Why You Should Attend a Simeon Trust Workshop on Biblical Exposition

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.

What the Word of God Does

When the Word of God is faithfully proclaimed, good things happen. The Bible tells us, “so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it” (Isaiah 55:11). So what are some of those Divine purposes?

  1. The Word Saves:

“So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ” (Romans 10:17). Ultimately, it is God who saves sinners, but the means in which He uses is the preached Word.

  1. The Word Sanctifies:

“Sanctify them in your truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. And for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth” (John 17:17-18).

  1. The Word Supplies:

“All Scripture is breathed out by God and is profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17). We could also say, the Word is sufficient. As we go into the world as ministers and ambassadors of Jesus Christ, the Word is sufficient to supply our every need.

  1. The Word Separates:

“For the Word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and spirit, of joints and marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12).” When the message of the cross is faithfully proclaimed, it doesn’t allow us to sit on the fence. It doesn’t allow us to be neutral. No, it is sharp – it is so sharp that when it pokes it forces you to go one of two ways. Either you accept and embrace it’s message, or you reject it.

“The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever.” Isaiah 40:8

The Pastor and Study

In three separate spots around my office, I have Nehemiah 6:3 posted: “And I sent messengers to them, saying, I am doing a great work and I cannot come down. Why should the work stop while I leave it and come down to you?” Why post such a verse, you ask? Well, it is a reminder to me that the work I do as a pastor, primarily prayer and the Word (Acts 6:4), is a great work not to be neglected. That doesn’t mean I neglect other things like spending time with people, but it is a reminder of my primary calling as a pastor.

 

I have another verse posted, 2 Timothy 2:15, right next to the Nehemiah verse. “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.” As a pastor, I will be the first to admit that teaching and preaching God’s word is hard work. Without putting forth the needed time and effort, I will soon find myself “handling the word of truth” in a careless manner and in way that is not edifying to my hearers. This verse reminds me that I am accountable to God and have a responsibility to teach sound doctrine (Titus 1:9).

 

I have yet to post this one in my office, but another verse that serves as a helpful reminder is Ezra 7:10. “For Ezra had set his heart to study the Law of the Lord, and to do it and to teach his statutes and rules in Israel.” Ezra is a model for pastors in that he first set his heart to study, then to do it (apply what he learned to his own life), and finally to teach it (to the people under his charge). As Alistair Begg and Derek Prime put it, “The key to success in study is that we always study with a view to our own obedience first. A trap that Satan regularly tries to set is for us so to concentrate upon others’ obedience to God that we neglect our own obedience. Whatever we study in the Scriptures – even though we inevitably have our preaching to others in view – we must first relate to ourselves, and practice. Then we may teach other what we ourselves are striving to obey.” (On Being a Pastor – p. 103)

 

The pastor who has not done his homework, so to speak, will starve the sheep and disqualify himself from leadership. The faithful pastor, on the other hand, is a reservoir of truth, constantly feeding those who hunger and thirst for the manna of God’s Word. If you are a pastor, I trust you see the importance of diligent and prayerful study in ministry. As pastors and local church leaders, we have been entrusted with the gospel (1 Thessalonians 2:4) and this is a high calling indeed. One day we will give an account to God as to how we fed and nourished God’s flock under our care (Hebrews 13:17). God help us to be faithful in this charge.

The Minister as a Shining Light

Jonathan Edwards:

A minister is set to be a light to men’s souls, by teaching, or doctrine. And if he be a shining light in this respect, the light of his doctrine must be bright and full; it must be pure without mixtures of darkness; and therefore he must be sound in the faith, not one that is of a reprobate mind; in doctrine he must show uncorruptness; otherwise his light will be darkness. He must not lead his people into errors, but teach them the truth only, guiding their feet into the way of peace, and leading them in the right ways of the Lord.

He must be one that is able to teach, not one that is raw, ignorant or unlearned, and but little versed in the things that he is to teach others; not a novice, or one that is unskillful in the word of righteousness; he must be one that is well studied in divinity, well acquainted with the written Word of God, mighty in the Scriptures, and able to instruct and convince gainsayers.

And in order to be a “shining light,” he must be one that really knows what religion is, one that is truly acquainted with that Savior and way of salvation, that he is to teach to others, that he may “speak the things that he knows, and testify the things that he has seen” [John 3:11], and not be a blind leader of the blind. He must be one that is acquainted with experimental religion, and not ignorant of the inward operations of the Spirit of God, nor of Satan’s devices; able to guide souls under their particular difficulties. Thus he must be a scribe well instructed in things that pertain to the kingdom of God; one that “brings forth out of his treasures things new and old” [Matthew 13:52].

And in order to his being a “shining light,” his doctrine must be full, he must not only be able to teach, but apt to teach, ready to instruct the ignorant, and them that are out of the way, and diligent in teaching, in public and private; and careful and faithful to declare the whole counsel of God, and not to keep back anything that may be profitable to his hearers. Also his being a “shining light” implies that his instructions are clear and plain, accommodated to the capacity of his hearers, and tending to convey light to their understandings.

Adapted from an ordination sermon Edwards preached on August 30, 1744. The sermon is called The True Excellency of a Minister of the Gospel.

What People Believe About Hell

According to a recent poll (June 6, 2013), “56 percent of Americans surveyed believe in the devil, 53 percent believe in hell and 43 percent believe in hell as “a place of suffering and punishment where people go after they die”. Some might think these numbers are low, but it is quite remarkable that more people believe in hell than don’t believe in hell. The only explanation for this is Christianity’s influence on the culture. The other side of the coin is as follows: “An equal amount of respondents (38 percent) believe that people who commit violent criminal acts go to hell as well as those who don’t ask God’s forgiveness for their sins before they die. Greater than 61 percent of respondents believe they’re going to heaven, while only 1.5 percent believe they will go to hell.” So while most people believe in hell, almost nobody (1.5 percent) thinks they are going there. Of course this doesn’t surprise us. If a person has a notion of heaven and hell, chances are they believe they are going to heaven.

In short, Christian’s have been successful in helping people see that hell is real, but unsuccessful in helping people see that apart from Christ, they are headed there. Back in the day, hellfire and brimstone preachers made a name for themselves by focusing on God’s judgment. In my estimation, most preachers today focus on God’s love with little or even no mention of God’s judgment. The Bible speaks of both and if we are going to be faithful to our calling as preachers, we must preach the “whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:27). Jesus spoke more about hell than everyone else in the Bible combined and did not shy away from speaking about the consequences for those who reject God’s gracious offer of salvation. So whether we are preaching, doing personal evangelism, or counseling a friend, let’s not shy away from speaking the truth about God, and the consequences of rejecting Christ.

Twitter, Social Media, and True Influence

I have always been a late adaptor when it comes to technology and social media. For example, I waited several years before joining Facebook. When I finally joined back in 2009, one of my college friends joked, “Welcome to 2006, Dan!” Well, after several years of holding out, I finally decided to give another social media sensation a try – Twitter. Someone invited me to join so I thought why not give it a try? Long story short, I closed my Twitter account after only 1 week and 6 “tweets”.

I was surprised by all the random people who signed up to follow my account. Why did these people want to follow me? As I looked into their accounts, I noticed that many of them were following thousands of other people. Sure, they had thousands of followers themselves, but I found it curious that they were following so many people on Twitter. Obviously, they weren’t truly “following” them, which means it was more about self-promotion than anything. “I’ll sign up to follow you, and then you sign up to follow me, ok?” That’s the kind of game they were playing.

To be sure, not everyone on Twitter is like this. I’m sure that some people use Twitter for noble purposes. It certainly doesn’t encourage sustained critical thought (a maximum of 140 characters per tweet), but for some, it is a useful tool for sharing information and I am not necessarily suggesting you close your Twitter account. However, as the digital age continues to transform our society and particularly, how we communicate, there are few things we need to keep in mind as Christians.

First, be careful not to let the technology rule you. Social media can be a great time waster. I remember reading a blog post by a Christian leader announcing that he had just reached 20000 tweets. It doesn’t take long to produce a tweet (or Facebook post), but I can’t help but think this guy wasted a lot of time on his way to 20,000 tweets. Although you might think the world needs to know what you had for lunch, the truth is, no one really cares, regardless of how many followers or friends you have. Be careful not to let social media (or anything) take you away from what is most important.

Second, measuring one’s influence by the number of Twitter followers, or Facebook friends, or blog hits-per-day is not a good measuring stick. Stats and numbers can be very seductive and we must not fall into the trap of equating them with influence. Most of the time, we never really know how God used a particular post. There are times where people comment and join the conversation, but most of the time, the best thing we can do is surrender our work over to God and say – use this (whatever it may be).

Third, our influence is often best realized in one to one relationships. For example, two people studying the Word of God together can be flat out powerful (check out Acts 8:30-35)! In the Gospels, we see how Jesus modeled this with the disciples. If anyone ever had the ability to draw a crowd, it was Jesus. On occasion Jesus did preach to the masses, but his main focus was investing in the Twelve, and to a lesser extent, the 72 (Luke 10:1). For Christian leaders today, there is the temptation to focus more your social media network than on discipling a few people in your church. As you crunch the numbers, there is a very simple reason we are inclined to think this way. I can reach hundreds with a blog post (for some of you thousands), while I can only reach 2 or 3 or 4 in one-to-one discipleship. So which is a better stewardship of my time? Well actually, unless you are John Piper or Albert Mohler, the best use of your time will be in one-to-one discipling and in focusing on your weekly preaching and teaching responsibilities. As the maxim goes, we have to have a big enough vision to think small.

Fourth, find time to get away from the computer and social media and all the distractions the world offers. As a late adaptor, you probably won’t be surprised to learn that I don’t yet have a mobile device like an iphone or an android. I just have a plain old cell phone and it serves me well. However, I still struggle to pull myself away from the computer at times. If you have a curious mind, the internet can be a serious distraction and it can have the effect of tuning out the voice of Jesus in your life. Don’t rely upon the internet or social media for your information feed. Instead, develop a rich devotional life with daily time for just you and God, without the distractions of the outside world.

Fifth, if you are going to tell the world something via social media, blogging, or some other form of media, make sure it is something worth saying. There is a lot of information floating around in cyberspace and if you are going to add to it, make sure it’s edifying. Every once in a while, our church has a testimony time and sometimes I encourage our people to follow the ABC’s of sharing. It should be Audible, Brief, and Christ-centered. I think this fits for our discussion here. No point in wasting your time or someone else’s either. And if it’s not Christ-centered, then it’s really not that important.

I quit “tweeting”, but I haven’t given up on blogging (obviously), Facebook (at least yet), or of utilizing of our modern communication mediums. If you are a pastor, my advice is to focus on the things that Pastors have always focused on – prayer, the Word, and on training up the next generation of leaders (2 Timothy 2:2). By all means, use modern technology to accomplish that, just make sure you are not “used” by the technology.

The Word Reverberates

Jonathan Leeman:

 

The ministry of the Word indeed begins in the pulpit, but then it must continue through the life of the church as members echo God’s Word back and forth to one another. The word reverberates, as in an echo chamber. In a real echo chamber, sound reverberates off walls. In the church, it’s the hearts of people that both absorb and project the sounds of His effectual Word.

 

As Tim Lane explains: “The ministry of the Word doesn’t stop with the preaching; it continues throughout the church. The discipling ministry, the children’s ministry, the youth ministry, the missions work, the worship ministry, the friendships and families – all of this operates on the same page by being Word oriented and Christ centered. Elders and deacons are taking the Word into their work. Parents are learning to bring the gospel into how they train their kids. Husbands and wives are thinking about the centrality of the gospel as they relate to one another. And the list goes on and on.”

 

Hearing Tim’s words, I couldn’t help but think of reverberating words. Picture it this way. The evangelist or the preacher opens his mouth and utters a word, God’s Word. But the Word doesn’t just sound once. It echoes or reverberates. It reverberates through the church’s music and prayers. It reverberates through the conversations between elders and members, members and guests, older Christians and younger ones. God’s words bounce around the life of the church, like the metal ball in a pinball machine.

 

But the reverberating words shouldn’t stop there. The church building doors should open and God’s words should echo out the doors, down the street, and into the members’ homes and workplaces. The reverberations of sound that began in the pulpit should eventually be bouncing off the walls in dining rooms, kitchens, and children’s bedrooms; off gymnasium walls, cubicle dividers, and the inside of city bus windows; through emails, text messages, and internet pages.

 

Copied from pages 24-25 of Jonathan Leeman’s new book Reverberation: How God’s Word Brings Light, Freedom, and Action to His People.