The Great Commission in John

We may be familiar with the Great Commission in Matthew’s Gospel, but is it to be found in John’s Gospel?  This short video was produced for Cor Deo Online, but I thought you might find it helpful.

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Saturday Short Thought – Preaching to Listeners

This week I have blogged about listeners.  I was preaching at a Christian Union gathering again this week, this time in Northampton.  I preached from Matthew’s gospel to a gathering of missions agency reps and students.  Since numbers were down on last week, it was more tempting to try and please the reps, rather than speak specifically to the students.  I hope I managed to keep the message on target for the listeners that were the focus of the message.

I’m reminded of John Stott’s great book on preaching – Between Two Worlds.  In it he introduces the metaphor of the preacher as bridge-builder.  I often come back to his thought that we have to land the message on both sides.

Some preachers start in the Bible text and build straight up to heaven, without landing the world of the listener.

Other preachers start in the world of the listener and never make any real connection in the world of the Bible text.

True biblical preachers have to be at home in both worlds and make sure their messages are firmly planted in the text, and land solidly in the realm of the listener.

Simple thought, but so important.  As you preach tomorrow, are you well-rooted in the text?  Good, but don’t forget to land very clearly and relevantly in the experience of the listeners too.

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Next week – Preparing to Preach Christmas Messages

Beware the Power of Propagated Rumors

There are always troublesome trends around, even in the church. They may be ideas or vague concepts, but they creep in and stick around for a while. Perhaps books are written to support them, but something published is not something certain. Maybe it’s time to put your finger on the pulse of your church and see if there are any ideas drifting around. In some cases we don’t need to address them, but simply be careful not to propagate them in our preaching, either by attitude, inference or reference. In other cases we need to step in and overtly correct with direct Bible teaching.

The heretical understandings. For example, how many people in our churches have the idea that the Trinity can be explained by the illustration of water, ice and steam (a modalistic explanation) or three friends in one group (a tritheistic explanation). If there is heretical thinking, look for appropriate moments to clarify the truth.

The fashionable trends. Not everything we disagree with is outright heresy. Often they are theological fashions and trends. Perhaps an idea pushed in a book that is imbalanced or narrow. Perhaps an idea emanating from a certain “camp” in Christendom. Perhaps an idea pushed on us from pressure groups outside the church. Fashionable “trends” that I’ve heard lately would include the idea that eschatology is other-worldly, always “retreatist” in orientation and therefore irrelevant. The blanket statement that foreign missionaries are no longer needed in other countries. The notion that Paul hated women. Or that any social concern among Christians means they have given up on the gospel. Or the opposite idea that Christians concerned with evangelism have no concern for people. I want to be careful not to add weight to any of these ideas, no matter how popular they might be in some circles.

We don’t have to address every issue going on in broader Christianity. But we should be aware of any way in which a passing comment, or perceived attitude, might continue to propagate ideas we don’t support. And we should have our finger on the pulse enough to recognize when an idea is becoming imbalanced, or worse, when a heresy is becoming acceptable.

Musts From Beyond The Schedule

It is so easy to get into ministry maintainance mode.  We do what we have to do to keep things ticking over.  As soon as one program is over, the next is looming.  And there is certainly something to be said for faithful plugging away in local church work.  But while remaining faithful to what must be done, we should remember that there are other things that must be done too.  These “musts” comes not from the tyranny of the weekly schedule, but from the beating heart of God.

Dream – Take some time to dream.  Let’s unshackle our imaginations and prayerfully imagine what could be.   We should break out of the small confines we easily find ourselves in and engage sanctified imaginations for God.  Imagine what could be for individuals in the church, for ministries in the church, for the church itself.  Dream dreams that don’t fit in the weekly schedule.  Tangibly meeting specific needs in the local community.  Mobilizing missionaries who will actually go and make a difference.  Taking a stand on a key ethical issue and seeing God work through that.  As we walk close with the Lord, His values become our values, and increasingly our dreams should reflect His.

Strategize – Pray about taking steps toward these bigger goals.  Your strategy will go beyond preaching on the subject, but it should include that.  The pulpit ministry of the church has a unique and definite role to play.  Even if you are not able to define a five-year detailed strategy, just taking some steps is worth it.

Preach – It’s easy to lose sight of how influential preaching is in the life of the church.  It’s easy to allow negative feedback or a perceived lack of response to drain your motivation.  But preaching does matter and it does influence.  So preach.  Preach the Word of God for the transformation of lives.

Pursue – If you are pursuing a goal, then pursue it after you preach on it.  That might involve further messages.  It’s easy to expect too much from a single message.  It might involve conversations, convening an interest group, distributing resources, the targeted giving of key books, further prayer, of course.  If you want to lose your passion for something, then reflect only on the apparent lack of response from a message.  If you want to see greater things happening, then pursue with further preaching and more.

The Smaller Hats Worn in the Pulpit

This site is dedicated to stimulating biblical preaching.  The main hat the preacher wears is that of the biblical and relevant communicator.  There are lots of angles on that main role, and they are explored post by post on this site and others.  But I would like to mention some smaller hats worn in the pulpit.  These are typically not your main role in preaching (although in a particular sermon they may be), but these are roles to be aware of.  Areas of strategic influence for the preacher:

Materialism Underminer – Throughout the week the people in our congregation are bombarded by messages of materialism.  It’s everywhere they look – billboards, TV, radio commercials, shop windows, magazine racks, etc.  A constant stream of a very powerful big idea.  When we preach, whatever the text and message might be, we break into that stream of information and give a few moments of spiritual reality again.  Perhaps in passing comments or illustrations we even undermine the message of materialism too!  (The same could be said of society and media obsessions with independence, evolution, humanism, etc.)

Family Support Officer – Many people come from, live in or have come out of broken homes.  The enemy is attacking the family unit at every level.  Yet for those minutes on a Sunday morning, people are allowed to look through the windows into your life.  I’m not saying you should air your private laundry, or show-off your family or children (be sensitive to those who don’t have what you have).  However, glimpses into a healthy home can be powerful antidotes to the stream of failure society parades before us.  I still remember the illustrations given from the home life of one of my profs at seminary.  Bruce Fong is now president at Michigan, but in his Multnomah days the Fong family functioned as an inspiration to single me and others.

Missions Mobilizer – We’re living in a world of desperate needs, yet none as desperate as the 9 people dying every 5 seconds, most of whom step into a lost eternity.  The greatest need in world missions today is still people, followed by finance and other resources.  The only source of people who could go and make a difference is the local church.  That puts us as preachers in a key role.  Let’s be aware of the opportunity and inspire our people to be genuine global Christians!

That’s three more hats to ponder.  Any others that come to mind?