October 30, 2007

Missouri Baptist Convention (II)

Mark Dever was the second speaker of the morning. For those who don't know Mark Dever, he is the pastor of Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington DC. He wrote 9 Marks Of A Healthy Church and has been responsible for the creation of 9 Marks ministries

Dever started out by clearly stating what his whole sermon would be about:

If you're going to be God centered – that means you need to be Bible centered. And being God-centered doesn't mean giving your people what you think God tells you but rather giving them what God has given to us, namely the revelation of Himself through His word.

And in typical Dever fashion, he then went on to speak for forty minutes on the centrality of expositional preaching. He certainly showed some animosity toward para-church programs and publishers with this little zinger:

People always ask me what we are doing at Capitol Hill to grow our church. And I always tell them that we use the Jesus program. Now the Jesus program may not be very popular because nobody at Wheaton, Nashville, or anywhere else makes money off of the Jesus program. But that's what we use.

He then went on to challenge the current normative thinking that we need to focus on how to best engage the culture by arguing that it is not the degree to which we understand the culture that will make us successful, but rather the degree to which we are different from it. He argued that the quality of a church's life together is what will set us apart. He argued that the current generational deception is that figuring out the culture is the way to reach the world. Rather, he argued that the best way for us to reach the world is for them to see the Spirit's fruit lived out in the life of the congregation.

He then moved into completely disintegrating pastoral faith in statistics and judging success based on statistics. He basically argued that he who lives by the numbers will also die by the number but rather faithfulness should be the mark of success. Once again he took a swipe at the para-church business market by saying:

They are nothing more than economic interests that want to sell us stuff. We're an ideal market for folks to tell us that we'll have a successful church if we use their products. That's not true. What's true is what is in Scripture. By preaching the word. Telling them about sin. Grace shown us in Christ. Share the Gospel. We must preach the truth of God's word to God's people. That is how we will have a healthy successful church.

He then went to champion expositional preaching which he defined as:

Sermons which expound the text. Sermons that take the point of the passage, and make that the point of your message, and then apply into the life. EP is not to have your own novel thoughts about the point of the passage. It asks what is the point of the passage. It asks how you bring that point alive. It asks how that applies to their life. It is not tied to style or personality. It is not necessarily verse by verse. It could be an entire chapter. It could be and entire book. But the point of the passage is the point of your message.

He then made a great point about a distinction of preaching:

You are not called to preach. You are called to preach God's word. The minute you get away from that, you are just talking. You stop preaching God's word, your commission is gone. The truth you're talking about needs to be the truth of Scripture. Joyce Meyer can quote the Bible, but not say what the Bible is saying.

He then went on to talk a little about topical preaching:

Topical preaching will slant us toward saying what we want to say. The main point of text will not be main point of sermon. Topical preachers might lead people to be Catholics – where they depend on the preacher and not on the book.

Now I don't care who you are. Those are strong words. But if you think about it long enough, you'll discover he's right. Dever then went on to share his thoughts on pastors' and the length of service most of them have at churches:

Get rid of your bag of tricks, grab your Bible, and stay at your church. I'm not saying it's wrong to leave a church, but the faithfulness I'm talking about seems absurd and too slow. Or your view of ministry may be wrong. You may need to make a commitment to shepherding God's people.

He finished up with several things, but I think the most important was just some general advice on preaching:

Give people an idea of where the text falls in the Biblical storyline. Don't treat the Bible as a Chinese fortune cookie. Tell people how the text fits in the entire story otherwise a lot of the Bible will look and sound silly. And also, you need to have the Gospel in every sermon. Try to address non-believers and the way they are thinking in your sermons. Remember that the point is not to show your mastery of homiletical technique or to make your congregation the most learned. The point is share God's word with God's people.That's why you have a pastor and not a video feed. They see your life and they can imitate you. They know you and you know them. It's in that context that he has gifted you to apply God's word to those individuals. Also remember that the Gospel is not just individual but communal and has applications for your church as well as the individual.

Overall, a very strong address and a typical Dever message. Solid, to the point, and applicable. There are some things here that I'll pick through later, but you'll get the gist.

1 comment:

Chad S said...

Topical preaching will slant us toward saying what we want to say.

Being human will slant us toward saying what we want to say.