The Net Pastor's Journal, Eng Ed, Issue 12 Summer 2014
Summer 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
In the last edition of the Net Pastors Journal, we looked at some biblical principles and some good practices for selecting preaching texts and topics. In this edition, I want to continue that discussion with....
Some Helpful Procedures For Text Selection
1. Ask Yourself Some Theological Questions 1
a) Am I covering the whole scope of biblical teaching? - Old and New Testaments, historical narratives, wisdom literature, gospels, epistles etc.?
b) Am I covering the whole range of biblical doctrines? – God, man, sin, salvation, heaven and hell etc.?
c) Am I dealing with the whole range of biblical applications? - to old and young, parents and children, men and women, church and community?
2. Ask Yourself Some Practical Questions
a) What has been the focus of recent preaching in the church?
b) What spiritual events and situations have recently happened in the church?
c) What is the spiritual condition of the people right now?
d) What aspect of truth is required to strengthen the people?
e) Is there a particular aspect of truth that the church really needs to hear?
3. Consider the value of preaching a series through biblical books.
Book series follow the text as the biblical writer wrote it under inspiration. You wouldn’t study any other book the way some preachers select their preaching texts – i.e. a paragraph from this book one week or a paragraph from another book the next week or reading the conclusion before the story.
If you preach sequentially through a book, your audience will understand your sermons within their context.
Book series allow you to preach topical messages while preaching through a specific section of the Bible. For example, you can take topics from your sermons which you don’t have time to deal with fully in one sermon and develop them for individual messages.
Book series develop greater biblical literacy in your congregation. You will teach them the introductory and interpretive issues of the book. You will teach them the biblical theology of the book. They will see where the book fits into redemptive history.
Book series provide a consistent context for the congregation. They understand the context of all the messages within the series. They can study along as you preach and, thus, gain greater understanding. They know where you are going to preach from next week. This gives them a sense of coherence to the messages. They understand how the messages fit together. They can understand key theological truths as they are presented within the biblical book.
Book series maximize the use of your study time. You only have to study the context, background etc. once, and you only have to explain it to your congregation once.
Book series can be approached differently. You can start with Genesis and work through the Bible. You can balance your preaching between O.T. books and N.T. books, between Gospels and Epistles, Law and History, Psalms and Wisdom, Prophecy and Apocalyptic. You can present books series in different ways:
- thematically, doctrinally, or theologically
- paragraph by paragraph or chapter by chapter
- key texts within a book
- key sections (e.g. the 3 sevens of John’s Gospel – 7 discourses; 7 miracles; 7 “I am” statements)
- an overview of whole books of the Bible in one message
- character studies or historical events
4. Consider the value of freedom and variety in text selection.
Even though you may be preaching a book series, that does not mean that that is all you preach. Add variety by running several series at a time or by mixing individual messages in with series messages. For example, you could preach a series for your communion services, another series at your Sunday morning services, and yet another series at your Sunday evening services.
Other possibilities for freedom and variety include: biographical studies; thematic studies; social issues; Christian growth and discipleship series; evangelistic services.
Freedom and variety have definite advantages. They keep people interested and prevent boredom. They keep balance in the ministry. They keep the preacher fresh. They keep you open to the Spirit.
5. Consider Your Personal Gifting.
Preaching needs to be exercised within the context of the total ministry needs of the church. Other preachers may need to be utilized where you may not be gifted for a particular line of preaching (e.g. evangelism). In this way, the church benefits from being exposed to a variety of preaching gifts.
6. Consider Time Demands.
Because of the time demands on a pastor, you should consider a balance between preaching new sermons with sermons that have been partially prepared on a previous occasion but never used, or sermons that you have preached before. In this way you balance your preparation time for new messages (which take the most time to prepare) with old messages that take less time to prepare.
Weeks that become crowded by unexpected events (e.g. funerals) may require that you make use of someone else to preach, or that you preach a sermon you have given previously.
7. Consider The Following Questions.
a) What do you sense God leading you preach on for this occasion?
b) What text and topic is needed for this particular occasion?
c) What aspect of God’s revelation is called for, needs to be preached, is right for this occasion?
8. Consider The Following Guidelines.
a) If you have decided to preach a series, the text selection may be predetermined - i.e. either the next literary unit in a book series, or the next doctrine in a theological or thematic series. In any event, determine how long the series is to be. It’s probably wise not to make a series more than 10 or 12 weeks (unless it is broken up with other messages for other occasions).
b) If you have decided to preach topical messages, approach your text selection process by trying to select one text that presents fully each theme or doctrine in question, so that you can exposit that text and then make references to other appropriate texts (rather than jumping all over the place without a primary text). A primary text provides a textual focus for study rather than just a thematic focus and you give your audience a text to hang on to. They may forget all the other references that you turned to, but they will more likely remember your primary text.
9. Consider The Following Boundaries.
a) The boundary of a literary unit of text (a paragraph or chapter or even several chapters if it is a long narrative). In the text selection process, make sure that you select a literary unit. Know what the divisions of the text are within the literature. Make sure you are dealing with a complete unit of text. Ask yourself:
- In what sense is this text really a literary unit, a unified paragraph?
- Does it have a specific or clear theme?
- Does the text have a complete theme or thought within its context?
b) The boundary of the literary genre. The literary genre determines how you interpret it and how you apply it.
c) The boundary of the original author’s intended meaning of the text. Do not arbitrarily select a text to make it say what you want it to say – that is an abuse of the text. Be fair and faithful to what the original writer intended to convey. The sermon may focus on a section of a literary unit or it may combine several units, but whatever you select you have to know what you have selected (in terms of where it fits into the overall literary unit) and what the original writer intended to convey in the full unit.
Text selection is the beginning place for preparing a specific sermon. After you have selected your text, then you can make decisions like how much text to read in the service; when it will be read; who will read it. Be prayerful. Be careful. Know the text. Know the people. Know the occasion. Be sensitive to the Spirit.
Part II: Leadership – Being A Godly Role Model
“Your Personal Surrender to the Holy Spirit,” Pt. 2
In the Spring 2014 edition of the NET Pastors Journal, we began our study of Ephesians 5:18-6:20 on the subject of “Your Personal Surrender to the Holy Spirit.” In that edition we looked at “The Meaning of the Spirit-Filled Life” (Eph. 5:18). In this edition, we continue that study by looking at...
The Necessity Of The Spirit-Filled Life
You may ask, why is the filling of the Spirit a necessity? First, it’s a necessity because the Word of God commands it. Notice that it is an imperative: Be filled! (Eph. 5:18). C. H. Spurgeon said, “This is not a promise to claim, but a command to be obeyed.” Since this is the command of God, to not obey it is sin.
Second, it’s a necessity because the work of God demands it. When Peter was preaching in Acts 4:8, he was filled with the Holy Spirit. Similarly also Stephen (Acts 7:55) and Paul (Acts 13:9). Effective preaching is the product of a Spirit-filled preacher and the Spirit-inspired Word acting together to produce a Spirit-transformed life. If we want to be effective in the work of God, we must be filled with the Spirit
The Reality Of The Spirit-Filled Life
How can this be a reality in my life? It can be a reality in my life through the initial acceptance of the Holy Spirit’s control. Notice that it’s the passive voice: be filled – i.e. let the Holy Spirit fill you; relinquish control; accept the control of the Holy Spirit, not for us to get more of him, but for him to get more of us.
It’s the present continuous tense: Go on being filled… This isn’t a one-time experience as with the indwelling and baptism of the Spirit, which occurs once at the time of conversion. This is something that should be a continuous reality in our lives all the time.
It can be a reality in my life through continued dependence on the Holy Spirit’s control. Continued dependence on the Holy Spirit’s control means not grieving the Spirit (Eph. 4:30). The reality of being filled with the Spirit can be realized by erasing anything in your life that grieves the Spirit of God. So, we must not allow sin in our lives – we must crucify it (Gal. 5:24). Put to death the “self” in your life – nail it to the cross, thus taking it out of the way (Col. 2:14). Be sensitive to sin just like the eyeball is sensitive to dirt. We cannot walk in the Spirit if we are not aware immediately when we grieve the Spirit. We must confess sin immediately – name it and nail it (1 Jn. 1:9).
Continued dependence on the Holy Spirit’s control means not quenching the Spirit (1 Thess. 5:19). The reality of being filled with the Spirit can be realized by not permitting anything in your life that quenches the Spirit. Don’t put out the fire of the Spirit by taking glory from God for yourself or by shutting down the activity of the Spirit and replacing it with the work of the flesh.
Lastly, continued dependence on the Holy Spirit’s control means being filled with the Spirit (5:18). Allowing the Holy Spirit to do his work in you - teaching you, illuminating you, comforting you, guiding you, convicting you of sin. The result of this will be the manifestation of the “fruit of the Spirit” (Gal. 5:22) in our lives.
Part III: Devotional Thoughts
“Manna in the Morning”
By: Stephen F. Olford
We continue with Dr. Stephen Olford’s exhortation on the necessity and the practice of maintaining a vibrant devotional life in his little booklet called, “Manna in the Morning.” Last time I published the first part of this booklet, dealing with the reasons and requirements for a quiet time with God. Now here is the second part.
“Be sure to come to your quiet time with a spirit of expectancy. I believe that such expectancy has at least three contributing factors.
There is first of all the physical factor. You cannot go to bed at all hours of the night and expect to get up fresh n the morning. Going to bed when you ought to takes discipline, and some of these social occasions that you enjoy may be sweet; but they are not as precious or vital as your quiet time.
There’s a moral factor, too, in this matter of expectancy. “If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me” (Ps. 66:18). When there’s something in your life which is out of line with the will of God, don’t expect to have fellowship with Him. If you have something against this person or that, leave your gift at the altar and go and be reconciled first.
Then there’s a spiritual factor involved in this matter of expectancy. You’ll find it stated in John 7:17: “If anyone wants to do...he shall know concerning the doctrine” – that is, shall know the teaching. Revelation and obedience are like parallel lines. As you obey, so He reveals. When you cease to obey, He ceases to reveal.
My experience is this: when I have tried to pray and read the Word and found it impossible to “get through,” so to speak, so that the Bible has become a dead book to me; on examination, I’ve discovered that there was an issue of obedience on which I had not followed through. And before proceeding with my quite time, I have had to get right with God.
We have considered the reasons for the quite time. We have considered the requirements of the quite time. Now let me share with you several simple rules that I feel help me in my daily time with God.
The first rule is waiting. Samuel Chadwick says, “Hurry is the death of prayer.” You can get more from the Lord in five minutes spent unhurriedly than in thirty-five minutes with your eye on the clock.
Hush yourself in His presence. Wait until the glory of His presence seems to come upon you. Seek the power of concentration. Seek the cleansing. Seek the illumination of the Spirit. Above all, seek to consciously come into His presence.
From waiting go on to reading. Read from the Word of God. I believe with George Muller that you can never pray aright until He has spoken to you from His Word. When I say reading, I mean, of course, the passage set aside for that particular day. God save you from the “lucky dip” method. Such a practice is an insult to the sacredness of the Word of God.
Read the portion at least three times. Read it carefully to discover what is there generally. The next time, peruse it for what is there specially. Then study it for what is there personally.
Move from reading to thinking or meditation. Look at the passage in the presence of God.
Say: “Lord, as I look at this passage this morning, is there any command to obey? Is there any promise to claim? Is the are new thought to follow and pursue? Is there any sin to avoid? Is there an new thought about God, about the Lord Jesus, about the Holy Spirit, about the devil?” Seek to discover what God is saying to you from the passage you have read.
From meditation go on to what I call recording. Take that notebook that you keep just for your quite time and jot down briefly what the Lord has said to you. Always make it personal. Always make it devotional. Put it down in such a devotional, personal way that it will be a message to your soul.
Now pray. Praying has three aspects in your quite time. First there is adjustment. Take the message the Lord has given you – the message recorded briefly in your quite time notebook – and pray it back to Him. That’s one great secret of keeping your prayers alive and fresh. Pray it back until God’s will becomes your will in relation to the particular message He has spoken to you.
Then adore him. Pour out your soul to Him. Thank Him. Think of His majesty and glory and mercy, and revel in the sunshine of His presence. Talk as a child to his father, as a servant to his master. And listen - as a lover to his beloved.
Only then do you come to asking. Present your requests not only for yourself but for others. Intercede for others.
After prayer, there are two more very important steps which I believe are essential to the quite time. One is sharing. Share God’s message to you with somebody – that day.
What you share you enjoy. What you share you keep. The manna God’s people gathered every day had to be shared and eaten. When hoarded it bred worms and stank. You can always tell the person who merely hoards what he gets in his quite time.
Most important of all, obey. Get up from your knees and say, “Lord Jesus, as I face this day, I ask You by the power of Your indwelling Spirit to give me the grace to translate into action what You have told me to do this morning.” Then go out and obey.
God’s best for you is closely linked with this daily meeting with Him. The barometer of your Christian life can be observed by the attention you give to your quite time every day.
You cannot tell me that you have surrendered to God, that Jesus Christ is Lord of your life, or that you know the fullness of the Holy Spirit, unless you have your Manna in the Morning. May your prayer be:
“Help me, O Lord, Thy Word to read,
Upon the living bread to feed,
Seeking Thy Spirit’s quickening lead,
That I may please Thee in all things.”
Part IV: Sermon Outlines
John 13:12-17, Jesus’ Dialogue with the Disciples
Title: True Servanthood (continued – see Spring 2014 edition for points 1 and 2)
Point #3: We must imitate the nature of true servanthood (12-17)
1. By remembering that the Lord is our Master (12-13, 16)
2. By doing for each other what Jesus has done for us (14-15)
3. By practising what we preach (17)
1 Adapted from Sinclair B. Ferguson, “Exegesis,” in Preacher and Preaching: Reviving the Art in the Twentieth century, 197, cited in Stephen Olford, Anointed Expository Preaching, 91-92.
Related Topics: Pastors