Just do ministry like Jesus?

30 03 2010

Saw another article today that said if you want to know how to do ministry, just read the Gospels and do ministry like Jesus.

Now, I think I understand where the person is coming from, and on the surface that seems like such a Gospel centered statement. However, I want to quote a few lines from the book Preaching with Bold Assurance by Hershael York and Bert Decker…

Frankly, we are never told to preach like Jesus and probably shouldn’t try.  While that sentence may shock and make you wonder why we would make such a strange statement, allow me to explain.  Certainly we should emulate many elements of Jesus’ preaching: His passion, his high view of Scripture, his confrontation and application, and his tendency to force a decision of acceptance or rejection.  But on the other hand, we must admit that Jesus, as the sovereign Creator of the universe, had intents, information, and abilities that we do not have.” (pg. 15)

So, my point here is that I think we should use the ministry of Jesus to set our foundation for ministry…BUT, we can’t be Jesus because we are fallen.

York and Decker go on to say (concerning the woman at the well) “Now, first of all, none of us can know such intimate details about the sins of people we just met, and even if we could, it probably would not be best to use such knowledge! After all, we are sinners just like they. Should we witness to others because Jesus witnessed? Absolutely! Should we follow his methodology? No! We can find certain elements in his witness that must be in ours, but we can also find elements that are the sole province of the Son of God and cannot be emulated.” (pg. 16)

The point is, we are called to be like Christ, not be Christ. There are two dangers in wanting to be Christ.  1st is even if you have the right motivations, you are setting yourself up for failure.  2nd You are setting yourself for a huge temptation to be like God, which just so happens to be the reason mankind fell (Gen. 3:5).

So where do we get our models for ministry? The Bible! I’m not saying we don’t use Scripture. Not only can we use the Bible, but we MUST use the Bible! My point is just to caution you to not fall prey to a works based mentality for ministry. In other words, “if i just do ministry just like Jesus, i’ll succeed.”  Trust Christ for direction, but don’t crucify yourself for your disciples…Your blood can’t save them.


Book Review: Christ-Centered Preaching

29 03 2010

Chapell, Bryan. Christ-Centered Preaching: Redeeming the Expository Sermon. 2nd Ed. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2005.

In his book, Christ-Centered Preaching, preacher and Seminary professor Bryan Chapell outlines a model for preaching expository sermons. Chapell’s work is biblically based as he both encourages and challenges preachers to preach as God intended “to save those who believe” (cf. 1 Cor. 1:21).  His book is an excellent resource for both young preachers (me!) and those desiring to be refreshed in their insight on what it takes to develop and preach effective, life changing messages from the Word of God.

The best thing about Chapell’s work, and the reason it should be read by those beginning a lifelong ministry of preaching and those desiring to get back to a biblical model of preaching, is that it is unapologetically centered on the Word of God.  He gives practical tips on how to construct introductions, conclusions, and transistions, but everything is grounded in the Word. Basically, the book gives great explanation on why to use the Word and how to use the Word in preaching. 

Another thing that Chapell does well is to almost provide a “theology” of illustrations.  Explanation of the text is a biblical thing for preachers, but Chapell argues that in addition to that, so is illustration. Illustrations are more than just humor or time fillers but actually “expand and deepen [listener’s] understanding of a text” (p. 178). Chapell makes the case that illustrations are a vital tool for exposition, and then as he does with introductions and conclusions, provides practical advice on how to find and use good illustrations in sermons.  Preachers desiring to preach as God would have them preach must remember that “sermons too full of illustrations choke credibility; sermons too lacking in illustrations strangle goodwill” (p. 201). Along with illustrations, Chapell even provides many of his own preparation suggestions for outlining messages that will be a good resource to any preacher.

The only caution I would give about the book is to make sure that you do not think of sermon preparation as only “scientific”.  This is not Chapell’s intent, but if you were to just skim the book you may think it’s all about our work and not the Holy Spirit’s. Chapell is just emphasizing our need to be good stewards of sermon preparation.  He even states, “sermons succeed when the Holy Spirit works beyond human craft to perform his purposes” (p. 265).

So, all that to say, if you have the time, read this book! And, if you are new to preaching, make time and read this book! God bless…

Proper Perspectives will shift Priorities

19 03 2010

I get the opportunity to preach this Sunday at my church, FBC, DeWitt. While I’m still in the process of putting in some final preparation, here’s the gist of the message.

Text: 1 John 2:15-17

15Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions—is not from the Father but is from the world. 17And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.

I know I’ve blogged on this text a couple times before so I’ll try not to repeat myself too much here.  In just these three verses John explains to his readers the foundations for proper Christian priorities:

1. A Proper Perspective of God (v. 15)- i.e. the priority in the Christian’s life should be God above all else, and the text explains that those who are unable to do so do not have “the love of the Father”. (i have a blog already on my interpretation of that phrase).

2. A proper perspective of the world (v. 16-17a)- i.e. the Christian should not be involved in the evil of this world because it is directly opposed to God AND the Christian must be Kingdom focused instead of earthly focused because the world is passing away! The devil is the prince of this world and I believe there is correlation here between this text and the Fall in Genesis 3.

3. A proper perspective of salvation (v. 17)- Salvation is what enables Christians to do the will of God and inherit eternal life.  The Christian does the will of the Father, because he believes in His Son Jesus Christ (I’ve also blogged about this “Whoever believes or whoever does”).

The whole point of the message is that if we as Christians have the right perspectives on these things, then it will result in us having the right priorities.  In other words, God, His will, and His Kingdom will take precedent over things of less importance.  This text is less about “don’t do this sin, don’t do that sin” and more about changing our whole focus and attitude towards how we live here in this world.  If we take care of the inner problem (our focus and attitude towards sin and this world) then we won’t even have to deal with the “don’ts” because we will desire to be Kingdom focused Christians. 

To put it another way, I think many preachers may preach this passage of Scripture in a way that really focuses on putting down partying, drinking, seeing bad movies, drugs, sex, driving too fast, cussing, etc. etc.  These sins are grievous and directly opposed to God, but I think the passage is less about attacking these “outer sins” and more about attacking our inner perspectives on God, the world, and Salvation.  The point is, when God changes our perspectives, these worldly things will no longer be an issue for us. Not only that, but little things that we don’t like to call “sins” will also be taken care of- like putting our own priorities over the Kingdom…

Hope all that makes sense! Would love to see some of your thoughts…

I couldn’t put all my thoughts on here because I still want people to come hear the sermon on Sunday! God bless!