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 08/12


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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

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.

10 Quotes from Unashamed Workmen: How Expositors Prepare and Preach


815LNRN2R-LUnashamed Workmen published in 2014 by Mentor (Christian Focus). Edited by Rhett Dodson.

1. All Christians need pastoral intelligence to care for each other and love their neighbors (pg. 18).

2. Our preaching should be intentional, not just in individual sermons, but in our overall plan (pg. 21).

3. All believers are called to lay down their lives in love for other believers every day (pg. 39).

4. All our times are in God’s hands, and every day is a day to follow Christ by laying down our lives for others (pg. 43).

5. If you preach passage by passage through books of the Bible, your understanding of the book as a whole and where the parts fit to make up the whole will only deepen and expand. Sequential exposition will, in the end, make you a better preacher because it will strengthen your knowledge of the Word (pg. 49).

6. Ultimately, the answer to Israel’s need and ours comes in a new David, Jesus Christ, who comes to the battle line as humble and as unrecognized as David and conquers our true enemies (sin, Satan, and death) not by his skill with sling, nor even by his willingness to risk his life by faith in the name of the Lord, but actually laying down his life in our place (pg. 77).

7. The greatest blessing in life is the joy of knowing that God delights in us (pg. 119).

8. The real pastor is a preacher and the real preacher is a pastor (pg. 151).

9. Every faithful sermon is an expression of pastoral care for the people of God (pg. 151).

10. The point of the sermon is to deliver the Word of God-proclaiming, explaining, and applying it-not to tell clever and heart-warming stories (pg. 237).


1557562_10153227664651515_1796309980_nEvan Knies is an undergraduate student at Boyce College where he studies Biblical and Theological Studies. He lives in Louisville, KY with his wife, Lauren. You can follow him on Twitter @Evan_Knies.

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.

Morning Mashup 10/22


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In this edition, I have provided a true “mashup.” This is because there is quite a bit of randomness floating around on the web today. Below is everything from tips for better sleep, responding to the unjust subpoenas in Houston, the conversion of an epic theologian, millennials and marriage, reasons you may be neglecting your church, some uncomfortable questions, and much more.


 70 Years Ago Today – On October 22, 1944, J.I. Packer, one of the most influential and important theologians of the 20th century, became a Christian.

Is the Bible Too Complicated for Those Who Struggle to Read? – In ministering to children, I ask and am asked this question often. I found this answer to be helpful.

A Line Has Been Crossed – Eric Metaxas along with the ERLC are calling American pastors to send Bibles and sermons to the Houston Mayor’s office. This is an effort to show that trampling on religious liberty will not be tolerated by the American people. In the words of Metaxas, “If we don’t act on this, we can’t complain when we lose further liberties and eventually we aren’t able to act at all. This is our chance. Whatever voice and liberties we have now, we must use.”

What Millennials Misunderstand About Marriage – Aaron Earls: “Millennials, perhaps more than any other generation, grew up with the reality of broken homes and divorced parents. But in their efforts to avoid those mistakes, they often go in the wrong direction and end up in the same situation.”

Why You May Be Tempted to Neglect Your Church – Tim Challies writes there are two primary reasons you may neglect your church: (1) You forget what you bring, and (2) You forget what you need.

How Should Pastors Deal with Politics in the Pulpit? – Drs. David Prince and Russell Moore discuss how to properly deal with controversial issues and politics in the pulpit.

C.S. Lewis, Public Intellectual – Thomas Kidd of Baylor University reviews Alister McGrath’s biography of C.S. Lewis: “McGrath’s book is a judicious and accessible treatment of Lewis’s remarkable but controversial career.”

The Kingdom of Christ as the Theological Center of Scripture – David Prince: “The theme of the kingdom of God is a good starting point for thinking about the theological center of Scripture. Nevertheless, more can be said for clarity.”

How Can You Really Reach Millennials? – I read a lot about reaching millennials. Most that I read is superficial at best. This is one of the best articles I have read on the subject.

22 Ways to Get a Better Night’s Sleep – Okay, this list is not too shabby.

Some Uncomfortable Questions – Kevin DeYoung: “Have mercy on stupid and sinful people. You and I will be one of them soon enough.”

Grateful joy is a motive that will lead to much more endurance in obedience than fearful compliance. –Tim Keller

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.

Morning Mashup 10/17


coffee-newspaper

With an incredibly busy day on Wednesday, I was unable to put a Morning Mashup together. This turned out to be a real shame because there were many great articles floating around the web on Wednesday. Ah, c’est la vie! Nevertheless, I have a smorgasbord of articles dealing with the religious liberty violation in Houston, Mark Driscoll’s resignation, the Catholic Church and gay “marriage,” Ebola, the MLB playoffs, preaching, and much, much more.


Houston, We Have a Constitution – Russell Moore: “The separation of church and state means that we will render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s, and we will. But the preaching of the church of God does not belong to Caesar, and we will not hand it over to him. Not now. Not ever.”

Why Not Just Hand the Sermons Over? – Russell Moore: “Religious liberty isn’t ours to give away to Caesar, and soul freedom isn’t subject to subpoena from City Hall.”

Mark Driscoll Resigns from Mars Hill Church – With all of the hoopla in Houston, this story seemed to creep between the cracks. Driscoll’s demise is deeply saddening. However, I pray repentance would result from his fall.

Did the Roman Catholic Church Just Change Its Position on Divorce and Gay Marriage – Denny Burk says, based on news headlines, the answer is clearly, “Yes.”

American Evangelicals Should Expect Persecution – As one who will, Lord willing, be studying at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, these words from Albert Mohler are quite sobering: “Maybe the mission of this school is actually to train up a generation of preachers, missionaries, and evangelists who will be martyrs.”

What Happened to the Young, Restless, and Reformed in the SBC? – Blogger Tim Brister reflects on his journey in ministry as a Calvinist in the SBC and describes where many of his friends are. In my circle of friends in ministry who are Reformed, I see a similar trend. I pray this will be the trajectory of my life in ministry.

20 Ways to Be Refreshing in the Local Church – “It has been my pleasure to serve in the local church with some individuals that are truly “refreshing” to the saints. When you meet them, you know it! They are like an oasis in the midst of a desert. I walk away feeling encouraged, joyful, and spiritually stimulated. Unfortunately, they are an endangered species and much harder to find than should be the case.”

What Christians Should Know About the Ebola Crisis – Ebola is causing widespread fear in the United States and around the world. How should Christians respond to this deadly virus?

Making Sense of the MLB Playoffs – Chicks may dig the long ball, but small ball is king this postseason. Here are few surprising things this year’s MLB playoffs have taught us.

Best Trade in the History in the NFL? – This may surprise you.

Four Reasons Why Some Preachers Get Better and Others Don’t – Tremendous wisdom from a wonderful preacher and professor, Hershael York. He humorously writes, “Being a preaching professor is like getting paid to tell a mother that her baby is ugly. It might be the truth, but it’s not a truth anyone wants to hear.”

Ebola Fear – Marvin Olasky: “I had a heavy burden of fears and, unlike Pilgrim in John Bunyan’s wonderful tale, I can’t entirely shake that legacy.”

Preaching is War – David Prince: “As we preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ today, we would do well to keep the protoevangelium (first gospel) in Genesis 3:15 always in mind. It reminds us that preaching is warfare.”

Religious matters are to be separated from the state…because they are too high and holy and thus are beyond the competence of the state. –Isaac Backus