Rejoice with us!

Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion!
Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem!
Behold, your king is coming to you…”
– Zechariah 9:9 (ESV)

Dear Friends and Partners,

The beauty and the greatness of Zechariah’s proclamation rings in my ears at this time of year. This proclamation of hope causes me to rejoice at our Savior’s birth and deepens my desire that all might know Him.  

This same hope drives the ministry of Leadership Resources to equip pastors to teach God’s Word with God’s heart that they may share the Good News!

As we reflect on this past year, we rejoice that God has provided opportunities for LRI and our partners to work with key pastors in nearly 50 countries around the world, equipping over 12,000 pastors, transforming their ministries and churches through the power of God’s Spirit-backed Word.

We rejoice that those we continue to train gain confidence to preach God’s Word with God’s heart. We rejoice and pray that as they grow and mature, their ability to equip other pastors and church leaders will increase. By God’s grace, as they equip others, a movement of the Word will flourish.

We rejoice that our team is growing. God continues to bring men and women driven by a passion for God’s Word, a love for those we train, and a longing to see the Word of God flowing powerfully through every church to every nation.

We rejoice and thank God for you. Through your partnership, the nations are blessed with the written Word that points to the Living Word, our Lord Jesus Christ.

This Christmas, may you rejoice that the King has come – that the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, fulfilling all of God’s good purposes in Christ.

Rejoicing with you in Christ,

Craig Parro


P.S. – As we come to the year end, would you prayerfully consider a special gift? By God’s grace, this ministry continues to grow. Your generous gift would help us finish the year strong and begin 2019 with great confidence!

The Costly Results of an Impaired Prayer Life

Every Christian is called to pray. Every minister is called to pray. And yet many of us struggle to pray consistent and heartfelt prayers to the Lord. Norwegian preacher Ole Hallesby wrote in 1931 about the costly results of an impaired prayer life, and the wise will take his words to heart and ask for the Lord’s help in prayer.

Children of God can grieve Jesus in no worse way than to neglect prayer. For by so doing they sever the connection between themselves and the Savior, and their inner life is doomed to be withered and crippled, as is the case with most of us…

The result is that we go about at home and in the assembly of believers like spiritual cripples or dwarfs, spiritually starved and emaciated, with scarcely enough strength to stand on our own feet, not to speak of fighting against sin and serving the Lord… This neglect is the cause of my many other sins of commission as well as of commission…

The more of an effort prayer becomes, the more easily it is neglected. Results which are fatal to spiritual life follow, not immediately, but no less certainly. First, our minds become worldly, and we feel more and more alienated from God, and therefore have less and less about which to speak with Him. Then we develop an unwilling spirit, which always finds pretexts for not praying and excuses for having neglected prayer.

Our inner life begins to weaken. The pain of living in sin is not felt as keenly as before, because sin is no longer honestly confessed before God. As a result of this, again, our spiritual vision becomes blurred, and we can no longer distinguish clearly between that which is sin and that which is not. From now on we resist sin in essentially the same way as worldly people do. They struggle against those sins only which are exceedingly dangerous from the standpoint of their consequences.

But such people have no desire to lose their reputation as Christians. For this reason they try to hide the worldliness of their minds as long as possible. In conversation, as well as in the prayer meeting, they are tempted to use language which is not in harmony with their inner selves. Empty words and affectation now seek to strangle what little prayer life is left in their hearts.

All this and a great deal more is the result of an impaired prayer life. And this is just what has taken place in the lives of many believers.[1]

Maybe Hallesby’s words convict you as they do me. My gut reaction in receiving such conviction is to try harder—make up for time I’ve lost and do it in my own strength. This approach doesn’t lead to lasting change or deepen my joy in the Lord.

What does motivate me and deepen joy is taking the focus off of myself and putting it on God, His glory, and His gracious invitation to us in Christ. In Christ, we are His beloved children. In Christ, we have a Father who has an open ear and willing heart to hear our prayers and anxious thoughts (1 Peter 5:7). He knows our failures and weaknesses and wants to be our strength and Provider. Fix your eyes on Him.

“He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?” (Romans 8:32 ESV)

[1] Excerpts taken from pages 38–41 of Ole Hallesby’s Prayer.

Devoted to the Public Reading of Scripture: Ideas, Techniques, and Resources

Paul commands Timothy in 1 Timothy 4:13 to “devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture. . . .”

Why be devoted to the public reading of Scripture?

Let’s take a look at the theological foundations of public Scripture reading and some ways to give Scripture a more prominent place in public gatherings.

Theological Foundations

  1. God has spoken.

From the beginning of the Bible (Genesis 1:3), we see that God speaks, and His word is powerful and life-giving. At the end of the Bible, we see that a word from God ushers in the culmination of history (Revelation 21:2-4). In contrast to idols that cannot speak or do anything (Psalm 115:3-8), we serve a God who speaks and who has ultimately spoken to us by His Son (Hebrews 1:1-2), the Word made flesh (John 1:14-18).

  1. It is written.

Because God has spoken, we know His words were worth writing down to be remembered for all of time. God shares with us in Scripture that His Word has two audiences in mind: the original audience and future generations (Romans 15:4).

  1. God’s Word brings life.

“. . . [M]an does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD” (Deuteronomy 8:3, NIV). Through the Word, we are made wise unto salvation, trained in righteousness, and equipped for every good work (2 Timothy 3:14-17). We proclaim God’s Word through preaching and public readings because we long to hear from God so we can love Him, trust Him, obey Him, and receive life. To put it more simply: when Scripture is read, God’s voice is heard.

Biblical Examples

In addition to Paul’s command to Timothy, the Bible offers several examples and additional commands relating to the public reading of Scripture. Here is a sampling:

  • Public reading is commanded in Deuteronomy 31:11: “When all Israel comes to appear before the LORD your God at the place that he will choose, you shall read this law before all Israel in their hearing” (ESV).
  • Ezra and the Levites: “And all the people gathered as one man into the square before the Water Gate. And they told Ezra the scribe to bring the Book of the Law of Moses that the LORD had commanded Israel. . . . They [the Levites] read from the book, from the Law of God, clearly, and they gave the sense, so that the people understood the reading” (Nehemiah 8:1, 8; ESV).
  • Jesus read from the Isaiah scroll in the synagogue in Luke 4:18-19. As He concluded, He said, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing” (4:21, ESV).
  • At the Jerusalem Council in Acts 15, James describes the public practice of reading Scripture, “For from ancient generations Moses has had in every city those who proclaim him, for he is read every Sabbath in the synagogues” (15:21, ESV).
  • The New Testament church read letters publicly: “And when this letter has been read among you, have it also read in the church of the Laodiceans; and see that you also read the letter from Laodicea” (Colossians 4:16, ESV); and “I put you under oath before the Lord to have this letter read to all the brothers” (1 Thessalonians 5:27, ESV).

How to Read Scripture Publicly

Tim Keller writes in the foreword to Unleashing the Word (see suggested resources):

“In most church services the reading of the Word is poorly and hurriedly done. What a missed opportunity! The public reading of God’s Word is an interpretive act that takes skill and thought and has historically been understood as means of grace equal with preaching and sacraments.”

As people who take the Word of God seriously, let’s take public Scripture reading seriously.

1. Study the passage.

Studying the passage (and reading it over several times) helps you understand it better so you know what it communicates and how it communicates it. Simon Roberts suggests that readers “mark important words, bracket groups of words that belong together, and highlight important connecting words (e.g. ‘but’, ‘therefore’, ‘so’, ‘then’).”

It might be worth dissecting the structure and looking for a main idea as well. If there are any words you are unsure how to pronounce, ask others for help, or listen to an audio Bible on Bible Gateway for suggested pronunciation.

2. Practice reading the passage aloud.

Max McLean suggests, “Practice your delivery aloud until you feel ready to present it as if you’re having an animated conversation with a good friend.” McLean also advises paying attention to pause, pace, pitch, volume, and breathing. As you practice, you might record yourself to hear how you’re doing. Most phones now have voice recorder apps.

3. Make your inflection reflect the intent of the original author.

“When I read, I also go over the text multiple times,” writes McLean. “I think about how I will phrase the line so I can determine my inflection: the way I change my pitch or the loudness of my voice as I read a particular word or phrase. In my readings, getting the right inflection is one of the essential keys to communicating the meaning of the text.”

He continues, “The proper inflection helps me find the emotional undertow within the text. It connects the passage more viscerally to the congregation. While we certainly want hearers to connect at the head level, understanding the meaning of each thought block in the text, we also want them to go deeper and gain an understanding of the author’s motivation and intent at that moment.”

4. Pray that the Spirit would open eyes to see the glory of Christ.

The goal of Scripture reading is to behold the glory of Christ and be transformed into His image. Pray for listeners to experience our Risen Lord through His Word and for them to long for His Kingdom. Pray for the evils of sin to be exposed in hearts and the grace of Christ to be magnified.

You might also benefit from: 3 big ideas and 7 tips on how to read the Bible in church by Simon Roberts (GoThereFor)

Ways to Dedicate Yourself to Public Reading of Scripture

  1. Make Scripture reading an important and valued part of your church’s services. Choose your texts intentionally to reflect the service’s theme. Select and train a group of Scripture readers. Consider reading longer portions of Scripture to remind listeners of its importance.
  1. Consider holding special events to focus on reading Scripture. During a sermon series on Deuteronomy, The Orchard EFC in Arlington Heights, Illinois, held a special event to listen to the entire book being read. If the book’s original purpose was to be read publicly in one sitting (Deuteronomy 31:11), why not experience it like Israel did?
  2. Host a Scripture reading marathon. Involve your whole church in reading Scripture publicly by reading the entire Bible aloud over the course of several days.
  3. Memorize a whole book of the Bible and present it on a Sunday. (You will need many months of intentional preparation!) In doing so, you will not only bless your church with God’s Word, you will encourage them to memorize Scripture. Consider these examples: RomansHebrews, and 1 Corinthians. (Also see: 11 Steps to Memorizing an Entire Book of the Bible)
  4. Incorporate reading Scripture into everything possible: counseling sessions, small groups, member meetings, staff meeting, and church-related sporting events.
  5. Decorate your church with Scripture art. No, this isn’t necessarily public reading, but it does allow God’s Word to penetrate souls and proclaim the beauty of our God. God’s Word never returns void.

Suggested Resources:

Why Preach Overview Sermons of Bible Books

Preachers want their people to love the Word of God. They also want to grow as preachers and keep their preaching calendar fresh. Preaching a whole book of the Bible in one sermon is one way to accomplish all three of these objectives and might be worth adding to your preaching repertoire. Here are a few reasons:

  1. Preaching book-overview sermons encourages Bible engagement in the congregation.

All preachers should want their preaching to engender responses like, “I can read this for myself!” The more exposure your people have to different parts of Scripture, the better. Working in a book-overview sermon allows you to mix in other parts of Scripture that you wouldn’t normally cover.

  1. Preaching book-overview sermons adds more variety in the preaching schedule.

If you have ever gotten bogged down by preaching consecutively through entire books, you might consider taking a break from your current series and preaching an overview of another book as a way to mix things up.

  1. Preaching book-overview sermons helps show different contours of the book that are sometimes lost in a normal exposition.

Approaching the Bible with a wider lens reveals a book’s big ideas, turning points, and other vital details to the book’s message. More atomistic preaching risks losing the forest for the trees—or even the leaves on the trees. Teaching the Bible atomistically can lead our people to read the Bible atomistically. Zooming out to see the whole book reminds listeners that God moved authors to write whole books with coherent messages, not loosely arranged collections of verses.

  1. Preaching book-overview sermons grows the preacher.

Pastor Paul Alexander commented, “I myself learn so much as a preacher from preparing overview sermons. I learn both content of the book, and a different method of study, and my learning in those ways helps my congregation learn in those ways too.”[1]

  1. Preaching book-overview sermons helps you see how the book testifies to Christ in its macro themes and structure.

All of Scripture testifies to Christ. Focus on entire books allows preachers to more easily explain how higher-level ideas in books point us to Christ. The book of Judges’ steady drumbeat of “In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes” (Judges 21:25) points to Christ, the Promised King from the tribe of Judah. Joseph’s words near the end of Genesis, “you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good” (Genesis 50:20), summarize not only a major theme of the book but a major theme of the Bible—one ultimately fulfilled when sinful man’s crucifixion of the Christ opens the door for salvation.

Responding to Potential Pushback

Preaching book-overview messages isn’t for the faint of heart, as two points of pushback testify to. Careful thought should help a preacher overcome pushback.

Pushback #1: But . . . you won’t cover everything a book has to offer in one sermon!

Isn’t that the case with every sermon text anyway? Scripture has an unlimited depth of riches no matter what size text you choose to preach. Occasionally sprinkling in book-overview sermons will help make more parts of the Bible accessible for our people so they can discover its riches for themselves.

Pushback #2: But . . . it takes so much time!

Yes, it takes time and is hard work. Consider Pastor Paul Alexander’s recommendation:

“The main downside is that if you’ve never done it before, you can make it harder work than it is (both to prepare for it and for your congregation to listen to it!) by choosing a long book rather than a short one. So start small and work your way up to the bigger books if you’re inexperienced. Start with an short NT epistle like Philemon or Jude, or 3 John, then a book like Philippians, then try a short OT prophet like Obadiah, or Haggai, then graduate to Ruth, etc. . . . Major prophets, Gospels, and the Psalms should be among the last overviews preachers do.”[2]

Example Sermons

If you’ve never heard an overview sermon, here are a few examples from pastors Paul Alexander of Grace Covenant Church in Elgin, Illinois, and Mark Dever of Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, DC:

[1] Quote taken from a personal email with Alexander on May 30, 2018.
[2] Ibid.

Related Resources:

Two Tools for Preachers on Applying Scripture

The difference between a hearer of the Word and a doer of the Word is stark—just read James 1:22–25. Those who only hear the Word and fail to live it out deceive themselves (1:22) and are like a man who looks into a mirror, “goes away and at once forget what he looks like” (1:24). But the one who hears the Word and does it “will be blessed in his doing” (1:25).

As preachers of God’s Word, we desire to do God’s Word and produce other doers of the Word. One crucial step in producing doers is by applying Scripture in our teaching and preaching.

Just like preachers need to grow in our handling of God’s Word, we need to grow in applying it, shepherding God’s people (and ourselves) with the transformative intent of the Word of God.

While many see the need for application, many pastors fall into the pitfall of applying Scripture in the same ways to the same types of people without thinking through the wide swath of people and circumstances present in the pews. The two resources below will help you think through application for pew-sitters in different places spiritually:

  1. Sermon Application Grid developed by Mark Dever and 9Marks. See blank grid and a sample of a filled-out grid.
  2. Tim Keller: The Kinds of People to Consider as You Apply Scripture in Preaching (Expansive List) (PDF)

By no means are these the only tools for thinking through applying Scripture, rather they provide a helpful framework for thinking through applications for a diverse group of people. Our prayer is that they would help you teach and apply God’s Word for maximum spiritual transformation.

Related Links:

2 Corinthians: The Supreme Pastoral Letter – Interview with Phil Smith

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Kevin Halloran

Kevin Halloran

Kevin Halloran: When we think of the Pastoral Epistles, we usually think of 1 & 2 Timothy and Titus because they were written to pastors and bear the official title of “Pastoral Epistle.” Even so, some have called the book of 2 Corinthians the “Supreme Pastoral Letter” because it helps us see the pastoral heart and pastoral suffering of the Apostle Paul in a unique way.[1]

Since Leadership Resources is an organization that encourages and equips pastors to teach God’s word with God’s heart, I thought it would be useful to talk about this book that provides unique value for pastoral ministry. With me is Phil Smith, the Executive Director of Leadership Resources. Before coming to LRI, Phil pastored for ten years.

Phil, you’ve shared with the LRI staff how God has used 2 Corinthians to encourage you greatly in your ministry. How did this love develop?

Phil Smith

PS: Thank you, Kevin. My love for 2 Corinthians really developed during my time as a pastor. Coming right out of seminary, I went into a pastorate for ten years on an island in southeast Alaska. There were challenges in that pastorate. I sought to figure out: How do I evaluate ministry? How am I doing as a pastor? I had a different personality from the previous pastor. Was I failing because I wasn’t like him?

I came to love the message of 2 Corinthians: that if you are loving your people, if you are clear with the gospel, shepherding people with the Word and you’re prayerful, depending on the Lord in it—that is what true Christian ministry is about. It was very encouraging for me. It gave me great confidence in my ministry. People in my congregation also needed encouragement in their own ministries—to persevere in ministry even when it’s hard. Much of the message in 2 Corinthians is persevering in the midst of difficulty in ministry.  

KH: What’s going on in 2 Corinthians? We know Paul is writing to the Corinthians again. Can you give us traveling instructions to help us understand the original context?

PS: You’ve got to do traveling instructions with 2 Corinthians. I did a conference on 2 Corinthians recently, and the first sermon was simply doing traveling instructions – starting in Acts 18 when Paul first goes and plants the church in Corinth, then moving to the tumultuous relationship that develops between him and a segment of the church in Corinth as it just descends into mayhem between him and the church. This is the fourth letter to the Corinthians, we think, based on what we read in the two letters that we have here (see 1 Corinthians 5:9–11; 2 Corinthians 2:3–4, 9, 7:8, 12). To see Paul’s continuing, loving pursuit of this church despite the way many of them treated him is remarkable, as is his shepherding care for them. To read this letter in that context is particularly helpful.

KH: One of the key ideas in 2 Corinthians, especially for the pastor, is the idea of New Covenant ministry. Can you define that for us?

PS: Yes, he does spend some time talking about himself in contrast to what seems to be some version of Judaizers in the church, the “super apostles.” They came as “servants of Christ, servants of righteousness” but served a different gospel. In chapter three he contrasts his own ministry with this ministry that emphasized the Ten Commandments, the Jewish traditions, and that sort of thing. So, those who emphasized rules and regulations without surrounding it with the gospel of Christ, that’s what you would say is a modern-day Judaizer. I think we’re all in danger of that in our churches where we emphasize rules without getting to the gospel of Jesus. New Covenant ministry is a ministry that is immersed in the gospel and empowered by the Spirit, looking to the Spirit to work through the gospel of Jesus Christ and expecting God to powerfully work.

New Covenant ministry is a ministry that is immersed in the gospel and empowered by the Spirit, looking to the Spirit to work through the gospel of Jesus Christ and expecting God to powerfully work.

A quick story: A pastor wanted to be hired here at LRI and we started listening to some of his sermons. I still remember while driving to Michigan listening to a sermon from the Old Testament that hardly touched on Jesus let alone the grace found in Jesus. In a sense, he was laying guilt upon guilt on his congregation, and it was like congregational abuse without pointing to the grace of Jesus. That’s a modern-day Judaizer. New Covenant ministry focuses on and gets to the grace we find in Christ.

KH: An important theme of 2 Corinthians is transformation. That pastor preaching in that way really lacks the transformative power of the gospel. It heaps rules upon people, but that isn’t going to change their hearts. With the New Covenant, we have new hearts, by God’s grace, and His Spirit, who is working in our hearts to transform us into Christ’s likeness.

PS: Absolutely. He talks about the surpassing power that comes from God (2 Corinthians 4:7)—His Spirit is transforming us from one degree of glory to another.

KH: Amen. You already mentioned one sign that that particular pastor didn’t grasp New Covenant ministry well. What are some other signs that maybe a pastor doesn’t fully grasp the implications of New Covenant ministry?

PS: The Corinthians struggled with this. They had a very worldly perspective on ministry, and even from the beginning of 1 Corinthians, Paul talks about the cross, the power of the cross, and the pattern of the cross. Pastors are so often influenced by a worldly view of what success looks like, and New Covenant ministry is shaped by the cross and how we do ministry. This means that we are not surprised when there is suffering and hardship or when we feel weak or have feelings of inadequacy.

When I was in pastoral ministry, I asked, “Isn’t there more to ministry? Loving people, speaking the Word to people, speaking the gospel to people and praying for them? Is that it? Can’t there be anything more exciting to make it really powerful?” Actually, no—that’s where the power is.

We tend to want to make our ministries more impressive, more flashy. The power is in the clearly presented gospel and being servants of God who are coming as servants of the people – to serve them by bringing them the gospel.

KH: Like it says in 2 Corinthians 4:7, ”We have this treasure in jars of clay to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.” It’s a crucial point to remember. Something that we see in 1 & 2 Corinthians is that the Corinthian culture valued power and oratory and celebrity, which is why the super apostles were such a draw. How does 2 Corinthians’ message speak to our culture today that emphasizes so much platform and influence?

PS: The church in America needs this letter directly preached to them. In a sense Paul is giving us a new set of glasses, as it were, to evaluate what true Christian ministry looks like. So often, we have a worldly set of glasses on that looks for success and, as you said, eloquence and magnetic personalities – people with imposing bearing about them that people are in awe of. People want a celebrity kind of leader. Those pastors who might not have that eloquence or a big personality may think they’re a bad pastor, when they’re really doing a good job, because they are faithfully teaching the Bible. Those pastors get discouraged, and they may give up on ministry when they should be encouraged, emboldened, and confident.

Paul demonstrates great confidence and courage in this letter, even though he wasn’t as eloquent as some. He didn’t have a huge personality like it seems some of them had there. He didn’t boast in the way that they boasted, and yet he had great confidence in the power of the gospel.

At the same time you have some pastors that are really doing a bad job because they’re not clearly preaching the gospel. They’re not loving their people; they are not men of prayer. Yet, because they have those worldly things about them, people pat them on the back. They say they are doing a good job. They’re really not.

So, that’s what’s so crucial for not only pastors but for the whole church to evaluate rightly. That’s what this letter is about: helping us understand what true gospel ministry is to look like.

KH: It’s interesting to think about. First Corinthians 3 talks about how our ministries will be exposed for what they truly are on the Day of Christ. It’s vital to use the right building materials as we do the work of the Lord because we will be judged (1 Corinthians 3:13–14). The artificial fruit and big platforms and all the flashy lights and a lot of followers may be proved to be nothing. What worse thing can we think of than all our work and ministry be burned up on the Day of Christ? But thank the Lord there is so much power in the true gospel and in weak ministry.

There’s power in weakness, there’s joy in sorrow. There is much sorrow in this letter and yet much joy. There’s life through death. As Paul is suffering, life comes through that. There’s confidence amidst apparent failure.

PS: Just as you said there, a weak ministry. That’s the beauty of this letter and its many paradoxes. There’s power in weakness, there’s joy in sorrow. There is much sorrow in this letter and yet much joy. There’s life through death. As Paul is suffering, life comes through that. There’s confidence amidst apparent failure. They thought he was a failure. In chapter 13 he refers to that and yet has such confidence, even though they think he’s failing. So, I hope, just by this conversation, that people are encouraged to reread 2 Corinthians, be encouraged by it, and preach it.

[1] Dr. Murray J. Harris wrote this in his article on 2 Corinthians in the NIV Zondervan Study Bible.

Scripture quotations are from the ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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How to Grow in Humility: Let Philippians Guide You

After love, humility is the most discussed virtue in the New Testament.

While many biblical verses and books speak on humility, Philippians makes a unique contribution to the conversation. For that reason, LRI staff recently read through Philippians with a special eye on growing in humility in order to be better servants of Christ and ministry partners. Below are ten observations from Philippians our staff shared.

  1. Paul and Timothy as servants of Christ Jesus (1:1)

“Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus”

The book’s first verse shows the humility of Paul, not only by donning the “servant” title but also by not emphasizing his apostolic office (although we know sometimes it’s needed; see Galatians 1:1 and 2 Corinthians 1:1). Paul is known by many as the church’s greatest theologian and most influential missionary, yet here he chooses the title of servant. Do you view yourself as a servant?

  1. Joyful in Christ even while in prison (1:7)

Paul wrote Philippians from prison and yet is filled with joy. Suffering for the cause of Christ shows tremendous humility in the apostle and reflects a deep and abiding faith.

  1. Paul valued the proclamation of Christ more than silencing those who seek to afflict him. (1:15-18)

When considering those who preach Christ from envy or rivalry to afflict Paul in his imprisonment (1:17), Paul rejoices that Christ is proclaimed and refuses to compete with such preachers. Paul doesn’t want to win an argument; he wants Christ to be proclaimed.

  1. The command to consider others as more important than yourself (2:1-4)

Verses 1 and 2 of chapter 2 remind us that the Holy Spirit works in born-again believers to produce unity. Then Paul exhorts us to “do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves” (2:3) and to look to the interests of others (2:4). In Christ, these commands are not impossible to follow but should become easier and more joyful to obey as we grow in grace.

  1. The example of Christ (2:5-8)

Our Lord is the ultimate example of humility:

“Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”

The Creator of the universe donned human flesh and wrapped a towel around his waist to serve. He could have avoided the cross and instantly struck His enemies down, exalting Himself. Instead, He obeyed the Father’s every command. Christ’s later exaltation (2:9-11) reminds believers of how those who humble themselves before the Lord will be lifted up (James 4:10).

  1. Nothing compares to Christ. (3:3-8)

Paul counted his earthly credentials as a “loss for the sake of Christ” (3:7). His treasure is Christ, not the fleeting pleasure of human recognition.

“Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ.”

What would you have a hard time giving up for the sake of Christ? Your ministry or ministry credentials? If you treasure anything over Christ, you settle for second best and reject a greater glimpse into His sufficiency and glory.

  1. Our glorious future spurs on present humility. (3:20-21)

Our heavenly citizenship has a direct impact on how we view our bodies. While donning our humble earthly bodies in the present, we must remember the glorious bodies Christ will grant us in the future. These bodies are a gift and are not our own. This future vision should stoke the fires of hopeful perseverance.

  1. Agreeing in the Lord for gospel unity (4:1-4)

Paul wrote Philippians to confront Euodia and Syntyche to agree in the Lord. Those last three words (“in the Lord”) repeat three times in these four verses. Believers are to “stand firm thus in the Lord” (4:1), “agree in the Lord” (4:2), and “rejoice in the Lord” (4:4). This means believers humbly and rightfully place the Lord’s priorities over their own and don’t rejoice in airing their own opinions. This means putting our agendas on the backburner for the sake of the gospel.

  1. Letting your reasonableness be evident to everyone (4:5)

When dealing with and avoiding conflict, reasonableness (sometimes translated as gentleness) is crucial to a peaceful resolution. Reasonableness lays aside our desire to be right and instead focuses on conflict resolution.

  1. Leaning into Christ’s strength for all our needs (4:11-13)

“Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.”

Paul knows its not by his own strength that he perseveres. He knows that the strength and provision of Christ extends to every situation—and he rejoices.

Much more can be said about humility from Philippians. Our prayer is that your humility would grow and lead you to greater joy in Christ and gospel partnership.

Scripture quotations are from the ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved

Randy Alcorn on Fighting Sexual Immorality in Ministry

It is no accident that 1 Timothy 3:1–7’s description of a biblical elder mentions the devil. Twice. The enemy of our souls wants godly leaders to fall into all kinds of sin. And while all sin is destructive, the consequences of sexual sin are uniquely devastating for the church and the pastor’s family.

Pastor, what steps are you taking to ensure your sexual purity?

The following links from Randy Alcorn will help you think through practical steps to avoid falling and remind you of sin’s great cost.

  1. Strategies to Keep from Falling: Practical Steps to Maintain Your Purity and Ministry
  2. Deterring Immorality by Counting Its Cost
  3. Resources for Sexual Purity

Two other recent articles on the topic:

‘Every Member’ Conference with Tony Payne | Video from Nexus18

Making disciples is for every believer, not just pastors and leaders. This is a truth that Tony Payne and the Matthias Media team get, and that’s one reason we love them.

We’ve shared before about books Tony has written (The Trellis and the Vine, The Vine Project, How to Walk into Church) and now share videos from the recent Nexus 18 ‘Every Member’ Conference:

Watch Video Sessions

Nexus 2018 Booklet (for notetaking)


1. ‘Every member theology’ Tony Payne (with Marty Sweeney)
2. ‘Every member missionaries’ David Williams
3. ‘Every member speech’ Tony Payne + Question time
4. ‘Sending every member’ Carl Matthei (UNSW Chaplain)

Register for next year’s Nexus Conference.

Felt-Needs Preaching vs. Consecutive Exposition: What’s Best for God’s People?

I recently spoke with a pastor who describes the rationale for his church’s preaching:

“Each week we think through needs in the congregation and preach a message to meet those needs.”

This approach, what many call “felt needs” preaching, appropriately seeks to help their congregation grow spiritually and overcome issues they are facing. In this particular pastor’s case, it stems from a love for his flock and a deep knowledge of their lives—something every pastor should strive for.

Occasions exist when needs-focused preaching should be preferred, at least in the short run. For example, when a congregation has experienced a major tragedy, or if there is a serious struggle in the congregation, the pastor might want to preach to the situation.

But is preaching to felt needs the best practice for preachers over the long haul? I don’t think so, especially when contrasted with consecutive expository preaching through entire books of the Bible. Here are four reasons:

  1. God knows our needs better than we do.

The God who created us knows us better than we know ourselves. His ways are not our ways, and His thoughts not our thoughts (Isaiah 55:8-9). His Word alone meets our every spiritual need and exposes thoughts and intentions of the heart (2 Timothy 3:16-17; Hebrews 4:12). Our attempts to faithfully diagnose needs cannot compare to God’s: we need God’s Word to shine its light into our blind spots and expose our true needs.

Just as preventative medicine is better than treating a health issue after it appears, preaching through books of the Bible meets a variety of needs that the congregation and the preacher might not know they have. Otherwise, we depend on our limited knowledge to diagnose needs and prescribe solutions.

  1. Our felt needs are often not real needs or our deepest needs.

A great danger in having felt needs as your starting point in preaching is man-centeredness. Our felt needs may actually be “first-world problems” that expose our shallow, myopic state. Often what we consider “needs”—like significance, prosperity, or even health—are expelled by having a more Scriptural view of God and how He works in the world.

Sinners have the true need of a Savior who transforms hearts and lives as people repent and believe the gospel. How many sinners would say that’s a need they are conscious of? A temptation for felt-needs preaching is to give people self-help Band-Aids when they really need a heart transplant that only Christ can give.

  1. We miss deeper contours of biblical passages/books.

God gave us the Bible in book format, not random collections of verses and stories. If preachers only preach topical messages or one-off expositions, they will miss deeper contours of the passage and books of the Bible. Preaching the big message of a book helps us teach our people to read the Bible better and treat it less like a book of inspirational quotations or a self-help manual.

For example, not preaching through the big ideas of Genesis will lose the overarching story of God preserving His creation purposes to bless the world in spite of the sinfulness of humanity. That probably doesn’t meet a felt need, but it meets the real need of humanity to know that evil isn’t something that hijacks God’s sovereign plan.

This is why LRI recommends preaching the Bible as it was given: in complete books.

  1. We communicate that the Bible is primarily about meeting our needs instead of receiving the revelation of God.

The Bible does meet our needs, but it does more. The Bible is not primarily about us, it is about Jesus (Luke 24:24). Human history is not primarily about us, but about God and His actions to redeem sinful humanity through Jesus Christ (Ephesians 1:3–14). Approaching the Bible as God’s revelation of Himself to humanity puts God in the center of our lives and not ourselves. This means approaching the Bible with the question, “How can I fix my problem?” is useful, but incomplete. When we put God in His proper place, everything else in life will certainly fall in line (Matthew 6:33).

A Better Way

Some argue that preaching to felt needs helps you immediately gain the attention of your audience. While that may be true, we don’t have to choose between meeting needs and preaching the Word. We can simultaneously preach through a book of the Bible, keep our listeners’ lives in mind, and make our message engaging for a 21st-century audience. This way, God sets the agenda, and needs are met organically.

Here are a few suggestions for preaching through books of the Bible while keeping real needs in mind:

  • Consider preaching through books that deal with issues confronting your congregation. If your congregation lacks evangelistic zeal or harbors bitterness, try preaching Jonah. If your congregation needs training on the Christian worldview, try Genesis. If your congregation lacks unity, preach Philippians.
  • When a need becomes obvious, find a biblical text (or several) addressing the issue, and preach it in an expository fashion.
  • As you consider each text you preach, think through the overlap between your congregation’s needs and the text’s main ideas. With the Spirit’s help, you should find more relevant application than at first glance. You may find the 9Marks application grid or Tim Keller’s list of people to consider as you apply Scripture helpful tools to use.
  • Just focus on preaching the Word—God has a way of responding to needs. For example, at the height of the #MeToo headlines exposing sexual abuse, Colin Smith was preaching through 2 Samuel and reached 2 Samuel 13—the story of Amnon’s rape of his sister Tamar. In preaching it, he drew powerful attention to how Scripture speaks to our deepest pains and instilled confidence in his listeners about Scripture’s sufficiency.


    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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