If you have never heard Welsh pastor Geoff Thomas preach then do whatever you can to hear this faithful pastor. He has been used of God for over forty years in the same church in vowel-deficient Aberystwyth, Wales. Earlier this month Martin Downes conducted an excellent interview with Thomas which you can read here and here. Here are a few excerpts:
“Personal prayer and the devotional life are still the most challenging and neglected parts of our own ministries, and my deepest regret.”
“The biblical faith became more and more externalized or hollowed out. Fellow students were contaminated by the spirit of the age. The doctrine of common grace had become more enchanting than redeeming grace. The individual heart and soul was neglected and an emphasis on its needs dismissed as “individualism!”
“How important to find some preachers whose sermons are a blessing to our souls. I go to as many conferences as I can where experiential biblical Christianity is promoted. I read the magazines that support that perspective. I meet each month with a fraternal of ten men who love those truths. I meet each Friday morning at 7 a.m. to pray for a revival of God’s truth in our day. I preach three times a week from Old and New Testaments, always looking for new ground to break.”
Steve Mathewson is talking about “Preaching Proverbs.” (HT: Milton Stanely)
Our own Randy Mckinion has also been blogging about Proverbs here.
3,000 books are published everyday so here’s a review of one of them. Here’s my review of Walter Kaiser’s Preaching and Teaching from the Old Testament. Overall it is an excellent resource and provocative in a number of areas. If nothing else, chapter four on “The Art and Science of Expository Preaching” is reason enough to read the book.
I awoke this morning to a thick smoky haze which blanketed our city over night. We’ve noticed it some over the last couple of weeks but today there’s no mistaking that it’s here. I live a couple of hundred miles from the south Georgia wild fires that are currently devastating that area. The winds here in the Southeast have deposited the smoke from the fires to most of our state (Alabama). To make matters worse we have not seen rain in weeks which is a phenomenon I have not seen in my entire life growing up here in the South. For some this means life, death and livelihood. I have cotton farmers in my congregation who stand to loose everything along with a lot of other regional farmers if things do not change.
My hope turns to the Weather Channel starring at the forecast wishing for rain but none in sight. I know a man who has worked on a number of brainy projects for the government most of which are the variety of “if I told you I’d have to kill you” kind. He worked on one where clouds could be “seeded” on the West Coast which would cause it to rain throughout the jet stream in times of drought. Maybe our government could seed a few clouds for our region?
Then this morning the reality of it all hit me as I was driving into work through the thick haze. What ever happened to praying for rain? It is times like this which expose our practical atheism and unbelief in the Christ who “holds all things together” (Col. 1:17). It is drought-drenched days like this which make passages like James 5:17-18 come alive:
“Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the earth for three years and six months. Then he prayed again, and the sky poured rain and the earth produced its fruit.”
Could it be that my temporary hope was in a Weather Channel forecast or in a new government program? So I confess my unbelief and today I’m looking to Christ and I’m praying for rain.
“O God, heavenly Father, who by thy Son Jesus Christ hast promised to all those who seek thy kingdom and its righteousness all things necessary to sustain their life: Send us, we entreat thee, in this time of need, such moderate rain and showers, that we may receive the fruits of the earth, to our comfort and to thy honor; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen” (Cranmer, Book of Common Prayer, 828).
On January 11, 1989, President Ronald Reagan addressed the nation from the Oval Office for the thirty-fourth and final time. As he reflected back on the eight years of his presidency, Reagan said something profound:
In all of that time I won the nickname “The Great Communicator.” But I never thought it was my style or the words I used that made a difference. It was the content. I wasn’t a great communicator, but I communicated great things.
A common temptation for preachers is to focus on style and delivery, or even the kind of rhetorical skills that will impress the listener. But preaching isn’t about style, and the power of preaching isn’t about our ability to communicate. Power in the pulpit comes from the content of the message.
The way to access this content, of course, is through the hard work of exegesis. Regardless of how dynamic your delivery or breathtaking your rhetoric, if you don’t set forth the divinely intended meaning of God’s Word, your sermon will have no substantial or lasting affect on your listeners.
So this week, as you prepare for Sunday’s sermon, don’t focus on style—focus on content. Don’t strive to be fancy in your rhetoric, but to be faithful in your interpretation. And don’t aspire to be a great preacher—be a preacher of great things.
What role if any should the Church Fathers have in the development of our theology? Michael Haykin asks, “Why Study the Fathers?” here (also see his article “Benefiting from the Fathers” here). The Shepherd’s Scrapbook offers “Lessons from the Life of John Chrysostom” here.