Sunday, March 13, 2005

How to Hear a Sermon

I have another good audio series to recommend. PCA pastor Robert Rayburn gave these lectures on the ministry of the pulpit to the students of Covenant Theological Seminary about 10 years ago.

He covers a lot of ground, including some topics that are seldom discussed like the benefits of having the same pastor for many years. Similarly, he corrects the common view that "the priesthood of all believers" negates the special office of the pastor.

In a lecture on "Preaching as Mystical Event" he explains the reformation understanding that it is through faithful preaching (not "quiet time", etc) that we most often and most powerfully hear the voice of God. New to me was the idea of "preaching the poles", where he exhorts pastors to preach the tensions of Scripture. For instance if the text for that week includes Christ's statement that He will judge us based on the good or bad that we have done, do not give into the temptation to work justification by faith alone into the sermon. If that confuses you, listen to the lecture to get a whole idea.

What struck me the most was a survey he mentioned where several hundred PCA pastors were asked what Books of the Bible they had preached from in the last three years. Something like 95% had preached from the Gospel of John, and only a small portion had been in the Old Testament at all. Pastor Rayburn powerfully pointed out that the Canon of the PCA has gotten much smaller. This is largely due to pastors who switch pulpits frequently and the loss of the second service on the Lord's Day.

Thanks to Pastor Mark Horne for the link.


Barb said...

Tim, Dr. Rayburn has a sermon series on the "poles" of scripture that you might be interested in. It's called Reading Scripture.

Tim said...

Thanks, Barb. I look forward to listening to the series.

Tim said...

Oops...looks like I won't be listening to them, but reading them!

The first sermon hit me in the head like a diamond of truth; the whack was not much appreciated at first, yet still valuable.

Kristin and I are lovers of passionate redemptive-historical (i.e. "Christ for us" in every passage) preaching! But after talking with Pastor Jackson we have begun to consider whether that approach neglects the preaching of "the imperatives", i.e. our duty as Christians.

It seems to me that not emphasizing Christ enough is more dangerous than not emphasizing the imperatives enough, but it would be great to have both.

Anonymous said...

I've heard this unfortunate charge against Redemptive-Historical preaching. A lecture can be heard here.

The problem with this let's-revive-the-golden-era-of-Southern-Presbyterianism is that it assumes a man can live the imperatives without the thorough saturation of Christ that Redemptive-Historical preaching affords.

Tim said...

That's one of the reasons why I am exploring Lutheranism. The local LCMS church offers passionate preaching focused on Christ and His work, a beautiful form of liturgical worship, and the Lord's Supper weekly with wine.

Some of their other distinctives are hard for me to swallow right now, but they have what we have been longing for in terms of worship, and they're less than a mile from my house!