September 23, 2014
When I was in seminary I would often tune into the Liberty University convocations as well as the Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary convocations. (There's a difference. Liberty is the undergraduate school which also includes a number of secular-type masters and doctorate degrees and LBTS is a seminary with masters and doctorate degrees of a biblical, theological, or spiritual nature.) There were some memorable sermons, but one in particular changed my entire approach to seminary, ministry, and even life.
God used the following sermon by Francis Chan
in November of 2011 to really get inside my soul:
Jump ahead to September 2014. I am serving in full-time ministry as well as planting a church
. Ironically, I'm teaching a preaching class
for the Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary CLD program in an effort to improve my ability to preach. I selected some sermons that we're viewing and critiquing as a group. Chan's sermon at Liberty was one of them.
In preparation for the class, I watched the sermon again with the critique form in mind. Based on the form, Chan's sermon doesn't cover all the 'correct' bases; but then, neither would Piper, Chandler, DeYoung, or even Billy Graham's sermons. (My certainly don't and I'm starting to feel okay with that.) This should probably cause us to re-think the seminary and 'textbook' approach to building sermons with an effort to keep the Holy Spirit at the forefront of our mind as well as an understanding that God uses different preachers how God will use different preachers.
When I watched the Chan sermon a second time, it really didn't strike the same chord like it did when I first heard it. I wondered what effect the sermon might have on the class, especially as they would be viewing it with the form in front of them. I started to wonder if I was losing the passion I had in seminary after seeing the sermon the first time. Had a few years of ministry and a handful hard critiques from others snuffed out the fire? What happened?
But then I watched the Chan sermon a third time in the class, without the form. Again, God used this sermon to dig inside my soul. I felt fired up once more. Again, I have this passion to "look like a guy who walked out of the Bible, not the Bible Belt," as Chan says.
Francis Chan's passion is moving. It should liberate preachers who get a little fired up. His excitement to preach and his joy doing it reminded me how blessed I am to have the opportunity to serve the Lord. I'm blessed to have the opportunity to preaching God's Word, even if my style and approach doesn't stack up against the textbooks or professors or pastors who do it differently. And I hope I can love Jesus and his Word and let that overflow out of me all over the place, even in my preaching.
A guy once challenged me about what the sermon is and what it's for. He saw the sermon like the breakfast meal--it's something you need regularly but it's not something that is really life changing in a single moment. His argument was that it's sermon after sermon after sermon over many years that brings about change. And this is true for some, but certainly God can use a single sermon to speak and move a person. And maybe you'll hear this sermon and it won't speak to you at all. But for me, at two different times, God has used this sermon to speak to me in ways I pray are life changing. (It's unlikely that you'll ever see this Francis, that's for faithfully preaching the message God gave you to preach and to it with passion.)
Soli Deo gloria!