Category: Preaching (Page 2 of 21)

Something New March 1-2

The four downtown Amarillo churches are bringing together four remarkable preachers for the first “4Amarillo Preachers Conference for Everybody” March 1-2. We’re calling the conference “Easter’s Coming. So What?” And it’s open to all preachers, all church leaders, all church members, and anyone eager to reawaken within themselves and their congregations the deep urgency and immense joy in the Resurrection of Jesus.

This is a free two-day event for everyone. Four of the best communicators in our fellowships are joining us for worship, to preach their favorite Easter sermons, and to share their own insights and experiences in proclaiming the Good News.

On Sunday morning March 1, each of the four preachers will preach at his or her host congregation in downtown Amarillo. Chris Seidman, the lead minister at The Branch Church in Dallas, will be preaching with us at Central. The world-famous Joel Gregory will be at First Baptist, Alyce McKenzie will preach at Polk Street United Methodist, and Ron Scates will be at First Presbyterian.

Then Sunday evening all four of our churches will gather at First Baptist for an hour of ecumenical worship with our combined choirs and all four speakers in a panel discussion answering the “So what?” of Easter. What does the truth of Easter mean to a broken world? Why should our city, this country, the world give a flip about the resurrection of Jesus? How does the resurrection make a hill of beans of difference to anybody? Everyone’s invited for the inspiring music, the ecumenical fellowship, and the important conversation.

Then, Monday, for the main event at Polk Street, each of our four preachers will have one hour to preach their all-time best or favorite Easter sermon and then to say anything they want to say about preaching: exegesis, hermeneutics, study, presentation, prayer, formatting a sermon, helpful hints, how not to preach, why preaching is important, personal stories, encouragement, whatever. It’ll start at 8:30 Monday morning, March 2, and we’ll have everybody out of there by 2:00pm. Breakfast and lunch are provided for everyone who attends.

Please click here to check the schedule, to see the speakers and sermon topics, links to the four churches, and to register. It’s free, but we’d like to get a ballpark number on a head-count so we know how much food to prepare. If you know someone who would like to attend, please forward this blog post or the link to him or her and help us spread the word.

If you have any questions or suggestions, I’d love to hear from you.

May our God be praised by the bold and unceasing proclamation of the Good News. And may our Christian unity point the world to our powerful and loving Savior Jesus Christ.

Peace,

Allan

Another Initiative Quote

Quote of the day from a wonderful hermeneutics session at the Initiative in Dallas:

“Nobody goes to church to learn what happened with the Jebusites.” ~Anna Carter Florence (quoting Harry Emerson Fosdick, I think)

Initiative Quote

Quote of the day from the Initiative, an annual gathering of preachers in Dallas:

“Competence is important, but not as important as character and integrity and relationships.” ~Jim Martin

The Initiative

Quote of the day from this evening’s opening session of the seventh annual Initiative, a Church of Christ preachers’ conference at the Highland Oaks CofC in Dallas:

“We must have more confidence in the God who called us than in the human power structures and organized religious and political systems that sometimes oppose us.” ~Jerry Taylor

Preaching: Leads to Salvation

“…the word of faith we are proclaiming: That if you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved… The same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, for, ‘Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’ How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in?  And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?… Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the Word of Christ.” ~Romans 10:8-17

St. Francis is said to have said, “Preach the Gospel; if necessary, use words.” Notice, he’s trying to inspire us not to use words by using words. Word are always necessary! I’ve heard people say they’d rather see a sermon than hear one. That may be true. But hearing preaching is what leads to salvation.

Preaching is not us talking about God, it’s God talking to us; it’s not telling us how to find the way to God, it’s telling us how God has come to find us; it’s not how to put ourselves in a right standing with God, it’s reminding us of the covenant God’s made with all of us that he’s sealed forever with the blood of Jesus Christ!

It’s not so much you’re a terrible sinner and you need to change; it’s more like this is awesome, so why don’t you jump in?

You are more flawed and sinful than you’d ever dare to believe and, at the same time, you are more loved and accepted by God than you’d ever dare to hope. That’s preaching! And hearing that leads to faith. It leads to salvation.

One of the most amazing things about the Creator of Heaven and Earth is his refusal to keep silent. Our God is a talker. Time and time again, when we storm off to pout like a spoiled child, when we slam the door in a huff like an angry lover, when we hide ourselves in the shadows because of our sinful shame, this verbose God comes looking for us, he comes wanting the start the conversation again, he wants to talk it out for the thousandth time. God breaks the terrible silence of our sin in the name of his steadfast love.

Adam, where are you? Let’s talk.
Elijah, what are you doing here? Let’s talk.
Paul, where are you going? Let’s talk.
Peter, come have breakfast. Let’s talk.
Allan, where have you been? Let’s talk.

Somebody gets up in front of the church every Sunday to make the same Public Service Announcement: that your worth is not wrapped up in where you came from, but in who came for you. There is no catch, there’s no limit to the goodness of God’s intentions for you. Preaching points to the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus as the fact and the proof that we are all loved and valued by God and that this world is good and this whole thing — the world and humanity — it heading toward a very good place with its Creator.

You don’t really hear that anywhere but in church.

All of us feel like slaves to our sin. All of us feel trapped by the systems and structures of this world. All of creation is groaning because of its bondage to decay. But in Jesus Christ, all these things have been eternally defeated. It’s already been accomplished.

The Gospel is not about some spiritual battle, it’s more like a prison break! The doors to eternal life, abundant life have been flung open! The gates to liberty and freedom in Christ, with God and with each other — all those doors have been opened wide and the escape route has been cleared and paved by our Lord Jesus.

You don’t really hear that anywhere but in church. Seriously, where else would you hear it?

This kind of message is illegal in some countries, it’s been outlawed in our schools, and it’s not allowed on government property. You’ve got to get dressed up and come to church to hear this stuff.

The Scriptures confirm it: Preaching the Good News has to happen if people are going to hear and be saved. Faith comes from hearing. And the kind of hearing that leads to faith can only happen when a definite salvation word from God is proclaimed. And that word, that message, is the Word of Christ: that he alone is Lord and that God has raised him from the dead.

Peace,

Allan

Preaching: Act of Faith

“God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man’s strength.” ~1 Corinthians 1:21-25

Preaching is an act of faith because on the surface it doesn’t make sense. What’s preached is foolishness. It takes faith.

Think about it. We take ordinary everyday water and we speak God’s Word. We tell the story of how God has used the water at creation, at the Red Sea, in the womb of a virgin, at the crossing of the Jordan, in the rescue of Noah’s family — and we get baptism, a sacrament for how God saves us.

We take ordinary table bread — just a loaf of bread — and we speak God’s Word. We tell the stories about God feeding his children in the wilderness and Jesus breaking bread with sinners and feeding multitudes on the mountain and God preparing a meal to share with all the saved on that day of glory — and we get the Lord’s Supper, a sacrament for how God takes care of us.

We’ve heard the Word of God preached so much it’s easy for us to forget the power, the wonder, the holiness of that moment when the preacher climbs the steps to the pulpit, opens his Bible, clears his throat, takes a deep breath, and dares to speak for God. It’s not a cat video or an epic fail or an advertisement for another new and improved, faster-acting, better-smelling, lifetime-guaranteed product you’ve just gotta have. Preaching is the Word of God, proclaimed to the people of God, as an act of faith in God. It’s a miracle.

I believe it works like the sacraments. Not exactly, but kinda. You know, during the communion meal, the bread is still a plain cracker and the grape juice is still Welch’s grape juice. Or Great Value, I really don’t know. Even after the prayers, it remains crackers and juice. But by faith, God uses the meal to convey to us the reality of our unity and acceptance and fellowship with him and each other.

In the same way, I think that human words spoken by human, sinful, fallen preachers are still human words, even after all the prayer and study and meditation. But by faith, God uses the words to communicate the realities of his eternal love and grace for us. It’s divine speech. It’s an act of faith.

Preaching is not a lecture, it’s not a book report, it’s not somebody telling you what to do, and it’s not new information — after two-thousand years of preaching, what’s new? No, it’s an exercise in faith.

“As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my Word that goes out from my mouth. It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.” ~Isaiah 55:10-11

I’ve been preaching full time for almost thirteen years. When I first started, my sermons were not very good. My preaching was not great. Those poor people in Marble Falls and the mid-cities of northeast Tarrant County burned off years of purgatory listening to those sermons. Those folks are going to be escorted straight to heaven!

But, let me tell you, even today, the sermons are hardly ever as good as I want them to be. I’m almost always disappointed. Almost always. I take comfort in the words of Augustine. He’s one of the greatest preachers in the history of the Church. And he wrote this over 1,600 years ago:

“My own way of expressing myself almost always disappoints me. I am anxious for the best possible, as I feel it in me before I start bringing it into the open in plain words; and when I see that it is less impressive than I had felt it to be, I am saddened that my tongue cannot live up to my heart.”

I don’t think I’m committing homiletical homicide every week. I’m just not as good as I want to be at finding the right words and putting them in the right order to communicate the powerful things the Lord puts in my heart. It’s disappointing. But I believe with all my soul God is using every single word I say — the best ones and the ones I’d like to have back — to do exactly what he wants done.

I know what you want. You want inspiring sermons, sermons that soar, sermons that rise to the lofty heights of our God and his eternal love and his matchless grace; you want sermons that challenge and convict and compel you to action. I do, too. I really, really do. And sometimes it happens. Sometimes it works. The preaching sometimes gives you something you need to hear, it comforts you or encourages you at exactly the right moment, it opens your eyes to an everlasting truth that changes everything for you. We go to church wanting that, expecting that. And when it happens, we know it’s the Lord. That’s our God at work.

Our Father is in charge of our sermons, not our preachers. He alone inspires, he alone speaks, he alone puts his Word exactly where it needs to go, when it needs to go there, and he alone causes it to grow and bear Kingdom fruit to his eternal glory and praise.

I have no idea what’s happening in our preaching. And no control. I don’t know where the words are going, but they are going somewhere. I trust that. I know that. Our God will never allow his words to return to him empty. If I didn’t trust that God was in charge of the preaching, I wouldn’t do it. And you wouldn’t sit through it. Preaching is an act of faith for all of us.

Peace,

Allan

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