What Is Preaching?

Wonderful wisdom from Iain Murray:

The argument that the ‘expository’ method is the best means to cover most of the Bible is too largely connected with the idea that the foremost purpose of preaching is to convey as much as possible of the Bible. But that idea needs to be challenged. Preaching needs to be much more than an agency of instruction. It needs to strike, awaken, and arouse men and women so that they themselves become bright Christians and daily students of Scripture. If the preacher conceives his work primarily in terms of giving instruction, rather than of giving stimulus, the sermon, in most hands, very easily becomes a sort of weekly ‘class’ – an end in itself. But true preaching needs to ignite an on-going process.

Read the whole article HERE


Oh dear, Another Youth Ministry Journal….

Immerse is a new journal / magazine aimed at youth ministers. Mike King & Chris Folmsbee are the more notable drivers of this new adventure. I received a copy in the post recently and so I sat down to read  it.

Now if you read this blog regularly you know I review lots of books. There are a ton of books I do not review partly because I am really fussy. If a book has not grabbed my attention or tweaked my interest in the first few pages then it is thrown aside – that may be a bad habit, but that’s me.

With a majority (no, I think all) of youth ministry magazines I get bored within minutes. When I was a youth minister I eventually cancelled all subscriptions for youth ministry magazines because i never found anything helpful in them. Again, that is just me. I am sure many find much use in the various Youth Magazines / journals. From my own perspective, I rarely read anything new in these magazines. Also, I am never sure for whom the writers are writing for. Are they writing to teenagers, or to youth ministers who are teenagers, or are they trying to sound relevant and ’emerging’ and so write to adult youth ministers in a teen voice? Again, this my own view, but Immerse, Youth Ministry Journal, Youthwork and many other magazines all, essentially have the same content, aimed at the same people, written in the same way.

It is for this reason that I have a great deal of respect for Dr Pete Ward. His Masters in Youth Ministry course which he teaches out of Kings College London requires a high level of thinking and theological engagement. You may disagree with Ward on many issues (and I do) but there is no doubt that he has tried to change the level which Youth Ministers think and operate theologically – and that has to be welcomed.

How about a youth ministry magazine that engages in biblical studies, theology, doctrine, pastoral theology, church history. How about a youth magazine that stretches it’s readers to go deep into texts and theological issues and textual problems and then relate that into your youth group? How about engaging with the original languages?

My own preference as a youth minister and now as an assistant rector has been to invest time in theological journals. Reading such journals makes me THINK and engage with various texts – stretching my understanding and forcing me to go deeper, which in turn gives me a storehouse of understanding about a text. The challenge, which is the big challenge in youth ministry, is to then relate that to a teenager. But then, that is what contextualization is al about, isn’t it.

The Resignation of David Laws From the British Government

The Chief Secretary to the Treasury  has resigned. Why? He bent the expenses rules by claiming rent for a room in his partners house. He did this to conceal the fact that he is gay and he was living with his partner. He has apologized and is paying back the 40,000 pounds he received over the years.

To have even hinted that he would be able to keep his job was simply foolish. The fact that he has resigned so promptly is a good thing. There was no option. A Coalition Government, trying to establish themselves as a viable government to be trusted could under no circumstances have David Laws as a minister.

Books Read In May – updated

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This is a wonderful biography of Churchill. It is well written, full of information and brings out Churchill the man and Politian very well. At only 160 pages it is a great way to get into this giant of a man.

This is a great little book. At only 85 pages this should take you an hour to read – but it will be a profitable hour. Despite it’s size, this packs a heavy punch theologically, giving the reader a straight forward, and yet in-depth, biblical understanding, of death, what happens when we die, what happens at the resurrection, what happens at the final judgement and what happens in heaven.

This book should be bought in bulk by pastors so that they can always have a copy handy to give to parishioners who are facing illness, or have family facing illness. We need to be confronted with a biblical theology of death and this does it. Highly Recommended.

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Very basic, biblical theology encased with stories and illustrations. Maybe too simple for some.

A must read and a great asset for teaching doctrine. This is also a wonderful gift for the lay person in Church who wants to have a substantial understanding of the major doctrines of Christianity. Highly Recommended.

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Packer and Parrett argue for the benefits of using a catechism. Having layed out the Bible foundations for catechism they go on to describe the why’s and the benefits of catechism, as well as resources for churches. I did not think the book lived up to the expectation.

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Reflections on the church and ministry by a true patriarch of the Church. With 60 or so years of faithful service to Christ and ministry within the Church of England, we should really be listening to what John Stott says.

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For me this book throws down a challenge to the scientific and academic world. The challenge is – “Please – engage with New Atheism, and it’s claims vigorously. Make Dawkin, Harris and Hitchin’s defend their position. Compare it with scientists who accept intelligent design as well as the claims and teachings of Christianity and then make your mind up. Please, let’s have an open, fair, deep and impartial examination.”

As the authors suggest, if this were to happen, this will mean that for the first time new atheists will have to defend their position rather than merely taking skeptical shots at christianity.

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This book is a wonderful resource on Spiritual Formation and should be used by Pastors and Church Leaders as a foundation for building their own theology of Spiritual Formation and then as a launch pad for teaching their congregations to do likewise.

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A challenge to the church to start thinking about unity, especially on a personal and local level.

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The work of the Church is not possible with JUST a resurrected Christ – the Church, we, NEED the Ascended Christ to minister, for without the ascended Christ we would not have the Spirit. His unpacking of this is excellent.

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This is more than a biography of Lewis – it analysis his work in relation to his life. If you are Lewis fan, of course it is a must read.

The Resurrection of Ministry: Serving In The Hope of The Risen Lord by Andrew Purves

John Piper wrote almost 30 years ago, “What I have learned from about twenty-years of serious reading is this. It is sentences that change my life, not books. What changes my life is some new glimpse of truth, some powerful challenge, some resolution to a long-standing dilemma, and these usually come concentrated in a sentence or two. I do not remember 99% of what I read, but if the 1% of each book or article I do remember is a life-changing insight, then I don’t begrudge the 99%.”

I can relate Piper’s quote to this book. I confess that I found it hard to get into this book. But when I did his main point was powerful; we need to move from ministering in Holy Saturday, to Ministering in Easter Morning and the Ascension. In other words, ministry and the Christian life has to be done in the power of the Resurrected AND Ascended Christ. His emphasis on the Ascension was eye opening, challenging and exciting. The work of the Church is not possible with JUST a resurrected Christ – the Church, we, NEED the Ascended Christ to minister, for without the ascended Christ we would not have the Spirit. His unpacking of this is excellent. Too many of us are ministering in Holy Saturday, without the power of the Spirit, relying on our own ability. For this reason the book is worth reading, especially by Pastors and other Ministers.


Do we Have The Heart Of Worship That The Wise Men Had?

I can’t prove it but I think it likely that the Wise men whom we read about in Matthew 2 were men who had read Daniel’s work in Babylon. One thing is for certain – their heart for worship is hard to match!

They leave their homes and travel maybe a 1000 miles in order to seek out the king of the Jews and to bow down and worship him. And when they found a child they still bowed down and worshiped him. Their only agenda was worship. Do we seek out Jesus to worship Him with the same single mindedness? Do we fall down in adoration to him? As JC Ryle says, the Wise men are a striking example of faith!!

Your Church Is Too Small: Why Unity In Christ’s Mission Is Vital To The Future Of The Church by John Armstrong

This book is a careful study on the issue of unity within the church. Armstrong does not argue for wide ecumenicalism  or unity at any cost. Far from it. But he does ask the question, and raises suggestions as to why it is that the church – those who declare Jesus Christ to be Lord, are so divided. Where is Unity amongst those who profess the core beliefs of the faith? And it’s a good and challenging question. While there are groups claiming to be Christian which we should not unite to because of unscriptural beliefs why does the orthodox church (by this I mean  churches believing in the core doctrines of the historic faith) find it SO hard to unite? This book provides some background to this question, as well as some analysis. Armstrong is heavily influenced by J.I Packer.

Is there a solution? Armstrong does not give a solution so much as a suggested pattern. For him unity is created in the trenches of shared life – person to person, congregation to congregation. It is made through human relationships within families and communities where we live. Will the Episcopal Church and the Baptists unite to work together on a denominational level? No. Should a bible believing, orthodox Episcopal Church be united with a local Baptist church for the work of the kingdom in their city – of course they should. Should two families from different church traditions but sharing the same core beliefs of biblical Christianity work together for the gospel – yes they should. And it is on this level that such unity, for Armstrong, is so vital to the future of the church. On the local level we need to smash down the walls which divide orthodox believers so that more unity, working together, even pulpit swaps can take place. This would transform our cities.

Wisdom From Ignatius

Pray continually for the rest of humankind as well, that they may find God, for there is in them hope for repentance. Therefore allow them to be instructed by you, at least by your deeds. In response to their anger, be gentle; in response to their boasts, be humble; in response to their slander, offer prayers; in response to their errors, be steadfast in the faith; in response to their cruelty, be civilized; do not be eager to imitate them. Let us show by our forbearance that we are their brothers and sisters, and let us be eager to be imitators of the Lord, to see who can be the more wronged, who the more cheated, who the more rejected, in order that no weed of the devil may be found among you, but that with complete purity and self-control you may abide in Christ Jesus physically and spiritually…

It is right, therefore, that we not just be called Christians, but that we actually be Christians, unlike some who call a man bishop but do everything without regard for him. Such people do not appear to me to act in good conscience, inasmuch as they do not validly meet together in accordance with the commandment

Apostolic Fathers – Ignatius

God Kills Our Ministries

God kills our ministries when they get into the center of things. Our ministries are not redemptive; only the ministry of Jesus is redemptive. So our messianic pretensions are killed by God.

A Quote from Andrew Purves: The Resurrection of Ministry

Life In The Spirit: Spiritual Formation In Theological Perspective Edited by Jeffery Greenman and George Kalantzis

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This collection of papers originally presented at the 2009 Wheaton Theology Conference aims to set a perspective on the topic of Spiritual Formation. We may have heard of this phrase – it has become a buzz word amongst some – but what does it mean and what kind of theology does it espouse? This book answers that question. Each chapter covers an area of  Spiritual Formation or Disciplines, providing the reader a framework that is theological, historical and practical.

Too often we divorce spiritual formation from theology, and theology from the spirit. We need to merge them back together so that we have a living theology which is simultaneously forming the work of  Christ in us and in the world, through and in the experience of the Holy Spirit.

While all the chapters were excellent, Kelly Kapic’s chapter on John Owen (Evangelical Holiness) and his concept of holiness was especially good, showing how the puritan Owen’s approach to holiness was  both Christ-centered AND Spirit-enabled.

Christopher Hall gives a very helpful chapter on Lectio Divina outlining the benefits of slow and intentional reading of scripture not for analysis sake, but for receiving and bathing in the word of God.

The Church needs to get serious about our spiritual formation and growth. Too few christians today take seriously the need to spend time (significant time) in the scriptures and in prayer before the living God. We must become disciplined is spending time, daily, immersed in and soaking up the words of life found in the scriptures, and allowing that to shape a living and spirit empowered theology which translates itself into Christ centered living, individually and corporately.

This book is a wonderful resource on Spiritual Formation and should be used by Pastors and Church Leaders as a foundation for building their own theology of Spiritual Formation and then as a launch pad for teaching their congregations to do likewise.

British Politics – The Lib Dem’s Are Between a Rock and a Hard Place

I do not envy the Liberal Democrats right now. I write this with no announcement regarding the talks they are in with the Conservative Party. Will they reach a deal or not? Either way, I do not think this is a good situation for the Lib Dem’s and I say that as someone who has in the past campaigned for them and stood as a Liberal Democrat candidate.

The problem they have is that they are brokering a deal with only 57 seats in parliament. It was never envisaged that a hung parliament would be in effect with so few Lib Dem seats – and that weakens the hand of Nick Clegg. Secondly, what does Clegg accept and reject as deal breakers? Do they accept less on electoral reform and upset their members? Or do they walk away from the Conservatives and any possible share in power? Do they try and help a deeply unpopular government, who will soon elect another leader who may be Prime Minister without having won an election.

No, the Lib Dem’s are between a rock and a hard place. This is not the hung parliament scenario they had hoped for. My two cents worth is to walk away from the Conservatives. Do NOT go to Labour. See if the Conservatives can manage a minority government and vote according to each issue before parliament. If another election has to be held sooner rather than later, then so be it.

Against All God’s: What’s Right and Wrong About The New Atheism by Phillip Johnson and John Mark Reynolds

This is a clever little book. Johnson and Reynolds are not writing an apologetic, or polemic against the wave of New Atheism (although they do not agree with it.) What this book does is to call out Scientists and Universities to seriously study the claims of new atheism and to scrutinise it’s arguments. And this is the reason the authors and this book are very clever.

The new atheist movement is on the offensive. Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris and Christopher Hitchen’s are not just atheists – but they have become evangelical atheists. They have moved from not believing in God, to actively trying to bring down theism as a rational position. They have moved from saying religion is a waste of time, to religion is evil.

Yet the authors of this book argue that while they disagree with  the conclusions of the new atheists, Dawkins, Harris and Hitchin’s are asking the right questions. They are bringing the issue to the forefront. And this is a GOOD thing for the authors of this book. Why? Because it will force universities and scientists to engage with the claims of the new atheists. Dawkins especially, has pushed the boundary of what science is beyond the comfort zone of many scientists. Would the scientific world endorse Dawkins claim (scientifically) that the logic of Darwinism supports atheism, or that the answer to cosmic fine tuning is in fact that there are a huge number of alternative universes? Surely this has left the discipline of empirical science and entered philosophical speculation.

For me this book throws down a challenge to the scientific and academic world. The challenge is – “Please – engage with New Atheism, and it’s claims vigorously. Make Dawkin, Harris and Hitchin’s defend their position. Compare it with scientists who accept intelligent design as well as the claims and teachings of Christianity and then make your mind up. Please, let’s have an open, fair, deep and impartial examination.”

As the authors suggest, if this were to happen, this will mean that for the first time new atheists will have to defend their position rather than merely taking skeptical shots at christianity.

Very clever!

Doctrine: What Christians Should Believe by Mark Driscoll and Gerry Breshears

I think this is a really impressive work. Why? There are ten to a dozen Systematic Theologies in the market. For the most part they are big books which can intimidate or look to daunting for many Christians. Driscoll and Breshears have pulled off something unique. They have a substantial book, and  by substantial I mean it has lots of information. Each chapter covers the topic thoroughly. And yet, the book is not dense, or hard to read. Far from it. It is remarkably easy to read. But what this book does very well is to limit itself to 13 chapters and thus, providing a template of doctrines which we should all as Christians uphold. While Driscoll and Breshears do take positions their writing and presentation of the material in each chapter is so comprehensive that you come away with an all round understanding of each doctrine. A must read and a great asset for teaching doctrine. This is also a wonderful gift for the lay person in Church who wants to have a substantial understanding of the major doctrines of Christianity. Highly Recommended.

Dug Down Deep: Unearthing What I Believe And Why It Matters by Joshua Harris

A very basic, bare bones, biblical theology wrapped in anecdotes and illustrations. The book is easy to read and Harris is engaging. And what he writes is solid.On this basis, it is a book which you could give to an enquiring teenager as a very first step into biblical theology. A first step, mind you. For some it will be too simple and so you might need to jump up a level.

N.T Wright on Romans And Justification

If you have been following the controversy between N. T Wright and John Piper et al regarding Wright’s view of Justification, Imputation and Paul’s theology, I encourage to listen to three lectures Wright gave while he was still canon Theologian to Westminster Abbey. Whether you agree with Wright / Piper, these lectures are probably the clearest presentation of Wright’s position:

Romans In A Day Part 1

Romans In A Day Part 2

Romans In Day Part 3

Jesus, Paul and the People of God: A Theological Dialogue with N.T. Wright

I have just finished listening to the talks from the recent Wheaton Theological Conference. The theological standard of this conference, from all the talks, was very high. This is real theological dialogue. Especially good was Kevin Vanhoozer’s talk on Wrighting the Wrongs of the Reformation? The State of the Union with Christ in St. Paul and in Protestant Soteriology and Jeremy Begbie’s presentation on The Shape of Things to Come? Wright Amidst Emerging Ecclesiologies .

Well worth listening to and engaging with!

Check it out here

Fear Not by Ligon Duncan

This is a great little book. At only 85 pages this should take you an hour to read – but it will be a profitable hour. Despite it’s size, this packs a heavy punch theologically, giving the reader a straight forward, and yet in-depth, biblical understanding, of death, what happens when we die, what happens at the resurrection, what happens at the final judgement and what happens in heaven. 

This book should be bought in bulk by pastors so that they can always have a copy handy to give to parishioners who are facing illness, or have family facing illness. We need to be confronted with a biblical theology of death and this does it.