central India, we have begun discussions with leaders about training. Pray for fruitful discussions, a desire for training, and a logistical ability to see it happen.

Learn more


MyanmarMissions in Myanmar

After four years of successfully training 21 Burmese pastors, professors, and Bible translators in the Training National Trainers (TNT) program, we will begin phase two of our work and further develop eight of the most gifted men (Mentor Trainers) to spread our training in exposition throughout Myanmar.

Many have already taken the training to remote locations in Myanmar (sometimes a five-day journey away) to train remote tribes in TNT.Because of the gospel and our training, ethnic and ecclesiological barriers have been broken down. A sampling of our Mentor Trainer group shows just that: three professors at Reformed Theological College of Myanmar, a Church of Christ denominational trainer, and a pastor from the Pentecostal Church of Myanmar all are working together for the gospel’s advance.

Our hope and prayer is that God continues to use this group of trainers to equip and encourage many for faithful expository ministry in Myanmar.

Learn more


Missions in RussiaRussia

Our St. Petersburg cohort consists of twenty-five evangelical Baptist pastors; some of whom have received no formal Bible training, and others serve as regional Bishops for the Russian Baptist Union. This range of education and experience has created wonderful dynamics in the group. The senior ministers have shown Christ-like humility and have taken it upon themselves to encourage the younger ministers. One Russian pastor commented that before the training began, he found himself bored with preaching and the Scriptures, until the training awakened a new desire to study and preach the Word.

With our expanded training opportunities in Russia and Central Asia, we desire faithful partnerships with churches who can support our training financially and by traveling to train with us.

Learn more


Location_Tanzania_AU_Africa.svgTanzania

Since beginning training in Tanzania several years ago, we have trained twenty men who have passed training on to over six hundred pastors and church leaders. Of those twenty, five men of the highest caliber will receive advanced training in Word Work (to sharpen exposition skills) and Program Work (to provide necessary training in administration and strategic planning).

Our goal in training these five “Mentor Trainers” is to empower them to take ownership and leadership of all future TNT training in the country and create a sustainable movement of God’s Word in Tanzania. Several of these five pastors are closely affiliated with Bible schools and are working to integrate the Training National Trainers process into the larger curriculum and educational paradigm.

We estimate these five men will lead six to twelve training groups of 15-20 Tanzanian pastors each and develop more “Mentor Trainer” movement leaders in Tanzania. Investing in these men will build upon the existing groundwork increase the spread of God’s Word among Tanzanian pastors and churches.

Learn more


Learn More about Igniting a movement of the Word

For more information on this opportunity, please contact Melanie Lachick. Email Melanie or call 800-980-2226. Melanie can also tell you about the ways that we’d love to serve your church.

The Apologetic Power of Biblical Theology

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Biblical theology helps us understand how God’s revelation in Scripture develops over the course of time. It is a vital discipline to help us understand how to think and live as biblically-minded Christians. We must know where we’ve come from and where we are headed to challenge erroneous thinking in this present age.

Dr. Peter Adam in the article “Preaching and Biblical Theology” (in the New Dictionary of Biblical Theology) builds on this idea and explains why biblical theology is an effective apologetic:

It is not possible to ‘take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ’ (2 Cor. 10:5) without teaching a biblical world view, and we cannot do this without biblical theology. We cannot help people to address the pervasive worldviews of humanism, postmodernity, secularism, materialism and pantheism by providing them with a few helpful texts or pious ideas. They must begin to ‘think God’s thoughts after him’, and they do this by learning the shape of God’s self-revelation in history and in the Bible. This biblical theology is the best corrective for false worldviews, just as it is the best corrective for destructive heresy.

By teaching and using biblical theology in all our Bible teaching we point people to the objective and historical reality of God’s progressive and purposeful revelation. Through this revelation, God speaks a transcendent message to people in every age, and shapes their minds, hearts and lives so that they can know and serve him, and speak his truth to others.

It is true that biblical theology is at the foundation of all proper biblical interpretation. We need to understand the connections between each smaller part of Scripture with the whole, the development of biblical themes, and how Scripture culminates in Christ for clarity in our reading and preaching of the Bible.

“We can use biblical theology to preach the whole Christ and the whole gospel from the whole Bible.” —Peter Adam

Only then can we follow Peter Adam’s words and “use biblical theology to preach the whole Christ and the whole gospel from the whole Bible.” And that, when done properly, is a powerful apologetic in a confused world.

Read the full article online: Preaching and Biblical Theology.

22 Questions for Pastoral Self-Evaluation from Tim Keller and David Powlison

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“Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers.” 1 Timothy 4:16.

Pastoral ministry is indeed a dangerous calling. Many have been derailed or disqualified in ministry from failing to heed the Apostle Paul’s warning in 1 Timothy 4:16. To prevent damage to the church and Christ’s name, pastors must be vigilant in their personal and ministerial self-examination.

In the first appendix of Practical Wisdom for Pastors: Words of Encouragement and Counsel for a Lifetime of Ministry by Curtis C. Thomas, Timothy Keller and David Powlison provides diagnostic questions to help pastors examine their lives and teaching.

Keller and Powlison’s recommendations for what follows:

  • Read the questions carefully.
  • Think hard.
  • Pray.
  • Seek counsel from others.
  • Plan.
  • Acknowledge that others have gifts that complement yours.

Part I. Personal Qualifications of Effective Ministers: Holiness

A. Humility

1. Do you acknowledge your limitations and needs out of confidence in Christ’s gracious power?
2. Do you demonstrate a flexible spirit out of confidence in God’s control over all things, God’s authority over you, and God’s presence with you?

B. Love

1. Do you have a positive approach to people because of confidence in the power and hope of the Gospel of Jesus Christ?
2. Do you show a servant’s heart to people because you are first and foremost a servant of the Lord?

C. Integrity

1. Are you responsible to God first and foremost?
2. Do you demonstrate a disciplined lifestyle under the Lordship of Jesus?
3. Are your family commitments a proper priority under the Lord?

D. Spirituality

1. Do you demonstrate personal piety and vigor in your relationship with God?
2. Do you demonstrate faithfulness to the Bible and sound doctrine?

Part II: Functional Qualifications of Effective Ministers: Pastoral Skill

A. Nurture

1. Do you show involved caring that comes from genuine love in Christ for your brothers and sisters?
2. Do you counsel people the Lord’s way? [i.e. using biblical principles.]
3. Do you disciple others into maturity in Christ and use of their gifts?
4. Do you give yourself to discipline and to patrolling the boundaries of the church which God bought with His own blood?

B. Communication

1. Do you preach the whole counsel of God?
2. Do you provide education for God’s many kinds of people?
3. Do you lead others to worship the Lord?

C. Leadership

1. Do you lead people into effective work together?
2. Do you administer well, creating a church that is wise in its stewardship?
3. Do you mediate fellowship among God’s people?
4. Do you create cooperative and team ministry within the church and between churches that honor Christ?

D. Mission

1. Do you evangelize those outside of Jesus Christ?
2. Do you show social concern for the many needs of people whom God desires to address?

Conclusion

“You have looked at yourself, hopefully through God’s eyes. Now work with what you have seen. If you could change in one area in the next year, which would it be? Where do you most need to mature in wisdom? What changes in you would bring the greatest glory to God and greatest blessing to other people?

Confess your sins and failings to God. Jesus Christ is your faithful high priest and shepherd. He is the Pastor of pastors. “Come with confidence to the throne of His grace that you may receive mercy and grace to help you in your time of need” (Hebrews 4:16). Believe it and do it. The Lord’s strength is made perfect in your weakness.

Now what must you do? Prayerfully set goals. How will you become a more godly person and pastor? Are there people you must ask to pray for you and hold you accountable? Are there Bible passages or books you must study? Are there plans you must make? Do you need advice from a wise Christian about how to go about changing?”


Download a PDF of the entire article.

This material originally appeared in The Journal of Biblical Counseling, Vol. XII, No. 1, Fall 1993.

Preaching to Make the Bible User Friendly

Preaching in a Way that Trains Bible Readers

Have you ever listened to a sermon and thought, “Wow, I could never get as much from that Scripture text as he did”—as if the preacher was a magician pulling a rabbit out of a hat?

I have.

When the preacher is biblically faithful, this can be a beautiful demonstration of God gifting the church with shepherds and teachers (Ephesians 4:11). It may also expose a flaw: the preacher may not be training his flock how to read the Bible through his preaching.

Preachers need to see the preaching event as a key moment in church life that makes the Bible more “user friendly” for congregants. This will deepen their own time in the Word, growing them as disciples and equipping them for ministry (2 Timothy 3:16-17). Failing to do this will hinder spiritual growth by hindering Bible engagement, and could also leave congregants amazed at their preacher’s vast knowledge instead of what God has done for us in Jesus Christ.

Colin Marshall and Tony Payne address the importance of this in The Vine Project: Shaping Your Ministry Culture Around Disciple Making:

In his preaching, a pastor sounds the tuning fork so that the whole orchestra knows in what key to play. He teaches and guards the sound deposit of the gospel so that all may know it clearly and thoroughly (for how else will they speak it?). He shows them not only what the Bible says, but how they can read and speak that truth for themselves. He constantly teaches the sound doctrinal framework that shapes the Bible reading and speaking of the whole congregation. (117)

What does this equipping look like in practice?

This way of thinking doesn’t require an extra twenty minutes of specialized instruction in each sermon.

What it does require is first understanding the text deeply and knowing how God wants to use it to shepherd hearts (often called the transformational intent of the passage). We will also want to know the challenges our congregants face approaching Scripture so we can properly address them (i.e. does biblical poetry confuse them?). Lastly, we will want to model faithful biblical interpretation by using basic hermeneutical principles to explain our thought process and conclusions. Below are several practical suggestions of how to implement this.

Practical Suggestions:

  • Remind listeners the most important question to ask when reading the Bible: What does the text actually say?
  • Walk through the historical, literary, and biblical context of the passage.
  • Explain how to approach the biblical genre that your text comes from.
  • Explain how the individual parts of your text make up the big idea of the text.
  • Make sure sermons are not a mere oration on the subject that doesn’t flow from the text or so detail-focused you lose the text’s big idea.
  • Regularly point back to the book’s main ideas and explain how your text functions in light of the whole.
  • At the start of a new sermon series through one book of Scripture, encourage your people to read through the whole book in one sitting. You could also preach an overview sermon for a book before beginning a new series on it.
  • Fight the temptation to look to another text of Scripture before you stick your nose deep in the one you’re studying.
  • Note connecting words and their functions. How does the use of words like “therefore”, “for”, “in order that”, “then”, “now” help the author communicate his main point?
  • Lead listeners with thoughtful questions that direct them to the text’s authorial intent.
  • Help the text’s surprises jump out at your listeners.
  • Model asking good questions that uncover the author’s transformative intent. “You might notice in verse two, Paul says such-and-such. Now why would he say that here? Let’s look at verse three for the answer.”
  • Zoom out of your text to see its place in the context of redemptive history.
  • Explain biblical theological themes and how your text points to Christ.
  • Encourage your congregation to underline repeated words or ideas in their Bibles.
  • Have application undergird your teaching as a reminder that God means for Scripture to change our lives.
  • When explaining a hard to understand text, remind listeners that Scripture is its own best interpreter, and model how you think through the text.
  • Recommend and give away books that model faithful Bible interpretation.
  • Offer Bible reading classes/lessons or read the Bible more one-to-one with congregants.
  • Encourage equipped members to minister by regularly reading the Bible with others.

Just like people are more likely to embrace technology that is user-friendly, peppering your preaching with these suggestions over time will help your people better engage the Bible, which will nourish their faith, grow them in holiness, and spur them on to bear fruit.

And as that happens, there will be less magic tricks and exaltation of the preacher in favor of more “wow!” comments where they should be directed: God and His glory as revealed to us in Scripture.

40 Quotes from The Challenge of Preaching by John Stott

Below are an assortment of quotes from the abridgement of John Stott’s Between Two Worlds titled The Challenge of Preaching. In the book and many of the quotes below, Stott captures the foundation and heart of expository preaching.


John Stott Quotes from The Challenge of Preaching[Prayer of John Stott before preaching]:
Heavenly Father, we bow in your presence.
May your word be our rule,
Your Spirit our teacher,
And your greater glory our supreme concern.
Through Jesus Christ our Lord. (x)

Preaching is indispensable to Christianity because Christianity is based on the truth that God chose to use words to reveal himself to humanity. (1)

All worship is an intelligent and loving response to the revelation of God. Our worship is poor because our knowledge of God is poor; our knowledge of God is poor because our preaching is poor. But when the word of God is expounded in all its fullness, and the congregation begins to glimpse the glory of the living God, they bow down in solemn awe. It is preaching which accomplishes this. That is why preaching is unique and irreplaceable. (9)

The secret of preaching is not mastering certain techniques but being mastered by certain convictions. (12)

There are those who emphasize the historical activity of God but deny that he has spoken. They argue that God revealed himself  in deeds, not words. They insist that the redemption is the only revelation. But this is false. Scripture affirms that God has spoken both through historical deeds and through explanatory words, and that the two belong together. Even the climax of God’s self-revelation, when the Word became flesh, would have remained incomprehensible if Christ had not spoken and his apostles had not recorded and interpreted his words. (14)

We who recognize the authority of Scripture should be the most conscientious preachers. (15-16)

Some preachers love to speak about the mighty acts of God but present only their own interpretation of them. Others try to stick to God’s word but are dull because they have lost the excitement of what God has done in Christ. The true preacher enthusiastically and faithfully conveys both. (16)

We [preachers] are not just miners extracting ore and leaving the landscape desolate. We are skilled mapmakers, carefully observing the landscape of the text so that we can help our listeners see all its features and follow the paths and highways God has placed there. We often speak about ideas to our listeners—just as the Bible regularly does. But we should try to convey to our listeners as much of the tone and feeling, of the impressions and aims of the text as possible. (17)

Spurgeon urged pastors to “so pray and so preach that, if there are no conversions, you will be astonished, amazed and broken-hearted.” (21)

The church is the creation of God by his word and is dependent on his word. (21)

The Old Testament consistently indicates that the welfare of God’s people depends on their listening to his voice, believing his promises and obeying his commands. The health of the church in the New Testament also depended on their attentiveness to God’s Word. (21)

Only by humble and obedient listening to his voice can the church grow to maturity, serve the world and glorify our Lord. (22)

A low level of Christian living is due, more than anything else, to a low level of Christian preaching. If the church is to flourish again, there is a need for faithful, powerful, biblical preaching. God still urges his people to listen and his preachers to proclaim his word. (22)

All true Christian preaching should be expository…The expositor opens what seems to be closed, makes plain what is confusing, unravels what is knotted, and unfolds what is tightly packed. (25)

Just as a bridge makes it possible for traffic to flow from one side of a river or ravine to another, so our preaching must make it possible for God’s revealed truth to flow out of the Scriptures and into the lives of men and women today. Both ends of our bridges must be firmly rooted if we are to be able to show that Christianity is still relevant today. (31-33)

[When engaging potentially polluting aspects of culture like theatre or cinema] It must be clear that we are not cooperating with the spirit of the age but trying to understand it so that our preaching can be relevant. (46)

We have to study both the ancient text and the present scene, both Scripture and culture, both the word and the world. It is a huge task, demanding a lifetime of study. (47)

…if we look back at the great men and women of God, we shall find that their lives were disciplined, allowing much time for prayer and study. So we need constantly to repent and renew our determination to discipline our lives and our schedules. Only a constantly fresh vision of Christ and of his commission can rescue us from laziness and keep our priorities straight. Then we shall make time to read and think, and our preaching will be fresh, faithful and relevant, yet simple enough for people to understand. (50)

The best sermons we ever preach to others are those we have first preached to ourselves. (54)The best sermons we ever preach to others are those we have first preached to ourselves. —John Stott

A sermon, unlike a lecture, should convey only one major message. Students are expected to take notes because lecturers provide so much information during the class. A sermon, however, is quite different. As a living word from God to his people, it should make its impact on them then and there. (58)

“No sermon is ready for preaching…until we can express its theme in a short, pregnant sentence as clear as crystal. I find the getting of that sentence is the hardest, the most exacting and the most fruitful labor in my study…I do not think any sermon ought to be preached, or even written, until that sentence has emerged, clear and lucid as a cloudless moon.” —J.H. Jowett (59)

An unstructured sermon is like a jellyfish, all flesh and no bones. However, a sermon whose structure is too noticeable is like a skeleton, all bones and no flesh. Neither jellyfish nor skeletons make good sermons! (60)

The golden rule for sermon outlines is that each text must be allowed to supply its own structure. The skilful expositor allows the text to open itself up before our eyes, like a rose unfolding to the morning sun and displaying its previously hidden beauty. (61)

Every preacher must be constantly on the lookout for illustrations. Not that we read books and listen to people only to collect sermon material! Yet we would be wise to write down ideas which come to us, as well as the best quotations from every book we read. (65)

It is on our knees before the Lord that we can make the message our own, possess or repossess it until it possesses us. (73)

The whole process of sermon preparation, from beginning to end, was excellently summed up by an African American preacher who said, “First I reads myself full, next I thinks myself clear, next I prays myself hot, and then I let go.” (73)

Preachers must mean what they say in the pulpit, and must practice what they preach when out of it. (75)

Preachers must mean what they say in the pulpit, and must practice what they preach when out of it. —John Stott

Nobody can be a good pastor or teacher of others who is not first a good servant of Jesus Christ. (77)

One of the chief proofs of genuineness is the willingness to suffer for what we believe. The faithfulness of the true servant of God is proved when opposition comes (2 Cor. 6:4, 5). Paul even spoke of his sufferings as his credentials or qualifications (2 Cor. 11:21-33; 1 Thess. 2:1-4; 2 Tim. 3:10-12). (79)

Earnestness goes one step beyond sincerity. To be sincere is to mean what we say and to do what we say; to be earnest is also to feel what we say. Earnestness is the deep feeling essential to preaching. (80)

The New Testament makes it clear that combining the mind and the heart, the rational and the emotional, can bring our listeners to faith and obedience. (82)

Dr. Campbell Morgan, minister of Westminster Chapel, London, told his students of three essentials of a sermon: truth, clarity, and passion. (83)

Humor [in the pulpit] has to be used wisely at the right place and the right time. (85)

The Christian pilgrimage begins with bowed head and bent knee at the cross; there is no other way into the kingdom of God. (90)

Like John Newton, the converted slave-trader, we must aim “to break a hard heart and to heal a broken heart.” (92)

It is possible to seem humble while constantly longing for praise. At the very moment we are glorifying Christ, we can actually be looking for our own glory. (94)

Christian preachers are to be neither inventors of new doctrines nor editors who delete old doctrines. Rather, they are to be stewards, faithfully handling out scriptural truths to God’s household. Nothing more, nothing less, and nothing else. (96)

The most moving experience a preacher can ever have is when, in the middle of the sermon, a strange hush descends upon the congregation. The sleepers have woken up, the coughers have stopped coughing, and the fidgeters are sitting still. No eyes or minds are wandering. Everybody is listening, but not to the preacher. The preacher is forgotten, and the people are face to face with the living God, listening to his still, small voice. (97)


Related Posts:

The Word, the Spirit, and How God Speaks to Us (John Woodhouse)

Leadership Resources’ ministry is built upon the fact that God speaks through His Spirit-carried Word.

Understanding the dynamics of this can be a bit tricky. Consider the following thoughts:

Evangelicals seem to spend a lot of time talking about ‘the word of God’. It is one of our catchcries. Are we mistaken in having this emphasis? What is the place of experience and the Spirit? Does ‘the word of God’ equal ‘the Bible’?

We have been greatly helped by the work of John Woodhouse, former principal of Moore Theological College.

Woodhouse’s work on the Word and Spirit is available in three formats:

1. Read articles from The Briefing (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3).

2. Buy the Brief Book from Matthias Media or on Amazon.

3. Listen to the conference audio below or download from The Proclamation Trust.



Description from Matthias Media:

“Evangelicals seem to spend a lot of time talking about ‘the word of God’. It is one of our catchcries. Are we mistaken in having this emphasis? What is the place of experience and the Spirit? Does ‘the word of God’ equal ‘the Bible’? In this stimulating Brief Book, John Woodhouse offers some fresh insights into what ‘God’s Word’ is, and what it means for the modern Christian.”

Don’t Let Your Bible Keep You From the Bible

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In a recent interview with DesiringGod, Glenn Paauw, the Executive Director of the Biblica Institute for Bible Reading and author of Saving the Bible from Ourselves: Learning to Read and Live the Bible Well, shared how “Bible clutter” can provide a framework that warps how we engage with Scripture.

(“Bible clutter” refers to anything added to Scripture including chapter and verse numbers, study notes, cross-references, concordances, etc.)

The interview overlapped so much with the “Text and Framework” hermeneutical principle that we are compelled to share the interview mp3 and our notes below.



Unintended consequences from “Bible Clutter”:

  • Chapter numbers (added in the early 1200s by Steven Langdon, a church leader in England) and verse numbers (added in the 1500s by Robert Essien, a Frenchman working on a Bible concordance) can cause Bible readers to see books as fragmented collections of verses rather than an entire book.
  • Concordances, while being great reference tools, can change the way people interact with the text and hurt the plain reading of Scripture by neglecting the immediate or whole-book context of a passage.
  • While cross-references are helpful, they might prevent a reader from focusing on the text in front of them and wrestling with meaning. Again, what is primarily lost is a sense of context—something vital for faithful interpretation.
  • Many modern Bibles are designed for people who aren’t readers and who may not be very biblically literate. This pushes Bible publishers to make Bibles with helps, notes, and highlights because that is what buyers want.
  • While we may boast a confidence in Scripture, our true confidence might rather lie in a certain study Bible we align with theologically more than Scripture itself. Many feel Bible reading needs ‘guide rails’ to keep people from falling off of the theological cliff.
  • A temptation of using Study Bibles is engaging with study notes more than Scripture itself. Research on Study Bibles proves this is the case for many.
  • All of the colors and special designs common in many Bibles today (study notes, graphics, special sections, etc.) can draw people’s attention more than Scripture, which is generally left untouched.
  • We want to read Scripture and apply it to our lives fast. Our desire for quick application can short-circuit the study process by jumping to application to early or buying a study Bible that will apply it for us.

Two flawed approaches to engaging Scripture:

1. Seeing Scripture as a collection of inspirational quotations.

Many who do this take favorite verses like Philippians 4:13 and Jeremiah 29:11 out of context and virtually ignore most other passages of Scripture. This greatly misrepresents what the Bible is and deforms us spiritually just like a pure cotton candy diet would. (Interviewer Tony Reinke deems these using verses in this way as “Scripture McNuggets.”)

2. Seeing Scripture as a self-help manual.

Some want to gather all of the Bible verses on a certain topic and create messages from those verses. This also strips verses of their context and fails to take Biblical Theology into account. Biblical theological themes develop throughout the Scriptures in various genres, and, as Paauw reminds, some accounts are not to be taken prescriptively but rather descriptively. (For example, Paauw says we wouldn’t build a doctrine of marriage on the example of patriarchs.)

A Better Comparison

A better comparison for the Bible is “the collected papers of the American Antislavery Society” because,

“the Bible is a collection of different kinds of writings, each of which exist in its own context, its own literary form, and they have to be taken as this kind of a collection. It is true that the collection of the Bible comes together to tell this amazing, redemptive, restorative narrative of what Jesus the Messiah has done. But the books themselves are the core units. The Bible is the collection of those things. It is not a collection of verses, so not a collection of little how-to passages. Again, it is a matter of receiving the Bible on its own terms, receiving the Bible in the form that God actually chose to give it to us. That, I think, is something that our modern format tempts us to move away from.”


How can we fight against “Bible clutter”?

“The first and the primary and the most natural thing to do with the Bible is to read individual books at length in their own terms. So understanding the kind of literature it is, who was the author, who were they writing to, what was the issue, those kinds of things are necessary.”

“We need to make sure we are always ready to listen to the text first…[not] our material [or thinking], which is not inspired… A real high view of Scripture says: Let the text be the text, and always seek to let it speak to me, even on things where I think I might have my mind settled… But we need to always be willing to say: What does the Word of God say? Not: What have I always said that the Word of God says?”

The true spiritual riches are found in engaging God’s Word directly, not going through another’s explanation of God’s Word.


Related Story from Honduras: “Take that Bible Away from that Man!”

     

    Launching Pastoral Training Movements Worldwide

     

    The mission of Leadership Resources is to launch pastoral training movements worldwide. This blog shares articles, resources, and updates from staff of God’s work around the world through our training. If you’re new to our blog, start here.

     


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