Mark I – Expositional Preaching

I have decided to review Nine Marks of a Healthy Church by Mark Dever. Dever is the Senior Pastor of Capital Hill Baptist Church. This book has been out for a while but I am just now getting around to reading it. It has been on my list for a while now though. So far, I am enjoying it. In this post I will give a review of Mark I.

Dever says

The first mark of a healthy church is expositional preaching. It is not only the first mark; it is far and away the most important of them all, because if you get this one right, all of the others should follow. (p. 39)

So what is epositional (or expository) preaching? Click here, here, and here for some explanations of expositional preaching. Dever describes it this way.

Expositional preaching is not simply producing a verbal commentary on some passage of Scripture. Rather, expositional preaching is that preaching which takes for the point of a sermon the point of a particular passage of Scripture.

Seems clear enough. Basically, Dever is saying that the most important mark of a healthy church is to let God’s Word speak for itself and let it be the focus of all teaching. When this is the case, God will be glorified and disciples will grow.

In the second half of the chapter Dever discusses the central role of the Word of God. He divides into three subsections. They are: “The Role of God’s Word in Bringing Life”, “The Role of God’s Word in Sanctifying”; and “The Role of the Preacher of God’s Word”. He summarizes these up pretty good when he says

We need God’s Word to be saved, but we also need it to continually challenge and shape us. His Word not only give us life; it also gives us direction as it keeps molding and shaping us in the image of the God who is speaking to us.

God uses His Word to bring life…physical and spiritual. Dever says that since the fall and our separation from God, God must speak to us if he wants us to know Him. If He chooses not to speak to us then we are doomed to be eternally separated from Him.  We need to listen for what He is saying to us.  Thankfully, we know that He does speak with us.  Hebrews 1:1-2 says “Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world.

What emphasis do you place on expositional preaching?  Do you prefer a different style?  If so, why?  Do you agree with Dever that it is the primary mark of a healthy church?

What Is The Goal Of Your Theology?

Billy posed this question in his post over at Classical Arminianism. I thought it was a very good question and one worthy of all of our consideration.

Did you know that you had a theology? You do…everyone does. Some people have good theology and some people have bad theology and there are various degrees of each. Theology drives many of our discussions about religion even if we do not realize it. Meriam-Webster defines theology as “the study of religious faith, practice, and experience; especially : the study of God and of God’s relation to the world.

Until about 2 years ago, I did not like theology. I was not interested in it because it seemed boring. I saw no benefit from studying it. Let me tell you now that I WAS WRONG. My eyes have been opened to the study of theology as well as the benefits that come from it. Until we begin our study of theology we will not grow beyond the initial stages of sanctification and will not mature as Christians.

Having said all that, let return to the initial question. What is the goal of your theology? Have you ever thought about it? I had not. The question made me think. Billy answers the question with some quotes from Arminius. He says

“For Arminius, theology was more than a composite of various teachings; the goal of theology was to glorify God.”

There it is.  Short, sweet, and to the point.  There is nothing that can be said to improve upon it.  The goal of our theology should be to glorify God.  Anything else is missing the point.

Now for the hard part.  What does it mean to glorify God?  How can we glorify God in our theology?  Here there is room for some interpretation and Christian liberty.  What is not allowed is anything contradictory to the Word.  We must have a commitment to a systematic study of God and His word.  We must also seek to become consistent in how we apply the doctrines of God’s Word.  If we do these two things we will mature as Christians and God will be glorified in our theology.  After all, isn’t that what all Christians are commanded to do.

What do you all think?

Nine Marks of a Healthy Church

I have just started reading Mark Dever’s Nine Marks of a Healthy Church.  I have had this on my list to read for a while now and after finishing Simple Church I decided the time was right.  I am debating posting a blog article for each chapter but I have not decided yet.

Have you read the book?  If so, what did you think of it?

Does Jesus Want “To Be My Friend Forever”?

My RSS reader (Google Reader) has given me links to at least two blogs (Founders Ministries and Tim Ellsworth) that have referenced the same story. Since two different people had thought it was important enough to write about I decided to read it and see what was going on. Here is the money quote:

We’re using these formative preschool years to build a foundation for that eventual decision by focusing on God’s love and telling preschoolers that “Jesus wants to be my friend forever.”

To give my answer to the question in the title: NO, Jesus wants to be our Lord. He died to pay the penalty for our sins. His blood was shed in our place and for that we owe Him everything. It is true that the Bible says we will be joint heirs with Jesus, and indeed we will, but He will always hold the preeminent position.

Apparently First Look (a company that develops children’s Sunday School material) has decided to omit the crucifixion from their Easter lesson. They have sent out a letter (click here to read it) attempting to explain their decision. In the letter they state that “because of the graphic nature of the Easter story and the crucifixion specifically” they have “chosen not to include the Easter story in our curriculum.” They go on to explain that “the crucifixion is simply too violent for preschoolers.” So, you might ask, what will the lesson on Easter be about? They are going to focus “on the Last Supper, when Jesus shared a meal and spent time with the people He loved.”

I am not saying that this is not a good lesson. It might be a very good lesson. The point is that they should not be afraid to tell the complete Easter story. I have 3 children (ages 11, 7, and 10 months) of my own and I have had discussions with them when they were very young about what Jesus did for us. I know that they did not grasp it all and I certainly did not go into graphic detail about the crucifixion. In fact, I waited some time before letting them see the movie The Passion of The Christ. The Easter story can be told very effectively to children without being graphic.

I am left to wonder a few things. Is this the first year that First Look has chosen not to tell the Easter story or have they done this before? What factors or other options did they consider in making this decision? What other parts of the Bible are they purposefully going to (or have been) be keeping from the children?

Does your church use First Look? Do you support their decision to not include the Easter story? Do you leave the crucifixion out when talking to your kids about what Jesus did for us? I am just curious how what you all think about this.

Benjamin Keach Defines What A Church Is

A church of Christ, according to the Gospel-Institution, is a Congregation of Godly Christian, who as a Stated-Assembly (being first baptized upon the profession of Faith) do by mutual agreement and consent give themselves unto the Lord, and one to another, according to the Will of God; and do ordinarily meet together in one Place, for the Publick Service and Worship of God; among whom the Word of God and Cacraments are duly administered, according to Christ’s Institution.

This quote came form page 104 of Ready for Reformation by Tom Nettles. According to his endnotes he took it from The Glory of a True Church and its Discipline Displayed by Benjamin Keach.

There are several aspects of this definition that are relevant but I want to highlight a couple. First, notice that the members must be baptized after making a profession of faith. This means that only regenerate people should be members of our churches.

Second, the members first commit themselves to the Lord. That has to be our primary concern but the members are also to commit themselves to one another. We ARE our brothers keepers. We are responsible to each other and for each other. How many times have you heard Christians claim that they cannot judge others? They use Matthew 7:1 which says “Judge not, that you be not judged.” The problem is that they don’t read the verses that follow. Without them, you don’t get the full context. Here are verses 1 through 5:

Matthew 7:1-5 “Judge not, that you be not judged. (2) For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. (3) Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? (4) Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? (5) You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.

Context is king….always make sure that you read more than just one verse.

Jehovah’s Witness At The Door

Yesterday I was visited by a couple Jehovah’s Witnesses.  They were older men, probably in their late 50′s or early 60′s.  They were very nice and well dressed (both were in suits).

They were out in my neighborhood passing out literature and inviting people to a special event that were having were they could “share what they believe about Jesus“.  They did not tell me they were JW’s but the literature was printed by the Watch Tower Society.  I thanked them for the invitation and told them that I was a member of First Baptist and served as a deacon there.  They asked me to read the material anyway to see what they believed.  I told them that I had some knowledge of what they believed and did not need to read their literature to find out.  At this point their attitudes changed, they were not rude but clearly did not want to discuss anything.  I was hoping for an opportunity to discuss some things with them.  They politely asked me for their literature back so they could “give it to someone else” and they left.

This is the first time I have been visited by JW’s.  I wonder if they will come back and take time to discuss some things with me.  It has been sometime since I studied the specifics of what they teach so I may take so time to review a few things just in case.

Have any of you has the opportunity to discuss your faith with JW’s?  If so, how did it go.  Was it something you would do again?

A Great Definition Of Faith

As I am reading chapter 7 of Tom Nettles book Ready for Reformation I came across this definition of Faith. It was really good so I thought I would share it. There is no citation given so I assume this is his original definition.

Faith is a disposition of the mind and affections produced in conjunction with a true understanding of one’s own deserved misery in sin and the supreme exclusive excellence of Christ’s righteousness.

I think it points to the proper relationship between us and Christ. This is important because if we do not properly understand that relationship we will not have a correct understanding of our need for Him and our faith, if we have any, will be weak.

What do you think? Do you agree with his definition?

Unexpected Good News At Church Last Night

Background:

Last Sunday afternoon we had our monthly church council meeting.  These meetings are mainly used to coordinate events on the calendar.  We are sometimes able to discuss other issues.  I had an opportunity to share about Simple Church.

I had finished reading the book about a week before.  It has really changed the way I think we should “do” church.  At the meeting I was able to give a brief overview of the book and how it had changed my thinking.  I offered to loan my copy to anyone who was interested in reading it and I also suggested that maybe the church could purchase several copies for the leaders to read.  As expected, I had no takers but at least I had put the thought out there.

After the meeting as I was speaking to the pastor I gave him the book so he could take a look at it.  I did not expect him to do much more than a quick review.  He has been talking about making some changes in our church since the beginning of the year and I tried to let him know, without being too pushy, that this book was something in line with the topic of change.

Good News:

At church last night the pastor told me that he was almost finished reading Simple Church (he had only about 20 pages left to read).  That itself surprised me a bit but that was not all.  He then told me that as he was reading he would stop and think about how we could apply the principles in our church.  He was also thinking about who in the leadership he would like to get to read the book next.  He even said that he really liked the Mr. Potato Head illustration and might use it himself.  At this point I was stunned…really.  The implications of what I had heard really did not sink in until I was home later (i had a migraine and was not completely myself so I was a bit slower than usual).

Now, I am extremely excited about the possibilities.  If the pastor really gets behind this type of change the next step will be the leadership.  That will be where the first resistance may come but that bridge is probably months away.  The leadership must get behind the change and understand the need for it before any progress can be made.  But as for now, things are looking up.

Real Preachers of Genius: Seeker-Sensitive Mega Church Guy

This was too good not to share. I found it posted over at the Reformed Mafia. Enjoy.

Simple Church – Chapter 9

Church complexity is costly. The cost is beyond time and money. The kingdom is not expanding. Lives are not being changed. Transformation is not happening. Churches are not growing.

Tragically, in most churches, the pain of change is greater than the pain of ineffectiveness.

This is the last chapter of the book. It summarizes some practical aspects of “becoming simple”. We are presented with a choice – Change or Die.

We must be concerned not only with what we are doing but also how we are doing it. Clarity, Movement, Alignment, and Focus all come into play here. We are charged by God to do everything to the best of our ability. God wants excellence. “It in impossible to offer excellence when focus is so divided.” (p. 235) God is not satisfied with mediocrity.

This book has changed the way I view how we are to “do church”. Before reading this book I believed the way to draw in more people was to offer something for everyone. I guess that is the “if you build it they will come” philosophy. I no longer think this way. In most areas of my life I have made the effort to follow the K.I.S.S. (Keep It Simple Stupid) principle but I did not apply that to my thinking about church. I was wrong….but now I have become consistent in this area.

If you have not read this book I highly recommend it to you. It will not be time wasted and I think you will enjoy it. If you do read it, let me know what you think.

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