Quote for preachers

When you’re forced to be simple, you’re forced to face the real problem. When you can’t deliver ornament, you have to deliver substance.
Paul Graham

Arenas of courage

Yesterday we looked at how the Lord Jesus modeled Christian courage in various arenas. Let’s follow Him into these arenas:

1. Courage in evangelism
The pastor and elders should take the lead in evangelism. This is not something that “should be left to the young people.” One of the most encouraging times in my own ministry was when we started an annual door-to-door delivery of an evangelistic newspaper. We had about 30 volunteers and a good number of them were elders, some of them elderly elders. I thought it gave a great example to everyone in the congregation. It said, “We are not too important to engage in evangelism.”

The pastor should not just be willing to go door-to-door, hand out tracts in city centers, preach in the open air, etc. He should take the lead in this. And let him take on some of the hardest cases as well. If there are real skeptics in families or people who follow cults, etc, let the pastor be unafraid to visit and engage with them. All this will develop a huge amount of respect for the pastor.

2. Courage in preaching
Courage in the pulpit does not mean bombastic arrogance that lambasts everyone and everything. Neither does pulpit courage mean saying things there that you would never say to someone’s face. But it does mean avoiding the posture and attitude of apologetic and apprehensive caution. Preach the truth without apology. Expose and denounce sin. Take on challenging passages. Balance the encouragements with warnings, God’s sovereignty with man’s responsibility, and sermons about heaven with sermons on hell.

3. Courage in private dealings
Paul not only taught the truth publicly but also from house to house (Acts 20:20). Some men find it easy to be brave in the pulpit but wilt when they are one-on-one. People will ask you tough questions; answer them. People need to hear some painful truths about their attitudes or actions; tell them. And don’t avoid your critics. You will gain their respect and often even silence them if you visit them and listen to their concerns.

4. Courage in dealing with friends and family
People will be on the lookout to see if you are prejudiced against certain people or show favoritism to others. They will look to see if you are consistent in dealing with your own family, and to see if you are as straight and honest with those closest to you in the congregation. Are you willing to oppose them if they are wrong?

5. Courage in reforming the church
You will have to attend church courts locally, and probably on a wider level as well. You are going to be tempted to avoid these meetings, especially if there are controversial issues and cases to be considered. God’s people will be watching you here too. You are in these courts as their representative and they are looking to you to do your duty according to the Word of God.

Never vote for a friend’s proposal because he is a friend, and never vote against an enemy because he is your enemy. Do not keep silent for the sake of popularity. Don’t put peace above the truth. Don’t ignore issues or procrastinate in dealing with them.

6. Courage in the public square
I’ve dealt with this in some detail before (read here).The preacher must not become a politician, a radio talk-show host, nor a running commentary on the latest national events. However, neither should he be afraid of speaking up on matters of public morals and religion.

7. Courage in fighting the devil
This is not a public courage; it’s more of an internal and spiritual battle. However, it is at the heart of every other battle and is the ground of our confidence in fighting every other battle. If we lose here, there is no point in fighting elsewhere. We are holed below the water-line. Get to know your adversary and fight him with spiritual weapons.

8. Courage in crises
You will probably have to suffer some pain or loss or difficulty in your family. Your congregation will want to see how you react to that. Will you crumble or will you practice what you preach?

9. Courage in failure
This, of course, is one arena that the Lord Jesus did not have to fight in. He never failed. But we do and will. We will make mistakes, take wrong turns, say something we regret, make a wrong call. Failure is inevitable. It’s what we do in response that really matters. Will we run and hide? Will we try to cover up and obfuscate? Or will we be open and public about our blunders? Honestly admit them, take responsibility, refuse to make excuses, humbly ask for forgiveness, and learn from your mistakes. That is true courage.

PS: Please read Kevin DeYoung’s The Distinguishing Marks of a Quarrelsome Person if you want to avoid perverting courage into contentiousness.

Learning to preach from non-preachers?

Can preachers learn from non-preachers about how to preach? We do need to be very careful about using “tricks of the trade,” or as Paul put it “wisdom of words.” However, there are some basic preparation and delivery skills that we can safely learn from good public speakers in different walks of life.

Take, for example, the pattern of preparation that Tony Morgan sets out in How I write a conference talk. So many sermons could be improved by following these basic building blocks. One line that I especially put my “Amen” to is: “For me to be a better communicator, I’ve learned I need to sweat the outline.”

Although I didn’t get so much from Peter Bubriski’s post on how to Improve your public speaking, I did appreciate two of his emphases:

1. Don’t approach speaking like an actor: ”To be a better public speaker, you just need to get out of your own way, so we can see you for who you really are. Glimpsing that authentic core can be riveting.”

2. Approach speaking like an sportsman: ”With a sport, you’re not pretending to be someone else. You are training your body and your mind to achieve feats of skill — building your muscle memory with drills and repetition.”

And, lastly, which preacher can’t identify with and benefit from this post on Writing under pressure. It begins:

If ridiculous deadlines knot your gut and give you tunnel vision causing you to miss even basic errors, this is for you. But even if you’re an adrenaline junkie, needing the pressure to perform, it’ll help you, too, because it’s all about process.

Clear, familiar processes are lifesavers when you’re under pressure and not thinking straight. So, as pilots practice emergency drills until they’re second nature, try to internalize the process below – print it, look at it daily, use it often – so that when you’re under the pump you’ll do it automatically.

Here’s a summary of the first four steps of the process:

  1. Objective: Clarify what you want to achieve. “Begin with the end in mind” (Stephen Covey).
  2. Readers: Stand in their shoes. If you were them, what would interest you about this?
  3. Dump: Do a brain dump. Quickly jot down your points as bullets, in any order.
  4. Signpost: Next, highlight your major points and write snappy subheads above them.

I’ve got a funny feeling that by lunchtime tomorrow I’ll be glad I read that article.

Marry Kassian on Connected Kingdom

Download here.
If you’ve not listened to Connected Kingdom before, may I encourage you to start with this interview of Mary Kassian. Mary is a professor, writer, and speaker who specializes in the role of women in the family, culture, and the church. She really is a great counter-cultural thinker, a superb writer, and a lively personality. As the father of two young girls (aged 8 & 7), I found some of her advice profoundly helpful.

Mary blogs at GirlsGoneWise.com, a blog I commend to you. She is the author of The Feminist Mistake and Girls Gone Wise in a World Gone Wild, both books that come highly recommended.

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