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Preaching Conference: Day One Highlights

Gordon-Conwell’s National Preaching Conference kicked off yesterday at their South Hamilton campus. It was loaded with heavy hitters. As I sat down, I watched two giants in their field approach my row. We have our own “celebrities” like any academic field, but ours speak and teach about the truest reality of life, God. To my right sat Walter Kaiser Jr., a giant in the world of the Old Testament (Oh and by the way, the chapel we were sitting in was named after him, no big). On my left sat a man who helped found the new Presbyterian denomination (The ECO), Jim Singleton. I remember Jim from preaching Christmas Eve services at First Presbyterian Church of Colorado Springs when my wife and I would travel to her folks for the holidays. That man can preach. And here was little old me, ready to take notes and soak in the teaching on preaching that was about to begin. This was a Homiletics students’ dream.

Session One began with Kevin DeYoung who blogs over at The Gospel Coalition and pastors in Michigan. He preached to us about our shame and about the overwhelming shame God experienced in Jesus’ humiliation. Here are some gems from my notes:

“Mark does not want us interested in the pain of the cross, instead he draws our attention to the shame of the cross. He wants us to see how Jesus is reviled and despised!”

“What is the point of this passage? If it was pity, he would have described the physical torture of the cross to make us feel sorry for Him. Mark does not want us to feel sorry for Jesus. Too many people in our churches feel sorry for Him and mistake that for worship, it is not worship. This story shows us that Jesus is sufficient to bear our sin and our shame.”

“He sustained the embarassment and ridicule that we should face for our sins! We deserve shame, but because of Jesus we need not feel it. All the shame that we should get has been taken upon Jesus Himself, the cross was the fulfillment of divine justice for you and for me. The good news of the Gospel is Jesus paid it all!”

Session Two began with the one and only Haddon Robinson, whose text on preaching has forever shaped my understanding of what goes into a sermon. Robinson gave us “Seven Dangerous Assumptions Preachers Make About Their Listeners.” Here are a few from my notes:

“When you start speaking, the audience starts listening. Distraction carries over. Sometimes we need to work to get them to listen. A good speaker realizes he has a few seconds to hook the listener. TV shows go after your attention in the first 20 seconds. You have to make your beginning seconds count in the introduction, grab their attention. Start with an interesting statement and work to their need, surface their need. Do it with a story and you have really won. The first minutes of the message are essential. You are not only introducing your message, but yourself. You have to win them to get them to listen.”

“Listeners stop listening when you finish talking. It sounds logical, but it’s not reality. People stop listening any time they feel like stopping. People can think five times faster than the preacher can speak. Good transitions are key, it tells people where you have been, where you are now, and anticipates the future, it reviews, states and previews. Work on transitions, they are tough to work on because they seem boring, but do it. Also use as much variety as you can, keep your message clear.”

“If you explain things clearly people will know what to do with it now that you have taught them. They may or they may not. Good conclusions are specific and deal with the how and why. How do I put it into practice? We need to address this clearly and specifically. People have a hard time applying generalities, easier with a specific step. People need to know the preacher is taking it seriously enough to invite them to do something.”

Workshop One began with Stephen Um from City Life Church in Boston. Stephen spoke on Gospel Centered Preaching, looking primarily at the topic through different themes that have continuity between the Old Testament and the New (i.e. resolution, story completion, etc.). It was a brilliant display of seeing all of Scripture in continuity, all of Scripture looking towards the reality of Jesus Christ’s fulfillment of it all. Here’s a few quotes from my notes:

“A category to preach in this manner is those things that are RESOLVED in Christ. Only Jesus resolves redemptive themes. In the OT the plot thickens, there are unreconcilable tension within the plot that is unsolvable until Christ comes. The theme in any good story is not resolved at the beginning, but at the end. Here are two broad themes RESOLVED in Christ (i.e. examples): Kingdom/Kingship. The theme of God’s sovereign rule as the monarch is all throughout the OT. The freedom and glory of God’s kingdom is lost when Adam sins. Jesus resolves this loss and redeems it! The only person who can resolve this is God himself. The OT speaks often of a messianic ruler who will come. Kingdom is a major theme. It is not fulfilled until Jesus. The tension introduced in the OT is resolved in the NT through Jesus.”

“Only Christ can fulfill symbols. The blood of the OT sacrifices point to the blood of Christ in the NT. When water bursts forth from the rock we relate that to references of Jesus speaking about being the living water, “I am the living water.” We have the temple in the OT and Jesus is the new temple, he is the perfect temple, that tabernacles among us.”

Today we have a full day as well. Look to the blog tomorrow for today’s highlights.

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