NT ‘preaching’ exclusively evangelistic?

March 28, 2009

Stumbled upon this intriguing article by Donald Robinson (building on the work of C.H. Dodd):

The special responsibility of preaching the gospel was exercised by the apostles, whose commission was particularly concerned with an extensive ministry through preaching, and by evangelists, like Philip whom we see at work ‘preaching Jesus’ to the Ethiopian eunuch. The synagogue might be a good place for preaching, or any other audience whose general unbelief or ignorance of God’s saving grace might be assumed. From Paul’s case we gather that a fair measure of disputation and argument might accompany evangelism, as in the synagogue at Thessalonica (Acts 17.3) or in a hired hall at Ephesus (19.9). But the central activity was evangelism, and this was not, apparently, something conducted within the ‘assembly’ of Christians, but, if we may so put it, in enemy territory itself.

from ‘The Theology of the Preached Word’ in Donald Robinson: Selected Works Vol. 2, p143


Really good music in Church (Part II)

March 27, 2009


So why is Uncle Joe’s ukulele sing-a-long worth a look? (See Part I)

Well, if we get to the point where our church music is like Uncle Joe’s sing-a-long, we get to the point where love of the community trumps personal preferences.

There are heap of places we see this. Last time I mentioned the football victory song. What about a national anthem at a medal ceremony. Who cares if you like the melody of the song. Who cares if there is a backing track and not a live band. The point is, the music of a national anthem connects the medal winner with the people of his or her country. The tune is not important. What is important is that everyone participating identify it as their own.

Another example is the recent Sound Relief concerts. When I saw on paper that Barry Gibb and Olivia Newton-John were going to close out the Sydney show, I thought ‘that won’t work’. But I watched the footage. And perhaps it was careful editing or the effects of alcohol, but I didn’t see a dull face in the crowd. Despite the fact that most people in the front section of the crowd would not have Barry Gibb on their iPods. Yet because of the occasion of Sound Relief, everyone was able to put aside their personal preferences and participate with enthusiasm.

So what does this mean for our churches. I think really good Church music begins with the Church loving what it is. A deep sense of valuing the time spent together.

Too often we try to do it the other way around. We typically try to get the Church to value itself by trying to improve the music. If the Christian community know and love why they are what they are, the music flows out of them – which is kind of biblical don’t you think?

When’s a sermon not a sermon?

March 26, 2009

At the risk of approaching preaching relying on Aristotle’s theory of universals

What are the core, tangible elements that every Christian sermon must have for it to be a Christian sermon? 

Here’s what we can agree on:

1. A preacher

2. An audience

Everything else is debatable. (apparently)

Strong contenders include: the name (or other title) of Jesus, explicit use of the bible, a call for repentance and an opening gag.

I’m looking at the content of the apostle’s proclamations at the moment (their kerygma *from the greek!). I’ll get back to you with what they had in common.

5 things I love about Sydney Anglican preaching

March 25, 2009

This is part one of a three part series on Sydney Anglicans’ preaching. See intro here.

1. The unfashionable culture of ‘safe-guarding’.

We do this a lot. You often hear the ‘slippery slope’ argument used when change is suggested. Some people find this quite stifling. I certainly have at times. But I thank God for it. Overall, I see it as a commitment to preserve the Gospel tradition that has been passed down to us. We get it wrong sometimes. But more or less the things we are keen to safe-guard are good things.

2. A commitment  to Biblical Theology.

Listening to some recent US preaching courses, I have noticed that what they are hailing as a breakthrough in biblical preaching,  has been part of our diocese for decades now. Give thanks for Graeme Goldsworthy and others. 

3. The sermon meal involves a lesson in the kitchen.

Justin Moffatt wrote a great piece on this. Basically it’s the difference between preaching the point of a passage vs preaching the point of a passage and showing how you came to that point. Sydney preachers, typically more than others I hear, show bits of their exegetical work in their sermons. Some see this as a big ‘no, no!’. I don’t. 

4. Congregation numbers are rarely determined by who is speaking.

We have a number of ‘great’ preachers in Sydney, but rarely do our Church attendance figures fluctuate when the ‘great preacher’ is present/absent for any length of time. There is a consciousness in our culture (maybe its tall-poppy, and that’s perhaps changing) that the preacher is not what makes a sermon great.

5. Sydney Anglicans have flown the ‘Reformed Evangelical’ flag for over 200 years.

Not so much about preaching, but if you are sitting under evangelical preaching in the Sydney Diocese, you’re experiencing a tradition. Reformed Evangelicalism in Sydney has been, more or less, the dominant form of Anglicanism since the First Fleet. It’s longevity and consistancy is unique for Australia (and perhaps the world?). This  tradition may be the reason why your fellow Sydney Anglican brothers and sisters are slow to catch onto the latest trend. Historical awareness show many trends  to be vapor puffs.  Globally Anglicanism does not always appear to be a tradition you would want to be part of, yet in Sydney it’s been pretty solid for a while now. I’m not convinced that this movement has become a museum just yet.

*BONUS* 6. It converted me!

Well that is not actually true. God converted me, through his Spirit, through a number of human aides, at a time I don’t remember. But the point is that the preaching of Sydney Anglicans has made up a huge portion of my diet for almost 30 years now. And (at the risk of… well … making too much of it) ‘it has brought me safe thus far.’ 

What else have I missed?….

Sydney Anglican Preaching (the trilogy)

March 25, 2009

I am planning to do a short three part series on my experience of preaching as a Sydney Anglican. Why Sydney Anglican? Because it has been my world for the last 30 years, and, God willing, it will be part of my world for next 30 years. I love it. Sydney Anglicans are  also a fascinating topic of conversation. They have their staunch defenders and vehement critics. Often the most vehement are the Sydney Anglicans themselves. Kind of like how you can criticise your spouse more than anyone else does. Not a good thing. I realise the tag Sydney Anglican is difficult, since what I am describing is often just a description of Sydney evangelicals (eg: of the KCC tradition). I also realize, that I am making mostly subjective generalisations from my own experience. And so, yes, there will always be counter-examples to everything I write. Here’s my series (I know it’s popular to do lists of ’10’ these days, but that’s too many for me, I end up padding it out with fluff). Hopefully this isn’t all fluff.

  1. 5 things I love about our preaching
  2. 5 things we overuse in our preaching
  3. 5 things we underuse in our preaching

Moore Bloggege

March 23, 2009

Michael Jensen has compiled a list of  the *known* Moore College student and faculty blogs.

Just when you think you really know a student, you read their blog.

New Church music

March 18, 2009


I have just added a new set of links. They’re mp3 demos and lead sheets of church songs my wife and I have written. Feel free to use them at your church.

Hopefully the list will expand.