A Master Class in Inductive Preaching

There’s no question that Fred Craddock is one of the greatest orators on the American religious scene in the 20th century.

Putting aside doctrine and denomination, Craddock’s ability to weave a narrative is absolutely unrivaled. For preachers, this sermon is a master class in inductive preaching. In an interview with Ministry Magazine, Craddock argues in favor of inductive preaching, saying the inductive method “… means you leave your listeners in that pitiful box of having only two alter natives of agreeing or disagreeing with you. It is all your work. It is all packaged and delivered and that is it. So you get to say, “I agree with you,” or “I don’t agree with you.” But in inductive preaching, you unroll your idea in such a way that listeners have to work to get it themselves. I think it is a compliment to preaching when listeners don’t quite know whether they thought it themselves or got it from something the preacher said!”

In inductive preaching, the preacher asks one question and through rhetorical devices, narrative, and storytelling to lead listeners to a certain conclusion. Craddock does suggest that preachers who are new to induction begin with inductive methods and then conclude deductively, so that they don’t unintentionally lead people to the wrong conclusion. But this post isn’t to explain induction or doctrine or anything else. It’s merely to share an incredible example of inductive preaching done to perfection. You can see that below, from Dr. Craddock’s 1986 Mullins lecture at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

Martyn Lloyd-Jones on Modern Man

In this 1970 interview with Joan Bakewell, Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones discusses the problem with modern man. While much has changed in the 50 years since this interview, much of what he says is still incredibly relevant. Lloyd-Jones’s emphasis on the sinfulness of man allows him to speak into the anxieties and failures of modern man against the conceptions of the day that man was essentially good and in need of therapy, rather than essentially sinful and in need of redemption.

Lloyd-Jones says it best, “The business of Christianity, ultimately, is not simply to make us feel happier or even to make us live a happier life: It is to reconcile us to God” (6:10).

As an aside, it is somewhat funny to hear Lloyd-Jones say that people may think, “I have a refrigerator, I don’t need your Christ!” Times, and technology, sure have changed. But his gospel has not.

Washington, Shaken.

How did it come to this?

Like many Americans I watched horrified as the windows were busted out at the U.S. Capitol, and men and women stormed in to challenge the results of the 2020 election. I saw images I never thought I would: police injured on the steps of our nation’s government; news headlines of bombs at the RNC; men wearing horns, military tactical gear, and more standing in the ruined lobbies; congressmen and congresswomen hiding under chairs. We heard more horrible news: the Vice-President has been taken into Secret-Service protection; a woman has been shot and is now dead, as well as three others; sixty cops have sustained injuries, and two are critical; social media platforms have banned the President; a noose and gallows were erected on the far side of the capitol. The 25th Amendment? Another impeachment? Objections to the election?

Washington D.C. was shaken to its core.

Outside of Washington, the scene played out online: “It was a right wing insurrection!” “It was ANTIFA!” “It was Trump’s fault!” “It’s a conspiracy!” “The deep state is so deep it goes all the way up!” “You’re a liar!” “You are an idiot!” “Our relationship is over!” Those who have long been friendly neighbors now seems to share no love for one another, nor a common understanding of reality. Friendships have ended this week. Families have been broken. Pastors I know, already at their breaking point, have finally resigned. Our country is broken, and with it many of the communities, churches, and families that compose it.

Much can be said of the events of this week, and much will be said by men and women far more qualified than myself. I will leave the politics and analysis to them.1

As my eyes have been filled with images of rioting and destruction, I have returned again and again to thinking about a different city. Years ago, I was challenged by a pastor to memorize Psalm 46, and to meditate on it in times of crisis, grief, or when the world seems to be slipping out from under me.

Psalm 46 points us towards a city that is not like Washington, D.C. It is not submitted to the turmoil of political violence or rioting. It not not a city filled with violence. I want to post that full Psalm here, though that is not my normal practice. I think it needs to be read in full to have it’s full effect:

46 God is our refuge and strength,
    a very present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way,
    though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam,
    though the mountains tremble at its swelling. Selah

There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
    the holy habitation of the Most High.
God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved;
    God will help her when morning dawns.
The nations rage, the kingdoms totter;
    he utters his voice, the earth melts.
The Lord of hosts is with us;
    the God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah

Come, behold the works of the Lord,
    how he has brought desolations on the earth.
He makes wars cease to the end of the earth;
    he breaks the bow and shatters the spear;
    he burns the chariots with fire.
10 “Be still, and know that I am God.
    I will be exalted among the nations,
    I will be exalted in the earth!”
11 The Lord of hosts is with us;
    the God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah

Selah. Rest. Take a moment. Think on these words.

_______________________

I am reminded today that there is a city over which I will not grieve. There is a city which I will never look upon with sadness, distress, or with tears. This city of God will not be subject to the rotation of leaders who sit in the Oval Office. It is the holy habitation of the Most High. Immovable. Helped by God.

Who is this God that dwells in the unshakeable city? That is the wrong question. Who is this God who makes the city unshakeable? Who is this God who, by his very presence, ensures total peace? Who is the God whose voice melts the raging nations of the earth and makes wars cease to the ends of the earth?

It is the God of Jacob.

I find great assurance in that identifier. Jacob was a fool. He was a liar. He was a usurper. His story is not one of faithfulness, nor is it one of godliness. His children were not better, and sold their brother into slavery over a personality conflict. Simply put, Jacob is a sinner. Jacob is, like me, only a picture of God’s rich grace. If not for God’s grace, Jacob dies on a random plain in the Middle East and his line ends at the point of Esau’s sword and perhaps we never hear of him. But he did not die. His line did not end. The Lord, by his grace, kept unfaithful Jacob and used him for his own glory.

God’s purposes and God’s promises were bigger than Jacob. Today, we are reminded that God’s purposes and God’s promises are bigger than America, bigger than Donald Trump, bigger than Nancy Pelosi, and bigger than our fears, frustrations, or failures. The God who kept his promises to Jacob will keep his promises to you and me if we are in Christ. Those are not promises about a candidate in Washington, D.C., or even a future for our country. God’s promise is this: we will dwell with him in a city that cannot be shaken. God has provided something better for us, in Christ, than Jacob or the Psalmist every knew about (Heb. 11-12).

I want to do something. I want to say something clever. I want to be convincing about what I think we should do from here or where we should go; who is to blame and who has the best sense of how to fix it. In my own pride, I can believe that if we can do that, then maybe we can fix it. Maybe we can fix one another. Maybe we can fix ourselves. But we cannot. Things are far too complex, and I am far too finite.

Hebrews 11:10 tells us the nature of Abraham’s saving faith: “[Abraham] was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God.”

This, I believe, explains God’s command at the end of Psalm 46. After nine verses about his power, glory, majesty, worthiness, and might, God does not call us to go to war on his behalf. He calls us to be still. Trust him. Trust him for the things he has promised, not the things he has not promises that coincide with our pride, our politics, or our position. The Son of God was crucified: it may be that God does not plan to give us everything we want.

This week has been a good reminder that perhaps we have drifted away from our true hope in the flurry of activity, tragedy, and strife. It is time to be still once more before God. If we have purposefully, or accidentally, convinced ourselves that God desperately needs us to protect him or that God’s highest priority is giving us power or position, we should now be reminded: he is our fortress. He protects us. He is not waiting for us to establish a city for him. He is not waiting to rule in Washington. There is no Jesus 2024 campaign: he need not stoop to that level. He is enthroned and in control. And his city is immovable.

God has a city. She will not be moved. He is with us. He is our fortress.


1 Some may feel that this post is a dodge at addressing the real issues—to them I say that I understand that response. But this is a word, not the final word, nor is it all the words that need to be spoken. It is a lament, my own attempt at processing what I have seen this week, not a post mortem or even a full thought. This season ahead should be full of repentance, apologies, commitments to do better, clarity about what has gone wrong, and resolve.

What Makes Church Boring?

I recently ran across a quote from a book I read some years ago, and which I think remains immensely relevant. I wanted to share the quote, and a short meditation on it here. Often, churches get accused of being boring because of musical style, programs (or lack thereof), or the production value. But that’s not what makes churches boring. Listen to the following quote from Why We Love the Church: In Praise of Institutions and Organized Religion by Kevin DeYoung and Ted Kluck (p. 102):

Church isn’t boring because we’re not showing enough film clips, or because we play an organ instead of a guitar. It’s boring because we neuter it of its importance. Too often we treat our spiritual lives like the round of golf [where we just talk about what we think about God]… At the end of my life, I want my friends and family to remember me as someone who battled for the gospel, who tried to mortify sin in my life, who fought hard for life, and who contended earnestly for the faith. Not just as a nice guy who occasionally noticed the splendor of the mountains God created, while otherwise trying to enjoy myself, manage my schedule, and work on my short game.

In other words, church isn’t boring because of style. Church becomes boring when we make the gospel secondary, make our entertainment primary, and stop bearing one another’s burdens to fulfill the law of Christ (Gal 6:2).

I can think of countless churches with organs, hymns, and liturgy that are very much alive because they take God and his Word seriously. I can think of churches that resemble rock concerts that are nearly dead, because they’ve become all about entertainment and hardly at all about keeping God central to all their hustle and bustle of ‘doing church’. There is no ‘style’ that keeps churches alive. Only the Spirit, working in the substance of the Word, to transform men and women into the image of Christ (2 Cor. 3:17-18).

Hilarious Christmas Pageant Moments

Thanks to COVID-19, the worst party crasher of all time, we don’t have many Christmas musicals or Christmas pageants. To help folks get by, I wanted to share some hilarious Christmas Pageant moments to help us get through 2020 until—hopefully!—we can get them back next Christmas. Until then, may these bring you just a little extra Christmas cheer.

1. A sheep kidnaps baby Jesus.
You can’t just dress like a sheep. You have to be the sheep. Otherwise, you may wish you were Mary instead and decide to steal baby Jesus out of the manger. Credit to Mary for protecting her kid.

2. Not such a silent night, after all.
The Bible does say to make a joyful noise unto the Lord. This child took it to heart. My favorite part is knowing the parent’s faces are turning blood red while their siblings laugh about 10 pews away.

3. Grandma got run over by a….camel!
A friend of mine insists on one rule for all church events: no live animals! You can see why here. What starts as a journey to Bethlehem ends with a matron of the church being squashed by a camel! Even better, this happened at Jimmy Scroggins’s church.

4. “Someone please turn Jesus back around!”
In 2011, a small church in Florida decided to put on Handel’s “Messiah”, to show Christ to the community. They showed more than they intended.

5. “Where are my background singers?”
Pattie LaBell doesn’t have a lot of bad moments, but this one is one for the ages. Technically not a church Christmas event, but I had to include it.

Honorable Mentions:

Christmas According to Kids

The Worst ‘O Holy Night’ Ever.

Finally, in case you haven’t had the pleasure this Christmas season, here’s “The Christmas Shoes.”

Attending to God in an Age of Distraction

If you don’t feel distracted by the entertainment, information glut, and noise of the world today, I think I speak for everyone when I say: are you an alien?

Jokes aside, it’s nearly impossible to focus these days. More than that, it’s nearly impossible to focus on the things that matter most. It’s especially difficult to focus on God and his word.

John Starke pointed out these lectures on that very issue on twitter from two thinkers who I greatly admire: James K.A. Smith and Alan Jacobs.

Smith has made his reputation in popular theology with his writing on how habit (which he calls “liturgy”) shapes and forms the heart (and our loves). In short, to borrow the title from his most famous book, “you are what you love.” Alan Jacobs is an excellent writer and one of the most reflective and intentional thinkers of our day. His recent book “Breaking Bread with the Dead: A Reader’s Guide to a More Tranquil Mind” is an incredible gift to the church.

I hope you find these lectures interesting and a blessing in your life. Here’s the description from the event where the lectures were given:

For this summertime retreat we’ll dig into how our technological environment—what Nicholas Carr has called our “glass cage”—has qualitatively changed our capacity for attention. Especially since the habits of attention, contemplation, and introspection are so crucial to the Christian life, and in many ways one of the great gifts of Christianity to the West.

What does a “liturgical audit” of our technological habits reveal? What spiritual insights emerge from an analysis of distraction? We’ll take up all of this (and more) in the blissfully cellphone free environs of the Frio River Canyon.

New Article at Credo Magazine

I have a new article that has just been published in the December 2020 issue of Credo Magazine. This issue is devoted to the doctrine of eternal generation. Eternal Generation has become the subject of my own doctoral research in theology. My article is The Bulwark of Trinitarian Theology: Eternal Generaton: What it is and what it is not. In the article I try to map the foundations of the doctrine and help readers get a foothold on how to think about it as part of doing theology. Here’s an excerpt from my conclusion:

Eternal generation is the bulwark of trinitarian theology. It will not often be mentioned in the average sermon. The phrase itself would likely be met with confused look from people in the pew. It is critical, however, for pastors and theologians as they consider who God is. As a bulwark, it keeps heresy at bay. It protects the essential nature of God, providing terminology to help Christians understand what it means to worship one God in three persons, particularly how the Son is not less than the Father, but is one with him: one in power, glory, majesty, will, and essence. By this Trinitarian grammar, Christians are helped to know God as he knows himself and sing, pray to, and confess him as “God in three persons, blessed Trinity.”

Some Good Study Music

I do a lot of studying these days, and almost almost with AirPods in and music on. If you’re like me, finding good study music is like finding solid gold. I wanted to just recommend a few good albums for study, and maybe they’ll help you as well. None of them have lyrics, or the lyrics are very minimal. The only exception tho that rule is the last album from Josh Garrels. It does have lyrics, but is so pure and calming that I return to it again and again.

I’m just embedding the albums below. Right now, I’m doing this to procrastinate studying. So, I’m going to return to studying. You dig into this great white noise. I hope it helps you study, or whatever else you do.

One last thing: what’s your favorite study music? Leave your favorites in the comments.