Tuesday, August 31, 2010

John Piper on Preaching

HT to Ritch Boerckel...excellent insights on the task of preaching.

(Author: Jeff Lacine)

Although John Piper was completely unable to speak in front of groups from fifth grade until his sophmore year of college, and although he received a C minus in his seminary preaching class, God made him a preacher. Hear about it in today's Ask Pastor John.

The following is an edited transcript of the audio.

Where and how did you learn to preach?

I don't know. Watching my dad when I was six, eight, ten, twelve. Watching how not to do it in lots of places. Being unable to speak in front of a group from grade five to my sophomore year in college. I think I was learning to preach during that time because I was so hurt, so wounded, so discouraged, and so desperate that I had to go way down into God, and way into Scripture, and way into pain, and God was making a preacher by shutting my mouth.

You don't become an effective preacher by becoming a loquacious and effective communicator at age sixteen. You become a clever communicator, but you don't become a preacher of the holy things of God. So that was a piece.

I don't know. The courses that I took on preaching were marginally helpful. I got the lowest grade in seminary in my preaching class. I think I got a C minus in James Daane's preaching class at Fuller Seminary. We never agreed on anything except the principle that every sermon should have one point, he said that over and over again. So I made a terrible grade there. But there were other teachers that...

I think the way that I became a preacher was by being passionately thrilled by what I was seeing in the Bible in seminary. Passionately thrilled! When Philippians began to open to me, Galatians open to me, Romans open to me, the Sermon on the Mount open to me in classes on exegesis (not homiletics, but exegesis), everything in me was feeling, "I want to say this to somebody. I want to find a way to say this because this is awesome, this is incredible!"

So for preachers today that go everywhere but the Bible to find something interesting or something scintillating and passionate, I say, "I don't get it. I don't get that at all!" Because I have to work hard to leave the Bible to go somewhere to find an illustration, because everything in the Bible is just blowing me away. And it is that sense of being blown away by what's here—by the God that's here, and the Christ that's here, and the gospel that's here, and the Spirit that's here, and the life that is here—being blown away by this, I just say, "That's got to get out."

And then I suppose how it gets out. What is that? I don't know what that is. That's just the way I'm wired that I would say it a certain a way. It's owing in part to me being a lit major, you know, I studied language a little bit. Goodness, a thousand things go into your life and nobody can copy anybody else. I don't know. God makes us who we are. I don't think there is much you can do to become a preacher except know your Bible and be unbelievably excited about what's there. And love people a lot, that is, you want to make the connection with people and what's in the Bible.

The Hospitable Bishop

I have an unwritten rule against using multiple sermon illustrations from the same source—at least until a respectable amount of time has transpired. I used Les Miserables in a sermon several weeks ago and I’m reluctant to use it again.

The pity is that there is so much good material in the book! Therefore, I have decided to grant myself amnesty for weekly updates, which means you may be seeing a lot of Les Miserables in the coming weeks.

Near the beginning of the novel, a bishop says these words to Jean Valjean, who is in desperate need of hospitality:

You need not tell me who you are. This is not my house; it is the house of Christ. It does not ask any comer whether he has a name, but whether he has an affliction. You are suffering; you are hungry and thirsty; be welcome. And do not thank me; do not tell me that I take you into my house. This is the home of no man, except him who needs an asylum. I tell you, who are a traveler, that you are more at home than I; whatever is here is yours. What need have I to know your name? Besides, before you told me, I knew it…. Your name is my brother.
Can you say the same of your home: This is not my house; it is the house of Christ?

In Romans 15:7, tells us why believers should be more hospitable than any other group: “Therefore,” writes Paul, “welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.”

You and I have been welcomed into the home of God through faith in Chris Jesus. We become family, yes, but it should never be forgotten that we who were God’s enemies were shown gracious hospitality at the moment where we needed it the most and deserved it the least.

My encouragement to you is to examine the home in which you live and be careful about speaking of it as “your” home. You live in it, but it is God’s. The food, the clothing, the furniture exist not for your own benefit but for God’s. Use it accordingly!

Monday, August 23, 2010

Why My Family is Participating in Care Groups This Year

Since our church launched in 2008, I think it is fair to say that our family has been pretty involved in the life of the church. We love Bethany Community and receive great joy from our participation in ministry here.

There is one ministry at BCC, however, that my family has not been heavily involved with, and that is the care group ministry. If the care group ministry is an integral part of our church’s discipleship ministry, why have we not been more involved?

The primary reason was that we were busy with other ministries, but as we looked at all that we were involved in, we noticed that we were not, as a family, participating in a smaller, relational ministry.

So this year, our family has decided that we need to be involved in the care group ministry. Not because the ministry needs more leaders. Not because we want to show how important the ministry was by getting involved. Not because we believe the other things we are doing are suddenly unimportant.

We are participating in care groups because it is important for the spiritual health of our family. We need it. You see, it is not only possible for a casual attendee to miss out on relationships at church—it is possible for a very committed attendee/Senior Pastor to miss out on relationships.

Remember the interaction between Jesus, Mary and Martha in Luke 10:38-42:
Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord's feet and listened to his teaching. But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”
Mary chooses the “one thing” that is necessary—growth in her walk with the Lord Jesus. That is what my family needs as well, and that growth can occur more effectively in regular, consistent relationships with other believers.

So, we’re looking forward to participating in the small group ministry and seeing how the Lord continues to challenge us in our walk with him.

I encourage you to consider if God is calling you to participate in care groups as well!