Use of Original Languages in Preaching and Teaching

IMG_0670It is a huge blessing to be able to study the Bible in its original languages. There are connections you can make that aren’t always as obvious in English translations. There is a temptation to take the results of studying the original languages dump it all into a class or sermon. There are a lot of reasons that is tempting. Some are harmless reasons but others are harmful. It is easy to assume that everyone finds interesting the same things we do. They may not. It is also easy to assume that digging deeper requires increased complexity. It doesn’t. An effective preacher will have discretion on which things support and clarify the point and which things are distractions that muddy the water. I appreciate the preacher who uses the result of studying the original languages sparingly but effectively. It takes a lot of wisdom to know when it is beneficial for the congregation and when it actually detracts.

In Brian Chapell’s book Christ-Centered Preaching (one of the best books on preaching I have ever read) he writes,

“Preaching should never be an excuse to display our erudition at the expense of convincing listeners that they can never really understand what Scripture says because they read only English. We are obligated to explain exegetical insights in such a way that they make the meaning of a text more obvious, not more remote.” – Christ-Centered Preaching, 124

There are two things I really like about Chapell’s statement. The first is that he uses “erudition” and “exegetical” in a statement about making things easy to understand. The second and more important point he makes is that everything that is communicated in preaching should be aimed at increasing the listeners’ understanding of Scripture. It is not about sounding clever. It is not about being funny for humor’s sake. It is making Scripture accessible, understandable, relevant and applicable.

Questions
For those of you who preach and teach, do you make use of the original languages in your study and your preaching/teaching? If so, how often do you do it and how do you determine what to include and what to leave out?

If You Could Learn Sermon Prep From Any Preacher Who Would It Be?

If you could sit down with someone to glean some information on how they develop their sermons who would you pick? Feel free to name multiple people.

Gordon Fee’s Admonition to Preachers – Don’t Become “Professional”

Another post from Listening to the Spirit in the Text by Gordon Fee. Fee’s admonition is on the danger of ministers getting out of touch with God and their task becoming routine and “professional” rather than seeing ministry as a spiritual and vibrant activity,

“I regularly tell students: Have the touch of God on your life. Live in fellowship with him; be among those who cry out with the Psalmist, ‘my soul and my flesh long for you’; ‘O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you. My soul thirsts for you; my body longs for you, in a dry and weary land where there is no water.’ If those who teach and preach God’s Word, which preaching must be based on solid exegesis of the text, do not themselves yearn for God, live constantly in God’s presence, hunger and thirst after God – then how can they possibly bring off the ultimate goal of exegesis, to help to fashion God’s people into genuine Spirituality?

A great danger lurks here, you understand, especially for those who have been called of God to serve the church in pastoral and teaching roles. The danger is to become a professional (in the pejorative sense of the word): to analyze texts and to talk about God, but slowly to let the fire of passion for God run low, so that one does not spend much time talking with God. I fear for students the day when exegesis becomes easy; or when exegesis is what one does primarily for the sake of others. Because all too often such exegesis is no longer accompanied with a burning heart, so that one no longer lets the texts speak to them. If the biblical text does not grip or possess on’e own soul, it will likely to very little for those who hear.

All of this to say, then, that the first place that exegesis and Spiritual interface is in the exegete’s own soul – that the aim of exegesis is Spirituality, which must be what the exegete brings to the exegetical task, as well as being the ultimate aim of the task itself.”

Few ministers are unaware of this point. It is just important to be reminded of it time and time again. Keeping our heart connected to God in ministry is essential to longevity, to growth and to effectiveness. The danger of routine ministry is great. One thing that helps keep ministers from getting in a rut is to continuously remember that God is working in us and through us to make an eternal difference in the lives of others…that is hardly ordinary or routine! Remembering that and living in light of that is the challenge.

Fine Line Between Radical Faith And Legalism

There has recently been a big push for Christians to get more radical about their faith. The big thing that is being preached more and more is that if you are radical, you will radically follow the commands of God. That is a good move. It is a biblical move (John 14:15). We have had a lot of convenient, comfortable Christianity and it is good to call people to get serious about their faith and put their faith into action. Jesus did that all the time. But Jesus knew how to call people to obedience without siding with the Pharisees (more on that in a minute).

There are several speakers, authors, and pastors who, in their push for obedience, are getting more and more vocal with their judgment calls of who is in and who is out. Here is the gist of how this is said – God’s commands are important (yes). We have to do what God says (of course!). If you aren’t obedient in the areas that are most important to me I will question your salvation (hmmm…). I am sensitive to those types of discussions because growing up in my fellowship there were all kinds of discussions of who was in and who was out. Who do you fellowship and who don’t you fellowship? Where are the lines in the sand? The answer was usually that there are lines in the sand on every conceivable issue whether scripture made a big deal over it or not. I will say we have gotten better about that but I still hear echoes of this mentality in some of the things I heard many years ago. I know it well because I used to be that guy.

The Pharisees started with good motives
Emphasizing  obedience is a good move. It is long overdue. But why can’t we emphasize obedience without swinging the pendulum over to become Pharisaical? Yesterday I read an article Eric Brown sent me called “6 warning signs we’re becoming accidental Pharisees” by Larry Osborne. He highlights some of these things. Reading it is well worth your time.  You know, the Pharisees had some really good motives…at first. They believed that if they bound all aspects of the Law on every day people that God’s people’s obedience would usher in the Messianic Age. The Messiah came and they were so wrapped up in their own self-righteousness that they couldn’t even recognize the Messiah when he walked up to them and introduced himself as such.

In all of our humanity, frailty and weakness it is easy to have difficulty with the tension of emphasizing obedience without missing out on grace. Once we get serious and there is no room for pew sitting it is easy to start making judgment calls about their faith and even their salvation. Are they even Christians? What if they aren’t radical enough in their faith? Along with this, there is an assumption that everyone in the first century was a Christian radical with no one who really needed much grace. They had it together, except for those Corinthians and oh yeah…the 7 Churches of Asia. They had problems to. Come to think of it so did the Galatian churches. You know what so did those in Rome…and Ephesus and Thessalonica…the list could go on starting with the 12 disciples and going all the way to you and me today but you get the point. None of us will be so radical as to make ourselves holy by our own good works.

Last, it is easy to project ourselves onto others. If they don’t sacrifice like we do or give all their book sales away or give a large portion of the church budget to missions then they must not really love God like we do. Careful there! The last I heard it is not the Church of Dabbs or the Church of [fill in the blank with a dozen prominent guys who are doing this right now]. It is Christ’s church. He is the head and we are the body.If someone looks like an appendix to you and you don’t get why they are here or what their function is, at best love and encourage them…at worst just leave them alone!

Our own sinful desires can easily take a good thing like being radical about our faith and twist it into legalism, Pharisaicalism, or worse. We don’t want to become the sons of hell (Matt 23:15) any more than the next guy. So, let’s make sure we guard our hearts against this sort of thing and find the balance that Jesus modeled and taught on this.

Balance in Jesus’ Preaching & Teaching

pulpitpewI was reading some selections of Jesus’ teachings in the Gospels and it struck me as to how much variety of purpose and content Jesus had in his preaching. Sometimes he encouraged. Other times his purpose was to challenge. Still other times he was out rebuking people. He also motivated, praised God, informed, corrected, and instructed. Jesus didn’t do things just one for one purpose. Jesus knew that different situations called for different approaches, different purposes and different topics and techniques. If you just do one of these the others will be lacking. If you challenge people every single week in every single way people will feel beat up. If you never challenge people their faith can become stagnant. Biblical preaching requires balance.

There was an old saying in preaching that you “preach with the Bible in one hand and the newspaper in the other”. The idea behind that statement is that preaching and teaching need to be in tune with what is going on in the real world. I am afraid, though, that approach still lacks balance. There is a third piece, one that Jesus constantly recognized. This piece will bring even more balance to preaching. That piece is context. You have to know who it is you are preaching to. You have to know what they are going through, what questions they have and where they are trying to get to in their spiritual growth and development. Sometimes you are preaching the basics to those who don’t know. Other times there is a need to teach more meat for those who have grown beyond the basics. Balance is key. Extremes are to be avoided. Know your people and preach/teach accordingly.

Who Is Your Favorite Theologian, Preacher, and Worship Leader?…Why?

Let’s really build some people up who have made an impact in your life. There is so much negativity that floats around out there in the internet…let’s hear some positive praise for those who come to mind for you. So who is your…

1 – Favorite Theologian

2 – Favorite Preacher

3 – Worship Leader

Bonus #4 – Ministry Guru

This could be someone very well known or it might be an exceptional person in your local congregation. What puts them on top of your list? Who are some people who are great who might not get some of the attention the big names get? I will try to put in links to your responses, where possible.

Josh Ross Salt Talks 2013 Audio

John Ross at the 53rd Ave Church of Christ in Bradenton just posted the audio of their annual SALT talks with Josh Ross. Four of the six sessions have been uploaded. I realize some of you guys are familiar with Josh and might like to hear the audio. If you aren’t familiar with Josh, it might be good to listen to a few of these because he always has some great things to say (and lives it too!).

SALT Talks 2013

Harding Digitizes Jim Bill McInteer Sermons

Thanks to Harding University for digitizing this huge collection of Jim Bill McInteer sermons! Here are the links

Digital Audio from the 1970s-2000s

Sermon Outlines

Thanks to Mark Adams for pointing this out

Win the Culture War, Lose the Soul – Who Gives the Labels?

In the Intrusive Word, Willimon tells the story of Duke Chapel holding a panel discussion on “The Church and Homosexuality” where a student came up to him after the discussion, told him he was a “baptized Episcopalian” and asked why there weren’t any homosexuals on the panel. Willimon asked him why that would matter. His response was “I have a right to define myself, to name the significance of my own experience as a gay person.”

Willimon writes,

“It seemed to me that, if his first designation of himself (‘I am a baptized Episopalian’) meant anything, it meant that he definitely was not to ‘define’ himself. I knew that his church was quite explicit in its service of baptism that the church was telling him who he was, not using the conventional labels of the wider culture, labels based upon gender, class, race, or sexual orientation, but rather on the basis of the gospel. He was someone, in baptism, named, claimed, chosen, called. His name was ‘Christian.'” (p39)

I am becoming more and more convinced that Willimon is a gutsy guy who isn’t going to pull any punches. This was probably easier to say in 1994 than it would be to say in 2012. The question is not whether or not it is easy or hard to say from the perspective of how people will respond to it…the question is, is this truth? His point is that church and the gospel should be defining these things over culture. It is not up to the world to define us by worldly categories and worldly ways of looking at things. Things in our society have changed since he wrote this in 1994. In 2003 the Episcopal church ordained their first openly gay, non-celibate clergy. That complicates things a bit further when there is diverse opinion on these issues within the denominations so that it depends on whose teaching on these matters you are going to go by. It becomes clearer and clearer that scripture defines this and the church should be taking every effort to conform to a biblical view on these things. Of course, there is even disagreement on what that would be.

I appreciate what Willimon is saying here. I think we have co-opted our faith, syncretized it and blended it with the labels, definitions and categories of the world that it is hardly recognizable who Christians even are any more. This is not just true when it comes to homosexuality. This is true is more areas of our lives than we would like to admit.

Later Willimon talks about the differences between evangelism and apologetics. He says,

“That’s why the gospel never asks for mere intellectual agreement. The gospel call is for conversion, detoxification, rebirth. The gospel cannot be mapped onto experiences that are already there, as if the gospel can be easily transposed onto the culture of the high-bourgeois narcissism. Apologetics is never as radical as evangelism because apologetics concedes too much intellectual territory to the enemy before the battle begins, adopting the culture’s self definition as the appropriate means of describing our condition. So we begin with  existentialism, or self-esteem, or Marxism, or some other culturally approved category of thought and attempt to work back toward a defense of the Gospel. I agree with Karl Barth that these homiletical tactics will not work because the gospel requires a severe epistemological reorientation. Our preaching to the unbaptized must aim for conversion rather than mere agreement, evangelism rather than apologetics.” (p.40)

Do you agree? In our discussions on faith with non-believers are we starting in the right place and aiming toward the right goal? How far do we allow the world to define our lives? Should our desires define us? Should our skin color define us? Should the Gospel and our creator define us and what do we do when the labels of the world don’t jive with the labels of our Lord? Who gives the labels and which labels are biblically acceptable and which are not?

Marshall Keeble Quotes

I recently read a biography of Marshall Keeble called His Hand and Heart: The Wit and Wisdom of Marshall Keeble by Willie Cato. Keeble was a respected and well known preacher in Churches of Christ 50 years ago. He was an African American preacher during the time of segregation and seemed to be able to cross the racial lines that divided our country and even more sadly our churches in those days. Willie Cato traveled with Keeble and recounts numerous stories and gives us insight into Keeble’s perspective on a variety of issues in this book. I made a list of my favorite quotes:

“When mean things happen to you, don’t get angry, just pray for him, then go off and live so your prayers will be answered. Live so your friends won’t believe it, and your enemies can’t prove it” – 25

“I’ve never murmured or complained at anything that ever happened to me. I’ve just stood still while God handled it, and He’s brought me this far. The people of Israel murmured and complained and God told them, ‘Stand still, I’ll handle it.’” – 31

“The Law of Moses is like a shadow of a ham hanging in the smokehouse. You don’t go after the shadow, you go after the ham. You ought not to go after the Law – go after the real thing, The Gospel.” – 34

“You don’t have to be smart to obey the Gospel – just honest.” – 36

“The Gospel is so plain, a man in the asylum can understand it. Oh, his mind may come and go, but if it does, he can catch it coming even if he loses it while it’s going.” – 36

“Lift up Christ and he will do the drawing. Too many of us preachers lift ourselves up and as a result, we don’t draw anything.” – 38

“Preachers need to preach the Truth – bear down on it. We don’t need to make friends, we need to save souls.” – 38

“The Lord called people straight out hypocrites and blind guides. Some of my own members criticize me for talking straight.” – 38

“The Gospel has power, great power. All it needs is someone to preach it – someone with courage to tell it just like it is.” – 39

“What does it mean to preach the Gospel in season and out of season? Well, in season-when they like it and out of season—when they don’t like it. With many folks, the Gospel is almost out of season today.” – 39

“When Moses was told to stretch out that stick over the Red Sea, Moses didn’t meddle with God. We’re too meddlesome! We always want to meddle in God’s business. Why, to listen to us, you’d think we’re smarter than God. We tell me to do stuff that ain’t never been in the Bible.” – 40

“When the children of Israel marched around the walls of Jericho, they shouted. They made a great noise! Then the walls fell! When the walls of sectarianism fall, it will be when we Christians let the world know that we love the Gospel.” – 42

“I like to hear ‘amens’ out there from the audience. If you go to a football game and don’t yell, then the man next to you asks, ‘Don’t you like football?’ We need to let all of our neighbors know we like God and His Gospel.” – 42

“Jesus made a man out of mud and the man walked. I used to make men out of mud – mine wouldn’t walk. God did something man couldn’t do. Men try to save themselves can’t to it no more than my mud men could walk. But God can do what man can’t do. SAVE.” – 60

“A man is not saved and then baptized. A woman doesn’t wash clothes because they are already clean. I’ve seen a lot of smart women, but not that smart. She washes the clothes because they’re dirty. Man is baptized because he’s dirty and needs to be cleaned.” – 61

“Christ is down there in the water, but somebody says, ‘I don’t see him.’ He didn’t tell you to see Him, He said believe it. There’s power in gasoline but you can’t see it, but you believe it enough to put it in your automobile.” – 63

“Don’t put a man down on the mourner’s bench. If you’re going to put him down, put him down in the water (baptism) sho nuf put him down. There wasn’t no mourner’s bench on Pentecost. If so, it must have been a mighty big one to hold 3000 people.” 65

“Id love to see an evangelist today – a real one, not just one that thinks he is, one who goes to the house, sits down and crosses his legs, takes life easy and then on Sunday’s reads a few verses from the Bible. That’s not an evangelist. I don’t know what that is, but that’s not an evangelist. I’d like to see some real evangelists.” – p.71

“You’ve got a book and you can take that book and conquer the world, but you can’t do it with it under your arm. You’ve got to have it in your heart.” – 71

“Unless you are willing to practice Christianity, don’t preach.” – 72

“Want to commit spiritual suicide? Then take up with women – you’ll die in your tracks, with the Bible under your arm. Start messing with women and you get weak in the pulpit. You can’t fight what you want to fight, you’re dying.” 72

“A dead fish can float downstream. It takes a live fish to go up stream. Come alive!” – 91

“Your friends are your spare tire. You don’t ride on your spare, you save that for an emergency. Some men can’t ride without wanting to put on their spare and ride on it. If you work, you won’t have to do that.” – 91

“Obedience is the best thing in the world – no boy or girl can be anything unless they respect those who are over them.” – 92

“Never get to the stage where you don’t need correction – you will always need it.” – 92

“When you get to a place where you can’t recognize God, that’s when you’re in the wrong place.” – 92

“You can go anywhere you want to as long as you’ve got the right attitude. If you don’t have the right attitude, I’d advise you to stay away from a lot of places. A lot of us blame it on the other fella; it may be because of our attitude.” – 97

“The Bible says, ‘Pure religion, before God, visit fatherless and widows…in their affliction [audience began to laugh]. Now, you know them widows that you’ve been a visiting ain’t afflicted. Now you stop that…be pure.” – 100

“I’m nearly 90 years old. Most folks would say I’m too old, but I want to die on the battle field with the harness on. I want to die with the armor on, I want to preach Christ in season and out of season until I die.” 107

“You’re looking for the best girl you can find to marry, but what is she looking for? If you live a hog’s life down in the mire all the time, what angel would want to lay down with a hog?” 110

“Parents who fail to discipline children are preparing them to be disciplined by society. They’re headed for jail.” 113

“If any woman has a husband who is taken away from her by a little red-lipped girl, don’t go and kill her, thank her – go look her up and thank her, cause you didn’t have nothing no how.” 114

On Preaching

“I never preach for compliments. I always preach for salvation.” – 72

“If you would preach a little straighter, we wouldn’t be so crooked.” 72

“Don’t preach to make friends or so we will be loved – don’t do that. Preach so God will be loved and souls will be saved” 72

“Wrap up the words you say in love. If you went to the grocery story and ordered a steak, you would not want the clerk to hand it to you dangling over the counter. You’d want it wrapped up. People need the Truth, but they need it wrapped up—wrapped in love.” 73

“To operate on a man for sin, you can’t put him to sleep, you’ve got to get his attention.” 73

“You can hit a nail too many times, then you bust the plank. So, don’t keep hitting it, hit it then ease off. 73”

“A prize fighter plays around with his partner, sort of sparring with him, then he waits for the lick he wants to make, then he sends him to the shower. It’s the same in preaching. Prepare the audience for the lick you want to make. That’ll send them to the water – baptism.” 73

“You have to speak plain to this generation – it used to be that a hint would do, but not now. You have to tell them what you mean.” 74