“We should observe, lastly, in this passage, the mighty promise which Jesus holds out to…”

We should observe, lastly, in this passage, the mighty promise which Jesus holds out to Peter—“Fear not,” He says, “from henceforth you shall catch men.”

That promise, we may well believe, was not intended for Peter only but for all the Apostles—and not for all the Apostles only, but for all faithful ministers of the Gospel who walk in the Apostles’ steps. It was spoken for their encouragement and consolation. It was intended to support them under that sense of weakness and unprofitableness by which they are sometimes almost overwhelmed. They certainly have a treasure in earthen vessels. (2 Cor. 4:7.) They are men of like passions with others. They find their own hearts weak and frail, like the hearts of any of their hearers. They are often tempted to give up in despair, and to leave off preaching. But here stands a promise, on which the great Head of the Church would have them daily lean—“Fear not, you shall catch men.”

J. C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on the Gospel of Luke

Preaching Goofs

The Gospel Coalition has a great video with Matt Chandler, Mark Dever, and James MacDonald sharing some preaching blunders.  It reminded me of a few years back close to December 6 when I tried explaining to children that Santa Claus was St. Nicholas, a Christian Pastor.  After telling them about his life I told them that some churches remember St. Nicholas on Dec 6 since that was the day he died.  It dawned on me as I began praying that I had just told our children that Santa was dead.  Fortunately I don’t think anyone paid enough attention to connect the dots.  Here’s the video:

Preaching Goofs from The Gospel Coalition on Vimeo.

The Sermon and Ego

Mike Khandjian has a good post on our tendency to invest our ego into our sermons at Pooped Pastors.

We don’t like to admit it but we preachers put a whole lot more weight on any given message than most would ever know. In a sense it is the highpoint of our own practical unbelief in the Gospel because we easily tie much of our own sense of value into how well our messages are received.

Forgotten Mission

Yesterday I preached on the visit of the magi.  My main point was that the priests and Bible scholars had forgotten Israel’s calling to be a light to the nations even as God was revealing Christ’s birth to Gentiles.  I spoke about how easy it is for us, as the Church, to remember our calling and mission.

This morning I came across a New Year’s Day editorial by Peggy Noonan, via the Gospel Coalition that was pointing out the loss of mission and purpose by many of our civic institutions.  I wish I had found it while preparing for my sermon.  She writes:

Maybe the most worrying trend the past 10 years can be found in this phrase: “They forgot the mission.” So many great American institutions—institutions that every day help hold us together—acted as if they had forgotten their mission, forgotten what they were about, what their role and purpose was, what they existed to do. You, as you read, can probably think of an institution that has forgotten its reason for being. Maybe it’s the one you’re part of.

Tools of the Trade: Snopes

Every once in awhile I have a concerned member of the congregation bring a petition or a message they received through email.  Sometimes it’s about a sick child who’s wish it is to receive cards from all over the world.  Other times they have news of a supposed threat to the Christians from atheist lobbyist.  I’m usually suspicious of these sorts of things and never forward them on if I get the email.

This is one reason I keep Snopes.com in my bookmarks.   Snopes is the ‘urban legends reference page’ that examines these rumors that have been circulating since the internet became popular.  It looks at different claims, organized in a wide variety of categories, and gives it a color coded rating of True, False, Mixed (that is some facts are true others are not)  or Undetermined.  With Snopes.com you can find out if Coke really invented the modern Santa Claus, if the seven dwarves represent stages of drug addiction or if atheists are trying to remove religious broadcasting from the airwaves.  (All false by the way.)

What makes Snopes another great resource for ministers is that it covers many of those ‘preacher stories’.  There are several stories I have heard as sermon illustrations that are complete lies.  Ministers hear them and continue to use them without bothering to check on their veracity.  Illustrating sermons with fabrications destroys a our integrity and it is only laziness or foolishness that would keep a preacher from checking if NASA scientists really discovered a missing day.

Finally, Snopes is a great source for actual stories of interesting events that can be used for illustrations.  I subscribe to the RSS feed so I can keep up with new stories, even if they’re never used they are usually pretty fun.

Presbyterian Preaching

A friend of mine is working on an indepedent study at seminary comparing Episcopal and Presbyterian sermons. As part of the course he’s asked friends (including me) from both traditions their thoughts on denominational dinstinctions in preaching. Here’s how I replied:

I’ve tried to think of what I would considered distinctive about Presbyterian preaching and I’ve got two:
1. I think there is a greater sense of weight, importance or expectation about Presbyterian preaching. Every church form in a pastor recruitment process I’ve ever seen where they rank the skills desired for the position has placed preaching at or very near number one. It is considered the main part, even the point, of worship services and many folks refer to ministers as Preachers.
2. If there is any distinction about style, approach or method I would say it is being strongly scripture guided. This might sound obvious but I mean traditionally the scriptures set the schedule for preaching i.e. Lectio Continua vs. Lectionary. Our current Book of Common Worship argues in favor of the Revised Common Lectionary because it does a better job of presenting scripture in order. Additionally a typical Presbyterian sermon starts with the text and develops based on that. I’ve heard a whole lot of sermons from other denominations, mostly Baptists who pick a topic or opinion and quote lots of verses to support it but the sermon’s foundation is not a biblical text. Many (but by no means all) of the Episcopal sermons I’ve heard preach the scripture as it relates to the church year: showing it’s relation to the other readings or the date instead of treating the sermon text on its own which adds to the what is guiding the sermon development.

Having said that I don’t think denominational distinctions are that strong, if I heard a recording of two sermons I probably couldn’t guess what tradition someone was from.

His question, like all good questions, got me thinking and I would like to hear your thoughts on this. Would you agree with my response? notice other things? Are there dinstinctions between different denominations approach to preaching? Do you think you could tell the difference between Methodist, Baptist, Episcopal or Presbyterian sermons? What distinctions (if any) do you notice? Should there be differences?

(Image is Preacher by niccolo2410: click image for link to the flickr site)