Ministry Mantras by Briggs and Hyatt

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J.R. Briggs and Bob Hyatt present a discussion and encouragement for ministry that uses key statements as the angle to get us to have clear focus on ministry. While it might strike you as only slogans that appeal to our distracted generation, or even clichés that sound cute, the book does manage to push us in ministry.

Some of the mantras were just a reminder of what we should know, but others were quite profound. The one “Leadership is purposefully choosing whom you will disappoint”, especially when it was demonstrated that Jesus practised this in His ministry, is an example.

The mantras are categorized as either leadership, vision, motivation,ministry, pastoral care, leadership development, opportunities, success, spirituality, expectations, community, formation, conflict, outreach, and stewardship, though there is clearly overlap. Some you have heard, but many you have not.

Only occasionally did they give the impression that if your ministry doesn’t look like theirs it’s substandard. Overall, I enjoyed reading this volume. To my mind, you could either read this straight through as a regular book like I did, or you might read one mantra a day to spread out the challenge. Either way, it is a solid effort.

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

Evangelism Handbook by Alvin Reid

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I think I have found what I will use as my premier resource for evangelism in church and personal ministry. This volume by Alvin Reid is at once a passionate call for evangelism and a practical guide to several aspects of it. A Foreward by Thom Rainer and an Afterword by Roy Fish tells you type of book this one is going to be. It did not disappoint.

I loved Part 1 that was nine chapters on why evangelism is so essentially Biblical. It was so well done and accurate. It had the flavor and fervor of the old writers of evangelism, yet it was fully up-to-date.

Part 2 was five chapters on a subject that is missing in many modern works on evangelism–spiritual resourses. Some works present evangelism in such a mechanical way that methods, they suggest, guarantee results. Reid explains the role of the Spirit and the need of real spirituality on our parts. He also explained the nedd of and use of a personal testimony.

The rest of the book is good counsel on how to carry out evangelism and how to be missional. There may have been a sentence or a quote here and there that I disagreed with, but this book is nothing short of a home run!

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

 

Choosing A Sermon Subject

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Do you ever have that sinking feeling as Sunday draws ever closer that comes when you can’t decide what to preach on? I have had some tell me that this problem is the hardest they face in the pastorate. If they preach three times a week, that pressure can be strong. What can be done about it?

Some grow to believe that there must be something wrong with them since ideas don’t come easily at a rate of three a week. Some just change pastorates often so they can just use the same sermons. While there is a place for the use of an old sermon, it ought not be simply because I can’t think of a new one. Some wonder if they just aren’t close enough to the Lord anymore!

Could the problem be more the whole approach than a lack of creativity? Could the normal method be doomed from the start? The normal method is first I chose a subject or idea, then I select a text to highlight my subject or idea. From there I may chose to go the topical route. That presents quite a problem in a long pastorate. Just how many good topical sermons can one person come up with on a specific subject?

I heard one famous preacher once claim he really only had 20 topics he preached on and he just rotated them. He had quite a following. His sermons varied from topical to loosely textual. I suspect that would not be effective for most of us.

The problem is that we would likely try to make a connection with our “found” text and our topic. After we make that connection to our satisfaction, we likely will fall into the same old platitudes we said the last time we preached on the subject. Imagine the topic is prayer–you’ll just start saying we need to pray more with no new reason from last time. If you’re not careful, you’ll even use the same illustrations. (We’re talking about the preacher’s problem today, but maybe the discussion should be on the congregation’s problem!)

Even if we went the textual or expository route, which is far preferable, we have to find the text that really matches our subject. What will we do if we start deeply studying and finally figure out that our text in its context is not really talking about our subject? Sunday will be even closer! That seems living on the edge.

So what do I suggest? You would never guess it from my misleading blog title. Give up choosing a sermon subject! Just choose a text! See where it takes you and just preach it.

I keep a sermon seed plot that is nothing but a list of texts that jumped off the page at me. In reading or studying you will be all across the Bible, so there will be many opportunities. You may be reading books and the author mentions a text in passing, and there’s another one for the seed plot. I probably never have less than thirty of these in my seed plot, so it’s just a quick prayer of “Which one, Lord?”, and I am on my way. No agonizing over a subject for me. I may not even know my subject till I’ve studied for a few hours.

You may ask, How does that allow for trying to address perceived needs in the congregation? Of course, a text may come because I am thinking about a perceived need, but not necessarily. This is hard for me to prove, but I have often been amazed at how the text addressed these needs. As for me, I believe I would be far less likely to address needs were I to try to pick that first. I’ll offer the flimsy evidence that I have on occasion thought a text would address issues only to find a careful study of the passage led me somewhere else and was far better than where I thought I was going.

This doesn’t only refer to preaching through a Bible book or a series. In my ministry, I have settled into not doing a series on Sunday morning. We may be anywhere in the Bible at that service. By the way, this is how Spurgeon did most of his services.

This method has other advantages. Remember our discussing how our topical preaching may fall into triteness? If you preach topically on prayer, for example, you will run out of things to say quickly. But the Bible is full of passages on prayer that approaches the subject freshly and creatively in every case. What you can do, then, is tap your preaching into the Bible’s natural creativity. You’ll never have to be dull or trite again! Plus you won’t waste all that time just trying to pick a subject any more. Happy preaching!

The Foolishness Of Preaching Podcast–Encouraging Bible Preaching!

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I hope you have heard of Ryan Hayden’s new podcast–The Foolishness of Preaching. Ryan did a lot of blogging in the past and chose to try a new avenue to champion the cause of expository preaching. He believes, as I do, that the dearth of preaching the Bible is the cause of many of the problems we have today. We have too much in pulpits of what man says–we need to hear what God says!

Ryan takes preachers who love expository preaching and interviews them on philosophy of preaching and ministry, study methods, favorite books, and then personal elements of the preacher. Ryan is quite the interviewer and puts a lot of time in this weekly project. This is a positive, wonderful attempt to help the cause of preaching.

Check out his website for the podcast to sign up on iTunes or other devices here:

The Foolishness of Preaching

I was honored to be one of the ones interviewed and it came out this week and you can find it here:

Reagan Episode

Maybe it will be an OK episode. I have a face that only audio could love!

In any event, I am honored that Ryan would put me on his fine podcast.

Sola Scriptura–Is The Bible Our Only Guide? (IBTR #73)

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Sola Scriptura–By Scripture alone! That has a nice ring to it, doesn’t it? To that I give a hearty Amen! In Baptist churches that I have been around we have worded the same idea a little differently–The Bible is the final authority in all matters of faith and practice. To my ear that has a nice ring as well. Sign me up–It’s what I believe.

Sometimes what we profess to believe is not what we actually believe. That is called hypocrisy. But that does not exhaust our error. Sometimes what we think we believe is not what we actually practice. That is misunderstanding that requires we face it so our heads can catch up to what we thought our hearts championed.

Early in this series I wrote on “We Preach The Word Of God! Really?” and went hard after something I feel passionate about: Biblical (Expository) Preaching. As I argued there, despite our claims, there is a dearth of it in the Independent Baptist world.

Strangely enough, I had an unusual experience preaching last Sunday. I preached on “He Added No More” from Deuteronomy 5:22. It was an exciting passage to study and preach. It was Moses recounting the giving of the 10 Commandments 38 years after the event happened in Exodus 20. The phrase is key because had it only meant “He was finished talking” it would not have even needed to be said. Whether it be the 10 Commandments, the Law of God, the plan of salvation, or the Bible itself, He gave all we need. It is complete and permanent. He gave it and “He added no more”.

A lovely couple was visiting from out-of-town and as they were leaving they were complimenting how much they enjoyed that Scripture. The lady told me that she had spent her life in Independent Baptist churches and it had been her experience that the sermons so often added more. So much, in fact, that she could not find what she heard in Scripture! The Lord may have added no more, but the preacher sure did in many experiences she had apparently had.

I need not rehash that refrain so common from my lips. Yes, we who preach God’s Word must hold the high standard of preaching God’s actual Word. Oops, there I go again!

But it does suggest another issue as well. Whether the preacher we are listening to actually sticks to the text or not, we are still responsible to the text. Sola Scriptura is not lived by proxy. The Bible is not only the final authority in matters of faith and practice for a congregation, but for me individually.

What does that mean? I can not turn over my understanding of God’s Word to someone else. If it works like it is supposed to, your pastor can be a great aid to digging out God’s Word. But if he fails, you are not off the hook. You are responsible.

It goes farther. You can not allow some man to make all the decisions for your life for you; not while you hold that wonderful Bible in your hand and have the Almighty God waiting to be sought by you so as to guide you.

There are some preachers who are a shame to the ministry, and others who are an embarrassment to those who love the Bible, but they do not absolve me from letting the Bible be my guide. This is the other side of the truth we must all remember.

Find all articles in the series here.