Archives For donnajump

Expository Preaching

donnajump – July 2, 2013 Leave a comment

Since D. A. Carson’s messages on “The Primacy of Expository Preaching” were one of the promptings that led to the birth of the EFCA Forum on Expository Preaching, I thought it would be helpful to hear again his definition of expository preaching.

Carson was asked (“Profiles of Expository Preaching” in SBJT 3/2 (Summer 1999), 86-96, “What do you consider to be the essential elements of an expository sermon?” He defines preaching, and then states that expository preaching is never less than that, but more. Here is his abbreviated response.

Preaching

Preaching is verbal communication of which at least the following things are true:

  1. Its substance is the unfolding and application of what God has said in Scripture.
  2. In the well-known phrase of Phillips Brooks, it is truth mediated through human personality.
  3. It has an essential heraldic element; i.e., it is proclamation.
  4. As in the past God disclosed himself so often in words, so, ideally, the sermon should in some measure be a “re-revelation”—not, of course, revelation in exactly the same sense that the word was revelatory when it first came, but in the sense that God mediates himself to us by that same word when, once again, it is announced. In other words, ideally the sermon is more than a communication of propositions and moral exhortation; it is the communication of God.
  5. Its long-term goal is to glorify God, primarily by announcing God’s salvation and thus by the calling out of God’s people, and their edification so as to build up the church into the maturity and godliness that are its heritage and destiny.
  6. Its immediate purpose is to instruct, inform, persuade, correct, appeal, condemn, invite response, encourage, edify, rebuke—in short, to convey God’s truth and God’s will in such a way as to elicit the appropriate response from God’s image-bearers.

Expository Preaching

I shall assume that expository preaching is never less than what I have described. But precisely how is it more?

  1. Above all, it is preaching whose subject matter emerges directly and demonstrably from a passage or from some passages of Scripture. In other words, its content and structure demonstrably reflect what Scripture says, and honestly seek to elucidate it.
  2. Yet despite this emphasis on the content of Scripture, an expository sermon is no mere running commentary—in the style, perhaps, of what used to be called (and still is, in a few circles in Britain) a “Bible reading.” The expository sermon distinguishes itself from a Bible reading in three particulars:Ideally, expository preaching is preaching which, however dependent it may be for its content on the text or texts at hand, draws attention to inner-canonical connections that inexorably move toward Jesus Christ and the gospel.
    • It has structure.
    • It coheres—i.e., it carries a unified burden, a sense of direction, a coherent message. It does not simply pick up the text from the previous meeting and wander through the next chunk of text.
    • It diligently aims to apply the Word of God.
  3. Ideally, expository preaching is preaching which, however dependent it may be for its content on the text or texts at hand, draws attention to inner-canonical connections that inexorably move toward Jesus Christ and the gospel.

Greg Forster serves as the program director at the Kern Family Foundation, where he directs the Oikonomia Network, a national learning community of evangelical seminaries that equips pastors with a theological understanding of faith, work, and economics, and is also the editor of Hang Together a group blog on religion, politics and national identity. He picks up and comments on the phenomenon noted by Peter Leithart in a couple of articles.

In the first, “The New Fight for Marriage,” he frames the contemporary struggle for Christians in articulating their view of marriage:

Most marriage advocates today build their main arguments around one of two major themes. The most common approach involves philosophical arguments growing out of the natural law tradition. Those who don’t follow this approach typically fall back on explicit appeals to Christianity, sometimes softened by references to “Judeo-Christian tradition.” And of course some use both themes.

I believe in both Christianity and also natural law philosophy. Both of them will always be critical components of the fight for marriage. In particular, we who call ourselves Christians must do all in obedience to Christ and for the love of his kingdom.

But those are not the places to start when making the case for marriage, and they should not form the center of our message. Natural law arguments, while true and important, can’t remedy the deepest and most powerful cultural changes undermining marriage. Those changes are non-rational and won’t respond to rational arguments. And “because it’s Christian” is not the right reason for the civil law to institutionalize marriage. In fact, it won’t even help convince people to value and reinforce marriage outside the realm of the law, since American culture doesn’t feel responsible to reproduce Christianity. Christians can be called to fight for marriage as their way of serving Christ without holding that Christianity is the reason law and culture should value marriage.

Forster notes that the “Post-Christendom Challenge” is that neither the argument from natural law nor the argument from Scripture are compelling any longer to most people who have imbibed the contemporary cultural mores. It is important to emphasize that Forster agrees with both arguments. He just does not believe they are convincing to most people. To many people today, using those arguments is heard as a foreign language, “alien terminology,” or plain old “gibberish.”  

Does this then lead to pessimism? Certainly not!

The turn to pessimism is wrong. Neither God’s sovereignty nor the failure of our current strategies is an excuse for fatalism. God is still at work in the world, and despair is a sin—it denies God’s providence.

The institutions of human civilization are God’s instruments. Our job is to play those instruments. If we’re not making the right music, we shouldn’t blame the instruments. We should figure out a better way to play. 

It is being faithful, trusting in God and resting in His sovereignty. Additionally, we ponder and pray about a more excellent way of defending and living the truth of God’s Word about man and woman, husband and wife.

Forster followed this with his attempt to articulate a better way:

We Need New Methods in the Fight for Marriage

As you read Forster’s recommended “better way,” here are a couple of questions:

  1. What do you think of his better way? Do you agree or disagree?
  2. Do you believe there is a better way? If so, what is it?

In this and a few forthcoming posts I will be addressing the moral issue of the day: homosexuality and same-sex marriage. I do so not because this is the only moral issue of the day, but because it is one of the critical moral issues of the day. Certainly other moral issues of the day must also be addressed. But this issue, despite the cultural push towards its acceptance, does not get a pass. It must be addressed. And yes, other moral issues must also be addressed.

Kevin DeYoung helpfully explains “Why the Arguments for Gay Marriage Are Persuasive.” DeYoung does not believe “the arguments for gay marriage are biblically faithfully, logically persuasive, or good for human flourishing in the long run, but they are almost impossible to overcome with most Americans, especially in younger generations.” He then lists the “ways gay marriage fits in with our cultural mood and assumptions.” He lists five:

  1. It’s about progress.
  2. It’s about love.
  3. It’s about rights.
  4. It’s about equality.
  5. It’s about tolerance.

Who has not felt this? DeYoung then challenges parents and churches in the following ways:

For starters, churches and pastors and Christian parents can prepare their families both intellectually and psychologically for the opposition that is sure to come. Conservative Christians have more kids; make sure they know what the Bible says and know how to think.

We should also remember that the church’s mission in life is not to defeat gay marriage. While too many Christians have already retreated, there may be others who reckon that everything hangs in the balance on this one issue. Let’s keep preaching, persevering, pursuing joy, and praying for conversions. Christians should care about the issue, and then carry on.

It is a matter of knowing, living and teaching the truth of the Word of God. More pointedly, it is knowing what God says generally about morality and ethics and how the gospel is foundational to it all, and then, specifically what God’s Words also says specifically about this moral issue. Regardless of how the culture now views this moral issue, God’s Word is our touchstone!

If we are to make any inroads in our discussion and interaction with those who have imbibed (or determined?) the cultural mores, DeYoung encourages several moves, which I just list, while including the complete thought in his final “both-and” approach:

  1. We need to go back several steps in each argument.
  2. We need more courage.
  3. We need more creativity.
  4. We need a both-and approach. I’m convinced we need to do both. Let’s keep preaching, teaching, and laboring for faithful churches. Let’s be fruitful and multiply. Let’s train our kids in the way they should go. Let’s keep sharing the good news and praying for revival. And let’s also find ways to make the truth plausible in a lost world. Not only the truth about marriage, but the truth about life and sex and creation and beauty and family and freedom and a hundred other things humans tend to forget on this side of Adam. The cultural assumptions in our day are not on our side, but if the last 50 years has shown us anything, it’s that those assumptions can change more quickly than we think.

Your turn to ponder, interact and reply.

  1. Do you agree with his reasons why same-sex marriage fits our present-day cultural mood and assumptions?
  2. What might you add to this list?
  3. What do you do to prepare and equip yourself, your families and the church family to understand God’s Word and its response to these issues?

EFCA One Conference

donnajump – February 18, 2013 Leave a comment

From July 1-3 EFCA leaders will gather in sunny New Orleans, Louisiana, for EFCA One, the largest national gathering of EFCA leaders.

If you have not seen the EFCA One schedule yet, it is well-planned. There are seven training tracks led by Ed Stetzer, Aubrey Malphurs, Noel Castellanos, Scott Manetsch, Gordon and Gail MacDonald (plus others). The plenary speakers are excellent Bible expositors:  Kevin DeYoung and Gordon MacDonald. And, I know the two hot topics panels will energize pastor and leader discussions during the conference and back at home.

In addition to all of the above, I will be providing oversight to the Preaching Forum led by Greg Scharf, professor of pastoral theology at TEDS, and Dennis Magary, professor of Old Testament at TEDS, as they teach and preach on the theme ““Preaching Laments and Imprecatory Psalms.” I will also be giving leadership to the Training Track led by Scott Manetsch, professor of church history at TEDS, as he instructs us on the topic “Reformation of the Pastoral Office: Practices of the Reformers, Lessons for Today.”

What God has done in and through His people in the EFCA in the city of New Orleans is amazing. Beyond the hurricanes, local EFCA churches, ministries, districts and national ministries like TouchGlobal and Challenge conference have truly come together to reflect the oneness Jesus prayed for in John 17.

I would encourage you to attend EFCA One. You can find the details here: www.efcaone.org.

I look forward to seeing you in July!

Raising Children Without God

donnajump – January 25, 2013 4 Comments

Here is a story from a mother with two teenage boys giving a rationale for “Why I Raise My Children Without God.”

This mother lists seven reasons:

  1. God is a bad parent and role model.
  2. God is not logical.
  3. God is not fair.
  4. God does not protect the innocent.
  5. God is not present.
  6. God does not teach children to be good.
  7. God teaches narcissism.

And then she concludes in this way:

I understand why people need God. I understand why people need heaven. It is terrifying to think that we are all alone in this universe, that one day we—along with the children we love so much—will cease to exist. The idea of God and an afterlife gives many of us structure, community and hope.

I do not want religion to go away. I only want religion to be kept at home or in church where it belongs. It’s a personal effect, like a toothbrush or a pair of shoes. It’s not something to be used or worn by strangers. I want my children to be free not to believe and to know that our schools and our government will make decisions based on what is logical, just and fair—not on what they believe an imaginary God wants.

Here are a few observations:

  • For one who does not  believe in God, she certainly claims to know quite a bit about God.
  • This may well be her perception or perspective of God, but it certainly is not reflective of the God who has revealed Himself in the Bible.
  • For her, theology is really anthropology – her understanding of God is based on her understanding of humanity. (This was Ludwig Andreas Feuerbach’s [1804-1872] argument.)
  • This is the chief reason behind the initial rebellion – a desire of the chief angel to be God; it is also one of the key implications of sin – a desire to create God in our own image, which is another of the reversals of God’s divine design for His image bearers.
  • Christianity, or religion, cannot be privatized without it becoming other than what it is. It is comprehensive in that everything is included, nothing is excluded.
  • Though she desires that her children be free from religion, she does not realize that she is teaching, training and modeling for them another kind of religion. Though her religion is not Christianity, it is a religion.
  • In sum, I feel sorrow and pity for this mother and even more so for her children.

Your turn.

  1. What do you think?
  2. What additional observations would you make?