Kingdom Work Is Never In Vain


Mark gives his readers far less of Jesus’ teaching than any of the other Gospel writers. His Gospel is fast-paced and Mark is more concerned with presenting the identity and mission of Jesus than all of his teaching. There is no Sermon on the Mount. No lengthy discourse sections. If anything, Mark just states that Jesus was teaching. Mark had a different agenda than Matthew, Luke, and John. Mark was a superb storyteller. He races from Jesus’ early ministry to the cross and empty tomb. Mark didn’t have time for much of what Jesus taught.

Mark 4, however, is like a short pause in the flow of the Gospel as Mark unfolds Jesus’ teaching on the counterintuitive nature of the kingdom. Jesus taught in many ways, but Jesus’ teaching can by and large be characterized by parables. Jesus taught about life in the kingdom through parables.

The main point of Jesus’ teaching in Mark 4 is that things are not as they appear. Resistance to the kingdom should be expected, and the growth of the kingdom will be slow but gradual. God is building for eternity, not next week. This is why sanctification is often slow and painful. We would do well to learn that life in the kingdom is lived by faith, not sight. Sight of the kingdom in its fullness is coming, but right now we walk by faith as the kingdom grows through the sanctification and suffering of his people.

The disciples were learning this truth by experience. The more they followed Jesus, the more they learned the world’s opposition to him. It can be a startling revelation. I remember the first time I experienced opposition from the world. In college I was confronted with an atheist who caused me to question everything I’d ever believed. He didn’t see Jesus the way I did. He was repulsed by Jesus; both by his message, and his mission. I was startled by the reality that the kingdom of God is foolish and disgusting to the world.

Jesus’ teaching on the kingdom is both timely and soothing at this point in Mark’s Gospel. As the Messiah, Jesus came to announce the arrival of the promised kingdom. Jesus is the sovereign Sower. The seed is the gospel, the kingdom, which will grow with irrepressible power. The harvest is guaranteed, though the growth may be slow.

Jesus’ teaching on the kingdom of God brings great comfort and perspective to all Christians, but especially ministry leaders. Ministry can often be grueling. The work is hard. Progress is often slow. It’s easy to doubt whether the hours of prayer, study, counseling, and shepherding are worth the labor. But Jesus assures pastors and ministry leaders of a couple things in his odd stories about farmers and seeds.

First, God sovereignly plants his kingdom in the world and in the hearts of his people when and how he pleases. Second, God grows his kingdom in the world and in the hearts of his people slowly but surely. God gives growth to his kingdom in his people according to his infinite power, sovereignty, and wisdom. The growth may be slow, but it is also certain.

When we become discouraged with the growth of the kingdom in our churches and cities, we must remember that the end is certain and God’s timing is perfect. He will develop and expand his kingdom according to his flawless plan and timing. Our kingdom work will never be in vain! The Lord will accomplish his kingdom purposes in and through us.


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.

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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.

Morning Mashup 12/12


coffee-newspaper

Theology and Pastoral Ministry – An excellent piece on the relationship between theological study and the pastorate.

7 Errors to Avoid in Following Christ – Each of these are very helpful.

7 Things Christians Should Know About Torture – This is a great post to help Christians think through the Senate report on the torture of terrorists following 9/11.

The Gospel According to Peanuts – How the Charlie Brown Christmas Special almost didn’t happen. Don’t miss this!

19 Secrets of UPS Drivers – I came across this interesting article on Challies’ blog. I’m glad I did. Lists like this one are too fun.

How Reading Fiction Can Help You Live a Better Life – The kids I minister to hear me advocate for the reading of fiction, a lot! Some of the reasons are found in this article.

Why It’s So Hard to Catch Your Own Typos – Anyone other than me have this problem?

To come to Thee is to come home from exile, to come to land out of the raging storm, to come to rest after long labor, to come to the goal of my desires and the summit of my wishes. —Charles Spurgeon

15 Benefits of Preaching Verse-by-Verse Through the Bible


genesis-chapter-verses-bibleThere are many ways and methods of preaching the Bible. The majority of pastors preach through sermon series based on topics or issues. A four-week series on the family here. A five-week series on five biblical characters there. While there is nothing inherently wrong with preaching through topics, as it can definitely be done expositionally, I have been exposed to a method of weekly preaching that highlights expository preaching in ways that topical preaching simply cannot.

Lectio Continua is a method of preaching verse by verse through books of the Bible. Historically, this method of preaching was made famous by Martin Luther, John Calvin, and Matthew Henry, among others. I have personally benefited from the preaching ministries of John MacArthur, John Piper, and David Platt who all use this method. While many church members and pastors cringe at the prospect of a sermon series lasting 8-12 months going through just one book of the Bible, there are at least fifteen benefits of preaching verse-by-verse through the Bible. Consider each of them and feel free to add your own in the comments section below.

15 Benefits of Preaching Verse-by-Verse

Preaching verse-by-verse through the Bible…

1. Helps the preacher grow personally in knowledge and obedience by his disciplined exposure to God’s Word.

2. Helps the preacher conserve time and energy used in choosing a sermon for each week. The text sets the agenda

3. Balances the preacher’s area of “expertise” and preferred topics with the breadth of God’s thoughts in the Bible. In other words, it combats one’s tendency to choose a canon within the canon.

4. Sensitive matters can be addressed without the appearance of pointing a finger at persons or problems in the church.

5. Gives the preacher accountability to not avoid skipping over what does not suit his taste or temperament on any given Sunday.

6. Promotes biblical literacy in the preacher’s congregation by teaching them through example how to study their Bibles. That is, it teaches a reproducible method of Bible study.

7. Forces the preacher to address a greater number of issues than what readily springs to mind.

8. Much research time can be saved because each new sermon does not require a new study of the book’s or the passage’s author, background, context, and cause.

9. Increases the likelihood of the pastor preaching the whole counsel of God over time.

10. Increases the pastor’s God-given prophetic authority in the pulpit by grounding his preaching in the divinely intended meaning of the text.

11. Increases the trustworthiness of the pastor’s preaching in the eyes of the congregation.

12. Increases the pastor’s God-given blessing in the pulpit by remaining faithful to the intention of the One who sent him to preach.

13. Increases the congregation’s trust in the inspiration, inerrancy, clarity, and sufficiency of Scripture.

14. Decreases their likelihood of being deceived by false teaching.

15. Best communicates that we need all 1189 chapters and 31,012 verses of the Bible for our salvation.

–each of these points were derived from a lecture given by Dr. Brian Payne at Boyce College.


396110_519885398036913_1852978654_nMathew Gilbert is a student at Boyce College (B.A. Biblical and Theological Studies). He is the author of the forthcoming book Come to the Well: 50 Meditations to Fuel Your Joy in God (CrossBooks). Mathew lives in London, KY with his wife, Erica, and their dog, Simba. You can follow him on Twitter @Mat_Gilbert.

A Brief Word on the Gravity of Preaching


In my reading for a preaching class I am currently taking, I am reading John Piper’s The Supremacy of God in Preaching. I have gained immense insight from this book and it has greatly influenced my theology of preaching. There is one particular passage I wanted to share and briefly comment on.

John Piper writes,

Pastors have absorbed this narrow view of gladness and friendliness and now cultivate it across the land with pulpit demeanor and verbal casualness that make the blood-earnestness of Chalmers and the pervading solemnity of Edwards’s mind unthinkable. The result is a preaching atmosphere and a preaching style plagued by triviality, levity, carelessness, flippancy, and a general spirit that nothing of eternal and infinite proportions is being done or said on Sunday morning (The Supremacy of God in Preaching, 51-52).

I wholeheartedly agree with Piper that preachers should strive for gravity in their preaching. This is because the task at hand is enormously serious. There are eternal implications every Sunday morning and the attitude and approach of the preacher should reflect this. The Word of God should never be handled flippantly.

I think this sentiment from Piper is very insightful and highly prophetic of not only preaching in our day, but what preaching will be like if there is not a Reformation-like resurgence of the Word of God. Pastors are often more concerned with pleasing listeners at the cost of losing the thrust of the message of the Bible. The pastor’s demeanor in the pulpit should reflect the task at hand.

The context of any given passage should determine not only the content of the sermon, but also the approach and demeanor of the pastor in preaching the sermon. And most if not all matters of God are massively serious. Honestly, the task of preaching is far too important to view and approach casually or carelessly.

The aim of the game of preaching is to exalt the glory of God and proclaim the message that he has already given. Faithful exposition of biblical texts cannot afford flippancy. All pastors can be guilty of viewing the task of preaching too lightly, and all pastors can afford to be more conscious of all that is at stake on Sunday mornings. The result will be increased dependency on God and his Word.


396110_519885398036913_1852978654_nMathew Gilbert is a student at Boyce College (B.A. Biblical and Theological Studies). He is the author of the forthcoming book Come to the Well: 50 Meditations to Fuel Your Joy in God (CrossBooks). Mathew lives in London, KY with his wife, Erica, and their dog, Simba. You can follow him on Twitter @Mat_Gilbert.

The Burden of a Preacher and Success of a Sermon


pastor-pulpitTomorrow morning, churches all across America will gather to worship. During these services, pastors will stand before their congregations and deliver sermons. While we have all rightly protested the unconstitutional Caesarism from the mayor of Houston in the subpoenaing of the sermons of five pastors, she isn’t the only one who will be throwing stones at the pastor and his sermon this Sunday.

From the time the pastor steps into the pulpit, behind the lectern, or on the stage until he steps down to close the service, he will likely be under the scrutinizing glares of his congregation. His clothes, overall appearance, introduction, sermon points, choice of passage and message, sermon length, and a host of minuscule details will fall under their microscope. That is, if they are awake!

And to be sure, pastors know this! The weight of the pressure on the shoulders of a preaching pastor week in and week out is enormous. It is so heavy in fact that the pastor forgets how great the load he carries is. He only realizes it when the scrutiny is countered with a refreshing word or act of encouragement.

One of the greatest burdens on the pastor’s shoulders is the burden for ministry success, particularly preaching success. Every time he stands before the congregation to deliver a message, he has holy ambitions ever before him like church growth (both spiritually and numerically) and response to the gospel. The success of a sermon is often measured in the response of the congregation. Did people trust Christ? Did people join the church?

When the pastor invites the congregation to respond to God’s word, whether people stay seated or walk down the aisles often determines whether or not the sermon was “successful” in the minds of many. Even the preacher feels he has devastatingly failed if his people do not respond to the gospel. He may think, “There is obviously nothing deficient in the message itself, so obviously the deficiency must lie in me and my delivery of the message!”

What a burden! This kind of thinking about the success of a sermon produces two unhealthy actions.

1. The pastor will be tempted to force a response from the congregation through guilt trips.

2. The congregation will respond falsely or pretentiously in order to validate the pastor’s sermon.

The problem with these unhealthy actions is that they are not the result of a real or genuine change of heart or adoration of the gospel. Forced response is futile because it does not come from a heart touched and affected by the Holy Spirit. Neither of these actions come from or even need God’s grace.

The good news, though, is that the success of a sermon is NOT determined by the movement of the audience. The success of a sermon is determined by the faithfulness of the pastor to preach the Bible as God’s word. Pastors Derek Prime and Alistair Begg write to fellow pastors, “The best reputation we can have is of faithfulness to Scripture” (On Being a Pastor: Understanding Our Calling and Work, 54).

Pastors and congregants should not view the success of a sermon consisting in the response of the audience. Droves of people respond to some of the worst, anti-gospel false teachings. On the other hand, some of the most faithful gospel messages have produced zero converts on a given Sunday. Which pastor would be considered successful in his preaching? The unfaithful preacher with many responding? Or the faithful preacher with no converts?

When Deitrich Bonhoeffer finished his doctoral work at Berlin University at the end of 1927, he desired to enter the pastorate. He was a gifted theologian and his family urged him to stay in academia as a professor. However, Deitrich had a burning passion to minister to God’s people. Bonhoffer went to Barcelona, Spain in 1928 to serve at a German church. He was an assistant pastor responsible for teaching children and preaching sermons when the senior pastor was out of town. In the summers, Bonhoeffer was given ample opportunity to preach.

One theological principle that Bonhoeffer drew from his experience preaching was the idea of God’s initiating work in revelation. God must reveal himself to us. Otherwise, there would be no way to reach God. He must come to us. Bonhoeffer applied this to his preaching ministry. He wrote,

I have long thought that sermons had a center that, if you hit it, would move anyone or confront them with a decision. I no longer believe that. First of all, a sermon can never grasp the center, but can only itself be grasped by it, by Christ.

–excerpt from Eric Metaxas, Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy, p. 81

Bonhoeffer realized that despite his theological prowess and brilliance, it meant nothing outside the grace of God. The determinant in the success of a sermon is the grace of God, not the brilliance of the preacher. This means that even when a pastor blows it, either through his poor writing or delivery of a sermon, God may still manifest his glory to his people. On the contrary, the best sermon you will ever preach may not result in even one response if God does not move.

The effectiveness of a sermon is based on God who shows mercy to whom he wills and hardens whom he wills (Rom. 9:18). His grace determines preaching success, not your greatness or weakness as a preacher. The truth of God’s sovereign grace is like a call from the Christ to the preacher, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matt. 11:28).

Pastor, your sermon will never grasp anyone in its own power. However, in the power and grace of God, even your meager attempts to proclaim his excellencies in Christ can be used to draw sinners to the cross.

Church member, your pastor is not a perfect preacher, so put your scalpel down and fill your pastor with refreshing words of encouragement. Let your cry be, “Bring the Book, pastor! Bring the Book!” Respond only as the Spirit moves through the proclaimed word of God. And let all trivialities fall to the wayside.


396110_519885398036913_1852978654_nMathew Gilbert is a student at Boyce College (B.A. Biblical and Theological Studies). He is the author of the forthcoming book Come to the Well: 50 Meditations to Fuel Your Joy in God (CrossBooks). Mathew lives in London, KY with his wife, Erica, and their dog, Simba. You can follow him on Twitter @Mat_Gilbert.

9 Quotes from 9 Preachers on Preaching the Bible as the Word of God


preachingIn my time at Boyce College preparing for wherever and however God would have me minister to his people, I have developed a passion for expository preaching. I have come to believe that only when the message of the sermon is the message of the biblical text is true biblical preaching happening. I have written multiple posts about expository preaching and why it is not simply preferable, but necessary for the health of any church. We fall into error when we presume to place our own philosophical constructs or limited understanding on a text of Scripture.

However, I am merely a lowly student with little preaching experience and zero experience in leading a church. I have minuscule ideas about what it is like to preach week in and week out. And while this doesn’t eliminate the significance of my voice on the topic of expository preaching, I feel it best from time to time to allow the men with the experience to speak for themselves.

With pastors finishing up preparations or using today to relax with family, I hope to send some encouragement your way. The weekly preaching of the Bible may at times feel cumbersome or redundant. You may feel tempted to think, “Am I really making a difference? Does what I do every week really matter all that much? I assure you that your commitment to preach the Bible as God’s word is invaluable. But let’s hear from nine rockstar preachers and theologians offer up some motivation to approach the Bible and your pulpit with seriousness and joy.

1. Walter Kaiser Jr.

“It is no secret that Christ’s church is not at all in good health in many places of the world. She has been languishing because she has been fed, as the current line has it, ‘junk food;’ all kinds of artificial preservatives and all sorts of unnatural substitutes have been served up to her. As a result, theological and biblical malnutrition has afflicted the very generation that has taken such giant steps to make sure its physical health is not damaged by using foods or products that are carcinogenic or otherwise harmful to their bodies. Simultaneously, a worldwide spiritual famine resulting from the absence of any genuine publication of the Word of God continues to run wild and almost unabated in most quarters of the Church” (Toward an Exegetical Theology).

2. Martin Luther

“Let us then consider it certain and conclusively established that the soul can do without all things except the Word of God, and that where this is not there is not help for the soul in anything else whatever. But if it has the Word it is rich and lacks nothing, since this Word is the Word of life, of truth, of light, of peace, of righteousness, of salvation, of joy, of liberty, of wisdom, of power, of grace, of glory and of every blessing beyond our power to estimate” (Three Treatises).

3. Albert Mohler

“In the final analysis, the ultimate authority for preaching is the authority of the Bible as the word of God. Without this authority, the preacher stands naked and silent before the congregation and the watching world. Standing on the authority of Scripture, the preacher declares a truth received, not a message invented. The teaching is not an advisory role based in religious expertise, but a prophetic function whereby God speaks to his people” (from Preaching with Authority: Three Characteristics of Expository Preaching).

4. Haddon Robinson

“A preacher can proclaim anything in a stained-glass voice, at 11:30 on Sunday morning, following the singing of hymns. Yet when a preacher fails to preach the Scriptures, he abandons authority. He confronts his hearers not with a word from God, but another word from men” (Biblical Preaching).

5. Kevin Vanhoozer

“How a person uses the Bible is a better indicator of what they really believe about its authority than what they profess” (The Drama of Doctrine).

6. Mark Dever

“Pastoral authority is directly related to Authorial intent. The preacher only has authority from God to speak as His ambassador as long as he remains faithful to convey the Divine Author’s intentions. This means that the further the preacher strays from preaching the intention of the text, the further his divine blessing and God-given authority are eroded in the pulpit” (Mark One of a Healthy Church).

7. J.I. Packer

“It is as the preacher himself is truly under, and is seen clearly to be under, the authority of God and the Bible that he will have authority, and be felt to carry authority, as God’s spokesman…It is those under authority who have authority; it is those whose demeanor models submission to the Scriptures and dependence on the Lord of the Word who mediate the experience of God’s authority in preaching” (Engaging the Written Word of God)

8. Bryan Chapell

“Without the authority of the Word, preaching becomes an endless search for topics, therapies, and techniques, that will win approval, promote acceptance, advance a cause, or soothe worry. Human reason, social agendas, popular consensus, and personal moral convictions become the resources of preaching that lacks ‘the historic conviction that what Scripture says, God says’” (Christ-Centered Preaching).

9. John Chrysostom

“Like our human body, the Body of Christ is subject to many diseases. Medicines, correct diet, suitable climate and adequate sleep all help to restore our physical health. But how shall Christ’s Body be healed? One only means and one way of cure has been given us…and that is teaching of the Word. This is the best instrument, this the best diet and climate; this serves instead of medicine…this one method must be used; and without it nothing else will avail” (quoted in John Stott’s Between Two Worlds).


396110_519885398036913_1852978654_nMathew Gilbert is a student at Boyce College (B.A. Biblical and Theological Studies). He is the author of the forthcoming book Come to the Well: 50 Meditations to Fuel Your Joy in God (CrossBooks). Mathew lives in London, KY with his wife, Erica, and their dog, Simba. You can follow him on Twitter @Mat_Gilbert.

Morning Mashup 10/10


coffee-newspaper

Dear Brittany Maynard… – A gracious and moving open letter from one cancer patient to another (Brittany Maynard) who is planning assisted suicide. I was deeply saddened when I read, “Brittany, your life matters, your story matters, and your suffering matters.”

The Walking Dead: Brokenness Will Find You – “Though our dead rest in peace, the world of The Walking Dead echoes our own.”

Stop Calling it Marriage Equality – “I’m asking on what logical grounds can a person argue that gay marriage is okay but polygamy is not—or any other type of marriage?”

Joan or John? – What if a woman who was once a man is sitting under your preaching one Sunday and then desires to follow Jesus? How should this man who is trying to be a woman repent? How would you respond? Russell Moore offers a sobering and gracious answer.

14 Questions to Ask a Pastor Search Committee – I will be filing this away for future reference.

The Genesis of Resurrection Hope – Mitchell Chase with a great paper on elements of the resurrection in Genesis. If you have time, it would benefit your soul to check it out.

I Am Not a Christian Rapper – Check out this Trip Lee interview on BET as he discusses why he prefers to not be called a “Christian rapper.”

An Open Letter to Members of Sovereign Grace Churches – Mark Prater: “On September 22, Maryland’s highest appellate court denied the plaintiffs’ request for the court to review the lower appellate court’s dismissal of the civil lawsuit that was brought against Sovereign Grace in October 2012. The dismissal of this case is a significant moment for everyone involved, and may be the subject of much conversation in and beyond our churches. On behalf of Sovereign Grace’s leadership, there are some thoughts I want to contribute to that discussion.”

Spare the Rod? – An honest, thoughtful, and humble approach to spanking and parental discipline from Mathew Sims.

Why a Good Wife is the Difference Between Success and Failure – “When I am considering men for the ministry these days I am looking more and more at their wives and I am encouraging them to do so.”

It is wiser to acknowledge our ignorance than to reduce divine mysteries to our limited explanations. –John Calvin

15 Effects of Non-Expositional Preaching


preachingIn John MacArthur’s book, Fool’s Gold?: Discerning Truth in an Age of Error, MacArthur and a host of other contributors argue for the need for the Christian to use biblical discernment and seek, find, and cherish truth in an age that champions relativism and how this all plays out in the church. In a very candid look at popular ministry and church practices that are unhelpful at best and unbiblical at worst, the entries in this book help Christians to discern truth in the face of tradition.

One entry from John MacArthur addresses “the devastating consequences of watered-down messages.” MacArthur criticizes pastors who preach non-expositionally and gives ample reason to toss out all forms of preaching that do not allow the preacher to be the mouthpiece or microphone of God. Most of the time if not always, watered-down sermons are the result of non-expositional preaching. A preacher who preaches expositionally must be so immersed in the text that it is impossible for the sermon to be biblically weak.

I have gathered fifteen detrimental effects of non-expositional preaching from MacArthur and wish to share them here in hopes of leading others to strive to preach expositionally.

1. Non-expositional preaching usurps the authority of God over the soul.

2. Non-expositional preaching removes the lordship of Christ from his Church.

3. Non-expositional preaching hinders the work of the Holy Spirit.

4. Non-expositional preaching demonstrates appalling pride and a lack of submission.

5. Non-expositional preaching severs the preacher personally from the regular sanctifying grace of Scripture.

6. Non-expositional preaching clouds the true depth and transcendence of our message and therefore cripples both corporate and personal worship.

7. Non-expositional preaching prevents the preacher from fully developing the mind of Christ.

8. Non-expositional preaching depreciates by example the spiritual duty and priority of personal Bible study.

9. Non-expositional preaching prevents the preacher from being the voice of God on every issue of his time.

10. Non-expositional preaching breeds a congregation that is as weak and indifferent to the glory of God as their pastor is.

11. Non-expositional preaching robs people of their only true source of help.

12. Non-expositional preaching encourages people to become indifferent to the Word of God and divine authority.

13. Non-expositional preaching lies to people about what they really need.

14. Non-expositional preaching strips the pulpit of power.

15. Non-expositional preaching puts the responsibility on the preacher to change people with his cleverness or creativity or talents.


396110_519885398036913_1852978654_nMathew Gilbert is a student at Boyce College (B.A. Biblical and Theological Studies). He is the author of the forthcoming book Come to the Well: 50 Meditations to Fuel Your Joy in God (CrossBooks). Mathew lives in London, KY with his wife, Erica, and their dog, Simba. You can follow him on Twitter @Mat_Gilbert.

4 Types of Non-Expositional Preaching


preachingWhen you walk into any given church on any given Sunday there will come a point in the service when a man will stand in a pulpit or on a stage and begin to speak for anywhere from 20-60 minutes. Preachers preach differently. While nearly all of them will carry a Bible on stage with them, the way the message is presented differs.

If you want to know how your preacher preaches, take a look at the sermons he has preached thus far this year. More than likely, a preacher’s manner of preaching can be determined by looking at his sermons and sermon series over the course of a few months. It truly matters how a preacher preaches. I am not talking about what he wears, whether he paces up and down the aisles or sits on a stool, or how loud he preaches. Delivery style is not in mind here. I am referring to the manner in which the preacher presents the message of the Bible.

While I believe expository preaching is the only type of preaching that is valid for weekly preaching, there are other types of preaching that fill many churches each week. For those who do not preach expositionally, there are generally four major ways that they preach.

1. Anecdotal Preaching

The first type of preaching is anecdotal. An anecdotal sermon is a sermon in which the preacher primarily tells engaging stories with a moral lesson. While many preachers make use of anecdotes as an attention grabber to begin their sermons, an anecdotal sermon is filled with anecdotes. The preacher rarely gets around to a text of Scripture. These types of sermons are sadly very popular. People love stories and pastors who want to keep an audience roaring in laughter or crying from an inspirational story will attempt to motivate their audience with anecdote after anecdote after anecdote.

The best possible result from this type of preaching is moralism. People will leave the service wanting to be a better person and will take to social media to share the clever anecdotes and cute phrases from the sermon. People will go away from such a sermon entertained, but they will not have been fed from the Word of God. The big problem with anecdotal sermons is that they lack the sanctifying and transforming power people need to grow in Christ. If a preacher preaches anecdotally, he will ultimately fail to sanctify God’s people in truth (John 17:17).

2. Biographical Preaching

The second type of preaching is biographical. A biographical sermon is a sermon in which the preacher traces the life of a biblical character and draws contemporary moral implications. It is somewhat common for pastors to take a month or two out of the year to preach through the lives of men like Abraham, Joseph, Moses, David, Paul, etc. There is nothing inherently wrong with this type of preaching. There are many examples that we can draw from the lives of biblical characters. Seeing how David repented or how Paul risked his life for the sake of the gospel can be very edifying.

However, if the most these sermons do is call for moral improvement or behavior modification based on how biblical characters lived their lives, they fall short of the message of Christianity. The danger in preaching many biographical sermons is that it is easy to make points based on the lives of biblical characters totally out of context. Preachers who preach through the life of David, for example, fail to take in the surrounding context.

3. Topical Preaching

The third type of preaching is topical. A topical sermon is a sermon that has a topic in mind prior to consulting the text, and then searches for one or more biblical texts that addresses the topic chosen beforehand. This is quite possibly the most common type of preaching permeating American churches. A pastor thinks through a variety of topics he thinks would benefit his congregation, and then chooses one. From this point, he enters Scripture to find passages that support his topic. For example, a pastor may preach a sermon series on the family. He will take four weeks or so to address the family from four or five different passages. Topical preachers jump around the Bible throughout a given sermon series.

The danger in topical preaching is that the pastor’s mind or the congregation’s circumstances are ultimate while Scripture is nothing more than a helpful resource. The preacher is never surprised or challenged by a text of Scripture. He simply ends up studying and preaching his favorite topics. The text of Scripture does not set the agenda, so the text could easily be manipulated. When a preacher preaches topically, he can easily avoid passages that are difficult to understand. What’s worse, the congregation can never grow past the knowledge or maturity level of the preacher. If a preacher does not regularly preach expositionally, he will never preach more than he already knows. The church will slowly be conformed to the preacher’s mind, rather than to God’s mind.

There are certain circumstances when topical sermons are appropriate. For example, it may be necessary to preach on a certain topic when asked to preach at a conference, chapel service, or a special church event. A topical sermon can be expositional, insofar as it uses texts carefully and well, but the preacher must be careful since the point of the sermon was determined before the text of Scripture was consulted.

4. Textual Preaching

The fourth type of preaching is textual. A textual sermon is a sermon that refers often to a particular biblical text, but does not take the main point of the text as its own. Like topical preaching, this is a very popular type of preaching. Textual sermons look something like this: A preacher might have you turn to a particular passage and he might read verses from that passage, but then you might as well close your Bible and put it away. The main sermon idea in textual sermons does not come from the text. The biggest danger in this type of preaching is that the preacher can easily distort the message of the very text he has read, most commonly by placing his own ideas onto the text.

Preaching for Heart Change

Expository preaching is neglected by many in favor of these alternative methods. I think this is partly because expository preaching requires a tremendous amount of work. Expositional sermons take the point of the text as the point of the sermon. As I argued in my post yesterday, expository preaching requires diligent exegesis in order to dig for the meaning of the text as intended by the original authors. If one is to preach expositionally, one cannot just open his Bible on Sunday morning and throw an outline together.

Preachers must not allow the fear of the daunting task of expository preaching to scare them into other types of preaching that fail to expose what God has revealed. In preaching we are after soul transformation, not moralism. Heart change occurs when the man of God preaches the Word of God as it was intended by God. Expository preaching does this. Many of these other methods do not. Preachers, desire heart change that comes through the proclamation of the Word of God.

Beware of saying, ‘[Expository preaching] doesn’t work,’ and then turning to other techniques and leaving behind God’s way of changing people. You may be able to change people with ways and means different from this process of seeing the glory of the Lord in the Word of God, but will it be a change that magnifies the glory of Christ? Not all change honors Christ. Paul sounds this warning with the words at the beginning of 2 Corinthians 4:3, ‘And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled only to those who are perishing.’ In other words, he admits that his gospel does not change everyone…Paul does not change his strategy because of this. Neither should we (from John Piper’s sermon at Together for the Gospel 2006)


396110_519885398036913_1852978654_nMathew Gilbert is a student at Boyce College (B.A. Biblical and Theological Studies). He is the author of the forthcoming book Come to the Well: 50 Meditations to Fuel Your Joy in God (CrossBooks). Mathew lives in London, KY with his wife, Erica, and their dog, Simba. You can follow him on Twitter @Mat_Gilbert.