Musings on Spiritual Matters

by Matthew Morine

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Matthew is originally from Nova Scotia, Canada. He has a beautiful wife named Charity. Matthew has two wonderful children, Gabrielle and Noah. He has graduated from the Brown Trail School of Preaching, Heritage Christian University with his Bachelors of Arts in Biblical Studies, Lipscomb University with his Master's of Arts in Biblical Studies and Freed-Hardeman University with his Master's of Divinity. Presently, he is working on his Doctorate of Ministry at Harding Graduate School of Religion. His articles have appeared in the World Evangelist, the Highway to Holiness, The West Virginia Christian, The Christian Echo, The Firm Foundation, Church Growth, and the Gospel Advocate.

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Guest Speaker Manners

Posted By on August 28, 2014

A lot of ministers are asked to speak at other congregations.  This is an honor to do so.  Congregations are excited for you to be there.  You are new and fresh, and typically listen well because of this dynamic.  This is part of the average preacher’s job.  You will speak at other places, and there is an art to this.  You can be a good guest speaker, and I do not mean how you speak, but how you behave.  Or you can be a poor guest speaker, and this too has nothing to do with your sermon.  I was never told much about how to be a good or mannerly guest speaker within the church.  Maybe I heard a few comments every now and then.  But looking back, there is an art to this, and some preachers have done better than others in coming and being a guest speaker.  Here are a few lessons that I have learned and watched through the years.

1. State Expectations.  This is hard sometimes.  In being a guest, there is usually much that is up in the air.  Rarely do ministers give the amount for pay, there is accommodation concerns of if he would like to stay in a house or a hotel.  What are we to do about meals?  There is a lot left to figuring it out in this process.  As a minister, most congregations just want to show you good hospitality.  So just be clear.  If you want to stay in a hotel, state it.  It is better to do so, than to be annoyed the entire time.  If the congregation does not have this in the budget, the church has the right to state this as well.  If you still do not want to come, state it.  But in stating expectations, do not be too demanding.  I knew of one well known speaker who had the congregation go to his hotel room to insure that the temperature was set at a certain level.  This is taking expectations too far.  Also, gauge the congregation.  If it is a 50 person congregation, for them to even have you might be hard to afford.  It might be better to decline respectfully than to be in a situation in which you are uncomfortable, and the congregation would be made to feel poorly.

2. Respect the Local Preacher.  Maybe this is vain, well probably it is, but when the guest speaker would come in, he was typically always better than me in the pulpit.  I remember when Mike Winkler came to Waynesboro, and yes, he was much better than me.  But I really appreciated him bragging on me to the congregation.  He said things like you are blessed to have Matthew.  He told my elders that they should work on keeping me.  When you are there, show honor to the local guys.  Never be that speaker who looks to one up them.  If a member puts them down to you, build them up to the member.  Always seek to build up the local man’s work.

3. Say Thank You.  It is an honor to be there.  Thank the elders, and the congregation for having you.  Thank them for the hospitality that was given.  Thank specifically the person who made the invitation happen.  It is an honor to be a guest speaker, act that way always.

4. Be A Resource.  Sometimes elders will meet with me during our time together.  Sometimes it is just a simple thank you, sometimes it is about deeper elements of the congregation.  Be truthful, and loving.  Help as much as you can.  Sometimes you will be seen as an expert, but never be the guy who does not cast hope.  Every church has struggles and strengths, and you have hurt the congregation if you only highlight weaknesses.  We serve a great God, believe it in giving feedback.  Also, be that safe guy to the preachers.  Let them ask questions, let them throw ideas at you, this was some of the best blessings I had when guest speakers come to a congregation.  Aubrey Johnson came a while back to Castle Rock for a Dynamic Deacon’s Seminar.  He did an excellent job, but what I most enjoyed was the time together with him.  He encouraged me, and gave me feedback on the congregation.  Be a coach to young guys, and be a friend to the minister.

5. Never, Ever Trash a Church.  Even if the church was terrible, treated you bad, just move on.  If you are asked to come back, say no, and be respectful.

6. Do Not Try To Solve All of the Problems or Start Them.  Never leave issues for the preachers and elders when you are done.  You are a guest speaker, and the hard work of change is done through the day to day connections.  Do not be so arrogant to think that because you preached it, you solved it.  Also, do not stir up the pot.  This is not your place as a guest.  You would hate someone coming into your home to create a fight within your family.  Why would you do it to the Family of God?

7. Love them, Because for Almost All Times, They Will Love You.  Stay after to greet people.  Go to homes.  Get to know them.

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Moving Forward with the Great Commission

Posted By on August 26, 2014

Most people have heard the rule of 80% capacity within a church building.  People do not feel comfortable in an auditorium that is full.  Full is typically defined as 80% of the desirable sitting being filled.  Each week, there are people who have difficulty finding a seat.  There have been people who had to break up the group to find enough seating for everyone.  So what to do?

The elders are in the process of discerning going to two services.  Once you have filled the building, how are you going to find space for the other people who desire to come to your place of worship?  Some congregations refuse to make changes and thereby turn away the growth that God is providing.  There is no way to fit 100 people in a space that holds 50.

Sometimes you have to change to make room for the blessings of God.  But really, this is not much of a change for the existing congregation.  But it is a huge change for the people we will be able to reach.  All of the times, the format, the preaching, and the singing will stay the same.  Bible class will remain at 9am and worship will be at 10am.  For the existing members, the only change will be there will be more room to sit with your family or friends.  But for those who we are providing another opportunity to worship, this is an eternal change.  Think about that twenty some who is required to work on Sunday.  He or she will be able to worship and make it into work.  Think about the airline pilot who has to be at the airport at 12pm, who can now worship before heading in to work.  Think about those individuals that have to miss worship regularly, miss the fellowship, miss the Biblical preaching, miss the word of the Lord, miss the Lord’s Supper, and because of missing so often fall out of the habit, and ultimately fall away.  Having an early service is a huge change for them.  The change might be eternal life.

Too many congregations are declining across the brotherhood.  Sadly, too many congregations are moving in this direction, but we have been blessed to move in the opposite direction.  I am thankful that we have the opportunity to reach out instead of die out.

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“The Five Finger Exercise”

Posted By on August 18, 2014

The plan of salvation is a widely used term within the churches of Christ.  The modern expression of the “five finger exercise” goes like this: Hear, Believe, Confession, Repent, and be Baptized.  Here is a little history of this practice.

First Generation (1804-1866)

The original “five-finger exercise” was devised by Walter Scott.  The five steps were: faith, repentance, baptism, remission of sins, gift of the Holy Spirit/eternal life.  In these steps, eternal life was included, or merely dropped in time to have a stronger connection to the five fingers.  Shockingly, Alexander Campbell was hesitant to regard Scott’s claim that this plan of salvation restored the original gospel.  In Scott’s plan, there was a balanced focus on man’s actions, and God’s blessings.  Also, at this point, there was no mention of hearing or confession.

Second Generation (1866-1894)

By 1869, Isaac Errett coined the term “plan of salvation” in his book called “First Principles.”  Often the plan of salvation was presented in this form.  Point one was facts to be believed which included the incarnation, life, death, and the resurrection of the Son of God.  Point two was commands to be obeyed and included believe, repent, and be baptized.  The third point was promises to be enjoyed, and these included remission of sins, gift of the Holy Spirit, citizenship in the kingdom—heirship in the family of God.  Though, confession was starting to be introduced in the plan of salvation by this point.  In Errett’s argument for faith being more than intellectual assent, he states “faith…is joined with repentance, with confession, with baptism, with calling on the name of the Lord…”  Confession became a permenant fixture in T.W. Brents book called “The Gospel Plan of Salvation” which was published in 1874.  In the book, there is a chapter devoted to the topic.  It goes from page 249 to 263.

The Third Generation (1894-1929)

The “five finger exercise” we have today is mostly from this time period.  At this point, the plan of salvation no longer referred to God’s acts of grace, which were presumably presupposed, but focused entirely on the human response.

During the third generation there was the assumption of knowledge concerning the work of Christ.  It assumed people know of the sacrifice and blessings of the Christian life.  But as we move forward in the church today, it might be wise again to bring back the original “five finger exercise” and once again emphasize the grace of Christ.

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The three secrets of a great introduction

Posted By on August 15, 2014

In developing some material on preaching to Non-Believers, here is some of the material I plan on presenting.  The art of preaching is something close to my heart.  I will be preaching at Heritage Christian.
  1. Relevance.  You start the sermon talking about the issue that you will be dealing with.  We are talking today about dealing with stress, we are talking about bulling.  If your topic is automatically relevant, you can just go there quickly.
  2. Tension. This is one of the most important elements in a sermon, and especially in a great introduction.  There are various ways to do this.  The typical way is a valley format.  You build tension for the first half, and resolve the tension in the second half.  It could be a problem that needs to be resolved, to a text that needs to be understood, to an issue that needs resolution.  The tension is typically the reason for someone to listen to you.  If you create tension, people will naturally desire for you to resolve it.  But if you create tension, and do not resolve it, this will create dislike and distrust from your hearers.
  3. Promise.  In an introduction, you should provide a promise.  There should be a time of noting the promise of listening to this message.  If I listen, what do I get out of it?  There should be a promise statement within the introduction at some point.  You do not want to over promise, but understand promise, but use the promise as a trust building factor.  If you listen to me, you will get this or that.

Here is an illustration from Andy Stanley on Go Fish.  Notice that he connects well, and develops some tension.  http://vimeo.com/26876943.  This introduction is not over the top.  It is not funny, it simply creates tension, and seems to create a promise.  If you listen, you will learn what God desires you to be.

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Review of “Now, Discover Your Strengths”

Posted By on August 13, 2014

This book is a follow up on the title, “Now, Break All the Rules.”  It was a book about being a good manager, and the major purpose was to talk about strength focused management style.  This was in contrast to the style of focusing on your weaknesses, and hoping for improvement.  The strength based style helped to free you to do that which you do well.  The follow up book gives a little less information on management, and helps with identifying those areas that you are gifted in that could be used for a company or organization.  There are many areas of strengths like achiever, woo, competition, connectedness, developer.  The book argues that if you are good at something it is mostly natural.  You enjoy doing it, and it is productive for you.  There is a section on questions concerning this model, and there is a good section on managing these areas well.  One of the best parts of the book is the story about those who have certain strengths.  The author talks about Tiger Woods, Phil Jackson, and Colin Powell.  This book was good, but I did not see the big help for ministry areas.  We have a lot of focus in this area anyway with a lot of matrix to help people see spiritual giftedness.  The areas of strength is helpful to the individual, and the leadership, but often in churches you do not have the ability to place people perfectly.  You also struggle with people in wrong areas, but are limited in dealing with this.  People become pretty attached to ministry areas, and feel gifted, and might not have the best gifting in that role.  Unlike a business who can move someone in or out easier, we face a few more dynamics.  Overall, this is a good book, but the first one was better.  The books came out in the early 2000′s and much of the wisdom is already out there in various ways.

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Preaching to Non-Christians–Preview of a Lectureship Presentation

Posted By on August 12, 2014

Jesus never preached to Non-Christians.  You cannot go to a certain text or section of the Bible to learn how to preach to non-Christians from the examples of Christ.  His teaching was predominately to the Jews.  These individuals were raised on Old Testament teaching.  References to God made sense, and Old Testament imagines were familiar.  Jesus could use symbols to communicate truth.  The Brazen Serpent.  Sodom.  The Temple.  He used O.T. ideas to communicate truth.  But he never preached to non-Christians.  Maybe the best we have to learn about communicating with non-believers is his interactions with Gentiles.  There is little concerning this material.  He interacted with the Canaanite lady in Matthew 15.  But in this case, he called her a dog.  This might not be the best approach.  Non-Christians, when these people show up to services, we could insult them.  This happened once according to a friend.  A family arrived to services, and one of the members knew them from town.  He said to them.  “Look at what the cat brought in.”  The visiting family walked out.  Fortunately, with his interaction with the Roman Centurion, in Matthew 8, Jesus does a better job of connecting with his audience.  He is willing to go to his house to heal his slave.  This is a good starting point, but still gives us little on how to preach to non-believers.  So what to do.  The first step understands that the Bible is not a how to manual for preaching.  We have turned it into this.  We have searched the scriptures looking for models for sermons.  You have a few, but by doing so, you are limited yourself.  Peter preached differently than Paul.  Jesus preached differently than Paul and Peter.  There is no one methodology in the form of a sermon.  Rather a good sermon is one that communicates the truth of the text well.  The argument would probably turn to Paul’s sermon in Acts 17, the famous Mars Hill sermon.  But by following this sermon as a divine model creates issues.  The people in that day were trained by professional speakers, and had a long attention span.  Oral communication was the predominately style of communication.  We are in a visual world.  The people were religious in the sense that people believed in gods or a god.  We are moving into a time in which there is skepticism concerning the existence of God.  Paul used the commonality of religiosity to connect with the people.  You could pull some ideas from this sermon, but this is not a definite model for a sermon to connect to non-Christians today.  We need to look at best practices.  What can make a sermon connect to non-believers?

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GRAVES WE DIG

Posted By on August 11, 2014

Jesus came to deliver us for man-made graves.  Humans have the tendency to dig their own graves.  People will find themselves in situations in which their actions only make the situation worst.  Instead of repenting, people continue to sink deeper into whatever destructive hole that has been hued by themselves.  After a period of time, the person is so deep into a manmade grave that he or she feels that there is no escape.  Graves are hopeless places.

Jesus reserved the hopelessness of the grave.  He was placed into a manmade grave.  All seemed lost.  There seemed to be little hope, so much so that His reappearance was a complete shock to his disciples.  Jesus even foretold of his return, but no one expected.  No one ever expects someone to overcome a manmade grave.  Sometimes we have the same attitude of the disciples toward the resurrection of Christ.  We do not believe that people can be freed from a grave.  Too often we give up on people who are struggling with addictions.  Too often we give up on someone who as wandered away from the church for too long.  We believe too quickly that all graves hold only dead people.

But with the resurrection of Christ, he proved that no manmade grave can steal life.  He defeated the manmade grave.  Everyone digs their own graces by their freewill actions.  But we can also make the choice of climbing out of that climb and finding life.  There is no manmade grave that can hold you.  Jesus proved that graves can be overcome and defeated.

Maybe there is something right now in your life that is making you feel buried.  Maybe there is something you are doing that is digging your own grave.  This is where repentance is the key.  It might not happen overnight, it might be a life long struggle, but you can find life again in Christ.  You can see the light of day once you turn your eyes on Christ.  When you are digging your own grave, all you see is death and decay, but once you repent, and turn your eyes upward, you see the light.  And there is always hope in the light.  Light notes freedom.

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Review of “The Dyslexic Advantage”

Posted By on August 6, 2014

During my time in school, I always had to go to speech classes, resources, which is help for the slower kids during elementary school, and during High School I failed English every year.  Two of the years, the teacher allowed me to go on to the next grade, and one year, I had to do summer school.  You needed a 50 to pass summer school, I got a 51, so mostly I am with the dumb kids, and I was still one of the dumbest.  This created some terrible attitudes within me.  Mostly, I had a attitude of not caring.  Year after year, you feel like a failure.  You cannot write well, you cannot spell anything, and your sentences are awful.  Hence, you are treated like a below average kid.  When you are treated like you are below average, you act like it.  The sad reality for people with dyslexia is that you are far from below average in IQ.  Mentally, you get what is happening, you just cannot communicate it on a piece of paper.

When I saw this book, I was interested in it because of my background.  The book talks about some of the natural advantages that people like me have.  Instead of focusing on our weaknesses, these authors studied to see where dyslexics excel.  It is interesting, but people like me are gifted in narrative thinking, thinking outside of the box, systematic thinking.  We have the ability to see the many moving pieces and create some sense of understanding and order.  This is helpful in leadership.  A strong percentage of CEO’s have dyslexia.  Also, engineers are more like to be blessed with Dyslexia too.  This book is an encouragement for people like me.  As most of you know, even my blog has writing errors often.  For years, I was treated like broken goods.  It was nice to read a book that talked about areas that I have strength in.

If you have this, or have a child, this is an inspirational read, not in the traditional sense, but it will help you channel yourself, and your children.  You can spend the rest of your life trying to fix something that is hard to fix, or you can go be successful in an area that you have a natural advantage in.  Check this book out.

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Boundaries in Ministry

Posted By on August 4, 2014

As a young minister, this is probably one of the hardest transitions to make.  What will you accept and what will you fight against?  Where are the limits?  I remember during the first year of full time work, I was taking some youth to a youth rally at a local congregation.  I was driving the van.  A mother of two of the youth arrived to hold the van for her children.  The two kids were running late, and she was there to insure that her kids got on the van.  This is really no big deal, if the boys were running a few minutes late.  As a leader of a trip, it is best to build some “who knows” time into the trip.  But her boys were running one hour and thirty minutes late.  I was willing to wait for about an hour (much longer than I would ever think about waiting today), and finally I said we had to go.  We would miss the whole point of the trip.  The mother started to yell at me and accused me of being the most impatient man she knew.  She accused me of other things, mostly I have forgot at this point, but it was a general statement of why you are such a bad youth minister.  Instead of stopping her, I listened, and we waited another 30 minutes.  I was afraid of making her mad.

A lot of young ministers struggle with this issue.  There are a variety of reasons.  One is we are insecure about our position.  We have all heard too many preacher got fired over something little stories.  So we are naturally going to give into people even when people are wrong.  Second, we are not sure how much to trust our elders.  Once again, we have heard too many this member complained and the preacher was taken to task.  We are not sure if the elders will back us up.  Third, we like to be liked.  Because of these reasons, we struggle defining boundaries of acceptable behavior toward us.  Where is the line of going too far?

Everyone’s line is somewhat different, but the key is to understand your breaking point.  Which behavior is not acceptable?  Where do you stand?  Years ago, I should have stood where I stand today.  I leave on time, and if you are late, you are left–deal with it.  It is not my responsibility to get you here on time or to wait for you.  Today, I would have just left the boys behind and never thought about it for one second.  A lot of ministers put up with the we will find a new man line in elder’s meetings.  Often the elders are joking, but once again, this is a behavior I do not allow.  The first time it was done, I quickly said, I prefer you to never joke about this.  I know it is a joke, but for me, it means moving my family, begging for another job, and taking a huge hit in the pocket book.  Those jokes really are not funny to me.  Once you state the boundary, unless someone is just a huge “mean” person, they will respect it.

The process in maturing in ministry is understanding your boundaries and holding people accountable to them.  You need to know acceptable boundary making, and where is a healthy line.  The last thing you want to be is the minister that is always mad, but there is a time and place for establishing healthy boundaries in ministry.  In talking with a new congregation, it is best to talk about these boundaries, and in a present work, if there is some issues, discuss them quickly.  If a member is constantly attacking your wife, where is the line of the elders stepping in, and where is the line for the minister to step in?  What are the consequences for these actions?  Or do the leaders expect you to stay quiet.  You would think not, but there are churches will the minister would be fired for stopping the abusive conduct of this member.  Know your boundaries, and communicate them clearly.  It will save much debate.

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So You Want to Preach Like a Prophet

Posted By on July 24, 2014

It was an hour and a half from the center of Dallas-Fort Worth.  It was in a small littleTexastown.  The building was an old school house that was moved to function as a church building.  It was my first real-kind of job preaching.  I was at Brown Trail for approximately six months when Gary Garner approached me taking over the Sunday Morning service for this tiny congregation.  The little church met once on Sunday morning, and I was required to preach the lesson, not Bible class, just the sermon.  In the building, we met on the side in a little classroom because the church did not have enough funds to heat or cool the worship center.  Up to this point, I preached about 2 lessons before in a congregational setting.  Both of these times, everyone knew me and desired to support me in this work.  There were numerous eyes focused and heads nodding.  But this church was different.  I was just another young preacher trying to improve in speaking.  This experience shocked me, but mostly one man.  One man would come to worship and partake of the Lord’s Supper.  After this, I would stand up to preach.  As I was standing, he was arranging the chairs.  This created some nervous feelings, this never happened before.  He turned the chair in front of him, he stretched out on the chair under him, and he placed his cowboy hat over his head.  And the man slept.  This was not a big congregation.  Maybe there were 12 people.  It was a small room, you could not hide.  People get tired in church, but most people try to stay with you.  Not this man, sermon time was nap time for him.  This show really bothered me.  I really thought what I was talking about was interesting.  For the first three weeks, I tired to preach strong, enthusiastic lessons.  But this did not work.  Finally, I thought I would preach on the death of Christ.  There is no way; a man will sleep through the death of the Lord.  As always, the man turned the chair and placed the hat.  I started preaching in a too loud tone for the small room.  I raised my voiced; I told the story of the death of Jesus Christ.  And the man slept, he did not move until the invitation song.  He slept through the death of the Lord.  I realized then that I needed some help in preaching.

Paul changes his focus from Timothy’s personal conduct to his public ministry among the congregation inEphesusin verse 13.  Paul mentions, “Until I come, give attention to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation and teaching.”  Paul is expecting to see Timothy again.  Previously, Paul mentioned this expectation for a reunion.  He said in 1 Timothy 3:14-15 that he is hoping that He will come to Timothy soon.  Paul is not sure of his timetable but is hoping to support Timothy in his located work.  Knight speculates “that Timothy may be assigned other tasks when Paul arrives and perhaps that Paul himself will take over some of these responsibilities” (207).  There is some debate concerning this because of the usage of the “eJvwV” clause.  This could be seen as a post-positive, in which the text would be rendered with what precedes it.  So the text would read “make yourself an example until I come.”  This view is supported with “eJvwV” being the indicative, which would make the rendering as “while” instead of “until.”

The only other verses that mimic this phraseology are found in John 21:22-23, “Jesus said to him, ‘If I want him to remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow Me!’ This saying therefore went out among the brethren that that disciple would not die; yet Jesus did not say to him that he would not.”  In this context, the phrase is rendered “until” instead of “while.”  Probably, whatever way the text is rendered, the meaning does not significantly change because Knight points out that this phrase means generally “turn one’s mind to.”  Paul does not indicate in the verse that he is coming to relieve Timothy, but simply instructs Timothy to be busy conducting his ministerial responsibilities (207).

The Preaching Model

Paul gives three major responsibilities for Timothy to perform.  Paul says in verse 13, “give attention to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation and teaching.”  The word for “attention” is “prosevcw” which means to “turn one’s mind to, occupy oneself with, devote or apply oneself to” (Knight 207).  Timothy is to give his focus to these duties that Paul is about to list.  The works that Paul lists are the priorities for Timothy to accomplish.  Instead of following the example of the false teachers who “pay attention to myths” and “to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons,” Timothy is to devote himself to the word of God.  In fact, the word for “attention” is a present imperative, which indicates that Timothy was to continually give his attention to those acts of service (Lawson 82).  Lawson argues from this text that this is the model for a minister’s ministry.  The first order of work for a preacher is preaching.  He is to work on “the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation and teaching.”  Lawson, instead of seeing these elements as separate, sees them as making up the whole of biblical preaching (82-84).  He is close to the truth in this view because each of these elements has a special attribute, but all of them make up the preaching event.  Even the order of the verse is important because Paul tells Timothy to immerse himself in the biblical text, to encourage people to follow the text, and to teach its doctrines (Mounce 260).

First of all, Timothy is to focus on “the public reading of Scripture.”  The modern church typically places little emphasis on the public reading of the scripture.  This was not the case in the early church because the reading of the scriptures was a major feature in the public assembly of both the synagogue and in the worship of the church.  This was influenced by culture because most believers did not have personal copies of the Old Testament text, so the public reading of the scriptures was an opportunity to hear the voice of the Lord (Moss 93).  To a certain extent, there was also to be the public reading of the New Testament scriptures.  On numerous occasions, Paul commanded for his letters to be read for the assembly.  1 Thessalonians 5:27, “I adjure you by the Lord to have this letter read to all the brethren.”  Also, Colossians 4:16, “And when this letter is read among you, have it also read in the church of the Laodiceans; and you, for your part read my letter that is coming from Laodicea.”  After Timothy has read the text for the congregation atEphesus, he is to give an exhortation.  He is to motivate the people to follow the instructions of the inspired text.  He is to encourage the people to practice the Word of God.

This method of Christian preaching followed the established methodology of synagogue worship.  After the text was read, there would be a word of encouragement (Mounce 261).  This seems to be the order of worship in Acts 13:15-16: “And after the reading of the Law and the Prophets the synagogue officials sent to them, saying, ‘Brethren, if you have any word of exhortation for the people, say it.’ And Paul stood up, and motioning with his hand, he said, “Men of Israel, and you who fear God, listen.”  In this text, the Old Testament was read and then Paul proceeded to preach a message from the text.  This method continues with the reading of New Testament letters with the exhortation following.  Acts 15:30-32 seems to record an event like this:

So, when they were sent away, they went down toAntioch; and having gathered the congregation together, they delivered the letter. And when they had read it, they rejoiced because of its encouragement. And Judas and Silas, also being prophets themselves, encouraged and strengthened the brethren with a lengthy message.

Timothy’s third duty is to teach doctrine to his hearers.  The concept of teaching has been a major theme throughout Paul’s correspondence with Timothy.  This seems to be the major defense against the false teachers.  Timothy must be rooted in the word of God.  Timothy is expected by Paul to give the theologically correct rendering of the text.  It was not good enough just to have a basic comprehension of the text, but there needed to be a fuller awareness of the text’s meaning.  This meaning would be found through study, reflection, and singular devotion (Mounce 261).  Knight mentions that the word “teach” has an “unmistakable intellectual character” (208).  Where the exhortation was for application, teaching is for knowledge.  All of these elements are needed in biblical preaching.  The exhortation is to help the hearers respond appropriately, and the teaching is referring to the principles of the faith.

The Model of Healthy and Biblical Preaching     

In verse 13, Paul gives some advice on the preaching event.  He says, “Until I come, give attention to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation and teaching.”  The preaching event, whether on the street corner or in the marketplace is a defining work for a minister.  Though these locations would have been more prevalent during Paul’s preaching career, today the minister is typically given the task of speaking a message from the word of God on Sunday morning and evening in a designated church building.  Whatever the time or location, the importance is everlasting.  There are volumes of books on how to preach.  There are endless possibilities in the style or methodology of effective communication of God’s word.  Whatever the method or form of the sermon, Paul gives the three essential ingredients for a Biblical lesson.  At the core of preaching, there is the focus on the word of God.  This is the centering point for all lessons.  The scripture must be exalted.  The idea of preaching has numerous images that influence the style of proclamation.  One of the images is the herald.  The idea of the herald is a spokesman for God.  God is the one speaking through the minister to give moral advice and truth.  The preacher’s role is not one of beauty but more of faithfulness to the truth.  The herald’s role is simply to proclaim the message of Christ.  It does not have to be interesting, flowing, or provoking because the herald is to speak plainly and in a straightforward way.  A herald’s core value is one that avoids a flashy presentation.  Another image of the preaching event is one of pastor.  A pastor is most concerned with the needs of the congregation.  He speaks the word of God into the troubled life of the congregation.  He is concerned with changing the congregation for the better.  Unlike the purpose of the herald that places all the duty for listening on the members, the pastor believes himself to be responsible for the application to the member’s lives.  The final image is one of storyteller.  The storyteller sees the text through narrative as the base for life.  The stories communicate the gospel truths.  The storyteller takes great responsibility for making the message relevant to the needs of the congregation (Long 24-38).

A minister must realize that the image he brings into the pulpit will affect his delivery and sermon presentation.  In all of these roles, the use of scripture must be woven together to create a message from the word.  This message must be rooted in the eternal truths of God’s revelation.  A message that is rooted in worldly wisdom or pop culture is unbiblical and lacks transforming power.  But one must understand that declaring truth does not have to be accomplished through a point-by-point treatment of the text.  In fact, Fred Craddock gives four ways to handle a biblical text accurately.  Craddock states there are the historical context, the pastoral context, liturgical context, and the theological context.  Whatever lens the minister uses to proclaim the message of God, it always has to be centered in the biblical text (33-47).  But this does not mean that the preacher has to avoid illustrations or application or humor.  Paul realizes that the preaching event must also encourage and teach.  A preacher needs to be wise in varying the purposes of his sermons because a minister who is given to instruction only will build a head faith, a preacher that is just a cheerleader for the congregation will not build strong convictions and values, and the minister who never uses relevant material to add flow will lose the attention of the listeners.

As one surveys the biblical text, the wide variety of sermons is amazing.  Jesus used considerable variety in delivering His messages.  In the Sermon on the Mount, He used pithy lines to gain attention and transformation.  These lines would be easy to recall at a later date.  Jesus also used parables to communicate and cloak his message.  Matthew 13:10-13 addresses the paradoxical style of Jesus’ teaching:

And the disciples came and said to Him, ‘Why do You speak to them in parables?’ And He answered and said to them, ‘To you it has been granted to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been granted. For whoever has, to him shall more be given, and he shall have an abundance; but whoever does not have, even what he has shall be taken away from him. Therefore I speak to them in parables; because while seeing they do not see, and while hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand.’

It is natural to make Jesus the model for teaching, but one must realize that Jesus is not providing a pattern in teaching.  The methods or styles of teaching are constantly changing as the culture develops.  Jesus is using the customary practices of a Rabbi in communicating His messages.  It would be erroneous to assume that Jesus would not use PowerPoint or humorous stories to convey his thoughts in today’s world.

Paul and Peter also demonstrate a wide variety of forms in preaching the gospel.  In Acts 2, Peter in addressing a predominately Jewish audience made appropriate use of the Old Testament scriptures.  Peter’s audience would place great importance on the Old Testament verses.  By using the Old Testament, Peter is adding authority to his words about the Christ.  In contrast to Peter’s inspired sermon, Paul, in Acts 17 in addressing those on Mars Hill, a predominantly Gentile audience with philosophical leanings toward a Greco-Roman culture, never used a single Old Testament verse.  Paul used more of a philosophical line of reasoning with his hearers because this thought process would connect better than using Old Testament verses to prove his point.  Unlike sermons from the past, which were judged on the number or the amount of verses provided, a scriptural sermon is one that declares a Biblical truth using whatever godly discipline available.  Because of the diversity within the early church with regard to preaching, every congregation should restrain from placing one style of preaching on a pedestal as the authorized way.  The development of preaching has always been one of the strengths of the restoration movement (Crisp 17).

Timothy Kelly provides some practical advice to help preaching remain relevant.  He lists five major disciplines of the preacher’s life: daily prayer, daily reading, writing, sharing God’s word with intimates, and getting away from people at times (263).  These seem to help in the constant pressure to deliver in one location heart-moving sermons week after week for numerous years.  The pressure to preach can be enormous if one does not have a strong connection to the Lord and His word.  But the Bible never must be turned solely into an instruction manual of a godly man.  It is larger than a tool book or a medical book that prescribes, to a minister, practices that will heal because it is the living word of God.  The minister wrestles with the word as the word wrestles with him.  Barbara Brown Taylor in her book The Preaching Life gives a beautiful statement concerning the nature of the Word.

For all the human handiwork it displays, the Bible remains a peculiarly holy book. I cannot think of any other text that has such authority over me, interpreting me faster than I can interpret it.  It speaks to me not with the stuffy voice of some mummified sage but with the fresh, lively tones of someone who knows what happened to me an hour ago.  Familiar passages accumulate meaning as I return to them again and again.  They seem to grow during my absences from them; I am always finding something new in them I never found before, something designed to meet me where I am at this particular moment in time.  This is, I believe, why we call the Bible God’s ‘living’ word.  When I think about consulting a medical book thousands of years old for some insight into my health, or an equally ancient physics book for some help with my cosmology, I understand what a strange and unparalleled claim the Bible has on me.  Age does not diminish its power but increases it (55).

Only through the proclamation of the gospel can man be transformed into the image of God’s divine Son.  Whatever the sermon event looks like in society, present or past, and ultimately the future, at all times it must be connected to the word of God.  If it is not connected to the word of the Lord, all power, significance, and control is lost and replaced with man’s weak wisdom.  This is why Paul declared to Timothy in 2 Timothy 4:1-5 to preach the word.  The word has the power to reprove, rebuke, and exhort.  But this teaching is going to take time and patience.  After the pursuit of godliness, the preaching of the word is the next priority.  The word is at the core of developing a godly lifestyle and faith.

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