Sermon text 1 Samuel 5:1-7
Sermon text 1 Samuel 5:1-7
Piper, John. Brothers, We Are Not Professionals. Nashville, TN.: B&H Publishing Group, 2013. 307 + xi pp. $14.99
John Piper’s book, Brothers, We Are Not Professionals, is an exhortation to pastors, calling them to minister with a heart in tune to God, rather than with a reliance upon, “an education, a set of skills, and a set of guild-defined standards which are possible without faith in Jesus” (x). Looking back on his own ministry, Dr. Piper remarks that his regrets lie not in the arena of professionalism, but rather in passion and prayer.
The original edition of the book was published in 2002 during the height of the evangelical church’s fascination with corporate leadership methods and structures. Pastors and church leaders sought to incorporate the latest pragmatic solution into the life of the church. Decisions were based upon asking, “What works?” rather than, “What is calling us to do?” Dr. Piper’s voice cut through the madness and called pastors back to caring for souls. He writes in the Preface of the new edition that, “nothing has happened in the last ten years to make me think this book is less needed” (ix). Though the drift of professionalism in churches today is present, it is subtly different. It may not resemble the three-piece suit of the CEO’s office, yet it remains while speaking more in terms of “communication or contextualization” (ix).
In order to combat this encroaching pressure to meet an ambiguous standard, Piper lays out thirty-six exhortations for pastors. These reminders all beckon ministers to remember and focus on the spiritual task of shepherding the flock entrusted to them. The new edition contains six new chapters clarifying some theological issues that Dr. Piper felt needed to be addressed, and some practical insights that he gained over the last ten years. Dr. Piper’s voice was sorely needed in 2002, and the need remains to this day for this wise instruction from a seasoned pastor who has remained steady despite the pressures, fads, and trends that can so quickly derail ministers from their primary task.
The book is built on thirty-six exhortations, each meriting its own chapter, and each calling the pastor back to his primary task. These exhortations can be categorized in terms of theological exhortations, practical insights, spiritual reminders, and deeply personal emphases that Dr. Piper embraced and exampled during his faithful ministry.
As one who has read Dr. Piper before might expect, he pounds the drum of God’s sovereign joy and supremacy as the heartbeat of ministry, writing, “Everything in our salvation is designed by God to magnify the glory of God” (13). Dr. Piper spends the first several chapters on these theological exhortations detailing for the reader the message that has been given to pastors to proclaim. He touches on subjects such as justification by faith, Christian Hedonism, and the love of God.
Other chapters may be categorized as practical insights shared by a seasoned pastor. He charges pastors to preach sermons saturated with the text of Scripture, rather than striving to entertain their hearers in order to gain an audience. He reminds pastors of the vast importance of studying the original languages of Scripture, stewarding their health, and reading Christian biographies for their own edification and joy.
He further provides encouragement for pastors to remain faithful by calling them to be men of prayer, and reminding them that the ministry of the Word is the centerpiece of faithful ministry. Throughout ministry, pastors will experience the natural drift of this world away from such spiritual practices, for they rarely appear on spreadsheets and data.
The last several chapters of the book hinge upon the emphases that have characterized Dr. Piper’s ministry over these last ten years. He calls pastors to emphasize the importance of global missions, to seek racial reconciliation, to passionately defend the unborn, and to love their wives as Christ loves the church.. These are emphases that, over time, came to the forefront of Dr. Piper’s ministry. Young pastors would be wise to consider these issues as repeated applications of the gospel.
One finds great difficulty critiquing a book written in the form of Dr. Piper’s Brothers, We Are Not Professionals. Most readers will find in John Piper a pastor with more insight, experience, and wisdom than they. However, there are a few points within the book that demand clarification.
One example of such needed clarification is that Dr. Piper’s passing references to major thrusts written in greater detail in his own voluminous writings demand further reading on the part of the reader. One simply cannot understand the concept of Christian Hedonism apart from Desiring God. One may remain unconvinced that God is the Gospel, unless they read Dr. Piper’s book, God is the Gospel. Many will find that his chapters on topics that he has written on before will be incomplete and brief.
The emphases that Dr. Piper lays out for his readers grow out of his own personal theological convictions concerning the sovereignty of God in salvation and the doctrines of grace. However generous he may strive to be in his writings, these emphases always come to the forefront in his writings. Those who agree with him on these points (or even most of them) may not even take notice of the foundation. However, those who differ with his soteriological foundation may find greater disunity at the point of application.
One other potential critique lies in Dr. Piper’s chapter on the issue of baptism. As a Baptist, this reviewer resonates with his argument for believer baptism and the importance therein. However, in taking up the argument, Dr. Piper has opened himself to criticism from both sides. Some who maintain a paedo-baptist distinctive may take offense that Dr. Piper has raised this issue, and presented a defense of believer baptism over against infant baptism in a book that would otherwise appeal across denominational lines. Others who hold to credo-baptist convictions may react negatively to Dr. Piper’s emphasis that this is not a primary doctrine, and something that should not “cut us off from shared worship and ministry with others who share more important things with us” (161). Historically, one can easily see that these different understandings of baptism have always separated believers, often with violence.
John Piper’s, Brothers, We Are Not Professionals is the needed reminder to abandon the notion that faithful ministry is predicated upon some professional veneer and to embrace the deeply spiritual reality that they are called to something else altogether. For, he writes, “there is an infinite difference between the pastor whose heart is set on being a professional and the pastor whose heart is set on being the aroma of Christ, the fragrance of death to some and eternal life to others (2 Cor. 2:15-16)” (3).
John Piper, Brothers, We Are Not Professionals
I received this book free from the publisher through the B&H book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.
Piper, John The Supremacy of God in Preaching. Wheaton, Ill.: Baker Books, 2004. 121 pp. $13.99
In The Supremacy of God in Preaching, John Piper provides a unique perspective on the definition and goal of preaching. Piper states, “People are starving for the greatness of God,” and the only cure for that hunger is His greatness and majesty (13). To this end, then, Piper calls for “expository exultation” – that is, “not the opinions of a mere man,” but “the faithful exposition of God’s Word” (11).
With that definition in hand, Piper calls for a renewed understanding for the true goal of preaching. Preachers proclaim with Isaiah, “Your God reigns.” (Isa. 52:7) Piper quotes Cotton Mather, who calls preachers, “to restore the throne and dominion of God in the souls of men” (26). This then is the goal of preaching: “the glory of God reflected in the glad submission of the human heart” (29).
Part One of the book focuses on defending why God should be supreme in preaching, and in Part Two, Piper gives his reader insights regarding how to make it so. Piper leads his reader by the hand and encourages them to exalt and exist as those called to this task. He shares lessons and insights learned during his faithful and fruitful ministry, but more emphatically, shares those he has learned through his diligent, lifelong study of the great Jonathan Edwards.
John Piper’s primary critique with modern preaching is that they seem to have been taught to, “get the drift of a text and then talk in your own words for thirty minutes” (45). One wonders if this is an unintended result of the instruction of men such as Haddon Robinson, who writes, “an expositor communicates a concept,” in direct contradiction to communicating the very words of Scripture. Piper maintains that the effects of such preaching leaves the hearers wondering if the authority of the sermon is in the text or the preacher. The solution, then, is to actually quote the text and, “say the actual words of the text again and again. Show the people where your ideas are coming from” (88).
He also instructs the reader that, “good preaching pleads with people to respond to the Word of God” (96). Those who hold the sovereignty of God is “utterly crucial to everything else… believed about God,” such as Piper and Edwards have been accused, at times, of neglecting to call their hearers to respond to the proclaimed Word (78). While there have been examples of such error throughout church history, one cannot accuse Edwards of such hyper-Calvinistic neglect.
One would have preferred Piper had made a clearer distinction between Edwards’ teaching on stirring up his hearer’s affections versus affecting their emotions. Piper quotes Edwards as stating, “If true religion lies much in the affections, we may infer, that such a way of preaching the word… as has a tendency deeply to affect the hearts of those who attend… is much to be desired” (84). In saying this, Edwards encourages preachers to target the heart of their hearers. Yet only three pages later, Piper posits that, “Edwards can never be brought forward as one who manipulated emotions” (87). It seems that Piper is attempting to distinguish between affections and emotions, but his distinction simply is not all that clear.
Piper’s book, The Supremacy of God in Preaching, provides a much-needed, theologically-grounded, Christ-exalting way forward for those charged with opening and heralding the Word of God. He excels in areas that other preaching texts fail by staying above the mechanics of sermon development and delivery. Rather than entering into the study with the reader as does Robinson, Chapell , Vines , or Mathewson , Piper enters into the prayer closet with his reader and urging them to ensure that the glory of God is the centerpiece of their proclamation. He challenges them to the urgency of the task, for “Good preaching gives the impression that something very great is at stake” (103). Indeed, the supremacy of God is the very substance of our preaching. For “if God is not supreme in our preaching, where in this world will the people hear about the supremacy of God?” (108).
Buy this book. Be challenged and blessed by it.
John Piper, The Supremacy of God in Preaching
All genuine preaching is rooted in a feeling of desperation. You wake up on Sunday morning and you can smell the smoke of hell on one side and feel the crisp breezes of heaven on the other. You go to your study and look down at your pitiful manuscript, and you kneel down and cry, “O God, this is so weak! Who do I think I am? What audacity to think that in three hours my words will be the odor of death to death and the fragrance of life to life (2 Cor. 2:16). My God, who is sufficient for these things?
John Piper, The Supremacy of God in Preaching
Mathewson, Steven D. The Art of Preaching Old Testament Narrative. Grand Rapids, MI.: Baker Academic, 2002. 279 pp. $26.00
In The Art of Preaching Old Testament Narrative, Steven Mathewson (instructor in preaching and Old Testament at Montana Bible College) strives, “to help preachers excel at preaching Old Testament narrative texts” (14). Heavily dependent upon Haddon Robinson for a methodology of sermon preparation, Mathewson states that the main goal of studying the text is to, “determine the author’s intent and to describe this intent in a single sentence” (34).  The task of preaching, then, is to “craft a sermon that exposes the meaning of the text and [apply] that meaning to [the] hearers” (27).
Mathewson is convinced that to preach narrative texts well, the preacher must strive to become a good storyteller. Communication and proclamation, from his vantage, are of little value when preaching a narrative text. Instead, faithfully preaching story demands that, in Mathewson’s view, “the preacher’s primary tactic will be telling the story well” (132).
Mathewson’s description of various approaches to preaching – inductive, deductive, inductive-deductive, semi-inductive, and first-person narrative – is extremely helpful to the inexperienced preacher who approaches every text in search for three points. However, one might counter that any sermon that strives to allow the text to determine the sermon shape, will naturally develop into any of these categories (other than first-person narrative) without requiring the approach or model to be artificially introduced or thrust upon the text. His reminder that, “the dramatic action that makes your point comes at the end of each section,” rather than the beginning in inductive sermons will free a preacher from the shackles of points followed by sub-points (124). However even these golden nuggets are not worth slogging through his other instructions.
Mathewson’s approach begins with the assumption that the most faithful method of communicating narrative texts is to become a storyteller – or more generously, to become a story re-teller. But is that the preacher’s call? Or, is the responsibility of the preacher to faithfully and accurately communicate the story that the Divine Author has told? If we are to be storytellers, then creativity is to be encouraged. However, if we are proclaimers of the story, we do not dare put ourselves in that role. We do not need to “dream up catchy statements,” like Mathewson describes (105). We do not have the right to impose our words upon God’s Word. Our task is to proclaim and communicate faithfully, articulately, and accurately. Creativity is simply not in our job description.
Mathewson suggests preachers, “think about replacing the physical pulpit with a music stand or a smaller lectern that you can move off to one side when you preach” (155). In doing so, the preacher is granted more room to move around and an easier, more natural connection with the congregation. But he misses the very purpose of the pulpit. The pulpit highlights the Word of God as the centerpiece of Christian worship. The pulpit elevates the Scriptures as the most important, most emphatic thing in the believer’s life. The pulpit figuratively hides the preacher behind the Word because the preacher has no authority that is not stemmed directly from the Word.
Perhaps the most frustrating aspect of Mathewson’s treatment of the text is that he consciously moralizes the texts used as examples. For Mathewson, every text becomes about a general principle about what believers can do or should do, rather than a specific example about what God has done.
Mathewson defends this use of Old Testament narratives by arguing, “Paul recognized the validity of looking at Old Testament narratives for examples of how or how not to live (1 Cor. 10:6,11)” (100). In similar fashion, he argues for the use of props, stating that God instructed such prophets as Ezekiel and Jeremiah to do so (120). However, his argument fails on the account that neither Mathewson nor his students have that mandate. They are not actors in the stories. They are called to faithfully communicate those stories, but are not themselves a part of them. There is a distinct difference in communicating God’s actions or commands and using those same actions or commands to justify our own creative impulses.
Mathewson, in storyteller fashion, wants his hearers to find themselves in the story. He wants them to smell, hear, taste, and experience the story as though the story was really about them. Lost in the discussion is the reality that it simply is not.
Old Testament narratives have the tremendous capability of causing the reader to fall to their knees in the acknowledgment of God’s majesty and glory. They cause worshipers to marvel at the loving-patience of the God who redeems a people, rather than destroy them for their rebellion. They speak of God’s sovereign hand at work behind the scenes, even in the lives of those who refuse to submit themselves to Him. These are not tales of how we are supposed to live. These are tales told to bolster our faith. This is why we must preach Old Testament narratives. But we must do better than to preach them in this way.
Steven D. Mathewson, The Art of Preaching Old Testament Narrative
Sermon text Revelation 19:6-9
Sermon text Luke 7:11-17
Sermon text Luke 24:13-35
This week, I am one of the 80+ students and faculty from Southwestern who will be preaching a revival during Spring Break (Mar 10-13) in participation with Southwestern Seminary’s Revive This Nation Spring Revival Program. For many of these students, this will be their first time behind the pulpit opening up God’s Word.
Would you commit to praying for these students and faculty, for their families and for the churches who have invited them? Would you also commit to pray that God would do something in these communities that can only be of Him?
|Olufemi||Abimbola||Agape Baptist Church||Norwich||NY|
|Joshua||Taylor||Batson Baptist Church||Oark||AR|
|Scott||Colter||Bethel Baptist Church||Jacksonville||AR|
|Phillip||Koo||Bethel Baptist Church||Rochester||MN|
|Daniel||Bray||Bethel Baptist Church||Billings||MT|
|Carl||Basey||Blooming Grove Baptist Church||McLeansboro||IL|
|Geoff||Simmons||Cameron Baptist Church||Cameron||WV|
|Tim||Whitney||Canton Baptist Church||Cadiz||KY|
|Adam||Tarleton||Carterville First Baptist Church||Carterville||MO|
|Josiah||Durfee||Clyde Baptist Church||Clyde||NY|
|Dale||Allen||College Heights Baptist Church||Grants Pass||OR|
|Jared||Witt||Colonial Hills Baptist Church||Bedford||PA|
|Joshua||Yowell||Cross Road Baptist Church||Little Rock||AR|
|Jared||Park||Cross Roads Church||Poncha Springs||CO|
|Tristan||Clark||Crossroads Baptist Church||Riley||KS|
|Thai||Nguyen||East Tipp Baptist Church||Lafayette||IN|
|Jacob||Theiss||Elk Baptist Church||Kersey||PA|
|Christopher||Young||Elk City Baptist Church||Elk City||ID|
|William||Stevens||Eternity Baptist Church||Alamogordo||NM|
|Jonathan||Gilliland||Fairview Baptist Church||Anamosa||IA|
|Troy||Walker||Faith Baptist Church||Marissa||IL|
|Joshua||Anderson||First Baptist Church||Winthrop||IL|
|Keith||Collier||First Baptist Church||Wellston||OK|
|Paul||Golata||First Baptist Church||Nome||TX|
|Shane||Hoes||First Baptist Church||Morse||TX|
|Tommy||Kiker||First Baptist Church||Olive Branch||MS|
|Fernando||Lammoglia||First Baptist Church||Panama City||FL|
|Barry||Mathis||First Baptist Church||Nixon||TX|
|David||Mills||First Baptist Church||Gonzales||TX|
|David||Norman||First Baptist Church||Junction||TX|
|Scott||Pack||First Baptist Church||Mulberry Grove||IL|
|Darren||Shaddix||First Baptist Church||Immokalee||FL|
|Kyle||Walker||First Baptist Church||Weaver||AL|
|David||Williams||First Baptist Church||Oblong||IL|
|Derek||Yan||First Baptist Church||Delmar||MD|
|Michael||Martin||First Baptist Church Eagle Butte||Eagle Butte||SD|
|Tony||Jones||First Southern Baptist Church||Norris City||IL|
|Brandon||Kiesling||Fortuna Baptist Church||Fortuna||MO|
|Jared||Clary||Grace Baptist Church||Rogue River||OR|
|Logan||Koontz||GraceWay Baptist Church||New Boston||TX|
|Greg||Robinson||Graceway Fellowship||Green Bay||WI|
|Jair||Santos||Granada Baptist Church||Livermore||CA|
|Matt||Miller||Hazen Christian Fellowship||Hazen||ND|
|Williams||Trigueros||Iglesia Bautista Nuevo Amanecer||Crestwood||KY|
|Bryan||Bogue||Jackson Avenue Baptist Church||Point Pleasant||WV|
|Andrew||Arnold||Kincaid Baptist Church||Kincaid||IL|
|Taylor||Welborn||Klickitat Valley Baptist Church||Klickitat||WA|
|Drew||Metcalf||Lihue Baptist Church||Lihue||HI|
|Adam||Carrigan||Limestone Baptist Church||Ona||FL|
|Zachary||Mathis||Littleby Baptist Church||Laddonia||MO|
|Jason||Kees||Locust Grove Baptist Church||Huntington||WV|
|Jimmy||Owens||Main Street Baptist Church||Braidwood||IL|
|Jason||Holland||Maranatha Baptist Church||Rock Falls||IL|
|Brandon||Caron||Midway Baptist Church||Springtown||TX|
|Chad||Rowell||Morganton Baptist Church||Morganton||GA|
|Deron||Biles||Muldoon Road Baptist Church||Anchorage||AK|
|Lee||Hyatt||New Covenant Baptist Church||Princeton||IN|
|William||Finch||New Life Baptist Church||Niagara Falls||NY|
|Mike||Morris||New Life Baptist Church||Phoenix||AZ|
|Bryant||Matheu||New Life Southern Baptist Church||Cowen||WV|
|David||Carpenter||Newpark Baptist Fellowship Church||New York||NY|
|Adam||Mallette||North Hill Baptist Church||Minot||ND|
|Brandon||Graham||Northwood Baptist Church||Northport||AL|
|Eric||Futrell||Orchards Baptist Church||Lewiston||ID|
|Bruce||McCoy||Peninsula Baptist Church||Portland||OR|
|Kody||Alvarez||Pineville Southern Baptist Church||Pineville||WV|
|John||Hofecker||Pleasant Valley Baptist Church||Belleville||IL|
|Fred||Turnipseed||Riverview Baptist Chapel||Wellsburg||WV|
|John||Wilsey||Salem First Baptist Church||Salem||IL|
|Thomas||White||Sand Spring Baptist Church||Lawrenceburg||KY|
|Trevor||Clark||Sandia Baptist Church||Albuquerque||NM|
|Benjamin||Flanagan||Sevier Valley Southern Baptist Church||Richfield||UT|
|Daniel||Stone||Southport Baptist Church||Elmira||NY|
|Nathan||Parikh||Spears Mill Baptist Church||Paris||KY|
|Olukayode||Oluleye||Stamford Baptist Church||Stamford||NY|
|Derek||Oh||Tallula Baptist Church||Tallula||IL|
|Matthew||Wilson||Trinity Baptist Church||Lakeview||OR|
|Jeff||Hampton||Trinity Pines Baptist Church||Trinity||TX|
|Darrell||Robertson||True Bible Baptist Church||Des Moines||IA|
|Matt||Queen||Union Hope Baptist Church||Zebulon||NC|
|Samuel||Griffin||United Fellowship Baptist Church||Mountain Grove||MO|
|Horace||Moody||Wamsutter Baptist Church||Wamsutter||WY|
|Paul||Easter||Weed Baptist Church||Weed||NM|
|Rob||Lindley||Yellowstone Baptist Church||Cody||WY|
|Harrison||Chow||Young Timothy Christian Fellowship||Columbus||OH|
Akin, Daniel L., David L. Allen, Ned L. Mathews. Text-Driven Preaching: God’s Word at the Heart of Every Sermon. Nashville, Tenn.: B&H Publishing, 2010. 315 pp. $29.99.
Text-Driven Preaching, edited by Akin, Allen, and Mathews, presents a much-needed way forward for those responsible for communicating God’s Word. In it, various contributors demonstrate the need and method of preaching text-driven sermon – that is, “a sermon that develops a text by explaining, illustrating, and applying its meaning” (8). It is more than biblical preaching which strives to communicate a biblical truth. It is more than expository preaching which seeks to reveal (expose) the meaning of the text. Text-driven preaching accomplishes these goals, but does so by being wedded to the text, allowing the very Word and words of God to provide the scope, structure, and meaning of the sermon.
Allen argues that there is a biblical and theological foundation for such exposition: “God has spoken. God is not silent. He has revealed Himself in Jesus, who is the living Word, and in Scripture, which is the written Word. Therefore, the theological foundation for text-driven preaching is the fact that God has spoken!” (3).
There is much to commend in the book. Allen’s 12-step sermon preparation method serves young and experienced preachers alike – instructing the former and challenging the latter to examine their own practices. Hamilton’s chapter reveals the vast importance of studying Biblical theology for preachers who are called to preach the entire counsel of God, rather than just the gospel accounts, epistles, and a few psalms. Akin expertly provides the reader with the importance of application, and assists the reader by instructing him with its preparation.
However, one may find it peculiar that a book instructing preachers to be faithful to the text by allowing the text to speak for itself begins not with a chapter on the prophetic lineage of preaching found in the text, but rather one that focuses, “on the three famous rhetorical means of persuasion provided by Aristotle in his Art of Rhetoric”: ethos, logos, and pathos (17). One quickly discerns that the goal of preaching, according to many of the book’s contributors, is persuasion, for, “the objective of ancient rhetoric was to persuade” (15). This appears to be Allen’s objective as well, who writes that the text-driven preacher should attempt to affect the mind, the emotions, and the will (115).
Following this conviction – that the goal of the preacher is to affect or persuade the hearer – one discovers that when Bennett writes, “God accomplishes His purposes in the believer’s life by two instruments: the Word and the Spirit,” he means through the unctioned preacher, not necessarily the Holy Spirit’s action through the preached Word (60). This leads the reader to understand that the goal of text-driven preaching is to affect the hearer through the Holy Spirit empowered preacher who preaches a text-driven sermon. Sadly, this does not appear to be the impetus for the book, or even the desired message of the book, but stands as the cumulative instruction therein.
At the center of text-driven preaching should be the text itself, not the preacher or the hearer. They are necessary for the text to be preached, but too many books have been written that fail to acknowledge the prominence of the text in the preaching act. York stands alone as the contributor who provides an alternative goal of preaching: “communicating what God has spoken in the most accurate and compelling way possible” (232). York’s definition places the preacher’s concern on his own faithfulness to the text. Grudem writes, “The Holy Spirit speaks through the gospel message as it is effectively proclaimed to people’s hearts.”  The preacher has no power whatsoever over the hearts and actions of his hearers. Akin quotes Rick Warren stating the same even more emphatically, “You [the preacher] do not change people’s minds; the Word of God applied by the Holy Spirit does” (279).
This assurance – that it is not the persuasive power of the preacher, but the Holy Spirit who is at work affecting the hearers through the preaching of his inspired Word – provides the foundation for genuine text-driven preaching. No longer enslaved by Aristotle’s rhetorical triad – no longer shackled by the need for creativity to inspire and motivate – the preacher is freed to be transformed by the renewing of his mind (Rom 12:2) through thorough exegesis and study, to stand before his congregation confident that the Holy Spirit will overcome the failures and faults of such a brittle mouthpiece, and the preacher presses the text for its scope, structure, and meaning, for “faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ” (Rom 10:17). This is text-driven preaching. May God convict us to pursue this task.
Daniel L. Akin, David L. Allen, Ned L. Mathews, Text-Driven Preaching: God’s Word at the Heart of Every Sermon