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Category Archives: Him We Proclaim

More Him We Proclaim Resources

For those of you interested in Dennis Johnson’s new book Him We Proclaim, I’ve got a few more new resources you’re gonna want to listen to and read!

For starters, the White Horse Inn recently interviewed Dennis Johnson. In about 1/2 an hour you can get a the skinny on this pretty fat book. My buddy Dave let me know about this…To think I’ve been living like a pauper when all along I already had this interview podcast in my ITunes! Crazy! You can download the interview here.

Next and last, Colin Adams of Discerning Reader recently gave a very helpful overview and review of Him We Proclaim. Whether you’ve started reading the book or not, it will help you climb this worthy mountain of a book.

 
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Posted by on July 14, 2007 in Him We Proclaim

 

Him We Proclaim 3.2

Let’s wrap up the Paul’s theology of preaching.

5. The price we pay: “suffering …Christ’s afflictions…toil, struggling.”

Someone once said the Greek word for “pastor” is “toilet.” Somedays it feels like that! Paul himself said we are the scum of the earth, the dregs of all things. But to be honest, when I feel this way it usually has little to do with the actual proclamation and defense of Jesus as Lord, as Savior. It usually has to do with my weakness as a leader or my inability to meet someone’s expectations. What Paul has in mind in Colossians 1, though, is a visible, physical representation of Jesus on earth today. As preachers we are entrusted with the most profound responsibility: to speak for God, as Jesus would. Yet like Jesus, we too will suffer. In fact everyone who desire to live like Jesus will suffer, just as he did. If Jesus suffered in life and death for trusting in and proclaiming the word, the message of God who are we to think we’re off the hook?

“Apostolic preaching is no nine-to-five job at which employees put in the required hours and then leave workplace worries behind at day’s end, paychecks in hand, to pursue their ‘real lives.’ To be entrusted with the treasure of God’s gospel is not a responsibility that can be switched ‘off’ and ‘on’ at will.” (p. 86)

” Paul, however, awakens us from fantasyland [that people always shower preachers with admiration, respect, and appreciation] and introduces us to the real world: those who would practice apostolic preaching must be prepared for both toil and suffering.” (p. 90)

If you’re thinking of becoming a pastor, read Paul’s “job description” in his 2nd letter to the Corinthians (11:23-33) first.

6. The power on which we rely: “all his energy…within me.”

Cool PowerPoint/Media Shout presentations, Swindoll’s Tale of the Tardy Oxcart, mimicking Mark Driscoll, studying 20hrs/week, buying sermons online…none of these things will ensure effective preaching. This is not to say that we should abandon creativity, relevant communication, and diligent study. “Apostolic preaching puts no premium on obscurity, disorganization, or indifference to the hearer’s level of understanding.” (p. 91) But there is something more vital to preaching than homiletical strategy: prayerful dependence. Paul was keenly aware that his ministry effectiveness was dependent upon God’s power working in and through him. Read his prayers, pray his prayers, live his prayers: Eph. 1:15-19; 3:14-19; Col. 1:9-12.

“Preachers like Paul, who realize their own desperate need and the Spirit’s almighty power, will saturate their ministry of the Word with prayer—for their hearers, themselves, and each other—and will urgently seek the support of others’ prayers.” (p. 92)

7. The office we fulfill: “minister according to the stewardship from God.”

We are stewards, not kings. In the Return of the King, Tolkien graphically portrays the abuse that comes when one forgets his office. Denethor, though just a steward of Gondor, acted as though he were king, and pride clouded his reason, obscured his responsibilities, and fueled his despair. When the time came for him to relinquish the throne for the true King, his trust in his own will was so great that he would not acknowledge the true heir. Anyway…read the book.

In a similar way, Paul says “we are stewards of the great King. Don’t forget it!”

“Having been entrusted with his Master’s richest treasure, ‘the mysteries of God’ (the gospel once hidden but now revealed), and having been charged to use it for the Master’s purposes, Paul the steward is answerable for the conduct of his trusteeship when the Master ‘audits the books.'” (p. 94)

“The preacher speaks in God’s name, and he does so not only as one who will some day give an account for his handling of the divine Word (2 Tim. 2:15) but also as one who stands today in the very presence of the God whose word he proclaims.” (p. 95)

Discussion Questions:

  1. Prayer is one of the most tangible ways that we can minister (esp. preaching) in the strength God supplies. What are some other ways that we can be reminded of and empowered by God’s strength?
  2. How do you maintain a prayerful dependence upon God in your preaching? What are some of your disciplines?
  3. Preaching=Suffering. How has weekly preaching opened your eyes that ministry is not a day at Disneyland?
  4. How does the gospel give you hope in carrying out the humanly-impossible task of preaching?

 

Him We Proclaim 3.1

Preaching Christ is preaching grace. They’re virtually synonyms. You can’t have one without the other.

Last time, we identified 7 interwoven themes that together form an “apostolic theology of preaching.” Now let’s look at the first four of them a little more in depth.

1. The purpose we pursue: “to present everyone mature in Christ.”

THE purpose…THE foundation… THE non-negotiable…of preaching is to be God’s mouthpiece in his “Creation Project”:

“Through preaching Christ Paul seeks to recreate people into the image of God, so they enjoy God’s presence in unashamed purity, serve his will in unreserved love, express God’s justice and mercy in relationships with each other.” (p. 66)

Notice, Johnson’s and Paul’s emphasis is in on “people”, community rather than individuals. Ours is the day of “me and Jesus” rather than “us and Jesus” so we need to let this sink in. The important themes of “maturity”, “the body of Christ”, and being “in Christ” point to the fact that God is not rescuing individuals willy-nilly, but is gathering a redeemed community that will live and love like Jesus on earth right now. And it is this community that mirrors in its interrelationships with each other a reflection of the image of the Holy Community, the Triune God himself. And it is preaching that God has ordained as a means of making this happen.

“The same gospel that initially called us to faith is the means that perfects us in faith…..The same gospel, faithfully preached, accomplishes both evangelism leading to conversion and edification leading to sanctification—both individual and corporate renewal together.” (p. 68, 69)

2. The listeners we address: “to make known…among the Gentiles.”

Apostolic preaching, new covenant preaching is by default missiological preaching. Why? Because God is calling men, women, and children from every nation to abandon their life-bleeding idols and to turn to His life-giving Son, Jesus.

“When God does the diagnosis through his whole Word, he pierces through the surface symptoms all the way to the heart, with the radical cure of God’s holy truth exposing our infection in all its ugliness and applying Christ’s amazing grace in all its sweetness and strength.” (p. 71)

The purpose in preaching is to announce to peoples everywhere that reign of the Redeeming-Creator, Jesus, has begun and that there is no nation, people group, or culture that is exempt from his rule or redemption. The message of our preaching is not tied down to a particular language or geography. Apostolic preachers are missional preachers.

3. The content we preach: “Him we proclaim.”

“How can contemporary preachers preach ‘nothing but Christ’ and at the same time preach the whole Bible as it addresses the whole spectrum of spiritual and ethical issues that confront our readers?” (p. 75)

In other words how can the simple notion of “preaching Jesus” possibly be enough? How can “Jesus” be the answer to all of life’s questions, fears, frustrations, pursuits and joys? Is this just preacher talk? I don’t think so. Have you ever noticed how much Jesus-talk Paul goes through when he talks to his Christian friends, when he prays for them, when he tells them how to do money, how to do sex, how to do parenting, how do singleness, how to do career, how to do entertainment, how to do conversation,…how to do life? He always calls his friends to orient/re-orient their life to the reality of how God has changed the world through Jesus. Paul demands that they live every aspect of their life in view of the actual death and resurrection of Jesus and the new creation that dawned because of it.

So here are the essentials of “preaching Jesus”:

Christ reveals God the Creator with a fullness and clarity unmatched by any other mode of revelation. The goal, or perfection/maturity that God has for his creation is out on public display in Jesus.

Christ’s supremacy is clearly seen in his role as the reconciler of God’s people. Jesus is the only cure for the lethal sickness of sin and death.

Preaching Christ is preaching the fulfillment of God’s redemptive plan for history. We’ll never make sense of the OT unless we understand how pointed to and is fulfilled in Jesus. We’ll never figure out what it means to follow Jesus unless we believe that he is the hinge-point of history.

4. The communication tasks we perform: “warning and teaching…with all wisdom.”

“Preaching not only informs the mind but also employs truth to appeal to emotions and to challenge the will to respond in ways appropriate to the truth revealed in the gospel.” (p. 85)

That’s a lot to expect out of preaching, out of preacher! But that about sums it up (cf. 1 Timothy 3:16). That’s why the 4 approaches in chapter 2 are not all wrong. The first three are just over simplified, emphasizing one aspect over another. Apostolic preaching is dynamic communication.

Well, that’s it for now; we’ll tackle 5-7 on “Him We Prolcaim 3.2.”

Discussion Questions:

  1. If the purpose of preaching is ‘maturity in Christ’, what does this maturity look like? How do we measure it?
  2. How does viewing our preaching as missional clarify the purpose, content and communication methods of our preaching?
  3. Is there really an insurmountable chasm between “preaching Jesus” and preaching to “felt needs“? Shouldn’t “preaching Jesus, and him crucified” address felt needs?

 

Him We Proclaim 3.O

Last time we asked something along the lines of “What is effective preaching?” We saw several different approaches, each having significant and biblical strengths. But we never got down to the real question, “What is the effect that preaching is supposed to have?” That’s what we’re after in our review of chapter 3 of Him We Proclaim.

He starts off by saying,

“We cannot evaluate our strengths and weaknesses in preaching, nor our progress in strengthening strengths and minimizing weaknesses unless we know what preaching is supposed to do, what purpose it is to accomplish.” (p. 63)

So the author sets off on the lofty goal of answering what “preaching is supposed to do” by exploring the Apostle Paul’s theology of preaching from a paragraph of his letter to the Colossian Christians. (This where the title of the book comes from too!)

We proclaim Him, admonishing every man and teaching every man with all wisdom, so that we may present every man complete in Christ. For this purpose also I labor, striving according to His power, which mightily works within me.
Colossians 1:28-29

From this text and its surrounding paragraph, Johnson detects 7 interwoven themes that undergirded the Apostle’s preaching and should undergird ours as well.

They are…

  1. The purpose we pursue: “to present everyone mature in Christ.”
  2. The listeners we address: “to make known…among the Gentiles.”
  3. The content we preach: “Him we proclaim.”
  4. The communication tasks we perform: “warning and teaching…with all wisdom.”
  5. The price we pay: “suffering …Christ’s afflictions…toil, struggling.”
  6. The power on which we rely: “all his energy…within me.”
  7. The office we fulfill: “minister according to the stewardship from God.”

This chapter is worth reading, re-reading, and re-reading again. What I love most about it is that our friend doesn’t just pull this stuff out of the air, but right from the man himself, the apostle Paul. And he doesn’t even have to pull together a bunch of Paul’s random thoughts from all of his letters. He piggybacks off of Paul’s reflection on his own task as a preacher.

Next time, well take a look at these 7 themes of “apostolic theology of preaching.”

Discussion Questions:

  1. What other passages would you go to form a ‘biblical theology of preaching’?
  2. What effects should our preaching have: on us, on our listeners? In other words, what should preaching do?
  3. How would you state (in one sentence) the purpose of preaching?

 

Him We Proclaim Reading Schedule

Just to make your life a little easier, I’m posting the reading schedule that we’re following this summer. Don’t forget! You can simplify your reading avoid browsing the whole blog simply by clicking on the label “Him We Proclaim” either in the post or on the right hand column under “Labels”. This will give you access to all of the “Him We Proclaim” posts.

Here we go…

June 10

Chapter 1: Introduction: Preaching Like Peter and Paul, p. 1

Tim Keller’s “Centrality of the Gospel”

June 17

Part 1: The Case for Apostolic, Christocentric Preaching

Chapter 2: Priorities and Polarities in Preaching, p. 25

June 24

Chapter 3: Paul’s Theology of Preaching, p. 62

July 1

Chapter 4: The Complication, Chastening, Rejection, and Recovery of Apostolic Preaching in the History of the Church, p. 9

July 8

Chapter 5: Challenges to Apostolic Preaching, p. 126

July 15

Part 2: The Practice of Apostolic, Christocentric Preaching

Chapter 6: The Epistle to the Hebrews as an Apostolic Preaching Paradigm, p. 167

July 22

Chapter 7: Theological Foundations of Apostolic Preaching, p. 198

July 29

Chapter 8: Preaching Christ, Head of the New Creation and Mediator of the New Covenant, p. 239

August 5

Chapter 9: Preaching the Promises: Apostolic Preaching of Old Testament Literary Genres, p. 272

August 12

Chapter 10: Preaching the Promise Keeper: Apostolic Preaching of New Testament Literary Genres, p. 331

August 19

Appendix A: From Text to Sermon 397

Appendix B: Sample Sermons in the Trajectory of Apostolic, Christ-Centered Preaching 409

August 26

Wrapping things up!

 

Him We Proclaim 2.0

Who are your favorite preachers?

What do you consider good preaching?

What makes a “good” preacher?

When does a preacher “cross the line” from preaching to teaching? From sermon to lecture?

What does a “biblical” preacher look like?

Ok…that’s enough. Even if you answered these questions with a concordance in your hand there is a boatload of subjectivity laced throughout your answers. My answers. Now, I’ve only been in supported ministry for a cumulative 6 years, but it seems to me that if you’ve got a church of about 150 people you’ve got at least 200 opinions when it comes to “this is the way a preacher should preach.”

That’s the reality we have to have in mind as we read Johnson’s second chapter of Him We Proclaim. It’s called “Priorities and Polarities in Preaching” (pp. 25-61) for good reason. If there’s one area a pastor can be tempted relentlessly to cower to the idol called “Fear of Man” or “Foolishly Trying to Meet Everyone’s Expectations” it’s the area of preaching. Thankfully, Johnson gives some good advice for us to navigate the fluctuating opinions of preaching.

“Because human nature is prone to oversimplification and imbalance, differences of opinion on priorities to be pursued in preaching easily degenerate into polarization.” (p. 27)

Of course I’ve opened up a can of worms, and neither this chapter , or my post, will answer all of the questions about what makes good, biblical preaching. Instead, we’re gonna talk about purpose.

Our author identifies three general purposes of preaching are 1. To convert, 2. To edify, and 3. To instruct. Since you have the book (or could buy the book and read along with us) I won’t reiterate the chapter. But essentially, Johnson summarizes (at length) the strengths and weaknesses of these three preaching purposes. The 30 pages are well worth reading and will help you work through some very practical issues: felt needs, evangelism vs. edification, theological jargon, value redemptive-historical, the indicative and the imperative, etc.

Then in the last 10 pages, he recommends another purpose. It’s really a hybrid of the three (especially #3) and is what the book contends for. He dubs it a very cumbersome, yet meaningful title: “Evangelistic, Edificatory Redemptive-Historical Preaching.”Even if you don’t read the footnotes (which you should in this case), you’ll notice right away his interaction with/reliance upon Tim Keller. In fact if you’ve heard Tim Keller preach, then you’ve got an inkling of what Johnson is proposing. He defines this kind of preaching like this:

“Preaching must be Christ-centered, must interpret biblical texts in their redemptive-historical contexts, must aim for change, must proclaim the doctrinal center of the Reformation (grace alone, faith alone, Christ alone, God’s glory alone) with passion and personal application, and must speak in a language that connects with the unchurched in our culture, shattering their stereotypes of Christianity and bringing them face to face with Christ, who meets sinner’s real needs—felt and unfelt.” (p. 54)

Keller gives props to his mentor Edmund Clowney and sees his method right in line with Clowney’s redemptive-historical approach. He just kicks it up a notch. Here are some foundational characteristics of this “gospel changes everything” kind of preaching.

  1. Biblical Theology, Biblical Theology, Biblical Theology! If that term doesn’t mean anything to you, if it doesn’t cause your heart to skip an exegetical beat, then you need to repent and get saved…or at least read up a little bit more. Johnson gives a summary that’ll do for now: “It emphasizes the unity of the history of redemption—the enactment of God’s plan for the rescue, reconciliation, and re-creation of his people, climaxing in the person, obedience, sacrifice, resurrection, and exaltation of Jesus Christ, and reaching consummation at his return in glory.” (pp.48-49) Biblical Theology (BT) is the discipline that traces all of the promises made in the OT to the promises kept in the NT (thank you, Mark Dever). One key result of BT is that we always see Jesus as the hero of every OT narrative: “The purpose of the Old Testament historical narrative is not to teach moral lessons, but to trace the work of God, the Savior of his people, whose redeeming presence among them reaches it’s climatic expression in Christ’s incarnation.” (p.51)
  2. Believers and unbelievers both need to hear the gospel in preaching. As Keller says, “the gospel is not just the A-B-C’s but the A to Z of Christianity.”
  3. The root of all sin and misery is idolatry. “Our idols are whatever (other than the triune God) we trust in to gain ‘salvation,’ however we define it—whatever we believe that we cannot live without.” (p. 57)
  4. Preachers and congregations must assume the presence of unbelievers in gathered worship and therefore not always speak in only Christianese. Rather than dumb down the gospel, though, the preacher should take apologetic sidebars that challenge non-Christians with the coherence of biblical truth and its superior ability to address the dilemmas of human life and thought.

Having read on, I’ll encourage you that Johnson does a good job explaining how we can preach like this, but for now let’s get to some discussion.

Discussion: (pick one and comment)

  1. How would you define biblical preaching? What’s it look like? What does “meaty” preaching look like?
  2. Do you think that preaching can be intelligible enough for unbelievers and still remain edifying for believers? Why/not?
  3. What are some challenges that you’ve faced in preaching in a redemptive-historical fashion?
  4. In what ways is Keller’s approach (“Evangelistic, Edificatory Redemptive-Historical Preaching”) different from seeker-sensitive preaching?
  5. Have you taught or preached the Bible (esp. the OT) in a moralistic way? How does biblical theology help us move away from that?
  6. How do you combat the “fear of man” and the tyranny of others’ expectations when it comes to preaching?

 

Him We Proclaim 1.0

So let’s talk about the first chapter of Dennis Johnson’s book, Him We Proclaim: Preaching Christ from all the Scriptures. Hopefully you’ve read it, but if not feel free to comment if you can help spark good dialogue!

Ch. 1 is an introduction, and like any good introduction the author sets the stage for the rest of the book. The book tries to answer the question “How can I preach like the apostles, like Peter and like Paul; how can I preach so that Christ is the hero of every passage, the hope for every need, and the promise for every command?” So Johnson gives the thesis/goal of the book:

“This book tries to answer that question, first by arguing in favor of reuniting insights and disciplines the apostles displayed in harmonious unity but that sadly have become disconnected since then. Then it suggests perspectives and strategies to help ordinary Christians discover their Savior throughout Scripture and to equip ordinary preachers to proclaim their Savior convincingly and powerfully from the diverse panorama of Scripture’s genres and eras.” (p. 2-3)

After setting this lofty goal, he goes on to briefly discuss some “tragic divorces” that have occurred that make it difficult and/or suspect for us to understand and teach the unity of Bible like the apostles did. So he calls for a re-uniting of three divorced “couples”:
we need to reunite…

Old Testament and New Testament,
apostolic doctrine and hermeneutics, &
biblical interpretation and biblical proclamation.

Addressing the the reuniting of OT and NT, Johnson says:

“One major theme, to which this book will return repeatedly, therefore, is the unity of the Old Testament and the New in the person and work of Jesus Christ and consequently, also in the community composed of believing Jews and Gentiles that his Spirit is now assembling.” (p. 9)

Pp. 10-12 address the debate of “Can we and should we imitate the apostles in the way that they understand, interpret, and teach Old Testament promise in light of the fulfillment in Jesus the Messiah?” John bluntly warns that he will persuade us that we if we believe the gospel that the apostles proclaimed then we too must proclaim the gospel in the same way.

The third reuniting involves biblical interpretation and proclamation. Seeing how I’m still thawing out from seminary, I found great encouragement in these words:

“Exegesis itself is impoverished when specialization and professional pressures in the academy inculcate into faculty and students a model of biblical interpretation that aborts the process short of application, depriving it of its sweetest fruits.” (p.13)

He further goes on to say,

“Application that does not emerge form the purpose for which God himself gave his Word, will in the end, lack credibility and power to motivate hearers who hunger for the truth and mercy that is found nowhere but in Jesus.(p. 14)

In the last section of ch. 1 we introduced to three descriptions of Apostolic Preaching: Redemptive-historical, Missiologically communicated, and grace-driven. One of the fears that is often raised when trying to preach like the apostles is “they were inspired by the Holy Spirit, so they could ‘read between the lines of the OT’ without error, but we cannot…so we should not.” To this charge Johnson responds,

“There is a distinctly apostolic way of being Christ-centered, and it is this hermeneutic that places appropriate checks on the preacher’s hyperactive imagination, thereby assuring listeners that the message is revealed by God, not merely generated by human activity.” (p. 16)

Finally ch. 1 ends with a survey of the rest of the book.

So…let’s talk about it now. Feel free to bring up other issues. This is just to get things rolling.

DISCUSSION

  1. What questions or concerns came to mind as you read ch. 1?
  2. In what ways do you find it difficult to trace the unity of the Scriptures?
  3. Re-read pp.16 (last paragraph)-18 (first paragraph). How helpful to you is the phrase “redemptive-historical”? This is going to be key.
  4. To what extent is the “promise-fulfillment pattern” of redemptive history on your radar screen when reading and teaching the Bible?