Monday, August 17, 2009
Revisiting the 2007 Shepherd's Conference
Today, I am resurrecting a post originally made on Monday, March 19, 2007, a few days after the conclusion of the Shepherd's Conference in California. The keynote speaker for this particular session was Dr. Steven Lawson, dealing with the need for a return to apostolic-type preaching in the church. My post is based on notes taken during the message.
In his excellent address, Dr. Lawson shared how there was once "thunder" as expositors preached from the Word of God. He sees two dangers going on today. First, there has been a wholesale devaluation of preaching in the church. Rather than solid exposition of God’s Word and biblical theology, we have entertainment and theatrics. The second danger is that preaching can be doctrinally or biblically correct, yet lifeless. A lecture with precision, but without power. Light without heat. Dead preaching toward dead sinners. And that danger can be even more subtle. It ranks up there with a congregation (and pastor) who believe yet have become listless.
Steve pointed out that there are 19 sermons or defenses in the book of Acts. Twenty-five percent of them are devoted to recording apostolic preaching. How important it is – apostolic expository preaching, and bringing back the thunder! There are four marks of it:
1. Bold, authoritative preaching
When you examine Peter’s first sermon in Acts, it mentions that he “took his stand” with the other apostles. Look at the Greek interpretation of “taking stand.” Each word shows the manner of Peter’s sermon. You need to show that you really believe what you are preaching, demanding to be heard. (Dr. Lawson was quick to point out that this didn’t necessarily mean screaming) Preachers need to quit hedging and saying that Scripture “seems” to say something. What does God say it IS? (Sola’s aside – that is certainly anathema to the Emergent Church. They don’t like authoritative anything. It’s not conversational)
Dr. Lawson went on to encourage the pastors to “stand firm, act like men, be strong!” He said there are too many pastors out there who are tripping over their pantyhose, beaten down by the feminization of the church and of society. He cited the late Dr. Adrian Rogers who said, “No one wants to kill preachers anymore.”
2. Text-driven preaching
It’s the authority of Scripture of which we are preaching and upholding. Being expositors. Examine anew how the New Testament writers cite Old Testament Scripture repeatedly. Peter, James, the Lord Jesus, Paul etc. In the Old Testament, look at how Ezra handled the long-neglected Word of God. Exposition begins with reading the Word, recognizing that it is God Himself who is speaking through it.
The final two marks are Christ centered preaching and heart piercing preaching, but for time's sake I (Solameanie) must abridge. The need to center on Christ ought to be a given, and the piercing of the heart is done by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Dr. Lawson then went into the practice of exposition itself, again looking at Peter’s sermon. Acts 2:21 speaks of how “all who call on the name of the Lord will be saved.” It’s the result of Scripture being proclaimed. After Scripture is read, explain it. That is the meaning of exposition. In verse 22, Peter begins to explain and he points right back to Christ. You consider the context, the language, the meaning to the original hearers. Communicating the Gospel and preaching with precision. Leaving NO room for any misunderstanding. You support your text by cross references. Peter shows us a pattern, and shows the counsel of God has clarity and authority. (Sola’s aside - Yes, my postmodern friends..CLARITY AND AUTHORITY) Verse 27 shows an intertrinitarian conversation. A good expositor will then follow up by expressing his own conviction forcefully. He will synthesize the text, boiling it down and driving home the bottom line conclusion.
Dr. Lawson concluded by adding a fifth mark- that of application. It’s vital and is the crescendo of the sermon, given in the imperative voice. Verse 37 of Acts 2 asks the question, “What shall we do?” Preaching must be directional for both the sinner and the saint. “This is what God requires of you.”
As I wrap up this series of posts, let me say again how much I enjoyed my time among these fine pastors and Bible scholars. And a big thank-you in the Lord to Dr. John MacArthur and the congregation of Grace Community Church. I trust more than 3,500 pastors, teachers, and layleaders went home as blessed and encouraged as I did. And remember, be sure to visit the Shepherd's Conference website, where you can actually get CDs or MP3s of all messages given there.