Previous month:
December 2010
Next month:
February 2011

January 2011 entries

Why Professors Don't Pastor

I was reading an article written by a professor of homiletics (preaching) in one of our seminaries. When I finished I thought I must share this with you guys. This is why so many professors of preaching could never pastor. I have included just a section of the article. This is how he descibes preparing for a sermon.

"What you will do is analyze that paragraph by identifying and doing what I call verb charting. This is something that is nut usually found in books on expository preaching. Here you actually make a list of every verb that is in your text, every main verb, and then you make a secondary list of verbals, which would be your participles and infinitives. Ideally you would do this from the Greek New Testament..."

"Then you determine the tense, voice and mood of those verbs and you chart that, you identify that. You use the information to determine what are the independent clauses and what are the dependent clauses in your text, with the underlying sense that the independent clauses are going to convey information that is more dominant in terms of its meaning; and the subordinate clauses are going to contain information, by definition, that are subordinate. You are identifying the actual linguistic or semantic structure of your text; and then from that you move on down from the paragraph level, to the clause level, to the phrase level. You analyze each one of these finally down to the word level where you do word studies." 

He concludes by connecting audience-driven and topical preaching with pop psychology and is not founded on Biblical authority. Not once is there a mention of being led by the Spirit in preparing messages. Not once does he talk of the shepherd spending time with the sheep to know their struggles or doubts. The writer of Hebrews  knew something of speaking to the needs of his audience when he wrote, "you should be on solid food, but you still need milk." (5:12) I guess it is the difference between looking at preaching from a purely academic perspective or from the conviction that preaching is both persiration and inspiration.     

If It's Not Good Enough For Barney

This is not original with me. I heard it on the radio this morning while driving to work. Maybe you heard it too.

Barney, the purple dinosaur, was having a birthday party on his  tv show. He was two dinosaur years old. The children gathered for his party asked how old that was in kid years. He said it was 2 million years. (I am not going to debate young vs old earth here.) Wow, the kids said. "We didn't know you were so old. One of the kids gave Barney the birthday crown to place upon his head. The tiny crown would not fit. So amazingly the small crown became a beautiful bejeweled crown upon his head. Wow, the kids said again. "We didn't know you were so awesome." Standing in line one girl dropped her wrapped gift to the ground.  She said to Barney, "Now that I know how old and awesome you are I can't possibly give you the present that I brought to you." So the girl pulled out her teddy bear and handed it to Barney. "Now that I know how awesome you are I want to give you the thing I love the most. Here take my teddy bear as a gift." When the other children saw what the little girl had done each of them dropped their gifts to the floor as well. They all brought the things they loved the most to Barney.

I thought about that child and how her gift related to my giving to Christ. Do I give Him what I love the most? Do I give to him that which is most difficult for me to part with? Do I only give to Him what I feel like I can spare? If I don't give Him my best and most costly, then why not? Could  it be that it's not because I value the gift too much, but that I value Him too little.  


Smug No Longer

Only a few weeks ago snow began an assault on the southeastern United States. This first winter storm to hit our area was nothing like the one that hit late the night of January 9, but it was annoying for those of us who are not proficient at navigating snowy backroads. The first snow blessed us with a beautiful white Christmas morning and some of it hung around to meet us that Sunday morning as well. While many churches closed their doors that morning, Dallas Bay condensed our two services into one and met despite the conditions. I have to admit I was a little smug when I mentioned several of our sister churches were closed while we "committed" believers came together to worship. While we were meeting here in our cold, but safe, environment others were being persecuted and even killed.

In Tehran, as many as 70 Christians we arrested that week for being "evangelical missionaries." Iranian law makes it illegal to share the Christian faith with Muslims. While we were opening presents these people were being dragged from their homes. Why? Because they want their friends and families to know the joy of knowing Christ and having their sins forgiven. While we were celebrating the birth of Christ, many believers around the world were being persecuted and some were even being killed for their faith. Followers of Christ in Egypt are under renewed hostilities. Recently many were killed as a bomb was detonated during a Christian worship service. Armed men recently broke into a home in Egypt and killed the family there. They attempted to make it look like a robbery, but authorities believe it was because the family members were proclaiming Christians. There is tremendous persecution toward followers of Christ right now in Egypt, Iran, Pakistan, Iraq, China, North Korea and Nigeria. Is it any wonder then these countries are experiencing tremendous revival while God is adding to His church daily. The great work of the Holy Spirit bringing people to a knowledge of Christ is occurring in countries where there is the greatest amount of opposition.

While Chinese Chritians worship in secret locations for fear of losing their lives, American believers won't attempt to come to church in the snow for fear of putting a dent in their expensive car. Is there any doubt then why God is blessing in third world countries and is often silent in ours? I don't feel so smug when I consider how little we sacrifice for the cause of Christ.

I Faced Helga Today. Others Will Face Her Sunday.

I heard today that 49 states had snow on the ground. Florida is the only state that missed out on the white stuff. I know I have had my fill of winter. I'm more of a spring guy myself. Oh, I like snowflakes. They are beautiful. But snow has a tendency to stick around and turn brown at the side of the driveway and at the edge of the streets. Even if it doesn't turn brown it often turns to ice. Ice is good in tea but it's bad on the street. I am thankful, however, that the snow came when it did; Sunday night after all the activities at church were over. For a pastor it could not have hit at a better time.

I had one reason, though, for the snow to make the roads impassable for at least one more day. I had an appointment today for my latest echocardiogram. Unfortunately, the roads were clear enough for me to make my appointment. It's not that it is painful. Well maybe a little at the end when Helga (not her real name), the former East German female weightlifter turned ECG technician rips the tape off my hairy chest. Oh well, I made at least one person smile today. Did you ever wonder what a pastor might say as hundreds of hair follicles futiley resist  Helga's power lift technique on his chest. Keep wondering cause I'll never tell and Helga speaks only broken English. No, it's not those brief moments of excruciating pain that cause me to dread these appointments. It's is that they bring back to the forefront of my mind what I try and keep pressed back into the deep recesses of my thoughts. I have a heart problem. I can't feel it. It causes me no pain, but it carries risk for future complications. So every six months or so I have to face Helga. Then in a week or two I will meet with my cardiologist and he will explain how I will have to have surgery sooner or later.

Helga and church have a lot in common. I think a lot of people avoid church except every six months or so. They rush in and out at Easter and may visit to take in a Christmas program. But to come more often is painful. Not painful in the sense of having chest hairs torn out by Helga the technician, but painful on a much deeper level. To sit in a room full of followers of Christ and sing praises to Him is not intended for pain. But when we are confronted with the holiness of God and our own sinfulness we may cry out like Isaiah, "Woe is me, for I am undone!" Then when the speaker begins to read from God's Word the pain become intense; like a searing hot poker piercing deep into our souls. Then we are reminded once again we have a heart problem. Our hearts are desperately wicked. The pain is not meant to make them miserable. It is meant to make them holy. It is a reminder that the Lord needs to do heart surgery. The Lord will remove the veil that hides the heart from the holiness of God

"But their minds were blinded. For until this day the same veil remains unlifted in the reading of the 

Old Testament, because the veil is taken away in Christ. 15But even to this day, when Moses is read, a veil lies on their heart.16Nevertheless when one turns to the Lord, 

the veil is taken away."  2 Corinthians 3: 14 - 16

So when you return to church this weekend, be kind to the person next to you. They may be having heart trouble. Just remember Helga. Offer them a smile and a prayer and make their visit as painless as you can. 

I'm Worried

I'm worried. No, it's not my health. It's not because I believe the world is coming to an end. I do, but that doesn't worry me. It's not my finances; although they have seen better days. No, I'm worried because people are agreeing with me. You read correctly; people are agreeing with me. My wife called me earlier today and said she had walked up to a group of people who were excited about my state of the church address last Sunday. I was glad to hear it; I think. It's like the nearly 60 Facebook messages saying the same thing. Of course it didn't hurt that it was also my birthday. So many of the entries read something like this, "Happy Birthday. Awesome message today. I'm behind you 100%!" This is unfamiliar territory for me to be sure. I don't mean people don't say nice things about my sermons, they do. But usually when I get passionate very few people share that same passion. I am often referred to as a little bit of a rebel or overly zealous. I admit that I wear both of those labels with a bit of pride. So for so many "normal" people to share my enthusiasm is both reassuring and scary. What brought such an alliance together you ask? I can only share with you the three main points of Sunday's message.

1. I believe in my soul we are not sensitive enough to the leading of the Holy Spirit. I want to explore ways to make worship and ministry more Spirit led.

2. I believe as a church we have become too consumer driven. We are doing too much just to keep church people at our church and not considering what it takes to reach those who need to hear. Here's a great quote I used from Bill Hybels, "It must break God's heart when people come to church with a consumer mindset, content to eat and run. "Serve me," they say. "Teach me. Pray for me. Fix my kids. Counsel my spouse. And if you don't do all of this up to my standards, I'll go down the street and see if another church will pay more attention to me." I've learned that you can't possibly build a God-honoring church with a congregation full of consumers."

3. I believe we need to push away from the table and begin to exercise what we have learned. Spirituality is not measured by the number of Bible studies you take or the number of notebooks you fill. A healthy church family will not be full of spiritual gluttons who can't push away from the spiritual buffet long enough to serve others in the name of Christ.

I also mentioned we had gained fewer new members, lost more to other churches and baptized fewer this year than any year in recent memory. All of which is a result of the three things I have listed above. I admit I didn't share this message in a mean or condemning way. That's not my style. I still think there was enough rebuke in there to go around. So why are people so excited? Maybe, just maybe, others are getting fed up with activity with no lasting consequences. Just oiling the machine doesn't satisfy a people who were called by their Master to change the world. Maybe people are coming to grips that we have awesome power at our disposal that we are substituting with the weakness of man's efforts. Could there be a excited nervousness in our midst as we consider what God may be able to do through us as we totally surrender ourselves to Him and lay it all on the line? Maybe it should be the enemy who is worried.