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There is an argument that goes something like this:

There are two reasons why this kind of speaking in the church is so crucial. One is that the subject matter is infinitely important. There is no other organization on earth that deals in matters of eternal life and eternal death—matters about God and his Son and his Spirit, matters about salvation and judgment, matters about the life that pleases God or displeases him. In other words, no other group of people, besides the church, gathers regularly to deal in such tremendously important realities. This means that there is a form of speech that is fitting as part of that gathering that fits the greatness of that truth—namely, preaching. So the first reason for preaching is that the nature of the truth calls for something more than mere explanation or discussion or conversation.

Today I want to tell you that I am not convinced of such a method and I will give you 3 reasons why.

1. Though many like to make the argument otherwise, the fact is that when we see preaching in the bible we have taken what we now do, and what the Reformers esteemed and have read it back into the text. As I read the Epistles the word or some form of the verb didaskō  is used much more frequently than the word  kēryssō and Timothy is told only once as far as I can tell to “preach” and to add to that kerysso is used the majority of time with proclaiming the Gospel and that 90% of the time to the lost. Thus we see the command to teach in the local fellowship.

The problem lies in this question. Is teaching to be a proclamation style (pulpit ministry) or a more sit down or conversation or dialogue of some type? I think the latter. Given the local of where the church met. When Paul went into the public he preached, when he was with the Church meeting in homes he taught. It is funny that Paul never ever gives the qualification of elders to “preach” (proclamation)  but they should be able to teach (instruct). So my first reason is that it makes no sense from a biblical perspective to “preach” expositorly, though you should always “teach” expositorily. This means that the grammar, original audience, historical context and all should be carefully considered before we say what a specific passage means.

2. The next two reasons are a bit more pragmatic. The number two reason is that interactive teaching is always the best method of teaching especially new information. Being able to ask questions, get clarification, and even engage critically seems to be the way people learn best. How do I know if you are learning the information? Because I am so good at delivering it? This seems to be the position of many who preach in such a way. What it sounds like to me is that they are saying “hey I did a good job expositing the text, now apply it to your life”. There seems to be a huge disconnect. The first being how do you know I understand, the second being  do you care if I disagree.

I am not promoting an arguement but a chance to engage the speaker. And if the speaker is preaching publicly he should answer publicly. If everybody already knows and don’t need clarification then maybe we should be teaching something different. For the life of me I can’t figure out why this happens. There are only two reasons. 1. A speaker is overconfident in his skillset or 2. A speaker is overconfident in his method. I guess a third option is that the speaker doesn’t care if you get it or not, they are going to deliver it.

However, when those listening to the message have a chance to ask questions and get points of clarification it can be quite rewarding. Everyone that I know, that has such opportunities are always excited that they are given opportunities to learn more and clear up any confusion that they have had. It is funny that when the person who is learning “expository” preaching is in school and at conferences they have questions and can interact with the professors and even be critiqued by classmates and professors but come to church and shut the very opportunity they had off to others. As one of my sons cartoons say “this is quite mysterious”.

3. The final reason is that people come because they want to learn and even share what they are learning. Not to mention sharing in the local congregation should be more than greeting at the door or helping people find places to park or giving, or ushering, or stacking chairs and operating the powerpoint or sound booth. Why do we encourage people to participate in the cosmetics of the gathering but not the purpose of it. If the purpose is the ministry of the word and we have built up such anticipation for it, shouldn’t we want people to participate in the most important part of “church”? But it seems that we eagerly and dogmatically exclude people from it! You can do everything else except participate in the word. For the life of me I can’t figure out why.

However, what greater way to know as a “pastor” what people are learning? If you allow them to share in the teaching and ministry of the word, you can find out quite quickly if they are really learing  how to faithfully handle the word. You can see if they are applying a proper interpretive method right? Not only that since “preaching” contains both the information and the application,  what better way to know if the word is being applied than allowing people to share what the word is doing in their lives and how it is transforming them to the image of Christ through the work of the Spirit. Something like Philippians 2, when Paul is saying have the mind of Christ which has all to do with self-sacrifice and being others-focused, wouldn’t it be sweet for someone to stand up and tell the family of God how the Spirit applied it to their heart? But nope, “pastors” have spent the last week preparing for the grand show, the great solo that follows the rest of the theatrics. We might as well start a drum roll when pastors walk onto the stage I can hear it now “coming to the stage….”, then the big blue spotlight comes on while the rest of the place dims!

I close with an appeal. I know we have been taught by many great theologians that the word is the center of the meeting. That if we don’t preach expositorly the church will fail to worship God and start to dive into liberalism. I know the pulpit has a high place (almost idolatry) in the church today and the reason why people don’t want expository sermons is because they are weak, or don’t want to be changed by the word or some other foolish statement that comes.  But that is a lie. I know many brothers and sisters who have been doing this for years and they have a community like no other who are image bearers of Christ and have deep love for God and His word.  Finally teaching is one of the functions of elders, never preaching. You can’t find one place in scripture where “preaching” was the primary reason for the church to gather. All types of teaching occurred however, through song (Col 3) through prayers (Ephesians) through the public reading of the word (Timothy) and so forth. The Greatest Show On Earth method of “expository preaching” doesn’t really make the cut, when I study the scriptures, especially the epistles, there are many proof texts with all type of traditional meanings read into them coming out of Timothy (and Timothy only) but again it fails to stand under the light of scrutiny.

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This is not about race but about a comment and some emails and looking at what people searched and landed them here. Originally when we started this blog it was to point people to good African American Reformed resources. Though this blog has evolved over the last year or so I want to also help people who was where I was, coming out of unhealthy churches and looking for what has helped me along my journey as an African American believer. Thus here is a list for those looking for such preachers. I may end up making this a page due to the name of the blog (or URL) being black and reformed ministries. So this list is not exhaustive, just wanted to use that “look no further” in the title! Please note this is in no paticular order.

1. Voddie Bauchum

2. Lance Lewis who also blogs at www.blaquetulip.blogspot.com

3. Anthony Carter

4. Reddit Andrews

5. Eric Redmond

6. Ken Jones who also is a speaker at the White Horse Inn

7. Thabiti Anyabwile blogs at Pure Church

8. Eric Mason

9.  John E. Coleman

10. Michael Leach

11. Roger Skepple

12. Louis Love

13. Conrad Mbewe blogs at A Letter from Kabwata

I think this should be a start and through searching these gentleman others should arise. I can not forget to add Elder D.J Ward who recently passed but will be missed greatly by us young bucks.

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Monergism is offering a 15 sermon MP3 CD on the Doctrines of Grace. From Dr. Arturo G. Azurdia III who happens to be my favorite preacher. Here are the sermons:

The Doctrines of Grace
Christians often speak about being saved by grace.  But what does this mean?  Does God save us apart from our willing cooperation?  Does God’s grace invalidate the demand for our obedience?  Why do some people embrace the Gospel while others adamantly refuse it?  Is our experience of salvation, from God’s perspective, a predetermined purpose or heartfelt hope?

Track List
1) Total Depravity        
2) Unconditional Election        
3) Limited Atonement        
4) Irresistible Grace        
5) Perseverance of the Saints        
6) Q&A on the Doctrines of Grace Part 1    
7) Q&A on the Doctrines of Grace Part 2    
8) Q&A on the Doctrines of Grace Part 3    
Plus:
9) The Discriminating Love of Jesus Christ – John 13:1
10) Did Jesus Pray for You? – John 17:20
11) Monergistic Regeneration Part 1
12) Monergistic Regeneration Part 2
13) The Ultimate Hermeneutic Part 1
14) The Ultimate Hermeneutic Part 2
15) Solus Christus – Isaiah 55:1-12

About the Speaker
Arturo (Art) Azurdia III joined the faculty of Western Seminary Portland, OR, in January 2006. He directs the pastoral mentoring program and teaches selected preaching courses for both masters and doctoral students. Education: BA-California State University (’81), MA-Simpson College (’83), MDiv-American Baptist Seminary of the West (’88), DMin-Westminster Theological Seminary (’98). Pastoral Experience: 1981-1986: College and Career Pastor at Neighborhood Church; 1987-2005: Founder and Pastor of Christ Community Church. Written Works: Spirit Empowered Preaching and Partners in Preaching

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sermon-piper

No this is not about Piper per se! This is more about my journey as a Christian and some pitfalls or better yet crutches I used along the way. Back in 2004 I was handed a MacArthur CD and immediately the Spirit began to take my previous (?) 10 years of Christianity and bring me up to speed on it. What I mean is that I may have become a Christian at 16 but then again it could have been 11. Either the way Satan wanted to destroy me becausein each instance I got worse. 11 to 16 I was a devilish young adult and from 16 to say 17 I was just as devilish but with a little more conscience. I made professions of faith at 11 and 16 but for some reason I just got worse. The only thing that prevented me from wilding out from 17 to 25 was the military and then getting married, it was more due to the social consequences than the spiritual I promise.

But anyway at 25 I was handed a MacArthur CD and I was hooked. I don’t know if any of you can track with me, but because of MacArthur I was opened to Piper (someone thought if I liked MacArthur I would like Piper). This opened the door and paved the road to the journey I am currently on. I became hooked instantly. I purchased a bunch of MacArthurs books and began to devour them I also listened to many, many of his sermons. That only increased my appetite to learn. Then comes Piper. He was preaching through Romans, okay that may be an understatement. I think Piper wrote Romans in a different life he was in that joker for so long. And I listened to him every hour of the day.

I work on spreadsheets and databases and I rarely had to interact with people so I would sit at my desk with headphones, going through Romans with Dr. Piper. As a matter of fact, I didn’t even have to read my bible, because Piper was an audio commentary on it. And that is when the dependency came.

Okay lets rewind a bit. From 16 to 25 I did read my bible whenever I was saved. You have to understand that I was rebaptized like 3 or 4 times due to sinning and leaving the church (I was in a Oneness Pentecostal church and also a Oneness Pentecostal Seventh Day Adventist Church). Everytime that I would fall I would have to be resaved. Not rededication either. But one things was clear. I spent a lot of time in my bible. We couldn’t watch movies, go to parties, go swimming (bathing suits caused us to sin), listen to R&B, they didn’t want me hanging out with my old friends, girlfriends were out of the question, and I was a 18 year old with hormones at the ready to explode rate. So I promise after running like 10 miles and doing all the push ups I could the bible and I were intimate.

Actually it was this time in the bible that helped me see what I was in as false. This was before a class on hermeneutics. I began to challenge my pastors and was told that it was Satan tricking me. I wouldn’t give in, I left due to some foul things that went on got married came back and Charity (my wife) was having nothing of the sort. I am so glad that she didn’t submit. I studied some more challenged them some more (I thought I could change them if they just saw the word, but traditions are hard to break) and I later left again and this time they didn’t want me back.

But again I would read the bible for hours. This is how I figured out that tongues wasn’t the evidence of salvation, that baptism wasn’t essential for salvation, that believers were not under the law of Moses and so forth. There was much I didn’t know but one thing is I could quote scriptures and knew my bible as well as I could without any outside help (unless you count the Spirit). All that changed in 2004. I got hooked on sermons. I would have withdrawals if I couldn’t listen to a sermon. I would even find myself mad when my wife would call on the way home from work (I worked in Downtown about 30-35 miles from my home). She would want to talk but I would want to listen.

My bible became dusty, a little foreign. Yeah I knew the scriptures, but I knew them Sproul’s, MacArthur’s, Begg’s, Swindoll’s, Piper’s, Evan’s, Duncan’s, Mahaney’s, Harris’, Dever’s, Chandler’s, Driscoll’s way! But not my way. I had very little confidence in my ability to handle the scriptures. I was suffering from Expository Sermonitis! It is nearly incurable for those of the Reformed way. Then it got worst. I found Sermon Audio and MLJ’s site. I began to listen to Ken Jones, White Horse Inn, read more books, started to listen to Spurgeon sermons, I was in Sermon heaven. My bible was lonely, it had become an attaraction on my coffee table, close to my bed but nowhere near my hands.

But something happen to me one day. After reading something and hearing something, what I heard disagreed with what I read. I became inquisitive. Started to investigate this distant but familiar inspired book a little more. And slowly but surely the bible became mine again. I picked up resources (not commentaries) that would help me with the text. And I began to challenge more.

So what are you saying Lionel you might ask. What I am saying is that you can trust the Spirit, I am not saying that you can’t listen to sermons, but if you spend more time listening to sermons and reading books about the bible and little time in the bible you have become dependent on another man and are grieving the Spirit. You are sort of like the guy who sat in the bed so long that his legs no longer work or the guy who was locked in a dark room for years and when finally brought out, his eyes barely work. You my friend are in deep trouble. Today in many Reformed circles you are more “spiritual” if you have read certain books or listen to sermons of other men. You are more spiritual if your Ipod has Martyn Lloyd Jones than you are if you have no clue who he is but can handle your bible faithfully.

Shame on us. That we have punted the Spirit and given over the hard work of bible study and prayer and an ear for the Spirit to other men and not only do we enjoy allowing them to do it, we frown on others for not knowing them or have read their books. Listen to me today if you don’t hear anything else. The bible is readeable and you can get way more from it than you can someone else’s sermon and book about it. If you spend more time listening to others than reading your bible and praying for clarification from the Lord, today is the day to stop. The Spirit is still alive and the word is still a lively word. You can come to the bible with confidence that you can comprehend it and apply it to your heart. You can come to the bible with joy and a pure dependency on the Spirit to teach you what it means. How do I know this? Because the guys you listen to, do it all the time!

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 (Source:here)

Early Anabaptist congregations were distinguished from their Catholic or Reformed contemporaries by the much greater freedom their members had to participate actively in a learning community. There were monologue sermons, but often a number of people made contributions. Questions were invited and discussion took place. Gradually, as the tradition developed, a reversion to the dominance of monologue preaching can be observed, but echoes of a more communal approach remain, together with a conviction that God speaks through many people, sharing their gifts and perspectives in a multi-voiced community.

In this section we offer resources for reflection on alternatives to the monologue sermon.

 

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To the left is a picture of Eric Redmond. Teaching Pastor of Hillcrest Baptist Church in Maryland. I have added the sermons to the feed on the side for your ease and enjoyment. Here is his blog and here is a book that releases shortly. I pray that you will be edified and get the book “Where Are All of The Brothers“. I ordered one for a family member that I have been trying to minister to over the years and one for myself that I will keep for discipleship or to pass along as God leads. Check out the sermons and once again purchase the book and skip McDonalds for a couple of days.

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tree-with-a-fence.jpg 

The above is a quote from Pastor Eric “Gunny” Hartman prolific blogger (smiles) and pastor of Providence Church in Garland, Texas. I was listening to his sermon on Genesis 3 which is part of a series on sin. He was doing an exposition on verse 3 that I had never noticed before (most of you may have). In the verse Eve says “nor shall we touch it”. Gunny tells us to go back and see if this is what God really says. The answer is no. God didn’t say that at all. He goes on to say (in a non-flippant way) that she could have touched the fruit, “played hot potato with Adam” with the fruit and so on. He said all that to say this; this is the first sign of legalism.  He then goes on to explain how many of us play the same game with God and how many denominations also play this game.

(more…)

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