Saturday, June 27, 2009

At the Fulcrum or End of the Lever

"No matter how good they [pastors] are at listening, hand-holding, and personal encouragement, if they cannot teach the word of God they are disqualified from the office/role of pastor/elder/overseer. ...

"Conversely, however, preachers who are nothing more than pulpiteers, who display few Christian graces that enable them to love people, work with people, listen humbly, exhort patiently, encourage graciously, and rebuke engagingly, are simply disqualified."

D.A. Carson, in Preach the Word: Essays on Expository Preaching (ed. Ryken & Wilson, Crossway, 2007, p 175).

Thursday, June 25, 2009

The Power of the Pulpit

"There are many evangelicals who have a high view of the Bible and are willing to do battle for it, but who have a very low view of the Word of God as proclaimed in the sermon. This is one of the strangest paradoxes in the church today: vigorous defense of the Bible as the Word of God hand in hand with low esteem for the preaching of that same Word to build up the church of Christ. ...

"Bible study, small groups, and religious sharing are increasingly urged as the route to revitalization of the church, while faith in the pulpit fades and grows dim. I am convinced that it profits a church little to have a high view of Scripture if at the same time it has a low estimate of the preaching of the Word."

(James Daane, Preaching with Confidence: A Theological Essay on the Power of the Pulpit (Resource Publications, 1980), p viii.)

Not much has changed in almost thirty years...Very little of what passes for evangelical preaching today is able to inspire and uplift a congregation, because it omits from the proclamation the power of God in it. Moralism, ear candy and how-to messages take the place of the "power of God for salvation." Yet history bears out the ineluctable result that when the preacher, the man of God, proclaims the power of God through the Word of God to the people of God, the church is edified, God is glorified, and the lost are evangelized.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Who You Gonna Call?

Thom Rainer posted an article June 15 called "Crisis at County Seat First Church" ( in which he advocates not giving up on established churches that either have been around for a long time or are otherwise set in their ways, are in decline, and are without a pastor.

The temptation in these churches is to let them be and start another, less moribund congregation. Or, as one state denominational church planting guru said, sometimes encouraging such a church to start a plant itself is the bloodless split it might need.

Yet I agree with Rainer that whatever is left in the established church is worth saving. One problem, however, is the unrealistic standards for pastor these churches set and which lead them to lament the absence of "realistic candidates."

The types of men these churches most likely need are the types they are unwilling to call, those that are faithful to orthodoxy and denominational distinctives but are not bound to archaic notions of what Christian practice must resemble, and are willing to preach the whole counsel of God without fear, without compromise, and without hesitation.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Functional Authority of Scripture

Many people who identify themselves as Christ-followers claim to believe the Bible is God’s revelation of himself to us, and, in the words of a famous confession, is the only sure guide as to what God would have us believe about him and what duty he requires of us.

Yet one author has pointed out that the claimed authority of Scripture is much different than the ‘functional authority of the Bible,’ that is, whether Scripture actually governs faith and practice in the life of the church.

Judging by what people say, there is not much functional authority goin’ on out there. Some of the most revealing statements come from church leaders, such as deacons. I collect anecdotes of the things leaders say, and for a long time the winner (loser?) in this area was the following:

Anecdote #1: The deacons at a church were discussing the formation of a search committee for pastor, and worldly standards of education, prominence, and so forth had been governing which members had been suggested to serve. One deacon then stood and read the various passages of Scripture teaching that the body is made up of various parts, each one fulfilling a specific role, and suggested that the deacons look to the spiritual qualifications and giftedness of its members to determine who should comprise the search committee. There was no discussion, but another deacon stood and began his defense of the former option with, “I don’t want to disagree with the Scriptures, but…”

That example has been relegated to position number two by the following:

Anecdote #2: The pastor had expressed his objection to the proposed Christmas program, which was more “It’s a Wonderful Life” than Advent, and a deacon, obviously growing tired of the preacher’s explanations, said “Biblical, biblical, biblical. Does everything this church does have to be ‘biblical’?”

Well, one would hope so…