It has happened to all of us. We read the writings of a famously deep thinker and are forced to reread the words repeatedly to decipher their meaning. For the modern communicator it is vital to combine brilliance with eloquence. What good is a profound observation if no one can understand its meaning? Some of the most brilliant scholars struggle to communicate to young students because they cannot distill and simplify their thoughts well. As you might assume, this is not a new difficulty. Continue reading “Pascal, Anselm, and the State of Communicating Deep Ideas to an Unsuspecting Public”
John Knox, champion of the Scottish Reformation, fearless preacher, uncompromising prophet… defeated by a church business meeting?
Knox’s legend began early. Converted under the preaching of the early Scottish reformer George Wishart, he became his sword-bearer, carrying a claymore to Wishart’s preaching engagements (29). After Wishart’s martyrdom, Knox became a preacher himself and his plain, fiery preaching with “ruide boldness… unto your faces” (59) won the hearts of both English and Scottish alike. Standing up to the Queen and royal authorities, he constantly called Protestant leaders to resist any compromise, not even when faced with persecution or exile (both which he himself experienced).
Soon after becoming a preacher, Knox was captured by French Catholic forces and enslaved in French galleys for 19 months. One story captures Knox’s spirit: Continue reading “Four Lessons from John Knox on Local Church Reform”
Augustine, perhaps church history’s most towering figure, didn’t think his work would be remembered. In his widely read and celebrated autobiographical Confessions, he wondered: “But to whom am I telling this story? Not to you my God; rather in your presence I am relating these events to my own kin, the human race, however few of them may chance upon these writings of mine.” Continue reading “Augustine the Pastor”
Jonathan Edwards (1703–1758) had a brilliant mind, an abiding love for hot chocolate, a less-than-booming voice, was kicked out of his church (only to be asked to guest preach until a replacement could be appointed), went on mission to the Indian tribes in Stockbridge, and succeeded his son-in-law as president of Princeton University (then, the College of New Jersey). He is most well know for his 1741 sermon Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God—an American literary classic—which is, as biographer George Marsden explained, “the most famous episode in Edwards’ career.”
Edwards is also commonly associated with the First Great Awakening, in which he was an undeniably integral figure. Nevertheless, even in the midst of such evangelistic fervor, Edwards longed for the hearts of people to be everlastingly set on God. Still in the shadows of the awakening that seemed to involve nearly every person in the Connecticut-valley region, Edwards looked on disconcertingly as the people reverted to old ways. He wondered whether the awakenings had truly impacted the people. Continue reading “Jonathan Edwards on the Necessity of Good Preaching”
When my husband suggested we watch Smallville, a TV series on Superman, I was not excited. I like true stories about ordinary people, not made up ones about imaginary people. But to my surprise the first few episodes were fairly normal: a teenage boy living in a small town meets a young billionaire and they become best friends. As one would expect, these two (Clark Kent/Superman and Lex Luthor) would become arch-enemies by the end of the series. However, it takes several seasons to get there; it is only over the span of many years that Clark becomes a hero and Lex becomes a villain.
It turns out that there are more true-story aspects to Superman than I thought. Continue reading “Sin Deceives, Mortification Frees: John Owen on Killing Sin”
In 1854, when Charles Spurgeon began pastoring at the New Park Street Chapel, he had a handful of deacons assisting him and a membership of 313 (though the actual attendance was much smaller). In just twelve weeks, they outgrew their space and began making plans to enlarge their building. But as soon as that was done, they found themselves immediately once again in need of more space, and so began making plans to build a new building, which would eventually be the Metropolitan Tabernacle. However, more than just a space issue, Spurgeon found himself caring for a congregation that was beyond his capacity to shepherd. Continue reading “Meaningful Membership at Spurgeon’s Metropolitan Tabernacle”
We’ve all had those brilliant ideas that didn’t work out in real life. As a pastor, I often find obscure historical or theological facts fascinating and seemingly vital during my times of sermon preparation. However, I occasionally have to be reminded that others might not be as excited about some nuance of the Persian Empire or the erroneous hermeneutics of the Spanish Inquisition. Still, this does not mean that pastors cannot teach historical theology in the church for the good of the Kingdom. Here are some practical tips that I employ as content filters:
- Is it Relevant?
While an amusing anecdote can be fun and informative, the amount of time you have to disciple your congregation is limited. Using the minutes wisely and effectively demands any teaching on historical theology needs to be relevant to the Biblical teaching you are doing. Does a story offer background that supports the focus of the message and theological theme of the passage? Does it tell us how believers of the past have understood this same text? If so, it just might make the cut! Otherwise, beware of letting your latest research hobby wreak eisegetical havoc on the weekly sermon. Continue reading “3 Filters for Teaching Historical Theology in the Church”