When Preaching Stops Happening

When preaching stops happening here, like this:



It starts happening here, like this:


5 Things I Love

1. Sci-Fi Movies.  I watched “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” a couple days ago for the first time in probably six years.  When I first saw that film in high school, it became one of the most defining movie watching experiences of my life.  Seeing it again, I’m reminded why it had such a major impact on me.  It’s a movie filled with moments we cinephiles call pure magic.  There are so many shots of faces in it – faces reacting to something extraordinary.  And the final 30 minutes are as breathless and wondrous as anything ever put on film.  It reminded me of so many other sci-fi movies that have influenced me since I was a kid, old and new – “Forbidden Planet”, “2001”, “E.T.”, “Knowing” and so many others.  This is a great and unique genre, one of the only that has license to give us the rare and wonderful experience of awe.

2. NoiseTrade.com.  Have you heard of this site?  My dear friends, Joe and Liz Brasher, opened my eyes to this site last summer.  It was co-created by Derek Webb, a music artist and provocateur behind Caedmon’s Call and solo efforts like “Stockholm Syndrome”.  The site offers music from a vast array of different artists who make their music available free of charge.  You can literally spend no money gaining hundreds of songs.  The site also gives you the option of “tipping” the artist, which is basically naming your price.  If not for NoiseTrade, I would not know about Ben Rector, Jenny & Tyler or my most recent obsession, Susan Enan, who will make another appearance on this list.  There are some stinkers who manage to get their music onto the site (which is also free), but you’re likely to find some of your new favorite music here.  Support this site.  Join its “The Noisemakers Campaign”.  Details on the homepage.

3. Ritz, Jiff and Choco Milk.  When I moved to Chicago almost three years ago I was in culture shock.  Didn’t have friends.  Didn’t have confidence.  Didn’t have (my own) money.  One night I sat down to watch a movie and scrounged the kitchen for something to eat.  All I could come up with was Ritz crackers, peanut butter and a tall, cool glass of chocolate milk.  My world was turned upside down.  It’s not as though I’d never had crackers and peanut butter, but chocolate milk? Lunacy.  But it made me a believer.  Since then, I’ve devoured countless sleeves of Ritz and scraped clean dozens of jars of Jiff.  It’s a comfort food.  And it’s cheap when you buy the off-brand.  But…I do recommend this particular combo: Ritz, Jiff, Hershey’s chocolate syrup and Dean’s whole milk.  More expensive and much more likely to make you a fatty in no time flat – which means it is delicious.

4. Preachers.  I’ve done a little bit of preaching the last six months in the Crossroads University Ministry at The Moody Church.  It’s been a humbling and beneficial experience learning how to faithfully exegete God’s Word and communicate it to body of believers.  Far and away, the most influential preacher I’ve heard is Eric Naus, who leads Crossroads.  He’s my pastor and mentor and his preaching has changed so much about the way I view God and live life.  (To hear many, many hours worth of Pastor Naus’ preaching, go to our podcast here.)  But in terms of people I don’t know, Tim Keller, John Piper and Martyn Lloyd-Jones have revolutionized how I look at preaching.  From Keller’s highly Christo-centric hermeneutic, to Piper’s oratorial passion, to Lloyd-Jones’ fiery commitment to sound doctrine, these preachers have instilled in me a high view of God.  A high view of God’s sovereignty coupled with his goodness.  These men have convinced of the primacy of preaching for the equipping of God’s people for life and godliness.

5. Songs of “Conclusion”.  There’s a particular type of song that, musically and lyrically, seems to be communicating the end of something.  I call these Songs of Conclusion, and I love them.  Often they have a nostalgic tone, which is appropriate because nostalgia implies a time that ended and is remembered.  I think of songs like “Brothers On A Hotel Bed” by Death Cab, “Trust Me” by The Fray, “Sprawl II” by Arcade Fire, “Salt in the Sea” by House of Heroes” and “The Grave” by Susan Enan.  I encourage you to find these songs and listen closely.  They might whisk you back to a different time in your life or spur you on toward something new.

11 Minutes of Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones

March 1, 2011 marked 30 years since the death of Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, the great Welsh pastor who revived expository preaching in the 20th century and ruffled a lot of evangelical feathers with his bold beliefs about the Bible.

For me, Lloyd-Jones is swiftly becoming one of the most empowering and influential preachers I have ever listened to.  His trademark command and authority at the pulpit were useful tools for magnifying the gospel message.

In celebration of his life and legacy, the Martyn Lloyd-Jones Recordings Trust posted an 11-minute interview with the preacher, given soon after he left his position at Westminster Chapel in London.  This footage has previously been unavailable, and it is one of very few, very rare on-camera interviews the doctor ever gave.

Here’s the video:

Thanks to Tom McElroy, who first encouraged me to give the Doctor a listen.

Immaculate Word Choices: Lessons from Robinson & Lewis

Last week, Moody Bible Institute hosted its annual Founder’s Week.  The conference, held on the week of D.L. Moody’s birthday each year, promises dynamic Bible teaching from some of the country’s finest expositors.  And, let’s be honest, there are some duds too.

On Thursday night, Haddon Robinson preached a sermon from the first three chapters of Hosea.  Dr. Robinson is considered one of the foremost authorities on expository preaching, and his exposition on Thursday confirmed that for me.  I had never heard him preach before.

What struck me most was Robinson’s word choice.  Every word seemed to have been forged and chiseled before he said it – perfectly chosen for the context and meaning of each sentence.  This was remarkable.  He was a humble speaker in countenance and delivery.  He did not speak very loud, but his words demanded attentive silence from the audience (or maybe people were bored and sleepy – I’m not sure).

In preaching through the narrative portion of Hosea, Dr. Robinson displayed an expert understanding of literary exposition.  Many preachers confuse exposition so thoroughly that the sermon becomes eisegetical; it becomes total misinterpretation.  I hear this often.  In an attempt to make a biblical text relatable, the preacher actually only succeeds in inserting their own uninspired ideas into the text.  This ruins the theological implications and practical applications of the text.  On a more heinous level, that kind of preaching undermines the Word of God.  It assumes that Man’s ideas are inspired over the Bible.  By making the passage “relatable” or lyrical, the preacher misses the whole point!

But Robinson was able to make his exposition robust with lyrical wording and profound imagery without undermining the text.  Indeed many of the details he gave from the story are not in the text, but the sermon remained loyal to the Scripture because his word choice was so intentional.

I was reminded of the importance of our word choice.  Words do matter.  They matter in general storytelling.  They matter more in preaching, which is often storytelling of the most important kind.

In The Abolition of Man, C.S. Lewis opens with a criticism of an elementary-level English text book.  The book’s authors, whom Lewis nicknames Gaius and Titius, claim that when a person attributes description to an object, that person is not actually revealing something about the object  but about themselves.  For instance, when a man calls a waterfall sublime he is not actually saying “This waterfall is sublime”, but “I have sublime feelings regarding this waterfall.”

Lewis then pictures a schoolboy reading and consuming this teaching and says,

The very power of Gaius and Titius depends on the fact that they are dealing with a boy: a boy who thinks he is ‘doing’ his ‘English prep’ and has no notion that ethics, theology, and politics are all at stake.  It is not a theory they put into his mind, but an assumption which ten years hence, its origin forgotten and its presence unconscious, will condition him to take one side in a controversy which he has never recognized as a controversy at all.  The authors themselves, I suspect, hardly know what they are doing to the boy, and he cannot know what is being done to him.  (The Abolition of Man, p. 5.)

Lewis’ argument concludes that words are not merely subjective; we cannot insert our fickle notions into them.  Words must have objective meaning, or else we lose meaning.  We lose truth and the ability to articulate truth.  Preaching, then, must include the intentional and prayerful use of words because biblical preaching is the proclamation of truth.

I am thankful for Dr. Robinson’s sermon, which is still on my mind, and for his example.  His sermon last week reminds me to be thankful for all the preachers who speak well – not necessarily at the oratorial level (though that certainly helps) but at the word level.  And his example reminds all of us in the family of God to craft our words with carefulness and intentionality.