An Audience of One

Somewhere recently (sorry, I couldn’t find the citation, even on google) I read that when a pastor preaches, he should imagine he has an audience of one.  In other words, he should not aim to please his congregation, the visitors to his website or the world at large — his only purpose should be to please God.  I’m sure many of them have this in mind, because I have heard more than one minister start his sermon with this verse:

“Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.”  Psalm 19:14

It occurs to me that this advice is sound for all of us, not only pastors.  We should all be living our lives this way– and not just the words that come our of our mouth, but our behavior.  Too often we’re people pleasers.  We don’t want to offend.  We don’t want to make others angry or stir up controversy.  We don’t want to sound judgemental.  We try to be “politically correct.”  We worry about whether our friends on Facebook or our twitter followers will desert us.  We want to fit in.  We want others to like us.  We want to be admired in the workplace.  We allow these feelings to influence us, and that may mean we keep quiet when we should speak up.  We tone down the Gospel.  We do or say things we know to be wrong to avoid looking prudish. We want our worldly audience to think well of us.

I’m not advocating beating others over the head with the Bible or behaving in ways that imply we’re better than they are (we’re not–we just know we’re bad!)  We can speak the truth in love, gently and respectfully, but once we know the truth we must be willing to speak it and live it.  Play to your audience.  He’s the only One who counts.

“So whether you eat or drink, whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” 1 Corinthians 10:31

 

From and Before God by Sugel Michelen–Book Review

I was surprised by how much I enjoyed this book — after all, why does a layperson need to read a book that is subtitled  “Practical Introduction to Expository Preaching.”  Well, there are a couple of reasons.  The author, Sugel Michelen says,

”  I hope this guide may be useful for Sunday school teachers, small-group leaders, or anyone who has the responsibility of teaching the Scriptures in any context.”

I will never write a sermon, but I do teach, lead and sometimes write talks on Biblical topics.  I indeed found this book helpful in explaining how to research and present material.

In addition, From and Before God will give readers an appreciation for the hard work a pastor puts in to prepare and deliver a sermon.  For example, did you know that:

“It has been estimated that a preacher uses as much physical energy in half an hour of preaching as someone doing eight hours of manual labor.”?

When a pastor enters the pulpit he knows (or should) that he is preaching “from and before God.”  It’s a daunting responsibility.  Michelen makes the point that preaching is proclaiming God’s Word, not a man’s opinions.  Part of the work is to teach members of the congregation how to properly study and interpret the Bible.  The only one in the audience who must be pleased by this work is God Himself.

Finally, this book will help readers understand and be able to identify good preaching.  This could prove to be crucial information for anyone involved in a call committee.

The author explains the theology reasons for preaching;  he then defines the nature, form and content of an expository sermon and why he considers it the best method of preaching.  Finally he guides the reader step-by-step through the preparation of a sermon, along with the finished product.  He also discusses delivering the sermon.

The book is peppered with interesting quotes by other teachers, preachers and theologians, and there is a lengthy list of further reading at the back.

VERDICT:  Five stars.  I strongly recommend it!

For another book about preaching, go to this post:

Letters to My Students Vol. 1: On Preaching by Jason K. Allen–Book Review

If you would like to purchase the book follow this link:

https://www.lifeway.com/en/product/from-and-before-god-P005817830

 

The Lutheran Ladies received a free copy of this book in return for an honest and fair review – Disclaimer pursuant to FTC 16 CFR Part 255

 

Letters to My Students Vol. 1: On Preaching by Jason K. Allen–Book Review

In this book, Dr Jason Allen, president and the Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Missouri and an associate professor of preaching and pastoral ministry, writes in the tradition of Charles Spurgeon’s Lectures to My Students. He has a passion to serve God through equipping pastors to fulfill their calling. This is the first volume in a series of three.

He begins with a section on preparing to be a preacher, including the essential indicators that a man has been called to this ministry. He follows with sensible instructions on how to prepare a sermon, and grow in maturity as a preacher. He has a strong bias in favor of expository sermons. If you’re not sure what an expository sermon is, here are some questions to help you identify one:

  • Is the text accurately interpreted with consideration given to both its immediate and broader biblical contexts?
  • Are the sermon’s main point and its subpoints derived from the text?
  • Does the sermon’s application come from the text, and is the text being brought to bear on the congregation?

As you can see, this method of preaching supports a high view of the Scriptures. To preach in an expository way is to preach the text.

Maybe you are asking yourself at this point, if I am not a pastor, why should I read this book? Well here’s my answer. It will make you a more discerning listener. Someday as the member of a congregation, you will need to call a new pastor. Part of that call process will probably involve listening to at least one sermon given by each person you are considering. Shouldn’t you, therefore, educate yourself on what to look for?

This book will also give you an idea of just how much prayer, study and work your pastor puts into every sermon he prepares. It’s an important and daunting task. Dr. Allen reminds preachers:

“…the sermon is to do more than entertain or simply fill the hour of worship. The sermon is to impart words of life—words of new life to the unbeliever and words of continual growth for the Christian. Remember as you preach, the stakes are so high because your audience, separated from Christ, is so low.”

I found this book easy to read and informative, and would recommend it to both pastors and lay people. The only issue I found as a Lutheran, was the chapter of the public invitation. Since Lutherans believe that we do not choose Christ, He chooses us, so Lutheran sermons do not include this.

VERDICT: 5 stars

If you are interested in purchasing this book, follow the link below:

https://www.lifeway.com/en/product/letters-to-my-students-P005811476

Remember the Gospel

“Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you–unless you believed in vain.”  1 Corinthians 15:1-2

My husband says every good Lutheran sermon must contain both law and gospel:  law so we recognize that we are sinners and the gospel message that through Christ’s atonement we are saved.

In our daily world, it’s easy to forget both of those things.  Sin has become a bad word.  We’re told it’s not healthy to feel guilt.  We simply “made a mistake” or “used poor judgement.”  It’s easy to make excuses for our behavior that lessen our responsibility.  It’s easy to deny our faults and blame somebody else.  That goes as far back as Adam, remember?  He told God, “the woman you gave me, caused me to sin.”

But we’re made for God and without Him we feel incomplete, so no matter how hard we try, guilt creeps in.  We doubt and despair.  We try to feel good about ourselves, but the devil continually whispers to us that we’ll never be acceptable.

There’s only one cure:  go to church, confess your sins really are sins and really are yours and then hear the gospel.  My husband says that’s simple, too:  Jesus Christ, crucified and risen for me.

Did you confess your sins today?  Did you hear the gospel?  If so, you may be a Lutheran.