Don’t Just Pray for Your Pastor


I hope you pray for your pastors and elders. I really do. As a pastor and elder at my church, I know how much our pastors and elders depend on and covet the prayers of our people. The church is not an organization where leaders give and followers receive. Pastors aren’t performers, nor are they caterers. Pastors aren’t called to put on a show for their people, nor are they called to cater to their people’s preferences. Pastors are called to shepherd God’s flock according to God’s Word in the power of God’s Spirit.

It is a noble, humbling, and daunting task. Pastors often feel the weight of the spiritual needs of their people as well as the needs of their own families. And they often hold these weights in tension. At times it can feel like the better husband and father I am, the worse pastor I am, and vice-versa. When pastors labor for hours over the Word and spend time texting, calling, and visiting their people, that is time away from their families. And when pastors give significant time to their families, they feel guilty for not spending as much time meeting with others in the church. Many pastors wade in a pool of guilt as they try to manage ministry time and family time.

Faithful pastors are also usually the world’s worst for taking time off. Most of us are just wired to work and tirelessly give ourselves for the sake of others. Pastors are often perpetually tired–physically, mentally, and emotionally. Pastors experience waves of emotions throughout any given week. They face encouragement and criticism. They see joys and pains. They witness growth and moral lapses. Some faithful members leave for jobs and others leave in anger. Both produce tears in a loving pastor.

Pastors also preach a mix of good and bad sermons. And I can assure you that no one is a bigger critic of a sermon than the one preaching it. There isn’t really a sense of accomplishment in the pastor’s work. There are few tasks that can be started and finished in a short period of time. Even when a sermon is finished and preached, there’s another one coming next week. So, it’s really tough for a pastor to rest.

Granted, many pastors bring these problems on themselves. Pastors need to become experts on time management. Pastors need to be intentional about balancing ministry and family time. Pastors need to carve out time for personal rest, and they should be taking serious care of their minds, hearts, and bodies. However, unless the pastor intentionally seeks out rest and care, there often isn’t much pastoral care for the pastor in the church. While the pastor often preaches the gospel to others, he usually has few if any people in his life who preach the gospel to him.

I don’t mean to throw a pity-party on behalf of myself and my brother pastors. I hope you’re not feeling sorry for your pastor or rolling your eyes at me. Healthy pastors find strange joy in the burdens of ministry. Like Paul, they are sorrowful, yet always rejoicing. Many pastors love their work and their people deeply. My purpose in writing is simply to get you thinking about the stress your pastor is under every single week. I hope you are aware of this, and it compels you to pray for your pastor.

Saturday is a great day to pray for your pastors and elders, especially your preaching pastor. As much as we all work to have our sermons finished before the weekend, many pastors are still cleaning up their sermons on Saturday night. I’ve finished a sermon at 1:30 AM on a Sunday morning. And I don’t even preach on a weekly basis. It happens. And when it happens, I can assure you that your pastor is tired and in need of the prayers of his people.

What an excellent practice it would be to pray for your pastor with your children, spouse, or friends on a Saturday night. What an excellent practice it would be to text your small group and remind them to pray for your pastor. What if you called another church member and decided to intercede for your pastor on a Saturday afternoon? God uses prayer to accomplish his purposes. I wonder how different a Sunday morning would look if the church was intentionally praying for the service the day before.

But I hope you do more than pray. Praying for your pastor should be a given. It’s honestly the least we can do. Your pastor needs more than your prayers. He needs your words. He needs to hear from you. He needs you to encourage and exhort him. Consider ways you can serve your pastor and his family with your words and service. You could offer to watch his children so he and his wife can go on a date. Maybe you could take your pastor out to lunch and share ways his ministry has impacted you. You could even simply be engaged and involved on a Sunday morning. Or at least try not to fall asleep! Paul knows what I’m talking about (Acts 20:9)! And be creative! Have a spirit of humility and service among everyone in the body of Christ, including your pastor.

Apart from general encouragement and acts of service, your pastor also needs something you may not think he needs. He needs you to remind him of the gospel. I know it’s ironic, but it’s really easy for a pastor to forget the gospel–not the content, but the benefits. The nature of a pastor’s work makes it easy for him to find his worth in the approval of his people. It’s sinful when he does so, but it’s easy for a pastor to find identity in how well he preaches, teaches, and counsels. Your pastor needs the gospel just as much as you. What a blessing it is to a pastor to be reminded of the gospel by his people.

It’s Saturday. Your pastor may be chilling with his family not thinking about his sermon or Sunday morning at all. He may be totally content and satisfied with his work. He may not be worried about certain suffering individuals or families in his flock. He may be. But don’t assume it. It’s more likely that his mind is consumed with Sunday morning–both the service and the people. His sermon may not be finished. He may be having a challenging day as a parent. He may be arguing with his wife. He may be burdened by a difficult Bible passage. He may have just received a hurtful phone call, text, or email. And he may just be having a bad day.

Pastors need their people. They need the prayers of the saints. But don’t just pray for your pastor. Encourage him. Exhort him. Love him. Serve him. Remind him of the gospel. Watch how the Spirit will use your resolve to intercede and serve your pastor as he seeks to shepherd you well.


19149367_2014653971893374_3834793165439186257_nMathew Gilbert is Associate Pastor for Children and Preschool at The Church at Trace Crossing in Tupelo, MS. He is a student at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and the author of Come to the Well: 50 Meditations to Fuel Your Joy in God. Mathew and his wife, Erica, live in Tupelo with their two boys, Jude and Jack.

Confessions of a Young Preacher


So, here’s a confession: I’m a young preacher who is learning on the job. My homiletical, communication, exegetical, and expositional skills are still raw and in need of much grooming. I learn far more than I teach every time I stand to proclaim the gospel on a Sunday morning. With each sermon I preach, I learn more about God, the gospel, preaching preparation and delivery, and just how much I need the grace of God and the patience of the people who sit under my preaching. God bless anyone who sit under the preaching of raw preachers like me! We are often passionate, eager, excited, naive, and inexperienced.

There are already things I’ve said in sermons I would never say again, and there are things I’ve said I would definitely say differently. I resonate with Tim Keller when he says the first 200 sermons a preacher preaches will be terrible. I find comfort in this no matter how much the people who sit under the 200 sermon threshold may cringe. The good news for every young preacher like me is that the edification and sanctification of those under our preaching is not ultimately dependent on our preaching abilities, but on the Word that we are preaching. I’m thankful God uses us not only despite our deficiencies, but also through them.

Any preacher, young or old, who faithfully preaches the Word as it was revealed is a competent preacher. Sermon preparation, writing, and delivery skills will develop over time (at least I hope!). But when a preacher preaches the Word, it is the Word that will not return void, not the sermon.

One of the things I am learning as I hone my preaching skills is that preaching can be simple without being childish. Preaching can be both deep and clear. Preaching should be both deep and clear. There is a tendency among preachers in my particular theological camp to give a running commentary on a passage to expose exegetical truths while offering solid theological points along the way. In the process, many of us fail miserably at application. And preaching that doesn’t include application is, well, not preaching.

I believe this is why so many young preachers like me are tempted to draw so heavily on the work of other preachers we follow. In fact, we want to interpret and teach a passage correctly so much that we are tempted to just borrow from the sermons of these preachers. How many of Tim Keller’s sermons have been preached outside of Redeemer Presbyterian? Good intentions that end in plagiarism are still sinful and lazy.

The church is best served by a pastor who labors over the text and seeks to faithfully expose its meaning. Even though the man who wrote the sermon may have wonderfully exposited the text, the man preaching the sermon did not and was not personally impacted by the text. Part of the impact of the sermon is the passion of the preacher who has been overwhelmed by the grandeur of the text he is preaching. This is lost when a preacher preaches someone else’s sermon. Remember, pastor, you are God’s man for the local church you are shepherding. As helpful as Piper and Keller are, they do not know your people. You do. God has called you and will use your unique abilities to preach the riches of God’s grace in Christ week in and week out.

With that said, it is vital for preachers to continue to grow. Growing as a preacher begins with humility. Be keenly aware of your weaknesses and be willing for a seasoned pastor you trust to speak into you. I’m grateful to God that he has called me to serve alongside a faithful and gifted expositor. Put down your guard and allow the arrows of healthy, loving, and biblical criticism to pierce your heart. It hurts to be told where you are weak, but nothing will benefit your preaching like listening to criticism with an open and humble heart.

Preaching is hard work. I’ve never been more spiritually and physically exhausted than after prepping for a sermon and then preaching it. My wife can attest to the turmoil that rages in my soul on a Monday morning after preaching on Sunday. However, the joy I feel in preaching is hard to describe and even harder to exaggerate. I count it a privilege and joy to proclaim the gospel and help people see and savor the greatness and grace of the God who is and speaks and saves. Every growth pain is worthwhile.


19149367_2014653971893374_3834793165439186257_nMathew Gilbert is Associate Pastor for Children and Preschool at The Church at Trace Crossing in Tupelo, MS. He is a student at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and the author of Come to the Well: 50 Meditations to Fuel Your Joy in God. Mathew and his wife, Erica, live in Tupelo with their two boys, Jude and Jack.

Morning Mashup 09/30


coffee-newspaper

A Quick and Easy Guide to the Planned Parenthood Videos – Shameful silence from the mainstream media. Mollie Hemingway helps them do their jobs.

I Don’t Want Your Good Vibes. I Want Prayer. – Megan Hill: “There’s no substitute for our communion with the Father.”

Speak for the Unborn Leader Pleads for Life – Great look at the work of Andrew King and Speak for the Unborn.

Every Living Thing Matters – “The Every Living Thing Campaign invites Christians to celebrate the wonder and beauty of God’s creation and commit to compassionate living by signing the Evangelical Statement on Responsible Care for Animals.”

Lies, Carly Fiorina and Abortion – Ross Douthat: “There has been an impressive amount of angry liberal commentary, which has spilled over into the mainstream press coverage (or do I repeat myself?) of the issue, about how in the last Republican presidential debate Carly Fiorina allegedly cited an entirely imaginary video in order to make a crazy claim about Planned Parenthood’s brain-harvesting ghoulishness that’s totally unsupported by the facts.”

Pope Francis Met Privately with Kim Davis – “The Pope met privately with Kim Davis and her husband, Joe, at the Vatican Embassy in Washington, D.C.”

Chipotle Church and the Problem of Choice – Brett McCracken: “Imagine if God were as fickle and restless as we are. But he isn’t. God’s covenant faithfulness to his people, even when the relationship is messy and embarrassing, should be instructive to us. A healthy relationship with the local church is like a healthy marriage: it only works when grounded in selfless commitment and non-consumerist covenant.”

When You Get Home…? – Consider asking your spouse what they want in those first few minutes you get home from work.

4 Tips for Using a Study Bible Well – Helpful article from Justin Taylor. If you use a study Bible, be sure to check it out.

If a preacher isn’t first preaching to himself, better that he falls on the pulpit steps and breaks his neck than preach that sermon. –John Calvin

Morning Mashup 09/16


coffee-newspaper

A mashup of articles for your information, edification, entertainment, and enjoyment.


A Call for Hope in the Age of Mass Incarceration – Thabiti Anyabwile observes and exposes the reality that most opponents of mass incarceration offer little hope by simply stating the problem. He writes, “Black families affected by mass incarceration need hope that’s stronger than the vicissitudes of this life, built on better promises than social policy can offer. Inner-city communities need hope that places its members’ happiness beyond the reach of their enemies. Vulnerable families need hope stronger than the death that’s so frequently dealt out in its homes and hamlets.”

Dear Mama of Littles – A beautiful article for my wife and all other “Mamas of littles.”

Technology and the Truth about the Viability of the Unborn – Dan Darling: “Either technology will force us to face the truth about abortion, or it will force us to admit we know what we are doing: taking innocent human life.”

The Art of Conferencing – As a children’s pastor, I highly recommend this historically proven method of discipleship in the home.

Why We Must Recover the Master of Divinity Degree – Jason Allen of Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary ushers a resounding call for the recovery of a robust and thorough Master of Divinity Degree. His closing spoke to me: “The call to the ministry is indeed the most glorious calling known to man. All whom God has called must be optimally prepared to serve him. Don’t settle for the quickest or easiest degree; aim for being maximally prepared for a lifetime of faithful ministry. Completing the Master of Divinity degree does not ensure a faithful ministry, but it does best position one for it. If at all possible, don’t settle for anything less.”

20 Funny and Strange Things Church Members Say – Pastors and staff were informally polled on Twitter by Thom Rainer to come up with this list. Surely you’ve never said any of these things, right?

Is Suicide and Unforgivable Sin that Will Send You to Hell? – An interesting approach to a sensitive question.

Co-Founder of Subway Restaurant Chain Dies at 67 – Within this NY Times piece is an interesting story about the beginnings of Subway.

Why Can’t Novak Djokovic Get Some Respect? – The title is a bit misleading. Djokovic has tons of respect, but he’s definitely not the darling of men’s tennis quite yet. Our love affair with Federer still rages on. This is odd and unfortunate because Djokovic is insanely talented, a ten-fold Grand Slam champion, and a seemingly likable dude.

Jesus is the first and last person in history to be told that obedience would bring a curse. –Tim Keller

Quick Quotes: 10 Quotes from “Family Ministry Field Guide” by Timothy Paul Jones


Q-train-logoEvery Friday, I plan to share select quotes from a book I am either currently reading or have previously read. Few things have impacted my faith and life as much as reading has. This will be just one way I promote books and reading. These articles will be for the dedicated reader who loves to gain insight from as many books as possible. They will also be for the Christian looking for new books to read. I am always on the lookout for new books to read. Hopefully some things I share will lead you to pick up a new book. Finally, these articles will be for those of you too busy to read. Hopefully these quick quotes will provide you with easy access to books you would otherwise not have time to read. Each article will include a brief discussion of the author and his work followed by ten (or more) pertinent quotes from the book.


One of the major concerns within youth ministry is how to make connections. How can we connect the Ancient Near Eastern culture to children and teenagers living in 21st century post-modern America? How can we connect unchanging biblical truth with young people who are changing by the minute? But most importantly, how can we connect children’s ministry to youth ministry? And how can we connect all youth ministries to the rest of the local body?

Youth ministry in many churches is like a remote island. Once who arrive, you can’t get off. But once you leave, you are lost at sea. Most adults in the church, including parents, want to avoid youth ministry. Youth ministers are held responsible for the spiritual development of each student, while parents forsake their God-given responsibility to train their children in the way of the Lord. This is a problem in many churches; a problem many churches want to see solved.

According to author and professor Timothy Paul Jones, there is hope in the darkness of the disconnect. Jones believes the hope for the disconnect between youth and the church is family ministry. If churches want to learn about and implement family ministry in the life of your church, be prepared not for another program, but for a paradigm shift in the way you do ministry. In other words, if you are allergic to change, avoid Jones’ books.

Jones has written many books on family ministry. He teaches a course at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary called “Discipleship and Family Ministry,” a class I am currently taking. His book Family Ministry Field Guide is a great starting point if you desire to bridge the gap and connect the break between youth and the rest of the church.

81uAJdfC81LFamily Ministry Field Guide is a call to gospel-centered family ministry, an endeavor that if undertaken would no doubt radically transform the ministries in your church. But this change is not the result of Jones’ expertise, which he clearly possesses. It would be the result of the power of the gospel that is the focus of everything Jones calls for. Here are ten quotes to whet your appetite:

1. Family ministry is the process of intentionally and persistently coordinating a ministry’s proclamation and practices so that parents are acknowledged, trained, and held accountable as primary disciple-makers in their children’s lives.

2. Family ministry is a process of equipping parents to engage actively in the discipleship of their children.

3. What does it profit our child to gain a baseball scholarship and yet never experience consistent prayer and devotional times with us, the parents?

4. If the scope of our vision for our lives or for the lives of our children shrinks any smaller than eternity, our thirst for eternity will drive us to attempt to fill the emptiness with a multitude of lesser goals and lower gods–including the fleeting happiness and success of our children.

5. Until the gospel drives even our scheduling priorities, families will continue to default to the values of the culture around them, and parents will remain too busy to engage in intentional discipleship with their children.

6. Think about gradually changing the culture of a ministry so that parental discipleship of children becomes the norm instead of the exception.

7. The people of God are shaped and defined by Jesus Christ himself, who unites individuals that the world would never dream of bringing together–but not by clustering them in categories of age or special interest or musical preference.

8. Gospel-centered family ministry has more to do with the unseen foundations than with the visible practices.

9. Family ministry cannot merely be a series of activities that a congregation does. It must flow from who the leaders and volunteers are with their families, day by day.

10. Our families must never become our identity or the identity that drives our ministries. If you are a believer in Jesus Christ, he is your identity…His gospel has set an ax to the root of any pretense that we are who we are because of our families. To position anything other than this gospel as the focus of your ministry is to lapse into idolatry.


11751958_1209158262442953_3486622930933138849_nMathew Gilbert (B.A. Boyce College) is the Children’s Pastor at First Baptist Church in East Bernstadt, KY. He is an M.Div student at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Mathew lives in London, KY with his wife, Erica, and their son, Jude Adoniram.

Morning Mashup 08/12


coffee-newspaper

How to Survive a Cultural Crisis – Mark Dever offers seven biblical principles for how Christians should respond when the culture shifts.

Reflections on Pastoral Leadership – I try to read everything D.A. Carson writes. Here he writes of the importance of pastoral leadership.

How Abortion Kills the Future – Joe Carter: “‘For the last 30 years, I’ve supported abortion rights,’ says Ruben Navarrette Jr., a columnist for The Daily Beast. ‘This year may be different.'”

Review of Keller’s “Preaching” – Dane Ortlund’s review of Keller’s masterful book on preaching begins with this sentence, “Tim Keller got a C in preaching at Westminster Seminary in the early 1970s.” That’s all you need to know. Click away.

Sex is More and Less Important than What You Think – Trevin Wax with excellent balance on one of the most misrepresented and misunderstood aspects of humanity–human sexuality.

“Shut Up, Bigot!” – “Postmodern liberals cannot comprehend the idea that one could simultaneously reject a belief and accept the person who holds it.”

No Girls Allowed – Barnabas Piper calls male sports fans like myself to leave the “no girls allowed” sign in the treehouse as he asks, “Why does the idea of a woman coaching your favorite team bother you?”

Tim Keller Sermons – You can find around 90% of Keller’s sermons here. Wow.

Unfinished Story by JRR Tolkien to be Published – I’m in book nerd heaven now. I can’t wait to get my hands on this.

We need to forgive our brother seventy times seven not only for 490 offences but for one offence. –C.S. Lewis

Review: Next


Next Book CoverWilliam Vanderbloemen and Warren Bird. Next: Pastoral Succession that Works. (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2014). 224 pp. $15.68 on Amazon

When approaching delicate and important topics, Christian authors must be careful to present a healthy balance between accurate observation of a problem while providing a robust and clear biblical answer. By no means are Christian authors expected to come up with every answer to every problem related to the problem, nor are any other authors. But I always look for two things when reading the work of a pastor or Christian leader. (1) Does this person understand the reality of the situation and has he engaged it with adequate research and understanding? (2) Does this person approach this situation from a Christian worldview carried along by biblical truth?

In the case of Next: Pastoral Succession that Works, it seems that the authors understand the problem, but the basis for their solution does not in fact work with the biblical witness.

Helpful Principles, Healthy Practices

Vanderbloemen and Bird have undertaken a topic that most if not all pastors and churches either are or should be concerned about. How do we healthily, helpfully, and successfully transition from one pastor to the next? Many churches are blind to the hardships and difficulties that come with pastoral succession because they are content with the comfort of their current pastor. Many of us are drifting away in Margaritaville while just around the bend a hurricane is brewing. Most of us are not ready for pastoral succession, and the authors do a great job of awakening readers to this reality. They seem to understand the seriousness of the problem and what an unhealthy pastoral change can do to a church.

This is made evident in the extensiveness of their research (12). Their intentions are good and their clear and vast understanding and experiences with the problem lead to careful calling for succession plans in all churches. Their primary example at the close of the Preface proved prophetic as they explained Mark Driscoll’s desire to pastor Mars Hill Church until he is 75, yet his initiative to put in an “emergency succession” plan “should an unforeseen situation arise” (15). While what happened with Driscoll and Mars Hill was more tragic than typical pastoral successions, the point is well made: be ready for change, it could happen at any moment.

Next provides helpful and practical ways to implement a succession plan. At the close of each chapter, the authors even offer specific steps to take for pastors and church boards. They also offer helpful principles for succession, especially in chapter two with the exposition of the “ten commandments of succession planning” (32-35). The authors all but exhaust the many ways succession can happen and explain what others are doing and have done in each of these scenarios while offering excellent leadership principles to prepare for and weather the storms of change.

For example, they discuss some of the most complex issues in succession like “founder’s syndrome,” which is the problem with the passing of the baton from not just the pastor of the church, but also the founding pastor. He also approaches touchy topics like “unintentional interims” (130-138) and “forced farewells” (139-144).

After chapters of explanation of the deep problems involved with pastoral succession, the authors move to pointed and clear guidance in how to create successful succession. They provide a helpful discussion of where to find a successor where they promote “internal candidates” as the best candidates for healthy and smooth transition (149). The authors also discuss the financial side of succession giving helpful insight into the cost of pastoral transition.

Swing and a Miss

Despite all of these strengths, there is a weakness that stands out like the proverbial elephant in the room. It was honestly upsetting and caused this reader to all but discount all the authors had previously written. At minimum, the author’s principles must be seen in light of a great erroneous and unbiblical idea of pastoral success. This weakness goes to the heart of the book. Next is all about successful pastoral succession. And while they thread many helpful principles throughout the book, their idea of success is trepid and shallow.

Success to these authors is viewed in terms of attendance and giving. More people, more money, more success. This has been my longstanding criticism of leadership pastoral models promoted by guys like Andy Stanley, Craig Groeschel, and Bill Hybels. What is success to these guys? And while the authors are not necessarily identified with Stanley and company, their idea of success is almost exclusively measured by the number of people in the seats and the amount of money in the plate.

One example of a successful pastoral succession given in the book was that of Lakewood Church. The authors give the details of younger Osteen (Joel) succeeding older Osteen (John). Then, they conclude,

The rarity of the success is only further compounded by John’s death in office, a circumstance where most successions fail. Yet Joel Osteen made headlines and history books. He demonstrates powerfully that sometimes even the unlikeliest candidates can become pastoral successors with amazing results. His favor in the city of Houston and the church at large is unprecedented. Despite Joel drawing critics from many corners, nearly everyone would agree that the transition from John Osteen to Joel Osteen as pastor of Lakewood has been nothing short of remarkable (91).

Lakewood’s transition is a model for successful transition in the minds of these authors. The reason? Lakewood boasts their numbers in the tens of thousands. It is astonishing how the authors define success solely in terms of attendance and “favor” among members. Based on any biblical scale whatsoever, Osteen and Lakewood are not success stories; they are disastrous bastions of a false gospel. Thousands of people gather in the name of Christ at Lakewood and under Osteen to hear false teaching. Does that sound like a success story? Osteen may have “found a heart in his home” for preaching (90), but somewhere along the way he lost the gospel.

One thing we can learn from this unfortunate and upsetting conclusion by the authors is that churches can grow and appear successful while totally missing the gospel. I feared this was where the authors were heading as I was reading, but hoped they would remain faithful to biblical definitions for pastoral and ministry success. They claim pastoral succession must be Spirit-led and believe God uses “people and systems in conjunction with the Holy Spirit to help build leadership teams in the church” (26).

Great intentions are meaningless when they lack substance. What is truly remarkable is the authors’ ability to see “Spirit-led” succession in places that reject the sword of the Spirit. This was a tragic and deep error in an otherwise helpful book.

Readers should approach Next with trepidation. I would recommend the authors’ description and discussion of the various situations involved in pastoral succession along with their premise that churches need to prepare for succession even when it is not in sight. I agree, “Every pastor is an interim pastor” (9). But readers must look elsewhere for the definition of success in ministry. Pastoral and ministry success aren’t defined by numbers, either in the pew or the plate. Pastoral and ministry success are defined by Christ, the Chief Shepherd all pastors will ultimately answer to (1 Peter 5:4).


Disclosure: I received this book free from Baker Books through the Baker Books Bloggershttp://www.bakerbooks.com/bakerbooksbloggers program. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html.


396110_519885398036913_1852978654_nMathew Gilbert (B.A. Boyce College) is the Children’s Pastor at First Baptist Church in East Bernstadt, KY. He is an M.Div student at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Mathew lives in London, KY with his wife, Erica, and their son, Jude Adoniram.

Quick Quotes: 25 Quotes from “Preaching” by Tim Keller


Q-train-logoEvery Friday, I plan to share select quotes from a book I am either currently reading or have previously read. Few things have impacted my faith and life as much as reading has. This will be just one way I promote books and reading. These articles will be for the dedicated reader who loves to gain insight from as many books as possible. They will also be for the Christian looking for new books to read. I am always on the lookout for new books to read. Hopefully some things I share will lead you to pick up a new book. Finally, these articles will be for those of you too busy to read. Hopefully these quick quotes will provide you with easy access to books you would otherwise not have time to read. Each article will include a brief discussion of the author and his work followed by ten (or more) pertinent quotes from the book. 


The regret I have about reading Tim Keller this year is that I am just now reading Tim Keller. He is one of the most profound writers and preachers of the last 50 years. He effectively reaches people not many people or churches are reaching. He is highly appealing to liberals without being liberal. He has led a growing and flourishing church in Manhattan since the 1980s. Keller writes and speaks intelligently and is one of the most culturally aware preachers in America. Much like Albert Mohler, Keller always provides clear and prolific analysis of worldviews. And boy does he bring the gospel heat! I have learned to listen to a Keller sermon nearly every morning, if for nothing else for the cultural insight and gospel hope. Keller clearly exposes the gospel in biblical and compelling ways. His preaching, much like John Piper’s, is modernly unparalleled.

So, for any serious preacher of the gospel, Keller’s book Preaching is an absolute must-have. Like all of Keller’s books, readers find rich gospel teaching and application. This book is the farthest thing from a how-to book, even though Keller does include an instruction guide for crafting an expository sermon in the appendix. It is more of a wise older man passing on his experience and wisdom to younger men in the ministry. Preaching offers much regarding his philosophy and theology of preaching, as well as pointed practical advice for effective preaching. Keller is a staunch defender and exemplary demonstrator of expository preaching. But what separates Preaching from most (if not all) works on the topic is Keller’s revelation of his insight into the modern mind. He basically teaches preachers how to speak intelligently and effectively to modern people. What I’m basically saying is chapter 5 is a gold mine. So many preachers fail to appeal to the secular mind. So much so that most secular people write off the church because they think the Bible is an ancient relic that “speaks” only to the unenlightened or easily manipulated.

Bless your pastor by getting him this book. Pastor, read this book! I’m confident God will use it to greatly impact and improve your preaching. Much of Keller’s book cannot be boiled down to a few quotable statements. Its richness demands to be read in context. With that said, here are twenty-five quotes from Keller’s Preaching because ten is just not enough.

25 Quotes from PreachingPreaching

1. To reach people gospel preachers must challenge the culture’s story at points of confrontation and finally retell the culture’s story, as it were, revealing how its deepest aspirations for good can be fulfilled only in Christ.

2. A good sermon is not like a club that beats upon the will but like a sword that cuts to the heart.

3. As we preach, we are to serve and love the truth of God’s Word and also to serve and love the people before us. We serve the Word by preaching the text clearly and preaching the gospel every time. We reach the people by preaching to the culture and to the heart.

4. You should be something like a clear glass through which people can see a gospel-changed soul in such a way that they want it too, and so that they get a sense of God’s presence as well.

5. Expository preaching is the best method for displaying and conveying your conviction that the whole Bible is true.

6. Only if we preach Christ every time can we show how the whole Bible fits together.

7. Every time you expound a Bible text, you are not finished unless you demonstrate how it shows us that we cannot save ourselves and that only Jesus can.

8. When the preacher solves Christians’ problems with the gospel–not by calling them to try harder but by pointing them to deeper faith in Christ’s salvation–then believers are being edified and nonbelievers are hearing the gospel, all at the same time.

9. The key to addressing at the same time both those who believe and those who do not–and even subgroups within cultures–is to go down to the heart level and call for gospel motivation in your preaching.

10. Only in Christ can any cultural plotline have a happy ending.

11. As you write the sermon, keep in mind the objections that skeptics would have to the teaching of a particular text, then take a moment to address them using agree-to-disagree reasoning.

12. The Christian preacher must be a critic of nonbelief. However, there is no virtue in being an unsympathetic one.

13. If you over-contextualize and compromise the actual content of the gospel, you will draw a crowd but no one will be changed…On the other hand, if you under-contextualize, so that your communication of the gospel is unnecessarily culturally alien and distant from the listeners, you will find that no one will be willing to hear you out.

14. If you don’t begin with the Bible, we will almost certainly come to superficial conclusions, having stacked the deck in favor of our own biases and assumptions.

15. Christianity is at the same time both far more pessimistic about history and the human race than any other worldview and far more optimistic about the material world’s future than any other worldview.

16. A Christian, as it were, arrives at far higher self-esteem by getting much lower self-esteem. Only if we repent and admit we are far worse than we ever imagined can we become justified, adopted, and united with Christ, and therefore far more loved and accepted than we ever hoped.

17. Let the biblical text control you, not your temperament. Learn to communicate “loud” truth as loud; “hard” truth as hard; and “sweet” truth as sweet.

18. There is no abstract, academic way to preach relevant, applicatory sermons. Application will naturally arise from your conversation partners.

19. Insightful preaching comes from depth of research and reading and experimentation.

20. As we preach we should always open ourselves to let the wonder sink in.

21. The essence of a good illustration is to evoke a remembered sense experience and bring it into connection with a principle.

22. Heart-moving preachers (in contrast to heart-manipulating ones) reveal their own affections without really trying to.

23. Your loves show what you actually believe in, not what you say you do.

24. The goal of the sermon cannot be merely to make the truth clear and understandable to the mind, but must also be to make it gripping and real to the heart. Change happens not just by giving the mind new arguments but also by feeding the imagination new beauties.

25. Whatever captures the heart’s trust and love also controls the feelings and behavior. What the heart most wants the mind finds reasonable, the emotions find valuable, and the will finds doable. It is all-important, then, that preaching move the heart to stop trusting and loving other things more than God.


396110_519885398036913_1852978654_nMathew Gilbert (B.A. Boyce College) is the Children’s Pastor at First Baptist Church in East Bernstadt, KY. He is the author of the forthcoming book Come to the Well: 50 Meditations to Fuel Your Joy in God. Mathew lives in London, KY with his wife, Erica, and their son, Jude Adoniram.

Morning Mashup 08/07


coffee-newspaper

Lots and lots and lots of articles. Including two videos. An extended mashup of articles and videos for your information, edification, entertainment, and enjoyment.


 

What’s It Like to Abort Your Own Child? – I almost teared up just reading the title. The story will beckon your tears fall. I’m thankful for Bethany Jenkins for telling it.

3 Reasons the Campaign on Planned Parenthood is Winnable – Doug Wilson with reasonable encouragement for the pro-life movement. “Think of it this way — Planned Parenthood is serving as the designated victim. This is not scapegoating, or unjust in any way, because in this case the scapegoat really is guilty.”

Trump Gets Spotlight, But it Might Burn – We can only hope that the more Trump speaks, the more voters will see how outlandishly insane he is. If Trump cared at all about the GOP winning the White House, he would drop out or back off. He doesn’t. He won’t.

News for Democrats…It’s a Baby! – Kristen Powers at USA Today shows how Democrats are on “the wrong side of history” when it comes to Planned Parenthood and abortion.

There is No Pro-Life Case for Planned Parenthood – Ross Douthat does it again. Don’t miss this important piece: “Tell the allegedly “pro-life” institution you support to set down the forceps, put away the vacuum, and then we’ll talk about what kind of family planning programs deserve funding. But don’t bring your worldview’s bloody hands to me and demand my dollars to pay for soap enough to maybe wash a few flecks off.”

Shocking Videos and the Art of Looking Away – Important consideration for those of us denouncing videos of Planned Parenthood, yet ignoring videos of police brutality.

In Zimbabwe, We Don’t Cry for Lions – Whoa. Interesting and important perspective. We in the West can be so blindly arrogant. “Did all those Americans signing petitions understand that lions actually kill people? That all the talk about Cecil being “beloved” or a “local favorite” was media hype? Did Jimmy Kimmel choke up because Cecil was murdered or because he confused him with Simba from ‘The Lion King’?”

Ray Rice on NFL Return – Ray Rice expresses desire to return to the NFL, and hopes a team will give him a chance to “hang them up the right way.”

The Most Meaningless Abortion Statistic Ever – I was directed to this article by Albert Mohler in yesterday’s edition of The Briefing. It was written in 2013, but is very important in light of the Planned Parenthood defense of their actions.

Obama on Killing Humans and Harvesting Organs – He called it an “atrocity” while in Africa discussing the tribal killings of a particular sect of people and the harvesting of their organs for ritualistic purposes. Obama was disgusted by this practice, all the while ignoring an eerily similar situation in his own country. My heart weeps for his blindness. Lewis’ idea of “chronological snobbery” comes to mind with Obama’s simultaneous rejection of tribal killings and support of scientific killings.

If Planned Parenthood Goes, Where Do Women Go? – Answer: many places.

How Not to Pray Against Cultural Decline – Christian historian Thomas Kidd offers advice grounded in colonial America on how to engage the culture with prayer.

Should the Church Divorce from the State in Marriage? – Rick Phillips gives six reasons why the church shouldn’t jump ship just yet.

The Sound of Silence – Kevin DeYoung gives ten compelling reasons why congregational singing may be absent in your church, I love reading DeYoung because he just makes sense.

The Gospel and Porn – Good stuff from Fred Zaspel: “Godliness is not attained by zaps. There is no switch to pull that brings us immediately to perfection — well, not on this side of the grave, that is.”

7 Pieces of Advice for Young Pastors – I don’t love everything Ron Edmonson says or writes, but this is pretty good.

Check out this video that does an adequate job dispelling Planned Parenthood’s 3% abortion myth.

And just in case you missed it, here is the 5th undercover video exposing Planned Parenthood. Please, watch the video. I am afraid many people are coming to solid conclusions about the videos without actually watching them. Watch and share.

We need some standard or rule from outside of us to help us sort out the warring impulses of our interior life. –Tim Keller

Four Imbalanced Frameworks for Children’s Ministry: The Game-Time Framework


knowledge_insurance_frameworkThis post is part 4 in a five part series on four imbalanced children’s ministry frameworks. In children’s ministry, balance is crucial. An imbalanced children’s ministry will lead to collapse. What is the purpose of children’s ministry? Much of what we will look at this week flows from thoughts on that very question. The next imbalanced framework often employed in children’s ministry we will examine is what I will call “The Game-Time Framework.”

This framework views children’s ministry like recess. Volunteers lead children through various games and create an atmosphere that is vibrant and exciting. This framework is more common in more modern churches. Typically, leaders and volunteers are most concerned with the environment and the primary goal is fun. Attract them with things they like, and the kids will come; that is the motto.

The Game-Time Framework

Picture in your mind a dark room with streaming lights, multi-colored walls creatively painted with loud music blasting from the speakers. Imagine an energetic and loudly dressed leader standing on a stage in front of a group of kids. Within minutes, a few games are played, followed by a short message, which leads into the group of kids dividing into small groups to play more games. After about 30 minutes, the kids gather back together and play even more games. By the time the parents pick the kids up at the end of the service, their kids are excited and exhausted.

If you have ever been to a summer camp for kids, you have a good idea what I mean by the “Game-Time Framework.” I almost called this the “Show-Time Framework” because the end of this framework is fun and the means is energizing lights, sounds, music, and games. If you are a part of a smaller church, this framework will seem foreign to you. But for those in bigger churches, the game-time or show-time framework is all but expected. This framework is appealing to me. I am very competitive and love games. I am also all for anything in children’s ministry that keeps kids’ attention, and these elements do that.

As you have probably noticed in each installment of this series: if the things we are discussing, like childcare, stories, and games, are used as elements they can be helpful. But, when any one of those individual elements roots out the others and becomes a framework on which the whole ministry is based, we have a problem that often leaves out the gospel.

In this framework, your children’s ministry better have a creative name, theme, and way to attract kids. In fact, I believe this framework is one of the crucial reasons why churches grow. Big churches grow bigger when they have an energetic and fun children’s ministry. This reality can play out in two ways. It can be an element within a balanced children’s ministry. Or, and this is the danger, it can be the framework on which the children’s ministry is built in which a children’s ministry can grow without Jesus.

The danger in focusing primarily on games, music, and excitement in children’s ministry is that kids love games, music, and excitement. It sounds counterintuitive, but think about it. If you put your primary energies and focus on things like games, music, fun, and excitement, you will be attracting kids with those things, to those things. They are not just means, they are an end. When God is not the grand end of our ministry efforts, we will not be leading kids into true and lasting satisfaction. We will be offering them fleeting joys—salt water in a glass mug.

In the introduction to his book Gospel Wakefulness, author Jared Wilson writes,

“Have you ever heard the statement ‘what you win them with is what you win them to’? I think quality music, powerful videos, strategic lighting, well-performed dramas, and interesting set pieces and architecture can be helpful tools in service to reaching for Christ people who are dying and going to hell. But if these things are what we are winning people with, we are only distracting them from their numbness for a while, entertaining them in a break from their restlessness, before they stall out spiritually or move on to other ‘experiences’” (16-17).

This perfectly communicates my concerns with the Game-Time Framework. The elements employed are in and of themselves helpful, and can be used to help better communicate the gospel. But when these things are what we are using to attract people, kids included, we are using these things as ultimate ends rather than helpful means.

The fear in churches and children’s ministries who employ the Game-Time Framework is that kids will be bored, that the ministry will stall and fizzle out because kids are just not as easily entertained. Like Kevin Costner in Field of Dreams, if we build an energetic and entertaining children’s ministry, they will come. But what I fear is that they are right. It is possible to grow a large children’s ministry without the gospel. When we attract kids with the festivities or with events, we are attracting them to festivities and events. We had better keep them coming. The Game-Time Framework is unashamed of this. It spends its resources, energies, and monies to have more games and skits, and better lights and sound.

But there is a better way. We should deeply care about the passions and desires of kids. We should even use games, engaging music, and create a fun and exciting environment in children’s ministry. But we should use them as a means to point children to the greatest End. We should attract kids with the gospel, to the God of the gospel!

When we show excitement and joy over games and activities, and then seem bored with the gospel, it should not surprise us when our kids follow suit. Our presentation of the gospel should be engaging. It should be thrilling. It should show that the cross of Christ is not just the most important new in the world, but the most exciting news in the world. In your presentation of the gospel, communicate with your words and demeanor that it actually is good news.

Wilson says,

“But! Oh man. If we are regularly and excitedly engaging people in the good news of the finished saving work of the sacrificing, dying, rising, exalted, sovereign Jesus Christ who is the death-proof, fail-proof King of kings before all things and in all things and holding all things together as he sustains the world by the mere word of his power, the ones whose hearts are opened by the Spirit to be won to Christ will be irrevocably changed. Numbness will be the exception, rather than the norm. We will not have to lead them through hoops of creative entertainment, constantly hamstrung by the limits of our artistic brainstorming sessions, seeking to keep their attentions stirred by a well-composed aesthetic this or that” (17).

Wow. Wilson nails it. The Game-Time Framework communicates that other things are more exciting than Jesus, and we need them to attract kids and families to him. Friends, Jesus doesn’t need our creativities to draw people to himself. And when we show that games are more thrilling than the gospel of Jesus, we shoot ourselves and our ministry efforts in the foot. Games can be useful. But they must not be ultimate in children’s ministry. Attract kids with Jesus to Jesus. And then trust in the power of the gospel and Spirit of God to resurrect little hearts, so that they may be forever changed and ushered in to a joyous experience that will never end.


396110_519885398036913_1852978654_nMathew Gilbert (B.A. Boyce College) is the Children’s Pastor at First Baptist Church in East Bernstadt, KY. He is the author of the forthcoming book Come to the Well: 50 Meditations to Fuel Your Joy in God. Mathew lives in London, KY with his wife, Erica, and their son, Jude Adoniram.