Archive for the ‘Reading’ Category

Jack of all trades, master of none

He’s the “Jack of all trades, master of none.”  I am referring of course to the role of Senior Pastor.  As the ‘leader among leaders’ I am responsible for providing overall oversight to all the ministries that make up the First Baptist Church of Freeport.  That does not mean however that my hand is equally deep in every pot.  I certainly embrace the plural leadership model but now I digress.

I am going on year four as the lead pastor/elder at FBC, Freeport.  My main task is to “feed Jesus’ sheep” (John 21:17).  To “devote myself to prayer, and to the ministry of the Word” (Acts 6:4).  To “preach the Word, in season and out of season” (2 Tim 4:2).  I am also responsible to shepherd the flock of God  (1 Peter 5:1-4) with my fellow undershepherds; and to provide pastoral oversight (1 Thessalonians 5:12, Hebrews 13:17, 1 Timothy 5:17).

When I graduated from seminary I sort of thought that I would finally be able to read what I wanted to read rather than simply digest what my professors asked me/us to take in.  That assumption is partially right.  For example I am currently reading Rick Holland’s, Uneclipsing the Son, Earl Blackburn’s, Jesus Loves the Church and So Should You, Douglas Bond’s, The Mighty Weakness of John Knox, and Carl Trueman’s, Reformation; Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow for my soul’s sake.  Those books or authors peaked my interest and so upon purchasing them I evidentially got around to reading them.

This might surprise you but most ordinary pastors are not seminary professors.  Very few of us are subject matter experts on anything.  I love to study church history but I am certainly no Iain Murray or Nate Busenitz.   I love systematic theology but I am no Ph D.  I enjoy studying the original languages but I am most definitely not a Bill Barrick, a Bill Mounce, or an Abner Chou.

Part of this comes back to my opening sentence.  We local church pastors are the “Jack of all trades, master of none.”  For example, over the past few years I have read Singing and Making Music, Worship Matters, Why Johnny Can’t Sing Hymns, and parts of Christ-Centered Worship.  Why?  If I am going to provide helpful biblical oversight to a local church ministry in need of some TLC then I need to educate myself accordingly.

The same thing is true with my expository pulpit ministry.  I am currently preaching through Colossians 3:17-4:1 (the Lordship of Christ in Relationships).   When I finished my exegesis of verses 18-19 I then turned my attention to commentaries and to helpful books on marriage.  That meant over the past few weeks I’ve read or reread Feminine Appeal, Biblical Womanhood in the Home, and parts of Radical Womanhood and the Exemplary Husband.

I am also involved each year in a leadership training and development ministry at our church.   This particular ministry is exclusively geared towards our men (leaders and future leaders, per 2 Timothy 2:2).  Guess what?  That means that I need to reread the books that Pastor Steve and I are asking our guys to read.  So I am enjoying (again) books like When Good Kids Make Bad Choices, The Master’s Plan for the Church, Stop Dating the Church, Blame it on the Brain, He Is Not Silent, The New Testament Deacon, Grudem’s Systematic Theology etc, etc.

As the Senior Pastor I am also involved in various counseling relationships.  This means my wife and I may be enjoying for the eighth time the wonderful teaching of The Excellent Wife or the Exemplary Husband .  Or I may be reading with a counselee At the Altar of Sexual Idolatry or Shepherding a Child’s Heart.

At the end of the day what I thought six years ago when I graduated from seminary was only partially true.  I not only get to read what I want to read but I also read and study what I need to read and study.  That is one of the reasons why most of us pastors are indeed “the Jack of all trades, masters of none.”

John R. W. Stott (1921-2011)

“Preaching is indispensable to Christianity.” ~ Stott

John Stott passed earlier today. He will be remembered as a towering figure, not only in Anglicanism but in the broader evangelical movement. Some will fondly remember his astute clarity that he brought to the subject of the cross and the atonement. Others will surely lament (celebrate?) his agnosticism toward eternal punishment. Of interest to readers of this blog is his clear stance on the need for biblical expository preaching.

When Stott wrote Between Two Worlds in 1982, very few could be held up as champions of biblical preaching. To be sure, almost no one was writing about it. But 1982 was not an awakening for Stott, he had always believed this about preaching. In 1961 he penned The Preacher’s Portrait which would set the discussion of preaching today in its NT context. He said, “We need, I believe, to gain in the Church today a clearer view of God’s revealed ideal for the preacher, what he is and how he is to do his work.” To that, we can only say that the need is still great. The abiding legacy of Stott to we preachers, I believe, is the need for clarity in preaching.

“It requires much study, as we shall see later, not only of God’s Word but of man’s nature and of the world in which he lives. The expository preacher is a bridge builder, seeking to span the gulf between the Word of God and the mind of man. He must do his utmost to interpret the Scripture so accurately and plainly, and to apply it so forcefully, that the truth crosses the bridge” (The Preacher’s Portrait, 28).

Pastors reading theological journals

Darryl Dash has a good essay arguing that pastors should read theological journals. See the full essay here. In my sermon study, I tend to find that journal articles consistently offer more depth and insight than most commentaries. A few years ago I was able to buy a few shelves of journals from a retired pastor. These have been invaluable for researching writing projects and sermons. Another blessing has been my alma mater sending all graduates a lifetime subscription to our journal.

However, I believe the single best resource for journals is the Theological Journal Software produced by Galaxie Software (runs in Logos, Accordance, and Wordsearch platforms). This is an amazing resource that would be impossible to amass in hard copy form and its value is only bolstered by amazing search capabilities. You can search thousands of articles in a matter of seconds and the more refined the search the better the results.

Most of my research is usually on a specific text that I’m preaching so this is how I employ the journals in text specific study. In Logos, I create a collection to which I add my favorite journals (or you can add all journals). Then when I create a passage guide, my results will also reveal all the relevant journal articles related to my passage search. I know there are similar features in Accordance as well. I also use the search engine to research specific phrases or words in the original languages. So a search on μονογενής in my favorite journals yielded 23 articles appearing in 21 different resources. It found all of these in 0.72 seconds!!! The view panel offers a brief synopsis of each article from the results so I can quickly scan them to determine their relevancy to my study.

So I think Mr. Dash is spot on. Pastors should read theological journals. Everyone will have their favorites. My search almost always includes something from BSac, GTJ, Trinity, and JETS. There have also been some helpful surprises for the pastor involved in exegesis. To mention a couple, Detroit Baptist Seminary Journal and the Tyndale Bulletin have proved to be enormously useful in my study. So what are your favorites? Also, do you have tech tips that have been helpful to your study (specifically with journals)?

10 Books Every Preacher Should Read in 2011

There’s no explanation or comment but Al Mohler offers what he thinks every preacher should read in 2011. See his list here. Is there anything you would add to this list (published this year)?

A Festschrift in Honor of John MacArthur

The Master’s Seminary Journal Volume 22, No 1 is a great read for all you expository preachers out there.  My favorite articles were Expository Preaching: The Logical Response to a Robust Bibliology by Dr. Rick Holland and Striking Similarities Between Two Extraordinary Expositors by Dr. Steve Lawson.   Lawson’s article compares the pulpit ministries of D.M. Lloyd-Jones and John MacArthur and is a very insightful read.

Public reading of Scripture

The reading of the Scriptures must never be perfunctory or merely formal. It should not be a mere authoritative presentation of facts or proclamation of words . . . The reader must live his ideas at the time of utterance. . . . He can manifest to others the impressions made on his own being. . . . [For] when one soul is made to feel that another soul is hearing a message from the King of kings, he too bows his head and hears the voice of the infinite speaking in his own breast.

–S. S. Curry, Vocal and Literary interpretation of the Bible (New York: Macmillan, 1903), 132.

The First Written Records

“People being what they are, the bureaucracy came first. The genesis of writing lay, not in the celebration of the human spirit, but in the need to say with certainty: This is mine, not yours.”

~Susan Wise Bauer, The History of the Ancient World, 43.

The smell of heaven

The books or the music in which we thought the beauty was located will betray us if we trust to them; it was not in them, it only came through them, and what came through them was longing. These things–the beauty, the memory of our own past–are good images of what we really desire; but if they are mistaken for the thing itself they turn into dumb idols, breaking the hearts of their worshipers. For they are not the thing itself; they are only the scent of a flower we have not found, the echo of a tune we have not heard, news from a country we have never yet visited.

~C. S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory

Reading for Life

[I do not] want to leave the impression that reading many books is important. Reading great books and reading them well is what is important. Meditative reading, reading which stops and ponders, reading which sees deep into reality—that is the kind of reading which profits. That kind of reading should never end for you. Growth and stimulation and transformation will never end for you. You will be in the company of the greatest minds and hearts for the rest of your life, and you will become their peers if you read for understanding and for life.

~John Piper

Speaking of Reading . . .

Here are a couple of thoughts on reading from David Ulin’s The Lost Art of Reading:Why Books Matter in a Distracted Time.

. . . books enlarge us by giving direct access to experiences not our own. In order for this to work, however, we need a certain type of silence, an ability to filter out the noise.

This is where real reading comes in — because it demands that space, because by drawing us back from the present, it restores time to us in a fundamental way. There is the present-tense experience of reading, but also the chronology of the narrative, as well as of the characters and author, all of whom bear their own relationships to time. There is the fixity of the text, which doesn’t change whether written yesterday or a thousand years ago.

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