Entries Tagged as 'Preaching'

Chapel Messages Online

The Fall semester has commenced at our seminaries and that means chapel messages will be available online.  Not only will quality preaching be available from each faculty, but also brothers like John MacArthur, C.J. Mahaney, Andy Davis, Robert Smith, Gardner Taylor, Jerry Vines, James Merritt, Stephen Rummage, Johnny Hunt, Frank Page, and many more will be heralding truth, "which is able to save [our] souls." (James 1:21)  You can access the sermons online at the following sites:  SEBTS, SBTS, SWBTS, MABTS, MBTS, and I'm not sure about NOBTS and GGBTS .  While all seminaries students have heard the occasional flop, dud, sorry sermon, homiletical wreck, or whatever you want to call it, those are few and far between.  Accessing a sermon every now and again can be a healthy spiritual exercise to help you love Christ more and more as "He works in us what is pleasing to Him." (Heb. 13.21)  

Does anybody have any favorites that they would recommend on the archives list?  Here are two of my favorites: Jimmy Scroggins, "Credentials for Ministry "-1 Cor. 11.16-29 on April 28, 2005 at SBTS and Andy Davis, "The Love of God Poured Out"-  Rom. 5:1-11 on March 10, 2005 at SEBTS. (You may have to search to find them.) 

Upcoming Preaching Conference at SEBTS

Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary will host their Proclaim preaching conference for pastors on October 17th.  The theme for the conference is Between Two Worlds: The Text and The Pew.  Featured speakers for the event include Dr. Jerry Vines, Pastor Emeritus of FBC Jacksonville and two-time SBC President (1988-89), and Dr. Danny Akin, president of SEBTS.  These men will address exciting topics such as, "Preaching With Authority in an Anti-Authoritarian World," "The Poetics of Preaching: Using Language and Imagery To Communicate God's Word," and "The Future of Expository Preaching: Emerging or Enduring?"  This conference promises to give helpful instruction, encouragement, and refreshment for those who "set (their) heart to study the Law of the Lord, and to do it and to teach his statutes and rules." (Ezra 7.10)

Additional information and registration can be found online at www.sebts.edu/proclaim.  If you are in the Raleigh/Wake Forest area in October or can make the trek, I look forward to seeing you that we may grow in our calling to communicate God's timeless truth in our ever-changing world.  The cost, covering lunch and conference materials, is $25 and the deadline for registration is Oct. 6th.

The Current State of Southern Baptist Preaching

Alan Bandy and Michael Bryant over at The Pastor as Theologian are committed to providing pastors with resources to help them bridge the gap between scholarship and ministry, especially in their pulpit ministries. One of the features of the blog is interviews with SBC pastors and educators on the current state of Southern Baptist preaching. Recent interviews include Dr. David Allen, Dean of the School of Theology, Professor of Preaching, Director of the Center for Expository Preaching and George W. Truett Chair of Ministry at Southwestern Seminary and Rev. Ben Brammer, pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in Rocky Mount, NC and Ph.D. student in preaching at Southeastern Seminary. The Allen interview can be found here and here, while the Brammer interview can be found here and here.

Cultivating Our Inner Osteen

Our Southern Baptist seminaries do a fine job of teaching students how to prepare and deliver expository sermons. The same could be said about any number of evangelical seminaries and Bible colleges. Still, I never cease to be amazed at the number of Southern Baptist pastors who refuse to explain and apply a given text of Scripture, let alone preach consecutively through a lengthy section or book of the Bible. This is true even in some of our most conservative churches. The reasons are no doubt legion, but one reason is that at least some pastors are buying into a kinder, gentler model of preaching that makes people feel good about themselves but clouds or changes the gospel of Jesus Christ. In short, some pastors are cultivating their inner Osteen.

A few weeks back Leah and I found ourselves in a hotel room in another city. It was Sunday morning, about 8:00 or 8:30, and I was preparing to preach at a Baptist church in the area. As we were getting dressed, we were channel-surfing, hunting for a television preacher we could listen to. We found Joel Osteen, whose warm smile and saccharine preaching always provides us with a warm, fuzzy and spiritually vacuous feeling. After about five minutes of Mr. Osteen, we found a Southern Baptist pastor on another channel. We were excited to find a "real preacher" to listen to instead of Mr. Osteen's Texas-fried rehashing of Harry Emerson Fosdick or Norman Vincent Peale.

The Southern Baptist pastor we listened to is well-known in SBC circles. He pastors a large church in a metropolitan area. I have watched his television ministry on a number of occasions and have heard him preach in person several times. He is a good preacher. But on this particular morning, something just didn't sound right. After five or ten minutes, Leah looked over at me and remarked, "he doesn't sound much different than Osteen, does he?" Unfortunately, I had to agree. There is no doubt in my mind that the pastor in question was simply having a bad day in the pulpit, as all preachers do sometimes. But I have heard many other Southern Baptist pastors, sometimes in large and influential churches, who consistently preach homiletical tripe that is both shallow in its content and ambiguous (or worse) in its theology.

Just recently I was in a large SBC church where I heard a sermon that was textbook Osteen. The pastor smiled. He talked a lot about hope, joy, victory and happiness. He pulled half-texts from all over the Bible to try and prove his point. It was the best internet sermon that money could buy, but it was totally devoid of the gospel. Like too many other sermons, this sermon fell into the trap (which I have written about elsewhere) of offering an invitation to respond to the gospel without actually explaining the gospel. The pastor invited people to "come to Christ," but he never explained what it means to come to Christ, what one must do to come to Christ or why one ought to come to Christ. And somewhere Mr. Osteen was grinning like the Cheshire Cat.

I'm afraid this scenario is being played out weekly in many Southern Baptist pulpits. Pastors do not make the gospel clear, and they sound more like Joel Osteen or Robert Schuller than R. G. Lee or Jerry Vines. These men believe the Bible is inerrant. These men believe in evangelism and missions. These men believe that the Christian faith has implications for the wider culture. But sometimes you would never know this by their preaching.

In our therapeutic culture where even many Christians prefer Precious Moments to the Lion of Judah it is imperative that every Southern Baptist pastor resist the urge to succumb to their inner Osteen. Mr. Osteen and his ilk will always be popular–something about scratching the ears of the spiritually-itchy. But those who buy into the power of positive thinking, the prosperity gospel, culturally-driven pragmatism or even numbers-driven revivalism will always obscure, redefine or totally ignore the gospel, no matter how big their churches may be. It is not worth losing the gospel to gain a following, even if you can do it with a Texas-sized grin on your face.

So if you are reading this post and you are a regular pastor or teacher of God's Word, don't sell out the gospel in your efforts to reach more people. Don't warm their hearts with homespun tales and topical hooey. Don't give in to your inner Osteen (or any other gospel-deficient model). Preach the whole counsel of God's Word, make the gospel of Jesus Christ clear and call upon all men to repent of their sins and trust in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior.


Faith of our Father’s Pastor Spotlight: R. G. Lee, part 2


R. G. Lee's oratorical style creatively turned a phrase into the topic of his sermon while passionately and doctrinally proclaiming God's Word. Lee's sermon "The Face of Jesus Christ" is an excellent example of his methodology. The text for the sermon is 2 Corinthians 4:6 which mentions "… the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ." He used the last phrase of the verse as his subject matter and title. Lee introduced the Bible as a "vast portrait gallery." He listed God's portraits in the Bible: Adam, Eve, Cain, Abel, Abraham, Joseph, Moses, David, Elijah, Daniel, John the Baptist, Paul, etc.

These biblical portraits set up the contrast for the thesis of his sermon, "But on every page we will get evidence that all its portraits lose their splendor in the greater glory of the face of Jesus Christ. Of His face, His blessed face, His sweet face, His dear face, we would now speak. What kind of face is it?" Lee said that Jesus' face was: sad, shining, stained, smitten, set, scorching, shrouded, and seen. Jesus had a sad face, which speaks of people rejecting his teaching, his compassion on the lost, and his sorrows. Jesus' face was a shining face because his appearance transfigured, his face blinded Paul on the way to Damascus, and his face shone like the sun on Patmos when he revealed himself to John. Jesus had a stained face. This speaks of the tears he wept for Lazarus, tears shed for Jerusalem, blood he sweat at Gethsemane, blood he shed at Calvary, and even spit he received from Roman soldiers. His smitten face speaks of God bruising him and soldiers beating him. Jesus' set face points him toward Calvary. His face scorches because he violently cleared the temple and furiously judges his enemies. Jesus' shrouded face speaks of his death. Yet, his seen face proclaims to the world that Jesus is alive and "we shall see him as he is!" Lee, "The Face of Jesus Christ" in Payday Someday and Other Sermons, 68-87.

This sermon shows how Lee used the scriptural phrase from the verse and turned it into the theme for his sermon. He strung together meditations and thoughts on the theme for the body of the sermon. Indeed, turn of phrase is the most striking feature of his preaching. Mostly he used scriptural phrases or phrases loosely derived from the scriptures (i.e. the sermon title "Christ, Above All" is derived from Philippians 2:9-11 and John 3:31), but there are features other than turn of phrase to note quickly. His oratorical abilities were also demonstrated by his use of: repetition, poetry, and rhetorical questions.

An example of each of these features will make evident Lee's oratorical method of preaching. His repetition is seen in the sermon "The Blood of Christ" where Lee preached (italics mine), "The blood in drops, falling like red rain from the cross… The blood in rills, pouring down like red wine from the crevices of a wine press… The blood, splashing like shafts of red sunlight in the face of his enemies, is saving blood" Lee, Blood of Christ, 3-26. The poetic aspect of his preaching was not only seen in the artistic way that he strung words and phrases together, but it was also seen in the way he used poems in his sermons. One sermon about the Gadarene Demoniac he quotes the boy's testimony by using a poem:

In loving kindness, Jesus came

My soul in mercy to reclaim;

And from the depths of sin and shame,

Through grace he lifted me.

Finally, Lee used rhetorical questions to drive home his points. In his sermon "The Paths of Disappointment" he said, "What shall it profit a man if he be a great artist and know not Jesus, the one altogether lovely? What shall it profit a man if he be a great architect and know not Jesus, the Chief Cornerstone? What shall it profit a man if he be a great baker and know not Jesus, the Living Bread? What shall it profit a man if he be a great banker and know not Jesus, the Priceless Possession? What shall it profit a man if he be a great biologist and know not Jesus, the Life? What shall it profit a man if he be a great carpenter and know not Jesus, the Door? What shall it profit a man if he be a great doctor and know not Jesus, the Great Physician? What shall it profit a man if he be a great farmer and know not Jesus, the Lord of Harvest? What shall it profit a man if he be a great geologist and know not Jesus, the Rock of Ages?" Lee, "Paths of Disappointment" in Whirlwinds of God, 33. Ralph Turnbull described Lee as an orator when he said, "Part of the secret of Lee's effectiveness lies in his oratory. He is one of the few men left in this era who has a link with past oratorical preaching" Turnbull, A History of Preaching vol. 3, 221. Comparison, repetition, clever phrases, poetry, and much more demonstrate the depth and uniqueness of Lee's abilities.

Lee was best known for his powerful preaching. The two biggest influences on Lee's preaching were T. DeWitt Talmadge (whose sermons were published in full in the New York Newspapers every Sunday) and Sam Jones, the great evangelist. Paul Gericke said, "Lee's own preaching style would combine the biblical wisdom and oratorical skill of Talmadge with the down-to-earth applications and evangelistic fervor of Jones" Gericke, The Preaching of Robert G. Lee, 13-14. Lee possessed old era oratorical skills repackaged and applied to his modern hearers. He commanded attention. People could listen spellbound for more than an hour. Turn of phrase, repetition, rhetoric, and poetry demonstrated his oratorical skill. He used these to build his sermons.

Modern preachers need to study the way that Lee used words in a Spurgeon-like way to engage his audience. Words are extremely important, and preachers should be intentional in the way they craft their sermons to dynamically communicate God's Word. Lee and old era oratory may both be resting quietly in their coffins, but the need to craft our words intentionally to effectively confront modern hearers has never been more alive! This and much more can be learned from the preaching of Robert Greene Lee.