Year 2 – Day 103 – Tue 12 Dec – I was back home by 11, no hanging around in airports. There were bits and bobs to catch up on then on to ELT. There was a bumper crowd with nearly 40 there and a few of our regulars away. Gethin preached excellently from Isaiah 9 and there’s a bit of a buzz about next week’s carol service. Afterwards we had team meeting and then I read for a bit. I went back to 5 a side in the evening which was good fund and my knee was ok.
Yr 2 – Day 102 – Mon 11 Dec – I took the kids to school and went straight to Heathrow in the hope that I might be able to get an earlier flight to Belfast. It was absolute carnage there and I queued for an hour to be told no chance. My plane was due to leave at 5.15 so I based myself in a restaurant, had a cooked breakfast, wrote the carol service talk for that night, read and caught up on various things. It’s a funny sensation being in an airport, it’s like they are built to make you spend money as if it’s not real and so you find yourself tempted to buy things you don’t need. I managed to resist apart from ludicrously overpriced Ginger Beer.
We were late boarding and then sat on the runway until 6.30. Thankfully Queens CU had a stand in. I slightly freaked out with the air hostesses and managed to get off first. I was off the plane at 7.45 and sitting in the front row of the church by 8.10. They were 40 mins in but I had a couple of carols and readings to get myself together. The place was rammed, I gave a 20 min talk on the Offensive Christmas. The service was typical of students we had a Rock version of Joy to the World which was memorable and a carol to Auld Lang Syne which wasn’t bad. My father in law picked me up and we had KFC, I was ready for bed by 11. A memorable day.
Year 2 – Day 101 – Sun 10th Dec – We’re sending an elder down to Liss each week so that we have some contact with the congregation and it was my turn yesterday. There was snow in London but nothing in Hampshire. James Buchanan preached very well from John 6 on the Bread of Life
Ellie had been unwell in the night and so Claire didn’t get out to IPC, I got back to Ealing for mid afternoon and was preaching on Numbers 7 at night. I was too long and should probably listen to some of my own advice on preaching! There was a new man who had come in who lives locally.
The snow has caused my flight to be cancelled to Belfast tomorrow so I’m now booked on a flight that gets me in half hour before I’m due to speak so I was unsuccessfully on the phone to BA trying to get things changed
Year 2 – Day 100 – Sat 10 Dec – We were back at Park Run but my knee still isn’t right, Noah ran around with the course director and I trailed behind back over the 30 min mark which is humiliating. From then on it was one thing after another, kids Christmas party, hunting for a tree, someone came to view and buy my study. Claire had the women’s party in the night so I read and did a bit of sermon work.
Year 2 – Day 99 – Fri 8 Dec – I worked all morning on Numbers 7 which is the second longest chapter in the bible!! I think I’ve nearly cracked it. Chris and Gethin came for lunch and it was good to catch up. I finally gave in and went to the dentist – probably a cracked tooth which means it’ll need to come out, anyway 9 more days till next appointment to see if he’s right or not. I got to Ealing Hospital to see one of elderly members who I thought was doing much better and then home for a bit more study and the rest of the evening off.
These are going to be some random thoughts on preaching. Please don’t think I’m holding myself out to be an expert or a model; these are things I struggle with and am trying to think through. A friend of mine, who does church planter assessment, told me that when they ask aspiring church planters to grade themselves from 1-5 on various aspects of their lives, when it comes to preaching no one ever gives themselves less than a 4. On the other hand, I’ve got no interest in a fake, reformed spirituality about my preaching: ‘Aren’t I terrible?’. We need to be able to step back and look at our preaching in the hope that we can improve. These are broad brush strokes and may even be contradictory but here goes…….
1. If you’re heart isn’t burning, neither will your listeners’ be – Do you believe what you are about to preach is the very living Word of God? Are you excited about what you are going to teach? The truth is, if you’re not excited, neither are your hearers going to be. It’s going to look different in different personalities but I sometimes find myself listening to preaching thinking, ‘Does the man preaching think this really matters?’ We can’t all be John Piper, in fact, there are few things worse than people who try to be (well, maybe those who try to be Tim Keller) but there must be a conviction that this matters and it matters to me and I want to tell you why it matters. Without that conviction I’m not sure we should be preaching at all.
2. Conference Preaching isn’t the same as week by week preaching – It may be different in America, where the same 8 people speak at each other’s conferences, but ordinarily in the UK if someone is asked to speak at a conference, they work very hard at it. Let’s face it, the sermon has probably been preached a number of times, in different contexts. Introductions and illustrations have been honed, we’ve read every commentary we can get our hands on, parts of the sermon that didn’t work 3rd time around have been reworked. Everyone pretends this isn’t the case but who are we kidding? The sermons at conferences are a bit longer and certainly more polished. I would even argue there is a type of conference speaker who has a kind of commanding presence up front. This cannot be our model for preaching regularly to the same people. The slickness of conference preaching should be in a completely different genre than the week by week exposition for a church. Preaching at its simplest level is getting people to keep going as Christians for another week. On the over used meal illustration, conference sermons are often 5 course, over the top dinners when week by week preaching is your Tuesday night lasagne. You probably won’t remember it in two days time but it gets you through to the next meal. We need to stop trying to be the next big name. I want to argue that the best preachers are those who are doing it every week. There’s a reality in the work of ministry that those who are away from the coal face easily forget. Every preacher has models and we need to make it men who are doing the hard yards week by week of preaching to their congregation.
3. We don’t have to teach everything in the passage – Most preachers I know take larger sections, a paragraph ordinarily, but sometimes, in Old Testament narrative, it can be chapters, even 2-3 chapters. Preaching on single verses is a neglected skill and does happen evangelistically but probably isn’t used enough. When taking the larger chunks my view is that preaching is not a comprehension exercise where we make sure that we’ve not missed any points in the passage. The aim mustn’t be just to transfer information from my notes into your notes. In our preaching we need to distil what we see as the main teaching point of the passage which by its necessity means that there will be things in the passage we don’t talk about and that is OK. Not every New Testament connection, cross reference, theological insight you’ve gleaned needs to be shared. Give us your one big point, what’s the issue that is burning in your heart from the passage? Most of our sermons have too much information and probably not enough application. Very few preachers I know can regularly preach effectively taking a whole chapter or two chapters. The work of distilling and shedding that which is unnecessary in sermons is time consuming and we need to be more brutal in getting rid of good thoughts and helpful material which is not essential to the sermon.
Yr 2 – Day 98 – Thu 7 Dec – I am struggling a bit for carol messages and feel like I need a bit of a jolt. Greenford Lunchtime Talk went well with a new guy there and a couple back with us from Gunnersbury Baptist. My tooth is still sore and I achieved less in the afternoon than I did in the morning. I wrote a couple of letters but took the evening off.