By Pastor Isaac Stuart
I had the privilege of attending a Simeon Trust workshop this past November in Youngstown, Ohio. I had never heard about the Charles Simeon Trust until Dan Stegeman told me about this workshop on expository preaching last summer. I believe whole heartedly in expository preaching for two reasons. First, it combats the Biblical illiteracy problem we have in the American church. Secondly, along the same lines, it addresses the bad theology that is prevalent in the church as well (i.e. the thinking that “God helps those who helps themselves” and much more). Expository preaching helps people understand the Bible and helps build their thinking and their lives upon God’s Word. I found the Simeon Trust workshop helped equip me even more as a young expositor.
In the teaching times, I was reminded of some very important tools that help in expository preaching. In one of these tools, called the “melodic line,” you look at your passage of Scripture from the perspective of the whole book. Another important reminder was how the entire Bible points to Jesus and the Gospel and how I need to think about how the passage, no matter where it is located, points to Jesus. But the biggest thing I took away from this workshop was during the small group times, where we looked at a particular book of the Bible and applied the principles we learned to that book. In Youngstown, we looked at the book of Judges. As we worked through different passages in that book, I came to a new appreciation for the book of Judges and I saw how a pastor would be able to preach through some of the harder sections of Scripture.
If I had to sum up the Simeon Trust workshop in a few words, I would echo what one of the leaders called these workshops, “A preaching tune-up.” Just as our cars need a tune-up to run well, we as pastors need a tune-up in our preaching to make sure that we are effectively communicating the entire Gospel of Jesus Christ. In order to do this, we need to make sure that we are not adding to Scripture or taking away from Scripture, but that we are holding to Scripture and allowing God to work through His Word to change people’s lives. I would encourage you to consider going to a Simeon Trust workshop. You will not be disappointed and you will be reminded of the great task we have as pastors to faithfully teach God’s Word to those God has entrusted to our care.
Hard to believe, but I’ve been blogging for about 4 and a half years. Way back in March of 2009 I started up and it’s been an interesting journey. There have been a few times where I was ready to quit but I kept at it and looking back I am glad I did. To my surprise the readership of this blog continues to grow and I now have a database of over 400 articles that I often find myself referencing for ministry purposes. Anyway, here are a few thoughts on my journey in blogging.
- It’s fun. I enjoy organizing and recording my thoughts with the hope of stimulating good, Christian thought. Douglas Wilson said that the reason he blogs is to make the thoughts in his head go away and I can relate to that.
- It’s challenging. There are millions of blogs and websites and we only have so much time to spend surfing the net. We also live in a sound bite culture where our attention spans have shortened and if you are a writer, you only have so much time to grab the reader and convince them this is something worth spending a few minutes on. It’s also a challenge to be clear and concise. I don’t want to waste your time but I also have to make my case. There is also the knowledge that as soon as I hit “publish,” what I have written is suddenly “out there” on the world-wide-web and I want to be sure that I really meant what I said.
- It’s ironic that I’m blogging because I don’t consider myself a “techy” kind of guy. I do love to write, but my wife is much more technologically inclined than I am (by the way, she has been super-helpful to me in this and I need to give credit where credit is due – thanks Honey!). Also, wordpress.com is easy to use and operate which is a blessing.
- I want to keep this blog gospel-centered. If Jesus Christ (Philippians 1:21) and His Church (Matthew 16:18) is not the focus, then I am only wasting my time and your time.
- I realize that a blog called “Standing for the Truth” may not be the first choice for a child of post-modernity. I grew up in a generation that does not like to think in terms of “objective truth” or anything that makes claims on our lives. But as I read and study the scriptures, it is clear that we must take a stand for gospel truth (Ephesians 6:10-18).
- Blogging is only supplemental to my role as husband, father and pastor. Going hardcore has been a temptation for me in the past. I could try to post something everyday, but I have come to realize this is not my primary calling. Ministry and family come first and I really only have an hour or two each week that I can devote to the blog. At the same time, what I write is an overflow of my life and ministry. Often what ends up on the blog was originally sermon content or a discussion in one of our Bible studies.
Thanks for stopping by the blog – whether you are first time visitor or have followed for some time now. I trust that what you have read has been encouraging and challenging and that God has been glorified through it all.
“Pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ, on account of which I am in prison.” (Colossians 4:3)
Every Christian is surrounded by non-Christians. Whether it is next-door neighbors, co-workers, relatives, or friends, there are people in your life who are not following Jesus. Unfortunately, there are many professing Christians who are unconcerned about this reality. They are not burdened that people around them live without hope and have not embraced the gospel of Jesus Christ. We would do well to look at the evangelistic example of Paul and his heart for the lost.
As you will note from the verse quoted above, evangelism starts with prayer. The apostle, as much as anyone, knew the power of prayer in converting the lost. As skilled as he was in apologetics (check out Acts 17), Paul’s evangelism strategy was not limited to persuasion and strength of argument. Above all, he relied on the power of prayer. We too must pray for the lost souls around us. If you don’t see results immediately, please don’t give up. I have been praying for a friend of mine for over a decade and I believe that one day God will save him. But we MUST persist in prayer.
When we are consistently praying for the lost souls around us, it goes without saying that we will also be looking for opportunities to “share” the gospel. Part of our prayer will be that God would give us the opportunity to share the gospel. That is exactly what Paul requested from the Colossian believers – an open door to declare Christ. Friend, don’t be afraid to pray that prayer, just make sure you’re ready when God brings the opportunity your way (1 Peter 3:15).
I do understand that evangelism is not easy. If it was easy, Paul would not have ended up in prison. But we must realize that temporary suffering is well worth the price. Remember that we not only have the greatest, most glorious news in the world (the gospel of Jesus Christ), but also the most powerful vehicle on earth (the Holy Spirit of God) to spread that news. I want to encourage you to keep praying for your lost friends and then watch how God works and uses you in the process.
When we think of evangelism often what comes to mind is a particular technique or method to share the gospel with those around us. These methods tend to come and go, with some enduring longer than others. I like the method found in John 9 with the blind man. He simply said, “I was blind, now I see” (John 9:25). Few would argue with the effectiveness of a person sharing how Christ has changed their life. When Christ makes a “new creation” out of someone, it speaks volumes to a watching world.
There is another important aspect, which doesn’t seem to get much press these days. I am speaking of the words of Jesus in John 13:35. “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” This verse is not talking about evangelistic method or apologetics (defending the faith). Rather, it has to do with the example we set in the Body of Christ. What Jesus is saying is that the way we relate to one another as Christians really does matter. J Mack Stiles puts it this way: “biblical love, practically applied in the church, is the greatest image of the gospel we offer the world.” Mark Dever adds to that in saying, “God intends to display his glory through the local church today, as Christians live together in patience, forgiveness, justice, mercy and love. We reflect God’s own character by the character of our congregation’s life.”
I believe that we need to be intentional and creative in our evangelistic endeavors. All around us there are people who are searching for hope, purpose, and joy in life. It’s only through the saving work of Christ that they will find that. But we must not forget (especially in our individualistic society) that God created the church for a reason. The Body of Christ is to reflect Christ, as we love one another. Love, one to another offers a compelling witness to the world. Conversely, a lack of love has the opposite effect. We’ve all heard people say they would never become a Christian because so and so is such a lousy witness.
What about you? Have you committed yourself to a local congregation? I realize that not all people will agree with me on this, but church membership is important – very important. More than anything, it shows that you are committed to loving your brothers and sisters in the Lord. When you take this step, it will go a long way in making you an effective witness for Jesus.