Be Careful, Little Flock, How You Hear

preachA few years ago Thabiti Anyabwile published a little book, What is a Healthy Church Member? In it, he urged healthy church members to be expositional listeners, by which he meant that just as the faithful pastor makes the main point of his message the main point of the text (i.e., expositional preaching), so healthy congregations will also make it a priority to comprehend the expositional sermon. About that say time, Christopher Ash wrote a little guide on the same subject: Listen Up! A Practical Guide to Listening to Sermons.

Well, apparently, Anyabwile and Ash are not alone in their estimation that the congregation plays a dramatic role in the “effectiveness” of a pastor’s preaching. As I recently scanned D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones’ classic text, Preaching and PreachersI came across the same idea. In chapter eight, he discusses the “relationship of the pew to the pulpit” (143) and addresses the vital role that congregants play in the service of preaching. While not minimizing the role of the preacher, and abhorring the idea that the pew dictate what the pulpit should preach, he is exactly right to emphasize how churches confirm or deny the message of the gospel by means of their own inattention or eager anticipation. Continue reading

Seeing God’s Holiness in the Pentateuch

mosesOver the summer I took ten weeks to preach on the holiness of God in the Old Testament. Or, that’s what I intended to do.

Somewhere in Numbers, I realized that I needed to limit my Old Testament sojourning to the forty years Yahweh led Israel through the Wilderness. Even then, I didn’t have time to consider all that Numbers says about God’s dealings with Israel.

What I did preach and what I pray our church saw, however, was a God relentless in his pursuit of his holiness. Continue reading

Preaching Larger Sections of Scripture

bibleIn creation, God put beauty and design into the largest galaxy and the tiniest cell. Accordingly, we have, for centuries, used different instruments to behold the glory of God in creation: the microscope enables us to see God’s miniscule  handiwork; the telescope opens our eyes to heavenly vistas. From both ends of the spectrum, we benefit from considering God’s micro-creation and macro-creation.

Something similar takes place in the Bible. When we read Scripture, we can find gospel truth in a word (propitiation), a phrase (‘it is finished’), a verse (John 3:16), a story (Job’s suffering and restoration), or a series of songs (the Psalter). Indeed, from every angle, we behold God’s wisdom and goodness in his word. Yet, unless we are intentional, it is easy to focus on the smaller parts of the Bible and to miss the larger ones.

There are many reasons for that—lack of time, lack of understanding (what is Revelation about?), lack of interest (why do I need to read the minor prophets?). In our fast-paced world, it is easy to overlook the Bible’s big picture, and often pastors have not helped their people “put the Bible together.” Still, I am convinced that if we are to have minds renewed by the Scriptures, we must not simply have a collection of unrelated memory verses free-floating in our heads; we must also understand the larger framework(s) of the Bible. For that reason, I want to suggest five reasons why I preach larger sections of Scripture. Continue reading

The Need for Expositional Preaching (pt. 4): Apostolic Preaching is Expositional

pulpit2I recently shared this article with our deacons. This post which focuses on the pattern of preaching in the New Testament is part four of four. (Parts onetwo, three).

Not surprisingly, from the pattern of Old Testament priests and prophets to the teaching ministry of Jesus, the church continues a pattern of expositional preaching. This is most evident in the book of Acts.

The Expositional Acts of the Apostles

In Acts, Luke gives a selection of exemplary sermons by Peter (Acts 3-4), Stephen (Acts 7), and Paul (Acts 13-14, 17). In these sermons, the Spirit-filled preachers are regularly appealing to the Old Testament, retelling the history of Israel, and explaining how Jesus Christ fulfills the Old Testament patterns, promises, and prophecies.

For instance, in Acts 13:15 Paul and Barnabas are invited to give a word of exhortation (a sermon?) “after reading from the Law and the Prophets.” It is easy to see the pattern of exposition here: read the word, preach about the same word. Paul paid attention to his audience, but he faithfully proclaimed God’s Word according to the pattern of sound words that was found in the Old Testament.

Of course, from the terse details in Acts, we cannot replicate the form of the apostle’s exposition, but we can see their commitment to explaining the Old Testament Scriptures: They showed how the Old Testament related to Jesus, and called their audiences to repent and believe.

Moreover, when Paul handed off his ministry to the Ephesians elders, he said to them, “Therefore I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all, for I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God” (vv. 26-27). His reference to blood harkens back to the watchman’s role in Ezekiel (ch. 3, 33); he likens the preacher’s task of protecting the flock to the watchman’s task of warning the city, and the way he tells the Ephesians elders to guard the flock is by means of teaching the whole counsel of Scripture.

Therefore, from the book of Acts, we can discern a flexible pattern of exposition intended to proclaim Christ from all the Scriptures. Still, there is one more place in the New Testament that demonstrates the validity and vitality of expositional preaching. And this final illustration is arguably the most convincing, as it is the only sermon full-length sermon in Scripture—Hebrews.

Hebrews: An Expositional Sermon

While we read Hebrews today as a letter, it has every indication that this epistle was a sermon first, and a letter second. On that point Dennis Johnson observes a number of sermonic features ( Him We Proclaim: Preaching Christ from All the Scriptures, 167-78):

  1. The book closes with the words, “my word of exhortation,” which in other contexts including Acts 13 indicate a sermon;
  2. Hebrews regularly exalts in God’s spoken word (1:1-2; 2:1-4; 12:25-29);
  3. the Scripture citations are introduced as words spoken, not just written (3:7, 15; 5:6; 10:15);
  4. the author of Hebrews twice abbreviates his comments in order shorten his sermon (9:5; 11:32);
  5. unlike other letters that begin with doctrine and transition to application, Hebrews unites exposition and application, such that in each section of the sermon there is biblical quotation, explanation, and exhortation;
  6. there is a discernible outline to the sermon—Jesus is better than angels (1:4-2:28); better than Moses (3:1-4:13); better than Aaron (4:14-7:28); better than old covenant sacrifices (8:1-10:31); better than the patriarchs (10:32-12:17); better than Moses as the mediator of worship (12:18-29);
  7. the length of Hebrews read aloud totals about 55 minutes, which is in the ballpark for a sermon.

In this outline, it becomes clear that the content of Hebrews is a series of biblical expositions. Specifically, the author cites, explains, and applies Psalm 8:4-6 (Hebrews 2), Psalm 95:7-11 (Hebrews 3-4); Psalm 110:1, 4 (Hebrews 5-7); Jeremiah 31:31-34 (Hebrews 8-10); Habakkuk 2:2-4 (Hebrews 10-11); Exodus 19:16-23 (Hebrews 12). By citing, explaining, and applying these six passages (plus drawing attention to other Old Testament persons and passages), the author models a kind of biblical exposition that is loaded with Scripture, well-illustrated, and filled with application. For this reason, it serves as conclusive support that the kind of preaching modeled by Scripture is expositional preaching.

The Pastoral Epistles

But Scripture goes even further. God’s word not only models exposition; it also commands it. If we take seriously the words of Paul to Timothy as words of instruction for the church, we find that Paul actually commands pastors to preach expositionally. In his first letter to Timothy Paul writes,

Command and teach these things. Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity. Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching. Do not neglect the gift you have, which was given you by prophecy when the council of elders laid their hands on you. Practice these things, immerse yourself in them, so that all may see your progress. Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers. (1 Tim 4:11-16)

Stressing Timothy’s role of teaching (mentioned 3x, plus “commanding” and “exhortation”), Paul tells his son in the faith: “Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching.” Like the priests of old (who functioned as pastors in their own right), Paul instructs Timothy to read the Scripture and teach the Scripture with exhortation. In short, to turn back the false teachers and the false teaching in the Ephesian church, Timothy is to herald the truth of the gospel, trusting that the word of God will sufficiently equip the saints, expose the wolves, and build up the church.

A Final Plea for Expositional Preaching

The same is true today. Pastors do not build true churches by managerial excellence, neither do they comfort souls with modern psychology. Rather, pastors are to lead the flock of God to read the Scriptures, understand the Scriptures, and apply the Scriptures.

When pastors are faithful to do that, churches will grow and be built up in the doctrines of the faith. When they fail to do that, they are left to the most popular strategies and psychologies that the world has to offer. In our Southern Baptist context, expositional preaching has been out of fashion in local churches for too long. Only by returning to it, will the word of God be given room to purify the church, sanctify the saints, and convert the lost.

May God be pleased to give us ears to hear the whole counsel of God word preached and heard from faithful expositors of God’s word.

Soli Deo Gloria, dss

 

The Need for Expositional Preaching (pt. 3): Jesus was an Expositor

emmausI recently shared this article with our deacons. This post which focuses on Jesus’s own practice of preaching is part three of four. (Parts one and two).

The Old Testament is the not the only place where we find expositional preaching. Jesus himself was expositional preacher. In fact, he was more than an expositional preacher, according to John John 1:18 he literally ‘exegeted’ the Father, meaning that he explained, exposed, and revealed the character of God in his very life and person.

Jesus Was an Expositional Preacher

Jesus also carried on a ministry of exposition before and after his death and resurrection. For instance, in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus repeatedly quoted the Old Testament and then provided a more accurate interpretation and deeper application. In full agreement with his opponents that God’s word was divinely inspired, Jesus taught as one with authority (Matt 7:29). Interestingly, with absolute authority, he did not create his own sermons; he repeatedly put himself under the word of God (cf. Gal 4:4) and interpreted how he himself fulfilled the Old Testament.

One example of this exposition comes on the road to Emmaus. Writing about the day of his resurrection, Luke records the manner in which Jesus spoke to Simon and Cleopas, the two forlorn followers of Christ who had left Jerusalem for the hot springs of Emmaus. Luke records,  “And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he [Jesus] interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself” (Luke 24:27). While we cannot know the content of his ‘sermon,’ we know that Jesus began with Genesis and continued through the Old Testament expositing all the places that Christ’s sufferings and glories were revealed. Jesus followed the same pattern in the Upper Room. Luke 24:44-47 reads,

Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 

Though condensing Jesus’ instruction, it is apparent that Luke gives the sense of Jesus’ teaching. Like on the road to Emmaus, he explains how all three sections of the Old Testament (the Law, the Prophets, and the Writings/Psalms) relate to himself. In so doing Jesus exposits the whole Hebrew Bible in light of his cross and resurrection.

While it was the Holy Spirit that gave Peter and the other apostles power to proclaim the gospel; it was Jesus post-resurrection instruction that explained how the often-confused disciples could understand how to interpret the Old Testament in the light of Christ. As George Smeaton observed a century ago, “Christ’s oral expositions are to be taken as the middle term, or as the connecting link between Old Testament records on the one hand, and the apostolic commentary on the other.  In a word, He was Himself the interpreter of Scripture.” His Christ-centered interpretations sit underneath the testimony of the apostles and can be observed in the texture of the New Testament (cf. George Smeaton, The Apostle’s Doctrine of the Atonement4-7).

Jesus is the Model

In the end, it is impossible to duplicate Jesus’ teaching style, because Jesus is inimitable and because we only have the testimony of Jesus’ apostles, not his actually sermon manuscripts. Still, while we cannot copy Jesus’ sermon style, his pattern of citing the Scripture, explaining Scripture, and applying Scripture is the basic formula for all exposition preaching. It is discernible when we look carefully at how Jesus related to the Old Testament, and it is even more apparent when we look at how his immediate followers preached in the books of Acts and Hebrews. We’ll do that tomorrow.

Soli Deo Gloria, dss

The Need for Expositional Preaching (pt. 2): A Biblical Defense

pulpit

I recently shared this article with our deacons. This post which focuses on the practice of preaching in the Old Testament is part two of four.

The simple answer for why expositional preaching is necessary is that the health of the church depends on the regular reading of God’s word and the full explanation of the whole counsel of God. This claim can be supported by church history (as seen yesterday), but it can also be seen in Scripture. And in Scripture, expositional preaching is supported by both the doctrine of God’s word and the practice of God’s people. Today we will consider the doctrine of Scripture and the practice in the Old Testament; tomorrow and Friday we will consider the practice of Jesus himself and the apostles.

A Short Doctrine of Scripture

First, as to doctrine, the belief that God’s word is powerful is seen in the way that God’s created the light by his word (Gen 1:3); he upholds the universe with his word (Heb 1:3); and he raises the dead to life  with his word (Ezekiel 37; John 11). Understanding the power of God’s Word, preachers who are unashamed of the Word must labor to expound God’s word and not arrange Bible verses around their own words, ideas, or outlines.

The power of preaching is not in the preaching of the Word; it is the Word preached. A short list of verses can illustrate this point.

  • The prophets of old never spoke for themselves; they always began their messages, “Thus says the Lord.” For these messengers of God; the power of their ‘preaching’ was in God’s oracle; not in there rhetorical giftedness.
  • Accordingly Isaiah says that God’s word never returns void and always accomplishes what God purposes. (55:10-11)
  • In Jesus’ parable of the four soils, the seed was the word of God; and the seed had power to create life when it landed on the good soil. (Matthew 13).
  • In another parable of the kingdom, Jesus spoke of the word growing when the farmer slept. (Mark 4; 1 Corinthians 3).
  • God’s word is living and active and sharper than any double-edged sword; thus, only the word has the power to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. (Heb 4:12)
  • After hearing the voice of God on the Mount of Transfiguration, Peter writes that there is more certainty in Old Testament Scriptures than in his own personal encounter with God. In other words, the Bible is more reliable and authoritative than our subjective experiences. (2 Pet 1:19-21)

In short, expositional preaching can only be seen as effective when the doctrine of God’s word informs our theology. A high view of God’s word will enable us to preach the word in season and our of season; a low view of God’s word exposes us to the temptation of looking for something with more immediate flash and less eternal impact. For these reasons, expositional preaching is the method of preaching which best conveys the form and substance of God’s word.

In the Old Testament

Still there is another reason why expositional preaching is necessary—it is modeled by God’s people. In the Old Testament, a kind of expositional preaching occurred when the Levites gave the sense of the text to the nation of Israel on a feast day that commemorated their return to the land. Listen to Nehemiah 8:5-8.

And Ezra opened the book in the sight of all the people, for he was above all the people, and as he opened it all the people stood. And Ezra blessed the Lord, the great God, and all the people answered, “Amen, Amen,” lifting up their hands. And they bowed their heads and worshiped the Lord with their faces to the ground. Also Jeshua, Bani, Sherebiah, Jamin, Akkub, Shabbethai, Hodiah, Maaseiah, Kelita, Azariah, Jozabad, Hanan, Pelaiah, the Levites, helped the people to understand the Law, while the people remained in their places. They read from the book, from the Law of God, clearly, and they gave the sense, so that the people understood the reading.

Carrying out their priestly duties (cf. Lev 10:11; Deut 33:10-11; Mal 2:1-9), these servants of the Word enabled the righteous remnant to understand what God expected of them. Tragically, the nation of Israel suffered greatly when the priests failed to instruct the people with the Law (Mal 2:1-9). When the Old Testament “pastors” failed to feed God’s people from the book of Moses, the people starved spiritually and went in search for other deities.

Summary

Applied to today, could it not be the case that one reason why expositional preachers pack stadiums today is because there is a hunger for the Word of God among God’s people (cf. Amos 8:3)? True believers hunger and thirst for God’s word and they are willing to go anywhere to feast on his Word. As a preacher, who also hungers for the word of God, I know of no better way to ensure that God’s people hear God’s voice than by regularly preaching the Word as it was inspired, praying that God would illuminate eyes and captivate hearts as the Scriptures are explained and applied, verse-by-verse, week-after-week.

Tomorrow, we’ll pick up the biblical argument for expositional preaching in the New Testament.

Soli Deo Gloria, dss

The Need for Expositional Preaching (part 1)

pulpit_paigeI recently shared this article with our deacons. This post which focuses on exposition in recent history is part one of four.

Paige Patterson has said, “There is no genuinely good preaching except exposition.” Such serious words require us to consider what expositional preaching is and why it is so important that preachers only preach expositional sermons. Continue reading

What Does the Flood Teach Us About God?

floodAs it so often happens in preaching, to make one point from the text of Scripture, requires glossing over another. This is especially true when working with large chunks of Scripture.

Yesterday, I did that as I preached the Flood narrative (Gen 5:28–9:17). In that section, Moses records that God was ‘sorry’ that he had created man (6:6), which raises a whole host of questions related to God and his relationship to the world: Can God suffer? What does it mean that he is sorry? Does God change his mind? Does God know the future? Etc.

As I mentioned those things in the message, my mind was thinking: “I am not spending enough time explaining this.” But since the goal was not verse-by-verse exposition but the exposition of the whole narrative, I pressed on.

Still important questions remain about what Moses meant in Genesis 6:6. Whole revisionist theologies have been created on the basis of those questions. Open Theism, a view that denies God’s absolute knowledge of the future along with his foreordination of contingent events, arises from the emotional problem with evil and passages like Genesis 6:6 which on the surface insinuates that God changes his mind or grieves over mistakes in history.

In yesterdays sermon, I did not get a chance to answer some of those questions, but here are a few places where I or others have addressed the subject of God’s impassibility and his relations with the world.

Can God Suffer?

Immutability and Impassibility: Essential Truths in an Uncertain World

God Does Not Repent Like a Man (John Piper)

Here’s the sermon audio from yesterday:

This message kicked off a series on the holiness of God in the Old Testament. Admittedly, the message focuses more on God’s justice and mercy than his holiness per se. Nevertheless, as the first major display of God’s action in redemptive history (post-fall), it displays a vital reality: In his holiness, God is dreadfully severe towards sin and awesomely gracious towards his covenant people (cf. Rom 11:22).

Soli Deo Gloria, dss

Reflections from Together for the Gospel

yumWhen I think about Together for the Gospel 2014, there is so much for which to give thanks! Before all the specifics of the week fade into the past, I want to share seven of them. May they be reasons to give thanks for your own time there or reasons to prompt you to come to Together for the Gospel 2016.

1. The Preaching. As expected, the brothers who preached at Together for the Gospel brought weighty, glorious, gracious truth for us. Beginning with Mark Dever’s hope-giving message from Isaiah 36-37, the preachers called us to place our confidence in God, his Gospel, and its power to save. Particularly helpful for me were David Platt’s and John Piper’s messages. Together, they challenged me to pray and plead that God would save and sanctify those to whom I preach. Likewise, Kevin DeYoung’s message was a needed encouragement to preach the Word. Since I missed a couple of the messages, I will be visiting the T4G website to listen and watch (for free until June 1). You should do the same.

2. The Singing. Like the preaching, the congregational singing deeply encouraged my soul. Continuing the pattern of “mere worship” (i.e., a style of music that emphasizes the human voice over amplified instrumentation), Bob Kauflin led us in song from “center-court.” The music richly described the gospel, but my favorite songs were those written or adapted by Matt Merker and that can be found at Capitol Hill Baptist Church. Especially, in light of rising hostility towards Christianity, the song “He Will Hold Me Fast” comforted my soul.

3. Meeting and Making Friends. After the preaching and the singing, the reason I went to Together for the Gospel is to see friends—friends from college, from seminary, from ministry, and from a number of other places around the way. For instance, I had a chance to catch up with one of my oldest running mates in ministry. He and I met in college (ca. 2001), when we were both in Campus Crusade for Christ. Thirteen years later, it is a precious joy to see how God has worked in this brothers life. For me, chances to grab coffee or Qdoba with gospel-centered friends reminds me of God’s faithfulness in my life. It also spurs me on to keep walking with God and praying for others to do the same. One of the sweetest gifts in the Christian life are friends who point us to Christ; at T4G I have reunited with and made many.

4. The ERLC Dinner. On the same note, it was a blast to catch up with a ton of brothers from Southern Seminary at the ERLC Dinner. In an evening sponsored by Dr. Russell Moore, my former Sunday School teacher and School of Theology Dean, it was a joy to see so many serving the Lord all over the country. Even more, the evening concluded with a Q & A about ethics and country music (go figure ;-) and the way that the ERLC serves Southern Baptists and beyond. It was encouraging to fellowship with young pastors, theologians, and ethicists who stand on God’s promises and lean into the public square.

5. The CBMW Conference. From one acronymed-ministry to another, the CBMW pre-conference, national conference was a hit. Occurring in the same room as the first T4G, more than 1300 men and women listened to John Piper, Kevin DeYoung, Russell Moore, Danny Akin, Eric Mason, Albert Mohler, Ligon Duncan, Owen Strachan, and a panel of wise, godly women discuss topics related to biblical manhood and womanhood. The night before, the impossible was done, as a small army of kind-hearted servants helped pack bags and put out books for all the conference attendees. On the whole, this conference started the conference well and showed great promise for CBMW’s continuing voice among young evangelicals.

6. My Father-in-Law. With all the joys mentioned so far, the greatest joy of the conference was introducing my father-in-law to all the speakers, the singing, and the ministries represented at T4G. Upon the conclusion of the week, he wrote to me and said

I don’t know how to tell you how thankful I am that you invited me to the conference.  I would not have gone without your encouragement.  Truly the Holy Spirit spoke, challenging me on many fronts. The spiritual challenge, the fellowship and the wealth of resources combined to bless and overwhelm me, like getting a  drink from a fire hydrant!! 

My wife’s father is one of the most diligent servants of the Lord that I know. He is an associate pastor at Ashburn Baptist Church in Orland Park, Illinois. At that church, whose pastor happens to be his father, he leads in music, organizes (just about) everything, and makes endless visits—to name only a few of the things he does. He loves the Lord and the gospel, yet to date, he’s never been to T4G (or heard of Kevin DeYoung or Matt Chandler, if you can imagine). Consequently, he had a blast, was deeply encouraged, and edified to go back to Chicago and continue reaching the lost with ongoing zeal.

7. Prayer, Pleading, and Passion. Finally, and most importantly, I left T4G 2014 with a great burden to pray for the lost. John Piper’s final message in some sense completed for me a course in Christian Hedonism (i.e., Piper’s theology). For more than 12 years, his sermons and books have shaped my thinking about God, the gospel, and ministry. Yet, in all that time, I’ve never connected in Romans 9-10 the relationship between predestination and prayer. That connection was massive for me, and showed me how much farther I have to go in my theology and my prayer life. As I left T4G, I desired and still desire to be more zealous to pray for others and to tell them “Jesus wants you.”

All in all, the week was memorable, motivating, and Messiah-centered (forgive the forced alliteration). For me it truly refreshed my soul, and I pray it did the same for you, or that it will do the same for you in 2016 (April 12-14, to be exact).

In summing up this week, let me encapsulate seven things to make the most of Together for the Gospel, or any conference like T4G.

  1. Go for the content of the messages. Conferences are in vain, if the Gospel of God is not preached. And conferences are also in vain, if we are not letting the message speak to us. Plan to make time for the Word.
  2. Go to worship freely. For those who plan worship services, T4G is a glorious rest. To be able to enter the Yum Center without any care for service planning is tremendously refreshing. Still better than just the freedom from preparation though, the content of the songs, the testimonies, etc. is rich with fuel for worship.
  3. Make plenty of time to meet with friends. This is a doubled-edge sword. It was great to meet new friends and to “network.” But honestly (and I may be wrong in this) it was so much more enjoyable to go and reunite with old friends instead of just trying to met the latest author or blogger. I’ve done that before and it’s tiring. I love meeting new friends, but this week was so good because it was filled with old friends for whom I can be myself.
  4. Make time to pray, journal, reflect, dream, repent and recommit. As much fun as it is to see friends, make sure that during or after the conference, you take time to apply the truth that God shares with you. Life change happens when we look in the mirror, see the mess, and by God’s grace do something about it.
  5. Get to know ministries that matter. To say it differently, support those ministries which are solidly committed to the gospel and find out how you can encourage them and be apart of their work. T4G had a host of ministries worthy of your support. Make sure to engage with those brothers who are doing good work; they can serve your church and they need your support.
  6. Take someone with you. If possible, bring someone new. Or better, help someone else go. On my desk, I have the receipt of a pastor who paid for the hotel room of another pastor (and no, I’m not speaking about myself like Paul did of himself in 2 Corinthians 12). This brother-pastor has been a great encouragement to me, and it spurs me on to know (if only by accident) that he (with his church) footed the bill for someone else to go. May more of us do that, as we can.
  7. Finally, remember that the real work is not conference work; it’s local church work. As Albert Mohler closed the last session with the reminder that the important work is not what happened last week in Louisville, the important work is what happens every single week in chruches in Des Moines, Iowa, Auburn, Alabama, and Anchorage, Alaska—not to mention those brothers in other countries. It’s the work that goes on the churches that proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ that is truly important.

For that reason, I give thanks for all that happened last week, and I look forward to Together for the Gospel 2016, but only through the maze and the haze of two more years of ministry that I pray will be twice as fruitful, by God’s grace, in part because of what I heard, read, discussed, and saw at Together for the Gospel 2014.

Soli Deo Gloria, dss

[photo credit: Ivan Mesa’s girlfriend]

The Gospel on the Ground

Toby-and-Sonia-300x225Tomorrow, my good friend Toby Jenkins will be coming to preach at our church. I first met Toby when I served at Southern Seminary in the office of financial aid. After pastoring in Mississippi for a number of years, the Lord brought him to Louisville to attend Boyce College. Shortly after his arrival, in 2009, he was called to the First Baptist Church of Henryville, Indiana.

In the first few years of his ministry, he had been praying for God to do something that no man could get credit for. Apparently—and why should this surprise us (me)—God answered his prayer.

On March 2, 2012, an EF-4 tornado plowed through the town on Henryville. It was on the ground for fifty miles and left a line of devastation in Henryville and surrounding towns that can still be seen today. In the aftermath of that storm, God used FBC Henryville as point of contact of for the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Aided by churches from all over the nation, Southern Seminary, and the Disaster Relief of the Southern Baptist Convention, FBC Henryville ministered to the physical needs of Henryville. Still, in the aftermath of the tornado, it was the power of the gospel of Jesus Christ that had the greatest long term effect.

Under the invisible hand of the Lord, Toby had preached about the wrath of God in Romans 1:18-20 the week before the tornado. And in the weeks that followed the storm, as Henryville sought to rebuild, and many came to FBC Henryville, God brought many to himself by the verse-by-verse exposition of Romans.

Two years later, the church is still growing and Toby is still preaching from Romans—Romans 9, to be exact. God has honored the faithful preaching of his Word and he has answered (and continues to answer) Toby’s earnest prayer—that God would do something that no man would get credit for.

Tomorrow, Toby will share about “The Gospel on the Ground,” and how the gospel has brought life to many devastated by the Fall and its effects including the 2012 tornado.

I love this brother. I love how God has saved he and Sonia (see her testimony below). I love their passion for God’s glory, for God’s church, and for God’s gospel. Toby’s life and ministry has spurred me on to pray bigger prayers and trust more simply in the power of the preached Word. And so I am both excited and hopeful about our service of worship tomorrow.

Please pray for Toby as he brings God’s Word tomorrow. If you are anywhere near Seymour, Indiana, please join us.

Soli Deo Gloria, dss