Matthew R. Perry

Posts Tagged ‘Gospel’

How Long Is Too Long for a Sermon?

In Preaching on September 19, 2008 at 12:36 pm

One of the standard jokes we have here at Boone’s Creek is the length of my sermons. I tend to preach about 35 minutes on average, which is a bit longer than some. I preach expositionally, which means that whatever the theme of the text is becomes the theme of my sermon. Whatever structure the biblical text is becomes the structure of the sermon. The Holy Spirit laid out the Scriptures this way, so who am I to do otherwise?

But getting back to the “joke,” we have some folks in our church who grew up with a preacher who preached two hours or more. Others grew up with a sermon lasting only 15 minutes or so. In fact, I had one person tell me a number of years ago, “If you preach past 12:00, they’ll tune you out” (this was after a Trinidadian preacher visited us and preached a God-glorifying sermon, but went until 12:30).

John MacArthur has a wonderful article entitled “Preaching and the Clock” (website/pdf) which begins as follows:

I do not think the length of the sermon is as important as its content. At times I have preached fifty minutes and it has been ten minutes too long. Other times, I have preached an hour and twenty-five minutes and it has been just right. The important thing is to cover the main point so that people are convinced of its truth and comprehend its requirements.

If you have nothing worthwhile to say, even twenty minutes will seem like an eternity to your people. If you are interesting, they will stay with you. Do not mistake persuasion for long-windedness, however. If you preach longer than you should, you will sacrifice persuasiveness.

Now, I will confess freely that I do not preach like MacArthur. God has not called me to preach like John MacArthur (God already gave us one of him), but to preach in the Spirit and His Word using me as his earthen vessel. Even so, I do understand that even with me preaching 35 minutes or so, I am just barely scratching the surface of what the Word is saying.

And fortunately for me, I do not have a “one-and-done” situation– I will have other Sundays! But I am with MacArthur: as a preacher, make sure your people know the principle of the passage on which you preach so they may grow in Christlikeness.

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Praying For The Lost — A Lost Duty?

In Church Life, Sermons on September 11, 2008 at 2:55 pm

Last night, we had a time of prayer specifically for the lost—those who do not know Christ as Lord and Savior.  What prompted this prayer meeting was an initiative called “With One Voice” by the Kentucky Baptist Convention to have all Kentucky Baptist churches pray during their Wednesday evening prayer service on Sept. 10.

During this service, we read Scripture, sang some songs dealing with prayer and revival among our people.  Then we passed out what we call a “Five Alive” card where we supplied each person with two names from the 114 names on the “Salvation” portion of our Boone’s Creek Prayer Guide.  With those two names were three blanks for them to fill in names of people they know.   I encouraged them to consider those who were closest to them (family, friends, co-workers) rather than someone they did not know (for more on this, read Oscar Thompson’s Concentric Circles of Concern).

One of my favorite things to do during a prayer service is to have our people spread out over our 50 or so pews and pray for those who may come into our service.  If your church is like most of ours, you know where most of your regular attenders sit.  But it’s a joy not only to pray for them but also to pray for others whom God may have come in.  It really gives our members an outward looking perspective and gives us great anticipation.

The part that meant most to me was when Alex Marshall, Jr., one of our deacons, had Ron Chaffins (our minister of music) and myself kneel at the steps up to the platform, followed by the church coming forward and laying their hands on us as they prayed for us.  It reminded me of Col. 4:2-4 when Paul exhorted the Colossians church:

Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving.  [3] At the same time, pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ, on account of which I am in prison— [4] that I may make it clear, which is how I ought to speak.

This prayer time really lifted my spirit up to heaven. Pastors bear a heavy burden in seeking to strengthen the flock as well as to share the Gospel with a lost and dying community. May our hearts begin to be crafted toward prayer for the lost and for the ministers of the Gospel who share His message. May our heart desire to be equipped to know what this message is so we can share it rightly. May praying for the lost never be lost on us!

Would Calvin Approve of Some “Calvinists”? I Think Not!

In Calvinism, Evangelism, Gospel, Sermons on September 5, 2008 at 1:40 pm

As part of my DMin project, I am immersing myself in all things Spurgeon. I cannot tell you how much his sermons and writings have fed my soul and strengthened me toward holiness and my calling to preach.

The latest book I’m working through is Iain H. Murray’s Spurgeon v. Hyper-Calvinism. Murray contends that this was Spurgeon’s first major controversy in his ministry at New Park Street Church (soon to be Metropolitan Tabernacle). Though he was only 20 years old at the time, his preaching began to truly gain momentum in London. Yet, some of the Strict and Particular Baptists who held a hard line concerning Calvinism began to exclude Spurgeon.  Spurgeon noted that they felt his “doctrine was too low for them.”

Spurgeon responded not in the newspaper but through his sermons which were published for a penny a copy, having a readership of approximately 20,000 people. 

A Calvinist Preaching Evangelistically?  Absolutely!

The reason they felt that his doctrine was “too low” was that he claimed to be a Calvinist but preached evangelistically.  In a sermon in 1859, during a service in which the foundation stone was laid for the new Metropolitan Tabernacle, he said: “The stone has to be rolled away from the sepulchre of Calvinism yet.  The Calvinism of some men is not the Calvinism of John Calvin, nor the Calvinism of the Puritans, much less the Christianity of God.”  You see, what some called “Calvinism” was a type of teaching which said that there should be no appeal to humanity in regards to responding to the Gospel.  These “hyper-Calvinists” believe that the Gospel call should only be given to the elect sinners, for this is who the preacher should have in view.  

Spurgeon rightly rejected this.  While the Scriptures do speak of God predestining and electing (see his sermon on “High and Broad Doctrine” among scores of others), he saw from the New Testament a mandate not just to talk about the facts of salvation, but to make an appeal toward all sinners to trust Christ.  It is not up to men to determine who they think are elect and not–let God sort that out.  Everyone understands that their salvation is a gift from God.  

But to rely on such a subject emotion as to be one who must wait on emotions and feelings before you believe those commands and invitations to repent and receive Christ is dangerous and ultimately self-centered.  

What Did Calvin Have to Say About Evangelism?

John Calvin and his theology have come under considerable fire.   Some reject Calvinism because they deem that he and his theology discourage evangelism and even prayer.  The objection is, “If God has already chosen who will be saved, then why bother sharing the Gospel?”  Calvin addresses this himself:

Since we do not know who belongs to the number of the predestined and who does not, it befits us so to feel as to wish that all be saved. So it will come about that, whoever we come across, we shall study to make him a sharer of peace . . . even severe rebuke will be administered like medicine, lest they should perish or cause others to perish. But it will be for God to make it effective in those whom He foreknew and predestined (John Calvin, Concerning the Eternal Predestination of God, trans. J. K. S. Reid, London: James Clarke and Co., Limited, 1961, p. 138)

So those Calvinist who not only reject sharing the Gospel with all peoples or at least de-emphasize it.  This is not biblical and, ultimately, its cruel.  How could someone who calls themselves a Christian believe that Christ and his apostles taught that sharing the Gospel takes away from God’s sovereign grace.  Yes, Christ says that he has called out a people from this wicked world (John 6:37, 44; Matthew 11:25-27), as does Paul (Ephesians 1:3-4, Romans 8:29-30), as well as Peter (1 Peter 1:3-6).  It comes along the same theme of God calling the people of Israel out from the world (Genesis 12:1-3; Deuteronomy 7:7-8).  

But did not Jesus also say, “Come unto me” (Matthew 11:28).  Did not Paul say, “Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ.  For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me” (Colossians 1:28-29, ESV)?

Ray Van Neste notes concerning Calvin and Calvinism, “Calvin’s doctrine of predestination did not make the preaching of the gospel unnecessary; instead, it made preaching necessary because it was by the preaching of the gospel that God had chosen to save the predestined.”  (I would highly recommend reading the entirety of Van Neste’s article.)  With this, Calvin even set up a school of missions where he would send out missionaries to teach the Gospel that was recovered during the Reformation.  

Conclusion

So if you hear a nasty rumor that Calvinists are not concerned with evangelism, those “Calvinists” are not from the ilk of John Calvin in the least.  We know that God is already at work in those whom He has called— we can evangelize with confidence.

Sermon Posted: The Square of Christianity — How the Church Can Engage the Culture

In Culture, Sermons on September 2, 2008 at 1:01 pm

My sermon on “The Square of Christianity” is now posted.  This sermon, preached at Boone’s Creek Baptist Church on Sunday, August 31, 2008, received such a good response that we are hoping to include a CD into our archives.  This serves as Part 3 of our four-part series on “Getting Our Church in Shape.”

The Gospel in Six Minutes (John Piper)

In Evangelism, Gospel on March 24, 2008 at 10:47 am

Saturday Spurgeon: “Truth Comes Before Unity”

In Uncategorized on September 29, 2007 at 12:01 am

“To remain divided is sinful! Did not our Lord pray, that they may be one, even as we are one”? (John 17:22). A chorus of ecumenical voices keep harping the unity tune. What they are saying is, “Christians of all doctrinal shades and beliefs must come together in one visible organization, regardless… Unite, unite!”  Such teaching is false, reckless and dangerous. Truth alone must determine our alignments. Truth comes before unity.  Unity without truth is hazardous. Our Lord’s prayer in John 17 must be read in its full context. Look at verse 17: “Sanctify them through thy truth; thy word is truth.” Only those sanctified through the Word can be one in Christ. To teach otherwise is to betray the Gospel.

(From The Essence of Separation)

Saturday Spurgeon: “Truth Comes Before Unity”

In Uncategorized on September 29, 2007 at 12:01 am

“To remain divided is sinful! Did not our Lord pray, that they may be one, even as we are one”? (John 17:22). A chorus of ecumenical voices keep harping the unity tune. What they are saying is, “Christians of all doctrinal shades and beliefs must come together in one visible organization, regardless… Unite, unite!”  Such teaching is false, reckless and dangerous. Truth alone must determine our alignments. Truth comes before unity.  Unity without truth is hazardous. Our Lord’s prayer in John 17 must be read in its full context. Look at verse 17: “Sanctify them through thy truth; thy word is truth.” Only those sanctified through the Word can be one in Christ. To teach otherwise is to betray the Gospel.

(From The Essence of Separation)