Preaching with Power


Jack Miller in The Heart of a Servant Leader on preaching with power:

It seems to me that the fundamental issue in preaching with power and authority finally gets down to the power of the Spirit indwelling the preacher in a response to a total life of prayer, a holy walk in obedience, the keeping of a good conscience by faith, and a careful cultivation of moment-by-moment fellowship with Jesus.

...Basically I am convinced that men who do not make praying their first priority in life and ministry should not preach or pastor.

Miller makes five suggestions on preaching with power. Here are two:

Not only make prayer the top priority, but use your prayers to search out any unconscious areas of self-dependence, including the written sermon, self-preparation, training, official position, past successes or failures, the opinion of others, and your own self-evaluation as to your own appropriate style. Then shift all your attention away from these things to Christ...

Then make each sermon a daring proclamation of Christ, not just of the text, but of Christ in His glory and power.

He concludes:

Please save this latter. I want it for my own instruction and admonition. I need your prayers that everything in here will be fulfilled in me as well as you.

Saturday Links

John Stackhouse reveals evangelicalism's worst enemy in media coverage.

David Fitch has some reflections and concerns about The Gospel Coalition. I love the Coalition, but I want others to show me if they see blind spots. I don't have to agree with everything they say.

John Piper explains when we shouldn't tweet. I love Frank Turk's comment.

Brothers, we must preach this way.

How a cheap Egyptian tailor played a part in your salvation.

A great copyright notice.

The Church Fathers (as well as a heckler and R.C. Sproul) on penal substitution.

A review of a book on prayer by Jack Miller's son that I now want to read.

Bill Kinnon is back and blogging with a vengeance.

The best post I've read this week: Gene Edward Veith responds to those who are dropping out of church. "A house is indeed a good place for a church...But even house churches still need to have the marks of the church."

What Happened at Love Toronto

Last night, Toronto Fellowship Baptist Churches got together for an event called Love Toronto. It's the second time we've done this, and the first time was great. I was nervous heading into last night. We were in a new location in the east end, and the weather wasn't great. Would anyone show?

They did. I'm guessing there were maybe 200 people there. We sang and talked about what God has done in the past year. John Mahaffey gave an excellent message from John 4 challenging us to engage in doing the will of the father in telling the gospel to the most unlikely people, instead of getting caught up in all the secondary issues that keep us busy. Mahaffey told the story of Canadian pastor Mark Buchanan's visit with Jim Cymbala, pastor of Brooklyn Tabernacle:

In the course of the meal, Jim turned to me and said, "Mark, do you know what the number one sin of the church in America is?" I wasn't sure, and the question was rhetorical anyhow. "It's not the plague of internet pornography that is consuming our men. It's not that the divorce rate in the church is roughly the same as society at large."

Jim named two or three other candidates for the worst sin, all of which he dismissed. "The number one sin of the church in America," he said, "is that its pastors and leaders are not on their knees crying out to God, 'Bring us the drug-addicted, bring us the prostitutes, bring us the destitute, bring us the gang leaders, bring us those with AIDS, bring us the people nobody else wants, whom only you can heal, and let us love them in your name until they are whole.'"

Afterwards we spent half an hour praying for our churches and our city. The pictures above show Ken Davis leading us in a time of prayer, and people huddled in groups to pray.

It was encouraging to meet at Westminster Chapel. We have a vision for church planting. Westminster began last year as an answer to that prayer. God provided a building for them, and on Easter Sunday that had over 200 people out, and 13 people were baptized. This church is doing some exciting things, including a ministry to women who are caught in the sex trade.

I love Toronto, and it's exciting to see things beginning to happen. I'm hoping for much more.

Love Toronto is Tonight

If you're in Toronto, would love to see you there.

Love Toronto
Toronto Fellowship Churches
United for the Good of Our City

Wednesday, May 27th at 7:00 p.m.
Westminster Chapel

14 Dewhurst Boulevard, Toronto
(one block west of Donlands subway station)

Special guest: Pastor John Mahaffey

Join the Fellowship Baptist Churches of Toronto in this night of worship, challenge, and prayer as we seek the peace and prosperity of our city. Come and hear what has been happening in our churches in the last year.

An offering will be received.

"Should I not have concern for the great city?" (Jonah 4:11)

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Rethinking the Atonement

My friend Mike Todd is rethinking his view of the atonement:

I won't keep you in the dark on what I think any longer. The notion that I have let go of is the Penal Substitution theory of atonement...

He argues that no single theory can explain God, that penal substitution makes God less than God, is incompatible with grace, fails to place the atonement within the larger story of God, and misunderstands God's wrath. The heart of the gospel, he says, is that God is quite fond of us, and plans to redeem all of creation.

In the comments, Mike suggests, "Jesus, who was without sin, took our sin upon himself, but I think perhaps he did it so we could get over it and move past it." God didn't require a sacrifice for sin; we did.

A few reflections:

First, the penal substitution perspective is often misunderstood, and we need to take care that we don't believe in a caricature. John Stott writes of some of the wrong ways we present this perspective:

Reluctant to suffer himself, [the Father] victimizes Christ instead. Reluctant to forgive, he is prevailed on by Christ to do so. [The Father] is seen as a pitiless ogre whose wrath has to be assauged, whose disinclination to act has to be overcome, by the loving self-sacrifice of Jesus.

Such crude interpretations of the cross still emerge in some of our evangelical illustrations, as when we describe Christ as coming to rescue us from the judgment of God, or when we portray him as the whipping-boy who is punished for the real culprit, or as the lightning conductor to which the lethal electric charge is deflected. (The Cross of Christ)

In other words: be careful not to caricature the penal substitutionary perspective. Scot McKnight rightfully says, "I believe the hue and cry by emerging Christians about penal substitution is a gut-level reaction to caricatures of the doctrine."

Second, Mike is right that there is more than one perspective on the atonement. I don't like the word theories as much as I do perspectives - different ways of looking at the same thing. This is the beauty of Scot McKnight's book A Community Called Atonement. There are other perspectives on the atonement: the atonement as example, as a demonstration of God's love, a demonstration of God's justice, and as a decisive triumph over evil. Millard Erickson argues that "each of the theories of the atonement contains a valid insight," but "it is only on the basis of the substitutionary view that those other insights bear force."

Third, the penal substitutionary view is not only the view of some Reformed types, but is also held by others such as McKnight and N.T. Wright (see here and here). I realize that you don't win an argument by stacking up experts, but we need to counter the view that it's a novel or fringe view held by only the very conservative.

Finally, this reminds me of that game I played as a kid with sticks and marbles. The object was to pull out a stick without all the marbles crashing down. I'm all for pulling out sticks that don't belong, but I am a little worried about what marbles are about to fall. We need to be careful about redefining God's wrath. or suggesting that we have more of a problem with sin than God does. There are so many important themes across Scripture, as well as some significant passages of Scripture, that need to be dealt with any time we rethink an important doctrine.