The Net Pastor's Journal, Eng Ed, Issue 11 Spring 2014
Spring 2014 Edition
Produced by ...
Dr. Roger Pascoe, President,
The Institute for Biblical Preaching
Cambridge, Ontario, Canada
“Strengthening the Church in Biblical Preaching and Leadership”
Part I: Preparing For Preaching
“Selecting Texts and Topics”
By: Dr. Roger Pascoe
The Institute for Biblical Preaching,
Cambridge, Ontario, Canada
Let’s continue our discussion on the subject of “Preparing for Preaching: Selecting Texts and Topics.” The first aspect of “selecting texts and topics” we discussed last time (Winter 2014 Edition) was how a “Preaching Plan” helps you in preparation for preaching.
In this edition of the NET Pastors Journal, I would like to discuss some biblical principles and some good practices for selecting preaching texts and topics.
Some Biblical Principles For Selecting Texts And Topics
In Paul’s farewell address to the elders at Ephesus (Acts 20: 28-30), he outlines at least three principles that govern a preaching ministry in order to faithfully discharge our responsibility to preach the whole counsel of God (Acts 20:27).
1. A Principle For The Scope Of Your Preaching Ministry
Paul sets out the biblical principle concerning the nature and content of what we must preach. At Ephesus, Paul preached evangelistic messages (21, 24-25) and edifying messages (20). In sum, Paul’s preaching covered what he calls the whole counsel of God (27), which, we could say, is the general principle for a preaching ministry
Paul does not describe for us the content of, or exactly what he means by, “the whole counsel of God,” but evidently it embraces the full scope and comprehensive teaching of the Scriptures - the entirety of God’s revealed truth.
The whole counsel of God undoubtedly includes (a) “repentance toward God and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ” (21); (b) “the gospel of the grace of God” (24); and (c) “the kingdom of God” (25). In other words, it probably includes both evangelistic messages and messages for edification, exhortation, and comfort (1 Cor. 14:3).
Preaching the whole counsel of God amounts to the full discharge of our obligation as preachers. Paul’s point seems to be that, whatever the content or nature of his preaching was, he had fully and faithfully carried out his responsibilities so that he was “innocent of the blood of all men” (26). He had neither been negligent in his preaching nor had he shunned to declare certain truths to them, whether they were pleasant or unpleasant, received by them or rejected by them. He had “left behind (at Ephesus) a comprehensive message and instruction that would enable further growth of the church in the future (20).”1
Therefore, to preach the whole counsel of God, we must...
(A) Preach Faithfully.
This means making sure your preaching has width (scope). Be fully committed to declaring the full scope of God’s Word and God’s message.
(B) Preach Comprehensively.
This means making sure your preaching has breadth. Embrace the full range of biblical truth (the “whole” counsel) in order to (i) edify (teach) the church; (ii) exhort the church; (iii) admonish the church; (iv) strengthen the church; (v) grow the church.
When you “preach the whole counsel of God,” you will preach comprehensively in that you will instruct believers in the truth of God and thus build them up in “their most holy faith”; and you will invite unbelievers to repentance. The Word of God is applicable and effective for all people in all situations (cf. 2 Tim. 3:14-17).
(C) Preach Thoroughly.
This means making sure your preaching has depth. Be methodical and systematic in your preaching. Research its meaning carefully. Make sure you know what you’re talking about. Be precise. Pay attention to detail.
(D) Preach Proportionately.
This means making sure your preaching has balance so that (i) you do not favour certain topics or texts more than others; (ii) you exposit the full scope of Scriptural truth; (iii) you declare what is needed, not necessarily what is wanted. This means seeking out the right Scripture for the occasion through the leading of the Holy Spirit.
This, then, is a biblical principle for the scope of your preaching. Then there is ...
2. A Principle For Practicing What You Preaching
Your preaching and teaching will be powerless if it is not supported by your personal example. So ...
- Practice personal humility. Paul says that he “served the Lord will all humility” (19)
- Practice pastoral responsibility. Paul says: “I did not cease to warn everyone night and day with tears” (31). We have pastoral responsibilities that include warning people.
- Practice personal integrity. “These hands have provided for my necessities and for those who were with me” (34-35). In other words, Paul was not in ministry for the money or personal benefits, but he provided for his own needs and for those who ministered with him.
The third principle for selecting texts and topics is...
3. A Principle For Developing Leaders Through Your Preaching
What you preach and teach has a direct impact on your church’s leadership – their spirituality, style, training, mentoring etc. Preparing church leaders, according to the apostle Paul, includes: appointing them (28), instructing them (28-31), exhorting them (31), and entrusting them with the responsibility of shepherding the church (32).
When you preach the whole counsel of God and practice it in your own life, you will go a long way to preparing and training other leaders by instructing them in the whole counsel of God, and by demonstrating how to put the Scriptures into practice in their own lives.
If you preach the whole counsel of God, your preaching will have a profound impact on your church, mission organization, or other Christian ministry. You will leave behind a lasting legacy. You will strengthen your organization in the truth. You will train up leaders to give godly oversight. As a result, you will not be ashamed of, nor feel regret about, your preaching.
In addition to these Biblical Principles for Selecting Texts and Topics, let me suggest some...
Good Practices For Selecting Texts And Topics
1. Select Your Texts And Topics Prayerfully
Prayer is the only solid basis for selecting preaching texts and topics. Prayer safeguards the dangers and concerns of preaching plans – viz. that they will be of the flesh and not of the Spirit. Ministry planning that is done prayerfully recognizes and bows to the sovereignty of God and the leading of the Holy Spirit.
Be sure to establish your preaching plans under the authority of the Spirit. Whether you preach message by message, series by series, or whether you plan your preaching on a quarterly, annual, topical, or thematic basis, the sermons must be planned prayerfully under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
Be sure to take time for this. Make it a priority. Be intentional in praying about what you should preach over the next few weeks, or the next year, or the next season (e.g. Christmas or Easter). Wait on God - be open to His direction for a series or a single message.
2. Select Your Texts And Topics According To Established Priorities
The process of planning begins with establishing priorities in your church. Church leaders need to establish a plan for the congregation as a whole and for small groups within the congregation based on certain priorities and goals that they prayerfully decide need to be addressed. Too many churches have no plan for their preaching and teaching ministries. Then they wonder why their people are spiritually immature, or biblically illiterate.
The following priorities start with the centre of ever widening concentric circles:
(A) Establish Biblical Priorities
Biblical Priority #1: Preach Christ. This is the central theme of the Bible. Paul said, “We preach Christ crucified” (1 Cor. 1:23; 2:2; cf. Col. 1:28) – i.e. “the gospel” (Rom. 1:16). This is the focus of the entire Bible and, therefore, every sermon must somehow relate to this theme.
Biblical Priority #2: Preach the faith. This refers to the central doctrines of the Bible - i.e. the truth of the gospel; “the faith which was once-for-all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3); the defined set of truths that constitute the essence of Christian belief. You can make a list of these central doctrines from biblical or systematic theology books, or from your own study of Scripture.
Biblical Priority #3: Preach the Scriptures. Text selection must give attention to the whole counsel of God, the entire scope of Scripture, since God has given it all us to preach. You may not be able to preach the whole Bible during your lifetime, but the point is that we preach the Old Testament and New Testament, character studies, doctrines, historical narratives, prophetic Scriptures, wisdom literature, epistles, gospels etc., taking into account the diversity and depth of Scripture.
(B) Establish Practical Priorities
Text selection is affected by the realities that occur from day-to-day. In this regard, there is no set pattern to follow other than the fact that you apply the biblical priorities for preaching to the practical priorities of ministry – i.e. relate the reality of what is needed in your congregation or organization to the obligations of preaching.
This will depend on (a) your ministry (i.e. youth, seniors, evangelism etc); (b) your gifting (prophetic preaching, evangelistic preaching etc); and (c) the type of opportunities you have to preach (Sunday morning services, funerals, weddings etc.).
This brings together three components: (i) the gift God has given you; (ii) the ministry God has called you to; and (iii) the message God has given you.
Part II: Leadership: Being A Godly Role Model
“Your Personal Surrender to the Holy Spirit”
Leaders must be Spirit-filled and Spirit-led people. We often talk about the filling of the Spirit, but what does it really mean to be filled with the Spirit? And what does that look like in reality? How do you obtain this filling and what difference does it make in your life? How does a Spirit-filled person act, relate to others, speak, think etc.?
For our answer, we’re going to Ephesians 5, but before doing so I want you to notice the importance of the subject of the Holy Spirit for Paul in Ephesians. He talks about the sealing of the Spirit (1:13); the indwelling of the Spirit (2:22); the strengthening of the Spirit (3:16); the uniting of the Spirit (4:3); the grieving of the Spirit (4:30); and the filling of the Spirit (5:18).
Further, Paul emphasizes in Ephesians this matter of “filling” or “fullness” - the fullness of the times (1:10); the fullness of the church, Christ’s body (1:23); the fullness of God (3:19); the fullness of Christ (4:13); the fullness / filling of the Spirit (5:18).
The word in Greek is πληρωμα, which can be active or passive. Actively it refers to that which fills up, to fill to the full. Passively, it refers to that which has been filled or completed, to be filled. Fullness, as Paul uses this word, speaks of that which is full of something; or that which is brought to fullness or completion; the sum total, the full measure, the abundance (cf. Rom. 11:25; 15:29; Col. 2:9; Eph. 3:19; Jn. 1:16), or the state of being full (cf. Gal. 4:4; Acts 13:52).
Eph. 5:18 introduces the subject of the filling of the Spirit in the believer, which is then developed as to what that looks like in various aspects of life (in the church, in the home, in the workplace, and in the world) right through to 6:20.
This is not intended to be an exhaustive study of this passage, but to give you a flavour of what the filling of the Spirit is in precept and what it looks like in practice. First...
The Meaning Of The Spirit-Filled Life
What does it mean to be filled with the Spirit? It says: Do not be drunk with wine in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit (5:18). The context is that the unwise, foolish, reckless person (5:15, 17) is controlled by his passions (the flesh), which is sometimes manifested in drunkenness. On the other hand, the careful, circumspect, wise person (5:15), who understands what the will of the Lord is (5:17), is controlled by the Spirit, which is manifested in (a) Spirit-filled unity in the church (5:19-21), (b) Spirit-filled harmony in the home (5:22-6:4), (c) Spirit-filled co-operation in the workplace (6:5-9), and (d) Spirit-filled victory in the world (6:10-20).
So, what’s the connection between being “drunk” and being “filled with the Spirit?” It’s a contrast between alcoholic and spiritual intoxication, both of which are the result of coming under the control of an external power. It has to do with who is in control of our lives. The drunk person lives recklessly, controlled by the power of alcohol. The spiritual person lives carefully, controlled by the power of the Spirit.
Everything about a drunk people indicates that they are under the influence of a power other than their own - that they are out of control, in the way they walk, talk, look, and think. Everything about Spirit-filled people, on the other hand, indicates that they are under an authority more powerful than themselves - that they are in control of the way they walk, talk, look, and think.
Drunk people gain temporary happiness, temporary forgetfulness, temporary relief from reality through drunkenness, but it soon fades until it starts all over again. Spirit-filled people, on the other hand, don’t have to search for happiness because they have it. They don’t need a fake substitute; they have the real thing. They aren’t drunk; they are filled. They aren’t under the influence of wine, but under the influence of the Spirit. The Spirit of God fills them with a joy and peace that passes all understanding – their life overflows with it.
Grammatically, the phrase “be filled with the Spirit” tells us that:
- It is plural – addressed to the whole church, includes us all
- It is imperative – a command, an obligation, not optional
- It is passive – the Holy Spirit fills us, not we ourselves.
This is a peculiar grammatical construction. How can we obey a passive command? It is both passive and a command in the sense of “Let yourself be filled …”. We must allow the Holy Spirit to do it and in no way hinder Him from filling us. It is imperative in that we must and can respond to it - it is not something that occurs without our effort or action. But it is passive in that it is something the Holy Spirit fulfills.
- It is present continuous – “Keep on being filled”. We have been “sealed with the Spirit” once-for-all, but we must be filled continuously by living according to the principles, practices, and programs of the new man.
So, what does it mean to be filled with the Spirit? What does this look like in reality?
1. What The Filling Of The Spirit Is Not
The filling of the Spirit is not some sort of dramatic phenomenon – e.g. falling to the ground, twitching, or making strange noises. It is not a second blessing subsequent to conversion. It is not a temporary experience of ecstatic speech or visions. It is not a progressive process by which we gradually receive more of Him until we are full of Him, since all believers possess him in fullness (not in part, as though He could be divided up – see Jn. 3:34).
It is not the same as being “indwelled by the Spirit”, since all believers are indwelled at the moment of salvation (Rom. 8:9). It is not the same as “the baptism of the Spirit”, since all believers are baptized with the Spirit at the moment of conversion, when we become part of the body of Christ. It is not the same as being “sealed w/ the Spirit”, since this also an accomplished fact (1:13). Nowhere are believers commanded to be indwelled, baptized, or sealed with the Spirit. The only command is to “be filled with the Spirit.”
2. What The Filling Of The Spirit Is
To be filled with the Spirit means to manifest what we truly are. We are sealed with the Spirit when we trust Christ and we manifest that sealing by letting him “fill” us, so that it is evident who controls our lives. The disciples were “filled” with the Spirit at Pentecost so much so that everyone knew it.
When He fills us, we live in the fullness of His presence and His power. He enables us to live according to the new man, to be God-centred, to be light (8-14), to live carefully and use our time wisely (15-16), to understand what the will of the Lord is (17), worshiping God (19-20) and living together in unity (21).
To be filled with the Spirit is to be controlled by the Holy Spirit, to live in the power of the Spirit, to be sensitive to the operation of the Spirit, to surrender moment by moment to the Spirit. Just as some people are filled with sorrow, fear, or anger, and that emotion takes control of their life, so we are to be so consumed by the Holy Spirit that He has control of our lives. When He fills us, we are not under our own control but His - dominated by Him, overpowered and mastered by Him.
To be filled with something means that there is no room for anything else. That’s the very nature of something that is filled – you can’t get a drop more in; if you could, it would not be filled. That’s the nature of being filled with the Spirit – no room for self, the world, or the flesh.
And whatever you are filled with characterizes your entire life. Someone has pointed out that a Christian who is filled with the Spirit is like a glove. A glove without a hand in it is powerless and useless, since a glove works only as the hand controls and uses it. A glove’s only work is the hand’s work – it can’t complete any tasks without the hand, nor can the glove take any credit or boast about what it does. In the same way a Christian who is not filled with the Spirit can accomplish no more than a glove that is not filled with a hand. Anything done without the Spirit is of no value.2
Here are twelve aspects or evidences of being filled with the Spirit:
1. Confessing your sins.
2. Renewing your mind through the transforming power of the Spirit.
3. Dying to self; mortifying the flesh (Gal. 5:16, 24).
4. Presenting your body as living a sacrifice (Rom. 12:1).
5. Being God-centred, not self-centred.
6. Being light, not darkness.
7. Being careful how you live, not reckless.
8. Living according to the new man, not the old.
9. Living in the consciousness of the personal presence of the Lord; letting his life dominate yours.
10. Filling yourself with the Word of God so that His thoughts are your thoughts, His standards your standards, His holiness your holiness.
11. Keeping in step with the Spirit (Gal. 5:25); living your life under his control - every thought and every decision.
12. Manifesting the fruit of the Spirit which He produces in you - love, joy, peace etc (Gal. 5:22-23).
Spirit-filled living is most fully realized in community, when we are together and dwelling together in unity.
That, then, is the meaning of the Spirit-filled life. In subsequent editions of the NET Pastors Journal we will continue to look at the necessity of the Spirit-filled life, the reality of the Spirit-filled life, and the activity of the Spirit-filled life.
Part III: Devotional Thoughts
“Manna in the Morning”
By: Dr. Stephen F. Olford
If you and I were to discuss the matter personally, probably you would say that it is a most commendable practice for every Christian to have a daily meeting with God through the Word and prayer.
And you would be right, of course. Except that this daily communion, this “quiet time” with God, is more than a commendable practice; it is absolutely vital to a life of sustained spirituality, effectiveness and love. It is the barometer of the Christian life.
Let me support that position. Jesus said, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God” (Matt. 4:4).
Read that without the negative comparison and you will see what man is to live on. “Man shall live by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.” Literally it is: “Man shall live by every spoken word that comes from God.”
That is not the Bible memorized, nor the Bible on your bookshelf or in your study. It is the word that God speaks to your soul in the quiet place of prayer and meditation. That is how man lives. You can be doctrinally correct, and yet be spiritually dead. The thing that maintains life is the living word of God which is spoken to your soul every day.
The quiet time is vital to spiritual health, whether you are newly converted or a mature Christian (see 1 Peter 2:2 and Heb. 5:14).
The quiet time is vital for spiritual cleansing. You are initially cleansed by the precious blood, that is true, and again and again you have to come back to the cross for restoration. But the day-to-day cleansing is from the laver of the Word (see Ps. 119:9; John 15:3; 17:17).
The quiet time is also vital to spiritual counsel.You can never know the true principles that determine a life of holiness and righteousness without letting the Word of God “dwell in you richly” (see Col. 3:16 and Ps. 73:24).
The quiet time is likewise vital in equipping you for spiritual conflict. The supreme example is our Lord Jesus Christ when He encountered Satan in the wilderness. I feel sure that for forty days and nights He had fed His soul on the book of Deuteronomy, and could therefore make His sword thrusts from personal experience of the written Word.
Paul later exhorted the believers at Ephesus to “take…(unto them) the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (Eph. 6:17).
Important as all these things are, however, the greatest incentive to your having a quiet time each day is not your need, great as that is, but the fact that God wants to meet with you. Therefore, it is not merely a duty. It is a privilege and an honour.
God in Christ, your Lord, has a trysting place with you. His heart is saddened when you fail to keep the appointment. He longs, as He did with the woman of Samaria, to drink afresh of your love, devotions and worship (see John 4:23, 24).
I would warn you that establishing your quiet time is never easy. As a minister, I will confess frankly that it is harder for me to have my quiet time now than it was when I was first converted. The reason for this is that what counts costs.
You will find that the most vicious attacks of the adversary will be directed toward robbing you of that daily time with your Lord. And you will have to guard it fearlessly if you are to keep it.
Whatever your sphere of service – as a pastor, Sunday school teacher, missionary, or Christian in the office or home – I give you little hope of living victoriously unless you are successful in maintaining your quiet time.
But now I want to turn to some practical and specific requirements which I feel are necessary for the quiet time.
First, you will need a definite place and time – that almost goes without saying. And don’t ever say you can’t have a quiet time because you haven’t a place or a prearranged time. Consider again the example of the Lord Jesus (see Mark 1:35).
Next, have a good sized Bible, one with print you do not have to strain to read. Don’t get into the habit of waking up in the morning, rolling over in your bed, and with sleepy eyes trying to read a Bible with small print. Don’t stay in bed at all! Get up and wash your face, or have a shower, so that you are fully alert.
I love the story of a young student at Cambridge who wanted to be a burning light for God, but couldn’t get up in the morning. So he rigged up a clock in such a way that when the alarm rang it released from the ceiling a sponge filled with water which fell on his face!
Another essential is a prayer list or prayer cycle, something to keep reminding you to stress a different request for each day. My wife and I use one that works this way:
Monday: “M” is for missionaries.
Tuesday: “T” is for thanksgiving – that’s when we give the Lord special thanks for wonderful answers to prayer.
Wednesday: “W” is for workers.
Thursday: “T” is for tasks – our job at the church, the ministry that God has given us. Friday: “F” is for our families.
Saturday: “S” is for the saints – and especially young Christians, that Christ may be formed in them.
Sunday: “S” is for sinners and, in particular, the gospel services for which we are responsible.
Then you should have what I call a quiet time notebook. I believe that the thoughts of every quiet time should be written down, even if only in brief sentence form. God gives you there something you’ll never find in a commentary or anywhere else – and the thoughts are worth keeping. (To be continued next time).
Part IV. Sermon Outlines
John 13:1-11, Jesus Dialogue With The Disciples
Title: True Servanthood
Point #1: We must understand the basis of true servanthood
1. The basis of true servanthood is the confidence that comes from knowledge (1-3)
a) The knowledge of where we are going and how we are getting there (1a-b)
b) The knowledge of who we are and how we fit in (3a)
c) The knowledge of where we have come from and why we are here (3b)
2. The basis of true servanthood is the motivation that comes from love
a) The motivation that comes from love is shown in the object of that love (1c)
b) The motivation that comes from love is shown in the extent of that love (1d-2)
Point #2: We must demonstrate the character of true servanthood (4-11)
1. In the way that we present ourselves to others (4b-c)
2. In the things we do for others (5)
3. In the manner we relate to others (6-11)
a) ... by being courteous to those who oppose us (6-8)
b) ... by being patient with those who don’t understand us (9-11)
1 Olford, Stephen F. with David L. Olford, Anointed Expository Preaching (Nashville: Broadman & Holman, 1998), 82.
2 MacArthur, John, Ephesians (Chicago: Moody Bible Institute, 1986), 250.
Related Topics: Pastors