Have Bible Quoters Replaced Bible Readers?

Merely quoting verses is not “staying on the line” if you miss the intention of the author in the passage. After all, even Satan quoted Scripture when he tempted Jesus (Matthew 4:1–11; Luke 4:1–13).

In a recent article called, Have Bible Quoters Replaced Bible Readers?, Russell Moore explains why only quoting Scripture (as opposed to reading it well) is dangerous. Moore shares the following explanation from David Niehuis of how the issue often manifests itself:

“Some of my students attend popular non-denominational churches led by entrepreneurial leaders who claim to be ‘Bible believing’ and strive to offer sermons that are ‘relevant’ for successful Christian living. . . . Unfortunately, in too many cases, this formula results in a preacher appealing to a short text of Scripture, out of context, in order to support a predetermined set of ‘biblical principles’ to guide the congregants’ daily lives. The only Bible these students encounter, sadly, is the version that is carefully distilled according to the theological and ideological concerns that have shaped the spiritual formation of the lead pastor.”

Moore continues to diagnose the issue:

This is not a matter of the educated versus the uneducated. The same problem exists among both. I have noticed people who were experts in the grammar of the Hebrew and Greek Bibles who didn’t really get the flow of the old, old story. But if the Bible is God’s Word, and it is, we must raise up people who don’t merely believe it but also know what it says.

We encourage you to read the article in its entirety. We also encourage you to think through how you can lead the people under your care toward greater Bible literacy by modeling faithful Bible reading and by training others in the Scriptures. As David Jackman has said, it’s not enough to consult the Bible only when we need direction or an answer, we need God’s message in the Bible to sit in the driver’s seat of the church.

For practical ways to make the Bible user-friendly from the pulpit, read this article.

How One Megachurch in Ecuador is Strengthening Their Leadership in God’s Word

What happens when almost 100 people show up for our training?

Our ideal group is limited to 15 or 20. That way, lots of personal attention can be given and each one can fully participate in the discussions. Learning happens best with smaller numbers. So what to do when 100 show up???

Back in 2013 we had a modest beginning in Quito, Ecuador. A group of 23 (too many!) pastors, small group leaders, and members of the preaching team gathered from Iglesia Santísima Trinidad (Church of the Holiest Trinity) for our training. Four years later they graduated. Three key graduates excelled – they loved the training and had a profound burden to see a movement of the Word spread throughout their megachurch’s various sites and their entire country. We call them mentor trainers. 



Even though training had ended, our mentor trainers wanted more leaders in their church to experience the equipping and transformation of the training. So they began organizing another generation of training for other leaders at La Santísima.

The only problem? The number: they had almost 100 sign up. Yikes! That’s way too many . . . but our team didn’t want to say “no.” What was to be done???

Ah-ha! . . . Let’s break the large group into smaller ones and co-lead them with graduates from that very first group. This enabled our LRI team to coach the graduates moving them one step closer to an Ecuadorian-led movement of God’s Word.


One of our MTers, Clever, leads a session

 

Another MT, Oscar Paul, leads another group

 

Olmedo teaches the Traveling Instructions principle.


The response to the training couldn’t have been better. Here’s a sample of what participants shared:

“Other trainings are a monologue. This was asking us to discover the Word ourselves — it was great!”

“I believe that God has had more mercy on me than Jonah.”

“We’ve grown in our understanding [since studying Ruth]. The next training we’ll grow even more.”


The Group of Leaders in Quito


God is at work in Ecuador! He’s also at work in a similar way in the 50+ countries where we work, transforming one heart at a time as His Word is clearly unfolded and understood.

Thank you for helping make this possible as one of our partners!


Enjoy a tour of our training in Quito led by LRI’s Kevin Halloran:

Edwards’ Religious Affections for the 21st Century: A Conversation with Dr. Josh Moody

The Religious Affections by Jonathan Edwards is one of the most clarifying treatises on revival and spiritual transformation. For that reason it has been a major influence in LRI’s understanding of what true spiritual transformation is. (Access the entire critical edition from Yale University Press online for free.)

We thought it would be helpful to discuss The Religious Affections with Dr. Josh Moody, an expert on Jonathan Edwards and the senior pastor at College Church in Wheaton, Illinois, and the author of several books including The God Centered Life: Insights from Jonathan Edwards for Today, Burning Hearts Preaching to the Affections (co-authored with Robin Weeks), and most recently John 1–12 For You. Listen in to our conversation or read the transcript below.



KH: The Religious Affections came out of a historical situation, out of Edwards’ own experience in his own pastoral ministry and as part of a larger corpus of literature he wrote on the same subject of revival and true spiritual transformation. Can you explain to us what was happening at the time? What caused Edwards to write The Religious Affections?

Jonathan Edwards

JM: Right, so, Edwards was at the heart of something called the Great Awakening, which was an international movement for revival, and there was a preacher called George Whitefield, who was prominent at that time, having a massive effect—I mean thousands and thousands of people crammed to hear Whitefield preach in the fields. They’d run – we have eyewitness testimony of people dropping the plow in the field, jumping across a hedge and ditch, cramming in to hear him. We’ve got eyewitness testimonies from Benjamin Franklin describing the electricity in the air when Whitefield was preaching. Whitefield was obviously a dramatic, gifted, charismatic preacher, but it was more than simply his personality. We have other records of Whitefield’s sermons literally being read without him present and revival breaking out. Something extraordinary was going on in America and in England. Whitefield was at the heart of that – also a man called Wesley, John Charles Wesley, and Jonathan Edwards. 

Jonathan Edwards and his church in Northampton had a series of awakenings on a more local scale. Then Whitefield came along and those awakenings took on a huge scale across New England. A lot of things began to happen that were scary for some of the traditionalists: preaching outside of church, physical manifestations. People became so overcome with emotion they started to fall down, cry out—in the middle of sermons. 

Edwards’ most famous sermon, “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” was actually never completed, at least the second time he preached it. He preached it once in Northampton and then again in the place where the most famous impact occurred. It was never completed at that church because the outcry from the people listening was so massive he just couldn’t be heard anymore. The pastors who were with him had to get down into the congregation and pray for people as they were coming to Christ. This is all the sort of exciting thing that pastors want to happen, but on the other hand, it created some fears among the traditionalists. People perhaps went a little too far and split the movement between radical “New Lights” and then the “Old Lights,” as they were called. Edwards carved out a space for [what] historians have called the “Moderate New Lights”—those who were for the revival but also saying to keep God’s Word and biblical orthodoxy at the heart – not run to an extreme. Edwards wrote a number of different things to try to both promote the revival and describe it. His most mature reflection on that is the book we are talking about, The Religious Affections. There are others previous to that –  Distinguishing Marks of the Work of the Spirit of God, Some Thoughts Concerning the Present Revival of Religion – but The Religious Affections is his more mature, more seasoned reflection on revival. Now as we look back, it’s really the classic textbook if you want to understand revival. It’s the best book written in church history on that, but it’s also helpful for discerning what God is doing and what a real experience of God is and is not. 

I often say to young pastors, if you want to really good handbook for pastoral ministry, The Religious Affections isn’t a bad place to go – because of the textbook practical level but also the mental, conceptual, and spiritual level. How do I understand what is a real work of God, and how do I promote that? What is not a real work of God? The real work of God – that gives it some context and also some of its contributions to current ministry. 

KH: And for that same reason, The Religious Affections is a core book for our training and philosophy of ministry. 

JM: Right.

KH: We want true, real transformation in the lives of people through the Word of God by the Spirit. It’s helpful to know signs of when that is taking place and signs that don’t necessarily mean it’s taking place. Our culture doesn’t seem to use the term affections much. How does Edwards use the term? And how does it differ from emotion?

JM: It’s a great question. It’s an area of some debate among Christians who read Edwards. The popular understanding of Edwards’ use of affections is that it’s for all intents and purposes basically the same as emotions. That’s almost certainly incorrect because of the history. In church history there’s this distinction between passions, which tend to be more like physical, almost sensual, reactions to things—not necessarily bad, but just the way the body emotes things. It’s just what it is. Then there’s this sort of higher order of, for want of a better term at the moment, emotions, which tend to be called affections in relation to that. So, that’s the background, and it’s particularly picked up by the Puritans and then later by Edwards. 

What I think Edwards is saying by affections is that affections are the thinking the feeling and the willing expression of the human heart; what you have affect towards. Not that we use affect as a pretense but the word actually – what you’re actually doing. And so it’s an internal will, feeling, understanding, movement in a sort of direction. It’s cognitive. Emotions we think of as non-cognitive. No, affection is cognitive, but it has a movement inside. Another term Edwards uses for this is “a sense of the heart.” So, you have a taste. The famous description Edwards uses is about when someone has a taste for God, their affections are stirred by God. This is different as when someone has heard about honey, as opposed to when someone has tasted honey. When we have an affection for God, then you’ve tasted honey. There’s that sense, that feeling for sure, but not as sort of a crazy passion.

KH: According to Edwards, one element of affections is what you alluded to – is that they lead to action. Can you explain the relationship between affection and action?

JM: What I have a will to do is what I will do. Now there can be physical constraints. You can image there is somebody who’s in jail who has a will to be free, but they’re in jail. Okay, but leave aside physical constraints: what I’ve a will to do is what I will do. Affections are what I’ve decided mentally in my mind, sense is true, and have a will, therefore, to do. That inevitably leads to action. Otherwise, I don’t have the affection for it. Therefore if I’ve been moved intellectually, emotionally, cognitively in my will to do something, then I’m going to do it. Otherwise, I’m not going to do it. It’s what Jesus says: the one who loves me obeys my commands (John 14:21).

KH: In The Religious Affections, Edwards works through 12 signs and 12 non-signs, things that don’t necessarily prove a true spiritual experience one way or another. [Read a helpful summary of the signs.] What are some of the biggest takeaways from this list for today?

JM: Well, I think actually reading through the non-signs is almost as important as reading through what the signs are. The reason for that is we tend – they did then, and we do today – to make things significant that are not really significant. The most obvious is the physical manifestation. We tend to think that if someone hears a sermon or sings a song, and they start really crying, then they must mean it. Well, maybe; maybe not. People cry in all sorts of situations. Or we think that’s a sad emotion. But if someone is singing a song or listening to a sermon, and they’re really enthusiastic – they start jumping up and down, they’re clapping – you think, “Yeah, they must be.” 

Well, maybe. But people do the same sort of thing at rock concerts or a party. In other words, because we are psychosomatic wholes as people – that is, we have bodies, and the bodies are connected to our thinking and feeling – humans act in certain ways when they are personally moved. It’s not necessarily a sign that the thing by which their person is moved is the work of the Spirit. What’s really showing is we’re human, we’re physical. Similarly, other people tend to look at someone being very enthusiastic or excited in a meeting or something, and they think, “Well, that certainly isn’t the work of God. You know, we should be reverent. We should be stayed.” You know, “Keep quiet.” But again that’s confusion. Some of it is cultural. Certain cultures are more expressive. Some of it is just physical for some people. We have physical bodies, so we express ourselves in certain kinds of ways. You see it in the Psalms: you kneel, you stand, you clap, you raise your hands or worship. These are just physical ways the human body expresses its natural response to things. There is the same natural response to things you can see in other situations that are completely non-spiritual: parties, rock concerts, whatever . . . a family get together – “I’m so excited.” It’s not a sign that this is a work of God. It’s a sign that there’s a human involved, and something moving is happening. We don’t know what just by looking at the outside signs. I think it’s really important to get clear. People are constantly confused about that all the time in church life. So that’s on the negative side. 

On the positive side, I think it’s really important to get clear in our minds the greatest sign, which is love – where Edwards lands. Clearly that’s biblical: “These three shall remain, but the greatest of these is love” (1 Corinthians 13:13). The first fruit of the Spirit is love – not just because it’s the first randomly, or just because it’s the first priority, but because it’s the summation of all the rest. It is – Edward’s has this phrase – concatenation of the fruit. That is, the fruit is actually interlocking, connected, and its sum – summation – is love. Edwards defines this love as a humble, serving love. There’s a kind of love which can be almost prideful, you know: “I’m loving, and I’m so proud about that.” But Edwards defines this love as a humble, serving love. 

What I think is most important about the list is; let’s get really clear on what is negative. What are the negative signs? What doesn’t mean anything? And the other thing is to land on the primary one, which is when we see the love of God going forward. Then we’re seeing what is truly the work of God. In other words, the devil will not want to make humans love Jesus and love his people. There is no natural way . . . given who we are, because we’re in sin outside of Christ – there’s no natural way to make anyone love Jesus and his people. So, when you see that developing, you are surely seeing the work of God. That’s how it’s summarized. 

KH: When talking about The Religious Affections, it’s probably good to note that it’s not the easiest book to read. It’s probably at least 350 pages, and Edwards kind of has a roundabout way of explaining his points. Sam Storms who wrote a book interpreting The Religious Affections says, “I’ve worked my way through The Affections at least ten times, and I still struggle in places to make sense of him.” So that’s encouraging to me. That being said, what are some resources that you would recommend to help people more deeply engage Edwards in [The] Religious Affections

JM: Part of it is Edwards. It’s like trying to understand Mozart – he’s a genius. It takes time to try to figure it out. Part of it is just 18th-century English. The sentences are really long. So, we’re used to sentences just having maybe seven or eight words in them. You come across a sentence with 13 or something, and you just don’t know what to do. You have to get used to reading long sentences. 

I think probably the most helpful thing to do is – I mean having to do with The Religious Affections, because it’s a great book . . . But if you really want to read it, you probably should start somewhere [else]. I think The Distinguishing Marks is an easy read. If you’ve read The Distinguishing Marks, then you kind of have the key to understanding The Religious Affections, which is sort of The Distinctive Marks writ large. That’s an easy book. 

The other thing to do would be to read some of Edwards’ Personal Narrative, which is almost, really, a description of how he became a Christian. You read that, and you get a sense of his heart. I have to say I’ve never – this is maybe not encouraging – but I’ve never really found The Religious Affections hard. I mean, I find some books hard going – you know Dickens starts pretty hard going. Some novels are pretty hard going; some are great. My main piece of advice would be take it slowly. Get a copy, print it off, look at it online, and just read it slowly. 

I read The Religious Affections first when I was on the mission field. . . I only took over two volumes of Edwards in my backpack. It was right after the civil war there, and I wasn’t sitting in any kind of posh library or anything. The electricity didn’t always work, and so, in my mind, reading this isn’t associated with a feat. I would take it slowly – not be scared. I would actually read the text itself. I love Sam Storms. I love what he’s done [writing Signs of the Spirit: An Interpretation of Jonathan Edwards’s Religious Affections], but if you can, actually read the text itself. It’s a bit like reading the Bible. I’ve written a commentary on the Bible, so in a sense I’m all for commentaries; but the best way to understand the Bible is to read it – to have the confidence that when you read it and use your own brain [and] pray about it, you understand more about the Bible. I think that’s true of almost anything. Go to the source, figure it out – some of it – yourself. Then if you get stuck, then go to the helps. I’ve written books on Edwards, so by all means read those, too. But you really want to go to the source and then lean on the interpreters afterwards. Otherwise, you spend all your life looking at life through someone else’s stained glass windows rather than going [and] experiencing [it] yourself. 


Related Links:

Sarcasm in the Bible?! Dale Ralph Davis on How Old Testament Narrative Uses Sarcasm

Sarcasm in the Bible?! NO WAY

Actually, yes way according to Dr. Dale Ralph Davis. In his helpful book The Word Became Fresh: How to Preach from Old Testament Narrative Texts, Davis explains why sarcasm is used in Old Testament narrative and provides a few examples:

Occasionally the biblical writer dips his pen in acid and uses mockery, derision, or put-down to drive home his point. The device may not be prevalent but likely occurs more often than a casual reader thinks.

One thinks immediately, of course, of Elijah’s taunting the prophets of Baal on Mt. Carmel in 1 Kings 18:27. Elijah alleges that Baal may be preoccupied with a plethora of ‘divine’ activities like travel, napping, or using the facilities. But one finds such ridicule elsewhere, if perhaps less blatantly. One overhears it when Laban accuses Jacob of stealing his household deities: ‘But why did you steal my gods?’ (Gen. 31:30). Any full-blooded Yahweh-worshiping hearer/reader would think, ‘My, what sort of gods are those that can’t keep from being pilfered?’ And anyone who is possessed both with orthodoxy and a sense of humor (too often a rare combination) laughs when these deities ‘feel’ both Rachel’s warmth and weight while she is ‘indisposed’ (31:34–35). The same ridicule seeps out of Micah’s helpless rage toward the Danites in Judges 18:24: ‘You take my gods that I made and the priest, and go away, and what have I left?’ (ESV). What indeed! And, of course, the biblical writer is at his nasty best when describing the divine ‘trauma’ of Dagon before the ark of Yahweh in 1 Samuel 5:1–5; not only do the Philistines have to pick Dagon up but would’ve been most happy with an ample supply of super-glue. One even hears a hint of mockery in the common but repeated ‘made’ in 1 Kings 12:28–33 (Jeroboam’s cult) and in 2 Kings 17:29–31 (imported pagans in the land of Israel). Note too the helplessness of pagan resources in Genesis 41:8, 24, and in Daniel 1:20; 2:1–11; 4:6–7, 18; 5:8, 15, all of which smells like devout scoffing—because those helpless resources are the foil for the true God’s provision via Joseph and Daniel.

One of the most subtle but powerful samples of sarcasm comes in Daniel 3. Here all of Nebuchadnezzar’s civil service corps is to observe the required moment of silence before his 90 by 9 feet image. It’s likely a government-sponsored loyalty exercise; devotees can naturally go back to their private superstitions and ‘personal faith’; they simply need to worship here if they want to keep their jobs—and their lives. The pressure is powerful; after all, it’s the law. And when all the satraps and postal workers have their back sides in the air and their noses in the sand before Nebuchadnezzar’s giant dummy on the Plain of Dura, well, it’s hard to resist. The ‘church music’ alone is impressive (vv. 4–5, 7, 10, 15). And yet the writer both tells the story and mocks the ‘worship.’ He both reports and ridicules at the same time. At least I think so. He repeatedly uses the verb ‘set up’ (Aram. qum) as he refers to Nebuchadnezzar’s image, nine times to be exact (vv. 1, 2, 3 [twice], 5, 7, 12, 14, 18); one can also throw in ‘made’ twice, vv. 1, 15). Perhaps I’m seeing things, but highlight the usages of ‘set up’ in your text, read it over noting them, and it all seems to have a cumulative impact. It’s a ‘set-up job,’ as we say. It’s as if the writer is saying, ‘It may seem fearful (because it has all the muscle of the government behind it), but it’s a farce! If you can see behind the mask, if you can see the falsehood and stupidity of it all, if you can hear heaven’s laughter over it [Ps. 2:4], you need not be taken in by it. True, the furnace is hot but the image is just hot air. It’s simply a little posturing by a human king strutting around in his big international pants’ (cf. Isa. 46:7).

Sarcasm is a form of humor. And I have observed that whenever Scripture is delightfully humorous it is also deadly serious. There is always a serious point being made when the biblical writer uses humor. Hence we should keep our ears tuned for sarcasm.

Excerpt used with kind permission of Christian Focus Publications.

Two Examples of Preaching Christ (from 2 Samuel 13 and Acts 9) | Part Three


What follows is the final part of an interview with Colin S. Smith on what it means to preach Christ.

https://www.leadershipresources.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/02/Colin-Smith-Interview.mp3


KH: We’ve talked a little about theory about preaching Christ and why it’s important. Can you share a couple examples? Maybe walk us through a message you’ve preached before and how you think about preaching Christ.

CS: Sure, I’d be glad to talk about a couple examples. Every example is different. Every sermon is different. You’re trying to find the road to London from every village. You’re starting in different places.

Example #1: The Rape of Tamar – 2 Samuel 13

Every sermon is a unique experience, but I was preaching recently on the rape of Tamar in 2 Samuel, chapter 13. It is a terrible story of how this daughter of King David is sent by her father the King and goes to her own brother’s house and is horribly abused by him. She’s betrayed and violated, and King David knew what had happened. The Bible says he’s angry but did nothing. He said nothing. No discipline for his son. No comfort for his daughter.

And then we are told that Tamar lived as a desolate woman. She says, “Where can I carry my shame?” It’s an extraordinary question: Where can I carry my shame? And there’s no answer to that in the Old Testament. There’s no answer in 2 Samuel in chapter 13. So, you have to go forward from the desolate woman who says, “Where can I carry my shame?” and answer that question. The answer, obviously, is in the Lord Jesus Christ. Think about the parallels – this just blew my mind open thinking about it: that the Lord Jesus Christ was sent by His Father, and He’s horribly abused, and He’s terribly betrayed, and shame that is not His own is heaped on Him, through no fault of His, and yet He’s not overwhelmed by the shame. He actually rises above it. He just despises the shame, and He’s now seated at the right hand of the Father. In Him there is hope for every Tamar and for every person who’s been betrayed. The flow of the Bible’s story takes you from this awful evil that is left unanswered in the Old Testament. The Old Testament can never stand on its own. It possesses a question to which there isn’t yet an answer. Jesus Christ comes in as the fulfillment of everything that is promised and everything that is predicted by the prophets. Flowing into Jesus and seeing the connections was, to me, an amazing thing in regards to that.

Example #2: The Conversion of Saul – Acts 9

Let me give another very different example, entirely different, the conversion of Saul of Tarshish (Acts 9). Here’s Saul, and he’s blinded by seeing the glory of the Lord Jesus Christ. The first thing you notice when you read this is that it’s unlike any other conversion experience. People read that story and they think, oh, this is far away from me. Most testimonies that we hear start, “I’ve never had a Damascus Road experience. I’ve never seen a blinding light or heard a voice from Heaven.” People say that all the time. They feel it to be so remote.

What was really striking to me was the thought that the Damascus Road experience will happen to every person hearing this service. One day we will all stand before Christ, and we will see His glory. We will hear His voice, and He will address us by name. “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?” That is true of every person who has ever lived, irrespective of whether or not we believe in the Lord Jesus. Suddenly, now, by connecting the story with the great truth of the Bible – that one day we all will see the glory of Christ – it moves from being a story that’s a long way away to one that’s actually very near. This is an unavoidable reality: that we will all see the sovereign Lord, who lays claim to every life, and therefore, we need to get right with Him.


Learn more about Colin Smith by visiting UnlockingtheBible.org or following him on Twitter @PastorColinS.


For more information on how to preach Christ, read the article A Simple Guide for Seeing How the Old Testament Points to Jesus Christ or browse the Biblical Theology page of our Dig & Discover Hermeneutical Principles Booklet.

What does it mean to preach Christ? Interview with Pastor Colin S. Smith (Part One)


LRI’s Kevin Halloran sat down with his pastor, Colin S. Smith, to talk about what it means to preach Christ. Listen to the audio or read the transcript below.

https://www.leadershipresources.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/02/Colin-Smith-Interview.mp3


The apostle Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 1:23, “We preach Christ crucified,” and a few verses later, he said he was determined to “know nothing among the Corinthians except Jesus Christ and Him crucified” (1 Corinthians 2:2). But what does this mean? And how can a preacher faithfully preach Christ?

Pastor Colin Smith

With me is my pastor, Colin Smith, of the Orchard Evangelical Free Church, and the author of Momentum: Pursuing God’s Blessings Through the Beatitudes, Heaven How I Got Here: The Story of the Thief On The Cross, and most recently, Heaven So Near So Far: the Story of Judas Iscariot. Welcome, Pastor Colin.

CS: It’s fun to be together, Kevin.

KH: What does it mean to preach Christ, and why is it so important?

CS: Well, I think first of all, it means more than getting Jesus into a sermon. I sometimes hear guys saying that. How am I going to get Jesus into the sermon has got to be more than getting some reference to Jesus in the sermon. It’s got to be more too, I think, than preaching about Jesus. Even if we say the great things about Jesus, it’s possible to say even the great things about our Lord Jesus, His death, and His resurrection in a way that is detached from people – so that we’re merely giving information about the Lord Jesus Christ. But when Paul says that he’s determined to preach Christ, what he’s saying is not simply, “Tell people about Jesus,” but actually, “Hold Jesus and all that He is and all that He’s accomplished and all the He offers before people in such a way that they actually are confronted by a living Christ who is reaching out to them in the preaching.”

Christ speaks in the proclamation of His Word. And so, when Christ is held forth in the proclamation of his Word, people are able to discern the very voice of God speaking to them. That’s why it’s so important that we proclaim Christ and don’t simply speak about the Bible in a way that’s detached from the one who’s at the very center of the entire Word of God.

KH: Christ uses the task of preaching to reach out to the audience – I love how you said that. As you think about preaching Christ, what are some principles you use or keep in mind?

CS: Well, one of the things I learned early on in ministry back in England. So, I have to put this in an English way. A great English preacher once said that there’s a road from every village and hamlet in the country that leads eventually to London. I thought quite a bit about that. It’s true of course of any other major destination. You know there’s a road from everywhere in America that takes us to Chicago, I guess.

The point is that wherever you are the Bible, there is a road that does lead to Jesus Christ. And so, my job as a preacher, as I’m getting into any part of the Scripture, is to discern where that road is – what that path is. It might be a road that’s quite extensive. It might be a long way. It might not be just one connection; there may be some junctions along the way. But there’s always a road that takes us to Jesus Christ. My task is to find that road and to help people traverse it so that we’re brought to the feet of Christ. This is something that the apostles always did.

A number of years ago in the church here, a group of us sat down and said, “Let’s go through the New Testament and try and identify as many references as we can to preaching, then see what was it that was preached.” So, we started going through Acts. Then we went through the rest of the New Testament and Epistles. In about an hour and a half, we jotted down 39 references to preaching or proclamation. In every case, what we found that was proclaimed was the Lord Jesus Christ or His death or His resurrection or the gospel itself. It was always the same thing. The apostles gave themselves to that proclamation of Jesus Christ. That’s the task. Wherever we are in the Bible is where we begin. Proclaiming Christ is where we’ve got to end.

KH: That’s very helpful. What difference, then, does preaching Christ make for those who are in the pew?

CS: If Christ is not in a sermon, then what good is it ever going to do? I mean, our hope and our life is in Jesus Christ. So, a Christ-less sermon is actually a sermon that’s sub-Christian. It may lay out some moral principles, it may call a person to live a better life, but what use is a call to live a better life if a person doesn’t have the power to live that better life residing within them? That power comes from Jesus Christ. The experience of a person in the pew, if Christ is missing from preaching, is going to be that basically they’re being challenged. There’s a demand that’s being laid out. Here’s what you have to do; go try harder, go live better at the end of the day.

But then you come right up against what the law was powerless to do God did by giving His Son, Jesus Christ. The whole point of the gospel is that it gives to us what the law demands of us. If you take away Christ, you’re simply left with a demand. That’s why people often come out of church feeling that the whole thing was heavy and made them feel worse. Because what they’re confronted with is a challenge that they’re not being given the resource to meet.

Part Two deals with Preaching for Encounters with the Risen Christ.


Preaching for Encounters with the Risen Christ (Part Two)


This post is a continuation of a series on what it means to preach Christ with Colin S. Smith.

https://www.leadershipresources.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/02/Colin-Smith-Interview.mp3


KH: You’ve written before that preaching Christ must arise out of the Word and should lead us to the table, creating a worshipful experience encountering Christ there, at church. What do you mean by this, and why do you think it’s such an important idea?

CS: I got that out of the Church of England liturgy, going all the way back to Thomas Cranmer and the way in which the origin of worship in the Church of England was set out. These three elements were put together: there was reading of the Word, there was the sermon, and then there was the Lord’s Table. Cranmer organized that order of service because he believed deeply that preaching should arise from the Word. So, you begin with the Word read, and then you have the Word preached, and where it should end is it should lead us to the table. Now in our church here at the Orchard, we don’t always have the Lord’s Supper every Sunday; we do it once a month. Churches vary in their practice in that regard.

But the point is that when I’m preparing to preach, I’m always thinking, what would be a natural bridge to the Lord’s Table? I want every sermon to end with a sense of, “Thank you, Lord. Thank you for what’s mine in Jesus Christ.” I want every sermon to end with a sense of people being invited to receive what Jesus Christ holds in His hand. There has to be that offer, that invitation, that sense of meeting with Christ at the end. So that very simple little bridge, preaching is a bridge from the Word read to the Lord’s Table. Conceptually, that’s really helped me to think about what I’m trying to do in the course of a sermon.

KH: That’s wonderful, and you really engage with Christ with different senses. You know, auditory, when you hear the Word, but also more tactile through communion and also remembering what He’s done for us. In thinking through preaching Christ, what are some potential pitfalls a preacher might fall into?

CS: The way that I try to think about this and to encourage others to think about it, Kevin, is that we’re called to preach Christ. That’s the first thing. We’re called to do this in a way that is biblical, theological, clear, and compelling. These are like four sides of a sandbox around preaching Christ.

I think the most obvious pitfalls are speaking about Christ in a way that’s dislocated from the text of the Bible. That would be not doing it in a way that’s biblical or missing the great truths about Jesus Christ. That’s preaching Christ in a way that’s theological. [Or, as LRI’s training would put it, using Biblical Theology in preaching.] We want to preach Christ in a way that is clear. We don’t want to get lost in profound language that ordinary people can’t understand. We want to do it in a way that’s compelling. What that means is there must always be a connection between the proclamation of Christ and what a person can actually receive from Christ. It’s not simply information about Jesus. Christ is being held forth as the fount of all the gifts of God in such a way that as I hear Him presented, I’m drawn to say, “Now I must receive from Him.”

KH: I think every preacher wants to be transformative in their preaching. They want their people to leave changed people. Can you speak to the relationship between preaching Christ and application in sermons?

CS: I think that that’s the distinction that I have in mind between preaching about Jesus and preaching Jesus. It’s more than “Oh, Jesus said this, or Jesus did this; isn’t that interesting.” It’s, “Here is Christ. Here’s what Christ does, and here is what He offers to you right now that you can actually receive here and now.”

For example, “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:13). Christ gives me strength. What’s being held forth in that verse? It’s that Christ actually communicates strength that is matched to the particular burden that any person in the congregation listening to the sermon at that time is actually carrying. I want to hold forth not simply a strong Christ but a Christ that gives strength.

That’s just one example, but there’s a difference. It’s hard to put it into words, but there’s a difference between merely communicating truths about Jesus and actually holding forth a Jesus who has the power of transformation and brings the power of transformation in His own self.

KH: It reminds listeners there’s a living Savior who rose from the dead who intercedes for them and is on their side.

CS: And you can come to Him right now, and He has all that you need. Yes, there’s an invitation. There’s a response, and that’s the heart of application. Someone listening to the sermon needs to have the sense that there’s something here for me, and therefore, they feel a drawing to move towards what is being proclaimed – or rather the one who is being proclaimed.

In Part Three, Colin Smith shares examples of preaching Christ from two passages.

How to Study the Bible: Jeff Gage on Table Talk with Tyrell

Jeff Gage, LRI’s Program Director for South Africa, joined pastor and host Tyrell Haag on his radio program, Table Talk with Tyrell, to discuss how to study the Bible. In the interview, Jeff shares an insightful summary of LRI’s approach to Bible study and sprinkles in compelling stories about on how God is at work through our ministry in Africa.

Even if you’re very familiar with LRI’s training, you’re not going to want miss this interview. (Their insightful conversation may just inspire you to grow a great beard, too.)


Listen on Table Talk with Tyrell | Or watch the Facebook video below

This week on TABLE TALK Tyrell Haag discusses Biblical Studies with Jeff Gage of Leadership Resources International. Your questions are welcome, so Tune In…#657AM#729AM#DSTV882

Posted by Radio Pulpit / Radiokansel on Friday, 12 April 2019


Description:

Many people believe that theological study holds little value. They say, “I don’t need theology; I just need to know Jesus.” Yet theology is unavoidable for every Christian. It is our attempt to understand the truth that God has revealed to us—something every Christian does. So it is not a question of whether we are going to engage in theology; it is a question of whether our theology is sound or unsound. It is important to study and learn because God has taken great pains to reveal himself to his people. He gave us a book, one that is not meant to sit on a shelf pressing dried flowers, but to be read, searched, digested, studied, and chiefly to be understood.

  • 0:00:00—Introduction
  • 0:06:00—Introducing Jeff
  • 0:10:30—What are the most common mistakes people make when studying the Bible?
  • 0:46:40—If All Scripture is profitable, why is context important?
  • 0:51:10—Why is the New Testament written in Greek if the disciples were Jews?
  • 1:02:10—Political views and preaching
  • 1:13:35—Eschatological passages and keeping Christ supreme
  • 1:32:20—Conclusion

Helpful Quotes and Excerpts

“There are two ways to read the Bible. One way will crush you, the other way will give you life.”

Jeff Gage: “In Zambia there as a man who was preaching the prosperity gospel. He’s always been doing that as a very fiery individual. He’s an older man now. [After two years of training,] he said this last week, “I will not preach that ever again. I repent from preaching that. That’s not what the Bible is teaching.” We were working the principles in the Gospel of Mark and the call of the gospel to suffer, enter into Jesus’ suffering, count the cost, take up your cross, follow Him really powerfully came home to him. If we had gone in there preaching against the prosperity gospel, he would have dug in his heels and become defensive. Instead of bashing our framework against his, we just got him digging into the Gospel of Mark and seeing who Jesus is and what Jesus was really saying. The Word of God powerfully impacted him. Now when the next guy comes in town teaching something else, this man will not be moved by it because the Word of God has personally impacted his life.”

Tyrell Haag: “If you take a photo of a group of people, when you get that group photo, what’s the first thing you do? You look for yourself. And that’s like what we do with the Bible. We read the gospel and we look at the group photo and say, ‘Where am I?’ Really we should be looking for where Jesus is.”

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.

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