Month: September 2011

Announcing a New Southwestern Seminary Blog:

Southwestern Seminary has a new blog titled, Theological Matters.

Theological Matters provides opportunity for the faculty of all the schools of Southwestern to share reflections on theological topics. The goal of the blog is to serve the local church by addressing a wide range of theological issues including but not limited to worship, evangelism, women’s ministry and family ministry from the perspective of a seminary where research on such topics continually occurs. We hope every post will emphasize the Great Commission and encourage you to Preach the Word and Reach the World.

As examples, I would like to draw your attention to a few of the articles posted recently. You will find the first installment in a series on preaching by Dr. David Allen that provides most interesting insight into his call to preach. Additionally, you will be edified to read the first post in a nine-part series on learning humility through the study of church history by Dr. Jason Duesing. Let me invite you to watch for future articles by the faculty and to share this blog with anyone you know who may be interested.

Also, if you have topics that you would like to see addressed, please email me at with the topic and the professor that you would like to see address the issue. We may not be able to meet every request, but we will do as many as possible.

NAMB Evangelism Response Center Chat Button

Today I was notified by Beau Brewer about a new feature of the Evangelism Response Center operated by the North American Mission Board. All I had to do was copy the code and paste it into a widget for my sidebar. Within five minutes, I had a button to the right so that anyone who wants to know more about spiritual matters will have someone with whom they can speak. Sure, I love it when I get emails or Twitter messages, but this is just another way that a person can respond immediately to whatever God may be calling them to do.

This has encouraged me today in at least two ways. First, we have students at Southwestern Seminary looking for every possible way to get the Gospel to a lost world. Being notified of this button is just one example. We have training every Tuesday evening for people to answer phone calls for the Evangelism Response Center. Every week we have multiple students sending emails about someone else that they have led to the Lord. Professors have set times each week to go door to door with students in the area around the Seminary. Evangelism is the focus of our faculty, staff, and students. I am thrilled that we have such an evangelistic campus, and I am thankful to God for the opportunity to work with these students.

Second, I am excited that the North American Mission Board provides the Evangelism Response Center and this chat button. As I understand it, this was released just one week ago. I know that Kevin Ezell has had to make some tough choices and from my seat I might have made a few of those in different ways. However, currently serving in administration, I also know that outsiders looking in rarely have all the information that the people making the decisions have. I like Kevin Ezell, and more importantly, I think he wants to do what is right before the Lord. I am glad that he is making hard decisions to get NAMB where it needs to be, and I am thrilled about the continued efforts of the Evangelism Response Center. I think Dr. Ezell has a heart for the Gospel and for planting churches, which encourages me greatly.

10 Years Ago Today: Hope Rising from the Ashes

Grayish dust blanketed abandoned cars littering the streets. It took a minute before I realized that the owners of these cars had stepped into eternity, never coming back for such earthly possessions. In the evening shadows of the abnormal city skyline, a green patch of grass with luscious trees provided a respite for those compelled to be close to where the tragedy occurred. Many had nothing but questions, and several religions offered insufficient answers.

The Wiccans gathered on one corner of the park. Scientologists passed out tracts to those who entered the park. You could see that their answers did not satisfy.

We didn’t really know why we were there, but 10 years ago today, the tragedy of 9-11 compelled five seminary students to so something. We rented a van, loaded Bibles and tracts; drove eight hours that night; and slept in the van parked in an overnight parking lot. It’s not something I would recommend for my daughter, but the danger of sleeping in a van on the streets of New York didn’t bother us nearly as much as the desire to help the hurting compelled us.  We woke up the next morning and began ministering in any way we could find. We stood on the street corner praying for the workers. I will never forget a 6-foot, muscular man coming out crying uncontrollably at the enormity of the situation. Nothing can prepare you for this type of ministry, but God’s grace is sufficient. We listened and prayed with them. A few came to faith in Christ. As dusk descended, the crowds began to gather in the parks, and would you believe that only a few days after tragedy, we saw hope emerge.

As we sang, others would come to help us sing. Some knew the songs and others gathered out of curiosity. When a crowd of 15 to 20 would gather, one of us would preach. We touched on the question everyone wanted to know, “Why did this happen?” But more than the problem of evil, we focused on the problem of individual evil–the personal defiance of our creator; the sinful rebellion that dominates each of our hearts resulting in personal, tragic sin. The only freedom from such bondage is repentance of our sins and faith in Jesus Christ’s death for us on the cross. After each short sermon, we would give an invitation and break up to pray with those who responded.

Two came to faith in Christ, and others confessed sin after the first sermon. Excitement began to build in our group as we saw the glimmering hope of a brighter future overtake the darkness of hurting expressions. We sang with more fervor, and the crowds continued to assemble. Two or three songs would gather as big of a crowd as we could handle. I kept noticing what appeared to be the same faces standing in the back helping us sing. I don’t know who they were. Perhaps Christians who didn’t want to interrupt us by introducing themselves, or perhaps, we entertained angels unaware. Either way, God sent helpers for us that evening. What I know for sure is a trip that began out of a desire to do something in a time of tragedy resulted in many who found eternal hope in the midst of the earthly ashes. And whatever personal tragedy you may face, that same eternal hope still exists for you today.

Martial Arts and the Act of Preaching

In preparation for teaching “Introduction to Preaching,” I’ve been giving a lot of thought to whether the act of preaching is an art or a science. If preaching is a science, then, as the teacher, I need to convey information to the student. If preaching is an art, then I need to provide the students as much time as possible to practice the art.

My background in the Martial Arts helped me put a choke hold on this topic. Before moving to Seminary, I owned and operated several Karate Schools. In order to successfully teach a move, I used several teaching techniques. First, I would give them the information by explaining the technique. Second, I would show them how to perform the move properly. Third, I would watch them perform the technique and provide feedback to help them improve. Once they had the technique down, I would positively reinforce them with the appropriate level of praise for their efforts and move on to another skill.

The same philosophy applies to preaching. Preaching is not just a science. I knew a professor who had excellent knowledge in the area of preaching, but when standing in front of an audience, he simply couldn’t do it. I have known others with natural gifts to entertain and captivate audiences who lacked a proper understanding of what preaching should accomplish. They merely entertained the audience with moral presentations. Preaching requires both knowledge and practice–it is both art and science.

My class will spend the first half of the semester learning information and watching. The text book they read will convey information, the lecture will present similar material in a different way, and the class will watch preachers to see a good sermon modeled for them. In the second half of the semester, each student will put that knowledge into practice. While the student preaches in front of the class, I will sit in the booth recording feedback onto the DVD of his sermon so that when the student watches his work, he will have my comments on what he did well and on what needs improving.

In thinking through these matters, two further conclusions arose. First, no matter how good a Karate student became he still needed practice, and if he stopped practicing, his skills deteriorated. The same holds true for preachers. No matter how well we preach the word, we can improve. We improve not to add power to God’s Word but so that we do not put up unnecessary barriers, so that we communicate clearly, and so that we offer our sermon as an offering to the Lord. The eternal destinies of men and women hang in the balance so we must take every sermon we preach seriously.

Second, no matter how bad your first attempt was, keep working at it. I’m seen some pretty bad kicks in my day and some pretty uncoordinated students that developed into good Martial Artists. Perseverance and hard work can overcome many obstacles. You see it in sports all the time. The athlete with a little less natural ability but who has worked hard all the way through ends up successful while a more talented person coasts and never reaches his full potential. Natural ability certainly does help but most of us do not begin as incredibly gifted preachers. For us, hard work and practice will help us to improve so that we can clearly communicate God’s Word.

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