Sermon-Centric Worship

In his book, Gospel Wakefulness, Jared Wilson says this about the importance of preaching:

Are we tempted to think that the preaching in a worship gathering is of equal importance to or even less importance than music or other creative elements because for too long we have fed our churches a steady stream of good advice?

Everything in the worship service should be centered around the sermon. Nothing should be more important than the sermon. The sermon is where the Holy Spirit convicts, challenges, and changes the hearts of the listeners through God’s inspired Word.

In Gospel Wakefulness, Jared Wilson shares four reasons why preaching is the most important part of our worship services:

1. Preaching has ancient precedent. 

From the days of Moses delivering the Law through the prophetic era to the days of Jesus Christ and the apostles, the mode of bringing the Gospel to the gathering has been proclamational preaching. This is a direct approach, a reverent monologue, and it has been the way God’s message has been delivered to believers and non believers alike since the beginning of God’s community.

2. God’s Word is weightier than our words. This is why expository preaching is necessary in the church today. I think topical preaching has its place in the church, but expository preaching allows the Scripture to speak and drive the sermon rather than the preacher doing so. God’s Word is sufficient and has enough authority for the preacher to simply explain and share the text for God to work. Yes we need to use illustrations and applications, but God’s Word is powerful! In his book, 9 Marks of a Healthy Church, Mark Dever explains that the number one mark of a healthy church is expository preaching. If you go to my preaching page here on my blog you will see I do preach topical sermons sometimes, but I preach expository sermons the majority of the time. When we give more importance to music and creative elements in the church service than we do to preaching we show that we believe that stuff is more important than God’s Word.

3. Preaching is the designated means of Gospel communication. I firmly believe every Christian should share the Gospel verbally in their day-to-day life, but the Gospel is primarily shared through proclamation of God’s Word . That is why the Gospel should be in every sermon a preacher preaches. Romans 10:14 says:

How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching?

4. Sermon-Centric worship best reflects God-centeredness. When we come to worship God we offer Him our work, our voices, and our efforts. When we hear preaching from God’s Word we hear God speaking to us. We give God ourselves for His glory and He reveals Himself to us through preaching of the Word for His own glory as well.

I fear that many churches are putting more emphasis on other parts, and may I say good parts, of the worship service other than preaching. God has given me a huge desire to preach and I believe preaching is something we need to restore in many of our churches. Matt Chandler once said, “The pulpit drives the church.” I fear that many churches are being driven by emotion, creative worship services, music, and so much more other than preaching. This starts with the pastors. I urge you pastors, spend most of your time in the week studying God’s Word and preparing the message God has given you. Lead the way pastors, preach God’s Word faithfully and keep it central in your worship services.

I would highly recommend Jared Wilson’s book Gospel Wakefulness. It’s a book that will reignite a passion in your for the Gospel and will help you understand what it means to be fully awakened to the Gospel. Jared Wilson is a pastor and is known for his passion for Gospel-centered writing. Click here to buy a copy from Amazon for a great price!

Pastoral Internship Update

I am currently in my sixth week of my pastoral internship here at Weymouth Community Church. I intended to post an update weekly, but have been too busy to even try. Since this is my sixth week, I figured I’d give an update of the first five weeks.

The first week here I was able to go to Life Action Ministries headquarters in Michigan with the lead pastor, Dan Jarvis. Dan and a few others are leading a nationwide movement called “OneCry” that is supported by Life Action. This movement is a call for Christians across our nation to pray and seek God’s face for spiritual awakening across our country. I was able to go to the headquarters for a few days and meet with some people from across the country to discuss some of the details about this movement. It was a great time to meet other people and make some ministry connections. You can find out more about OneCry by going to their website.

Instead of continuing this update by going week by week I will share some of the opportunities and responsibility I have been given by the lead pastor. I am leading a teen guys Bible study on Wednesday nights. We are doing a study called “Habits” that walks through core spiritual “habits” that help you grow spiritually. So far it has been great and I have built good relationships with the guys. Also, I have been given the opportunity to preach many times and in many different venues. I got to preach once in retirement home and three times in the local jail. This past Sunday I preached for the first time in one of the Sunday morning services. I am preaching a few more times and once at the south campus in the next month. I have also been given the opportunity to oversee the churches missions bouquet. I have also been helping out at a ministry for students called “The Hangout.” Once of the local high schools here does not have busing so all the students hangout at the library across the street until they get picked up. Because the students were there and the library was getting kinda upset, some people started intentionally going there and hanging out with them. We have a room in the library were we provide food and games for the students so they can just hangout. Also, I have been meeting with the lead pastor weekly to go over church ministry stuff and questions my school require me to ask and report about. Along with that, I have been helping improve the media ministry of the church as well as helping the lead pastor with planning, vision, and leadership. This week I am starting to do some visiting to the shut-ins as well as praying for them. Overall, I have been extremely busy, but learning a lot! The church, and the pastor, have given me many opportunities to get practical experience and the Lord has been faithful to me and using me in many different ways.

As a side note, my school requires me to do a few projects during this internship. One of those was to read a few books. I read three books that I would recommend to anyone in anytime of church ministry: 9 Marks of a Healthy Church by Mark Dever, Simple Church by Thom Rainer and Eric Geiger, Humility by C.J. Mahaney. Please continue to pray for me as I have decided to stay here longer than my ten week requirement for school. I will stay a few extra weeks to gain more experience. I am also searching and praying for my first full-time ministry job so pray that the Lord will lead me to it and open and close doors.

Simple Church

Simple Church defines a “simple church” as a congregation designed around a straightforward and strategic process that moves people through the stages of spiritual growth. That is what this book is about. How to design a church that is truly simple that makes it easy to move people through a discipleship process. Simplicity is the key to a successful organization. Simple Church contains stories of popular companies such as Google, Apple, Southwest Airlines, and Papa John’s that know this truth; simplicity works. Not only do these companies know this, but also growing, vibrant churches do to! Simple Church tells us about two churches. One is simple and one is complex. One would assume the complex churches would be the growing vibrant church, but that is not so. The simple church is the one that is actually growing and is vibrant. The complex church is struggling and not seeing growth. In Simple Church the writers give four things that are essential to a simple church. Those four things are clarity, movement, alignment, and focus.

Clarity

Movement

Alignment

Focus

Instead of defining each of those and describing how they make up a “simple church” I will let you read the book and find out for yourself. One might be wondering if this “simple church” model actually works. The writers answer that question by providing three churches that are “simple” as examples that the simple church model actually does work. These three churches are Immanuel Baptist Church, Christ Fellowship, and Northpoint Community Church. These three churches are truly “simple churches” and are proof that a simple church model is both possible and effective.

I really enjoyed this book and would recommend it to anyone in church leadership, especially pastors. In the last chapter, the writers gives a call for churches to “change or die.” Too many church are dying because they are complex, busy, and not simple. Simple churches are not dying. It may be hard, but we need ti simplify our churches so we can see more spiritual growth.

Another great church ministry I just read is 9 Marks of a Healthy Church by Mark Dever. You can read my review of that book here. Next book on my list is Humility: True Greatness by C.J Mahaney. After I read it I will post a review here on my blog.

9 Marks of a Healthy Church

Part of my pastoral internship is to read 600 pages of collateral reading from various pastoral ministry books. The first book I choose to read was 9 Marks of a Healthy Church by Mark Dever. I have read and studied many of the “marks” in classes at PBC, but have never got to read the entire book until now.

In this book, Dever explains that there are nine marks that make a church a healthy church. He does not argue that these are the only marks of a healthy church, but these nine things are important, Biblical marks that should be present in every church. The following are the nine marks of a healthy church:

Expository Preaching

Biblical Theology

The Gospel

A Biblical Understanding of Conversion

A Biblical Understanding of Evangelism

A Biblical Understanding of Church Membership

Biblical Church Discipline

A Concern for Discipleship and Growth

Biblical Church Leadership

The “highlight” chapters for me was the chapter on expository preaching, church membership, church discipline, and leadership. I enjoyed the chapter on expository preaching because I believe expository preaching is the best way to preach God’s Word and Dever does a great job at explaining why a healthy church will have expository preaching. Believer grow and learn best when hearing systematic, expository preaching. The chapters on church membership and church discipline reminded me how important being part of a local church really is and once a member of the local church, the responsibility we have to live right and to make sure everyone in the church is living in a way that honors God and if not, church discipline needs to happen. In the last chapter on Biblical leadership, Dever explains the importance and quality of leaders the church needs. Also, Dever does a great job at explaining, from the Bible, why having plurality of elders is important. I know that there is a lot of debate between elder rule and having one pastor leading the church, but Dever does a great job at explaining what an elder is, why there should be plurality, and also the role of deacons.

I would suggest this book to anyone who is part of a local church. The health of the church is not just important to the leaders, but should be important to the believers that are a part of the church. Dever says, “the health of the church should be the concern of all Christians because it does involve the spiritual life of everyone who is a Christian and a member of a church.” I would highly recommend this book to anyone in church leadership, pastors, elder, deacons, student pastors, etc. Overall this was one of the best, not if the best, book I have read about church ministry.

Recommended resources on this subject: The official 9 Marks website, What is a Healthy Church Member by Thabiti M. Anyabwile