Archive for the ‘D.Min Study’ Category

No need to “trick things up” with NT narrative

Few could believe what Edmund Morris had done. He was given unprecedented access to President Ronald Reagan during his eight years in political office, and he saw everything. Morris kept copious notes on 3 X 5 index cards and saved them in his own large filing system. After Reagan left office, Morris who was a well-respected historian, was poised to write a massive biography about one of the key figures of 20th Century American history. However, Morris will forever be remembered as the first presidential biographer to introduce fake characters into what everyone anticipated would be an accurate and scholarly presidential biography. Not only did he introduce fake characters into the life of Reagan, he even created fake footnotes to give the appearance of reality to his imagined characters. The book sold well but only modestly compared to what was expected. Never again would Morris’ recounting of history be trusted. Morris missed the opportunity of a lifetime.

What Edmund Morris missed was that good narratives based on real events are already compelling by nature. Rather than simply declaring his subject matter, he inserted his own perspective into the story. Contrast Morris’ perspective with that of another presidential biographer, David McCullough. Someone asked McCullough about his perspective on writing history. He said, “ . . . there’s no need ever to trick things up, to sugar this or that, or use dramatic devices to make it interesting. You just try as best you can to make it as interesting as it actually was.”[1] In a sense, this is the role of good expository homiletics. The task of the preacher is to get out of the way and let the people hear God speaking in the narrative. Having done all the necessary spadework, “This message should be clear and easy to follow, while remaining faithful to the biblical author’s progression of ideas.”[2]

[1] Diane Osen, ed., The Book that Changed My Life: Interviews with National Book Award Winners and Finalists (New York: The Modern Library, 2002), 106-07. I am indebted to Matthew Waymeyer for calling my attention to this particular quote (personal communication, Oct 18, 2009).

[2] Donald R. Sunukjian, “Sticking to the Plot: The Developmental Flow of the Big Idea Sermon,” in The Big Idea of Biblical Preaching: Connecting to People, eds. Keith Willhite and Scott M. Gibson (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1998), 111.

Preaching the OT

Today was the first day of my doctoral seminar on preaching the Old Testament (or as Kaiser says, the “older” testament). I am too exhausted to give a long post but I promise to give more over the next few days. Dr. Barrick was exceptional in his lectures on “The Place of the OT Scriptures in Worship” and “The Problem of the Old Testament.” Speaking of Barrick, you must see his sermon resource page which is like having a Barrick commentary on many OT passages. He eventually plans to have all 150 Psalms posted (he has notes through Psalm 84 at this point). If you look at the bottom of the resource page you can see his lectures from today on the OT. . . . a goldmine!

While on the subject of preaching the OT, here is a relevant excerpt from Sidney Greidanus:

In spite of . . .major hurdles, there are many reasons why pastors must preach from the Old Testament: (1) the Old Testament is part of the Christian canon, (2) it discloses the history of redemption leading to Christ (3) it proclaims truths not found in the New Testament, (4) it helps us understand the New Testament, (5) it prevents misunderstanding the New Testament, and (6) it provides a fuller understanding of Christ (Sidney Greidanus, Preaching Christ from the Old Testament, 25).

Who Said It?

The doctoral seminars are flying by after one week. Today we enjoyed presentations from each other on various expositors through church history. We heard about Hus, Lloyd-Jones, Boice, Criswell, Spurgeon, M’Cheyne, and Calvin. For me the highlight was fellow classmate, John Glass’s presentation on John Calvin. John Glass is a one of a kind. He is the only pastor who can say all of the following: 1) he believes in and practices expository preaching, 2) preaches in both French and English, 3) is an expert on Calvin, and 4) is the only expositor pastoring in Geneva, Switzerland today. Since we’re on the subject of Calvin, who said the following about the Reformer?

“Next to the study of the Scriptures which I earnestly inculcate, I exhort my pupils to peruse Calvin’s Commentaries, which I extol in loftier terms than Helmich himself (a Dutch divine, 1551–1608); for I affirm that he excels beyond comparison in the interpretation of Scripture, and that his commentaries ought to be more highly valued than all that is handed down to us by the library of the fathers; so that I acknowledge him to have possessed above most others, or rather above all other men, what may be called an eminent spirit of prophecy. His Institutes ought to be studied after the (Heidelberg) Catechism, as containing a fuller explanation, but with discrimination, like the writings of all men.”

Martin Luther: the preacher

In today’s D.min seminar, we spent all day talking about Martin Luther (the German Reformer)….his bumps, his bruises, his foibles, his strengths, his brilliance, and his pastoral excellence. Dr. Steve Lawson led our discussion into the heart of this Reformer’s ministry. As we are all pursuing doctorates it was fitting that we hear from Luther on the matter who said in his Table Talk, “Be assured that no one will make a doctor of the Holy Scripture save only the Holy Ghost from heaven.” Preachers need to drink deeply from the well of Martin Luther. No protestant preacher today can rightly know where his feet are planted without having Luther fixed somewhere upon his compass. Here are a few quotes to get the juices flowing;

“I simply taught, preached, wrote God’s Word; otherwise I did nothing. And then, while I slept…the Word so greatly weakened the papacy that never a prince or emperor did such damage to it. I did nothing. The Word did it all.”

“A good preacher invests everything in the Word.”

“When I was young, I read the Bible over and over and over again, and was so perfectly acquainted with it, that I could, in an instant, have pointed to any verse that might have been mentioned.”

NOTE: If one has not studied Luther, where should he begin? I would recommend to the novice that he get Stephen J. Nichols’s Martin Luther: A Guided Tour of His Life. Next I would recommend the classic biography of Luther by Roland Bainton called Here I Stand. After becoming familiar with his life and context, start reading his sermons and tracts. Luther believed his greatest work was Bondage of the Will and I believe history has proved him right so if you read nothing else…read Bondage.

Don’t know much about history. . . of preaching?

When I was a wee lad I loved to go on field trips during school. It was a great way to learn through hands-on experiences. Today we began our D.Min session by taking a book tour/field trip of Dr. Rick Holland’s study. The focus of our tour was books on the history of preaching (we also got to see Rick’s pics from his tour of reformation hot spots like Geneva and Wittenberg. Having Genevan pastor, John Glass, in our cohort to provide commentary on the pictures was only an added bonus. It was a riveting discussion and very helpful in bringing the vast expanse of this wonderful history together.

Preachers should know their history and this means they should know their craft which includes knowing from where they have come. Many writers have chronicled this history from various perspectives (e.g., E. C. Dargan, Hughes Old, John Kerr, A. E. Garvey, Pattison, F. R. Webber, and John Broadus among others). Jude tells us that preaching can be traced at least as far back as far as Enoch who was only seven generations removed from Adam. Then there was Noah, Moses, the prophets, Ezra and the scribes mentioned in Nehemiah chapter 8 and many others in the OT. There was John the Baptist, Jesus Himself, the Apostles and their associates. There were the church fathers, medieval preachers and then the Reformers. Since the Reformation, preaching has been on the incline but understanding how we got here has been on the decline. A. E. Garvie relates the importance of preaching history this way:

“The history of preaching…is the necessary presupposition of any discussion of the credentials, qualifications, and functions of the preacher today. Since he stands in a historical succession, he will recognize the responsibility of his trust, and the difficulty of his task, only as he has a distinct consciousness of this succession, and takes up into this ideal of his vocation all the elements of permanent significance and value in the previous history.”

What is “exposition”?

What happens when a word reaches beyond any meaningful consensus and everyone makes a claim to its use? This is exactly the problem with the word “expository” as in “everyone claims to be an expository preacher.” It is no stretch to say that many preachers consider themselves expository preachers yet there is little agreement about what the word means. A survey of standard books on preaching will reveal that various authors all emphasize different perspectives (e.g., Robinson, D. A. Carson, Kaiser, Lloyd-Jones, Vines, Olford, Greidanus, Broadus, et al). This was a question we considered at some length in our first D.Min session today and one all preachers should carefully consider.

An examination of terminology raises difficult questions: Can there be biblical preaching that is not expository? Can there be exposition that is not preaching? Is exposition limited to a verse, a paragraph, or something else? Can topical preaching be expositional? The questions could be multiplied at this point. As a reference point I offer Richard Mayhue’s foundational definition from Rediscovering Expository Preaching.

Expository preaching is preaching that focuses predominantly on the text(s) under consideration along with its (their) context(s). Exposition normally concentrates on a single text of Scripture, but it is sometimes possible for a thematic/theological message or a historical/biographical discourse to be expository in nature. An exposition may treat any length of passage.

Following is a helpful summary of the essential elements of expository preaching:
1.The message finds its sole source in Scripture.
2.The message is extracted from Scripture through careful exegesis.
3.The message preparation correctly interprets Scripture in its normal sense and its context.
4.The message clearly explains the original God-intended meaning of Scripture.
5.The message applies the Scriptural meaning for today.

Students of Preaching

Since the contributors to this blog are all preachers it is only fitting that we remain students of preaching and preachers. On that note, a couple of us are in Los Angeles for the next two weeks as we are in the D. Min of expository preaching program at The Master’s Seminary. I will be blogging some of the highlights from the lectures and interaction with my fellow cohorts.

USELESS TRIVIA WARNING (Turn back now): One of my favorite bits of actual LA “preaching trivia” is the fact that there is an actual street called “Exposition Boulevard.” Even better, it is the main street that goes through MacArthur Park in downtown LA.

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