“We usually don’t pray for those we’re criticizing or criticize those for whom we’re praying.”
People are starving for the greatness of God. But most of them would not give this diagnosis of their troubled lives. The majesty of God is an unknown cure. There are far more popular prescriptions on the market, but the benefit of any other remedy is brief and shallow. Preaching that does not have the aroma of God’s greatness may entertain for a season, but it not tough the hidden cry of the soul: “Show me thy glory!” – John Piper
Life and death and eternity and worlds unknown may hang on the preaching and hearing of one sermon. – Charles Haddon Spurgeon
In my pulpit I preach from the Bible for two reasons. First, I am not smart enough to preach anything else. If I were to preach on social issues, there are sociologists in my congregation who would know far more about them than I. If I were to preach on political issues, there are politicians who would know more than I do in that field. Second, I am too smart to preach anything else because I know that God blesses his Word and it will not return void. – O.S. Hawkins, Jonah: Meeting the God of the Second Chance, p. 90
So learn about Jesus! Follow the sacred counsel of Ezekiel and eat the scroll. Learn about Jesus for His word is a lamp unto our feet (or for our present moments) and a light unto our paths (that is, for our future) amidst moral blackouts and human power failures. Learn about Jesus for what a tragic mindset in the church that many will go here and there to be bigger, better teachers, lawyers, doctors, but when it comes to Christian education, many choose to be mental moral midgets, spiritual shrimps and shorties, religious runts, whose inner growth is stunted by the bread of mediocrity served frequently at churches who are ecclesiastical fast-food houses, selling a Burger King religious of “having it your own way,” devoid of devotion, while seasoned with mostly commotion and emotion, while the souls of men starve, asking, “Where is the beef?” or “Where is the meaning, the purpose, and the practical definitions of the faith?” – Asriel G. McLain, Words from My Workshop, p. 146
I think that there are people who enjoy Bible study the same way that other people enjoy filling out crossword puzzles. Get all the parts and get the thing completed – they find satisfaction. I think there are people that study the Bible that way. They can see how it relates to its context and how its details work to get across the concept. But if it never gets into your life, if it never really touches your experience, I doubt seriously that you can call it a study of biblical truth, because I think God’s truth is always designed to challenge and change us. – Haddon Robinson (Michael Duduit, Preaching with Power, pp. 155-56)
The McChurch has replaced the traditional church and its relational values. Fast-food Christians pull up to ecclesiastical drive-through windows, order the McGroups, consume the experience and then drive off, discarding relationships like burger wrappers on the highway of life. Savvy church growth pastors quickly learned that significant growth can occur if a church learns how to market it burgers to capture the appetite of this roving crowd. In some instances merely producing an interesting alternative to the status quo can lead to significant church disaffections. – William Chadwick, Stealing Sheep, p. 20
Transfer growth, by definition, creates no numerical growth in the kingdom of God. In fact the term is an oxymoron, and grossly misleading, for its net result is simply much ado about nothing. There are no new converts, no baptisms, no expansion of knowledge of God in the world, and no salvation fruit from this labor. Arguably – and contrary to popular belief – there is no known purely positive kingdom benefit from a benefit change! – Chadwick, Sheep, p. 30
Conversion growth, in general, graphs poorly. Even with the investment of considerable resources in evangelistic programs, conversion growth is slow growth. By its nature it requires the decision of one person at a time. Each of them needs to have the gospel presented in a fashion that they can understand, and often this requires the building of relational bridges to their world. – Chadwick, Sheep, p. 95
We have attractive carpets, nicely arranged bulletins, cleanly painted walls and deep subculture norms. The unchurched do not fit into this world. When the middle age of life sets in, church people can become upset with the headaches of having newborns in the house; we are past that stage of life. We desire to plan our retirement and find ways of increasing our spiritual and physical comfort levels. The “not like us” gain the disfavor of an unwanted pregnancy and can, in many subtle ways, be aborted. – Chadwick, Sheep, p. 141
Healthy transfer growth is about rescuing sheep. In some cases they are rescued from a church where salvation is not articulated. In other cases they are rescued from a setting where false teaching and heresy occur. And some sheep need to be rescued from abusive church settings. – Chadwick, Sheep, p. 157
Have 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
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
Ministers aren’t kidding when they talk of troubles. It’s the truth. Pick any ministry you want, and there will be enough problems in it to occasionally jerk the most optimistic person down off his toes. Ministries are few and far between that have no troublesome concerns stalking in the wings. More than likely, the best church you know about could be destroyed overnight if the right person made the wrong move. Even the best situation is fragile. Whether we know it or not, churches live on the brink. Something could go wrong at any time.
If you are going to survive in the ministry, you have to decide to see the good and give it a major portion of your time. Much of the spark of ministry is lost because we, being very human, focus too long on the problem and too little on the progress. It’s so easy to glance at God and gave at the Goliaths. Along comes a troublesome issue or a cantankerous person, and before we know it, we are zeroing in so intently on the problem that worry muscles in and closes off our view of the steady progress that is still passing us by on the other side.
- Joseph Seaborn, Jr., A Celebration of Ministry, p. 21