Preaching is Worship!

d118Have you noticed how people refer to the singing in church as “worship time,” as if the other parts of the service are not part of our worship? This is troubling, because Christians should recognize that prayer, saying the creeds, giving, and especially the sermon, are all part of our worship of God. But I wonder if one of the reasons why people do not know this is that preachers have forgotten to worship God when they preach. We may deliver carefully crafted sermons, but if we ourselves are worshiping God when we do, then that element will be lost on the people as well. On the other hand, when we are preaching primarily for the glory and pleasure of God, we can draw the rest of the congregation into worship with us. In fact, that is just what the best preaching does. – Harry L. Reeder III (with David Swavely), From Embers to a Flame: How God Can Revitalize Your Church, pp. 110-11

Fred Luter Jr. Interview

Dr. Fred Luter Jr. is the Senior-Pastor of the Franklin Avenue Baptist Church in New Orleans. He is also the President of the Southern Baptist Convention, the first African-American to lead the convention.

Knowing that Dr. Luter would be in town to speak at a conference, I reached out to see if could make time in his busy schedule to chat with me. Even though we had never spoken or met before, Dr. Luter graciously accepted my invitation for an interview.

I was blown away by how gracious, humble, and kind Dr. Luter is. And he has a great testimony of the Lord’s favor and faithfulness on his life and ministry.

I hope you are you encouraged by our conversation.

Did you find this interview helpful? Share it with a friend. And join the conversation in the comments section. 

Notes from Sunday – 1/27/13

safe_image.php_It has been a long, blessed weekend. We kicked off a new session of the 33 Series mens’ Bible study Saturday morning. We got off to a good start. Looking forward to the next 5 weeks.

The 2013 JAX Pastors Conference was fantastic. I really needed David Jeremiah’s message on the Prodigal Son. Dr. Al Mohler’s message on heaven was phenomenal as well, and it was great to hear Dr. Fred Luther

Dr. Brunson graciously invited me to speak Saturday afternoon, I am grateful for the honor. Thankful to Trey Brunson and the entire First Baptist staff as well for your hospitality. I was overwhelmed by Shiloh’s support, you all are the best!

I was assigned to preach on “The Incorruptible Prize.” I preached from 1 Corinthians 9:24-27: “Running to Win the Imperishable Prize.” 

The conference message was one of four times in 22 years of my pastoral ministry that I have preached something that I have not first preached to my congregation. I think it may have showed.

We baptized three women, And had parent-child dedications for, four give families during our 10:15 service.

Grateful for all of the guests who were in worship Today.

About 30 minutes before I went into our first service, I received a call that my nephew, Myles, had been shot last night in Los Angeles. I was jarred and struggled to get through the message. But the saints prayed me through today.

I started a new series today called “Family Matters.” I kicked it off with a message from Genesis 2:18-25, entitled, “The Meaning of Marriage.” 

Praise God for those who were added to the church today.

I plan to do a message about what the Bible says to and about Singles next Sunday.

I predict that a weapon formed against the Baltimore Ravens will prosper during Super Bowl XLVII next Sunday.

The Celtics eked one out against the Miami Heat today in double overtime. During the game it was announced that Celtics guard will be out for the rest of the season with a knee injury. Hope he has a full recovery.

The Lakers beat the Thunder? One word: Wow!

How was your Sunday? How did your teams do this week? Join the conversation in the comments section.  

My Two Cents on Pulpit Plagiarism

I stood, called my text, and began to preach. There was a weird response by the congregation. Something strange was happening, but I didn’t know what. I couldn’t catch the vibe. The congregation, to whom I had preached several times before, was tentative throughout the entire message. But I couldn’t figure out why.

After I sat down, it all became clear. Someone leaned over to me and told me the speaker who had opened the meeting several nights before preached the same text and/or message.

For some reason, this news made me nervous. At the same time, I was at peace. I had preached what I believed the Lord wanted me to say. And my message was the product of my Bible study and sermon preparation.

They gave me a copy of the other pastor’s message. When I got to my room, I crawled into bed with my computer and watched the message.

Indeed, it was the same text. And it was essentially the same message. We both preached the same doctrinal theme from the text. We organized the messages differently. We labeled the messages differently. I worked through the message with three main points in my outline. He had four. The homiletical approach was different. And the way we argued the message was different. It really was the same message preached from two different perspectives.

This got me to thinking about the ethical matter of pulpit plagiarism.

The late evangelist, Vance Havner, said when he began preaching he was determined to be original or nothing. He ended up being both, Havner said.

This is true of every preacher. All faithful preachers deliver an unoriginal, “stolen” message – the word of God. Biblical preaching simply explains what the word of God means by what it says. And if we read the text right, what we see will be pretty close to the conclusions drawn by other faithful Bible expositors.

In fact, if you come up with a reading of the text that no one else has ever seen, you’re wrong! Likewise, most Bible expositors use many of the same exegetical resources. So it should be no surprise for you to hear two messages that “overlap,” for lack of a better term.

But let’s be clear. Stealing other people’s material and preaching it as if it is your own work is wrong.

After the tragic shootings at Virginia Tech in 2007, a certain pastor preached a message he claimed the Lord had given him. Later that week, his local newspaper outed him, revealing the message was actually from a website that sells sermons. This “inspired” message had, in fact, been preached and posted by several other pastors across the country that same day!

I repeat. This is wrong. The eighth commandment should apply to our pulpit work: “You shall not steal” (Exodus 20:15).

This is not to say that we shouldn’t use sources. To the contrary, it is arrogant for you to study a text and preach a sermon on it without consulting the wisdom of those who have, in some instances, spent a lifetime studying those passages, books, or themes.

Milk a lot of cows. But churn your own butter.

When you do the hard work of personal study and sermon preparation, something wonderful can happen. For instance, you can stand and preach a text that was just preached in that same pulpit three days earlier. And you can make the point the previous sermon made. Yet, God can use your preaching – YOUR PREACHING – to declare the unchanging truth of God’s word in a fresh, new, and life-changing way.

Just my two cents. What do you think about pulpit plagiarism? Join the conversation in the comments section. 

The Danger of “Church Growth” Books

0805440984.01._SX50_SCLZZZZZZZ_It struck me one day in a Christian bookstore that most of the “church growth” books I picked up in that store were not books on vision but on image. They hadn’t been published to help me see the world in a particular way but to help the world see me – were I a megachurch pastor – in a particular way. They were books that enticed the pastor of limited self-image to be like somebody else the world admired. What a cul-de-sac of emotional poverty this is. These books were published to serve the idolatries of megapastor wannabes. – Calvin Miller, O Shepherd Where Art Thou?, p. 4

Notes from Sunday – 1/20/13

safe_image.php_Today concluded our 2013 Prayer Emphasis Week at Shiloh. It has been a rich week.

We prayed for daily targets this week. There were daily prayer meetings at noon. And we had all-night prayer meeting Friday night.

Thanks to staff and volunteers for the labor and sacrifice this week. You make it happen!

Glad to have all of our guests in worship today.

Shout-out to our music department. You did a great job today!

I preached from Romans 10:1-4 about “Praying for the Lost.”

Sermon Point: The most important thing you can pray for someone is that he or she may be saved.

I drew the outline of the message from verses 2-4:

  1.  Pray the lost will know God’s truth (v. 2)
  2. Pray the lost will submit to God’s righteousness (v. 3)
  3. Pray the lost will trust in God’s Son (v. 4)

I look forward to preaching through Romans one day, God willing.

Praise God for those who were added to the church today.

Today is also Sanctity of Human Life Sunday. Pray for the unborn!

Next Sunday I plan to begin a new series called, “Family Matters.” I intend to start the series with a message from Genesis 2;18-24 called “The Meaning of Marriage.”

I picked the 49ers and Ravens to win today. I am hoping for a Harbaugh brothers Super Bowl.

The San Francisco 49ers won a thriller against the Atlanta Falcons, 28-24.

Well, the quarterback that took put the 49ers in a position to get to this point will go to the Super Bowl… as a back-up for Colin Kaepernick.

I am hoping the Ravens can  upset the New England Patriots this evening. But it will be no easy feat.

I do not know what to say about the Manti Te’o girlfriend hoax story that has consumed the news this week.

Did you know that the NHL lockout is over?

Did you know the Australian Open was going on?

Have a great Martin Luther King, Jr. Day!

How was your Sunday? What did you pick to win the championship games today? Join the conversation in the comments section. 

Saturday Shout-Outs: Prayer Emphasis, JAX Pastors Conference, & Ministry Links

Happy Saturday!

Thanks for reading my blog this week. You can sign up for email updates of future posts under the picture to the left.

We have had a great Prayer Emphasis Week at Shiloh Church. And last night’s All-Night Prayer Meeting was tremendous.

You can now preorder my upcoming book, It Happens After Prayer: Biblical Motivation for Believing Prayer 

Don’t miss the JAX Pastor Conference next weekend!

Russell Moore: Why I Hate Sanctity of Human Life Sunday (and Why I Love It Too)

Kevin DeYoung: Why Pastors and Elders Need Your Prayers 

Jemar Tisby: 5 Factors in the Rise of Reformed Theology Among African Americans

The Resurgence: 14 things you can do today to fight human trafficking and help victims

Gentle Reformation: Short Rules of Blogging Etiquette

Thom Rainer: Seven Lessons on Blogging from the Last Three Days 

Tim Brister. A Triperspectival Approach to Blogging

Will Mancini: 10 Commandments of Creating a Culture of Mission in Your Church 

Ed Stetzer: Four Things Christians Can Learn from the Lance Armstrong Debacle 

30 Things You Might Not Know About C.S. Lewis

Modern Reject: How to Fight in Marriage

Watch this Baptist History Rap.

Prayer is the lifelong chance of a lifetime. – Max Lucado 

Do you have any Saturday shout-outs? Have you read posts or articles this week worth sharing? Join the conversation in the comments section. 

What is a Bishop?

What is a bishop?

This is a often asked question I get. It’s a new question about an old term.

The word “bishop” is biblical. Different churches and denominations have used it to refer to church leadership and government throughout church history. Yet I often get questions about this term, as it has invaded Baptist ranks. Local churches within self-governing Baptist congregations have become consecrated bishops.

As far as I can tell, this trend began with the Full Gospel Baptist Church Fellowship – a loose denomination of Charismatic Baptists. At least, this is when I caught wind of it. It wasn’t long before other upstart groups began making bishops. Then many pastors started naming themselves bishops. Baptist bishops are now everywhere. (For the record, I do not know of one White Baptist pastor who calls himself a bishop. Apparently this is a trend primarily among African-American Baptists.)

I recently saw an interview where several bishops were asked their take on the rise of “illegitimate” bishops. For all that was said, the interview did not seriously address the biggest question about bishops (or any subject): What does the bible say?

So what does the Bible say about bishops? What is a bishop? How does the New Testament understand the office of the bishop?

Answer: A bishop is a pastor is an elder is an overseer.

These terms are different ways of describing the same office: the pastor-teacher. The term “elders” (Acts 11:30; 14:23; 15:6) emphasizes the leader’s personal character. Pastors are to be mature, godly men. The term “bishop” (Phil. 1:1) or “overseer” (Acts 20:28) emphasizes the leader’s ministry task. He is to oversee the congregation of saints he is appointed to lead. And the term “pastor” (Eph. 4:11) emphasizes the leader’s ministry philosophy.  He is to lead, feed, protect, and care for the congregation as a faithful shepherd. The New Testament uses these terms interchangeably to describe spiritual leadership in the church.

For instance, Paul exhorts the Ephesian elders (Acts 20:17):

”Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood.” – Acts 20:28

Paul instructs the elders to watch over and care for (shepherd, pastor) the flock of God in which the Holy Spirit has made them overseers.

Paul writes to Titus:

“This is why I left you in Crete, so that you might put what remained into order, and appoint elders in every town as I directed you… For an overseer, as God’s steward, must be above reproach.” – Titus 1:5, 7

Likewise, 1 Peter 5:1-2 says:

“So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed: shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight…”

Did you get that? Peter exhorts the elders to shepherd (pastor) the flock by practicing oversight.

The bottom line is that the Bible does not teach a leadership hierarchy in which bishops are over overseers who are over elders who are over pastors. There are only two biblical offices in the church: elders and deacons. Elders serve by leading. Deacons lead by serving. In the New Testament, deacons are called deacons. But elders are called pastors, overseers, and bishops. Different terms. Same office.

There are two mistakes we make in regard to the biblical terminology for pastoral leadership. First, we ignore the biblical terminology. Likewise, we misuse the biblical terminology. And this misuse of biblical terminology has led to the development of artificial congregational and denominational hierarchies. But our terminology should be a faithful representation of our doctrinal convictions.

I do not make these points to attack any person or group. I have friends who have been consecrated as bishops. I respect them. But I disagree with them on this point. More importantly, scripture disagrees with them. Isn’t that what matters the most?

We should strive to be biblically regulated Christians and churches. This requires that we refuse to embrace practices that are not biblically justifiable or contradictory to scripture. And we must be on guard against a fleshly preoccupation with titles. Our goal as pastors should not be to get “elevated” to the office of a bishop. May we be content to simply be faithful servants of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Feel free to offer your comments on this post and please share it with friends who may find it helpful. 

Ministering to an Audience of One

One of my former professors preached for me one Sunday morning. As we chatted between services, he asked me about an upcoming speaking event announced in our newsletter. I was scheduled to speak the next five nights at a state convention meeting. It was a rare opportunity.

My professor and I joked about the challenges of preaching to preachers. Then the conversation turned. I admitted that, although I was grateful, honored, and excited about spending a week ministering to pastors and church leaders, I was very nervous.

Prof assured me that all would go well.

I agreed, because I had a strategy for overcoming my fears about the preaching setting. Or so I thought. (Warning: It is not wise to try to impress a former professor.)

I explained by telling him of the first time I preached before many preachers. I was just a boy preacher. But the experience was still vivid in my mind. It still is.

I was invited to preach the closing night of a citywide revival meeting. It was youth night. But I still had no business being the main speaker. Most of the other scheduled speakers had been preaching longer than I had been alive.

Before we drove to the event, my host gave me a piece of advice. “Don’t worry about the preachers in the room,” he counseled. “Just focus on the people in the pew as you preach.”

This advice would prove beneficial. When we arrived for the service, the first room we entered was filled with preachers. I dutifully went around the room shaking hands. Several pastors I greatly admired were present. As I greeted one and thank him for coming, he casually responded, “We came to see you die tonight.”

I was stunned.

When I entered the service, there he was, seated on the platform near my seat. I guess he was going to have the best seat in the house to witness this epic preaching disaster.

Fortunately, I didn’t “die.” I followed my host’s advice. I preached to the congregation, rather than trying to impress the preachers. And the Lord was gracious to help me.

This would be the approach I took at the upcoming convention meeting, I told prof.

“That’s a good thought,” he replied. “But I think about these kinds of events somewhat differently. When I stand to preach, I don’t focus on the preachers or the congregation. I just preach to an audience of one.”

This gracious rebuke tasted like bitter medicine. But it had a healing effect. And it is medicine I keep in my cabinet, as I am constantly in need of another dose.

Who is your target-audience when you stand to minister?

Of course, we inevitably minister to people when we preach and teach. But we must not do it for people. We are to live and serve for the glory of God, not to win the approval of man.

We should be like the young pianist who had his first recital. He played a song. The audience clapped enthusiastically. He played another song. They applauded again. But he kept playing. Another song. Then another. You see, he was not playing to win the applause of the crowd. He knew his teacher was sitting alone in the balcony. So he continued to play until his master applauded. His teacher’s approval was all that mattered.

Which audience are you playing for?

Notes from Sunday – 1/13/13

safe_image.php_Today we began our 2013 Prayer Emphasis Week at the Shiloh Church.

You can download our PEW13 prayer guide here.

Each day this week, there will be a one-hour prayer meeting at noon at Shiloh. We will have an all-night prayer meeting Friday night to Saturday morning.

We baptized three persons today – two men and one woman. Praise God!

As always, it was good to have our guests in worship today.

Our children’s choir sung today. Cool.

The special music before the message today was a solo of “Is Your All On the Alter?” What a blessing!

I preached about “The World-Changing Power of Prayer” from 1 Timothy 2:1-4 in which I simply argued that prayer can change the world.

In the text, Paul gives four instructions on how to pray in a way that changes the world around you:

  1. Make prayer the top priority (2:1a)
  2. Pray by any means necessary (2:1b)
  3. Enlarge your circle of prayer (2:1b-2)
  4. Pray with God-centered motives (2:3-4)

Praise God for those who were added to the church today!

Next Sunday’s message: “Praying for the Lost” (Romans 10:1-4).

I am shocked that the Baltimore Ravens went into Denver and took down the Broncos. Ray Lew’s last dance continues.

Peyton Manning should win the MVP award!

I had no prediction about the 49ers-Packers game. I thought it would be a shoot-out. But who would expect Colin Kaepernick to have such a big game?

The Atlanta Falcons eked out a last minute victory against the Seattle Seahawks. I was hoping the Seahawks would go all the way. I doubt Atlanta will get any further.

The New England Patriots did what they do. Which is not good news for the Houston Texans.

I am hoping the changes being made by the Jaguars will turn things around for the team next season.

I don’t know what to say about my beloved Dallas Cowboys. We need a GM, desperately. And Ryan is not the coach that should have been relieved of his duties. Just saying.

As I predicted, the Alabama Crimson Tide whipped the Notre Dame Fighting Irish to win the BCS Championship Monday night.

So how are you Lakers fans doing these days?

The #1 Duke Blue Devils went down Saturday. Michigan went down today. There are now no unbeaten teams in NCAA Division 1 basketball. Bring on March Madness!

The Australian Open begins this today. Who you got?

How was your Sunday worship? How did your teams do this weekend? Join the conversation in the comments section.