A Preacher’s Building Blocks

Dear Sovereign Redeemer and other friends,

Every sound, expository sermon becomes a building block for the man who preached it. What I mean is that the preparation required to preach a sound, expository sermon becomes a rich deposit which is then at the disposal of the one who did that work.

Having preached most Sundays for the last four years, I know this is true. You can listen to my early sermons and my later sermons and tell that I have more building blocks at my disposal now than I did then. Every week that a text of Scripture is studied to the depth required to give a faithful exposition, so much is learned, so many connections in Scripture are uncovered, so many applications are considered. And this accumulates week by week, and all things being equal, causes sermons to have more depth and breadth over time.

Here are a couple of implications:

Preaching rotations have their “cons”.  There are some “pros” to ongoing preaching rotations, but a definite disadvantage is the loss of building blocks. Any preacher will tell you that only a fraction of what is learned in preparing to preach a sermon can possibly be learned in the hearing of it. The preparation for a sermon might easily consume ten to fifteen intensely focused hours, while the hearing of it rarely exceeds a partially focused one. When one man has the primary responsibility to preach sequentially through a book of the Bible, he has the definite advantage of acquiring building blocks all along the way, and building blocks that are closely related to upcoming sermons at that. For each new sermon, he is reaching back and pulling forward things learned in the preceding weeks and months.

Setting aside a man reaps a harvest. Consider again my opening premise: “Every sound, expository sermon becomes a building block for the man who preached it.” A lot goes into that premise. A sound (careful, faithful, precise), expository (true explanation of the Scripture text) sermon doesn’t drop out of the sky. It comes from diligence, prayer, study, thought. It comes from time. When a church buys a man’s time and sends him off to go deep into the text, in order for him to bring them into the depth of it on Sunday, week after week, month after month, and year after year, that church is looking to reap the benefits of that, and they generally do. The ministry of the word is one of the core needs of a local church, and it is hard to imagine that it could be too lavishly provided for.

Church planting multiplies this effect. When Hope Baptist planted Sovereign Redeemer over four years ago, the number of men who were acquiring a new building block each week doubled from one to two. What is the value of that over time and many church plants? Priceless. That is the tragedy of short-circuiting that effect through satellite campuses which pipe in preaching over the jumbotron. Depth that could have been added to the Lord’s people is lost, as we depend on personality and the most gifted communicators. Don’t get me wrong. There is no virtue in bad preaching, and we should praise God for gifted communicators if they are also leading godly lives, but the sound preaching of a truly local shepherd is to be preferred to John Piper on the jumbotron every time.

I hope these thoughts are useful, and I plan for them to be the introduction of a short series of posts titled “The Anatomy of a Sermon,” where I will outline the methods I use to prepare and then deliver what I hope are sound, expository sermons.

Getting Started with Family Worship

Dear Sovereign Redeemer and other friends,

I recently fielded an inquiry from a father with young children about getting started with family worship. He was looking for recommended Bible study materials, and here are some thoughts that I passed along to him.

– Starting now is a great idea. Young ones pick up more than we think. Just be careful to start with a reasonable schedule (not too long, grow into longer times), so that it isn’t needlessly exasperating for Mom and child. These should be tender, wonderful times that shape your children’s memories of family life, not a chore that they come to dread.

– Nothing is better than the Bible itself, and nothing communicates your trust in the Bible more than just sequentially working through different books of the Bible, slowly and patiently. It makes sense to have a study Bible or commentary (or both) close by for when you hit difficulties or hard questions, but just refer to these when necessary, don’t rely on them.

– Sing a song together that is theologically rich, you open in prayer, take turns reading the Scripture text, talk about what you read, then all pray together. In the early years, this might be 10 or 15 minutes. Much later it might be 30 to 45. At first, just read a few verses, maybe 6-10. I have older children (20-9), so we try to tackle something like half a chapter per day. My children all learned to read early because they wanted to be able to take their turn at reading aloud. That made them eager to learn.

– Make it worship of the living God! I have seen the same basic format done by some passionately and with a real heart of worship, and by others mechanically and lifelessly. Same routine, radically different results. This requires, of course, that you actually have a vigorous spiritual life yourself, and that you are continually repenting and dealing with your own areas of hypocrisy. This will prove to be one great blessings of your life. Don’t cheat it by settling for less than real worship.

There is more that could be said, of course, but I hope this is helpful to fathers who are just getting started.

If this is an area of interest, here is a post about my own journey to establishing family worship.

“The Playbook” by Carlton McCleod

Dear Sovereign Redeemer and other friends,

I have been reading and enjoying Carlton McCleod’s new book, “The Playbook”. The premise of the book is that the Church has lost and must recapture its prophetic voice in the world. In our search for relevance, we have actually become irrelevant because we have both abandoned a bold declaration of the truth of God’s word and invalidated our words by our compromises with the world.

Pastor McCleod’s book is an unapologetic call for Christ’s Church to reclaim her rightful place as the pillar and ground of the truth.

Here is one of the nuggets of gold regarding family reformation:

“When an old rugged cross is planted in the middle of the family, it changes and conforms to God’s vision!”

There are many more. You can acquire the book at the link above. I heartily commend it to you.

Spurgeon on God Whispering in Your Ear

Dear Sovereign Redeemer and other friends,

The modern church is overrun with people who are certain that God whispers in their ear practically every day. Never mind that so much of the “God told me” talk is proven to be objectively false after the fact or contradicts God’s specific revelation, the Bible.

It turns out, and not surprisingly, that this is not a new phenomenon. Here is a humorous portion of Charles Spurgeon’s “Lectures to My Students” (the chapter “On Commenting”, p586), which in spite of the humor makes an incredibly important point:

“A batch of poems was sent me some time ago for The Sword and the Trowel, which were written by a person claiming to be under the immediate influence of the Holy Spirit. He informed me that he was passive, and that what was enclosed was written under the direct physical and mental influence of the Spirit upon his mind and hand. My bookshelves can show many poems as much superior to these pretended inspirations as angels are to bluebottles; the miserable doggerel bore on its face the evidence of imposture. So when I listen to the senseless twaddle of certain wise gentlemen who are always boasting that they alone are ministers of the Spirit, I am ashamed of their pretensions and of them.”

Can anyone just say it like Spurgeon? Methinks he would have a thing or two to say to many of the authors represented in our local Christian bookstores, offering their shaky doctrine and the fruit of their own inclinations as the voice of God.

If you need the voice of God, Genesis through Revelation will more than suffice.

A Wonderful Launch

Dear Sovereign Redeemer and other friends,

Psalm 127:3-4 says this: “Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD, the fruit of the womb is a reward. 4 Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, so are the children of one’s youth.”

This past Saturday, June 13, 2015, the first Dohm arrow was launched into the world for King Jesus. Here is a pic, taken just a few minutes before we entered the sanctuary.

Dad and Anna 06-13-15

Scott Brown, who officiated Janet and my wedding almost twenty-four years ago, did the same for Anna and Tyler on Saturday. Here are the four points from the wedding sermon, which Scott addressed to the couple:

  1. You are walking through a door. Marriage is God’s holy institution which He loves (Malachi 2:11), so people who marry should understand that they are entering into something that God created for His own purposes.
  2. You are making a home. God wants marriages that bring heaven to earth, creating wonderful little worlds – homes – where God is loved and obeyed, and where the sweetness of His kingdom is known every day.
  3. You are declaring a gospel. As Paul makes so clear in Ephesians 5, marriage is intended to depict Jesus Christ’s life-sacrificing love for His bride, the church, and the bride’s honor for and obedience to Christ.
  4. You are preparing for heaven. Marriage is wonderful because it is a foretaste of the great celebration at the culmination of history, spoken of in Revelation 19:7-9:

“Let us be glad and rejoice and give Him glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and
His wife has made herself ready.” 8 And to her it was granted to be arrayed in fine linen, clean and bright, for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints. 9 Then he said to me, “Write: ‘Blessed are those who are called to the marriage supper of the Lamb!'” And he said to me, “These are the true sayings of God.”

What a delight to have launched Tyler and Anna out into the world to serve their King more fruitfully together than they even did apart.

defendingmarriage.com

Dear Sovereign Redeemer and other friends,

Some friends of mine have recently activated defendingmarriage.com, and I think it will prove very helpful to the Lord’s people. The purpose of the site to inform and equip the church, giving Christians who would like to track the debate the latest news, what the Bible has to say, and how persecution of those who are taking a stand for the words of Scripture is taking place.

I hope you find it helpful.

Reprise: “Give Us Youngsville, or We Die!”

Dear Sovereign Redeemer and other friends,

This was originally posted on April 28, 2011, one month into Sovereign Redeemer’s existence. It is truer now than then. Read on!

The great Scottish reformer, John Knox, was overheard by friends laboring in prayer for his country, repeatedly calling out to God, “Give me Scotland, or I die!”

Sovereign Redeemer Community Church is a month old now, and I am praying that God will give us the spirit of this man, the earnestness and urgency of his prayers for the people around him, and his boldness in proclaiming the gospel. Maybe Youngsville is no Scotland, and maybe none of us are a John Knox, but the heart of our King is the same. We may not be “God’s gift to Youngsville,” but Jesus Christ is, and we are some of His happy subjects. Our being here is no accident, and we are under orders.

Ephesians 2:8-10 says this: “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.”

Here we are, the workmanship of God, having nothing to boast in except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, with good works to do which have been prepared for us by God Himself. As we walk in them, our neighbors will see and hear, and they “may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:16)

So whether we feel ready for this calling or not, it is upon us. And maybe the questioning of our readiness can work in our favor by making us hungrier and more fervent in our prayers, so that we find ourselves relying more fully on God who is able.

Church planting is about God taking ground. There is nothing remotely sinister about this, since wherever and whenever the government of God spreads, happiness and every good thing abounds. Jesus is the best King there is, and to be His subject is to know a peace that passes understanding. Youngsville needs this just as much as a thousand other towns.

May it be that God Himself has assembled us for this purpose, and that He will teach us – drive us – to labor in prayer, “Give us Youngsville, or we die!”

Happy Birthday to Us!

Dear Sovereign Redeemer and other friends,

Where were you four years ago to the day – March 27, 2011? Many of us were attending the first Sunday gathering of Sovereign Redeemer Community Church.

Here we are:

Our First Sunday Together

Our First Sunday Together

Our four years together have been equal parts joy and sorrow, and I am deeply grateful to God for sustaining us and helping us in many ways. If I could go back in time, I would do it all over again in a New York minute, though hopefully with more faithfulness, wisdom and love.

If you have a few minutes, check out the “Church Planting Update,” which was my first blog post ever and summarizes what was being considered five months before we launched.

Let it be said for the record: I am incredibly and especially grateful for my brothers and sisters who have stayed the course through some very rough waters over the past four years. Your kindness to me and patience with me have been remarkable. I love you.

May the next four years be marked by more love among us, more faithfulness, more growth in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (2 Peter 3:18), and more fruitfulness in kingdom work. My heart is burning to see many souls called out of darkness into His marvelous light. And I know that I’m far from alone. May the Lord answer these prayers and glorify His name!

 

The Word of God and the God of the Word

Dear Sovereign Redeemer and other friends,

Here is a quote from yesterday’s sermon about unwitting idolatry that I think is so important:

“Why do we have the word of God? So we can worship the God of the word!”

Consider taking two minutes to listen to this clip:

A Beginning

Dear Sovereign Redeemer and other friends,

Our text for Sunday’s sermon recorded the completion of two miles of wall in a miraculous fifty-two days (Nehemiah 6:15). Even their enemies had to concede: “That was God.” (6:16b).

One of the applications was in the form of a question:

“What might God be pleased to do through our church if we are careful to be faithful over a long period of time?”

The most obvious target of this thought experiment is the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20). Even though we are a small church, why shouldn’t we dream out loud of being used by God to send gospel ambassadors to the ends of the earth? Why shouldn’t we dream out loud of planting other sound churches, near and far?

So to that end, today I opened a “Missions and Church Planting” account. It only has a few thousand dollars in it, which isn’t nearly enough to do what we are dreaming of, but IT IS A BEGINNING. It is a stake in the ground which will focus our prayers, our actions, and our giving. It will bother us if we find it languishing. It forces us to ask wonderful, uncomfortable questions, like, “Who will go?” “Where should we send them?” “How can we help them succeed?”

May Sunday, March 8, 2015 go down in the history of Sovereign Redeemer as the day that a great work of God began, Soli Deo Gloria (for the glory of God alone).