“The essential secret (to preaching) is not mastering certain techniques but being mastered by certain convictions. In other words, theology is more important than methodology.”
I Believe in Preaching
London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1982 p92
I Believe in Preaching
London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1982 p98
A helpful quotation from Derek Thomas
“It is often said, and truly, that sermons must teach, and the current level of knowledge (ignorance, rather) in the Christian world is such that the need for sermons that teach cannot be questioned for one moment. But preaching is essentially teaching plus application (invitation, direction, summons); where the plus is lacking, something less than preaching occurs. And many in the church have never experienced preaching in this full biblical sense of the word.”
Pulpit Aflame: Essays in Honor of Steve Lawson (Kindle Locations 1446-1447).
Reformation Heritage Books. Kindle Edition.
“We must preach biblically, or not at all. If what I am saying is not rooted in Scripture, then, however interesting or edifying it might be, it is not preaching. Preaching is kerygma, the proclamation of what God has done in Jesus Christ. The sole source of our knowledge of what God has done comes to us through the text of Scripture under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. We neither have nor require any other authority.”
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Alright, fine! The quote doesn't exactly come from Dick Lucas... it comes from me and is the best paraphrase of something very profound that Lucas once said that I didn't bother to write down. Nevertheless, while Lucas's original quotation was certainly better worded than mine, even in my poor paraphrase one gets the thrust of Lucas's point. Namely, churches that are strange to us make us feel... well... strange.
Moreover, I think the paraphrase makes a good point and perhaps even gives us occasion as Christians and churchmen to laugh at our own strangeness. Laughing is certainly something we should do more of. Yes, we want to take our beliefs seriously. We want to take the worship of God seriously. But we don't want to take ourselves too seriously. For if we do, any visitor bringing to our gatherings a fresh set of eyes will see the absurdity of our pretense. Let us embrace our eccentricities and delight in our God who is gracious enough to redeem people such as ourselves!
(BTW, you'll want to make sure you don't miss the singing of 'All Creatures of Our God and King' at the end... the recollection of this video has often made it difficult for me to remain dignified while singing this hymn in church.)
Todays post concerns the persecution of an elderly pastor named James McConnell who is currently being prosecuted in Northern Ireland for a sermon he preached. Though this post in no way represents a personal endorsement of McConnell's ministry (there are some areas I would have substantive differences with him) I do hope that it will provide you with much food for thought. Having personally profited from the preaching of Pastor McConnell while I was living in the United Kingdom, believing him to be a man of great zeal for the gospel, and resolutely knowing him to be a genuine brother in the Lord, I make McConnell's case known to you realizing that you've heard nothing about it in the American press.
Please remember this battle tested brother in your prayers even as you remember our persecuted brethren in other parts of the world. Also please take time to reflect on this sobering fact - if the things described below can happen in Northern Ireland of all places, then they certainly can and will happen here in America...
And so be it if the Lord wills.
-Rev. R Crabtree
All Souls Church
Green Camp, Ohio
Meet Pastor McConnell
Senior Pastor (retired)
Whitewell Metropolitan Tabernacle
Belfast, Northern Ireland
Presently facing prison for sermon (watch below)
Take 2 minutes to listen to Stephen Olford's challenge to all Christians.
"Do you do singing sermons?"
Unsure how to respond to this man who described Pastor Janet's singing sermons in the way other people would describe chocolate cake I simply smiled and made a noise that was supposed to be sound like an interested "ah" but came out more or less like the a bleating sheep. Ignoring my bleat the salesman continued with a bright smile on his round, jovial face, "So, do you do singing sermons?"
"Well you see..." I began, "I... um... well, frankly the thing about it is..." and right then and there in the futon section I proceeded to share with him what the thing about it was. Namely, I had to let him in on the fact that I do NOT do singing sermons... a truth that left the man somewhat crestfallen.
I mention this story because it helps raise another question:
"What kind of sermons will I hear at All Souls Church?"
"...The Bible... distinguishes the pulpit from the soapbox."
This is a method in which the preacher begins at the beginning of a given book or passage of the Bible and works his way through to the end, in an orderly fashion, over a period of weeks, months, or in some cases, years. We believe that this is not only a great way for church-goers to learn the bible but also a great way to keep preachers off of their hobby-horses. Never forget, it's the Bible - and the Bible alone - that distinguishes the pulpit from the soapbox! If a pastor commits himself to systematic exposition of the Bible he is unlikely to stray off into unhelpful realms more reflective of his own biases than of God's Word.
If you are interested in learning more about the benefits of expository preaching here’s a great article.
One Year of Study Stands Out As The Best...
On top of this I lacked the support and counsel of my pastor who seemed to have a dubious view of God's call on my life (Lord knows I gave him ample reason to hold such a view at the time!) I vividly remember the first time I spoke to him about my call... He sat in stunned silence... Then he frowned... Then he grunted... Eventually he launched into a speech, the tone of which was reminiscent of an unusually annoyed Wilfred Brimley waxing poetical on the subject of “diabeetus.”
So, without any advisors and not being fully satisfied as to the sufficiency of my education up to that point I was more or less unsure in what direction to go.
Fortunately the Lord had a plan... He always does.
It proved to be a great year for us!
In terms of its mechanics, I soon discovered that the Cornhill Training Course offered a unique blend of biblical education that was helpful, practical, casual, and yet rigorous. At the end of my academic year I emerged with a better grasp of the bible, a more well-rounded understanding of the practice of preaching, and a deeper conviction about the power & place of God's Word in the local church. These are things that continue to shape my ministry today.
Between 2004 & 2014 I studied more-or-less continually at a number of colleges and seminaries either as a fulltime or part-time student before eventually going on to earn a Master of Theology degree in Christian Education. While the Lord was faithful to use this entire decade of study to help me develop and mature into the minister and preacher He called me to be, I can nevertheless say in retrospect that my time at Cornhill Scotland was far and away the best and most beneficial year out of the entire decade!
I write this post today for the following reasons...
2) I am prayerfully expectant that someone – perhaps a "someone" in a position not unlike the position I was in all those years ago – might be introduced to Cornhill through my blog. Perhaps the Lord will lead him to study on the course... I would highly recommend it.
3) I want to express a public (and too long neglected) word of thanks to my main teachers at Cornhill - namely, Edward Lobb, Willie Philip, and Bob Fyall who were and are very faithful handlers of God's Word. Even as I write this I am reminded of Sir Isaac Newton's remark that if he was ever able to do great things it was only because he stood on the shoulders of giants – brothers, thank you for your willingness to hoist a young American novice up onto your shoulders. In my experience you have been and you will remain, much beloved giants.
STILL WANT MORE?
watch the Cornhill video below:
Rev. R Crabtree
"...a son, a husband, a father of 6, a friend, a Presbyterian
(not the liberal kind), an eccentric, and a minister of the gospel... I am also the Pastor of All Souls Church and a Professor of Religious Studies at OCBC."
All Souls Church
Attributes Of God
Irenaeus Of Lyons
Journey Of Faith
Means Of Grace
Order Of Salvation
Westminster Confession Of Faith