Last time, we looked at all of the stuff that can get in the way of sermon preparation. Now we’re going to start getting down to the nitty-gritty of sermon preparation, and we’re going to start by looking at all of the stuff that, in my opinion, ought to be happening in the background.
But before I delve into those things, let me reiterate that this is my process; yours may look different. In fact, it probably does. Don’t take away from this series that there’s only one way to prepare your sermons. However, there are certain things that should be common across the different processes and methods.
All of the stuff I’m going to talk about today forms the background for your sermon prep. All of the nuts and bolts of preparing the sermon we’ll call foreground, and we’ll start dealing with that soon.
It’s the weekend of July 4, and I’ve just left the pulpit. I habitually station myself near the exit of the sanctuary when the congregation is singing the doxology, so that I can be available to speak to the congregants who are leaving. Occasionally, I get pulled aside to deal with a tender conscience, or to pray with someone if they so desire. But this particular morning, I got what is probably the most common question I get after preaching.
“How do you do that?”
I have recently begun following the Christian Reformed Church’s Young Adult Leadership Taskforce (YALT); as I have mentioned before, my wife was raised in the CRC and her parents are still members of a CRC church. I’ve filled the pulpit for two of the largest CRCNA churches in her hometown. Because of these ties to the denomination that once produced Geerhardus Vos, Cornelius Van Til, and Louis Berkhof, I continue to watch with the CRC with an ever-growing degree of concern for the direction of their theological drift.
The existence of YALT has done nothing to assuage my concern.
In the last 20 years, but especially the last 10, there has been a significant resurgence of lectio continua preaching; that is, a return to the Reformation practice of preaching consecutively through one book of the Bible, Lord’s Day by Lord’s Day. Given the state of preaching when this resurgence began, it was manifestly a good thing. For decades our preaching failed to show the intimate connections to be found between passages in the same book, and also failed to patiently open up all of the doctrines found in a single book in Scripture.
On the other hand, not all has been well with this recovery of expository, lectio continua preaching. There are those in our congregations who are dissatisfied with the expository method, often for a whole host of reasons. Too many times our expository sermons seem more like bible study lessons than actual preaching. The preaching can also reach a certain level of monotony, especially if you linger too long in one particular section or chapter. On the whole, it seems that there are those in our churches who are starving for solid, biblically faithful topical preaching, and we haven’t provided it.
While I’m in the midst of drafting a series of posts that I hope will shed some light on the ongoing sanctification controversy, I thought I’d point my readers to an excellent resource on the subject.
Moon, Byung-Ho. Christ the Mediator of the Law: Calvin’s Christological Understanding of the Law as the Rule of Living and Life-Giving. Studies in Christian History and Thought. Waynesboro, Ga: Paternoster, 2005.
I want to continue today with this series of posts, despite the possibility of flogging a dead horse. Given the brevity of my last post and the need to further flesh out these matters, it is necessary to continue in this vein, despite the fact that I find this to grow more and more distasteful with every passing hour.
I awoke this morning after a sleepless night to discover that my previous post had attracted a good bit of attention; in fact, it seems that some kind soul was good enough to post it directly to Chris’s Facebook wall. Needless to say, that is where the majority of the traffic is coming from; my audience can now properly be described as “hostile,” I suppose.
As I’ve continued to watch the kerfuffle over Tullian Tchividjian’s antinomian streak play out on Chris Rosebrough’s Facebook wall, I’ve noticed something peculiar.
There are two questions that for whatever reason Chris won’t answer directly:
For those of you who have been living in a cave for the past week or so, the latest kerfuffle in the Presbyterian and Reformed world is over the subject of sanctification. So far it centers around Tullian Tchividjian, and Dr. Mark Jones, and the accusation that Rev. Tchividjian has (at minimum) some serious antinomian leanings.
Since the dustup started, the Rev. Dr. Carl Trueman, Rev. Rick Phillips, and Chris Rosebrough have all thrown their hats into the ring, with Trueman offering to be Jones’s second in a debate with Tchividjian over the tertius usus legis and Tchividjians’s consistently poor use of Luther, Phillips accusing Tchividjian of out-and-out antinomianism, and Rosebrough interviewing Tchividjian on Fighting for the Faith and accusing Dr. Jones of teaching that good works are necessary for salvation. And lets not forget that Dr. R. Scott Clark is practically frothing at the mouth over this issue, too.
Now you’re all caught up. Are you tired yet?
An acquaintance of mine recently posted a link to an article that sought to provide pastors with six reasons that millennials aren’t at their church. I often find these sorts of articles both depressing and informative; informative because they give me a peek into what others in the pastoral field are struggling with and what pressures they find themselves under, and depressing because it very often shows just how disconnected modern churches often are from Scripture and from their own history.
In this article it was reason four that I found myself meditating on:
4. You aren’t diverse.
Millennials are the most diverse generation in history and they want their church to reflect that.
More than 40 percent of adult Millennials are non-white, the highest share of any generation. About half the newborns born today are non-white.
If your church has no interest in reaching people outside of one ethnic or cultural group, your church has no interest in reaching Millennials.
I found this assertion so interesting that I thought it was worth interacting with a little bit.
Without revealing all of the intimate details of our courtship, just allow me say that I fell head over heels for my wife almost instantly. She’s Dutch, has tons of backbone, and knows her catechism. When she was able to tell me her “only comfort in life and in death,” that pretty much sealed the deal. I knew I had to get her off the market before somebody else did.