Closing the door with eagerness to mine the treasures of God's Word

From an interview with Mike Horton:

Ministers are often expected to be CEOs, managers, therapists, and coaches - just about anything other than shepherds who answer our Lord's mandate to Peter: "Feed my sheep."

I think that we have to resist every attempt to turn our studies into offices. An open-door policy is not necessarily virtuous. It is often more helpful to the body if the minister closes the door, with an eagerness to mine the treasures of God's Word. The diaconate was established in the first place so that the apostles and pastors could devote themselves to the Word and to prayer.

I believe that one of the primary responsibilities of the elders is to ensure that the minister is free to meditate prayerfully on God's Word, read great books, and take part in conferences or other forms of continuing education - and to ensure that this is in fact happening.

Gospel-centered preaching

Preachers sometimes make the mistake of thinking that the gospel is something that we proclaim only to unbelievers. Tim Keller is one of a growing number of preachers who sees this as a mistake. "The gospel," he writes, "is the dynamic for all heart-change, life-change, and social-change. Change won't happen through 'trying harder' but only through encountering...the radical grace of God."

When preaching to believers, preachers often proclaim truth from a text and offer a set of application points. This approach tends to assume that the issue is behavior. The result is moralistic preaching, which is never effective in bringing about lasting change.

Gospel-centerered preaching sees the real issue as a failure to believe the gospel in some area. The listener may believe the gospel at an intellectual level, but there is a "sin beneath the sin" (an idol) that needs to be confronted with the gospel. A failure to live the reality of the gospel shows that we do not really believe the gospel at that point in our lives.

David Powlison writes of "that most basic question God poses to each human heart: "has something or someone besides Jesus the Christ taken title to your heart's functional trust, preoccupation, loyalty, service, fear and delight?" The preacher's job shifts from handing out application points to identifying the idols that motivate behaviors, thoughts, and feelings. The preacher then preaches the gospel as it relates to these idols - including the idols in the preacher's heart. The listener is helped right on the spot by the gospel, rather than by moralistic efforts or just trying harder.

If you're interested in learning more about gospel-centered preaching, here are some resources:

Sin makes us curve in on ourselves

From GospelDrivenLife

I think church history has hit the nail of the doctrine of sin on the head...and that sin makes us curve in on ourselves. That means I must be very careful with introspection. What starts out as a look for sinful idols quickly becomes a fascination with me. We are self-focused. As one quip in a movie notes, 'Enough of my talking about me. What do you think about me?' It is of note that if we ran a special seminar in our church on the character of God we might have a decent turnout -- but if we ran a seminar on knowing our gifts, knowing ourselves, being free to be ourselves -- it would be flooded with participants (this is not a theoretical illustration, I have seen it happen). People think a sermon is good if it in some way is about them -- we call that "relevance."


The Preaching I Long For

From Bill Wilder:

If I could issue a plea to our pastors and priests and ministers of the Word in the world today, it would be this: Give me Christ, or else I die.

I mean that in the most specific sense - not just what Christ can do in me or to me or for me or through me (or the church or the world), but Jesus Christ himself, clearly portrayed as crucified and preached as having been raised from the dead. Not Jesus Christ as the assumption or foundation or the means for all that is preached, but as its very content and core...

This is what I need to hear. Because my attention is so easily drawn to lesser things - to my plans, my ambitions, my problems, my triumphs, my failures, my family, my friends, my church, my community. So, please, turn my eyes upon Jesus. Help me to look full in his wonderful face. And the things of earth will grow strangely clear in the light of his glory and grace.


Preaching to the Heart by Tim Keller

I first heard of Tim Keller through D.A. Carson's book Becoming Conversant with the Emerging Church. Carson offered Keller as an example of someone who is reaching the emerging generation without being part of the emerging movement.

I don't know when exactly I began to listen to Keller, but I'm certainly in a phase of learning from him. He has a grasp of theology, gospel, and culture that's rare, and is a good example of an effective scholarly practitioner.

Keller gave a series of lectures on preaching at Gordon-Conwell last year called Preaching to the Heart, and I've been listening to the CDs this week. Here are the names of the sessions:

(1) Preaching to the Heart without being Legalistic
(2) Preaching to the Heart without being Piestic
(3) Unintentional Preaching Models
(4) Reading, Preparation, Conversation, and Preaching
(5) Preaching to "Emerging" Culture
(6) Preaching to the Heart without being Individualistic

The PDf files for these talks are also included on a separate CD.

Any pastor who takes the time to chew on these lectures can't help but be changed. These are well worth ordering from the Ockenga Institute.