John MacArthur’s Practical Advice on Your First Years of Pastoral Ministry

9Marks and Mark Dever recently did a conference called, “The First Five Years” instructing and encouraging pastors on their first years in a new pastorate or church. I was really blessed by it though I missed Thabiti’s message. His is the only one not posted! Here’s what John MacArthur would have said there since he said it this past Tuesday at The Master’s Seminary Chapel.

  1. Be humble
  2. Love your wife and your kids
  3. Be extremely patient
  4. Don’t change anything
  5. Don’t be a hurry to stick leaders in there
  6. Teach the Word of God faithfully with conviction
  7. Pull around you the strongest men and any others that want to be there and accelerate their learning of the Word of God and sound doctrine
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I used 6 commentaries on James for my study and teaching. This one was easily the best one.

This is the best English commentary on James I’ve read. (I only read English commentaries). I preached 20 expository sermons on James to my local church in 2012. I used commentaries by Doug Moo (Pillar and TNTC), Alec Moyter (BST), Blomberg/Kammel (ZECNT), and Varner’s smaller discourse analysis volume. This Evangelical Exegetical Commentary (EEC) is the best of all I used. Some of those commentaries listed above were good at exegesis and historical background. Varner’s EEC volume was better and more thorough. Others listed were good on theological discussion. Varner’s was better here as well. He doesn’t avoid hard questions and yet manages to not get so bogged down in secondary discussions that you lose sight of the text your considering. Moyter’s was the best in application, but Varner’s was almost as good and better than all the others. If you can only have one English commentary to aid your study of God’s Word to preach or teach it, use Varner’s EEC volume. If you will use more than one, make sure this one is one of those you use or you’ll certainly miss key insights to the book.

I can’t speak highly enough about the commentary. I’ve been challenged and fed by the book of James. Varner helped me appreciate James’ place in the church and the place of his letter in the canon in a way no other commentary has.

PJ Tibayan
Pastor, First Southern Baptist Church
Bellflower, Los Angeles County, CA

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The SBJT Forum: Profiles of Expository Preaching

Is it genuinely important to use the biblical languages in preaching, espe- cially since there are many excellent commentaries and pastors will never attain the expertise of scholars? (Scott Hafemann answers)

Does the knowledge of church history aid the pastor in his weekly task of sermon preparation? (Timothy George answers)

What role, if any, should systematic theology play in preaching? (Carl Henry answers)

Is it important for preachers to be acquainted with the culture in which they live, or is it sufficient to preach the message of the biblical text?

What do you consider to be the essential elements of an expository sermon? (D. A. Carson answers)

Read the journal article here.

Posted in Biblical Languages, church history, Current Events, D. A. Carson, preaching, Systematic Theology | Leave a comment

Enriching Your Preaching through Theological Reflection – Don Carson

Enriching Your Preaching through Theological Reflection: It’s kind of broken up and there seems to be missing sections. He did 4 full lectures on it at Gordon Conwell Seminary and I bought them, but can’t post them publicly since they are for sale there. I posted the notes of his lectures here as well.

  1. Preaching and Biblical Theology (notes)
  2. Preaching and Systematic Theology (part 1 | part 2 | part 3) (notes)
  3. Preaching and Historical Theology (part 1 | part 2) (notes)
  4. Preaching and Pastoral Theology (notes)
Posted in Audio/Video Recommendations, Biblical Theology, D. A. Carson, Historical Theology, Pastoral ministry, preaching, Systematic Theology | Leave a comment

Preaching and Pastoral Theology – Don Carson

Preaching and Pastoral Theology. See whole series of “Enriching your Preaching through Theological Reflection“)

Pastoral theology – a perspective on all theological reflection that towers constantly over the entire discussion, it focuses constantly on the applicability of the word of God to the people of God. (It should not be thought of as a separate discipline)

How should pastoral theology shape our preaching? 10 exhortations.

  1. Cultivate compassion. The sermon is never to be an end in itself.
  2. Cultivate an understanding people and their needs in biblical categories.
  3. Cultivate a knowledge of the diversity of people in your church – e.g. William Perkins in The Art of Prophesying; don’t make all your illustrations from your family and stage of life.
  4. Cultivate a prepared mind and heart for the turning point in people’s lives. Marriages, births, dating and singleness, diseases, crises, deaths.
  5. Cultivate a rapid, automatic, and reflexive turn to Jesus. This will keep you from secularism and psychological analysis that never gets to Jesus Christ and the cross. Secularism doesn’t eliminate biblical truth, it just seeks to put it to the periphery.
  6. Cultivate connections between lofty thoughts of God and profound understanding of doctrine and people. Think and care for people.
  7. Cultivate the ability to weep with those who weep and rejoice with those rejoice.
  8. Cultivate prudential wisdom that refuses to give too much time to bottomless pit parishioners. They are a badge of honor in the church of the living God. But you are not to empty your life into them. Don’t do it. You are called to feed the flock of God. That means study, reflection, meditation, disciplined prayer. You can give them so much time but no more. Pit the members with the gift of handholding with bottomless pit members.
  9. Cultivate a healthy independence from your congregation. As a preacher, you must fear God and fear no other. This enables you to say what Go wants you to say.
  10. Cultivate your own maturation. Your progress should be demonstrable.



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Preaching and Systematic Theology – Don Carson

Preaching and Systematic Theology (part 1 | part 2 | part 3). See whole series of “Enriching your Preaching through Theological Reflection“)

First he recommends some books.

  1. A. Carson on Graeme Goldsworthy: [For those beginning in the Biblical theology discipline Carson recommended the Goldsworthy Trilogy] “In my view, he pushes biblical theology sometimes in heavy handed ways that don’t quite work. So I have some question marks over it. But for those who have never done any biblical theology at all then he opens your eyes to seeing things that you might not see. For people who have done quite a lot of biblical theology give Goldsworthy a miss. For people who are just starting out then he’s a good resource to start priming the pump.”

ST tends to ask and answer atemporal questions as opposed to BT.

Two major headings –

I. Characteristics of ST to bear in mind in preaching

  1. At its best ST synthesizes the whole. It authorizes comprehensive, integrative thinking. It does such because it recognizes there is finally one mind behind the whole bible. The assumption is unity behind all the different diversities in Scripture. There must be some coherence. This is why ST in liberal seminaries is some form of historical theology. That’s why for the preacher he must ask how does my understanding of this text cohere with the wholeness of the revelation of God in all of Scripture. You have to do some kind of integration in your mind. Your hearers should begin to ask these questions when hearing preaching if they are theologically shaped
  2. ST is less sensitive than BT to corpus distinctions but it is more passionate about constructing the whole and it must never be despised by BT specialists (10:50). Some may say, “Paul says this and Luke says this…” but at some point you have to ask, “What does God say?”
  3. Ironically, ST is more likely to be culturally located, culturally dependent, than BT. This needs unpacking. No theology of any sort is culturally independent. You cannot speak independently of culture and language because it is part of finitude. BT is more immediately inductive with the text than ST since it asks what the text contributes to the corpus and canon. ST focuses on the big picture and thus tends to be one step further removed from the kinds of BT questions an interpreter asks. This is especially so because ST pulls strands together from across the biblical data and seeks to frame things in a fashion that addresses this generation. Precisely because it is addressing this generation, it is shaped in part by the agendas of this generation. ST in Africa may address more exorcism and demonic activity while we may address idolatry and consumerism. ST in the first 5 centuries did not address postmodernism. We address the issues of our generation with the whole of what the bible says first on the Bible’s own terms (BT). The implications of this for the preacher is that we do need to know something of our own setting, our own context.
  4. The best ST is constructive ST. That is, it’s not just a record of past syntheses which is closer to HT, but it’s actually trying to put things together for yourself. It should be in light of HT, but at the end of the day, in the light of exegesis, BT, and HT, you are putting together an ST. Everyone is a systematic theologian, whether they like it or not. We are all systematicians. We may not be good ones. Recognize that ST is an integrative discipline under one mind of God from the whole Bible to apply it to the whole people of God and we are faithful to address our generation. This means we have a mindset in our preaching that thinks beyond the section, paragraph, or chapter we are expounding. This is what enables it to stand behind the best of apologetics (Keller on idolatry, for example).
  5. The best ST forces us to think hierarchically about theology. The Bible doesn’t say all truths are equally important (i.e. 1 Cor 15). Your people learn what you are most passionate about and what is functionally central to your teaching. They don’t learn everything you teach.
  6. ST should be grounded in and integrated with BT.
  7. ST lends itself to worldview formation. There is bitty Christian thinking. Thinking atomistically and not how a cohesive system should structure our values and how we look at the world, art, marriage, culture, how we spend our time and money. It ties together everything shaping how we interact with everything in this world. It’s worldview formation. If we think merely eclectically we will remain immature. It’s a way of thinking systemically about the revelation of God as we interact with the world.

 II. Some practical points for the preacher

  1. Take time to read systematic theology regularly. Set time aside. Read Grudem. Read Horton. Have them in your regular diet of reading.
  2. Recognize that the old principle of appeal to the analogy of faith is essentially a systematic principle, and then cherish it. The reason is that although anything in ST should be challengeable by Scripture, because somebody might have gotten the analogy of faith wrong, yet when you’re talking about massive structures of truth that Christians through the generations have held and you think you can turn it over on one proof text, is not very likely.
  3. Remember to preach the Bible, not ST. Yet, often commit yourself to tying your preaching of the Bible to ST.
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Preaching and Biblical Theology – Don Carson

Preaching and Biblical Theology (mp3). See whole series of “Enriching your Preaching through Theological Reflection“)

Define Biblical Theology

  1. Preaching with biblical theology helps address biblical illiteracy. No family devotions.
  2. It draws attention to the turning points in redemptive history
  3. It enriches systematic bible reading and is enriched by it (and this prepares the way for mature preaching)
  4. It encourages various kinds of integration and diversities (priorities) in preaching.
    1. Genesis 39 – temptation, interpreting dreams, chapter begins and ends the same way, the ultimate good is not freedom from slavery but knowing and trusting God, because Joseph saved his fam the Messiah came.
  5. BT fosters inductive rigor in preaching biblical books and corpora.
    1. One of our problems in preaching is that we sometimes read our ST categories back into our bible reading (e.g. “call of God,” “sanctification”)
    2. Build up on sequential grounds certain themes (e.g. “rest,” “land,” “people,”
  6. BT not only keeps in mind the turning point but keeps an eye for the inner-canonical tendons/trajectories that tie all of Scripture together.

Notes from the Via Emmaus blog post on a similar lecture at a different venue:

1. Biblical Theology directly addresses massive biblical illiteracy now prevalent in many of our hearers.  Preachers who only preach small portions of Scripture, who take “six years to preach through Matthew,” do a disservice to their congregations and deprive them of large swathes of Scripture. BT preaching contends against biblical illiteracy.

2. Biblical Theology considers the major turning points in the Bible, not just the raw chronological story. Preaching that highlights the covenants, the exodus, the exile, the incarnation, the resurrection, and the cross help disciples of Christ understand his story and theirs.  This is not the same thing as mere bible story telling, like in Telling God’s Story (Vang and Carter, 2006), which simply retells the bible in survey fashion.  It is rather a forward-moving, eschatological narrative that has twists, turns, all pointing to Christ.

3. Biblical Theology enriches and encourages systematic Bible reading and is in turn enriched by those who faithfully read their Bible’s. More than just reading the Bible for an emotional pick-me-up, congregants who see redemptive storyline in Scripture will delight in reading the OT narratives, the minor prophets, and Levitical codes with greater anticipation and understanding.  They become more accessible when they are put in biblical-theological context.  To illustrate this point, Carson expounded Genesis 39 and the biblical theological ramifications of the Joseph narrative with Potiphar’s wife.  More than just an admonition to avoid sexual immorality, lust, and tempting situations (though it does affirm all of those); it shows how Joseph’s sexual purity preserved the people of Israel and advanced the kingdom of God.  Consider this quote: Humanly speaking, you and I are Christians today, saved by the blood of the lamb, because Joseph kept his zipper up!!!  This perspective is reinforced and elucidated by BT.

4. Biblical Theology demands inductive rigor in preaching Biblical books and corpora.  DAC argues that preachers must do more than systematically analyze biblical data.  In doing so, God’s progressive revelation is minimized, time and space are blurred.  Rather BT preachers must ask in every passage:  What time is it?   How does this passage fit in the biblical narrative?  On what antecedent revelation/theology is the author grounding?  And concerning biblical language, how does this particular author use his language?  Different authors at different times mean different things by their words, and so it is vital to understand the language in context.

5. Biblical Theology not only keeps historical-canonical-covenantal turning points in mind, but it also keeps inner-canonical tendons/connections tied together in Scripture, and these ineluctably point to Jesus Christ. Carson alluded to about twenty explicit themes that run through Scripture and move the storyline framework along.  Some of these he listed were: covenant, temple, sonship, marriage, to name a few.  He cited a profitable exercise of going to Revelation 21-22, listing all of the themes and images in the two chapters and then tracing them out throughout the rest of the Bible.  This is an assignment he gives incoming students at TEDS, and it is surely something that would be beneficial to any reader of the Scriptures, for Revelation 21-22 sum up all things in the Scriptures.  William Dumbrell’s book The End of the Beginning does this very well, as does GK Beale’s The Temple and the Church’s Mission.

6. Finally, Biblical Theology helps avoid anachronism in your preaching by developing biblically warranted inter-connections. 

7. There was a seventh point in there somewhere, but I missed it.  I encourage you to listen for yourself, pick out the seventh point, and see how God would have you apply biblical theology to your preaching.

A few other resources that DA Carson names to better grasp these issues are The Unfolding Mystery by Edmund Clowney, (I would add Preaching and Biblical Theology by Clowney), Graeme Goldworthy’s Trilogy, and Bryan Chapell’s Christ-Centered Preaching (cf. Him We Proclaim by Dennis Johnson and Preaching Christ from the Old Testament by Sidney Greidanus).

May we who preach the Bible, preach the whole counsel of God, and point all of our hearers to Jesus Christ through the inspired language of Old Testament prophets and New Testament apostles.

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