What does it mean to “Preach Christ?”

“Strange as it may seem, we are not at all clear on what it means to ‘preach Christ,’” says Sidney Greidanus in the opening pages of Preaching Christ from the Old Testament. Common answers, moving from narrow to broader, are to:

  • Link verses to Christ’s crucifixion
  • Connect sermons to Christ’s death and resurrection.
  • Present Christ as the eternal Logos, who is also active in Old Testament times (especially as the Angel of Yahweh, God’s Wisdom, etc.)
  • Preach God-centered sermons (as Christ is God, a God-centered sermon is Christ-centered).
  • Substitute the name of Christ wherever we see “Jehovah” in the Old Testament (because Christ is Jehovah).

As the New Testament is full of preaching Christ, it must be our guide and model. Gredianus quotes C. H. Dodd’s survey of Apostolic preaching, which identified six core themes:

  1. The age of fulfillment has dawned.
  2. This has taken place through the ministry, death, and resurrection of Jesus.
  3. By virtue of the resurrection, Jesus has been exalted at the right hand of God, as Messianic head of the new Israel.
  4. The Holy Spirit in the Church is the sign of Christ’s present power and glory.
  5. The Messianic Age will shortly reach its consummation in the return of Christ.
  6. The proclamation always closes with an appeal for repentance, the offer of forgiveness and of the Holy Spirit, and the promise of salvation.

Greidanus concludes that “a quick scrutiny of these six elements indicates that preaching in the New Testament church indeed centered on Jesus Christ – but not in the narrow sense of focussing only on Christ crucified, nor in the broadest sense of focussing only on the Second Person of the Trinity or the eternal Logos.”

For the New Testament Church, preaching Christ meant preaching “the birth, ministry, death, resurrection, and exaltation of Jesus of Nazareth as the fulfillment of God’s old covenant promises, his presence today in the Spirit, and his imminent return. In short, ‘preaching Christ’ meant preaching Christ incarnate in the context of the full sweep of redemptive history” (Greidanus, 4).

What did you really learn at College?

Probably not a lot of History, or Science, or Math.

But you probably learned a few much bigger lessons that have shaped your whole life.

Author Stephen Dubner, of Freakonomics fame, returned to Appalachian State University to thank his three favorite professors  for these three life-changing lessons he learned in their classes.

  • No matter what you are or who you are, don’t blame your equipment.
  • Be willing to learn from everything and everyone.
  • Know your audience/medium/customers.

What’s especially intriguing is that none of the professors could remember teaching these lessons! Which makes me wonder what lessons I am unconsciously teaching my students.

When I look back to my University and Seminary days, it’s true I can hardly remember anything I was taught in formal lectures. I was definitely taught to think and write a bit better, but I struggle to recall any lecture content.

Like Dubner, though, I did learn life-lessons that continue to influence my own life and ministry:

  • The character of the teacher matters more than the content of his teaching.
  • Striving for simplicity, brevity, and clarity is the hardest work but the greatest service.
  • Passionate teaching makes for passionate hearers.

The podcast touches on this last point when Dubner asks what makes a successful student. One of the professors answers: “You gotta want it. You gotta bring something to the table. If you want it, you’ll get it. You gotta learn to be passionate about something. If you don’t have any passion in life, who cares?” Students take heed!

What three life-lessons did you learn at College?

Listen to The Things They Taught Me (NB: there’s a semi-bleeped word around 10.22-10.24)

Check out

Best Genesis Commentaries
Tim Challies’ list plus the comments could save you a lot of time and money – and do your soul and your hearers much good.

10 Mistakes Preachers Need to Avoid
Tony Morgan with preaching lessons from a book on successful TED talks.

10 Things Pastors Desire in Church Members
A follow-up on 10 things Church Members want in a Pastor.

Why do we ignore wisdom?
Colin Adams suggests three reasons why the OT wisdom books are rarely preached.

How imagination shapes your brain
Fascinating little video. I love the idea of building my muscles by thinking.

My Pastoral Confidentiality Policy
Vitally important subject and excellent advice.

8 lessons I learned about preaching from painting my kitchen

This could actually be retitled, “ONE lesson I learned from painting my kitchen,” with the post shortened to one line, “Don’t even think about it.”

However, you’ll want your money’s worth, so here are my eight painful lessons:

1. Estimate a time and triple it. It’s not the actual painting that takes the time. It’s the preparation, the sanding, vacuuming, cleaning, covering, taping, etc. The ratio of prep time to painting time is probably about 10:1. About the same for preparation and preaching.

2. Know your limits. I did quite well using the paint roller on the wide kitchen walls. I should have stayed with that rather than taking on the facings and window frames as well. As in painting, if you bite off more than you can chew in preaching, you can mess up a lot of the good work you’ve already done.

3. Clean up mess immediately. It’s so hard to stop and clean up drips and sprays when slapping on the paint. But delay means drying, and drying means chisels instead of tissues. Preaching mistakes are best corrected and cleaned up immediately rather than have worse problems to deal with later.

4. When you are getting angry and frustrated, stop. Anger does not improve painting or preaching.

5. Don’t take shortcuts. Spray painting seemed such a timesaver. But despite wearing a face mask I ended up not only with a white nose, but white nose hairs and nostrils too. I dread to think what my lungs look like. My kids favorite proverb on Saturday night was, “A hoary head is a crown of glory.” If you don’t want to wash your hair with turps, stick with good old-fashioned paint brushes. Similarly, not every modern promise of faster and easier sermons beats tried, tested, and trusted methods.

6. Don’t spread the work over multiple days. A couple of concentrated periods of time produce far better results than catching the odd 30 mins here and there.

7. Your wife is not always your best critic. Sometimes she sees you are so crushed by the DIY disaster, that love takes over and she assures you that really are the next Leonardo Da Vinci. Ditto some sermons.

8. Stick to your calling. Just as I don’t want a painter as my preacher, I shouldn’t ask a preacher to paint my kitchen.

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Divine Art
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Raising Fear-less Children
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What we all need to learn from the minority experiences
Trillia Newbell interviews Thabiti about what Christians can learn from African Americans’ suffering. So helpful.

Girl Solidarity
“Dear Teenage Girl: I was once you a long time ago.  I was without God in my life, lonely, and wondering what the purpose of life was. I didn’t feel I could talk to my parents. I wanted validation, approval, love.  I wasn’t promiscuous, but I definitely knew how to get a boy’s attention, and I had my share of boyfriends…”

A week without Google
I don’t know how, but Mike Leake did it and lived to tell the tale.

10 Positive Reasons to Train Your Kids in Cell Phone Use

Apart from giving them the Gospel, the single best thing we can do for our kids’ college, career, and marriage prospects is to train them to be self-disciplined in their cell phone use. Improving their cell phone habits will:

1. Raise their grades: Study time and quality will dramatically improve if they are not being continually interrupted by text messages and Facebook updates.

2. Increase their knowledge: As cell phone use increases, book reading plunges. Thankfully, the opposite is also true.

3. Strengthen their reasoning: Teachers everywhere are alarmed at students’ increasing inability to concentrate and follow the logic of a sustained argument, with most tracing the damage to cell phone distraction and abbreviated communication.

4. Expand their worldview: Although it’s called the World Wide Web, most kids’ worldview shrinks when national and international news are deluged and drowned in a tsunami of local and parochial trivia served up via the social media fire hose.

5. Improve their health: It’s not only that late-night use of screen technology delays and disturbs sleep, but a staggering number of kids check their Facebook status throughout the night as well. Nothing is more important to long-term health than long and deep sleep.

6. Strengthen their relationships: Families who take radical steps to reduce cell phone access and use in the home testify to the huge improvement in sibling and parental relationships.

7. Enhance their communication skills: Employers are desperate for people who can speak a reasonable number of complete and coherent sentences with clarity and confidence, and who can relate to people face to face with courtesy and care. That’s not learned with our faces in a phone.

8. Clarify their vision: When kids are constantly distracted by the latest status update, text message, or Tumblr GIF, they can’t see beyond the horizon of the present to seek and find a long-term purpose for their lives (great article on that here).

9. Ground their self-image: The more time spent in the virtual world, the more unreal our self-image becomes. Our kids need to be grounded in real flesh & blood relationships in the real world if they are not to get an over-inflated sense of who they are and what they’ve accomplished.

10. Deepen their spirituality: Horizontal communication pushes out vertical communication. When kids start the day with their phone rather than their Bible in their hands, the day has already gone wrong.

If we love our children, we must take radical action now. Look at the benefits. Re-write the list in the negative and ask, “Do I want that for my kids?”

What can we do? Confiscation is very appealing, but usually a bit extreme. We can use parental controls and accountability software. We can forbid phones in bedrooms, at study desks, and at meal times. I now insist on all phones (including my own) be kept in one central place when in the house and I limit the number of times they can be checked in an evening. We’re also starting a phone fast on Sundays. And let there be consequences for misuse or overuse, yes, even confiscation at times.

But perhaps the best thing we can do is to talk to our kids about these ten positive reasons for making this wonderful technology a servant rather than a master. It might be the best career move they make. If they master their cell-phone they will stand out in their generation in so many positive ways.